Monday, February 23, 2009


Chapter 10...

Chapter 10

Tig was squirming like a worm on a hook, and swinging his tiny fists in the direction of my junk, all the while spewing a string of nonsensical threats. Good thing I had him facing away from me. “Talk shrimp!” I directed. “Fuck you! You over developed sack of shit!,” Tig shouted in a squeaky voice tinged with fear. “Funny you should say shit,” I jerked both of my hands downward about six inches, driving Tig’s face very close to the world’s nastiest toilet. Still yelling, Tig stopped swinging his arms and grabbed the edge of the bowl, in an attempt to keep from getting a bath. I raised him up just enough so he couldn’t touch the bowl and tried again. “Liquor bottles with no tax stamps, talk.” Tig responded with a torrent of high pitched profanity and threats. I drove my hands downward again, harder, anticipating Tig would try to grab the bowl, which he did with one hand, but he missed with the other and I drove his head against the opposite side of the bowl with enough force to draw blood.

I was running out of time. The bathroom was a dead end, and although the goons and the bar hag were down, I was sure they would regroup and try to even the score. Again I raised him out of reach of the bowl. “Tig if you think Vance is gonna lose sleep over killing another dwarf, you’re wrong. Vance’ll stuff you right into that shitter and all the way back to the sewer you crawled out of. If you want to live, talk!” I punctuated the ‘talk’ with another jerk of my hands, this time Tig put his hands in the center of the bowl, and sank up to his little forearms into the swill. “Chill big man, chill,” Tig was seeing the light.

“Liquor.” I said as I again raised him above the bowl. “A guy comes in every week or so and drops it off.” “This guy a Samoan?” “Nah, a cracker.” “Cracker have a name?” I said lowering Tig a bit. “Pauly.” “Pauly the cracker? You think Vance is joking?” as I drove Tig down again. “Nah, nah, nah,” Tig yelled, I stopped and allowed him to grab the bowl. “No foolin’ the guy is Pauly.” “How does Vance find Pauly?” “I think he hangs at an old mine up north.” “Have to do better Tig?” “Sierra Minerals.” “Much better. Pauly have any friends?” “Sometimes.” “Black, brown, white, red, yellow what?” “Brown, white.” “You’ve been real good Tig, but if you want to live, you gotta play nice.”

Tig was muttering to himself as I backed out of the stall and walked to the sink. There was an old style endless towel dispenser on the wall, amazingly it had a towel, although one end was pulled loose. In one quick move I dropped Tig onto the floor face down, and drove the toe of my boot into the middle of his back and my leg across his waist. I let go of one foot and grabbed the towel. Tig protested and started kicking with his free foot. I was able to pull about twenty feet of cloth from the roll before the towel tore in two. I tied the end around one ankle then tied his feet together. I then raised him to his feet and instructed him to put his hands in his pants pockets. “This is…” I slammed his head into the wall “hands.” He had to pull is pants up, but he complied, and I ran the towel up his back and around his chest and stomach four times, pinning his arms to his torso. I tied the towel tight behind his back.

“This is torture asshole.” “Didn’t your mother teach you to wash your hands after you use the bathroom?” “Fuck you.”

I grabbed the collar of Tig’s little leather coat, raised him like a shield in front of me, and headed for the door. “Here is how this works, if Vance gets out of here in one piece, Tig gets out of here in one piece.” I paused, pulled the 1911 out of my pants and snagged the door handle using the barrel of the gun. I flipped the door open and yelled “do anything dumb and the runt gets it.” I took a breath and stepped into the bar, quickly scanning the room.

The door was about 30 feet away. Juan was still on the floor, and had dragged himself to the bar and was leaning against it. He started cursing loudly in Spanish and was pointing a .38 revolver with a six inch barrel at me.

Jose was behind the bar drying his face with a rag. When he heard Juan he grabbed the .50 cal and pointed it toward me, hand shaking and eyes blinking, trying to fight off the effects of the pepper facial.

Jose started cursing. Tig started screaming.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Chapter 9

Courtesy of Trashman.......

