Sunday, June 28, 2020

DEEP READER part 5.5

Copyright (c) 2020 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



DEEP READER
Part  5.5
“Down  the Darkened Stairs.”
By R. Peterson

            You must have read DEEP READER part 5 “before” you read this part. If you haven’t read it yet … go back and read it now.
The only things you will need for this journey are a glass (crystal is even better) of clear, cold water and a table or a piece of wood.  Get them now and place them within easy reach.
The stairs creek with each descending step we take. I want to confess that I might not be able to protect you as I promised, but then you’d probably bolt and run and that wouldn’t do … so I remain quiet. I need you here with me as much as you need me. In order for me to help you to conquer your fears … I must first conquer my own.
When I was six years old I had a recurring bad-dream, a nightmare that visited me for several nights. In my dreams, I would open an old door with dark stairs that led to a cellar in my grandfather’s kitchen. I was terrified and didn’t want to descend the stairs, but my feet would not obey me. When I was halfway down the stairs a hideous dwarf with a large wart-covered nose would appear at the foot of the stairs waiting for me. He would raise his pudgy fingers to grab me … just before I woke up.
I was terrified and made a childish agreement with whatever powers that be that if I could stop having this dream then I would have it on my wedding night. The bad dreams stopped and the bargain was sealed. I’ve been married twice and both times on my wedding night I thought about the dream and the bargain that I’d made … both times the dream did not happen. So it lurks there still in my mind … at the bottom of the stairs.
The dark squat figure, that I glimpsed before, is still there somewhere in the shadows I know it is … and so do you. We are blind and in complete darkness but we still need to find out exactly where this creature is so that we can avoid it. We must use our other senses. Evil always carries the smell of death and we can use this to our advantage. Reach up and gently touch your nose. If you’re in a restaurant a library or some other crowded place you can do it so casually that no one will notice. (DO IT NOW!)
            You now have the odor scenting abilities of a bloodhound and you can even smell warmth. Close your eyes turn your head to the left and breathe in through your nose, turn you head until it’s looking forward and do the same… then again while your head is turned to the right. (DO IT NOW!)
The scent of warmth was to the front. Fear is approaching … directly before us. Vicious, mean eyes appear with just the slightest suggestion of bristly hair surrounding a snarling mouth. I want to sprint back up the stairs but we must go past this dwarf-like monster. Please help me. Make a fist with your left hand and squeeze your fingers tightly together. (DO IT NOW!)
You hold my right hand with your left as we take slow sluggish steps … we both want to run but we can not. Running gives power to fear and if we run we’d never get out of this dark place with our sanity intact. A cold fingernail brushes the back of your neck. You want to scream … but you don’t … not yet. Instead you squeeze your left hand fingers more tightly together. (DO IT NOW!)
We hear the muted rattle of a dragging chain following behind us. For the first time I realize my nightmare has been tethered to the bottom of the stairs. No chain can reach into infinity … we keep moving. I think we have moved out of its reach but we must be sure. Close your eyes, then reach up and touch your ear. Listen carefully until you hear or imagine a clack. This means my monster has reached the end of his chain. (DO IT NOW!)
Thank you so much! We have moved past my fears … now we must confront yours.
The dark place we are in in unbelievably vast and we walk beyond the constraints of time. For the first time since arriving at the bottom of the stairs we see a sliver of light and we move toward it.
As we approach the light we realize it comes from the other side of a closed door. There is in fact a long hallway with rows of doors on both sides. The doors on the right are good memories starting from your childhood and proceeding down the hall. The doors to the left are bad memories. Each door represents a year in your life and each is marked with the year number. Move down the hall and stop in front of the door on the left or the right that you want to open. This is your best or worst memory from that year in your life.
You want to relive the pleasure of your best memory. Take a drink from your glass of water then close your eyes, relax and tap your desk or your piece of wood twice and the door opens. Go slow. Allow your best memories to return. You feel wonderful. Should you want to venture inside …
Inside each door is a round room with more than three-hundred sixty-four windows. Each window represents a day from that year moving from left to right and each has the month and day carved into the window sill. To relive the memories from a particular day close your eyes and relax before opening your eyes and looking through the glass. Allow time for the specific and very detailed memories to form. They may come as dreams … you must decide if they are real. Taking a drink of the water and tapping your finger three times … will close the door to that year in your life.
Close your eyes and touch the desk or the piece of wood with your right hand finger once as we pass each door on the right and you will get a very pleasant feeling of joy or euphoria without even opening that door as we move down the hall. (DO IT NOW!)
For some of us the hallway is much too long … for others it is short.
You are smiling as we reach the end of the hallway. This is good. Happiness and fear cannot exist in the same place.
We are only concerned with the black door at the very end of the hall … this is your greatest fear. This iron door is partially open … and we must close it.
You may wish to venture beyond this door. If you do, take a drink of the water, close your eyes, relax and tap the wood (or your desk) twice. If you wish to go inside this door, I will go with you. If you wish only to close it … tap three times. (DO IT NOW!)
When the door at the end of the hall closes, the lights suddenly come on and our journey is finished. Relax your clenched left hand and the wonderful memory you brought up from the darkness has been released. Enjoy it. There are many doors left unopened … many windows not looked through.
I will leave you … for now. Memories are our greatest treasures and our most formidable enemies. I hope you brought at least a few fantastic ones back with you. Remember there are many doors beyond the dark stairs … perhaps you and I will go again.

