Archive for February, 2013

From the Editor’s Perch

February 26, 2013
At a Live Reading, the Playwright is Often a Ball of Worries.

At a Live Reading, the Playwright is Often a Ball of Worries.

The Fun of Live Theater


We had a reading of several small plays last night.  A piece was read which a friend and I had collaborated on.  Then a piece of each of ours was read.  The evening went well.   It’s fun to write.  It’s fun to imagine.  But the payoff of sitting in an audience who are clearly enjoying your theater work is hard to acquire any other way that by just putting it up there.  The warmth and the fun of it are something to bathe in quietly for at least several days.  And the memory can well be enjoyed for years.

Usually, it’s just a few select scenes which are so cherished; scenes where the acting and script seemed to speak and live so naturally, that you treasure the memory as if it were a relation, or a wife.   The play, as a whole entity, is usually cumbersomely remembered as part of the whole package of production materials: a concretion of crisis’s, breakdowns, adjustments, grit and slog, insights, fear and loathing, people who fail you, people who save you, etc. – rather like a life, out of which these special scenes surface like a State of Grace.  These are what we work for.

There’s nothing like having it breathing in front of you.  Statistical hits on the website don’t do it.  Comments are fine.  But after falling on your ass in front of people so many times, (which all playwrights do) a live success is something cherished. The whole room is happy.  The actors are happy.  The audience is happy.  You’re happy.  It’s the best sort of party.

Photo by Carl Nelson of model/playwright John Ruoff


From the Editor’s Perch

February 25, 2013

My wife pulled me to Church, along with herself and my son this past Sunday.  On the first page of the Program I found this unusual story reprinted:

“…while I had been talking of heaven, she had gone there.”

Pre-Service Reflection

C. H. Spurgeon was a famous Victorian age Baptist preacher in England.

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

February 19, 2013

phone call 4

Pitching Ruth

(Episode 33)

“How’s it going?” Nancy said, after she’d introduced herself.

“How’s it going?  Is that the sort of cleverly crafted question which keeps a writer publishing just below the fold of the New York Times these days?”

“It’s called a ‘conversation opener’, Ruth,” Nancy replied.  “And why are you trying to break my balls like this?”

“My name is not ‘Ruth’.  It’s Ms. Haphelstot to you.   And where in the world did you get that expression, “busting my balls,” Nancy?  You’re a 15 year old girl.”

“Sorry.  But I’ve been hanging out at the Café with the other journalists, and that’s just how professional reporters talk Ruth.”

“You have no balls.”

“It’s a euphemism.  A turn of phrase.”

“I know what a euphemism is, little girl. And I’m been intimately acquainted with a lot of turns of phrases in my day, and they’re all just dicks calling themselves Richard, if you can handle my French.   And I’m surprised Carmella would put up with it over there.    And I have half a mind to call your mother, that is, your father,  Nancy.  And I’m not Ruth.”

“Sure, you are.”

“Not to a 15 year old girl, I’m not.”

“Are you going to be a prude?”

Yes!  When I’m employed in a professional  capacity.”  Ruth was adamant.

“The Sheriff calls you Ruth,” Nancy whined.

“That’s because he’s the Sheriff.”

“Well, I’m a reporter,” Nancy retorted hotly.

“You’re a gossip,” Ruth replied.  “And a little, 15 year old one to boot.”

“That’s not what the New York Times thinks,” Nancy said.

“What the hell do you want, Nancy?”  Ruth said finally.

“You may call me Ms. Gillis, please.”

Ruth sighed.

“Alright.  Ms. Gillis it is.  What would you like to know, Ms. Gillis?  And does your father know where you are?”  Ms. Haphelstot asked tartly.

“Look.  Maybe we got off on the wrong foot here Ms. Haphelstot,” Nancy said solicitously.  “Because I’m merely calling to see how the investigation is going.  We haven’t heard much about it out here, where there is so much fear and so little real knowledge!   And I bet you can imagine how conjecture will fill in all those vacant spaces!  …!!!   So, I thought I’d call and nail down a few facts.”

“What facts are those?”

“Is it true the Federal Bureau has been dragging its feet in analyzing the evidentiary material in this case?”

“Where’d you get that idea?”

“Well, despite the scuttlebutt I overhear at the café, I figured it couldn’t be because our Sheriff is at fault.  He strikes me as a pretty sharp cookie, and pretty resourceful  law enforcement officer to say the least.”  Nancy hoped she wasn’t slathering it on too thick.

