C. E. Zaniboni
Writing since she was a child, C.E.Zaniboni took the plunge into the world of fiction. From singer, actress, waitress, bartender, to owner of a small machine embroidery business, Chris has drawn from her many livelihoods to craft a novel set in the fictitious town of Gammil’s Point, Maine. As a singer, Chris had the opportunity to entertain many with the program she and her mother, the late Dorothy York, put together, entitled, Music Through The Years. An actress in community theater, she had parts in many plays and musicals, some of them original works by local talent. While waitressing and bartending, Chris kept her ears open for material she knew she’d use in her writing. She lives with her husband in Mansfield, Massachusetts.
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|Ex-cop turned P.I., Cy Walleski, thinks he
has it bad enough when he has yet another fight with his
girlfriend, Connie Gaglioni, but his night goes from bad to
worse when he discovers a body with a carrot deeply imbedded in
its ear. A noseless snowman is the only witness to the crime,
and he isn’t talking. Cy takes on the job to find out who the
dead young man is and why anyone would want to kill him in such
a bizarre way.
Word Count: 54620
Pages to Print: 197
File Format: PDF
Iced at Midnight PRINT BOOK! (ISBN
I looked up at the stars twinkling in a cold December sky and
kicked at the dirty snow that a lumbering plow had just
deposited in my path. Thanks a lot, pal. I shoved my hands into
the pockets of my worn parka and exhaled. Right now, I should be
enjoying the comfort of a warm bed and an even warmer female,
instead of trudging down the winter streets of my hometown,
Gammil’s Point, Maine.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Walleski,” I muttered, pulling
my watch cap down tight over my ears. I’d had another fight with
my girl and she’d sent me packing. At least we don’t live
together. I couldn’t seem to please her no matter what I did.
Just the other night she’d flown into a tizzy when I’d smiled at
a girl at the pizza place downtown. It was just a smile, for
heaven’s sake. Dames. I shook my head.
I drew abreast of the old Pike place and stopped. A snowman
leered at me from the front yard of the abandoned property—minus
a nose. He had all the other usual stuff, just no nose. Only an
empty hole where one had been.
I frowned, looking around for the poor guy’s honker. Shit. I
really needed a cigarette. Too bad they were in the glove box of
my car. I pulled out a stick of gum and unwrapped it. Poor
substitute, but it would have to do. I folded it up and popped
it in my mouth. I walked closer to get a better look at the
snowman and gulped. There, partially hidden in a snowdrift was a
man’s body with something sticking out of his ear. A carrot. I
almost swallowed my gum as I did a double take. Shit! My night
had just gone from bad to worse. I yanked my cell from my pocket
“Hey, Smitty, it’s me, Walleski. I’m out at the Pike place
looking at a snowman without his nose and the stiff whose ear is
wearing it.” I listened to his smart-assed reply. “No, his name
isn’t Frosty. Look, send a car. It’s freezing out here.”
I ended the call and eyed the dead guy. Young. Late twenties,
early thirties. I stomped my feet to try to keep the circulation
going. It was damned cold out. As a former cop turned private
investigator, I’d seen a few bodies in my day, but none done in
with a carrot. Pretty strange choice for a weapon, although I’d
read about another case where a guy was killed with an icicle to
the ear, so I knew it was possible.
Good thing I’d decided to take a walk to clear my head,
otherwise the poor guy might have laid here for days. Where the
hell are the police?
As if in answer to a prayer, a squad car glided to a stop in
front of me. I hadn’t realized I’d been walking in the middle of
the road. The massive cop who got out looked like a tank with
legs. Dexter Phillips. I’d tangled with him on more than one
occasion, here and when we’d been in the Army together,
stationed in ’Nam.
“Okay, Walleski, where’s the body?” He stood like a statue in
front of me, hand resting on his piece. I knew he had an itchy
I motioned for him to follow and led the way. I got the creeps
looking at the frozen face of the snowman while a body lay not
far away. Dexter bent down and felt of the corpse’s neck. Did he
think the guy had miraculously come back to life? What an
“Okay, he’s beyond help.”
