One Hell of a case..or “The Devil made me do it”

(I suppose this departure from my growing up with stewed tomatoes stories deserves an explanation, here goes: About twenty years ago I began this detective story and did not finish, this is my attempt to do so.)

“I read your story and knew if anyone would believe me…” As soon as she said that my worst fears about “blogging” Anne’s ghost story had been realized. Those fears being that every nut-job, every little old lady that hears something go bump in the night, every dressed in black-wack with a Ouiji board would be knocking on my (our) door.

Although Danielle Webster was no old lady and didn’t dress in black but after a hearing her story she was definitely in the run for nut-job of the month ( & year & decade for that matter)

Just in case you haven’t read of my (our) previous exploits…My name is Mike Beir, small town private eye, who until recently lived and worked quietly, that all changed when I met the person who would become my partner/lover/housemate Anne Stein. As I alluded to earlier, Anne and I met when she hired me to find out who was haunting one of her apartment houses (she has two). If that sounds strange, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Part One: As I look back at my desk calendar it all began on May 13th, a Friday. While I’d never been much of a triscadecaphobic, I’ve been reconsidering that attitude ever since. Most of New England had been experiencing a rather bizarre little heat wave. Temps had been over ninety for the third day in a row. Records were being set for humidity levels and as the golf attired, 40-ish Ms. Webster stepped into my private office, my personal record for trying not to laugh during an interview far surpassed it’s previous level.

Ms. Webster was nearly my height (5’9 1/2″) large boned, yet not heavy. Long blonde hair pulled back into a pony tail, which may have been dyed and brown eyes. The eyes took in the surroundings and she asked for a glass of water from the cooler. After downing two little paper cups of H2O I offered her a chair. A knock on my private door preceded Anne’s entrance, Anne sat on my nap couch, while Ms. Webster took a chair. “I hope you don’t mind if my assistant takes notes” “Of course not and my situation will most likely require both of your services…and perhaps more” “And what sort of situation would that be”?

“First I’d like to preface this interview by saying that I am an attorney, currently working for a New York law firm..” “Is that city or state”? Anne interrupted, adding “For my notes”. “City and I’d rather not mention the firms name, partly because I’m on extended leave following my divorce from one of the senior partners”…”and the other partly” I interjected. “I was getting to that” she said with a school-marmish look that implied that I’d be clapping erasers after school for a week if I did it again. Ms. Webster cleared her throat and continued. “And partly because…well to be quite honest, what I’m about to tell you defies belief”. (I hate when former potential clients say things like that)

The rooms air quality which because of the unusually warm weather wasn’t all that great to begin with suddenly (and I mean SUDDENLY) took on a stifling effect. I wondered if it was just me, then I exchanged a quick look with Anne, whose face was red and moist. Getting up from the desk chair I urged Ms. Webster to continue while I turned on the AC. “It won’t help” Stated Ms. Webster, adding “it probably won’t even work”. Of course I ignored this comment and proceeded to click on the central AC. Only there was no “click” and no AC. “It worked yesterday” I said behind a furrowed brow and suspicious side-ways glances in both directions. “Maybe the Super is working on it” Anne added none to convincingly. I returned to my desk, called the Super and was told that the AC was malfunctioning and would be back up ASAP. I hung up, mopped sweat from my face and asked Ms. Webster to continue, while mentally preparing myself for whatever nonsense I was about to hear. What would it be? Visitors from outer space? Vampires. werewolves, zombies? What the hell, I could use a good laugh.

“As I’ve said, after my divorce I decided to take a long vacation. I’d been putting in 80 to 100 hour weeks for a decade and have enough money to take the next ten years off if I wanted, maybe longer” Her last sentence restored my full attention, nonsense it may be but if she could pay, I could make sense of her non.

“After viewing many websites, I decided to begin my Odyssey, if you will, in Death Valley. There’s an Inn & golf course, and although I went to college on a golf scholarship, my schedule hadn’t permitted more than 3 or 4 rounds a year, if that”. (My God, how can people live like that !!) I booked a suite for two weeks and off I went.”

Ms. Webster seemed overly hesitant to continue. I mentioned this and suggested that perhaps she would like to take the weekend to think over her options before hiring a P.I. Actually, even before she mentioned golf, I was thinking of taking the afternoon off and playing a round. One good thing about Anne’s “blogging” of my cases is that enough people actually read the “blog” to attract advertisers, who actually pay us money (sadly not enough to quit having to deal with clients and retire) just enough to be able to afford the fancy-schmancy course that opened recently in a near-by town ($95.00, cart extra).

“No. Once I decide on a course of action, I pursue it to it’s conclusion.” Ms. Webster took a deep breath and continued.

“I’d been enjoying the quiet of Death Valley for the first several days , I swam in the naturally heated pool, played golf every day, availed myself of the Inn’s Spa facilities. It was exactly what I’d been looking for, rest, relaxation, decent food and solitude. As you might be able to guess, there isn’t that much to do in Death Valley, which suited me just fine. That is until the beginning of the second week”. My mind was beginning to wonder, I’d never been much for friends and family inviting me over to hear about their vacations. The way this was going I wouldn’t be surprised if she whipped out her phone, swiped at it for 5 minutes, finally finding the proper set of photos that no one wants to see.

“It was a Tuesday afternoon and I was enjoying a cocktail on the terrace when a bright red 1950’s T-bird convertible pulled up to the Inn. There were two men in the front, both dressed in black suits, red shirts, no ties, no one in the back. The car was met bu the valets, who must have summoned help because two other hotel employees and the manager nearly ran to greet the new arrivals. I supposed it was some sort of celebrity and not being a wide-eyed, giggling teenager I paid them no more attention and went back to the book I was reading. It wasn’t until they passed by on their way to the lobby that I took a second look. The driver looked vaguely familiar, tall, thin, short brown hair, mustache & goatee, reminded me of Denis Leary. The other man I immediately recognized as Jay Stone!!

I guess this is where I was supposed to say something like “THE Jay Stone?” But the name meant nothing to me, although it meant something to Anne because she DID say “THE Jay Stone?” Anne then looked at me as if I should be beaming with recognition but all I could do was shrug. This in turn produced Anne’s patented “look”, which meant she thought I was being obtuse (an obtuse ass, was what I was thinking) In case the shrug wasn’t enough to show my ignorance I added “sorry” with another shrug for good measure.

The two female members of our sweaty little threesome exchanged an exasperated look and silently decided Anne would be the one to enlighten me as to who “THE Jay Stone” was.

“Jay Stone started out as a radio show host at a station somewhere in New England if I remember correctly” “W*** in New Cannon” Advised our hopefully potentially NOT a client. “I used to listen to him, at first that is. Where he was once funny, witty and charming be became sarcastic, rude and almost cruel. Apparently it worked because he became syndicated, eventually covering most of the country.” (Sounded like Howard Stern, someone I actually listened to briefly 20 or so years ago, eventually it became boring, I mean, how long can one listen to the same old blah-blah-blah? Aren’t people supposed to grow, mature with at least the potential of becoming adult-like? Ut-oh, am I actually thinking of myself as an adult? Should I re-release my inner 12 year old and listen to Howard again? On second thought, I’ll watch 10 minutes of a Jerry Lewis movie and be glad I grew up, sort of)

“Just when he seemed ready to take on the big boys of radio talk shows, he quit and of all things, goes into politics”. Anne continued. First running for and winning a seat in the House, where he served two terms. Again his star was rising, to the point where the Democratic nominee for President asked him to be his running mate. Then at what was supposed to be his acceptance speech, Stone not only stunned everyone by refusing the offer but ended the night and his political career by comparing career politicians to career criminals”. Now I remembered the guy and said so adding. “So, THE Jay Stone shows up in Death Valley in a red T-Bird, I’m guessing there’s more to it than that” And of course there was.

“Yes, of course. What your colleague, may I call you Anne?” Of course Anne consented, whereas Ms. Webster said “and call me Dannie” She even spelled it for Anne. Me? I wasn’t sure if I was included in this new found familiarity. “What Anne and you also Mr. Beir (I wasn’t) don’t know is that I went to High School with Jay. We were in the Theatre group together and even had an intense if brief love affair…” “Love affair or adolescent back seat humbling”?” I just had to ask, not that it had anything to do with the case (whatever the case may be) I just felt like being obnoxious, I mean just- gathering-the-facts-mam.

“No Mr. Beir, it was strictly an affair of the heart and I’m afraid I broke his.” She said it earnestly and with a touch of sadness, I envisioned her starting to cry, Anne would hug her and we’d all sing Kumbaya. Fortunately that didn’t happen as “Dannie” kept it together and continued. “It didn’t work out, I won’t get into details. I went off to college, he didn’t. We’d bump into each other from time to time, even went on a couple of dates in our twenties, but it wasn’t there for me any longer. It was different for Jay, I was the love of his life and (small sniff) I broke his heart again”. This was followed by a bigger sniff , still no tears as she went on. “Which is why I fell somewhat guilty, no, not guilty, responsible for what happened.” “OK.” I said, hoping she’d Get. To. The. Point. “I’ll bite, what exactly happened and what would you like us to do?”

