Tour’s Books Blog

June 8, 2014

The Warped Mind of Tourmaline Groundhog

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 12:02 am
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I was listening to some of Bob Newhart’s old comedy routines from his ‘Buttoned Down Mind of Bob Newhart’  and thinking, “How come today’s comics only seem able to drop the ‘F-bomb’ every 8th word to be funny?  Newhart and early Bill Cosby did some brilliant comedy albums without ever doing it.”  One of my favorites of Newhart’s is The Driving Instructor.  And for Bill Cosby, his tale of ‘Idiot Mittens‘ was a gem.  Bob Newhart created characters, Bill Cosby created characters and told stories about himself.

Why am I mentioning this?  Well, it seems I’ve developed a double life, maybe a triple life.  No, no, not some weird personality disorder, just characters that I created on two different websites.  While I’ve always enjoyed writing just for fun, I found myself storytelling on two these different websites at different times and for different reasons, hence two different, but related characters emerged.  These characters seemed to have developed very real personalities of their own, as characters often do, though I must admit, in some way, they are like me with all the constraints that being a responsible adult place on your life removed.  Unfettered by reality, they became alter-egos that evolved into distinctive, and occasionally slightly insane, individuals.

One of them (Tourmaline Groundhog) is the author of this blog thru her human counterpart (me).  But she has a cousin, who looks more like an identical twin (just a little bigger) and was raised with Tour since her mother and RF’s father were fraternal twins.  Her name is Reacherfan Groundhog, or RF to nearly everyone except annoyed older relatives – and she seems to have a lot of those.  She’s the adventuresome type, but with a real temper about book thieves in her swaps – where she routinely transforms them into horrible monsters.  (It’s temporary, mostly.)

Why am I telling you all this?  Well, RF had kind of an adventure in California a few years back.  It was written by request for a fellow book swapper who was injured in a fall and found herself in rehab and quite depressed.  She needed something to lighten her mood and just lift her spirits a bit and asked for a custom story with a part for her.  My first thought was, “Oh crap.  I know these people on line.  We’ve never actually met, so how could I get her character worked in?”  Well, as it turned out, I was a bit more creative than I thought and I wove part of her real circumstances into a wild a tale involving ballroom dancing.  Yup. Another subject I know NOTHING about.  Not that complete ignorance ever stopped me before.

Well, I had originally planned a story in 3 parts, but you know what, it evolved.  My friend read part 1 and part 2 and asked if I could write in a favorite character of hers, Cousin Cleatus, RF’s Southern cousin with a penchant for moonshine and racing tiny cars.  He and his Aunt Lula Mae, one of RF’s maternal cousins, live part of the year up at her place in Tortum’s Bakery, much to RF’s annoyance.  Well, she find’s Lula Mae annoying, Cleatus is OK since he rarely bothers her and almost never lectures her about ‘doing the right thing’.  So the story line morphed and a 3 part story became 9 parts long.

It’s June, I’m bored and I figured “What the hell, I’ll put the story on my blog in parts.”  So here it is.

Carly and The Tango Instructor Cast of Characters

RF – AKA Reacherfan Groundhog – the most powerful marmot spellcaster that has ever been, as well as High Priestess of Tortum and operator of Tortum’s Temple Bakery and Cafe; silent partner (HA! Trey would say something about that!) in Dupress Associates, an art and antiques recovery firm working largely for private collectors and insurance companies.  Known for her prickly personality, and the fact she brutally assaults iPhones when they tell her that her books were stolen in a swap – even though she herself is the famous book thief – Le Grande Groundhougoue, Book Thief Extraordinaire.  She fails to see the irony or illogic in this.

Trey Durpess – a Cajun reformed art and jewel thief – well suspected thief.  He was never caught, arrested, or charged.  Favors Armani suits and Italian designers in general.  Is a dead ringer for George Clooney – when Clooney was about 35 years old, a fact that drivers the women crazy and Trey hates.  He is taller and in better shape than Clooney ever was thanks to his former profession.  He has been known to use his ill-tempered partner as a shield against unwanted female advances.  (Which RF alternately resents and finds hysterical.)

