NVDT Shorts – How They Get Away III

Clown Car

“Going to Texas for a grocery run,” Harper folded the bed lid down on his good pickup. “Got the freezer in the back. You need anything from Costco or Sam’s, now’s the time to holler.”

“Damn, Harper. No notice?” Cheryl’s tongue poked a bump in her cheek while she thought. “Can I text you a list?”

“I wanna go!”

“Waco, your uncle has better things to do than babysit you.”

“Baby sittin’ is that thing,” she pointed at her baby brother. “Please?

Harper watched the dynamic, waited, caught his sister’s expression start to soften.

“She can come, Big Sis. I need to hear some new music, anyway. But,” he eyed his ten-year-old niece, “you can’t hang on the phone the whole time. The point of a road trip co-pilot is to entertain the driver with stories, program the GPS so I don’t get lost, fly the playlist and pass stuff from the munchie bag.”

“You already know where you’re goin’, an your truck knows my phone. Mom?” Waco raised her eyebrows, checked in with both adults.

“Whatever,” Cheryl shrugged through baby bounces. “She gets under your feet or turns full nuisance, park her in the back with her phone and drop the lid.”


“So, what happened to you and that lady from the casino?” Waco shifted sideways in the passenger seat, legs crossed Indian style.

“She wasn’t from the casino. I met her at the casino.”

“Like a pickup?”

“Jeez, kiddo… Yeah. Kinda like that.”

“Mom thought she was a prosti-whatsit. Like you were payin’ to be with her. Like that show on Netflix.”

“Your mom has a vivid imagination and needs to put some control on your TV.”

“Why? That stuff’s in the library, and on the internet. So…?”

“We met. At the casino. She was fun to be with. A lot of fun. I thought we were doin’ okay, but…”

“But what?”

“Okay. Gotta promise – you can’t tell a soul about this,” knowing she’d tell everyone who’d listen. “Cause it’ll make me look bad.” He made the cutoff from 70 to 377 South, reset the cruise control. “So, I’m rockin’ along with this girl, thinkin’ we would hook up for the weekend, and I called her. I guess it was on a Wednesday? Anyway, our last couple of calls hadn’t gone all that smooth, but I thought it was down to timing. You know, interrupting each other in the middle of work, stuff like that. But the last time she seemed even more not into it than the last couple of times I’d called. We were talking, though, or I was, and then her doorbell rang. She says it’s the tree guys or the pool guys, somebody like that –”

“She has a pool?”

“Yep, a big one. And a big ol’ yard full of trees.”

“Wow… Who was it? The tree guys or the pool guys?” She put her palms to her cheeks. “Maybe she had another boyfriend!”

“Never found out. See, what happened was when she saw whoever was in the driveway and heard the doorbell, she said, ‘Just a sec’ and put her phone down. I could hear her explaining something to whoever it was and heard her shut the door. And then she walked right past her phone like I’d never been there and went back to loading her dishwasher. I knew because I could hear water running and the dishes clanking. I waited a couple of minutes, to see if she’d remember I was there, but she didn’t. I hung up. That’s that.”

“She just like blew you off?” He had her full attention. “To do the dishes?”


“Wow… I thought gettin’ blown off for a baby was bad.” She reached down to the floor, stuck her hand in the plastic bag from the Love’s her mom managed. “Crunchy Cheetos oughta make you feel better.” She handed him a small, crinkly bag. “They always do me.”


The Honda van pulled up and stopped in the crosswalk, narrowly missing Harper, Waco and the large, jovial black lady they’d talked with on the way up the parking aisle at Sam’s.

“Honey,” the black lady said, “they coulda missed seein’ you and the girl. But me?” She scrunched her face up.

“You are kinda hard to miss.”

She was hard to miss. Not only the size of an NFL lineman, but dressed in a fuchsia-colored velveteen workout suit and safety orange cross trainers. As they stepped around the van the passenger side sliding door opened and about a dozen Asians from nine to ninety piled out, clown car style. Inside at the cart corral they all vanished inside, abandoning the eldest, a frail gray-haired female. Harper stepped around her, fished a cart out of the line, pushed it toward the black lady. She smiled, took the cart and got swallowed by the shopping cavern. Harper pulled another cart, checked the alignment, motioned to Waco who took the handle and pushed it toward the door. He pulled one more basket, offered it to the Asian lady, took a step –

“Hickey dickey tickey tah.”

Harper checked in with the Asian grandmother. She motioned to the four lanes of baskets. “Hickey dickey tickey tah.”

“Do you want a different basket… Or…?” He pulled another basket loose, offered it to her.

“Hickeydickeytickey tah!” She was edging up on the universal if-no-one-seems-to-understand-talk-louder routine, grabbed the front of a cart from two lanes over.

“That one? You want that one? Fine.” Harper pulled the cart loose after untangling the baby seat belt that had strung three carts together.

“HICKEY DICKEY TICKEY TAH!” she said, pushing the cart back and forth about six inches.

“Fuck me.” Harper tested the cart for her, rolling it back and forth. She pushed it away. Pointed to another lane.


Harper shook his head, offered a palms up sorry-I-don’t-get-it shrug and followed Waco into the store where a blue vested chubby man with a Slavic accent asked, “What you do to dat womans?”

“Nothing. She wants something but it beats hell outta me what.”

“Maybe she tink you work here. Happens all time. I go see.”

They heard gramma go off one more time before the glass door slid shut, watched her and the eastern bloc man shake basket handles, talk in raised voices and gesture a lot with their hands.

Turning from that, Waco immediately stopped by a big display of new iPhones, pointed. “Hickey dickey tickey tah?”

Harper put up a playful stern face. “Hickey dickey tickey tah!”

“Darn it,” Waco said, pocketing the sale flyer and sighing theatrically. “Hickey, dickey, tickey, tahhhh…”


Harper answered his phone on the third ring. “Hey, Cheryl.”

“Hey yourself. Harper, we can afford to buy clothes for our own daughter.”

“I know that. But we had time, and she had the plan worked before she ever got in my truck this mornin’. She found out all on her own that FM 289 is Preston Road in North Texas and Surprise! There’s the mall, Uncle H!”

“And, being the sucker you are, you pulled right on in.”

“Hey, I got a couple of huge Snickerdoodle cookies and a jalapeno pretzel for my trouble.”

“Also on your dime. Great. I’m not even gonna ask her what kind of junk she ate because I can’t get a straight answer out of her since she got home. And look, I’m not jumpin’ your shit, Harp. It’s just that she knows I would never buy her a pair of jeans with holes in them and you’re a chump for that kid. What do I owe you?”


“Not even for the Sam’s and Trader Joe’s run and the stack of Costco Margherita pizzas?”

“Nope. Tell Randall I need to borrow him and that humongous pressure washer of y’all’s sometime soon.”

“Fair enough, but make it a weekend. And, uh, Harp? What I said about Waco and no straight answers? What the hell does ‘hickey dickey tickey tah’ mean?”

Pots of Gold

Marcia set her cold lemonade on the patio table, lifted her sunglasses. “What do you want, Wicky?”

“I need the kind of help I can only get from you.”

“Smarmy prick.” She sipped the lemonade, set the glass down. “You’re already here. Let go of the short version and leave.”

“I have a problem that might not go away. If it doesn’t, I’ll need to raise some off-the-books cash.”

“I’m not giving you any money, Stafford. Goodbye.”

“Hear me out, Marcia. I’m reasonably certain I could buy this problem off. At least temporarily.”

“How do you propose to do that without money?”

“Product. Your product. I know you’d hate for your little pill lab there in Kentucky, or wherever…”

“Are you trying to leverage me, Stafford? You should know by now that’s impossible. Particularly for someone like you. You have a few semi-dangerous friends a continent away. The government is up your ass for assets you kept in your homeland and failed to report for thirty years.” She studied her lemonade, slowly turning the glass on its coaster. “There’s the insider trading investigation and the IRS for writing off huge donations you used as blinds for illegal personal gain. If you so much as squeak to the feds, the bad boys will find out. If you squeak to the bad boys, the feds will find out. If you try to involve me and think I’m unable to deter either of them, you’re insane. I own a profitable business. One of many involved in a multitude of humanitarian activities. Attempting to throw your neighbors under the bus looking for any possible way to avoid being dead or somebody’s bitch and you’ll come off as the smarmy ex-pat prick you are.”

“Sorry. Wrong approach, old dear.” He pulled up a chair. “You see, I closed this transaction once, but there was an unexpected… unpleasantness with the courier leaving that money still unaccounted for.”

