Comment

The Dragon's Dollar (2019)

The Dragon’s Dollar (2019)

1803 Phillip Wilson ebook THE DRAGON'S DOLLAR_S.jpg

An early morning callout turns into more than he bargained for when Homicide Detective Jonas Brant must confront the violent legacy left by the triads that once ruled Boston's underworld.




For decades, Reginald Steevers has sold coins and collectibles out of his quaint shop in downtown Boston. A day after Christmas, a customer discovers the old man, tortured, beaten, slashed and hanging upside down on a rope like a gutted animal.

In The Dragon’s Dollar, Brant faces his most enigmatic and baffling case yet, a murder that pits the detective against the tectonic forces of history, the true nature of identity and a killer obsessed with righting the wrongs of the past.

The Dragon’s Dollar is a must-read for lovers of fast-paced crime novels and police procedurals. It’s a swift-moving novel marked by shocking twists and turns that will have the reader turning the pages. Discover why Detective Jonas Brant is fiction’s newest, most exciting homicide detective.

Comment

Comment

Read an excerpt from THE DRAGON'S DOLLAR

Chapter 1

Day One

December 26, 2015

Sleep didn’t come easy. It never did. 

Which was why Jonas Brant was awake, tossing and turning on the sofa in his living room when the phone rang. The living room because it was warm and wood-paneled and made him feel ten years old again. The sofa because even three years after her death, he couldn’t bear to bring himself to sleep in the bed he’d shared with his wife. 

He’d been reading, the floor lamp still on but the book now lying on the floor, the last line fresh in his mind.

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” 

The line had come from a book called The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday. The book had been a present from Maggie the year before Ben was born. 

The caller was the nightwatch commander at Tremont, an old timer by the name of Art Strobe. 

“Saddle up, partner. Looks like the triads are back!”

Brant reached for the wristwatch he’d left on the table beside a glass of water.

“What time is it?”

“Just past 10. Merry fucking day after Christmas, by the way,” Strobe said, drawing out the last of the sentence for effect. “You sound like you got a mouth full of cotton.”

Brant rubbed his right temple. The room came better into focus.

“Call it Boxing Day in Canada. Boxing Day. Go figure. Ever been there?” Strobe asked. 

“What?”

“Canada. Ever been to Canada? Me, I ain’t never left the good old, you know. Wife always wanted to travel, but what the heck. Where’m I gonna go that’s better than Beantown?”

Brant rubbed the sleep from his eyes, the word triads snapping him from the depths of his restless sleep, if he could call it that. Fact is, he’d arrived home just a few hours earlier after pulling a double shift. 

“So what’s this about triads?”

“You asked me to call if one landed in the hopper so I’m calling. Sucks to be you by the way.” 

“Why’s that?”

“Why’s what?”

“Why’s it suck to be me?”

“Working day after Christmas. Don’t you got a family or something? Me, I’m divorced with grown kids. No one’s waitin’ for me at home so who gives a crap, right?”

Brant stood and stretched to loosen the tightness in his shoulder and neck. The pillow he’d been using had fallen to the floor along with the book sometime in the past hour. A Christmas card he’d been using to mark his place had also fallen out. 

He reached down and examined the handwriting. The card had come from a woman named Christine Mallek. Brant and Mallek had met the previous summer when a murder investigation had taken him to Maine. For a time, Brant had thought he and Mallek had a future of some kind despite their differences. Brant was mid forties, while Mallek had just celebrated her twenty-sixth birthday. 

As the weeks passed, it had become clear the feelings they’d shared in Maine had been a matter of convenience. The spark had died and Brant was secretly happy to be on his own once again. Well, not entirely alone.

“My sister took my son, Ben, for the holidays,” Brant finally said in answer to Strobe’s point about giving a crap. “You gonna tell me the case or are we gonna keep flapping our gums?”

There was a sound of shuffling papers.

“Dude with multiple apparent stab wounds. Pretty messy by the sounds of it. Old guy ran a coin collecting business out of a store on Devonshire.”

