Tour’s Books Blog

August 19, 2015

RF and the Yacht Theft Case – Part 4 Conclusion

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 7:37 pm
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Last night ………..

RF was outside pacing when Tour came dragging in looking exhausted and went straight to the palapa lounge and flopped down.

“We lost the tracker on the yacht that was stolen and we can’t find it on any satellite photos.”  RF glared at her.  “And what the hell is wrong with you?”

“I’m sure Hondo will get one of the back-ups working soon.  The yacht is probably under a heavy tree canopy by now and can’t get a signal through anymore.”

“AND???????”

“And the Wordies know I’m spending time here.  They’re asking questions and making noises about wanting a vacation.”

RF gasped. “NO!!!!!  Not just no, HELL NO!!!!!!!”

“Chill and mac want a karaoke machine so they can provide entertainment.”

“That’s it.  I’m killing them all.  Or sending them to the 5th circle of Hell or something.”

“So to distract them, I served cheesecake and mojitos.”

“Not a combination I’d normally think of.”  RF sat and looked carefully at Tour.  Her cousin looked really exhausted.

“Then I put on some music, to stop all the questions about where I was and what I was doing because the cake and drinks weren’t working.  It was a tango.  Mac grabbed me yelled, ‘Let’s dance!’”

“Mac’s the wallaby, right?”

“Yeah.”

“ummmm ……….. aren’t you a little short to try and dance with a wallaby?  Besides, she female.”

“She also had a full pitcher of mojitos and she’s just sort of tossed me around.”  Tee sighed.  “I need a chiropractor.  She even tried to dip me.”

“Groundhogs are NOT built to ‘dip’. Why didn’t you stop her?”

“Oh, you mean like yelling ‘No Mac!  Stop that!  Don’t DIP ME!’ followed by screaming in pain?  Yes, I did that.”  Tee glared at her cousin.  “And if I could lift this skillet, I’d beat your grinning face flat.”

“Sorry.”  RF tried to look contrite, but she just couldn’t.

“It won’t be funny if they show up here demanding rooms, food, and beach time and taking up every lounge by the pool.”

RF stopped smiling.  HA!  Served her right.  Hondo came out of the villa.  “We have the tracker back.  It’s in Suriname in a small village on a tributary of the Coppename River.”  He looked at Tour.  “You OK?  You look exhausted.”

“I was doing the tango with a drunk wallaby who had trouble understand why groundhogs and wallabies WERE NOT MEANT TO DANCE TOGETHER!”

“Ok then.  I have Advil if you need it.  Not to be rude, but why didn’t you just call Gil, your yeti.  He seems fond of the wallaby.”

“He’s in Nepal for his mother’s birthday.”

“Oh.”  Hondo simply could NOT resist.  “How old is she?  I mean, do yeti’s live a long time?”

“She was born three years after the last tyrannosaur died.”  Tee looked annoyed.  “How the hell should I know how old his mother is?  She and I aren’t exactly pen pals.”

“Wow, you’re as cranky as RF tonight.”  That got him two growls.  Hondo had finely developed instincts for dangerous situations (he was a former SEAL) and he knew he was in one now – caught between a skillet wielding marmot who wanted to vent some rage and spell-caster with a real patience problem.  “We’re setting up a plan to get them out.  Ethan has called in another team to extract the rest of the family while we get the two on Suriname.  It will take 24 hours to get everything in place and about 4 hours to get in and out if all goes well.”  He’d been moving slowly and carefully out of range of Tee and keeping RF in his peripheral vision.  She liked him, but he wasn’t counting on that given her mood.

Trey strode up, two pairs of small brown eyes tracked him like lasers.  “RF, your books were stolen in the Midnight Madness swap.”  Hondo barely resisted urge to hurl himself into Trey’s arms with a “My HERO!”  Oblivious to his peril, Trey scooped up Tee and said, “Don’t take long with the transformation, there’s work to get done.”  The growl as he turned had him calling, “It was Amy!”

Tee took a moment to check Trey’s expression.  Yup.  he knew exactly what he’d just done.  “You do live dangerously, don’t you?”

Trey laughed and settled on one of the patio lounges with Tee in his lap.  “I was a jewel and art thief.  Now I’m partners with a small animal of questionable mental stability who has a witch and djinn as friends and calls up Lucifer for help.  It doesn’t get more dangerous than that.”

“Sure it does.  When you momma starts matchmaking.”

Trey froze.  “She isn’t?  Not again???!!!!!!”

“She thinks you spend too much time with questionable companions.  And I don’t mean paid companion types, either.  She likes RF, but thinks she’s nuts and puts you in too much danger.”

“That’s hardly RF’s fault.  We’re just solving the insurance problems.  By definition, the people are crooks, often dangerous ones.  Like now.”

“Yes, well, you might want to explain to her that people who systemically cheat insurance companies rarely go quietly when caught.”  Tee hesitated a moment and added, “And ask Big Daddy over to dinner.  Your momma was really impressed by him.”

The both looked at the palapa when they heard the loud *POOF!* signaling a completed transformation.  Trey just shook his head, long since resigned to RF vindictive nature.  Tour sighed, then looked at him and said,  “I’d leave RF home.  You momma does NOT need to see things like that.  She’ll make you be a guard at the local WalMart just to keep you safe.”

“Obviously, you have no experience with the Black Friday shoppers at WalMart,” Trey replied.

Next morning …………..

It was the calm before the storm.

Everyone was enjoying breakfast out on the patio while final arrangements were being made to extract the family caught in the yacht theft/smuggling gang.  Big Daddy had high power attorneys covering for the captain who had been blackmailed into sailing the stolen boats and the DEA agents who appeared were not pleased.  They were less pleased when they learned the key suspect would probably skate free thanks to diplomatic immunity. They were inside, busy burning up lines trying to cut red tape in a fruitless effort to gain control despite the clear implication of one of their own.  Witlow sat outside eating and enjoying the sunshine.  He’d learned just how pointless those battles were.   Diplomatic immunity was a trump card and there was no way around it unless the other government revoked it – and Venezuela wasn’t about to do that!

“You certainly are taking your time this morning.”  RF eyed her cousin Tee as she had her sixth helping from the buffet.  Quiche, French toast, fruit quick breads, muffins, OJ, bacon, sausage, and ham steak.

“They never expect me before noon.  They get fed, that’s all that matters to them.”  Talking about her Wordies.

“Well, I hope you left a big breakfast buffet.  I don’t want them showing up here looking for food.”

“I’m sure Daisy took care of it.  I had everything ready.”  RF stared at her.  “Maybe I should check.”  Tour whipped out her iPhone (the one she never let RF use) and called Daisy.  After assuring her all was going as planned she asked about the breakfast buffet …………….. and got silence.  OOPS  “Soon as I finish eating, I’ll be there!”  Apparently, the absence of food had not gone unnoticed.  Damn!

Just then the book theft alarm rang ………… “Jasmine in the Friends WL swap.”

Judging by the growl, there was book RF seriously wanted.  How unfortunate for Jasmine.  “Hurry up with the transformation.  I need your help back at the bakery.”

“Not a frigging chance.”

“It’s that or the Wordies come here.  Your choice.”  RF growled again, but Tour ate like she wasn’t even there, till finally her cousin huffed and stalked to the palapa.  Tour muttered, “She needs a new hobby.”

“I HEARD THAT!”

Everyone at the table wisely stayed quiet.  Even the usually vocal Lula Mae.  The loud …….. *POOF!* made them jump a bit.

“Hurry up RF.  We’ll need to make lunch for them to shut them up!”

“I am NOT cooking for your lot of nut cases.”

“You are if don’t want them here at the villa by dinner!’

“I hate you.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I’ll lay awake worrying about it.  Get in the aircraft.  We gotta go.”

“I have to text my Daisy to steal books!”  RF was still complaining as Tee shoved her cousin up the boarding ramp.  “Use my phone.  Bye everyone!”

A bemused group waved at the departing craft that sort of seemed to disappear.  Witlow watched the whole thing, started to say something, then just shook his head and had more French toast.  “Something bothering you Agent Witlow?”  Of all the folks at the table, it was Lula Mae, with her too shrewd eyes that asked.

“I keep expecting men in black to walk in and tell me I didn’t see anything.”

She snorted.  “They tried that once when Tour and RF were young.  Tried to take them away.  Didn’t work out well and they’ve left them alone since.”

“What happened?”  He was almost sorry he asked, but he just could NOT let that pass.

Lula Mae shrugged.  “Not exactly sure.  RF hadn’t really grown into her gift yet and Tour was a pup too, but those two guys ended up in Point Barrow, Alaska with no money, no memory of getting there, and no way home for 6 months.  No one ever came around again.”

OK, he was right.  He was sorry he asked.

A few hours later …………….

RF had arrived back ahead of Tour and immediately walked up to her partner and yelled, “You are supposed to save me from things like that?”

Trey stopped talking to Ethan and Hondo to look at her.  What was she babbling about?  “Save you from book thefts?”

“FROM BEING KIDNAPPED BY TOUR!”

“It looked to me like you were just paying her back for all the help she’s given you.  It certainly didn’t look like any kidnapping.”

“SHE PUSHED ME UP THAT RAMP!”

“So?  You push your cousins around all the time.  You weren’t exactly yelling for help.”

“I COULDN’T YELL FOR HELP!”

“Why not?  You weren’t gagged.  She was just shoving you around to get you moving.”  He looked RF over.  “You don’t look injured.  So it couldn’t have been horrible.”

“I JUST SPENT HOURS WITH THOSE INSANE WORDIES!  I MAY BE MENTALLY DAMAGED AND YOU HAVE NO SYMPATHY?”

“You were already pretty strange, so any mental damage would be hard for me to detect.  OUCH!  Don’t bite my ankles!  And why are you shouting?”

“I WANT TO BE CODDLED!”

“For helping the same cousin that got shot helping you solve a crime on Barbados?  Who managed a brilliant coup to get the matriarch of your Southern clan firmly under your paw?  Who stopped your three most hated cousins from harassing you and their pups by using information you never knew existed?  What did you do?  A little cooking?  You probably didn’t work as hard as you do in your own Bakery.  You’re just throwing a hissy fit because she maneuvered you going to the OTC Bar, Grill, and Bakery and chatting with her Wordies.  Seems a small enough thank-you for what she did.”

RF stood there, silent, staring at her partner for several seconds, and calmly said, “I hate you.” Then she walked away.

“You only hate me because you know I’m right!”  She flipped him the claw and kept going. Trey just chuckled and turned back to the two SEALs.  “What, you’re both looking very strange.”

“I honestly don’t think I would have been brave enough to do that,” admitted Ethan.

“She knows it’s the truth, inconvenient, but still the truth.  She owes Tour and today was minor payback.  She’s just used to always getting her own way.  She couldn’t yell for help without looking ungrateful for everything Tour has done and she knows it.  She just does not like being reminded.”

The two SEAL’s just shook their heads and let it go.

That evening, the plan went into motion.  Just before Ethan, Dev, and Hondo took off for Suriname, Tour arrived and gave them something to help identify them to the man and child as the good guys.  Then she wandered out by RF, where she’d been sulking since dinner.

“You still in a snit.”

“You made me sit thru 10 songs by the wolf and the wallaby.”

“It would have been 20 if they had their way.  Be glad I cut them off.  Besides, they all like you.”  RF stared at her.  “OK, mostly they’re a little afraid of you, but they like you anyway.”

“They hugged me!”

“Yes, I know, you’ll get over it.  I promise your reputation will not be damaged by the hugging incident.”

“How do you put up with it?”

Tour shrugged.  “It all seems normal to me, just like your Bakery Cafe seems normal to you.”

“At least they’re human.”

“Not all of them,” muttered Tour.

“HUH?”

“Oh, nothing.  Come dawn, maybe the worst will be over.  I see Witlow, Rast, DHS, and the DEA guys are getting ready to leave.”

“They’re following once the hostages are out.  Except Witlow and Rast.  They have a lot of paperwork stuff to wade through yet and all that cheating in the casinos to get straightened out.  We gave them a lot of video and they have a lot of warrants to serve and people to extradite in insurance fraud too.”  Tour nodded.  “But you were expecting that.  You were expecting everything.”

“Well, I admit the Valkyrie was a surprise, but yeah, I figured it would happen this way.”

“Are you psychic or something?”

Tour shrugged.  “Something.  But right now, I’m kind of hungry.  I’m going to raid the kitchen.  You want anything?”

“Just bring whatever you’re having.”

Trey walked out and Tour winked at him as she passed.  He sat next to his partner who steadfastly refused to look at him.  Sighing deeply, he picked her up and set her in his lap – on a cushion because he wasn’t a complete idiot about her claws.  “You may as well get over it.  You survived and did a good deed that needed doing, so there’s no need for all this drama.  If it’s any consolation, Witlow is scared to death of you.”

“That’s good.”  RF looked quite cheerful at that statement.

“And the SEALs are all worried you’ll turn me into a toad.”

RF chuckled.  “I’ll bet Lula Mae laughed.”

“She did, so did Cleatus and Big Daddy.  They all thought it was payback time.  Looks like you got off lightly.”

“I suppose.  Where’s Tour with the food?”

“She’s waiting on me.”

“Waiting for what …………… ”  RF’s head whipped up.  “NO!   NONONONONONONO!  Not again.”

Trey set her down and stood.  “Doree in the Reading 1,2,3 swap.  I’ll be back with the food.”

As Trey walked in the kitchen, Big Daddy looked up.  Rupert had gone with Ethan and his group of SEALs as extra protection and a fast exit.  Horace and Jethro were with the other team.  Not even Witlow or Rast knew they were there.  Trey would be heading out to the recovery vessel with some lawyers to wait on the family and make sure the agents kept their promises. “How’d it go?”

“Three steals in 24 hours?  She’s annoyed as all hell.”

“Well there better not be flaming swords again, because that sure didn’t work out!”  Tee yelled from the kitchen, sounding pretty annoyed.

Trey peered at the rising image and called back, “We’re good!  Three heads, lots of spikes, but no flames or swords.”  Just when did stuff like this become ‘normal’?

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

RF, Big Daddy, Special Agent Witlow and Chief Detective Inspector Rast were finally back at the villa with Marilyn. The SEAL’s, various police departments and international law enforcement agents were still rolling up the men in the operation.  Tour’s Daisy and about 15 of her clan and her Cousin Daisy (RF’s Daisy) were on hand to greet the family and their own cousins – Petal and Ginny.  The family looked a bit shellshocked, but were holding up as the FBI whisked them off to a safe house with lawyers in tow.  At least 7 different governments wanted to charge the involved men and women with everything from kidnapping to smuggling, to drug running, to tax evasion – yes, even the IRS was there.  Trey, Ethan, Dev, and Hondo were busy locating yachts and identifying all the people involved in the insurance scam before everything disappeared into evidence files at some inept government agency.  They hoped to at least get the data on the Americans and Europeans, and get copies back to the insurance companies involved.  Rupert, Horace, and Jethro minded their own business and Jethro and Horace slipped back to the djinn world before they had to answer too many questions.  With the dust settled about the family, Tour went home with her Daisy taking Cousin Daisy, Lula Mae, Greta, and Johann back to RF’s place on the way using the pushmi-pullyus, so things were fairly quiet. RF had no idea where Cleatus was, he usually turned up when needed.