"I sure do. You remember that dive nudie bar on the East side of town?" I took another sip of my club soda and thought for a minute. "Do you mean Perkys?" "It used to be Perkys now it's called Saggys." Carol told me. " Some little black fella named Tig Biddys bought the place." What do you mean little? Short or skinny?" "I mean little as in midget. He also wears a patch over his eye." "Vance needs to know which eye. Vance doesn't want to talk to the wrong little one eyed black person." " Well Vinny it depends" "It's Vance and it depends on what?" "It depends on which eye he happens to put it over. He ain't blind. He just thinks it makes him more intimidating" "More? How intimidating can a little person be?" "Real intimidating when you have a pair of 6'5" Mexican bookends following you every where you go." "Vance thanks you for the info Carol. Now Vance has to go pay a visit to a certain Tig Biddys" "You're more than welcome Vic and you be sure to stop by again next time you're up this way. That is if you survive Saggys" 'Vance the name is Vance." "OK Vince."

I left the parking lot of Carols place headed East. I just needed to find a high end organic vegetable market first

I managed to find a what I was looking for in a little neighborhood that had been taken over by hipsters and yuppies. You could always count on these people to have places to buy strange inedible foods and good looking women. Lots of good looking women.

I grabbed one of those little baskets that you carry for small purchases and made my way to the vegetable section. I picked out a few Bhut Jolokia peppers. Also known as the hottest pepper in the world. From there I walked over to the ethnic foods section and got a jar of Dave's Insanity Sauce. Possible the hottest hot sauce in the universe. Then I picked up some coffee filters, bottled water, balloons, a bowl and a funnel. I had everything I needed.

I proceeded to the checkout with my goodies. I picked a lane with a hot little number at the cash register. After waiting an eternity I finally put my shit on the counter and looked into the cashiers eyes. She looked back at me and smiled. It would have been a pretty smile too if it wasn't for the fact she was missing her two front teeth. Oh well, Vance isn't always picky. I laid it on thick. "Hey pretty lady. Vance REALLY likes what he sees. In fact Vance might be persuaded to make a little time for you this weekend. Vance could clear his schedule, just for you. If you're real lucky Vance might let you slather his ass in peanut butter." The smile disappeared quickly. Vance was glad too, that gap was starting to annoy Vance. " "Let me tell you something Vance. I got my teeth knocked out eating pussy. I'm so good at it my bitch kicked me in the mouth during an orgasm. I like pussy. Pussy likes me. So unless you have a pussy, you might want to leave your schedule the way it is. Now will that be cash or charge?" I stood in stunned silence for a bit and wondered if I could convince her my dick was really a giant clit. "Cash. Vance always pays cash." I should have kept some more of that funny money.

I made my way to my car and popped the trunk. Vance had bombs to build. Pepper bombs. I've used pepper bombs before but this time I was dealing with Mexicans. Sometimes they build up a tolerance to the heat because they grow up in the pepper fields. That's why I picked the hottest stuff I could find. My mixture should stop a charging rhino. I stretched the balloons and in the bowl I mixed the peppers, sauce and water. I shoved the funnel into a balloon inserted a coffee filter into the funnel and poured some of the concoction into the first balloon. The tricky part is holding the funnel and pouring while stretching the balloon as far as you can. Since there's no pressure you need the stretch to get in as much as you can. The cheaper the balloon the better. After I managed to get the balloons filled I put them in a backpack I had in the trunk and headed for Saggys.

I really hated going into Saggys on the offensive but a sometimes one eyed midget with a couple of Mexican bodyguards wasn't going to give up the 411 without some persuading.

Carol was right about calling Saggys a dive bar. I bet you could see day light through the bullet holes.

I saddled up to the bar and ordered a club soda from the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I turned around and faced the pole and changed my mind the dancer was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I wasn't there for more than 45 seconds before Tig Biddys showed himself. He was flanked by twin Mexican mountains and they were headed right at me. I set my drink down and reached into my backpack and readied myself. Tig spoke first. "I hear youse is looking for me." Someone from Carols must have called and tipped him off. "Well my friend you would be misinformed. Vance isn't looking for anyone. Vance is here to watch the pretty ladies on the pole." This only pissed the little guy off. "Vance? Your name is Vance? As in Vance Manion the personal trainer and private dick?" "The one and only." "Well private dick, kiss your balls goodbye." That was the signal. The Mexicans made their move and I was ready. I yanked two of the balloons out of the backpack and smashed them both in the face. Tweedle Jose went down screaming and clawing at his face. Tweedle Juan stood there, wiped his eyes, smiled and said "Is that all you got Puto." I shrugged and kicked him in both knees rapidly breaking them. He went down like a busted pinata. I spun around, grabbed my drink and slapped the ugly bartender in the face with it. Vance doesn't normally hit women but she was bringing up a .50 caliber Desert Eagle and Vance doesn't like getting shot either.

