Until I Shot Him

Meyers knew it was a longshot, but like they say in Hollywood, ‘It ain’t much, but it’s all the film you’ve got…’ He pulled on his coveralls,picked up a rolled oilcloth with a small assortment of tools, stuffed it in his back pocket, and closed his trunk. He showed ID to the bored lot attendant, who made a slow-motion epic of repeatedly checking a clipboard and the ID before he offered another clipboard and mumbled, “Sign.”

Meyers put his ID back in an inside pocket, took a step, got another clipboard thrust in his path. “This one says y’ain’t in here removin’ nothin could be evee-dence or stealin’ no valuable parts off vee-hickles.”

“You mean,” Meyers signed the form, “I can’t put that green Ferrari’s transmission in my pocket and walk out?”

“Funny don’t get you no favors from me. You got,” he checked the ubiquitous civic building round wall clock, “forty-two minutes. Seven-thirty I lock up and unhook the dogs. They got less sense a humor than me.” Meyers thought that might be impossible but destroyed the attendant’s granite façade by giving him a wink.

He studied the blurry copy of the lot map the attendant gave him, noting as he passed the parking space numbers that every conceivable kind of wrecked, shot up and confiscated wheeled transportation device from Maseratis to golf carts and an electric wheelchair were parked between the yellow lines. The van sat, listing severely to the driver’s side, between an accordioned Buick and a sheared nearly in half lengthwise plumbing truck. The now dead photographer had left the rear doors of the van open and animal control had, as everyone who did business with the lot demanded, removed the dog carcasses. Still far from pleasant, it was at least tolerable. The driver’s side door, jacked open after the wrecker had righted the van, hung at an odd angle with dried pieces of Arias’ bloody scalp stuck to the metal door panel. Meyers grabbed the driver’s seat, pulled, and it fell out at his feet. The passenger seat tumbled into its place and fell out on its own.

Depending on the money’s packaging, and the denominations of the bills, he could look for anything from a money brick to a briefcase. His experience told him streeters like Archie would want used bills, no bigger than a hundred. They only used attention calling thousand-dollar bills as props to snort blow or impress a stripper, which put a thin envelope of large out of the question. But to be sure, Meyers reached under the cockeyed dash and ripped the ductwork from where it attached to the thin dash vents. Nothing fell from the top, or when he shook out the ductwork. He doubted the passenger had any idea about the money, but he ripped that side loose with no luck, tossed it in the back.

The van had a bump in the middle of the firewall that protruded into the cabin instead of a full engine cowl. Two vents poked out from either side of the bump at floor level, both with broken covers. He worked those loose, discovered they connected to nothing but the outside world. He tested the floor with his feet. Nothing was loose, nor were the wiring runner covers. He kicked the bottom of the doorjamb. Nothing.

He leaned on the jamb, imagining himself in Arias’ place. Was he hiding the money, or not knowing the seat would let go and he’d break his neck, trying to retrieve it? The obvious choice was the door. There were no cosmetic panels, the sheet metal and all its cutouts exposed. The door had been split with a jack on the latch side, the window shattered, its mechanisms bent, the door almost flat in places. Meyers stuck a gloved hand down as far as he could inside the window access cutout, came up with pieces of safety glass. The same with the other two cutouts. Running out of time and options, he closed his eyes and replayed the crash. Arias dropped from view at the sight of Meyers’ gun as he’d started shooting. Meyers remembered raking the windshield left to right, right to left, and as the van rolled up on its side, he’d probably put half his rounds in the radiator, block and firewall. Where the hell was Arias? And why did a fucked up van have a semi-decent radio duct taped into the dash…

The money couldn’t have been in the radio hole, or it would’ve dropped when the dash came loose in the roll. Meyers followed the line of the collapsed dash with his eyes and hands, past the steering column, the no duct work air vents, and stopped. He couldn’t see the piece of interior quarter panel or the parking brake. From his seat on the floor, he put one foot on the door jamb, a shoulder under the dash and pushed revealing a side panel with a cutout for a speaker. A speaker too large for the hole hung suspended by a single long, thin machine bolt. He swung the speaker to the side, reached in the back of the fender well, groped around. He was in up to the middle of his bicep when something he touched moved. He got his hand around it and brought out a plastic wrapped, vacuum sealed brick of bills. He checked his watch. Three minutes to spare before open mic auditions for the junk yard dogs. He sat back on the door jam and the lights went out.


