Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2017

Archive for the tag “Fiction Saturday”

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Three

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Three

 

A Safe Place – Continued

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I was going to bring him in. I know that he says that he didn’t do it – that he didn’t kill her – they all do, but after that business in my office, I found it hard to believe.

I outweigh him by a good sixty pounds, but he tossed my desk around like it was made of cardboard and the look in his eyes made me think of King Kong swatting at those airplanes on the top of the Empire State Building.

I went into the Mission through the loading dock. I sent my guy in the front door. If he spotted Cumberland he was to start whistling so I could come in from behind. It’s not much of a plan, but when there’s just two of you, you go with it and hope you get lucky.

A couple of men in the dock area told me to go around to the front door, but once I flashed my badge (which I bought at Woolworth’s for seventy-nine cents, including plastic handcuffs and magnifying glass) they backed off. Most of these guys in the Mission have been rousted by goons with even cheaper looking badges than mine, so they didn’t push it.

I snaked my way through the ground floor and headed up the back stairs to the dining room. That’s where I figured we’d find him. Even a scrawny King Kong has to eat. When I opened the door from the kitchen I heard my guy whistling loud and clear. I might not have chosen, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that he was whistling for all he was worth. Cumberland was in the room – but where? There were at least a hundred and fifty guys in there. The stock market must have dived.

With that many men waiting in line, and all of them dressed pretty much the same – Skid Row Chic – it wasn’t going to be easy. And Cumberland didn’t stand more than five foot-seven. He could hide behind somebody’s wide lapels.

I started moving up one side of the room and The Whistler did the same. It was like walking through a field of corn, looking down each row. I was still hoping to spot him first and then try to get him down and cuffed before he had time to go ape on us. In that room there would be no telling how many people might be on his side.

About halfway down, nearer the back by the main door, I saw some movement – like a fight was about to break out. That doesn’t happen here, especially at meal time. Nobody wanted to get tossed out before they got fed.

As I moved closer I saw him. He had seen me first and was making a break for the staircase to the main floor and the street. He was moving fast and had a head start. I was on the wrong side of the room.

I yelled at my hired hand to go after him as I pushed my way through the food lines.

“Cumberland! Stop! We’ve got you surrounded!” It couldn’t hurt to try.

He didn’t stop and neither did we. As he reached the door to the street he turned. Everybody froze. I was partway down the stairs.

“I told you before, I didn’t do it. I didn’t kill her. I loved her.”

“I don’t believe you, Cumberland. The police don’t believe you. Nobody believes you.”

I reached for my pistol, but thought better of it. There were too many people still coming into the Mission to make a clean shot and, anyway, I wanted him alive. But it wasn’t going to happen that night. He was gone – again.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Two

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Two

 

A Safe Place – Continued

typewriter gifContinued from last Saturday –

I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the night crawling under every bridge abutment and behind every dumpster in town. I don’t care how much I want Cumberland’s scrawny neck. He’ll have to surface again and I’ll be waiting. But I’m going to need some help.

***

“I assume you’re up on this creep. I mean – you’d have to be dead not to be – unless you’re like me and you only buy a paper to look at the sports page and the crossword puzzle.”

“I guess I’m as familiar as the next guy about him. He offed his wife, right?”

“Yeah. He came to me because he thought his wife was running around on him. She was, and I don’t blame her. Her husband, Cumberland, that sick piece of trash, treated her like a slave – worse – he treated her like a slave’s three-legged dog. I didn’t like him from the start, but he paid in cash and I was behind on just about every bill I had.

“Uh – huh.”

“When I showed him the pictures – her and some guy comparing moles – he went berserk right here in the office. It was all I could do to keep him from killing me just because I was handy. I wish I’d thrown him and his cash… I wish I’d become a priest too, like my mother wanted, but Donna Jean Shansky was better looking than my mother, so….  

“What do you need me for?

“Tonight we’ll go back to the mission – you and me. If he’s back for another “hot and a cot” we’ll double team him. Handcuffs, ankle irons, Anti-aircraft guns, everything and a couple of hits to the kidneys if need be – just so he won’t feel like fighting back. I’ll take my .38 along, just in case. You bring the ’jack and nail his head if he starts to make a serious fuss. OK? Ready? Let’s stop for a burger on the way. I’ll drive.”

