Checking the Traps
Checking the Traps
Isabel Long is a bit banged up from her last case with a broken collarbone and her arm in a sling. But that doesn’t stop her from pouring beer at the Rooster Bar or taking her third case with Gary Beaumont, a local drug dealer who once terrorized her. Gary is convinced his brother didn’t jump off a bridge known for suicides. Somebody pushed him.
Gary’s brother was a boozer who drove for a highway crew. But what interests Isabel and her ‘Watson’ — her 93-year-old mother who lives with her — is that the man wrote poetry.
The chief suspects are one of Gary’s business associates and a famous poet who plagiarized his brother’s poetry for an award-winning book. Yes, he was that good.
As a journalist, Isabel did regular meetups with her sources for stories. She called it checking the traps. She does the same as a private investigator, and this time, she’ll make sure she doesn’t get caught in one.
Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Checking the Traps, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the third in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first two are Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge.
An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.
After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long mystery series.
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What’s with the Title Checking the Traps?
Isabel Long, the protagonist in my mystery series, is a longtime journalist turned amateur P.I. solving cold cases in the sticks. So, she uses the skills she developed as a reporter and editor in her new life as a sleuth. In Checking the Traps, she’s onto her third case. So why did I give my new novel that title?
Let me back up a little. The term “checking the traps” is one I used when I was a reporter years back. It meant on a day, typically Friday, I would call or drop in on my network of sources. I likened it to lobstermen or hunters checking to see what their traps might have snared.
For Isabel’s third case, Gary Beaumont, a bad boy drug dealer, hires her to find out what really happened to his brother. Did he jump from a bridge known for suicides? Or was he pushed?
In this scene, Gary is driving Isabel to that bridge. Along the way, she explains the term “checking the traps.”
Gary hits the wipers.
“Who you gonna see first, Isabel?”
“I’ll have to figure that out, probably Stan, the Penfield road boss. After we’re done here, I’m gonna draw up my list and work from there. I call it checking the traps.”
Gary makes a squawk.
“Checkin’ the what?”
“Checking the traps. When I was a reporter, that’s what I called it when I’d go through my list of sources. I’d give them a call or stop by. I’d just be friendly about it. I got some good stories that way. When I became an editor, I told my reporters to do the same. I also reminded them that checking the traps has another meaning. Make sure somebody isn’t feeding you fake shit to throw you off.”
“I get ya,” Gary says. “Did you always find somethin’ in one of those traps?”
“No, but I might the next time because the people learned what I was looking for.”
Friday was the day I checked the traps when I was a reporter. I would call the school secretaries, because frankly they always knew what was going on, and certain people in town government. It was all off the record, of course, until it became a bona fide story. I stopped by a couple of the general stores. The guy who used to own the store in Titus was one nosy newcomer with a keen sense of hearing, thank goodness. I got a lot of stories from him, and only one was a dead end. Too bad Jeff Murray sold the store a couple of years ago, but he would be worth a phone call if I can track him down. I’ll add him to the list.
I come out of my thinking state when Gary startles me with his voice.
“When do you plan on startin’?”
“I’d say right now, wouldn’t you? We’re going to look at that bridge and I want to see what’s around it like people’s homes. Six years isn’t that long a time. Maybe somebody living there remembers something useful. I also want to call the town police chief. I know some people here from when I was a reporter. Titus is not that far from where I live.”
“Right.” Gary nods. “We’re almost there.”
About getting caught in a trap, it only happened once to me. A reliable source who ran a general store told me he overheard a conversation that mastodon bones had been found in a certain location in town. It was supposed to be this big secret excavation. He wanted me to have it before the big papers got ahold of it.
Following my source’s directions, I dutifully went to the site and hiked through the snow, where I only found bear tracks. Turns out my source was the victim of a practical joke. In a TV show the night before, two characters played the same trick on locals. I didn’t hold it against him though. He was that good of a source.