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 6, 2015

RF and the Yacht Theft Case – cont’d

Filed under: Adventures Of Reachfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 11:05 pm
Tags: ,

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.

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

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 ……………………….

July 31, 2015

A ReacherFan Short Story – Witches, Demons, Romulans, and Elvis

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 9:10 pm
Tags: ,

I don’t always have the time to create a long, multi-part story for RF, she’s had a long career in her Bakery turned Cafe and catering service. She now has a large human staff and can spend more time having adventures with Trey and Rupert.  In the early days, RF did all the baking herself.  Then her young cousins, Greta and Johann came and started living with her.  Then came Cleatus and finally Lula Mae.

Marilyn the witch was one of her first friends, mostly because Marilyn decided she liked RF whether or not RF liked her.  The marmot surrendered gracelessly to the inevitable, but when Marilyn’s coven got RF to cater a huge fund raising breakfast and failed to pay her, then things turned ugly.  Johann, an account, discovered the Elder of the coven embezzled a whole lot of their money.  He managed to get most of it back, RF stripped the elder of her powers and generally saved the day.  But the coven took all the recovered money and spent it on new, state of the art brooms…… and didn’t pay RF.  That was not a wise decision.  RF confiscated their brooms and demanded payment in full of their debt to get them back.

Marilyn and her three friends, Caroline, Bethany, and Glenda (or the Three Stooges, to RF) have come to plead their case for getting the brooms back.

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

RF is incensed by Alice’s second theft in one week – vile, duplicitous, sneaking human should be stuck as scarecrow!  That’s what she deserved.  But RF was ever so gently snockered when casting the spell and nailed Alice and Mr A, weakening the longevity by spreading it to two people.  Well, that won’t happen today!  The timer went off and RF stalked into the kitchen to pull out another tray of pies.  She made cranberry apple pie, pumpkin pie, chocolate pecan bourbon pie, cherry pie, coconut custard pie, pear and almond tart, raspberry custard tart with port wine currant glaze, miniature almond tarts with a spoonful of raspberry jam at the bottom and filling of rich almond paste on top, apple strudel with ground walnuts and cinnamon nutmeg sugar between the layers of pastry and light and dark raisins mixed with apples, lemon meringue, and key lime pie topped with whipped cream.  Johann and Greta eyed the goodies longingly, but fear of RF’s wrath made them leave them alone.  Mostly.  They hoped she didn’t count the pies, because, well, chocolate pecan pie was just soooooooooo good.

RF heaved a sigh of contentment and cut a wedge of the cranberry apple pie she’d made earlier.

“RF … yoohoo …… RF, where are you?”

RF stared in horror at the sound of Marilyn’s voice.  Not again.  Not so soon!  She should still be dealing with the angry – and broomless – coven members!

“Oh stop looking under the tables Bethany, I’m sure she’s just in the kitchen.”

“She sneaky and I don’t want to be surprised!  She might like you, Marilyn, but she scares me! ”

“What is wrong with you three?  RF is very nice ……… sometimes.  A little testy maybe, but nice.  Besides, we have to ask a favor, so don’t annoy her!”  Marilyn hoped this worked, or she and her 3 friends will be homeless as well as broke.

With no little trepidation, the four witches entered RF’s kitchen.  She was sitting there, fork poised to eat what looked like an utterly delicious pie with a big scoop of ice cream.  All four gazed at her plate and then the array of pies and tarts spread around on cooling racks.  Their eyes glazed over.

“What the devil are you doing here?  I’m in the middle of my evening sacrifice to Tortum and you’re disturbing my …….. um……… chakras.”

Marilyn blinked.  “You have chakras?”

“YES!!!!!!!  Go away!!!!!!!  You’re getting them all discombobulated!”

“I thought chakras were Hindu.”  Caro looks deeply suspicious – and very hungry.  Damn.  RF does hate smart ass witches.

“Well you’re standing right in the path of my power vortex to Tortum and I want you to leave so I can make the sacrifice with proper decorum!”  The whole ‘decorum’ thing might have been a bit more believable if she wasn’t standing on the counter with bits of pies crust on her fur and a smudge of ice cream on her nose.

“Pah!  You’re making that up!  There’s no power line here.  (Wrong!)  You just want to eat everything and not share!  (True)  After all we’ve done for you!!!”  Caro, Glenda and Bethany looked varying degrees of outraged while Marilyn looked rather bemused by Caro’s bold outburst.

‘All you’ve done for me????????????????’  Done FOR me???????  The last thing you ‘did’ for me was try and feed me Weight Watchers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Well, you are rather portly, dear and you’d look much better if you ate more veggies and fruit.”

“I’M EATING FRUIT!!!!!!  APPLES AND CRANBERRIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  VERY HEALTHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“That’s pie and it’s full of sugar and fat.  I bet you used lard in that crust!”

“I did not!  Ok, well, some, but not all lard.  It makes the flakiest crust!!!!!!!!!!!  Wait, why am I justifying this to you?  It’s none of your business what I eat!  You touch that pie and you’ll be missing a hand.”  Caro takes one look at the groundhog’s narrowed eyes and aggressive stance and backed up.  She was hungry, not suicidal.

“We’re here about the hostages.”  Marilyn figured it’s time to intervene before RF kicked them out – without feeding them.

“What about them?”  RF resumed eating her pie and ice cream, hoping the witches got the message and left – though that seemed unlikely.  She sighed.  That means she’d need to ………………………. share.   No wonder she hated witches.

“Is that marinara sauce I smell?  And meatballs?  And SAUSAGE?”  Glenda stared at the stove where RF was simmering a big pot of sauce with meatballs and sweet Italian sausage.  Then Bethany’s stomach rumbled with hunger.  And Marilyn’s.

RF had the urge to strangle all of them, or turn them into pumpkins and paint scary faces on them, but she isn’t so devoid of manners she could just throw them out.  Well, she is, but Trey gave her a stern lecture and she now felt obliged to be marginally polite.  “Would you like meatball or sausage subs?”

“Yes!!!!!!!!!!!”  All four shouted so loudly, RF jumped a little.  Damn.  “I expect you two want some too?”  Greta and Johann had been loitering – possibly in the mistaken belief RF did not know about the missing pie.

“If it’s no trouble Cousin RF.  I’ll help you!”  Greta smiled and grabbed the loaves of fresh Italian bread, slicing large portions for the sandwiches.

“I’ll take fresh mozzarella on mine”

“I’d like mozzarella and provolone”

“Do you have a good parmesan?  I’ll take that and mozzarella.  OWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!”  Bethany and Caro glared at Marilyn who had smacked them smartly in the back of the head.

“We’ll take what RF gives us, and be grateful.”  She glared back at her friends who grumbled, but gave RF big smiles.  “Yes sorry, we got carried away.”  No way was Caro risking a meatball sub.

Greta and Johann kept their heads down helping RF assemble the sandwiches just the way RF liked them, with the bread crust rubbed with a split clove of garlic, the bread lined with sliced provolone, adding meatballs and sliced sausage and plenty of sauce, them generously mounding shredded mozzarella before sticking the sandwiches under a broiler to melt the cheese and heat the bread.  “Cousin RF, can we have some chocolate pecan pie for dessert?  It just smells so good!”

With a deep sigh, RF nodded agreement.  At this rate, she’d be eaten out of food by noon tomorrow.  Those young groundhogs were bottomless pits.  She removed the sandwiches and served one to everyone, including herself, adding a bowl of extra sauce for dipping and tossed salad of baby greens, diced cucumber and grape tomatoes with balsamic and oil and a plate of antipasto with a variety of thinly sliced meats, salami, cheeses and several kinds of olives.

The witches reverently grabbed the sandwiches and devoured them in record time.  RF watched in complete amazement.  Then Caro burped.  “Oh, errrrrrr, excuse me.  That was just wonderful RF.”  She started on the antipasto and RF had barely made a dent in her sandwich.  Greta set out a pitcher of sangria and some red wine.  “Can we have some pie too?”  RF barely nodded when each witch and both her cousins went nuts grabbing pies – everyone taking a whole pie.  Before she even finish her sandwich, the antipasto was gone, the salad was gone and there lots of empty pie plates – more plates than guests.  About 12 empty plates.  RF looked at them, annoyed.  They were much too full to care.

“To RF!”  Caro raised her glass of wine.  Jeeze, how many bottles did Greta set out?  “Damn good cook, even if she is fat.”

Silence blanketed the room.  “Excuse me?”  RF sounded a bit too calm and her eyes had that unnerving red glow.

Zaftig!  I meant to say zaftig!!!!!!!!!”  Caro looked desperate and Bethany and Glenda slid further away from her.

“Why are you here again?”  Eyes narrowed, RF watched them with a very unfriendly glare.

Marilyn looked a little nervous.  RF had an …… unpredictable temper.  Caro’s was really annoyed with RF because now she had to explain what happened.  “Well, it’s about the brooms you stol….. ah, took hostage.  The coven blames us for their not having any transportation.  They said we have to get their brooms back ……… or ……. um…………”

“Oh for heavens sake, Caro.  They’ve taken our brooms from us and they won’t give them back unless we get their brooms back from you.”  Glenda looked outraged – and drunk.

“I thought those brooms were keyed to each witch to prevent theft?”

“They are.  They can’t use them without our permission, but they said if they’re grounded, so are we.”

“How is that my problem?  They took money they owed me and bought brooms rather than pay off the coven’s debt.  Well, I have the right to recover my money, especially since it was my cousin who found and recovered the funds.”  RF’s eyes narrowed again.  “Wait, if you’re grounded, how did you get here?”

Marilyn and the other witches exchange wary glances.  “We took the bus.”

“The nearest bus stop is over a mile from here.  Your shoes are not what any sane person would walk in,” RF looked at Caro, “and you’d be limping long before you got here.  Since none of you are limping, you did NOT take the bus!”

“RF …….. we TOOK the bus,” explained Marilyn patiently.

The marmot is about to go nuts about their lies when she realized what Marilyn just said.   “You stole a bus?  A BUS???????????  But…….. WHY?????”

“Well, none of us could hotwire a car, so we took something that had keys in it!  It’s not like people go around leaving cars with keys in them!  Or at least we couldn’t find any.  But the bus was running and there was no driver and it was empty, so we took it.  But none of us can really drive a stick shift and it was really hard to maneuver, you know, especially around corners.  So, I think we kind of might have dinged a few cars.”  Caro shrugged and looked unconcerned about ‘dings’ on cars.

“Yeah, and we couldn’t get past second gear or whatever, so we were going real slow.”  Marilyn really was getting into the story.  “I think we missed the fire truck, but those guys were kind of angry.  And the police car was sideways in the road, so we had every right to hit it!  I mean, who parks sideways in the road?  That’s just dumb and then they had the nerve to be mad!!!!!!!!   And they chased us till Glenda cast an invisibility spell, but that was a problem because no one could see us and three cars hit the bus and then the police cars hit them, but at least they stopped following us.  Everything’s OK.  The bus doesn’t look too bad and we’ll take it back late tonight so the invisibility spell shouldn’t be such a problem with traffic and all.”

RF, Greta, and Johann were all staring at the witches.  “You stole a bus?????”  RF sounded so incredulous, Marilyn wondered if there was something wrong.

“Well, it’s a public bus, RF, so that’s ok, right?  I mean, it’s our tax dollars too you know!”

“A BUS?????” 

“Are you OK, RF?  You seem awful hung up on the whole bus thing.”

“Where’s the bus?”

“Oh, well, we left it a block away because we couldn’t figure out how to get it down this lane without having to back up to leave and we don’t know how to do that.”

“You left a bus with the motor running and an invisibility spell on it parked on a road in town?”

“Sure.  It was legal parking.  I even put money in the meter and we only partly blocked the hydrant.  It should be fine.  I’m sure there won’t be any fires or anything.”

“OK”  RF decided it would best to get rid of the witches ASAP.  She did not need a police raid on the bakery.  “What is it you expect me to do?”

“Well, we need the brooms.”

“NO.”

“No?”

“HELL NO!”

“Oh, well.  Caro?  You have any ideas?”

Before Caro could say a word, RF laid down the law.  “No ideas, no promises, no compromises, no brooms till I have my money.  Now, you’ve been fed and it’s time for you to leave!  Get a move on, all of you.  Here, take a pie.  Out…. OUT!!!!!!”

“But RF, what are we supposed to tell the coven?”

“Tell them they can have their brooms when I get my money and not one second sooner.  If they don’t like it, we can go to binding arbitration with the Council!”

The witches exchanged horrified looks.  “No, no, we don’t need to trouble the Council.  I’m sure we can straighten this out between us, right Caro?”

“Right, no Council!”  Caro agreed while Bethany and Glenda nod enthusiastically.

“OK, goodnight, watch your step.  See you around!”  RF slamed the door and dropped the bar that kept it closed.  Then she raced into the kitchen and did the same with the back door.  After she turned on the alarm, she turned to Greta and Johann.  “If they come back, do NOT let them in!  Absolutely NOT!  Especially if the police are around.”  Her cousins nodded solemnly.

“Do you think they’ll get back to the coven?”  Johann sounded a bit concerned.  He and Greta liked Marilyn.

“I don’t want to know.  We will forget what we just heard.  I know nothing about any stolen bus, invisible or otherwise.  Neither do you two.  I’m going into the workshop to deal with a book thief and I’m taking the wine.  Help the ferrets clean up and put away the extra food.  DO NOT EAT IT ALL!”  RF headed to the workshop.

“Wow, they stole a bus and then made it invisible!”  Johann sounded a bit star struck.

“Yeah, maybe they’re more fun than we thought.”  Greta looked thoughtful.

“But the food is awful.”

“There is that.  Maybe we could come here for meals a lot and then hang with Marilyn and the others.  I think that bus ride would have been AWESOME!  Getting arrested wouldn’t be.  Maybe after the bus thing is over and we know if they go to jail or not, we’ll hang with them.”

Johann thought it over.  “Good idea.  Might as well see if they go to prison first.”  He finished a whole chocolate bourbon pecan pie then burped.  No point giving up Cousin RF’s food till they know what will happen to the witches.

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

Next day ………….

RF had been outside making final arrangements for the Fall Festival on the expanded Bakery grounds, so she was chilly as she sat waiting for more hot chocolate – the real stuff, not that crappy cocoa stuff.

