call of the Nightingale Cover



call of the Nightingale Cover

“Spencer’s recent addition to the Cartwright PI Series is loaded with unexpected twists and turns and edge of your seat suspense. It’ll keep you guessing to its thrilling finale.”

In his most recent case, Cartwright’s called in to identify a teenager charged with the grisly murder of her grandfather. All the evidence points to her guilt but Cartwright believes that she’s innocent and sets out to prove it.

Cartwright also realizes it’s not a straightforward case of murder. Dark and sinister forces are at work looking to take control of a bio-engineered formula that has the potential to redefine the genetic makeup and future of humanity.

Copyright and Disclaimers

Part 01: YIN 阴 

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,

When he beats his bars and would be free;

It is not a carol of joy or glee,

But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings –

I know why the caged bird sings

Paul Laurence Dunbar


IT WAS THREE IN THE MORNING when he was rudely awakened by the thunderclap of a distant storm. He decided to get up, knowing there was no way he’d be able to get back to sleep. He maneuvered himself onto the edge of his bed, his feet suspended, not quite reaching the parquet floor below. He was drenched in sweat, uncertain if it was due to the medication or the unbearable heat being generated by an unusual weather pattern.

Through his bedroom window, he noticed that the night sky had turned a crimson red. The moon, punctured by hues of cerulean blue, hung precariously over the withering willow trees that lined the riverbank, located several hundred yards away.

He remembered how a few years back, scientists had warned that the atmosphere would begin displaying erratic behavior — an inevitable result of climate change due mainly to human greed and ignorance. Of course, he, like many others, hadn’t believed this possible, but there it was, nature’s proof, pushing back at him through the open window. Giving up a long anguished sigh, he got up to close the window. In the distance, he could hear a nightingale singing a mournful serenade, a warning perhaps of the impending storm.

He made his way to a white lacquered dresser stationed against the wall, opposite his bed. Opening the top drawer, he began looking for something. A few minutes later, his search was successful. He extracted a small paper object. Returning to his bed, he unfolded the paper as he’d done on numerous other occasions. It was still the same as before — blank.

He recalled earlier that day something had been different about the paper. But he couldn’t remember what. He brought it close to his face, hoping to divine its secrets — nothing. Frustrated, he shifted his gaze to the approaching storm outside the window. Bolts of white light were now piercing the blood red sky, interspersed with the roar of thunder. A torrential rainfall had followed, slapping the window with brute force, demanding its entrance.

He looked back down at the small square piece of paper but couldn’t recall why or how it had gotten into his hand. Noticing the folds etched onto it, he decided to follow suit, first refolding the paper in half. Then in quarters. He continued folding it over on to itself until it had become impossible to add any more folds. He now began to flip it from palm to palm, as though testing its weight. Finally, he allowed it to come to rest in his right hand. He then clenched his hand, making a fist, causing the folded piece of paper to disappear within. He continued squeezing with such intensity that his knuckles began to turn a ghostly white. Perhaps he feared that the object would somehow escape his grasp, or worse, be stolen.

At some point, he must have felt that it was safe to release his grip — to allow the object to rest once again, unguarded, in his open palm. Tears had begun forming along the edges of his hazel eyes. He had an epiphany. He realized that this folded piece of paper represented the sum of his own life — his dreams, his desires and his beliefs.

He also knew he hadn’t much time left. To him, living was at best, an irrational and compulsive folding in of one’s time, of one’s space, of one’s experiences. He had played many roles within the time and space he was allotted — those spaces which he’d occupied for the past eighty years. But like the folded piece of paper, which now lay inert in his palm, having reached the end of its folds, so too he, had reached his. All that remained now was the unfolding.


I GOT A CALL THAT MORNING from Lieutenant William Ant from the homicide division of the 3rd Precinct. I was at my office catching up on some paperwork, which for me, amounted to playing the saxophone without the reed. The IRS had decided that I should be audited for reasons I suspect were not altogether kosher. My last case had got a few bureaucrats upset, so I figured they had called in some markers.

“What gives, Ant?” I fired out into the phone’s receiver.
“I’ve got something for you.”
“Is it my birthday? I thought it wasn’t for another two months?”
“Funny guy. Not sure if you’ll see it as a gift once you hear all the details.”
“Such as?”
“We’ve got a girl here charged with the murder of her grandfather. The thing is, she’s not saying a word.”
“Yeah. So, what’s that got to do with me?
“Well, we found one of your business cards in her pocket.”
“That’s weird. Haven’t printed any of those for over a decade. Doing my bit for the environment.”
“I’ll bet,” said Ant, “more likely you didn’t want to spring for new ones.”
“Now you know why. They have a habit of ending up in the strangest places. So, what’s her name?”
“Alice Carmichael. Ring any bells?”
“Well, she keeps saying that she’ll only talk to you. So we need you to come down.”
“What about the details of the murder?”
“That’s where it gets even stranger. But I’d rather fill you in at the precinct.”
“Wow. And here I was thinking I’d be spending a quiet, relaxing morning, working on my taxes. But if duty calls, damn the taxman. See you in ten.”