“It seems he sold his soul to the devil for ten years of unlimited success in any and all endeavors, after which he has to play golf dawn til dusk for eternity”. Being a relatively normal person (all evidence to the contrary) I assumed this was a joke, perhaps Anne and “Dannie” were old friends and decided to begin a new tradition: Friday the 13th fools day !! And was I to be the first fool? I replied accordingly.

“10 years of success then golf for eternity, where do I sign up?” I half expected, hoped, prayed the two of them would admit to the joke and we’d all go to an air conditioned lunch. No such luck.

“I had the same reaction, at first. Now I’m not so sure.” Continued “Dannie” looking distressed, maybe even disturbed. As I saw it, there were three options: 1) I could waste time listening to more B.S. 2) I could run screaming from the room (a perfectly acceptable reaction under the circumstances, don’t you think?) 3) get “Dannie” out of the room and talk to Anne about options 1 & 2.

“Ms. Webster, would you mind stepping into the outer office while Anne and I have a word?” “Not at all” She replied causally, too casually. Although I noticed her giving Anne a pleading look as Anne showed her to the door. Once “Dannie” was out, I jumped up and locked the door. “What did you do that for?” A needlessly perplexed Anne asked. “To keep the crazy people out and the (relatively) sane people in.” “SSHH, she might hear you.” “So, what? It can’t be the first time, not if she goes around telling other people what we just heard. I’d be surprised if the guys in the rubber trucks with butterfly nets aren’t on their way now.” Anne turned and gave me the look of all looks, before saying. “She obviously needs our help.” “She needs help but not from us.” Then it dawned one me. “You’re not telling me that you..(pause for effect)…believe her?”.

Anne moved away from the door and walked to the window. “I’m not saying I do and I’m not saying I don’t. But why would someone like Jay Stone, or anyone for that matter say something like that? Especially to an old flame?” “Let’s see..(pause for effect) ..because he’s crazy too?” Anne turned to face me, the look in her eyes told me that she wanted to share something that she thought was important and probably upset me. “Do you want to know what I think?” “I don’t suppose there’s anyway to stop you from telling me?” “No, there isn’t”

We both sat on the nap couch and I waited. Anne took a deep breath. “You managed to get your friend off for murder, a murder you knew he was guilty of…” …”and by doing so I sold my soul to the devil. Is that what you mean? What is my sentence, do take on every lunatic that walks in?” “Maybe it’s not a sentence, maybe it’s your trial by fire, your chance for salvation. Don’t you want to take on the devil, see if you can best him?” (pause for effect) “No!” This I didn’t have to think about. “Ah, darling, what if we lose?” I couldn’t believe I was talking about this as if it were all true. (never underestimate the power of love) ( What Mike really means is the power of good sex, regularly. I do kagel exercises, something that I recommend a woman do if she wants to get her man to do almost anything) (What do you mean “almost”? Doing battle with the devil pretty much qualifies as ANYTHING) So this is how I got myself into this mess.

PART TWO:

Anne asked Dannie to rejoin us in my private office. We all took our previous seats in the increasingly warm room. “I assume you’ve decided to take the case?” Said our brand new client with a look on her face that was either self-satisfied or the forerunner of and eye-rolling, head twirling, pea soup spitting fit. When none of this came to pass I nodded. “With some reservations but before we discuss the terms of our employment I would like three references. People we can contact ASAP. No offense…” “None taken. If someone walked into my office with this story I’ed feel the same way. Will the deputy mayor of New York, the Lt. Governor and an ADA do?” I said they would, she borrowed a pen and a piece of paper and wrote down the names. “I didn’t put down the phone numbers because you’d want to look them up anyway, it’s what I’d do.”

Anne took the names and retreated to the outer office to make the calls. This left Ms. Webster and I alone in what was becoming my super heated office. “Now that we’ve decided to take the case, what exactly would you like us to do? Are we supposed to get Mr. Stone’s soul back? Does the Devil have a refund policy? I don’t wish to sound any more skeptical than I already am, but my knowledge of the Devil is mostly from the movies. Another thing? How did you find out about this deal? Did he just blurt it out? Do you think he was trying to impress you to get you to go to bed with him? I’ve met a woman or two who would’ve been susceptible to that kind of line, are you one of them?”

This last comment brought a smile to the placid face of my (our) new (yikes) client. “No Mr. Beir, as a matter of fact Jay is, as far as I know, unaware that I know of his plight. It was his driver who enlightened me.” At this point she opened her brief case , took out a business card and handed it to me. It was reddish in color with black print and read: “Devlin S. Cratch. Travel Agent “Devil-May-Care” Travel, it had a New Orleans address and phone number.

“Devil-May-Care” travel, that’s cute, do you use the same guys? Or should I say “Disciples?” Before Ms. Webster could answer Anne walked in. “Everyone has nothing but nice things to say about Dannie.” “They do? I blurted out. “Are you sure you’re a lawyer?” Ms. Webster and I exchange glares and even though I didn’t look, I was pretty sure that Anne was staring daggers at me also. “Mr. Beir…” “Please call me Mike, being called “Mr.” it tends to reinforce the myth that I am an adult.” “That Mr. Beir is a reality that you obviously need to have reinforced …” “Listen lady, I may be a lot of things but I don’t go around telling complete strangers that my boy friend in in league with the friggin devil.” “Would the two of you just shut up!” Interrupted Anne. “We’re not going to get any where by bitching at each-other.” “Anne has a good point.” I said while leaning back in my chair. “So, let’s get down to it. What exactly would you like us to do?”

“Specifically, Mr. Beir, I would like one of you to follow Jay & his constant companion, keep and eye on them, know where they are at all times. I’ve been doing that for some weeks now but it’s time I pursued another course of action.” “Such as?” I asked. “I have a friend, an expert in the occult who I’ve contacted and we’re going to find out if there is some sort of loop-hole in Jay’s contract. See if we can get him out of it.” As dumb as all that just sounded, it was the first thing that Ms. Webster said that made (at least in this situation) sense. If one has a contract that one wants to get out of, one goes to a lawyer. “Is that your area of expertise. contract law?” Asked Anne. “As a matter of fact, it is.” Replied Ms. Webster.

At least we had some sort of plan. It was decided that Anne and I work the case for one month, my usual fee is $500.00 a day plus expenses. Since this was going to involve both of us I asked for double, up front, hoping she’d balk. She didn’t and wrote a check for $20,000.00, that I hoped would bounce. (it didn’t) I had her sign a standard (non-demonic) contract and the game, as Sherlock Holmes would say…was afoot !!

After exchanging vital communication device information, Dannie went on her merry way and I once again wondered if all this was going to end up on one of those practical joke “reality” shows? Our little office fridge was calling and I opened the door, took out 2 fosters larger beers (the 12oz bottle, not the 26oz oil can) handed one to Anne and sat down. “What is our first move” Asked Anne as she popped the top of her bottle, took a swallow and sat down next to me on the nap couch. “It looks like I’m going golfing.” During our exchange of digits, Dannie had given us the location of Jay and his buddy Dev. They were staying at a local Inn that had been “updated” to include a lavish Spa, another attraction was the Donald Ross (like) golf course, that is where I was headed, as soon as I finished my beer. “And my role , while you golf?” “Follow up on our other lead.” “Devil-May-Care” Travel I presume?” Chuckled Anne, as if the ridiculousness of the situation was finally hitting her. (Nope) “Even as crazy as this case sounds, we need to take it seriously so we don’t get blindsided while not paying attention to details.” I didn’t chuckle after saying this. “so, you’re saying you believe Dannie”? “I’m not going to wear a garlic necklace while golfing… ” …”That’s Vampires” interrupted Anne in all seriousness. “Whatever.” She gave me the look. “What I mean is, while I don’t necessarily believe this devil…theory. It has to be some sort of con, I don’t know what kind yet, but we’ll find out.

Anne thought this over for a moment, before slowly saying “The easiest way to let the devil into your life is to not believe in him, not put up any defenses.” “So, I’ll go buy us s crosses, silver of course, blessed by a priest to hang around our necks…” ..”That’s Werewolves.” Said Anne, adding “And I have a silver cross.” “Maybe you should start wearing it?” I left without telling her that I was going home to look for my baptismal pin, a sliver cross…and pin it on (just in case).

I drove the short distance to my (our) 1/2 a house to change into my golf attire, pick up my clubs and the cross (just in case). I dug through the cedar chest where various keepsakes from my past were stored. There was my ball gloves, spikes and uniforms from my softball playing days, a shoe box containing obits of people I admired as a kid, Randolf Scott, Charlie Conerly, Audie Murphy, John Lennon and of course my grandparents and dad. Of all the people who’ve died on me the only one I truly miss is my grand father. The immigrant child, the man of God, a true gentleman from all I’ve been told. I wonder what he would’ve thought of his little Misha going to do battle with the devil? (or whatever the hell (pun intended) it was all about.)

