In One Hot January, Joe January, an emotionally aloof private investigator from the South Bronx, gets more than he bargains for when he uncovers this seemingly impossible plot of time travel and alternate realities by grudgingly agreeing to help a pretty young woman locate her missing father. Her father, a Professor of Archeology from Columbia College, must prevent the secret location of Hitler’s body, which lies in a cryogenic state awaiting a cure for cancer, from falling into the wrong hands. By the end of the novel, January is thrust one hundred years into the future, where he must survive on a century-old sagacity as he endeavors to find his way back to his own time and the woman he loves but lacked the courage to tell. The tale concludes in January’s Thaw, to be released later this year.
“Good morning,” Melissa said, her voice sounding bright and cheerful from behind us.
“That it is,” I said, turning.
Let her go on thinking we were standing here admiring the sunrise, I thought wryly.
“Set down your suitcase and help yourself to some coffee, Miss MacIntyre,” I added, moving to my desk.
Lindy left my office for her own unaware, as Melissa stepped aside to let her pass, of the blue eyes that were attempting to gauge just where her responsibilities as my gal Friday might end.
“Thank you, no,” Melissa said. “Coffee’s something I never acquired a taste for. My preference is for tea.”
“What a pity,” I said, although my tone betrayed none. I sat down and, once again inhaling deeply of the aroma from the cup I still held, added, “The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it that the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce.”
“Why, Mr. January! I had no idea you were a reader of Oliver Wendell Holmes.”
“I’m not,” I said flatly, unable to recall where I’d heard or read the adage I had just adduced. “I don’t care for tea.”
Melissa laughed, the sound taking me by surprise. Yesteryear’s child was gone, I noted again, replaced by this more cultivated, ripened, much more sophisticated woman, her teeth just as straight and just as white as I remembered from that long ago night at Minton’s. For a moment I softened, and a different image of Melissa played itself across my mind, this one naked and squirming in ecstasy beneath me—
“I’m sorry,” I said, embarrassed by the fictive vision of a moment ago. “You were saying?”
“I asked if it were necessary that we maintain such a formal arrangement.”
No, I told myself, refusing to allow the remnants of that other Melissa to reassert itself. It’s best to keep business separate from pleasure—at least until such time I can be certain for whose side she’s playing.
To Melissa, I said, “I’m in your employ, Miss MacIntyre, and until we sever our business arrangement, I prefer keeping our relationship strictly business.”
“You weren’t working for me last night,” she said, baiting me. When I wouldn’t bite, she added, “Have it your way, Mr. January.”
I ignored her jest and pulled from one of my desk drawers the shoulder holster that housed my Colt Detective Special .38. Melissa’s eyes went wide.
“You don’t think you’re going to need that, do you?” She sounded as if she were having second thoughts about accompanying Lance and me to Indianapolis.
“You never know,” I said, slipping the holster over my head. “I’d hate to get all the way to Indianapolis just to wish I’d brought it along.”
J. Conrad Guest’s writing credentials include January’s Paradigm, first published in 1998 by Minerva Press, London, England. Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings, available from Second Wind Publishing, was adopted by the Illinois Institute of Technology as required reading for their spring 2011 course Baseball: America’s Literary Pastime. Several of Guest’s short stories and non-fiction pieces have appeared on Internet publications, including Cezanne’s Carrot, Saucy Vox, River Walk Journal, 63 Channels, The Writers Post Journal and Redbridge Review. Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine published in November 2005 Mother’s Day: Coming to Terms with the Cruelty of Parkinson’s, a memoir chronicling his mother’s battle against Parkinson’s.