Meyers bubbled, swore, shook his head, reached out and grabbed a handful of shirt.

“Easy, Mister.” A rough hand wrapped around Meyer’s wrist, and he eased his grip on the shirt, wiped his face and eyes with his coverall sleeve enough to recognize the lot attendant.

“What happened?”

“Same as happened to me.” He offered Meyers a hand to sit up. “Cold coffee’s all I had. I get my water from across the way there at the maintenance garage an they’re shut up for the night.”

“I’ll live,” he rubbed his eyes again. “At least you didn’t piss on me. What time is it?”

“Comin up on nine.”

“You see who slugged us?”

“Tall. Skinny. Had on one a them desert hats with the long bill and a back flap on it. Kept lookin at the ground. I thought it was shifty, bein so close to lock up time. But I went for the clipboard, doin my job, got thumped. Here I am.”

“He show you any paper?”

“Hadn’t got that far.”

“Say anything?”

“Said he needed his glasses. Pointed to a Benz in the front row. Had a frog in his throat, could hardly hear him. All I remember.”

Meyers touched the back of his head, his hand came back bloodless. “Shit…”

“That’s what I was thinkin.” The lot man pushed his cap back with his wrist. “What you said, about pissin? Somethin that happened?”


“The fella done it. He think it was funny?”

“Until I shot him.”

“That’s good to know.” He offered Meyers a sardonic smile and a hand up out of the van. “Case you come back I’ll know not to throw the pot out till you’re gone.”


The elevator in Meyers office building shut down at nine and it was close to ten. He trudged up four flights, opened the stairwell door, spotted Rifat halfway down the hall leaning against the wall.

“Rifat…” Meyers hissed, motioned for him.

Rifat stood in a series of angular bends not unlike an awakened marionette and made his way to the stairwell, squinting into the semi-darkness. “What happened to you?”

“Coffee facial. It’s supposed to be good for my complexion. How long have you been here?”

“Not long. The nurses asked me to leave Sunny’s room at nine. I went home… The reason I’m here… Archie called.”

“He wants you to go to Wichtikl’s with him tomorrow afternoon around 2:30.”

“How do you—”

“I’m a detective. I want you to go with him. And take your pipe wrench.”


Meyers drove home, ran his bug finder wand, found one in his table lamp, dropped it in the garbage disposal before he showered and iced the back of his head. It wasn’t much of a blow. Issued with minimal force and precision by someone who wanted a man out but not hemorrhaging, dead or concussed because they had a use for him. He shouldered his towel, called the Bishop. He learned Archie had received a call at 7:40, made a call every ten minutes until 9:15 when he finally spoke to someone, but didn’t stop pacing. At 9:30 Archie peeked out his door and the Bishop put a silenced round close enough to splinter Archie’s face.

“I’ll call him. Cut yourself loose, go play poker.”

“The money?”

“Had it just long enough to lose it.”

“Must’ve felt good to be right. Know where it went?”


“Get to shoot somebody to get it back?”

“Good possibility.”

“Lucky you. My game doesn’t start till one. You still have any of that good Scotch?”

“I won’t be awake to drink it with you.”

“No offense, but that’s the best news I’ve had in a week.”

Take the Pipe Wrench Home

12:45 PM

Meyers played the phone message from Wichtikl again. The Bishop drew a thin line with his lips.

“That’s your plan, Meyers? I can almost see it if everyone lines up. You could get into that wild card weapons-in-amateur’s-hands situation dealing with the idle rich. And where’s the money come from? Is that a briefcase full of newspaper smoke screen?”

“Purcell will be here about five, looking for input to feed the media on the deplorable our-city-is-outraged gang shootout on Carson this afternoon. The Tahoe will turn up stolen and I’ll describe it for him as being full of beanie and bandana bangers with some random tat descriptions for filler. In return, I’ll ask Purcell to run interference on the impound lot for me. The money’s somewhere in that van.”

“Instinct? Intuition? Wishful thinking?”

