Chapter 25

Like the sound of a fog horn in the distance, I could hear Bobby barking orders to his men – “dammit O’Malley! don’t be movin’ the furniture until DiMartini’s taken all his pictures!” And just like the swell of sea fog spreading over deserted beach, his voice receded as I realized I was being gently led downstairs.

“If memory serves me correctly young lady, your sister has a fairly decent stash of hooch somewhere in…bingo!”

Still lingering and lost in a haze of shock and disbelief at the scene upstairs, I watched PI Guy reach into a cabinet in the corner of Jenn’s dining room and pull out a silver bottle. I found my way to the couch in the living room, sat down. Feeling the oversized cushions reaching for my back, I suddenly felt really tired. The kind of tired you feel after driving an 800 mile marathon road trip with only one stop. No. No resistance. I gave in to the comfort of those cushions and let my body ease back into their soft embrace, eyes closing.

“This will do quite nicely.” Reluctantly, I opened my eyes. Roger was standing over me, silver bottle in one hand, shot glass in the other. “Nothing like a good shot of tequila to clear the cobwebs, right? Am I right?”

Was he doing his best to lighten the mood? Distract me? Prisoner to the moment, I semi-smiled and said “Sure”.

Noticing the bottle he was holding and watching him expertly fill the glass, my smile grew a little bigger. Jenn’s parties were legendary. Everything top shelf, liquor not withstanding. It was all or nothing with my sister. “Live for today!” she’d say. “It’s all that matters!”

This day was getting way too surreal. I hadn’t even noticed Roger was still talking. “…and did you know Patrón has nine different lines of tequila? They’ve even got a tequila-chocolate-coffee blend, Patrón XO Cafe Dark Cocoa. Wild, isn’t it?” I shook my head slowly, side to side, up and down, as if I’d already had a few shots under my belt.

“Hm….think I’ve heard something about it….”

The first one went down without protest. A little surprising considering it was early afternoon and the “any time is a good time” days are long time residents in the “memory motel” of my youth. Who in God’s name invited Mr. Dali to this party….

Roger’s voice was a buzzing in the background. What was really keeping my attention was the rumble and commotion upstairs. Of policmen looking for clues and tagging evidence. As much as I tried, I couldn’t pretend it was the sound of pre-teen girls practicing the latest dance moves. In spite of impending and certain inebriation, hell, maybe because of it, my brain went to my niece Kendra’s 13th birthday party.

My niece had begged her mom to let her do something big.  “You only turn 13 once Mom!”, she’d say. Jenn had feigned serious contemplation over her daughter’s request for weeks. In the end? Kendra invited 20 of her “closest friends” to a weekend long slumber/dance party. Damn. I never had a party even come close to that. Hell, never even had a 13th birthday party.

(this is some kinda smooth tequila) My private revery continued…I’d been working in London the 3 months prior to Kendra’s birthday. Business being business, it became pretty clear it wouldn’t be concluded before the big day. Contracts and negotiations don’t recognize milestone life events. Publicity appearances don’t wait for a more convenient time. But I didn’t want to, nor would I, miss my niece celebrate her official first day as a teenager. I took the red eye out of London, surprised the crap out of everyone and had the best time I can remember with Jenn, Kendra and 20 of Kendra’s “closest friends”.

“Hey, History Man. I love that you’re so knowledgable about what we’re drinking and all, but can you give me a minute? You know. To chill?”

I extended my arm. “Hit me again big man. Hit me again”.

 

 

Chapter 24

Finally, a return on all those BodyCombat classes I took at my Gold’s Gym. I’m not talking Shaun T here, just your regular old, mixed martial arts kinda workout. It’s what got me up the stairs twice as fast as my PI Guy. Hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

As I hung a quick left at the top of the stairs, barely dodging an ill placed laundry basket of humongous proportions (Sis is no Martha Stewart in the homekeeping department) I stopped dead in my tracks just outside of Jenn’s bedroom. Fuck. Yeah…no kidding we needed to see this. What sick ass motherfucker….?! Amazing what a little adrenalin will do for one’s vocabulary. As if on cue, Roger just as vehemently vocalized pretty much what I was thinking. Just as he finished…

“What the hell did I tell you! You two were supposed to stay downstairs. Not up here contaminating evidence, messing with my crime scene.”

“Excuse me Bobby?! Your crime scene? Jenn’s my sister and in case you forgot this is my private investigator. I have every right to be here. (I refrained from adding “you pompous ass”) In fact, we were here first. We’re the ones who called you!  Why don’t you take it down a notch and try not to get your panties in a bunch.”

“Don’t start with me Janice. Don’t start.”

“Yo! Bob. Don’t mean to interrupt your love fest, but we got some serious shit to deal with. Why don’t you and Janice save it for a late night dinner or something. Me, I want to find out who the hell did this. The sooner we do that, the sooner we find Jenn.”

The “this” was huge, red lettering scrawled at eye level across Jenn’s vanilla colored walls. It read:

WHORES AT HEART ARE HATEFUL BITCHES. SINS OF THE MOTHER ARE SINS OF THE DAUGHTER.

I looked at Bobby who was looking at me with his cop’s eye. Sad. He and I had a thing once. Close. Now? I wasn’t feeling the connection. The one that had always been there. Had he changed? Or maybe it was me. Maybe I had changed. Where did the trust go? Does all the good of the past eventually get eaten by the mediocrity of the day to day?

Suddenly, I was feeling it. The weight of the pressure. Of waking up to the day when my sister’s past became my present. It was almost unbearable. Almost. For all the outward Molly Ringwald Breakfast Club, on the inside I was Linda Hamilton in Terminator. Building her arsenal. There’s never been anyone I could truly lean on. Never been anyone to see, really see when I needed a shoulder. Fuck it. It is what it is.

“Um… Janice? What’s going on in there?”  Roger. My newly hired well meaning, self serving, funny, smartass private detective was now standing 2 inches from my face. “You good? Listen. I need you to take a closer look at this. Maybe you recognize the writing? Is there anyone you can think of capable of doing this? Anyone who might have a reason to do this? A jilted ex lover of Jenn’s with a few screws loose?  I really need you to think.”

“Yeah, and I need a drink.”

Thanks…

Good morning.

Finally…a September morning that genuinely feels like a September morning. The heat and humidity have left the premises, the sky is a perfect blue, and we can shut off the AC unit(s) that consume (s) most of my meager income. At least for now.

August here in New England was actually quite mild. No one’s complaining, but the Big Global Weather Pattern did circle back around for a last- minute reminder. I’m a Fall guy, not a Summer guy. The leaves are showing the first signs of turning.

I think I might acknowledge this weather shift  today with a drive out to River Bend Farm in Uxbridge, Mass. Miles and miles of hiking trails in and around the beautifully repurposed Blackstone River canal. A site once extensively used by the local re-enactment community, I’ve spent many a fall morning playing an elaborate military chess game in these woods. A great many fond memories.

I’d also like to take a moment to offer a few words of appreciation to the ( to date ) 41 subscribers to the Rag. I have never purposefully done anything to increase or garner additional readership, which means that all of you are here of your own accord. I tremendously honor and appeciate that, and would not have it any other way. Thank you for taking the time, especially in a world that offers so very many distractions.

The detective novel is going a bit slowly at the moment. I hope to have it revived and proceeding forward again shortly. At last look, a third active character had been introduced,  a police detective with possibly ulterior motives. If any of you 41 readers feel so inclined, you are invited to offer something of your own to the project. Just post your entry as a comment to the current chapter. If it works in the context, I’ll post it as is. If not, I’ll explain why it didn’t quite get there. It’s fun, in a uniquely terrifying way.

And special thanks also to Girlieontheedge for her excellent development of Janice. Hope there’s more to follow.

And once again, thanks for checking in.

I’m off to the hiking trails, hopefully.

 

 

Chapter 23…

You know that funny awkward feeling thing when a whole roomful of people are all surprised at once, and no one knows what just happened?

Yeah, that.

He really tried to act as if seeing me was the surprise, and he sort of overplayed that.  So did I. Fair enough.

This was the guy who used to do PD stakeouts with Jenn in her old days, and showed up to take her out to lunch now and then.

I half expected him to show up on this anyway, but not quite this fast. What, only one plainclothes guy on the payroll in North Smithfield?And usually, plainclothes guys don’t even respond to 911’s. The uniforms take those. That means he heard it coming in, and suddenly decided to do someone else’s job.

So, that’s weird.

But that was nothing compared to Janice. She looked like she just swallowed a tennis ball.

You know that funny awkward feeling when two people are forced to acknowledge each other, but would obviously rather die a horrible death?

Yeah, that.

Not necessarily weird, just complicated. Exactly what this little scenario needed.

So how did he know that she knew that Jenn knew, and when exactly did they all know that, and maybe they never knew it, and found something out just now. And  whatever the hell that is, what’s that got to do with anything anyway?

Oh, yeah, right again. That’s my  job.

Except now maybe it’s his job too. But my job was definitely focused on Jenn, so I decided to let them field one another uncomfortably, and godspeed.  If there was anything pertinent there, it might just surface in the next few minutes. Might be helpful.

The questions were taking her back a few steps. Further than they ought to, I thought. And he was being oddly aggressive in his style, too. Almost trying to overwhelm her. To keep her from answering anything at all? Why?

I decided right there that I absolutely did not like this guy. This was a very inappropriate way to gather facts at a 911 call. He seemed to have come in the door with a few presumptions. Very unprofessional. Very personal. Why?

As if being called “Bobby” when you’re in your mid-forties wasn’t bad enough. I found myself hoping that she might throw up on his shoes, too.  Maybe dislodge the tennis ball and watch it bounce off his forehead.

It was fun to visualize, at least.

The poor thing. She really was having a miserable go of it.

So…seeing as how professionalism had already gone out the window, I decided to pitch in. I interrupted him.

” Bobby, excuse me, but what the hell, man? She called me. She’s worried about her sister. She’s  looking for Jenn. And maybe her daughter, too. And… a guy just ran down the stairs and out the front door a few minutes ago. Probably six foot, 200 lbs., grey hoodie on. See him down the street on the way in, maybe? He would have been the one trying to run at sixty miles an hour. As opposed to the other guys in grey hoodies just doing twenty.”

” Thanks, rent-a-cop, we’ re all set.”

What I wouldn’t give for a tennis ball. A lethal weapon, when inserted into a sinus cavity.

We stared at each other for a few seconds, determining what the ultimate cost of this might be. Or at least I was. Bobby was probably trying to recall if he’d had Frosted Flakes or Cocoa Puffs for breakfast.

” Frosted Flakes, Bob. Definitely. They’re greeattt.”

” What did you just say?”

Greeattt.

” Fucking weirdo. Just stay out of the way.”

And just as I was about to dig in just a little deeper, a voice from the top of the stairs.

” Hey Bobby, you’re going to want to see this.”

He looked at the both of us. ” You just stay right here a minute. Don’t move.” And took the stairs two at a time.

Janice and I glanced quickly at one another, and immediately started up the stairs behind him. So much for the integrity of a potential crime scene. But not to worry.

Fucking Bobby was all set with that.

Chapter 22

Oh boy…just my luck…

“Bobby! It’s been a long time man. How’s it going?”

I stood frozen, hoping my jaw wasn’t really hanging open. You know the saying “its’ a small world?” I watched Bobby Giancarlo stride up the driveway. All 6′ 2″.  3  years later, he was still gorgeous, still giving me those butterfly feelings in the pit of my stomach. Just a little, but damn! they were there just the same. Only now, my ex lover is here, at Jenn’s house, on official business. Never in my wildest dreams could I have thought that would or could ever happen.

Roger already had his hand extended – guys don’t hug – and was shaking Bobby’s hand.

“Roger. Been good. Can’t complain. You know, same ole same ole.”

“Janice”. He said my name. Not as a question, as a statement. Almost curtly. And definitely not in the way I was once used to him saying my name. In his soft baritone. In his “after sex” voice – commanding and gentle, playful and affectionate all at the same time. In the afterglow, when the both of us would  lay there thinking “let’s just lie here tangled up in a world that’s all good”….No, no afterglow happening here.

“Hi Bobby”.