“Devonshire?”

“Yup. Been there forever. I musta’ walked past the place a hundred times when I was posted at the Plaza. Think it’s that place next to the Elephant & Castle. By the way, how you like being a dick again?”

Strobe laughed at the double entendre. 

“Dick table’s just fine for me. You should try it some time. Who do you have on the roster?”

“There’s Kimbo. Don’t think he’d mind if you called.”

“Why’s that?”

“On account he’s Korean. They don’t celebrate Christmas, right? I mean, they’re Korean for God’s sake.”

“Who else?” Brant asked, knowing that Danny Kim would likely prefer enjoying what remained of his Christmas holiday with his family.

“Ortez? She’s a lesbo so don’t think she’d give a rat’s ass.”

“You mean she’s a lesbian? Ortez has a wife and a kid. Forget it, Strobe. I’ll call in my own guy. Thanks for the heads up.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

Brant hung up and hit speed dial. John Clatterback answered on the second ring.

“Case just dropped. Devonshire. You up for it?”

“Ten minutes and I’m good. Got a heads-up from Tremont already.”

Brant smiled.

“So what do we know?”

“Vic’s name is Reginald Steevers. Age eighty-five. March and forensics are on the scene.”

Devonshire was on the edge of the financial district, meaning any investigations fell under District A-1. Tremont sat close to the boundary with the Boston Common and Public Gardens. Cases sometimes overlapped. When District A-1’s homicide unit was understaffed or snowed under, a case would often fall to District A-2 and the team to which Brant belonged. The rivalry between A-1 and A-2 was the stuff of legend. There was no shortage of animosity or rancor among the detectives serving in the two districts. 

“Anything else on Steevers?”

“That’s all I’ve got.”

“Okay, I’ll swing by and pick you up.”

“Copy that.”

After disconnecting, Brant picked up the glass tumbler from the side table and went to the kitchen where he placed it in the sink. He turned on the tap and filled the sink with water until the dirty dishes he’d used for the previous night’s dinner were almost covered. 

Next, he walked to the hallway where he found his brown leather jacket draped over a chair. From a side table he took out his notebook and a pen, placing them in his jacket pocket. Moving to his study, he unlocked his lower desk drawer and took out his service revolver, a department-issued SIG Sauer GSR. He secured the SIG in a BlackPoint tactical holster and headed for the door.

Before leaving, he retrieved the Christmas card that Christine Mallek had sent and placed it atop a table in the entrance. In her big, open handwriting, Mallek had completed her note with a happy face. Brant smiled at the thought of her, knowing that though their time together had come to an end, he would always remember her with kindness.

That was a memory worth holding.

* * *

The EMT van’s lights strobed red and white. Snowflakes glittered like a thousand diamonds.

A car from the Crime Scene Unit had straddled the sidewalk and curb. Two CSU investigators in blue parkas, matching pants and blue baseball caps stood at the entrance of Banner Hill Coins and Collectibles. Yellow crime scene tape blocked the entryway. 

Brant’s Ford Crown Victoria rolled to a stop behind the EMTs. He and Clatterback stepped out and locked the doors but not before Brant reached over to pull his cellphone from its docking cradle on the dashboard. 

He watched as his partner strode ahead. Clatterback was lanky and awkward and walked in the way boys often do when they aren’t sure of themselves. By contrast, Brant was tall and broad shouldered with the beginnings of a middle-aged gut. Brant followed a step behind Clatterback, his boots crunching as they trod over newly fallen snow.  

“Jesus, it’s freezing. Almanac says we’re in for a cold winter.”

Brant arched an eyebrow while Clatterback blew into his hands.

“Over there,” Brant said, pointing in the direction of what appeared to be the command center. 

A perimeter had been set up around the store, blocking off the scene to all but those who needed to be in the inner circle.

Banner Hill Coins occupied a small storefront at street level in a solid-looking red and gray brick building with a curved facade that hugged the streetscape. The store was surrounded by office buildings. Across the street, a green neon sign flashed in the front window of a cafe offering an all-day breakfast and $2 coffee.