Now it was me, Tig and one nasty dancer. The dancer turned and ran. Tig tried to run but I grabbed him by the collar and carried him into the mens room. I kicked open a stall door. The toilet was running over and full of a weeks worth of shit. I took Tig by the ankles and held him over the toilet. "Alright Tig start talking."

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Chapter 8

**I don't think any of you understand "Viral story"... Little help here?**

Chapter 8

"Hello, housekeeping. Are you ok?" I opened my eyes and saw a woman standing over me. My jaw was throbbing, I felt like I might throw up. I laid my head back and steadied my breathing. "Are you ok, do you need a doctor?" "No, Vance is ok," I mumbled. I reached up, touched the left side of my jaw and winced. I checked my teeth with my tongue, one was loose and I could taste blood. I could feel my 1911 in the small of my back, my wallet was still there too.

The maid helped me to my feet and said, "if you are ok, I'll come back later." "Sure." She closed the door as I walked into the bathroom. I turned on the water and splashed some on my face. I took a drink of water, rinsed, spat, repeated.

I found a towel, and dried my face as I walked into the room. I had been close, but now I had lost my advantage - the brother knew someone was looking for him, and knew what I looked like. Well, as long as I was here I might as well look for clues.

The room had two queen beds, a couple chairs a small table, along with a television and sort-of desk. There was even a small refrigerator. I opened it. Damn, no mini bar. I was hoping whoever slugged me was going to buy me a drink.

The room was nice, mostly because it was new. The bed by the window had been slept in. The other was untouched. There was no luggage. The only thing in the trashcan was a water bottle.

I checked the bathroom, nothing there either. This guy left me nothing - well, except my life. I stared into the mirror, "Vance, you got lucky today. Take it for what it is." I checked my pockets, my car keys were there too. My jaw was discolored, and slightly swollen. I grabbed a hand towel and walked out of the bathroom, stepping on the dry cleaning as I left.

Out in the hall I looked right, then left. About 40 feet down the hall and across were the ice and vending machines. I stuck the towel under the dispenser of the ice machine and pushed the button. A pile of ice fell on the towel, I picked it up, dumping half on the floor twisted the towel into an ice pack, and pressed it against my jaw.

My head was pounding like a drum line as I rode the elevator to the first floor. I walked through the lobby and outside. Betsy was right where I left her. “Very, very lucky Vance.” I got in, put the key in the ignition and just sat there. This guy made sure he left no clues, and other than clocking me, did nothing to harm me. He didn't care that I was after him didn't respect me. "That's your second mistake asshole." Still, I had hit a dead end. He wouldn't come back to this hotel, and is probably out of town - for good. So where did he go? Would he go after Mike? Would he just disappear?

By now it was late morning and I was starving. I drove to an organic market that has a café attached. Their food is good, low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and complex carbs. I went inside and sat in a booth off to the side. There were only five other people in the café, plus the waitress, a waifish hippie girl with mouse brown hair and no makeup.

She handed me a menu and told me what the lunch specials were, I chose the one with meat instead tofu, and the house blend of herb tea. Maybe some weed in this crap would ease my headache.

As I sat there I planned my next move. The lady at the Chinese laundry had recognized Mathisu’s clothes and connected them with someone else, and even said one of them was a good customer. Unless she was nuts, both brothers had been there before. And since they were staying in a hotel, probably neither lived in Reno. So why come back here after the hit? Surely the cops were watching Mathisu’s credit cards, nobody with any smarts would use them, so who paid for last night’s room? There was something here in Reno, but what? This is where a real private eye makes his living, seeing the clues when there is nothing in sight.

I climbed into Betsy and just sat. The Chinese laundry lead was cold. The hotel lead was cold. The gym lead is a long shot at best. That just left the contraband liquor angle. This one actually had a chance of paying off. It was an established long-term scam that probably had dozens of “accounts” like Mike scattered all over.

Which gave me an idea.

I finished my lunch and left. As I walked out I remembered I needed to take Mike some real food.

Several years ago I met a woman who ran a dive on the north edge of Reno. The best thing about dive bars is; once a dive bar, always a dive bar. The only thing a dive bar changes into is a bait shop. In fact some of the best bait shops were once dive bars.

I found the place I was looking for. The second best thing about a dive bar is it always looks the same, or at least never looks better. Even a fresh coat of paint only makes it look worse. I walked inside, relieved it hadn’t been repainted. Carol was behind the bar, as expected.