As expected, the Venezuelan scumbag claimed diplomatic immunity and his country insisted he be returned.  But his uncle was missing – the uncle that had been caught on camera threatening the captain and his family and cutting several shallow reminders into the good captains skin.  He had disappeared and that made RF uneasy.  He had no diplomatic immunity.  He was nominally a coffee grower despite his political ties.  He’d been effectively disavowed.

“RF, will you stop pacing?  You’re making me dizzy!”  RF barely bit back a retort about Marilyn always being dizzy when at least 8 armed men raced into the room. RF quickly turned one group into lizards and the other into field mice.  Then 2 more men came in and she went for her gerbil powder ……….. but nothing happened.  A third man grabbed her, careful to avoid her claws, while Rast, Witlow, Big Daddy, even Marilyn – who had tried to turn the one man into a carp (Marilyn wasn’t very good at transformations, but she did a damn fine carp), but again, the spell just slithered off.  Once all three somewhat bruised and slightly bloody men were trussed up to chairs, the man holding RF set her down.  “Boss wants to talk to you before you die.”  His Spanish accent was so thick RF could barely understand him.

“Oh goody.  My Spanish is pretty limited, so this should be short.”

“Then it is just as well I was educated in the US and my English is up to the task.”  A handsome man with slivering hair stepped into the villa’s living room.  ‘Go watch the Zodiac.  We do not want nosy neighbors calling the police till we’re done.”  The men left and it was just the leader and his guard.  “So, you are the famous Reacherfan Groundhog.”  He looked at the mice and lizards.  “It is as I had heard, it seems.  I did not truly believe, but it would seem my expensive precautions worked.”

Marilyn snarled, “A black witch!”

“Gag her, Raul.”  Marilyn put up a struggle, but ended up gagged and glaring.  She was using her fingers to and cast some spell, at the intruders or something else, RF couldn’t tell.

“Is there something I can do for you?  Get you coffee, tea, cyanide?”

The man laughed.  “You are as I was warned, arrogant and insolent, but we will take care of that.”  He looked around.  “Not as nice as your Barbados villa, Mr McCauley, but a good place to hide in plain sight.  And Agent Witlow, how nice to meet the man who escaped the wrath of a vindictive marmot, unlike your superior, Mr Garrison.  And Chief Detective Inspector Rast, your recent successes have been extraordinary.  All you good luck runs out today.  And Marilyn, a witch of minor ability, yet friends of the most powerful spellcasting marmot alive.”

“Aren’t you afraid I’ll call in a favor from a powerful friend?”

“Ah, Lucifer himself, I understand.  He’s ………. busy.  I paid dearly to have him otherwise occupied.  I have no desire to meet him in person.”

“If you signed in blood, I guarantee you will, sooner or later.”

“Then let us hope it’s much later.  I enjoy my life, the life you seriously disrupted.”

RF shrugged.  “Yeah, but he’ll enjoy your death for far longer than all the years you’ll ever live.”

Under his swarthy skin, the man paled a bit at the truth he’d avoided thinking about.  Then he shook himself and stared at RF contemptuously.  “But you and your friends will already be there to greet me.”

“I doubt that …………… señor?”

“Ah, forgive my manners.  Allow me to introduce myself, Don Carlos Alfonzo de la Fuente.”

“I’ll just call you Chuck.  Or would you prefer Fonzie?”

“You are completely without breeding or manners.”  The man’s eyes narrowed in barely suppressed anger.

“My cousin Lula Mae would agree whole heartedly.”  She gave kind of a full body shrug.  “So is this the part where you gloat about catching me and the creative death you have planned?”

“This is where I learn who betrayed me, or you watch your friends die ………… badly.”

Again she shrugged.  “Given the fact the villa staff will be arriving in about,” she checked the clock, “oh, an hour, you don’t have a lot of time.”  RF made sure to keep staring at the man because she was almost certain Cleatus was on the patio.  Maybe he could get help here fast.  “So want to know who sold you out?  Seriously?  That’s the big question?”

The man scowled at RF and her attitude, which far surpassed her size and even had the FBI agent sighing behind his gag.  “I treat my people well and value loyalty and repay those who betray me harshly.”

“Yeah.  I saw some of that ‘treatment’ applied to a 9 year old girl in Guyana.  It was one of your finer moments and destined for a YouTube viral hit.  Though ‘hit’ seems the wrong word under the circumstances.”

“She was as mouthy and rude as you!”

“And all of what?  80 pounds?  Hitting her must have been so satisfying.”

“Like you, she is a female who does not know her place.”

“Like your wife and daughter?”

The smug smile vanished.  “My family would never betray me.”

“Wanna bet?”

“We are blood.  That is unthinkable.”

“Yet your nephew Juan Carlos escaped on diplomatic immunity, but where are you?  On an international most wanted list?  You think some rich father won’t hire someone to take you out now that he knows who supplied the fake cancer drugs for his child?  Hell, if he was Spec Ops, he and his buddies will hunt you to the ends of the earth for free.  If I were you, I’d start running, because men like that have no boundaries on revenge for their children.”

“No one knows I am in any way involved except my nephew.”

“And the captain and his family – and everyone who sees the video of you playing Mr Big when the captain learned about the drugs and almost got his family away to safety.”

“How do you know all this?  They are liars and have no proof!”

“And after all, the smell of coffee masks drugs, and besides, you weren’t hiding cocaine, just fake life saving anti-cancer and heart drugs.  And you had the cover of the CIA and DEA for the price of a bunch of worthless information, much of which you and your nephew just made up, and just enough truth to keep you safe.  Did you laugh all the way to the bank?”

“The yachts, they were my nephews way around those Romanian thugs and their demands for more and more of a share.  The fools thought that was primary smuggling route.”

“But you outsmarted them.”

“Of course.  I have an MBA from Wharton, I understand business.  I had alternate routes they knew nothing about.”  The snug look was back.

“Good to know those business ethics courses really pay off.  Was that the advanced deception class in Lying and Cheating?  Or was it just Good Business 101?”  RF could feel her friends just staring at her, but she was desperate to buy some time for Cleatus to get help. “And does your family know about the secret bank accounts where you hid your run away money?”  She was just guessing, but he was the type.

Outside, a very quiet splash sounded in the pool.  Don Carlos motioned for Raul to check.  He half turned when a cast iron skillet swung by a really pissed off Tour connected with his knee cap sending him screaming in pain to the floor and shooting at Tee.  But the bullet ricocheted off the iron and hit him in the other leg.  Tour raced up his body and smacked him in the head before turning to the shocked Don Carlos who had just found his own gun and she smashed the edge of the skillet right down on the toes of his expensively shod right foot.  He screamed but was still standing when he fired, again the bullet ricocheted and hit Raul in the shoulder – it was just not his day – as Tour swung and connected with his right knee – one that actually crunched so loudly the noise could be heard over his scream.  She scrambled up his body and smashed his face, breaking his nose and several teeth.  Raul tried to move, she whirled around in a roundhouse swing and hit his head hard enough to split his scalp open and knock him senseless.  She turned back to Don Carlos just in time to slam the edge of skillet down on his wrist as he grabbed his gun, then, because she was seriously pissed, she hauled off and slammed him over the head, bouncing his face off the marble floor.  Twice.

RF sat and stared at her cousin as she executed a perfect backhand swing into Raul’s head before using a powerful overhand on Dan Carlos. “You know, you should play professional tennis.  That’s a hell of swing you have there.”  She was so astonished at Tee, that she didn’t even see Cleatus with a kitchen knife freeing Big Daddy, Witlow, Rast and Marilyn.

Tour shook her skillet at her cousin.  “What did I tell you?  Do you ever listen?  COLD IRON WORKS ON EVERYTHING!”

“They weren’t vampires, or fae.”  RF was still trying to process what Tee had just done ………… and why the hell was she even here?

“EVERYTHING!  EVEN BLACK MAGIC!”

“Ok”  Now was not the best time to annoy her cousin.  Not while she was mad and waving a skillet.  Big Daddy had tears running down his face as he pulled his gag out and started howling with laughter.  Rast was smiling and Witlow just eyed Tee with a kind of wary respect – and kept a real close eye on the skillet.  Marilyn just asked, “Can you teach me to swing a skillet like that?  It seems like a really useful skill.”

“Better than trying to teach her to cook,” muttered RF, who got a dark look from the witch.

A huge, white, furry creature walked in and said in deep bass voice, “Those other men are all strapped to the pool floats with duct tape, General Tour, but if they struggle, they’ll flip over and drown.”  Tee looked outside as four men went still as death.  She shrugged.  “I could care less.”

RF turned to Witlow and said, “Do you still think she’s the ‘nice one’?”  The man was not stupid enough to answer, not while Tee held that skillet and had some 8 foot tall ………… whatever the hell it was next to her.  Cleatus was laughing as he cut what looked like gris-gris bags off the necks of the two men – slipping just enough to really nick them.  RF knew how good Cleatus was with a knife, so those nicks were deliberate.  “You want these with the others Tee?”

“Yeah.  I can take care of getting rid of them safely.”  Then she rounded on RF again.  “When will you learn to not rely on anything but your spell casting skills and connections to Tortum and Lucifer?  You need to learn some self-defense.”

“Like karate or Aikido?”  Tee snarled and RF laughed and held up both paws in surrender.  “OK, I’ll learn to swing a skillet.  Or maybe a custom cast iron cricket bat.”

“I’ll get you custom made one as a thank-you.  One for each of you.”  The billionaire swept up Tour with the skillet still in her paw.  “Thank-you for saving my life.  Again!  But how did you know?”

Tee shrugged. “Just a feeling.  So I grabbed Gil and came down.  Saw Cleatus sneak out and he told us where everyone was.  Gil took the four outside while I took these two.”  RF had a feeling her cousin had more than simple premonitions.  She also had a suicidal streak when she asked sweetly, “Did Gil bring his own skillet?”  Big Daddy kept a firm grip on Tour as she tried to lunge for her annoying cousin.  Witlow muttered, “They’re both crazy.”

“They always were,” said Lula Mae as she strolled in, apparently not having stayed at the Bakery with Greta and Johann.  She looked at the trussed up bleeding men on the floor, then at Tee.  “Have you considered anger management?  Between this and the clan gathering, you have quite the body count.”

“They all deserved it.”

Lula Mae shrugged.  It was true.  “Got the mice and lizards in cages.  I counted 5 mice and 4 lizards.  That sound about right?”  RF nodded.

Outside, there was a “What the hell is that?” and 7 SEAL’s – Ethan, Dev and Hondo and the team of 4 SEAL’s they’d called for help walked in along with a baffled looking Trey and Rupert.

Trey scooped up RF and said, “This is all your fault, isn’t it?”

“You are TOTALLY wrong!  Only the mice and the lizards are mine, the rest was Tour – and Gil, her yeti, who got the others.”  She whispered, “Stay away from that skillet for awhile.  She’s still kind of mad.”

“I HEARD THAT!”

“That really is a yeti?”  WItlow sat down.  “If my bosses ever find out, I’ll get kicked out for mental instability.”

“Don’t worry, son,” assured Big Daddy, “I’ll hire you for a lot more than you make now.”

Then Rast asked the most important question.  “How did they know where to find us and all about RF?”

RF and Tour chorused, “CIA”

“Will someone please tell me what the hell happened here?”  Ethan asked plaintively.  “And shouldn’t we get those guys out of the pool before they tip over and drown?”

“Well, if they drown, they become mine and I’ll be delighted to escort them to Hell.”  The blindingly handsome Lucifer smiled at Tour and RF, then looked at Don Carlos.  “You didn’t pay them enough for what’s happening to them now – but that will seem like nothing more than a paper cut compared with what will happen to you when enter my kingdom.”  Everyone stilled, even RF felt a chill pass through her.  Don Carlos made a bigger mistake than coming here to the villa, and judging by the look in his eyes he realized now just how big it was.

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

It took a long time to get everything straightened out with various law enforcement agencies all claiming jurisdiction and none with any rules regarding assault by a groundhog, even one wielding a skillet.  The mice and lizards returned to human form quite naked and more than ready to talk.  Even Raul, who was still in the hospital with a concussion and broken keep cap that would require special surgery was talking – well lisping.  He had that broken nose and missing front teeth, concussion, and a fractured jaw.  Don Carlos tried diplomatic immunity and failed.  His nephew was on the run from rival gangs because the bad press had caused Venezuela to revoke his immunity, and they agreed to extradite him.  The wives and children of the two men were seeking asylum in other countries – and only Iceland would take them on a temporary basis.  The CIA man disappeared – or so the CIA insisted.  Lucifer had smiled at the CIA rep who made the claim – and the man had damn near wet himself.  He didn’t know who the blond was, but he scared the crap out of him – literally.  The DEA guy was found dead under questionable circumstances – a murder made to look like a suicide.

The SEALs had rescued the 4 men floating precariously in the pool.  And Lucifer left alone, only slightly disappointed, reminding all the cartel men they would be his eventually – and he had infinite time.  A total of 34 yachts were rounded up, some owners innocent, but more than half involved and others who had their yachts ‘stolen’ but didn’t replace them were also rounded up.  Charges ranged from insurance fraud to filing false police reports, to drug smuggling and tax evasion.  Yes, the IRS was still there and having a splendid time impounding things.  They always were.

Gil had gone back to Tour’s bakery long before all the police arrived.  Tour was still pissed about having her favorite skillet impounded as evidence.  RF still hadn’t gotten a straight answer about how Tour knew to come back and bring help, which, given her nosy nature, drove her crazy.  She was outside in the palapa while yet another round of endless questions were asked of the humans.  Trey sat next to his partner.  “You know, she’ll only tell you if she wants to.”  He scratched her gently behind her ears.

“I know, but it’s driving me nuts!”

“Well, just assume she has some gift of seeing things and let it go.”

“But I have to KNOW!”

“Remember what happened to the Russian woman in the Indiana Jones movie about the crystal skull.  Knowing everything is not a good thing.”  He got up and looked down at her, “But I do know Joanne stole your books in the Location mystery swap, so maybe doing a transformation will make you feel better.”

RF snarled like her old self.  Trey hid his smile till he walked away.

Big Daddy sat on the patio with a glass of bourbon and let some of his legion of lawyers handle the lawmen from 4 countries, Interpol, and half a dozen US agencies.  He paid them a fortune, so they could damn well earn it.  RJ was in court, so he couldn’t get there, but sent two of his people who were nearly as slippery as the famed lawyer.  As Trey sat, he pushed the glass of bourbon over to him.  “She still sulking over being rescued by her cousin?”

“Not sulking so much as frustrated at how Tour knew.”

