Cold Mac & Cheese and other musings

March 9, 2010

Dead Man’s Hand – scene 1

The Dead Man’s Hand
By Douglas Lutz / copyright March 2010

After a slow count to five, the chloroform had done its job, rendering the old man motionless. Time was short; voices could be heard just down the walkway. This job needed to be finished quickly and there was always the getaway to consider. Much harder to get paid if you’re in jail. Concentrate. Ignore the voices for a second. Now, put the pistol in his hands; point it backwards. Get a good grip on the hands and aim center mass. Carefully manipulate the pliable digits; slowly squeeze the trigger. The 6 inch, nickel plated.38 came to life like a dog whose bite was worse than its bark, sending a spiraling chunk of metal through the skin, past the ribcage and into the heart. The tumbling bullet tore through the massive muscle of life, carrying much of it out the exit wound in back, fusing flesh and blood with the fibers of the office chair’s naugahyde back rest. Mission accomplished.

Calvin Baxter’s 12 pots full of blue crab were better than he had expected, considering the weekend’s Nor’easter had turned the normally tranquil waters of the Chesapeake Bay into a dark green, foamy grog. Hell, the boat almost sank twice and the last thing Calvin wanted to do was catch a ride with a nearby Coast Guard helicopter. The weather had cleared that morning, just hours before the Concept 2 was to pull into the marina off of 67th street. Retired and now living alone, Calvin had little human interaction of consequence and each Sunday afternoon he looked forward to selling his catch, stocking up on a few supplies and maybe, if he was lucky, spending an hour or so just hanging out at the marina. There was no kidding himself. Calvin tried to believe it was the extra cash he made selling crustaceans that made his day worthwhile, but no, deep down Calvin Baxter knew it was the few minutes, that precious quarter of an hour he would get to spend with the dock girl, Kay, that kept him coming back to the same marina, week after week. Today was no exception. Kay had already helped him off-load the blue crab and was returning with his cash, a receipt and a cart full of basic supplies, the type needed by someone who lived on their boat. A muffled pistol shot grabbed both of their attentions.

Calvin knew what had happened. Thirty years a cop, 18 years a detective on the homicide squad of the Norfolk Police Department had given him the experience to know that a fairly large caliber pistol, possibly a .45, had just been discharged inside the marina office. “Damn, here we go…” Calvin muttered as he picked up his cell phone and called 911. “Yeah, this is Detective Calvin Baxter, Norfolk PD. Just heard a shot fired inside the marina office on 67th street. No one seen entering or leaving the premises.” The dispatcher went through her normal procedures, sending the report to the nearest unit. Calvin knew he was in Virginia Beach and while he knew some of the older guys there, he didn’t want to bully his way onto their turf. “Yeah, I’ll wait outside for the marked unit.” Calvin reached into a drawer just inside the pilot house of his little boat, pulling out a Sig Sauer .38, the detective’s preferred handgun.

“What’s going on? What just happened?” Kay said with more than a little fear in her voice. Quite shaken, she had almost rolled the ice chest right into the drink. “Stay here, Kay. Probably a robbery in progress. With one shot, it’s already gotten ugly.” “I’ll stay here on the boat, if you don’t mind.”

Weapon in hand, Calvin moved down the dock towards the office. He heard voices to his right. There, on the fantail of one of the larger yachts, were four men. “Hey, our buddy is in there,” one said, pointing to the office. “Don’t worry, I’m a cop. Stay where you are until we find out what’s going on.”

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June 22, 2009

Canon 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 3:14 am
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Reaching the auto deck, Toni found her scooter amidst a dozen or so Italian Vespas and American made knock offs. She had an original Vespa, a fire engine red model that had been stored in the museum basement for God knows how long. With no record of ownership, the museum curator, Sir Neal Jeffries, gave it to her as a way to help commute to the ferry. Downtown Bridgeport was no place for a woman to walk alone, especially in the evening after closing time, and Toni had proved to be a hard working and popular employee. The old museum had probably past its’ prime as a tourist destination and the curator knew that fresh, young smiling faces behind the counter were essential to revitalizing the business. He could not afford to lose good help, and Toni Marie Sevilla was the best he had working. With overpriced coffee shops and their ilk opening on every corner, fewer and fewer college kids darkened the door in hopes of getting a minimum wage job.