“Lost, I suppose, in the unexpected unpleasantness?”

“That hasn’t been determined. The worst part, beyond the financial loss, is the unfortunate courier’s partner is… Unpredictable. And homicidally violent. And impatient.”

“Let me see if I understand this, Wicky.” She sipped the lemonade, looked off into the distance. “As it stands now you only need enough to stall the problem. Show him the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so to speak. He makes his profit inquiries and returns ready to talk, not kill.”


“And what will you do when he does return, Wicky?” She set the glass on its coaster, brought her eyes back. “Kill him first?”

“A crude solution. But it has crossed my mind. I’d much rather pay your price for, um, certain material, and let him recover what he thinks is his due at the street rate. If he does the math, even at the low end, in his world it will look he hit the lottery.”

“A simple plan if everyone involved stays compliant, which is by no means guaranteed. Tell me, why would I even consider doing this for you?”

“If you don’t, and I can’t provide him with some momentary diversion, he might kill me.”

“There are those who would consider that more of a gift than a loss. How large of a money pit have you managed to dig for yourself?”

“Forty-seven thousand.”

“With a street thug? How on Earth—”

“That’s not important. What is important is not ending up dead and not paying that sum twice.”

“And you have no other way of recovering the loss?” She lifted her glass, peered over the top.

“If I had the time, Marcia, or knew where to start, possibly. I’d rather deal him away and owe you a more manageable sum that would look like a business transaction than—”

“Yes. Yes. Yes.” The glass hit the coaster with some force. “Dammit, Wicky. You should’ve expected shit like this and been prepared for it. It’s what happens when you do business with thugs. Write this down.” She lifted the corner of a tray that held down paper napkins, pushed one his way. He took it, clicked a pen from his sports coat pocket. She called out a series of numbers, he furrowed his brow.

“Whose number is this?”

“His name is Meyers. He’s really quite competent. Good at finding things. And finding out about things. In a reasonable time frame. Explain your problem to him. Odds are he can find your money, or where it went.” She caught the panic creeping into his face. “In the meantime, I’ll send over a care package to assuage your homicidal problem. Explaining simple math and staying alive is on you.”


“Where you been at this time, Rye-fat my Bed-o-win bro?” He reached out flipped Rifat’s collar. “Out buyin’ shirts when we got business on?”

“It’s Awrfat. Almost sounds like ‘you’re fat’ if you say it fast. Or you can roll the R. Rrrawfat. ‘I been at’ picking up the death certificate, final report and Arias’ things from the coroner. The detective didn’t kill him, Archie. That piece of shit rolling wreck van you unloaded on me did. Aht!” He held up his hand. “Before you ask, they didn’t have our forty-seven thousand dollars in a plastic bag. They had this.” He tossed Arias’ wallet, Tissot watch, seventy-three cents in change and an itemized list of everything Arias had on him. From his pocket Rifat produced several receipts and Arias’ debit card. “Arias hadn’t banked it, either. I got three hundred dollars for some things I needed. His balance is on the transaction slip.”

Archie shuffled through the receipts. “A fuckin shirt. Forty-three dollah cologne? Flowers? What the fuck you need with a shirt, cologne an flowers? Arias dead an don’t give a shit.”

“I went to see a lady who deserves them.”

“Ain’t no woman an her fuckin sister both deserve flowers an shit. They give up what they got cause we deserve it, you know. An Arias’ dead ass only got twelve-hunnert an change in the bank?” He smacked the ATM transaction sheet on the workbench. “What the fuck he do with all his money?”

“What the fuck you do with yours?”

“Man’s gotta live, know what I’m sayin?” He checked the cylinder on the chrome .357, snapped it shut, pointed it at Rifat. “Bang, motherfucker. Know what I’m sayin?” He stuck the pistol back in his waistband. “We gonna find that fuckin money we gotta kill half a L.A. What the fuck you doin w’the big ass goddam pipe wrench?”

“I don’t have a gun.”

“I like that thinkin, know what I’m sayin. Too much gun too quick be like that sick motherfucker I popped that roasted people an dogs. So maybe you fuck the motherfucker up w’that, bust some bones, you know, till he let go a where the pot a gold be at.” He whipped the gun out of his waistband in a not-so-quick draw. “Then I’ll kill him. Clean, you know. Bang.” The gun went back in the waistband, Archie slipped in behind the wheel.

“What if he doesn’t know where the ‘pot a gold is at’?”

“We fuck the motherfucker up an he still don’t know?” Archie showed some teeth. “We kill him anyway. Like a nuisance, know what I’m sayin. He don’t know, next stop be the ho. Let’s ride, Sand Nigger Robin.”

Rifat dropped into Archie’s Lincoln, the eighteen-inch pipe wrench on his thigh. “Ready when you are, Nigger Batman.”


Bitch. Wichtikl drummed absently on his steering wheel, driving the winding cliff-side road above the Pacific by rote. He needed to know how large a care package. How soon was she sending it over? She’d dismissed him like one of his wetback landscapers after offering him this Meyers character. Who the fuck? And what was she doing with his number? More important, what had she hired him to find, or find out that she knew how good he was? Goddammit.

He started to wad up the napkin and throw it out the window. Hold on. Maybe this Meyers was stupid enough to get between him and Archie. That would be good. Get Archie and this Meyers guy together… It was all about timing now. Get the package from Marcia, get this Meyers, see if he was a tough guy or a divorce peeper, get Archie… but when? All down to that fucking arrogant, controlling Marcia Hobbs DeMilnes. Bitch. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Why was it people like her thought it was fun to put people like him between a rock and a hard place? Smirking. Like they held some higher moral ground. Fucking. Bitch. He’d allowed the situation to trap him. Waiting on her on one side, for Archie on the other while some unknown fuckwad was out there pissing through the forty-seven k Arias had on him when he croaked.

He rehearsed a dozen lines for the Meyers character, landed on simple truth for expediency. Look, Mr. Meyers, I paid a homicidal maniac and his partner to obtain something for a client. Partner got in an accident, the money disappeared and the homicidal maniac wants his missing cut. Think you could find the money, and barring that, are you any good with a gun? Maybe just get him to the house. Maybe with a third party around Archie would stay cool long enough to hear the deal. Put some pharm quality oxy in his hands, say to him ‘do the fucking math’. If he could. Archie wasn’t stupid. Maybe he was. Criminally insane, for sure. Stupid was a maybe. What about… Meyers. Marcia. Archie. An all-players meet and greet. How sweet would life be if they all took care of each other, and the wetbacks took care of the mess?

Kinda Hairy

Rifat expected some show of emotion from his mother beyond a tightening of her lips and a cursory nod when the coroner’s assistant pulled the sheet back, exposing his dead brother’s head. But there was nothing grotesque or shocking in the presentation, and she’d known for several days he was dead. In fact, he and his mother both observed Arias’ countenance, albeit in shades of blue and gray, appeared relaxed. A look he never possessed when alive, even in sleep. The angry knit of his brow, tight, narrowed eyes, clenched jaw. All softened by death. Rifat’s mother also ignored the manila envelope offered by a short-ish, round-ish morgue duty policewoman with an abundance of uniform accouterments that flapped and clacked and bounced with every move she made. She offered the envelope to Rifat, repeating the wan smile she’d used on his mother. He returned a like smile, took the envelope, and waited for the door to close behind his mother.

“His belongings?”

“We have them in property release. The medical examiner removes everything from the pockets of all clothing. Clothing not deemed a biological hazard gets bagged and travels with the deceased to the funeral parlor chosen by the family where disposition of clothing will take place. Any form of official identification, such as driving licenses, passports, and military identification, are all returned to the issuer for disposition. Any other forms of official identification not on the deceased person at time of death should be returned to the issuer or properly disposed of and the issuer notified. Other personal property on the deceased person is collected, tagged, photographed and inventoried. In the event any of the deceased’s possessions are later found to have been illegally obtained, the claimant of such items will be responsible for their re-collection by law enforcement or claimant must show just cause why the item or items are unavailable. That means if you pawn, sell, donate or otherwise dispose of anything collected from the deceased person by the coroner or law enforcement and subsequently returned, take a picture or obtain an itemized receipt. Got it?”

“Got it.” To Rifat she might as well have been reciting lunch specials and salad dressings. “And my, er, his van?”