No shit, I thought, wriggling my toes in the beat-up sneakers
I’d foolishly worn. I watched him pull out his cell phone and
punch in a number. He saw me looking at him and turned his back.
He turned to face me, a frown on his face. “The rest of the crew
is on the way. Why don’t we have a little chat, Walleski,
starting with what you’re doing out here in the middle of the
night.” Dexter waved me toward the unit. I started to get in the
front seat. He shook his head and opened the rear door.
I got in. “Not good enough to grace you with my presence in the
holy front seat?” I asked.
“Shut up, Walleski. Let’s cut to the chase. Give me your story.”
He twisted in his seat and eyed me while he pulled out a pack of
cigarettes and shook one free. Lighting it, he took a deep drag
and blew the smoke toward me.
I inhaled and groaned. “Hey, can I bum one of those?” I asked,
leaning forward and gazing hungrily at the pack he’d laid on the
dash. He offered me the pack. Greedily, I snatched one out
before he could change his mind. He lit it for me and tossed his
lighter on the seat. I closed my eyes and felt I’d gone to
heaven, as I drew in a lungful of smoke and held it.
I opened my eyes and exhaling in a rush, nodded. “Me and Connie,
we got into it again. Had a doozie of a fight and I left. I knew
I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I took a walk. To rethink a few
things. Found myself out here and saw the snowman. Started
looking for the missing nose and bingo, I found it. Didn’t think
it’d be in somebody’s ear.”
Dexter eyed me as he tapped ash from his cigarette out the
window. “Didn’t see anyone hanging around? Running away?”
“Nothing. Just me and the ice man.”
Dexter glared at me and crushed out his smoke.
I savored mine, sucked on that baby ’til it was almost gone. I
wasn’t wasting a bit of that stick of gold.
Suddenly, the area was festooned with the bubble lights of
emergency vehicles and the angry squawks of police radios. The
troops had arrived. “Okay if I go?” I said, pinching the last of
the cigarette between my fingers. Couple more seconds, and it
would burn me.
“Yeah, get out. I know where to find you.” He jerked his head
toward the door and laughed.
I glanced at the handle-less door. “I will, when you open the
door.” The burning butt seared my fingertips. I held my breath
and counted to ten. Hurry the hell up.
Dexter came around and let me out. I dropped the butt like a hot
potato and sucked on my singed fingers. He laughed.
Asshole. I pulled out my cell and dialed my good friend Tack, a
detective with the force. He answered and the sounds of a
distant game of pool and clinking glasses muffled his voice. I
knew where he was. The Hot Tamale, a local haunt we both
frequented. I could hear Dave, the bartender, bellowing at one
of his regulars. Yeah, bellowing. Picture a bull. Big thick neck
and shoulders that barely clear the doorway—that’s Dave.
“Cy, that you?” Tack’s voice was clearer now and the sounds of
the bar faded. I figured he had stepped outside.
“Yeah. You got a minute?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
“I’m down at the old Pike place. I just found a body.”
“You what?” I could hear Tack’s heavy breathing across the line.
“You heard right. The Ten-Ten over the radio? That was me
calling it in. I found a guy with a carrot stuck in his ear.”
“Are you shitting me?” Tack’s voice went up an octave.
“I walked here. Can you come get me?”
“Be right there.”
I heard the click and buzz of the disconnect and snapped my
phone shut. Now I’d just have to wait.
I glanced down at my watch and was shocked to see it was after
two. I was starving. Strange, considering I’d just discovered a
body. My stomach started to growl. Where can I get something to
eat at this hour? I thought of the little store I always went
by. What was the name of it? Clover’s Mini Mart. Yeah. I headed
for the center of town and dreamed of a hot sub. Or pizza. Tack
will find me. He knows I can’t stay still.
It’s a good thing I like to walk, I thought, slipping on a patch
of ice, but then regaining my footing. I kicked at a cola can
and watched it tumble in the wind.