Carol is a loud gregarious woman, who really works a room. She trys to make sure nobody leaves her bar a stranger, that’s just her personality.

Carol is over 50 and is not attractive. Her face could be the before picture for a revitalizing skin cream commercial. Her teeth are crooked and yellow from a lifetime of Camel unfiltereds. Her hair – forget it. Carol loudly proclaims she is a bye-bye-sexual. She has sex with someone and then says bye-bye. She has a great sense of humor and a ton of loyal regular customers. She carries a small hand gun in her bra.

I walked in and sat at the bar. The bar was busy for early afternoon on a Friday. Carol walked down to me as soon as she got a chance. “Afternoon. We’ve met haven’t we?” “Yeah, some time back. Vance is a friend of George’s.” “George, right. How is he?” “You know George, going strong same as always.” “George is like a force of nature isn’t he? You’re Vinny, right?” “Vance.” “That’s right, Vance the detective. What brings you here?” “Business. The bar has been here a long time. Have you ever heard of anyone selling liquor with no tax stamps?” Carol, paused as someone down the bar called to her. “Excuse me,” she said “oh, do you want something to drink?” “Club soda.” She hurried off, returning a couple minutes later with my drink. She stood directly in front of me, paused and said “many years ago a guy came in here and pitched that deal to me.” “Did you take it?” “No, this business has more than its share of people looking over your shoulder. I decided it was trouble I didn’t need.”

She had a point, bars have all sorts of official agencies crawling up their ass. Mike was very lucky to make it this long without getting caught.

“Did anyone ever approach you again?” “Not that I recall.” “Any chance the salesman was a Samoan?” “I don’t think so, I don’t remember.” “Ok, let Vance ask this. Have you ever seen two Samoan guys here in town? One very big and dresses nice, the other smaller and probably not as classy. They may not run together.” “I get a lot of people in her Vance. Sorry.” She walked off to tend her other customers. I sipped my club soda.

Carol returned several minutes later. “Carol, do you know of any bars around here that might have taken that offer?” …

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Chapter 7

Chapter 7

I awoke early, having hardly slept at all. Partly because it was Friday, and 5 AM Charlie was particularly noisy this morning. Mike's visit the night before had energized me. The offer he made was truly too good to pass up, or was it too good to be true. Could I trust Mike? If Mike was telling the truth I knew who the killer was, but Mike had no clues to help find him.

I showered and dressed. How was I going to find this guy? As I put my wallet in my pocket, I remembered the laundry ticket. I took it out . It was for a Chinese laundry in Reno. Not much to go on. I wondered if there was anything in the gym bag I had missed. I walked to the front window where I had dumped the contents the last night. I carefully inspected each item. Shoes, socks, shirts, pants, shorts - something fell to the floor. It was a key card from Virgin Suites. I've never been to a Virgin Suites, maybe I can break cherry there. After I stopped laughing, I remembered it was one of Sir Richard Branson's business ventures, and there was one in Reno. Laundry in Reno, liquor from Reno, hotel in Reno, Vance Manion is headed to Reno.

I threw on my jacket and tucked my Colt 1911 in my waistband. I ran outside, fired up Betsy, threw her in drive and headed toward Reno. Betsy leaped onto the highway like a race horse that wanted to run. Her big V8 growled, she was in fine voice today.

As I drove I reconstructed the time line. Monday Tonongo was in Reno and drops some clothes at a cleaner. Tuesday he takes a puddle jumper to Stagnant Falls. Why did he fly? Why not drive, or with all the cash he had, hire a car? Wednesday night he gets shot in a bar. Thursday he is the talk of the town, but can't get his name in the paper. Friday Vance Manion is on the case. Saturday - Saturday, case closed, and Vance owns his own house/gas station.

I thought back to the body lying in the bar. He was so big, but Mike said the shooter was smaller. Mike indicated he and the dead man were tight, but for safety’s sake, had kept their lives separate. He wasn’t even sure what town Mathisu lived in. His drivers license said Sacramento. I wondered if the license was real, even though it did have his real name on it. Mike knew almost nothing about Haponte, not why he was in the bar that night, or why he would shoot his own brother. How was Big City involved? And what about the second body Watts mentioned? Was that death related to the corpse in the bar? Was that the brother? Had someone already covered their tracks? This case has more loose ends than a San Francisco bathhouse. I better not drop the soap.