The Conversation Cover

The Conversation

A James Cartwright Hard-Boiled Noir Short Mystery

By Oliver Dean Spencer

The Conversation Cover

The Conversation (Excerpt)


“If the cards are stacked against you, reshuffle the deck.”
― John D. MacDonald

SHE KEPT STARING AT ME from across the diner. I had been working my way through a couple of eggs—over easy, bacon, home fries, and a dried-out tomato slice. I was famished after a night of chasing down a missing orangutan from a local zoo. I gulped down the last of my coffee and made my way towards her.

“Excuse me miss, but do we know each other?” She looked up giving me this look of utter disbelief as if such a possibility was absurd. And then she told me as much.

“I’ve never laid eyes on you in my life.”

“Well. I’m sorry to have bothered you.” I made to turn, to head back to the remnant of my morning chow, when she reached out, grabbing hold of my arm.

“Are you James Cartwright, the private detective?”


“On what?” She seemed to have a low tolerance for being ignored.

“On why you’re looking for him.” She considered this obvious fact for a moment.

“Please forgive my manners. I’m Julia. Mrs. Julia Martin. We spoke earlier on the phone,” offering up a smile with her words that could stop dead—a crash of rhinoceroses. She then extended her perfectly manicured hand, one that had probably never seen a day’s work. I shook it. It felt as soft as lamb’s skin.

“So, what is it that you think I could do for you, Mrs. Martin?”

“A friend of a friend told me you could help.”

“With what, exactly?”

“A missing person. My husband to be exact.”

“Have you been to the cops?”

“That’s just it. I haven’t. I figure they would suspect me right off.”

“Suspect you of what?”

“Of murder.”

“Why is that? You said he was missing. So, either he’s missing, or he’s dead?’

“I’d have to say both.”

I took this last detail in and chewed on it for a few seconds. But it was leaving a bad taste in my mouth, similar to the dried-out tomato slice I had tackled moments earlier.

The Conversation is available at these following online stores:


The Final Ring Cover, Oliver Dean Spencer, 2018

The Final Ring

A James Cartwright Hard-Boiled Noir Short Mystery

By Oliver Dean Spencer

The Final Ring Cover, Oliver Dean Spencer, 2018

The Final Ring (Excerpt)


Mike Hammer

“You’re never around when I need you.”


“You never need me when I’m around.”

Kiss Me, Deadly (1952) Mickey Spillane

IT was about four in the morning when I got the call. The phone’s incessant ring—at first a distant hum, kept rising in volume—clawing at the surface of my subconscious like some crazed snow crab, caught in a midsummer’s heat wave. I tried ignoring it—tossing and turning and hoping to get back to sleep, but to no avail.

I finally decided to give in and get up, balancing myself on the edge of my bed. Even if the phone hadn’t rung, I would have woken up. A recurring nightmare that I’d been having over the past few weeks, usually kicked in, around this time.

As a private investigator, reality sometimes got scrambled up inside one’s head. That included one’s dreams. When it came to mine, it seemed that someone always ended up dead—usually murdered and for obvious reasons—love, greed or plain stupidity.

In this one specific recurring dream, I was shot point blank by an unknown assailant. There was no face—only its presence taunting me through deserted city streets. I had no idea if the assailant was a man, women or thing. It’d keep shifting it shape and movements, like a fleeting shadow out of an old classic, black and white Nosferatu film.

But, as such nightmares go, I’d always wake up before the bullet’s impact—gasping for air and drenched in cold sweat. A cloud of dread and anxiety would then hang over me throughout the day, wondering if today—was that day.


The phone was still demanding my attention, so I pulled it hard against my ear. With a course, broken and uncertain voice I attempted a response, “yeah, Cartwright here.”

The female voice on the other end seemed out of sorts. It also sounded familiar, but who, I couldn’t place.

“James. James is that you?”

“Well Yes—if it’s JC you’re looking for, you’ve got the right number.”

“James. It’s Ann. Ann Mercer. Shelby’s wife.”

I suddenly made the connection. Shelby was my partner when I was with the Detroit Police Force, some fifteen years back. I hadn’t spoken to either Shelby or Ann for the past five years since they moved up north to Toronto.

