Lookin’ For a Seamstress

Long Read Alert 2,200+. I’d apologize but I’m too lazy to cut and paste on the damn phone.

“I’m off to spell Monica Perez from babysittin’ the Pierce place while she collects Ivy from the B&B for me.” Sheriff Harden adjusted his hat. “That’s some Jeep Candi’s got there, huh?”

Bash exchanged glances with Candi. “The Chief already knows.” She unlocked her arms, handed Bash the keys. “We went over it last night.”

“She did steal it, though, right?”

“Yessir, Deputy, that she did. While I’m off on the wild Ivy goose chase, I need y’all to give the forensics your best shot, one last time. Try to find what we’re missin’.”

Bash held up the keys.

“Not sure what you’re askin’, Bash, but if you need to parade off to the Sonic or somewhere for a bad breakfast in Barbie’s Jeep, lookin’ for all the world like a gay Apache lawman, go ahead on.” He checked his watch. “Check back in by nine.” He unlocked his cruiser, turned back. “That’s nine in the A M, Deputy. This A M.”

***

Bash pulled the door shut, adjusted the pink and white suspension seat, settled himself. “Doors, custom seats, air conditioner. Everything you could want, even when it’s topless.”

“Electric windows.”

“No shit?”

“The custom shop guys said nothing was too good for Barbie.”

“You watched them build this?”

“Yes, and no. We went down there a few times. They were expecting us to be car shop calendar cheesecake, and we showed up in sweats and knotted T’s, dirty hair… Standard sweaty jock chick attire. After a couple of visits from seven sweaty girls who’d been working out in the sun for three hours, they blew us off. Jenny went down there a few times by herself, ‘cause she’d been picked to be the poster Barbie, which was perfect because you couldn’t find a better, realer blonde with push-up bra boobs than her without going to Finland. They had to let her in, no matter what she looked like when she got there.”

“Y’all coulda cut those guys a break, gone in all thongs, six packs and sports bras. Rocked their world.”

“No thanks. Jock girls usually make lousy cheesecake chicks. Like, what’s the point, you know? We’re here to play volleyball. Besides, we don’t get a lot of poser practice since nobody collects female volleyball trading cards.”

“Why’s that?”

Duh? Because there aren’t any? Besides, best practice for the bimbo expectation is to gross out the panty sniffers on the front end and they’ll leave you alone. Where are we going?”

“I thought I’d take us to get somethin’ to eat, but you just changed my mind.”

***

A solo tripod-mounted diffuser in the middle of the floor lit the Quonset hut in such a way that walls and corners disappeared, resulting in an effect of vastness without boundaries. Sheriff Harden set his hat on a random aluminum TV tray in the middle of the glow next to the folding chair where reserve deputy Perez had watched dog training videos on her phone while babysitting, for lack of a better name, Murphy, Green and Pierce video productions. The quiet enhanced the effect of the universe lit by a single bulb.

He resisted the urge to walk back and thumb a few light switches, instead using the light from his phone to locate another folding chair that he placed facing the existing chair in the soft glow ring. On her return Monica Perez would stand by the door as an observer, a body cam trained on the interview. Ivy would occupy one chair, he’d use the other. Quiet, simple, uncomfortable. The best combination for hopefully limiting the female Greens’ propensity to take a simple conversation rambling way off in the weeds. Harden hoped by the time he got around to Virgil Green there’d be no reason for conversation, because Virgil, unlike his wife and daughter, had all the communication skills of a tackling dummy.

***

Candi pulled a seldom used guest chair from against the wall, dragged it around Betty’s reception compound till it was next to Betty’s perch. She vanished into the offices, returned with three manila file folders, and eased into the chair. She crossed her legs at the knee, leaned in.

Betty continued to pretend she was looking for something on her computer instead of playing solitaire, finally saying, “To what do I owe this honor?”

“I need your help.”

“That’ll be the day-ay-ay, when I… Holy cow,” Betty, eyes now wide. “You’re serious?”

“The Sheriff’s out, Bash and I are both—”

“Idiots?” Betty laughed. “Not really, but y’all have your moments. Okay,” she swiveled her oversized chair around. “Whatcha got for me, Agent Cotton?”

