Saturday, October 25, 2014

An Excerpt from Littlemayor, a City of Brunswik Mystery by Leon Shure

Omnimystery News: An Excerpt courtesy of Leon Shure
Littlemayor by Leon Shure

We are delighted to welcome back author Leon Shure to Omnimystery News.

Leon's new mystery is the second in his City of Brunswik series, Littlemayor (August 2014 ebook formats), and earlier in the week we had the opportunity to spend some time with him to talk more about his mysteries.

Today we're pleased to introduce you to Littlemayor with an excerpt from the first chapter.

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Littlemayor by Leon Shure

UNAVAILABLE, OUT OF THE OFFICE, touring company sites, in a closed meeting.
  "We have been unable to contact Severn Matalokus since the Council meeting last June," Tarko, the Brunswik City Manager, told the assembled city officials.
  They sat, a wall of men on both sides of the conference table, facing, on one end, the small woman they called "Littlemayor," but never to her face. On the other end of the row was the city clerk, Helena Bell, a woman in her 70's, who looked like she could bite.
  Littlemayor was Mayor Martha "Maggie" Philapaitis Wellington, a charismatic, all-eyes-on-her woman, in her mid-60's. Elegantly dressed in a dark blue business suit with her trademark multi-colored scarf around her aging-faster-than-the-rest-of-her neck. Maggie had recently been elected to her third four-year term as Mayor of Brunswik, a suburb on Chicago's wealthy and diverse North Shore, which is, of course, at the Southern tip of Lake Michigan.
  "The last thing Matalokus told me," Helena Bell said, "was that the wrecking ball would begin to swing at the strip mall as soon as permits were granted. I issued those right after the June meeting. So far, nothing. The whole building season passed, and now that spring has arrived, still nothing." She looked like she had been personally slighted by a rude individual who deserved to be given rabies by her sharp teeth and infected saliva.
  "Worse," Tarko said. "Matalokus has changed his e-mail address. His secretary cannot be reached and only an answering service is taking his messages. Which are not answered. We tried to text him, but he has changed his business telephone number. We tried his home number and were advised that the old number had been discontinued and the new number is classified."
  Tarko, an Asian Indian-American, was young to be a city manager. Usually, that job is rewarded to someone of vast experience. The manager makes all the day-to-day decisions for the mostly otherwise employed city fathers. This was Tarko's first managership, having been an assistant in some downstate communities. He was smart and eager and wanted very much to be a success. He looked a little boyish, and the mayor liked him in a parental kind of way.
  Maggie leaned forward, which, unfortunately, made her 4 foot, 10 inch seated figure look even more like a child's. "Why would someone who was so gung-ho about building at the corner of Third and Main, suddenly disappear?"
  "No idea." This was from Rauptt, chairman of the City's Plan Commission, which had recommended approval of Matalokus' proposal for a mall. To be anchored by a huge single-floor department store, part of a chain of clothing and small appliance stores in the Chicago area.
  As presented by the developer, Matalokus, the plan was to tear down the present strip mall, combine it with other adjacent lots and construct a complex with storefronts for at least ten other businesses. All in all, the project, also including a few outlying stores in the large parking lot, would upgrade the whole area. The definition of "upgrade" being that the proposed shopping mall on the far west side of Brunswik would provide more much-needed property tax revenue for the city.
  Maggie turned to meet the eyes of the Police Superintendent Feather, whose wimpy name belied his aggressive stance and purposely thugged-up speech patterns. "I could, if you want, Madame Mayor, secure and restrain the [wanting to say "perpetrator"] . . . this individual in his home. We know where he lives. Highplace."
  Maggie thought, so Matalokus has a home in an even more rich and prestigious North Shore suburb than Brunswik.
  Chief Feather continued, "Or I could tap his phones, get all of his tax records, and stake-out his house."
  Maggie shook her head, no. "Matalokus is not a criminal or a fugitive. He just doesn't want to be found. I don't want the city to be sued for violating his privacy. I think we'd have a few problems, in any case, doing anything extra-jurisdictional." Adding in case the aldermen did not understand, "Beyond Brunswik city boundaries. I don't want to infuriate city fathers all up and down the North Shore. I just want to know what happened to him. I know, this wouldn't be the first time someone has gotten cold feet on a project, but it is downright strange that nothing has been announced and there's so much secrecy surrounding this man."
  She looked at Rauptt of the Planning Commission. "I assume that all the plans could be transferred to some other developer if the proposed project falls through?"
  Rauptt nodded, but didn't look happy or relieved.
  Tarko took up the presentation. "That puts us in the position of, number one, canceling all of the permits for Matalokus and his company, Severn Holdings. Also this would require Council action to abrogate some significant tax breaks and the rescinding of some zoning and traffic variations. These angered the neighboring sub-division committees in the first place and reversing them now would make us look like idiots. Or number two finding some other company with an abundance of cash to take over the project."
  From Rauptt: "Another problem is that this land is in blind real estate trust. It was assumed by the Planning Commission and from hints from Severn himself that the property is owned by Matalokus family members."