“He is.”

“Well, then, what’s the hold up?”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake.  I shouldn’t be talking about this.  But I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Leland take the fall here.   The fact of the matter is, we don’t know where the evidence is.  We sent if off to the FBI, two weeks ago.  We got back an intitial dribble of information.  And now it’s like it’s fallen into a black hole.

“I’ll bet Lelan…  Sherriff Leland’s pretty upset.”

“Would you call shouting, upset?”  Ruth asked.

“Um.”  Nancy replied, writing.

“But I can’t fault Agent Hailey.  She’s done all a body can do, as far as that goes.  In fact, I think she’s very embarrassed.  Her organization has really let her down on this one.”

“Um huh.”  Nancy said, taking more notes.

“But at least we still have the bodies.”

“The bodies?”  Her pencil stopped.

“Yeah.  You know, how when people are killed, their bodies often remain.”

“Do tell,” Nancy replied sweetly.  “And where are they?”

“That,  I can’t say.”

“But you’re sure they are still there?”

“What?  Why would the bodies be missing?”

“Well.  I don’t know.  But the other evidence is, right?”

The line went silent.  And Nancy could almost feel the vibration of Ruth’s mental gears turning through the phone; first slowly, and then at hyperspeed.

“You know what?  Something’s come up.  And can I talk to you a little later about this, Nancy?”

“It’s Ms. Gillis.”

“Certainly Ms. Gillis.  Just let me handle this bit of new business, and I’ll get right back to you.  Okay?”

“Sure,” Nancy agreed, and hung up.

By the time Ruth had locked up the Sheriff’s office and headed out in the Sheriff’s car, Nancy was following closely, pedaling hard, on the far right side of the road… the playing card in the spokes humming.  People rarely looked for tails, Nancy figured, riding bikes on the opposing sidewalk.

Nancy lost her after six blocks, 3 dodged dogs, one shopper and another biker, a small boy, going the opposite direction (poorly), but by then Nancy had already figured out the only place Ruth could be heading.

Ruth had reached the butcher’s and was talking animatedly and motioning with her arms, by the time Nancy arrived.  Nancy saw them go to the meat lockers together, and stood wondering what she should do.

She left her bike against the bushes and walked over to the Sheriff’s car.  Ruth had left it unlocked.  Nancy  looked in the back hatch window, but saw nothing as there was a security shade drawn.  So she opened the clam doors and saw plenty of room for a small girl to hide.

Nancy  considered.  Today was Friday.  So there was a good chance her father wouldn’t be back until the wee hours, and then, not up until eleven or twelve that next day.  Which gave her lots of time.  She still had a bottle of water and half of the hamburger she’d purchase at the restaurant wrapped up in a napkin.

Nancy hopped inside and closed the clam shell doors softly behind herself, just as Ruth was exiting from the butchers, at a calmer pace and looking relieved.

Photo taken from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

February 17, 2013
"The Lobbyist"  Hamburger At The Campaign Cafe

“The Lobbyist” Hamburger At The Campaign Cafe

Nancy Gillis: Girl Reporter

(Episode 30)

 Nancy Gillis was only 15, and as her reportorial career was going, the blush was already off the rose.  Sure, she could continue writing for the Kimmel High Wolverine.  But if she wanted to remain in the Big Leagues she was going to have to offer them access.  The editor back at the Times had made that as plain as a seasoned editor could, who was trying to delicately negotiate a conversation with a 15 year old girl in another state.   “Who was a minor, by the way”, he continually was reminded.  They had much better, seasoned, savvy reporters who could do the frontal assault thing.

But she’d already tapped every source she knew.  Drew, the boy who was running the tour service, gave her a couple things he had filched from the Mercedes.  A toothpick, which didn’t look to be something the victim might have used.  And a slug, he’d found fallen under a tire… which she’d already photographed to accompany a first person account of her initial arrival on the crime scene.  The Sheriff wasn’t speaking.  And she didn’t trust the other reporters.  They were jealous competitors.  And Mr. Wallace, their journalism teacher at school, had as much as advised her that she was getting into deeper waters than he wanted to tread.  “You’re just starting a career, here, Nancy.  But I’m 5 years from retiring out of this School District.  That is, if I can keep from stepping on any toes.  The school district just hates paying out benefits.”

