The Debt Collector-Murder in Millinocket

I started writing this murder mystery in 2007 and then it got shelved for other priorities at that time. I've decided to dust it off and take another stab at it. I've updated it to be set in 2011. Below I have included a brief synopsis and an excerpt. Like any writer, I am contantly looking to gauge interest in my stories.

The Debt Collector-Murder in Millinocket

Story synopsis.

Michael “Mick” Macklin is a man wandering through life as a fraud investigator for his college roommate’s company, National Recovery Solutions. When there is no field work assigned, he spends time doing debt collections for his brother’s law firm. Mick tries to maneuver through life’s complications as a single father to his son, while attempting to be understanding and supportive of his ex wife. He and his best friend, Storm, have embarked on countless adventures since they were both boys in grade school, but now they have ran face first into a web of deceit, treachery, and evilness as Mick finds himself engrossed in an investigation of a heinous murder in the sleepy little mill town of Millinocket, Maine.

Mark Twain once remarked, “Humor, is a funny thing.”

As I sat on the barstool sipping a cool Sam’s ale and checking out the crowd in the smoke streaked bar mirror, I read a few of the assorted bumper stickers, decals and novelty signs that adorned the edges of the twelve foot mirror behind the bar.

“If Momma aint happy…aint no one happy”

“If I don’t get laid pretty soon…someone is gonna get hurt”

“This is a Red Sox bar…unless your team just beat the Yankees, kindly leave”

Classy joint.

Actually, I liked the one about the Red Sox.

The bar was named “Spikes Hardwood Bar & Grill”. A typical small town bar in northern Maine. Besides the twelve foot mirror that reflected the three tiered rows of various bottles of booze, the backside of the bar contained a cash register, about 10 feet of beer cooler with glass doors in the front, a huge ice maker, and three shelves of beer mugs. The mugs were glass and cloudy with age, some of them had names etched into them in a red cursive. I wondered what it cost to join the mug club. Probably you could join for a “nominal fee’ and get a 25 cent discount on every draft you sucked down out of your own personal mug….what a deal. I didn’t intend to become a regular at Spikes, so I ditched the idea quickly.

From the ceiling hung a painted wooden rack for other glasses, which were hung from their stems, which had been slid into slots designed to fit the size of the different glasses. Everything looked a bit dusty and yellowed. On the shelf to the left of the mirror was a stack of menus, a pile of napkins, and a plastic tub containing flatware. At the end of the bar was an open doorway that led to the kitchen. I could smell the grease of fried clams, and hear the combination of a fry-o-later sizzling, mingling with the tuneless whistle of the cook.

The bar itself was one open room of about 30x60 with the afore-mentioned bar on one side. A row of formica topped tables spanned from the door to about the halfway point, then a pool table in the middle of the room, and then wooden booths painted a chocolate brown took up the opposite side wall. At the back end of the room, beyond the pool table, were two bathrooms. Between the 2 doors of the bathrooms was a six foot section of wall where a jukebox sat. I had used the men’s room earlier and decided that I should try and hold my breath as long as I could the next time I needed to use those facilities. I wonder if anyone has ever passed out from holding his breath too long while trying to drain the dragon?

On the street end of the room were two huge plate glass windows on either side of the door to the street. The windows were the only source of natural light for the entire bar, and it was apparent that the last time these windows had been washed was during a different presidential administration…I was guessing Truman’s. I could see the dust motes dancing through air in the streak of weak winter sunshine that managed to penetrate the layers of cigarette smoke that covered the windows.

It was noontime. The bar was about half full with folks eating lunch. Mostly men between 21 (wink, wink) and 50, and all of them were what you might call “blue collar”. The patrons at Spikes were loggers, woodsman, contractors, and truck drivers. The room was a riot of red, blue, and green flannel shirts hanging out over jeans or dickeys. In front of them sat large platters of burgers and fries, or meatloaf, potatoes, and gravy, or mounds of fried clams and fries. I had the feeling that if I ordered a veggie burger the whole bar would break out into raucous laughter, and then throw me out on my ass and accuse me of being a “flatlander”. I couldn’t let that happen, so I ordered a burger, medium well, and fries from the blond behind the bar with tired eyes and big hooters. She gave me a grimace meant to be a smile as she dropped a fork, butter knife, and teaspoon wrapped in a napkin in front of me.