Before leaving the house (1/2 a house) I called the pro shop to say I’d be joining the Jay Stone group and was told that they’d be back to the first tee in about half an hour. The young lady on the phone (Tabitha) took my information before sheepishly asking “Is Mr. Stone raising money for a charity?” Ah-ha!! I thought, it is a scam, raising money for a nonexistent cause, I knew it. “Why do you ask?” “Well, he’s played golf from sun up till sunset for three straight days, I thought it was some sort of marathon, you read about them online some times. And he dresses kinda weird, even for a golfer.” “Has he or anyone else asked for contributions from you or anyone else that you know of?” “No, it’s nothing like that, he just plays golf with his buddy Dev and another player or two, only Jay & Dev play all day, don’t even stop for lunch.” “They play all day without anything to eat?” “They eat when the cart-girl finds them and that’s another thing, since day one, they’ve requested, almost demanded one particular food be on the cart at all times.” “Is that unusual?” “Not exactly, we have members with dietary restrictions, low fat, low sodium, a vegan or two but this one was odd and not all that difficult to find.” She hesitated, I pressed. “So, what is it?” Tabitha looked around warily, then almost whispered “Devil Dogs.” “Devil Dogs?” I repeated. “You know, the dessert cakes and he likes them to be cold.”

I paid Tabitha the $120.00 greens fee and headed for the first tee. The starter told me that Mr. Stone’s group was just about to tee-off and motioned in his direction. Jay wasn’t hard to spot, dressed in in red and black (just as Ms. Webster mentioned) his shirt was a geometrical designed black and red (the kind that can make you nauseous if you stare at it long enough) black knickers, red knee socks & shoes, topped by a black tam-o-shanty with a red Pom-Pom. The entire package resembled Payne Stewart on acid. (or maybe I’d been drugged and was currently hallucinating?)

I approached the first hole, a par 4 and asked Jay if he minded if I joined him. We introduced ourselves and Jay answered that he didn’t mind if I played with him as long as I didn’t mind that he wasn’t very good. I came back with the “it’s just a game” B.S. And it just a game, unless you suck and don’t belong on a golf course and haven’t figured that out yet. I tee’d off first and hit a decent drive. Then it was Stone’s turn and as he was teeing up his ball I took a look at his clubs. They reminded me of the set my dad, the man who introduced me to the game used. They were old fashioned but not old, as if someone found a crate of 1950’s golf clubs in an abandoned warehouse. The woods were actually wood and what i assumed was the sand wedge did’t have S.W. on it or any degree of loft indicated, it was labeled “the Dynamiter”.

I returned my attention back to Stone, his ball was tee’d up high, very high, then he stood over the ball so long I thought he had narcolepsy and had fallen asleep.. Finally he started his back swing and just as his club came down a strong gust of wind came from the left and pushed his ball way right into the trees. Usually when a golfer hits a shot that poorly, he’ll swear or slam his club or tee up another ball after claiming a “mulligan” (which means they are cheating) but Stone just picked up his tee, put his driver back in the bag and asked if I’d seen where his ball ended up. I directed him t it and we drove (in separate carts) to where the ball entered the woods and began looking.

I found it, he was playing a brand name ball with the “Devil-may-care-travel” logo on it. Stone took a drop and hit it again and again and again. You get the idea and it lasted for 18 long, long holes. The kind of day I usually lose interest and I did. As we walked off the 18th green I tallied up my score: 44 on the front, 45 on the back, not bad, considering it was the first time I’d played the course and just…considering what may or not be going on. Stone’s score? He told me not to bother keeping his, so I didn’t, but if I was to make a guess, 130, at least. It wasn’t that the guy had a bad swing, it was at least as good as mine, probably better. He didn’t have “happy feet” nor did he move his head much, back-swing was ok, follow-through was good, the guy just couldn’t hit it straight, even two foot putts were an adventure.

Stone didn’t have much to say on the course, other than “nice shot” or “good putt” when appropriate, as did I, although he had more of an opportunity to do so. Not talking much while playing with someone I’m paired with at the first tee is usually fine with me, unless I’m working and golfing simultaneously. Which up until this point, was never.

We did have a brief conversation while walking off the 18th green. I asked if he was playing the next day, to which he replied “Dawn til dusk”. “Would you mind if I joined you?” “Suit yourself”. was his reply. I added “I’ve always wanted to see what it’s like to play all day.” Then he looked me in the eye for the first time and said “It’s hell.” He stepped into his cart and drove to the parking lot. As he reached the lot, a Red ’57 T-Bird pulled up to him, an attendant put his clubs in the trunk, Stone tipped the kid, got in the passengers side and the drove off. I hustled my gear into my car and headed after them. The T-bird couldn’t have been going more than 10 mph because I caught up to them before we’d reached the main road.

The T-Bird took a left onto Rt. 28 and I followed, both of us doing about 40 in a 50 mph zone. We trundled along for half an hour in the direction of Harwichton, what passed for the “big city” in the area, the place of my birth. I had a feeling that we were headed to the recently restored (by the local tribe that owned the local casino) Towne Inn.

Built in the 1920’s as a getaway for the rich and famous (I kid you not) it has hosted George Bernard Shaw on more than one occasion, Frank Sinarta, among others stayed there while trooping through the area on bond drives during WWII. Boasting another Donald Ross type golf course and other world class amenities, the Inn fell on hard times in the 50’s and 60’s, eventually being reduced to not much more than a flop house by the ’70’s. The golf course was sold to the city (which, thank God they maintain and operate quite nicely) and the run-down three story brick structure wound up not only being restored to it’s former splendor, a seaweed wrapping, mudbathing, body waxing, yoga-ing world class Spa was added. As well as the inevitable sprouting of “the Villas”. i.e. high class condo’s.

The T-Bird puled into the long simulated (fake) cobblestone drive, which briefly wound it’s way through leafy (I’m not much of a Botanist, Evergreen trees are green, Birch are white and Xmas trees have lights on them, that’s pretty much all I know about trees) old growth trees, stopping at the over-sized double door entrance of the Inn. I did the same. Attendants in Beefeater bottle clad clown suits approached each vehicle. Jay had his door opened and closed for him (he got out in between) but the driver waved the palace footman and drove off. Although I would’ve liked to know where the T-Bird went and what it’s occupant did, if our clients story was to be believed (still a big IF) he’d be back. Plus, I wanted to stay with Jay.

As the Old-English Attendant approached my Malibu the look of disappointment was evident and after studying the Rolls’, Benzes, vintage Vets and assorted other expensive and classic cars in the lot, I could see why. In my defense, I drive a car that blends into the crowd, not stand out from same. I took the offered valet ticket, tipped $5.00 and entered the hotel.

The lobby was large with high ceilings, 20 feet, maybe more. The centerpiece was an equally large birdcage designed to resemble the Inn itself. The thing was larger than my (our) bathroom and actually had two white birds flapping around inside. Doves, I think but for all I know, they could’ve been albino pigeons. I approached the desk and asked the attractive, grey suited young lady if there was a room available for the night? After giving a thoughtfully quizzical look, she went to work on the computer keypad. Within seconds quizzical went to hopeful with a smile attached and I was told that two rooms were available for the evening and she went on to describe them.

“The one I recommend is room 42, it’s what we call the “Frank Sinatra” suite, in honor of his visits during the 40’s. the accommodations include a king-sized canopy bed, whirlpool in the bath, a fireplace in the living area off the bedroom with a balcony overlooking the golf course. It also includes the use of the exercise facilities, pool, sauna, steam-room and breakfast. I hesitated to ask “how much”, not that I was afraid that I couldn’t afford it (one night anyway) what I wanted was to avoid looking like someone who couldn’t afford it. Lacking anything else to say, I asked about the other option, once again I received a look of disappointment. “That would be room 56, it has two twin beds, private bath with a shower, no tub….and”…then she leaned in and whispered, “it’s over the kitchen, we usually save it for older children or domestics.”

The pressure was on, servants quarters or the Sinatra Suite? The young lady looked at me, I looked at her, then a middle-aged woman dressed in a short fur coat (in May?) “designer” jeans and cowboy boots, called to another of the “associates”, went into a spiel about car trouble and asked if they had anything decent for the night? It was now or never, so I blurted out “let’s go with Sinatra, I always liked Dean better but we aren’t in Stubenville, are we?” From the look on my “associates” face, it was clear that she had no idea what I was talking about, or didn’t care (probably both) and click-ity-clacked some more keys on the computer and asked me how long I’d be staying with them. I decided on two nights. “That’ll be $350.00 per night ++ for a total of $700.00 ++(YIKES!! I was right, I could only afford one night, maybe one and a 1/2. I didn’t even ask what the ++ was for, I figured it was covered by the ++ expenses part of the contract) How would you like to pay?” I handed for my Amex card, she gave me a brief rundown of the hotels facilities, how I could charge just about anything to my room and asked if I needed assistance with my luggage? I keep a small carry-on bag with the essentials for such occasions in the trunk of my car. Since I reside in New England, the clothing part of my essentials changes seasonally. they also get rotated for freshness, nothing worse than opening a grip and having the contents smell as if they should’ve been left in mothballs.