THE END ?




Monday, June 22, 2020

DEEP READER part 5

Copyright (c) 2020 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



DEEP READER
Part  5
“Down the Darkened Stairs.”
By R. Peterson

The expedition down these dark stairs is the most dangerous and exciting thing you will ever do at this moment in time.  Prepare yourself! If we are successful, and not all will be, we will return much happier than when we left and with an astonishing fortune. Together we will seek a vast and oftentimes forbidden knowledge of things secreted … sometimes before we were born. Words are eternal and time makes them grow in power. If I am long past from this world my powers are greater because these words speak to you from beyond the grave. Even if I’m still living I promise to stand by your side and to lead you to this treasure and back home again in safety.
 This journey will gift you pleasures beyond imagination, wash away all your fears, fill you with a great and marvelous ambition and drown your worries in the depths of euphoria. I will be your friend and guide. Your strict obedience is everything … you must trust me.
            I will ask you to do some very simple things; only you will know if you do them. It is important that I be able to control your actions. Once I have full control of your physical responses then I can open locked doorways into the deep, vast and darkened corners of your mind. The only things you will need for this journey are a glass (crystal is even better) of clear, cold water and a table or a piece of wood.  Get them now and place them within easy reach.
I will give you simple instructions such as Close your eyes and tap your finger on the smooth surface of the glass three times (DO IT NOW.)
That wasn’t so bad was it? Ready? Let’s go!

            Imagine a path in the woods. Sunlight filters through leaves and turns the small pebbles you walk on into jewels. We stop and you stare at your feet. Some of the pebbles are very tiny crystals enchanted with magic.
Smile and wiggle your toes. (DO IT NOW.)
Something very good and pleasant is coming our way … you feel it and so do I.
We begin to walk and with every step we take we become younger. The sun crosses the sky from West to East and birds are flying backwards. By the time we leave the woods and emerge in a meadow we are in the best times of our lives and we both feel young and restful. Birds are flying in the right direction landing in the trees and building nests. White clouds dance together across the sky. Fragrant wildflowers grow alongside the path and as we breathe in the fresh and clean air we feel great pleasure.
Close your eyes, relax and take three long deep breathes. (DO IT NOW.)
There is the faintest tingling sensation in the toes you wiggled before … a whispered promise of the many rich and unexpected pleasures to come.
We move alongside a babbling brook and it sounds as if the water is speaking to you. You kneel beside the stream and a fat green frog with bulging eyes and a red spot on his back jumps from a rock and swims frantically toward the opposite bank. Is that a crown the frog is wearing? You want to smile but you don’t … well maybe the corners of your mouth turn up just a little. If you laughed then even better … and perhaps you should be leading this adventure. You see your reflection in the water and you are fascinated by your own image. You have never looked better. No one on Earth is more daring and breathtakingly beautiful than you are!
Close your eyes, and listen carefully until you hear the moving water whisper the first name of a close friend, a lover or a family member. (DO IT NOW.)
The frog vanishes into a clump of thick brush covered with red berries on the far bank. The foliage shakes. From one to three ripe berries fall from the green leaves and glisten as they rush downstream. Count them.
Close your eyes, and take a small drink from your glass of water. Hear the whispered name in your mind. Do this so you will remember what you heard the water speak and the number of berries you saw floating down the stream. (DO IT NOW.)
We both feel amazingly refreshed. Water is the most magical substance in the universe and we have enough to do anything Colors seem much brighter as we once again cross the meadow. The buzzing of bees fills us with energy. We want to run but decide to stroll along and enjoy every moment. We begin to laugh … and to dance.