“Suspect only Tour, their late Great Aunt Meg, and maybe the devil himself know the answer to that one.”  He raised his glass.  “To feisty groundhogs.”  Trey laughed and saluted them both.

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August 16, 2015

RF and the Yacht Theft Case – Interlude

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 9:47 pm
Tags: ,

As loyal readers know, RF transforms book thieves into various ugly, unfortunate creatures, the kind of thing usually found in horror movies that feature demons and monsters, as well as scantily clad, well-endowed young females who do a lot of running and screaming.  Well, on rare occasion, her victim embraces their new self a bit ……. fully.  Such was the case with a player named Atti – and that happened right in the middle of the Yacht Theft Case.  So here is the Atti Interlude.

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

A shriek sounds as the book theft alarm chimes, very, very softly.  Tour, ever sympathetic, says, “Oh grow up and get over it already.  You play in swaps.  Books get stolen.  We don’t need the Mad Scene from Lucia de Lammermoor for each book theft.”  Never bother a napping Tour.

“You know, for someone who wants a favor, you are damn insulting.”

Tour opens one eye.  “If I get out of this bed, I’ll beat you senseless with my skillet.”

Seeing Tour’s favorite weapon within reach, RF decides to sniff derisively and go pick on Trey, who is sitting with Big Daddy, Hondo, Rupert, and Witlow out on the patio.  She glares at her partner.  “What?  No sympathy from Tour?”  That gets him a snarl.  Since he doesn’t want bleeding ankles, he checks his iPhone.  “Atti in the PBS’ers are still the best swap.”

RF stalks off to the palapa.  “That is one feisty animal.  Good thing she isn’t as big as a grizzly or she’d be a real menace.”  Big Daddy sipped at his bourbon and looked at Witlow.  “Son, that ship sailed long ago and her size does not slow her down one bit.”

“Well, her cousin Tour seems a lot more mellow.”

Trey mutters, “Another damn fool who thinks she’s ‘the nice one’.”  From deep in the house came  “I HEARD THAT!”  Then out by the palapa ……….. *POOF!*

The DHS agents had slipped outside to watch this second transformation.  They exchanged glances and came to a mutual decision.  Do not annoy the groundhog.

But Atti did not handle her transformation well at all.  She came back and found RF on Anguilla.  Her fiery excellent Highness (or so she called herself, though speaking of herself in the third person was rather disconcerting) gallops on a magical steed swinging her flaming sword  and growls, “Monster Hunting Freedom !!!!!  Off with the rodent’s head!!”

The groundhog, being one of the nature’s best diggers, signals her cousins and holes appear all over ………. then BAM! The firey Atti’s horse goes down a groundhog hole, and falls with a sprained leg.  Atti flies off the saddle (She has a lousy seat for someone who was at a gallop), over the horse’s head and right into the Caribbean, where her flames are extinguished and she just left looking like a rather sorry excuse for a wet bit player in a straight to video horror movie.

RF waves as Tour’s Pushmi-pullyu’s grab Atti and throw her on their aircraft.  “HAVE A GOOD TRIP!  Oh wait, you already did!  heheheheheheheheheh  Don’t worry about the horse!  He’ll be fine.”  The door slams and Atti is off to ………….. where the hell is she going?  And how did they know to be here?

Before RF could drag any answers from Tour, who just strolled up, Atti came back screaming, “Pestis sprengja!  Pestis sprengja!  Begone, groundhog!  I send you away!  I cast you back into your hole!”

RF looks at Tour.  “I think that fall affected her brain.  She thinks she’s a Valkyrie.  Any suggestions?”

Tour shrugs, “Beer and bratwurst.   Maybe some pickled herring.”

RF glares at Tour.  “That’s not exactly helpful you know.”

“I could dart her with Haldol.  It’s an antipsychotic.  This her first transformation?”

“You don’t expect me to remember every transformation I do??!!!!”

“Well, not everyone, but anyone who’s tried to fry you butt afterward?  That you should remember.”  The cousins duck another attempted blow.

“No.  A few tried to get me arrested.  One tried having me committed to an asylum for the criminally insane.”

“Bet that was fun.”

“The psychiatrist had a nervous breakdown and they kicked me out.”

“I’d kick you out too.  That screaming is getting on my nerves you know.”

“Well then, do something about it.”

“You transformed her, not me!”

“You want my help with those drug dealers holding that family hostage, lend a paw.  She’s annoying the neighbors.”

Tour growled and as Atti swooped in for another pass at hitting them with a firebolt (she needs classes, because her aim stinks, but the palapa roof is toast), she flies low to hack at RF, but Tour is ready and THWACK! A 12 inch cast iron skillet connects with Atti’s head and she goes sailing through the air screaming curses until ………….. SMACK!

RF winced.  “That had to hurt.”

“Hitting steel reinforced concrete at that speed usually does, but luckily, this demon form seems pretty resilient.  Broke a horn though.  How long will she be like this?”

“You mean a demon, or just nuts?”

Tour sighed.  “A demon.  The nuts part is your problem.”

“Oh, 2 to 5 days.  Hard to say.  She seems to be embracing her new self, so it could last longer.”

“Wonderful.”  Tour hit her with a huge dose of Haldol.  She waves at the very embarrassed pushmi-pullyus who once again cart Atti off, this time locked in silver and iron.

“You know, I’ve never understood why you always use a cast iron skillet.  Coated cast aluminum is just as good.”

Tour looked at her cousin.  “Honestly, did you ever LISTEN to Great Aunt Meg?  It’s COLD IRON.  Works on anything.  Even vampires.”

“That why Atti’s spell didn’t work?”

“One of the reason’s.  Come on.  I want a snack.  There’s some pie in the kitchen.”

“Ummmm ………… where’s is Atti going?”  That weird ship was gone without a sound.

“To Valhalla, or what LOOKS like Valhalla.  They’ll throw a big party for her great victory over you.  Thor will even make a pass at her.  She’ll be happy.  Thor will be happy.  Thor’s wife will try and kill them both.  She should be busy for awhile.”

On the patio, Trey, Big Daddy, Witlow, Hondo, and Rupert hadn’t budged an inch, they just watched the ‘show’ with a combination of resignation and awe.  Jethro and Horace had stepped out and gave RF and Tee a round of applause as they walked past,.  The cousins waved at them.  Witlow looked at the DHS agents who seemed almost catatonic.  Well crap, he might need to get new agents down here while these went for therapy.

RF and the Yacht Theft Case – Part 3

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 4:30 pm
Tags: ,

Our saga continues ………….

Detective Chief Inspector Rast had gotten in touch in the St Maarten police to talk about the attempt on RF’s life and possibly that of Trey.  Reviewing all the video feeds, they were able to identify the staff involved, but the man who had paid them off managed to never be clearly seen – but Rupert recognized the Tony Lama boots.  They found his body that morning on St Barths, washed ashore with a neat, round bullet hole in his head.  The price of failure.  His real name, Alexandru Stolojan, a cousin of Andrei Constanescue, a major crime boss and very high on Interpol’s wanted list.  This scheme might be something Alexandru, AKA Alex Stevens, cooked up alone, or part of a larger scheme to start taking over the casinos or use them to launder money.  Conteanescue was in a St Baths villa on the beach in Flamands, his yacht was in Gustavia, so Dev was investigating.

Three days ago, Rupert insisted on calling in cousins of his for help in covering the casinos.  RF stared at him.  “You better not bring Ralph here, because I’ll find something a lot heavier than a bedpad to beat him with.”  Rast, Tour, Marilyn  …… in fact everyone but Rupert, Cleatus and Trey just stared at her.  Tour mouthed ‘BEDPAN?” At Trey.  He shrugged and mouthed, “Long story.”  She nodded.

“No, these cousins are full djinn, not ifits.”  Rupert sounded a bit defensive.

“Names.  I want names.”  RF wasn’t giving an inch.

“Anzu and Cacus.”

RF just rolled her eyes.  “This is your family, so REAL names Zari!”

Rupert sighed.  “Jethro and Horace.”

Now everyone stared at him.  “What?  They are exotic names for Djinn!”

RF cleared her throat a few times.  “I don’t expect a lot of people try and summon a djinn named Horace.”

“Well, he was summed more often back in ancient Roman times by people trying to find the poet.  Jethro, only gets called my accident, mostly down in the Southern US.  He’s grown quite fond of moonshine.”

“They have human forms?”

“Naturally.”  Rupert hesitated a second before saying, “Jethro looks a bit like a thug, but human.”

“He’s not going to show up here looking like a guy named Guido Bertutti with an open shirt and too many gold necklaces, is he?”

“No, that would be Uncle Bartholomew.  He looks just like that in human form.  Really annoys Aunt Maybelline.”

Tour mutters to Rast, “And here I thought RF’s southern relatives had weird names.”  Lula Mae shot Tee a dirty look that she simply ignored.

“So Jethro and Horace will come here and do what?”

“They have the same vision as I do in their human form, so they can see marked cards and play them as well.  That way we can cover more casinos and we have more protection.”

“They any good at Texas Hold’em?”

“Excellent, and at black jack.  They love the casinos in Monte Carlo.”

“If they cheat, I’ll make them give everything they win back.”

Rupert assumed as much and warned his cousins.  They owed him big time, so they agreed.  Besides, they’d heard about RF and wanted to stay on her good side, maybe get summoned more often, like Rupert.  They liked the human world and Rupert was the envy of the family for his relationship with RF, not that he was ever going to admit that to RF.

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

An hour later two guys showed up and RF was glad Rupert had warned her.  While Rupert was a cross between a young Robert Redford and Kevin Costner, his cousin Jethro really had the swarthy Italian Mafia look with the heavy build that seemed part tank and all muscle.  Horace was bald, had a gold hoop in one ear, and looked like the illegal issue of Telly Savalas and Yul Brenner.  The high cheekbones and slight tilt to his eyes suggested Cossack blood.  Who would name him Horace?  He looked more like Attilla the Hun with a VanDyke beard.  But of the three, he was the only one that looked exotic enough to be a djinn.  He even had an accent that had Marilyn melting like chocolate in the sun.

“MARILYN!” RF snapped.  The witch blinked and tore her eyes off Horace.  “Yes RF?”

“Were you listening to me?”  Tour sighed and looked away.  She hated seeing train wrecks.

“Horace, ummmmmm Cacus, and I will do the Casinos together with Tour.”  She smiled rather proud she managed to hear that while watching the eye candy, who was busy watching back.

“You play black Jack, he plays Texas Hold’em.”

“OK.”  She was back to ogling Horace.  RF looked at Tour.  “She’ll play black jack, don’t worry.”

“Ethan will be at Atlantis while you’re at Casino Royale.  Rupert, you cover the Texas Hold’em at Casino Royale and Jethro, you …………….. you know what, you play black jack at the Atlantis while Marilyn stays with Horace, Trey and I will be floating between them and Hondo takes Tour and will be spotting for Ethan.  Rast, you’ll work with the locals.  Cleatus, you and Lula Mae call us if anything happens here while were gone, just like we discussed.”  Both nodded and looked serious.  Tour decided to give Cleatus one of her special weapons.

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

For two nights, they played and Rupert won big again, without the help of marked cards.  His cousin Horace won as well, though not as much given the distraction named Marilyn.  Jethro won, but kept this win streak unremarkable and Ethan made a modest target of himself.

Two days later the bomb arrived and it was Tour who yelled, “BOMB!” and Jethro who saved them by hurling it into the ocean seconds before it detonated.  The three djinn were now officially pissed off and Trey’s nerves were rattled.  He and RF talked about the investigation with Rast and local police of two islands, before deciding to try one more approach.  Jethro has a gift rare among the djinn, he could be virtually invisible.  Despite looking like a none too bright thug, he was also very educated, intelligent, and spoke many languages, even most of those used in various Balkan countries, including Romanian.  He would hide in Constanescue’s villa and see if he could learn anything.  He promised not to put himself in danger – something he found vaguely amusing, but was touched RF didn’t want him hurt.  The St Barths police got secret warrants and Jethro placed listening devices Hondo supplied.  It paid off big time.

Dr Simon Turner showed up at Constanescue’s villa to make arrangements to pay his gambling debts.  He’d asked for time, and Constanescue played him like a fish.  They got all the details on the yacht scheme.  Rupert, Jethro, and Horace helped place tiny trackers all over the Lady Jayne, Turner’s yacht.  It would take a few days, but at least they were getting somewhere.  Constanescue didn’t like having his casino scheme foiled, but he was willing to move after this score.  Not only was Turner rich in his own right, he was heir to a huge trust and multiple properties in places Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons.  His one mistake was falling for Constanescue’s plan, and that was only because his quarterly trust payment wouldn’t come till September and he’d just been through a very expensive divorce that had taken most of his available cash and stocks to settle, not to mention a multi-million dollar apartment of Central Park and a house in Greenwich right on the coast.  Getting caught with his nurse was an old story, but one that still had teeth.  He paid because he wanted to keep the other indiscretion out of court – fooling with a patient could cost him his practice.  His now ex-wife had him by the short hairs, knew it, and took out a damn big bite.  But she couldn’t touch the trust, so the good doctor was hardly broke, just temporarily short cash.  Constanescue was giving serious thought to adding kidnapping and extortion to his income sources.  Turner was clueless.

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

RF, not being the patient sort, was restless by the second day.  Tour eyed her cousin.  “You can’t knock her senseless.”  Trey lifted Tee onto his lap much as he did RF.

“I would feel better if I did.”

“She’s your favorite cousin.  She nearly died.  You just need to let her be.”

“I’m rethinking the ‘favorite cousin’ part.”

Trey laughed.  “She’ll be fine when things start moving.”

“It better be soon, or I’m using the dart gun.”  She watched RF pace. “Just a good kick in the butt, maybe.”

“No!  Now behave.  You’re almost as bad as she is.”

“You’re lucky I don’t insult easily, or you’d be singing soprano.”

Trey laughed, stood and set Tour back on the lounge.  “Now you REALLY sound like RF!”   Over Tour’s snarl, the book theft alarm sounded.  RF froze in mid-pace, then spun to stare narrow-eyed at Trey.  “June in the Summer Swap.”

“NO!  NONONONONONONONONO!  That it.  I’m annihilating June.  Wiping her from the face of the Earth!”

“So you wanted those books?”  Tee asked sweetly.

RF growled.  “YES!”

“Then go do your transformation.  No wiping out fellow players.  I’m sure there’s rule against it somewhere under ‘bad sportsmanship.'”  Tour just settled in while RF headed to the palapa.  Thank heavens SOMETHING stopped that pacing.

Later that day ……………

Hell had come to Anguilla.  Ingrid, Inger, and Petunia were stalking to RF where she was lounging in the seaside palapa.

“We demand you let us take our children home!”  Petunia’s face puckered up like a prune, but as RF just sat and stared at her, she sidled closer to Ingrid for support.