“The driver was under the dash for a reason when the van went over.”

“And them hiding the money’s the only plausible reason for you to bang out seventeen and only manage to shoot a homeless drunk in the foot?”


1:05 PM

Rifat stood in the doorway to Meyers’ office, pipe wrench hanging from the hand at his side. Meyers, arms folded on his desk, raised his chin.

“Afternoon. What can I do for you and your wrench?”

“I, uh, have a question?” Rifat stepped through the door, caught sight of Bishop languishing in an easy chair, ignored him.

“Am I supposed to guess what it is?”

“No. No, sorry…”

“You were about to be a tough guy and it got away from you. I can see that.” Meyers unfolded his arms that had concealed the shotgun. Rifat barfed in his mouth, gagged it back, barely felt the tug on his pocket.

“Rifat Skroteem,” the Bishop said, tossing the wallet on Meyers’ desk. “Someone we should know?”

“I almost met his brother. And I’m told he’s been buying flowers for Sunny Sutton.”

“A die-hard romantic and the last time-warp flower child.” The Bishop dropped back into his chair. “It’s about time.”

“Mr. Skroteem,” Meyers gave a small wave to the wrench. “Why don’t you set the wrench down, pull up a chair and tell us your story?”

Rifat sized up the room as at once amenable and deadly, leaned slightly and let the wrench drop. He settled on one of Meyer’s chairs in gangly discomfort, crossing one leg over the other at the knee, his back tilted slightly forward but perfectly straight.

“I… I don’t know where to start…” he faltered. “You see, my brother, and his partner… They were in business… An illegal business…

“Let me guess. Stealing pedigreed dogs?”

“Yes. How… How did you know?”

“I was looking for your brother before I knew it was him I needed to find. He also happened to be driving a van loaded with dead, bloated carcasses that I later found out belonged to pedigreed dogs. With angry owners. Go on.”

“My brother, Arias, is dead. You know that, but… there’s money missing. Archie is getting, and I need—”


“My brother’s partner. He thinks you stole forty-seven thousand dollars from my brother, before you killed him. But I know you didn’t kill him. He tried to kill you and, and Miss Sutton, and—”

“And you’re in the middle of it by default because of your brother.” Meyers looked around Rifat to the Bishop. “Forty-seven k. That’s the figure yellow jacket and red boots dropped.”

“So you said. That makes ‘Archie’ prime for your murder by three-five-seven mystery man. He is someone we need to know.”

Meyers checked his watch, took his gaze back to Rifat. “Finish it?”

“I came to ask, do you have my brother’s, or Archie’s money? Because if you don’t, he’ll kill you, Archie will, and then he will go after Sunny…” he looked longingly at the pipe wrench. “And I can’t let him do that.”

“Of course you can’t. Try this on, Rifat. You came here to soften me up with the wrench because you’re a tough guy. I tell you where the money is, you’re a hero. Until Archie kills you and me because he wants it all. If I don’t know where the money is, Archie kills me for sport. All you want out of this mess is happily ever after with Sunny. When I’m dead and he’s not looking, you bash Archie’s head in to stop him going after Sunny, and the hell with your brother’s forty-seven grand. That about the all the ways this is playing in your head?”


“But you’re not a tough guy.”

“No.” His face clouded. “But Archie… If I had to, I could…”

“I believe you could kill him if he threatened her. But you don’t need to live with that hanging over whatever relationship you’d like to have with Sunny.”

“No. She wouldn’t…”

“You’re right. She wouldn’t. As for Archie and your brother, I’ll go out on a limb here and assume they worked for a man named Wichtikl?”

“Yes. How do you know these things?”

“I keep telling people I’m a detective. You’ve met Wichtikl?”

“We… Yes. I answered the phone for my brother a few times. After Arias, and the money missing, Archie took me to Mr. Wichtikl’s house. We were there to demand the money. Mr. Wichtikl said he’d given it to Arias and had a receipt. But… He could have said anything because Archie… The landscapers took his gun and his bullets away before we went in.”

“Wichtikl told Archie to take a hike, and Archie’s negotiating skills being dependent on that gun means he left empty-handed. Do you consider Wichtikl dangerous?”