Traffic was light and the trip didn't take long, if I was lucky I could get to the hotel before check out time and get a solid lead.

I recognized the street on the laundry ticket, found the shop with little trouble, and parked at the curb. The laundry was in a nice, yet unobtrusive building not far from some of the bigger hotels. Bells tinkled as I opened the door. A small oriental woman scurried through a doorway and beat me to the counter. "My friend asked Vance to pick up his cleaning," I said as I handed her the ticket. "Yes, yes," she said as she hurried into the back. She returned with two dress shirts and a pair of pants bagged and on hangers. She looked at a slip of paper, and said "eightee fitty prease." Her accent was amusing. As I reached into my wallet she said "wood da uder gendremun rike his raundree arso?" "Other gentleman, sure but Vance doesn't have his ticket," I replied. "Das ok, he good custemer," as she turned and disappeared. She returned with just a suit jacket, looked at a second piece of paper, and said, "twenty six dorra." I took the money from my wallet. The stiff and his brother owe me six bone. She handed me my change and said "you terr dem I say herro." "Vance'll do that," I lifted the clothes, turned and left.

Now for the hotel. Virgin Suites was new but I was sure it was near the big casino, which was a twenty minute drive away. Once there I cruised the streets eyes scanning for the hotel. Fifteen minutes of cruising, thirty - nothing. I wish one of my clients would offer me a GPS thingamabob as payment. Didn't I just drive down this street? I turned the corner and in frustration, down shifted and punched Betsy's accelerator. I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye and stabbed the brakes. Bingo! Virgins Suites.

I backed up and steered Betsy to a parking place. I took the shirts and pants and walked toward the front entrance. I had an advantage over the killer - he didn't know who I was, or what I looked like or that I was looking for him. I knew he looked like the dead guy, only smaller and alive. Advantage Vance! Inside I walked to the front desk.

The desk clerk was a petite woman of about twenty. She had black hair, olive skin and did she? Yes, green eyes. "Vance hasn't seen an Italian woman as lovely as you since Jersey." "Excuse me," she looked up, slightly puzzled. "What time does your shift end?" "What can I do for you?" she asked, her fog clearing. "You can take Vance upstairs and deflower him." "I don't think so. Why are you here?" She was hot, and if I wasn't on a case I'd put in the time, but right now, the Samoan was more important. "Vance has some cleaning for Mr. Tonongo." "Of course, I'll take that for you," she said reaching for the clothes. "No, he prepaid and we over charged him. Which room is he in?" The clerk hesitated and turned to her computer. "Mr. Tonongo is in room 237." "Thanks toots, it's been a pleasure." She turned away, but I knew she would remember Vance Manion.

I took the elevator to the second floor, and found my way to room 237. I made sure my gun was positioned where I could grab it quickly, and knocked on the door. I knocked again. No response. I took the key card out of my pocket and slipped it into the slot, and removed it. The light lit green. I turned the lever and cautiously opened the door. That's the last thing I remember.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Chapter 6

* I wrote this one. With a lot of help from Tis*

Chapter 6

I lay back on my bed watching the ceiling fan slowly turn. As the day replayed through my mind I wondered about the facts. Who killed the Samoan, where did he come from, why wasn’t anyone coming forward to claim the hit or see the hitter? I was also wondering if I would ever get my own underwear back from that dame.

I had very little go on, a bar full of blind, mute people, 5 slugs, 4 of which are in the dead islander, and my ability to scam 40 bucks of “counterfeit” cash to cover my supplement order down at GNC. Like I said not much to go on.

The more I thought about the scene at the bar as well as the slugs. Watts called it a 7.65mm, which was strange to me, most cops would have just called it by its American equivalent a .32 caliber. Why would he make that distinction so early in the investigation? He had no ballistics test to go off of, he just blurted it out.

I needed to think and I couldn’t do it laying on my back. I think best while moving large stacks of iron.

I slipped my shoes back on grabbed some shorts and headed out to the dead lift platform. I stacked 225 on for a quick set of warm ups before I got started with the serious thinking. Loose and ready, I racked 315lbs and stepped into place. As I was settling my straps on my grip, and just as the weights left the floor there was a pounding on my door.

At 11:00pm I generally don’t get many visitors, especially out in the industrial park. I let go of the bar, walked over to the wall lockers I had found when they remodeled the high school, opened the first locker and fit my hand around my “home security device”. It was my grand pappy’s scatter gun modified to suit my current needs, besides nothing says “go away” like looking down the twin barrels of a 9 inch 12 gauge.