“It’s bad enough you corrupt our young with your unnatural ways and heathen associations, but to expose them to that unstable, vicious Yankee cousin of yours is beyond enough.  I will not have my pup corrupted by someone who associates with naked TROLLS and parties with garden gnomes!”

RF looked indifferent.  “Johann and Greta are of age and mated.  They can live where ever they want.  They want to stay with me, I don’t have a problem with that.”

“YOU’VE CORRUPTED THEM WITH YOUR CAKE AND FOOD!  THEY SHOULD BE EATING NATURAL FOODS!  GROUNDHOG FOODS!  NOT DINING WITH CRIMINALS AND HOMICIDAL YANKEES ON CARIBBEAN LOBSTER!” Inger was bellowing at RF while poor Greta and Johann stood by, mortified.  Lula Mae was seethng, and about to intervene when ……………

“By any chance, would I be the ‘homicidal Yankee’?”  The three groundhogs shrieked and spun around to see Tour standing there, leaning on a skillet, a small smile on her face.

“YOU!  You evil heathen brought that rainbow haired hussy into our clan gathering!  You, who shouldn’t even have been there!”

“Well, since RF was recovering, the clan needed someone in the kitchen who could cook, and that wasn’t any of you.”

“We live a natural life!  Like all groundhogs should!”  Petunia was nearly spitting with her anger and self-righteous indignation.

“Yeah, I hear raw alfalfa and grubs are quite tasty.  I’ll stick with veal osso buco.”  Tee looked at Petunia ……. and smiled.  RF knew that smile, and she got down off her lounge to stop Tee from killing the annoying marmot in front of her pup.  “But then you, Inger, and Ingrid did get thrown out of culinary academy after you set fire to the bacon, oiled a souffle dish, and stuck the spatula in the mixer, covering everything in the room in chocolate cake batter, didn’t you?  Oh, and there was the food poisoning after they served your deviled eggs at the community picnic.  And let’s not forget the dramatic Jello mold that ran all over that fine linen tablecloth in front of the cooking school chancellor.  I hear his legs stayed green for 3 weeks after it dripped all over him, but then you wouldn’t know, on account of being expelled.”  Tour smiled.  “And I know all about the jars of store bought spaghetti sauce and frozen meatballs you have, too.  And the Mint Milano cookies you hide.”

“Lies, that’s all …….. don’t you pups going listening to this damn Yankee!  We always embraced the all natural life!  We believe in it!”  Inger and Ingrid nodded at what Petunia said but kept a respectful distance from Tour and her skillet.

“And you can’t cook anyway, so isn’t that just handy?  By the way, isn’t this a photo of a case of microwave Kraft Mac’n Cheese you three are dividing up?  Still haven’t learned how to make a basic white sauce for the cheese, huh?”  Tee tossed down a picture, and even though Ingrid snatched it up and tore it to shreds, Greta and Johann had seen it, so had Marilyn, Cleatus, Lula Mae and RF, all of whom were smiling like they just won the lottery.  “And you bartering with Ms McGowan for her raspberry preserves?  Planning on coating the grubs in it or the tree roots?  Or was it for the biscuits you bought from Ms Feltmeyer?”

Greta and Johann stared at their mother’s and aunts.  Though the three females were only distantly related by blood, they were inseparable, so both young groundhogs thought of them more as sisters and best friends.  These three had raised them in the ‘all natural living’.  Now they sat in shocked silence, staring at the females who had preached ‘all natural, back to earth, live off the land’ at them till their ears almost bled.

“You can’t cook?”  Greta’s voice sounded small.

“Darling, it has nothing to do with that.  It’s healthier to eat an all natural diet!”

“But you had MINT MILANOS!  YOU DIDN’T EVEN SHARE!”  Greta looked ready to grab Tour’s skillet and start whacking her mother and ‘aunts’.  Until Johann snorted.  Then he chuckled.  Then he started laughing so hard, he was rolling around on the sand.  Trey, Rupert and Hondo were all watching by now, prepared to stop the bloodshed they feared what might happen after Jacobs sought them out about the confrontation going on.

“You hag of groundhog!  Look what you’ve done!”

“I didn’t do anything except talk about the truth ……….. which reminds me, here are the letters you wrote to Pepe and Dancing Badger.  Seems neither male has an interest in a liaison.”

“AUNT INGRID!”  Johann and Greta both yelled at the same time.  They looked at each other and started laughing again.  Lula Mae, Cleatus and Marilyn sat eating from a plate of cookies while watching the drama.  “This is better than a soap opera any day!”  Marilyn passed the plate along.

“You over-sized, lying Yankee.  That’s all lies!”

“I have a complete file of your short careers at cooking school and sworn statements from the instructors and chancellor.  Seems you three made quite an impression.  And then there’s the whole lawsuit thing where you agreed to never cook again so you wouldn’t have to pay damages and avoided multiple civil suits over the whole food poisoning incident.”

“I HATE YOU!”  Petunia was screaming now.  “THESE PICTURES ARE FAKE AND YOU ARE JUST ANOTHER LYING YANKEE!!!!!!”

Tour shrugged.  “I couldn’t care less if you hate me or not and we both know I haven’t lied.  Now, you will not be imposing on Big Daddy again, the pushmi-pullyus will take you back and you will STAY back there and leave your pups alone to live as they please or I’m turning everything I have on you three – including that little escapade with the beavers – over to your local busybody, Elsie Swenson.  She’ll love having this to hold over you.  Now scoot.  The pushmi-pullyus are waiting.”  Tour pushed them out using the skillet to prod them along.  She stopped them on the ramp and said something, the three started yelling till Tour raised the skillet, and they just glared but nodded agreement and ran into the ship.

Tour strolled back in and looked at the waiting gang.  “What?”

“You just ‘happened’ to have all that information on those three idiots and you never told me?”  RF looked incensed and really curious.

“None of your business.  They were dumb enough to make it mine.  Figured they would, sooner or later.  They couldn’t get by you, so they’d come after me, thinking I was the weak link.”

“Well, that was a strategic error.  But am I getting a copy of that file?”

“What file?”

“The one you have on Inger, Ingid and Petunia!”

“Oh.  That.  Well, it’s somewhere safe.  Along with the photos of you and those skunks up in Maine.”

RF’s eyes widened.  “You told me you destroyed them!”

“Doubt that.  Time to start dinner.  I’m cooking tonight.”

“I WANT THOSE PHOTOS DESTROYED!”  RF was yelling now.

“We all want something we can’t have, RF.  It’s the way the world works.  Now come help in the kitchen.  I seem to make the cooks nervous.”  Tour looked at her cousin.  “Besides, I never underestimate the value of leverage!”

The two walked off bickering.

“Well, I have to say, that was a surprise, and I thought I knew all the gossip in this family!”  Lula Mae shook her head.

“I’m putting the pieces of this photo together and making copies.  Mother is NOT hogging the Mint Milanos again!”  Cleatus just shook his head at Greta.  It was interesting watching Tour work.  She knew so much more than she’d ever tell anyone.  She might just be more dangerous than RF.

“I still don’t see why you keep insisting Tour is the ‘nice’ one of those two!”  Trey just sounded frustrated.  Rupert and Hondo gave identical shrugs.  They didn’t get it either.

RF and Tour were busy getting dinner ready as the nervous staff worked around them.  One of the housemen called in his aunt, a voodoo priestess who met RF and they got on like a house afire.  On the way out, she cuffed her nephew in the head and told him to treat the two High Priestesses for Tortum like royalty or he’d answer to her.  That made the staff more nervous.

“What did you say to those three idiots when they got on that ……….. whatever it was?”

“It’s an aircraft and I just checked their travel plans.”

“They were ready to attack you till you waved that damn skillet at them.  What travel plans could they have had?”

“Well, I gave them two choices, home or Florida.”

RF stopped mincing garlic and looked at Tour.  “Florida?  Were you planning to send them to Disney World?”

“OK”

“Tee, I know this routine.  I pull it on Trey all the time, now what were their choices?”

“Let Greta and Johann be and go home, or go to Florida and think about it.”

“Un-huh.  Where in Florida?”

“Sort of south central.”

“You mean in a swamp.”  RF frowned – then realization hit.  “You were sending them to Erma the Evil U-Haul Clerk?  She might have eaten them!”

“I doubt it.  The mutant lizards would have gotten them first.  Terrible accident.  It happens.”  Tour started prepping the scallops and shrimp.  “Besides, they decided to go home and forget all about bothering Greta and Johann.”

RF stared at her cousin, but got nothing more.  They worked quietly for awhile, when she said, “I bet eating them would have killed the mutant lizards.”

“A risk I was willing to take.”

Next day ………….

Tour looked at RF.  RF looked back at Tour.  “You do something?”  “No, did you?”  “No” ………… “This should be interesting.”  They both watched Trey and Rast stalk toward them as they relaxed in the palapa.

“Ilych Drinkwater’s yacht was stolen yesterday.”

“You made that name up, didn’t you?”

“No!  He’s the guy who lost at the Atlantis last week.”

“That fat, bald guy who sweated a lot and had the young wife with the fake boobs and fake diamonds?”

Trey sighed.  “Yes.  The yacht, Shear Luck – supposedly seized by ‘pirates’ while he was sailing with his wife.”  Trey saw the expression on Tour’s and RF’s faces.  “He made his fortune in those trendy high style hair salons for young adults.”  They both snickered.  Trey’s eyes narrow.  “What?”

“Don’t you find it ironic that a bald man made his fortune in hair salons?”  Tee grinned.

“I’d find more ironic if he made his fortune in fitness videos.  Besides, he started transforming them into punk style places and divided the space so they have tattoo parlors as well.”

“Humans are so strange.”  Tour nodded agreement with RF.  Trey glared and Rast smiled.  Hondo sat on the lounge behind the two marmots, who took up more space than they should, but were still small.  “Maybe I should go Goth and get my fur dyed black!  I could sneak around at night better that way.”

“You’d look like a fat wharf rat with a furry tail.”  Tee was brutally honest.

“You’re right.  Maybe just greasepaint for night work.”  They both turned back to an annoyed looking Trey.

“Hondo found out that Drinkwater’s finances are a mess.  His President and CFO worked together to embezzled about $5 million, most of which could not be recovered as they gambled it away. Drinkwater ignored the operations part of the business to court the latest Mrs Drinkwater while divorcing wife number one.  There was no pre-nup, she got half and buying out her share of the business took all he had.  He has loans in place for the business plans which are fine, but his personal finances are a mess.  He lost a lot of money gambling down here.”

“He had a regular crew?”

“No.  He’d hire a captain and crew as needed.  There were 3 or 4 he used, but he’d sailed it himself before, just for day sails”

“Where is he staying?”

“His villa on St Barths.  And yes, Dev saw him leave and said the two guys that went with him were not exactly the friendly type.”

“All 3 came back?”

“Yes, picked up in a small raft with an emergency beacon, but all the anti-theft tracking devices didn’t work, they used a signal jammer on the yacht so the Coast Guard and cops couldn’t track it.  Then one after another, they worked.  As they dug them out, they dropped them overboard.”

“Except for the ones Dev placed.”  RF looked at Hondo.  “You told him to do that, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, and may I just say, you’re scary at times?”

“Thank-you.”  She turned back to Rast and Trey.  “OK, where is it?”

“By the look of things, heading for Trinidad or Tobago, maybe the cost of Venezuela or Guyana.”

“Basically, tough for the US to reach.”

“Yeah.”

“Do we let it go and find the base or send the authorities after it?”

“Let it go.”  They all turned to Tour.  “I know where they’re going.”  She examined her claws as RF stared daggers at her.

“You’ve known all along, haven’t you?”

“Sort of.  I was making sure.”

A seething RF glared at her cousin.  “Who’s behind it all then?  Do you know that too?”

“Someone who can’t be touched by the authorities.  Diplomatic Immunity.”

“Well if they can’t be touched, why are you here?”  RF was up on all four paws yelling at her cousin.

“Well, they can’t be touched by human governments, but you have ……… other options to threaten them with.”

And everyone went very still.  RF stared at Tour who stared right back.  “OK, suppose for a moment I used one of my other options, just who might I be threatening and why, because this isn’t about a yacht.  You could care less about yachts.  So why not just call me up, tell me all this stuff and let me handle it?”

“The man who is captaining that boat is headed to Surinam and that’s where the retrofitting gets done. All he does is sail the boats.  He has no part in the schemes or anything else.”

“Then why are you interested.  It’s not like you know a lot of humans, or spend a lot of time with them.”  RF was completely baffled.  Tour just didn’t do things like this, so she had to have a reason.

“My ferret Daisy and her cousins Mimi and Lulu have two cousins, Ginny and Petal, who were adopted by a human family that moved to Guyana.  The father is a licensed captain and graduate of the Merchant Marine Academy.  His wife is from Venezuela.  Her family is still there.  When her visa was not renewed, they decided to move to Guyana, a good stable country, with a decent education system, English speaking, and he could get lots of work in the Caribbean.  Everything went really well until 2 years ago when his wife’s family were essentially taken hostage by a powerful politico in Venezuela. Their passports were revoked, all their assets frozen, and they would have been thrown into prison if the captain refused to work for them.

“It turns out, this politico plays both sides and gives US intelligence information to keep them sweet and they kind of ignore the yacht theft scheme.  It’s made the family rich.  And it’s hard currency in a country where Euros and dollars are badly needed.  They also ignore the fact he’s using the retrofitted yachts to move drugs in secret compartments.  Even the buyers don’t know.  They think they made a deal to get out of a gambling jam using insurance dollars and get a new ship at a great price – if they let the diplomats friends use them from time to time.  So for nearly 3 years, he’s been slowly building an entire fleet of ships to move drugs all financed by the gambling scheme.”

“Cocaine?”

“No, counterfeit prescription drugs.  Mostly high value stuff like anti-cancers and other infusion therapy drugs.  Even stuff for fertility treatments.”

“Where does it go?”

“All over.  To the US and Canada, of course, but nearly half into the EU.  His biggest threat is the Eastern Europeans, so he took on a Romanian gang partner.  That’s who Rupert ran into in the Tony Lama boots.  It’s a lot bigger than the yachts, they’re just a small part of it – but that part is where all the profits are just with the diplomat and the Romanians.  The rest is with a bigger cartel.”

“He’s cheating his bosses?  That’s a very dangerous game in the drug trade, even if it isn’t narcotics.”  Trey sounded really concerned.  He steered very wide of anything to do with drugs.

Rast was a cop, so he asked, “You have some evidence?”

“Yes.  Ginny and Petal helped the family’s youngest daughter, a very bright girl, to use several different techniques to record what was going on and they sent everything to Daisy.  They also uploaded it to secure internet site then destroyed the hard drive and replaced it so no one could trace it.”

“With your help?”

“No, with the help of a tech wiz married to one of my Wordies who lives in Scotland.  I have a hard copy on a thumb drive if you want to see it.  There are a number of different encounters, so there’s over 3 hours of material.”  Tour hesitated.  “The diplomat is not a nice guy and I’m afraid for the daughters.  If something isn’t done soon, they might disappear.”  Tour told Hondo where to find the thumb drive, but stayed put while everyone but RF went to see what was going on.

