NVDT Random – SepSceneWrimo – Follow-up 2

Another hole filler – Evidentiary and the chauffeur asked for more page time. He’s a decent kid so I obliged.

There was a familiar name on The Bishop’s slip of paper. Brock Holland, one-time All-American quarterback and point shaver at UCLA. He broke a lot of connected gamblers’ hearts when he flopped as a pro. His address in San Francisco didn’t ring any bells, but it wouldn’t. Mr. Holland was going to have to wait till tomorrow, though, because tonight I had another fish to fry. Lorelei’s boyfriend Trevor.

I called the Gilmour Arms independent on-call chauffeur who’d driven Lorelei and me on the night of the murder, asked if he was busy. He wasn’t and agreed to meet me in my parking garage as soon as he could swing it. I dropped Frisky’s .45, minus ammunition, down the trash chute on my way to the elevator. The chauffeur rolled up in under ten minutes, windows down, radio blaring. I put my hand on the doorpost. The radio volume dropped.

“Your name really Huntley Bryston?”

“What momma said.”

“Great Expectations, eh?”

“Huh?”

“Never mind. This your car?”

“Mine and the bank’s.”

“Insured?”

“To the hilt.” He pushed his chauffeur’s cap back. “What’s on your mind, Mr. Meyers?”

“I need to go back to the dump on Fairfax, but my car needs to stay put.”

“You in some kinda jam, or just paranoid?”

“Can’t tell yet.”

“Better safe than sorry? Works for me.” He checked his teeth in the mirror, adjusted his cap. “We stoppin’ for the babe?”

“Not tonight.” I opened the back door, slid in.

“I’m startin’ to lose some enthusiasm.”

“She thinks if you’d wash your hair you’d be a Rafael.”

“Yeah?” He perked up. “It ain’t dirty, I keep it loaded with vitamin oil. So when I wash it out for date night I got a sheen without no stinky products.”

“Might rethink the vitamin grease for off hours. No telling who you’ll meet in this job.”

“That’d be stuck up women and dry-cleaned puckerbutts, mostly.” He smiled in the mirror. “You bein’ the exception.”

I laid on the back seat until we were well on our way. I raised up and we were coming up Sunset from the west.

“You get lost?”

“Too many headlights pullin’ in behind us. I took a page outta your paranoia book, drove around till they peeled off. I’m gonna drive by the Hacienda Javier one more time, run us around a couple blocks.”

I reminded myself to tip this kid while I watched a few blocks of Fairfax sail by, a left on Ogden, up through an alley and a parking lot and we rolled back up Fairfax to Trevor’s last known address.

No one answered when I knocked. I tried the door. Unlocked. The switch brought back the feeble bedside lamp, but this trip I’d brought along a flashlight. The light switch in the bathroom had functional light, so Trevor’s barf in the dark theatrics were intentional or he couldn’t hack the sight of his own vomit. I ran the light around inside the bathroom wastebasket, found a cheap single-edge razor, a wad of gooey gauze, half a pack of lidocaine lozenges and a broken black eyebrow pencil.

The closet turned up empty, as did the dresser. The wastebasket by the bed contained a sandwich wrapper from Tommy’s Deli with Lorelei’s address written in a loopy female hand and an empty chicken minestrone soup can. I held it for a minute, wondered how in the hell anyone could eat cold soup before it hit me like a sledge on a thumbtack. The little son of a bitch had faked the puke and splatter and sold out his girlfriend.

I killed the lamp at the same time a muffled gunshot thumped from outside and a bullet splintered the door. Another shot came on its heels. I dropped, crawled across moldy, crumbling carpet, pushed the door open and out onto the breezeway. I waited. Nothing. I duck-walked to the stairwell, took the stairs sideways and low. From the direction of Fairfax, two more shots thumped, followed by tires squealing and the unmistakable BOOM of a shotgun. I sprinted to the street, found Huntley on the sidewalk, shotgun pistol in hand, the front passenger door open.

“You hit?”

“Scratched me’s all.”

“The shooter?”

“Couldn’t see. But there’s a saddle oxford Ford out there damn sure missin’ some glass.” He ran his hand over his ribs. His fingers came back with traces of blood. “This kinda shit a regular thing with you?”

“I wouldn’t call it regular, but it happens. You want me to drive?”

“Nah. Nothin’s broke or bleedin’ much.” He pushed himself up, walked around to the street side of his car, fingered a bullet hole in the driver’s door. “Goddammit… I just waxed her.”

“I know a bullet hole specialist who’ll throw in a wax,” I climbed in the open passenger door. “And a woman who’s an artist with tape and gauze that’ll make you feel better just looking at her.”

