ADVENTURE THE 7TH: RACKING UP POINTS
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For those unfamiliar with the posting structure of a blog: postings appear in the order they are made by their author, not necessarily in the order that would most benefit an ongoing series such as the one you are about to read. Since the purpose of this blog is to be an ongoing thriller, simply removing the previous chapter to alleviate confusion is not an option – since no one coming to the series after the first chapter had been removed would be able to follow the story line.
Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers with how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…
Adventure, the 7th: Racking up points
Carolyn moved like a lynx – smooth and silent, leading the way to a back spiral that went down into a parking garage beneath the club. I watched her hotwire a Caddy with all the ease of plucking an eyebrow - a real pro. I was impressed and in this line that takes some doing.
We peeled out’a there like a couple of bruised bananas thrown to the chimps. I was alright. A bit sore and groggy in spots. Still trying to shake the last bit of whatever they gave me from my system – but otherwise feeling frisky. There were still a few blanks in my head that needed filling. Carolyn didn’t hesitate.
“Suppose you’re wondering about the list?” she said.
“You suppose good,” I replied, “Tell me, how long have you been in the game?”
She smirked with a sort of rancid pride creeping up like a cat on your favorite hamster.
“I’m not what you think,” she told me.
“Oh, I never assume anything,” I explained to her smugly, loosening my tie to let some of that cool salty air in, “except five’ll get you ten, ten’ll get you twenty and a bottle of Jackie D.’ll leave you heart sore for another in about twenty-four hours.”
She grinned like a researcher’s assistant who’d just discovered a cure-all for jock itch. Believe you me, all she’d have to do is help a guy scratch. I assessed the damage. It was minimal. Good face – kissable in spots but always ready to take it on the chin.
“Suppose you leave the thinking to me?” I suggested.
“Suppose I do…”she played along, “Then what?”
Now I’m the one with the cockeyed gush stretched across my mug - feeling stupid and simple and full of nothing but hot air.
“Then we’d still be back in that upstairs bedroom or stuffed cold in a crawl space marked ‘do not open till 2020,” I sassed back.
I liked her style. She had none, but that was just my style.
“How long do you think we have before they realize we’re gone?” she asked.
“Long enough,” I reasoned, “Now, how about that list?”
“I never saw it, Mr. Mars.” Carolyn explained. “You know a man called Ted Adams?”
“Digger?” I asked, even though I knew exactly who she was talking about.
Cool company. Ted Adams was an alias, one of many for a guy known throughout the underworld only by his moniker - ‘Digger’ because he got underneath just about any secret and could easily bury everyone associated with it in the aftershocks of scandal. He was more a ghost who came and went with all the autonomy of a shadow.
“Michael…” she paused, as though it panged her to admit the truth, “my husband…hired Digger to get his hands on one half of a list.”
“What good’s a half?” I questioned.
“Plenty, if the government knows you’ve got it and they want it back.”
“And Digger had it?”
Carolyn nodded as we turned off the main road.
“What’d you do that for?” I asked.
“In case we’re followed,” she reasoned, “Michael didn’t want the trouble of getting the list so he pegged Tony for a hefty retainer to be his go-between.”
We were on a lonely stretch I’d never been down before. With the sound of surf fading fast in the background and a canopy of long heavy redwoods closing in from above, the road ahead became moonless and dark – like a black hole that drew in the headlamps and made them seem as useless as our eyes. Still, Carolyn drove at a fairly good clip. She knew where she was headed.
“Tony get greedy?” I asked.
“We both did,” she admitted, “You know what a list like that is worth on the black market?”
“Enough to keep you in ermine and gin till the next century.”
“Yes…well, looks now like I’ll be doing my shopping at the pick n’ save.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Her – a cheap thing in cheap clothes: she’d never be able to pull it off.
“So, there never was any intention of ransoming the list back to the Feds?” I asked.
But on that score she was as non-descript and neutral as a Switzerland.
“I don’t know what Michael would have done with it,” she explained, “But Tony was sure he’d be the fall guy. His plan was to give Michael a fake and use the original as leverage for some quick cash.”
We were now cruising at the maximum this bucket had been set for. I could feel the doors start to vibrate just a bit – kept together only by the manufacturer’s seal of luxury at a luxury price.
“What happened that night at Tony’s?” I asked.
“You tell me.”