I usually work alone. That way I don’t have to split my attention – watching my target and watching the hired help who might be getting paid more by the target than by me. I’ve had it happen.

The guy who was with me for this take-down was someone I’d used before. He knew the streets and how to use a variety of tools that I’m not supposed to supply. I can’t go so far as to say that I did or did not trust him, but he could probably say the same thing about me. Hey, it’s almost a living.

After dark the neighborhood around the Beacon Light Mission looked even more depressing. Most of the streetlights had been broken by the small-time drug dealers who felt more secure in the shadows. Add a wispy fog that distorted what light there was coming from inside the Mission and the half hidden figures moving in and out of the light – well, it made it sure that there was no way to identify anyone before they went inside. We were going to have to go into the Mission to grab Cumberland. I hated that.

Outside I could slip in line behind him, one quick whack in the head and off we’d go, but inside, in the brighter lights – he might spot me first and then it would be a game of hide-and-seek. And I don’t seek as well as I hide. That’s the biggest reason I decided to get someone to go with me. Bad knees, a bum shoulder, and too many late night slap-outs have made me lose a step or two, or three, or… Point made?

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part One

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place”

 

 I hate jobs like this. Snooping into bedroom windows; taking grainy photographs that are going to make somebody cry and somebody else walk out the door. Only this time somebody got carried out.

Six months ago – it seems like six years – his life was quiet and predictable. He had a job that was less than perfect and he was in a relationship that he described the same way – less than perfect. He hired me to look into it for him because, as he said, “Whenever I’d think about the imperfections everything would tense up.” At least that’s how he said it to me – “Tense up.”

I’ve had to deal with some of the toughest, meanest, and downright sadistic people you would ever hope to not meet, but this little guy topped them all. Or maybe I should say “bottomed” them all. I didn’t think I could be surprised any more after ten years in this racket, but when I saw what he did to… I don’t want to talk about it or I won’t sleep tonight. Just imagine the worst thing one human being could do to another – then double it and you might come close. If you don’t vomit first.

And now I had to find him – to hunt him down. I don’t want to, but I feel obligated. After all, it was me who took the pictures that lit his fuse. Sure, the police were looking for him too, but they tended to work as well as anything you might buy from a TV infomercial at four in the morning. I figured it was me or nothing.

I’ve had all my contacts, snitches, and keyhole peekers sniffing at the wind for a month trying to get any clue as to where I might find him – Patrick Cumberland is his name. Tonight I got a call. Someone thinks they saw him, maybe. My snitch says that his snitch says that he’s showed up at the Beacon Light Mission hoping for a meal. I needed to get down there – now.

Why is it that every Mission for the down and out and the misfits of the world – why is it that they all look like something that should have been torn down fifty years ago? The people looking for help there are feeling bad enough; they don’t need to go into a building that looks as ragtag as they do.

As I pulled up to the Beacon Light Mission – there is always parking in front – there were about a half dozen men lounging on the steps, waiting for the bible service to end so they could go in for a meal and a warm cot for the night. It was already getting into the mid-40s and Fall officially starts tomorrow.

I didn’t need to ask directions about where to find the head honcho. I knew my way around the building. It seems that half of my jobs call for me to scrape the bottom of this particular barrel. It’s a terrible place to hide. It’s a terrible place to go if you want to be inconspicuous. It’s just a terrible place. I’ve slept there.

“Yes, he was here, but not with the name Cumberland.”

Reverend Billy looked down the page full of names. He got so much Federal and State money for each person he fed and sheltered so he kept meticulous records. Meticulous and I’m sure just as legitimate as his “Reverend” certificate that hung on the wall behind him.

“Here he is. Todd – Sweeney Todd. I remember him because of that. You know – the musical and all that?”

“Uh –huh. Is he here tonight – now?”

“No. This says he was here two nights ago and again last night, but that means he won’t be here tonight. Two nights in a row, then they have to leave for a couple days. Otherwise we’d turn into a hotel and that would mean a whole new set of regulations and such.”

“And no cash from D.C.”

“No.” He paused and looked at me like he had just bitten into something stale. “Why are you looking for him? He didn’t seem very dangerous. He looked more like a lost bunny.”

“One very sick and twisted bunny. Any idea where he might go on a night like tonight when he can’t flop here?”