“Now, you want to go on writing sensational stuff that will get picked up by the Times, that’s fine.  But they’re your editors then.  You understand? I can’t be associated with that stuff.  Not that there’s anything wrong with it, you understand.  But it’s very dangerous to play in the Big Leagues, if you’re not a Big League player, or at least have a Big League Club behind you.  You’re bound to get hurt.  And I’m not young enough to play stickball with them.  They always ‘stick it’ to the little guy, you see, when things go sideways.  You want to go back writing about cookie sales, or Mr. Buckley’s class efforts to repopulate the riverbank with natural growing rhododendrons – then I’m right here.  Okay?”

Nancy nodded.  Fifteen years of age and she was already beginning to realize why people were committed to asylums.  ‘Life was just a viper pit of conflicting passions’, it was seeming.  She hadn’t met the serial killer – and hoped that she wouldn’t – at least until he was well behind bars.  But they might very well agree there.

Nancy rolled all of these difficulties over and over in her head, as she rode her brother’s bike with the card in the spokes around the small town.  Finally, having worked up a hunger, she ordered a burger and shake and fries at the Campaign Café and sat down at the counter.  Someone new was working in the kitchen and the clatter in the place was about twice the usual level.  ‘Well, that made sense,’ Nancy figured.  ‘At least these crimes had brought a little prosperity to my ‘depressed rural community’, Nancy practiced phrasing it like a veteran reporter.  Then she decided to make a list.  “You want to know something?  It’s people”, Mr. Wallace  had been fond of saying.  “They’ll either be able to tell you what’s going on, or even if they don’t know, you’ll find out how much they care.   And while something no one cares about may be important, it’s not newsworthy – unless somehow you can make them care.  Got that?”

‘Okay,’ Nancy thought to herself, ‘who is there in this community who might know something, or have access to knowing something, who I might be able to cajole into helping me?’  She liked the word ‘cajole’.   She practiced writing it in the margin several times.

By the time she was done she had about 13 names.

One by one, she crossed each and every one off, until, as she saw it, she was down to one or maybe two.  The first was Ruth, Sheriff Leland’s secretary.  And the second was that wild card, Agent Hailey.

Then she made another list, remembering another thing which Mr. Buckley had said:  “Put your self in the interviewees’ shoes,” he had said.  “What would talking to you, accomplish for them?  What carrot can you offer?  What do they care about?”

Nancy Gillis started that list.  She was just about done with it, before she remembered to eat.

She glanced up after gathering together her burger and noticed the new cook looking at her.  She smiled.

He nodded slightly, and gave her a small smile back.

Photo from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

February 15, 2013
On His Way to Breakfast

On His Way to Breakfast

Peter Barnett

(Episode 30)

 Peter Barnett woke in the high rollers suite of the Lakeside Casino and rubbed his face.  His head hurt something awful.  He staggered into the shower, dressed carelessly and made his way down to the café for some coffee.  Each ring of a payout bell was a little mental whip hoisted in the hand of one of the Devil’s minions.  Or that’s how it felt, as he passed through the casino on the way to his breakfast.

‘Everywhere you went in this place, you had to pass through the casino in order to get there!  Not by accident’, Peter Barnett was sure.  He made the café, only to sit down and place his order – when he thought to walk back into the casino again and check his standing.   (The poached eggs Benovicchi looked interesting, though more than likely a little tough for the come and go hash cooks their café hired to master.  Nevertheless, this was a kitchen.  And the personnel here had mastered it.  Or, anyway, he would taste and see if they had.)

These black out spells were driving him crazy.  For example, he couldn’t remember this morning whether he was up or down.  ‘He had to stop this drinking, while he was gambling.  …Maybe even when he wasn’t’, he thought, touching his head gingerly.

He walked back out to the accounts window to check his stats.  And what he saw made his bowels churn and his genitals shrivel.  He was sixty thousand down!  This couldn’t be right.  He wasn’t that bad of a gambler, drunk or not.

The pasty guy behind the counter must have seen lots of shell-shocked looking faces before.  Because he didn’t register any emotion outside of what could have been a slightly complacent smile.  “Bad news?” He asked.

“Only if you hate prison,” Peter groaned.  “Just kidding!”  He quickly amended, managing a sickly smile, glancing upwards at the security camera which rolled 24/7.