“Vehicles are not under the coroner’s jurisdiction. If the vehicle is not required as evidence in a criminal matter, you may collect it from the impound lot after providing proof of deceased’s ownership by an authorized family member, or as the legal registrant. The person collecting the vehicle must pay any outstanding fees. If an insurance company or third-party lien holder is—”

“Thank you.” He opened the door, made an ‘after you’ hand gesture.

“Thank you,” she clacked and flapped past him. “Follow me.”


The Bishop wiped down the barrel of a Remington collapsible sniper rifle, slipped it into an innocuous backpack that he zipped in a swift, noiseless movement. He picked up a rocks glass with a dribble of Scotch in the bottom and drained it.

Meyers did the same with his glass before setting a cut-down semi-auto Mossberg 930 on the table between them.

“That shotgun doesn’t appear to be legal, Meyers.”

“It’s not.” He collected the two glasses, walked them to his sink.

“Nice piece of work. Mind if I ask where you got it?”

“A man who’d been stealing his partner blind tried to kill me with it. I got it off his boat just before it blew up.”

“Obviously it was the man and the boat that blew up, not the shotgun.”

“Clever. You have a spot picked out?”

“Roof across the street. I made a few recon loops and the rounds on Carson yesterday. Told everyone with a shop in the collateral zone today would be a good day to take an early, extended lunch. Dropped by Sutton’s place last. The Cherries made good on the cleanup. Sunny could go back to work this afternoon if she wanted.”

“Unless this goes south.”

“Ever the optimist.” The Bishop stood, slung the pack over his shoulder. “Three clips, 10 rounds each. If the bangers bring more than thirty, you’re on your own.”


Rifat stepped off the hospital elevator, got waved off by the cops and the nurses’ station. Down the hall he knocked on Sunny’s door. The cop stepped out without a word. Sunny sat upright in the bed, her hair brushed, lipstick on. All the makeup anyone who knew her said she needed.

“You brought a vase this time,” her eyes wide. “You must’ve spent a freakin’ fortune.”

“I, yes. No… I’m sorry. You look, um, well… Very…”

“Amazing? Terrible?”

“A, uh… Amazing.”

“Thank you. New shirt?”

“Yes… They’re cheaper in grocery stores. The flowers, not shirts. A lot cheaper, and they’re done. Already. The arrangements, I mean. I’m in, or was in… A hurry. And the floral shops… I wasn’t sure about the flowers, but I thought you might like the vase. It, um, matches. Well, I mean… I thought it matched your…”

“My eyes?” Her cheeks were getting as red as his. “You should never tell a lady you cheaped out on her. Even if she knows, you know, because it’s the thought and everything. Jesus…”

“Is something wrong? Have I done something?”

“No, no. I guess I missed this, you know? Being a teenager, and…and guys and… Jesus… This is way embarrassing.”

“Should I leave, or…”

“No, silly,” she caught his arm. “It’s a girl thing. That I missed because I was always too wrecked to enjoy. My old therapist said someday a day like this would be here. I’d be like twenty-eight… Well, I just gave that away, huh? But I’d feel like I was thirteen. All awkward and stupid… because I do.” She fanned her face with her hand. “Anyway. After you called, I told them all,” she tossed her head, hair and a thumb at the door, “not to mess with you when you got here. It’s not every day a nice guy comes back, and I didn’t want whatever vibe brought you back to get all interrupted. And it’s really not every day a girl gets flowers twice from that same guy. A guy who even bought a new shirt to come see a mess like me in the hospital.”

“If a mess can be beautiful then I agree. Otherwise…”

“Oh God… Will you stop? Would you like a drink? Not a drink drink, because I don’t, um, do that anymore. But something cold and fuzzy and sugary?”


“Coke is a food group. I told my father that. Well, a long time ago when I talked to him. I told him since politicians can’t get anything done that matters, they should at least make Coke a food group.” She pushed the nurse’s call button. When the nurse showed she asked for two Cokes. In glasses. With ice.

“Now, tall dark and not so quiet this time. Why are you here?”

“Last time I came to apologize, and I didn’t expect you to be…”


“No. Yes. No… This only happens to me when I’m here.” He dropped his head for a moment, wrung his hands. “This time, I think I might be apologizing again, only in advance. But that’s not really why…”

“In advance?”

“Yes. I think something bad is going to happen in your shop today. If I could stop it—”

“You can’t. I know all about it, how it could go like all kinds of wrong.”

“How do, did you…”

“Meyers. Today he meets with those crazy women that tried to kill me. He thinks they can talk it out, you know, but I told him those chicks are like totally Whack. A. Doodle. But,” she smiled, “I have insurance on my inventory now, thanks to someone he knows, and the building isn’t my responsibility. What’s wrong with you now?”

“Can you do that again?”

“Do what again?”


“Jesus, you…” the smile lit up her entire face. “You said something about the shop not being the real reason you’re here?”

“Oh… Yes. Why I’m here is I need… Can I ask you… Well, do you like baseball?”

“Playing or watching or going?”

“Um… Either. All? But, um, for now I think going. And watching.” He checked her Betty Boop socked foot and up the cast that was uncovered to her knee. “Until the cast comes off.”

“Did you just ask me out? To a baseball game?” She hit the smile again. “Cause if you did, that’s like a big time yes. And I’ve got another leg,” she flushed, “but you can’t see it right now cause being in here it’s getting kinda hairy.”

I’m Offended #3

Rampant Half-ass

Okay, I’m used to it in Indie author/publishing. But in essence all of the rampant half-assed-ness comes down to the old joke about the person who showed up at the stage door and said they could play the violin. Yeah? How long have you been you playing? Well, I haven’t, but it looks easy, right? And I wasn’t doing anything else tonight.

Cross that over to writing. I’ve read a few books. I’ll kick out a novel. No one is watching over my shoulder. It looks like writing. I got an ISBN number. I’m a writer!

But – YouTube? That’s presentation time. Particularly live streaming. I have mentioned being in many facets of the music biz. If I were six times better than most of what I see on YouTube I’d never have made it to the parking lot, much less in the front door. Do none of these people know what they’re going to so or say or demonstrate next?

There’s an Englishman, (TheSoundTestRoom, 54.7k subscribers) I’m sure he’s the nicest guy, and he runs a popular iOS music demo/review site. He doesn’t even spend the first five minutes begging you to like and subscribe. But he wastes far more time than that bumblefucking around. “Well, here’s this, no, there it is, no…” and he bounces from screen to screen, often the same screen that’s not the right one 5, 6, 10 times before he gets to where he’s going. I can do that and get it figured. I’m looking for the quickie how to/here it is. The same with sound demos. Play something identifiable or useful and move on. Hint – don’t play piano licks on a pedal steel guitar. I’m sure Doug is doing a service for a lot of people, but he drives me fucking crazy. Have a plan. Don’t drag us around while you figure it out. And like the “writer” pages, people fawn all over that half-assed stuff. Example – I mean he couldn’t answer a direct question in the comments about iPhone 10/MIDI/audio with the appropriate answer(s) when, hey, he could’ve fucking Googled before he said something stupid. And expensive. But no. You need a $100 plus audio interface and… It’ an epidemic. I had a plumber tell me I needed to pay $1,200 for a $30 valve that was “mandatory” until the city inspector said “Bullshit”. There’s more than enough bullshit out there. If you can’t answer from the bottom up, don’t.

Even Jakob Haq, (Haq attaQ, 38.6k subscribers) whose videos I generally appreciate, and it’s obvious he knows his iOS stuff, still ends up staying in the shallow end of the pool sometimes and being a “personality”. Both he and the SoundTestRoom do what they do and if it gets tricky or is outside their domain with (usually) MIDI (which has been around for almost 40 years) they duck. They try to be clever. “Ah, ya don’t need it. It sounds wonderful by itself” and just like everybody else. Plus, there’s a plethora of chubby guys with beards, and chicks with tattoos or Pre-Raphaelite hair or both, and erudite pontificators doing the same wanking hither and yon and begging for likes and subscribers.

The only one who seems to know his stuff deeper than the superficial and can edit out his clams is Nutrix the Synth Guy (15.9k subscribers). And he’s difficult to understand. But when no one could make sense of the SE02 Sequencer, he nailed it. It was slow, and glitch edited, but he got it. Which was appreciated because Roland’s manual sucked, even after the firmware/documentation update. It should be said Nutrix is a teacher at a brick-and-mortar music school.

