It all began with Mr. Schutt. It was really all his fault. I blame him—and I thank him—for one of the sweetest rides of my life.
I work in a Washington State big-box store—selling meat and seafood, of all things, to keep a roof over my head—and to help make a corporate giant even bigger, richer, and a whole lot meaner than it already is.
Yeah, that’s right—I’m Larry the fish-guy—from Lee Capp’s Time Enough To Die, and Elliott Bay. In the books, Larry is a near genius, and a pretty crabby SOB. Me—well, not so much—except for the crabby part, that is. Pun fully intended, by the way.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now—I wrote the books. Yeah, that’s right. Lee Capp is a pen name, a pseudonym, an alias. As in, an assumed name given a person to protect the innocent.
Or in this case . . . the guilty.
You see—I am the guilty party. I confess it. I wrote the books. Every single cursed word. I’m the one that’s guilty of creating that arrogant wise-guy and smart-assed detective, Johnny O’Brien.
I created Matthew Mason McCabe too.
Well—me—and Mr. Schutt, that is.
I’d seen him around the store a few times before I ever passed a word with him. Just another young-guy with a lot more road ahead of him than behind. A guy with a future. Probably working his way through college. There are always a lot of them around the store. It’s not a bad place to begin a career. A starter job. A good place to find out what work—and life—are really all about.
They’re all good kids. Not a lifer like me—too damned old to work—too damned stupid to know how not to. And way too tired to start over.
Anyway—there I am one day—early in the evening, if I remember right.
Selling my fish and counting the revolutions of the big and little hands until I could go home. A hot shower, a warm bed, a loving wife. A few short hours of rest—and then back to do it all over again.
Hell of a life—as I have noted.
I was doing something behind the counter when I heard the shuffling of feet. I knew a customer was standing behind me. One of those too polite to ring the bell or call out.
I like those—and I treat them with respect—like they were made of gold.
I turned around to take the order.
And there he was.
Mr. Schutt. Mr. Matthew James Schutt, to be exact—as I would find out later.
A nice-looking kid. Probably twenty. A mop of black-hair, complete with cow-lick. Maybe six-feet or so, and a buck fifty in weight—tops. Skinny. Open, friendly face. An easy smile—no guile behind it. The kind of guy that puts you at ease.
Patient. Trust me when I tell you—not all customers are like that.
He asked for some kind of meat. I don’t remember what, to tell you the truth. Trying to be friendly, I told him I’d seen him around the store. “You work here—right?” I asked.
“Yeah Larry,” he replied, reading my name tag and reaching over the counter for a hand-shake. It was not the wimpy, white, and un-calloused hand of a spoiled child. It looked like one that had done a fair amount of hard manual labor. I was impressed. Said he liked to work with his hands. Turned out the guy was a mechanic—among other things.
“I work in the jewelry store,” he continued. “Matt’s the name . . . I’m the watchmaker,” he said.
And thus . . . the evil was born.
I didn’t share another single, solitary word with the gentleman for probably another year. But his job title—his profession—festered in my feeble, fevered, and diseased writer’s brain, refusing to give-up the ghost or go away.
I knew I could do something with that title. It was just too good not too.
The Watchmaker . . . a million dollar title. And no story whatsoever, in any way, shape, or form, to go along with it.
And then I went to lunch.
My wife and I were out for the day, a rare beautiful, warm, and rain-free afternoon here in the great Northwest. We were meeting our daughter and her son for lunch at the local mall food-court.
It was called the Crossroads Café, a retro fifties-style diner with delicious greasy burgers and well-done fries. A nice place for a quick bite before a movie at the adjoining multi-plex.
It was here that Matt McCabe and Johnny O’Brien came into existence.
We were all sitting around talking about heaven-only-knows what, when the grandboy speaks up. Says he needs to write a short-story for a school assignment and is looking for ideas. As I’m a known nut-case, he asks me.
I suggested a detective story. It’s my favorite genre. I’m an old Agatha Christy and Mickey Spillane fan from way, way back. Sure, those stories have all been done—and overdone, for that matter. So I proposed adding a twist of fantasy—just for good measure—as me dear old mama always used to say.
I suggested the story center around a middle-aged detective. A sort of worn-out, and run-down character. A former police officer, he had been badly hurt in the line of duty. And he’s a widower to boot. And a boozer. A lot of problems to overcome. He has the soul of a withered and wizened sage, but the heart of a young lion.
And a sense of duty, loyalty and honor that time can’t dim—and bullets can’t kill.
This aging detective is faced with a little problem. Or a really big one, come to think of it—a challenge from an old nemesis. One of his old cases has come back to haunt him. The very one that almost put him in a wheelchair for life. A madman serial killer has kidnapped a sixteen year old girl and is going to gruesomely kill her in just three short days.
That is—unless the detective can find and stop him.
The game is afoot—and the game is on.