Bobby turned to the other detectives and gave them instructions to go through the house room by room. I couldn’t ignore the sudden flash of arousal. Damn bad timing, shake it off! This is serious shit. And no doubt going to get worse before it gets better. I resisted the urge to hit speedial on my phone. Resisted the urge to call my attorney to come rescue me. Besides, I knew Delia was in LA. No help there.

“So who wants to go first?” Roger and I looked at each other. I could see lingering surprise in his face after he realized that I also knew Bobby. And I’m pretty sure he could tell that it hadn’t been in a casual kind of way. You didn’t need to be a private detective to figure that one out.

“Janice is missing Bobby. I hired Roger to help me find her.”

“Why didn’t you call the police if you thought she was missing?” So Bobby. Get right to the point Bobby. Don’t beat around the bush Bobby. And why not. He was just doing his job.

Go figure – one of those well avoided moments of truth, had pulled up to 735 Leona Dr. and stepped out of a black Crown Vic (thanks a lot Karma, thanks a lot). Now my PI was most likely going to hear a tale that on face value is a little on the, shall we say, dramatic side. The Spenster is no doubt going to get an earful. He’ll hear a story and think “uh, oh. DQ”. Which is so not me. Was never me until I met Bobby. Let her rip Karma. Let her rip.

Shifting my feet as much as my eyes, I realized a part of me was hoping not to scare away my newly acquired, and now, not so Private Investigator. I don’t know exactly why, but I didn’t want Roger to leave with a bad taste in his mouth. Not before he heard the whole story. My story. A story he was now apparently waiting for me to begin. Except the part I know he’s waiting for is the part of the story that will come out after we find Jenn. The part that really matters. The part that will come “later”. If there is a “later”. Right now I had to recount everything that happened up until and since I realized my sister had gone missing.

“Is that everything Janice? You haven’t left anything out? Do you have any idea why someone would trash Jenn’s house? Why someone would steal her car? Do you know if she was into anything illegal? Did she piss someone off? Did she hook up with the wrong guy? A criminal? There. There it was. I could hear it in Bobby’s voice. The accusation, the distrust. They call it “transference” in shrinkspeak. When you unconsciously, almost accusingly, attribute qualities of one person to someone else. Without cause or justification, without being based on fact. Bobby was surely “transferring” a whole lot of shit right now and only I knew where it was coming from.

This is going to be one long-assed day.

 

Brief Intermission…

Just a quick break in the story to deliver some sad news….

Johnny Winter passed away yesterday while touring in Europe.

Johnny’s first album for Columbia Records in 1969 still sits in my car’s cd changer. Has been in my regular rotation one way or another for 45 years.

I spent much time in my youth trying to figure out how Johnny did what he did. ( Spoiler alert; thumbpick, no flatpick ) Those lightning- fast blues runs that weren’t all sloppy and disorganized, the way everyone else’s were. Clean and articulate, but with just enough drive and grit to …well…totally re-direct the evolvement of blues guitar.

That’s what he did. And sang like holy hell, too.

A few years back, I added a resonator guitar to my toybox, pushed everything else to one side, and for two years concentrated on learning to play slide. Spent about a year working on Johnny’s ” Dallas.” Got closer, learned a lot, but ultimately had to admit that even a well- meaning moderately talented guy like me can always look in the limo windows, tap on the glass and wave, but those doors ain’t ever going to open up. I just don’t have that…thing…that magical energy, the drive, the soul. I can feel it, coming from a guy like Johnny, and that gives some people the illusion that they could get there too.

Not in this lifetime, Sparky. Just accept it and move on. I can break down and analyze every note Johnny ever played, but that is actually a different subject altogether.

Johnny had that exemplary quality. Has it still. And most people don’t.

But they can listen, and feel it too, through a guy like Johnny Winter. That’s really what he was here for.

So,  in closing, I would just like to register a formal thank you.

To Johnny Winter, for living a hard life that also drew out that incredible depth of soul. And made American blues all the better for it.

And for all of us.

 Special thanks to Denise (aka Janice DiFranco) from Girlieontheedge for posting two excellent Johnny cuts in the comments below. Check them out, and you’ll be a fan, too.

Rest in Peace, John.

 

 

 

Chapter 21…

In this kind of work, it sometimes becomes difficult to keep a professional perspective and a personal one at a proper distance. Because once they become entwined, you’ve lost your necessary control.

Terrific, Sherlock. Too late for that now. That’s what happens when a fool rushes in. Spenser and Hawk would have snagged that guy before he even cleared the bottom of the stairs, Jenn would have been home inside an hour. Susan would have met them for brunch on Boylston Street,  and they’d be walking the dog around the Clamshell.

But because I knew Jenn, I thought I could cut through some of those always- necessary qualifying steps. And because I was approached by her sister, I presumed that she was being straightforward.

And now, stood in a huge mess and could safely presume that I was being played by someone. But not sure by who, or why, where, what, when, or how.

Nice . Glad to be of help. I should have stayed in contract security, where I could be taking a nap in the corner of a public library somewhere.

Well, anyway… back to the problem at hand.

*****

Tuesday night, she said. So now we have a time-frame to work from- the ” when.”  And very shortly, all the others would fall into place. Because I’m sure that the plainclothes guy would get to all that rather quickly.

Like I should have.

We could have covered all this in my office over a nice cup of Eight O’Clock and a cruller. That’s why one has  an office to begin with…provided that one doesn’t rush ahead and lose all semblance of order.

She wanted me to trust her. She had that deer- in -the- headlights look about her that meant she really needed time. If I had set this up right, she would have had it.

I decided to go with it. If she was playing me, then I could fill in a few blanks just by watching how she responded to the plainclothes guy. But I would back her up if I could. After all, she hadn’t done anything wrong, and neither had I.

We were just trying to find Jenn.

The door opened…and I knew that I had seen this guy somewhere. And he looked like he was thinking the same.

He said hello to Janice, as if he knew her too. The uniforms went upstairs.

Such a small town, Rhode Island…

This guy had come to take Jenn out to lunch once, back in the day. Old friends, she had said.

And what the hell did that mean? Would that factor in to this, too?

When one has lost control, one needs to retrieve it. And the best thing to do right now would be to shut the hell up and let this thing unfold a little bit.

I nodded…and waited.

 

 

 

Chapter 20

Shit! He called the North Smithfield cops already? What private eye goes and calls the cops that fast?! I’m not prepared for that. I’m not prepared for anything right now. I need time. To think. I just need a little more time to put some things together. Sort…things out.

A half turn, I looked up. “Roger?” His eyes were fixed on mine with a look that was…new. A look that said “Honey, I want to believe you but – I’m having second thoughts”. I knew at that moment, could tell just by looking at him, that I was now standing in the shadow of doubt. Doubt cast by a man who, only a few short hours ago, was making me laugh extolling the virtues and raison d’etre of Allie’s donuts.

“Have you seen The Maltese Falcon?”, I asked suddenly.

Without the blink of an eye, he answered, “What decent private eye hasn’t? It’s a classic. I know all the classics”. Strangely, I believed him. Believed he did. Know the classics. It’s not often I quote lines from movies but at that exact moment I was feeling every bit an anguished Brigid O’Shaughnessy. It’s not as if I set out to memorize lines from movies but sometimes words just stick. Stick to your brain like fuzz on velcro. Like a songbite you can’t stop humming.

As his gaze became more intent, I heard my own voice, Brigid’s voice say, “The lie was in the way I said it, not at all in what I said.”

Wtf! I don’t know why I said that. It’s not as if we were on the set of The Maltese Falcon Redux. For sure, the man looking at me now like suspect numero uno, is no Sam Spade. In spite of that? I half expected him to reply“There’s not time for that school girl act…both of us sitting under the gallows…why did you…if you get a good break you’ll be out of the Tehachapi in 20 years and you can come back to me then”. This tall, private detective, looking all Colombo, acting Spenser for Hire, was waiting for me to cough up some answers.

Through a thickening fog of puzzlement, I heard him say “You’ll have to face the cops alone Janice. Tell them your story. Unless you talk to me. Give me something.”

I needed to make a decision. And quickly. I looked into brown eyes. I knew, from the moment I walked through the door of Spade, Spenser and Coyne, I could trust this guy. The question is, can I make him feel the same way about me?

“There are things I haven’t told you. Will you trust me Roger? Will you cover for me when the police get here?” The moment of truth. Will the PI “send me over” or will he trust his gut?

“Well?”, he asked.

“I talked to Jenn on Tuesday night.”

 

     

Chapter 19…

” Janice, there are a few things I have to  know before the cavalry arrives. We only have a few minutes. You said that you were here earlier, and that Jenn’s car was here…exactly what time was that? And, did you see or talk to anyone then? You really have to start giving me something to work with.”

From the look in her eyes, you could fairly watch the calculations running through her mind.

She had gone into the house by herself. I shouldn’t have let that happen. And before I had a chance to react, she moved towards the threat, not away from it.

” Did you know the guy who ran outside, Janice? Were you expecting someone to be here?”

No response. Still calculating.

But why?

I had come across something like this once before…people need  quick help, but don’t want to involve the police. So they try a private detective first. It’s a good cover, especially if there’s a deeper motive that they want to conceal.

Should have run to at least get a glance at that guy. Should have checked the upper floor, too. I don’t have any idea what might be going on there.

But then again…this girl is acting very… suspicious?

Police en route…girl not talking…suspect got clean away…stupid errors.

Should have waited to call them, give the girl time to gather herself. Now I need to know things, and there’s no time.

This adorable film-noir starlet was going to have to start filling in some gaps…right about now.

” Janice, they’re going to be here any minute. You can tell me, or tell them. You’ll have to anyway, so give me a clue here.”

The North Smithfield guys weren’t exactly the cast of Criminal Minds, but they’d put this together quick enough. Hell, the Boy Scouts could see this coming.

Nothing. Still calculating. Figuring, as an old friend would have said. Her actions right now seemed so similar, you’d think they were related. Figure that, Spenser.

“Janice, for Christ’s sake, give me something. You were here earlier, OK…did you go inside? Do you have keys? Was the house locked? Who else has access to Jenn’s car? Was the car even here? “

Nothing.

What the hell was this? What had I walked myself into?

I initially had two suspects to ponder… the guy who took Jenn’s car ( providing that it was actually ever here) and the guy who just ran out. And now… I realized that I had better add one more. This girl wasn’t really acting overwhelmed…she was beginning to act involved.

So the list quickly flushes out to three…and was about to go to four, including me. Dammit.

The North Smithfield guys would have to put me in the mix too, if they were on their game. So they would be asking me a lot of the questions that I had already been asking her.

I wondered now what she would  actually tell those guys. And hoped that she didn’t necessarily expect me to cover for her. Not that that was out of the question, but I really couldn’t see any connection to that right now. She simply hadn’t told me anything yet. But regardless, I certainly wouldn’t throw her under the bus without good cause.

And…I knew that Jenn’s daughter Kendra lived here too. Where was she in all this?

School had gotten out a week ago, so we could be looking at a missing mother- and possibly a missing fifteen-year old to boot. And Janice hadn’t yet mentioned a word about any of that.

Of course, she was still calculating. Figuring.

Even as the two cruisers pulled up. One with two uniform guys, and a black Crown Victoria.

The first order of business would be to get them to check the rest of the house first. At least secure that perimeter… and try not to make any more rookie bonehead mistakes.

Like having a drawn weapon when they came in. I holstered it. Prudent. And thought again that I called them too soon. I wasn’t much better prepared for this than she was.

And Janice? Something huge going on in there. I wondered again who she might decide to share it with.

She was startled when they knocked loudly at the door.

So was I.

 

Chapter 18

I couldn’t help it. Roger’s voice faded, now a droning in the background. White noise. As soon as he said that, as soon as he said “I’m thinking Jenn was into something that might have been a bit over her head”, I swear I felt as if I could puke again. Man, what a sucky day this has been….”and shadows run from themselves”. Don’t ask  me why my brain goes to lyrics in times like these.

The drone of Roger’s voice was now supplanted by Cream and Eric Clapton singing about a white room with black curtains by the station. Funny. I was the younger sister yet I had a lot more on the musical ball than Jenn. She, queen of what we used to call the “Top 40″.  Not that I didn’t like the “popular” stuff. Hell, I like music from any era if it strikes a chord. No pun intended. For me, music is like the air we breath. Always, there’s a musical association to life, especially the big things….

“Earth to Janice, earth to Janice”. Shit! Lost in my own head again! I turned to see my private eye standing beside me, snapping his fingers.

