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The story begins on a stormy morning in February of 1959. The front page of the morning paper is dominated by news of the plane crash which killed rock ’n roll stars Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens.
Private Eye Sam Slater is hired to perform what he thinks is a routine two-day job as a favor for a friend. However, it all goes terribly wrong when a young San Francisco policeman is gunned down while sitting in a parked car with Sam.
The murder sets off a chain of events which will pull Sam and his wife and partner, Amelia, into a dangerous web of intrigue in the dark, shadowy alleys and back rooms of San Francisco’s Chinatown.
In the winter of 1959, Amelia resigns as a TWA stewardess and is now Sam’s full time partner in the private eye business.
Sam and Amelia inadvertently come in conflict with the San Francisco mob boss after helping a crusading newspaper reporter who is working to expose corruption in Chinatown. Now a mysterious dark car follows the Slaters every where they go. Sam and Amelia discover a hidden world of corrupt cops, gambling parlors, brothels and human trafficking exists right under their noses.
At the same time, a rising California politician hires Sam and Amelia to find his daughter who disappeared without a trace three years earlier. The search is prompted by the sudden appearance of a letter from the woman, who was presumed dead.
As Sam and Amelia pursue these cases, they discover that all the clues lead them back to Chinatown. The Slaters want to avoid taking on the San Francisco crime lords head-on. However, when Amelia is kidnapped in an alley during the Chinese New Year’s celebration, Sam plunges himself into danger desperately searching Chinatown to find her before it’s too late.
The reader will be drawn into fast moving events which culminate in a harrowing conclusion as Sam Slater races against the clock on a foggy night in Chinatown.
“Shadows In The Fog” is the fifth book in the the award winning Sam Slater Mysteries Series but is a stand-alone thriller in the tradition of great whodunits.
Baby-faced San Francisco Police Detective Charlie Young sat at dusk in Golden Gate Park in his 1955 light blue Ford Fairlane awaiting the arrival of private eye Sam Slater.
Charlie’s boyish face reflected his angst as he absent-mindedly bit his lower lip and clenched his jaw. Young unfastened the top button on his white shirt and loosened his tie. He felt like he was choking to death.
He bounced his right leg in a kind of jitterbug move as was his nervous habit. Charlie was like a coiled spring ready to explode as he sat in his car parked at the curb on the winding two lane road outside the Conservatory of Flowers.
The sun began to disappear into the Pacific Ocean, which was not visible but just a few miles to the west of the park beyond the trees. Long shadows fell on the park and in a few minutes it would be dark.
Clenching and unclenching his fists, Charlie scanned the area for any suspicious people lurking in the fading light. He had a nagging feeling, in spite of the precautions he had taken, that out there in the darkness, someone was watching. His eyes darted from side to side as he checked the rear view mirror for any sign of Sam. The sidewalks and the lush lawns surrounding the landmark conservatory were largely deserted at this hour on a winter evening.
He glanced at his watch. Sam should arrive at any minute.
Then without warning, Charlie was temporarily blinded by some headlights in his rear view mirror as a car emerged out of the darkness.
Sam pulled his red and white 1957 Chevy in behind the cop’s car and killed the headlights. Charlie blinked his eyes to try to adjust to the reduced illumination.
Sam opened the passenger side door of Young’s Fairlane and slid into the front seat.
“Hello Mr. Slater, thanks for meeting me here,” Charlie said in greeting.
Sam seemed unnerved. “Why are we meeting here? I don’t like meeting on a dark street in the park.”
“I understand sir, but I’m afraid I’m being watched. I thought it was best that we meet under the cover of darkness. This is an isolated area of the park and I can see in both directions.” Sam disagreed and looked askance at the skittish cop sitting behind the wheel fidgeting and obsessively checking his rear view mirror.
“We could be sitting in my office in complete privacy with the door closed—safe and sound, but you refused…whatever…let’s just get this over with.”
Sam was anxious to rid himself of Charlie Young and his problems. He hadn’t wanted to take this job anyway. The troubled young cop was worried that his wife was seeing another man. Sam hated these kinds of jobs and took it only as a favor to his friend, San Francisco Police detective, Vince Marino.
“What did you find out, Mr. Slater? I mean what’s going on with Eve? What’s she doing all day?”