“Not himself. I think he would not hesitate to hire someone if he needed violence done on his behalf.”

“Mmm. Has Archie said anything about going back?”

“Yes. If you, and, and Sunny don’t have it, the money, then yes. But—”

“Archie won’t live long enough to ask Sunny if you have anything to say about it.”

“Yes…” his eyes went to the wrench again.

An empty church like quiet hung in the room. Meyers and the Bishop waited, Rifat tapped his fingertips together.

“Mr. Meyers, I came here to ask if you have the money. You say you do not and it’s obvious I’m not going to beat a different answer out of you. Archie, though… Archie went to a one-hour dry cleaners, but he will be here. Soon. And we… I must prepare for what is next. Now—”

“Here’s what’s next, Rifat. Take the pipe wrench home. Order you and Sunny some Thai from Phat Wong’s off Sunset, take it up and eat dinner with her.”

Rifat’s shoulders relaxed, his eyes brightened. “She has complained about the hospital food, and I would like to see her… But,” he worried his hands. “I don’t know what she would prefer to eat from such a place and to ask would ruin the surprise… And there’s still Archie…”

“Tell Wong’s you need the Sunset Sutton special. Order something different for yourself unless you have a fireproof digestive system.” Meyers stood, appeared beside him, offered the wrench and wallet. “You take care of Sunny. I’ll take care of Archie.”


2:20 PM

Meyers office door rattled, he racked the shotgun for effect, the Bishop remained in his chair, pushed the door stop away with a slightly warped, tipless pool cue. “It’s open.”

Archie banged in, puffed up. “We got business, know what I’m sayin?”

“No, I don’t. What’d you get on your pretty yellow jacket?”

“You musta seen it comin. Fat Meskin bitch an a goddam bomb or some shit. Blew her fuckin shit all over me. Martinizing fools couldn’t get it out, you know, an I ain’t got time give ‘em a fuckin do-over. I told the motherfucker, Martinizing ain’t no real fuckin dry cleaners anyway, you know, that’s why it only takes a hour, know what I’m sayin. An I don’t pay for shit ain’t done right.”

“So you walked the dry-cleaning tab. You really must need that money you think I have.”

“Now see, an that’s the thing, you know, cause if you ain’t got it, after I kill you, I may have to kill my wingman to get to it, know what I’m sayin?”

“Well, first you’ll have to kill me.” Meyers leaned the shotgun against the desk, interlocked his fingers, leaned forward in concerned banker pose. “I might have a plan to get you your money. But It’ll have to wait till tomorrow.”

“Fuck you say,” Archie pulled his jacket open, reached for his gun and saw an instant’s worth of Meyers’ Glock’s muzzle before the Bishop’s Walther pressed his chin up. “How da fuck both you motherfuckers do that shit?”

“The problem with amateur sociopaths like you, Archie,” Meyers said, “is you run on bullshit and a big gun and never consider a potential victim might be more lethal than you are. Bangers, street punks looking to get ahead, unarmed photographers, harmless old men… They’re one thing. We’re another.”

“I see that,” he tried to raise his head away from the Walther, failed. “But I ain’t killed nobody, know what I’m sayin? Not no punks or no pho-tog-raphers or old men or nobody. I just want my, you know, money, motherfuckers. That’s all.”

Meyers pulled an index card and a pencil from a drawer. “Phone number.”

“An then what?”

“Go sit by the phone the number belongs to till it rings. Go anywhere, miss my call, you’re fucked.”

“What if you don’t call, say, soon like, you know, an I get hungry or some shit?”

“Order a pizza. Leave the house before I call, and my associate will paint your door with your brains.” He yanked Archie’s .357, opened the cylinder, ejected the shells into his palm. “These aren’t cheap,” he pointed the gun at his hand. “At the rate I hear you’re losing ammunition you’ll need that forty-seven K just to keep this thing loaded.” He jammed the gun back into Archie’s waistband. “Beat it.”

A Deadly Gold Lamé

Meyers tightened his left hand on the shotgun’s grip, finger inside the trigger guard. The Five Block Cherries Hefe swaddled in gold lamé waddled through the front door of Sunny’s shop. She resembled a life-size Christmas Hershey’s kiss. With feet.

