Posts Tagged ‘crime fiction’

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

July 3, 2013

Dear Readers!

2010-5-16 Lizzie-1-3

NOTICE:  Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene is continuing in Part Two as The Cognitive Web, and has been transferred to authonomy, a serial fiction website.  To find the next episode, go to:   http://authonomy.com/books/53824/the-cognitive-web/read-book/#chapter

See you there!

Best regards, ur Editor

Photo by Carl Nelson

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

June 20, 2013

ID card5

A Positive ID

 (Episode 56)

 Stan really wanted inside the Kimmel jail.  Something itched, and as near as Stan could triangulate that fifty-odd year old weathered yellow jail was at the nub of it.  It was even interfering with his sex.  Something in that jail was a ‘scold’.  That was the best way he could phrase it, if he were to talk to someone about it, like a psychiatrist, which he wouldn’t.

Then, as luck would have it, Ruth called Carmella with her usual breakfast order that Sunday.   And apparently Stan’s Kandahar Omelet was a hit with the Sheriff.  Ruth asked, “Could you have the cook who makes that delicious chili-egg concoction bring it over himself?”            Or so this was the story.  When you’re wanted for rapes and serial murders, you really tend to look several times at any approach, especially when made by law enforcement.  On the other hand, it was true that Stan’s Kandahar Omelet had made a little culinary noise even in the sleepy town of Kimmel, Stan preened.  So it was with some unstaunched yearning that Stan laid each of the cooked bacon strips neatly on a paper towel, then cracked eggs and dropped them in the bacon grease to cook while he considered the request seriously.

Stan really felt he needed to have a look inside that jail.  Stan flipped the eggs.  And as the eggs bubbled in the bacon grease, Stan convinced himself by saying to himself, ‘Look.  If I were trying to sneak into that jail and thought up this scheme myself, wouldn’t I try it?’  Stan hoisted the eggs out, arranged the eggs on the plates with the bacon, toast and hash browns, decorated each with an orange slice and a sprig of parsley and placed them in the window just as Carmella passed to lift them away with a wink and a smile.

It was probably Carmella’s look that decided it.  Stan heaped up a fine, steaming dish, of what he liked to call his 12 Egg, Complete with Melted Gruyere Cheese, Kandahar Mortar, covered it with a checkered cloth, put on a clean and unspotted apron, and presented it and himself with a big pot of hot coffee at the jail promptly at 7 am early Monday.

After a few preemptory knocks, and the use of a password Ruth had concocted, the front door opened.  “Good morning, Ruth?   I’m Stan from across the way,” Stan said.  He made no move to enter.

“C’mon in, Stan from across the way.”  Ruth smiled.  “Boy, doesn’t that smell good,” she said, lifting a corner of the checkered cloth.   We all have saved our appetites.”  She gauged Stan as a slight frown flitted across her face.  “Just walk in there and the Sheriff will tell you where to set it.  And I’ll follow close behind.”  Stan noticed the young girl reporter from the café working at a computer.  He nodded.  Nancy appraised him, mentally taking notes.

Stan smiled his best as regular people did and stepped across the linoleum into  the Sheriff’s office.  “Breakfast?”  Leland smiled, looking up and examining Stan.  “Could you just set it on the bunk inside that jail cell just next to the one with the prisoner in it?”

Stan hesitated.  Leland raised his brows.

Stan nodded, passing into the jail proper.  Leland rose and followed behind, with Ruth following behind him.  “Is dressing like that illegal?”  Stan nodded as he passed Ramey, the transvestite, sitting sullenly on his bunk in the other cell.

“Ramey, what is it that happened to you?”  Leland asked.  But Ramey sat sullenly, staring at Stan, saying nothing.

“Cat’s probably got his tongue,” Leland said.

“You leave his cell door open all the time, like that?”  Stan asked.

“This is a converted jail.  It used to be a feed store.  There are no toilets in the cells.  So we have had to come to an understanding.  Isn’t that right Ramey?”  Leland showed a little irritation at Ramey’s sudden unwillingness to speak.

“He doesn’t talk much either, does he?”  Stan observed.

“Well, not at the moment, apparently.  Why don’t you just set the food down in there, and we can see if a little breakfast will lure some conversation out of him.”

Stan hesitated to walk into the cell.  “Go ahead,” Leland urged, hanging onto the swinging iron jail door.  “We’re right behind.  I’ve got my coffee cup ready.  And Ruth’s here with her fork and plate.”  Stan stared at them both.  Something didn’t feel right, ‘in a big way,’ he was thinking.

“What about that young girl?  She want some?”  Stan asked, back stepping.

“She’s already eaten.”  Leland blocked his path.

“Ramey, you’d better get over here, you don’t want to get left out.” Leland turned his head with some real irritation.   “Where the hell has Ramey gone?”

“I don’t know,” Ruth said, turning around herself.  “He was in there, just a moment ago.”

They both looked befuddled, Stan thought.  “You run kind of an odd jail here, Sheriff.”

“How so?”  The Sheriff replied.

“Well,” Stan had to laugh.  “Your prisoner just walked out the back door there.  A small girl is playing on your departmental computer.  And the cell here is painted like the waiting room in a bordello.”    And when this didn’t get a rise, he added.  “And still, you two are here, looking like you’re still gonna sit down to eat your breakfast without a qualm!”

“We are.”  Leland nodded.

“Don’t want it to get cold!”  Ruth smiled.

“He’ll be back,”  Leland said, settling himself.  Leland motioned with his cup.

Stan stood there in wonderment.  “Law enforcement sure is different in a small town,” he observed.

“Oh.  How so?”  Sheriff Leland smiled.  He looked inquisitive.  Ruth smiled, too.  “Yes.  How so?!”

Stan smiled.   “Let’s eat before it’s cold as Afghanistan,” he said finally.

Leland nodded.   Ruth nodded.  Everyone ate.

Stan was irritated.  They ate too slowly.  And their comments about his Kandahar Omelet struck him as perfunctory.   They might as well be having oatmeal.  And he couldn’t see or feel anything special about the jail – outside of the bizarre mural which covered the inside of the prisoner’s cell.  Stan asked about that, but neither the Sheriff nor his secretary seemed much interested in delving into it, other than to say that Ralph Bunch done it.  And Stan nodded, as he’d met Ralph Bunch.   “Kind of surprised there’s not a Chipmunk in it,” Stan joked.  But all it got was the Sheriff’s noncommittal, “How so?”