Lots of humans in the cafe today being waited on by her human staff.  Some of them got nervous when she did it, but they had  become accustomed to her sitting there reading.  Of course, today’s headlines are all about the carnage caused by a hi-jacked bus.  A bus that mysteriously disappeared.  There was a great deal of speculation about secret military technology, three people asserting the Romulans are real and ‘a cloaking device’ was stolen from a Romulan warship that crashed in Area 51, and several more opining about this having been invented in the late ’70’s and used by Elvis Presley to disappear.  Of course, they also claim that it was really ‘The King’s’ tour bus that was stolen, not a city bus.  So far, no one had mentioned witches.  RF wondered why humans found Romulans more credible than witches, but apparently they did.  She gave a snort of disbelief and the gray-haired lady at the next table gave a start and looked at her apprehensively.

“Excuse me, ReacherFan, I’m from the Enquirer.  We’d like an interview about the disappearing bus and the Romulans that have been visiting you.  Can you tell me how long they have been calling here?”

RF looked at the reporter, if you could call this idiot one, and decided to roll with it.  “Off the record, the Romulans came with the demons about 2 years ago.  They like the Boston Cream Pie.  If you bought one, the Romulans will try and get it.  It’s an addiction.”  She kept a straight face.

“Demons come here?”  Funny, the reporter disbelieves the demons – who do show up – and believes the Romulans, who don’t exist.

“Of course.  Not often, but they can’t exactly keep ice cream cake, so they always want pie a la mode or a good ice cream cake or ice cream puffs with chocolate glaze.  We always keep some handy.”  RF smiled.  Everyone who knew her knew something is about to happen.  “Come with me.”  She heads to the kitchen.  There sits Melchom, a demon accountant and comptroller of their treasury and RF’s head account (He also advised the IRS.).  He was eating ice cream puffs.

“RF!  Good to see you!  I brought the monthly payment.  Would you happen to have any of that Snicker’ssss Ice Cream Pie?  I love that!”  A huge bag of gold sat on the workbench, so RF felt generous and got the pie, cutting a big piece for Melchom.

“Here you go.  Melchom.  This man is a reporter from the Enquirer.  He’d love to hear from a demon.  You’re here, you’re a demon, so it all works out.”

The reporter sneered at the demon, who was currently using a charm to disguise his real looks.  RF helped herself to some cherry pie and watched as the idiot reporter cut into the ice cream pie.  Melchom’s displeasure was obvious.  His long tail appeared.

“What do you want to know?”  The demon’s voice growled.  The reporter was oblivious.

“You think the Romulan cloaking device is what kept the bus invisible last night?  Was it Elvis’ tour bus?  Do you know Elvis?”

Melchom stared at the reporter then looked at RF, who shrugged.  “I told him the demons brought the Romulans here for the Boston Cream Pie.”

“I see.  Are you sure it’s wise to let humans know about the Romulans?”  Say what you will about demons, they were quick on the uptake.

“It seemed to make sense.  After all, even with the space ship cloaking device, how long before they bump into the humans.  It isn’t Halloween all year!  Those forehead ridges can be hard to explain.”

“Yessss.”  Demons can’t quite disguise the sibilant hiss they make with some words.  Melchom looked thoughtful.  He didn’t know much about these ‘Romulans’, but it would seem it refers to some science fiction story.  Star Wars or something like that.  Unlike some demons, he was never much for human entertainment.

“Well, the Romulans are quite aggressive.”  RF nodded sage agreement, so he must be on to something.  “But they have this sweet tooth.  When they first called here on Earth, demons were around and eventually we reached a kind of détente.  Once we discovered they liked sweets, things got easier and RF here has made recent Romulan trade easier still by supplying their favorites.”

“Is Elvis with the Romulans?  Did he trade the recipe for fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches for a cloaking device for his bus?”

Melchom blinked.  Elvis?  Wasn’t that dead singer?  Well, if he ate fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, it wasn’t surprising.  “Yessss.  He traded with them.  Now he can move about at will.”  He has NO idea what to do with this because he has only a vague notion of who this person is/was.  He sent RF a pointed look.

“Well, there you are.  Elvis met the Romulans thru the demons – I believe he sold his soul for Love Me Tender – and then negotiated his secret fried peanut butter banana sandwich recipe for a cloaking device for his bus.  The crystal energy source must be getting weak and that’s why it was visible for a time – or he accidently hit the off switch.”  RF was running out of ideas here.  But wait, they showed the bus right by Popeye’s.  “He’d only stopped for fried chicken!”

“Elvis eats Popeye’s?”

“Loves the stuff, you should go ask there if they saw anyone who looked like Elvis.”

“Great idea, and thanks!”  The reporter hurried off to ask about Elvis, but stopped.  “Did Elvis sell is soul for ‘Love Me Tender’?”

“Yessss.  And others.”

“Great!!!!!!!!  Er…….. you’re who again?”

“Melchom.”

“I can quote you?”

“Yesssss”

“Thanks!”  A very happy reporter leaft the kitchen.

“Don’t forget to buy a Boston Cream Pie to lure out the Romulans!”  RF reminded the reporter, just before breaking out into giggles.

Melchom looked at RF.  “Who in the name of the seven Hells are the Romulans?  And why is he chasing a dead singer when he could have asked about demons?”

RF all but fell over laughing hysterically. “Romulans are from the Star Trek TV show and movies.  He just finds Romulans and Elvis more believable, and no way was I telling him about witches.  Marilyn would have tried to date him and that would have been a complete mess – and the Council would have blamed me!”

“Yessss.  Ssso, I hear you took their brooms hostage.”

“Serves them right.  They took all the money my cousin recovered from Gretchen’s embezzlement and bought new brooms before they paid me what they owe.  I’m taking the potion books next and their cauldrons.”

For a long moment Melchom just looked at RF, then he shook his head in disbelief.  “I have no idea why demons have such a bad name while YOU are the High Priestess of Tortum.  You could probably reign in Hell, you know.  If I were Lucifer, I’d be worried if you ever went over to the dark side.  You have a natural talent for the diabolical.  A real gift.  Plus you’re vindictive and creative at the same time.  Excellent combination.”

“No interest in his job.  I’m perfectly happy being High Priestess of Tortum.”

“You are sure?”  It was a demon’s nature to offer temptation, but RF was not one to fall for such things.

“No ice cream in Hell.”

The demon stopped to think, got another piece of pie and savored the wonderful cold flavors.  “I see your point.  The food is much better here.  Everything tastes like brimstone down there.  Could I get another pie to go?  I need to make points with the boss.”

“You bet.  I’ll have it in an insulated cooler with dry ice so it will stay frozen.  I’ll even throw in some extra ice cream puffs!”

“Many thanks Priestess.  I will come with another payment next month.  I hope.  This is a much coveted task and competition is always great.”

“Well, so long as they know they’re bound while here, that’s fine.  I’ll have a turkey feast next month and pumpkin spice ice cream with rum sauce.”

Melchon’s eye gleam with demon greed.  “I’ll be sure that I am the one who comes back.  Till next month Priestess.”

RF hummed happily.  She diverted attention from the witches and now the press would be chasing ‘alien technology’.  She stopped in her tracks.  There better not be any Romulans or she was in big trouble!  Chuckling, she went back to her papers, hot chocolate and extra large pastry basket.

 

 

June 15, 2014

Carly and the Tango Instructor – Part 8 & 9 THE END

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 3:46 pm
Tags: ,

Part 8

You know things will go badly when police say, “Why the hell are there coyotes carrying on out there?”  ….. and your small furry partner, a favorite coyote food, is outside.  Trey ran for the door yelling, “RF!”  Rupert and RJ hot on his heels.  Carly had already been questioned and her statement taken down when the police showed Carly the yearbooks.  She picked out Raul easily enough, but it was only years of dealing with ‘Hollywood magic’ – her term for plastic surgery and makeup artists – that let her pick out Alyssa – AKA Alice Baumgartner.  And then everything suddenly made sense, and Carly got mad as hell.

First she told off the Oceanside detectives for not believing someone kicked her and that her fall was no accident, then she told off the Laguna Beach detectives for making her friends solve their crime them, and finally she turned her wrath on the absent Raul/Ricky and Alyssa/Alice for putting her in a rehab center with a broken back.

“Now Ms Cady, I know you’d like to go and beat on those two, but it really will be best if I handle this part and file the lawsuits.  After all, if it weren’t for you and your friends, the two of them would have gotten away murder as well as assaulting you.”  RJ was once again dressed in a handmade tan summer weight Italian suit, with a blindingly white shirt with gold cufflinks each set with a large cabochon emerald, and a spectacular antique Japanese silk tie that had the same emerald green and gold thread in a dragon pattern.  But there was no designer that could hide the gleam in his eyes or that shark-like smile that said he enjoyed the discomfiture of the detectives and he planned to make them pay for their attitudes.

Still annoyed, but completely exhausted Carly was taken to her newly single room and given a pain killer.  As she drifted off to a well-earned nap, she reminded Trey, “Bring RF in again tomorrow so I can thank her properly.”

Thankfully she missed the cop’s comment on the coyotes barely 5 minutes later.  As Trey ran, he suddenly realized they’d been with the cops for damn near 2 hours and RF had been out here alone. …………. Wait, where was Cleatus?   Oh crap, he might be with her.

The still lingering summer heat slapped them all, but Trey was Cajun born and bred, so this dry heat, while damn uncomfortable, was more annoyance than killer.  As for Rupert, well a few months in Hell had given him a whole different perspective on heat.  RJ seemed OK, but the detectives were red faced, sweating, and panting as they brought up the rear.  He reached the spot where he’d left RF and searched for her.

“RF!  Where are you?”  He looked on the ground for blood, but found himself staring at a bunch of field mice – who promptly bolted away.  OK.  RF took care of the coyotes, but where was she?  A furry face peeked from the branch over his head.

“They gone?”

“A bunch of field mice just ran off.  You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

She just grinned.  “I thought more were coming.  I can hear them in the distance.”  Apparently, so could the cops, who had drawn their weapons and stayed back, watching in the direction of the howls.  But the sound started heading away from them and everyone relaxed.  The groundhog looked at Trey and quietly said, “Catch!” and dropped into his arms.  “Now I know how the turkey feels at Thanksgiving.”  Cleatus appeared from wherever he’d been hiding and strolled over to Trey.  “Don’t much like cy-otes.”  RJ, raised in cattle country, hated them himself and lifted Cleatus up, making sure he was unharmed before setting him down near his cousin.  Rupert, holding Ralph in a small hamper like carrier, despite being repeatedly being assured the bedpan had been unused, joined them.  He was planning to dump his cousin directly into the shower when they got home.

Once everything calmed down, and the cops were back with them, Trey suggested they do the interview there, since his ‘pet’ wasn’t feeling well and needed to be outside.  Getting through the police questions with a gassy RF was not fun.  Twice she wandered off, but thankfully stayed downwind.  The whole meeting ended abruptly when a silent, but deadly fart hit them.  His annoying partner scowled at him like HE’D done it, then gotten hysterical with laughter after the cops left saying they’d see them tomorrow.

“Well, in all my years of practice, that’s the first time a fart ended a police interview.”  He looked at Trey and RF.  “If you don’t want those detectives knowing RF can talk, you’d best get your stories straight tonight.”  He checked his very thin and ultra-expensive watch and sighed.  “It will take me forever to get back home.  Good thing I packed a bag.  I’ll just get a room at the Montage and we can meet for dinner to discuss how to handle the interview.”

“You’re welcome to stay at the house in La Jolla with us.  There’s an extra bedroom you can use.  It will save you a lot of driving.  And I think Cleatus and I will be out on the lounges by the pool tonight.”  The groundhog just grinned.  Damn he liked her.  He understood Trent McCauley’s attitude of bemused respect and extreme gratitude toward her.  Spending the night with this group wouldn’t be peaceful or relaxing, but he had plenty of that at home.  “Thank-you.  I’m obliged for the invitation, so dinner is on me.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dinner ended up being take-out from Girard Gourmet, yet another spot that had sent RF an invitation.  With her insides settled, for the moment, she went in with RJ and Trey and made the selections.  The staff and owners were excited about having the High Priestess of Tortum in their shop and were happy to sell her extra rolls and flat breads.  They also insisted she take a bit of everything from their dessert assortment.  The trio eventually made their exit, stopped to get fresh ground hamburger, and ground lamb, then headed back.  RJ was poorer by a few hundred dollars, but figured it was cheap at twice that for entertainment alone.  Actually, paying had been difficult at Girard’s.  They wanted RF to take it all as a gift, but she flatly refused.  She did graciously accept a few extra desserts, but nothing more.

By the time they were back, Ralph was in human form again, minus most of his piercings, thank heavens, but still a bit groggy.  Cleatus just rolled his eyes and went outside.  Rupert was in the pool swimming – naked.

“Since when do you skinny dip when there are females around?”, demanded Trey.

“RF is not a human female.  She will not be offended.  Will you RF?”

“Don’t mind me,” said she said, as she eyed Rupert.  “But I have to say, I don’t get why human females get so excited by those dangly bits.  Look a bit small and limp to me.”  She shrugged and went into the kitchen.  Rupert wrapped himself in a towel and went to put on trunks.

RF went to work on the food and RJ sat and watched, fascinated by how quickly and skillfully she put together stuffed hamburgers with the fillings of choice (his had blue cheese), then made kofta kabobs of the ground lamb.  The djinn and rather concussed ifrit were almost drooling.  You could tell she’d worked in a professional kitchen by her speed alone.

An hour later they sat down with salads and sandwiches from Girard’s, made to order burgers that were just amazing and juicy, and kofta kabobs in pita wraps with homemade tzatziki.  Fresh tomatoes, sweet onion, cucumbers, pickles and all manner of condiments were available.  She also had some of the best lemonade he’d had in years.  And, bless her heart, she’d even made sweet tea.  He and Trey enjoyed theirs with some bourbon in it.  It was like a typical family dinner, except the food was much better and he and Trey Dupress were the only humans there.  Funny thing was, he kept forgetting that RF and Cleatus weren’t human, but small furry animals.  They squabbled, ate, drank, Cleatus offered them some ‘shine, and he and Trey both accepted.  Goddamn that brought back memories, even as his eyes watered.  Cleatus laughed at him.  Rupert got wine for himself and Ralph was told no liquor since he had a concussion.  He sulked dramatically.  Apparently, Ralph was an Emo ifrit.