The rain had let up just enough for Toni to venture over to the rail. Looking forward, she could see the anchor lifting out of the water. No sign of the old woman. The deck crew did not look concerned; apparently they did not see the woman go over the side. The weather had improved, but it was still too poor for search boats, even from the Coast Guard. Of course, if no one knew she was missing, why would they even start a search?

With the ferry pulling into the landing, Toni saw the man with the beret going from car to car, peering in with a flashlight. He had on some sort of badge, probably a phony she thought, to give legitimacy to his search. Toni quickly put on her jet black helmet in hopes he would pass her by; whatever his motive, she knew it couldn’t be good. Her heart starting to pound faster and faster, she watched as the man finished with the last row of cars. He was making his way towards the motorcycles, bicycles and scooters. If ever there was time for a miracle, this was it.

As if on cue, just as the man arrived at the area reserved for two-wheeled vehicles, the deckhands opened the gate to allow vehicles off the ship. Cyclists of all types are allowed off first and as the corrugated steel ramp hit the dock, the roar of Harleys echoed throughout the deck. Like a herd of charging wildebeest, the motorcycles led the pack off the ferry. The man had to take a step back, fearing he would be run down. The scooters were next. Toni made sure she had maneuvered to the farthest side away from the mysterious, would-be detective.

The man spotted Toni as she sped up the ramp. Lunging ahead and trying to block her getaway, the man found himself surrounded by a peleton of bicyclists. The pileup mimicked an accident on the Tour de France. Angry riders, New Yorkers no less, showered the man with verbal epithets. Toni took advantage of his delay, scooting past the ferry terminal and onto the main drag. That’s when she heard a car honk and a familiar voice.

“Hey Toni! Hop in ‘dere, before da rain come back!”

It was Stubs, the local cabbie whose boisterous voice and outgoing personality had become so well known that he had parlayed his cab into a mobile tourist attraction for the village of Port Jefferson. While one could walk through the entirety of Port Jeff without too much trouble, it was chic for the rich and famous to be seen with Stubs. He even had a picture of a few Watergate figures, autographed of course, framed and glued to the ceiling overhead the backseat. It was next to his picture of Elvis.

Stubs popped the trunk lid using an automatic switch below the steering column. Making his way to the back of the cab, he noticed the man with the beret heading their way. “Gets in now; I’ll take care of da scooter, Missy.” Toni didn’t have to be told twice; she knew it would be only a matter of time before the mystery man would reach the cab. Stubs secured the trunk lid with a bungee cord, then turned around – finding himself face to face with the beret man.

All Toni could hear was screaming, painful screaming, coming from the back of the cab. Then came the thud. Somebody had hit the sidewalk and hit it hard. She slunk down in the backseat in a vain attempt to avoid detection by the man. The driver’s door opened. Too scared to look up, Toni got her room key out as a weapon of last resort.

“Well then, lets get you home before da rain, Missy.”

It was Stubs. Wheels screeching, smoke rising from spinning tires, the cab lurched forward into traffic. Sitting upright and struggling to fasten her seat belt, Toni asked “What happened back there? Who was that guy?”

“Beats me, but I didn’t like his attitude. So me and Matilda here gave him a little sumptin, just a little adjustment to his attitude, dat’s all.”

Stubs held up a Cheetah stun gun. “Two point five million volts for only 96 clams…shipping and handling extra, of course. Comes in pink, blue and black. You might wanna get you one of dese items. Came in handy today, I tell ya.”

“Well, whoever he is, he looked like he was up to no good on the ferry. He was after an old lady and I’m afraid she may have fallen overboard trying to get away!”

“Let me make a call, then. Hold on. Stubs knows what to do in a case like dis.”

Stubs reached for his handheld cell phone. His cab didn’t have a meter, nor did it have the traditional Motorola style radio connecting his taxi to some distant dispatcher. Port Jeff was not that big; he knew most if not all of the residents. Locals he would let ride for free; tourists he would drive for tips only. Made more money that way, he claimed.

“Hey Bobby, dis is Stubs, man, you dere?”

Turning toward Toni, he quietly mentioned “Bobby’s mah cousin; he’s da trooper who’s always catchin’ foreign speeders on da highway outside of town.” By foreign, he meant people from out of town.

“Hey ah, Bobby, listen up, man. Dere’s some guy down by the terminal, tryin’ to start trouble wit da locals. I introduced him to Matilda so he’s probably still down for the count. Maybe staggering ‘round, trying to find which way is up. Can you check into it?”

“Thanks, man. Dinner on Sunday? Great. See ya.”