“Please don’t say ‘flop.’ We are not a flophouse. We are trying to save both their souls and their bodies, and, as to where he might be tonight – if he has some money – one of the real flophouses down by the waterfront. Without any money – your guess is as good as mine. Would you care to make a small donation?”

“My taxes aren’t due until next April.

“Cynic.”

I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the night crawling under every bridge abutment and behind every dumpster in town. I don’t care how much I want Cumberland’s scrawny neck. He’ll have to surface again and I’ll be waiting. But I’m going to need some help.

                             * * * 

“I assume you’re up on this creep. I mean – you’d have to be dead not to be – unless you’re like me and you only buy a paper to look at the sports page and the crossword puzzle.

“He came to me because he thought his wife was running around on him. She was, and I don’t blame her. Her husband, the piece of trash I’m looking for now, treated her like a slave – worse – he treated her like a slave’s three-legged dog. I didn’t like him from the start, but he paid in cash and I was behind on just about every bill I had.

“When I showed him the pictures – her and some guy comparing moles – he went berserk right here in the office. It was all I could do to keep him from killing me just because I was handy. I wish I’d… Oh, I wish I’d become a priest like my mother wanted, but Donna Jean Shansky was better looking than my mother, so….  

“Tonight we’ll go back to the mission – you and me. If he’s back for another “hot and a cot” we’ll double team him. Handcuffs, ankle irons and a couple of hits to the kidneys – just so he won’t feel like fighting back. I’ll take my .38 along, just in case. Ready? Let’s stop for a burger on the way. I’ll drive.”

– to be continued –

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Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Finale.

 

If you want to see somebody who is anybody at Wilma’s All-Nite Café (Just a knife’s throw from the Embarcadero.) you’ll have to wait until the Moon is high and the Moral Threshold is low.

It was close to 3 AM when I brought Hank O’Hare into Wilma’s. I didn’t need to help him find the door this time. Ever since he got his new eyeglasses from the Optometrist Hank had been like a kid in a Candy Shop. In fact, he told me that he had stopped into a Candy Shop just to enjoy the view. He could see the shapes and colors clearly for the first time since he’d lost his real specs and started buying replacements at the Dollar Store.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part Five

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Continued – Part Five

 

 I hate listening to people bickering, especially if I’m not one of the bickerers or the bickeree. With Lech Ontario and Daisy Cutter, his moll, bickering was as pointless as a truckload of watermelons. Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer.

“Shut up – both of you. Can’t you wait and do this bickering stuff when you’re at home so I don’t have to listen?” That seemed to work. They both looked at me.

“Awww, shut your pie hole, Henway,” sneered Daisy.

“You dummy,” snapped back Ontario “With Henway it would be ‘shut your German Chocolate Cake hole.’”

“Would not, you Great Ape. The phrase is…”

I reached out and slapped them both just like Moe used to hit Curly and Larry.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part  Four 

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Continued – Part Four

 

Sitting in that booth I was face to face with Lech Ontario – one of the Greats – if you listened to him and I was going to have to to find out why my old friend and tutor, Hank O’Hare, was looking for him.

“Tell me, Ontario, why is Hank so anxious to find you? Did you stiff him on a debt, did you cheat him at cards, or did you try to steal his woman?”

When I said that the dockside doxie sitting next to him spoke up.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part Three

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Continued

 

Late at night, when the Innocents in The City were asleep in their beds, the Not-So-Innocents were busy about their monkey business. The darkened streets were a hunting ground where the unwary became prey for the waiting shadows. Places of safety were few and far between, but a light shining through the fog promised refuge and maybe a Hot Roast Beef Sandwich, au jus – “just the way you like it.”

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Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part Two 

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Continued…

 

Wilma Van der Sluice served the best German Chocolate Cake this side of the cafeteria at the Mortuary College. When she set down her last slice in front of me both my eyes and mouth began to water.

“New perfume, Wilma?”

  “Yeah, you like it? It’s called ‘Evening in Newark.’” She waved her two too massive braids my way. My glasses began to fog up.

“Nice.” It was all I could say.