“Look,” I said – directly with a bit of vinegar, just so we’re doing fine copy on the same set of proofs, “In the last ten days I’ve been lied too, chased after, drugged and screwed over…and not in such a way that I’d be the one smilin’ afterwards. I’ve had just about all I’ll take especially since I’m not on the take for any of it.”
Carolyn glanced my way, sizing me up in her head.
Do I mean what I say?
She knows enough about me to know that I do.
“I went to Tony’s because we were seeing a lot of each other. I didn’t mean for it to happen.”
“No, of course not,” I shot back, a bit too direct this time, because she takes her mind off the road to give me more than a piece.
“Believe what you want. But a woman’ll suffer just so much. Michael thought I was working Tony for the list. He used me like he uses everyone. Like he used you. I didn’t think Tony was my salvation but he was looking out for our interests, and that’s more than Michael ever did.”
She’s got a bitter little crocodile tear attached to that one eye – it’s spiteful and loaded with a few million daggers, but even that inside fury pales to the very fatalist prospect of wrapping us both around a tree.
“Suppose you pay attention to the road,” I suggest.
I’ve lost that emotional edge I had on her. But I’ll get it back. I’m a clever guy.
“When I got to Tony’s that night,” she begins, rethinking closely, “I went upstairs, took off my clothes and waited for Tony in his bed. And ‘no’, Mr. Mars…I wasn’t in love with him. After a few minutes I heard a sound from the bath. I thought it was Tony.”
“Who was it?”
“The man I put a bullet into back there. Before I knew it he had given me something. I don’t know what. But a few moments later I fell on the floor - paralyzed. I couldn’t move. I heard voices. Then came a couple of shots from the master bedroom. I rolled onto my stomach and propped myself against the wall. There were sounds but I can’t say for certain what they were. I crawled up the wall and stood there with my heart pounding in my head. It was dark. The room began to swirl.”
The last part comes slow, soothing, almost inviting to the average guy with a quick one tattooed in his mind and a pair of clean shorts tucked under the visor.
“Then I saw you,” she said.
“Careful,” I quipped, “You might hit my soft spot.”
She smirked at me.
“I didn’t know you had a soft spot where women are concerned, Mr. Mars.”
“It’s in the back of my head.”
She laughed in a way that made me think I might be getting through to her. We were now officially in the middle of nowhere, a province of no place, at a time unspecified by any hour.
“How about callin’ me Eddie?” I suggested.
“Seems more friendly.”
Her foot suddenly lifted from the gas. We coasted to the edge of the gravel embankment, stopping near a ditch and some tall grass.
“You haven’t forgotten I’m a married woman?” she said.
“Baby, I don’t care.”
. . .
I can see by that glazed look in Malory’s eyes that my story has completely captured his attentions. He’s like a kid on his grandmother’s lap waiting for Tinkerbell to sound her chimes so that he can turn the page. Pathetic to the end - he hasn’t had the touch of a good woman or even a lousy one for some time. There’s just so many wholesome ‘three meals a day’ any guy can square away with the wife before his nerve gives out and he’s left with his manhood in a jar on the shelf next to the preserves.
“Use your imagination,” I suggest over the last crumbs from a couple of day olds in the precinct cafeteria, “thirteen years of marriage. You’ve had practice.”
It’s late. The pick of the vending machine proves it. I’ve a cold Styrofoam cup of something masquerading as coffee.
Malory gets a look of guilty disinterest; the kind that traps every altar boy caught by his pious Catholic mother while looking at those glossy fold-outs for the first time.
“Where’s the girl now?” asks Malory.
“Writing a sonnet about last night,” I tease, “…maybe singing my praises to a couple a’ cocoanut trees somewhere between here and Key Largo.”
Malory’s look changes to one of sloppy indignation.
“You let her get away?”
“Only slightly…” I explain, producing a perfumed letter from my coat pocket, in the middle of which Carolyn has taped a house key, “I’m expected.”
“And the list?”
“Let’s just say I’m working on it.”
I swish down the last drops of caffeine before giving Malory a solid punch to the shoulder. I’ve really nothing more to say to him and he knows it.
“Hey, Mars,” he offers with a twinkle in his eye, “Not too fast, eh?”
He knows me too well.
...the end? Not even close, Mack.
Eddie Mars will return in his next and greatest adventure yet
- Death in the Tropics on April 1, 2006.
@Nick Zegarac 2006 (all rights reserved).