Their conversation seemed to pick up as Stan cleared the dishes and prepared to go.  But it was mostly about where Stan was from, his background, foreground, mid-ground, and about just about every other thing Stan didn’t feel the inclination to answer.  The whole morning was a bust as far as Stan could see.  And the prisoner still hadn’t returned, by the time breakfast was finished.  Which was just bizarre.  It wasn’t even a proper jail!   And Stan had become so irritated with the tepid reception to his meal, that his attentions had wandered and were festering in their own little pool.   So no one saw Ramey enter, passing in through the back door carrying a heavy shovel which he had hoisted over his shoulders like a baseball bat.

Leland had returned to his office.  Stan had just cleared the cell block.   And Ruth was leading the way out, when Ramey swung the shovel with all his strength, striking Stan at the base of his skull with a sharp “whang!”   Stan went down like a sack of onions.

Ruth turned and gasped.

Leland came running in, with Nancy not far behind.

Ramey dropped the shovel and backed away, looking at them with alarm.  “I didn’t do it.  I didn’t do it!”  He jumped, shivering with disgust.   Nancy wrote this down.

“I’d call that a positive I.D.”  Leland smiled at Ruth, nudging the blade of the shovel and then the skull of his suspected serial killer with a toe to see if he could ‘rouse him.

Nancy wrote this down.

Photo taken from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 4, 2013
Phoning the Wife.

Phoning the Wife.

Long Distance Call

(Episode 45)

            Peter Barnett rang up Carmella with some trepidation, but with his game-voice on.  “Carmella!”

“Where the hell are you?”  Carmella replied.  She was just then placing a platter of biscuits and gravy on a customer’s table, and slammed it down so hard that the biscuits hopped, which made the customers heads hop.  (You had to be there.)

“Same place, honey.  Sorry it took so long.  I got caught in a tight spot and couldn’t call.  But all is right as rain now.  And I’m bringing home the bacon.”

“Sorry!”  Carmella said hushed, to the customers.  “I’m talking to the mayor.”

Her customers, nodded.  They were tourists, who wouldn’t know the mayor of Kimmel from the mayor of San Francisco or that he was Carmella’s husband.  But they knew the appellate ‘mayor’ and so were a bit impressed.

“I don’t know if I worry more when you sound stressed or when you sound relieved Peter,” Carmella said, hurrying out to find a spot of privacy.   “I just know that after 10 years of living with you, your high spirits don’t put me at ease.  What has happened?”  She hissed from behind the coats on the back coat rack.

“Just that my trip down here – though it has had its ups and its downs – has turned out a huge success!  I’m bringing back industry and jobs to our little corner of the woods, dear.  Kimmel’s mayor has come through!  You can start spreading the word.”

“¡Oh, no, no. Mi pequeña comadreja de un marido,” (Au contraire, my leetle weeezul of a huzbeend!), Carmella hissed.  “I am going to keep it well under my hat, until I hear the all of it, and I have you back here under my thumb where your story can be properly vetted, and sources checked and corroborated.”

“For goodness sakes, Carmella.  Should I bring my birth records?  Maybe a current photo ID?”

“You mean your hatch batch, you lizard.  What are you selling me?  And what have you been doing for two weeks?”

“I told you Carmella.  I’ve been handling some very tough negotiations.  But, handling them well, I’ll add, now that we’re through the worst of it.”

“The worst of it?  What else is there?”

“Nothing we can’t handle,” Peter assured her.

We?

“But why don’t we talk about the best of it, first?”

“I’m listening.”

“I’ve arranged with a syndicate of backers to finance the development of a huge recreational area right there in Kimmel.  We’re talking a construction budget in the millions.  Do you realize what this will do for our small community?”

“A ‘recreational area’?  You mean like horse rides and hiking and river rafting and camping and such?”

“Well, more like gambling and adult entertainment… and such.”

“Gambling and adult entertainment, in Kimmel?”

“Or just outside!  We’ll have to go over the possible locations.”

“What’s the bad news?”

“They gave me $120,000.  But we need $120,000 more.”

“$120,000.  They gave you $120,000?

“It’s earnest money.  Kind of like a ‘commission’, you know?  It’s my job to help marshal this whole thing through the governmental process, get all the proper licenses and certifications and zoning allotments and such.  I’ll be earning my money.”

“So why do you need $120,000 more?”

“Because I figured that is what it would take.”

“You figure doing all this is going to require $240,000?”

“Yes.”

“And how did you arrive at that number?  Right now the office of Mayor pays you around $5,000/year.  How come all of a sudden someone from Las Vegas wants to pay you $240,000?”

Peter had no quick answer for that.

“It seems to me that there are all sorts of little nowhere towns with little nominal nowhere mayors who could be had for a lot less than $240,000, – conflict of interest or not,” Carmella observed dryly.

“I resent that characterization, Carmella,” Peter replied.

“Well, I’m not trying to butter you up Peter.  So, answer my question.  Why, in the world, do these people want to pay you $240,000?”

“Well, it’s because they don’t actually have to pay me any of it.”

“Oh, and why’s that?”

“Well.  It’s because I already owe it, to them.”

“What?!  Peter, where in the world have you gotten $240,000 to owe anyone?”  Carmella was starting to feel a splitting headache coming on.

“Well, there’s where it’s been taking me the two weeks to get this all arranged.  And why I didn’t want to call, before it was all secured.”

“Yessssssss?  I’m listening,” Carmella said, and wishing she wasn’t.

“Okay.  This is how it went down.  But it was a good thing!  Eventually, this is going to be a good thing.”

“Peter, do you realize that we are about three minutes into this conversation and I feel like I am just now getting to whatever it is has happened that you are going to finally tell me?  And do you realize that this is how most every conversation we ever have is?  Because I have to keep digging and digging and questioning and questioning until I can finally get to what the heart of whatever it is you have to say actually is!”

Peter had been holding the phone away from his ear, so he hadn’t heard much of this.  But he felt he’d gotten the gist of it, enough, to reply with a little hurt in his voice.  “Carmella, when you get going like this, it’s no help to anyone.  Now just shut up and listen for a while.”

When Carmella didn’t reply, and Peter heard no ‘click’ of a disconnection, he continued.  “What happened is this.  After all those meetings with our sister city officials  I needed some time off, so I figured I’d just drive into Las Vegas and just look around.  All that glitter and stuff, you know.  You can literally see the place glowing in the distance.”

“You drove into Las Vegas,” Carmella sighed.

“Honey, lots of people do it, everyday.”

“Yeah, but they don’t have a drinking problem and a gambling habit.”

“It was just for a look around!”

“Okay.  So you drove in, looked around, and came back.”

“Well, no.”  Peter sighed.

“God damn it, Peter!  How much did you lose?”  Carmella felt she might crush the phone.  She massaged her forehead.

“Well, only $160,000 at first.”

