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Authors: Ron Base

Tags: #Mystsery: Thriller - P.I. - Florida

Ron Base - Sanibel Sunset Detective 01 - The Sanibel Sunset Detective

Ron Base - Tree Callister 01 - The Sanibel Sunset Detective
Tree Callister [1]
Ron Base
West-End Books (2010)
Mystery: Thriller - P.I. - Florida
Tree Callister is not much of a private detective. His first client just turned up at the door, and he's 12 years old. What's more, the kid has the grand total of $7 with which to hire Tree to find his mother. Everyone on Sanibel Island, Florida, where Tree lives, thinks the former newspaper reporter is out of his mind. His only defender is his wife Freddie, and even she has doubts.
Then a headless body shows up, along with a threatening thug, a couple of suspicious detectives, and a former girlfriend, now an ex-FBI agent, who suspects Tree knows more than he is admitting. Before long, Tree is up to his neck in the kind of murder and mystery he only imagined as a boy reading the private detective novels he loved.

Table of Contents

Also by Ron Base

Copyright © 2010 Ron Base

For Ric











































Coming Soon

Title Page



a novel


Also by Ron Base


Matinee Idol

Foreign Object


Magic Man

The Strange


The Movies of the Eighties (with David Haslam)

If the Other Guy Isn’t Jack Nicholson, I’ve Got the Part

Marquee Guide to Movies on Video

Cuba Portrait of an Island (with Donald Nausbaum)

Contact Ron at

[email protected]

Copyright © 2010 Ron Base

All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright hereon may be reproduced or used in any form by any means—graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or information storage and retrieval system—without the prior written permission of the publisher, or in the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from Access Copyright, the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency, One Yonge Street, Toronto, Ontario, M6B 3A9.


Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Base, Ron, 1948 –

The Sanibel Sunset Detective / Ron Base

ISBN 978–0–9736955-4-0

I. Title

PS8553.A784S36 2010 C813’.54 C2010-907341-X


West-End Books

80 Front St. East, Suite 605

Toronto, Ontario

Canada M5E 1T4

Cover Design: Bridgit Stone-Budd

Text Design: Ric Base

Electronic formatting: Ric Base

Second Edition

For Ric


he advertisement appeared simultaneously in the Want Ads sections of the
Sanibel Island Reporter
and the
Fort Myers News-Press

Sanibel Sunset Detective

Professional Investigation

Discretion Guaranteed

1159 Causeway Rd.

Sanibel Island, Fl.

Phone 239-555-2348

A week later, Rex Baxter, president of the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, in what was becoming something of a morning ritual, shambled into Tree Callister’s office and presented him with a Starbucks Grande Caffe Latte.

“I’m sick and tired of waiting on you,” Rex said.

“What’s scary is, I’m starting to look forward to this,” Tree said.

“It‘s not like I feel sorry for you or anything,” Rex said. He eased himself into the only empty chair in the tiny office. “You coming to the end of a wasted life with nothing to show for it.”

“You’ve got a point there,” Tree said.

Rex was tall with wavy grey hair that made him look like a local TV anchorman, which, in fact, he had been for many years at WBBM-TV in Chicago. Well, not an anchor, exactly. Rex was the weatherman for the station’s late afternoon newscast. Before that, he had been a movie actor in 1950s B-pictures. He came to Chicago to host an afternoon movie show. That’s how Tree and Rex knew each other. Tree had interviewed him for his newspaper, the
. They had been friends ever since.

Originally from Oklahoma, and proud of it, Rex now was almost as much a part of Sanibel as the palm trees and the beaches. Tree, on the other hand, was not part of anything. Tree was an ex-newspaperman who didn’t know what to do with himself. Rex let Tree have the office upstairs at the Chamber of Commerce visitors center so he could get started in the detective business. Rex thought Tree was out of his mind, but the office was empty, and it would mean there was another body around to answer the phone when everyone was at lunch.

Rex said, “Okay, try this one on for size. Your favorite private detective movie.”

Tree thought about it a moment before he said, “

Rex scratched at one of the wattles that had developed beneath his chin. “
? That vampire movie?”