“Sure thing Slick….you want gravy on them fries?”

I declined the gravy and ordered up another Sams instead. Big boobs scurried away to take other food orders and I resisted the urge to turn the barstool to face the tables and booths and gaze at the people stuffing their faces, yakking it up, and laughing loudly at one lewd joke or another. I didn’t want to call attention to myself, and I fretted a bit about the bartenders choice of names for me…”Slick”…was that her pet name for handsome strangers who stopped in for a beer and lunch?...or did she think I was a city-boy who wandered in to see how the natives lived?

So, I watched reflections in the bar mirror. The reflection I was most interested in was a man in his mid 30’s, big and brawny, with long greasy dirty blond hair and scraggly beard. He was outfitted in steel toed work boots, canvas Carharts, and a green flannel shirt. Hanging on the backrest of his chair was a heavy mackinaw jacket with gloves sticking out of the pockets along with a woolen stocking cap. The mackinaw and hat had a coating of sawdust. The man was a woodcutter.

I gave this some thought….big, brawny, and, a woodcutter...Yikes! Momma didn’t raise no idiots. This man was rugged and probably loved to kick the shit out of people who fucked with his life.

Which I was about to do.

Maybe Momma did raise an idiot.

I had planned on the fact that we were in a public place, and that would act as a bit of protection from this man who out-weighed me by 30 pounds and was at least 2-3 inches taller than me. He wouldn’t rip off my arms here in this restaurant…would he?

The man, whose name was Delmont Hastings, was technically disabled due to a back injury suffered while working at the paper mill in Millinocket, Maine three years ago. Millinocket was where I now sat pondering how to do my job without becoming disabled myself. Delmont’s back looked like it would have no problem tossing me through the plate glass windows like he tossed 4’ pulp-wood logs onto a truck.

I knew just how far he could toss pulp-wood logs, because I had taken pictures of him doing it. I had also taken pictures of him with a chainsaw, cutting trees, and with an axe, limbing and notching the tree once on the ground.

I had been sneaking around taking pictures of good ol’ Del for the last two days without getting caught. I had downloaded those pictures onto my laptop and then sent them to Jonathan Lansing, who was paying me to do so.

Good ol’ Del was cheating International Indemnity out of $1800.00 a month in disability payments from the supposed back injury he suffered three years ago while employed at Pinnacle Paper mill. International Indemnity, as Pinnacles disability insurance carrier, had begrudgingly agreed to pay Del 60% of his base income each month until his back was completely healed, and he was able to return to work.. or for the rest of his life if he was not able to fully recover. Yet, here ol’ Del was cutting pulp-wood to be sold to the very mill that he was out on disability with.

Oh my!

International Indemnity was not amused. In fact they had threatened to back charge Pinnacle Paper for the last three years of disability payments made to Delmont Hastings, claiming fraud. Pinnacle Paper was even less amused. International Indemnity called Jonathan Lansing, who called me.

Del had a sweetheart deal going, but got too careless. He was seen driving a log truck loaded with pulpwood into the off-loading area of Pinnacle Paper by the International Indemnity representative stationed at the mill. The gig was up.

Jonathan Lansing was my college roommate, my best man at my wedding 13 years ago, my shoulder during my divorce 6 years ago, and the source of most of my income. A self described NYC “non metro-sexual” with an office in downtown Manhattan, and the ear of seemingly every large insurance company in the USA. Jonathan, (don’t dare call him Jon) was a wheeler-dealer in what he called “the tailpipe of the American economic market”. This is to say, Jonathan dealt in consumer and corporate insurance fraud, consumer and corporate debt, and consumer and corporate mortgage foreclosures. He was well on his way to substantial wealth. I was one of his “free lance” field investigators.