Like a family, they cleaned up together.  While RF cleaned the grill, the ‘guys’ did the dishes and put away what little food was left.  RJ hadn’t eaten like that since he was a teen, and it made him miss his parents enough he planned a trip back to Texas for mid-October.  They weren’t getting younger and he should really see his sister, the husband she adored and he barely tolerated, and his two beautiful nieces.

After dinner, RF and Cleatus went swimming and he and Trey joined them – wearing trunks, of course.  La Jolla was a beautiful place.   More desert like than where he lived on the cliffs above Malibu.  His practice was mostly in LA and California in general, but he went elsewhere, as most of the best lawyers did.  He’d kept his practice small, but included a very lucrative, if boring, corporate division.  He could do corporate law in his sleep, so he left most of that to his Senior Partners.  He was a trial attorney.  One of the best and he’d made a small fortune, which he’d invested wisely and escaped the 2008 economic mess with minor losses – thanks in large part to Trent McCauley.  That’s why when he called, RJ had been more than happy to help the individual who McCauley credited with saving his life.  He’d never believed that story until today, when he saw a bunch of field mice standing around where there were coyote tracks.

The wind had come up, cool and fresh off the Pacific, so they started the fire pit and sat chatting.  He noticed Trey keeping an eye on RF, as if he expected an explosion, and sure enough, Trey muttered, “Here it comes.”  He grabbed a bottle of Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, one of the best bourbons out there, and poured them each a generous shot.

“RF, we agreed you wouldn’t threaten Esme.”

“Billy Bob and the boys will not threaten Esme.  They’ll threaten Ruben Ray.  Discretely.”

“This is Billy Bob Watkins we’re talking about, RF.  He don’t know the meaning of that word.  To him, if you ain’t bleeding, you ain’t got the message.”

“I can live with Ruben Ray’s bleeding a bit.”

Cleatus sighed.  He was kind of hoping that beating the snot of Ralph had put RF in a better frame of mind, but apparently, she’d been stewing about Esme and Ruben Ray all day.  He knew Ruben Ray.  One look from RF and that boy would be running for his life.  Maybe Lula Mae was better suited to keeping his cousin under control.  He’d call her in the morning and maybe she’d talk sense into RF.

Trey and RJ had been whispering for a bit, then RJ cleared his throat.  “Trey has informed of the pertinent parts of this dispute over a ‘cradle contract’.  I believe I might be of some service in this matter, especially arguing this with your clan.  Such contracts are illegal in the US and attempting to seek enforcement can land you in jail.  Which state is this in?”

“Tennessee,” Cleatus immediately offered, beyond grateful for the lawyer’s help, even if he did use too many words.

“I believe as the individuals bartered in this agreement, it would be fair to seek financial redress for the attempt to enslave you.”

“You’re saying I should sue them?”  RF looked a bit nonplussed at the idea – then she grinned.

“For everything they own or have possession of, then you and Ruben Ray would split it 50/50. “  He smiled and RF was once again reminded of a shark.  “I doubt any of that will happen.  The family will be furious at Esme for getting them involved in such a dispute with you.  I gather you have a formidable reputation, so this is not a fight she can win if she has to fight Ruben Ray AND you.  He has as much reason to be angry as you do, and from what Cleatus has said, he’s afraid of you, so it’s not like he wants this either.  He’ll jump at a way out.  I think Lula Mae and Cleatus are right, just go in like you already own the place and let me do the rest.  Just to be safe, we’ll keep all the bedpans out of your reach.”

“That’s not my favorite weapon,” RF muttered.  Cleatus laughed and RF smiled and things settled down again.  Except RJ wondered what he’d just gotten himself into.  He just had to meet more of this family that Trey said were all varying degrees of crazy.  Exhausted from a long few days, everyone said goodnight early and they slept like rocks.

In the morning, Trey and RJ went back to the bakery and got more breakfast food, then stopped and bought some extra fresh fruit, milk, half-and-half, and juice.

Back at the house, they found Ralph and RF squared off in the kitchen, RF standing on the island yelling at Ralph to go home.  A shirtless Rupert staggered in looked like some sleepy Greek god and separated the two.  RJ muttered, “A man could get a complex around this group.”

All during breakfast, RF kept insisting Ralph go home, not back to Edinburgh, to his real home.

“You have a concussion.  You need to go home for a while.”  RF added softly, “Like for a thousand years or so.”

“I don’t need my mother coddling me!”

“No, you need another smack in the head, which is what you’ll get!”

“I’m bigger than you now!”

“AND I’M MEANER THAN YOU’LL EVER BE!  DO NOT CROSS ME!!!!!”  RF was waving a large wooden spoon and looked ready to use it.  Trey wondered if his coffee could use a little bourbon.

“Stop, just stop.  Ralph, she’s right.  Aunt Medea should keep an eye on you for a bit.”

“Since you know I’m right, you can take him home!” RF was yelling at Rupert now.

Why should I take him?  He can go by himself.”

“Do you really think he’s in any shape to do that?”

“Well you’re the one that caused the problem!”

“And you’re the one currently bound to me.”

Rupert’s eyes narrow.  “I will take him, but I demand payment for services.”

“You’re already bound, Rupert.”

“I can still get payment for services and I demand the remaining four jelly donuts!!!!!!”

“I haven’t even had one yet!”

“Not my problem.  That’s my price for taking Ralph home and explaining things to Aunt Medea.”

A look came over RF’s face.  Trey didn’t trust that look for 5 seconds.  “Very well, you’ll get the four jelly donuts.”

“And you won’t nibble on them, or cover them with pepper sauce or anything before I get back!”  The djinn did not entirely trust RF’s capitulation.

“They will be pristine.  My word on that.”

OK, now Trey was really worried.  RJ shot him a look.  He shrugged.  This was not ending well, but he hadn’t a clue what was going on in his partner’s devious mind.

Rupert stood, grabbed his whining smaller cousin and disappeared in a cloud of faint blue smoke.  RF carefully arranged the four jelly donuts, two stacks of two donuts, putting a whole ripe strawberry on the plate as decoration, setting the finished plate precisely in front of Rupert’s seat.  Then she sat by it, eating a blueberry Danish, waiting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Aunt Medea, I brought Ralph back to stay for a bit.”

“Rupert?  Is everything all right?”

“That damn groundhog beat me up!”

Medea turned to her son of 700 years, “What groundhog?”

“RF, Rupert’s friend.”  Ralph sounded sulky.  You’d think he was still 200.

“Why would RF beat you up, Ralph?”  Medea knew her son.

“I was just having fun!”

“What kind of fun, dear?”

“Well, she and this old human woman were having a farting contest and she’d only let me in as another small animal, so I became a mongoose.  I started to do a kind of running description of what was going on.  She told me to stop, then hit me with a bedpan.”

“And you went right on doing it, didn’t you?”

“IT WAS A JOKE!”

WHACK!  Medea head slapped Ralph.  Ungrateful git.   RF had gotten her son out of hell as a favor to Rupert, now she had another debt to the little animal.  This was embarrassing.  “I’ll look after him Rupert and thank-you.  Do give RF my apologies for his behavior.  It would seem I am in her debt again.”

“He has a concussion, so you might not want to slap his head around.”

“Yes well, maybe it will teach him a lesson, though I rather doubt it.  Goodbye Rupert.”

He’d been dismissed, so he popped back to the house.  There sat the four, plump jelly donuts, right in front of his chair.  He grinned in triumph at RF, who nodded politely.  He sat down, but as he reached for a donut, RF leapt forward, her full body weight on her front paws, striking the donuts directly on the jelly pockets and spraying red jam out of those holes and all over his chin, chest, and dripping down onto his pants.  Then she turned, and using her powerful rear claws, ripped the donuts and the strawberry into tiny pieces, spraying bits all over him.  He could feel a few of donut bits stuck to his face with the remains of the jam filling or strawberry juice.  She turned again, spat on what was left on the plate, looked him in the eye, and said, “Enjoy your donuts.”

She calmly walked down the table to her seat and climbed down, saying, “Excuse me while I get cleaned up.”

Cleatus started laughing so hard he nearly fell on the floor.  Rupert sighed and said despondently, “Thank the gods she’s not a djinn, or I’d have to propose marriage.”

“I HEARD THAT AND I WOULDN’T HAVE YOU AS A GIFT!”

Cleatus laughed harder, RJ along with him.  Trey couldn’t resist asking, “Why?”

“It’s how djinn do it.  When a male is bested three times by a female, he must propose.  My uncle ended up married to a demon that way.  It was quite the family scandal.”

“That was your third strike, so’s to speak.”  RJ was grinning like a maniac.  “So it’s an automatic life sentence?”

“If I understand your reference correctly, then yes.  It’s embarrassing really.”  Rupert paused, then added confidentially, “At my age to be bested 3 times by a mortal is, well, it’s never happened before.  Not even Merlin could do it.”

Suddenly RF was standing in the doorway, still wet from her shower.  “Then you’d be willing to pay a fairly steep price for this to not get out to the other djinn?”

Rupert stared at her.  Maybe she was a demon!  “Do you demand my treasure?”  How would he ever explain losing his treasure?

She waved her paw as if his treasure was of no interest, though she’d love a peek at the gems.  No she wanted something else.  “You’ll be my fiancée when I go see Esme and Ruben Ray.  Groundhogs have rules too, and it says Ruben Ray must win a fight with you.”  She smiled.  “And you won’t be there as human either, but in your real form.”

Rupert dropped his head into his hands, bits of donut and strawberry falling off his face.  How did he let this happen?  Why could he not see this coming?

“Well son, I hate to say this, but I’d agree with her terms.  At least you could claim it was only you posing as repayment for a previous debt.”  The lawyer seemed sympathetic.  He also gave him a graceful out with his family, should they ever hear of it.  And knowing the gossipy djinn, they would.

Trey picked up his coffee and sipped it, then shook his head.  “Merlin never heard of Machiavelli or Sun Tzu.  I think RF could add a few chapters to their books.”

Carly’s Story – Part 9

 

“I think we should go talk to Caryn and Dimitri today, before we see the police.  I still have a few questions I’d like answered.”  Trey nodded.  He had a few himself.  He and JR programmed the address of the dance studio into their navigation systems.  Rupert, in a fit of sulking, rode with JR, something the lawyer found amusing.  RF and Cleatus went with Trey.

The studio in Oceanside was upstairs above a deli and a real estate office.  Mid-morning, both were quiet, so some street parking was available.  The door for the studio was open, so they went up to the strains of the Vienna Blood Waltz.  Dimitri and Caryn seemed to be practicing for a competition.  Catching sight of the three men, they stopped their graceful dancing.

Caryn eyed them and knew these weren’t prospective students.  “Can I help you gentlemen?”

“I’m R. Jason Rutledge, attorney for Ms Carly Cady.  We have a few questions about what happened here and your employee, Raul.”

Caryn went white at the lawyer’s name.  She obviously knew who and what he was.  Dimitri merely looked curious.  “I was here, yes, but I did not see how she fell.  My back, it was to Raul.”  He shrugged.

Trey looked at Dimitri.  “And you saw nothing in that wall of mirrors?”

Now the Russian looked rattled.  No one had questioned that before.  Then he sighed.  “Dimitri, we could be sued!”  Caryn obviously knew about what he’d seen, or suspected.

“Yes, but we cannot lie.  A man died.  Ms Cady, she is badly hurt.  A teacher and student did this thing.”  He looked at them, then saw Cleatus and RF.  “They are not dangerous?”, he asked suspiciously.

“Only if you take their food.”

The Russian laughed.  “Come, we’ll sit and I’ll tell you what I know.”

They gathered in the break room and Caryn made coffee.  Professional dancers weren’t the type to have cookies around, so Trey wisely brought some to keep his partner happy – and quiet.  The Russian just drank water while he told them what happened.

“Mrs Benson, she came here suddenly 6 months ago.  She had been at a studio in Laguna Beach with a good professional, competitor like me, only not so highly ranked.  She say she needed more and wanted to study here.  It happens.  Students, teachers they fight, or student think by getting another instructor they know more or dance better, they leave, find new one.  I am famous among dancers, but not celebrity, so not sure how she knew I was here.  I had come maybe a year ago.  Still, not that odd, so I accepted her as private student.  She was …..” he gave an eloquent shrug.  “How to say this, she was not as advanced as she thought, but still, good for amateur.  Came twice a week and began improving.  But it seemed she and Raul, “ he sneered the name, “Knew each other, though they hide it.”

“Why were they hiding it?”

Again he shrugged, apparently inured to the capricious nature of rich California trophy wives.  “Former lovers I thought, but maybe not.  I know Argentines well,” he smiled, “very well, and Raul was no Argentine.  Thought it might be that.  California, everyone is really someone else.”

“Did it bother you?”, JR asked.

“You mean his faking being Argentine?  It matters not.  Many fake Russians here too.  He was good teacher, but …..”  he looked at Caryn.

“Raul had a history of fooling around with his students.  I thought at first that’s what he was doing with Alyssa, but honestly, he seemed to bait her when he thought no one was around.  I found them arguing in my office and warned him then, he had to stop getting involved with our students or I’d fire him.”

“It happened before?”

“Twice that I know of for sure, and once it caused quite a scene, but Raul loved scenes.  He loved being the center of attention and was jealous as hell of Dimitri.”

“Because he became your dance partner, or your business partner?”

“Both really.  Raul hit on me, tried to get me to take him as my new pro partner when my last one got injured skiing and had to quit, but honestly, aside from Latin dancing, he wasn’t that good, and even then, he wasn’t world class.  He simply could NOT take the criticizing – of your own work and your partner’s – that you have to do to make it to the top.  He didn’t want to work that hard either.  When Dimitri came out here and contacted me, I jumped.  We didn’t know if we could dance as partners, but it works for us.  It’s personality as well as skill.  You spend a lot of time together, so you need to respect each other to get past the drama.”  She laughed.  “And there’s plenty of drama even with the best teams.”

“So you knew there was something between Alyssa and Raul, but not what?”

Caryn nodded.  “I’m not sure I really wanted to know ‘what’, if you understand.  Raul could be charming and he drew in a lot of customers, so I put up with it.  It’s a business, Mr Rutledge.  He was a part of it.  Just like a good salesman.”