I swing the door open and start to give my standard late night greeting “What the fuck do you want?” When I recognize my visitor.

“Mike..what the fu…”

“I don’t have time for small talk Vance” Mike replied “ and get that canon outta my face”.

I lowered the sawed off shotgun and stepped aside allowing Mike to walk past. As I shut the door, I noticed that there was no car outside and quickly wondered “how the hell did he get here?”

I turned and noticed that Mike was dripping with sweat and vaguely out of breath. I walked over to the fridge and grabbed two bottles of water. I handed him one, he mumbled his thanks, and drained it in one fluid motion.

He let out a sigh, a quick gasp and said” I’m in deep shit Vance”

“Not for nothing Mike but Vance didn’t figure this for a social call! The only people who show up in the middle of the night, sweaty and excited to see Vance aren’t guys. So what’s on your mind?”

“That Samoan was looking for ‘Big City’ ”

“Big City?”..Shit. ‘Big City’ AKA Lou Smades, he is the most well known man in town. Not only was he the local drug kingpin, he was also an Alderman with political aspirations.

It was like Ice-T said “Real Gangsters wear trench coats, wear black suits, black ties and seek votes”. Big City was about as Gangster as you could get and I only knew one thing.

No one was paying me to get this involved with some goon of a public servant.

“Sorry Mike, Vance has no idea what you think Vance can do for you, but Vance isn’t one to step in front of that train for anyone.”

“I can pay” Mike Said.

“Vance is listening” I replied.

“How would you like to be a home owner?”
That got my attention. So I ask Mike, “What do you mean home owner?”

“Just what I said Vance…How would you like to own your home / business?”

“Whose home?”

“This one – the gas station.”

Just like that my plans were now almost a reality. The thought of being able to fix up the gas station, get some Russian kettlebells and get that new compact 16 shot 9mm…then it hit me.

“How the hell can you make Vance a home owner?”

“That old man that has let you live here rent free for the last 10 years was my Pops”

I hadn’t put two and two together before now and suddenly the timeline started to mesh. It was 10 years ago when Mike got out and showed up to “own” his bar, and that was about the time that I met his “Pops” and took over living in the station.

“Let Vance ask a couple of questions before we get to the ‘take it or I die’ part of this convo. First, what did you tell the cops?, and second why did you come here?”

Mike replied “What could I tell’em Vance? I told them the truth. This big guy, the Samoan was sitting there nursing a beer and all of a sudden this smaller version of the Samoan walks up outta nowhere, I swear it was like he materialized outta thin air, and the next thing I know he got this little gun in his fist and the Samoan falls off the stool, he then casually walks up and pumps 3 more slugs into the guys chest and walks out the back door, I think it was a professional job.”

“Sounds like it”

“That ain’t the half of it that little gun, had a silencer on it, which I take to mean he planned on this mess”

That would explain why I didn’t hear any more shots, but not the one I did hear… “So if his gun was quiet, who did Vance hear shoot?”

“That I don’t know, it happened out in the ally… at least that is where it sounded like it came from”

So what brings you here? I mean it sounds like a pretty cut and dry case of ‘you’re alive, I want you dead…BANG’ how are you mixed up in a hit, and a big one at that? Vance means, it was a public snuff, and now you’re at my place wanting Vance to find the ‘mini Samo’, and someway protect you?”

“I knew Tonongo from the joint. He is the reason I have my bar.” Mike said sheepishly. “We were roomies for the last 3 years I was in, well 2 years, he got out a year before I did, with a promise that I would look him up when I got out. He gave me a number in Reno to call the minute I was a free man and he’d take care of me.”

“What the hell did you do to make friends with an animal like that?” I asked.

“Simple really, when he got thrown into my house on a simple 3-5 B&E, he was green, so I took him in and showed him the ropes…it was nothing really, just kept the Aryan brotherhood off of him and out of the way of the Mexicans”.

This did add a new piece to the puzzle but still didn’t answer my questions.

“Why does any of this mean you are in deep shit?”

“Look Vance, I shouldn’t even be here telling you this much, I know you have noticed how my alcohol bottles seem to be missing the tax stamp, every week I called Mathisu, gave him my order, and every week a truck would show up. Just like that. I paid for everything I got, full price! So my books were right in case anyone noticed, and every month a courier would stop off right before we opened and hand me an envelope…a kick back from the full price booze I was buying.”