“Take a look at these and tell me what you think.”

Betty tapped her toes to the beat of a tune only she could hear while she read the banking records spread across her desk. She’d drop a yellow polished nail index finger from one hand on a line, finger from the other hand on another. She kept at it until she noticed the aroma of fresh coffee steaming from a mug next to her monitor.

“Okay, don’t go gettin’ the big head or nothin’, but you do make a, a… Decent cup of coffee.”

“It’s not a secret. I’ll show you some morning.”

“It won’t require me to buy thirty-dollar-a-bag coffee, will it?”

“This is the coffee you bring in.”

“That’s impossible.” She took a sip. “Well, maybe not.” She made a face. “It’s still got a little a that whatever it is. Tastes like pepper and rust… But you did manage to get rid a most of it.”

“There are some things even magic can’t get rid of. You might think of hitting the guys up for a coffee fund, though, and move from the Dollar Store to the grocery store. What did you find?”

***

Ivy turned on desk lamps and indirect lighting around the control area of the studio, apologizing as she went for the lack of a proper, isolated control room while excusing it based on lack of need since they weren’t capturing live audio. “But I wasn’t really out here much except the one time for the super zoom Jib test”

“Super zoom… Jib? You gotta do this in plain English, Ivy.”

“Okay. Well, see, Mr. Murphy, he wanted to buy all kindsa expensive camera equipment and Daddy and Jimmy got into it with him because they said it would corrupt what they were doin’.”

“Corrupt?”

“Jimmy said they couldn’t just all of a sudden go from head worn cameras and the stationary camera shots to flyin’ camera angles and fancy zooms ‘cause that’s what all the other hunters out there do. Like Jimmy said, those people say they gotta keep up with the audience expectation of how stuff should look, not the home movie quality they start with, when what they’re really gettin’ caught up in is ego and competition. Like all the swamp turkeys out there get to thinkin’ they’re the next Tarantino and need a separate camera operator an boom jockeys. And that’s crap, really, because Hitchcock and a lot of the old guys defined camera angles, they just didn’t have computers to do it for them. Like take this automated baby crane—”

“Let’s not. Why don’t you get back to tellin’ me how they got you kidnapped by Bigfoot?”

“Okay, that was the zoom test. Daddy, he always played the monster, so I wasn’t scared a him droppin’ me or gropin’ me ‘cause if it was like Creepus Maximus Murphy, no way was I doin’ it. I did the makeup from a Halloween picture, you know, just too much mascara, squirted myself with a water mister, ratted my hair out like Momma does sometimes and Daddy, well, he was more over here,” she pulled Harden to where the floor turned green, “and he walked in place like this.” She mimed a decent monster walk. “Before we started, I set the camera movement on this baby crane to pull straight back and the super zoom camera to pull out and that was it. The camera did all the work. Jimmy watched a monitor with a hood on it back over there and told Daddy when to start walkin’ for real, like when the shot was wide and pullin’ serious distance. Murphy captured the video going in the computer in real time. Daddy and me, we were a transparent layer—”

“Hold on a sec. You were a what?”

She chewed her bottom lip for a sec, thinking. “Okay, this,” she held up her left hand, “is a video of the woods. And this,” she laid her right hand on top of her left, “is me bein’ kidnapped. The computer marries ‘em to look like Daddy’s draggin’ me off into the woods.” She cocked her head a little. “See?”

“I think so. Maybe you can show me sometime. But Ivy, my big problem with all that is Bigfoot, or the costume anyway, is at least seven feet tall, and your Daddy’s only—”

“Oh, that’s easy.” She disappeared into a shadowy corner, returned with a plastic storage tub. “Daddy wore these,” she held up a pair of drywall stilts. “He has things like this everywhere from all his different jobs. He told me they had to glue insoles to the bottom because they made so much noise.” She replaced them in the bucket, held up a pair of hand-claw grabbers with a soccer shin-guard riveted to it. She strapped the shin guard to her forearm and her hand was now over a foot further away from her elbow. “Daddy said it all worked ‘cause nobody but the hardcore debunkers are looking at knees or elbows. Everyone else is freakin’ cause Bigfoot is over behind a tree or maybe sees Daddy and Jimmy and they take off runnin’.” She dropped the arm in the tub. “Anyhow, that’s how Daddy got to be a seven-foot-tall knuckle dragger.”