The pasty guy laughed politely and drifted back into his slightly complacent smile.

‘Maybe this will all look better after breakfast,’ Peter thought.

He was just biting into his Egg Benovicchi, thinking that fry poaching really gave an egg the kick that it needed if it was going to rise in people’s memories above all of the innumerable other breakfast eggs they’d had and that maybe they should give this recipe a tryout at the Campaign Cafe at home – when he got that call from Carmella.  “I keep telling you Carmella, not to bother me midday when I’m in all these meetings involving city business…” he started saying without listening, when Carmella just went right on talking, interrupting him for once.

“Well, the café needs you here,” Carmella was saying.  “Between the tourists and the gawkers and the press and our normal crowd, I’m busting a gut trying to keep up with it all.  I haven’t even had a chance to count the receipts.  It’s all sitting in a big pile of money in our back office!  I need help!”  Camella barked.  “The city’s doing fine.”

‘No it’s not,’ Peter was thinking.  He rubbed his forehead.  ‘This Egg Benovicchi wasn’t really all that it was cracked up to be’, he finally decided, putting down his fork.  He was feeling a little sick.

“Alright.  Great.  Fine.  Just give me a couple days to tie up things, and I’ll fly up there in a jiffy.”

“A couple of days is not ‘a jiffy’.”

“Listen.  I’m wearing a lot of hats here, and I can’t say much more than that.  But if you don’t want one of those hats to look very black, you’d best give me a couple more days.”

Carmella didn’t know what that meant.  And it was probably best she didn’t.  So she let it go.  “By the way”, she added.  “I hired a new guy.  Pretty much sight unseen.  Says he can cook.”

‘Sight unseen’, was pretty much the way Peter liked it.  And if he hadn’t heard anything, that would have been that much better.  “Sounds good,” he said.  “One day trial.  Cash out after the first month unless he pans out?”


“Okay.”  Peter nodded.  “Look I’ve got to go.  The town council is filing in now.  Expect me in a couple days or so.”

“Okay.”  Carmella sighed.

“Love you.”  Peter disconnected.  ‘Two days to win back the town’s sixty thousand.’  He swallowed the remainder of his coffee.  ‘He’d better get back to work.’

Photo by Google Images

Murders In Progress by Eldon Cene

February 14, 2013

Editor’s Note:  A rural-noir Valentine from Eldon…


Livin’ On The Down Low

(Episode 29)

(Soundtrack at:  )

 In Stan’s experience, if a fellow wanted to remain as inconspicuous (in the right places) as possible, a guy could do worse than hooking up with a married woman.  They took care of all the meddlesome particulars about slinking around and remaining invisible.  They were a constant source of information.  And what’s more, they kept their mouths shut.

As long as you kept them happy – which wasn’t hard – they just wanted to get laid, and to have someone make them moan.  You give them that, and they’d put up with a lot.  And they’d mind their own business.  Your ‘mysteriousness’ was part of the draw.  ‘Poor schmuck husbands’, Stan ruminated, ‘weren’t exactly the last word in mysterious.’  But he’d had to learn that himself, also.

The Burnetts  owned a couple cottages which served as a sort of town Motel.  And Carmella put him up in one.  Bed and board and two hundred a week cash under the counter, plus all the sex Stan could manage.  Carmella had eaten a few too many hash browns to be bouncing around on top any more, but she was a willing vehicle.

She liked to scream, which at first had Stan pretty alarmed.

“What the fuck!”  He stopped mid-stroke.  “The Sheriff’s just across the street!”

“So..ooooooHH!?”  Carmella groaned.  She was slippery and wet and breathing hard.   “…He’s probably just asking Ruth to close the side window now,” she said with a little irritation.

Apparently, having Carmella shriek was ‘business as usual’ around there.

And as  Stan discovered  later, having made Carmella shriek! seemed to put the whole town in a better mood and on an even keel.   And as the purveyor of this communal gift, Stan was even given an obliging nod now and then.   In the matter of a week or two, Stan was accepted as completely into the fabric of the town as Bob Weeds, with a history spanning generations, had never been.   Something sad about that, but Stan didn’t dwell on it.  He was busy trying to figure out what had him itchy as a bug in a frying pan.