“Hey, buddy, I’m not a dog. Don’t be snapping your fingers at me”.  Man, I hate that shit. Guys always seem to do that. They think you’re ignoring them, they want your attention, so they start snapping their fingers. What’s up with that? I chuckled to myself….I could give him some training….

“Just got off the phone with the North Smithfield police department. They’re going to send someone over. We just made this official. You know you’re going to have to go over the story with them now, right? Anything more you want to tell me – something you’ve remembered…forgotten to tell me?”

Wow. Couldn’t believe Roger was being so obvious in his lack of complete trust in me. Yeah, I know we just met. And maybe I hadn’t been totally up front with him but surely he could see in my eyes I had told him nothing but the truth. My gut trusted him, but I wasn’t quite ready to get all down and dirty about my older sister. It’s not my place to be opening someone else’s skeleton closet.

 

 

 

Chapter 17

“You’ve got to be kidding me….” I looked at Roger who was now standing with his weapon drawn. I’d never even noticed he’d pulled his gun. Quick on the draw. Good quality to have in a situation like this. First point to the private detective.

Roger stood totally still, motioning me to be quiet. Holding up his left hand for me to stay where I was, he moved closer to the answering machine. I heard it! Someone was still on the other end of the line. Not leaving a message. After about the 10 longest seconds of my life, we both heard a soft click. The line went dead.

“Can’t you star 69 that or something?” I asked impatiently. “Who the hell was that?! That was no wrong number.” Roger was looking pretty intense, a little “wound”. Tighter than a drum my mom would say. Staring at him, I was suddenly seeing Julia Roberts – he had that same vein running down the middle of his forehead. Yeah, he was definitely on edge. Walking into Jenn’s house and finding it trashed – didn’t see that one coming.

” …is someone watching us?” Instinctively, I was whispering in a voice so low I don’t think a dog could hear me. I got a “I don’t know” look from my new employee. We both stood where we were, not moving. Waiting. Listening. In spite of the strange phone call, neither one of us could be sure there wasn’t someone still in the house. Finally, Roger made a move towards the kitchen. As if connected by a string, I immediately followed suit. He was the one holding the gun afterall.

We found the kitchen in the same condition as the living room. Where once there was order on the counters, it was disaster. The Keurig was knocked to the floor, glass from the storage jars in jagged shards everywhere. Even the Coca Cola Bear cookie jar lay fatally broken on the pergo flooring. As we both surveyed the scene in stunned silence, that silence was suddenly broken by the sound of heavy, hard running from upstairs. Instinctively, I turned and ran out of the kitchen towards the living room. I got there  just as the front door slammed shut.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” Roger was looking at me with eyes turned to lasers. I could almost feel the burn on my face. “Couldn’t help it. Instinct, ya know”.

“Listen” he said, “I think it’s time to call the cops. This is looking a little more complicated. And after we make that call you and I are going to have a more in depth conversation about your sister. I’m thinking Jenn was into something that might have been a bit over her head.

 

 

Chapter 16…

Geez. There goes another pair of 40- dollar JC Penney Jordans. I just can’t have anything nice, as my mom used to say. But I don’t recall anyone throwing up on her shoes. Probably me, I suppose. Oh, well.

” You know, I was totally buying the whole ‘ Lana Turner- film noir’ thing, but I think it’s safe to say you just shot that whole thing in the ass.  Given your delicate constitution, you probably keep  cleaning supplies and contractor bags in the trunk, so I’ll just grab one of those and cut some arm holes in it. Can I get you one too?”

” Sorry, I’m having a rough morning. You may very well have noticed. Many people might have, if they could only see past their donut obsession.”

Wryness…gone straight to unabashed sarcasm.

I have often had that effect on women. They just can’t help themselves, the poor things. Seething resentment was likely only a few minutes away.

” That is a perfectly healthy obsession, little miss. Not just donuts…Allie’s. Allie’s Donuts. Certainly, you’ ve had them. You weren’t raised in a cave, were you?”

” Please stop talking about food. Please.”

” Allie’s donuts are not food. Broccoli is food. Cauliflower is food. Cauliflower in the wrong hands could easily be a weapon. Allie’s donuts, by comparison, are the glue that holds Western society together. Chocolate crullers with a delicate whipped German chocolate filling…made by angelic creatures who only aspire to provide nutrients to mere mortals in a form they might recognize. And the icing is only to keep them from floating away altogether.”

” Well, you stay right here and use up all the oxygen you want, then. I’m going inside. I need to freshen up. And don’t you dare to come into Jenn’s house with those shoes on… sorry about that, by the way.”

” If there’s a garden hose around, I can make do with that.”

” Just around to the right there.”

I followed her in a few minutes later. She hadn’t seemed to react to my question about the car until I asked it…odd. Maybe she was lying about the car being there to begin with…or maybe had forgotten that she had said that it was there.

But if it had been here earlier…then someone had been here in the meantime.

Thinking that I shouldn’t have let her go in alone, I saw her standing in the middle of the living room. It had been completely trashed…shattered TV on the floor, framed photos broken, and sofa cushions that had been cut open.

She turned and started to speak, and I quickly motioned for her not to. Whoever did this might have taken the car if it was ever here, or might still be in the house. There may be more than one person involved in this, too.

I kept her attention while I slowly took my Springfield XDS .45 out of the shoulder holster- the only reason to wear a bulky jacket on a warm day. Released the safety and pointed it at the floor.

She didn’t even flinch.

Pretty damned ‘ film noir’, I thought to myself. Bogart would have liked this girl.

I was beginning to like her a little, too.

A phone rang, and she made a high- pitched panicky noise. My heart slammed into the top of my throat, finally dislodging that little bit of Allie’s cruller that had been stuck there for two hours now.

The phone call went to the cover message. It was the first time I had heard Jenn’s voice in over two years. And felt a touch of vertigo… it sounded so normal, so Jenn…

As I stood in her trashed house, with a drawn weapon, eyes locked on her panic- stricken sister.

Yes. She was definitely, absolutely having a rough morning.

 

 

Chapter 15

It was a good question. When last I’d been there, when I realized Jenn was missing, her red BMW Z4, her “baby”, had been sitting in the driveway. Like normal. Only I knew for a fact my sister would never have left the keys to “baby” dangling from the ignition.

“Maybe someone stole it?…wait! maybe she’s back and she ran an errand!” I turned to the man who was a cross between Columbo and Spenser for Hire, saw the look of “yeah, sure, that’s it” on his face, and quickly came back to reality. To the sick dread that had been steadily creeping and crawling all over my body since this mess began. Roger was staring at me, with that “oh you poor girl” look on his face.

When I’d gotten up this morning and looked out the window, I confirmed Bob Mitchum’s (no, really, that’s his name) weather forecast for most of the state. Sunny today with unseasonably warm temps and higher than normal humidity levels for this time of year. Damn if Bob hadn’t hit the bull’s eye.

Fall in New England usually appears gradually, slowly. It lessons it’s grip on the heat of summer little by little right up until the first week of October or so. That’s when you can sense the seasonal shift. Each day reluctantly relinquishing it’s hold until you find yourself switching out of shorts for long pants and the camisole for a sweater.

Glancing over to where Jenn’s car had been parked less than 24 hrs ago, I felt sweat forming tiny little beads at my hairline. I had that clammy feeling. The hot/cold sweat feeling that washes over you when you realize you have food poisoning. God, don’t let me throw up.

Why the hell did I put on stockings this morning. Really? Fool. Not so steady in the heels today huh sister? I walked over to the spot where Jenn’s car had been parked, did a slow 360 and said “how the fuck do I know?”

“Whoah, little lady! Calm down. Time out. You asked me for help, remember? Retainer or not, if you don’t want to go through with this tell me now. It won’t be the first time someone’s turned tail ‘cuz they didn’t have the stomach for it.”

That did it. No sooner had Roger finished his little speech and I was hurling. My new shoe god Guiseppe Zanotti would be happy to know I didn’t puke all over his glorious creation. Columbo for Hire wasn’t so lucky. At least replacing his shoes won’t cost a week’s salary.

 

Chapter 14…

” There’s a deposit? We haven’t mentioned it. Doesn’t matter right now, but thank you. Means Roland can step up to Pedigree for a while.”

” Before we look around, I have to tell you a few things first. Your fingerprints should be all over this place, and that’s normal. But mine shouldn’t be …so I’ll wear gloves while I’m here. This house may very well be part of an official investigation soon, and may actually be declared a crime scene. So at this point, I would suggest for us both to be very careful about what we touch. It could possibly complicate matters, and that might mean taking even longer to find Jenn. Does that make any sense?”

” Well I’m here almost every day, so no, it doesn’t really. But I’ll go your way. I’ll wear gloves too.”

” I’ll rely on you to point out anything that seems off, or tampered with. It shouldn’t take too long. I know you were here earlier, but we’re not looking for people now. Just look for anything that’s out of place.”

“All right, so let’s get to it.”

She seemed to be getting edgier by the minute. It was understandable. But it would be good to determine as soon as possible if this girl was clear of involvement in this. After all, no one, including her, had called the police yet. There was a reason for that…I just had to find out what it was.

Time to test the water. No time like the present. A stitch in time…

Couldn’t think of any more hackneyed sayings.

” Janice…before we even get out…I have to ask you something.”

” What? Can’t we please just go in?”

” Janice…where’s Jenn’s car?”

Chapter 13

Man, my head was starting to pound that slow, dull, throbbing pound. The one that comes from having had one too many expressos (as if anyone needs more than one). Extreme caffeine jolt. Like the man at the carnival barks: “Belted in? The ride down is gonna get bumpy!”

I know it’s his job, but Roger’s questions were starting to bug me. They shouldn’t. I mean, I was the one who went to him. It’s his job. And he knows Jenn. Well, a little anyway. Enough to know that me waiting a couple of days to check up on her shouldn’t appear “suspicious”. Whatever. I was prepared to be put on the suspect list before I walked into his office. Right. Like “sister” sounds better than “butler”.

Damn! Almost missed the exit. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to get to Aunt Mary’s/Jenn’s house. The car was now getting claustrophobic. Two people in a small metal box on wheels, looming questions and absolutely no answers. Thankfully, Aunt Mary didn’t live too far off Rt. 44. She was big on having access to the main arteries. “In case of emergencies” she’d say. Couldn’t argue with that. Here, one more turn…

I pulled into the driveway at 735 Leona Drive half expecting to see Jenn walk out the front door on her way somewhere. I smiled wryly to myself. She was always going somewhere. But not ever getting anywhere. I turned to Roger, looked him straight in the eye and said: “You. It’s your job. Tell me what’s happened to my sister. I’ve put down a healthy deposit. Give me my money’s worth”.

Chapter 12…

” So when did you see Jenn last?”

I felt a hesitancy, as if she had to take a deep breath to begin.

” Saw her on Tuesday afternoon. She asked if I could run Kendra over to her dad’s early because the chef guy was coming over to make her dinner.”

” Chef guy?”

” Vinnacio, Vincento, Vinnie-something. One of the guys she’s seen a lot of lately.”

” And now it’s Thursday. Why the wait?”

‘Tuesday’s a normal night out for her, then home with Kendra on Wednesdays. You don’t want to intrude, you know? But Kendra called me when she didn’t pick her up on time last night.”

That made sense. Jenn and Kendra’s dad still doing the every-other night thing with custody.

” So that’s three, then. People who know something’s not right. And no one’s called the cavalry in yet…have they?”

” Not yet, as far as I know. Still kind of hoping she just shows up. Maybe she’s already back.”

” Her phone?”

Not on, and that’s the weirdest thing right there. That’s how I know something’s wrong. Her phone is never off.”

” Have you spoken to anyone else at all about this? “

” Just Kendra, and her dad. I just expect Jenn to be in control of it, whatever it is. I asked them to wait through the morning to see if she’d show up, and we’d go from there.”

” Do you think she might have gone straight to work?”

” No. She would check in with Kendra, at the least. And me. And I stopped there just before I found your office this morning. She works just a few blocks away, on Kennedy Plaza.”

” They must have found that odd. That you’d be there, looking for her.”

” The two owners weren’t even there, just the receptionist.”

” You must have found that odd.”

‘”Very. Jenn always said that those guys practically live there. “

I found that to be somewhat odd.

