Calexico (Six Word Story 895)

The sniffer dogs suddenly stiffened, barking.

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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?!?”

“Yeah?”

“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?”

“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?”

“No!”

“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.

Sincerely,

Finnegan

https://finnegandaley.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/lifting-a-curse-5/

https://finnegandaley.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/lifting-a-curse-part-4/

https://finnegandaley.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/lifting-a-curse-part-3/

https://finnegandaley.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/lifting-a-curse-part-2/

https://finnegandaley.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/lifting-a-curse-part-1/

Lifting a Curse (Part 2)

OK, Creepers. The saga continues. If you didn’t read Part 1 of this series, scroll down first. it’s just a few posts below.

So The Messenger had given me my marching orders, straight from the Hexenmeisterin. I had to get something personal from whoever was cursing me, and bring it along. And here’s the problem. Enemies, I got. Lots of ’em. Earned many of ’em fair and square, being a right selfish ba$tard. So I had to run through the list, and it was a doozy. But some could be scratched off. The ex-wives have plenty of reason to hate me, yet we all rise and fall together unless one of them hits it big. Wins the lottery or whatever. So they might gloat on a personal level at my misfortunes, as long as they are just personal to me. Like getting the clap, or crashing one of my fun cars, or getting non-fatally stung by a swarm of enraged ground bees. They wouldn’t want me arrested or ruined or killed.

I’ve got some business associates who might hold a grudge, but these guys don’t do curses. They would just pull the Italian Rope Trick on me and drop my body off at a friendly funeral parlor for an off-the-books cremation. Maybe mix the ashes with baking soda and using it to cut an unexpectedly strong batch of heroin.

There have been a number of fist fights over the years, but generally those people had no idea who I was even before I pummeled them into a concussion. And I make a point of getting the hell out of there to avoid the inconvenience of a long conversation with the local constables. Guys whose women I had taken, then cast off when done with them? They would have done something long ago if they really cared.

There were a few stray cats here and there, people I had crossed years ago back in Youngstown, but somehow curses don’t strike me as things that work long distance. This goes all the more so for people overseas. I seem to recall that black magic can’t cross salt water. There were some other possibilities, but they were just to remote to be worth following up on. If some random person were obsessed with me and wished me ill, then there’s not much I can do about figuring that out, much less getting a personal object from them.

So this exhaustive cataloging led me to three suspects. Number one, an assistant county prosecutor who would book me for conspiracy to commit felony jaywalking with a minor, if she could. Number two, a t1tty bar owner who put knockout pills in my drink, presumably in an effort to rob me, and ended up making himself look really stupid. Number three, a harmless looking librarian who has been hauling me into court for civil charge after civil charge, all stemming back to a very good deal I got at an estate sale when I first moved down South. Apparently the item I purchased wasn’t supposed to be sold. She claimed some sentimental value, but wanted to simply refund me the price I had paid versus the amount I could (and did) get on eBay. And that quick two grand was some hard earned cash, based on all the hassle it’s bought me these past few years.

So yesterday I started on my trek to obtain personal items from these three. Thursday was an auspicious day for me. You see, I normally fast the last Wednesday and Thursday of each month. It’s a long story, but years ago I fell into this after a chance reading of “The Spiritual Exercises” by St. Ignatius Loyola. It provoked a discussion with Milton, the defrocked priest who was the business manager at my sh1tty little newspaper, The North Coast Free Press. One thing led to another, and he finally double-dog-dared me, and I was on a two day fast from everything but water and medicine. No booze, no tobacco, no food, no weed, no coffee or juice, no non-prescription pills, no sniffing glue, nothing. By agreement, I could still have sex though; the prohibition was on putting things in my body, not a prohibition on me putting things in someone else’s body.

And I loved it. At first, there were headaches and irritability from stopping smoking. And hunger pangs. Light headedness from low blood sugar. And even on occasion, I believe some mild delirium tremens. I would just obsess about a certain song, playing it over and over, while Milton or someone would try to talk to me and I ignored them. I’d laugh, I’d cry, I’d rage, I’d rant on some obscure point for hours at a time. I felt somehow wild, and strong, and brilliantly powerful. Then I would go through a low, and sometimes shake, and think about gin and tonic, maybe cry a little; until the high hit me again and I was belting out the lyrics to “Anything Anything” by Dramarama over and over and over again. (Reference 1).

And by time Friday morning rolled around, I’d be ready for a ceremonial breakfast. It was always the same, and remains the same. I whip up a four-cup espresso pot of Cafe Bustelo with sorghum sugar, have a tin of kippered herrings laid out in a cross-hatch pattern on a heavily buttered piece of toast, follow up with two eggs over easy (salted and peppered, naturally), and then end it all with a dessert of two Dunhills and a shot of Fernet-Branca. It is a clean ritual, one that helps affirm that I am the master of my own destiny. Sure, I can be led around by the nose the other 28 or 29 days of the month, but on the last Wednesday and Thursday, I am master over my needs, desires, predilections, addictions and afflictions. And then I return back to the filth, and it starts all over again.