“Well, enjoy your cake while your ‘Little Gum Drop’ here takes care of those customers in the booth by the Wurlitzer. I’ll be right back to help you lick the plate.” I knew she meant that. It bothered some customers, but Love is Love.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part One

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles

 

The fog was rolling in like a slinky coming down an escalator. I didn’t think it would ever stop. I was just a knife’s throw from the Embarcadero on my way to Wilma’s All-Nite Café for a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of cake.

My name is Henway, I’m a dick, head of the best P.I. outfit in town,

“Henway and ____.”

I’ve been thinking about getting a partner.

I’ve been in this racket for more years than I can count. I’m not much at math. I’m more of a people person and tonight I was hoping to meet up with some people.

When I came through the door at the café I could see the owner, Wilma Van der Sluice, behind W2the counter. Wilma ran her café like a maximum security diner. She made the rules and if you didn’t like it the service could really stink.

When she saw me come in she trotted my way, her two too massive braids bouncing up and down by her ears. She smiled and then suddenly disappeared from view. She bounced back into sight almost immediately, still smiling, but with an “It’s Better With Butter” wax paper square stuck to her forehead. Wilma was tough and she was used to these late night slip-ups.

“Hi, Lover Boy. What can I get you?”

“Hi, back at ya, Sugar Lump. I think I’ll check in with my friend there at the counter first.”

Sitting on one of the red vinyl stools was my mentor, the mug that got me into this business, Henry “Hank” O’ Hair. I dropped down onto the stool next to him.

“Hi, Hank, what’s shakin’?”

“Just my gun hand. Oh, it’s you. Hi, Kid.” He always called me “Kid.” He called everybody “Kid.” His memory isn’t what it used to be. It used to be bad, now it was worse.W4

Hank was wearing his trench coat and his aging Fedora, the one with the bullet hole in the brim, but that’s another, much longer, story. He was sitting there, staring at an empty cup. I gave a short whistle and Wilma came running our way, being more careful this time.

“What’ll it be you two hunks of handsome?”

“I’ll have a cuppa, Gorgeous,” I told her.W6

“Me too,” echoed Hank.

“Yeah, a coffee for me and another for my old friend.” Wilma jotted it all  down on her pad, smiled that smile that lit up many a late night like a welcoming sign reading, “Vacancy,” and headed back to her station by the cake dish.

Hank looked a bit down like something or someone had him by the short hairs – and he didn’t have many left.

“You look down, Hank, like something or someone has you by –“

“Yeah, yeah, I know the rest of it, Kid. What’s bothering me? I’ll tell you. I’ve got a case and it’s got me. I’ve been looking for a guy and it’s like he’s dropped off the face of the earth and I’ve come up dry. He’s on the lam and I feel  like I’m the goat here. I’ve looked high and low, near and far, and even sooner or later – nothing, nada, ne, yaga, yimba, a ole, nyet, nahin, and squat.”

“No luck, huh?” He shot me look that said things – I’m not sure what though.

W6

W6Wilma came back over to us and set down four cups of coffee. She smiled and winked at me. It was either a wink or a return of an old problem she had with a tic.

“Talk to me, Henway,” she said, leaning over the counter, her nose just inches from the brim of my imported Fedora. “Tell me something that will give me chills.” I knew where this was heading. I played along.

“Sure, Lambs Lettuce, Do you have any German Chocolate Cake left?”

“One slice and it’s all for you, Puppy Eyes, if you say the magic word.”

“Houdini!,” shouted out Hank. “The guy must be a Houdini to have me not find him.”

Wilma sighed. “Close enough. I’ll get the cake,” and off she went, her braids bouncing like her  head was on a tiny trampoline.

I didn’t like seeing Hank down in the dumps. I had to do something.

“What’s this Houdini’s name,? I asked Hank. He took a long and loud slurp of coffee, then spoke. “This ghost goes by the name of Lech Ontario. I’ve looked everywhere and Nem, nei, nahin, ne, ….”

I finished my first cup while he finished his sentence and then I told him that…”I gotta go see a man about a horse. I’ll be right back.”

W7The Euphemisms, both Guys and Dolls, were at the far end of the café. As I headed that way I passed by the aging Wurlitzer juke box. There were no songs on there newer than the theme from “The Love Boat.” 

It was a slow night at Wilma’s. There was just Hank and me and one booth near the back that had two people – A blonde whose face could start any clock, and a guy who looked like his face could stop your clock – permanently.