Brant surveyed the streetscape of hulking buildings and parked cars before ducking under the yellow police tape. Clatterback followed this time.

* * *

“Morning.’’ 

Brant directed the comment to a crime scene investigator wearing a blue parka and a high-vis vest. The investigator held a clipboard in her gloved hands. Eye guards sat on the brim of her blue baseball cap. 

“Sir.’’

“Jennifer Daly. Why is it we keep bumping into each other this way?’’

The woman shrugged as she nodded in the direction of another investigator. She handed the clipboard to the second CSI.

“Get these reports into the system.’’

“March inside?” Brant asked, craning his neck to one side for a view behind the techs blocking his access to the murder scene.

A wry smile appeared on the investigator’s face.

“Think so.”

Daly pulled her right hand free of the latex glove she’d been wearing. Holding the right glove in her left hand, she pulled the other glove off and made a ball which she stuffed into her parka’s oversized left pocket.

“How’ve you been, Jennifer?”

“Same old, same old. I gotta say, this is one of the bloodiest I’ve ever seen. You alone?’’

“Me and Clatterback. You remember my partner?’’

Daly nodded in Clatterback’s direction before turning her attention back to Brant.

“Where are they taking the body?’’ Brant asked.

“Albany Street’s full. Holyoke maybe.’’

“John, contact the medical examiner’s office on Main Street. The one in the Catherine Horan Building. See when they can do the autopsy.’’

“Good luck with that,’’ Daly said, snorting derisively at the thought as Clatterback stood off to the side to make the phone call.

“So who was first on the scene?’’

Daly nodded in the direction of a patrol officer standing to the side, his hands placed casually on his hips. The officer wore a turtle neck under a department-issue coat and blue slacks. His cap was worn straight. Brant turned toward the officer.

“Detective Jonas Brant.”

“Morris. District C-11.”

Brant followed the officer’s line of sight as he glanced toward the inner circle of investigators working the scene behind the police tape.

“What’d you find?”

The patrolman removed a notebook from his parka’s outer pocket and flipped through the pages. 

“Eighty-five-year-old male. Multiple apparent stab wounds. The display cases were broken. Looks like some of the coins and medals are gone. There’s a safe in a back room but the perp didn’t get that far.’’

“Time of death?’’

“Heard the ME say probably hour, maybe hour and a half.’’

Brant looked at his watch.

“So just after nine a.m.’’

“That’s about right.’’

“How does that happen? I mean it’d be broad daylight. Did no one around here see anything?”

Morris shrugged. “It’s a quiet time of year. Most of the businesses are closed.’’

“Who found the body?”

“Lady over there.’’

The patrolman pointed with his chin to an ambulance and a huddle of people. A woman sat upright on a stretcher in the ambulance, its door open to the elements.  A silver blanket had been draped around her shoulders.

“Anything else?’’

Even before he’d asked the question, a television truck pulled up behind the EMT van. A reporter jumped out followed by a cameraman, who turned on his camera’s klieg light almost instantly.

“Ghouls.”

Brant shook his head in disgust. He turned back to the patrolman as another officer waved the reporter and cameraman away.

“You were telling me what else you found?” 

“That’s all I got.’’

Brant nodded. “Thanks.’’

The patrolman smiled, bringing softness to his face. “Shit way to end the year. Let’s hope the next one is better.’’

“Yeah, next year.’’

* * *

The old woman stared off into the distance, her face an impassive mask. An EMT worked a blood pressure cuff wrapped around the woman’s arm.

“She’s in shock. You can talk to her but make it quick.” 

Brant nodded to let the EMT know he’d heard as he leaned against the door of the ambulance. Around them, technicians and investigators buzzed with activity. He turned to the woman, who was trying to sip tea from a styrofoam cup. Her hands trembled.

“Good morning, my name is Jonas Brant. I’m a homicide detective with the Boston Police Department. And you are?”

The woman looked into Brant’s face for the first time. A tear appeared at the corner of her left eye.