A bellhop was called and given my valet ticket to retrieve my bag. Another employee escorted me the elevator and onto Mr. Sinatra’s one time digs for a day. After the room showing guide, who happened to be a comely young lady, showed off the accommodations I tipped her $10.00 (too much?) and she left.

While taking in the $350.00 a night opulence of the suite, I wondered how much of it was left from the forties? Very little would be my guess, other than the fireplace, which looked original, maybe the double hung sash windows, which I could probably figure out pretty quickly if I attempted to open one, but the AC was on, so why bother? Everything else had been replaced, repainted, replastered, refurnished, refurbished. I bet myself the booze tasted the same and opened the mini-bar to make sure. I was correct.

A knock at the door announced the arrival of my bag. It cost me another sawbuck (when in Sinatra land tip like Sinatra, although from the look on the bellhop’s face, you’d have thought it was a buck. He stood in the doorway as if I’d be intimidated into giving him more money. His hopes were dashed when I said goodnight, closed the door in his face, went to make another T&T and had to call room service for a lime or two.

While sitting in a wing-back chair that Sinatra probably never sat in, I called Anne on a phone that Sinarta definitely never used. She answered on the third ring. I told her where I was and described the surroundings. “It sounds like all you need is a hot babe to help you enjoy your stay.” She said in that low sultry voice that I like. “I was hoping that Frankie had a groupie or two stashed under the bed, but no such luck”. I quipped. “If he did they’d be older than your mother.” Was her equally quippy reply. “Good point. How long will it take to throw some clothes into a bag and get over here. You should see the size of this bed.” (sometimes I think that that is Mike’s main focus after the work day is done) (what do you mean sometimes?) She asked how much this was running our client, I told her. “For that kind of money, Dannie deserves two detectives on the scene, so to speak. I’ll be there in under an hour.”

I was going to get in the whirlpool but it was definitely big enough for two, I decided to wait til Anne arrived so we could break it in together (so to speak). Besides, since I was on a case and intended to charge our client for this room and any other reasonable expenses, a little detecting (very little) was in order.

Reluctantly leaving Sinatra land, I causalled my way down to the lobby and headed to the “Prince of Wales” bar. Located across from the bird cage, the knotty pine paneled , Horse and Hound paintinged room was quite narrow and ran along most of the width of the front of the building. The configuration of the green plush carpeted hall-like room was obligatorily broken into small sitting areas. Each contained a heavy wooden coffee table with a sofa and two or three chairs surrounding it. Two were in front of fireplaces, one on each end of the room. French doors in the middle of the room led to a terrace for seasonal seating and smoking. There was a man and woman smoking long narrow cigarettes at one end of the terrace, they were both very tall, very thin and dressed as if they had just stepped off the runway of a fashion show. Possibly a “Ken and Barbie play tennis in New England” exhibition.

I stepped back inside and sat in one of the empty stools at the bar, there were four total. This satisfied three of my needs. 1) it was as far as I could get from the two groups of ladies enjoying what looked like English tea, as evidenced by the tea cups and finger sandwiches on their coffee tables. (I ain’t a detective for nothing) 2) I could pump the not unattractive bartender for possible information and lastly but not leastly, I could get another drink.

Positioning myself on the stool closest to the window, I ordered a perfect So. Co. Manhattan, rocks, twist. The bartender who’s name tag read R.J. smiled approvingly, took a half turn to the right, stopped, turned back to me and announced “we just got in the 100 proof So.Co. if you prefer?” That could be interesting (dangerous) especially since I hadn’t eaten since a hot dog from the cart girl on the 11th hole. And as we all know from High School Health Ed. class that drinking on an empty stomach allows the allows the simple sugar (alcohol) into your blood system that much quicker, thus getting drunker faster. This lesson had less than the desired effect on yours truly. I still recall thinking “if that’s the case, why wouldn’t one drink on an empty stomach?” It would make it quicker and cheaper. First, you wouldn’t have to spend money on food and second, it would take less booze, so you’d end up saving money on both ends. It made perfect sense to me at the time, but now that I’m a older and wiser, I said only if she filled the snack basket first.

While sipping my 100 proof So. Co. cocktail I took the opportunity to start a conversation with R.J.. The late afternoon cocktail crowd was gone, the tea parties had thinned and before the “let’s meet in the bar” types hadn’t as yet arrived, so other than the occasional straggler, it was pretty much just me and R.J. who was looking better with each sip of So. Co. Not that her looks were an issue: thirty-something, Mediterranean (?), thick dark hair, big, dark eyes, small nose that seemed to twitch occasionally. (more likely the booze was twitching me)

R.J. was dressed in black and whites, multi-colored bow-tie, all the staff I observed wore different colored bow-ties. (except solid black or solid white) and black three button vests. As we chatted R.J. was obliged to ply her trade. From my vantage point I could easily see the behind the bar setup. The space was very tight, everything that was needed to run a bar was seemingly packed wherever it would fit, for the first time since i was 6 or 7 the term “willy-nilly” came to mind. The three reach-in fridges were placed in such away that the doors opened into the backs of one-another. To do the job required either unnecessary footwork or a lot of bending. Fortunately (for me) R.J. chose the latter.

It was while i was enjoying the view that I roached the subject of jay Stone. “nice looking guy in the clown suit?” Although I was pretty sure who she was talking about, just for effect I said “clown suit”? somewhat confusedly. R.J. straightened up, turned to face me and said. “I suppose I shouldn’t talk like that about one of the guests, but the guy wears different combinations of black and red every day. Weird stuff, stripes with plaid, knickers with cowboy hats and boots, black farmer jeans under a red tux jacket. And you know something? She looked around cautiously before continuing. No one can figure out where it comes from or where it goes. The guy shows up at the desk in one of his clown suit, says he has a reservation. Barb, the desk clerk looks at the computer screen, nothing, no Stones at all. But the guy insists, so just to humor him, she checks again and there it is J. Stone booked into one of the smaller rooms above the kitchen.” “The servants quarters.” I say all knowingly. “Right, youd’ve thought a guy with as much money as he was supposed to have would be in the Sinatra Suite.” “Maybe he’s cheap?” I interjected. “He definitely doesn’t spend it on luggage.” “He didn’t bring much?” “The guy didn’t bring any. Told barb that it would arrive later, lost in transit was how he put it.” These things happen.” “Sure they do, but not as much as an overnight bag has arrived, but the guy has a different clown suit every morning and then another at night.” “How long has he been here?” “This will be his fourth night.” “And still no luggage?” “Not one piece.” “Maybe he had to buy new clothes?” she shook her head. “Comes in every night empty handed and the maids who clean his room haven’t found a single shopping bag, the gift shop hasn’t sold him anything, no deliveries, his closet is empty in the morning but he comes down for dinner in new clothes every night, he’s due any time now.”

People were beginning to flock into the hotel in general and the bar area in particular. Twos, threes, fours, fives, mostly dressed for an elegant dinner, their big night out, or maybe a wedding? Their were a couple of young to middle-aged men in what we used to refer to as the “yuppy uni”; blue blazer, tan pants, white button down shirt, stripped tie. While I was sipping my drink and making up stories for the different groups, I spotted Anne’s car drive by the window heading for the parking lot. A few minutes later, Anne, followed by a bellhop, entered the bar. “I thought I’d find you here.” She said mischievously. I slid off my stool and approached my partner in this thing called life and her footman, fished out the room key from among the golf tee’s out of my pocket, gave it and yet another sawbuck to a bell person and asked him to take Anne’s bag to the Sinatra Suite. The words must’ve come out a tad slushier than I thought because Annee gave me the “look”. “Been doing a little drinking?”Anne asked as we heading for the waiting bar-stools. “It seemed to be the proper thing to do, considering my surroundings and all.” (I’m such a wit) (half wit by now, if I know my Mike)

R.J. approached us and asked what Anne would like to drink. I was hoping she’d ask for an Amstel lite, because the beer fridge was in a particularly good bend and twist spot behind the bar. “Amstel, please.” Replied Anne. (Yes!) (Mike, Mike, Mike, will you ever grow up?) (Hopefully not). R.J. seemed to be a seasoned veteran of the bend and twist and well aware of it’s effect on patrons like … me. Anne and I were facing each other which meant that R.J. was bending out of her site. That is until I didn’t respond to whatever Anne was saying, which in turn made Anne follow my gaze, which in turn produced another of Anne’s “looks”. R.J. returned to us with the Amstel and a frosted glass, placing them in from of Anne. “Thank you” said Anne, “You’re welcome.” R.J. dutifully replied, then added “would you care for another?” In my direction. “Yes, please.”