“Thanks Stubs. Your aces in my book.” Toni almost cut herself short. She had just used the same bit of slang heard earlier from the old woman. “Can your cousin look into the lady that fell overboard?”

“No. Dat’s Port Authority’s bidness. Too choppy for a search, anyways. All they have is a couple of speedboats; no helicopters. If there is a body outs dere, it’ll wash up sometime tomorrah, once da tide comes back in.”

The ten minute cab ride over, Stubs pulled into the small parking lot of an old, weatherbeaten antique store. It was past closing time, the only light still lit was the battery-powered hurricane lamp, inside the foyer. The second floor window above the shop’s front door suddenly opened. “Toni, are you alright? We were worried about you. They closed down the ferry because of the storm. Come inside for some tea. Stubs, you wait right there until I come downstairs.”

“Yes, Madame. Your wish is my command dere.”

The front door opened with a creak. An older woman, an octogenarian by years but with the spring in her gait typical of a thirty year old, walked out onto the porch. “Come in, both of you, before the rain starts again. Not fit for neither man or nor beast out here I tell you.”

Stubs had put the scooter inside a small shed, built onto the side of the shop. Walking up to the porch, he declared “Tanks for da offer, Mrs. Parker, but I need to get back to da Terminal. Wit no boat service, dere’s plenty of shoppers needin’ a lift to a hotel.”

“Suit yourself. You know you are always welcome to stop by when you get thirsty, Toni, give this to Mister Stubs; he undoubtedly earned it tonight gallivanting about town in this nasty weather.” Eileen Parker handed a ten dollar bill to Toni. Stubs graciously accepted the tip, clicked his heels together, did a slight English bow, then smartly did an about-face. A few seconds later, he was behind the wheel of his classic blue and white ’58 Chevy taxicab, rolling down the hill toward the main thoroughfare.

Toni flipped the light switch as she entered the antique store. The old coat rack caught the riding jacket as she walked by; the helmet dropping into the umbrella stand. Heading straight for the mahogany wet bar, Toni propping herself up onto a faded red, Naugahyde-covered bar stool, She took off her museum vest, shaking it slightly, hoping to drape it over the next bar stool so it, too, could drip dry.

“Cream or lemon?” asked the hostess.

Not really listening, Toni replied “Both, please.”

“Now deary, you know that the lemon will curdle that cream right up. Why don’t I just give you a slice of lemon. We’ll save the cream for breakfast.”

“Oh… I’m sorry. I’m just a little preoccupied, that’s all.” Toni was looking at her work vest. The name tag was staring her right in the face. It read “Toni Marie.” Nothing unusual about the tag, except now Toni had to ask herself: how did the old lady on the ferry know to call her “Miss Sevilla?”

June 15, 2009

Fire the Canon – 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 2:35 am
Tags: , , ,

Fire the Canon, Raise the Dead

By Douglas Lutz
Copyright 2009

A larger than normal crowd of tourists and commuters had gathered at the ferry terminal, trying to get home before an approaching storm would hit. By the looks of the front, with its’ dark clouds billowing about with strong winds and traces of lightning emanating from within, Toni Marie knew that by the end of their hour long voyage to Port Jefferson the huddled masses would end up soaked to the bone. The scooter ride home would be dreadful.

As Toni found a seat inside the mid-level cabin, above the auto deck, she looked out the window. The sky had darkened to pitch black, red and green lights from passing ships and barges dotted the watery landscape. The smooth ride to which she had become accustomed was rapidly becoming more agitated. Passengers from the observation deck were moving to the mid deck cabin, seats were now at a premium. An older lady sat herself down next to Toni. Probably in her 80’s, at least, thought Toni. She had not seen this woman on the ferry before, but something about this disheveled gypsy-like woman looked familiar.

“I enjoyed your tour this morning.”

“Excuse me?” Toni was not expecting a conversation. The ferry, like the circus museum where she worked, had its’ fair share of odd people and often enough Toni wanted nothing to do with them. Growing up alone had given Toni Marie Sevilla a slight case of paranoia. The parents who would have taken care of her had divorced and left her in the care of an elderly couple who ran a bed and breakfast. They treated her well, yet Toni always felt as if they were tolerating her, biding their time until she could do something for them in return for the years of free room and board.

“The Barnum Museum. You work there, yes?” the woman said, pointing to the name badge still affixed to Toni’s vest. “I was in your first tour group this morning. With so many tourists this time of year, I am sure you don’t remember me, but I remember you. You were kind and listened to everyone’s questions. Too many guides these days just rattle off a speech; they know absolutely nothing about the exhibits, just memorizing script after script. It’s a shame; they don’t know what treasures they have there.”

