Mark Edward Jones

Mark Edward Jones
I am a lifelong resident of Oklahoma and a retired administrator in higher education finance. After retirement in 2017, I picked up my writing habit and decided it was now or never to begin a serious effort in publishing a novel. Mystery/detective/foreign intrigue stories are my favorite reads, so I am trying to write my own. I joined an author group that provides encouragement and helpful critiques as my new novel takes shape.

The Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc. (OWFI) offers a writing contest each year for its annual spring convention. An excerpt from my 'To be Titled' novel was picked as Winner of the 2019 Mystery and Suspense category.

One of my flash fiction stories was published last summer in The Report, the OWFI's periodical. The Amanda Steel U.K. publication Printed Words has published 'Alone in Warsaw' in its Autumn 2019 edition on Amazon U.K.
Award Category Finalist
Award Submission Title
Peculiar Activities
While investigating multiple murders in 1995, a detective followed the trail of the suspected killer from Alexandria, Virginia to Prague where he too became a victim. His widow later became director of the city’s homicide division and has pursued her husband’s killer for twenty-five years. Henry Pierce is a new detective whose first case entangles him in her old quest. Is there a conspiracy only she can see?
My Submission
Chapter One

It was a nice leather jacket—regrettably, its owner had lost his head. Cold case murders were my new responsibility, or so they told me. Even so, my third day as a detective found me at a park, standing next to not-so-cold body parts scattered along a creek’s muddy bank. I took pictures, examined the area for evidence, and hurried back to my office, confident our coroner could pick up the pieces.

My office mate chattered all afternoon, insisting I learn of all the methods available to dismember a body. Five o’clock came, finally, and I headed out for a beer, finding one at Manny’s Bar. It was the latest place to see or be seen in downtown Alexandria, huddled in a row of renovated colonial buildings hosting restaurants, taverns, and whatnot shops. A Manny’s sign in purple neon script flickered above a massive picture window revealing booths and tables packed with customers sipping their happy-hour drinks.

I ventured inside and found two unclaimed barstools, their lime-green vinyl covers splitting from years of sliding, bouncing rear ends. Picking up a tattered beer list, I climbed on a stool just as someone jostled me when snatching the other seat. It seemed my new boss was joining me.

Angela Marconi dropped her oversized black purse into a cluster of peanut shells tossed on the brick floor. “Hey, Detective Pierce. Your first case today, right?” She beamed a huge smile at the bartender.

“Yeah … didn’t you assign it?”

“Right, right. It’ll be a tough one.” She rested her elbows on the bar, straightened a pile of napkins, then glanced at me. “So … I got more blowback today about your hire.”

I pushed the beer list toward her. “Is the commissioner having second thoughts again? What about you?”

There it was. Some people would call it a sardonic smile—a smirk would be more accurate, something legendary in the department. “No, no … no second thoughts from me. Commissioner Bates worries about the age thing—our youngest-ever detective and all that.”

“I can handle it. So, how did you know I came here?”

She winked. “Lucky guess. Let’s get a beer.”

“That list has a nice variety of choices. I’ll stick with just one, though. Lieutenant Stone told me to come in early tomorrow and start my paperwork.”

The bartender stood nearby drying three mugs, the same three since we seated ourselves. He noticed me watching and turned away to stop a dripping brass tap, one of many attached along the dark, wood-paneled wall.

Marconi tapped a foot on the barstool’s middle rung. “You tell the lieutenant I bought us a round. What do you like?” She waved at the mug-drying beer slinger. “Hey, get us a Sam Adams Irish Red.”

I shrugged. “Guess I’ll take a Sam Adams Red.”

“I know that guy,” she said, followed with another quick wave. “Hey, Manny.”

The bartender peered over his rimless reading glasses and stepped toward the row of beer taps. “Angela Marconi? My Angie Doll. I thought it was you.” He handed us frosty mugs filled more with foam than beer, then patted her left hand. “You look the same. How long has it been now since Jack died?”

“Twenty-five years. And, no, I do not look the same.” She leaned over and grabbed her purse.

I had no deep yearning to be a part of this grand reunion, but now I wanted to hear more. We watched Marconi dig through her purse while I chugged half my beer. Curiosity got the better of me. “So? Who’s Jack?”