Trey turned to Dimitri.  “How did you feel about it?”

“He was not my competition.  The women he drew, they wanted attention, he gave it.  I wish to teach serious students.”  Dimitri was a snob.  Trey felt RF shift in his arms and move to climb to his shoulder.

“Ask him why he didn’t tell the police the truth the day Carly was hurt,” she whispered.

“The day Ms Cady was hurt, you claimed you saw nothing, but you did see something.  What was it and why lie?”

Dimitri sighed.  “I wasn’t sure if I saw it.  Alyssa, she stumbled and I caught her just as I turned to the mirror wall.  Then Ms Carly, she was crying in pain and said she was kicked.  I look at Raul and he just shake head no, but you could see mark on inside of her ankle.  They take her away in ambulance and we hear about how it is.  Then Raul disappear.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  I had said, I saw nothing because I was unsure, now I know Alyssa try to distract me, that I did see Raul deliberately kick her and then let her go, pretending to shift holds.”  He sighed unhappily.  “Impossible to prove.  I stayed silent.”

“Did either of you question Raul?”

“We did, as did police, but he insist it was accident.  I have no proof.  Alyssa would have claimed we misstepped and saw nothing.”

“And you were afraid of being sued if your employee was found to have injured a client deliberately.”  JR went straight for the jugular.  RF have him a good glare.

Caryn and Dimitri exchanged looks, but finally nodded.  “Yes.  We couldn’t prove he’d hurt her and were afraid of making any lawsuit more difficult if we appeared to be claiming incompetence by our instructor.”

“That’s what Raul wanted.  To get them sued out of existence,” RF whispered in Trey’s ear.

“Did you think that Raul did it just so you would be sued?”  Trey watched the two react.  It was obvious neither had considered that possibility.

“You think he wanted to make trouble for us?”  Caryn didn’t sound convinced, but she was thinking hard about it.  “That slimy SOB.  Was he getting back at me because I refused to make him my dance partner?”

“Probably more because you didn’t make him a business partner.”  Trey went for the money.

“He couldn’t afford to buy out my last partner!  He wanted ME to loan him the money!”  Now she was mad.

“Dimitri had the money?”  Trey gaze went between the two dancers.

“Of course.  I invest well.  Plus I knew Caryn from competitions and needed new partner.  It worked for us both.”

“It helps his doting uncle was a Russian oil billionaire,” RF muttered.

“Plus a generous inheritance?”, Trey asked.

The Russian smiled.  “I was in England, guest at house party when Wentworth Emeralds were returned to the family.  The story of the recovery was ………… memorable.”  He smiled widely, though Caryn looked confused.  “You would be excellent dancer, Mr Dupress.”

“Thank-you.  Mama seems satisfied I don’t embarrass her formal gatherings.”

“I have heard of your partner, but thought it child’s story.  Now, I think it real.”  He looked at RF who just stared back.  “We will tell police all we know.  My word.  To you both.”

Caryn watched the exchange.  “Am I getting a translation of this?”

Dimitri laughed.  “You would not believe, eh.”  He sobered quickly and looked at RJ, “Ms Cady, she will sue?”

“I don’t know, but I would think medical expenses would be your responsibility at the very least.  Beyond that?”  He shrugged.  They all knew what Raul had done exposed the studio to a lot of liability.  “You might find visiting her would help your cause.”

“She would see us?  After all this?”  Both owners leaned forward.  They felt very badly about what happened, and were worried about Carly as well as themselves.

“Yes.  You’d be surprised how far genuine apologies go to smooth things over.”

RF thought more of RJ for being so practical and putting Carly first, not the size of the any settlement.

Trey checked the time.  “We have to see the police to finish out discussion from yesterday.  Good luck.”  On the way out, Dimitri whispered something to Rupert, causing Cleatus to shoot her a look.  BUT RF was already pre-occupied with some inner thoughts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They left for the station where Trey and RJ fielded questions and Rupert said as little as humanly possible.  RF barely managed to contain her impatience during the interview.  Cleatus fell asleep – and snored.  RF was pacing restlessly under the table.  The clicking of her nails annoyed the cops – which was why she kept doing it.

Both sets of detectives were none too pleased to hear Trey and Rupert would be leaving town on business, but they had no legal means of keeping there.  Trey politely pointed out that, given his background, the DA might want to build his case on the physical evidence, not his testimony.

“What about you Mr Soulis, do you have a problem with testifying?  You have a past you need hidden?”  RF snickered.  Other than being a 5,000 year, old 8 foot tall, blue djinn with pointy teeth and a mother with highly suspect eating habits? Nah.

Rupert smiled politely, “None at all detective,” RF nipped his ankle, “but I do travel in remote areas, so I might be hard to reach.”  Yeah, the djinn home world was not on any cellphone plan.

Finally, the detectives turned to RJ.  “We want to re-interview your client, Ms Cady.  Today if possible.  Our crime scene people need photos of her ankle and copies of any x-rays or other images taken while she was hospitalized.  ”

“Unfortunately, today is inconvenient.  She and I have private matters to discuss.  As for release of her medical information, I’ll see if she’ll sign a waiver on any images.  You crime scene people can be there at 4PM and they have an hour.  It’s a bit late to be chasing this.”  RJ sounded polite, yet condescending.  The police had screwed up and he was rubbing it in – gently, but with a certain enjoyment.

RF pawed at Trey’s leg and reached down to lift her as she whispered, “Outside!”

“I believe I need my pet needs a little outside break, excuse us a moment.  A uniformed officer walked them out and Trey took RF to a shady spot to do ….. whatever.  Pretending to squat down and pet her, she quickly said, “I think Alyssa set the whole thing up really fast.  She was planning to kill her husband AND Raul and make it look like he shot her husband and then she shot him in self-defense.  It was the only way she could be rid of both of them.  She could claim, correctly, Raul/Ricky was blackmailing her, she threatened him with being willing to tell her husband the truth.  He showed up at the house to confront her when her husband walked in and Raul shot him in a panic.  Then she would shoot Raul in self-defense.  Problem was, her husband needed to be there.  He was home early because she CALLED him asking him to come home early, BEFORE we got there, so she could stage it and be the victim, but we were early too, and she could pull it off and switch with us outside.  And, since Raul ‘killed’ her husband, she could inherit a lot more than any divorce settlement!  Maybe knowing that might get Raul/Ricky talking.”

“OK, I’ll try it on the cops.  How did you come up with that?”

“There was just something wrong about what was happening inside the house, like Alyssa was delaying things, timing them.  They could have gone there and been out in nothing flat, but they stayed there for over an hour.  She needed all the players, but we came too soon and spoiled it all.  She couldn’t shoot Raul with us as witnesses.  Plus she had to get an extra shot off with the gun in his hand, like he shot the ceiling as he fell.  They had to die really close together and we pulled up within seconds of that first shot.  She needed a few more minutes and didn’t have it, especially when I pushed at that door.  It was all over.  All they could do was run.

“To be honest, I’m amazed she didn’t just shoot Raul in sheer frustration.  He’d wrecked all her plans.  He was destined for a body bag when he started to blackmail her.  He was just too stupid to know it.  See if the police found a second handgun anywhere in the hall.”

“Worth a try.  Let’s get inside.”

Trey returned to the interview room and as the detectives were wrapping things up, he looked thoughtfully at them.  He started with, “You know, it just occurred to me ………”  He did a brilliant job of thinking through what RF had just said as if it had just come to him.  The detectives from Laguna Beach listened very carefully.  When Trey was done, he asked, “Did you by any chance find a gun hidden somewhere in the foyer?”

They detectives looked at each other, hesitated, then finally said.  “Mr Benson had a license for a Glock 9 mm.  We did find it.  Where it was does make sense with that scenario.  Maybe your idea can shake that idiot Ricky loose from his story and get what really happened to Ms Cady on the record.”

The lead detective smiled wryly, “I have a feeling we might not be seeing each other again, but it’s been …………. interesting.  Good luck in the UK.  I hear you’re up against someone a lot more dangerous than the two amateurs we had here.”

“It’s personal.”

“Yeah, that’s what I was told.  Maybe, if we ever cross paths again, your partner will talk to me.”

Trey shrugged.  RF had her reasons.  As they left, she pushed at Trey’s hold till she could look back at the one detective still standing at the top of the stairs – and winked.  The man laughed and went inside.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Wow, you really think Alyssa would have killed Raul too?”  Carly was in bed, but looked good and was finished her therapy for the day.

“I think so, and since the police found the second gun, I’d say it was a good bet.”

JR walked back in the room.  “Dimitri kept his word and between his testimony, Caryn’s and the second gun, the cops convinced Raul/Ricky he was lucky to be alive and he gave them everything they asked for and a few things they didn’t know about, including Alyssa embezzling from the Laguna Beach Ballroom Dance Club.  Remember, she is the treasurer for the competition, so it wasn’t that hard.  I guess she planned to replace the funds once hubby was dead and no one would be the wiser.”

“Wow.  All this because you came to see me when I told you about what happened.  Thank-you.”  Carly was amazed at what her accident, that had been no accident, had ended up uncovering.  Blackmail, identity theft, murder, embezzlement, and her own assault.   Wow – maybe she could write a book.

“It was a nice break from Scotland and the ghosts.”

“Ghosts?”  Carly’s eyes widened.

“Annoyingly chatty ones.  And then there’s that psycho female out to kill everyone who can link to her crimes.  Her I want.  Even if it’s just to send her to Hell.”

“Why do I think you mean that literally?”

“Probably because I do.

“Will you visit again?”

“If I can.  I have two businesses and lots of projects, and not a lot of free time.  Maybe if we get to go to Big Daddy’s place on Barbados for a REAL vacation, you can join us.  I don’t get a lot of free time.”  RF smiled.  “But I think you might get other visitors.”

Carly looked a bit panicked, “Not the skunks?”

RF laughed so hard she nearly fell off the bed.  “I think RF means from the studio.  Give them a chance.  They did the right thing today and that wasn’t in their best interest.”  Yes, RJ was alright in RF’s book – for a lawyer.

“OK, I guess.”

“Oh, when I see you again, you must explain the human female obsession with the male dangly bits.  They seem quite …….. unimpressive to me.”

“And we’re done.”  Trey scooped her off the bed.  “We need to get back before Lula Mae and the rest show up here and drag us back.”

“RJ, don’t forget, you’re coming with me to see Esme and Ruben Ray.”

Carly waved goodbye to her friends, then looked at RJ.  “Who is Ruben Ray?”

“Apparently, he thinks he’s RF’s fiancé.”

Carly choked on the truffle she was swallowing.  “HER WHAT?”

This was going to take awhile.  RJ settled in.  “It all started with someone named Esme claiming …………”

And Carly was entertained even after her friends had gone.

 

THE END

June 14, 2014

Carly and the Tango Instructor – Part 7

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 7:56 pm
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RF sat right by Carly and asked the single most pressing question.  “Did you ever see Raul and Alyssa together?”

“No ……… Well, maybe.  It wasn’t like they were in a clinch or something.  Not that kind of ‘together’.  In fact, they both looked kind of mad.  I came in a few minutes early about a week before my accident and saw Alyssa was kind of giving Raul a death glare and he looked so mad, I was a little worried he’d slap her.  I was going to clear my throat or something, but Dimitri came in and they were both smiling and polite, like nothing ever happened.  Dimitri chided Raul for trying to steal his partner while leaving his own partner standing there.  That’s when they realized I’d been there for a few minutes.  Raul glared at me, then he smiled like nothing happened and we did the lesson.”  She gave an embarrassed shrug.  “I’d forgotten all about it till you asked.”

“Did you hear anything?  Anything at all?”  RF sounded intensely interested.

“Well, I could have sworn Raul called her ‘Alice’.  I thought maybe they were fighting about the competition and he thought she was as delusional as Alice in Wonderland.”  Carly went on, thinking things over.  “You know, Alyssa is on the competition organization committee.  She is – I guess was – the treasurer.  She was the one I gave my check to for the entry fee.”

“So Alyssa would know where you lived, because you address was on the check.”  RF looked thoughtful.  “Did you see them talking any other time?”

“Just for a second.  I was pulling into the parking lot and she handed him an envelope.  By the time I was out of my car, they were both gone.”

“Was that before or after you saw them arguing?”

“Oh, it was a week to 10 days before.  I just thought it was credentials for the competition.  It wasn’t a big deal.”  Carly stopped and was obviously going through her memories than said slowly, “You know, there was something just a few days before my accident.  I was entering the studio, from the front doors you look right down the hall to where Caryn and Dimitri have their offices then and there are mens and ladies rooms on the opposite side.  At the far end is a small break room for the instructors.  I hardly ever go down that hall, since I don’t shower there like some of the more advanced students do because they go right to jobs or something.  I just go home and shower there.  But that night I had way too much coffee and needed the bathroom before my lesson started.

“When I walked past Caryn’s office I could hear an argument.  I didn’t want to eavesdrop but I could swear I heard, “Alice bow-something is putting on airs!  But he said the ‘bow-something’ like a person’s name. And then the sound of a face being slapped.  I ducked into the ladies room and when I came out, Raul was his usual self, but it did look like someone had slapped his face.  It was red on one side” She sighed.  “Dance studios have a lot of drama.  I should have written one of my soap opera plots around them.”

RF thought a moment, “Which side of his face looked slapped?”

Carly blinked, then concentrated.  “The right side.  Does it matter?”

“Yes it does.  And you didn’t see Alyssa that night?”

“Oh.  Well yes.  She came in a minute or two after me.”  Carly hesitated, “But she came out of the hallway.  I wondered where she got a key to the back door because it doesn’t open from the outside without one.  I tried one night when it was pouring and had to come around the front.  Caryn said the door was for staff and as a fire exit only.  Not that it rains a lot around here, so it was no big deal.”

“When did the whole ‘slap’ thing happen?”  RF was giving her a penetrating look.

“Just a couple of days before my accident.”  Carly stared at the groundhog as smile crept over her furry face.  “You think this wasn’t an accident.”

Before RF could say anything, RJ handed Carly a fresh pad of paper and pen.  “I need you to write down everything you just told us.  Don’t embellish, just write what you saw and heard just the way you recalled it.  I did record it, but I’d like you to write it out so we can compare the two statements.  When you’re done, your friends can come back in while I contact the detectives.”