Home health care. Jenn did payroll and scheduling for them, and left the security field thinking that managing nutjob visiting nurses would be an improvement over nutjob security guys. I had always hoped so, for her sake. But I doubted it.

We consultants tend to lean towards the cynical view. And are sometimes known to drown our disappointments in crullers, even the coconut-covered ones if need be.

Dark days indeed.

The Rt.44 exit off 295 was coming up fast. Next stop, North Smithfield.

Chapter 11

He was funny. A little rumply and none too neat but Jenn was right. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy. But can he find my sister? Jenn was never big on details and when it came to the men in her life… Nothing. Nada. Nunca. Mouth shut tighter than a nun’s behind. This one though – P.I. Cruller- there’s more here than meets the eye. The witty repartee, the charming self deprecation… A lot more going on behind that Columbo routine.

We were coming up on Washington St. slowly, a lone Greyhound bus directly in front of us taking it’s sweet time deciding which way to turn. Which is how I felt this morning. Suspended in traffic, I suddenly found myself trying to remember the last time I’d been this side of the river. Many a year has passed since graduating Brown and even though I’d moved out of the city ages ago, I still loved it. The “East Side”.

The East Side of Providence surrounding Brown was always known as “college hill” with Thayer St. being a main drag. Back in the day, I’d spend weekend afternoons with friends walking in and out of the shops, lunch at Montana’s. Ah, the good old days. Gone now. Like my sister.

So much for reminiscing. Jenn was missing. She was missing for God’s sake! How does that happen? How does an older, seemingly more stable sibling go missing?

“I don’t know, Janice. Your sister is the most together person I know. At least on a professional level. The dating thing? That, I always thought a little….weird.”

Damn! Had I spoken out loud? I turned to Mr. Cruller (his last name did begin with a “C” afterall) and slowly nodded my head in agreement. Then I took a left onto W. Exchange St. headed towards the interstate.

Chapter 10…

” So do you need to stop for anything before we get on the highway? I see a few clean spots on your shoulder there.”
More wryness.
We consultants thrive on wryness. Snappy comebacks are stock in trade for us.
” No…but thanks for your… concern…”
Timing is everything with snappy comebacks. A just ever-so-slightly ascerbic tone, slight mid-sentence hesitation…and just a wisp of a sidelong glance. Devastating.
We consultants need to keep a semblance of control.

” So have you tried the new broccoli-and-cheese soup bowl at Panera? Your choice of rye or pumpernickel. I think you could use a little green right there, by the pocket.”
” Why, you poor emaciated little thing. I may have to buy you lunch when we’re done. There’s a Panera on 44 in the Home Depot plaza.”
” I know, I sort of live around there.”
“And it’s probably on the way. Exit 7?”
Another wry smile, and a telling silence.
” I just bought you lunch, didn’t I?”
” Nothing personal. I just hate crullers.”

Semblance of control…don’t leave home without it…

Chapter 9…

Smug satisfaction, beamed straight from the office window.
Slyly, I reached up to adjust my seat belt, and brushed the sugar off with my sleeve. Smooth. It takes a few years on the planet to be able to effortlessly extract oneself from a potentially embarrassing spot, and we consultants are uncannily resourceful.
” Hey, there’s a box of Kleenex in the glove compartment if you want to get that off your jacket.”
A wry smile, and a not particularly small measure of smug satisfaction from the driver’s seat. Maybe Roland had more of a foothold here than I thought.
I considered possibly switching to plain crullers, but only for a moment. Besides, I thought the sugar might go nicely with the Thai hot sauce stain that was already there. I got a tissue and dabbed a little, not being sure which one she was referring to.
” Thanks…I wouldn’t want to get powdered sugar on the carpeting. Or hot sauce…or barbecue…or weiner sauce from Haven Brothers…and look, on this arm I’ve got marinara from Marchetti’s.”
I got what I wanted. The wry smile turned into a laugh. A deep, comfortable, confident laugh that surprised me by sounding so much like her sister’s.
” What, nothing from Outback?”
” Girl, please. That’s a franchise. We consultants hold to a higher calling. “
Actually not true at all. Outback serves an excellent broiled T-Bone with bleu cheese that I was quite fond of. But one should never reveal all to a potential client.
Another of those intoxicating laughs, and I couldn’t help but joining in.
And then, uncomfortable silence.
” We shouldn’t be having this much fun, I suppose.”
” No, that’s OK. No harm done. Feels good to relax a little. But I’m getting scared now. I’ve got to find her.”
“We will. Can I ask you a few things while we drive?”
” Yes, of course. I just don’t know where to begin.”
It was time to start piecing this thing together.
We took a right onto Dorrance and headed for 95 North.

Chapter 8…

Consultant, really. Amateur part-time consultant. Private detectives need a lot of licensing, mainly so that their actions will stand up in court if necessary. I’m just a citizen that happens to be pretty good at a few things, and manage to get paid for a couple of them. Although most of that goes towards 9- Lives and powdered crullers.
Janice was parked on Westminster by the Roundtop Church, and of course had a ticket on the car. There are only six or seven guys in Providence who don’t get tickets on their cars. Apparently the meter maid was unaffected by the pleated skirt and red high heels. Or maybe it was all the yellow curbing.
I glanced back towards my office window as I opened the car door. Roland was beaming his typically poignant metaphysic mix of love, hatred, territorial domination, and lunch in our general direction. And through a surprisingly clean window. We consultants maintain a high standard.
I beamed back a metaphysic message of love, hatred, territorial domination, and the smug satisfaction that comes from being in the passenger seat of a red Fiat two-seater with the ex- bosses’ sister. Hell, in Rhode Island, we were practically related.
” Ok, first can we start with the house itself? Has anyone else been there? And did you touch anything?”
” Well…yes, I did. Of course. She’s my sister. I was looking for…anything, really. I still have the car keys, and I locked it when I left.”
So…where the investigating would likely start from, there would already be several sets of prints. The trick would be to find the ones that didn’t belong. I would have to be careful not to add my own to the mix.
And having left Roland to guard the home front, I saw myself in the door mirror as she backed into traffic.
And there it was. Still there.
Powdered sugar.
Dammit.

P.S….

OK, just one more intermission, and then back to The Book. BTW, The Book is still open to collaboration, if anyone chooses. As long as your addition seems to advance the storyline downfield, and doesn’t just go sideways. No extraneous guitar solos, if you will.

Anyway. I am out of work these last two days, having recently had big burly men hold me down and extract an old wisdom tooth. And, I asked for it, and paid for it to boot. This proves that for as dumb as I was pre- extraction, I am now dumber still. And, I now have a total aversion to tools of all sorts. Especially vice grips.

So. Have been noodling all day, while the 24/7 Perpetual Television plays in the background. The View has been on, and I have just observed…that a scott is a scott is a scott. And that is a joy to behold.

I speak of Denis Leary. He’s out promoting something, and is doing all the talk shows. He is a scott of the first order.

And in stark comparison to the edgy, dangerous vibe you generally get from younger scotts, Denis is older, much more in control, relaxed, and an absolute master of All Things Scott.

All the tools are still there, and being used so skillfully that you anticipate his arrival, thoroughly enjoy his effortless dominance of the environment, hope that you might be the object of his skillful deployment of such, and find yourself wanting his visit to last even longer. He told a great story about meeting President Obama, and managed to sit beside Barbara Walters with his hand on her knee.

Flawless. Owned it completely, and gracefully relinquished control back to the View girls as he left.
Late last night, I watched him do the same on the Seth Meyers show. Seth is a roger of the first order, and had the good sense to play the support role, ceding the workspace to the clearly more experienced professional. Fabulous.

A good scott is a beautiful thing.

A Brief Intermission…

Just a short break from the steadily increasing ( Ha! )suspense of my first ( Ha!!! ) detective novel…
While I figure out what to do next…

Anyway.

In the real world, in my real job…I work for a giant multi- national corporate security firm. And one of my evolved functions at my particular job site over time has become…being the world’s oldest, crankiest, and ugliest front-desk receptionist. Certainly not the perky twenty- something attractive model-in-waiting that job applicants are always hoping for. No. Much closer to Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa, although admittedly a bit better organized.

So, the point being that I ‘ve seen job applicants of every shape and size make every conceivable mistake when arriving for their interview. Most people actually don’t make these errors, but you always remember the bad ones. So, I’ve compiled a Top- Five Mother- of- God You Can’t Be Serious List
for your perusal and entertainment. This is a direct result of having seen the absolute worst ever, just this past Monday.

5) Do not be late; and then park in a clearly marked fire lane, because that is apparently what fire lanes are there for…and supplement this with a ” whatever, I’m here now ” attitude. Bad Santa has the number of a local towing service, and after respectfully asking you to move your vehicle, will pull that trigger. And he remembers one particular applicant who replied with ” Why, what are you gonna do, tow my car?”

4) Ditto, for handicapped parking. Because Bad Santa is in position to have to watch people who truly need those spaces struggling to get to the building entrance because of you.

These above two have nothing to do with your actual appointment, and yet speak volumes about your chances. These are often the very people who have surprisingly short interviews…

Bad Santa recalls six people once interviewing for a very high- level Metlife position. All six perfectly qualified, and yet Bad Santa knew ” the guy” even as he arrived to sign in and be received. A magical quality, whatever that is…and somehow indescribable. The ” guy” was actually a mid- thirties woman from Bridgewater, New Jersey who is now a vice president, and has a nicely situated corner office. Flies home on the weekends.

3) Arrive at the correct address, with the correct contact information. Hard to believe, but yes. Many will arrive with no information at all, and have to wait while Bad Santa uses his considerable psychic powers to determine where they should actually be.

2) Do not arrive too early. Rather than make a positive first impression, this actually puts pressure on the interviewer to hurry through their schedule. Always seems to result in a short interview.

And the very best for last…yes, this actually happened. Bad Santa swears to it.

1) Do Not Bring Your Dog To Your Job Interview. Even if he is small enough to ride in your handbag. Even if you have a long and deeply self- involved story as to why you had to bring him with you. He is not a seeing- eye dog. And do not become argumentative when your respective employer insists on his leaving the premises. You have already destroyed your job prospects in the immediate sense, and will probably never understand why you have likely never been gainfully employed. But Fluffy sure is a cute little guy, isn’t he?

Well, there it is. Bad Santa thanks you for your indulgence. And now back to the surreal prospect of me being a private detective.

Chapter 7…

” And how’s Aunt Mary doing these days?” I felt a little apprehensive about the possible answers.

” She’s doing OK. Good and bad days, but not complaining too much.”

” That , I think, is a victory unto itself. Please give her my regards, although I didn’t ever actually meet her.”

“I will, but she might not have ever realized where the pants came from. Sorry, but it wasn’t that important who got them. As long as someone did her bidding.”

“Well, glad to have helped, anyway. But now, can you tell me what’s been going on? And in return, I’ll tell you very honestly if there’s any way I can help you. “

” Yes, I need to tell someone this. No one knows I’m here…I just found the card in Jenn’s purse… and that’s the first thing. Where would she have gone without her purse? Or her phone, either.”

“Yes. I recall that…she used to walk in to work in the morning with a Bluetooth on. I hate those things. But Jenn without a phone…impossible. Where did you find them?”

” In her car, in the driveway. The doors weren’t locked.”

” Car keys?”

” In the ignition. And the house was locked.”

” Do you know if Kendra was home? She might have heard something.”

” No, it was last Tuesday, she was staying at her dad’s.” I remembered that…divorced parents alternating nights of custody. The main reason that Jenn used to go out so much. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.

” And has this been reported yet?”

“No…but her friend the detective knows. He said he wanted a day or so to check a few things first.”

So Jenn had been missing for three days, and the only person supposedly doing anything about it was a police detective who was probably an on again/ off again love interest.

And… he’s also the one guy who would know how critical the first 24 hours are in abduction cases. And he wants to wait a few days…no red flags there…

” Janice…I can try a few things of my own here, but I’ll need just a few hours. And then I think you should report this right away. Can you spare enough time to give me a quick tour of North Smithfield?”

” Yes, I can do that. I’m parked over by PPAC.”

” Better if I drive. No one knows me or my car out in the country. That’s two zip codes from here, may as well be on the moon.”

So now there were two guys looking for Jenn…a real detective, albeit one with a boatload of motive…

And me. Amateur part-time sleuth.