“You’re early.” Meyers said, offering her a nod of acknowledgement.

“Bitches eyes on dis since da bitches clean up some messy white muthafucka shit from he shot up mah bitches. Yo bitch ass be livin’ here, uh whah?”

“Let’s drop the bitch shit, Hefe. This won’t take long if you stop streetin’ and we get to it.” He shifted the shotgun so she could see down the barrel. “Sit. Tell your friends to wait outside. All of them.”

“You cap me muthafukah mah bitches swarm down a fuckin plague yo muthafuckin bitch ass mutha—”

BOOM – Meyers blew the folding chair away, Hefe’s heavy lidded eyes opened wide.

“I told you I’m not listening to that shit.”

Two of the posse on the sidewalk who’d pulled handguns flew into the front windows, shocked looks on their faces. They slid down, streaked the windows with blood. Hefe looked over her shoulder, held up her hand, looked back at Meyers.

“Da fuck?”

“See the little red dot on the palm of my hand?”

“Um,” she grunted.

“Now it’s on the back of your head. They pull, they drop. Next time your posse gets stupid you drop first.”

Archie worked his way through the women on the sidewalk who were more concerned with their downed members than him. He stepped in the door, reached for his .357. Like Hefe, he found himself looking down the barrel of Meyers’ shotgun.

“Mine’s already out, friend. What’s on your mind?”

“Da fuck now, bitch?” Hefe, furrowed brow to Meyers, thumb over her shoulder. “Dis yo bitch ass nigga?”

“I’ve never seen the man before. Maybe you shouldn’t insult him, though. He could be a lingerie salesman.”

“Bitch ain’t sellin shit.” She turned on Archie. “Da fuck’s up, nigga?”

“Da fuck s’up, bitch, be that dee-tek-tiv motherfucker, know what I’m sayin, he owes me forty-seven thou—”

Through the front window Meyers saw the row of muzzles pointing out of the black Tahoe. He hit the ground behind the counter and started moving. Automatic weapons fire chewed up the front of the store and the gaggle of Five Block Cherries. Hefe reached for the gun in Archie’s waistband. A grenade flew through the shattered front windows, thudded on the floor and rolled.

Archie knocked Hefe off her feet with a roundhouse right, his gun clattered on the floor. He threw himself to the side, took two racks of lingerie with him. Hefe flapped and rocked in the door’s direction like a fat sea lion, her blousy gold lamé wrapper dragging along the grenade she was trying to escape. Meyers crawled into the restroom, shot up the ladder into the attic, put his hand on the first iron railing to the rooftop when a muffled FOOMPH shook the building.

Archie untangled from the lingerie, used it to wipe Hefe’s guts off his hands and face. He stood, wobbly, crunched his way over broken glass to pick up his Hefe-splattered gun, slipped, fell on the body mass puddle between the legs and head that had been Hefe. He rolled up vomiting, ran out the door, down the block to where Rifat sat waiting in the driver’s seat of the Lincoln. Archie yanked the passenger door open, Rifat lurched the Lincoln into drive, Archie tried to puke out the window that wasn’t rolled down, screamed “FUUUUUCK!

“Where to?”

“A CAR WASH, you stupid raghead motherfucker…” Rifat couldn’t tell if Archie was blubbering or choking or gurgling more vomit, but he stunk so Rifat rolled down both windows, the passenger side squeegeeing barf down the door panel, onto Archie’s leg.

Archie squealed “Goddammit,” pulled the .357 out of his lap, pointed it at Rifat and it squirted out of his hand like a wet bar of soap.

NVDT – Writerly Concerns – Shamed

Have you, and I’m talking to all the would-be and consider themselves to already be writers, ever finished a story and felt shamed?

I have.

I’m not talking about the wordy modernist hit makers and the modern wordsy style as promoted by those who claim to know how to write a modern novel.


I forget from time to time that I discover mastery in strange, middle-brow places. Like the old short stories from The New Yorker and Atlantic. I usually point to John D MacDonald, but I tend to let my memories of his lengthy moralizing cloud his ability to effortlessly put the reader in a scene. Hammett’s economy is also stellar. Updike, Conrad… The list goes on.