Jonathan’s reputation within the world of insurance was impeccable. He would take any case file, no matter the circumstances, and he would find a way to produce results that saved the insurance company money and the insurance executive his cushy position.

He was in high demand.

One such executive from International Indemnity called Jonathan two weeks ago and explained his quandary. He would need irrefutable proof of disability income fraud in the case of one Delmont Hastings of Millinocket Maine to be able to charge back all that money paid to ol’ Del, to their client, Pinnacle Paper. Pinnacle Paper in return would sue good ol’ Del for their money…..IF Jonathan could prove fraud. In reality, it was highly unlikely that good ol’Del had the proverbial pot to piss in, so Pinnacle Paper was going to be holding the bag, to which they were, understandably, quite unhappy about. This entire mess promised to be filled with unhappiness, except for, of course, Jonathan.

The dollar figure given was $64, 800. Jonathan accepted the case on a “contingency fee” basis.

Jonathan would get his contingency fee only if he provided proof of fraud. His fee was 25 %, or a cool $16,200. My fee for doing the dirty work was 20% of Jonathan’s contingency fee.

I had spent the last three days on this case. I had snuck through the woods, waist deep in snow, freezing my ass off, to take the pictures I would need. I had gone to the town office and researched the information that was needed, found it, and photo-copied it, all the while trying to keep the nosy older lady, that was the town clerk of Millinocket, Maine, from figuring out what I was up to.. I was running out of time if I wanted to remain anonymous. Millinocket is a small town. Everyone who lives there knows everyone else who lives there. I stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. As my grandfather, Hap Macklin, was fond of saying, it was “time to shit, or get off the pot”.

Big boobs sat the plate holding my burger and fries in front of me as I pulled out a twenty and laid it on the bar. I knew I wouldn’t have time to wait for my slip.

She raised an eyebrow at me.

“In a pucker huh?”

I smiled at her and nodded.

Just as I was taking a bite of the burger the door flew open, followed by a gust of icy Maine winter wind. I turned to see a short, rather heavy-set woman of about 30 come marching through the door dragging a pretty little girl of about nine by the hand. The woman was scowling and held a letter in her free hand. The little girl was crying.

Everyone in Spikes watched as she dragged the girl over to the table where ol’ Del was sitting, talking to three other guys and drinking a beer while wolfing down two burgers and a mound of fries.

Oh shit.

Del looked up at her and turned in his seat, his face a mixture of surprise and anger.

“What the hell you doing bringing Sara in here woman?

He reached over and caressed the girl’s shiny blond hair, using his thumb to wipe a tear that had rolled from her beautiful blue eyes, down her cheek.

“What’sa matter sweetpea, why’re you crying?”

The woman shoved the letter in his face and said,

“You asshole Del, you’ve gone and got caught like I said you would if you didn’t stop getting drunk while you were working. You wouldn’t listen to me when I told you that you shouldn’t be seen hauling wood to the mill.”

She shook her head sadly and used her free hand to wipe her nose with the back of her hand.

“You and those idiots you work with get drunk on beer by 2:00 p.m. everyday and think your bulletproof, now what are we gonna do Del, huh?, what are we gonna do now?”

Del snatched the letter from her hand and looked it over as he let out a belch. His face started to get red and a vein in his temple began to throb visibly.

Ol’ Del was pissed.


I , being really handy at connecting the dots, realized that Del was looking at the certified letter from Pinnacle Paper stating that his disability benefits were suspended pending investigation of fraud. I figured this was as good a time as any so I stood up, put my ski parka on, and walked over to the table. He looked up at me, face purple with rage, as I tossed a couple of photos on the table with my right hand, while my left hand griped the 9 millimeter Glock in my jacket’s left hand pocket.

Just in case.

Like I said, Momma didn’t raise no idiots.

“Who’da fuck are you?”

Del, evidently, was pretty good at connecting the dots too, because I saw the realization on his face when he looked at the photos of him with a chainsaw in his hands cutting down a 100’ hemlock.