Photo from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

February 11, 2013

Country Cafe4

Cash Under the Counter

(Episode 28)

 Probably another reason Stan hadn’t killed Harriet and Bob Weeds was because there was something nagging at him, some ‘unfinished business’ is how it felt.  He’d never had a feeling like this, and now he had.  Something about his stay in Kimmel County that said it wasn’t over.  And Stan didn’t need all the complications another two killings would bring.

So as not to look too conspicuous, after Bob Weeds had dropped him off, Stan stepped into the Campaign Café for a cup of coffee and a little time to think.  He sat down at the counter, where his back was to the street and to the other patrons.  Several tables to one end look to have collected laptops and phones and coats and briefcases and papers enough to signify an encampment.  Judging from the snippets of conversation which drifted Stan’s way, this was the press corps domain.  They looked the image.  Rumpled shirts, loosely knotted ties, coats tossed over the backs of chairs and with eyes staring into laptops, these guys looked as desperate as the story they were chasing.  From what Stan could make out, they were trolling for who was writing what, and who had found out what, and how, and where?  Stan figured he would’ve been more of a shoe soles on the street sort of fellow.  But what did he know?

Anyway, the place was packed, even in this off hour.  Some kid in the corner looked like he was talking to some members of an organized tour.  The waitress looked to be running her legs off, so Stan rose to refill his coffee himself.

“I can get that for you,” the waitress said, as Stan started to step behind the counter, reaching for the coffee pot.

“Uh.  Thank you.”  Stan tipped his head.  “You look a little short handed.”

“You think?”  She smiled.  The way she smiled made Stan think that she might either own the place, or have an interest in its success.   “I don’t suppose you can cook?”  She joked.  ‘Was there a sexual overtone to that?’

Stan took a look around the café again.  Across the street was the Sheriff’s office.

“Yeah.  In fact, I’m quite good at it.”  Stan smiled.

“Right.  I know.  Back yard barbeques.  Hot dogs.  Hamburgers.  And every Sunday morning you make waffles.”  The waitress smirked, from across the aisle, as she refilled more coffees.

“Nope.  No marriage.  Army.  Third division Rangers,” Stan said.

“Not much interest in K rations here,” the waitress replied.

“Not much interest in K rations there,” Stan replied.

The waitress continued with her other duties.  She yelled to the cook in the back several times.  And several times the cook in the back yelled back…  in a mixture of Spanish and English. Stan continued to sip his coffee.

“Are you making conversation and just pulling my chin, or would you really know how to do a short order job?”  The waitress asked as she walked back to Stan to re-fill his coffee.

“I’m not gassing you.”  Stan shook his head, and let his eyes wander briefly up and down her figure.  “To tell you the truth, I sort of miss it.”

“Ha!”  She wiped the counter around.  “How badly do you miss it?  You miss it today?”  She tossed her head to indicate their overstressed kitchen behind.

Stan figured for a moment.  “I could,” he answered.

“Forty dollars cash to finish out the afternoon.  And if it works out, we pay you under the table for a month until we see how everything goes,” she said in a low voice, wiping a spot on the counter nearby.

Stan nodded finally.  Then he rose and walked behind the counter.  The waitress, who introduced herself to him as Carmella Burnette – “wife to the Mayor, who’s out of town on important city business”, handed him a newly laundered smock and a hairnet and pointed him towards the kitchen.  Stan nodded to the other cook, who looked up without registering any surprise whatsoever.  That alone told Stan quite a bit.

“This is your stove.  This is your area.  And this is your counter.  I’ll clip the orders here,” Carmella said.  Stan nodded.  Carmella clipped an order there, stared at him, and then spun the thing like a roulette wheel.  Stan had the thing on its first pass.  He was a quick study.

Country Cafe2

Photo plucked from Google Images

Murders in Progress with Eldon Cene

February 7, 2013


Downtown Kimmel

Downtown Kimmel

The Campaign Café

(Episode 27)

 Stan had finished his Sunday meal and packed up.  The evidence of their crimes was by now certainly lost in the catacombs of the Federal Bureaucracy.  Nevertheless, even a small town sheriff could look at tire treads and count boot prints.  And two guys in a pickup with manure all over everything was what was looking suspicious in these locales of late.  Sooner or later the Sheriff was bound to be stopping by the Weed’s dairy farm, and it was better for all concerned if Stan weren’t around.