“I really don’t think you have anything to worry about concerning your wife,” Sam began, but the cop didn’t seem to be listening because he was distracted by a slow-moving car that suddenly flashed its high beams into the Charlie’s car. As the car drew closer, its headlights blasted into their eyes obscuring their vision.
Sam shielded his eyes to try to see the car, which veered out of the traffic lane and pulled up so close to the cop’s car that the driver’s side doors almost touched. Sam would later recall that the cop acted like he knew the person in the car because Charlie began to roll down his window. It was as if they were planning to talk.
Charlie only partially lowered his window before a hand holding a gun emerged from the approaching car.
Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
An explosion of gunfire riddled Charlie’s car, shattering the windows.
Five shots rang out in rapid succession. The young cop took the brunt of the gunfire and convulsed as the bullets slammed into his head and upper body. Sam scrambled for cover and tried to dive onto the floor of the car, but he didn’t fit, so he opened the passenger side door and rolled out on the damp grass by the curb.
Sam heard the squealing of tires as the gunman’s car drove away into the darkness. He never got a look at the assailant from his position on the grass next to the car.
Sam’s face and overcoat were covered with blood and he felt sure that he had been hit. He sensed it. Sam had seen a lot of men shot during the war and his own time in combat terminated when he was wounded in Germany.
He was a bloody mess and there had been bullets ricocheting all around the car. He pulled open his topcoat and feared the worst when he discovered blood splattered all over his suit jacket. Sam frantically looked for the source of all the blood in the faint light provided by the streetlight and the interior light of the car.
It was then that he found a bullet hole in his bloody raincoat just over his heart.
He pulled back his raincoat and saw a similar hole in his suit coat. He had taken a bullet but he was puzzled to see very little blood on his white shirt.
Sam paused to brush away some blood that trickled down into his eye as he reached into his vest pocket to pull out the silver cigarette case that Amelia had given him for Christmas. The cigarette case was dented by a round from the assailant’s gun and had potentially saved Sam’s life.
Sam collapsed onto the damp grass and breathed a sigh of relief. He had escaped a potentially life threatening shot by just inches and a twist of fate.
Sam peered into the young cop’s car which was covered with blood. Charlie was slumped on his side and not moving. Sam crawled on his hands and knees to try to re-enter the car to see if he could help Charlie but it was obviously too late.
The cop had been shot in the jaw on the left side of his face and Sam could also see a wound in his neck gushing blood. Charlie’s glassy eyes stared into the darkness. He was already dead.
“What happened here?” a voice said, startling Sam said.
He turned to find a man in a raincoat and hat standing on the sidewalk behind him.
“This man has been shot. He’s a San Francisco Policeman. I need you to call the cops and an ambulance.”
“Are you all right?”
“I’m not sure. Just hurry!”
The man in the raincoat hustled toward a phone booth just outside the observatory. Sam was bewildered by the sudden turn of events. It was supposed to be a routine report about the cop’s wife.
Sam never got to deliver good news for the Charlie Young. His wife wasn’t cheating on him. The sudden violent attack was the last thing Sam expected at the rendezvous in the park.
Sam felt something wet running down his forehead into his eyes. He swiped at it with the back of his hand and discovered it was blood—the cop’s blood which had been splattered all over Sam in the shooting.
Sam wondered what he must have looked like to the man in the raincoat.
The interior of the car was a gory mess with blood dripping from the interior roof of the car, the driver’s side window shot out and blood splattered on the windshield. Sam looked over his shoulder and saw the man in the raincoat in the phone booth. The police should arrive at any time.
Sam rose to his feet and leaned on the open car door. He tried to clear his head and comprehend what had just occurred.
He was spooked just seconds before the shooting when he saw the car heading towards them with the high beam headlights on. Sam was surprised that the paranoid young cop seemed unfazed by the approaching car. It was like he recognized the car. Suddenly Sam felt a little woozy and tumbled back onto the grass, reclining while he awaited the arrival of the police. He pulled his silver cigarette case out of his pocket and attempted to wipe it clean with his hand. The inscription on the case was “To My Dearest Sam. All My Love, Amelia.”
Sam’s thoughts turned to Amelia. He felt so lucky to be loved by her and the inscription reminded how much he cherished his life with her. A life that nearly ended just moments ago.
The word “Dearest” had been obliterated by the round dent from the bullet. Miraculously, Sam Slater was not lying dead in the front seat next to the young cop.