“Yeah?” He dropped behind the wheel, winced, hit the starter. “You got their numbers memorized?”

NVDT Random – SepSceneWrimo – Followup 1

I’ve been filling holes in the SepScene project. I jumped from the body to the police station with information out of the etherhere’s a rough of that ether chapter. Long read. Blow it off if you want. This fulfills my need for deadlines.

I pulled the bottle of Scotch Ms. Lorelei Laurier left behind out of my bottom desk drawer, wiped out a coffee cup, and poured myself a quick drink. A dead fat man, an edgy client related to same, knowing I’d have to tell the cops what I knew about it which was next to nothing. None of that required sticking my nose in a bottle looking for answers. Although it was a nice bottle, and the liquor was liquid gold.

I thought I’d have a while to wait, wished I’d eaten something and was working out what that might have been when Lorelei let herself in. She turned to shut the door and swished, the way women move when they are secure in who they are, what they’re doing. Even in an evening coat at one AM after finding her grandfather dead in the family digs. She sat across from me, deliberately, without pretense. Like we’d known each other for years, not since roughly twelve hours ago.

“I should apologize for getting you mixed up in this.”

“In this what?” I leaned across the desk, lit her cigarette. “I haven’t been on the job long enough to know what I don’t know, much less what I should know.”

“Elliptical, but well said.” She watched me take a hit from the coffee cup, glanced around the office. “Is that coffee?”

“Scotch. Your Scotch.”

“Is there another cup, or do we share?”

I pulled a cup out of my desk, wiped it down.

“On second thought,” she rose, brushed imaginary wrinkles out of her coat. “I think coffee would be better. And you will want to speak with Trevor. Coming?”

“Who’s driving?”

“I don’t know his name, but he seems competent. Sullen. Could stand to wash his hair.”

“You took a cab?”

“Our building has several limousines and drivers on call. I asked for the least ostentatious model available. They obliged.”

***

Lorelei had no preferences in coffee shops, and the driver knew squat except for franchises. I gave him directions to a Brazilian place called Lito’s, a few blocks off Sunset in West Hollywood where the coffee will stand your hair on end. It’s in the same block as an infamous after-hours bar so the clientèle ranges from hard partying movie stars, musicians, lost dopers, drunks of all types and people like Lorelei and me, all looking for some jet fuel to finish out the night. A small, dark man with wiry hair named Bernie, or Barney or Barley runs the place. In five or six years I haven’t been able to make out his name exactly because everyone who works there speaks some blend of Mex and Portuguese at speeds approaching the sound barrier.

We took a seat on worn, red-vinyl-topped stools at a cement countertop littered with mismatched dining accessory and condiment holders all overloaded with sugar, fake sugar, dried milk packets, bent forks and dull knives.  I held up two fingers, and within seconds, two large coffee cups with a dark muddy mix in the bottom landed along with a small white beaker of cream. Lorelei tilted her cup, inspected the muddy paste in the bottom.

“Americain!” She snapped her fingers and again in a matter of seconds a small white and blue refugee from a Japanese restaurant teapot full of boiling water appeared in front of us. She poured cream and a sugar packet in her cup, added water, and stirred.

“Been here before?”        

“In Italy. Spain. South America. Nowhere else do they drink coffee the way we do.”

I mixed my coffee without the sugar. “The pie is worth the atmosphere.”

“It better be.” She held the cup with both hands, let the steam warm her face. “I thought you’d take me somewhere intimate. For our talk.”

“We can talk here. If they understand us, they’re too wasted for it to register, or they don’t care. The help has no idea what we’re saying.”

“I’m starting to appreciate you being unpredictable.” She tested her coffee. “There’s nothing much to tell that you don’t already know. Someone had been sending my grandfather telegrams and letters, and they upset him. Upset him enough to meet with his lawyers after a visit from a tall, younger man.”

“You’d recognize this man?”

“No, I only saw him from the back. He was going down the hall to the rear elevator when I got off the lobby car.”

“You know he was young how?”

“No hat, a full head of sandy hair. Square shoulders, long stride.” She glanced down. “Noticing physiques is… habit. I’ve studied horses since before I can remember.” She turned, her expression earnest. “I didn’t know he’d been in the apartment until I walked in. Grandfather and Grandmother were in a real scrap. ‘Do you know what that bastard wanted?’ and ‘So what’ was the gist. The old man gave me a shot of his steam, so I heeled it long enough for them to get sorted.”

“Did they?”

“Your guess is as good as mine. They’d wrangle, they’d get over it. It’s been worse since the Sausalito trip.”

“The picture you showed me. Their troubles heated up after that? April or May?”

“That’s when Grandfather heated up, started leaning on her harder.”

“More often?”