Stan explained to a nodding/crying/head shaking, disheveled Harriet, so that she could later explain it to Bob (over and over) that there was nothing for them to worry about, while she worried herself nearly sick.  The physical evidence was long gone, and without witnesses all the authorities had was a body.  Which, Stan also added, was probably long gone by now, too.

Bob started blubbering, after he had finally driven Stan into Kimmel and dropped him off in front of the Campaign Café.  “I think me and Harriet are actually going to make it now…”  Bob Weeds wiped the tears welled up in his eyes.  “Fourteen years now of TV, cow shit, chicken dinners, birthing and  bawling, and feeding, and milking…   I wished you didn’t have to go!” Bob blubbered.  “I know we done some bad things, but…”  He didn’t finish.

“Just remember, if we happen to encounter each other again, we’re strangers.  We can never admit to having met,” Stan warned him.

Stan had briefly toyed with killing them both – it would have been cleaner –  but for some reason just hadn’t ‘gotten around to doing it’.  Maybe the laid back farm life was getting to him.

“I know.  Our lips are sealed by Federal Imprimature.”  Bob had remembered the term Stan had fashioned.  In fact, whenever he said it, he started to bawl again.

“Got to go,” Stan said curtly, turned his back and left.

Bob put the truck into gear and slowly drove away.  This chapter of his life was already beginning to fade into memory, though Bob couldn’t recognize it at the time.  By the time his first two kids were nine and ten it would be like it had happened to a different man.  Bob wouldn’t even have known himself.

Photo by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

February 4, 2013


Following Our Bliss

“The reality is embarrassing.  Being me just doesn’t seem to get me anywhere.”

– John, incarcerated sex offender

I had an acquaintance years ago when I was much younger who was upset one day because he’d just been fired from his job at a wine shop.  I tried consoling him with those sorts of things you say, such as, ‘these things will happen’ and ‘there are other jobs out there’, to which he replied:  “But I’ve been fired from every job I’ve ever held!”  My older brother at the time told me, “There are a lot of people like this.  It’s very sad.”  (“They’ll work for cheap!” years later I read a small construction company owner saying.)

My favorite character in Sherman Alexie’s new book of collected stories, “Blasphemy” is Thomas Builds-the- Fire.  His mission in life is to tell stories.  He’s kind, gentle, wise, and tells pretty good stories.  But no one in the tribe wants to/will listen.  God seemingly has granted Thomas Builds-the- Fire the urge, but neglected the audience.

Does this strike a little close?

Then the Bible tells us about Jonah, who really doesn’t want to do what the Lord wants him to do.  Ordered by God to go to the city of Nineveh to prophesy against it “for their great wickedness is come up before me,”  Wikipedia   So he runs away to sea, only to be swallowed by a whale and spit back out to face God’s admonition.  It seems there is no escaping one’s Duty.

Not knowing how to end this, I’ll leave you with this anonymous note copied from an elderly man’s Facebook comment:  “It was great to see you in Great Falls, even if it was for a short time. I missed Saturday as Merrillee slipped on the ice on our way to MPAB showcases and put her should out of joint. More than 10 hours in the ER followed.”

The point?  Life is oftentimes much more what happens to us, than what we intend.

Postscript: One reader found this essay a confusing “stream of consciousness”.  What I’d intended to point out by retailing these various anecdotes was that conducting your life by “following your bliss” is a little like driving with your eyes closed.  Reality doesn’t know (or care) anything about your ‘bliss’.  You very well might run into things if you drive  with your eyes closed!

This idea of following one’s bliss is taken over from the Christian notion of allowing Christ to run your life – only Christ has been removed, and one’s Self has been placed in the driver’s seat.   (And no one is watching out for you.)   Certainly a person should listen to themselves.  (If you don’t, who will?)  But then, the wiser more mature person (in my view) listens to others.  A mature person realizes that life is a collaboration.  You give a present; then you listen to see if that person really wanted it.


Photos taken from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

February 2, 2013
Benny Green thinking.

Benny Green thinking.

Agent Curtis

(Episode 26)

Agent Curtis could feel the noose tightening, and he loved it.  Because of questions related to the nature of the Muffin Lady’s death, they’d gotten a search warrant of Benny Green’s offices.  And while processing the warrant they had discovered – kept in a cardboard box for easy transfer off the premises in the back hallway by the dumbwaiter – a separate, portable collection of files.  Payload!