Aside. I was one of the three people responsible for sales (and etc) at Sequential Circuits. It was one of the synths of the late 70s and 80s. And is now a reborn high-end specialty. Here’s a fact. Over 98% of the Prophets we got back for any kind of service still had the factory patches in them. What does that tell you about “creativity”?

Why is this half-assed-ness acceptable? If I’d shown up at a trade show or clinic and couldn’t make the stuff kiss my ass, didn’t have a program, couldn’t stop, change hats and switch gears in an instant based on the crowd and answer the questions from a piano teacher in Monroe, Louisiana to Herbie Hancock to the pocket protector people (that had nothing to do with music) I’d been fired. Actually, I’d never have gotten hired. But some of these cats, who are at best hacks (no offense, Jakob) have coffee mugs and t-shirts and keep time with their hands like DJs, or if they’re cute and do full on personality videos they wiggle dance or groove some. They don’t explain or teach shit, but there they are. Talking heads. Marketing spokespersons. “Hit the like button and subscribe and I’ll get some more free shit to not explain very well.”

Not half-assed – The other day I landed on a music theory site. The guy has 1.56 Million followers.

WHOA. 1.56 Million

He’s knowledgeable. And clever. And makes sense. I made a comment on one of his posts. That comment got 145,000 likes/thumbs up. One comment. One post. But what I like most about the guy is his “Oh, for fuck’s sake” attitude about elitism or “Stump. The Band”. Example – Someone sent in a question about how to voice an idiotic chord. It was stupid on its face, Gbmin7 with added #13 and b9. “You wouldn’t normally want to do this,” (demo) “because it just sounds bad. Unless that’s what you’re after.” Plus, it violated the syntax of chord notation. (Kinda like writing, huh? Syntax is voice.) After this, the host took the time to point out that regardless of what the circle of fifths we memorized tells us, Gbm7, and all its associated flats, is really F#m7 and suddenly we’re back in the land of the sane. I don’t know many people who think in Cb when B will do. And the most amazing thing he said, and shows his attitude and probably why 1.56 Million musicians have found his site, was this (after being asked for advice by someone starting music school) –

“…(do) not let the information you’re given dictate the way you feel music should be made. You’re going to learn (chords, scales blah blah blah) but there is a danger of losing track of what it is you want to do with music. Don’t lose sight of what keeps you excited.”

Now, this entire rant makes sense if you think cross curriculum. That riff above reads like Elmore Leonard on writing. “I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It’s my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing.” Duh. Write a melody, don’t run scales. I relate writing to music. Others relate it to accounting or programming or Friday night drinking in a bar. An understanding of music (nor the others) is necessary. Understanding how to use and abuse the rules of craft is mandatory. (At least I think so).

Point – there are way too many of those “tonight’s the night” violinists out there. Everywhere from writing to music to dryer repair.

If only I were young and scrawny. I’d have coffee mugs and T-shirts. The question would be, would anybody give a shit if it’s better than half-assed? From what I can tell? Maybe. Because unfortunately Kurt Vonnegut nailed it with this gem –

“If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you are a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.”

How fucking sad a commentary is that?


On Meyers’ drive-by of the Eternal Rest he discovered less than a hundred feet away a six-man street maintenance construction crew complete with armed security all staring at a shallow pothole slightly larger than a basketball. Where they would be all day. Emboldened by that sight, and bright daylight, he bailed on his park at the hotel and walk routine, pulled a hard U-turn where the alley met the street and parked under the Eternal Rest’s in-and-out awning. He checked his watch. Six minutes early for his appointment to pick up the columbarium containing the ashes of Marcia DeMilnes’ Oxford. Whenever he thought of the dog’s nickname, he had a difficult time getting the image of Mrs. DeMilnes, on hands and knees, opening cabinets and drawers calling “Oxie? Oxie?” He dropped his sunglasses on the passenger seat, unwound from the driver’s side. He pushed the buzzer. Nothing. He tried the door. It swung open without resistance from the hydraulic auto closer.

The first thing out was his Glock, the second a penlight with enough candlepower to keep errant smuggling ships out of dangerous coastal waters. He pulled the door aside, stepped in.

“Yakob?” The Glock and light swung in unison. “Yakob?” From his first visit, he knew where the light switches for the casket room were located. He covered the room, side to side, flipped on the lights. He backed out and used the casket room lights to find the hall light switches, those lights to find the receiving area switches. Marcia DeMilnes’ columbarium sat in plain sight at the edge of the stainless-steel countertop. He moved away from it, kicked the double panel impact doors to the viewing and funeral chapel open and flattened himself against the wall.

Yakob Bhatt…” He somersaulted through the doors, hit a crouch, fanned the room with the Glock and penlight. He stopped the sweep in the middle of the first row of pews, finished scanning the room, stood and made his way to the row of switches and dimmers, found a combination that worked. He walked to the first row of pews, stopped without bothering to enter. Yakob Bhatt sat, dead center of the row, a candidate for his own services.


Every light in the Eternal Rest, backed up with forensics’ work lights, turned the place into a tanning booth. Too many functionaries in Tyvek hazmat suits and booties crowded around Yakob Bhatt’s body with Q-Tips and swabs. He’d been pistol whipped before his killer nailed him to the pew with one shot through the chest. The bullet hung suspended; its nose poked through splinters in the pew’s back.

 “This is three, Meyers.” Purcell leaned against the last row of pews, blew his nose in a tissue he’d pulled from a nearby box. “The photographer that should’ve been you make four. Him and Doctor Doom up there, both .357s. Know what I think?”

“It’s the same gun.”

“Great minds and all that,” Purcell honked into a new tissue.

“You have a cold, Lieutenant?”

“Allergies. Something in these places, some chemical they use, it sets me off.”

“Maybe you’re allergic to dead bodies.”

“It that’s true I made a lousy career choice. Only funeral parlors give me this. Funeral parlors and cats.”

“Outside? You’re no good to the techies, and neither am I.”

“Point taken.” Purcell took two steps, went back for the tissues, held up the box. “Don’t think he’d mind?”

“That’s why they’re here.”

They wormed their way past members of the fingerprint smudge brigade, Purcell explaining how Meyers hadn’t killed the two men in the van, other than by misadventure. Only one bullet had found a person and that one was in the foot of the homeless man. The driver had a broken neck, and if that hadn’t killed him, being crushed by the steering wheel would have. The passenger’s chest crushed as well.

Outside, Purcell took a deep breath of Skid Row, sneezed. They both leaned on the back of Meyers’ car. Purcell blew his nose again, stuck the tissue in his pocket, tossed the box on Meyers’ trunk.

“How could I miss with seventeen rounds?”

“No seat belts. And they must’ve ducked when you started firing. The windshield gone, the van goin over on its side, the seats came loose in the drop. Final report says the driver ended up pinned under the dash like he was ducking your fire. The bum was floppin around loose in there like a mackerel on a sidewalk.”


“Don’t worry, you put plenty of holes where they should’ve been. They just weren’t there. Which segues perfectly into why you’re here. And why every time I see you the last couple of days it’s connected to a body. Or bodies.”

“I had an appointment. The steel and bulletproof glass hydraulic door over there that should turn this place into a fort swung free. I went in, found the dead man, called you. We’ve done this.”

“Take it wider, and closer to the top.”

“Early in the dog case I found some dog fighters who told me there was a fresh gang out stealing expensive dogs, but the dogs never showed up for sale or as training bait. The dog fighters thought too many missing designer dogs was bringing them heat. My being in the middle of them asking questions seemed to prove that. I got what they’d give me, and they asked me to leave. They aren’t very nice people, so I left. A few days later I got a note under my door.”

“The old… Raaaaachooty…” Purcell snagged a tissue, trumpeted into it. “The old typewritten note under the door trick. Keeps everybody’s nose clean.”

“Except yours.”

“Funny guy. The deniability note?”

“Handwritten. Bad spelling, no punctuation. Suggestion was ‘your dog crew’ is operating out of a warehouse down in here somewhere. I thought it was just a go sniff elsewhere note. You know the rest.”

“From there, we jump directly to the mystery van full of dead dogs. One of their hauls?”

“Didn’t know at the time, but according to the numbers Marie worked with the national registry, yeah.”

“They were all dead, though. You’d think if they were after ransom, they’d take better care of the cash cows.”

“You’d think.”

“And the dead man inside has to do with this how?”

“The van was on its way here to have the dogs cremated when it detoured to come after me. I had an appointment this morning to ask him what he knew.”

“How’d you make the leap from a van full of dead dogs and nobodies to here?”

“I’m a detective?”