“I think I understand the concept behind most a this, Ivy, but how the hell did they go huntin’ this monster live?”

“They didn’t.”

“But the website…”

“Oh that. Well, I was just kidnapped the once, and like I said, Mr. Murphy, after I showed him the software, he handled it all. What they’d do is one night Daddy’d go out as the monster, and Jimmy would shoot him with his hat cam, and what woulda been Daddy’s hat cam out on a pole about five feet away, so they could change perspective, like Daddy was there as himself and not the monster. Then they’d go in the studio and be playin’ the video of Daddy bein’ the monster while puttin’ Daddy and Jimmy whisperin’ to each other on top while Murphy played these CDs of nature sounds through speakers. There’re bird noises in those videos from birds probably don’t even exist in North America.”

The Sheriff scratched his temple, thumb and fingered his jaw. “One more thing and we can go. What happened to the costume?”

“Oh God. That’s when I learned, like Momma says, how dumb men in groups can be. What happened was, Daddy’ll kill me for tellin’ and Momma would too if it got out, but Jimmy said Daddy drank a whole six pack of that nasty, watery beer and he was thrashin’ around in the scrub oak over there across the river and got to where he had to pee somethin’ fierce. But he got all tangled up in some branches and the stilts got hooked on some roots and he couldn’t do nothin’ with those plastic hands to get, well, you know, exposed, and he peed all over the costume and himself. So bad Jimmy made him ride in the bed of the truck gettin’ home that night. Bein’ as there’s not a commonsense genius in the whole pack, they decided they couldn’t take the costume to the dry cleaners, ‘cause it would give them away. And since there’s no way to wash it in the washin’ machine, they bought a five-gallon bucket of dry-cleaning fluid and dumped it in a big ol’ plastic trash can they bought from the Home Depot and stirred it around with a broom handle till they thought it was clean and hung it up back behind the studio to air dry. The trash can’s still around, I think. You wanna see it?”

***

“Can you tell me what I’m lookin’ at here, Agent Cotton?”

“What you’re looking at, Betty, is bribery, or fraud, or extortion. Maybe all three.”

“How ‘bout you stop dancin’ and just tell me why I’m lookin’ at all this money comin’ in, gettin’ split up into where half is bein’ mostly banked and the other half is all this sex fiddle-faddle gettin’ bought?”

“When fines are paid to the court, they’re being diverted and split off into two discretionary accounts. The one on the far right is Judge Bynum’s.”

“What does that old coot need with a four hundred-and-twenty-two-dollar, custom made pink leather bustier or a weekend at the Wet Beaver Retreat or—” her hand flew up, fingers covering her mouth. “Oh. My. God. He doesn’t.”

“You don’t think the Judge is aware of what’s going on?”

“Aware? Bynum? He’s so out of it if you told him he needed to unbutton his butt to poop, he’d reach back there and when he couldn’t find it, he’d start lookin’ for a seamstress to sew a new one on.”

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Phil Huston

https://philh52.wordpress.com/

16 thoughts on “Lookin’ For a Seamstress”

    1. Since 1977. The thing I’m after in fiction is the same Kindergarten simplicity I employed for years as a clinician. There have been several points in this serial where I could have jumped off into the deep end of infatuation with technology from pulling a Jeep out of the mud to chromakey effects to volleyball and Apache/Comanche/Kiowa religion(s). Even corporate misbehavior. But if the piece isn’t designed to capture the hearts and minds of geeks or a niche but to entertain with more than slapstick, firearms and violence, and exist in the world with some durability, then certain brand names and processes need to get in the back seat. An eighteen-year-old tech savvy girl explaining green screen to a country sheriff without insulting him or going over the top is one of my clinics. Who gives a fuck how they do it, ain’t it fun! Or – Forget all that. What are your ears telling you?

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  1. “Gay Apache lawman” hit me right off the bat. That’s saying something in a post as long and as typically populated with your usual colorfully rich phrasing!
    Loving this serial.

    Liked by 1 person

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