Just past the juke box was one of the few payphones left in the city. On a hunch, I started leafing through the pages of the phone book that was bolted to the phone. It was then that I recalled that Hank had taught me everything I know – well, not everything. I learned how to finger paint years before I ever met him, but you get the idea.

There it was – on page 437, halfway down the page –

“Ontario, Lech – 1313 Blueview Terrace 552-3918”

After I finished washing my hands like the sign on the Guys Room door insisted I went back to my spot next to Hank.

“Hank, have you checked the phone book for this Ontario guy?”

“Huh?”

“The phone book – did you look there?”

Without an intelligible word, Hank got up and slowly walked back toward the payphone. When he headed back my way he muttered, “Thanks, Kid,” and kept on walking. He vanished into the fog like a black cat in a coal mine.

to be continued 1

W5

Fiction Saturday Encore – “God Bless Joe Sheridan”

Today I thought I would post a piece from my short fiction file.

God Bless Joe Sheridan” is the story of the airplane flight from Hell.

 

God Bless Joe SheridanBox tied with cord

 

I’VE NEVER BEEN IN JAIL, but, by God, I’ve done hard time. So have you, if you’ve ever flown coast to coast, shoehorned into a seat next to someone who could be the lovechild of Carrot Top and Casey Stengel.

You know the type. They talk incessantly, but make sense very rarely.

It was on a flight from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. I thought it was going to be a pleasure trip: see the Smithsonian, admire the classical architecture, shake my fist at Capitol Hill – all the usual stuff. Then I saw “him” trundling down the aisle of the Boeing 7-something-or-other jetliner.

“Uh oh” I said to myself. Why do bad things happen to, basically, nice guys?

I was in the window seat and I knew in my heart that, with this whole airplane to pick from, he was going to end up next to me.

The tip-off was the fact that his carry-on luggage was a cardboard box tied up with kite string.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – “Summer Magic”

Fiction Saturday Encore – “When Sylvie Sang” from February 2015

Fiction Saturday Encore – from February 2015

When Sylvie Sang

Microphone LargeThis story was created as a performance piece. I presented it a number of times over the years.

It is longer than my usual posts.  

I hope you enjoy it.

 

WHEN SYLVIE SANG the men at the bar would stop and turn on their stools to listen.  The bartender would dry his hands, move to the end of the bar and light up a cigarette.  The waitresses would huddle by the wall and hug their trays.  And the drunken man who cried softly to himself in the corner by the door would lift his eyes and rub his hands together underneath an invisible spigot.

When Sylvie sang, the room was locked in glass and still – as still as a new widow hearing that first long silence. 

In the spotlight the smoke was frozen.

“When Sunny gets blue, her eyes get gray and cloudy.”

When Sylvie sang she never really heard the music or thought about the words.  She was far away in a small town by a riverbank, holding onto someone she loved.  She only heard his voice, felt his heat, and the nightclub disappeared.

When Sylvie sang she wasn’t there and the people she sang for knew that because she took them with her.

“What would they say if we up and ran away from the roaring crowd?”

But the song always has to end and when the music stopped the men at the bar would turn again and start to laugh and talk.  The waitresses would rush to cover their thirsty stations and the drunken man would close his eyes again and descend inside himself.  Sylvie would go out into the alley and smoke until the next set called her back.

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Fiction Saturday- from Guest Blogger -The Bluebird of Bitterness

Fiction Saturday  – Guest Posting from the blog “Bluebird of Bitterness.”

 

https://bluebirdofbitterness.com/

Summertime classic: Letter from summer camp

Dear Mom and Dad,

We’re having a great time here at Lake Typhoid! Scoutmaster Webb is making us all write to our parents in case you saw the flood on TV and got worried. We are okay. Only 1 of our tents and 2 sleeping bags got washed away. Luckily, none of us got drowned because we were all up on the mountain looking for Chad when it happened. Please call Chad’s parents and tell them he’s okay. He can’t write to them because of the cast.

We never would have found him in the dark if it hadn’t been for all the lightning. Scoutmaster Webb got mad at Chad for going on a hike alone without telling anyone. Chad said he did tell him, but it was during the fire so he probably didn’t hear him. Did you know that if you put gas on a fire, the gas can will blow up? The wet wood still didn’t burn, but one of our tents did. Also some of our clothes. John is going to look weird until his hair grows back.