He started to get up, his face filled with fury, and said to me “ I am going to fuck you up so bad, Mister, you will never be able to hold another camera in your slimy fucking life.”

This was going really well so far.

I said “Look Del, you are in a public restaurant with a lot of witnesses present, not to mention your little girl is watching you. Do you want an assault charge and jail time along with the fraud investigation?”

He stood up and glared at me, but I could see he was considering what I said, so I went on.

“The only reason I’m showing you those pictures is so you will know that the gig is up. Del what you should do, for the sake of your wife and little girl, as well as yourself, is to get yourself a good lawyer to protect yourself from any further financial damage. I didn’t have to stick around to tell you this, or show you the pictures, but I thought your family deserved a fair warning of what is about to happen. My guess is Pinnacle Paper is gonna go after you for the disability income that you have already received.”

I held his glare with my own.

Spikes had become absolutely silent. Everyone was watching what was about to transpire. The three guys sitting with Del looked like they would relish playing a game of “kick the stranger in the nuts” with me, but settled for menacing stares pointed in my direction. I ignored them and held Del’s eyes.

Del finally looked away, and reached down and patted his daughters head.

The little girl was sniffling and crying softly as she looked up to her father and asked,

“I’m not gonna get the pony for my birthday like you promised am I Daddy?”

He lowered his voice to a hoarse whisper, gritted his teeth, and said to me.

“If I were you, asshole, I’d find the quickest way out of town and be gone. You have bought yourself a pass today, but I WILL find you, and I WILL fuck you up…that’sa promise.”

I nodded.

Del’s wife started to cry along with her daughter, as I walked directly to the door keeping my eyes straight ahead and not looking at anyone. I felt the prickles of fear running up my back as I made it through the door and headed for my rental car.

No one followed me.

Breathing a sigh of relief I hunkered against the icy wind and got the door of the car, which had started to freeze shut, open, and climbed in and tried the ignition. The car groaned and hesitated causing my heart to flutter.

Christ, just what I need right now, a car that won’t start due to the cold…I should have left the damn thing running. Thoughts of what a bar full of pissed off woodsmen could do to yours truly began playing like a horror flick in my head. In spite of myself, I chuckled, what a way to make a living.

Fortunately, the car fired and caught. Once running, I turned the heater to off. I’d typically wait to let the engine heat up and the warm air from the heater make the inside of the car bearable, and the windshield clear of frost. I figured I didn’t have that kind of time, so using my gloves to wipe a hole in the frost on the windshield large enough to see, with my teeth chattering from the both the cold, and from the adrenaline rush from almost getting my face rearranged, I pulled out and headed as fast as I dared for the safety of I-95 ten miles away.

By the time I reached the interstate, the car’s engine had warmed up, I had turned the heater to full blast and hot air was pulsing onto the windshield and the car’s temperature had risen above freezing. I turned onto the southbound on-ramp and headed for home 3 hours away.

As I drove south on I-95 to Bangor, I pondered the last three days…hell, I pondered the last eight years of working for my old college roommate.

I always did at the end of a case.

I had made just over $3,200.00 for 3 days work.

Not too shabby.

I recalled good ol’ Del’s parting words to me,

“If I were you, asshole, I’d find the quickest way out of town and be gone. You have bought yourself a pass today, but I WILL find you, and I WILL fuck you up…that’sa promise.”

Then, as I always did, I began to think about Teddy, my 12 year old son. He would hit me with 20 questions about this case, the why’s, where’s, who’s, and what for’s that he always asked me every time I came back home from working a case. How does one explain to a very impressionable 12 year old boy that his father is a snoop, a rat, a guy that causes people to pay the price for their bilking of an insurance, or credit card company?

Today, I had the additional pleasure of replaying over and over in my mind’s eye the sight of a beautiful little nine year old girl with tears rolling down her cheeks, clutching her mother’s hand, asking her father,

“I’m not gonna get the pony for my birthday like you promised am I Daddy?”

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