#273 Atwater’s Petunias

by Evan Guilford-Blake

He’d spent his entire life trying to make the world a more beautiful place. And he’d done it, modestly perhaps, but he’d done it: His petunias glorified his yard and the yards of many others. At eighty-seven, he sat back and took pride.

Atwater had delighted in his wife. Now, a widower of many years, he still delighted in two things: his flowers, and storms. Thus, when he heard the thunder, he slipped from the surprise birthday party his daughter had arranged and stepped onto his porch, closing the door quietly. It had been dark, but now the late evening was furiously black. The windchimes clanked cacophonously. In his yard the ancient elm swayed and the gate creaked, while the torrent poured down onto his garden, drenching the last of the roses, the lilies and the newly planted petunias. From inside, he heard music and laughter. He shook his head. “Old man,” he muttered, “this is not a night to be celebrating.”

A lightning bolt flashed, illuminating the world. The storm was lovely to see, but ah, the poor petunias. He sighed, then withdrew a folded plastic sheet from the boxful on the porch and stepped into the torrential rain. As he did, another lightning bolt erupted, shattering the huge elm. He had time to think My petunias, they’ll...! before the tree crashed down.

They buried him on bright afternoon, and covered his grave with his beloved petunias. “He’ll like that,” his daughter said. She wiped an eye.

It’s Los Angeles. June, 1947. In the wake of mobster Bugsy Siegel’s violent murder, Private Investigator Robert Grahame is confronted with a case unlike anything he’s ever faced before. Lizabeth Duryea, a stunning yet peculiar young woman, hires Grahame to find her brother, Dan Scott, and leaves him with a small, mysterious package for safekeeping. But Grahame’s investigation becomes much more complicated when another mob big shot gets an anonymous tip that Grahame killed Siegel and hid the evidence in his office.

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