“So let Vance get this right, you did time with the bigger Samoan, when you get out he sets you up in a bar, you order all of your booze from him, sans tax stamp, you pay retail for the booze, and you get a kick back every month from the difference?”

“Yeah pretty much.”

“So why is Tonongo here and dead on your floor” I asked.

“Well it is weird, Tonongo never came here, he was always too scared that someone would recognize him, or that somehow the bar and the booze would put him and his people at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

I start to get the feeling that I knew where this was headed. Tonongo was stealing from some very powerful people.

As I stood there wondering how I could help Mike, where I could stash him and cursing the fact that I didn’t take more money out of Tonongo’s wallet I heard a mumble…then a shout!

“HEY! Don’t think too long Vance, I ain’t got much time left” Mike said snapping me out of my trance.

“Ok Mike, Vance knows what you’re willing to pay me what is Vance going to have to do to get it?”

“Keep me alive and find the Samoan’s brother Haponte, he is your shooter”.

“Ok, First thing we need to do is get you outta town for a few days…There is a cabin Vance has free run of, thanks to a little lady who can’t keep her hands off Vance. Head down to Topaz Lake and lay low for a couple of days. Do you have someone to cover the bar shifts?”

“Yeah the bar practically runs itself, I’ll call Tom and tell him I went fishing.”

If Mike was this scared he better not go back to his place, or the bar. I told Mike to make whatever calls he needed to and then take the battery out of his phone, and only use it if he absolutely had to. I went outside and got the bag from the airport, and went back inside. I threw some power bars and a few bottles of vitamin water in the bag, along with a change of clothes, a bar of soap and a towel.

I told Mike how to get to the cabin and to stay there until he heard from me. I asked him more questions about the dead Samoan, but he didn’t know much. The arrangement between the two business partners was very compartmentalized, smart.

I shook Mike’s hand as he left, and I assured him I would fix this pronto, “don’t worry Mike, I’m Vance Manion private eye and personal strength coach.” I shouted as he disappeared into the darkness.

If I was having trouble sleeping before Mike knocked on my door, it was almost impossible now. I went back into the gym and lifted while I tried to figure out how I was going to crack this one.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Chapter 5

Chapter 5

After Mrs. Carlisle left I realized I hadn’t eaten in about a day. I headed for one of my favorite diners, which just happened to be next to the airport. Outside I bought the morning paper, went inside and sat at the counter.

The waitress, Cecilia, came over, smiling as always. “Heard you were at the Come and Get It last night.” “So were a lot of other people Cee.” Who was the dead guy?” “Nobody knows for sure, just a great big guy from California.” “Yeah, yeah I seen him,” said somebody down the counter.

It was Big Jimmy. Jimmy was in his early 20’s, not retarded, but close, who worked as the janitor/odd jobs guy at the airport. He was self-sufficient and had no family anybody knew about. Jimmy wasn’t big, less than six feet tall and slight of build, but that was the name he picked for himself so that is what everyone called him.

Jimmy was very friendly and easily chatted up strangers. That was one of the things he liked about working at the airport, he got to meet lots of people, plus he was fascinated by airplanes. He couldn’t multiply seven and seven, but he knew every plane that landed at the airport, and never forgot a face.

“What was that Big Jimmy?” “I seen him the other day,” he said. “What day?” “Two, yeah two days ago.” “At the airport?” “Yeah.” “Did he fly in?” “Yeah.” “Was he alone?” “Yeah.” “Did he take a cab?” “Yeah.” “Do you know where to?” “No.” “Did you talk to him?” “”Yeah. I said he was bigger than anyone I had ever seen. He said his little sister was bigger than him.” “Is that all Jimmy?” “Well, I asked if he wanted help with his bags and he said ‘sure.’ He gave me ten bucks too.” Jimmy wasn’t too dumb, he spotted a well dressed guy and made a quick ten bucks. The kid is probably as rich as the Queen of England.

“What you askin’ about him for Vance?” “Somebody shot him last night, Jimmy.” “Is he ok?” “No.” “If he’s hurt he might want his other bag.” “What other bag?” “The one in the locker.” “Do you remember which locker it was Jimmy?” “Yeah, I think so.” “Could you show Vance?” “Yeah.” “Good, after Vance eats, ok?” “Ok.”