The brilliant little book in the header was part of the $10 bag sale. Yes, it’s entertaining. It’s also a textbook. I just finished a short story by John Cheever (“Torch Song”) that not only collapsed 30 years into a few pages but covered that time with brilliant small works of literary art. Like an exhibit of Turner’s illustrations converted to etching. Without fanfare or overture you are on the stairs of a walk-up, enter a party in an apartment and you are there. The rude people, the drunk, the uncomfortable couple, the calm, unfazed hostess… All artfully portrayed with spotless economy.

I don’t know how they did it, that certain crew of writers from the 20s through the 60s. Hammett does the same thing in The Thin Man. Somehow, he drops us at a crowded table in a crowded speakeasy and we know who’s who and what’s going on with an ease that is not found in most of today’s work. Today, it’s all head time and explained conversation and protagonists flying solo ricocheting their way through people and places where three’s a crowd.

I have a pending scene that was stretching into 800 words, trying to get everyone placed and identified with too much colorless language. In “Torch Song” Cheever tells us the protagonist hasn’t seen the recurring deuteragonist “for three years” and then he bumps into her, and we are shown another scene as rich as the last. It’s the texture without extreme weight of the scenes that makes the time crunches work. I also think that there is almost a journalism element of bam, bam, bam to get so much in a short story. A trait I see as almost universal. But the hits are so well drawn that we buy them because they move. They don’t dwell and let words build up around them. Economy. Reader and writer economy.

Dig this – setup for a scene with a drunk. Could be a showdown, or an artist’s reception or. Notice how unimportant passive words are glue for the perfect BAM words – 257 words. It could be less, based on eliminating the passivity, but the descriptors are bare knuckle good.

Excerpted from John Cheever’s “Torch Song”. Jack climbed the two flights of carpeted stairs, and when he reached Joan’s apartment, she was standing by the open door in a black dress. After she greeted Jack, she took his arm and guided him across the room. “I want you to meet Hugh, Jack,” she said. Hugh was a big man with a red face and pale-blue eyes. His manner was courtly and his eyes were inflamed with drink. Jack talked with him for a little while and then went over to speak to someone he knew, who was standing by the mantelpiece. He noticed then, for the first time, the indescribable disorder of Joan’s apartment. The books were in their shelves and the furniture was reasonably good, but the place was all wrong, somehow. It was as if things had been put in place without thought or real interest, and for the first time, too, he had the impression that there had been a death there recently. As Jack moved around the room, he felt that he had met the ten or twelve guests at other parties. There was a woman executive with a fancy hat, a man who could imi­tate Roosevelt, a grim couple whose play was in rehearsal, and a newspaperman who kept turning on the radio for news of the Spanish Civil War. Jack drank Martinis and talked with the woman in the fancy hat. He looked out of the window at the back yards and the ailanthus trees and heard, in the distance, thunder exploding off the cliffs of the Hudson.

That is a template if I ever read one. This entire short story is full of BAM. I mean really. It’s timeless. – A tanned athletic man in a silk golf shirt kept surreptitiously switching on the television for NFC playoff scores. Jack drank martinis and spoke phatically with a homely, bright-eyed marketing intern originally from Brazil who was desperate to take a lengthy automobile trip. To Jack it didn’t seem to matter where, the main requirement simply to log as many miles as possible in two weeks and visit places that existed in a postcard America Jack knew was at least fifty years gone but hadn’t the heart to tell her.

*** Exercise

There was a marked lack of character in the room. Dead, it seemed. As if furnished with a blank check and a designer’s catalogue. Well placed, expensive, colorless furnishings, their beigeness highlighted with small, bright throw pillows reclaimed from a Hollywood Chinatown whorehouse set. A vase here and there, an arrangement of books that appeared glued together, placed for visual balance, not to be disturbed or read. A large, framed painting of the British fox hunt ilk dominated the wall behind a drawer-less desk that resembled a dining table more than a place where thought or work took place. Meyers took his eyes off the guns long enough to see a bolt of lightning some distance off the coast silently rip the blue gray sky apart. He counted seconds waiting for the thunder. After twenty without a rumble he quit, returned his gaze to the sparkling guns. These people. Their chrome weapons as fashion accessories worn to dress up their anger. None with any sense. Or skill. How the hell had any of them planned to leave this dead room alive?

