My name’s Benji Golden and you’ll never guess what I do for a living so don’t even try. In the world of casting agents I’m what’s known as a juvenile type. I stand exactly one quarter inch shy of five-feet-six, weight a buck thirty-seven and am exceedingly baby faced. I’m twenty-five but can pass for seventeen. I answer to the nickname of Bunny. But I’m plenty feisty. I have to be.
I’m a licensed private investigator. In fact, I’m the best there is in New York City at finding missing young people. Ask around at One Police Plaza. Down there they call me Runaway Man.
My dad, Meyer Golden, was an NYPD homicide detective who became a genuine hero back in the 1990s when he caught Briefcase Bob, the subway serial killer who was terrorizing New York City. After he retired from the job Dad bought a comfortably worn – some might say decrepit – five-story brownstone on the corner of Broadway and West 103rd Street and launched Golden Legal Services. He and mom sold our raised ranch in Mineola and moved in over the office. Eventually, Mom became a licensed PI herself, which was quite some change of direction for her. When the two of them first met Mom had the distinction of being the only Jewish pole dancer in New York City.
Me, I caught the showbiz bug. I love Broadway musicals with all of my heart (Trust me, you do not want to get me started on the subject of Ethel Merman). I desperately wanted to act. Did act. I got two weeks on a soap. A few commercials that went national. Speaking roles on a couple of different Law & Order episodes. Given my slight stature and boyish features, they kept casting me as a high school kid – until they stopped casting me altogether. It turns out there isn’t much demand for a twenty-five-year-old juvenile type.
So I joined the family business. I can tail anyone through the streets and subways of New York City and they don’t know I’m there. But, like I said, my specialty is finding runaways. Thousands of teen-age kids from all over the country disappear into the Big Apple maw every year. Some are fleeing an abusive home life. Some are chasing the Broadway or catwalk dream. Some are just running and have no idea why.
When Dad passed away from stomach cancer two years ago Mom took over the business. I moved into our building’s top floor apartment – on a clear day I can see Amsterdam Avenue — and she and I run Golden Legal Services together now with the help of Mom’s pal Rita, a statuesque redhead who put herself through the Rutgers computer science program by working nights as a lap dancer. Give Rita a keyboard and ten minutes and she can hack into anyone’s most personal records.
Small agencies such as ours have trouble surviving these days. It’s tough to compete against the big boys. We’re always delighted when a paying client comes along. I’m especially excited about our newest client, Morrie Frankel, who is the last of the great Broadway showmen. Sadly, Morrie’s current extravaganza, a lavish $65 million musical adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, is the biggest unfolding disaster in the disaster-riddled history of the Great White Way. Rumor has it that Morrie has leveraged every asset he owns to keep his teetering production afloat. Rumor also has it that if he doesn’t find himself another deep-pocketed angel very soon he might go down — and take Wuthering Heights with him.
He has found himself a new angel, Morrie informs me. A flashy young British hedge fund billionaire named R.J. Farnell has promised to advance him $12 million. Unfortunately, Farnell and his $12 million have vanished. The only concrete lead Morrie has is the man’s hot girlfriend, an 18-year-old would-be actress from Ruston, Louisiana named Jonquil Beausoleil. Mind you, she’s disappeared, too. But Morrie figures that if I find her he’ll find Farnell.
I find her, all right — Jonquil Beausoleil is a webcam porn girl in the employ of the Minetta crime family. It so happens that Morrie Frankel is in deep to Joe Minetta, head of the family, who is Broadway’s top loan shark. It also so happens that absolutely nothing is what it appears to be.
Which is something I’ve gotten used to since I became a private investigator. Same as I’ve gotten used to being alone. It’s kind of ironic if you think about it. I can find anyone – except, that is, for my soul mate. I know she’s out there somewhere. And I know I’ll find her someday. I’m quite a good catch if I do say so myself, although I must admit that my job can get a bit crazy sometimes.
Not to mention deadly.
You can read more about Benji in Phantom Angel, the second book in the “Benji Golden” mystery series, published by Minatour. The first book in the series is Runaway Man.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 p.m. eastern on February 20 for the chance to win a copy of PHANTOM ANGEL. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes.
About the author
David Handler, the Edgar Award-winning master of the witty whodunit, was born and raised in Los Angeles and published two highly acclaimed novels about growing up there, Kiddo and Boss, before resorting to a life of crime fiction. He has written eight novels about the dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, as well as ten books in his bestselling series featuring the mismatched crime-fighting duo of pudgy New York film critic Mitch Berger and the lovely Connecticut State Trooper Desiree Mitry. Phantom Angel is his second novel to feature young Benji Golden, the feisty and street-wise 137-pound New York private detective who is sure to become Mr. Handler’s most beloved hero yet. Mr. Handler has written extensively for television and films on both coasts and coauthored the international bestselling thriller Gideon under the pseudonym Russell Andrews. He presently lives in a 200-year-old carriage house in Old Lyme, Connecticut.