“Next you’ll tell me turtles have titties.” Purcell pinched his nose, inhaled for snot suction, turned his head and hacked on the drive. “Since we’re goin nowhere in circles, when’s choir practice with the Cherries?”

“Tomorrow, midday.”

“I’ll have patrol stay the hell away from that stretch of Carson.” Purcell grabbed the tissue box. “Maybe you’ll all kill each other, put me out of my misery.”

“All you need is antihistamines.”

“What about the pain in my ass, Meyers?” He sneezed again. “Getting anything useful outta you lately’s like tryin to shit a cantaloupe.”


“You may go up,” the DeMilnes secretary said, open leather-bound notebook cradled on her forearm. “She’s made one too many trips with that boot today, and you’re past chaperoned guest status. May I ask what you have in the box?”


“Is she prepared for that?”

“I phoned.”

She checked her notebook.

“So you did. And the box of Oxie,” she pointed a glossy, colorless nail at the columbarium, “was the subject of your conversation?”

“It was.”

“If she screams, or faints, or needs anything, push the ivory doorbell thing on the wall behind her desk.”

“She doesn’t strike me as the screaming, fainting kind.”

“Some days the wind blows one way, Mr. Meyers. And some days it blows another. I’ll leave you to it.” She turned, stopped, turned back. “I’m glad it’s you with that box, and not me.”

He climbed the stairs by himself, listened to his own footfalls echo away. Purcell called the dead mortician Dr. Doom. The box in Meyers’ hands possibly the dead man’s last professional function. School. Licenses. A lifetime of doing a sad business for sadder people, piping in dreary organ music on cue, keeping pews stocked with Kleenex. And his last job a leveraged freebie for a PI familiar with the consequences of poor decisions made for easy money. “Disposing of evidence,” Meyers had said. “As part of a larger criminal conspiracy.”

Wasn’t that what he was doing with the mortician’s last act? Disposing of evidence, covering up a crime by omission of detail? Another Dr. Doom, delivering the packaged dead?

Even though Marcia DeMilnes’ study door was open, he stood in the portal and knocked. Seated on the piano bench, the keyboard cover up, hands in her lap, she turned, acknowledged him silently.

“Don’t get up,” he said stepping into the room. “I was told I’m no longer company.”

“No?” Her tone uncertain. She raised her hands off her lap with the same uncertainty as he approached. “I’ll… take that.” She fixed him with a glassy eyed, deadish gaze, took the wooden box, set it on the piano in a spot in front of her she’d cleared of pictures.

“Eventually…” hands back in her lap.

Meyers crouched. “Eventually?”

“He’ll be in the window. Where he belongs… For now, I need him… With me.”

“Mrs. DeMilnes –”

Fuck formality… Mr. Meyers… Fuck DeMilnes… ” She said the name like it left a bad taste in her mouth, gave him the glassy eye again. “Everyone can fuck off today, Meyers. Everyone except you, and Oxford.”

“Okay… Marcia. I need to ask you something.” He waited a couple of beats. “It can wait if you’d rather.”

“Ask…” Her right hand went back to the box.

“You asked me if I’d encountered Wichtikl… His name has come up.”

“In context with my Oxford?”

“All I can say is that he’s mixed up with some very wrong people. Whether it’s him or them? I’m not certain. I’ll find out for you.”

Her hand left the box, found his forearm with a freakishly strong grip. Her eyes burned through their glaze. “If that son of bitch had anything to do with… with…”

“Yes ma’am.”

Hobbs, goddamit. Just call me Hobbs.”

It dawned on him as he rose that what the woman needed more than anything was a friend, even if she had to manufacture one out of the PI who’d returned her best friend’s ashes.

“Hobbs it is.” He put a hand on her shoulder, she tilted her head toward it, reached across and laid her left hand on his for a moment. “I’ll let you know when this is finished.”

“Thank you…” she said to the air between Meyers and the box, squeezed his hand and fell back into the reverie she was in when he arrived.

Know when to stop. Even if it’s artsy fartsy. Doesn’t seem to stop most people…my general rule is cut the last three lines. No chapter epilogue required. BUT here it is.

The way down was lonelier than going up. His hands empty, his footfalls slower, heavier. The emptiness canyon-like. He stopped midway, looked back. What had the poet written? “…a palace and a prison on each hand…”*

*Lord Byron – Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. I often wonder if he knew what an exquisite concrete and metaphorical line that was.


“You’re looking dapper, Tommy,” Meyers, around a mouthful of pastrami on sourdough. “Funeral?”

“Not like you ain’t been crankin’ out stiffs at a steady rate, but no. I got a date. Later.”

“Much later,” Meyers checked his watch, “and she’ll turn back into a pumpkin.”

“Just what I need, more wise guys.” Tommy the Stooge slid out of the booth at his deli, adjusted his sport coat over a paunch. “You finish, leave a heavy dime on the table for Annie, bring me your dance card.”

“If I come in the front and order, I get asked to the back? I come in the back, I get asked to leave?”

“Nobody told me you was here. I hadda spy you makin my rounds. Me an you, we’re bonded.” Tommy grabbed his own forearm, shook it a little. “By fire. Bring me the card, gumshoe. No hurry.”

The waitress stuck the pencil through her hair, over her ear. “He always talks that way. It’s kinda cute, you know. Like an old timey gangster.”

“He is an old timey gangster.”

“I got a Hollywood smoke filter bolted on my backside just for crazy talk like that. He’s an old sweetheart is what he is. Guess I shouldn’t come back for this?” She made Meyer’s dinner ticket wave lightly with her left hand, right wrist planted on a kicked-out hip.

“No, you shouldn’t.” He snatched the ticket, gently pried her fingers open, pressed a ten-dollar bill in its place.

“Wow, ‘gumshoe’, whatever that is. Ten bucks says you can talk trash to me about the boss all day if you want.”

“Another day?”

“Pick one.” She winked. “I’ll be here”


“Have a seat, Meyers,” Tommy flapped both hands, palms down. “An a cigar. Cuban like you can’t get no more.”

“Unless you’re you.” Meyers took a cigar from the offered box, pulled one of Tommy’s wheeled leather bar chairs away from the desk, dropped into it. He clipped his cigar, lit it with the desk lighter, and waited. Tommy was an old school gangster, or had been, and decided not to fight the new wave and got out intact with his popular-with-movie-stars deli and a sports book. Like a long-distance phone company, Tommy could reach out and touch anybody who was anybody from top tier politicians and mob bosses to punks.

Finally, Tommy pulled his chair up to the desk, leaned his forearms on it, intrelaced his fingers.

“I hear you and The Bishop gonna kill off a street gang a lesbians. I hope not because they’re lesbians. I got friends are lesbians.”

“Your last girlfriend was a lesbian.”

“That,” Tommy snorted. “Don’t remind me. So?”

“They’re bangers. They kick started their own protection racket on the strip Denaldo gave them in the Twilight Zone between the Salvadorans and the Koreans. Sunny Sutton was on their list. I’m objecting on her behalf.”

“Sunset Sutton…” Tommy drifted for a few. “Man, she was a looker as a kid. Still is, I hear. Somebody should shoot her old man after they shoot the lesbos.”

“He’s a Congressman.”

“Anybody’s a big enough asshole can be made to disappear. But,” Tommy reached out, thumped his cigar on the edge of a pewter ashtray that probably weighed thirty pounds, “that ain’t why you’re here. You ever heard a Stafford Wichtikl?”

“Oil, gold, logistics. Thirty-acre horse ranch up in the hills over Getty?”

“That’s him. He’s connected, indirectly, back east somewhere. Pennsylvania, Connecticut, I forget which. Funny you haven’t met. He’s in the dog game, same as you.” Tommy relit the cold coal on his cigar.

“How’d you know I had an interest in dogs?”

“Lost dogs, you mean. You put seventeen into a van in Skid Row an Hollywood’s finest gives you a walk, inquiring minds wanna know. Goddammit.” He flamed and puffed half a dozen times, finally got the cigar going. “This Wichtikl, he started out cloning racehorses. Hid it behind a research grant to some college. Doin it for normal rich people, not our people. Which was stupid cause when the normal rich complain it makes news. So, this Wichtikl, he had to back out the racehorse spotlight. Guess what?”

“He moved to dogs?”