Agent Curtis took what appeared to be one of these files out of a cardboard box on the passenger’s side as he hopped out of his Suburban and strode across the street into an older brownstone.  The building was in Benny’s mother’s maiden name, and so hadn’t been covered under the current warrant.  ‘This guy has more holes than a rodent.  Just a warren of corruption,’ Agent Curtis was thinking as he banged on the dingy green metal door, just off the second floor landing.  ‘Who knows where all these doors lead?’  He thought, glancing around.  ‘I do,’ he thought, answering his own question.  ‘A person could tell by the odor…’

“Wadda ya want?”  A voice crackled out of the tinny speaker with chipped paint.

“Federal Agent Benny,” Agent Curtis said in a clipped voice.  A moment passed.  “We have a need to talk.”

“Funny.  I am feeling no need.”

“Open up, and you will.”

“This wouldn’t be Agent Curtis, the alpha dog of Federal Bureau Division 12, would it?”

“How’d you know?”

“It’s yur piss ant knock,” Benny remarked through the tinny speaker, as the buzzer sounded.

Agent Curtis strode in, carrying the file.  Evidence was one thing.  But confronting the bad guy was another.  For one thing, you could gather a lot of information just by observing the suspect and how they reacted when confronted with some damning evidence.  And for another, it was just, damn fun.

“If you would have just told me it was an old friend, I would have opened up right away,” Benny said, extending his arms.

He sat behind an enormous desk.  So enormous, in fact, that it took up nearly the whole room.  And that was probably part of the plan Agent Curtis surmised.  By the time anyone could be over or around the thing, Benny would be long gone out the rear door.  And where that led was anyone’s guess.  Plus, the desk itself was of a polished hardwood.  Possibly reinforced with a bulletproof steel liner, behind which Benny could duck in case a conversation got out of hand.  But what Agent Curtis had in mind was finally going to happen in court.

“All your friends are dead Benny.”  Agent Curtis replied curtly.  “It’s not a good list to be on.”

“If you’re here about the Muffin Lady, I had nothing to do with that.”

“So you say.”

“So would anyone say, who didn’t have anything to do with it.  Which would include several million people by last counting within a twenty mile radius,” Benny retorted.  “You Federal people.  You get an idea in your head that someone is a bad guy, and it just seems to stick there.  Nothing can dislodge it.  No amount of good works…”

“I’ve heard before how much money you gave to the Sons of Italy.”

“That’s not my only charitable contribution.”

“Save it, Benny.  I just stopped by as a courtesy call.”


“Yeah.”  Agent Curtis waved the file.  “I thought I’d give you a chance to do your packing.  You’re heading for the Big House soon!”

“Ahh!  Somewhere in the sun, I hope.”

“All of the companies you are purchasing portions of with illicitly gotten funds are right in here.  And we’re going to have a money-laundering case against you so tight this time, that you’ll spurt just like a fattened tick.”

“Can I have a look at it?”

Agent Curtis shook his head.  “No.”

“What’d you bring it for, then?”  Benny whined.

“For show and tell.  Just to see you sweat, Benny.”

“I don’t think you’ve got anything, in there.”

Just then a car alarm sounded.  Agent Curtis turned his attention to it; then noticed that Benny Green hadn’t.  Both paused for a moment.

“You think I’d be stupid enough to leave the box of evidence in my office Suburban?”

Benny looked like he was searching for a good retort to that, but had swallowed it.

“I’ll bet there’s nothing in that file.” Benny nodded.

“And you’d be right,” Agent Curtis showed him the blank sheets of paper.

Benny didn’t appear to look happy about it.

Agent Curtis turned to leave, as Benny took out his cellular phone.  Agent Curtis turned back.  “Oh,” he said.  Benny quickly hid the phone.  Agent Curtis laughed, pointing to where Benny had hidden his phone, and shook his head.

“I forgot what I had to say!”  Agent Curtis smiled, waved and left.

After Agent Curtis had surely left, and the door had surely shut.  Benny made several calls on his traceable phone to several names at all the companies on his manufactured list; drug them into a confusing conversation for a time, and then excused himself pleasantly and hung up.  If they weren’t accessible he left a cryptic message.  Then he began to think about dinner and maybe going out with his mistress tonight to see the Lakers perform.  Sometimes celebrity fans would attend, and she loved that.  And when she was happy, the sex was better.  Not professional on her part perhaps, but true.

Photo by Carl Nelson of a professional model.

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