“Only $160,000!  Peter where did you get that kind of money?  You didn’t   sell our restaurant did you?  I don’t see how you could have done that without my knowing.”

“No. No!  Nothing like that.  I would never do that, honey.   I just borrowed some of the city’s money.”

“You stole money from the town?!”

“I borrowed, borrowed!”

“Then pay it back, back!  Right now!”

“I am.  I have!  At least half of it, anyway.”

“Wait a minute.  You lost $160,000, but you owe $240,000.  What’s with the other $80,000?”  Carmella kept rubbing her forehead, but more vigorously.

“Well, here’s the thing.  I figured I’d lost the $160,000 because I’d made the mistake of gambling while I was drinking.  I mean, who could lose that much sober?  I went down to breakfast the next day and couldn’t even remember the night before.  I mean, I had to walk to the window to check my winnings, before  finding out.”

“Peter.  How could you start drinking?  Again?  And in Las Vegas, of all places?”

“I know.  I know.  Not smart.”

“Not smart?  Honey, what you have done is so far from ‘smart’, why, I can’t even figure out where it is.  You asshole!”

“Look, Carmella.  There’s no need to take that harsh tone with me.  Drinking is a disease.  Why, if I were dying of smallpox or something, would you be standing there calling me an “asshole”?”  Peter replied, feeling hurt and a little self-righteous.  “No!  You’d be calling a doctor.”

“No, Peter.  I think I’d watch you die, and be enjoying every minute of it.”  Carmella hissed from behind the coats, watching the Sheriff suddenly walk in.

Silence.

“I know you don’t mean that Carmella.  So I’m just going to continue as if nothing had been said, as if you hadn’t shared that.”  Peter sighed.

More silence.

“So, I figured,” Peter struck back up, upbeat.  “That sober, I could easily win it all back.  So, I went back at it with a vengeance.  I mean, I really worked hard, using all of the skills I’ve acquired, and playing it tight, playing it right.  But.  Lady Luck just wasn’t with me.  And you know, when Lady Luck frowns, well, there’s nothing you can do.  So I ended up $240,000 down.”

“Why $240,000?”  Carmella wondered, fatalistically.

“That’s when the town ran out of money.”  Peter shook his head.

“Oh,” Carmella replied, wrung out.

“But it’s a good thing! Carmella.  Because this is where I was able to turn things around, you see, because without that debt hanging over my head, I would never have been able to entice these savvy, shrewd business peopled down here into investing in our small town way out in the middle of nowhere.  But as it worked out, it’s as if I played them.  Which, I guess I have!  They are going to plunge millions into our little town, because they figure it costs them nothing!  And all it took on our parts was to lose $240,000.  Which, I might add, we plan to pay all back!”

Carmella didn’t know what to say.  She was dead tired from working in the restaurant 24/7, from listening to the crazy fantasies of a crazy husband, and now what could be impending incarceration for embezzlement – plus, just to add another dollop of bad luck to it, possible involvement with shady gambling figures, probably mob-connected.  She looked forward into her future and saw a shallow unmarked grave somewhere deep in the woods off a logging road, and her buried in a waitress smock or something.  Maybe she’d go serve the Sheriff some free coffee.  Yes.  That’s what she’d do.  She hung up.

“Leadership isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always carried out along the direct path,” Peter was touting himself into the dead phone.  “But the victory is there to be had, and the achievement to be realized for the ones who have the cajones to reach for the ring, and stay the course through those tough times of adversity, Carmella.  And let me tell you, I’m appreciative of your loyalty.  And someday, you’ll be able to take that to the bank.”

Photo by Carl Nelson of professional model

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

April 28, 2013
oooh, nice!

oooh, nice!

the help

the help

Influence Peddling

(Episode 44)

Benny Green got a call from his friend Lazlo in Vegas.  Lazlo was also a loan shark and money launderer.  But at times they traded leads.

“I got this guy here, thought you might find interesting.”

“Oh yeah?  How so,” Benny asked.

“Well, he’s deeply in debt,” Lazlo continued.

“That’s a start,” Benny agreed.

“He’s lost somebody else’s money.  And if that somebody else doesn’t get their money back, he’s gonna be in deep shit.”

“So he’s already in deep shit,” Benny replied.

“Yeah.”

“And this wouldn’t be your money, would it?”  Benny asked.

“Well, it could be,” was Lazlo’s reply.

“Aaahhhh.”  Benny nodded.  This sounded like a two way split.  Which Benny liked better than a favor.  A two way split was precise and people kept their eye on the play.  A ‘favor’ was a sloppy business and involved a lot of conversation and socializing and most of the time came back to bite you.  “And what’s his pitch?”  Benny asked.  “What’s his collateral?”  Benny laughed.

“Well, it’s something you might be able to use, but I can’t, really.”  Lazlo let the last words filter out his lips with the smoke from his cigar.  “But if you could, then we could.  But if you can’t, then we can’t.”

“Hmmmmmmm.”  Benny nodded.  It so happens that they were both, at this time, puffing on big cigars – the same brand actually – and letting the smoke filter out from between their lips.

Lazlo belched and waved someone over.  Benny, on his end, did the same thing.  Benny snapped his fingers, and asked his mistress to hand him a ham on rye.  Down in Vegas, Lazlo snapped is fingers at a former showgirl and demanded a Chivas on the rocks.

“So why would I be able to use this ‘thing’ we’re talking about, when you can’t – or won’t?”  Benny asked.  There was a lot of chit chat and shoptalk embedded in a deal.  And Lazlo employed and enjoyed it as much as Benny.  And when they were enjoying themselves, they often felt the urge to eat.

“It’s a matter of lowkwhoshawn…”  Lazlo murmured through a bite of sandwich.

“THwhaut?”  Benny chewed, spit out a wheat kernel, and checked his filling.  ‘What the hell does this woman buy for bread?’ Benny had to ask himself.

Lazlo swallowed, then took a gulp of beer.  “It’s a matter of loc-a-tion,” he enunciated.

“Uh,” Benny replied, reaching in his pocket for a toothpick.

“What he wants to sell me is a town.  …maybe a county.”

“A town?  What have I got to do with a town?”  Benny replied.  “What am I gonna do with a county?”

But Lazlo was silent, letting the matter crawl around the crevices of Benny’s lizard brain for a moment, while Lazlo studied a sandwich.  He lifted it.  Finally, Lazlo decided where he was going to bite and answered.  “It’s the town’s money he lost.  He’s the mayor, the treasurer, the coroner, the post office supervisor, and a dozen other things as near as I can tell, of the great metropolis of Kimmel, up in your neck of the woods.”  Lazlo bit.