“Amanda Wellstone. You know, I’ve lived in Boston all my life and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s absolutely disgusting. Thank God my husband never lived to see it.’’

“Mrs. Wellstone, I’m going to ask you one or two questions and then I’m going to let this nice woman take care of you,” Brant said, nodding toward the EMT. “But I’ll need to speak to you again before you go to the hospital. Do you understand?”

The woman nodded.

“When you entered the store, what did you see?”

Amanda Wellstone’s eyes fluttered as her body recoiled at the question.

“The body and all that blood. Poor Mr. Steevers.”

“So you knew him?“

The woman pressed her lips together and nodded.

“What else did you see, Mrs. Wellstone?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question. I…I found him hanging there. Upside down on a rope. There was blood everywhere so I ran as fast as I could. Then I called nine one one.”

She began to shake, tea sloshing from the cup.

Brant nodded as he glanced over at the EMT. The tech mouthed something. Brant couldn’t make out the words but he understood the intent. The EMT was telling him to back off.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said as she looked down at the spilled tea.

Brant smiled as he rose, signaling the end of the interview for the moment.

“Nothing to be sorry about, Mrs. Wellstone. Take a bit more time. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

Brant was about to say something to the EMT when he noticed an unmarked police car pulling up to the curb on the street opposite Banner Hill Coins. The car idled for a moment before its driver rolled the vehicle slowly forward. Brant looked at the plate, noting with interest that it  identified the car as having come from Schroeder Plaza. Which meant only one thing. Brass. High-level brass. He began to cross the street to greet whoever the VIP was sitting in the back seat of the car when it pulled away from the curb and shot down the street. 

“What the…?”

Brant pulled out his notebook to make note of the car’s plate when he was distracted by the sound of the familiar voice of forensics chief Julian March.

“Brant! Get in here!”


Chapter 2

The old man twisted and turned, arms dangling by his side, eyes wide and vacant, his marble-white skin marinated in blood. 

Sliced and diced, Reginald Steevers was a caricature of the man he’d once been. One of the man’s feet had been tied. With a rope and pulley, the killer had hoisted him like a bagged deer before slitting his throat.  

The store was a bloodbath. Red painted the walls, the glass countertops, the furniture. The mirrors behind the display cases had been sprayed crimson. A sticky pool of black covered the floor.

Broken glass glittered like new-fallen snow. A display case had been shattered, its wooden frame reduced to splinters. The cash register had also been smashed to pieces.

Brant’s eye was drawn immediately to the binding the killer had used to tie the old man’s ankle. He edged closer, his brain fighting to process what he was seeing. 

He donned a pair of booties, a paper coverall and a pair of latex gloves.

“Jesus,’’ he said as he ducked under a second barrier of yellow police tape. 

His eyes adjusted to the light thrown off by the lamps positioned around the room, bringing the object that had caught his attention into sharper contrast.

“Nice of you to join us, Detective.”

Brant turned in the direction of Julian March. The forensics chief broke away from what he was doing and crossed to where Brant was standing. 

March exhaled loudly. Julian March was early forties. Tall with a solid, trim build, a cap of light brown hair and a handsome face accentuated by a square jaw. He wore a light brown v-neck sweater and dress slacks under his semi-transparent coverall. 

Brant admired the man in some ways. The cool facade, the commanding presence, the hard outer shell impervious to criticism. But he also loathed him in equal measure. Loathed him for all the attributes that made March the chosen one in the department. The managing up. The sucking up. The careful, deliberate massaging of his image both inside and outside the cop shop. March was a shooting star with light years to go before he burned and fizzled. Brant only hoped he’d be around when March’s star dimmed and crashed.  

“What the hell…”

“Weird, right?” March said, remarking on Brant’s puzzled expression.

Brant stepped closer. He pulled a pen from his pocket and gently prodded the victim’s right leg, which had been amputated above the knee. The missing lower leg had been replaced with an artificial limb. 

“So the perp could only tie the one leg,” Brant said, remarking on the ankle binding and the prosthetic left to dangle at an awkward ankle. 