As R.J. moved away, Anne leaned in close to my face. “Does she have to bend and twist to make your drink?” “No, only to get something out of the fridge or work the little dish machine.” “Darn, so why didn’t you order a beer?” “The whole reaching into the fridge scenario didn’t come to my attention until after I’d ordered and I couldn’t switch from So.Co to beer, now could I?” Anne mulled this over for a moment. “I suppose that would be a tad obvious, although I can’t imagine she’s unaware of her performance. So, what have you been doing, wadding up dollar bills and throwing the on the floor?” “Fives.” We both laughed. “You’re damned lucky I trust you, detective Beir.” “You’re lucky I’m in love with you, Anne of Green Gables.” “Green Gables? How many drinks have you had? Speaking of being in love with me (which to Mike means we have good sex on a regular basis) why don’t we take these to that fancy room of yours and see what comes up?” “Excellent idea.” I paid the bill, plus another ten dollar tip and we headed for the elevator. “Just so you don’t pretend I’m your little friend behind the bar, we’ll leave the lights on.” Now that Anne had my full attention, the doors opened and our red and black clad quarry stepped out.

This evening Mr. Stone’s attire consisted of a fire engine red tuxedo cut jacket over a black dress shirt with red buttons (no reference to the is intended or should be inferred) and bow tie, black tuxedo trousers with a red stripe (no reference to the beer is intended etc…) along the seam. Red and black cowboots completed the ensemble.

Instead of making his way to the reportedly 4 star restaurant, which is what I expected, Stone headed to the main entrance. Anne and I exchanged a look, after which she offered to drive if necessary. “Good idea, I’ll bring your beer.” I received another “Anne look” for my efforts to promote safe driving.

When we got to the door, the red T-Bird with the devilish looking driver was waiting at the bottom of the stone stairs, a footman holding the passenger door open. Stone dutifully tipped for said service before sitting, the door closed behind him. The middle-aged man looked at the tip, rolled his eyes and put the bill (at least I think it was a bill) into his pocket. The T-Bird headed for the main gate. Anne had the foresight to forego the valet and we dog trotted to the car, Anne somewhat faster than I, due to my “don’t let the beer foam over the top” gait that I was attempting with moderate success.

There was one vehicle between us and the T-Bird when it reached the main road, taking a left and cruising along at it’s usual 35 mph. We followed through three green lighted intersections before they took a left at the fourth light, which turned red before we could get to it. Not that it mattered, they were heading toward the sight of a formerly abandoned textile mill that had recently been turned into (guess what?)…a Native American run…Casino!!

Figuring the T-Bird and it’s infamous occupants wouldn’t be hard to spot, we dutifully waited our turn down Wampum Way (I kid you not). The now four lane entrance road took us past Pat’s Pizza Palace, heartily still up and running despite the upheaval around it. The Italian eatery had existed in the same spot under different owners and management since the twenties. Always had the rep of serving good pizza, grinders (subs, hoagies, whichever you prefer) pasta and garlic bread, lot’s of garlic. Mill employees had kept it busy back in the day but even then it was pretty dead after 7pm. Fast forward ( a little) to my senior year in High School, when it became known that a sort of cousin (long story) of my best friend Pete’s named Leslie waited tables at Pat’s and if we ordered food (and paid for it, with tip) she would fill our amber plastic soda cups with beer. Needless to say Pete and I with a member or two of our small clique took advantage of Leslie’s generosity from time to time.

The curiosity to see the old mill complex had always been satisfied by relatively long distance looks while pulling into or going out of Pat’s parking lot. So as Anne drove through the over-landscaped, over-lighted entry way, it was closer to Dorothy gazing at the Emerald city than the usual factory-turned-apartment complex/office building. The massive parking area was filled to bursting with vehicles of all ages and descriptions, as well as several tour buses. We spotted the T-Bird at the valet parking lot and followed. Although the sign read full, the T-Bird stopped and it’s occupants disembarked. Stone wandered toward the entrance while the driver “Dev” chatted with the attendants.

When Anne and I attempted to follow, our progress was halted by a massive uniformed security guard. “Valet’s full. you’ll have to use general parking.” I leaned across Anne and said “We’re with Mr. Stone’s party.” “Who’s Mr. Stone?” Replied the gruff yet polite quasi-cop. “The gentlemen in the red and black tux that just got out of the T-Bird.” Anne chimed in. “Just a minute.” He walked to where “Dev” was still hanging with the help. While the pair had a brief conversation, I thought “Dev” and I made eye contact. It was only for a second, then he nodded to the guard, who in turn motioned to another attendant, who in turn opened our door (one at a time), we departed and this new tax write off received only a fin. What can I say, the cash was running out, then again, casino’s must have an abundance of ATMs.

As we passed the now nearly jolly green clad giant he tipped his hat. “You should’ve mentioned Mr. Cratch in the first place.”We’re friends of his guest, just met Mr. Cratch. Is he some sort of high roller?” “The highest, he’s here almost every night, always brings a friend or two, which is what threw me off.” “How so?” Asked Anne. “You’re the first ones I’ve seen not dressed in red and black.” Anne and I exchanged a glance that one would think we’d exchange after hearing that comment. “Have a good time and don’t lose your house … or sell your soul.” And yes, my skin was crawling as Anne (mine too) and I walked warily toward the entrance of the former mill cum casino.

The lobby area was rustically and tastefully decorated with lots of wood, there was definitely one less small forest in the world. We strolled by the center-piece of the two story room, a series of waterfalls filling a good sized pond. Fish of various sizes and colors swam about nervously, as if they knew they didn’t belong. I knew how they felt.

As we entered the equally rustic and tasteful gaming area, my first impression was the non-stop slot machine noise and smoke, quite a bit of smoke. One could make a good living with a kiosk, selling surgical masks or small gas masks. Then again, I’m pretty sure that the security people would diligently discourage mask wearing customers. (Anfita beware)

For the most part gambling is not my thing. I buy a lottery ticket once in awhile, usually when the jackpot is over $100,000,000.00 (I could live on less, but if one is going to dream, dream big) and some buddies and I get together to play nickle, dime, quarter poker three or four times a year. Standing or sitting while placing quarters into a slot machine or trying to guess whether my cards beat the dealers cards or watching a little ball bounce around a wheel or, or or whatever, holds my attention for an hour, tops. Being in a auditorium sized room filled with people, noise & smoke is not my idea of a good time. Open space, fresh air, and relative quiet is what I seek and value most,especially on my own time, which this was not.

Being who I (we) am (are) , doing what I (we) do, sometimes we (beat you) find ourselves in places we (mostly you) would not usually or voluntarily go. The noise and crowds had an unexpected affect on the alcohol in my blood system. The third or fourth drink euphoria changed to sharpened senses and a sort of slow motion detective autopilot. As silly as this case seemed, it was my job to figure out what the hell (perhaps literally) was going on.

To make a long, noisy , boring story short, quiet and hopefully not too boring, the evening went something like this: We not so discreetly followed Stone from one section of the pipe dreamers paradise to another. He won at roulette, he won at Black Jack, he won at dice, he couldn’t lose, managing to look disinterested the entire time.

During our evening of spying, Anne filled me in on what she found out about “Devil-May-Care” travel. It was an authentic travel agency, based in New Orleans, having been there since before (God knows when) records were kept of such businesses. The Better Business Bureau did not have a file on “Devil-May-Care” other than to say they were not a member, had never replied to any B.B.B inquiries. As to any complaints filed against Devil-May-Care? Such information, if any, was not available to the public. Makes one wonder what B.B.B.’s function is?

My detective brain began to formulate a plan. Send Anne to New Orleans to check out D-M-C (that’s short for Devil-May-Care, getting tired of typing the entire thing out) while I kept any eye on Stone and Driver Dev. I laid it on Anne. She thought it was great. “The partying capitol of the world. Are you kidding? Of course I’ll go!!” “Ut-oh” was my reply. “And you’re not going alone.” If you’ve ever been to “Nor’lins” you know why, if not, I’ll tell you.

Part 3: New Orleans.

New Orleans is the equivalent of an adult amusement park. Sea World has fish, Disney World-Land has Mickey & Epcot, Universal Land has rides through fake movies. New Orleans has Booze!! Lots of it. The place is an alcoholics dream come true. Bourbon St. is aptly named, although the surrounding should be Vodka St. Gin Drive, Beer St., Scotch Ave. etc. instead of whatever they are named now. The area doesn’t so much as encourage visitors to imbibe, it gives you almost no alternative (of course you could just say no, but one doesn’t go to N.O. to say no. At least I and pretty much everyone else I saw there didn’t). Where any other city I’ve ever been in won’t allow you to take a mixed drink with you out the door of their bars, taverns and night clubs, in New Orleans they either have an abundance of plastic cups waiting to pour your cocktail into so you can take them out on the street. Either that or they just serve everything in plastic, cutting out the middle man. They want you to drink as you wander from bar to bar. Hell, they even sell booze from booths on the sidewalks. (just in case you run out before you make it to the next stop on Whiskey Way)

So, if you are a functioning alcoholic, this is the vacation spot for you, where every night is Saturday night, except Friday and Saturday when it’s like New Years Eve in most any other city. Come visit Alcoholic Land, we have 3 day (doable) 5 day (dangerous) and 7 day (followed by 30 days in rehab) packages starting at $299.00 (alcohol and bail money not included).