“And so he wants to trade you the town, in lieu of his gambling debt?”

“He wants to trade me his influence,” Lazlo corrected, chewing.  “He figures hi mhight whant tho estahblish,” Lazlo took a gulp of Chivas, feeling the ice tap his teeth,  “gambling, and maybe a little loan-sharking and prostitution up in his neck of the woods.  And he thinks me and him can make that happen.  Of course, if I decide not to ‘help’ him out, then more than likely he goes on the lam, or gets incarcerated, and there goes his influence.  So.  It’s a perishable commodity,” Lazlo summarized.

“Aren’t we all,”  Benny sympathized with a smile.  “How long does he have?”

“Well, there’s the payroll he’s got to meet, which includes the county Sheriff’s salary.”

This made Benny’s brows rise.  “I don’t know,” Benny said finally.  “Currently I’m invested into businesses – legit businesses, some of them even hi tech, you’d be proud of me, I am embracing technology – and making clean money.  Towns cost money.  They got potholes to fix, cops to fix, and all that shit..  I don’t know.  I don’t see any money, unless I go majorly illegal.  You know, corrupt with a big ‘C’.  And then, I still have to put even more money in, you know, to build up the proper infrastructure, to support something that would make it worth my while, considering the risk.”

“Benny!  I can’t believe I’m hearing this.  Corruption always pays better than legit.  That’s why we do it,” Lazlo swore.

“Aaiiii!”  Benny swore.  “But I’m getting so tired of talking to that FBI.  And the legal fees eat me alive.”

“Okay.  Okay.  Only two words I’m going to say,” Lazlo replied.  “Las Vegas.”

“That’s one.”

“No, it’s two.  Look it up.”

“I have.”

“No.  Apparently you haven’t, because there’s ‘Las’, and then there’s ‘Vegas’.  Two words.”

“Las’, is not a word.”

“Yes it is.”

“No it’s not.  What does ‘Las’ mean?  It doesn’t mean anything.”

“It must in Spanish.  Or they wouldn’t use it all by itself, would they?”  Lazlo countered.

“Who knows what the goddamned Mexicans do,” Benny replied.  “Even if it does mean something, it probably means ‘the’, or ‘before’, or ‘on top of’.”

“’On top of?”

“…or something.  And what does ‘the’ mean?  Huh?  ‘The’ doesn’t mean anything.  It’s like a nothing, a, an, empty thought space.”

Lazlo sighed.  “Okay, look.  We’re getting off topic here.  Why don’t we save  this linguistic pissing contest for another time?”

“Fine with me.”

“Because what I am saying in a language we both know and can communicate in is that what we may be looking at here is an opportunity.  And it might be worth the investment because we reduce the risk, like Las Vegas.  They own the desert, and they make the law.  No cops.  No lawyers.  No courts.  No nothing.  Just out of state marks.  Lots of grain fed marks flown in…”

“I heard you say “we”.”

“That’s right.  We split 50/50.”

“So what do I do?  And what do you do?”

“Okay.  So this is it.”  Lazlo lowered his voice – just from habit, and not because he was afraid of being overheard.  It was just habitual to lower your voice when you got to the meat of any conversation.  Everybody knew this.

“The guy’s short $240,000.  It was $160,000, but he tried to gamble his way free.  This ought to give you some measure of the guy’s ability to self-examine and to self-correct in the face of adversity and of his character flaws.”

“Yeah.  I got it,” Benny said.  “Mayor or not, he’s just another normal putz with abnormal ambition and what he thought were testicles.”

“Yeah.  So this is how it is:  I give him $120,000.  This is enough to save his ass for the time being, but not enough for him to lose that sense of urgency, which is so important for a good relationship to flower.  You pay me $60,000, and you’re in for half.  After that we own him.  And you run him and the operation up there, while I raise the money and assemble the backers down here.  And we go big league.  We put Kimmel County on the map.  What do you say?”

Benny thought for a while.  “I knew a broad who lived out near there,” he said.  “One of my clients.  Seemed to like it.”

“Well there you go,” Lazlo agreed.

“Until she got whacked.  Some crazy batshit serial killer or some such.  Cut her head off.  Like, sawed it, with a small knife.  Can you believe that?”

“There’s a lot of sickos in this world,” Lazlo sympathized.

“Maybe.  On the other hand, she was pretty abrasive,” Benny offered.

“Well, okay.  Then there’s that.  You know, like sometimes a person’s karma can catch up to them.”

“Yeah, and saw their head off!”  Benny laughed.  He considered.  “Okay, cut me in.  And I’ll get the money to you by the end of this week.  It’ll be cash, and I’ll have my nephew drive it down personal.  Cause you know him and he knows you.”

“That’ll work, “ Lazlo said.

“Okay.  Nice bein’ in business with you again Lazlo,” Benny said.

“The feeling’s mutual.”

They both hung up, grabbed their drinks and cigars, and sat there thinking.

Photos from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

April 13, 2013
Another town not far from Kimmel

Another town not far from Kimmel

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qh-AG3brrkM&feature=youtu.be

Episode  7:  “We Got A Date i need your head”

Soundtrack Addition

A dear reader of Murders in Progress suggested this soundtrack for STAN, our serial killer.  I liked the idea, as I feel would have Eldon, if he could have foreseen such.  So we are adding it in order to make your reading experience that much richer.  I’ve captioned each with the suggested episode they would best garnish.  Enjoy!!

http://youtu.be/oOpnplMQmCg

Episode 29: ” Livin’ on the Down Low”

Photo submitted by blog
follower: Donn Trenton

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

April 9, 2013

Cornedge

Back to the Farm

(Episode 39)

 Carmella was beside herself.  The Café was jammed.  A line was snaking down the sidewalk outside.  And she had been on her feet and on the run since five that morning.  She had added five new waiters and three new cooks.  But they were new and had needed direction all the time.  But thank God she had happened on Stan.  She had full confidence he’d have the kitchen running like a well-oiled machine, in no time.  He seemed to have just taken over.  And nobody seemed to have complained, so “it was all good”, as her husband Pete would say.   Carmella supposed.  She would have loved to know how Stan managed what he had managed, but whatever.  It was the one bright spot in her increasingly frantic life.  ‘Actually,’ TWO brights spots.’  She wiggled her hips.

“Gotta make hay while the sun shines!  Right Sheriff,” Carmella chirped to a bleary Leland that next morning.

“Shut up, Carmella,” Sheriff Leland said, fingering his aching head, not his usual polite self.