“Seems so,” March said.

“You guys must be loving this,’’ he said to one of the crime scene investigators.

“What?’’

“All these surfaces. Get anything good yet?’’

The investigator looked up from his notes. Like Brant, he wore a coverall. A lock of brown hair fought to escape the hoodie tied tight around his face.

The man was about the same age and height as Brant. His face was long and regal, the nose big but not excessive. Pale skin and the beginnings of a belly marked an absence of exercise. 

“We pulled a shoe print that didn’t match the victim,” March said. “We’re running it now. No finger prints. It’ll be a bitch getting any kind of reading off the splatter patterns. Too much blood.’’

“What about the murder weapon?’’

“Two of our guys are searching the perimeter. Dude could have chucked it into the harbor.’’

“What makes you say it was a man?’’

March chewed his lip.

“Size of the footprint, for one.’’

“Some woman have big feet, too.’’

“Yeah, but you’d need a man’s strength to haul someone up onto that,’’ the forensics chief said, pointing to the meat hook and rope.

The old man’s body had turned so that his face was now in plain view. The victim’s skin was pasty white and slack. The eyes were open, the mouth agape. Blood dripped from a slash in the man’s neck.

“And the severity of the attack,” March continued. “This guy Steevers was old. Couldn’t have put up much of a fight. Then again, reflexes. We all fight like hell when cornered.”

Brant couldn’t argue the point. 

“What about the rope and hook?’’ Brant asked, looking up at the ceiling beam. The hook appeared new, as did the rope.

“The rope’s a double braid. Fiber. The hook looks to be made of stainless steel. Maybe it’s zinc-plated. Hard to tell without getting up close.’’

“Where would the perp buy something like that?’’

March moved toward Brant for a better view of the ceiling beam.

“Any DIY store, I suppose. Amazon, Home Depot.’’

“Not much to go on. What about time of death?”

“She can probably help you with that,” March said, nodding in the direction of a woman in a coverall and booties. Her hair had been pulled back and tucked into the hood, making her oval face appear larger than it really was.

“Jill Drummond,” the woman said, introducing herself in a tight, efficient manner.

“Detective Jonas Brant. You with the examiner’s office?”

The woman nodded. “Filling in while the regular ME’s on vacation. St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. I heard someone say something about time of death?”

“I was asking whether we had any idea yet,” Brant said.

Drummond took a step toward the corpse. “Blood hasn’t had time to dry yet. It’s still fresh. We’ve taken an initial reading of the victim’s body temperature. I’d say we’re looking at a very recent time of death. Best guess would be an hour, maybe an hour and a half.”

“What about the wounds?”

The medical examiner lifted a gloved finger to probe the slash marks on the victim’s body. She pressed gently against the old man’s neck.

“This one’s deeper than the others. Neck was slashed. These other wounds, they appear superficial. Surface. But the autopsy will tell us. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish my examination.”

The ME brushed past Brant. He was about to say something when another crime scene investigator appeared on the other side of the police tape. The man was breathless, his face flush with obvious excitement.

“We found the murder weapon,’’ the investigator said, directing the comment to his superior as he presented a bloodied kitchen knife in a plastic evidence bag. “In one of the Big Belly’s.’’

“Let me see that,’’ Brant said.

The investigator presented the find without relinquishing ownership. 

The murder weapon appeared to be a standard kitchen knife, about eight inches long with a serrated blade and plastic handle. 

“Let’s get it to the lab,’’ March said to the second man. “Need to see anything else?’’

Brant surveyed the room before taking out his cellphone and snapping off a half dozen pictures of the body from different angles. 

When he was done, he pocketed the phone. An uneasiness took hold. The feeling was nothing at first. A niggling. An intuition. An abhorrent shadow at his vision’s periphery. The amount of damage. The violence inflicted on the body. Something else was at play here. Something big. He could feel it.

John Clatterback appeared at the outer perimeter of the crime scene followed by Detective Kelvin Li. The junior detectives suited up and ducked under the police tape. 

