A John Travers and Wally Karpinski Novel
Perfect Bound Softcover
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Private investigators John Travers and Wally Karpinski are best friends and business partners. For years, they have eked out an existence in Washington, DC, running down cheating spouses, installing security systems, and dragging deadbeat fathers into court. Known as crude, unconventional, and quirky, Travers and Karpinski exasperate local law enforcement officials with their competence. But everything is about to change when a shy, nervous young man shows up in their office.

When client Terrence McCoy discovers that there are two different birth certificates with his name on them, he asks the detectives to help him uncover his true identity. Because business is slow, the investigators reluctantly agree. They soon soon realize that a resolution will be neither easy nor quick when the case takes a startling turn. They consult their friend, Detective Oscar Demotta, for assistance, and he refers them to several unsolved cases involving dead young women and missing babies. As a favor to Demotta, Travers and Karpinski delve into the missing children cases and suddenly find themselves embroiled in a grim set of dangerous circumstances.

In this complex mystery tale, two private investigators must rely on the help of an eclectic group of characters as they investigate a bewildering scheme powered by money and twisted morality.

The rain slamming into the window behind me sounded like ball bearings bouncing off a tin roof.  I was sitting at my desk, listening, when Wally Karpinski, my business partner and best friend, walked in. He’s a simple guy with a kind heart, and is the man you want to be with in good times and bad, providing, of course, you can tolerate his lame expressions and foul mouth.
“Sounds like a cow pissing on a flat rock,” he said, nodding toward the window.
“You’d know,” I said.
“Of course I’d know.  You talk cows, piss and flat rocks and I’m the man.”  He smiled and launched his large body into a well-worn easy chair sitting against the wall. “So what’s on tap for the day?  Nothing, I suppose. Too wet for even the degenerates to come round.”
I was just about to initiate one of my philosophical arguments about cherishing each day, when there was a tentative knock on the door.  Wally’s eyebrows flew up like a broken window shade.  
“Finally!” he said as he pulled his large frame out of the chair. He walked over and opened the door, and standing there was a young man about twenty-one or twenty-two years old.  He was probably five foot seven, slightly built, and had a pasty complexion.  His copious, dark hair was unkempt and wet from the rain, and he was wearing a well-worn brown raincoat. He was wringing his hands and apparently was having trouble standing still.
“Whatta need, Spike?” Wally asked.  I came up beside the big guy, casually edging him out of the way.  Wally can be very intimidating, as he was then, and I just knew the kid would not do well with intimidation.
“I’d like to speak to Mr. Travers,” he said.
“I’m John Travers.”   He took my hand gingerly, but his grip was limp and damp, which gave me the creeps.  I introduced Wally, and then I motioned into the office. The young man sat in a chair in front of my desk and seemed to have trouble looking me in the eye.  
“I’ve never been to a private eye,” he said.  “This is all new.”
“I’ll bet,” I said.  “First of all, how about telling us who you are.”
I watched his brow wrinkle.  “That’s the problem.  I’m not really sure who I am.”  I heard Wally grunt and wanted to look at him, but didn’t. Wally had a whole spectrum of expressions to choose from, from bovine to sublime, and I figured he’d be leaning more toward the barnyard at that particular time.
“I see,” I said, not seeing at all.  “You have a name, I believe.”
“Yes, of course. I’m Terrence McCoy.  Terry.”
“Maybe you could tell us what you mean about not knowing who you really are.”  I scratched the side of my head and wondered why I didn’t go into astrophysics or something.
“I guess I started out all wrong.”  Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Wally nodding his head in an exaggerated fashion.
“I grew up in Rockville,” he said. “Just me and my parents. Dad died two years ago. A freak accident they said.  And Mom wasn’t doing very well at the time.  Always forgetting stuff, you know? About a year ago she was diagnosed as having early stage Alzheimer’s Disease.  It got bad fast and now she’s in an assisted living place in Rockville. It’s really sad and depressing.  So I’ve been trying to get her affairs in order, you know?  I found an old lock box in her closet, full of letters and things.  Under all the personal mementos, I found my birth certificate.  It said baby boy McCoy, single birth.  The little footprint and all that?  There was a faded little picture attached with a paperclip. Then I dug deeper and found another birth certificate.  Same date, same name—my name—and the same information on my parents.  But it had a different picture attached. And the baby was bigger and light colored.  You know, complexion and hair?  Completely different from me.  I looked at those two documents, both with my name and birthday on them, and I wondered what the heck is this all about? Obviously it got me thinking.”  Terry turned to Wally and had a hopeful expression on his face.  
“What exactly did you think about?” Wally asked, always there with the insightful question.  I almost laughed, but didn’t.
“Well, my parents were big people, and both of them were—are—very light.  You know, their hair? And both had blue eyes.  Look at me.  Anyway, I started thinking maybe the second one—the blond and apparently bigger baby—was the real Terry McCoy.  But then, who am I, and where is the other baby?  Something is screwy.”
“I hope to shit,” Wally murmured, causing Terry to look at him.
“What is it you want from us?” I asked, trying to bury Wally’s comment.
Terry turned back and leaned forward in the chair. “Maybe you can help me find out what this is all about.”
It didn’t seem like such a big deal, really. I figured we could sniff around and get an answer for him.  After all, things were kind of slow.
“No problem,” Wally said, sitting up straight.  “We can nose around and find out who screwed the pooch on the birth certificate.”
It was typical Wally professionalism, but I was glad he was willing to help.  
Terry pulled a thick envelope from the inside pocket of his raincoat and put it on my desk. “This is what I put together for you.”
I opened the envelope and casually looked through the documents and the two pictures.  I specifically studied the birth certificates, both of which looked authentic to me.
“OK, I said.  “Let us look into it and we’ll get back to you.”
He finally gave us a smile and stood up.  He shook our hands and shuffled out the door.
“Somebody screwed up somewhere,” Wally said, a few moments later.  “Too bad mom is nuts.  She’d probably pat his hand and explain it all. I’ll call and see what’s what.  We probably won’t even have to leave the office.”
“Yeah, let’s help him out.  He finds out he really is Terry McCoy and he’s a happy camper.  One of those easy jobs that doesn’t cause any grief.”  
Boy was I wrong.

C. Carl Roberts is an internationally recognized scientist who is on the faculty of a major US medical school. He lives and works in Northern California. This is his second Travers and Karpinski novel.

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