Whew. Thank God for templates.

NVDT Random – Another Book Review

Flat Crazy

Ben Rehder

4.7 Stars

4.7? Published by the mainstream. There were a few editorial brain farts. And it could have stood a touch of dialogue editing, at least for a native Texan speaker. Fixing those would have really sealed this one. Told in an often funny “Holy shit” omni third person that puts you in the scene with the scene maker is exceptionally well done. Some leading narrative and ‘splainin could go away, but in this form it seems to be a required component. Also, this is not a book report, or a plot summary, or any of that. Simply my impressions of construct and how the book worked as a whole.

The story goes that someone gave Ben Rehder a Carl Hiaasen book. After reading it, he supposedly said, “I can do that.” And he can. (Did). I’m not sure if he went through an early Hiaasen and built a template, but he nailed the format. Many authors have used successful formats where they fill in the chunks with their own story. Hiaasen’s same narrative style is present as well, with a Texas accent. All the way to the same “comes down to it” moment for the protagonists and an epilogue for the bit players. Like Hiaasen, the interjections of the bit players have something marginal to do with the story, but are there more for levity until needed to perform some plot sealing function. How boring would a procedural about murder and hunting ethics be without a first class cast of well-written stereotypes? Well written being the key. Keeping the lid on some of these people must’ve taken a lot of effort.

The key players – A not too serious ex-convict hunting guide in a trailer in Central Texas isn’t unusual. One who keeps unintentionally killing or maiming people to cover up his deer trophy con job makes for a stellar stereotype. As does the telling of his not-all-here brother, damaged by a high voltage shock. A Marlboro Man Game Warden and a Sheriff named Garza is nothing unique to the Hill Country, either, but they are played well. The best thing about this book, to me, was Rehder’s true-to-life (mis)behaviors and reactions from the entire cast. Even when they were outside, they fit like a jigsaw puzzle.

Plot Lines – One involves the “oops” murder of a deer hunter who realizes he’s been scammed by his guide and the guide’s continual fuck ups trying to cover it up. The second comes from a Mexican day laborer taking an emergency dump in the woods who claims to have seen a Chupacabra – a mythical Mexican/South American version of Big Foot. This sighting causes the “wetback” to run pants down screaming out of the woods and into the path of a truck. When the body count escalates and the media feeding frenzy takes over is it murder or the Chupacabra?

Warning. You might need a program to keep up with the cast, just like with Hiaasen. Are there superfluous people and encounters? Possibly. But that’s all tapestry. I’m still wondering why we needed the Chinese midget porn stars and their producer. In the end, the fake antlers that started one of the two parallel plot lines are at last recovered through them.

Rehder breaks every rule we’ve been hammered with for “modern” writing. He opens with a passive verb. The entire book is shot through with narrative leading, character opinions and a conversational style. Again, shades of Hiaasen. One minor complaint from me would be honest to God Texan speak requires timing interrupters. Doing Texan verbatim without them made the dialogue in places seem unnatural, even if it was note perfect.

My takeaway from this book was a fun, who knew who the hell was going to end up where read, like a good early Hiaasen. Great characters, great reactions, what could have been slapstick was right on the money, not over or underdone. You can read the blurbs on Amazon.

Will I read more Rehder? Certainly. Particularly since I only made it about a chapter and a half through one of Anne Hillerman’s New Mexico Navajo books. That’s a whole other topic.

Now, for some musings on the muse. Flat Crazy was published in 2004. I left Austin in 2002. Fast forward to 2015 when I decided to write again before my sell-by date was at hand. Prior to the last couple weeks, I’d never seen this book before, or heard of the author. However, Rehder has a character, a Nightly Pulp News show anchor. Female, attractive, etc. named Rita Villareal that is so similar to one of my own as to be creepy. Beyond that, there are many other crossover type castings and scenes. Caliche roads and driveways. One stoplight towns. Helicopters landing in backyards, gum chewing gold diggers, transparent liars… I wonder, did they hitch a ride when I left Austin, or is there a commonality of experience that falls into these tales?