Kelvin Li completed the suit-up by pulling a pair of latex gloves from his pocket.

“Hollywood. What are you doing here?” Brant asked of the new arrival. 

Li blushed. He was a big man with broad shoulders and the build of an athlete. He had a square jaw, closely cropped hair and an olive complexion. Back at Tremont he was known as Hollywood because of his movie-star looks and passing resemblance to John Cho, the actor who’d played Hikaru Sulu in the latest Star Trek movie.  

“Strobe called. Said you might need a peacemaker between you and March.”

Li spoke in a hushed tone to avoid being overheard by March. Brant nodded, signaling he’d understood.

“It’s the day after Christmas, Kelvin. Weren’t you taking a few days off? Thought you were heading out of town?”

Li shook his head.

“Played Santa at the YMCA last night. Caught the call from Strobe first thing.”

Brant considered the addition of a second detective. It wasn’t the stupidest idea. He could use the help, and Strobe had read it right. Anything to defuse the tension with March would be a help.

“Well, now that you’re here, you can help John. You find anything else out about the victim?” Brant asked in Clatterback’s direction.

“Born in England apparently. Store’s been here a couple decades.”

“Is he on the books? Any break and enter?”

Clatterback shrugged.

“Does he own the store? If not, who pays the rent? And what about debts, other affiliations.”

Brant had turned and was looking directly at his partner. The younger man was now writing in his notepad, taking down each detail and line of investigation with eagerness.

“We’ll also need to run a complete documents search on the financials. Get a list of his customers while you’re at it. What about the artificial leg? When’d he lose the limb? Try to find any next of kin and work with the uniforms to canvas the area. Ask any of the storeowners in the neighborhood whether they saw anything. Get any CCTV from the neighbors, too. This is the financial district. It’s raining cameras around here.” 

“We’re on it.”

Brant crouched down after the two younger detectives had stepped away. He surveyed the floor, doing his best not to disturb the pattern of blood.

Something caught his eye.

“What’s that?”

“What’s what?“

“There. Behind the counter. Near the wall.”

Brant stood. The member of the crime scene investigative team to whom he’d directed his question followed his line of sight. She crouched low to the ground, affording a better view of the wall behind the sales counter.

“Can you make it out?” Brant asked.

The investigator took a photograph of the scene before moving the table. Brant’s eyes widened as he got his first good look at the back wall. Scrawled in black marker was a warning and an omen.

ROT IN HELL SICKO.

Brant took out his own phone again and fired off a few more shots of the warning. He made a mental note of the message’s chilling intent. 

“Who’d deserve this?” one of the crime scene investigators asked as the team started to dust the wall for prints. 

While Brant had been scrutinizing the wall, the head of forensics had turned away from the body and crossed the room to where Brant was standing.

Brant thought for a moment, realizing a handwriting expert would need to be called. The black ink, the size of the writing, the form of the letters. All would be analyzed, documented and compared with previous cases. 

“At least it confirms one thing,” Brant said, motioning toward the writing.

“What’s that?” one of the CSIs asked.

“This was no random murder.”

* * *

Amanda Wellstone shook as she brushed the tears from her cheeks. The witness had been crying in fits and starts. Brant passed the woman another cup of hot tea. 

Snow had begun to fall again, casting the street in hushed intimacy.

“Breathe deeply,’’ Brant said. 

He smiled in sympathy. In better light than before, he was able to get a good look at Amanda Wellstone. She was seventy and appeared in ill health. She wore a light coat and running shoes. The scarf she’d tied tightly around her neck seemed worn and tired. Fragile eyes filled with emotion seemed to track his every move.

The woman took a sip of the hot drink and licked her lips. 

“Do you want another blanket?’’

The woman rejected the offer with a shake of her head. 

“I’m fine. It was just such a…a…violation.’’

The woman took Brant’s hand and looked into his eyes. 

“Poor Mr. Steevers. All that blood.’’

“I know this is difficult, but you can help Mr. Steevers by answering a few questions. Can you do that?’’