“It’s a nice place to work; I find the artifacts interesting, too.” Toni wasn’t sure how to handle a compliment; most museum visitors only wanted to see the mummy lady or pictures from the old circus days when P.T. Barnum ran the show.

“Well, I’m glad I had you as a guide. You knew much more than what was printed on the placards. Aces in my book.”

Toni was trying to place the accent. European most likely. Hungarian, Slavic perhaps? No, not “thick” enough. Something smoother, more refined, yet definitely old country. “Thank you; I am glad you enjoyed the tour. Too bad the weather has turned, your vacation may end up a bit on the wet side, I’m afraid.”

At the aft doorway, a man wearing a beret was talking to a Port Authority officer, showing him a photo. They started looking around the crowded cabin. Finding someone here would not be easy. Too many trench coats, hats, umbrellas. Too many people in general. They started easing their way though the crowd, their steps faltering occasionally as the ship rocked.

“Vacation? Oh my, no. I am here on a research project of sorts. Say, I bet you may know… when giving those tours, have you ever found…”

The old woman stopped abruptly as she gazed through the cabin, putting eyes on the two men looking around.

“Found what?”

“Nevermind, just an old woman’s thoughts. Not important. Have you ever read any Twain?”

Toni Marie recognized the intentional change of subject as well as the cause. “Why…yes, I love reading Mark Twain. But…who are they? Are they looking for you?”

“I must be going now, Miss Sevilla. Let me leave you with something to ponder – what does Mark Twain have to do with the museum’s Napoleonic War diorama?” With those cryptic words, the old woman stood up and slipped into the crowd, moving toward the bow entrance.

“Wait! What’s your name? What does Twain have to do with Napoleon? “

“Ma’am, have you seen this person?” It was the Port Authority officer. He was holding an 8 by 10 black and white photo. It looked like a surveillance photo, taken at a distance. There was the old woman, talking to a man, a shadow of a man really, and the Barnum Museum was in the background.

Toni’s paranoia had set in, raising her psychological defense shield. “No…I don’t recall, but there are a lot of people on the ship today, you know.”

“Where is the woman who was sitting next to you?”

“She just left. I think she was just a tourist or something. Why do you ask?”

“Hey – up front!” The man wearing the beret was motioning to the officer, pointing to the now open hatch leading out to the observation deck. They quickly forgot about Toni, brushing people aside, trying to get to the hatch before it closed. Reaching the doorway, the officer unholstered his .38 snub-nosed revolver. Peering out, the two were pelted with rain. The passengers started complaining, telling the two to shut the door. No one noticed or cared that the officer had his pistol at the ready.

Toni stood up and moved to the window, trying to find the old woman. The weather had deteriorated to the point where even the crew had come inside. The decks were supposed to be clear; safety first as they say. In the short, bright glow of the lightening, Toni saw the old woman. Her jaw dropped as she witnessed the old lady climb over the side, holding onto the anchor chain. “Crap, she’s gonna fall…”

The fog horn blared as emergency bells sounded. A second horn became apparent. This klaxon was too close, way too close. Toni realized that the ferry as in danger of colliding with another ship. Her mind returned to the plight of the escaping woman. As the two men reached the bow, shouting from the wheelhouse caused them to turn around.

Looking back to the front, the men saw the cause of the commotion. A barge being pulled by a tugboat had broken free in the choppy water. The massive barge was drifting right into the path of the ferry. The only course of action was to drop anchor, causing the abrupt halt of the ferry. With luck, the barge would drift by narrowly missing the ferry. An obnoxious buzzer joined the cacophony as the anchor was released, splashing into the white capped waves below.

Toni started to run towards the hatch. She had to find out if the old woman was still aboard, or if she was now in the water. The anchor took hold, causing the boat to shudder to a stop, twisting through the rough sea – barely missing the barge as it drifted across the bow. Passengers were thrown from their seat; those standing became like little bowling pins, scattering about. The lights dimmed, went out, then came back on. Toni could hear the roar of the massive engines being put into reverse. One of the mates came out to the deck, ushering the two men back inside. Toni decided to return to her scooter, down on the auto deck. Maybe by putting on her riding jacket and helmet, she would not be recognized by the two men if they came down that far.

Toni hoped above all that she had not just witnessed a suicide, intentional or not.