Tour looked at her cousin and sighed.  “Yes, I am calling in a favor.  I want the family safe.  That scumball can literally go to Hell.”  RF smiled.  “I can arrange that.”  Tour just laughed at the smug reply.  “But why wait to tell us – to tell ME!”

“I had to be sure I had the right gang and I needed a yacht to get stolen.  I knew you’d have arranged some kind of trick with your SEAL’s.  They’re good.  And they’re tough.  And you’ll need both.”

“Why are we watching where the yacht goes?”

“From what I can piece together, there are two different places they have the captain drop the boat.  To make sure he does, they hold his son hostage at the location till he gets there.  He fails …………. well, you know what these gangs are like.”

“And you want the captain and his son back with his family before we move in.”

“The pushmi-pullyus can get them out fast and they can’t be tracked, but I do NOT want those SOB’s hunting them for the rest of their lives.”

“Where will they go?”  Never good for a family to be on the run from cartels.

Tour got an evil smile.  “You know, when the government looks the other way, they don’t want 60 minutes to show it Sunday night with a nice clear view of a high level CIA operative and a DEA agent making a deal that cost cancer victims their lives.  Especially when one was stupid enough to say, “They’re dying anyway, so what?”  That can bring down not just an agency, but a whole lot more.  The captain’s wife will have her green card and be able to take her citizenship test in 3 years.”

“You got Big Daddy to help.”  Tour nodded at her cousin’s statement.  “Did he know it was tied to the yacht thefts?”

“Not till about 3 days ago when I got the last video.  It had the last piece I needed.  The diplomat’s uncle.  He’s a supposed coffee grower and high-level Venezuelan politico caught being a complete scumbag for the whole world to see.”  She looked at RF.  “You might want to ask for a special spot for him in Hell.

“I’d feel better knowing the wife and family had some protection.  Maybe Rupert’s djinn cousins would help.”  Tour must have been really worried to ask for that.  She never asked for anything, but ever since they were pups, she always knew things would happen before they did.  And that’s why Big Daddy was alive.  Tour knew, so they climbed up the tree that was right where they needed to be.  Just like she climbed that tree in Barbados and knew why she been called back.  Come to think of it, she even seemed to know what would happen at the clan gathering.  All things considered, Tour was very unnerving.

“If you have an address, I’ll arrange it.”  RF started walking away, but turned, “You never said what was in those books out great aunt left you.”

“None of your business.”  RF nodded and amazingly, didn’t argue.  She had a feeling that she was happier not knowing.

After viewing the video, Rupert and his cousins were mad as hell.  Trey looked grimmer than RF had ever seen him.  She knew she’d have to watch the video, but wasn’t looking forward to it.  Rast spent the afternoon making all kinds of highly classified, encrypted calls.  Later that afternoon Big Daddy showed up looked worried and mad as hell at his own government.  With him was Witlow from the FBI along with another 4 agents RF guessed were DHS.  No CIA or DEA.  In the middle of the controlled chaos, the book theft alarm went off.  RF let out a snarl and barked, actually barked, at Trey she was so annoyed.  Even though wild groundhogs did bark, it wasn’t something RF did.  It had been a trying day.  “Mary in friends WL swap.”

Growling RF headed out to the palapa.  Tour just shook her head and ate one of the mini cannoli she’d made earlier. The federal agents looked very grim and more than a little tense after watching the videos.  Having someone like Trent Stark McCauley know about it meant this one was not getting buried.  Heads were going roll, it was just a question of how many.

The new agents watched curiously as everyone stared at the palapa where they could hear chanting.  They tried really hard to look nonchalant  but jumped a bit at the …… *POOF!*  Then stared at the image that flashed before them.

“That’s not real.  No one can do that.”   One of them muttered.  Big Daddy just shook his head knowing the agent might be small and furry and in a hamster ball by dinner.

Witlow spun around and snapped, “SHUT-UP!  Do not annoy RF!  You’ll end up sharing an office with Garrison!”  Only after he was no longer a hamster.

“I’m not in the FBI!”

“So it will be a multi-agency office.  Just SHUT-UP!”  Watching the faces of the men around him, the agent shut-up, but privately thought they were a bunch of pussies.  Tour and Trey exchanged looks.  This guy was easily the winner of ‘Most likely to be transformed into something small and unfortunate’ contest.

To be continued………………………………..

August 13, 2015

Recent Reads – The Long and the Short of Print and eBook Reviews

Obviously, I can’t write a review of every book I read, so here are some short ones to fill in a few blanks as well as some longer ones for more anticipated books.  All books below were purchased by me from online booksellers.

Better Homes and Corpses by Kathleen Bridge –  Clever title, great location, some original ideas, but in the end, another fairly predictable cozy with too much moodiness and not enough humor to make it likable.  First in a series and gets a C (3*) rating.  For cozy lovers and those who like the scenic areas of eastern Long Island with its rich, famous, and spoiled only.  Kind of tedious and yet another ‘disappointed in love’ heroine.

Grave on Grand Avenue by Naomi Hirahara – Well written and interesting story involving a Chinese cellist, a Hispanic gardener, and a valuable Stradivarius cello.  With bike cop Ellie Rush squarely in the middle of what may or may not be a tangled web.  Far better read than the typical cozy with complex, multi-dimensional characters and good plot.  Book 2 of the Ellie Rush series that deserves more attention and wider readership.  Recommended for mystery fans who enjoy some substance to their characters.  Gets a solid B (4*) rating.

Crushed Velvet is book 2 in the Material Witness cozy series by Diane Vallere.  Yet another shop owner in a small town struggling to make her business work when her new ‘bestie’s’ husband is found dead in the van used to transport Poly Monroe’s shipment of velvet.  It’s a shade better than some, but still lacks the verve that brings cozies up a level to good.  Another largely uninspired C (3*) effort in an overcrowded field with nothing special to recommend it.

The Gargoyle Gets His Girl is book 3 in Kristin Painter’s Nocturn Falls paranormal romance series.  Like book 2, Werewolf Meets His Mate, this one is a mix of light humor and more straightforward paranormal romance.  Not as clever as book 1, but a decent read in ebook.  It gets a C (3*) rating from me because I liked the characters despite the predictable plot.

The Housewife Assassin’s Tips for Wedding, Weapons, and Warfare (Housewife Assassin, Bk 13) by Josie Brown is yet another rather solid entry into this half humorous, half serious tale of independent contract assassin/security agents and the war war against a SPECTER like group of powerful, yet shadowy, adversaries bent of controlling the world – at least the economic portions.  In the middle of all this Donna Stone and Jack Craig are trying to get married with extreme interference of the First Lady, one of their prime suspects.  It’s as well dome as her earlier books blending family drama of teen and child angst, against humor and deadly serious threats.  The ending is another cliffhanger.  One of the better light assassin series out there.  It gets a B- (3.8*) from me and the whole series is a suggested read for those who like the Bombay Assassin and Miss Fortune books.  I have the ebooks, but paperback is available.

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Yes, the author shamelessly pays homage – or just flat-out plagiarized – The Thin Man movies from the 30’s and 40’s.  Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely has exactly the same kind of characters, atmosphere, wit, and insouciant attitude of Myrna Loy and William Powell, except here Nic is Nicola, the former cop, and Nigel is the scion of old money and instead of tiny Asta, we have a huge Bullmastiff because, “The man in the pet store said you wouldn’t like the piranha.”

Nic is not exactly welcome in Nigel’s extended family, one of the reason’s they live in California.  But it’s Christmas and they’re in NYC where Nic used to be a detective till getting shot consigned her to desk duty and complete boredom.  Nigel’s Aunt Olive nearly chokes asking Nic to help find Leo, the ne’er do well philandering husband of her niece Audrey, a shy, plain girl about to come into a huge inheritance.

Reluctantly, Nic agrees to help, mostly to watch Olive squirm when Skippy (the mastiff), makes himself at home in Olive’s very formal co-op.

The story does not take itself to seriously, much like the movies were played for character and witty banter, not complex  plot, though the book does have a decent, if obvious, plot going on and a denouement in a restaurant where Nic unravels a whole bunch of dirty family secrets.

Murder with a Twist is the first in the Nic and Nigel Martini series and despite the unapologetic copying of Nick and Nora Charles, it’s actually a fun read.  Or maybe BECAUSE it’s so obviously a borrowed pattern makes it easier to relax and enjoy a nostalgic and entertaining excursion back to a time when mystery and humor blended seamlessly into high society.  It gets a B- (3.8*) and recommended read for anyone who won’t mind the plagiarism of The Thin Man movies.

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Benedict Jacka writes the Alex Verus UF series in much the same style as Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden or Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid.   While Harry Dresden is easily the most complex, fully realized of the three characters, the other two are no slouches.  Veiled is the latest entry in the continuing story of Verus, his young mage and adept friends, and his rocky relation with the Light Mage Council and some members who want his dead.

Verus is a Divination mage, one who can see many immediate futures.  Each class of mage has its own gift, some, like air and fire mages are usually battle mages, other choose various kinds of magical police work, mages called Keepers.  And Alex wants to find a way into the Council by becoming an Auxillary to the Order of the Star, the largest group of Keepers handling everyday magic-related crimes.  Caught between his former master, Richard, a powerful dark mage who seems to be staging a comeback, and the treachery of the Light mages, who are just as prone to corruption and greed as anyone, Alex finds himself working for a Keeper named Caldera with whom he has some history.

Alex has to start as a probationary Keeper, one step below Auxillary, but a toe in the door.  That means getting all the crap jobs, including what seems to be a wild goose chase to an automated rail station in a London suburb where all he finds is a focus, a stone or object that mages use to store various things.  No evidence of any other magical events.  But like the tip of an iceberg, Alex keeps digging for information and ends up uncovering a plot involving Light and Dark mages and a vast store of secrets about both.

Like all of Jacka’s books, you have the core mystery involving the immediate problem and the over-arcing plot about Richard and the Dark mages and the conniving and back-stabbing of the Council.  Jacka imbues Alex with a dry wit, an insatiable curiosity. and a very approachable character.  I like Alex Verus and Jacka’s writing, but Veiled has too much rehashing of previous books/plots and makes limited – and predictable – progress with the over-arcing plot.  It gets a solid B- (3.8*) and is a suggested read for Verus fans, but not Jacka’s best.

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Chloe Neill made her name with the Chicagoland Vampires series and Mythos Academy young Adult series.  I like the Chicagoland Vamp books, but they aren’t exactly groundbreakers.  Kind of UF light.  With The Veil, she tries to enter the darker UF genre with limited success.

Lousiana is a favorite location for UF series, everything Sookie Stackhouse (gag) to the Sentinels of New Orleans.  It’s atmospheric, one of America’s oldest cities with past laced with pirates, voodoo, and a character uniquely it’s own.  It all but begs for supernatural happenings.  So Neill chose it to be the nexus of a magical war that was launched against humans by the supernatural world through a rip in the fabric of space and time separating them.  But magic is like an infection and ‘sensitives’ are sent to live in Devil’s Isle, an area of New Orleans where sensitives and supernaturals caught on this side of the veil are kept in isolation.  Being a ‘sensitive’ is a kind of death sentence.  The magic drives them mad and eventually turns them into wraiths who feed on humans.

Claire Connelly is the only child of an old New Orleans family that has run a mercantile store for generations.  She’s also began manifesting as a sensitive with telekinetic power a few years ago.  The city is blanketed with magic sensors, and should she ever use her power, it would be an automatic sentence to Devil’s Isle.  Then War Night, the citywide celebration of the win over the supernaturals, finds Claire leaving her friends and walking home – only to see a young woman fleeing two wraiths – wraiths that seem to be thinking and acting in coordination, something thought impossible.  She uses her power to save herself, but she’s been caught on camera and must run to avoid Devil’s Isle.

Liam Quinn, a bounty hunter, sees the whole thing, but instead of hauling her in, offers her a deal.  He’ll get the tapes erased if she’ll learn to control her magic.  The plot unfolds as one might expect with a blend of romance, magic, and conspiracy.  And that’s Neill’s big weakness in UF.  Her characters are good, but not original, the plot of good, but not breakthrough, and the overall feel of the writing lacks the extra dimension that elevates a book from good to great.

The Veil is good.  But kind of an average good, not in any way remarkable or innovative.  The trope is well worn, decently written and ultimately ordinary.  It gets a C+ (3.3*) and is suggested for Neill fans only.  Not a barn burner.

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Katie MacAlister is back with a new entry in her Light Dragons paranormal romance series, and Dragon Fall is classic MacAlister.  Sharp, witty, banter, sensible women, stubborn males (well they are dragons), curses, evil forces, and a doggie demon named Jim who talks a lot and has no memory of once belonging to Aisling Grey.

Aoife (EE-fuh) Dakar is the daughter of an Irish mother, African father, born in the US and raised in Sweden where her dad was an engineer for IKEA.  Her parents were killed in a car crash a few years earlier and her brother and sister lived elsewhere in Europe, but Aoife was still living in the house her dad built.  She has a rare date to a RenFaire type event, as much Goth as anything, with a man named Terrin.  She sees Terrin killed, then sees him very much alive talking to a man he said was a Black Dragon.  And there’s a ring he gave her, one he said was looking for an owner.  She tells the police about the murder, even the victim apparently being alive the killer who disappeared in a puff of black smoke.  Her brother and sister convince her commitment for a ‘psychotic break’ is the only way she’ll get over her delusions.

Two years later she’s ‘cured’ and out.  Her doctor convinced her she needed to confront her past and go back to the fair to see it was not what she thought.  Against her sister Bea’s wishes, she does and walks away, satisfied she really is cured ….. till she runs something over.  A huge black dog.  She rushes it to a vet, but he seems fine.  She gets home and the dog takes off and when she finds him, he’s sitting by an unconscious naked man on the beach.  He seems more dead than alive and getting an ambulance is impossible, so once again, Aoife has to drag this huge man up to her car and drive him to the nearest doctor that does emergencies.  Funny thing is, the man looks a lot like one of the guys Terrin called a Black Dragon.

This starts a whole string of events that twines prior books and this story together, and the reader needs at least some level of familiarity with her earlier books to understand the plot.   The conclusion lays the foundation for the next installment due in the fall.  (MacAlister often writes in trilogy form)

Dragon Fall is not MacAlister at her best.  The plot was almost painfully contrived in parts and lacked the complexity of her Aisling Grey series, so it came across as MacAlister light, which given her style was still an enjoyable read for a paranormal romance, just not up to her usual quality.  I give it a C+ to B- (3.4*) mostly because I just needed something like this and there was nothing better out there.  For MacAlister Dragon series fans, but with the caveat it not as good as her earlier ones.  If you’ve read none of her dragon books, you’ll be lost for sure.