Carmella rested her hip against the booth side as she refilled the Sheriff’s cup and murmured in confidence.  “I’m sorry Sheriff.  I don’t know what’s gotten into me.  I’m just kind of manic, what with all the activity of late, and my mouth bubbles off.  You know, we all, I mean the whole town appreciates the lengths you’re going to to find these killers.  It’s just that the Weeds getting killed has got the whole valley on edge.  Not that they were the most popular farmers around.  But they had been here for many generations.  So it’s kind of got everyone shook.  Me included, I suppose.”

“I appreciate that Carmella.”  Sheriff Leland nodded, touching his head in various spots.  “I truly do.”  He stirred his coffee.

“Okay then.”  Carmella tapped on the table.  “Coffee’s on the house.”

Leland nodded.  Then after Carmella left, he sighed.

‘That’s what I do,’ Leland scolded himself, ‘I sigh.  This town elects a Sheriff.  Murders occur.  And what does he do?  He sighs.’  Leland berated himself.

Leland thought for a moment, shook his head, and then pulled out his cell phone.

“Merlin?”  He said.

“Yeah?”

“I’ve got work for you.”

Merlin didn’t respond.

“Pick you up in 10 minutes?”

There was a long pause.

“Sure,” Merlin replied.

Photo by Carl Nelson

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.”

“Oh?”

“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.

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

January 13, 2013

Pork Chops2

The Marriage Therapist

(Back on the Farm, Continued 3)

(Episode 23)

(In our previous episode, Stan had shown Harriet and Bob the bar code embedded in the underside of his left forearm.  Bob had asked how you get one of those.  And Harriet had asked, “Who are you?”)

“I had what psychiatrists would later come to call, an ‘ambivalent’ relationship with my mother,”  Stan continued.

“You know Stan, we ain’t asking anyone around here to talk about their mother,” Bob interrupted.  “But that Federal Government part of it, I believe we both find interesting.”

“Shut up!”  Harriet poked Bob again with the gun barrel.

“I believe it’s germane to the tale, Bob,” Stan explained.

Harriet nodded emphatically.  Bob shrugged.

“Who knows how or why, but I can hear her voice just running around in loose in my head… just this utterly uncontrollable bitch!  Even now.”

“She died?”

Stan nodded, and shook out another funny looking cig from the carton.

“How’d she die?”

“Car accident.  House fire.  Ice pick through the eyeballs!!!   Or de-capitated and mangled viciously in a bloody threshing machine accident, which was investigated and cleared me of all blame when I was only 12.  What does it matter?!  The point is, that it stopped the voices!!!”   Stan lit the cigarette with a shaking hand.  His head twitched to the either side several times, until inhaling the cigarette and blowing out slowly visibly calmed him.

“Okay.  That sounds good,” Bob said, cautiously.  “That sounds real good.”

Harriet nodded emphatically.

“But then, as I carried on with my fucking life and resumed my fucking career, in … Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan – any place with fucking sand, it sometimes seemed!  I heard voices, in the native language…  The psychiatrists later said that I must have been a very sensitive boy.”  Stan interrupted himself.  “Not that a female ever makes sense.  But these were in a foreign language.  And they were always female, very domineering, very demanding, very curt, and short, and unloving…  and hectoring!”  Harriet frowned.  Sam waved frantically in the air as if to ward off a flock of attacking crows.  “So I had to bow out and headed back to the States, where at least I could understand the whole jabberfest.”  He sighed and took two more long tokes of his cigarette…  ‘which didn’t smell exactly like a cigarette,’ Bob was thinking.

“You want a toke?”  Stan whistled with held breath.

Bob started to nod and say “Yes”, until Harriet glanced his way and Bob shook his head and said “No” softly.  Stan nodded.

“Oh, they would start out in the morning discrete and humble enough, just say asking what time it was, or asking about this or about that, real pleasantly, or reminding me to do something.  Then progressing to asking me what I had planned for the day, and then adding something to that plan of the day, plus a request to help them with one or two things, if I could, before I did any of that which I had planned for the day, and finally beginning to sound hurt and petulant when you tried to beg off in order to just get a little of your own momentum going… Or maybe just start the day with a cup of coffee first before being harassed, from one end of the kitchen to the other, for Christsakes!  Making requests and giving orders…   And then, of course, they’re on you for swearing and cussing and getting upset… at something else!  not them, for Chrissakes.  Because you’re trying to be good about that.  And by the way, ‘Whereever did you get so sour and suspicious?’ and ‘How come you have to get so incensed by the slightest little request when I ask it?  I don’t mind doing things for you?’”

Stan nodded.  “Yeah, like you can ever remember anything I ask you to do!”   I tried talking to it.  I tried being reasonable.  But all it would do was to ignore me, or ask why I was upset.   Or finally, after I was just about to flip out, “are you okay, Stan?”  Like it really cared!  It would ask, all concerned like.   Until finally, I decided.   I’m going to have to kill it.  I had been killing a lot of people for Uncle Sam by that time; so it only seemed like the next logical step to begin killing some for myself.”  Stan glanced around as if looking for support.

The support was not forthcoming.

“Well now, I can kind of see your point.”  Bob nodded finally.  “I mean, I can kind of see how a man could get to that state.”  Harriet swung the gun towards him.  “Or, you know, begin thinking that way if it was a bad day or something, or you had taken sick.  …And then immediately putting it out of his mind, of course.”

“You see there are some women, I don’t know why, but they are like powerful broadcasting stations.  Their yammering thoughts just stream out!  And the closer they get the more powerful they get.  Until murder is about the only thing.  And then it’s a territorial thing, too.  You have to defend the boundaries of your psychological territory.  Like Frost says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”  So.  In a way , it’s like any mission.  You get a reading.  You triangulate.  Then you go in on a Sweep and Clean.”  Sam made some Delta Force movements.

“This’s all fine and good,” Harriet said.  “But I don’t see why you had to go and get my husband involved in all of this.”

Stan exhaled slowly while staring up.  “I thought it would help your marriage.”

What?!”

“You see, Harriet!”  Bob exclaimed.  “I told you Stan was bound to have a real good reason for whatever it was that I was doing!”

“You were raping someone!”

Bob shrugged acknowledgement.  “Okay.”

“That’s marijuana you’re smoking, isn’t it?”  Harriet demanded.

“Yeah?”

“That’s illegal in this state.”

“I… I thought they just passed a law.”  Stan scrunched his brows with the effort of recollection.

“They may have just passed a law in this county.  But we are still proud citizens of the United States.  And it is still very illegal to smoke that in the United States of America.”  The gun barrel rose up and down as Harriet said the United States of America.  Stan’s eyes followed the gun barrel as Harriet recited this, and he started laughing, until he started coughing.  Putting out the joint, he looked up at Harriet with reddened eyes.  “My bad,” he said.