We’ll be home on Saturday if Scoutmaster Webb gets the car fixed. It wasn’t his fault about the wreck. The brakes worked okay when we left. Scoutmaster Webb said with a car that old you have to expect things to break down. That’s probably why he can’t get insurance on it. We think it’s a neat car. He doesn’t care if we get it dirty, and if it’s hot, he lets us ride on the tailgate. Don’t worry, he’s a good driver. He’s even teaching Terry how to drive. But he only lets him drive on the mountain roads where there isn’t any traffic. All we ever see up there are logging trucks.

This morning all of the guys were diving off the rocks and swimming in the lake. I didn’t go because I can’t swim, and Chad was afraid he would sink because of his cast, so Scoutmaster Webb let us take the canoe across the lake. It was great. Scoutmaster Webb isn’t crabby like some scoutmasters. He didn’t even get mad that we didn’t wear life jackets.

Guess what? We all passed our first aid merit badges! When Dave jumped in the lake and cut his arm on the rocks, we got to see how a tourniquet works. Wade and I threw up, but Scoutmaster Webb said it probably was just food poisoning from the leftover chicken. He said they got sick that way with food they ate in prison.

I have to go now. We’re going into town to mail our letters and buy bullets. Don’t worry about anything. We are fine.

Love,

Billy

P.S. How long has it been since I had a tetanus shot?

Shouts And Murmurs 

Fiction Saturday

One of the best playing around with the Language pieces I have ever read.

I’m

How I Met My Wife

by Jack Winter

The New Yorker, July 25, 1994 P. 82

SHOUTS AND MURMURS: a column about a man who describes meeting his wife at a party. In his description, he drops many prefixes.

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate. I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way. I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I’d have to make bones about it, since I was travelling cognito.

Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn’t be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do. Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion. So I decided not to rush it.

But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make heads or tails of. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings. Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had no time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savory character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. “What a perfect nomer,” I said, advertently. The conversation became more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.

 

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Conclusion

 

Things were going sour. Guns were out and something ugly was bound to happen. I left my observation post and quickly headed back toward the door. I drew my .38 and checked the wheel for a full load.

Inside the door it was dark, but there was light pouring out at the end of the hallway. I tried to get closer as quickly and quietly as I could. I didn’t see the toolbox on the floor until I kicked it. Before I got my footing Regis was standing two feet in front of me with the dirty semi-automatic pointed at my forehead.

“Well, look who’s here? C’mon, Mr. Private Eye, and join the party.”

He marched me the rest of the way down the hall and into the light.

“Forty Ounce” looked at me, but spoke to Sunny Boggs.

“I thought I told you to come alone? Can’t you follow a simple command?”

“I didn’t know he was here. I swear it. I fired him.” Her voice sounded panicky. Instead of being the hero here I was the fifth wheel, and I was flat now that Regis had my .38 in his left hand. “Forty Ounce” looked at me like I had just ruined his day. Well, mine wasn’t going too great either.

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Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Four

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Four

It was a little after 8 AM when the phone finally rang and woke me. It’s never good news at 8 AM. It was Regis alright and he told me that “Forty Ounce” said “No” to me bringing the money for the dog. It had to be The Lady – alone – or the dog was history.

There was no way I was going to go along with that, but I had no choice but to agree to tell “The Lady.” She would go along with any of their cockeyed plans if she thought it would get her dog back. She was the Perfect Victim.

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Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Three

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Three

 

“Well, Mr. Detective Man, I hear you’ve been looking for me. Curious about a dog, are we? You look more like a Poodle man to me rather than a Doberman sort.”

I explained to him that I was just a man doing a job and that the only dogs I liked were running at the Greyhound track. He laughed and pushed an envelope across the bar to me.

Inside the envelope was a small photograph. It looked more like a photo of a photo, but it was clear enough. It was a picture of a Doberman. Whether it was “Peaches” or not I couldn’t tell, but the collar on the dog was a match for the one in the picture Sunny Boggs showed me over beer and cookies. No dognapper is going to go to the trouble of making a copy of the collar. This must be a picture of “Peaches.”

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Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Two

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part Two

 

The address was in a part of town where I didn’t go very often. I’m just not comfortable going places where there are steel security gates and armed guards. I’m never quite certain if they are there to keep people out or in.