“What’s going on Ann?” Knowing it must be important if she was calling me in the middle of the night.

“It’s about Shelby. He’s. Well. He needs your help.”

“For what?”

“He’s been arrested. For murder.”

There was a long pause as I got my mind up to speed as to what Ann had just thrown at me. Shelby had been a stand-up cop—never got his hands dirty with drugs or payoffs. But like me, he wasn’t a saint either. While on the force we both had our idea of justice. We both tried to play it by the book, but on occasions, we’d bend the rules. In the process, we also pissed off a lot of the wrong people.

“What do you mean arrested for murder? Who? When?” I heard myself asking with an edge of anger rising in my voice.

“Another cop. A few days back.” Her voice was starting to waver, “please James. You must come down. We need you.”

“But Ann, what can I do? My investigator’s license isn’t any good up there. I’m sure this is all some misunderstanding.” But I knew full well that arresting an ex-cop was not something other cops took lightly. They must have some hard evidence on Shelby.

“When did a little thing like a license ever stop you, James?” Inserting a bit of humour to a stressful situation. But she had a point. Kissing up to bureaucrats was never my strong suit.

“Ok, Ann. One question before I decide. Do you think he’s innocent?”

“Yes. With all my heart.”

“That’s good enough for me. I’ll be on the next flight out.”

The Final Ring is available on Amazon for free with Kindle Unlimited

The Spanish Curse Cover, Oliver Dean Spencer, 2018 excerpts

The Spanish Curse

A James Cartwright Hard-Boiled Noir Short Mystery

By Oliver Dean Spencer

The Spanish Curse Cover, Oliver Dean Spencer, 2018

The Spanish Curse (Excerpt)


The first wild birds of the morning
Are breaking out of the trees.
And now the night is dying
On the sharp edge of the stone.
Let’s find a corner of darkness
Where I will love you always,
And I won’t care about people
Or the poison that they spread.

Blood Wedding

I FOUND HER THAT MORNING sitting by herself, at a table tucked away in the corner of a cafe, over on Michigan Ave. I thought of going to her and striking up a conversation—perhaps unearth further details about who she was. But I decided against it. She seemed intensely immersed in her book—whose title and author I couldn’t quite make out. The book’s cover held a sort of macabre image of a limp figure hanging from a tree, contrasted by large block lettering in red and black ink.

After about an hour of struggling with crossword puzzles from a local rag paper, I saw that she was finally ready to leave. She left some change on the table for her coffee and croissant and headed to the front door. I pretended to concentrate on my crosswords as she walked by.

Exiting a few minutes later, I caught sight of her a few hundred yards ahead. Her limp was more prevalent now as she made her way down the middle of the street, her body convulsing back and forth, from leg to leg. The sun had been bearing down hard that day, and the soles of her shoes left mirrored imprints on the black asphalt below.

She turned right, off Michigan Ave, onto Wabash St. About halfway down the block, I spotted a black sedan cruising towards her. It came to a crawl as it passed her but didn’t stop. She seemed to take no notice of its interest in her. I tried catching a glimpse of the driver, but all I got for my troubles was a goofy mugshot of myself staring back—off the sedan’s black tinted windows. I made a mental note of the plates, as it made a right at the next corner and disappeared out of sight. But not for long.

The girl had made her way to the intersection and was about to turn left when the black sedan reappeared moving fast towards her. I hit the pavement at a full run—holding out hope I could reach her on time. But I was too late. The sedan had come to a complete stop. Two men got out, grabbing hold of her and forcing her into the back.

 By the time I reached the spot, the sedan was already a block and half up Wabash. Out of breath and lungs aching I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I pushed hard in the sedan’s direction like some crazed wannabe marathon runner. I caught a final glimpse of the sedan as it made a sharp right tight turn onto Dalzelle, disappearing from my view for the second time that day. I continued for several more blocks, walking up and down the various cross streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sedan. But nothing.

 I tracked down a phone booth a few blocks east of where I was and fed it a couple of quarters. I was put right through to Detective William Ant. I was surprised. Usually, it took a parade of elephants to get him to answer my calls.

“Cartwright,” he shouted into the receiver, busting an eardrum in the process. “Where you been?” 

Ant was pissed at me about the last case in which a teen shot and killed her mother. The bullet had been meant for me. He still blamed me for the mother’s death. He’d argue, and not for the first time, that if I’d gotten the authorities involved, things would have turned out different. But I didn’t buy into any of that self-serving rhetoric. Besides, I’d been hiding under a bottle of Kentucky bourbon for the past couple of weeks. All that was important now was saving the girl’s life. And I told him so.