“This is another
. The better

“Never even heard of it.”

“Paul Newman is an ex-cop, ex-drunk in Los Angeles, living with famous husband-and-wife movie stars played by Gene Hackman and Susan Sarandon. Hackman is Newman’s best friend. The scenes between the two of them are priceless. Sort of like us, Rex.”

“You’re Newman, I’m Hackman, is that it?”

“It’s Newman’s last starring role. He’s too old for it, but he’s Paul Newman one final time, a little tired, a little world weary, but not giving into it, beating on, trying to make the best of what he’s been handed.”

“Like you, Tree.”

“Except I’m not Paul Newman. The tragedy of my life. What guy of a certain age doesn’t look at Paul Newman on the screen and identify with him? Everyone wants to be Cool Hand Luke.”


“It’s about coming to the end, but if you mean the plot, who knows? If you can remember the plot of a private detective movie, then it’s probably not a very good private detective movie.”

“Come on,” Rex said. “Private detective movies are nothing but plot.”

“Oh, yeah? What’s
The Big Sleep

Rex was silent. “Well, it’s about Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.”

Tree grinned. “And that’s more than enough plot for any movie. I rest my case.”

They were interrupted by the thump of footsteps on the stairs leading to Tree’s office. They both turned to see a boy in a Tampa Bay Rays baseball cap appear in the doorway.

“This the Sanibel Sunset Detective Agency?”

“It is indeed,” Tree said.

“I want to talk to a detective,” the boy said.

Rex winked at Tree and stood. “I’ve got to get over to the Ding Darling Education Center so I can finish making my gun.”

“Your gun?” Tree said.

“A rifle, actually. A replica of the real thing. But it works. Talk to you later.”

Rex ambled out past the boy who remained in the doorway. Tree waved at him. “Come on in and have a seat.”

The boy ventured tentatively into the room. He was African American. A backpack hung from his shoulders. He wore the usual island uniform: khaki shorts and a T-shirt that was too big for him, with a picture of a fish and “Sanibel Island” printed across the front.

“You are the detective guy?” As though he couldn’t quite believe it.

“I wouldn’t lie to you,” Tree said.

“You don’t look like a detective.”

“How are detectives supposed to look?”

“Younger,” the boy said.

He perched on the edge of the chair vacated by Rex, his head barely visible over the desk.

“So like I could hire you, right?”

“What’s your name?”

He hesitated before he said, “Marcello.”


“Like the Italian actor.”

“Marcello Mastroianni?”

The boy shrugged. “My mom said the Italian actor.”

“Okay, Marcello. Aren’t you a little young to be hiring detectives?”

“How old do you have to be?”

“How old are you?”

Marcello hardly paused before he said, “Twenty-one.”

“You shouldn’t lie to a detective,” Tree said.

“How do you know I’m lying?”

“I’m a detective,” he said.

“You think I’m young because you’re so old.”

Tree looked at him.

“It’s my mom,” Marcello said.

“What about her?”

“I want you to find her.”

“I see. Where is your mom?”

A look of impatience crossed the boy’s delicate features. “If I knew that, I wouldn’t have to hire you.”

“That’s true,” Tree had to admit.

“I got a card from her,” he said.


“Would you like to see it?”

Tree said he would. The boy swung the backpack off his shoulders and from it fished out a small blue greeting card. He handed it to Tree. Fumbling in his shirt pocket, Tree located his glasses and balanced them on the end of his nose. Marcello made a face.

“What are those?”

“The glasses? They’re glasses.”

“You wear glasses?”

“For reading. Just for reading.” Did he sound a tad defensive? He repositioned the glasses on the bridge of his nose and looked at the card. There was a small white heart in the bottom right-hand corner.

Tree opened it up. The handwriting in the interior was neat and feminine.

Hello, my little love,

I know you haven’t heard from me for a while, and I’m sorry. I should have written earlier. I love you very much, I want you to know that. I haven’t forgotten about you. I think about you all the time. I will be coming for you soon, I promise, darling. In the meantime, please be strong and brave, and remember that you are loved more than you will ever know.


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