When I pulled my car up to their Checkpoint Charlie a uniformed guard carrying a clipboard stepped out of a little stucco shelter. She was a real beauty. She looked like her last job had been as a guard in a women’s prison. She jotted down my plate number and mimed for me to roll down my window. I bet myself a beer that she had an accent.

“Guten Abend, Sir.” I won myself a beer.

When I told her who I was there to see and showed her my I.D. she gave me a half-hearted salute and waved me through. I bet myself another beer that I could have gotten a full salute, complete with a heel click, if I’d been driving a Mercedes.

If there was ever a job that I’d never hire myself out for, no matter how hungry I got, it would be to act as somebody’s butler. I don’t do well taking orders from anyone. That’s part of why I’m no longer a cop or married. So when a guy in a monkey suit answered the front door I just knew that it wasn’t his door. And he knew that I knew it. Neither of us looked all that comfortable.

I told him I was there to see his lady boss. I don’t think he liked the way I said that, but he was a good little flunky and let me in. The redhead with all the money and the legs was in the room the butler called “The Library.” There were a lot of books in there, but I wasn’t there to read. Looking at me, Sunny Boggs told her flunky to fetch us a couple of drinks. Hers came in a crystal glass. Mine came in a mug. By the way she spoke to him, “Judah,” she called him; I could tell she probably liked her dogs better.

She took a polite sip of her whatever it was and asked me for an update on my search for “Peaches.” I still had foam on my lip.

“Have you found him yet? “ She asked me that less than eight hours after walking into my office. ‘Impatient little checkbook,’ I thought.

“Why haven’t you found him? You’ve had all day. Who took him? Where is my ‘Peaches?’?”

Four questions in less than five seconds. The more time I was spending with her the more I was imagining impolite things. I answered her questions in reverse order. Three “I don’t knows,” and one plain “No,” and then I took a long, slow pull on my beer. She didn’t seem to like my answers.

“That’s not acceptable. People said you were a good detective. I’m beginning to harbor some doubts about that.”

I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud at her attitude. While she steamed I turned to Judah, the butler, and asked him for another beer. He grinned and gave me a thumbs up as he started for the door.

“I’m sorry if I was short with you. Please forgive me,” she said with half a cup of artificial sweetener all over it and then snapped at Judah to bring back some cookies along with my beer. She turned it off and on like a hot water tap.

I put down my mug and then gave her a real update for her four hundred dollars. I told her what information I had bought from my new friend at the Dog Pound. She didn’t like it when I advised her that if she hadn’t gotten a ransom note by now chances are she never would – that whoever snatched her dog wanted the dog and not her money. Facts are facts. Reality is reality – and they are both subject to change.

The way she reacted you would have thought I’d said that her “Peaches” had been taken to Tijuana, painted with zebra stripes and was now part of a nasty nightclub act. I didn’t really know. It could be, I suppose.

“I want you to keep looking. I don’t care what it costs. I want my ‘Peaches’ home with me. I need him.”

The drive back to my side of town was uncomfortable. The $500 in cash that she handed me made my wallet feel like I had a box turtle in my pants pocket.

I went back to my office. The IRS audit was tomorrow and I had to get my paperwork together. “Peaches” could wait. He could have been out there having the time of his life; running until he dropped, chasing Chihuahuas, and making puppies. I figured a couple of days being a Dog and not just an ornament wouldn’t hurt him. And if I wasn’t ready for my audit I might be out there hanging with “Peaches.”

***

“Thank you for coming in today so we can go over some of your previous tax returns.” Like I had a choice.  I nodded, but kept my mouth shut.

“I hope that you’ve brought in the records that we requested.” I nodded again.

“I see that you have two shopping bags with you. What’s in them?

I explained that the bags were my records. He nodded. I gave him the five cent tour. Each bag held six months worth of last year’s paperwork. The farther back in the year you want to go, the deeper into the bag you go. Simple, right?

The IRS guy didn’t nod that time.

“What about your records for the rest of the seven years we asked you to bring? I nodded. I invited him down to my car to help me carry up the rest of the shopping bags.

The audit went better than I had expected. Twenty minutes and I was out of there.