“Why I like you, Meyers. Show dogs, specifically. Racehorses,” Tommy, with a small disparaging wave, “they got more regulations than the food service inspector. But tell me, who’s lookin at fuckin dogs? Nobody. A breeder needs dough, they ship a prize winner in heat out to this lab, like I said, Pennsylvania or Connecticut. They do all this fancy science shit with eggs and whatever Wichtikl sends ‘em. I hear they got it down to gettin litters of champeens maybe seventy, eighty percent of the time. If it don’t take, they got Wichtikl’s champs’ God knows what in the deep freeze for another shot.”

“You’d think the dog people would notice.”

“Don’t slow down on me, Meyers. People with more money than sense, and this town’s full of ‘em, they pay big money for puppies from champeens. Big money. That’s who buys these dogs.”

“I have a list of some of those people from the National Dog Registry. Or will have by tomorrow.”

“You should leave them alone for now.”

“Okay. For now. But I promised a lady—”

“We promise ladies shit all the time. Stall her. Play dumb for a few days. She’s payin you?”

“Yeah, she is. That’s why –”

“That’s why you’re gonna pocket your day rate or call in sick an do some important people a favor. You with me?”

“So far.”

“Good. First, I heard The Bishop tells Donnie the lesbos are makin noise. Next, I heard this Wichtikl is usin a crazy smoke to run the dirty end of the dog business, and he’s makin noise. There’s just too much noise on the streets, Meyers.”

“I still don’t see –”

“Lemme help. Donnie’s people say you and The Bishop are gonna whack the lesbos day after tomorrow at noon.”

“I hadn’t heard that.”

“Check your service occasionally. What’s gonna happen is word will get to Wichtikl’s noise you’re on him like ugly on Nixon, and where you’ll be.”

“At noon, day after tomorrow?”

“There you go.”


“And,” Tommy eyed the dead cigar, dropped it in the ashtray. “It wouldn’t hurt nobody’s feelings if the noisy smoke happened to get clipped while you and The Bishop are mixin it with the lesbo bangers.”

Who Else

“If we have to do this, you know, hard, you don’t say nothin. You don’t know nothin, know what I’m sayin, so don’t vol-un-teer nothin an nothin ‘bout your fuckin brother or the dee-tective or nothin.”

“Mmmm hmmm. The nothing Camel Jockey, or fucker or…”

“You got it, my man,” Archie, buoyant from strong-arming a pre-roll from a street corner kid who couldn’t have been fourteen. “The nothin Sand Nigger. You be the perfect, you know, what they call it. Like Robin to Batman, that shit.”

“Sidekick. Wonderfullll….” Rifat’s voice trailed off as Archie’s Lincoln crunched on pinkish pebbles past the last tree line and Stafford Wichtikl’s mansion came into view.

“Nice crib, huh? Don’t let it fool you, know what I’m sayin. Man’s a criminal, like only rich white people get to be.”

“My father told me never to steal unless it was something big. A railroad, an airline. An oil company.”

“He give you a reason, you know, for that shit?”

“He said petty criminals go to jail,” he turned, looked Archie in the eye, “or end up dead. Steal an airline, you’re a hero.”

“Fuck him, you know. We on our way to real money and we didn’t steal nothin but dogs.”

  “I didn’t do anything but help steal dogs. Remind me what your role in all this is?”

 “Nigger, you getting way too uppity, know what I’m sayin. Stay in the car you want.”

 “I’ll go in. Silent Sand Nigger Robin suits me.”

“Good, cause we here.”

Archie parked the Lincoln between two austere Colonial columns. Rifat counted eight in all. They climbed out, Archie shaking his pants over the red boots. One of the Mexican landscapers set a course to meet them at the door.

Buenos tardes, señors.” The landscaper stuck a hickory rake handle across what Rifat thought to be half of the tallest front door he’d ever seen.

“Bwayno your tardass, spic motherfucker.” Archie reached out to flip the rake handle up. It didn’t move. Before he could try again, the other landscaper had a Bowie knife to his throat, pulling back. Archie’s hands flapped and dropped to his side. Rake landscaper reached out, flipped Archie’s jacket open.

“Eeze a veruh beeg gun, no? Tu culo negro debe tener un pene muy pequeño, eh?”

“I find out what you said, I’ll kill you, motherfuuuu” His head went back a little more.

“Not today, señor.” He lifted the gun from Archie’s waistband, went fishing in his pockets for the car keys, found them, held them in front of Archie’s nose. “I put theeze gun een the trunk for you. I theenk maybe I keep your bullets for a souvenir. You like that?”

“I, motherfuuu…”

“Better las balas than Gregor cut your deek off, eh?” He turned to Rifat, who raised his arms out level, stepped his feet apart.

 “Bueno for you, señor.”

 “It’s the second time today.”

Encontraría mejores amigos,” Rake landscaper whisked through a frisk of Rifat, backed off, Bowie Knife landscaper released Archie and they were both back at work like nothing had happened.


“Motherfucker,” Archie, shook out his arms in Stafford Wichtikl’s receiving room, “you need to clue the beaners, you know, who they be fuckin with, know what I’m sayin. Get ‘em some fuckin manners an shit.”

“If they didn’t have manners, Archie, you’d be dead. And you,” he shifted his gaze, “you must be Rifat?”

Rifat stood in silent awe of Wichtikl’s receiving room.


“Oh, uh…Yes. Me. I am Rifat. You have a beautiful home, sir… Like a museum. I’d like to see it, all of it, sometime…”

“Come back without Archie. I’ll arrange a tour for you.” Wichtikl, back to Archie, delivery pointed. “Why. Are. You. Here?”

“Money, Wicky-tickle. Forty-seven thousand dollars, you know, we be ack-rut.”

Rifat did a lousy job of hiding his surprise, but stuck to his role.

“Archie,” Wichtikl, derisive. “Arias has, or had, your money.”

“An that transaction go down when?”

“One thirty-seven in the afternoon on the day that he died.” Wichtikl’s pause infused with growing disdain. “After that unfortunate incident, I thought the money might be what brought you so far out of your depth.” Wichtikl swished a sheet of paper off a highly polished, seemingly purposeless and otherwise empty table. “I have his receipt.”

“Ree-seat? When do, you know, criminal transactions require fuckin ree-seats?”

“Accountability, Archie. Let’s say that, in the vernacular, you were to get ‘pinched’ by the ‘man’, and to save your ignorant ass from going to jail for doing something marginally profitable and monumentally stupid, you offer to tell them about me and our arrangement. I would produce this receipt, along with a work order for something on the premises, like horse shit removal from the stables. I would politely look at the photographs they had of you and say sorry, he looks like any other jumped up negro in a washable silk jacket and red Beatle boots, and I have never him seen before. He could possibly have worked as a shit shoveler for Arias, but has nothing to do with me.” Wichtikl offered the receipt to Rifat. “This is Arias’ signature?”

Rifat studied, confirmed, and returned it.

“Whoa, Sand Nigger,” Archie craned his neck toward the paper. “How you know for sure?”

“He practiced the dragline from the A to the R since he learned to sign his name. So it would be next to impossible to forge. He thought that would be important when he became rich.”

“Thank you for that, Rifat. The matter is settled.” Wichtikl, dismissive. “Good day, gentlemen.” He turned, stepped through a door in the far wall and disappeared. At the same time a bulked up white man with seventy-inch shoulders, a twenty-inch waist and a glistening shaved head, all packed in a tuxedo, appeared saying “I’ll see you out.”


“You could slow down,” Rifat said, Archie taking the mountain curves too fast.

“Shit, you know. That motherfucker. Lyin ‘bout the money… An I told you, you know, don’t be sayin shit, an you went an said all that shit an then he let go sayin all his shit ‘bout how I’m just some other fuckin nee-gro?” He squealed around another bend.

“You say ‘shit’ to and about everyone, Arr uh See. Did you see the house? He does not need to lie about forty-seven-thousand dollars.”

“Say you right. Where the fuck the money be at?”

“I have no idea.” Rifat white knuckled the ohmygod bar over the door. “What was the forty-seven-thousand for? That’s a lot of money.”

“Seven dogs, seven grand per each.”

“That’s forty-nine thousand.”

“He kept back two this round. Some shit how you got the wrong dog, but it was a bro a the dog you was supposed to get, so close enough.”

“Seven thousand per dog?”

“That was the deal.”

My deal was four hundred dollars a dog. To assist Arias in stealing them and harvesting the fluids.”

“Arias said you always the good boy, did what you was told. Recall, you vol-un-teered your cuttin shit open skills, you havin EMT trainin an all.”

“I got volunteered because of that training.”