Chapter 6….

There were essentially two ways to confirm this girl’s identity; I could take the direct approach, and ask for two forms of ID. Some people found that to be somewhat insulting, and it was generally not a good idea to imply a lack of trust so early on. So I opted to diffract the request by approaching it from another direction. I decided it would be a safe bet that I knew more about this girl’s family than she would have thought.

“Do Jenn and Kendra still live at Aunt Mary’s house?” I asked as I got up to open some 9-Lives for Roland. I could tell that he was impatient to have a quick bite and get right back to cat heaven. I sometimes thought that food and cat heaven were all he really cared about. Actually, I knew that was all he really cared about.

Jenn and Kendra had moved into Aunt Mary’s just after Jenn had started managing security at Metlife. Aunt Mary was in her eighties, and the family had found a reliable assisted -living facility for her to move into. But Jenn had to promise Aunt Mary that she would stay in the house until she got back from her adventure. Of course, no one else really expected her to return; that, and the pants.

” How do you know about Aunt Mary?” I had definitively seized her attention. Take that, Roland.
” I’m the guy who found the pants.”
” That was you??” You could see the dots connecting in her eyes.” You were quite the hero. Jenn told us all about it, and Aunt Mary never would have budged without the damned pants. That was really funny. “

And there it was.This was definitely Jenn’s sister. She couldn’t possibly have responded to that otherwise.

Aunt Mary had refused to go without new pants. And there was only one kind she ever wore; elastic-waisted uniform pants like you would have in a marching band. God only knows why. And they had to have the piping down the sides.
Jenn had skipped out of work early on several occasions and scoured the planet looking for them to no avail. No one could find them. She finally gave up altogether, and said that Aunt Mary would be dragged off to her new home the next morning, pants or not. She couldn’t afford any more time to look.

I found the pants online at work with a few Google searches. Sometimes you just have to know what to ask for.

Aunt Mary wore her new pants proudly into her new apartment, Jenn moved in, and we joked about that for some time afterwards. And they were right; it was really funny.

So this was Jenn’s sister. Now to find out what exactly had been going on.

Published in: on March 25, 2014 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 5….

“We didn’t even know that you were a private detective. I found your name on the back of one of Jenn’s old Allied business cards that she gave to me a few years ago, when she was seeing a guy by the name of Richard Vinhatiero.”

My internal anxiety meter shot right into the red zone. I really hated when that happened. Never a good omen.

I had another of Jenn’s cards in my wallet to this day…and it had the very same name written on the back.

I had asked her at the time to write down the name of the guy who had frightened her so badly. I had promised her that I was not prying into her business, but that someone should know in case anything ever happened. That was such an unusual request to make of Jenn, who was typically supremely confident of herself. And that is precisely why I asked her. I was quite suprised when she readily complied.

For those few days, she had driven into work in a different car, parked in a different spot, wouldn’t take outside calls, and wouldn’t take her usual afternoon walk around the grounds.
She forwarded all her office calls out to me, and I was ordered not to even indicate on the phone that she was in the building. And, I used security cameras to track her back out to her car when she left.

To make matters a little extra sticky, she actually had another friend staying with her at her house for protection…the other Richard…the North Smithfield detective.

Of course, I couldn’t let on about any of that right now. I could scare her sister to death.

Anyway, I had no way to be sure if any of that would be pertinent. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t yet even presume that the person sitting with my cat on her lap was Jenn’s sister at all. I had some discrete fact- checking to do.

First rule of semi- professional detection; presume nothing, check everything.

With that said, Roland jumped down and went to check his dish again. You never know, someone may have crept in while he was in cat heaven with designs on increasing his cholesterol level.

Chapter 4…

” You’re Jenn’s sister? I haven’t seen her in…three years, almost. How is she?”
” She hasn’t been home for three days now. We are very worried.”
Sudden anxiety confirmed.
” Has anyone heard from her?” I knew that Jenn would never go more than a few hours without checking in with her daughter Kendra. ” Is everyone else OK?”
” Yes, everyone’s fine. Kendra, her daughter, is very upset, and it’s become difficult to comfort her. We are taking turns staying with her now.”
” Local police informed?” That would be North Smithfield. Jenn”s whole family were lifers there. As a matter of fact, the last time I had seen Jenn, she was dating a North Smithfield detective. ” Is she still seeing…Richard, was it?”
” Yes, and no… not seeing Richard much lately. She has continued to meet guys that she finds on the internet. Richard wasn’t real comfortable with that.”

It had been years since I had worked for Jenn with Allied Barton security, and I could clearly remember being worried about the internet dating thing myself. Jenn would not only meet two or three new guys a week, she sometimes met two a day. I remembered being genuinely perplexed at that… how she could continue to go through that uncomfortable process so often. Such a bother. But she liked it. She almost always found much fault with her suitors, often informing them quickly of their failings as prospective dates.
I felt sure she must have made a few enemies along the way, especially if this had been constant this whole time. As a matter of fact, I knew of one particular guy from back then that actually frightened her very badly, and scaring Jenn was not a very easy thing to do. But that was years ago.

Still, I felt as if I had a very good starting point, were I to be involved in this.

” I’m truly sorry to hear of this. How can I help?”

Published in: on March 16, 2014 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 3…

Noting the growing volume coming out of the only other occupied space on my floor, I got up and closed the outer office door, “..whaddya mean? this is a genuine 58 Les Paul!!!” this last screeched at a pitch that made volume seem unnecessary, issuing from Sil’s Loan and Pawn shop just across the hall.

” So with whom does my shameless cat have the pleasure of extricating completely undeserved attention from? Being an advocate of full and total disclosure, I feel compelled to inform that given the absence of classic beauty to prey on, Gil the janitor has often served in your stead. Would you like a cruller and some coffee?
Honeydew, not Dunkin, and handground Colombian, not…Dunkin…so much weaker now than they were at one time, don’t you think? Two espresso shots just to get back to where they used to be. And don’t even mention Starbucks…I hate those guys…most days, anyway…oh, sorry. I’ll stop talking now. Always a bit nervous in the presence of unsuspecting royalty. At least I can remember my name right now, which is more than I can say for Roland, I can assure you.”

She responded with a smile that fairly illuminated the far corners of my humble workspace, dark and dreary.” But then Roland doesn’t have his name on the desk blotter, does he?”
” Damn it all. Caught. Bagged. Found out…”
” Jenn once said that you were good with a story. I’m her sister, Janice… DiFranco.”
A fragment of a shadow crossed her countenance as she spoke…
and I suddenly suspected just what this was going to be about.
She reached across the corner of the desk without disturbing Roland.
“Napkin?”

Deftly humbled, and not even 9 am yet…
I knew I should have gotten the plain crullers.

Roland sighed contentedly.

Chapter 2…

” I’m sorry. I was looking for a detective agency. My mistake. I must have misread the directory in the lobby.”
” No, no. You’re in the right place. I’m just having a little joke. Please, sit down. I’m Roger Coyne.”

There were two chairs in front of my desk. One held my coat and a briefcase, and the other held Roland the Watchcat, sprawled out in his atypical nap pose. The girl stepped into the room, and I reached over to nudge Roland from his favorite spot.

As few people are aware, cats actually have very expressive countenances. The look of utter disdain and disrespect for me in those venerable feline eyes was unmistakable, and yet she took no notice. Maybe I could shoo him from the chair, or maybe I could lose a hand. It was a choice I considered several times a day. I usually let him keep the chair.

As the girl stepped closer, Roland rolled over on his back and stretched out to full length. Another half- inch and he would have slid off the chair altogether.

His cheap ploy for attention worked. She leaned in and rubbed his stomach with a perfectly proportioned porcelain hand, and then gently nudged him to the floor. He responded by rubbing against her leg as she sat down, and then with a smugly satisfied sidelong glance, sauntered off towards his other favorite place, his food dish. There may have been a few molecules of 9-Lives yet clinging to its surface. Always worth checking.

And then, as I knew he would, he doubled back and jumped up into the girl’s lap. He quickly settled in, while she rubbed his neck and ears.

I knew this had little to do with advancing my failing detective agency’s agenda. He had established a pecking order. I would work for the girl, and the girl would work for him.

And now that things were decided from the feline perspective, I thought I might determine why this magnificent creature had appeared in our doorway.

It was, after all, my name on the sign in the lobby.

Published in: on March 10, 2014 at 7:13 pm  Comments (2)  

A Precarious Perch…

Of all the grimy, gritty third-floor corner offices in this urban wonderland, she had to walk into mine.

She stood in the doorway, waiting for me to notice her. With a figure that added an extra proton to every atom within a 50-yard radius, that didn’t take long. I pride myself on my professionally- honed powers of observation.

She was wearing a white pleated skirt, black sheer nylons with that seam in the back, red spiked heels that matched her lipstick, and a cashmere sweater that may have been used in place of a skin graft. And she was holding a small patent- leather pocketbook, where she likely kept her white gloves. I presumed that the black veiled hat was still in the car. She would want to be careful not to overdo the effect.

I discretely looked down to scan my name from the desk blotter, put my coffee mug down, and tried to swallow the sizable chunk of powdered cruller that had lodged itself just behind my sinus cavity. Hoping to summon a voice that was roughly an octave deeper than the one I was born with, I risked speaking.

” Hello. Welcome to the Law Offices of Spade, Spenser, and Coyne. Please come in.”

As soon as I opened my mouth, I immediately knew two things; crullers taste much better with that extra proton added in, and it is almost impossible to be wry and devilishly charming with powdered sugar all over your face.

Almost.

(Snappy Title Here…)

So.. it seems that we may approach the grand experiment once again.

This one looks like it will begin as a Denise/Clark/ Roger collaboration. I like the idea because my creativity has certainly been on the wane, and it would be good to have something new to focus on.

As before, I’ll extend an invitation to anyone who would like to give it a shot. It can be a difficult thing, this colab business. You have to try to develop a work completely without prejudice; to maintain the theme that has presented itself without inserting any personal agenda that would force it off course.

And, the point…you learn an awful lot about yourself as you go. And we may end up with a decent story at the end.

But initially, we need a good idea.  So, for the time being, I ‘ll just stick ideas up here should they occur to me, and will suggest that others do so also. Consensus will decide from amongst them.

And here’s my first idea; to write, not a particular idea given by a particular person…but to write in the style of.  Like a cover band doing its best Zeppelin-esque rendition of Communication Breakdown.

Here’s my initial offering; either a detective novel or a murder mystery, done in the style of Robert Parker. This would involve an extremely well- defined central character, very short dialogue- driven chapters, and a very fast pace.

Other writers have already published very successful Spenser and Jesse Stone novels ,  because the world simply must have Parker novels, even if he’s no longer with us. And… they’re really good.

Very, very ambitious. Couldn’t ever work…a Parker-style novel by several writers at once. Who does that?

But then again… walk down any street in the US on a summer night, and count how many garage bands are trying to pound out Communication Breakdown. ( OK, that analogy works fine only if you’re three hundred years old… how about Kanye West trying to find a new Iphone app that will let him rip off a sample of Communication Breakdown and thereby hopefully align himself with people who actually took the time to learn an instrument…

Now where did I leave that other gauntlet…damned things are like socks in the dryer.

Maybe I’ll just throw mismatched socks down instead. I’ve got plenty of those.

I’ll take the questions.

Well… An unexpected honor from the Clark over at the Doctrine. Either that, or he’s running out of bloggers to pass awards to.  That’s ok; I know even fewer bloggers than he does, and I like the questions posed, so I’ll give it a go.

1) How did I feel in the middle of writing my first post?

Initially, I began by writing whole posts in the comments to the Doctrine because I saw them as being related to the subject at hand. I didn’t notice how odd that was.  I soon began ‘The Secessionist Rag” as a way of seceding from the Doctrine and going my own way.  It began as a writing experiment that included participation of the Doctrine denizens of that time. I still like that story.

Shortly after that, I found myself writing a post about… raking leaves.  It was my first complete departure into writing purely on my own. I still remember the exhiliaration of not knowing where the thing was going to go from sentence to sentence, and thoroughly enjoying the ride. I soon became completely addicted to that sensation, and now don’t write that much because it’s become all the more difficult to obtain. I’m an addict.