“What’s more often than often?” She’d finished what she wanted of her coffee, stared at her hands in her lap.

“Pie?”

“Not tonight.” She opened her purse, laid three times more folding money on the counter than needed, swished off the stool. She stopped at the door, checked her lipstick in the glass, pulled the handle. “Let’s go to Trevor’s and get this night over with.”

***

Trevor’s place was a weekly apartment in an adobe-being-replaced shotgun style two story off Fairfax called Hacienda Javier. It was outfitted with clinging-for-their-lives window unit air conditioners and a few plywood-covered windows. The sign out front stating “Pardon Our Dust – We’re Improving!” looked weathered. In this part of town, and this time of night the crime rate required an elevated level of vigilance, so I removed my pocket .380 from its holster, put it in my jacket pocket, safety off. After he’d parked, the chauffeur opened the glove box and lifted out an old war model pistol that took .45 slugs or .410 shotgun shells. We made eye contact, but no conversation. I’d need to get his business card before everyone unhooked for the night.

Lorelei knocked on the door of #8. From behind it came the sounds of deep coughing, bolts sliding and chains rattling before the door cracked open. Lorelei waited a few seconds, pushed the door inward.

“Trevor?” Lorelei spoke with a gentleness I hadn’t heard. He answered with more coughing. I hit the light switch and got a feeble yellow glow from a table lamp by the bed for my effort. Trevor leaned out of the bathroom in a hooded bathrobe, a scarf around his neck, black circles under his eyes.

“Sorry, Lori…” He wheezed, coughed, turned, and treated us to puke and splatter toilet noises. He coughed out, “Still feel like shit, girl.”

I moved closer to the bathroom door. “Tell me about tonight, Trevor.”

“Who the hell are you?” His voice a mixture of concrete mixer scratching and mouth marbles.

“Trevor, this is Mr. Meyers. The man I told you about?”

“Fuck him.” He spit into the toilet. “You, too. Sorry Lori, I can’t…” he broke into a coughing fit. “Tommy. Tommy S… I can’t talk, Lori. To nobody.”

She edged closer to the bathroom, turned her confused face my way.

“I told you he’d back out of it.” I wanted to rip the door off the bathroom, grab him by the throat, make him man up, but didn’t want to get that close to his cough and splatter routine. It’s also bad practice to thump a client’s sick boyfriend for being a jerk. At least in front of her.

While Lorelei pleaded with him, I went through his closet and dresser. One good, new suit and a pair of recently shined shoes in the closet. Socks, underwear, and a week’s worth of folded shirts with a cleaner’s band around them. His wallet was reasonably new, contained a Pennsylvania driving license, $311, and a receipt from a drugstore. After the fifteenth repetition of his “I can’t, Lori. It’s Tommy, I can’t” litany I stepped over, caught Lorelei’s arm. “He’s useless.” I raised my chin to the front door. “And we’re done.”

She backed away from the bathroom door, and Trevor reappeared. His macabre appearance enhanced by chunks and light orange stains on the front of his hooded bathrobe.

Outside, Lorelei paused in the breezeway to fumble her cigarette case open. She broke the first one on the way to her lips. I took the case away, held a cigarette up in front of her face. She took it, hand trembling; I lit it.

“Professional card man, you say?”

She nodded.

“Known him long?”

“A little over three years. I met him when I was finishing at Bryn Mawr.”

“I thought that was an ivy league college for women.”

“It is. I was out one night… A hotel party in Philadelphia. I was in the hall. He saw me.” She dropped her head, raised it back and further up at the inky sky. “He invited me into the room where he was playing cards.” The exhale was deep and slow. “For luck.” I let that and all it implied settle.

“He lives light.”

“He moves around a great deal.” She glanced back over her shoulder at Trevor’s door.

“Where’s his car?”

“He… He doesn’t own one.”

“How’s he get around?”

“Cabs, mostly. Except when he’s here and then I make arrangements for him.”

“Hmmm…” I took her cigarette away, hit it, returned it. “I could go back in, straighten him out.”

“No, please…” Her hand was on my arm again. Her eyes tired, bloodshot saucers.

“He’s hanging you out to dry, lady.”

“I didn’t kill my grandfather, Mr. Meyers, nor did I have anything to do with his death. I’m trusting you to prove that for me.”

DICHT!

I’ve mentioned I own this book. There are more Dicks inside than a whorehouse on Dollar Day. And there our story begins –

In the heyday of early to mid 20th Century detective stories, the private eye and legitimate detectives were called “dicks.” The etymology has many tangents, but the most believable to me is criminal slang from 1800’s England used “dick” to mean “to look or see”. Derived from the Gypsy word “dik” meaning the same. The activity of looking, possibly surreptitiously, was known as “dicking”. The descriptive noun for one who dicks is, no surprise, a dick.