He needs help, and he needs it fast. First in the form of a beautiful lady police Sergeant. And next—a young, handsome, and mysterious, time-travelling tradesman. A watchmaker. A kid with a ton and a half of guts—and a magic pocket-watch to boot.
A pocket-watch with a rather odd personality—and a taste for human blood.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. There’s also an old friend and former partner—now the grouchy and irascible Bellevue Chief of Police. He and the detective were former friends and partners—until they had a little falling-out. Seems they were both once married to the same woman—but not at the same time, of course.
It’s kind of put a strain on their relationship.
I submitted my bare-bones story outline to the grandboy, in much the same way as the late, great Rod Serling . . . for his consideration.
He said he liked it, and was going to run with it. Of course, kids being kids—he never did.
But once again, it got inside my head and just wouldn’t go away. I wondered if it would be really possible, and practical—to combine two distinctly different genres—that is, mystery/suspense, and fantasy—and actually make them work together.
I remembered Mr. Schutt. I ventured to the watch-shop. With great trepidation, I presented my idea. I figured he would probably make me for the lunatic I actually am—and pretty much bodily throw me out the door.
He and I became friends. A most unlikely pair—if I do say so myself. I could scribble, but was far from an experienced and accomplished writer. I kind of had to learn as I went along. Matt helped, with story-line ideas, watch-innards expertise, and all-around great advice. No problem that I presented to him was too trivial or small for him to take the time to give me a complete, honest, and helpful answer. Even when he was busy and tired—he never turned me away—even taking a balky laptop computer of mine home with him to make work right again.
And wouldn’t take a dime in pay for his efforts either.
My lovely wife encouraged me to take up the challenge and write the story—she becoming my mentor, confidant, friend, and number one fan throughout the process. Matt’s lovely girlfriend Cassi (and later fiancé) a media arts expert, contributed much needed editorial advice. My (now deceased) brother Dale pitched in with brain-storming and endless encouragement and suggestions. He said he liked my writing better than Grafton and Cromwell.
He was a liar—but I loved him for the lie.
Later, a dear friend, author Ruth Rutherford, would polish the manuscript, and make it readable. A great lady, with the soul of an artist—and the eye of an eagle.
Mr. Schutt became the spiritual ancestor of the fictional watchmaker—Matthew Mason McCabe. To honor his contributions, I built my fictional watchmaker around him.
To begin, I stole his first name, and gave it to McCabe. I put Mr. Schutt’s ever-present cowlick on top of McCabe’s head. Matt’s middle name I purloined for another character—James Carter—the fictional watchmaker’s best friend.
I kept Matt’s friendly eyes, but made them piercing and predatory when I placed them into McCabe’s head. To Matt’s thin frame, I added forty pounds of muscle and the physique and graceful movement of a college quarterback.
I kept his humanity and humility. I couldn’t improve on that.
And I gave him a new best-friend . . . Johnny O’Brien. Just a tired, drunken, and worn-out old cop. A man that’s lost his faith, and his way—but the kind of man that doesn’t know the meaning of the words “give-up.” Or “retreat” either. A bulldog. A hero. A sinner, and sometimes saint—a brave man in a fight, and a coward in life.
There’s a little of all of us in Johnny O’Brien.
The Watchmaker was born. Book one ended up titled—Time Enough To Die: The Watchmaker – Book One. It’s followed by a sequel called Elliott Bay: The Watchmaker – Book Two.
Book three—The Reckoning, is in progress right now. Probably a year off of publication. It will be the final chapter.
All good things must come to an end.
Are they any good? Hell—I dunno. I like them.
So have more than a few of my readers. Some have even began to talk a little-bit about what the books might look like—if they were ever to be made into motion-pictures and hit the big screen.
I have to kind of admit—I’ve thought just a tiny bit about it myself.
Enough to have cast the movies in my head.
Come along with me—and I’ll show you just what some of the characters might look like.
But before we go, I’d just like to give one final big thank-you to all the wonderful souls and good friends who were involved with this project, and who helped me so much along the way.
Mr. Schutt is no longer a watchmaker. He now works in aviation—on his way to a pilot’s license and a ticket to fly the big planes.
Congratulations Matt. You can’t keep a good man down on the farm—or the ground—for very long. And congrats too, on your upcoming marriage to your lovely fiancé, Cassie. May you and your family always walk in sunshine.
It’s been quite a journey. And it’s been a pleasure to have made it in the company of those I love.
Now—let’s grab some popcorn and skittles, and go the movies!
Thanks so much for reading. Be back in a few days with another installment of The Reckoning: The Watchmaker – Book Three.
Until then–Good Day.
Dumb Joke of the Day:
Two Mexican detectives were investigating the murder of Juan Gonzalez. “How was he killed?” asked one detective.
“With a golf gun.” answered the other detective.
“A golf gun?! What is a golf gun?” asked the first detective.
“I don’t know, but it sure made a hole in Juan!”