Cecilia looked at me a little wide eyed, I looked back. “What’ll it be Vance?” “Turkey club, 86 the mayo, substitute steamed vegetables for the fries, and peach yogurt for desert.” “Turkey club? I didn’t know bread and bacon were on your diet.” “Vance’s cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI are all low, and his you-know-what is very high,” I said with a sly smile. “You’re just afraid if you put on weight nobody will sleep with you.” “You’re jealous because Vance prefers women who fake their orgasams.” “Dream on honey,” she said laughing as she walked away. Cecilia has a nice enough face but her body looks like a couple of bobcats tied in a gunny sack clawing to get out. I nailed her sister once though.

I read the paper, not a word about the murder, either one. Not too surprising considering this rag. This murder was interesting, but there were a lot of gaps to fill. Where did this guy fly in from and where did he spend that first night? Why would he leave a bag in an airport locker? Finally, what was he doing in this town?

I finished my meal and talked to Cecilia for a while before Jimmy and I went next door to the airport.

When we got to the airport, Jimmy and I stopped at the ticket counter for Death Valley Air before going to the locker. Sue was working.

“Hi Sue.” “Howdy Vance,” she replied in her sultry Texas drawl. “Can you check something for Vance, Sue?” “Sure honey, whaddya need?” “Vance wants to know what flight a guy came in on.” “Sure, where did he come from?” “Probably Reno on Tuesday.” “We’ve got three flights a day from Reno. One at seven AM, one PM and eight PM, which one?” “Vance isn’t even sure this is the right airline. Big Jimmy, what time of day was it when you saw this guy?” “Well, I dunno.” “Was it early morning, afternoon, or at night?” “I think it was afternoon.” “Try one o’clock Sue.” She tapped at her keyboard. “Ok, what’s his name” “M-a-t-h-i-s-u T-o-n-o-n-g-o.” I spelled. She raised her eyebrows as she stared at the screen. “Yep, here he is, one o’clock flight, got on at Reno. Had another seat reserved, but the second ticket wasn’t used.” “Anything else you can tell Vance?” “The reservation was made through just six days ago.” Shatner! The pool of suspects was growing. “You’re a doll, Sue.” “Any time sugar.” “Bye Sue,” peeped Jimmy. “Bye sweetie,” smiled Sue. Jimmy stared.

“Ok Jimmy, show Vance that locker.” As we walked down the terminal, I pondered what might be in the bag, but couldn’t think of anything likely. I only hoped the locker wasn’t empty. Most places empty the lockers every few days or at least have dogs sniff them for drugs or explosives. Thankfully, nobody around here really worries about that stuff, so it is rarely ever done. I was still thinking when Jimmy spoke. “Hey Vance, can I go with you to take this man his bag? He was awful nice and I want to say ‘hi’” “Sorry Jimmy, he’s dead.” “Dead.” “That’s right.” “Why would somebody kill him Vance?” Jimmy asked. “Vance doesn’t know why Jimmy.” “Are you gonna catch ‘em?” “That’s detective Watts’ job, not Vance’s”

“Oh, here it is, I think anyway,” Jimmy said. “Now how do we get it open?” I thought aloud. “I can do it,” Jimmy said as he pulled something from his pocket and stuck it quickly into the lock. The door came open almost instantly. “Where did you learn that?” “I can’t tell. I promised I wouldn’t.” I looked at Jimmy cautiously as he reached in the locker and pulled out a bag.

It was a large well-made gym bag of real leather. It had no brand name, initials or other identification. I opened it. It contained nothing resembling a clue. There was a small book of poems, very contemporary, abstract stuff. A pair of size 16 Italian wingtips, two pair of socks, a pair of huge khaki shorts, a very nice Hawaiian shirt, a pair of thongs and a brown paper sack containing a collection of cheap souvenirs from Nevada – key chains, shot glasses and post cards. There was also a large object – wrapped in tissue paper. I removed the tissue paper to find a wooden, hand carved and painted marlin, about a foot long. Jimmy gasped, “wow Vance, how cool.” “You sure got a way with words Jimmy.” “I never seen anything so neat before. Can I have it?” “It’s yours,” I said. And why not, there was nothing in this bag that meant a hoot to the case, the cops didn’t know about it and the owner was dead. “But you can’t tell anyone about the locker, the bag or the fish. Got it?” I warned. “Sure Vance, thanks Vance. I’ll never tell anyone.” Jimmy turned and walked off not taking his eyes off the fish. “Thanks for your help Big Jimmy, you take care.” “Yeah,” Jimmy replied, not really paying attention.