  His face always flushed whenever he had to speak in public. He was short for a man, only about 7 inches taller than the mayor. He'd retired young after a successful career in business, and, as a volunteer, spent more time on Planning Commission work than did the city's building commissioner or anyone else.
  The term "blind real estate trust" caused a few quizzical looks among the aldermen. Rauptt noticed and continued. "A blind real estate trust means the owners are not listed. Their names are not recorded. It's allowed by Illinois law. So no one knows who owns the land. There is a front-man, but he needn't actually be the one who calls the shots on the property. Basically, a blind trust is created so property parcels can be bought up without exciting any interest. which would jack up the price, and to discourage premature public scrutiny by local jurisdictions. Or so renters don't know who own their apartment building, and, so, can't bother the real owner with calls when the heat fails or a pipe bursts."
  Tarko: "We'd need the Severn Company's cooperation in transferring whatever titles or contingencies are necessary to bring in another developer."
  Alderman Casey, the chair of the Council's real estate committee, spoke up: "A one-story department store is really needed in that area." Casey was a smooth real estate lawyer, some said shifty. He enjoyed the give and take of politics and could be Mayor some day, many thought. "Otherwise, our residents must travel, inconveniently, to the multi-story super-mall just over the city's west boundary. The area around the proposed mall has one of the oldest resident populations in the city and would get a lot of small bus service from churches and nursing homes."
  Maggie decided not to ask how old was old. Was she old? Probably they all thought of her as being ancient. She thought of herself as being in the youth of old age at 66. Maybe they were all waiting for her to die or retire? Too bad, she had a lot of life left in her. She wasn't nearly done yet.
  "I don't want to give up on Severn just yet," Littlemayor said. "Has anyone tried just driving to his place of business? Have they gone bankrupt? Has there been any article about the company in the business press?"
  "So far as we know, the company is thriving," the city manager said. "It's stock is all family owned, so we can't get as much information from the SEC, but the business takes up an entire, five-story building along Route 88, between Aurora and Naperville. I have personally driven over there, without an appointment of course, and asked to see Matalokus. I was given a polite heave-ho. They said he was in another country."
  "I'll take over," Maggie said. "Perhaps my sources will be useful." As Mayor, it was assumed she had access to people with power. Those wealthy enough to own huge North Shore estates and politicians who had been in office long enough to amass both power and wealth. Although the local elections were officially non-partisan, her political allegiance was no secret. She could appeal for help from the elevated levels of the Democratic Party.
  Tarko looked relieved at the Mayor's offer but Rauptt looked apprehensive. Rauptt said, "Well, I hope I might help you if you would like someone to bounce ideas around." A bit of a tangle of words. Rauptt added, in explanation, "With."
  Why, she wondered, was Rauptt taking this problem so personally? Probably, putting the best interpretation upon it, he felt a deep commitment to the city. Maggie made a mental note to put Rauptt's name up for "Volunteer of the Year" and give him a big plaque.
  Maggie nodded and smiled at Rauptt to show her appreciation, but her second thoughts were less magnanimous. Did Rauptt fear a loss of status if the Mayor was successful where others had failed?
  Was Rauptt interested in being Mayor? She couldn't believe that. He wasn't the type who could project empathy about the concerns of the common voter. Too aloof and specialized. Unprepossessing, not particularly attractive or appealing to the eye.
  Quite the opposite from the charming Mr. Matalokus. Dark, handsome, filled with energy, several years older than herself. He had a full head of beautiful white hair. A nice smile. A cute guy. Made her laugh. He was Maggie's type.
  The last time she'd seen him, they'd met for a working lunch at the restaurant on the city's golf course. He'd been charming. Maggie was Greek too and felt like she could hear old world music whenever Matalokus spoke.
  She'd been a widow for 20 years and a day didn't pass without her thinking about her late husband. He'd been Greek, as well, despite anglifying his unpronounceable Greek name for business reasons.
  When Matalokus drove her back to city hall after their lunch together, she'd hesitated in her seat, wondering if he would make the gentlemanly effort to undo his seatbelt, open his door, and circle the car to open her side. Instead, he leaned into her and kissed her fully on the lips.

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Leon Shure is a life-long resident of the Chicago area, and has lived both in the city and in the North and Northwest suburbs. A bachelors and masters graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Shure worked for the Lerner Newspapers (a chain of weeklies in the city); the Day Newspapers, a suburban daily newspaper chain owned by Field Enterprises, now the Chicago Sun-Times; and Paddock Publications, a chain of daily newspapers in the Northwest suburbs, where he worked as a police reporter. He received the Jacob Sher Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting.

As a lawyer, Shure served as an attorney for a Federal Agency and has held elective office in local governments.

He is married and has two children.

For more information about the author, please find him Twitter.

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Littlemayor by Leon Shure

Leon Shure
A City of Brunswik Mystery

Tiny but feisty Mayor Maggie Wellington finds her life and political career threatened when a developer of a shopping mall goes missing and an alderman dies in an arson. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format


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