2) First girlfriend…

This would be Janice Kinder, in the third grade. She was English and Protestant, to my Irish and Catholic. We agreed that it was doomed, but of course had no idea why. We were in the third grade.

My first real girlfriend was Diane Fitzgerald in high school; a very badly twisted and damaged roger. Extremely volatile personality, easily mistaken for a scott. Even Scott knew to keep his distance. Last I heard, she was serving as pastor in a Congregational church outside of London, having apparently decided to invade Britain.

3) Gilligan…

a) Why presume that they’re cannibals?

b) Are they angry men with spears? Or maybe they’re beautiful scantily-clad Eurasian girls in grass skirts…even if they were cannibals…not the worst thing…

Anyway. If they’re angry men, I’ll go with a scott for the military value. Awfully good in a scrap. If they’re girls…I’d rather a clark there instead. A clark will have trouble relating, and won’t make eye contact. That’ll give me more time to ingratiate myself by putting together a quick but zesty barbecue sauce, or maybe trading my life for my secret dry rub recipe. Then I can become the personal chef to the Cannibal Queen.

4) Swapping…

Very difficult choice. The hardest would be scotts, because it would be so exhausting to maintain the necessary output of energy over a long period of time. Not to even mention the barking.

If I knew seven bloggers to pass this to, I would.  But, alas…

Winery Dogs

Being an old, moldy and fungus- encrusted dinosaur guitar player, I don’t get out much anymore. Hardy ever, really. But If I ever do hear of anything that seems to warrant attention, I like to pass it along and spread the word.

I heard of the Winery Dogs a few weeks ago from someone who works in the same building as I do, and used to follow an old band of mine. I finally got around to looking them up, and lo and behold.

Geez. Very refreshing to see someone using a Telecaster in such an unexpected way. A heavily modified Tele, but still.

Great rythym section. Good songwriting, great vocals; Richie Kotzen has a nice Paul Rodgers kind of voice combined with a modernized Michael Schenker sort of guitar playing.

Terrific stuff all around.

Thought I’d pass the word along.

Some Disassembly Required…

So… Christmas Eve 2013. I’m at work; the building I work security in is emptying out slowly. My boss has taken her perogative, and I’ve been the stand-in manager all week; eerily familiar…

Schedules are written for the next two weeks out, payroll has been submitted… other than a broken car window and two people stuck in an elevator, nothing to investigate. No last- minute call-outs… yet… ( I was abducted by aliens, and they left me on I-80 in Nebraska, so I ‘ll never make it back in time...) and this one, which I  was actually expected to believe once ( my uncle fell off his motorcycle, and I have to take him to the emergency room ) or this one, my personal favorite ( my cousin is dying in Virginia, I have to get there before it’s too late) That one came complete with an obit notice from the Providence Journal. Very convincing, except for her bragging on Facebook that she wouldn’t miss the big party that weekend.

Well, it’s quiet so far. If I get out at 3 pm as scheduled, I have the huge Italian Christmas Eve Fish Thing to go to. It’s at my house this time, as it almost always is. Sandra has prepped for this for two weeks,  single-handedly committing to cook all the shrimp that came into the port of Galilee on 12/22/ 2013.

 Should I end up doing a double shift due to that pesky uncle again, and not be available to assist, then I might as well move to Nebraska my own self. Maybe the aliens will help me with that. I would rather that than face the Fury of an Italian Christmas Eve Fish Thing Chef Scorned. It is extraordinary, the things you can do with a wooden spoon.

Which all leads me to… the shrimp soup. It’s actually quite good, but a description of it usually frightens people badly. A long tradition of Sandra’s family, but no one quite seems to know where it ever came from.

Imagine a thin tomato broth, with celery, garlic ( of course )…with whole prunes floating in it ( think of them as giant raisins…) And tons of medium shrimp.

But the shrimp are tossed in whole, with shells and feet attached. ( Yes, I think feet is the correct word…)

So you really can’t eat it with a spoon. You ultimately have to reach in, pull the shrimp out, and disassemble them.

It becomes very messy. It should be served with individual tarpaulins with eye holes cut into them.

People either love it, or won’t go into the room when it’s being served.

Beyond the soup, there will be tons of baked stuffed, lobster mac and cheese, crab risotto, and many other water-borne creatures  represented that I am somewhat uncomfortable being in the presence of, living or dead.

Luckily, I am considered exempt from those, being an Irish in- law.

Well… it’s coming up on 12:00 noon, and no call-outs. Almost there…

I might just make it out of here on time. I have to get home and hose off my tarpaulin, it’s still a bit sticky from last year. And discretely remove all the wooden spoons.

And here’s wishing a memorable and merry Christmas to everyone and anyone who holds this holiday in high regard. It really is the best time of the year. And especially for all those in special need.

And isn’t that practically all of us?

Published in: on December 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm  Comments (1)  

Gasp!!

Lately, my 0515 alarm clock has been going off to Lite 105, a local station that  starts playing Christmas music in early November (it’s the only station that my alarm clock will pull in anymore) This is just wrong, and should be stopped by Congressional decree.

Of course, that would be way too controversial for those guys. They would have to summon the courage to commit to a cause, and by blatantly siding with the Christmas people, may disenfranchise the Hindus, Muslims, Satanists, Wiccans, and Kardashians who may opt to vote them out of office in the next election cycle. And there you have it… American politics in a nutshell.

Any way… I awoke this morning to ” Sleigh Bells ” .  To jar your memory…” Come on, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you…” Yes, that one.

And as is my habit, I lie there procrastinating as long as humanly possible, trying to avoid the distasteful reality of real life…. then dash up and try to make it to work on time. This, BTW, is precisely why so many coffee cups have gone flying off the roof of my car over the decades.

But this morning I had occasion to actually listen to ” Sleigh Bells” in some detail; and realized that the composer must have been a truly cruel and unusual person. Because ” Sleigh Bells” is really a viciously difficult piece of music to execute. It would be hard to carry that melody through on an instrument, never mind singing it.

Composed in  July 1948 by Leroy Anderson in Woodbury, Connecticut during a heat wave, it is far and away the most-performed/recorded/covered Christmas song of all time.

Leroy said that it didn’t start out as a Christmas song at all. It was just really, really hot that day. Pure escapism on his part. He’s not quite sure how the Christmas connection was made, but he certainly capitalised on it. Along with everyone else in the music business.

This contradicts my theory that all Christmas music came from one of two places; either from Protestant hymnals, or very talented Jewish guys from New York.

Should you take the time to listen closely, you might notice the very fast -paced melody, with much movement in it. Very sleigh-ride sort of thing, I would imagine.

There are some very difficult passages. There is a certain part that often gets changed by the parties attempting it, and in the most -heard most- popular version by Johny Mathis , it is omitted altogether.

None theless, it’s been covered a million times.

I can just imagine a large choir doing this piece, with the occasional white robe disappearing off the riser due to lack of oxygen, and being unceremoniously dragged off to the side, where EMTs are kept on standby.

I have to think that Leroy certainly was aware of the beast he was planning to release on Christmas revelers the world over. Christmas carolers passing out, and spilling scalding hot chocolate on their fellows.

And yet it sounds so light and airy to the casual listener. It’s supposed to sound that way.

Especially when it gets to that frightening passage in the bridge that singers are terrified of- and then it modulates up a half-step. That’s when the whole back row of the choir goes careening off the riser.

Merry Christmas!… from your friend Leroy.

Maybe I should buy a new clock radio…

Published in: on December 13, 2013 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Scary Music…

Well, hi there.

I’ve been away for quite some time, and I’ve certainly missed this place. Had to go off and be a grownup for an extended period, but now there should be a little more time to relax and release that breath that I’d been holding in for a year or so.

Thank you for stopping by.

I have just finished perusing a  blogpost written by Considerer, in which she ponders the notion of Scary Music.  With several responses from readers, they discuss the notion of a world devoid of music altogether; truly the worst scenario imaginable. I liked that approach to the subject very much.

But it also reminded me of this.

When I was much younger,  there was a particular album released in 1970 that actually set the stage for all the dark, Gothic metal to follow;  Black Sabbath.61CM5D7qviL__SL110_

It was truly the first of its kind, and contrasted dramatically with everything else that was current or popular at the time. It was not pop or top-40 oriented, or blues-based, psychedelic, or rock-and-roll-ish. It was a brand new thing, and not particularly well received at the time.

I’ve never been  all that much of a Sabbath fan as time has gone by, but in looking back, I have to say that this was one huge milestone of an album. I’ve also never thought that Ozzy was a particularly talented vocalist; but much more importantly, he has a very distinctive voice. As all widely known singers must. If Bob Dylan worked as a telemarketer, you’d still know it was Bob Dylan. You might not buy the product because who can understand Bob at all these days, but you know it’s either a time-share in Nicaragua or a John Deere riding mower. Just keep making the payments and enjoying telling the story.

Ozzy sounds on this album as if he were genuinely terrified to be singing those songs. The band sounds very edgy and nervous, as if they wanted to just finish it and get the hell out of the studio. But regardless of circumstance, they managed to forge a completely new thing under the sun. A massive accomplishment.

I remember having borrowed this record  from someone or other, and listening to it in my bedroom. Completely unprepared, I was so affected at the time that not only did I not want to hear it again, I didn’t even want to go back into the room that it had ever played in. I had to go downstairs and hang out with my parents, who had no idea that the gates of Hell had just recently opened up at the top of the stairs.  And where in the  world was I to sleep, now that my bedroom had suddenly become a portal into Dante’s Inferno? And could the denizens of the Seventh Ring hear ” Mary Tyler Moore” playing on TV in the living room?

Of course, like all males of my generation, I would have bravely sacrificed myself to protect Mary from Hell’s minions…actually, the minions would have run right  smack into my mother, so that would not have been an issue. God help the minion who managed to tick Mom off. They likely would have quickly reconsidered, grabbed the Sabbath album, and slammed the portal door shut behind them.

Well…for my sake, I somehow managed to find a way to co-exist with the forces of darkness. ( Haven’t you just heard that before??)

And several years later, I started working in different bands with Don and Ed, the now legendary rythym section. And at a rehearsal one night, we all  sheepishly recounted how scared we all were of the first Sabbath album. That was quite a revelation, relieving much pent-up guilt and embarassment ( Ok …fine…just embarassment… ) And that we were still scared…just a little.

And, now, years after that…still scared. But just a little.

Published in: on October 29, 2013 at 7:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

I am… Number Six…

Well, that’s a nice surprise. Thanks for the invite. Not entirely sure of how all this works, but…having slowly morphed into a horrifically boring 2-dimensional creature, it might be difficult to find five of …anything.

Five Passions-

- Trying to do whatever I’m doing or involved in to my best capacity…so I guess that means being passionate about being passionate. These would include music, history, gardening ( after a fashion ), reading/ writing/ trying to write (after a fashion) spiritual awareness ( after yet another fashion )

Before I die-

-Just once…to be able to get through Isaac Albinez’ Leyenda without dropping the ball. I’ve been trying for 33 years, and it ‘s just not going well. It has never gone well. But ever the optimist…

- Must have; a long conversation with my niece Olivia. I will simply refuse to depart this plane of existence without assurance of her safety and security.

- To somehow find a way to forgive Olivia’s mother her shortcomings. This would involve being a much more advanced spiritual entity. Very difficult.

- That’s all I’ve got right now. But not bad for a 2D guy.

Five sayings-

-#%@ *!# !

- Where are my glasses?

- Do you like scallions?

- Not in this lifetime

- No, really…Bach and Julie Andrews!

Five books- ( most recent)

- Fort Pillow ( Harry Turtledove )

- The Surgeon’s Mate ( Patrick O’Brian )

- Portrait of a Killer ( Patricia Cornwall )

- Sixkill ( Robert Parker )

- Talk to the Hand ( Lynn Truss )

Five Movies-

I list these according to how often I’ve re-seen them;

Glory- probably over a hundred or so, since 1989. Denzel, Matthew, Morgan, and Cary in their early days.

Gettysburg- when the mood requires. Jeff Daniels as Col. Chamberlain. Well done.

Dances with Wolves. I’ll usually stop to watch a bit of this.

Russel Crowe, generally.

Daniel Day Lewis, generally.

Johny Depp, generally.