Of course this is not the sort of advertisement the local Chamber of Commerce encourages and having been to N.O. twice, there are other attractions such as the many excellent restaurants but once one starts pounding down Southern Comfort one is apt to forget that the deciding battle of the War of 1812 was fought just outside of the city. Aptly named the “The battle of new Orleans” , the conflict was fought after the peace treaty to end the war had been signed. Of course the 19th century text message hadn’t reached General Jackson nor the British commander General Pakenham in time to prevent the battle from taking place. And while Hollywood would have us believe that Pirate Jean Lafitte had something other than a relatively small role in the American Victory, the truth according to the Tour Guide was a little different.

In preparation for the upcoming assault, the British had used native grasses to weave crude flotation devices, which they would use in the predawn attack to ford the moat like canal in front of the American ramparts, overwhelming the defenders and winning easily. Unfortunately (for the British) these flotation devices were left behind and instead of carrying on the assault without them, the commander sent troops to retrieve the hay bales. This delayed the battle long enough for the sun to rise. The subsequent British charge across several hundred yards of open field occurred in broad day light and did not go well. U.S. riflemen simply mowed down their attackers before they could get anywhere near the U.S. battlements. The final score: USA 2, British 0, now get the fuck out and stay out, we’ll be in touch in about 100 years, where once again, we will show you how much better at war we are, fortunately (for the British) we’d be on the same side. Enough History by Beir.

When our casino caper finally ended at 3am (Anne and I played slots for most of he evening/morning, she ended up nearly $50.00 ahead (it would’ve been 100.00 if I didn’t have to keep giving Mike my quarters) I lost and lost and lost some more. Thank God for an expense account. We then followed Stone and Dev back to the Inn, where Stone was dropped at the door and Devlin S. Cratch drove off the parts unknown, probably back to the casino to look for more converts.

Since I was supposed to play golf with Stone first thing in the morning and I knew his room number, I didn’t think it necessary to watch his door. On the other hand, if he did for whatever reason skip before dawn, which wasn’t that far away, they could be on there way to anywhere with a couple hours head start. I decided that Anne (what !) should take the first watch while I got a couple of hours sleep. (you can sleep while I golf) (you bet I will, after the hot tub, by myself)

When the alarm went off seemingly seconds after I laid my head on the pillow, I took a quick shower (no shave, Anne likes a little scruff and later I was hoping to…) (Mike, Mike, Mike, keep your head on the case, you know I like sex as much as you do πŸ™‚ Anyway…I dressed in the red golf shirt and black shorts that Anne thoughtfully brought from home (gotta blend in, he-he) I took the elevator to the lobby and found Anne sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs reading a paperback with a pot of (decaf) tea on the table in front of her. “Good book?” I asked as cheerfully as I dared. “Miss Marple and the Tuesday Murder Club.” “I have, I’ve read all of the Marple short stories and a couple of the novels, I like the short stories best, the novels seem to be not much more than another short story with a hundred and fifty pages of filler.” “Is that why you wanted to become a detective?” Asked a yawning Anne, as she placed a bookmark in between a couple of the pages and with heavy-lidded eyes listened to me reminisce about my youth.

“Somewhat, it may have started in High School, second year English class I was fortunate enough to have a teacher that didn’t make us read “Fuck Finn” or “Tom Sawyer”, instead the class was assigned “Tarzan” (here’s a trivia question for you: in the original novel, what did Tarzan do to the person who killed Tarzan’s adopted Ape mother? Answer…he killed and ate him) and various Sherlock Holmes short stories. I felt as if I’d won the lottery.” Anne smiled and with my assistance struggled out of the chair. We hugged briefly before she headed for the elevator and I took up the vigil.

While I waited for Stone to appear, it dawned on me that Julie Babcock would be the ideal person to accompany Anne to N.O. First of all she didn’t drink, second, Julie had been an instructor in self defense at the Police Academy where I’d graduated (barely) she possessed various belts and degrees in various disciplines, all designed to kick someone’s ass. Julie was also a lay minister in the Baptist Church and she was 6′ and 180 lbs the last time I’d seen her. If there was a better person equipped to take on the Devil or whatever we were up against, I couldn’t think of one. I sent Anne a text briefly outlining the trip to N.O. told her to look up Julie’s number and see if she was free to join in the fun.

It was still dark out when I decided to step outside and idling at the curb was the red T-Bird. Not seeing anyone around or in the car for that matter, I took the opportunity to check the registration. It was in the glove box, the car was owned by “Devil-may-care” travel out of New Orleans. After returning the papers I closed the glove box when a noise came from behind. “It sure is a beauty, hope you don’t mind me taking a peek?” I said to no one in particular, half expecting to see Stone or Cratch to be right behind me. I turned around bracing myself for a flying fist or a gun and found myself looking at a middle-aged man dressed like a waiter. The pudgy, mustashio’d face looking into mine was smiling. “Hey Mike”. Grumbled the voice inside the face after exhaling cigarette smoke.

My first reaction was to say “how’re you doing” before clicking into blow-off mode when something popped in the lumpy grey matter that passes for my brain. “Kenny?” The cracked tooth grin (I’d witnessed Kenny opening many beer bottles with his teeth in our misspent youth) widened on the middle-aged face. “I thought you were high hattin me” he coughed/spoke as we shook hands (a bizarre custom, which we all know began hundreds of years ago as a way of seeing if the person you were confronting has a weapon. So each of the confronted offers the empty right hand while concealing a club, knife, gun in the hidden left hand) “Gimme a break Kenny, it’s gotta be at least 10 years.”

Kenny Killkenny was three years ahead of me in High School. The class athlete/stud about campus who once had a try out with the local Yankee’s minor league team but was supposedly passed on after a pot induced display of behind the back catches and unnecessary dives all over the outfield, followed by mostly pop ups to the infield. I hung out with his younger brother through most of Junior High and High School and the three of us were on the same city league hardball team for my single season foray into playing the game the way it was meant to be played. (after 15 games of dodging 75 mph fast balls I decided the kinder, large, slower moving softball was more to my liking)

“Your brothers wedding.” Said Kenny as his still powerful grip squeezed my hand a little longer than I cared for. Kenny always had the bully mentality. Had to be the toughest kid on the block, ran the fastest, threw the ball hardest and could punch someone’s lights out faster than anyone I’d ever seen in or outside of a boxing ring.

Kil (whose nickname may or may not be a shortened version of his last name) finally let go of my hand and I asked him how long he’d been working at the Inn. “About six months, breakfast four days a week, plus a wedding or banquet a couple times a month.” He replied somewhat shamefacedly, adding “it ain’t bad, flirt with the fat broads, snarl at the cooks when they give me shit and count the tips.” “Yeah, I tended bar some after I left the cops, but it got to the point where I had the fake smile plastered on my face so often it almost stuck. So I went back to being a dick.” “You always were a dick, badge or not.” I laughed, Kil laughed, then an uncomfortable silence followed.

“I’ve been reading about you.” (Ut-oh) and you know what you need?” “No, what?” I said dreading the answer. “A side kick.” “What about Anne?” “I mean someone to get you out of trouble, not into it. Muscle, someone to get information, go where you can’t, get their hands dirty, an operative.” “I suppose you have someone in mind?” Again we both laughed. I didn’t want to upset or insult Ken, so I framed my answers as delicately as possible. “What about this place? You seem like you’ve found a nice spot for yourself.” “Like I said, it’s only breakfast, I’m out by 11 most days.”

I told Ken I’d keep it in mind just as Dev and Stone came out of the Inn. Stone was dressed in his usual black and red, this time a black Raiders hat, red shirt, black cargo shorts that cam down way past his knees, a red belt red knee socks and black chuck Taylors. Dev was dressed in all black proper golf attire, hat, shirt and long pants and boat shoes. As Stone got into the passengers seat, Dev turned to me and said “I understand you’r joining us for a round or two today?” “As a matter of fact I am, is that’s ok with you?” “The more the merrier.” Was his reply, adding “I’ll see if I can dig up an appropriate fourth.” With the emphasis on “dig”. “We’ll meet you at the course.” Dev said as he got in the car and drove away. I wondered who he was going to “dig” up?

Dev drove a tad faster than usual and we arrived at the same course we’d played the day before. We parked, got our clubs out and I headed to the pro shop to pay. “”No need, it’s all taken care of, just head to the carts.” Said Dev with a wry smile. We did so and behind the wheel of one of the carts was an attractive brunette woman in her 40’s, dressed in a red tank top and black short shorts. Her face looked vaguely familiar, once I stopped ogling her fairly large breasts and focused on her face. I strapped my bag onto the cart, sat down and was about to introduce myself when she said “Hi Mike, it’s been a long time.” I looked at her (face) a little closer and blurted out “Peggy?” “The one and only.” She practically purred.

