The Rally (Six Word Story 898)

Un-ironically, they played the Starwars theme.


Lifting a Curse (Part 6)

Holy Schmidt, Creepers! What a week it’s been. The cage match in San Berdoo fell through. My opponent, a guy as old as me who shall remain nameless yet is wildly popular in certain parts of Asia, went into some kind of organ failure and had to pull out for dialysis and perhaps a transplant or two. Got a bad batch of steroids or human growth hormone or something.

So they were trying to dig up anyone to fight me, and they were scraping the bottom of the barrel. First it was some MMA broad. But I wasn’t having any of that. First, I don’t hit women, and second, even if offered a ton of money there is NO POSITIVE OUTCOME to fighting a lady. Either you win, and everyone shrugs it off as expected. Or worse, she beats you into the ground and you become a laughing stock. They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, but they’re wrong. Especially when I’m trying to build a mystique here.

So then they were trying to go through this extensive Rolodex of possibilities for an amusement match. A veritable who’s who of one-hit wonders and washed up TV personalities who needed cash. There was some guy who had been a neighbor on the “Brady Bunch”, another one who had been on “Mork and Mindy”. The drummer for a band whose one song gives you an instant and insufferable earworm. The ex-husband of a rather famous entertainer. Those sort of people. My favorite was an actual former pro athlete who had doped out of the sport and was now selling insurance door-to-door in his home town. Other than that guy, who would have been a tough nut to crack, I was going to look like Jerry Lawler smacking down Andy Kaufman.

But then the unthinkable happened, and the whole studio got busted. In addition to televising sketchy cage matches, they were hosting weird animal fights. Roosters against snakes, three-legged coyotes against a dumpster full of rats. Anything for ratings, I suppose. But they should’ve been smart about it, and based themselves out of Turmenistan or something. Not California. So the cops swept in and rolled up the entire operation.

So here I was, schedule cleared and a couple weeks’ worth of clean living to erase. As soon as I heard, I busted open a carton of Dunhills, hoisted a tumbler of Johnnie Walker Gold Label, and called up Parquette. She helped ease my sorrows.

So Wednesday night, we were sitting around enjoying beef bourguignon with a crusty bread and a Bordeaux red, when the phone rang. It was the librarian.

“Hello? Mr. Daley?!? It’s {NAME REDACTED}. Can you hear me?!?”


“You have to help me!” She was whispering in the phone, sounding genuinely terrified.

I sat up straighter, and put my glass down. “What is it?”

“I’m…well, I’m at a trailer out in the country, and there is a man raping a woman. Hitting her. It’s horrible!”

“Did you call 911?!?!”

“Yes, but the line is busy!”

“Hold on!” I said, turning to Parquette, “You have the number for any cops? I mean, their cell phones or something?”

“Sure, why?” When I told her, she whipped out her phone. “Where is this?”

“Where are you at?” I asked, scrambling around the kitchen for a pen and paper. When she told me, the address sounded familiar. Real familiar. I handed the phone over to Parquette, and gave her the pen and half of the paper. She started asking a series of questions as I headed to my everyday computer. The one wired up to my own internet.

As I listened to Parquette reeling off information to a cop friend, I looked up the address on Mapquest. As soon as I saw the place come up, I realized why it sounded familiar. It was the address of my old nemesis’ secret lair, the trailer owned by the strip club owner. The one I ripped a nail out of wearing a Ghillie suit. It was all of ten minutes away.

Parquette was just finishing up the call with the cop, and I could hear a siren starting up just before she hang up. “Let’s go!” she said.

We got there maybe two minutes after the cop, and he already had my nemesis in cuffs. He was wrapped in an old parka, to hide the fact he was naked, and being led to the cop car.

We were there for hours, and it was horrible. I got the story between bits and pieces of overhearing, and from a later run-down from Parquette while we sat in my car, getting warm. It seems my nemesis had been “auditioning” a young Russian girl, one who was clearly being trafficked, and she wasn’t having any of that. She had thought she was coming to the US to be a nanny, and had balked when she found out what the true nature of the work was. My nemesis had clearly since slid downwards from being a t1tty bar owner to a pimp, and he decided to beat her into submission before forcibly driving home his point about where she stood in this world. The librarian had come up as all this was starting to go down, and had run back to her car.

As you know, she tried unsuccessfully to call 911, and the only other number she had in the area was on the card I had given her. The cop hadn’t come in time to completely save the girl, but had certainly saved her from an on-going life of servitude. And she would be safe from my nemesis for the next 25 years. At least 15, if he showed evidence of good behavior. The parade of evidence techs and rape crisis workers would see to that.

“So what was the librarian doing there, anyhow?” I asked, perplexed. It was hard to imagine what had prompted her to stop at a trailer on a remote parcel of land in the middle of nowhere.

“She was involved in a business deal of some sort with the suspect, and he texted this address to her.”

“Business deal?”

“It was a private sale of some sort,” she looked at her notes, “A gradunza, in fact.”

“Gradunza?!?” I was shocked, “Can I talk to her?”

Parquette looked dubious, then relented, “She’s your friend. She called you. Go ahead.”