“Detectives are investigating my accident?”

“Not at the moment, but I suspect that will change.  Now, just do as I asked and your friends can wait in the hall or down in the common room.”

It took longer than RF expected for Carly to write everything down.  Eventually, RJ came out and ushered them back in after admonishing them NOT to say anything about their speculations about Raul and Alyssa.  He stepped out and called the detectives.

RF trotted in smiling and Trey lifted her up and gently set her on bed.  “Oh well done Carly!  Everything makes sense now. “

“Well, I’m glad it makes sense to someone, because it means nothing to me.”

“We can’t talk about our suspicions until AFTER the detectives speak with you, but we’ll explain everything then.”

RJ walked back in wearing a ‘shit-eating grin’ as her grandma called it.  “Detectives from Laguna Beach will be here in about 3 hours.”

“Laguna Beach?  The studio is in Oceanside.”  Carly looks confused.

“Oceanside has been notified as well.  Now, since we have some time, shall we go ahead and get this contest going?  I expect Mrs Kim is causing quite a scene by now.”  The lawyer grinned, obviously enjoying himself immensely.

Carly laughed.  “Are we doing it here?”  Tormenting her less than convivial roommate was turning out to be great fun.

RJ looked around.  “I think we need a bit more room and more windows.  Maybe even go outside.”

“Are you joking?  It’s hot as hell out there!”

“It’s not that hot.  Trust me.  I know.”  Everyone looked at Rupert, who just shrugged.  Ralph was bouncing with excitement, chanting, “Let’s go!”  Trey considered locking him in a closet.  The ifrit was annoying in any form – but looked really disconcerting as a mongoose with multiple piercings.  Especially the lip rings which looked HUGE on the small animal.  RF made him remove most of them, but even the few that were left gave Trey the creeps.

Not too surprisingly, the Head Nurse Mrs Nagouchi was casually loitering in the hall, so they asked if there was a room suitable for their use.  She thought for a moment and offered a space used for massage and manipulation that had excellent venting and sliding glass doors, but wasn’t visible from the hall.  “This will do.  Now, I’d like oxygen with a face mask, some plastic knives and forks and paper plates.”

Mrs Nagouchi was completely baffled, but when you have a lawyer of Rutledge’s formidable reputation ask politely for something that wasn’t illegal, you obliged.  A cart with various odds and ends was rolled in and right behind a portable oxygen tank.  He thanked Mrs Nagouchi and gently ushered her from the room.

“She wouldn’t have done that for me,” muttered a disgruntled Carly.  Trey laughed, “Me either, so don’t feel bad.”

RJ smiled slightly, “There are times when it pays to be a scary lawyer.”

He looked sternly at RF and Mrs Kim.  “Now, this contest has rules and traditions.  You eat your chosen food, but quantities are limited.  RF can have only 2 eggs and Mrs Kim can have only ¾ cup of kimchee.”

“You bring spicy one, round-eyed devil, not that tasteless winter one?”

“Yes, I brought the traditional spicy style from a Korean specialty shop that makes their own.  You each have 10 minutes to eat, no more.  You may each have one 8 oz glass of water.  The contest starts 30 minutes from then.  It will last 45 minutes.  Belching does not count.  You throw up or need to poop, you’re done.  Are the rules understood and agreed to?”

“Yes.”  RF had no trouble, but it took 5 minutes of arguing with Mrs Kim who wanted the quart of kimchee.  Finally, RJ agreed she could eat all she wanted AFTER the contest IF Vista Knolls approved.  The old woman and the groundhog eyed each other like gun fighters.

Carly whispered to Trey, “I never knew fart contests actually had rules.  In fact, I never knew there were fart contests.”

Trey patted her hand, “Neither did I, but I gather it’s a frat house tradition.”

“Oh, that explains it then.  But how did RF know?”

“I haven’t a clue.”

RJ opened the kimchee and set the plate in from of Mrs Kim.  Everyone moved back.  Then he opened a tightly sealed container and handed RF two 1,000 year eggs.  Carly’s eyes watered and she backed up a lot further – Trey and Rupert with her.  “OMG, they smell like …….”

“Piss,” Rupert offered helpfully.

“Well, yes, I suppose.  I had to look them up on the internet to see what they were.  They were called ‘horse urine eggs’.  And all these years I didn’t think anything could smell as bad as a home perm.”  She looked around, “Are there any tissues?  My nose is running and my eyes are watering.”

Rupert handed her a box – but she had no idea where they came from because his hands were empty moments before.  “Maybe we should wait in the hall,” suggested Trey.

Coughing, Carly nodded agreement.  She was afraid to breath.  Only Cleatus, Ralph and RJ seemed immune.  “GO!” Called RJ and the 3 spectators headed for the hallway when RF cracked open the egg.

Leaning against a wall, Trey gasped like a man who had just run a marathon.  Carly was rather glad Mrs Nagouchi insisted she use a wheelchair as she wheezed for breath.   Rupert fanned his face trying to dispel the lingering odor as he sank slowly to the floor.

The trio watched the door and listened for scratching incase Ralph or Cleatus needed to escape.  Slowly their breathing returned to normal, but they couldn’t smell anything.  “I feel like I need to gargle with Listerine and then use it to flush my sinuses.”  Carly laughed at Trey but would have given a lot for some Scope.  Rupert offered them wintergreen Lifesavers.

“Will this help?”  Trey was not a fan of wintergreen.

“Can you think of any stronger taste that’s still edible?”

The djinn had a point.  Trey popped two in his mouth and the flavor overwhelmed the previous stink, but left an odd aftertaste thanks to the ammonia in the eggs.  He checked his watch.  “I guess the real contest starts right about now.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

RF ate her eggs quickly.  If you could get past the awful smell, the taste wasn’t bad, but the appearance was something that took getting used to – especially the grey/black yolk.  RJ had bought chicken eggs.  Duck eggs were better, but then she would have only gotten one, so she didn’t complain.  She peeled the eggs quickly and cut them into wedges and began eating.  Ralph was getting on her nerves with his constant jumping around and verbalizing a play-by-play like a sportscaster.

“RF has finished her first egg and Mrs Kim almost done with her kimchee!  GO MRS KIM!”

RF considered killing him.  “They’re both done, but who be the first to fart?”  She knew from experience the eggs would work quickly on her.  The only problem was certain lingering issues with the small scent sacs that groundhogs had.  It was nothing compared to skunks or stink badgers, but she would be ……. er, potent for several days.

The ever gassy Mrs Kim popped first.  RJ scored duration, loudness, and smell.  Ralph cheered and Mrs Kim gloated.  RF looked around for a weapon.  Then they both let one loose.  RF’s was much riper and louder, but Mrs Kim’s was longer.

“RF has the stronger smell and the loudest fart, but Mrs Kim is showing real endurance here with unusually long releases.  The next one will be important in the scoring.”  RF reached for only thing she could find, a new bedpan, and delivered stunning blow to Ralph.  Unfortunately, the bedpan was child-sized and plastic, so Ralph had a quick recovery.  He shook his head to clear it.

Mrs Kim laughed at him and let loose with a boisterous fart.  Before she was done, RF let go with one strong enough to make even Mrs Kim’s eyes water.  Not having learned his lesson, Ralph started right back to his commentating.  “RF has released a disgusting, rank fart, but Mrs Kim once again has the duration on her side.”

That’s when RF lost it.  She began chasing Ralph, whacking him with the bedpan.  WHACK!  Ralph reeled away, “And RF let’s a world class fart loose and Mrs Kim matches her in loudness, but once again, RF has the edge in smell.” WHACKWHACKWHACKWHACK!  Ralph staggered …. “And Mrs Kim goshhh for a dura….. and dura….. time thingy ……. Ah, ish record ….”  WHACKWHACKWHACKWHACK! RF paused.  Ralph went to stand up.  WHACKWHACK!!!!!!!!  And the plastic bedpan cracked, but Ralph was down.  RJ and Mrs Kim where hysterical with laughter.

Cleatus just shook his head and dragged the groggy mongoose to the door.  He rapped and Trey opened the door and got a mongoose thrown at him.  “Better keep him out here.  He annoyed RF.”

Rupert picked up his cousin.  “What did she do?”

“Beat the snot out of him with a bedpan.”  Rupert dropped Ralph like he was on fire.  “It was a new bedpan, still in plastic.  See you later.”  The door closed behind him, locking in the incredibly bad smells.

Rupert nudged his cousin with the toe of his shoe.  “You have any more of those wintergreen Lifesavers?”, asked Carly as she fanned the air.

They stayed in the hall, hearing laughter, snarls, and really loud farts, the smell creeping under the door to where they waited.  They moved further away.  Twice Ralph got up and fell over again, managing a garbled, “Who won?”  He teetered for moment, then fell over again.  Rupert ignored him.

RJ came staggering out gasping, laughing and smelling to the heavens.  “I kind of lost track of scoring in there thanks to Ralph and RF.  RF won the stink portion, which is 40% and they the remaining 60%, 30% each loudness and duration, so RF is the winner.  Mrs Kim tried to protest, but RF picked up another bedpan and she acknowledged RF the winner.  I believe she is currently being cursed in Korean while she does a victory dance.”  The lawyer leaned against the wall still chuckling.  “I need a shower and changes of clothes.  I’d suggest leaving RF somewhere to work the eggs through her system.  I’ll arrange for Carly to have a private room for a few days and pay for it myself.”

“I couldn’t ask you to do that!”  Carly was embarrassed.

“This partly my fault, so the least I can do is see to it that you are safe from Mrs Kim and her rippers.  Now excuse me while get things moving and get washed before the detectives arrive.”  RJ walked off, humming like a truly happy man.  It was obvious that he hadn’t had a lot of fun lately.  RF was nothing if not a unique experience.

“OK, who gets to go in there and grab RF?”

Carly is no fool.  “Well, I can’t do it.  I’m in a wheel chair.”  She looked weak and tired.  Trey and Rupert went into a stare down mode.  Wow, she was getting a hunk throwdown.  This was way fun.  She’d have to thank RF.

“She’s your partner.”  Point to Rupert.

“You’re bound to her service.”  Ooooohhhhh  Low, but 2 points to Trey.

“She’s made you a wealthy man.”  Good one.  Two points to the djinn

“She saved you from 50 years of service in Hell.”  Wow, another two points to Trey.  “AND she saved you’re worthless cousin there as well!”  Oooooooh, the kill shot.

The djinn growled, threw his shoulders back and walked to the door.  He took a deep breath, opened the door, ran inside, grabbed RF and Cleatus and ran out as Mrs Kim Yelled, “You come back again rat demon!  You fun!  You too blondy demon.  You cute.  Nice tush!”

“Why did you grab me?”  RF looked from Trey to Rupert and back again.

“The detectives are due shortly and need to stop …….. doing what you’re doing.”

“Not going to happen.  Those eggs last awhile.”

Trey looked a bit desperate.  “OK – who was the PI that got the yearbooks?”

RF sighed, this wasn’t going to work.  “Maybe we could talk to them outside.”

“IT’S 102F IN THE SHADE!”

“Well, it’s that or wait till tomorrow.  Now, I need the nearest exit and a handy bush.”  Trey stared at her.  “NOW TREY!!!!!!!”  He checked the signs, grabbed his partner, and headed for the back door.  He just stepped out when she squirmed to be put down and scurried to a distant bush.  The smell was nearly overwhelming.  Dear heavens.  She was sleeping outside tonight.  He stood there melting into the parking lot praying to lose his sense of smell.

“Whew!  That was close.”

“Will this happen a lot?”

She gave a kind of full body shrug.  “A few more times before the eggs are gone.  They’re a strong laxative for me.”

Trey sighed.  “How long will this take?”

“An hour maybe.  I only ate 2 eggs.  The gas, that will take longer, but the worst is over.”

“OK, so we stay outside for an hour and then we can go in and answer a few questions.  I’ll park you over in the shade by those picnic tables and bring cold drinks – you’ll need a sports drink or something.”

“Bring cookies.”

“Cookies?”

“I’m hungry.  Rupert ate all the jelly donuts.”

“OK.  DO NOT WANDER OFF AND GET LOST OR EATEN BY A COYOTE!  I’ll be back in a few minutes, just do …… whatever it is you do when this happens.”

Trey went back in wondering what he’d done to deserve a partner who ate smelly eggs for fart contests and beat ifrits in mongoose form senseless using nothing but a plastic bedpan and brute force.  At least his life wasn’t dull.

 

TO BE CONTINUED ……………………..

June 13, 2014

Carly and the Tango Instructor – Part 5 & 6

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 8:32 pm
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Part 5

Trey Dupress was no fool.  He had enough experience with his difficult partner to know she would wake up hungry and grumpy.  To forestall the worst of her attitude, he’d left the house early and found one of the many bakeries that had left an invitation for her to visit.  While he would not inflict a cranky RF on anyone, he would feed her their goodies and let her thank them later.  Without telling them he was there for RF, he got boxes of assorted pastries, donuts, croissants – plain and with fillings (including ham and cheese for him), and a nice quiche – spinach, country ham, and onion.  That should hold her.  They had everything they needed for coffee and tea at the house, so breakfast was set.

He arrived back just in time.  He could hear Rupert and RF yelling at each other about his taking off without them.  They had reached the ‘finger-pointing’ stage when he walked in.

“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?  I NEED BREAKFAST!”  Yup.  RF was cranky.

“Here you go, and kindly say, ‘Thank-you you Trey for being so thoughtful as to run out and get some fresh pastries and quiche for my breakfast.’”

“Whatever.  I smell ham and spinach.”

“That’s the quiche.  Shall I warm it a bit while you eat a Danish?”  Without waiting for an answer, he stuffed a bearclaw in her mouth, turned the oven on and popped the quiche in as girl at the counter told him to do – just before she asked for his autograph.  He would be so glad to get the hell out of California.

Rupert was opening all the boxes and apparently deciding where to start.  He could eat like a small army at times.  He chose a cheese and streusel Danish, then grabbed an apple custard tart, and three different donuts.  He added two ham and cheese croissants to the top of the pile and sat down.  “You should have gotten me up.  I would have gone with you.”  The croissants had disappeared and he was eating the cheese Danish.  Maybe pastry for 20 wasn’t enough.  “I figured you could both get some sleep and I’d get the food.  Coffee or tea?”