Rupert – AKA Zaranthu Soulis, a djinn and bound to RF since she saved his hide a few times and rescued him from a long service as Hell’s Office Manager.  (That bet was NOT a sure thing.)  He rather likes the groundhog and her cousin Tour, as well as the rest of the gang, and would do everything in his considerable power to keep them safe.

Lula Mae Watkins – cousin to RF and aunt of Cleatus.  Resident of Alabama, supporter or Auburn, and one of RF’s spellcasting teachers, and surrogate mother of sorts.  Lula Mae is herself a good spellcaster, but nothing as powerful as her much younger cousin.  She considers riding herd on RF her duty – plus it gets her away from her pups and grandpups and cooking for the lot of them.

Cleatus Norman – member of the formidable Watkins clan thru his momma, Cleatus is fond of Uncle Willie’s moonshine, his momma, his Aunt Lula Mae, his cousin RF’s cooking, and mostly of his over-sized Yankee cousin, who is kind of a force of nature.   Thing is, she is content to let him be what he is, so long as he leaves her alone too.  They get along well that way he doesn’t have to worry about waking up to find out she’s turned him into a field mouse.

Greta and Johann – Younger cousins of RF’s who, against their parent’s wishes, mated and headed east to see their legendary cousin RF and ended up moving in.  Thing was, RF hated Greta’s mother Petunia and Johann’s mother Ingrid, two of the three leading ‘Back to Alfalfa’ proponents of the ‘natural life’ for groundhogs.  Keeping their parents away from RF was a full time job for them at the annual clan reunion.  No one wanted RF’s beef chili or four cheese and sausage lasagna to be lost when she dumped it on Petunia’s head.

Marilyn – a witch of very limited skill and a killer figure that looked like an old fashioned Playboy centerfold.  She adored Greta and Johann and they often stayed with her in the village where her coven lived.  She’d made friends – well, she decided RF was her friend and RF had to live with it – before the young groundhogs showed up, so she’d known the grouchy marmot for a few years.  Her broom landing skills were …….. in need of improvement.

Lucifer – Seriously, he needs an into?  Let’s just say he makes people forget how handsome Trey is.  Besides, for once, no one sold their soul, so he isn’t in this story.

Carly Cady – a former soap opera scriptwriter who was dropped by her dance instructor and badly injured her back.  After surgery, she was placed in rehab and called RF for help.  The cops didn’t believe Raul dropped her on purpose and she wanted RF to investigate.

Big Daddy – Trent Stark McCauley, a billionaire oil man, rancher, and investor who owes his life to RF and Tour for their timely and vicious intervention that kept him from being killed in a ‘hunting accident’ by men he knew well and trusted.  He counts the two odd animals as some of the smartest, shrewdest judges of people he’s ever met.  Uninterested in his vast wealth, they just wanted their own lives, some land set aside for their cousins to live on – and the occasional use of his jet and home on Barbados.  They helped solve more than one problem that plagued several friends of his, so, Big Daddy would do anything they asked – and a lot they wouldn’t.  Although he never was able to get them to accept money for saving him, or helping him out.

R. Jason Rutledge – a famous trial attorney and friend to Big Daddy who helps our intrepid trio out of police trouble.  He also didn’t want to miss the chance to meet the famous RF.  He developed a deep and abiding respect for Trey Dupress’s sheer nerve.

*********************************************

Our story starts in Scotland where RF is on another case ……………..

Trey Dupress looked at his partner as she read the message she just received. “Everything OK RF?”

“What? No, one of the swap players was injured. It seems …… suspicious.”

“Suspicious how? Was it a car accident? Pushed down a flight of stairs? Hit by a speeding car?”

“No, no, no, nothing like that. She was ballroom dancing and her partner was bending her back in a tango move when someone kicked her supporting foot and he dropped her like a sack of potatoes. Fractured her spine and she’s had surgery.”