“Listen, Ant. There’s no time for any bullshit. I need your help tracking down a kidnapping. The girl’s about five-ten, thin figure, walks with a limp and is probably in her late teens. I was tailing her when she was grabbed by a couple of thugs who threw her into the back of a black sedan with the plate numbers BEA6615. They were heading south of Wabash the last I saw.”

“OK, James,” realizing that this was not the time for bad blood, “I’ll issue a BOLO right off. But you need to come in and file an official report with us. You hear me, James?”

I heard him alright—cut off, as I dropped the receiver back onto its cradle. What I needed to do was find the girl fast. There was no time to feed the bureaucratic sloth.

The Spanish Curse is available on Amazon for free with Kindle Unlimited

The Polka Dot Affair Cover, Oliver Dean Spencer, 2018 Short Fiction


A James Cartwright Hard-Boiled Noir Short Mystery

By Oliver Dean Spencer

The Polka Dot Affair Cover, Oliver Dean Spencer, 2018

The Polka Dot Affair (Excerpt)


I once knew a man who stole a Ferris-wheel.

— Dashiell Hammett

I’D BEEN WORKING LATE killing off a bottle of my favourite eighty proof, sour mash bourbon—the night she came through the door. She stood some five foot six—five eight if one counted the heels. Her fishnet stockings had been torn in several places along the knees. A tight-fitting, red leather dress, clung hungrily to her body, cloaked under a white mink coat—worth a working stiff’s yearly salary.

Tears had been pushing down hard across her face, smearing her coal black mascara into some sort of coded message. Her emerald eyes—speckled brown, had me pegged—like some wild deer caught by oncoming headlights, on a cold winter’s night.

Out of breath and scared, she still hadn’t given up any clues as to why she was standing there. But I figured she was in shock— either from whatever it was she was running from. Or, what she had run into—me.

At six feet two, two hundred and twenty-two pounds and a bottle of bourbon in hand, I didn’t fit the poster child for a hard-working, get-the-job-done, private dick. My favourite black felt Fedora, was slipping sideways off my head. My matching black cotton double breasted suit looked slept in—which in fact it had been. Perhaps it was my snub nose and the chiselled face that gave her cause for alarm. But I was betting on my chestnut hazel blue eyes that I’d inherited on my mother’s side—would work its magic.

I was about to ask why she was here when I saw her lips part. “Are you—” but cut herself off, suddenly turning a pale shade of yellow.

I realized then that she had a date with the floor, so I made a move towards her. I caught her, guiding her onto the wooden chair that fronted my desk. I then grabbed the bourbon I’d been nursing, poured two fingers worth into a shot glass and passed it to her. She downed it willingly, so I poured her a second. Then I drew some for myself—straight from the bottle. Her pale and milky white face was once again showing signs of life—hints of red returning to her cheeks and lips. She decided to give me another try. “Are you Cartwright, the private investigator?”

“Last time I checked,” I answered, hoping some humour would lighten things up. But it seemed to have missed the mark. She was more confused than ever. But she still pushed on.

“Well, if you are who you say you are, I need your help. Someone is trying to kill me.”

The Polka Dot Affair is available on Amazon for free with Kindle Unlimited

Tell Me That You Love Me Cover

Tell Me That You Love Me

A James Cartwright Hard-Boiled Noir Short Mystery

By Oliver Dean Spencer

Tell Me That You Love Me Cover

THE POUNDING RAIN HAD STOPPED as suddenly as it had begun. Sheets of silver-green neon clung hungrily to the moist black asphalt like some reptilian skin. The smell of raw sewage and death lingered in the air like a long lost friend. A pool of liquid red began working its way from under her – having jumped moments earlier from the office window above. Now lying there like some still frame out of a front-page tabloid. Stone cold dead. Next to my feet.

They say that water cleanses. They also say that it makes up some seventy percent of our body weight. So you’d figure that nothing should stick – not the pain or sense of isolation, not the dirt and grime built up from being in my business. Not even the image of her short, fragile existence, now pinned to the cold pavement before me.

But perhaps the problem lies with the other thirty percent. All that fat content. That’s where it settles in nice and easy. Sure you could go on some sort of diet, see a shrink, confess to the local parish priest or even just hide out in some bungalow equipped with a satellite TV with some two hundred plus channels. But where’s that get you? A momentary lapse in memory – a blip on your timeline. In the end, it would all come flooding back – as it had done so many times before.

My name is James Cartwright. And I’m a private investigator.


End of Excerpt

Tell Me That You Love Me is available on Amazon: $ .99