My footsteps crunched as, deep in thought, I continued down Old
Beach Road. That guy wasn’t much more than a kid, and from the
looks of his clothes, he hadn’t been doing too badly for
himself. Wasn’t a local, and none of the guys had recognized
him, either. I’d like to get another look at the body. Check the
labels in his things. Maybe that would get the ball rolling to
find out who he was. Why was a stranger at the Pike place? And
what was the significance of the snowman?
Maybe Tack could pull some strings and help me get somewhere.
He used to be my partner in the good old days before the chief
found out I was dating one of the key witnesses in a case, and
kicked me off the force. I didn’t use much smarts then, not that
I do much better now, but at least I’m my own boss.
Clover’s Mini Mart wasn’t doing much business at 2:15 in the
morning. A beat-up old Volkswagen bug, painted a hideous shade
of green, sat partially covered by the newly fallen snow, and no
other cars were in sight. As I walked through the door, the
clerk looked up, glassy-eyed and yawning. He looked out of
place, I thought, like a hippie leftover from the sixties. Long
black hair hung almost to his waist, and some of those love
beads hung around his scrawny neck. I could feel his eyes follow
my every move as I picked out a pizza from the freezer and
grabbed a six-pack of Bud. I snagged a couple of Hershey bars at
the register, too.
“How’s it going?” I said, reaching into my back pocket for my
“Okay,” he said. He glanced up at me with disinterest, as he
finished ringing me up and started to bag my groceries. I swear
a turtle could have gone faster. Once he was done, I thanked him
and headed for the door. Behind me I heard a kind of grunting
noise I interpreted as some form of you’re welcome. Maybe in an
alien language? Kids nowadays. I shook my head as I started down
the icy steps. Lazy kid, couldn’t even throw salt down.
I guess maybe I was a pain in the ass to all the adults when I
was his age, but at least we’d had to have some kind of dress
code when we went to work for somebody else. For crying out
loud, he had on old ripped jeans that looked like they hadn’t
seen the inside of a washing machine in a long time.
The sound of a car pulling up beside me broke my ruminations.
The warm air that belched forth from the interior as the window
opened smelled of cigarettes and Drakkar aftershave. Tack leaned
over and opened the door. “Hey, thought you were gonna wait for
But hey, I’ve got to tell you about Tack. He always looks like
he just stepped out of a men’s fashion magazine. No kidding. No
matter what time of day, there’s Tack, looking like a Greek god.
He’s got an eye for great clothes and sexy ladies. Ah, maybe not
in that order, but I guess you catch my drift.
The guys on the force used to joke with him about his choice of
partners; after all, we were as different as night and day. But
that’s one thing I can say for Tack. He sticks up for his
friends and I’m glad I can count myself as one of them. Even
though I’m not one of the gang, Tack keeps me in the loop and
helps me out when I need special favors. Like parking tickets.
It helps to know somebody.
I pulled up the backseat and stowed my bags in the back, getting
in the front. “Sorry about that. I had to have a snack. Knew
you’d know where to find me. What’s going on back at the Pike
place? Heard anything?”
“Just the chief slinging insults and screaming about them
messing up the crime scene. Seems everybody’s been tromping
through the snow, not being careful. Same bullshit. Different
day.” He tapped the bottom of a fresh pack of Marlboros, and I
looked on hungrily. He shook one out and offered it to me. I
grabbed it greedily and, with the lighter he offered, lit it.
While I sucked on my cigarette like a hungry babe at its
mother’s breast, I watched him flick ashes out the window.
“Were you going to walk home with all that stuff?” he asked,
motioning toward the back.
“Well, I wasn’t gonna fly,” I quipped. “Seriously, I could use
the exercise, but it’s damned cold out. Glad you came along.”
The glow from the end of his cigarette was like a tiny beacon in
the dark interior of the car. I leaned back and stretched out my
legs toward the warmth blasting from the heater as we cruised
down Willow Street and headed toward my house.
Iced at Midnight