Trey grimaced. That was unpleasant. As a former thief, falling was always a big risk, but he thought ballroom dancers usually injured joints, not their backs. “I don’t see how a dance move gone bad would fracture a back. Break a hip, yeah, maybe even a shoulder, but her back? That seems, odd.”

“It does seem odd. And who kicked her foot?”

“You’re sure her foot just didn’t slip?”

“Her ankle is bruised and swollen.”

“What does her instructor say?”

“That’s the strange part. Raul disappeared right after Carly was taken away. Even his boss can’t find him. He never even collected his pay.”

“Wait, how do you know all this?” Trey’s eyes narrowed.

“Well, I have a cousin….” Trey threw his hands up dramatically.

“WHAT??????” RF hated Trey’s reactions to her expansive family.

“You must have a million cousins! Half of them are raving psychopaths! Is there a vast groundhog network out there the world doesn’t know about?”

“Of course there is. What’s wrong with you today? You usually handle these things better.  And ‘half’ is a bit much. I’d say a third, max. ” Trey stared at her. “Maybe 7/16ths, but not half!  Besides ‘normal’ for groundhogs is a little different than it is for humans, you know.”

“Your cousin in Austria tried to have us all eaten by wolves and the ones down south run moonshine and drag race tiny motorcycles and then there’s the Parcheesi champion married to a groundhog showgirl. Is that ‘normal’? And I suppose being a spell casting High Priestess of Tortum with a thriving bakery and café and partners in an art theft recovery firm who happens to play in swaps for used books AND TURNS PEOPLE WHO STEALS HER BOOKS INTO GROTESQUE, SMELLY MONSTERS IS NORMAL TOO? ”

“Was that a question? And shouldn’t those sentences have had more punctuation? They sounded a bit run‐on to me.”

“Forget my syntax and grammar! Just answer me?”

“Normal is boring. I’m intelligent, extraordinary, with diverse business and personal interests, a large family, and an aggressive style of play in book swaps.” RF smiled, quite proud of her answer.

“You’re insane.”

“A matter of opinion. Besides, I’m your partner and I’ve saved your ass more than once not to mention helping make you wealthy. Shouldn’t you be nicer to me?”

“I haven’t turned you into a goldfish, have I?”

“No, but then again, you can’t, so I’m not sure that gets you any points. Anyway, this is about Carly, not me or my sanity. And just because I transform book thieves into monsters does not make me insane. A little …… vindictive, perhaps, but not insane. That’s a much higher threshold. The one where you’re helping me hide bodies.”

“WHAT?????”

“Well, have I ever asked you to help me hide a body?”

“NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Well, there you go. But let me remind you of that old saying, ‘Friends help friends move. Real friends help them move bodies.’ So keep that in mind and stop being so judgmental.” The groundhog looked smug.

Trey buried his face in his hands. How did conversations with RF always get so far off track? “Let’s get back to this Carly person. She got dropped by a tango instructor who has since disappeared. How did you find that out?”

“Well, as I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted, I have a cousin in Tahoe, Big Olaf.”

“Olaf?”  He couldn’t stop himself.  He had to learn to shut up.

“His daddy was from Minnesota, related to Petunia and Inger.” RF’s eye’s crossed just saying the names of her much loathed cousins. “His mamma was Hetty and she was a bit of a …………. well, free spirit. Raised Olaf on her own in the Rockies where her family lives. It was just her, Olaf and maybe 30 or 40 relatives. Olaf got interested in investigations watching Magnum, PI reruns, so when he isn’t out digging or working on trees, he takes some PI work. Has great connections with the skunks. They got the information back to him. Said the cops can’t find Raul anywhere.”

“Could he have left the country to see relatives somewhere?”

RF looked at him. “His real name is Richard ‘Ricky’ Andretti from Brooklyn. Third generation Italian‐Polish‐American.  Maybe a little Irish in there, but they won’t admit it. Pretends to be from Argentina.  You teach tango, you make more as an Argentine than a guy from Brooklyn. And no, there’s no sign of him in Brooklyn either.”

“OK, you’re right, this sounds kind of fishy. Are the police looking for him?”