Peggy Capaletti was a Jr. High/High School classmate of mine that I hadn’t even thought about in years. Unlike when I was 13, 14, 15, 16 and couldn’t think of much of anything else. “Yes, it has been a long time. What brings you here?” “Dev contacted me and asked me to join him today, I had no idea you’d be here.” Why didn’t I believe her? Well for one thing, when in school she acted as if she barely knew I existed and two, I seemed to recall seeing her name in the “Deceased” section in our annual Alumni news letter a few years back. I mentioned this to which she replied “Obviously, the reports of my death were premature.” While placing her right hand on my inner thigh. “Shall we play a round?” She whispered in my ear. “Of golf?” I replied, gulping in between the “of” and “golf”. “We’ll see.” Adding “Hang on.” as she stepped on the gas pedal, turned the wheel sharply to the left and I did have to “hang on” hopefully not for dear life.

Peggy teed off first, hitting a nice drive down the middle of the fairway, I followed with an equally good drive, then Dev, likewise and finally Stone, who dribbled one off the tee about fifty yards. It was another hot day, even at this time of the morning, getting hotter as the sun rose. The three of us Peggy, Dev and I played along nicely, while Stone managed to butcher every hole, the expression on his face never changing from one of complete disinterest. “Just another day in paradise, right Jay?” Commented Peggy at one point. “Depends on your definition of paradise.” Muttered Stone. Dev didn’t say much, just the casual “good shot” or “nice putt.” Peggy, on the other hand was constantly chattering about High School and why didn’t I ask her out back then, implying that I could’ve gotten lucky if I had and winking as if that possibility was still on the table. Going as far as rubbing an ice cube on her upper chest, letting the droplets run down, out of site into her tank top. I pretended not to notice the effect this was having on a certain part of her breasts (you better not be noticing, Mike) I pretned even harder when she declared “I can’t wait to get home, take my clothes off and jump in the pool.” Adding after a slight pause “Care to join me?” I considered following this line of the investigation for a moment, then thought of Anne and declined (good boy).

After the first 18 holes Peggy headed to the club house after kissing me on the cheek a little longer than necessary “See you soon.” She added as if it were a certainty and not a question. As i watched her walk away, another attractive Brunette from my past approached me and asked if she could join the group. Brenda and I had worked together at a restaurant shortly after my cop career ended. We’d even had an affair of sorts for a short time before she up and married the mush older owner of the place and retired to the lap of luxury that she clearly thought she deserved. When she offered to continue our fling after marriage, I politely declined, somewhat because of my high moral fiber, mostly because every employee at the restaurant was aware that Brenda’s other half carried a handgun and bragged that he wasn’t afraid to use it. I didn’t care to find out if this was bluster or not.

The second 18 went pretty much the same as the first, the only difference was that the equally endowed Brenda wasn’t wearing a bra under her red and black striped tank top. When this round was done, Brenda also asked me to accompany her home, going as far as stating “I can call our mutual friend Peggy and all jump into the pool together.” Again, I declined. As Dev, Stone and I walked to the parking lot as dusk, Dev turned to me and said “Blondes tomorrow?” Got in the red T-Bird and drove away. While I am a steadfast Brunette guy, I’m sure Dev could come up with a Blonde or two that I lusted after at one time or another. Hell, I wouldn’t be all that surprised if a certain Ms. Monroe was sitting next to me in the morning.

It was a dark and stormy night. (every author wants to write that line at least once) I was on night watch when Dev and Stone, the latter dressed in his usually unusual black and red outfit, exited the elevator and headed toward the main door. It was opened from the outside just as they neared it. Not sure how that happened, I don’t recall it being an automatic door when I arrived. Timer to save money on a night porter? I was about to follow, planning on calling Anne from my truck, when Dev stopped, turned and drifted my way, pulling out a card when he came to rest in front of me. The guy seemed to hover, didn’t make a sound when he walked, nary a creek. The place was carpeted but it was old and nearly everyone experienced a crack or creek walking across the lobby. Not this guy. I didn’t notice it before, maybe it was the carpeting or maybe I’ll have to pay more attention to whatever is going on.

The card read “Northminster Resort Hotel and Country Club” it boasted 36 holes of championship golf and other activities. The address and phone number were listed. I’d hear of the place, it was a couple states up from here, four to five hours drive, depending on traffic. “In case you want to get a couple hours sleep, this is where we’ll be.” Said Mr. S. Cratch as he walked away. Throwing “At least until it rains again.” over his shoulder as the big wooden doors closed behind him.

Big decision: do I wake up Anne before the alarm clock does or should I wait until she gets up, maybe takes a quick shower? On the other hand, she is a a tree-hugger of sorts and probably wouldn’t want to take two showers…(just like Mike, trying to rationalize waking me up for sex. I always say, give it a shot, if I don’t want to, you’ll be the second to know)

After I woke Anne and explained the situation “And you believe they’ll actually be there?” She said while doing the morning bed stretch and accompanying yawn. “Yes, otherwise I would’ve followed them. They’re obviously not hiding from us, so why not tell where they’re going next?” I was saying this while taking off my clothes and slipping under the sheets. “Planning on getting a little sleep before we head out?” Asked Anne with a familiar look in her eyes. “Eventually.” I replied, sliding closer to her, moving into the back spoon position. “MMM…what’ve you got back there?” “Cupids arrow.” “Is it aiming straight to my heart?” “Eventually.” Was my answer.

After our tryst, we showered, packed and headed to the front desk to check out. It was still raining and was supposed to for the next several hours, at least according to the Weather Channel, which was playing on the lobby TV as we walked past. Since the Weather Channel is the most trusted source of weather information in the USA (it says so on their bottom of the screen scrawl so it must be true, right?) I figured there was a 50/50 chance that that was what may actually happen. We checked out and headed for the parking lot, the double wooden doors did not open automatically, which I mentioned to the door man, asking about the late night timer situation, saving on manpower and such. The guy looked at me as if I had two heads and said that no such contraption existed, at least not that he knew of and he’d been working the door since the renovation. As we walked to our vehicles, we decided to takes Anne’s car for the gas mileage, drop mine at home, pack some clean clothes, put my clubs in the trunk and got in, Anne behind the wheel. “So, what was all that about the automatic doors?” Asked Anne as she punched the Hotel’s address in the cars GPS. I explained, adding my impression of Dev’s hovering. “Now that you mention it, I had the same impression a time or two. What does it mean?” “It means we may be in way over our heads.” I replied as I clutched my baptismal crucifix.

It rained nearly the entire ride to the hotel, stopping about half an hour before we arrived. We pulled into the cracked pavement of the resorts large partially populated parking lot, where we spotted the red T-Bird parked near the entrance of the one time go-to destination that had fallen on hard times as other more opulent resorts opened in the area in recent times. Anne parked, we retrieved our luggage from the trunk and headed to the hotel entrance. No door man was stationed to greet us and the doors didn’t open automatically, so we pushed our way into the lobby and headed to the front desk. The weary looking middle-aged woman behind the desk looked up from her computer screen and asked us if we had a reservation. I took a chance and said “Yes, should be under the name Beir.” “I don’t recall seeing that name when I checked today’s arrival list.” she replied as she tapped the keys on her computer. “Here it is, Beir reservation for two, in the Honeymoon suite. congratulations, just married?” Anne took the lead. “Actually it’s our anniversary, we met two years ago today, I thought it would be fun to stay in a Honeymoon suite, it’ll be my first time.” “Mine too.” I chimed in, not sure why, go with the flow, I suppose. We checked in, another middle-aged person, this time a man dressed in beige trousers and matching vest over a lighter shade of beige shirt and tie took our bags and led us to the elevator.

The Honeymoon suite lived up to it’s name, round bed, (big) whirlpool tub, separate shower (big enough for two or three or four…two is just enough Mike) there was also a sunken living room with erotic paintings on the walls, a large screen TV, leather furniture, french windows leading to a deck, pretty much everything you’d want. We unpacked and went out on the deck, it overlooked a couple holes of one of the golf courses and guess who was driving by in their cart waving up at us? Dev and Stone, actually only Dev was waving, Stone just sat there in his usual red and black outfit, his usual bored look on his usual face. Even though we were thirty or forty yards away, Dev and I seemed to make eye contact and a thought popped into my head, “let’s get this over with.” Not sure what that meant, not at first anyway, not until Anne blurted out “Let’s get this over with”.

“What?” I said to Anne as she gazed at the pairs cart as it drove toward the green. “What, what?” She replied. “You said, “let’s get this over with. Why did you say that? Get what over with?” “I’m not sure. I was watching Dev and Stone and I thought to myself, “let’s get this over with.” “You talked of me going to New Orleans to research “Devil may care” travel, but why bother? We have the case right here, don’t we? How long are we going to following these guys around, play golf, screw our brains out and move to another resort and repeat?” I was thinking that that sounded pretty good to me…”I know what you’re thinking”. Said Anne, interrupting my thinking. “I was thinking that it would be perfect if you could play along with me.” “What makes you think that I can’t?” she replied. “You play golf?” I asked. “As a matter of fact, I went to college on a golf scholarship.” “We’ve been together for two years, why haven’t you mentioned it before?” Anne moved away from the edge of the deck and headed into the suite, I followed. She sank into a leather easy chair, I took the couch.