Harriet nodded.

“Where was I?”

“You were telling us how you were doing some Marital Therapy with Bob here.”  Harriet poked the gun at Bob.  “Out in the dark, in the woods, with some woman called the Muffin Lady, who you drug from her car and raped and assaulted.”  Harriet nodded.

“Oh, yeah.  That’s it.”  Stan rubbed his face.

“For a while, after moving Stateside and mustering out I made a living for myself doing Marital Counseling,” Stan continued.

“He did Marital Counseling!”  Bob exclaimed to Harriet.

Harriet cocked the gun.  “I’ve got ears don’t I?”

“Just sayin’,’ Bob squeaked.  “So maybe we could both listen and learn something?”  Bob suggested.

“You just ain’t got a brain in your head, do you?”

“You got to admit, the blush has kind of gone off of our relationship over the past couple of years, Harriet.”

“?”  Harriet looked at her husband, speechless.

Stan nodded.

“?”  Harriet looked at Stan, speechless – before some harsh words came to mind.  “Oh, I’ll bet he was just super at that!”

“Many of my patients swore by me,” Stan declared.

“And I’ll bet the others swore at you.”  Harriet laughed.  “That is, if you hadn’t cut their tongues out.  Or beat them senseless, and murdered and raped them.”

“We considered every form of therapy.  We didn’t take anything off the table.  You take violence and rape off the table and it’s no longer a fair encounter.  It’s not a natural environment.  The men are at an immediate disadvantage.  How can you expect to plant and grow the seeds of a lasting relationship, if you deny one of the partners their natural inclinations?”

“You’ve got to admit, the man makes sense.”  Bob nodded.

“You see who thinks you make a lot of sense?”  Harriet nodded to Stan.

“Reality doesn’t care what we think of it,” Stan replied.  “In fact, it doesn’t even know we exist.”

“You think you’re Reality?

“Actually,” Stan took another toke and looked up in thought.  “It doesn’t even know it exists.”

“You see there.  Now something tells me, that makes a lot of sense.”  Bob pointed.

Harriet rolled her eyes.

“I was impotent, Harriet.  And now I’m not!”

“What in the world are you bringing up now, Bob?”

“What I’ve been trying to tell you, for the past several weeks, Harriet!  But you just keep mumbling, “Go out and milk the cows Bob,” and turning over and going back to sleep,”  Bob implored Harriet. “Like I’m not even there.   …That I’m no longer impotent.”

“Oh, Bob.  Would you shut up about that!”

“But it’s important!”

Now is not the time!”

But he’s a therapist.”

“He’s a serial killer!”

“Well…  Can’t a person be both?”

“I swear!   I am going to shoot you, so full of holes… that it will spell your name.  R.o.b.e.r.t. (.B.o.b.).W.e.e.d.s. right up and down that newly empowered little weenie of yours,” Harriet swore.

“Harriet!  I’m potent again!”

“So can we talk about this later then?”  Harriet turned with the gun emphatically.

“Sure.  Sure.  …Maybe we could have little Bobs?”

Harriet cocked the trigger again.

It was quite a while before anyone spoke.  Until finally, Harriet shook her head, as if to wake.  “So.”  Harriet coughed.  “Perhaps we could move on to this… so called, government involvement.”

“Your hour is not yet up.” Stan smiled.

“Good.”  Harriet leaned back and threw her bead back on Stan.

“Yeah.  How does that barcode thing there on your arm supposed to work?”  Bob asked.

Stan looked at Harriet.  Harriet nodded.

“Well,” Stan replied.  “If I get in a sticky wicket somehow…  say the authorities have located me and are about to move in, or my mission has been compromised, I simply run this patch on my arm through the scanner of any nearby store and my information is immediately uplinked to a massive central server, an internal clearinghouse of all digitally originating information worldwide, where this code is recognized and activates a very Black Ops insertion and rescue operation.  It takes about 24 hours to be fully staged and operational.  So it’s not a complete failsafe.”

“Huh!”  Bob grinned, touching it.  “What does the store read out on the cash register say?”

“It says, Have a Nice Day!  J”  Stan replied.

Bob laughed.  “That’s great.  That’s real nice.”

“And it gives you 50 cents off on a frozen package of peas.”

“Umm.”

“He’s joking, you nitwit,” Harriet said.

“No I’m not, actually.”  Stan replied.  Bob looked vindicated.  “And it’s just such comments such as that, which have served in the past to destroy this man’s fragile masculinity.  To the detriment of you both, I might add.”

Harriet was abashed.  “I don’t know.  It just come out…”

“It’s true.  That sort of attitude just comes out, runs out of her like puss.”  Bob nodded.

“Well.  Words do hurt.  And it’s something to think about, especially if you are trying to improve your relationship.”

“I’ll try to do better.”

“Good,” Stan said.

“And I’ll help all I can with it,” Bob made a heartfelt offer.

“Good then!”  Stan smiled, clearly enjoying the cathartic moment he’d helped sponsor.  He stood.  “Let’s all join hands then in a short prayer… and then see what’s for desert.”

“Oh cripes!”  Harriet had set the gun on the table and was wiping the sweat from her hands before clutching those of the others.  “I got so wrapped up in that article in the Times that I plumb forgot about fixing the dessert.”

“It’s no matter.  It’s no matter.” Stan nodded.

“Yeah,” Bob agreed, holding out his hands.

“Let us pray.”

Photo lifted from Google Images

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

January 11, 2013

Forearm Bar Mark

Back on the Farm, Continued.

(Episode 22)

(When we last heard from Harriet, she said:

            “If any of them come sniffin’ around here, what am I supposed to say?”  Harriet dipped the gun at Stan demanding an answer. )

 

“I really don’t like telling other people what to do,” Stan replied.  When Harriet just kept looking at him, he added:  “They oftentimes won’t do what I say anyway.  Or they can’t understand.  Or they get it wrong.  Or they just ignore me!”  Stan’s demeanor changed.  His voice rose.   However, in a moment, had had calmed himself.  “…Or they misunderstand.  Or they just don’t have the wherewithal to bring it off.  Or they’re just damned lazy.  And mostly, it’s just a real bother and a waste of my time.”

“You kill people.  Isn’t that like telling them what to do?”  Harriet lifted the gun barrel.

“No.  That’s like telling them to stop.”

Stan took a long pull from his cigarette and then put it out, right there on the table.

Bob was surprised as hell it didn’t get him shot.  Especially when he looked right up at Harriet while grinding it out.  That little whisp of smoke which marked its extinction, Bob fully expected to match Stan’s extinction.  ‘Shit,’ he was married to her, and he wouldn’t have tried that.