“Shit, Sand Nigger Robin, you whinin again? Everbody do their job, everbody gets paid. You in a dry spot, we find the money, you take your twenty-eight Franklins off the top without I count it first. An take a day off,” Archie cranked the wheel to avoid a head-on with a truck, shot Rifat a chicken-shit grin. “Go to a baseball game or some shit, you know,” the grin went full teeth. “Take a fuckin date.”

“That might be the best idea you’ve had…”

“All my ideas the best. Now look, fore we off this mountain there somethin I wanna know sides where the money’s at. You understand the spic motherfucker, what he be sayin he took my gun?”

“He said the big gun meant your black ass must have a little dick. And that I need to find better friends.”

“You makin that shit up.”

“No, I paid attention at school.”

“You best be right. I find out if you lyin when I kill that motherfucker? I have to kill you, know what I’m sayin?


“Goddam…” Archie, breathing hard. “You fuckin people not believe in air con-ditioning?”

“By ‘you people’ you mean us Camel Fuckers?”

“Exactly.” Archie fanned himself with a dish towel.

“I shut off the unit for this floor. It’s a Camel Fucker tradition, not paying to air condition dead air.”

“Ha! More like dead Arias.” Archie waited for the laugh. “That was a joke, motherfucker. Get it?”

“Yes, sadly.”

“Next we here, turn that shit on before, know what I’m sayin. I hate sweat. You be used to it, genes an all, but fuck it, you know, for the rest of us.” Archie made a production of flapping his shirt tails, filled the room with a tangy cologne backed by a hint of smoked weed. “So now, we don’t know nothin else, we know this – The money ain’t here. So what I wanna know, Sand Nigger Robin, is who the fuck be havin it?”

“What I want to know, ‘Nigger Batman’, is after my twenty-eight hundred, where does the rest of the money go?”

Shit, you be getting all kinds a nasty an shit. It’s like this… I get half, you know, as my manager fee. Only right, cause a co-nektid white brother, know what I’m sayin, he picked me to run the skinny fag’s dog operation. Arias, he bein my main man an shit, he got the other half. He brings you along, you know, an I tell him, you, or anybody else, even the fuckin van’s gotta come outta his pocket. Him bein dead an all, I pay you, an maybe I take a vacation, Arias not bein around to need his, know what I’m sayin. But I need it. Soon.”

Rifat contemplated the total chaos of his brother’s apartment, a result of Archie’s frantic quest for the missing money. Upside down furniture. Slashed open cushions, pillows and a mattress. Drawers dumped, cabinet contents scattered. He also cataloged all the expensive electronics, including a massage chair, that Arias had purchased with money he’d garnered stealing dogs. And screwing Rifat.

“You listenin, Camel Fucker? I say I need the money. Arias don’t have it, who does?”

Rifat took his eyes away from the disaster of his brother’s apartment, stared out the second-story window.

“The police?” Rifat knowing it a lame suggestion at best.

“Be on the report, know what I’m sayin, an it ain’t.”

“You trust the police?”

“Fuck no. What I’m sayin, you know, who else there the time Arias gettin to dead go down?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Sand Nigger, please. The fuckin dee-tective. Or the dumb fuckin ho got her ass run over. That’s who.”

“Dumb. Fucking. Ho?”

“Who else be down the ghetto that time a night? Cinda fuckin rella?”

I’m Offended #2

No Wonder I Sent Back Those Crappy Bluetooth Headphones

I received the following in an email today. I wasn’t sure if it was legal to reblog, so the link to all of the article is at the bottom.

I’m waiting for this to hit the WP Indie Author Circuit. Despite the author starting his article in passive voice, the information will astound you. What is it the publishers want, 60,000 followers?  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 

900,000 fake reviews for a perfect rating
900,000 fake reviews for a perfect rating
(Sven profile) Sven Krumrey | 03.03.2022


I was recently looking for a new Bluetooth speaker to add proper sound to the upcoming balcony season. I have little expertise in this area so I looked around the Internet and did some research. I quickly chanced upon a product with reviews that promised “unmatched rich basses”, “crystal-clear highs”, “incredible runtime” and that was lauded as the “perfect companion for every party”. These were either highly enthusiastic customers–or fake reviews. Amazon just recently sued two companies that sell phony reviews on a large scale. Read more

Don’t Ask

“So, like, is this what you do, you know, really boring sit-around-doing-nothing-all-day shit for, like, a living?”

“I wouldn’t call this a living, Monique.” The Bishop uncrossed his leg and closed the book he’d had resting on his thigh. “And boring, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.”

“Whatever.” Monique continued to file her nails. “So, like, how come you gotta sit back there in like the dressing room and all and can’t come out and like talk to me like I’m here? It really creeps me out, you know, like I’m in confession or something.”

“It’s the curtains.” The Bishop smiled faintly inside the six-by-six-foot square cordoned off from the rest of Sunny’s lingerie store by black curtains. “And most likely a guilty conscience.”

“That sounds just like a priest, you know, so like now I’m like seriously creeped. And like, why are you even here, you know? I mean, like everybody loves Sunny. Even the Johns and the cops come in here, you know, and like pick out stuff. Ohhhh… Shit. Company.” The small brass bells hung from the doorknob with orange yarn jingled. Monique stood, brushed imaginary wrinkles out of her spandex skirt. “Can I help you ladies?”

One of the two average sized covered in ink Hispanic women knocked over a rounder of teddies. The rounder dumper’s partner pulled a revolver, blew a hole in the glass showcase full of inexpensive bling that ran down one wall.

“Sit, bitch,” Revolver pointed to the folding chair Monique had recently vacated.

The back door banged open and a clone of the other two stepped in, mid-size blue steel automatic pistol in hand. Rounder Dumper yowled like a dog at a siren, pushed over a display of crotchless panties.

Back Door banger bent over, stuck her gun in Monique’s ear saying, “Bitch, you ‘bout to be a message. A one-eight-seven for da bitch dat fucked up mah bitches.”

The Bishop’s silencer appeared at the base of Back Door banger’s skull. Thwap. She dropped to her knees, motionless. The silencer swung to the right. Thwap. Revolver Banger dropped her gun, clutched her throat, fell over gurgling on one of the dumped rounders.

“You,” he moved the silenced Walther to Rounder Dumper. “Tell your Hefe Miss Sutton’s business associates expect this cleaned up by 10 o’clock tomorrow morning. Day after tomorrow, noon, they expect to see your Hefe’s fat ass stuck to this folding chair,” he flipped it over the counter with his foot. “Parked in the middle of the store. Questions?”

Rounder Dumper stood transfixed, dumbfounded, blood puddling around her feet.

“I’ll take that as a ‘no’.” He caught Monique’s hand, pulled her out the back door.


“Who are you?” Monique ran her hand over the soft leather seat while The Bishop jetted onto the Ten. “What kind of car is this?”

“I’m a professional hit man. When I’m not sitting around doing nothing, I kill people that need killing. This is a Jaguar. It’s a fleet car that belongs to the Mob. Or, more likely, a concrete or construction company.”

“You know,” she took in the car’s interior, “I can like totally believe that.”

“You know you can’t repeat it.”

“Because you’d like, have to kill me, right?”


“You don’t have to worry, Mr. Hit Man. When I get back to my crew, they all be like Hey Mo’, where you been at? And I’ll say, you know, mindin Sunny’s business, with a totally doable hit man stashed in the dressing room. And then like the FBC dropped a trio, you know, to mess up Sunny’s thing and they be like talkin trash how they gonna like kill me an all, and this hit man dude goes like all James Bond and shit, like with a silencer and everything, and drops two of ‘em.” She made a finger pistol. “Zip. Zip. Just like that. And he tells the Cherry that’s still standin, you know, like how it’s gonna be and then we beat it out in a Jag-u-ar with seats like freakin’ butter.”

“And what would they say?”

“Mo’, girl, whatever you on? Give. It. Up. We need to be seein summa that shit. So, um, can you like drop me at the Waffle House off Western? You know, there at –”

“I know. A few blocks away a problem?”

“Better, actually. For like both of us. You’re a real sweetie, you know, for like a hit man.” She reached for the dash. “Bet this thing has like a truly psycho stereo.” Her hand stopped; her face clouded. “You won’t, like, kill me or nothing if I like, you know, play something you don’t like?”

“Hurt yourself. Traffic’s light.”