Wellstone nodded.

“You knew Mr. Steevers?’’ Brant asked as he flipped a page in his notebook.

“I’ve been to the shop a few times. Reginald would talk me up, you know. He could be a real charmer. He certainly knew his collectibles. Did card tricks and magic, too.’’

“Would you say you’re a regular customer?’’

“An occasional customer.’’

“Buying or selling?’’

“Selling. My husband left a collection of coins and stamps when he passed.’’

“I see,’’ Brant said, discreetly looking anew at Amanda Wellstone’s outfit. 

The pieces were beginning to fall into place. The thin coat. The worn scarf. The nails that weren’t quite manicured and the hair that was in need of a cut. Amanda Wellstone was using the sale of her husband’s coin collection as a pension.

“What is an occasional customer? How often did you come in?’’

The old woman pressed her lips together in thought. 

“Once every six months. Maybe a bit more if I had the need. Not so often this year. I sold Mr. Steevers a silver dollar in February. An 1884 San Francisco mint Morgan silver dollar. Oh, that was a real beauty.’’

“How many did you sell?’’

“A half dozen.’’

“Same condition?’’

She nodded.

“You know your coins. How much did you get?’’

“I believe it was $200 a piece.’’

“I see,’’ Brant said, writing the figure in his notebook as he calculated the value of the coins. 

He was reluctant to say anything to the old woman, but a Morgan from that year in mint condition would be worth at least $4,000 on the open market. Amanda Wellstone had been swindled.

“And you were coming in today to….’’

“I had a few more pieces I thought he might be interested in.’’

“May I?’’

The woman’s hands shook as she reached for her handbag. It was a brown Coach, its leather cracked and faded, the shape collapsed like a partially deflated ballon.

“Here it is,” she said, handing over a plastic case containing a single coin about the size of a penny.

He recognized it immediately as a Civil War token. Closer examination revealed the token to be well preserved and likely uncirculated. ARMY AND NAVY read the inscription on its face. 

The token would have been from the early 1860s when U.S. government-issued coins were in short supply. Given its condition, it would have probably fetched a few hundred dollars on eBay.

“You better hold on to that,” Brant said, handing the case back. “I need to ask you some questions about this morning, Mrs. Wellstone. Do you remember the time you arrived?’’

“Just before ten. Mr. Steevers was always very prompt. I wanted to be the first.’’

“Could you tell from the outside that something had happened?’’

The woman shook her head, dismissing the thought. 

“I was getting the coins out of my purse as I passed the window and didn’t look in. The smell hit me first. Then I saw the blood and that poor, dear man hanging like that.’’

Wellstone shuddered at the memory of what she’d seen. Brant nodded in sympathy.

“What did you do next?’’

“Next?’’

“After you found the body?’’

“Nothing. I mean it’s a haze. I called nine one one I guess. You people arrived shortly after.’’

Brant patted the woman on the shoulder for reassurance as he rose.

“I know this has been a shock. You should go to the hospital.’’

Wellstone smiled, bringing warmth to her weathered face. Brant patted her gently on the shoulder as a uniformed officer stepped forward.

“I can take it from here,” the uniform said.


THE DRAGON’S DOLLAR will be released on Sept. 27 but is available for pre-order now.

Comment

Comment

The Dragon's Dollar has a release date

A routine callout on the day after Christmas turns into the case of his life when Homicide Detective Jonas Brant must confront the violent legacy left by the triads that once ruled Boston's underworld.

THE DRAGON’S DOLLAR will be released on Kindle on September 27 and can be pre-ordered here.

Comment

Comment

The Dragon's Dollar (September 2019)

Jonas Brant joins forces once again with newly minted homicide detective John Clatterback when a trader of old coins working out of a basement shop in downtown Boston is discovered brutally stabbed to death. The torture and murder has all the signs of a Triad revenge killing, but why?

1803 Phillip Wilson ebook THE DRAGON'S DOLLAR_S.jpg

Coming soon.

Some debts are deadly.

Comment