***

I suppose I could have taken a short vacation to Vegas and report back that I wasn’t any closer to finding her evil looking mutt, but I am plagued with some inconvenient scruples. That dog might be anywhere, Tijuana or the Vatican, but unless he could learn to dial a telephone and call me, I doubted that I’d ever locate him.

I was able to pay a few more bills and square my tab with two of my favorite pubs. I had realistic priorities.

The morning after my meet and eat with Sunny Boggs I got a call, a message really, from the creep at the Dog Pound. He had something to show me, he said. That could be good or it could be taking me down the wrong street altogether.

As it turned out it was a little bit of both.

I drove back by the Pound. The lovely Regis was on duty behind the reception desk.

“I been askin’ around about your missing Dobey, but subtle like and I met a guy who knew a guy.”

I offered him a couple of smokes – one for now, one for later, and he began to fill in the blanks.

“I told a few people about you looking for a snatched Dobey and they pointed me to “Forty Ounce.” Why, I don’t know. I don’t know him. He don’t know me. The guy told me to ‘Let the nosy detective know.’ That’s you, right? Then he gives me a fifty dollar bill. He called it a ‘finder’s fee.’ Go figure, I ain’t found nothing other than him.”

Regis, the retired dognapper, working at the pound, had given me a bit of a name to follow up on. “Forty Ounce” was all the man was known by and he hung out at a joint on the edge of downtown – an area filled with transient hotels, hard drinking bars, and very few straight answers. And he, it seemed, had “Peaches.”

“Forty Ounce” was not an easy person to locate. He liked to move from barstool to barstool and when I did finally sit down next to him I realized that I’d seen him three times already. I was looking for him, but he had been watching me.

“Well, Mr. Detective Man, I hear you’ve been looking for me. Curious about a dog, are we? You look more like a Poodle man to me rather than a Doberman sort.”

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part One

Fiction Saturday – “Peaches” – Part One

A Short Story 

PEACHES

 

This morning I was swearing to myself that I would never tell anyone about this. It all made me sort of ashamed, professionally, but a man’s gotta eat and the Power Company doesn’t care about my pride – professional or otherwise.

So, I’ll tell you, but keep what I say close to your vest. I don’t want the competition or the Law to hear about this. OK?

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… THE CONCLUSION

Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… THE CONCLUSION

 

Chapter Thirty-Nine

 

The sunset over Lake Pend’Oreille was a soft orange color, going to red. It promised calm waters and good sailing come morning. A few lights were beginning to switch on in the houses near the waterline. The smells of wood smoke and family suppers being cooked mixed and drifted over the lakeshore.

There were few tourists left with the holiday season approaching. Only those people who were planning to winter over remained. For them, this part of Idaho was home. It was a place where your thoughts, your opinions and your past were your own business and nobody else’s.

On a quiet, tree-lined street, a few blocks up from the small business district, a young boy on a bicycle pedaled along the leaf-strewn sidewalk. He passed the white frame house with the steeply pitched roof and lobbed a rolled-up newspaper onto the front porch.

The screen door opened and a woman wearing khakis and a wool shirt stepped out. The air was cool, yet inviting. The first hard frost was still a week or two away in this part of the state. She sat down on the top step and unfolded the Sandpoint Mountain Tribune.

In the remaining light of the autumn day, she took her time reading the front page and then turned to the national news section. Her breath caught in her throat as she looked at the photograph in the center of the page. She had seen that picture before. Tears began to flow down her cheeks as she read the accompanying story.

“U.S. Calls Off Womanhunt”

 

“Department of Justice and DEA officials announced today that they were calling off their nationwide search for Beverly Deltino, the fugitive wife of New York crime figure, Dominic Deltino. FBI Regional Director Morris Bland said that Mrs. Deltino, who was wanted in connection with the death of an undercover DEA operative, was herself, deceased. ‘We are satisfied that she was killed while attempting to flee the country, in a shootout at the U.S. – Mexican border, near Tijuana. We are no longer looking for Mrs. Deltino and we consider her case closed.’

“It was also announced that Mrs. Deltino’s husband, a suspect in a number of underworld enterprises himself, was also deceased, apparently, by his own hand.”

The woman stood up and crossed the porch toward the door. She opened it and walked into the rented house, wiping a tear from her eye. She cleared her throat before calling out.

“Davis, let’s eat out tonight.”

 

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