As I got out of the car, she added, “Don’t mess up this case, ok? Don’t play cop.” I muttered my agreement and headed over to her car. She was inside, engine running, staring over the dashboard. As I came up, she rolled down her window. “Mind if I get in? It’s cold out here.”

She nodded mutely and rolled the window back up. I heard the doors unlock as I walked around to the passenger side.

“You okay?”

She nodded, still saying nothing.

“You did the right thing, calling.”

“That poor girl!” she said, sniffling, “I wish I had….had a gun or something!”

“No, you did the right thing, calling the cops. Calling me.”

“I suppose you know?”


“About the gradunza.” I nodded, knowing that she would be forced to fill up the silence by talking.

“I needed the money, ok?” I nodded, waiting for more.

“I’m sixty years old, and I have no one, and the county pays a pittance,” she said bitterly, “The only thing my family ever had of value was that gradunza. And they sold it at an estate sale!” She shook her head angrily.

“But what’s it worth?” I asked, “I sold it for two grand, when the economy was hopping. And bought it back for $475 just a few weeks ago.”

She laughed bitterly, as she pulled the gradunza from a box, and turned it over. She turned on the dome light, “See here, Mr. Daley? Cartier. A true Cartier. A museum piece.”

I whistled, wondering what this thing was worth. A hundred g’s? Half a million? “Why not sell it to a museum then?”

“You see, my grandfather came from Sebastopol. He was a merchant, a White Guardsman. Once civil war broke out, he fled with a suitcase. All he had was a few jewels, and this gradunza, which was stolen. The Russian government is looking to get it back, see? So I could only sell it in a private sale. Under the table, so to speak.” She almost seemed a little proud of herself, having probably pieced together the plan while reading a Raymond Chandler novel.

Most everything came into focus then. I had always thought her a bit of a nutcase, obsessing over this minor piece of family kitsch, when in fact she was chasing a family fortune. Hence the lawsuits, and the complaints, and harassment. This gradunza was her ticket to a better life. Greed may be ugly, but I certainly can’t fault anyone for it, being in its thralls myself.

“I suppose I may lose it now,” she said, sadly.

“Maybe,” I said, “You never know what will come out in court. But I doubt it. There’s nothing any cops are interested in other than assault, battery, and rape. Have they asked about taking the gradunza as evidence?” She shook her head. “So look,” I continued, “This thing has been missing for what, 97 years now? And whoever used to own it is long dead. And their heirs are long dead. Long since executed by the Bolsheviks. Right?”

“That’s true!”

“So do you think anyone even knows whose it is at this point? And even if they did, do you think they have any receipts from like 1880 to prove it?”


“So just take it into Charlotte tomorrow. Find the biggest art dealer you can, and ask for help selling it. They’ll put it up for auction, and you’ll get the best bid. I’m telling you, I know some dodgy characters. Shady guys who can sell pretty much anything. But you’d be in over your head with these guys. Hell, I barely think I’d get 25 cents on the dollar for what that thing might be worth. You’d be lucky if you got ten cents on the dollar. Or even worse, a bullet to your head.”

“Oh, my!”

“Look, I don’t mean to scare you, but you gotta do this thing right. If you keep running around chasing guys with suitcases of cash, you’ll end up dead in the trunk of a rental car out by the airport. Doing it the right way is safer. If the gradunza does belong to someone else, it’s not like they will press charges. You just lose it, and you’ll be no worse off than you are today. But chances are title is so murky that you will be in the clear. And it will sell, and you’ll make a tidy profit. For all you know, your family lore is a bunch of bunk your grandpa spun to make his exit from Russia look more romantic.”

“He was a minor baronet of some sort. Educated in France and all.”

“See? And Cartier was French anyhow. So just sell it openly, and let the chips fall where they may.”

She nodded, convinced, “Thank you, Mr. Daley!”

I was going to say my goodbyes and leave, but then a question came, “One thing I don’t get. How come he had you come here?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I can understand why he didn’t want you to come to his house. Or to his place of business. But why have you come here, when he was, shall we say, otherwise occupied? Why not just meet you at a Denny’s?”

She just shook her head, “This is the address he texted, that’s all. He was just so RUDE.”

“Can I see your phone?”

She unlocked it and handed it over, mutely. The last text message was from her, “Be there at 8 pm.” Scrolling up, the address. There were a few odd messages from him that said things like “The other place”, “Where we met last time”, “The country place”, and “Jesus Christ you know the place and time and I just texted it to you AGAIN five minutes ago”. Then I saw the original message from my librarian friend, and it all became clear, “Hello! I can bring by the little Russian beauty. What time is good for you?”

I re-read the message train, and laughed. While my librarian was texting the scumbag about the gradunza, he was also getting texts from a business associate about this poor Russian girl. The two text conversations were getting mixed up by the scumbag, and he gave the librarian the wrong address and time to meet. The other guy must have been a little ahead of schedule or the librarian behind, and she showed up just as things got nasty. Typical. Brought down by lack of attention to detail. The only thing that would have been better is if he had done himself in with a butt-dial.


So here it stands with the curse. Three enemies turned into one friend, one lover, and one jailbird. Curse broken, and it looks like happy days are here again.