Both her hands had disappeared inside a ragged pocket on the outside of the purse. She stopped digging and sighed. “Jack Marconi is my late husband. He started just like you, Henry—a patrolman, then a detective.”

Manny’s eyes widened.

“It wasn’t too long before he … and Manny here … joined the agency about the time we married.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, watching her yank on the purse’s jammed zipper. “I mean, I’m sorry your husband died, not that you married.”

Manny slapped the damp dishtowel over his shoulder. “It was government work. Very secretive.” He stood below a dusty bison’s head attached above the bar’s dark shelving, a face showing a remarkable resemblance to its owner.

“Crap, I can’t find his picture.” Marconi dropped her purse back on the floor. “Yeah, he was doing something for the government.”

Manny wiped his forehead with the damp towel. “Jack was too nosy for his own good.”

“Nosy? God, Manny, that’s an odd way to put it. He was doing his damn job.” She glanced at her left hand where a ring might have been, the tips of her fingers a pale yellow from a smoking habit she swore she had quit.

“No matter, Angie Doll, it’s terrific seeing you again. I’m sure Jack would be proud of you becoming the division’s first female director.”

“You’ve kept up?”

“Word gets around. Anyway, I’ve owned this place for a while. I’m surprised you haven’t come to see me.”

“Oh, I’ve heard of it, but doesn’t every town have a Manny’s Bar? It’s supposed to be the newest spot for the young crowd, right?”

“Seems so,” he said. “They migrate from one place to the next. I’ll take their money as long as it lasts.”

She sipped her beer, then dabbed her mouth with a dry napkin. “I’ve wondered what happened to you over the years. You were like a ghost after Jack died.”

“I’m no ghost.”

“Right,” she said, showing half a smile, “but now that Detective Pierce here has found your bar, I won’t have to be a stranger.”

I pitched a handful of empty peanut shells on the floor, one landing on Marconi’s purse. She wouldn’t appreciate my advice. “My detective training would suggest the best way to find a person is to start with his or her name. It’s called Manny’s Bar.”

Marconi ignored my comment and gave a sideways glimpse at my feet. “Is there something on your shoes?”

I glanced at the barstool’s bottom rung, and, sure enough, my new black loafers had more than lost their shine. “Yeah … I barfed.”

“You threw up?” she asked, smirking again. “Your crime scene wasn’t pleasant from what the coroner told me.”

“I’ve never seen a human body cut up like beef,” I said.

Manny grinned and turned away. Was he laughing at me or the murder?

I dipped my napkin into my water glass, leaned over, and tried to rub off whatever had dried hard to my shoes.

Marconi eyed the door. “You’ll get used to such things … unfortunately.” She smoothed her blonde and gray bangs into place, so uneven it appeared she had cut them herself, then mumbled something about the time.

“I’m sorry, what?” I asked.

“So, here’s something I remember from my detective training. Unless our victim today hacked himself into pieces, this murder is much like killings we investigated in the nineties. All those happened in the Alexandria area before …” She grabbed her purse again and guzzled the last of her beer.

“Before what?”

Foam dripped from her top lip. “Several more occurred in Prague.”

“Prague? The murderer moved to Europe?”

Her face reddened. “Come to my office first thing tomorrow, detective. You’ve gotten involved in something we’re all going to regret.” She pitched a twenty and another smile to Manny, then slid off the barstool. “Good to see you, buddy. Great business you have here.” Her smile flipped to a frown as she shoved through the crowd.

Reluctant to continue a conversation, I stared while Manny took her glass and pitched a wet napkin in the trash. He stood straight, then tilted his head. “Something else, detective?”

I hesitated, but said, “I’m a little confused by her story.”

His eyes offered nothing but a vacant gaze. He placed his palms on the damp copper bar and leaned toward me, so close I could see his longest mustache hairs twitch with his breath.

“She did not tell you everything. Her husband’s death was no accident. Someone murdered and dismembered him in Prague after he had tracked a killer he thought had crossed the Atlantic. His murder became another of the unsolved deaths. He thought he was on to something … something big.” Manny shoved an index finger on my chest and sneered. “Pay attention, new detective. Angie Marconi knows her business. Learn from her if you dare … and watch your smartass mouth.” He scowled, then turned back to the sinks, filled again with unwashed mugs.

