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.




Lifting a Curse Part 4

Truth be told, the whipping set me back a lot worse than I thought. It always kicks in afterwards. People love to say, “You’ll feel THAT in the morning!” But it was more like a car wreck, the stiffness set in and lasted a week.

Anyhow, my instructions were clear. Go to Confession, make amends with two of my enemies, and avoid the third. As for the Confession…ah, well, if I recall right, the Priest always ends that with “Go and sin no more.” Let’s face it, that’s problematic, for any number of reasons that aren’t hard to figure out. That box remains unchecked.

As for the first two enemies? Well, this is where it gets interesting.

The first hates me because I bought something at an estate sale that should not have been for sale, and I ended up selling it for two grand. She’s been making my life hell ever since with nuisance lawsuits. The second one I must have rubbed wrong, which is really only a problem because she’s an assistant county prosecutor with some ambitions.

The first thing I did was go out on eBay and noodle around. I pulled up some old records, and was able to track down the gentleman who had bought the item in question. For the sake of the story, we’ll just call it a moss-covered three-handled family gradunza. The buyer is apparently undergoing a change in life, and is now selling off his gradunza collection. And out there for sale is the specific gradunza that has been the point of contention with the librarian, with like three days four hours and 23 minutes left on it. And apparently interest in gradunzas is falling, because it’s out there with zero bids on a starting price of $474.99, with only 2 people watching. So I was beside myself; couldn’t believe my luck. I had long since lost the two grand and then some on legal fees, but I was going to be able to get out of this for a lot less than the next visit to civil court.

I can’t tell you the mental agony, weighing the “Buy it Now” price of $699.99. I finally decided to put in a low bid and see what happened. One thing, I try to never panic. The other thing, the pain and anxiety of watching this thing was kind of an extension of the whipping the Hex’nmeisterin administered. It ended up coming to me for the minimum bid.

It arrived in good shape, and now came the question of how to deliver it. Take it to her house? No knowing whether she would be there, answer, or call the cops. And the latter might bring me into the clutches of enemy number two. Mail it to her? No, that would be too impersonal, and possibly show cowardice. Without context, what would she think?

Arrange a meeting at her lawyer’s? Not bad, but I really wanted to put her at ease, and that wasn’t going to happen at her lawyer’s. Plus no knowing if that prick was going to charge some billable hours to me. Call her and ask to meet her in public? It just seemed dodgy. So I decided to go that night to the library, and if she was working, give it to her right before the library closed. And if she wasn’t there, keep coming back until she was. That was her home turf, and everyone knew she was a librarian. It wasn’t really stalker-like.

So I found myself in the parking lot, out of sight under a tree, watching moths and bats flitting around a light. At 8:45, people were starting to leave. I gave one last look at the gradunza in its box, carefully picked it up off the car seat, and went in. She wasn’t at the checkout desk, so I circled around. No one gave me a second look. I found her in the children’s section, tiredly shelving returned books.

I looked at her for a little while, and she just looked defeated, like she was having a terrible day. And very possibly, this was her every day. A life of regrets or longing or empty dreams. Bad pay at a county job, a minor functionary in a dying institution. I couldn’t believe I had such animosity for someone who looked like life had kicked the sh1t out of them and sent them a dry-cleaning bill for the blood stains.

“Excuse me, Ms. XXXX?”

She looked up, smiling expectantly, and then frowned and stepped back when she saw me. “You!”, she spat.

I held up the box to show her, then set it on top of the low kids’ book shelf and took a step back, “This belongs to you.”

She looked back and forth between me and the box, uncomprehending.

“The box,” I said slowly, “Look in the box. It’s your gradunza.”

With a look of a woman in a dream, she stepped towards it and looked in. She started, obviously stunned, then gently lifted the gradunza out. She held it up, and slowly turned it around, inspecting it. Then she turned to me, and stammered, “Thank you!”

I smiled back, and said, “You’re welcome.” I took a deep breath, wanting to just walk away, but needing to say more. “I also want to apologize. I knew how much that meant to you, yet sold it anyway. It wasn’t the right thing to have done, and it’s put you through a lot. Now that I’ve tried to make amends, I was hoping we could just bury the hatchet. We don’t have to be friends, but at least let’s not be enemies any more.”

A tear slipped out, and she brushed it away, “Mr. Daley, I’d like nothing more than stop fighting!” She took another look at the gradunza and smiled, “This means more to me than you know. It’s…it’s…never mind. It’s just something that means a lot to me.”

She straightened up, “Now how much do I owe you?”

“Nothing! It’s yours!”

“No, no, I have to pay you back. It must have cost a fortune!”

“Not really. Prices have gone down, and I still made money on it.”

This went back and forth for a bit, and she finally insisted on paying me what I had bought it for years ago at the estate sale. There did seem to be some rough justice there, and she didn’t want charity, so I agreed. She went to get her purse, and somebody announced over the loudspeaker that the library was now closed. I made my way out front, and she came out, leaving someone else to lock up.

“Mr. Daley, can we at least go to Starbucks or something? I’d love a cup of coffee, and frankly it will be easier to write out a check on a table in a well-lighted place.”

“Sure! But you have to call me Finnegan.”

So we went around the corner to Starbucks, and had an amiable chat over venti mochas. She had left the gradunza in the car, and her gaze kept going out the window. She was distracted by the thought of her gradunza, and before long we were running out of words. We finally parted ways with a handshake, exchange of business cards, and a friendly wave. She really looked much better than she had at 8:45.

I drove home the back way, window down and the air ruffling my hair, the screeching of the katydids in the trees louder than the road noise. There was a huge weight lifted, as if the curse were breaking down around the edges, getting ready to crack and fall away.

And soon my thoughts turned to the time I had spent out on {DATING APP FOR CASUAL HOOKUPS}, setting up a profile, scoping out a certain prosecutor. As I drove, I worked through some details of my plan to fix things with her. Tonight was a great success, and I felt the promise of better things to come.