August 6, 2015

RF and the Yacht Theft Case – cont’d

Filed under: Adventures Of Reachfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 11:05 pm
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RF and Trey wandered into the Casino Royale, Trey playing occasionally and winning far more often than losing.  He didn’t linger at any one table and politely refused a high stakes Texas Hold’em game after Rupert muttered about more marked cards.  Rupert, however, won another good round much to the shock and disgust of serval people.  RF was busy watching them when she felt eyes on her.  She tapped Trey’s arm and he strolled outside into the warm, humid tropical air.

“You see him?”

“Yup.  Not casino security.”  So they waited and strolled.  About 10 minutes later a man approached.  Not one that was at the table with Rupert, but one that sat near Trey a few times.

“Good evening, Mr Deveau.”  He’d used the name of Trey’s alias, close enough to his one it didn’t jar his senses.

“You seem to have the advantage of me, sir.  Have we met?”  Trey’s Cajun accent was like honey, far stronger than the faint hints RF normally heard that gave away his birthplace.

The man’s smile never reached his eyes.  “Think of me as a friend.  I don’t know what your friend Mr Soulis is doing, but he’s interfering with the wrong people.  He could get hurt.”

“In my experience, Mr Soulis is more than capable of handling himself though I will pass on your thoughtful concern.”  Trey could lie like a champ and do it with style, far better than the low-class thug disguised as a wealthy man could.

The thug eyed RF with disgust.  “Where I come from, those animals are hunted for their fat which is said to be very therapeutic for people with joint problems.  Mr Soulis might have need of that therapy.”  Then he walked away as Trey kept a firm grip on RF who obviously wanted to teach the man a lesson.

Finally, she calmed down enough to say, “Well, at least we know he’s Eastern European. Austrian or some nearby country in the area.”

“Maybe Rupert picked up on the player’s accent.”

“Two casinos, the biggest ones, both getting cheated the same way.  And yacht thefts happening on 4 islands nearest the casinos.  Maybe those thefts are to cover gambling debts from fixed games.”

Trey nodded thoughtfully.  “I think we need some police help – discrete police.”

“Well, I’m sure Rast would not object to some time on Anguilla and St Maarten.”  RF hummed happily.  This case looked interesting.  Cards cheats and yacht thefts.  Smacked of big business.  “Maybe we should ask Hondo, Ethan, and Devlin down too.  Ethan can stay at a resort on Anguilla and the other two with us.  That way we have eyes on the island.  He’s been here before so he knows his way around.”

Trey carried RF back indoors and murmured, “Just once, I’d like a simple case of theft.”

“Oh, this is much more fun.  Maybe I can turn the thug into a giant cockroach!”

“NO roaches, RF.  None.  Ever.”

She gave Trey a look.  “Squeamish, are you?”

He shuddered.  “YES!”

“Good to know.”  Her evil smile made Trey want to strangle her, but just as they walked inside, a shout went up and the people at Rupert’s table congratulated him.  Their djinn had won again.  Getting him to give back his ill-gotten gains was going to be hard going.  Maybe he could keep what he won off the crooks.

“Guess that’s our cue.”  Trey began strolling over and RF lolled in his arms like a pampered pet …………. except she caught the two men sliding out into the night at the nod from the thug in the garden.  This should be interesting.  The casino management and security was thick.  Maybe staying here for the night would be a good idea.  Better than getting shot at in the streets.  Unless the casino had a private boat to take them back to Anguilla.

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Turned out the Casino Royale was more than happy to have Mr Soulis and his friends taken back to Anguilla on a private boat owned by them, especially when they heard where they were staying.  They also offered to comp him a suite if he wished to spend the evening sometime.  Rupert was as gracious as a king – well, he did have thousands of years of practice.  Trey and RF managed to stay straight faced during the whole thing, but RF lost it when they got inside the villa and just rolled around laughing hysterically.

“I thought I did that rather well.  They all think I’m some kind of Royalty traveling incognito,” and he certainly sounded haughty enough as he stepped over the laughing groundhog into the living room.

“It went well tonight, sir?”  Jacobs always stayed up, no matter what they said about his getting some sleep.

“Quite well, Jacobs.  You might want to have security keep a close eye on things.  We’re calling down Ethan, Hondo and Devlin.”

“Very good sir.  Will they all be here?”

“No.  Ethan will be at one of the resorts.  CuisinArt probably.  They have golf.  I’ll have him bring his clubs.  Hondo and Dev will be here.”

“Excellent, sir.”

RF recovered from her laughing fit, but still smiling looked up, “Go to bed Jacobs, it’s been a long day.”

“Of course Ms RF, as soon as I speak with security.  Have a good night.”

RF watched the major domo walk off and said to Trey, “I don’t know what Big Daddy pays him, but it better be a LOT of money.”

“I’m sure it is.  And you had books stolen in the Miss Scarlett swap.  Apparently it’s all Professor Plum’s fault.”

“HA!  Like I’ll believe that twaddle.”

“We can chat when you’re done.  Let’s get Rupert moving before he tells Marilyn and your cousins about every hand he played.”  Trey scooped her up and herded everyone outside.

The next day Hondo and Ethan arrived on the same small inter-island prop plane from San Juan airport.  Neither man gave the slightest indication he knew the other.  Hondo got into the car from the villa that would take him to Trey and RF.  Ethan was heading by private car to the CuisinArt Resort.  Devlin was the one that was staying on St Maartin at the Karibuni Lodge on the French side and would spend time over on the Dutch side at the casinos as needed.  Devlin was fluent in French, so it was a good fit, even though everyone spoke English and island patois was quite different, just as Cajun French was though Trey managed very well too.  Dev also loved boats and was a very good sailor, so he’d rent a sailboat for a day or two and get to know some of the dockhands where the yachts were.

The SEAL’s had communications set up in nothing flat.  Ethan was a wealthy business man.  Dev, was someone who liked vacationing in comfort outside traditional hotels and indulged his love of sailing with bare boat rentals.  Hondo was a villa guest and friend of Trey’s.  Rast wasn’t due in for another day or two.

Before heading over to the casinos, the group – minus Ethan and Dev – was heading to the patio when everyone did a double take.  Strolling up from the tiny beach area were two RF’s – which meant Tour was there as well.  She waved at them.

“Did you know Tour was coming, Lula Mae?”  Trey was stunned.

“RF never said anything.  Cleatus, she say anything to you?”

“She said something about needing another set of eyes.  I figured she was talking about Hondo.”  Cleatus turned to the ex-SEAL. “She come with you?”

“No.  I don’t know anything about it.”  Hondo sounded as baffled as the rest of them.  Rupert walked up and asked, “Why is everyone staring at …………… Is that Tour?”

“I guess you didn’t bring her then,” muttered Marilyn.  The djinn just shook his head no.  He wasn’t even sure where she lived.  Jacobs calmly saw to an extra place setting at the table and spoke with the head chef.  Trey asked quietly, “Did Big Daddy send her?”

“No Mr Trey.  Ms Tour simply arrived about 45 minutes ago.  She seems to have private transport of some sort.  Ms RF has mentioned several times she has an ………….. unusual means of getting around, so never asks for Mr McCauley’s jet.”

Everyone looked at Rupert, who just shook his head.  “No djinn or ifrit have been near here.  No demons either.  I would have known.”

“Does anyone else find Tour a little, unnerving?” Asked Marilyn.

Lula Mae gave her a dark look.  “You’re a witch and fly a broom and some ordinary groundhog unnerves you?”

“There is nothing ordinary about Tour.”  Hondo spoke with a kind of absolute certainty.

Trey agreed wholeheartedly, especially after what happened at the clan gathering this year.  She might not be a spellcaster, but Tourmaline Groundhog was ….. unique and truly formidable.  And she was here for a reason.  Now he just had to find out what that reason was.  From a distance, he simply could not tell them apart.  Until the book theft alarm rang on his phone.  RF’s head whipped up with a snarl, but Tour just rolled her eyes and walked to the table, ignoring her cousin.

Tour said hello to Jacobs and asked after his family as he seated her.  She seemed to know them all by name.  She smiled at Trey as walked past to grab his testy partner.  “Honestly, what that man puts with from her and those blasted book swaps.”

“It’s just one of her little quirks, Ms Tour.”

“That’s not a quirk, Jacobs, that’s an unhealthy obsession.”

Jacobs bent down and whispered something in her ear.  Tour looked at him then started laughing.  “Fair enough Jacobs.”

Two days later Interpol Chief Detective Inspector Rast arrived, but stayed at the villa to rest while the other once again headed to the casino’s after a few nights away.  Rupert was winning at the high stakes Texas Hold’em table and Ethan, who turned out to be a lethal card player himself, was winning at the black jack table at the Atlantis Casino.  RF and Trey had played a bit of roulette and black jack, and Trey was a few hundred ahead for the night, nothing dramatic.  He let Rupert have the drama.  Last night, the marked cards did not show up, but apparently they did at the Casino Royale where Dev was playing the slots and losing slowly but steadily.  Hondo caught the card switch using special contacts, but the dealer just grabbed a fresh deck when called for and there it was.  That meant they did it smarter.  The dealer was not involved.  Someone in casino security was in on the scam, because the deck had to be added INSIDE the casino then delivered to the right table.  This was a large team, but how could they scam enough money to make it pay for all of them?  This wasn’t Vegas.  Then again, in Vegas this crew would have been caught in 2 days.

Dev rented a bare boat to do some sailing and tomorrow was taking off for 4 days.  He was getting to know the dock hands after a few single day rentals to get his very slightly rusty skills back – supposedly (Hondo told them Dev would live on a boat if he could and just sail all the time) – and learning about the various yacht owners.  He planned to sail to St Barths and docked in Gustavia.  He’s done a lot of sailing and carried a US Coast Guard Limited Master’s License, so he could rent anything he wanted, but he stayed at a nice 36 foot sailboat he could easily handle alone and live on it once on St Barths.

The Casino crew seemed to be avoiding Rupert if they could.  Even as human, djinn vision was different and after winning another night, though more modestly, be choose black jack after Ethan left the table and ……………. marked cards showed up.  But no one was at the table taking advantage, so Rupert didn’t either and left when the marked decks played out, about breaking even.

Then Dev called in.  A man was losing big time at the Casino Royale.  Hondo disappeared and went in to act as another spotter, but everyone else conspicuously stayed put.  Tour had talked to Hondo for a long time that afternoon and RF could get nothing out of either one of them.  RF didn’t handle frustration well.  Her curiosity was driving her mad.  That’s when the call came.

“Guys, Marilyn just walked into the Casino Royale with Tour.  No idea how she got here.”

“Probably flew that damn broom of hers.  She brought it at the last minute.”  RF suspected Tour had something to do with that.

“Well, she looks a bit rumpled.”

“I bet she still can’t land worth a damn.”

“Tour’s wearing what looks like a diamond collar with a big canary colored center stone and large pearl drop.  One of yours RF?”

“No, that’s her’s.  It’s worth a fortune.  That yellow stone is a diamond!”  She all but hissed that last part.  RF had thing for colored diamonds.

“Concentrate,” Trey ordered her.  “Why is Tour here and what’s she up to with Marilyn?”

“I’ve been trying to figure that out for 3 days.  I even had the Watkins boys check on Erma the Evil U-Haul Clerk.  She’s still in that dump of a trailer in Florida.  But I bet this has something to do with that nutjob.  It’s the only reason Tour would just show up and then involve Marilyn in it.”  RF looked thoughtful for a moment.  “Or it involves on of her Wordies somehow.”

“ummmm ………… Guys, Marilyn is at a high limit black jack table.  Now what?”  Hondo sounded a bit rattled.

‘What the hell is Tour up to?”  RF was almost beside herself, so Trey and Rupert made a hasty exit and took the casino’s launch back to Anguilla.  The moment RF was away from strangers, she threw a complete and total hissy fit about Tour and Marilyn.  By the time they reached the villa, she’d worked herself into a real froth.  And for two hours she paced, threatened, and generally acted like a complete lunatic.

Marilyn and Tour arrived back with a crash, and an, “Oopsie!” and Marilyn walked in brushing herself off, Tour trailing behind just shaking her head and looking faintly amused.  RF turned on her cousin and yelled, “WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU DOING?”

“None of your business.” Then she walked away.  RF followed her, but Tour simply would NOT give her any answers.  It was a looooong night – until Trey heard – “One more word and I use the skillet!”  And RF finally shut up.

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

Marilyn had only been slightly more forthcoming about the night, saying Tour wanted to see the casino and check a few things out, and Marilyn would be a splendid distraction.  Given Marilyn’s figure, and the low cut neckline Tour told her to wear, as well as the lovely pendant she loaned the witch, well, it was an easy assumption.  The next night she and Tour went to Atlantis Casino and again played at the black jack tables doing very well.  And again, Tour had on one of her collection of exquisite gem studded collars – this time rainbow tourmaline, Tour’s favorite gemstone and her namesake, mixed with D flawless diamonds in a stunning freeform collar with a huge copper-bearing paraiba tourmaline in the middle.  RF knew her gems and she knew ALL the tourmalines in all the colors were copper-bearing, given their unusual brilliance, and the colors were beautifully saturated.  That meant all the gems were from a spectacular, but limited, find in Africa and some of the finest in the world.  She also knew something else, Tour had designed that necklace herself and Big Daddy paid Chopard to make it for her.

Then RF thought about the headlines for the last few days about the staggering gem heist straight from ‘To Catch a Thief’, except this gang was not John Robie and used guns.  They were Eastern European.

“Have you gotten any calls about the jewelry thefts in Cannes and Monte Carlo?”

Trey looked at his partner.  “About 10 in the last two days.  I told them no.  And do NOT think about going after those idiots.  They’re armed and dangerous and those gems are long gone.  Re-cut, reset, and all over the world.  Chopard’s insurance company is having a heart attack, but then, they allowed the crappy security, so I have no sympathy.”

“They consulted you and you told them it wasn’t good enough.”  RF was grinning.

“Actually, I said it was a written invitation to gangs.  They ignored me.  They deserved to have them stolen for their carelessness alone.”  He looked down at RF.  “That has nothing to do with yacht thefts.  That gang operates in Europe, mostly on the Riviera.  That’s it.”

“But the guy who threatened you was Eastern European.”

“RF, Eastern Europe has more gangs than you can count.”

“But it is funny how they keep choosing wealthy socialite playgrounds and places with casinos.”

“That is where the money is and where people are looking to show off and their gems.  Thieves like that don’t knock off the local 7-11.”

“No, but St Maarten is hardly the nexuses of rich and famous that the French Riviera or Monte Carlo are.  So why cheat at cards here.  This might not be the local convenience store, but it isn’t in the same league as places in Europe or Vegas or Macau.”

“Vegas would be a death wish.  You’d be an idiot to try anything in any casino in that town.  Rob a pawn shop?  A jewelry story?  You do as well on Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue – and be a lot less likely to be caught.”

“Less security?”