Monk ( does tv stuff count? )

Five travel spots;

- Ireland ( Partry, Co. Mayo-where we came from- they have two pubs and a gas station! )

- Spain ( the Segovia tour )

- New Mexico/ Colorado; would love to check in with Boulder and Albuquerque again ( and Leadville, too )

- New Orleans ( food and music )

- London ( The Tower, and all the cheesy tourist stuff )

Well, there it is. That turned out to be more fun than I thought. Thanks again!

Published in: on July 28, 2013 at 12:18 pm  Comments (5)  

A Good Preacher…

spreads the word.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MA0m1K2jW4

A Firebird player, great rthythm section, strong clear vocals…

It’s a great sign that this music totally regenerates and re-invents itself again every now and then. After all the God-awful junk that the ‘ music industry’  pushes down the chute… Uncles Plante, Jones and Page are most pleased.

Me, too.

Published in: on July 16, 2013 at 7:41 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags:

Aw, Snap…

I really wanted to be able to write that it had never happened before. That it was a brand new thing under the sun. That would have been just neat to be able to do.

But the damned internet strikes again. I had to go and ask the question.

And consequently found that the thing is not new, and that the central focus of my post had actually done it himself, may have very well been the first to do it.

Eric Van Lustbader has done it, keeping Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne character alive.

Max Allan Collins, too, with Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer.

I speak of Robert B. Parker. His venerable Spenser has been carried forward by Ace Atkins.

And Michael Brandman has continued on with Jesse Stone.

And I am very pleased to report that they’re thankfully good at it.

I recall the uncomfortable and dreadful feeling of finally reading the very last few pages of Sixkill, the last novel written and published by Parker himself. It was like drinking the last few drops of fresh water on a deserted island, and knowing that you’re really truly and forever finished. Done. 

But in some few cases, the work is so strong that it simply cannot perish. Hawk, Spenser, Susan Silverman and Chief Stone are still with us, carried forward like fallen battle flags. The writing style has been meticulously studied and recreated, and serves tremendous honor to the originals. It’s quite like listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn play ‘ Voodoo Chile”. You know it’s different, but the veneration for the style transcends all.

Spenser is still in his Boston…now if only we could get Doc Rivers, Pierce, and Garnett back…

 

 

Published in: on July 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

All Hail…

firebirdThe Gibson Firebird…

A very iconic 60’s Gibson model, originally meant to give battle to the Stratocaster with either Gibson’s P-90 single-coil pickups or the Epiphone- designed mini-humbuckers.

I was watching That Metal Show this morning, and mention was made of a band called Rival Sons. I cued up a video, and lo and behold….

A gorgeous blue Firebird VII. An excellent band, very old-school Zeppelin-esque.

Very refreshing stuff, highly recommended.

As a clueless youth, I had two Firebirds; both were traded off for something else at the time. The reasons are no longer recalled, doesn’t matter anyway…idiocy. If only there was a functioning adult to intervene…ah, well.

These have a wonderful voice of their own, somewhere in between the sharp brightness of typical Fender and the warm depth of  typical Gibson.

The most well-known Firebird player is Johnny Winter. But there have been many…Sonny Landreth, Keith Richards, Brian Jones…the Black Crowes …lots.

Somewhat ungainly to actually play…not particularly well- balanced. This is likely why they’re not seen more often.

So? Get a locking strap, shut the !#@$ up and play.

Firebird people are a unique bunch. Go find some Firebird music and see what I mean.

And start it off with the Rival Sons…

Hey! Don’t Forget The Really Old Guys…

And the Award for First Use of An Electrified Guitar In Public goes to;

 

-Gage Brewer; Wichita, Kansas, 1932 ( with some help from George Beauchamp and Adolf Rickenbacker )

-Charlie Christian; with the Benny Goodman band, early 1930’s

-Chet Atkins claimed to have been using an electrified guitar on ” the kerosene circuit ” in the 1930’s

Who can say for sure? But before there were Les Pauls, Telecasters, Strats, and all the rest…there were full hollow-body guitars with contact sensors of various kinds being attached to them.

Gibson always had an edge where these were concerned, having so much experience with acoustic instruments. And now, we have several big names ( Gibson, Gretsch, Ibanez ) and a great many smaller shops and luthiers dedicated to this genre.

I have a very inexpensive Korean- made Douglas hollowbody that I play almost exclusively these days. I plan to replace the pickups that aren’t very good, but the body itself is quite good.

These guitars have a very sweet and responsive tone of their own, and I play it without an amp most of the time.

So is it electric, or not?

I have to go find that chicken….

 

Published in: on June 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hey! Don’t Forget The Log!…

Now that’s really cryptic…

In continuing our theme;

Who actually invented the Electric Guitar?

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After all that carrying on about Stratocasters…you just might presume that Leo Fender started it all. A great many people would support that claim.

At the time, what Fender did that was so extraordinary was to employ the principles of mass production to making guitars. All the new Fender models played well, were wildly colorful, were quite affordable, and most of all…were identical. People were being slowly weaned away from the tried-and-true Gibson formula of fine craftsmanship by European elves.

And to add insult to injury, Fender also released the first electric bass.

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But…an equal number hold that the Gibson company started the whole thing. Their claim is based on The Log, Les Paul’s original design of a small,02-07_full

solid piece of wood with pickups, strings and a neck. It had no resonating chamber at all, and worked perfectly well when connected to an amplifier (another category that was in its infancy in the 1940’s. )

Depending exactly on how you would define electric guitar, you get some intriguing responses to all this.

Les Paul’s Log was never meant for general use; Gibson simply used it as the heart of several different body styles ( Les Paul, SG, 335, Firebird, Flying V, Explorer ) The Log worked, but needed to have a relatively conventional body shape attached to it to make it palatable to the public.

Les Paul  then went on to develop his own complementary design of a solid-body instrument with Gibson’s sponsorship; the Les Paul.

images

This is also considered by many to be the most- used, most- heard electric guitar on the planet.

Depends on who you ask…

But then…there’s Adolf Rickenbacker. In 1937, he put a product on the market that he called the Frying Pan. It was not exactly a conventional guitar, but a lap steel. But, it was electric, and was sold with a cool little amplifier…

So…you tell me…who came first?

The chicken, or the egg…or the other chicken…

frypan1

Ode to the Single Coil…

Now that’s cryptic.

And just to clean up the last post;

Jimmy Page. He’s the only one from that list that has never used the venerable Fender Stratocaster, at least not in public.

The Stratocaster is likely the most often-used and consequently the most-often heard electric guitar on the planet. It has a very particular tonality, one which lends itself to a great many musical styles. I have often said that if I had to live and die with just one guitar, it would be a Strat.

And I don’t own one presently. I haven’t yet been threatened with deportation to a small deserted island, so haven’t had to choose yet. There’s still time…

Fender guitars generally use a type of pickup called a single-coil. ( A pickup is essentially a magnet with a row of small microphones on it, wrapped with thin copper wire.)

They have a very bright and responsive tone, as opposed to the ( Gibson) humbucking  pickup. Humbuckers have a much more subdued, mid-range tone to them, and were originally designed to  make much less noise than single-coils. They consist of two sets of coils; their close proximity to one another cancels much of the noise that the small microphones generate, hence the term ” humbucking.”

Once you learn to recognize the Strat’s body shape and three-single-coil configuration, you’ll realize that they are everywhere. You’ve been listening to them all your life, and now you know what they look like.

There is a very, very long list of dedicated Strat players in the world, and you probably have a favorite or two among them without even knowing it.

Do you think you could choose a best- ever Strat player? Most people would probably choose Jimi Hendrix, but there are very many to consider…Eons ago, Jimi plugged a Strat into 3 100-watt Marshall amps, and started making just a little less noise than a thermonuclear device. Kind of like the soundtrack to sticking your finger in a light socket.

But the era of psychedelia was born. Jimi had created a new genre just by being able to control the beast.

I’m always most impressed with what David Gilmour has done with the tonality of a Strat…but then, there’s Jeff Beck…

Any opinions out there?

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You Must Remember This?…

In the mood to throw a music post up here, just because I’ve been listening to stuff lately.

This happens simply because the weather is warm,  and I’m out digging in my garden. I always bring stuff to listen to so I don’t notice how tedious the work is.

Here is what I listened to all day;

Stage Fright ( The Band )

Cahoots ( The Band )

Led Zeppelin ( 1st album )

The Inner Mounting Flame ( Mahavishnu Orchestra )

Two movie soundtracks; Glory and Cold Mountain

Joshua Judges Ruth ( Lyle Lovett )

Glad Rag Doll ( Diana Krall )

Aja ( Steely Dan )

Obviously, I have musical tastes similar to those of a crew member from an 18th-century whaling ship. And after perusing the I- Phone playlist of a young friend from work… I am so very glad of it. It’s a lonely little planet that I inhabit, but I quite prefer it.

Today I happened to hear an old Pink Floyd track on the radio; ” Learning to Fly“. This came out in 1987.

I was working in the audio dept. of a Lechmere store at that time, and had just finished setting up a new display; a set of Acoustic Research TSW9 speakers, driven by a Carver C-1 preamp and 1.0 power amp.  It was recommended by the Carver rep to use the newly released ” A Momentary Lapse Of Reason” as a demo.

There is a stunningly effective subterrannian bass line in ” Learning to Fly ” that no one ever hears because most equipment that people listen to music with can’t handle it. ( No. The tiny little bud-style earphones that are widely used today will not do it. ) But it has always been there…waiting.

And with some decent stuff…Carver…AR…Marantz…etc…between the bass line moving the earth underneath you, and the angel choir background vocals overhead, it is breathtaking…. freaking awesome. Huge fun. And not necessarily loud; it was always much more about clean. As in ” no distortion.”

I really miss that in today’s world…but we recall the days of Audio fondly on my little planet.

Today’s Audio Trivia Question (s);

Here is a list of guitar players; one of them does not fit with the others. Who, and Why? ( clue; watch the videos )

- David Gilmour

- Hendrix

- Bonnie Raitt

-Jimmy Page

- Stevie Ray Vaughn

- Eric Clapton

- Ritchie Blackmore

- John Mayer

- Buddy Guy

- Jeff Beck

( one more clue; if you know half the people on this list, you probably passed away five years ago, and no one has told you yet..)

Well, I’ll be outside digging in the dirt…later.

Vertigo…

Last night, I happened to be driving home from teaching my Wednesday night guitar class. The school that hosts the class is located on the East Side of Providence, Rhode Island.

The East Side is a venerable old neighborhood that’s roots go all the way back to the time of founder Roger Williams, circa late 1600’s.

I grew up in a working-class neighborhood not more than a mile from the East Side, but have lived in a different city for some time now. Until recently, it had been many years since I have had occasion to travel these streets. I have found myself rather enjoying it.

The East Side has changed dramatically over time, but still somehow magically retains its old-worldness. And I have surprised myself with how utterly familiar everything still is; the roots run very, very deep.

In 1952, my expectant mother, who had grown quite tired of trying to choose a name for me, finally decided to name me after the very next street-sign she drove past (a hopeless romantic, my mom ).  It so happened to be the one we lived on, Roger Williams Ave; thus making me into a namesake of sorts, even if in a somewhat second-hand  fashion. Better a tarnished pedigree than none at all; I accept it now in the spirit that it was offered. Street-sign royalty.

And if one drives down Roger Williams Ave to Massasoit Ave, and takes the bridge over the Seekonk River, one finds oneself on Angell St.; which will traverse the East Side until one finds oneself in view of the spire of the First Baptist Church. ( the actual very first Baptist church anywhere, hence the name; because Roger Williams was the very first Baptist- religious freedom, and all that…an extraordinarily dangerous idea in the 1600’s. And, he included the local natives under that umbrella, too- an absolutely alien idea at the time. )

In the 1600’s, Angell St. would have just been a woodland path connecting the original settlement at Providence with East Providence; Mr. Williams had recently moved to a choice spot  just across the river that he acquired from his friend Massasoit of the Wampanoags ( Half-acre plot w/ spectacular water view and fresh-water creek! Price just reduced! Financing available.)

This would have taken place well before King Philip’s War broke out, at which time a trip down that woodland path would have been precarious at best.

And last night…I found myself at the intersection of Hope and Angell, waiting for the light to change; when I was suddenly struck with the reality of how many  thousands of times I have done this same simple mundane task before, and how nothing had really changed over the likely twenty-five years since I had done this last; and how utterly comforting that was, like a favorite old flannel shirt on a cold winter day.