Burned popcorn kernels and brown peanut skins hid the bottom of the wicker basket in front of me. I rotated on the barstool, surprised by the score of standing customers huddled in clusters, many staring at the vacant seat next to me. A young woman burst through the door, glanced around the room, then hurried toward me, bouncing onto the empty barstool while other patrons dithered. She brought a breeze of a flowery perfume, a fragrance my grandmother might wear.

We exchanged small talk over the noise. The charming two-story building had been both horse stables and a warehouse in its past, its brick walls generating echoes from dozens of conversations. She bought me a second beer, this time served by a younger male bartender while Manny washed and dried the never-ending stack of mugs and glasses.

Her name was Nika Campbell, no wedding ring, but a classy watch, an expensive-looking blue dress, and a BMW emblem dangling from her designer purse. Nika worked for the State Department, not unusual in Alexandria, where hundreds of men and women worked for the government or other influencers.
She was attractive, a petite brunette with big brown eyes, and she gave a slight giggle at the end of every sentence. “So, Henry Pierce, I’ve gone on and on about me. Your turn for the where and what.”

“The what? Oh … I grew up near Blacksburg. After I graduated, I moved closer to the district and was a patrolman at Mount Vernon. Now I’m a detective here in Alexandria.”

“How exciting.” She giggled, then munched on the cherry from her whiskey sour. “I bet it’s fascinating work. Say, I have a neighbor that needs a detective. Could I have your card?”

I opened my wallet and offered one of my new business cards. “I work for the city’s homicide division.”
“So, you couldn’t help my neighbor?”

“Only if it’s connected to a crime investigated by the city police. I’m restricted to those cases.”

She dropped my business card into her purse. “What’s the ‘I’ for?” she asked.


“It’s noisy in here, isn’t it?” She patted my arm, then left her cold hand on mine. “I said, what’s the ‘I’ for?”


“Your name. The business card says, Henry I. Pierce.”

I raised an eyebrow. “It’s the initial for my middle name.”

Her shoulders slumped. “No kidding? What’s your middle name? Gawd.”


“‘I’ is for Ike?”

“Yes, my grandmother liked Eisenhower.”


“Eisenhower. The general. President Eisenhower, for God’s sake.”

She rolled her eyes. “So, where does Ike come from?”

“His nickname was Ike, and my family still calls me that.”

“Your name is Henry Ike Pierce?” She giggled again and grabbed my hand between hers. “Don’t be so sensitive. My middle initial is ‘I’ for Irina—that’s why I asked. My father was from Slovenia … Slovakia … one of those.”

“But when you introduced yourself, you said your last name is Campbell.”

“My mother chose it. She was a Kovać, a Keurig … crap, I can’t remember that either, and she changed it after my father left. She called him an izdajalec … a traitor.”

“A traitor?”

“That’s all I know.” She looked away and sipped her drink, now mostly ice.

The day had been exhausting, and my early evening now included murders in Prague and giggling Slovenians. “Nika, I’m scheduled to see my boss first thing in the morning to review a case. It’s been nice to meet you.”

She offered an exaggerated wink. “Okay, Mister Detective, go solve a crime. The city needs your help from what I’ve heard. Here’s my number.” Dating someone new wasn’t something I wanted while starting a new job, but I took her business card anyway.

“Have a good evening,” I said, trying to hurry toward the door.

Manny hovered near the entrance, wiping a table while watching me wade through the sea of people. He grinned and opened the frosty door. “My, my, Henry Ike Pierce. It seems you have stepped into several piles of it today.”

“Yeah, thanks for the … great evening.” The door smacked my right heel on the way out.

I ducked under the dripping canvas of a green awning hanging too low over the front door. The only lights reflecting on the wet sidewalk were strings of low-wattage bulbs clipped to the trees lining Duke Street. Parked next to the front door, a sullen man sat behind the steering wheel of a white BMW 7 Series. He stared as I struggled to get between its bumper and a Mercedes parked ahead of him. I jaywalked across the slick cobblestone street and used both hands to clear my Toyota’s slushy windshield.

The door at Manny’s opened again. It was Nika. The smile gone and her phone smashed against an ear, she slid into the back seat of the BMW. The glum driver maneuvered out of the tight parking spot, the engine growled, and the car slipped away through a curtain of snow.


MarkEJones1957 Mon, 21/09/2020 - 18:29


I chose history as my minor in college. Medieval history is one of my favorite reads. Thank you and good luck to you.