“If I hadn’t just asked you a question and was expecting an answer, Mr. Cool-as-a-Cucumber.   I would blow that grin right through your face,” Harriet growled.  “That, plus, I am trying to understand the charm you hold and can sway over this dimwitted husband of mine.”

“Now Harriet…  Ya got the gun.  Do you have to provoke people likewise?”  Bob protested.

“Shut up!”

“Apparently I do,” Harriet barked.

“I’ll take that as a good thing.”  Stan nodded.

“You kin take it anyway you damn want,” Harriet retorted.  “But before I blow you right outta that chair there, I wanna know – just outta curiosity, and maybe for a good laugh – just what your idea about what your further plans here might be?”

“Further plans? ” Stan laughed at the gun.  But Stan was watching Harriet’s eyes.

“You know, I don’t believe I’ve ever noticed a man studying my eyes so thoughtful like before?  Perhaps I shoulda started out my female career pointing a gun at more men.”  Harriet glanced at Bob.

“A sure attention-getter.  I’ll give you that,” Bob admitted.

“And then you can shut the hell up! again,” Harriet repeated.  “Now what is it?  What are your plans here?

The hired man, Stan, took his time, wiped his mouth with the paper napkin.  He took the soiled napkin and gathered up the squashed cigarette and ashes into it, folded the bundle, and placed it neatly to the side.  He smiled at Harriet.  Harriet smiled back, and checked to make sure the safety was off.  Stan nodded.

“You know, this idea that you think hard about what you want to become in life, and then study to become it, and then you go out and find a way to make a living doing it, and then you either succeed or fail in the attempt for the most part – isn’t really how it works.”

Harriet raised her brows.   “So how did it work?  Let’s say, I’m curious.”

Stan’s brows furrowed, as if he were annoyed a bit at being interrupted.

“What more often happens is that you are doing something – which you think is going to make things the way you want them, more or less – when something happens, something comes along, usually completely out of the blue, and you have to make a choice.  And then that choice decides what you’re actually going to do with your life.  And after that, you really haven’t a lot of say about it.  Excepting maybe, how long you intend to continue.”

Harriet nodded.  And Bob nodded, as he relished his pork chop.  Bob was getting kind of lulled by Stan’s soft words and unconsciously had begun to relish his unfinished meal.  Bob reached for his fork.

“And don’t you move another inch.”  Harriet swiveled with the gun towards Bob.  “And also, shut up!”

“I didn’t say a thing!”  Bob jerked his paw back quick as a puppy could.

“I am just reminding you.”

“So what happened to me was,” Stan continued in a soft voice.  So soft in fact that each of Harriet and Bob had to lean closer to hear.  “I had a run in with the Federal Government.”  Stan rolled up his left sleeve and turned his arm palms up to reveal a bar code molded in somehow to the underarm skin of his left forearm.

Bob leaned in.  And Harriet appeared almost to have forgotten the gun, resting it on the table as she leaned over closer to have a good look, too.  And for a time the two of them just looked on the seamless skin patch of Stan’s with wonder.

“Why that looks just like something on the side of a package of Wonder Bread,” Bob said, poking it.  Harriet nodded.

“How much does something like that cost?”  Bob asked, with some admiration.

“Shut up!!!”  Harriet barked, emphasizing this by slamming the gun on the table.

Stan looked at the embedded tattoo of sorts somewhat wistfully with the regard of a old veteran for a platoon logo.   Bob moved his lips while mumbling the numbers printed up the side.  Harriet seemed to be the only one who registered that this was suddenly turning very strange.

“Who are you?”  Harriet said.

Photo by Carl Nelson

Murders in Progress… by Eldon Cene

December 7, 2012

Elderly Woman Working Jigsaw Puzzle3

Ramey Gets Interrogated

(Episode 17)

            Ramey had emptied two bottles of wine getting through the rape kit procedure and was now fast asleep under the sheet, head lolling off the table top, his breathing ragged with glottal stops and gasps.  It was annoying.  And it was interrupting Leland’s conversation with Agent Hailey.  So Leland shoved Ramey’s head roughly back onto the table.  “Shut up Ramey.”

Ramey murmured something dental and vaguely offensive, took a lazy swat at the air, missing Leland by a foot, and rolled over.

“I scraped his nails, took a buccal swab, and checked him for cuts and bruises, scratches, the works.  He’s clean as a baby’s butt, and with hands just about as soft,” Agent Hailey said.  “It makes no sense.

Leland snapped himself from his reverie.  The woman was just so damned beautiful he felt as if he were watching a movie.   “It does if he’s just a dentist,” Leland said.

Agent Hailey moved them quietly out of Ramey’s hearing.  ‘All they needed was soft candle light,’ Leland thought sadly, with the regrets of someone who feels he is going to miss that train.

Agent Hailey frowned.  “Usually there’s a telltale.  You don’t just drag a struggling woman 50 yards through undergrowth, in the dark, to a spot where she’s beaten and raped after meanwhile taking several shots at you, without some kind of abrasive evidence.  It doesn’t add up.  Even the most careful killers usually have some kind of scratch to explain away, or forest dirt under their nails, or hair or blood splatters, or knuckle abrasions, or clothes to dispose of.   It just doesn’t make sense.”

Unless he’s the mild-mannered dentist who didn’t do it.”

“How could he have known all of this beforehand, if he didn’t do it?”

“He didn’t know all of it beforehand.  He just knew her name.”

“Then how could he have known her name.”

“I don’t know.  Maybe he overheard it from some gassed patient blathering on under the effects of an anesthetic which stimulated his already overly excitable imagination,” Sheriff Leland got a little excited himself, “… into a formed narrative of great moment?”  Leland smiled.  Agent Hailey looked at him funny.

“Then how could he know all of it afterward?”  Agent Hailey pursed her lips, leaning in.

Less impossible…”

“Not much.”

Leland paused before answering.  Agent Hailey was actually hissing softly.  But the difference between hissing and puckering for a kiss was spatially pretty much similar.  Leland angled his head this way and that, considering which attitude most got their noses out of the way.   It was mostly a matter of attitude,  Leland considered… and remained lost in these considerations until she kicked him.

“Ow!  I don’t know.”  He rubbed his shin.  “And kicking me usually doesn’t make me any smarter.”

“Fine then.  You talk to the guy a while, while I go through the house.”

“We haven’t a warrant.”

You haven’t a warrant.  He signed one for me.” Agent Hailey gave a pert flip of her head.  “Actually, she signed one for me.  But I’m thinking it’s probably valid, given the circumstances.”