“No, it’s just that big cities have big distractions for cops, like murders, gang warfare, drugs, violent crimes galore, plus organized crime doing all kinds of crap.  Knocking off a jewelry story is a flash in the pan, providing no one is hurt.  But it lacks the panache of stealing from famous hotel in Cannes.  Vegas casinos have security places like this can’t dream of affording.  And their entire city lives and dies with the tourists coming in to gamble.  No beaches, no atmosphere that they haven’t made up, like Disneyland.  Not even Monte Carlo does security better than Vegas.  Macau is nearly as tight as Vegas. And compared to them, these places are just a few steps up from a 3 card monty game on some street corner.”

“So why cheat here?”

“It’s harder to get caught.  Easier to disappear.  But the payoff is a lot less.”

“Unless there are high stakes private games.”

“RF, there are ALWAYS high stakes private games, even where gambling is illegal.  The whole damn stock market is a giant high stakes gambling game.  These people just play with dice and cards.”

“Yeah, but what if what you’re losing is insurance money?  Then that’s like playing with someone else’s money, right?”

Trey looked thoughtful.  His wily partner might be on to something.  “Most of yachts have big mortgages, but the ones that were stolen didn’t.  Either there never was a mortgage, or it was nearly paid off.”  Trey thought some more.  “So they steal the yacht, you get the insurance money and pay them off, but you’re still out the yacht AND the insurance money.”

“Not if they take the yachts, rework them, then sell them back to different owners at a below market rate.  You don’t get back YOUR boat, you get one of the other victims and it becomes a game of musical yachts.  Why tell the police anything when you lost a fortune, but most of it was insurance money?”

“OK, that’s possible.  But why is Tour here?”

RF let out a frustrated growl that had the slinky blond approaching Trey change direction.  “She knows something, or suspects something and it has to do with what’s happening here!”

“Maybe if we ask nicely, she’ll tell us.  So stop trying to nag it out of her.  She’s as stubborn as you.”  RF snarled, and a redhead changed direction.  “You know I just chased off two really hot babes, don’t you?”

“Yes.  But I also know really hot babes like that are looking for either a quick roll in the hay or a sugar daddy and they are looking in the wrong place with me.  Besides, anyone you could scare off wouldn’t be worth knowing for more than a night.”

“You’re using me to scare off women?”  RF managed to inject some outrage into that, even though she wanted to laugh.

“Of course I am.”

“Older woman approaching, on your six.  Want me to snarl?”

“Behave.”

“I’m told your name is Trevor Deveau, but I seem to recall you had a different one when you stayed at Trent’s Barbados villa along with your unusual partner.  I’m Ellen Donohue and I wonder if we might have a word in private.”  Her brisk businesslike tone had Trey nodding agreement and they stepped out into a balmy night on the tropical grounds of the resort.  RF was really curious about what Mrs Donohue had to say.  And it turned out to be really interesting.

 

The next morning RF was still mulling over everything they learned from Ellen Donohue.  She apparently knew at least 3 people who were ‘victims’ of yacht thefts and all three had taken substantial loses at high stakes games – two off casino property.  Then 6 months later 2 of the three ‘victims’ used their insurance money to buy ‘new boats.  One gave Mrs Donohue a tour of his prize and she recognized a boat stolen the previous year thanks to the unique paneling in the lounge and master bedroom.  She said nothing to the owner and hesitated about involving the police, but when she saw Trey she knew he did insurance recovery and wanted to tell him.  She seemed almost relieved to learn that’s why he was here and said bluntly,  “Thanks heavens I’m not turning into so crazed conspiracy theorist!”   At Trey’s request, she sent over a list of ‘victims’ and what she knew of each one and who had and had not bought replacement yachts.   They had a place to start for a paper trail that Rast was best equipped to follow.

The next night, the gang made their first move.  Trey was playing at a black jack table and winning modestly when a server who brought his drink also brought a plate of petit fours.  Neither Trey nor RF gave it a thought as chefs often sent out samples to her.  It wasn’t till 20 minutes later that Trey realized RF had gone completely limp.  He’d raced back to the villa to get help.  Rast roused a small animal vet in France who said it sounded like she was heavily drugged, but if her breathing was good, to let her sleep it off.

Tour stood over RF, waiting for her to wake up.  She’d been asleep for over 16 hours.  Tee had an overwhelming urge to go bite someone.  Trey looked like hell.  He’d hardly slept, worrying over his partner.  Even Lula Mae and Cleatus had been up most of the night.  Tour leaned down.  RF was breathing normally, just sleeping.  She knew how to end this.  She whispered to Jacobs, who looked uncertain but took off while Tee sat and waited.  About 15 minutes later, Jacobs was back with a cart full of food and Tour directed him to stand to one side of RF.  She then dumped a bucket of ice water over RF and yelled, “Theresa STOLE YOUR BOOKS!”  Jacobs set the slice of chocolate cream pie down directly in front of a wide awake and snarling RF.

“WHAT??????  She stole WHAT????”  RF looked around.  The last thing she remembered was eating a petit four at the casino while Trey was playing black jack.  What the hell – it looked liked afternoon.  She grabbed the pie.  “Somebody better start explaining what happened and why my head is  pounding like a bass drum.  And why am I wet?”  She sounded surly, unpleasant, and irate.  Pretty much like her normal self.

Trey dried her off while she ate hungrily.  “You were drugged at the casino.”

RF blinked.  The towel still over her head like a huge shawl.  She looked ridiculous.  She also looked seriously pissed off.  “I was DRUGGED?  How?”

“The chocolate petit four.  There was enough ‘Special K’ in that thing to take down an angry Doberman.”

“How do you know that?”

“When you went out, Trey had the presence of mind to ask for the rest for the petit fours and he brought them back here.  I cut each one open and every chocolate one had ketamine in it.  The chocolate masked the smell, plus it looked like it was encapsulated in a thin shell of some kind.  It wouldn’t last that way, but it lasted long enough.  If you’d had two, you wouldn’t be here.  Good thing you ate the orange one instead.”

“The chocolate tasted really off and I only had half and (she avoided looking at Trey) I dropped the rest under the table.  That’s how they drugged me?”  Tour nodded yes.

Rast walked in, looking as tired and exhausted as the rest of them.  “Luckily, I was able to reach a small animal vet at the Paris zoo and he said so long as you were breathing without difficulty, to let your system work it out.”  He smiled at RF, still wearing the towel draped over her head like a pro athlete, or an elderly lady, a comparison that, if said aloud, would have him turned into a frog.

She looked around, wrenched the towel off her head and grumbled, “What time is it?”

“Nearly 3 PM local time, and you’ve been out nearly 16 hours.”

RF really snarled and bit into a fresh eclair.  The sugar was hitting her system and was waking her up.  “So you threw ice water on me and yelled about books being stolen?”  She glared at her best friend and cousin.

Tour shrugged, unrepentant.  “It worked.  Besides, your books were stolen.”

“WHAT???????????????????  WHO STOLE MY BOOKS????????  AND WHY IS EVERYONE LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT??????”

“They were really worried.  They thought you were going to die.”

RF chose to ignore the uncomfortable feelings of caring that she felt, and instead snarled at Tour.  “Obviously, YOU weren’t worried.”

“Oh please, you were snoring like a warthog with a head cold.  I’m just amazed the neighbors didn’t complain.  Besides, 16 hours was more than enough sleep.  I thought you’d enter hibernation if I didn’t wake you up.”

IT’S THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER!  NOT EVEN WILD GROUNDHOGS HIBERNATE THEN!  AND I DON’T HIBERNATE AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Maybe you’re just lazy.”

“LAZY????  LAZY?????”

“Hey, don’t yell at me!  I’m not the one who was snoring her head off for 16 hours!  Besides, you’re holding up a swap.  So finish that cake and get your butt in gear.”

RF narrowed her eyes at her cousin.  “Maybe I’m still too tired.”

“The only thing you’re in danger of right now is diabetic coma from too much sugar from all the desserts you just devoured.”

“You’re a worse nurse than Lula Mae,” RF grumbled as she got a bit unsteadily to her feet.

“And you’re lucky you have so much extra body fat to fight off the ketamine.”

RF’s head came up and she glared at Tour, who looked completely unmoved – though Cleatus, Lula Mae, Marilyn and Rupert all took a few steps back while Greta and Johann slipped out the door to hide.  Trey just sighed and dropped his head in his hands.

“I am not fat!  I’M ZAFTIG!

Tour snorted.  “You must weigh 5 pounds more than I do!”

“THE HELL I DO!  AND I’M TALLER THAN YOU!”

“Yeah, by 1 inch.   And wider by 5 pounds.”

RF took off after Tour and they went right out the doors into the yard, Tour laughing and calling RF, “Dumpy looking.”

Cleatus watched them, shook his head, then said, “You know Aunt Lula Mae, I think Tour can annoy RF faster than you.”

“I ain’t dumb enough to say anything about her weight.  At least not that directly.  I don’t know why RF hasn’t turned her into a gerbil.”

“I think Tour is sort of immune to magic.”  Everyone turned and stared at Marilyn.  She cleared her throat, unaccustomed to being the center of everyone’s attention.  “Everything she did during the Mutant Lizard Wars, all the things that didn’t affect her, but got everyone else, it seems like she’s immune.”

Lula Mae looked confused.  “But Lucifer keeps telling her to read those books her Great Aunt left her, and she was a spellcaster who trained RF.”

“But the books she left Tour weren’t about spellcasting.  Those all went to RF.”

“How do you know that?”  Trey forgot just how tired he was as he stared at Marilyn, who was surprisingly observant.

“I asked Tour.  I was kind of curious after what she did at the reunion.  And she never worries about RF turning her into anything and she has that strange aircraft taking her everywhere.  I saw it arrive the other day.  It was silent.  All I can tell you is it’s not magic.”

Trey looked at Rupert to get some confirmation.  He knew a lot more about those things than Marilyn.  In response to Trey’s unspoken question, Rupert shook his head no.  “It doesn’t feel at all magical when she comes and goes.”

Rast sat heavily in the nearest chair and even Jacobs broke all protocol and sat.  Trying to wrap his mind around it, slowly Trey said, “What is in those books left to Tour?”

“Well, she did have a lot of strange weapons during the Mutant Lizard Wars.  And she doesn’t exactly live in a local zip code.  I mean even Rupert can’t get to her.  Yet folks from all over the world just stroll in and out of the OTC Bar, Grill, and Bakery from thousands of miles off, and walk out and go home.”

“I just always thought is was like RF, kind of like magic,” Trey said almost plaintively.

“‘ Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.'” Jacobs cleared his throat.  “Sorry.  I’m a fan of Arthur C Clark and that’s one of my favorite lines of his.”  Remembering himself, he stood.  “I’ll have a buffet set out so everyone can eat something then go a rest.  It has been a stressful day.  Mr Ethan, Mr Hondo, and Mr Dev will carry on.  Excuse me.”  He walked out with the dignity of a king.

“What’s in those books everyone wants Tour to read?”  Trey repeated.

Tour walked in, dripping and panting, RF right behind her – also dripping and panting.  “What’s in what books?”

“The ones you’re Great Aunt left you?”

“Oh those.  Just stories.  Is Jacobs getting food?  I’m hungry.”  She looked toward the bathroom where RF had turned on the shower, “Hey!  You have a book thief to transform!”

“When I’m done here!”

“Well don’t come to the table reeking of those stupid herbs!  I’ll throw you back in the pool!”

“In your dreams!”

Tour turned, looked over her shoulder, and just smiled at everyone.  “You just have to know what buttons to push.”  And she walked off to shower as well yelling, “Don’t use all the hot water!”

Trey watched her walk away and finally said, “OK, I think I speak for everyone when I say I am now completely freaked out.”

August 4, 2015

By Request – RF and the Yacht Theft Case

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 5:38 pm
Tags: ,

Apparently RF has a small fan club and there will be one more multipart RF story for this summer and that’s it till next year.

In the Clan Reunion story, RF first had word of the yacht thefts.  Once again she and Trey and Rupert were off on an adventure to find stolen yachts.  We open the story at the Bakery Cafe where RF and her cousins have returned from the Clan Reunion.

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

RF got Darlene’s message, but important Bakery business and her demanding partner kept her busy all morning.  Finally, she broke free and headed to her workshop, only to have Lula Mae stand right in front of her, glaring.

“WHAT?????”  RF was feeling cranky.

“You heading to Big Daddy’s Barbados villa and not taking us?”

“No. we’re not going there.”

“Then where are you going?”

“Anguilla”

“Big Daddy has a villa on Anguilla?”

“No, a friend of his does and he’s loaning it to us.”

“There should be plenty of room for us then.  I’ll tell everyone to pack.”

“I’m going on a business trip, Lula Mae, not a vacation!”

“Well, we can use a vacation too!”

“You just got back from one in Santa Barbara!  Where you annoyed me!!!!!!”

“That was weeks ago, before the Reunion.  We’re due for a nice beach trip.”

“That house was ON THE BEACH!”

“Yeah, well this is a TROPICAL beach, so that’s better.”  Lula Mae saw Greta, “Greta, we’re heading for Anguilla.  Better let Marilyn know.”  She turned back to RF, “When we leaving?”

“NEVER!  YOU’RE LEAVING NEVER!”  Lula Mae moved out of her much larger cousin’s way as RF stormed into her workshop.  Then she took a seat by Trey.  “Mite cranky today, ain’t she?”

“She had books stolen again.  And this could be dangerous, Lula Mae.  Yacht thieves are often thugs and pretty ruthless.”

“All the more reason to be there are back-up.  She takes too many chances.”  That was too true, and Trey knew it.  Lula Mae was one of the few that could get RF slightly under control.  Too bad Tour wasn’t available.  She would clobber her cousin if she did something stupid.  And she was damn cunning.  The way she handled that whole thing at the clan gathering was brilliant.  Sadistic, but brilliant.  Those two together, no wonder the guys who tried to kill Big Daddy didn’t stand a chance.

Next Day

Big Daddy’s jet was waiting for them next morning and yes, Lula Mae, Cleatus, Greta, and Johann were all tagging along – much to RF disgust.

“The vile, evil, wretched, reprehensible Marion stole my books.  I shall extract my revenge.”  RF stalked to the bedroom at the back of the plane where Trey put her portable workshop.

Lula Mae looked up from the magazine she was reading about the latest Paris fashions – though what that had to do with a middle-aged groundhog, Trey couldn’t begin to guess.  “She on a tear about a book thief again?”

“So it would seem.  She’s not usually so dramatic about it.”

Rupert, who had consumed every scrap of food RF had packed in a hamper for him was looking around the private jet for more to eat.  “Are they serving dinner?  I’m hungry.”

“You just ate enough for a family of 8 humans.  You should be full.”  Lula Mae sounded fresh out of sympathy.

“I just spent a week visiting my mother.  I have to be very careful about what I eat there.  I need a good steak.”

“What, your momma don’t feed you steak?”

Rupert just stared at the older marmot, not saying a word.

“Oh.  OK, yeah, I see the problem now.  I’d probably eat vegetarian around her myself.”  Rupert’s mother had highly suspect eating habits.