“I read an article when I was a freshman in High School. I was a how to get into college with minimal cost. For women, the article stated, one of the easiest and surest pathways was through golf scholarships. Since the implementation of Title 9, all colleges that offer any sports has to have as many womens scholarships as mens. The article went on to say that womens golf had the most unfilled scholarships of any sport. So, I took up golf, got pretty good at it, made the High School team and was offered four free rides, I picked one that had a good accounting program and played my way through college, so to speak.” “Are you any good?” I asked. “I was a three my senior year.” A three? I’ve never cracked ten, we were definitely going to play a round in the very near future.

(Please excuse the lack of my words on your computer or tablet or Smart Phone or whatever…I’ve been searching for notebook number 2 of “The Devil Made me do it” in vain. I did however find the other five Mike and Anne stories and notes for three more, but alas, not note book # 2 :-(. Consequently, I’ve come up with an alternative ending and took Anne’s advice… “let’s get this over with”. Here goes.)

THE FINAL SOLUTION:

I decided to call Anne’s bluff (I don’t bluff) and took her to the driving range to see what she’s got. We rented her a set of clubs and headed to the practice tee. Anne went through a series of stretching exercises, picked out a short iron, dropped a few balls on the grass and hit the first shot to the on hundred yard flag. Actually, the ball hit the flag on a bounce, stopping about 3 feet away (If it was more than 2 1/2 I’ll eat my bra). Anne proceeded to hit several more shots, all close to the 100 yard flag. She picked out a longer iron and hit several more shots, this time close to the 150 yard flag. This went on for about 45 minutes, each club selection garnering similar results, the driver being the most impressive. 250 – 270 yards down the middle, then she hit a few fades (left to right for a right-hander) and as many draws (right to left for a right-hander). Then we moved to the chipping and putting area, more of the same. I was convinced, she could play…better than me and I told her as much.

“I’m glad you agree, because if we are going to play the Devil and one of his disciples, I need someone better than you as my partner.” I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was dead serious. “You’re plan is to challenge Dev to a golf match to get back Stone’s soul? Is that what you’re proposing?” “Yes.” Was her reply. “We’d better call Dannie, I think our fee just went up.” “Good idea, maybe she knows a scratch?” (golfer)

We returned to our suite, called Dannie and apprised her of our plan. She did indeed know a scratch, herself. Apparently she read a similar article about golf scholarships and went the same route as Anne (maybe if I’d gone to college for more than one semester, I’d be a single digit handicapper myself. (not unless college came with a new swing Mike, I’ve seen you play).

We met Dev and Stone for dinner and presented our challenge. Dev’s reaction was a tad discomforting. He grinned from ear-to-ear before laughing so loudly that all other sound stopped, our fellow diners all turned our way just as a strong wind blew through the room. Once again I wondered what the hell I’d gotten myself into, then Anne squeezed my hand and I amended the I to we.

The rules for The Match were set over dessert. It would be a better ball format, meaning that each player for each team of two would play their own ball until it went in the hole and whichever player cards the fewest number of strokes, that is the score for the team. Low score wins the hole, if there is a tie, then the hole is half-ed. The team that wins the most holes wins the match. There was to be no “Devilish” intervention and the club’s head pro (who happened to be sitting at the next table) agreed to officiate. The Match was to commence in three days, giving Anne and Dannie time to play a practice round and Dev to pick a partner, a female non-pro was decided upon, I wondered who that would be?

The morning of The Match both Anne and Dannie seemed confident in their ability to defeat Dev and company. As we approached the practice tee, I noticed another female golfer off to one side hitting balls, rather well truth be told. While Dannie and Anne were doing their stretching, I wondered over to where the other lady was practicing. As I got closer and the tallish, blonde woman, subtly dressed in a longish black skort and red blouse came into focus, I recognized her. “Excuse me, aren’t you Kimberly Abernathy?” The lady, who was going to her bag for another club, stopped and looked my way. “As a matter of fact, I am. Who are you?” “Mike Beir. I believe you’re to be playing a couple of friends of mine in a little bit.” “Tell them good luck, they may need it, I get to play without any devilish interruptions, first time in years. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish warming up.”

I rejoined the girls as they were about to start hitting balls. “Is that our other opponent?” Asked Anne. “Yes, Kimberly Abernathy. Heard of her?” I replied. “That name if familiar. Wasn’t she a big deal for 8 or 10 years before basically disappearing from the scene? I wonder what happened?” Both Dannie and Mike give Anne “the look” at which Anne chuckled. “Right, Duh!”

First tee: Par four 375 yards, slight Dog-leg right, tree-lined fairway, many trees on this course, not much water, several elevation changes. Although relatively short at 6100 yards, it was not an easy course to walk, or row to hoe, as we were about to find out. (not to worry, I won’t detail every shot of every hole, I want to get this over with as much as both of my readers πŸ™‚

The four players and I were waiting at the first tee for Gabe, the aforementioned Head Pro/Rules official. Anne and Dannie decided to wear white, all white, head to toe, Shorts and a golf shirt for Anne, pants and shirt for Dannie, white golf hats donning both heads. Dev was dressed in all black, pants, shirt, shoes and smallish, black straw hat. Ms. Abernathy was still dressed in the subtle red and black. Gabe finally showed up dressed in mostly white, long pants, shirt, white shoes with black stripes, even his hair and goatee were mostly white. Gabe looked older than he did last night, must’ve been the light. He had a small satchel over one shoulder, which he placed on the bench next to the first tee. “Sorry I’m late, had to get a new horn” which he produced from the sack, seemingly as a way to justify his tardiness, then quickly returned the somewhat larger version of an air horn than I’d seen before, to his bag. During this exchange, there was an audible intake of breath from Dev, who had a different look in his eyes, the usual smugness gone, if only for an instant.

Gabe, without benefit of any written material to source if necessary, formally introduced everyone, we all shook hands, except for Dev and Gabe, who curtly nodded “I’d like to say it’s nice to see you Gabe.” Said a grinning Dev. “Always a please to hear, Louie.” Replied Gabe. (Louie?) I couldn’t resist getting into this conversation (where Angels fear to tread, that’s my Mike. Obviously, Anne, obviously) “You two have met before?” I asked. “Once or twice, although not on a golf course.” Replied Gabe, who, without further delay stated the format to be played, flipped a coin to determine which team tees off first (Dannie & Anne won the toss) and we were off.

The girls won the first hole when Dannie drained a 30 foot putt. The match was back and forth for the front nine, with no more than a one hole advantage on either side. It was obvious that Ms. Abernathy was enjoying playing the game without any “devilish interruptions” as she deftly maneuvered the tree lined front nine. I wondered why Dev didn’t choose someone other than himself to be her partner, not that Dev was a slouch but it was Abernathy providing most of the teams shots, with Dev mostly talking with his caddy, a 40 something attractive woman, dressed in black & red, who resembled another seemingly (at the time) unattainable love interest from out of the past. She was driving the cart with Dev and Abernathy’s clubs, I was behind the wheel of another cart transporting the girls clubs. I had intended to walk but if one team gets to have their clubs driven around the course, why not both? And as I said, it was a pretty hilly New England course.

The 18th tee saw the girls with a one hole advantage, Dev and Abernathy need to win the hole to extend the match. Anne teed off first on the downhill 555 yard par 5, her shot split the fairway, Dannie’s did the same. Dev hit his tee shot into the high rough to the right of the fairway, Abernathy’s was down the middle and the longest of the group. Both Anne and Dannie laid up with their second shots, Dev hit his second even deeper into the rough but on the left as it skittered across the fairway, this would probably take him out of the hole. It was up to Abernathy. There was a small pond in front of the green, Abernathy decided to go for it and pulled out her driver for the 250 yard shot. Driver off the deck, going for broke Abernathy caught it cleanly and the ball headed for the green. Unfortunately (for them) it seemed to go into the pond, definitely (PLEASE!!) in the hazard area. Gabe headed in that direction, disappearing from view as he walked down slight grade leading to the pond and green beyond. I thought this to be odd as he had been keeping a pretty close eye on Dev, watching virtually all of his shots. This fact was not lost on Dev, as he quickly moved his ball off of a tree rout and was about to hit it when Gabe stepped from behind a nearby tree. “I knew you couldn’t play a straight game, not even once.” “So you caught me, so what?” “You know what.” Replied Gabe as he reached into his satchel, produced the large air horn and was about to push the plunger when I drove up, checking on the delay, as Dev was away. “What’s up guys?” Gabe depressed the plunger, a REALLY LOUD non-air horn like sound blasted from the horn and……

Anne and I both popped up in our bed, in our house, in the wee hours of the morning. “Holey Moley, I just had the weirdest dream.” Anne blurts out as she turns on the bedside lamp. “Must be something you ate.” Says Mike as he leans over to give Anne a kiss on the cheek, his baptismal crucifix tapping her shoulder. “When did you start wearing a crucifix?” “Pretty early on in your dream, don’t you remember?”

FINI.

Special thanks to…me !! And anyone else out there in cyberville who has endured the writing process with me.

Up Next ??? No more detective stories…for awhile anyway πŸ˜‰

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