Leland waved her off.  Agent Hailey was really interfering with his focus.  And he figured it was about time to interrogate Ramey, anyway.

“So.  Ramey,” Leland called out to the bleary dentist after he had rousted him and administered some strong, hot coffee.  “What’s been going on with you?”

“Oh, Leland.  You wouldn’t believe…”  Ramey’s head snapped back and a sharp, crisp demanding woman’s voice issued from the other side of his mouth.  “Have you caught my rapist yet?”

Leland was caught aback, even though he had been expecting something of the sort.  Ramey’s whole aspect seemed changed.  “Ma’am, I realize you probably have a lot you will want to tell me, but I would like to speak with Ramey, the dentist, first.”

He wasn’t raped.”

Leland next expected Ramey’s head to turn entirely around and to vomit green goo.  But he remained firm.  “The dentist, please.”

Ramey’s head snapped back, and it was the Ramey Leland knew.  “Oh, Leland,” Ramey began again.  “I feel as if I’m married, only I’m 25 years in and we’re really getting on each other’s nerves.   She won’t leave me alone!  She wants this done.  She wants that done.  Nothing’s quite right.  She just doesn’t seem to be able to be satisfied.  And she’s got all this anger, which I feel she projects onto me.  Who I feel she doesn’t really know, or actually care to know.  I finally had to give up and started drinking.  How do married men take it?”

“I don’t know, Ramey.  I’m not married.”

Ramey nodded.  “Why do men ever enter into such a state?”  Ramey whined.

“I don’t know, Ramey.  I think maybe sex has a lot to do with it.”  Leland put his hand on Ramey’s shoulder.  “At least, it seems responsible for a lot of the crazy things I see in my line of work.”

“Yeah.”  Ramey nodded.

“Look, Ramey.  I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner.  Okay?”

Ramey rolled his eyes.

“But I need to know.  What is this thing between you and Nancy Loomis?  How are you two connected?  How did you know she was going to get murdered?”

“I didn’t know she was going to be murdered, Leland.  All I was doing was mowing my yard!  Even now.  You see how it’s half done.  Did you even notice the mower left out there?  I was mowing my yard when suddenly, I received these horrific visions, and the name “Nancy Loomis” sounded in my ears.  You remember when I realized your 13 year old dog, Lucy, had been hit and killed, and then drug off into the woods by a coyote, and I knew just where to find her?”  Leland nodded.  “It was just like that.  So I called Ruth – who was as officious as ever.  Leland, I have to say, that woman is not to be trusted with power.  Do you know she calls your Sheriff’s office a department, when you aren’t looking?”

“Yes, I know this Ramey.”

“Well, anyway.  So I’m trying to tell her what I know, but I need to know what I know for certain before I commit myself because, as you know, in these small towns it’s very hard to preserve your reputation as a professional.  You’ve just got to watch it like a hawk!  So I try to ask Ruth what she knows about a ‘Nancy Loomis’.  But she says she can’t reveal any information about an ongoing investigation.  So I say, “So there is an ongoing investigation regarding Nancy Loomis?”  To which she says, “I can’t say.  We can’t reveal information regarding any ongoing investigation either factual or fantastical”.  You know how bureaucrats talk and repeat the same things with that kind of nasal thing going when they’re trying to dish you?  Well, Ruth does that too, Leland.”

“I know, Ramey.”

“And then pretends like she doesn’t know me.  I’m her dentist, for Pete’s sake Leland.”

“I know, Ramey.  I know.”

Ramey sighed.  “So I tell her to have you call me.  And of course you don’t call me.  And the rest is history.”

“I’ll say I’m sorry one more time, Ramey, and then that’s it.”

Ramey nodded.

“You haven’t taken me up to the part where you got married.”

“Married?  Oh yeah.”  Ramey shook his head, rattled it, actually.  “There wasn’t much to it.  I go to bed.  And the next thing I know, I wake up.  And there’s this partly naked woman in a ruined dress in my head with me.  I mean, she’s a mess!  And she’s pissed as hell.  It’s like one of those Las Vegas wedding things I’d guess, where you head out drinking, and the next thing you know you’re waking up in some strange motel room with some woman you don’t recognize – who smiles at you with just these awful teeth – who says you’re married.  I mean, it’s a mind blower Leland.  And you’re left just casting about for landmarks.  Which, again, is why I called you.”

“I know.  I know.  And I’m sorry, Ramey.  But I’m here now.”

“Yeah.”

“Look.  Maybe it’s time I speak with Nancy…”

“It’s Ms. Loomis to us Leland.  And I think that’s a good idea.  And while you’re at it, could you just tell her that I didn’t have anything to do with whatever has happened to her, and so perhaps she could just calm down a little, at least with me?  It’s a small space in here.  I mean, inside my head.”

“I’ll do what I can Ramey.”

“Thanks.”  Ramey’s head turned, and the fish wife re-appeared.  “That took you long enough.”

“Well,” Leland said, “Ramey had some concerns.”

“He’s a fucking dentist.  Who cares what concerns a dentist can have?”

“Well, to a “fucking dentist”, strange as it may seem, their concerns sometimes reign uppermost, in their minds.”

“Well they shouldn’t.  Because, God knows, I’ve been complaining loud enough.”

“He agrees, which gets us to something he wanted me to bring up with you.”

“I’m in his own head, and he needs an intermediary?”

“Well, perhaps you come on a little strong.”

“It’s a man’s world!  How would you expect me to come on?  Do you know how hard it is for a woman to make a go of it in the kind of ‘Good ‘Ol Boy’ business climate there is that exists out there?  Do you think I just got given a 5 million dollar industry to run?  No!  I didn’t think so.  I had to build it from scratch.  From the mixing bowl up!  And after all that, all that toil and sweat and after breaking the glass ceiling all on my own without any help from you or any other man, do you know they call me?  The Muffin Lady.  Well, you know what?  I wear that moniker as a badge of pride.  Go ahead.  Call me the Muffin Lady.  And I’ll call you and raise you 5 million dollars.  What do you think of that?”

“I think that you’ve shown a lot of pluck.”

“Luck?  Luck?!  What’s luck got to do with it?”

“I said, pluck…  PLUCK!”

“Okay.  Well, good then.  He must have messed up my hearing when he punched me in my good ear.”

“That’s probably it.  Now if we could just get to your recounting of events?”

“I would love to go there, finally, for Christ’s sake.”  A tear trickled down Ramey’s cheek.  “You’re going to help me nail this bastard?”  Leland felt some sympathy rise up.

“We’re going to blow a big wide hole, right through him.”

“That sounds good.  That works for me.”

Leland nodded, and they began their interrogation.

Photo by Carl Nelson


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