“And she can’t make dessert worth a damn.  Are there any jelly donuts around?”

Trey didn’t even bother looking at Rupert when he said, “Didn’t you learn your lesson about hogging the jelly donuts back in LaJolla?”

Rupert blanched at the memory.  “I’ll just look for something else then.”

“Do NOT get between RF and her desserts.  She’s already cranky.  Don’t make it worse.”  Trey knew his partner all too well, and having her cousins under foot was making her very unhappy.  She even tried to kick Lula Mae down the boarding steps.  Luckily, Lula Mae had kept her distance by boarding behind Marilyn, but the witch was sporting a nasty bruise on her leg.

The loud *POOF!* from the sleeping cabin had the two flight attendants looking a bit pale.  The attendant named Staci placed a tray of appetizers on the table in front of Trey and asked softly, “What did she just do?”

“Transformed a book thief into something ugly and smelly,” fully expecting the usual reaction – something between horror, abject fear, and complete disbelief.  Instead, she looked …….. intrigued.

“Would she mind if I talked to her about something?”

Trey shrugged.  “It might be better if you spoke with her after she’s had dinner.  She’s more …… civil, when she’s full.  And extra desserts help – but no custard type stuff.  She hates anything that tastes like custard.”

“I like custard!”  Rupert cheerfully announced.  “I’ll eat hers!”

Staci smiled at Rupert.  “We have extra crème brulee for you.  Ms RF’s request.  Now I’ll just get more appetizers.  I’m sure she’ll be hungry.”

As the flight attendant walked off, Rupert leaned in close to Trey, “I thought they were all scared to death of her.”

It was Marilyn who snorted.  “She wants something from RF.  Bet you anything it involves a cheating male.”  Trey and Rupert protectively crossed their legs. Purely reflex.  His cranky partner was not fond of cheaters.  Trey had noticed a pale line on her ring finger where he suspected her wedding ring used to sit, so Marilyn was likely right.

RF stood there, looking at them, knowing something was going on.  “WHAT?”  Damn, she could be silent.

“Get up here and have some appetizers before Rupert eats them all.”  Trey lifted his partner into her special seat and gave her the tray to pick from – much to Rupert’s annoyance.  She looked at the sea of innocent faces.  Damn.  Someone wanted something.  Well, it could wait till after dinner.

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

Sure enough, a whispered conversation between RF and flight attendant had RF back in the bedroom and another *POOF!* sounded.  The flight attendant emerged looking smug and satisfied.  RF refused to discuss it.  Somewhere some male was paying a serious price for his transgressions.

The villa on Anguilla wasn’t as nice as Big Daddy’s place on Barbados, or as dramatic, but it was very nice, with 10 bedrooms and lots of staff. There was even a small private beach and many more huge beaches easily accessible.  RF was enjoying the place.

Her favorite spot immediately became the palapa right on the water, where she shamelessly commandeered the lounge as HER’S!  Big Daddy sent Jacob’s his head butler at his Barbados Villa to assist the Le Bleu staff as they adjusted to their bizarre visitors.  The cooks, of course, had heard of RF and her cousin Tour and were anxious to please her.  The rest of the staff was a bit nervous.

Afternoon tea – in this case, iced tea with fresh lemon – included trays of traditional and very non-traditional sandwiches and sweets carried out to RF – who promptly helped herself to generous servings.  Rupert and Trey had just come back from ‘yacht shopping’ looking attractively windblown and starting to tan already.  The female help at the villa was in constant danger of whiplash when they walked past, and Big Daddy was paying to replace a lot of broken china.  Marilyn, meanwhile, was sending the male staff into fits in her very attractive, but skimpy, 2 piece swimsuit and her 3 other suits all of which showed off her well-endowed, curvy figure.  She joined the two men and soon RF had everyone invading her private spot.  She was going to grab a cast iron skillet tomorrow to help keep them out.

They’d arrived late, but Trey and Rupert headed to the casinos on St Marteen to start checking things out.  RF look at Trey and Rupert and asked, “Well, any luck today over on St Maarten?”

“Rupert won about fifty grand at the poker table.”

RF gave Rupert an evil look.  “We went over this.  No playing tricks with the cards so you win!”

“I didn’t!  It was a marked deck and I could see it!”  Even Jacobs stared at the djinn in astonishment.  The normally staid and quite butler was so shocked he said, “The Atlantis Casino would not use marked cards!  They have a reputation and do NOT want to lose it!”

“I don’t think those were casino cards.  The dealer palmed a deck and swapped it for a marked one that looked identical and suddenly I could read the cards.  So I made a little money by hiding the marking on my cards so they read wrong.”

“Cheating a cheater is a dangerous thing to do Mr Rupert.” Jacobs sounded serious as a heart attack.  “These rings of thieves can be quite violent.  I’ve heard of killings over things like that.”

Rupert nodded.  Yes, he was aware of that, but he couldn’t resist doing it.  He was not any more fond of humans who cheated others than RF was.  Trey sighed.  “Do you remember who the dealer was?”

“A woman named Muriel, or that was the name on her badge, but I heard someone calling to her as we left and they called Sammy or Sanni.”

RF looked at Trey and this time they both sighed in resignation.  One day in and it was already messy.  “I’ll call Rast and see if he can get us in touch with someone quietly.”

RF looked at Rupert.  “What did the man calling to the dealer look like?”

“Well, he was dressed like an American, but his accent was wrong.  It’s like an American trying to pretend they’re French.  They get it wrong.  His mistakes were less obvious, but he was not American and certainly not Texan, which is how he dressed.  Complete with boots.  But he sounded nothing like Big Daddy or RJ.”  Both men were native Texans, even though RJ’s accent was minimal after years of living in California, it was still there.  Just like Trey’s Cajun accent was still there, slight, but noticeable and always stronger after he’d spent time at home.

Trey straightened up.  “They man in the Western cut shirt and Tony Lamas?”

Rupert looked confused.  “What is a ‘Tony Lama’?”

“He’s a well-known Western style boot maker,” RF explained.

“Ah, yes.  The boots were very fancy with pointy toes and an odd heel.  Part of them looked like lizard or a small crocodile.”

“Probably caiman.  He uses that for his bespoke boots.  Now, why would someone wearing Tony Lama boots get involved in an attempt to swindle the casinos?  And does this have anything to do with our boat thieves?”  RF’s claws drummed on the lounge.

“If I may, Ms RF, several staff members here at the villa have extended family at the Atlantic as well as the Casino Royale and several in Phillipsburg.  I can have them check to see if a man wearing such boots was seen.  They would be quite unusual on the islands.”

RF smiled.  “Thank-you Jacobs, excellent suggestion.  I’m sure Rupert will be happy to reward them generously.”  Rupert squawked a bit, but the look he got from RF stopped that.  He graciously agreed under the unrelenting glare of the marmot.

Jacobs chuckled and went back to the villa to oversee dinner and have a chat with the staff.  RF looked at Trey, “Did you have any luck?”

“Maybe.  I’ll head to Casino Royale toniht and see if I get approached.  You coming?”

Trey grinned.  “I bribed the right guy.  Yeah, my lucky pet can come in.”  RF gives a disgruntled sigh and snuggled down into her cushion.  Pet!  Why was she always a PET?  And Trey was enjoying this waaaaay too much.

“Oh, by the way, your books were stolen in the Darkness Released swap.  See you at dinner!”  Trey was gone like a shot with RF’s snarl ringing in his ears.  Thank heavens she wasn’t cooking!  There would be a meat fork in his ass.  He took a shaded lounge on the far end of the covered terrace.  Trey liked Barbados and Big Daddy’s villa, it was a stunning place, but he really loved the beaches of Anguilla.  Shoal Bay was favorite.  Of course, he loved a lot of the Caribbean.  Each island seemed so different, it would be hard to choose a favorite.  His musing about the charms of the different islands was broken by a loud *POOF!*  The islands were better enjoyed without a testy marmot.

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

Later that night back on Anguilla …………..

Cleatus sauntered over to where RF sat eating popcorn while watching Trey pace back and forth lecturing her about turning humans in small animals or awful demons.  There was some yelling and a lot of arm waving and finger pointing.  “Something happen tonight?”  Cleatus grabbed some popcorn and settled in near RF, careful not to crowd her.

“Oh, this man kept patting my head for luck and suddenly broke out in hives and had to leave the casino.”

“That’s all?”  Cleatus didn’t believe that Trey was this upset over hives.

“Well this woman kept pestering Trey.  Rubbing against him – and then she tried to grab his arm that was holding me.”

“She trying to kidnap you?”

“Doubt it.  She just wanted me gone so she could have Trey.”

Cleatus nodded and ate more popcorn.  “What did you do?”

“What makes you think I did anything?”

“Cause you’re not answering my question and Trey’s giving you a lecture.”

ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME RF?”  Trey yelled right at her.  She stared for a moment, then gave a noncommittal shrug.  “That woman had hair all over her body!”

“Fur,” she corrected.

FUR???!!!!!!  What kind of fur?”

“Weasel.  Ferret to be precise.”

“You made her a giant ferret?”  Her partner sounded rather stunned.

“No, I made her a human covered in ferret fur.  See, I didn’t do a transformation, because I promised I wouldn’t, and didn’t give her hives, because after that head patter incident I promised I wouldn’t, but I didn’t promise anything about fur.  So now she’s covered in ferret fur.”

“Why ferret?”  Trey knew he should be lecturing her again, but honestly, what more could be said?

“Well, I could have made her a polecat I suppose, but ferret seemed a better idea.”

“Polecat?  You mean a skunk?”

“No.  A polecat is not a skunk.  Americans call skunks that, but polecats are really a good sized weasel.  Skunks aren’t weasels.  They’re kind of distant cousins.”

“Janice Baker is now covered in ferret fur?”

“She almost made you drop me!!!!!!  It was that or she was going straight to guinea pig.”

Trey sort of fell into a chair and stared at his partner.  He had long since given up on her transforming book thieves but had stopped her turning rude waiters into lemurs.  This was a first.  And a woman in a lowcut evening gown covered in fur – two dark rings around her eyes and dark ears, was a very disconcerting sight.

Oblivious, or just ignoring Trey, RF cheerfully added, “Did you know the blackfoot ferret was also called the American polecat?  The eat prairie dogs in the wild.  Of course the ferrets in the Bakery are a lot smaller than me, or even Cleatus, and marmots in general, so we’re kind off the menu.”

“She’ll lose the fur?”

“In about 2 to 3 days.  A little longer for her rump.”

“WHY?”

“Why fur or why does the rump take longer?”

“The rump fur.”  Was he really having this conversation about ferret fur on human rear ends?

“I’m not really sure, but she might have to get it waxed.  For some reason, ferret fur does really well on human rumps.  She can just wear jeans.  The tail will hardly show.”

“Tail?  SHE HAS A TAIL?????

OOPS.  hummmmmmm  “Didn’t I mention that?  I’m sure I did.  It will go away.”

HOW LONG?

“You’re shouting again and that vein in your head has popped.  You really should just relax and have a drink.  Wild Turkey.  I’m sure Jacobs has some around here.”

As she tried to scurry past, Trey grabbed RF by the scruff of her neck and held her up till they were eye level.  ” How. Long. Will. She. Have. A. TAIL?”

“Oh, a week, maybe 10 days.  ……………… a month at most.”  He stared at her silently, then put her back on the patio where she sat, patiently watching him.  Twice he opened his mouth, but nothing came out.  Finally he managed, “No more tails on humans.”  Damn, another rule.  He had an awful lot of rules.  Then he walked away.

“Shouldn’t have mentioned the tail, RF.”

“It just sort of slipped out.”

“Not sure he’s taking it real well.”

“If she’d made him drop me, I would have broken a paw, maybe more than one, and maybe my ribs.  I’ve had a broken paw, thank-you, I don’t need more.”

“She involved in this yacht thing?”

“I don’t think so, or if she is, she’s just the distraction.  Her husband looks like a constipated toad, but he’s rich.  I don’t blame her for going after Trey, just for trying to get me dropped.  That was dangerous and she didn’t care if I got hurt.”

RF never heard Trey come up behind them, but as the breeze shifted she scented him.  “I didn’t do it for laughs, you know.”  He nodded.  She was right.  Janice had tried to get him to drop RF, not caring if the animal was hurt.  “No more tails.”

“OK”

He walked off as silently as he came.  She forgot sometimes that he was a world class thief and had all the skills.

“Well, that could have been worse,” Cleatus said as he ate the last of the popcorn and got a good glare from RF.  “See you in the morning RF!”  And he made his getaway before she threw the bowl at him.  Good thing it was plastic so they wouldn’t have bleeding paws tomorrow.

The book theft alarm went off early, but Lula Mae and RF were busy fighting while Cleatus, Johann and Greta watched …………… until RF looked at them and snarled, “If you three have nothing better to do, I’m sure I can find some work for you!” at which point Trey grabbed RF and Rupert grabbed Lula Mae and walked in opposite directions.  Finally, Trey sat on the sand on the tiny private beach.  “You should try discussing things first, before fighting with Lula Mae.”

“She tries to boss me around!  NO ONE TELLS ME WHAT TO DO!”

“Except your cousin Tour.”

“Tour doesn’t try and run my life like that Southern busybody.”

“Tour just walks softly and carries a cast iron skillet.”

RF shrugged.  She and her cousin knew each other too well and they both knew Tour would use that damn skillet.  “She doesn’t tell me what to do like Lula Mae.”  Now she sounded petulant.

Trey sighed.  RF and Lula Mae were way too much alike.  “Just walk away RF.”

“She followed me and kept badgering me.”

“About what?”

RF was quiet and looked around at the view and the amazing clear water.  “Beautiful place, not the way Barbados is or St John in the USVI, but amazing beaches and water.”

Trey picked his wandering partner up and held her.  “What was she fighting with you about?”

RF sighed.  “The pictures from the clan gathering.”

“The ones Tour gave you so you could use them to blackmail everyone in sight.”  It was a statement, not a question, so she shrugged.

“What does she want?  Copies for herself?”

“No.  She wants me to get rid of them.  That way I can’t ever be tempted to do anything with them.”  Trey was quiet for a long time.  “OK, I see her point, but I know why you won’t do it.  However, I think you’ve both forgotten something.”  RF looked at him curiously.  “Tour had all those pictures and she gave them to you.  Do you think for one minute that your very shrewd cousin doesn’t have a full set herself?  Probably multiple sets?”

RF got a small smile, it grew, then she laughed.  “You’re right.  It doesn’t matter what I do.  Tour has them and Lula Mae wouldn’t DARE go after her.”

“See, there’s no need to argue.  Now, you’ve had a book theft that needs taking care of, unless you’ve given up transforming book thieves.”

“HA!  Not happening!”

“I assumed as much.”  He’d carried her back to the beach palapa where her workshop was stored.  “We’ll go over to Casino Royale after dinner.  The man who has the yacht for sale is coming for drinks later.  I think you should be around.”  She nodded and checked the book theft info.

To be continued ……………………….

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