Rupert looked a bit abashed.  “Actually, I’d like milk, or even some of that half-and-half, though I’m not sure what that is.  It does taste good.”

Trey got out the half-and-half – Big Daddy saw to it the fridg was well stocked, and he automatically made tea for RF, good whole leaf black tea that he thought smelled pretty good, even to a confirmed coffee drinker like himself.  Good thing his mama taught him how to make tea.  He glanced at RF and she was on her third pastry, one with a cherry filling.  “This came from one of the shops that sent you an invitation to stop in.  Maybe we should swing by and you can thank them, RF.”

She shrugged.  “After I try the quiche.  Give me two of those tomatoes and I’ll start cutting them up.  I like them with quiche.”  She lifted her head and sniffed, scenting the warming quiche.

“You’re like mama.  She won’t put tomatoes in the fridg either.”

“Of course not.  It kills the flavor and you can never get it back.  Now is the quiche warm or should I have a donut?”  Her head was already half buried in a donut bag.

“You can’t keep avoiding my questions from last night, you know.”  She stared at him as she bit into a jelly donut.  “And don’t bother saying ‘What questions?’ because you know perfectly well what I asked you when side-stepped them then.  Now I want some answers.”

The doorbell rang, surprising Trey – but apparently not RF.  He answered it, expecting the detectives from last night, but finding a FedEx delivery man instead.  “Package for RF Groundhog.”

“Thanks, I’ll sign for it.”

Trey walked back in the kitchen to find the quiche on a hot plate half gone.  “You two are absolute gluttons.”  He set the box down and promptly helped himself to the quiche, tomatoes, ham and cheese croissants and several Danish – watching his food carefully while getting his coffee.  “Now, start talking.”

“Let me open the package first.”

“No!  Package second.  First you tell me two things.  One – what did you do to the cops who caged you?  And two, how did you come to the conclusion that a woman supposedly from the mid-west knew a guy from Brooklyn?”

“I can answer that if you let me open the box.”

“You don’t need this box, or any other box, or a crystal ball to tell me what you did to those cops who caged you!”

“You know shouting at me rarely does any good.”

“Maybe I should just call Lula Mae and have her ask you.”

RF smiled sweetly, “You don’t have an iPhone.”  She gloated.

“I took the one you had hidden in you port-a-bed.”

“THIEF!”

“And a damn good one, if you’ll recall.  Now, answer me, or deal with Lula Mae.”

RF hissed at him.  He was unmoved.  Rupert sat watching like he was at a tennis match, head turning back and forth – and eating everything in his reach.  Trey sat well away from him and made note of the fact that the djinn was becoming addicted to jelly donuts.  He seemed fascinated by them.  His attention focused back on his evasive partner.

Finally RF shrugged.  “No big deal.  They might be a bit ……. Itchy today.”

“Itchy?  Mosquito bites?”

He got another shrug and a muttered, “OK.”

“That wasn’t a yes or no question.  Do they have mosquito bites?”

“ummmmm ……… I’m not sure if they were bitten by mosquitoes.  I’m not the mosquito police.”

“Did you cause them to be bitten by mosquitoes?”

“ummmmm …………. no.”

“Any other kind of insect bite – that you caused, not an incidental one?”

Damn him.  “ummmm ……… no.”

Trey stared her for a long moment, then quietly said, “You didn’t give them chickenpox or some other disease, did you?”

RF looked insulted.  “Of course not!  I wouldn’t do that.  Besides, I’m not sure I could, well not without some heavy-duty spell work.  There was no time for that.”

He thought about what RF had done prior to getting grabbed.  She’d leapt from his arms and raced around the porch into a pile of greenery and ……. “Oh you did not cover yourself with poison oak before they picked you up, did you?”

“Is that what the green stuff was?”

“You evil little ……… You gave them poison oak!”  She sat watching him with a bland expression as she bit into cruller.  “Wait, why don’t I have it or Rupert?”

She sat quietly munching, but Rupert spoke up, “Djinn are immune.  She asked me to protect you.”

“How many people got it?”

“Depends.  Some are naturally immune.  Others aren’t.”

“You rubbed all over those cops!”

“Damn right I did.”  An evil smile crept over her face.  “I don’t like cages!  That was just plain rude – and that one cop said I was FAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I made sure he got covered.”

Trey sighed.  There was nothing he could do about it now.  “What about the restaurant and the people there?  That oil sticks to everything.”  Trey stopped, realizing what he just said.  “You rubbed yourself all over the table where those detectives sit, didn’t you?”  He sounded resigned.  She was so damn vindictive.

“They deserved it for cuffing you and Rupert.”

“You can’t go to Vista Knoll or see Carly with that oil on your fur.”

“Relax, I already showered, shampooed twice, and conditioned.  I’m clean.”

“You better be and Mrs Kim better not get any suspicious rashes.”

“Oh please, I wouldn’t do that.  Besides, we have a contest!!!!!!”

Trey checked the time as his cell phone rang – or more correctly, RF’s phone that he confiscated rang. “Dupress”

“It’s RJ.  I have the kimchee and 1000 year eggs.  We set for Vista Knoll at 1 PM?”

“Get there a bit early.  I think we have something you might have pass onto the detectives.”

“12:30 be early enough?”

“Should be fine.  See you then.”

RF sat watching him and Rupert looked curious.  “This box has the answer to how Raul and Alyssa know each other, doesn’t it?”  Trey asked.

“I’m hoping it does, yes.”

He ripped it open and gave the contents to RF.  “Yearbooks?”

She nodded.  “Once I knew who Raul was, I found out where he graduated by getting a PI in NYC who likes my apple crumb slices to do me a favor and run him down.  Didn’t take long and he found the right high school.  I’ll bet Alyssa went to the same school.  Just in case, I asked for the middle school yearbooks too and for 1 year either side of his expected graduation year.  They’ll be harder to recognize middle school, though, so let’s start with high school.”

The three of them scrunched together and began turning pages, checking team photos, especially the ones for the theater club and any dance photos.  There was Raul/Ricky.  He was in a play and in a several photos of the junior prom.  The next year he showed up in the senior class photos and once again he was in the prom.  He date was not Alyssa, but she was there, or a girl who looked like Alyssa – before a new nose and world class hair lightening job.  Next year, she was in the senior class – Alice Baumgartner.

“OK, go ahead a gloat.  You earned this one.”  RF grinned at Trey’s resigned tone, then did a little victory dance on the counter, before getting serious again.

“Well, I can’t really gloat till Carly can tell us if she saw or heard something that might suggest they had reason to worry about her.  I hope she can remember something because I think it will be key to the prosecution’s case.  They sure don’t want a groundhog or a former thief for a star witness.”

“What about me?”  Rupert sounded insulted to be left out.

“Rupert, when they ask what you do for a living, what would you say, ‘I barter with people for their immortal souls.’?  Or ‘I grant wishes – for a price?’ Come on.  They’ll try and ship you to the nearest asylum!”  Then again, this was California.  “Or every wanna be actor, director, and producer would sell their soul for a hit.”

OK so RF had a point.  Maybe avoidance was better here.  Besides, most of those people already cut deals with the demons.  “Let’s let Carly do the testifying.”

“Good plan.”

“Then let’s go to the bakery and you can say thank-you to the owner there for all this wonderful food and we’ll go to Vista Knoll and give this to RJ and let him get it to the police.”  Trey began cleaning things up, surprisingly with eveyone’s help.  Then he put the year books in plastic bag and they headed out.

“Maybe we can convince RJ to take Carly as a client.  That way she’ll be covered.”  Trey looked at RF.  “Covered for what?”

“Well, we never did talk with Caryn.  I wonder just how much she knew or guessed.”  Trey sighed again.  They had to stay till tomorrow for another police interview before they could leave.  Maybe they could squeeze a chat with Caryn in the schedule.  “OK, we’ll try that tomorrow before we meet with the detectives again.”

“Good.  Let’s get moving.  I have a contest to win today!”

Crap.  He’d forgotten about that.  Rupert thought it was funny.  He wouldn’t be laughing so hard when he was stuck in a room with RF after she’s eaten eggs.  Pickled eggs.  Dear lord, this was going to be a disaster.

They all stopped walking when they saw the ring of skunks between them and the car.  “You know what this is about, RF?”

“Not a clue.”

A loud *POP* sounded and there stood Ralph the ifrit in all his punk/Goth glory.  “What the hell are you doing here?” yelled RF.

“I had to bring Cleatus.  Lula Mae’s orders.  Better feed the skunks before they get upset.”

“Hey Cousin RF.  Brought some ‘shine for us.”  Cleatus greeted RF with his usual nod, but looked a bit ….. stiff.

Trey went in the house, Rupert hot on his heels.  “This can’t be good,” muttered the djinn.  Trey figured that was the understatement of the century and he piled all the leftover pastry and an entire bag of cookies on paper plates, handed one to Rupert and they went back out – just in time to hear RF scream, “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN COUSIN ESME CLAIMS I’M BETHROTHED TO HER NEPHEW RUBEN RAY OLIVER!”

Oh crap.  She just scared the damn skunks.  This was really bad.

 

Part 6

The second the skunks cut loose, Rupert and Trey dropped the plates.  The djinn and RF threw up some kind of wall that protected them from the skunk spray itself, but not the smell.  Eyes watering, Trey grabbed Cleatus and RF and ran inside followed by Rupert and Ralph shoving to be first in the door.  Finally, they slammed the door, then ran to far side of the house and open the sliders – a disappearing glass wall really – to the pool and the ocean air and took a breath.  Panting from their wild retreat they just stared at each other a moment.  The quiet didn’t last.

“I’m killing Esme and Ruben Ray on the way back to the UK.  That will end this nonsense once and for all.  This is the third so-called ‘cradle contract’ those idiots have tried and there will NOT BE A FOURTH!”

“Have some of Uncle Horace’s ‘shine.  You’ll feel better.”

“I’ll feel better when I’ve wiped that branch of the family off of the tree – all of them!”  She had a slug of ‘shine.  Trey started to worry.  He did NOT need a mad, drunken RF on his hands right now.

“Now Pansy ain’t so bad, and Bobby Lee does ok.”  Course, the whole Barton family was always a bit ……. strange in the head.

RF was pacing.  “Maybe I’ll turn them into bait fish and dump them in the lake with all the bass.  Or drop them into a school of sharks.  Their bodies will never be found.”

“Sounds a mite extreme, cousin.  You could probably jus’ beat the crap out of Ruben Ray and settle the whole thing.”  Cleatus saw Trey take the shine and hide it.  Might be a good idea.  His cousin was sounding a mite blood-thirsty.

“I’d have to beat the truth out of Esme too, or the she’ll have that whole damn clan on me about not fulfilling a contract.”

“Now RF, you can’t beat up an elderly cousin like Esme Willet.  It wouldn’t look good, especially since she’s less than half your size to start with.”

“Ruben Ray isn’t much bigger!”

“Yeah, but he’s young, and male, and no one much cares if you beat him up.  Esme’s different.  She’s an elder.”

“She’s a conniving, deceitful, lying, sack of …..”

“Now RF, you and Esme never did get on.”

“Did you miss what I just said – or tried to say before you so rudely cut me off?”

“No.  But some would say you’re much the same, jus’ a whole meaner and more dangerous.  And a better cook – which is why she really hates you.”

“Huh?”  RF looks confused.  Trey was too.  What did some ‘cradle contract’ have to do with RF’s cooking?

Cleatus sighed.  “Momma told me that before you started cooking for the clan, it was Esme who ruled the kitchen.  Her only rival was Aunt Lula Mae, but they sort of avoided each other as Lula Mae was a spellcaster and she mated a Watkins.  The Watkins’ really like Lula Mae and they always made it real plain that if you messed with her, you were messing with all of them.”

“You’re a Watkins through your momma.”

“I am, and that’s why no one messes with me.  That and the fact you and Lula Mae both like me.  And I’m real good at demolition.”  Cleatus grinned.  “Fact is cousin, Esme wants the status you’d bring.  Everyone knows she faked that document she claims to have ‘discovered’, but they’d side with her if you went after her too hard.  I know you could wipe them out, or call up a demon and force the truth from Esme, but she’d just say you cast a spell to make her lie and put it all back on you.  That’s what she does.”

Cleatus took a breath.  This was tricky part and why Lula Mae sent him and didn’t come herself.  “You should tell her you’ll see them after you’re done with your business in Europe.  Then when you DO see her, make it real plain, she wouldn’t be head of that clan no more, you would be.  You got the money, the power, and the position to force that on them.”

“You sound like Lula Mae, Cleatus.”

“Well, we talked about this before she sent me over here to warn you.  She didn’t want you sending half the clan to Hell ‘cause you were mad at Esme.  You go in mad and raise Hell, that won’t work near as well as going in like the Queen herself and talking to Esme like she’s nothing but a lowly subject.”

“You two have spent way too much time watch the BBC.”

Cleatus grinned.  “Yeah, it gave us the idea, but it would work.  Esme would go nuts.  Especially if you brought in the Watkins boys as your ‘retainers’.”

“You mean Billy Bob and Groundhog Motorcycle Club?”

“Yup.”

“I might be able to work with that.  I could say Esme needed ‘protection’ and they were staying with her at her place.  It will look like a sty in no time.  She’ll go nuts. ………..  Or I could tell Esme she had to go stay with my cousins in Minnesota since they have room.”  RF hated her cousins as much as she did Esme.  They kind of deserved each other.  An evil smile spread over RF’s face.

Cleatus hoped he and Lula Mae didn’t unleash a demon groundhog on those idiot Bartons and Willets. Their families would never be the same.   Neither would the rest of the clan if RF really decided to take over.

All his life, he knew RF tolerated some of her relatives, disliked more than a few, ignored most, and never took an ounce of crap from anyone, but she’d never once been interested in power over any of the clan.  He hoped it stayed that way.  Knowing RF, all she really wanted was to be allowed to be what she already was.  He and Lula Mae were betting she wouldn’t run amuck.  Oh, she’d get her pound of flesh and then some for this stunt by Esme.  Not that anyone liked the Bartons or the Willets, but they would notice if they just disappeared after crossing RF.  At least the plan he and Lula Mae cooked up with Marilyn, Greta, and Johann was better than the shark plan RF had – or at least left them alive.