I have been reading stories from The Black Mask, as well as Hammett and Chandler shorts. I would occasionally snicker aloud over some lines.

We’ll take your dick along so you don’t try to get wise – Your dick’s got quite a mouth on him – Who let that ugly dick in here – What’s the matter, dick? You not get enough of us earlier? – Come on, dick. Show us what you’ve got – the house dick was short and fat – that dick’s sure got a hard head – Watch your back. The last thing this department needs is another stiff dick – And those are the tip of the iceberg. (Unintentional pun)

I started thinking of all the ways dick gets used now. Much the same as fuck. Transitive and intransitive verb, noun, adverb, adjective, pronoun. Dick ‘em down, we got this dicked, he dicked her, she got dicked, stupid (etc) dick, don’t be a dick, just like a dick, dick, dick it, grow some dick, pencil dick, dickin’ off, dick breath, the test was dick hard, stiff as a dick.

Bearing in mind these various uses is it any wonder when we see a word or series of words that our minds slip straight into the gutter, or the locker room? I mean, come on, what’s the first thing that crossed your mind when you saw TubenASS?

Well, they got it dicht for you, right here.

NVDT Random – Housekeeping, Plagiarism, Dime Store Academics

Housekeeping – I went through the Manage Follows page a week or so ago. I don’t follow many, but there were things in there from 6 years ago. (I received my email anniversary congrats the other day). Most of them I haven’t heard from in years. Perhaps they got wise and got off the tube, who knows. In the process of killing those over a year old with no posts and a few where I was automatically hitting the like star for no reason, I did something where I cancelled everyone on the follow list. If you have seen yourself unfollowed and refollowed by me, I apologize. If you haven’t posted in a year, piss off. If I’ve been hitting the star for four years out of habit without so much as a thanks, by your leave or kiss my ass, you can piss off, too. Any old lost friends like Brian, c’est la vie.

Plagiarism – Someone asked why I have taken down the serial from SepSceneWrimo. For the same reason most of Bobby BMad Mods and The Great Kerrigan Bank Robbery are gone. They aren’t genius by a long shot, but no one ever accused thieves of being Einsteins. When I leave something up that lasts for more than a post Romania and Germany light up my page. I ran a couple of plagiarism checks and some of my stuff came back “would you like to translate this page?” So I’m out as the uncredited author of content for Dungheap Von Turdbreath’s Cyrillic blog.

Dime Store Academics – Look (I sound like one of my characters), I have the advantage/disadvantage of being married to a Ph.D. in Rhetoric. With a concentration in British Lit. Her MA is in American Lit. To which I always say, “Is there such a thing?” The house is full of overstuffed bookshelves and notated classics, and while she doesn’t care much for most fiction, or for me burning daylight writing, I have access to, and have lived through years of college because my wife thinks aloud. I used to tell people I had a second-hand Ph.D. in dead gay English poets. One of the advantages is that I can walk through a room innocently enough and have passages of brilliant lit read aloud. That can also be a disadvantage. I sat through the history of British Socialism, the Crafts Movement and the Pre Raphs in a large hall at Oxford because she wrote a book about William Morris’s writing, not the wallpaper. I’ve been to his freaking house. How much Pre Raph does a synthesizer guy need? You might be surprised by the commonalities across time and curriculums.

If I have a question about writing, what sort of word is this, what’s passive voice, what is this or that writing device I get the name of the rhetorical device (there are hundreds, thanks Aristotle) and an answer I don’t really understand. But I get one, or like a student I get sent to where I can find it. Chaucer or Dante or Milton or Shakespeare or Blake or Wollstonecraft or Byron and countless people I’ve never heard of, I get “Oh that was Dr. so and so’s class, that was Romanticism or some other cism, here’s a (two inch thick) book.”

During the time she authored her dissertation she was confused because all around her, her peers were writing trendy stuff. At the time it was chaos theory. Anybody remember that? No? I mentioned her confusion to a dean from a major university far from where she was in school. He said, “Tell her not to worry. Scholarship always trumps the fads.”

When I receive emails from the dime store cowboys and cowgirls about “tips to improve your writing” and it’s complete bullshit I get riled. I got one the other day where instead of suggesting one should improve their writing, they suggested continuity words like ‘then’ and a lot worse. Adding crap words and trite phases. The very words and phrases editors and publishers redline. The same formulaic hack bullshit that abounds in the pay-me-to-blow-smoke-up-your-ass “editors” out there.

My point is before you sign off on the latest trend or some internet jive, do yourself a favor. Pick up a Rhetoric handbook. Or a book written by a real author. There’s more to learn from them as know how than from them with their hands out.