The shiny Greek in bleach-won’t-ever-get-the-stains-out coveralls at the old, non-descript, out of the way residential Amoco station took the Jag’s keys, climbed in, switched the ignition on, jumped out of the seat when the radio kicked in. He shut it off, wrote the mileage on an index card smudged with dirty fingerprints.

“The fuck’s with the loud shit on the radio, chief?” He sniffed at the passenger seat. “And why’s it smell like a whorehouse in here?”

“Don’t ask.” He followed coveralls inside. “What am I driving?”

“The green Caddy’s the only thing booked.” Coveralls put the smudged index card in a smudgier gray metal box. “Keys are on the board.”

“Don’t care much for the Caddy, anyway.” He scanned the lot, decided on an off-white four-door Chrysler, lifted the keys. “Get this to Donnie for me,” he turned to face coveralls. “The FBC put themselves in the protection game and they’re making too much noise. They’ll be at Sunny’s Intimates on Carson at noon, day after tomorrow, if he’d like to send some people to help clear the air.”

“Where’ll you be?”

“I’ll be there. With Meyers.”

“Yeah?” The corners of coveralls’ mouth went up a fraction, crinkling his eyes. “I tell Donnie what? You and Meyers, you don’t want you should have to kill all of them by yourselves?”

A Blonde Spaz

“Sunny… Sutton. Please.” Rifat held his bouquet over the counter at the nurse’s station, hoping one of the three would stop staring and take them. Instead, a cop took them while another put a hand between his shoulder blades and pushed, ordering “Hands on the counter, Habib.” He kicked Rifat’s feet apart, keeping the hand firmly planted on his back.

“It’s Rifat. I have I.D.”

“Good for you.” Flower cop laid the flowers on the counter, performed a slow, thorough, none too gentle frisk of Rifat, proclaimed him “Clean.” The iron hand came off Rifat’s back, his flowers returned, and an older nurse in unicorn print scrubs and green day-glo cross-trainers led him down the hall.

The nurse knocked on an open door. Another cop appeared. The nurse, perfunctory, “Tall, dark and silent here has a gift for our patient.”

“Fine.” The cop eyed Rifat’s clean, un-ironed presentation, caught a hint of patchouli mixed with a familiar drug store aftershave, looked him in the eye, stalled for dramatic effect. “I’ll be right outside,” he said, more to Rifat than Sunny. “Don’t close the door.”


“What can I do for you, ‘tall dark and silent’?” Sunny self-consciously ran her fingers through her hair. “I’m not really prepped for company, honey…” She smiled. “But it’s been ages since anyone bought me flowers.” The silence hung until it hit awkward. “They are for me, right?”

“Yes. I, I…” Rifat stepped closer, looking for a place to put the flowers. “I…I’m here because… It’s my f – fault. That you’re here. In the hospital. In a cast. Not that you’re here, exactly, but…”

“Honey, it’s your fault you’re here. I’m here because a man I know who saved my life once…” her brow furrowed, “or more than once… Anyway, I tried to return the favor and got run over by a dumpster. Well… There was like this van, see, and it hit the dumpster, and –”

“Yes. Yes, that’s it. It, the van.” He took a quick, nervous survey of the room, lowered his voice. “It was my van that hit the dumpster… The dumpster that—”

“Hit me? Look, handsome, I’ve heard some good ones, and the flowers are nice, but the van driver is dead. And all the cops I’ve had for company lately told me that van belonged to a non-person who lived at a railroad crossing in Oxnard.”

“I know. But it was my van… And the driver… He’s my brother… Was my brother…” Rifat, his cheeks getting ruddier. “And I would never, believe me, never would I have told him to run over anyone. He was to go about our business and not call attention to himself. By trying to kill your friend, or, or run over a, a –”

“A blonde spaz?”

“No, no. You are not, a, a… But you are blonde,” the blush went full tilt. “A very pretty, um, uh –”

“Blonde spaz?”

“No! Yes! No… I’m so sorry, you… Forgive me, I’ve taken enough of your, uh, time. Yes… I have…” He set the flowers in the sink and hurried out of the room.

The nurse popped in with a vase for the flowers, separated and fluffed them into an arrangement of sorts before setting her work on the bedside table.

“Who was that?” The cop stepped back in, took his place against the wall. “Someone special?”

“No,” Sunny stared at the flowers.

Cop and nurse in unison.

“Then who?”

“I don’t know…” She turned from the flowers starry eyed, dropped her shoulders, hands crossed on her chest. “But I think he might be the sweetest guy I’ve never really met.”


“Where you been, Camel Fucker?” Archie, anxious, fumbling around by the workbench with all its drawers open.

“The hospital.” Rifat closed the rear door of the warehouse. “Have you seen the news?”

“Don’t you sand niggers keep some tree around, know what I’m sayin, for times like this?” He rummaged in one of the open drawers, frustrated, brought his hand out. “I don’t eat, you know, or get some glow on I get nervous an shit, fucks me all up.”

“That’s too bad. There are few trees where us ‘Camel Fuckers’ come from. It’s all sand dunes and mirages. Or so I’m told.”

Weed, motherfucker.” Archie pinched his thumb and forefinger together, put them to his lips. “Tree? Smoke, you know? Grass, dope, ganja… kush?” Trying to make it sound somehow Arabic.

“No.” Rifat, unbuttoning his cuffs.

“An nothin’ to drink? Damn, nigger. That’s some fucked up religion you got, know what I’m sayin? No tree, no drink…”

“I was born here, Archie. I’m Catholic. Or was. ‘Go along to get along’ is what my father said. He blamed the ‘fucked up’ religions for having to leave behind his dental practice in the sand dunes and mirages.”

“You sayin you don’t get high, you know, on purpose?”

“I like beer. But only with baseball.”

“You a real pree-tend American for a sand nigger. Don’t it piss you off, know what I’m sayin, bein where you at?” He waved his arms around the warehouse. “Livin in this?”

“ ‘This’ is paid for. The shop pleases my mother. The plumbing in the warehouse is a project, not an issue. We each have our own floor above.” He raised his eyes for a moment. “I haven’t approached my mother about renting out my brother’s floor. Yet. She’s not mourning him, but it would be premature of me to cast away his memory so soon.”

“Was me? I’d get the fuck out. And I’d change my name. Skroteem.” Archie began pacing. “What the fuck, know what I’m sayin? I changed mine.”

“Is that right?” Rifat opened a metal locker, unbuttoned his shirt.

“You know it’s fuckin right.” He stopped pacing, pointed, his index finger bouncing. “An keep your shirt on, nigger. We got a err-and to run.”

“I know what’s wrong with Skroteem,” Rifat, shirt hanging open, tail out. “I don’t see the problem with Archie.”

“Archie come from R.C., you know,” his fidgeting escalating along with the pacing. “That’s right, nutsack sand nigger, my daddy named me. Fucked up same as you, know what I’m sayin? Stupid ol’ nigger took the time to fuck me up ‘fore he took off. See, he drank R.C. an rum. Both my people did, you know. They was drinkin it when she come down with me, know what I’m sayin, so I be the joke baby, you know.” He stopped the pacing, tilted his head, looked inside the arms he’d opened like he was hugging a beer keg. ‘Oh look… We goan call the little nigger R.C.’ an they all say it, you know. ‘Arr uh See’ an ever-body got a laugh on. Well, now I drive me a Ling-con Continental, got money, know what I’m sayin’,” he pulled out the bright chrome .357, “an Archie gets to laugh.” He dropped his keg hug pose and resumed the fidgety pacing.

“Tragic. I asked if you’d seen the news. It’s not a laugh.”

“Don’t got time for it.”

“You should make time. It’s everywhere. TV, newspapers. We drove to Hollywood yesterday to solve a problem you thought we had, and you killed the wrong man.”

Archie stopped in his tracks.

“Fuck you sayin?”

“If you paid attention to anything but yourself, you’d know you killed a photographer friend of the detective, Arr uh See. Not the detective. The paper said because of the location and the detective having many friends, the police among them, there are serious efforts being made to discover who killed the photographer.”

“Don’t start no R uh C shit with me, nigger, know what I’m sayin. We try the detective again –”

“We should leave him alone. It was my brother Arias who tried to kill him, for no reason we are aware of, and put a, a pretty girl in the hospital. I think this detective has many friends.”

“Motherfucker, you sayin, you know, you think he’s unkillable?”

“No. I said I think he has many friends. Some that might be… important. To some people. I still have on a clean shirt. What is the ‘err-and’?”

“We need to break wind with that skinny fag Wick-tickle. About where, you know, our money’s at.”