What was that old saying about a bell couldn’t be unrung?  Well, Esme rang a bell and now she’d have to live with what it called.  All he and Lula Mae could do was keep the damage down.  But if push came to shove, he’d throw Esme to the sharks himself if she didn’t back off.

Trey broke into RF’s evil plotting against this Esme (he and Cleatus would need to have a talk about that), because they had to get moving.  He sniffed.  A shower and change of clothes was needed.  “OK, we need to move.  We all stink a bit, so a shower and a change of clothes.  Ralph, you and Cleatus can stay here while we see Carly.”

“Is Carly the lady who got hurt?”  RF nodded yes.  “And she has information?”, asked Cleatus.

“Yes,” said Trey on the way to the shower.

“I’m having a fart contest with her roommate!”  RF cheerfully announced, Esme momentarily forgotten.

“I’m coming,” announced Cleatus and Ralph in unison.

“The car really only seats two humans, Ralph.”  RF did not want the ifrit coming with them.

Ralph would not be denied.  “I’ll be a ferret ….. no, no, I’ll be a MONGOOSE!  I’ll go shower in Rupert’s room.”

“You will not!  Go find your own bathroom and be done in 10 minutes or we leave without you.”

“Wouldn’t you be happier here?  You can use pool or go down to the beach and play and pick-up girls.  I’ll even give you money to use in the bars.  You can have all day to enjoy the beach house.”  RF gave the ifrit her very best smile.

“NO!  Miss a fart contest?  Are you kidding?  Hey, can I play?”

NO!!!!”  RF shouted.  She stood glaring at the ifrit.  “You cause ANY trouble and you will be a mongoose for the next thousand years while working as manager of Hell’s Home Depot.  Are we clear?”

“Yes,” Ralph was sulking, his lower lip (it had several piercings) was stuck out in a pout.

“I want a vow, Ralph, or I’ll turn you into a hamster and lock you in the freezer to die.”

“All right, all right.  I Ralph, ifrit of Clan Nomescu do hereby swear to abide by the following terms:  1. I shall obey all orders from Reacherfan Groundhog and Trey Dupress.  2.  I shall stay as a mongoose for the duration of the trip and upon return to this house will I will immediately transport back to Edinburgh.  3. I shall cause no disruptions, use any powers, or annoy ANYONE between now and when I return to Edinburgh.  4. If I fail in any way RF, is free to extract revenge without threat of reprisal from myself, my clan or my clan allies or anyone else.”

“Sign in blood.”

“Jeeze.  How does Rupert put up with you and your rules?”

“He behaves, or he goes back to work for a very angry Hell Lord – who by the way, would be thrilled if I sent you down as his replacement.”

Ralph signed and ran for the nearest bathroom to clean up.  RF went to her own and used a special shampoo, white vinegar, and baking soda.  She came out rather fluffy, but clean and sweet smelling.  She let Cleatus do the same and she used the dryer on her fur.  They were both back and in the living room in exactly 10 minutes.  Trey had everything ready, he even put the car top down, airing it out.  The skunk smell was mostly gone and the goodies were missing – even the plates they’d been on.  Skunks are not gourmets.   Ralph the mongoose bounded out and Rupert put him firmly in the rear seat.  Cleatus went in next to him.  A quick stop at the bakery was a bit hectic and they left with a pile of goodies.  Ralph and Cleatus dug in.  Rupert ate ALL the jelly donuts.  His new favorite food.

Trey’s patience was frayed by the time they reached Vista Knolls.  A very casually dressed RJ was waiting in the shade of a tree in the parking lot.  Introductions were made, and Trey gave him a quick rundown of what they discovered.  “Can you act as Carly’s attorney?  I don’t want the police or defense investigators bothering her while she’s in rehab.”  RF sounded worried.

“I’ll be happy to help.”  He got a Cheshire cat smile.  “It will be interesting to help the police for a change.”

They entered the reception area and Rachel-the perky-soon-to-be-gerbil gave Rupert and Trey star struck smiles.  “Back to see Miz Carly?  She’ll be glad for company.”  Then she spotted Cleatus and Ralph.  “Are they her pets too?  We don’t usually allow more than one therapy animal at a time.”

“They’re not animals.  They’re puppets.  I’m a ventriloquist.”

“Wow, you’re good.  I could have sworn that ……. thing in your arms just talked!”

Trey cleared his throat to cover RF’s hissing noise, while RJ shook with silent laughter.  “We’ve brought Ms Cady’s lawyer with us and he needs to speak with her.”

“R. Jason Rutledge for Ms Cady.”  RJ Handed over one of his heavy business cards kept in an antique solid silver card case.  He saw RF checking it out and winked at her.

“Oh, Mr Rutledge!  I saw you on Court TV!” Then she realized they had a very high profile attorney here.  “I’ll just call the director.”

“That fine.  The director can meet us at Ms Cady’s room.”  He moved off through the doors like he owned the place.  On the other side he turned to Trey and said, “Lead the way, because I have no idea where I’m going.”  He gave them an unrepentant grin.

“You brought the kimchee and eggs, right?”  RF was look at the bag he was carrying.

“Of course.  And I wore clothes that I can just throw away.  This isn’t my first fart contest.  Though after graduating law school, I never thought I’d see another one.  But shouldn’t we speak with Ms Cady first?  We need to get the police business settled.”  He looked concerned, “Perhaps we should have brought in some of those extra pastries.”

“She can’t have sugar right now, so I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

Carly smiled widely when she saw RF.  “You’re back!”

“I said we would be.  Carly, this is R. Jason Rutledge ….”

“OMG, the lawyer!  Did I do something wrong?”

“Oh course not, but Trey and RF have uncovered some information and they need you to think back over all the times you saw Raul and Alyssa at the same time.  If you can recall something, I’ll be your go between with the police, if not, I’ll still represent you in any capacity you need, pro bono, of course.”  The lawyer had a wonderful soothing voice.  No wonder he got the big bucks and high profile cases.

“Pro bono?  This won’t cost me my life savings?”  Carly clutched the blankets a bit.  She couldn’t afford some $1,000 an hour lawyer.

“Not a dime, now just relax and let Trey and RF ask you a few questions.”

Carly blinked, realizing the lawyer held a small groundhog.  “Is that Cousin Cleatus you’re holding?  OMG, I am so thrilled.  I’m a huge fan of yours!  RF talks about you and Lula Mae, and Greta and Johann and Marilyn all the time!”

“Pleasure to meet you ma’am.  Aunt Lula Mae and the others stayed in Edinburgh, but they’ll be pleased to know you’ve heard of them.”

“HI!  I’m Ralph and I’m an ifrit, but I have to be a mongoose right now.  Have you heard about me?  I’m here for the fart contest!  This will be GREAT!”

Before Carly could say a word, Mrs Kim butted in with, “You have kimchee?  You promise kimchee!”

RJ dug in his bag and extracted a tightly sealed container of homemade kimchee, South Korean style, spicy, garlicky, and served cold.  He then handed the eggs to RF.  He looked sternly at Mrs Kim and RF.  “You will not eat anything till I say start, so put the food down.”

“You no order me around.  I eat if I want.”

“You eat that kimchee before I say ‘GO!’, you forfeit the contest and RF wins!”

“Evil round-eyed lawyer.  I wait and beat the fat demon rat fair and square.”

“I AM NOT FAT!  I AM ZAFTIG!  ZAFTIG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

A knock sounded and in walked the Director of Vista Knolls.  “Mr Rutledge, I’m Gardner McKay, the Administrator of Vista Knolls, and this is Mrs Nagouchi, head of our nursing staff.  I hope everything is going well with Ms Cady and she’s happy here.”  He looked a bit twitchy and gave RJ a nervous, smarmy smile.

“I’ll let you know after my client and I chat.  Alone.  At the moment, we’d like the room cleared of all but Ms Cady and her friends for a private conversation.”

“Of course.  Mrs Kim, it’s time for your afternoon in the common room.”

“NO!  I stay.  Watch evil rat demon and big blondy demon.”

McKay laughed uncomfortably.  “I’m sure everything will be fine while you’re in the common room.”

“I no like common room.  Full of peasants.”

Mrs. Nagouchi sighed deeply.  Mrs Kim was a difficult patient.  “Then you shall sit with the peasants like the rest of, Mrs Kim.”  The orderlies lifted her into the wheel chair and pushed her out – complaining all the way.  McKay turned red faced to RJ and said, “I’m sure you understand some of our patients are …… less than pleasant to deal with.  She’s usually quiet, but rather uncooperative.  I think she secretly enjoys attention.  I do apologize for any insult to your guests Ms Cady.  She had no call to be accusing people of being demons.  Elderly people can get funny ideas.”

Carly bit her lip to keep from laughing and nodded politely.  Once they were alone the giggles started and grew to full blow laughter.  After she settled down, she asked, “How are we going to hide the fart contest?”  That started her laughing again.

“Will have to work that out, but before we get to those – festivities, there are some questions that we have and we’re hoping you can help us.”  RJ gave her a reassuring smile.  This lawyer was slick as ice.

“Of course.  Ask away.”

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED

June 11, 2014

Carly and the Tango Instructor – Part 3 and Part 4

Filed under: Adventures of Reacherfan Groundhog — toursbooks @ 1:03 am
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“We should get some lunch.  Alex Benson agreed to talk to us at his house after 2PM.”

RF pulled herself back unto the car and turned to stare at Trey.  When he made oh so casual statements like that, something was going on.  “What?  What aren’t you telling me?”

Trey and Rupert exchanged a quick glance and both stayed silent.  “Should I remind you how badly I react to surprises?”

“No.  Believe me, I remember that very well.  It ranks right up there with what happened when cousin Petunia tried to make you eat a veggie burger with fake cheese when you asked for an Angus burger with cheddar.  I think your whole clan remembers that.  I still can’t believe you dumped that bowl of coleslaw on her head.”

“It had SUGAR in it, so much sugar it was sweet!  Coleslaw is not sweet.  And she deserved it.”

“Yeah, but you turned her into a pygmy rat too.”

“Well she kept arguing with me!  Petunia always was kind of stupid that way.  And why are you trying to side track me?  What’s going on?”

“It seems your presence in the area has made it through the restaurant grapevine.  You have about 2 dozen invitations to meals.  I explained we’d be leaving tomorrow or the next day and that threw gas on the fire.  It turned the whole thing into a frenzy of offers for meals and all kinds of pastries from every bakery between San Diego and LA.”  Trey paused and glanced at her.  “Rupert can give you a list.”

She waved him off before he could start.  “I want Mexican food.”

Rupert checked the list – the very long list.   “ummmm …………… most of these places are pretty upscale.  There is a place called La Sirena Grill on the costal highway in South Laguna.  Will that be OK?”

“Mexican?”

“Supposedly the best in town.”

“That’s the place then.”

“You’re sure don’t want one of the fancy places?”

“Absolutely certain, but if we see a good bakery on the way from Benson’s to Caryn’s dance studio, we’ll stop.  Desserts at Mexican places are pretty limited and I was never a big flan fan.”

“You serve flan at the Bakery!”

“Of course I do.  I serve a lot of things I don’t especially enjoy.”

“Like what?”  Trey sounded genuinely puzzled.

“Like pea soup.”

He was honestly shocked.  “You make the best pea soup I ever had!  I take it frozen to my mother.”

RF rolled her eyes and makes gagging noises.  “I’m not fond of banana cream pie, either, though the Bananas Foster version I make is almost good.  And I also don’t like chess pie.  Or coconut custard.  Or Shoo-Fly pie.”

“I’ll give you the chess pie.  I never liked it either.  But your banana cream pies are to die for.  So are your coconut custard pies.”  Trey paused.  “Shoo-fly pie is probably an acquired taste.”  Trey stopped talking for a moment and glanced at RF.  “Wait a minute.  You don’t like custard at all, do you?”

RF shrugged, “Not really.”

Rupert looked confused.  “But all those things are very good, RF.  And I’ve watched you make them.  Why make food you don’t like?”

“Other people like it.  I keep my customers happy.”

“Is that why we’re eating a Mexican restaurant?”

“No, we’re eating that because I want good, simple food.  Not some over-wrought dish with an engineered wonder of potato foam or liquid nitrogen frozen prune essence or some other pretentious nonsense.”

Trey just laughed.  Rupert appeared somewhat mollified, but still puzzled by her dislike of foods she not only made, but made really well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After a blackened salmon taco and a carne asada burrito, RF groaned in contentment as she finished her lemonade.  Even Rupert approved after eating 3 burritos – carne asada, carnitas, and chicken – because, “It’s hard to choose!”, though he was disappointed there was no goat on the menu.  Trey had a carnitas burrito, and it was excellent.  The manager stopped at the table to check on them and make sure all was well.  She looked at RF for a long moment and asked, “Is it true?  You are the High Priestess of Tortum?”

RF nodded.  “Mama will be so disappointed she missed you.  She always wanted to meet you.  She said she tried your flan years ago and never had better.”

Trey just grinned as his partner shifted in her booster seat.  “I’m glad she liked it.  I’ll be happy to send her the recipe.  Like you, I use mostly organic ingredients.  I use a Blue Cattle Vanilla in the flan, but Madagascar vanilla in my crème brulee.  I use Tahitian bourbon vanilla in most cakes.”

“I will tell mama.” Suddenly she blushed.  “I have forgotten my manners.  I am Jasmine.  And many thanks for your dining here.  We feel honored you chose us when you were invited so many places more …….. refined than ours.”

RF smiled.  “Refined can he highly overrated.  Good food, well prepared with care is some of the best there is.  Never doubt that.”

Jasmine blushed again, offered more thanks and her mama’s email before they left.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As they drove up to the address that Alex Benson provided, they found themselves at a gated estate – where the gates were standing open.  “Well, maybe he’s expecting us,” suggested RF, but a chill went over her.  Trey drove slowly up the long curving drive and they all sat in the car looking at the house, not making any effort to get out.  There was a brand new Ferrari in bright yellow parked to one side and a large Mercedes sedan right behind it.

“OK, I’m officially creeped out here.  That front door isn’t really closed, is it?”  RF shifted from paw to paw.

Trey looked at it a moment longer.  “No, that’s not really closed.”

“Maybe we should just push it open a bit and call him.”

“OK”  But all three still sat in the car.