“No. They think it was just an accident and he took off because he’s afraid of a lawsuit.”

“That’s a possibility, you know.” Daire, the Texas Ranger that was working this job with them offered, as he tossed more caramel popcorn in his mouth from the bowl Marilyn was holding. “People with something to hide often run rather than face the truth.”

When did they acquire the audience? Greta, Johann, and Lula Mae were all watching with avid interest and paws full of popcorn.

“Would you run away and leave behind a brand new 65” LED flat screen with a complete home theater system? One you paid for with CASH! And not pick up your pay when your lease payments on your Lexus are 3 months overdue?”

Daire considered RF’s question, then shook his head. “Nope. It’d go with me for sure.”

Trey stared at RF. “Wait a minute. Big Olaf didn’t get all this from the skunks.” Dear God, did he really just say that?

“No, they brought him Ricky’s mail and he found a bank statement from after Ricky disappeared and threatening letters from the collection agency.”

“TAMPERING WITH THE US MAIL IS A FEDERAL OFFENSE!”

“Well good luck prosecuting the skunks. They jury will jump out the nearest window.”

OK, she had a point, but still, her casual disregard for certain laws worried him. “So what are you going to do?”

Her hesitation, followed by her patently fake ‘trust me’ smile made the little hairs on the back of his neck stand up.  “Rupert and I will go visit Carly and ask a few questions.”

“HEY! You can’t just leave us here! You have to take us with you!”  Trey turned around to a mutinous looking Lula Mae, Greta, Johann, Marilyn and a bemused Daire. Rupert looked unsurprised.  Hummmmmm

“Rupert can’t take all of us, so you’ll just have to stay here for 2 or 3 days laying the false trail till I findout about this Ricky/Raul person.”

Trey gave his conniving partner a hard look. “Just how are you getting there? Big Daddy’s jet is back in Texas.”

“Rupert can, ah, transport us there. But he can’t take everyone.” A storm of protests sounded from the gang and Rupert held up his hands in a placating gesture. “No, I’d have to get Mother to help and RF refused.”

“I am NOT taking short‐tempered cannibalistic djinn to California so she can have an ‘All You Can Eat’ buffet!”

“Mother isn’t that bad. It’s not like she has the neighbors for dinner or anything. Not recently.”

“Your mother doesn’t have any neighbors because having dinner at her place meant being the entrée.  The survivors got smart and moved far, far away.”

Rupert really couldn’t argue. His mother was …….. unpredictable. “Well, she doesn’t like Californians anyway. They’re stringy and tough and she always has to spit out those implant things. They get stuck in her teeth. Amazing how many places they have them.” Everyone stared at Rupert in a kind of horrified silence. “We really should be going. The landing area will only be clear for a few more minutes.” Yeah, his partner planned this. Sneaky little furball.

“I’m going.” Trey had that look on his face. RF knew it well. It was take him along or all hell would break loose. She looked at Rupert who nodded, he would be able to carry Trey as well.

“And just how do you plan to get into this rehab center?”

“I’ll be a therapy animal.” That damn smug look was back. Trey sighed. There was no stopping this.  Trey looked at Rupert, “Can I take a bag with a change of clothes?”

“No need. I can get everything there we’ll need. Cousin Salim runs an ultra‐elite men’s wear shop in Beverly Hills and he owes me. Plus he doesn’t want a visit from Mother. He’ll have everything delivered. Just give me a list.”

The djinn turned to RF, “Big Daddy called to say the villa in LaJolla is  ready for our arrival and the rental company would drop off the Jaguar you requested.”

Trey stared at his partner, who just stared back. Well, after the chill and rains in Edinburgh, a beach in SoCal and the restaurants in La Jolla seemed pretty good. He turned to Daire. “You have my number if anything comes up.” He looked at Lula Mae, who was pouting a bit. “You keep things under control – please. We’ll probably be heading to London in 3 days, so get this lot together.” He sighed. This had classic RF chaos written all over it, but there was no changing her mind. “Let’s go before I get my common sense back.”

TO BE CONTINUED……………………

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