October 18, 2008

Maybe dog is a bit spoiled?

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 8:35 pm
Tags: , ,

The official arrival of Fall has come and gone, but today the weather finally matches it. Yesterday we had mid to upper 80s and today 50s to 60s with gray skies and scattered mist bordering on drizzle. A great day to spend inside…watching football!

While lady of the house knits, and I watch Ohio State whup up on Michigan State (now, now…I am not taking sides on this one,) dog sleeps comfortably on the sofa.  She has her blanket to lay on and a quilt bunched up under her little head.  If this were a comic stip, you would see little “z”s rising from her mouth.

Can it get much better for dog?  After all, no cat and no squirrel. Dog had a tasty treat of cheese bits on a plate, left from man made a quick snack of nachos.  Dog liked it so much, she ate part of the paper plate, too!

Dog’s tail is twitching now.  That means she is either dreaming of chasing squirrel again, or she just released something akin to toxic gas from her business end.

No more cheese, dog.

ever…

September 28, 2008

Just what the dog wanted…

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 1:50 am
Tags: , , ,

“I have returned, triumphantly of course, to the house this evening, after an exhilarating row with the now vanquished and exiled cat,” said dog, on her way to the water bowl to refuel for another nap on the couch. Later, dog smelled cat again, but this was different.  Not the same cat?  Could there be another?  Could it get any worse?

Yes.

Man and woman had also returned…from a house down yonder…where they were….

cat-sitting

two cats.

So for dog, yes – it did get worse. Three cat smells, yet only one cat to chase. There would be only one solution to this Kobayashi Maru:

Back on the couch and take a nap!

September 22, 2008

Flying Donuts

Filed under: Uncategorized — D.J. Lutz @ 10:59 am
Tags: , ,

Dash Summerwell felt pretty good for it being a Monday morning.  He had successfully ironed his business attire without incident, had some breakfast, and put his little girl on the school bus, all without waking the dog up to the point where she would want undiscriminating attention.  Mondays don’t always start this way. Tuesdays, either. By Wednesday, Dash was usually resigned to the fact that life, or fate, really wanted him to stay on his little hamster wheel in hell.

Today would be different, he told himself. A cheerful attitude going into work would make the time fly faster. Dash wasn’t particularly happy with his job. The old phrase “time to make the donuts” actually applied to Dash Summerwell.  He worked at his cousin’s bakery, Flying Donuts..take a leap and try one! Donuts themselves were not the problem.  His cousin Drew was more of the issue.  Drew had received the bulk of their grandfather’s inheritance years ago. Against popular wisdom, meaning saving or investing the bulk of the windfall, he opened a donut shop.

Drew refused to seek business advice, convinced that he could manage well by himself.  He did need production help, however, and thusly convinced Dash to be the head of the Production Management Team.  The fact was that Dash was the entire team.  He had sole responsibility for making the donuts every single day.  The shop was a success, mainly because Drew accidentally rented space in a strip mall, in a storefront that was wedged between a diet center for ladies and a children’s dentistry.  Dash didn’t know which neighbor created more customers, the unhappy clients from the diet center needing a fix of comfort food or unhappy parents trying to appease their cranky kids after a trip to the dentist.

Suffice to say, most of the customers walking into the Flying Donut were less than joyous.  By the time they had devoured one or two of Dash’s famous Bavarian cream filled pastries, smiles abounded.  That was the part of the business that Dash truly enjoyed.  Nothing like turning around a sad day for a kid who just had his mouth poked at by an old dentist that should have retired years ago… Drew, however, never seemed to get the same satisfaction. He was all about profits.  He constantly pushed Dash to cut back on ingredients, yelling at Dash and the countergirl if there were leftover donuts at the end of the day, and ironically throwing a tantrum if donuts ran out during the day. Drew Summerwell made life in the donut shop difficult at best.  He even took one bulb out of each light fixture, saying that the one remaining bulb per fixture should be enough to light the shop. What a tightwad, Dash thought. Could his business acumen get much worse?

Yes, today would be different. Dash Summerwell would keep a smile on his face the entire day.  He was not going to let his cousin Drew ruin a perfectly good Monday, one that had started out so well already. When Dash arrived at the store, he saw an official looking sign taped to the inside of the door.  “Business closed. By order of the Office of the Sheriff. Back payment of rent must be delivered, in certified funds, to landlord, before premises may be reoccupied.”

Yes, this Monday would be different…

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