“This is silly.  I’ll go in and see what’s happening.  What will the police do?  Arrest a groundhog for trespassing?”  RF got out, crossed the drive and easily climbed the few, shalloe stairs reaching the door.  Rupert and Trey had followed, but she stopped and sniffed the air.  She put one paw on the door and gave it a gentle push.  It barely moved before it hit something.  She discretely backed away.   “Let’s call the cops.  Something is dead in there and it’s really recent.  Like they might still be here recent.”

Trey swept her up, hit 911 and gave them everything they had including the fact that the perpetrators might still be there.  Sirens could be heard in under a minute.  That’s when they saw them.  A panicked man and woman running around the corner of the house.  The couple saw Trey and Rupert and the flashing lights coming up the drive.  The woman threw something into the bushes, screamed, “YOU RUINED EVERYTHING!”, and suddenly ran crying into middle of the driveway.

The first cop out was drawing his gun as she starting screaming, “They killed my husband,” dramatically pointing at Rupert, Trey, and RF.

RF smiled.  She held Trey’s iPhone.  “I took a video of them when the turned the corner.  Including what she threw away.  Here, show the cops.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It took hours, and a call to Big Daddy for a good attorney, to get everything straightened out.  Trey and Rupert got handcuffed and RF got stuck in an animal cage – which really worried Trey.  A handcuffed djinn and a caged RF was a really bad mix likely to turn into a disaster.  The only upside, Alyssa Benson and the man with her were cuffed as well.

Alex Benson was dead, very recently dead, and the gun that killed him was the one in the shrubs that his wife threw away – clearly seen on the now #1 piece of evidence, the video RF shot with the iPhone.  The only prints were hers and she tested positive for GSR.  The man was the missing Raul AKA Ricky Andretti.  Both refused to talk to the police and all RF had was guesswork, so she kept thoughts to herself.  Rupert AKA Zaranthu Soulis turned out to have a solid Greek passport and was just visiting his friends in the US. (He was propositioned by 4 police women and 2 men.)  Trey explained about 20 times he wasn’t George Clooney and even the FBI agreed with that – however reluctantly. (He was propositioned only by the police women, plus 3 female clerks.  He wasn’t sure if he should be insulted or relieved.)  Everyone was immediately uncuffed, apologized to, at their new lawyer’s insistence, and their car delivered to the police station.  Trey lost his iPhone as evidence, which seriously annoyed him – and RF, though she also laughed at him.

R. Jason Rutledge (‘You folks just call me RJ.’) was a handsome man, about 10 years older than Trey, in very good shape for someone who  mostly sat at a desk, with thick, prematurely grey hair, the profoundly kind countenance of favorite uncle that masked the heart of a shark, and a Texas accent he never quite lost – or maybe never wanted to.  RF assumed he left his hair color alone in youth crazed California to encourage the image he so carefully cultivated.  His eyes were shrewd and sharp as he regarded his erstwhile clients.

“Why don’t I take you folks to my favorite steakhouse and we can have a drink and I can get the full story.  There was a whole lot you weren’t saying in there and I might be able to help.”  He looked at RF.  “Besides, Big Daddy old me about you and I’ve been wanting to meet you ever since.  You and Mr Dupress here have been having some interesting adventures.  I don’t mind telling you my curiosity is getting the better of me here.  I won’t even charge Big Daddy for dinner.  Or my time.”  He winked at the groundhog.

RF looked at Trey, who shrugged and Rupert, who admitted, “I am kind of hungry.”  Turning to RJ she said, “If you can tell me where I can get fresh kimchee and 1000 years eggs, we’ll have dinner with you.”

The lawyer had been asked to do some strange things, but this was a first even for him.  He looked at Trey, who looked resigned to the whole thing.  “It’s a bet with a little old Korean lady in Vista Knolls.”

“A bet about what?”

Trey sighed.  “A fart contest.”

The lawyer roared with laughter.  “You’ll get your kimchee and 1000 year eggs if I have to have them flown in special, but you must have dinner with me.”

“OK,” they chorused.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Part 4

The steaks were excellent and the presence of RJ kept most of the staff from bothering RF, though the head chef/owner came to the table to chat with her and make sure she enjoyed everything.  The head pastry chef hovered, then came up as well, just to meet her.  RF even gave her a few pointers on getting fresh key limes for the pie.  Through it all, RF was surprisingly gracious rather than her usual snarly self.

“You’re being awfully nice tonight.”  Trey sounded surprised and a little distrustful.

“I enjoyed the food.  It’s what a steakhouse should be.  Great meat, the rosti potato was exactly right – which is harder than you might think, and the vegetables were steamed just tender.  Key lime pie was made with bottled key lime juice though.  Guess they can’t get fresh ones out here.”

OK, she was in full avoidance mode.  Time for the direct approach.  “You didn’t try and turn any of those cops that caged you into gerbils or hamsters or anything.”

She shrugged like it was no big thing.  It was about as close to a miracle as anything Trey had seen.  His eyes narrowed.  “What did you do – and don’t lie.”

“Why do you think I did anything?”

“Because you’re not answering my question.  And why did Rupert do nothing?”

“She told me not to,” Rupert offered helpfully – which got him a glare from RF.  A glare so frightening that three hovering chefs collided as they ran back to the kitchen and the waiter almost headed right out the door, stopped when the chef/owner collared him and sent him into the kitchen to calm down.  RJ watched all this with a smile.  Trent ‘Big Daddy’ McCauley was right, she was a handful.  And Trey Dupress was a brave man.

“WELL??????”  Trey demanded.

“It seemed like the wisest thing to do.  The video was going to get us off and I knew Big Daddy would send a good lawyer to do the rest.”

RF was wearing her best poker face, but Trey knew her better than anyone, except maybe Lula Mae.  “That’s only half of it.  I want the rest.”

“I don’t have any evidence.”

“That’s never bothered you before.  Stop stalling.  Out with it.”

RF sighed.  “I don’t think Raul is the only one who changed his name and background story, I think Alyssa did too.  They knew each other before she started dance lessons at Foot Work.  When Raul saw her, I think he might have blackmailed her, or maybe she just paid him to say nothing.  They both had new lives and new names and a lot to lose.”

“OK.  I guess that’s possible, but she hasn’t got a record and her passport isn’t a fake, so she has a birth certificate.  You think she stole someone’s ID?”

“Yeah.  A simple name change would have left a trail back to her real ID.  The stolen ID will probably dead end in a graveyard somewhere.  But Raul/Ricky recognized her.  However it started, I think it went bad when Alex Benson realized something was up with his wife, and not just an affair.  I bet he had her investigated.  There was probably a pre-nup, but if she got married under a stolen ID, I don’t even know if a document signed under a false ID is valid.”

They turned to RJ for a legal opinion.  “Probably the marriage would be annulled or voided outright, which would void the pre-nup and leave her with no legal claim at all.  A smart lawyer might get some ‘go-away’ money, but it would depend on how vindictive Benson felt.  Technically, it would be like they were never married.  But there are some non-spousal rights laws, so she might have gotten something that way, just not much because she deceived him from the start and the ‘marriage’ was a short one –under 5 years.”

“It was the timing that bothered me.  It all kept coming back to the dance competition.  I think that’s where Raul and Alyssa ran into each other.  A dance competition.  But Raul/Ricky and Alyssa both wanted one thing – money.  If the pre-nup had a 5 year baseline for ANY settlement, then she had to stick it out till then.  She gave Raul some money to keep him quiet, that bought the home theater system and big screen TV, but she couldn’t get enough without her husband noticing.  There was only one other way.  Alex Benson had to die.”

“Why do you think Benson was suspicious of his wife?”, RJ asked.

“When Trey called and asked to speak with him, he promptly agreed.  Why would a busy, prominent TV exec agree to meet with a bunch of strangers about an accident that happened to woman he didn’t even know, unless he thought they also had some information that would help him?”

“Good point.  I was surprised when you said Benson agreed not only to meet you, but to do so the very same day.  In this place, that simply doesn’t happen.  I thought maybe you had Big Daddy make a call, but he has no interest in TV or movies at all, so I wasn’t certain what buttons he could push.”  RJ looked at the groundhog speculatively.  “You have a very twisty mind, you know that?  You’d be a good lawyer or investigator.”  She grinned.  Trey muttered, “Or a borderline psychopath.”

RF glared, “Do we need to have the whole body moving discussion again?”

Trey held his hands up in surrender, while Rupert said, “I liked that one.  I actually understood it.”  Trey sighed.

“So why harm your friend Carly?”

“I think she saw something, or in their paranoia, Raul and Alyssa thought she did.  Something that might make the police look too closely too soon.  So Raul kicked her, dropped her, but didn’t expect Carly to get so badly injured.  They wanted her away from the dance competition, not in a hospital.  Instead, she was badly hurt and she loudly claimed she was kicked and it was no accident.   Now a lot of unwanted police attention came down on the studio – and Raul.”

“So he ran, because unlike Alyssa, he hadn’t covered the tracks to his past.  I can see that, but why kill Benson?”

“Alyssa must have found out he agreed to see us.  Why were people asking to see her husband when she was the one at the studio when the ‘accident’ happened?  Maybe we found the link between her and Raul and were going to ask her husband about it, revealing the truth about her.  She and Raul were now both panicked.  Benson likely caught them when came home unexpectedly.  The police said the safe was opened and her jewelry was in her bag.  She’d emptied their joint account an hour before.  If he’d been five minutes later, he would be alive, but he was early, saw them, and whatever ever happened, probably Alyssa panicked again, and she shot him – possibly by accident, possibly because she was just mad her plans failed.  My money is on the second scenario.

“To make things worse, we were early too, and they were caught in the house with the body and the smoking gun.  I could smell gunpowder and blood and when I pushed the door and it hit the body, I knew they’d take a side or rear exit because they’d need the car that sat out front by ours.  Trey called the cops and they must have had a car close, or a silent alarm had them on the way, and they were coming up the driveway before she could shoot us too.”

The lawyer sat back and eyed her shrewdly.  “She would never have made that shot, would she?”

RF just shrugged.  Trey looked at her.  “I keep telling you not to turn people who annoy you into gerbils.”

“I wasn’t going to turn her into a gerbil.  Give me a little credit, will you?  Besides, waving a gun is a lot more dangerous than simply ‘annoying’.”

Eyes narrowed he asked, “What were you planning to change her into?”

She hesitated, then shrugged again.  “A warthog.”

All three men sat back and stared.  “A warthog?”  Rupert sounded dumbfounded.

“Well, have you ever tried to catch a gerbil that got loose outside?  Warthogs are too big and smelly to hide for long, so I figured it was the best choice.”

RJ started laughing again.  “No wonder Trent adores you.  You’re really smart, devious, cunning, crazy, and mean as a snake.  Damn.  This is the best dinner I’ve had in ages.  I’d offer you a job, but I know you have several already.”  He looked at Trey, “I don’t envy you being partners with her.  Bet she’s a handful.”

“You have no idea,” muttered Trey.

Then the lawyer turned to Rupert.  “Now I know the story you folks told and I know this gentleman you keep calling Rupert has a passport with a very different name, so you going to tell me who he really is?  And will the police catch any of this?”

“Rupert will be unreachable by any police.  Trust me on that. And Zaranthu Soulis is a real identity and the address is real too.  Rupert lives there on and off.”  Rupert himself remained silent.

“I really must ask,” the lawyer’s voice dropped and he leaned forward, “WHAT is Rupert really, because I’m betting he’s not really human.  Trent was kind of evasive about him when I asked.”  RF turned to Rupert, she nodded telling him the decision on whether or not he wanted to tell the lawyer was his.

Rupert looked at the human and said, “I’m a djinn.”

The lawyer blinked.  “You mean like the whole three wishes things?”

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” they all yelled at once.  “Jeeze, we have to stop telling humans the truth.  Someone will land in the seventh circle of hell wishing for a pony.”  RF looked a little frazzled.

Startled, the lawyer sat back.  “I guess asking for a wish is a one a one way ticket to somewhere unpleasant?”

“Pretty much.  If you’re lucky, you just die.”

“Ah, well then, I’ll just treat him like a mob hit man and all will be fine.”  He turned to Rupert, “You’re not offended by that, are you?”

Rupert gave him a big smile, RF and Trey sighed, “That would be just fine, thank-you.”  He turned to Trey and RF, “Finally someone who properly appreciates me.”

“Oh God, he’ll be insufferable for days.”

“Forget days, he’ll be bragging about this for millennium.”

RJ asked, “Millennium?”

“Djinn live a long, long time.”  RF didn’t sound thrilled.

“Fascinating.”  He turned to Rupert, genuine curiosity on his face.  “What is the earliest thing you recall?”

“Well, I didn’t interact with humans until I got older, and time passes differently where I’m from, but I remember the Trojan War.  It was really boring.   Does that help?”

The lawyer sat quietly, adsorbing the fact the insanely handsome man that was being stared at by males and females alike was around 3,000 years old.  And he wasn’t human.  And he was dangerous despite looking like the perfect, blond California surfer.

As if reading his mind, RF said, “If you think he’s handsome, you should see Lucifer.”  She paused, “But it might be the last thing you ever saw, so maybe that isn’t such a good idea.”

“You know, you three are the most interesting clients I’ve ever had, and that includes the woman with multiple personalities and the nymphomaniac that claimed it was the fault of a low fat diet and the guy who was convinced his dog was a demon.”  The lawyer stopped and stared at the studiously blank looks on their three faces.  “Was it a demon?”  He got three non-committal shrugs.  OK, he would have to reset his ‘normal’ meter.

“They’re closing the restaurant and you’ll want to see your friend tomorrow.  I’ll meet you at Vista Knolls with the Kimchee and the 1000 years eggs.  I don’t want to miss the fart contest.  Haven’t seen one of those since college.”

On the drive back to the house in LaJolla, Trey said, “You know RF, you kind of neatly evaded how you decided Raul and Alyssa knew each other.  And what did you do to the cops who caged you, because I know you did something.”

“Did I?”  She yawned widely.  Trey sensibly stuck with one bourbon, but she enjoyed the excellent red wine and was feeling sleepy.  Talking in a convertible traveling over 60 mph was difficult and even harder when RF wasn’t cooperating by using her ‘selective hearing’ trick.  By the time they hit the house, she was snoring like a boar hog with sinus problems.  His questions would have to wait till the morning.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To Be Continued …………………..

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