It just felt like home.

And as I sat there, a very sharp, vividly clear subterrannian memory suddenly snapped into focus…something I had not thought of since the day it happened, I imagine, like finding a cable channel you didn’t even know you had…

I remembered sitting at this very same light, on a bright summer morning. My father was driving his blue 1960 Chevy station wagon, the only non-Ford vehicle he ever owned. I was in the passenger’s seat.

I was about 16 at the time, and had been conscripted to spend the summer housepainting with my dad. We were on the way to work.

I was beyond miserable.

And my dad was telling me a story while waiting for the light to change. I clearly recall being thoroughly disrespectful and horribly rude… but he told me the story anyway.

When he was very young, around 8 or 9 years old ( circa 1923-24 ) he and his friends would ride their bikes over the bridge and up Angell St. to this very same traffic light…to watch the light change. They would sit for hours, and watch the light change. They couldn’t figure out how it knew when to change colors.

It was the first electric traffic signal ever used in the state of Rhode Island.

To Irish immigrant kids in the 1920’s, it was magic.

To the horrible teenager in 1968, it was an unwanted, unsolicited, extremely annoying anecdote.

To the  guitar teacher in 2013, it was a surprisingly potent and poignant uncovered memory.

Thanks for the visit, Dad…it’s good to be reminded of how things can, and should, change. Woodland paths, traffic lights…and especially the people who use them.

Sorry that it’s taken me forty years to connect those dots. And thank you for not leaving me on the side of the road that day, as I so truly deserved.

But I was, after all, named after a street sign…

Makes me wonder if Roger Williams ever had awful kids, and if he ever contemplated leaving them somewhere along the path leading to the old North Main St. settlement…

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Bird’s Eye…

Loitering? Is that what they’re doing?

Another Sunday at work, and I am spending the morning watching local wildlife on security cameras. When people aren’t around, there is usually a remarkable variety to be able to observe.

Today, it’s turkeys. About 40 of them.

I think it must be mating season. The males are all circling and parading around in full plumage, very concerned as to who is standing where, and what the girls are doing.

The girls apparently couldn’t care less. They will allow themselves to be herded together, or gathered, or whatever this is. But as soon as the males circle out just a bit too far, they will either wander off, or will go and join another pre-herded group. The males are seemingly very territorial, and keep some sort of pre-measured distance from one another.

Which indicates… that the girls are doing it on purpose. This, I think, is the turkey equivalent of human girls in night clubs going to the bathroom together; it’s just meant to re-arrange the arrangements that the males think have already been made.

And even though the males are quite wary of one another, they are very suddenly now doing something that reminds me of a Civil-War era infantry line; an albino turkey has just arrived, and is literally being driven away from the group by four males who have formed a perfectly straight shoulder-to shoulder wall, and have forced the albino far off to one side.

This is extremely politically incorrect. There is apparently no level of equality among turkeys at all. I wonder what they are finding so objectionable.

Now they have returned to their original positions; the albino circles around for a flank approach; the girls have taken advantage of the interruption to disband completely, and it looks like the entire process begins anew.

That may have been the albino’s plan all along.

I wonder how long this elaborate process takes to complete; hours…days…weeks?

I also hope that what I’m observing is actually a formal process of some kind. It would be very weird to consider that they’re just hanging out on a Sunday, and this is what turkeys get up to when no one is around.

Well, they’re moving off into the woodline now. Maybe they just come out in the open for the sake of the dance, and then take the rest of the day off.

To do what, exactly?

Published in: on May 12, 2013 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  

A Day Late…

Better than never, I suppose.

Saturday morning at work, and I have the legacy of being able to run a laptop and do some stuff.

I just checked a few blog links, saw the ” Finish the Sentence ” I thought I was cool when” thing, and this immediately came to mind.

 

The year 2000; a bright sunny summer day. I am in the backyard with my 2-yr. old niece Olivia. She is in her bathing suit, and happily splashing away in her little round wading pool. There are pool toys everywhere, enough that they couldn’t all fit in there with her.

She had developed some sort of hierarchy to sort this out; only the special ones were allowed in the pool with her, and I never quite understood how certain ones made the cut. Should you try to put one of the bad ones in, she would immediately throw it as far away from the pool as she could. That’s not to say that you could put them away completely; they had their place in the outer perimeter, and that’s where they were supposed to be. Fair enough; the world order of a 2-year old is a very exacting place.

And because she would be in and out of the pool approximately 9000 times a day, we had gotten her a pair of  little red rubber-soled shoes to protect her while she was going back and forth. She liked them a lot, and wore them constantly.

I was always nearby, poking around in my garden, ever vigilant. My main function was to change the pool water out when too much grass got in there.

And because I was in and out of the garden about 9000 times a day, I had gotten myself a very inexpensive pair of rubber-soled shoes to keep from stepping on rocks and the occasional bit of glass. Other than being a different color, they were the same shoes that Olivia had.

And at one point, I was standing just outside the garden, and Olivia was standing just outside of her pool. She noticed my shoes.

She looked down at hers…then at mine…and again. And looking up, in a very matter-of -fact voice, said ” Nice shoes, Rog…” And then back into the pool.

Total acceptance and equality from a 2- year old.

Very cool.

What??….

I don’t even have a file for stuff like this.

Best I could do would be  a ” That is such a goddamned shame” file.

Or, the ” Are you %$#@#$%^ serious” file.

I have friend from where I work; I’ll call her Gina. I’ve known her there for over ten years.

Gina has a second job at a boutique jewelry shop called Alex and Ani. They specialize in eco-friendly, green, spirit-infused? jewelry.” Positive energy” in all their stuff. I’m not sure how that works at all.

A few nights ago, they were having a wine-and-cheese night for customers. It’s all pretty high-end stuff, so it’s in keeping with their approach.

Gina is 32, and is the oldest employee there. Mostly 20-somethings.

It was very busy; and among the customers were two women, aged about 50-ish and 70-ish.

Very suddenly, the older woman collapsed to the floor.

The younger woman went to her knees beside her, screaming “Mom! Mom!”

People stood around nervously; the 20-somethings giggled a lot.

After a minute or so, Gina called 911. Ten minutes later, EMTs arrived, and Gina went outside to hurry them inside; then kept other customers from entering while they worked. One actually became incensed at the inconvenience.

Ten minutes after that, their attempts in vain, they took the woman out; clearly expired.

In relating this to me the next morning, we talked about the horrific lack of involvement and lack of empathy of the bystanders, and especially  among the employees. No one knew what to do, and no one felt compelled to act at all.

Gina says that they all went back to the wine and cheese within a few minutes.

I asked if Alex and Ani, as a company, has any sort of emergency training available for employees. Gina said she would find out.

The next morning, she told me that her manager  had made some calls, and the company responded decisively to the possibility of future emergencies. But she was a little worried, and embarrassed, at what they actually did.

They called their shaman.

That is correct. Shaman.

The same one who had installed all the… crystals… behind the sheet rock… so that the store would be infused with positive energy…

No CPR/AED training, which Homeland Security will provide for free. Nothing like that.

Nope… a shaman. Because you need some big ju-ju to keep old ladies (eeeww) from coming in your store and dying ( triple eeeww). You have to clean out all the negativity and get some green, eco-friendly anti-old lady magic up in there. Plus, it wrecks it for the wine and cheese people, and that’s where your money is.

I suppose it’s me, but dammit…

That is so totally and tragically fucked up.

I don’t have a file for this.

 

 

Published in: on April 15, 2013 at 10:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yet Another Doctrine Post…

” Never mind the maneuvers…just go straight at ‘em”

- Admiral Lord Nelson

This is a followup to my ” Another Doctrine Post ” of a few weeks ago.

In that piece, I advanced the idea that an internet dating site may very well comprise the perfect hunting ground for a typical scott. ( At this point, I must insist that readers refer back to the Wakefield Doctrine for explanations of these and other terms. This will simply make no sense whatever if you don’t.)

I described how my associate ( whom I will refer to as Ms. X ) has happily shredded her way through several relationships, all garnered through the use of internet dating sites.

Ms. X‘s most recent adventure came to my attention simply through our proximity in our shared work environment. I knew, for instance, that Mr. Z was a gourmet chef, the owner of several businesses, has an extensive gun collection, and makes his own ammo?…I half-jokingly put in a request for some Minie balls for an Enfield musket…you never know…can’t hurt to ask…

Their first date consisted of gourmet dinner at his house; followed by gourmet dinner at her house; followed by a day-trip on one of his shrimping boats… I lightly commented to Ms. X that nothing was taking place in a social or public venue, that she should know better than that, that the first rule of the hunt is to isolate the prey as soon as possible, that maybe she should be a little careful…

This would be somewhat like asking Dirty Harry to go out without the .44 Magnum. Not going to happen. Because she thinks that she is Dirty Harry in this, and every other scenario.

But in this, unlike other situations, Ms. X was very, very optimistic. Mr.Z was hitting all the right buttons, lighting up all the lights, playing all the right chords. She didn’t have to correct him on anything at all. Idyllic.

I found myself actually thinking that Ms.X would be all done with the dating sites because it finally worked, just like the E-Harmony guy said it would. Good for her, I thought. She’s had several crosses to bear, and has borne them all heroically. Fair play to the Queen.

That was two weeks ago.

Apparently, scotts can be hunted, too. The only thing a scott has to fear…is a bigger, faster scott.

On Monday, Ms.X came into work…an hour late. Parked in a different lot…in a different car…came in through a back entrance, stole into her office, and called to make sure there wasn’t a black Camaro visible on security cameras. Then came out to show me a photo, with instructions to refuse him admittance; we worked out a radio call in case he got in somehow, and to call 911 if he did. She notified her hometown police, and a few detectives she knows ( she is also a licensed private detective).

It is very disconcerting to observe a confident, card-carrying, fully functional scott who is suddenly genuinely terrified.

At some point, she’ll probably provide me some detail. I would like to have some key information just in case something terrible should happen. If she’s gone missing, then someone at work should be able to direct the authorities and possibly save some critical time.

Seems like every tragic story you hear of starts with ” no one ever thought…”

For now, I’ll just keep watch for black Camaros and gourmet chefs. ( The big white hat should be real easy to spot…)

Scotts hunting scotts…it’s enough to make you glad to be a roger.

Makes you want to get a little closer to the campfire, though, doesn’t it?

Take Five…

Have been sitting here for a while perusing different music videos and whatnot, just re-visiting old favorites ( D. Krall, M.Schenker, LA Guitar Quartet ( just to remind myself that even though I am now officially a Guitar Teacher, I still can’t play a goddamned thing ) Those who can’t do…

And watched an hour’s worth of Andres Segovia teaching a Master Class in 1965; this would have been right about the time that Chet Atkins wanted to attend one, and hang around and be famous and cool and stuff.

Segovia wouldn’t let him in… because ” electric guitar is an abomination.” In a way, he was actually right. There is still nothing to match the level of accomplishment that even a moderately capable classical guitar student must achieve. I think that anyone could actually do it if they set their mind to it, but most people simply cannot imagine the level of dedication necessary, and when they find out…they realize that it would take up the entirety of their lives. Simply, literally, no time for anything else. Ever. That’s probably why Segovia was still having kids when he was over 80; he finally had some time.

I also came across a video of Bobby McFerrin and Esmeralda Spaulding at a Grammy awards thing, doing something far, far more musical than anything that might have actually won an award that night.

And was reminded of another B. McFerrin video, recommended to me by a student when I introduced my class to the pentatonic scale. Just five notes, simpler even than the major scale that we have all known since we were four, courtesy of Richard Rogers and Julie Andrews

Yes, you do. Here, I’ll prove it…

Doe, a deer…

Yeah. That one. That’s a major scale. The song teaches you the major scale, drills it in so effectively that you couldn’t get it out of your head if you wanted to. What a great hook that is.

But it hadn’t occurred to me that people inherently know the pentatonic scale on an even more fundamental level. This video illustrates this in a really neat way.

For good clear examples of pentatonics in use, listen to the blues. B.B King, Clapton, Stevie Ray, Hendrix…it’s a very long list. And they certainly don’t have to be guitar players…how about John Coltrane or Miles Davis? How about Ella Fitzgerald, scat-singing? How about Gregorian chant, the original use of a pentatonic scale?

OK. I’ll shut up now.

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