But on Wednesday and Thursday, I was on the top of my game. The assistant county prosecutor was in theory an easy mark, a divorced lady about town who eats out nearly every meal, and on a predictable schedule. The same breakfast at the same diner, lunch at one of four places, and dinners generally dictated by the guys she meets on {DATING APP FOR CASUAL HOOKUPS}. So I hit her up first at breakfast. I put on some light disguise; a gray wig, farmer clothes, and replaced my typical glasses with wire-rims rocking some tape around the frame. I sat at the counter, as did Fat Danny, but further down.

The assistant prosecutor was with her friends, or should I say her posse, a mix of women that were in part bound to her by affection, and in part by the possibility that one day she would be State Attorney General or even Governor. They were talking loudly, ignoring everyone around them. Classic attention whores. (Reference 2).

Well, the diner was a bit hot, and my mark took off her jacket and draped it over her chair. Seeing a likely chance, I gave Fat Danny a pre-arrranged signal, wiping my face with a red and white checked handkerchief. Immediately he stood up, grabbing his throat, and making dramatic choking and wheezing noises. Suddenly this sleepy diner became attentive, all eyes on Fat Danny as he staggered back and forth, everyone expecting someone else to make the first move. Suddenly a man jumped up and grabbed Fat Danny from behind and began to thrust, for all the world looking like a frantic prison rapist working his way to orgasm on the new fish before the guards can run back and save him. I mean, this motherfuc7er was motivated!

As soon as he jumped up, everyone else followed, and soon there was a crowd around Fat Danny, who had wisely put a huge piece of country fried steak in his mouth, and his savior. Danny hammed it up, rubbing his throat and gushing thanks upon the man, who was actually humble in a completely authentic manner. I took advantage of the excitement to go over to my mark’s table, and pull a long blond hair off of her jacket, and pack it in a Mason Jar. “Gotcha!”, I thought.

The librarian was dead easy. That was my next stop. Since we had been battling in court for years, I had studied her and knew that she visited her parents’ graves at the end of July each year. They had died in a car wreck in the early nineties, and were buried next to each other in an Episcopal cemetery. She always brought flowers, which were left to dry out and go to seed until the cemetery cleaned up at the end of summer. I pre-empted this cleanup, and by noon had some epic desiccated roses in a Mason Jar. They reminded me of the cover of “American Beauty” by the Grateful Dead. (Reference 3).

Last was the strip bar owner. He was a tough nut to crack. The strip bar was an old converted warehouse, with his office up on the second floor. The stairs were almost like a fire escape running down the inside of the building, and could be seen by everyone from the dancers to the patrons to the bouncers. No luck getting in there while the place was open without doing some major external B&E. His house was out in the suburbs, and nothing special, but the cars were locked in the double garage, and he had a wife and kids. There was the soft glow of the television visible from the back yard, as it was tuned to “Jessie” and several other Disney shows one right after the other. And no luck on the clothes line, apparently he and his family had entered the nineteen seventies and used a clothes dryer.

After some time fruitlessly sitting in the dark, I remembered that he had a trailer set aside in a park that was in between this suburban paradise and his hellhole of a strip bar. He used it fairly often, to “audition” young ladies who were new to the area and considering a career in the exotic dancing arts. They usually passed after half an hour, at the most, and he was clearly quite attached to it.

So well after 2 am on Thursday night (or, I guess you could say, 2 am Friday morning), I snuck up on his place in a Ghillie suit, a claw hammer in hand, and pulled a nail out of the decrepit wooden steps running up to the trailer. These stairs were falling apart as it was, and would hardly be less structurally sound if I liberated one thirty year old nail from the rotted wood. It didn’t seem like the kind of place where you would want to run a security video, but it amused me to no end to image him reviewing security footage of a clump of grass rising up with a hammer, yanking one nail, and then fading away into the night, never to be seen again. That would be the kind of sh1t that would give most people nightmares, if they had any inkling it was going on.

So here I sit, with something personal from three very determined enemies. I have also grabbed some items precious to me. The first is a belt that I was wearing the day my first child was born. It still fits somehow, even with the muffin top it makes around my stomach. I have a rosary that used to belong to my great-grandmother, and possibly came from her mother before her. It’s dark wood, and is worn from decades of prayer. I had my youngest daughter use it this afternoon to pray a rosary, to renew its power, on the theory that the good lord listens to the prayers of virgins. And there is more, to include a knife that belonged to my Dad, a shot glass that my Grandpa brought back from Okinawa, and a Gideon’s Bible that I stole from an hourly rate motel the night I lost my virginity at age 13. It’s unlikely that many people would have had the presence of mind to grab the Good Book at a moment like that, but I am proud to say that I did, and have had the sense to keep it ever since.

And I have payment; pure gold and silver bought in ingots at pawn shops and online. As I said, this has been a terrible year. If the Hex’nmeisterin can help me break the curse, it will be funds well spent.

More to follow soon!

Sincerely,

Finnegan

Reference 1. This song is worth listening to. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Azj_AjdNWwY

Reference 2. Information on Attention Whores can be found at http://blowmeuptom.com/ask-your-professor-avoiding-the-attention-whores-and-the-dreamkillers/

Reference 3. Many of you may not know about the Grateful Dead due to your age. Overview on Wikipedia, link to music on YouTube:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Beauty_%28album%29

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=grateful+dead+american+beauty+playlist