At the far end of the meadow the stream turns away, the wildflowers vanish and withered grass covers a small mound. A tiny cottage made of black stone stands atop the hill. The clouds that were dancing before have turned dark and ugly. A vicious and ruthless tavern brawl begins with the clouds as the evening darkens. An angry wind bends the trees on both sides of the foreboding structure with its fury. It begins to rain … and the sky stops its fight … and then weeps.
            A splintered doorway, much too large for the house, forbids our entry. We are afraid but we must seek shelter; the storm worsens.
Knock on the table or the piece of wood three times. (DO IT NOW!)
The door slowly opens and our fear vanishes. We are together and we can overcome anything. The room we enter smells dank and musty. An oil lamp burns on a small table next to a chair covered with a yellow and green quilt. We sense movement in another room. A dark figure moves about as a shadow. We heard the rattle of dishes and pouring water … then the voice of a very old woman.
“I’m very busy … but you know the way. Call to me … if you fall into danger.”
“Who are you?” We both want to know but the question comes from your lips.
“I am Hope to some … and to others Despair,” the crackling voice says. “Only you can decide.”
We move across the room and into another. We find ourselves in a cold and lonely porch with gaping gaps in the slat-board walls. Torn overalls hand from pegs on the walls. A rat jumps from a box of rotting apples and runs toward the kitchen. We hear the old woman laugh with joy. The summer-rain outside has turned into winter. Flurries of snow blow through the cracks and form drifts around our feet. A very old passageway without a doorknob leans drunkenly against an earth-smelling wall. It was not made to be entered by the living. This door can only be opened with your mind.
Close your eyes and remember the name whispered by the stream. (DO IT NOW!)
Somewhere in the house the old woman begins to sing … a lullaby with all the wrong words.
Close your eyes and take three long slow breaths. (DO IT NOW!)
A train rattles over a bridge in the distance. An air horn blows. Something large bangs against the outside of the house. The old woman walks on the outside past a broken window with snow in her grey hair and the rat wrapped in an infant’s blanket.
Close your eyes and take a large drink from the glass of water. (DO IT NOW!)



When you open your eyes the passage door without a knob slowly begins to open. We stare down a dark passage of stairs. Something squat and dangerous moves in the shadows just beyond our field of vision. An image from a long ago nightmare best forgotten … and we look at each other before we descend.
I have brought you to the dark stairs … next week our adventure will go on.

TO BE CONTINUED …


Sunday, June 14, 2020

FRANK JAGGER Gang Wars part 4

Copyright (c) 2020 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



FRANK JAGGER
GANG WARS
Part 4
The rattling flat-bed Ford dropped us off in front of the farm house, and then disappeared in a cloud of dust. If we weren’t hired, it would be a long walk back to Chicago. Beth wore a dirty gingham dress with a clean white apron that clung to her in places like a nervous coat of paint. The out-of-work farmhand I’d become was dressed in torn bib-overalls, broken-lace boots that could talk with a little persuasion and a hat that had to have been stolen from a mule. My hands were covered with blisters from chore practice and I still didn’t know a chicken coop from a shoe shine stand. I was convinced these Cleveland mobsters holding Albert McGooganheimer’s daughter and my missing secretary would see through our ruse instantly and that we’d be shot on sight. For some reason, I kept thinking about the taste of Old Forester Bourbon.
Three men in pinstripe suits answered my knock on the splintered wood door and two of them held forty-fives almost concealed behind their backs. I let Beth do the talking. “That store woman in Collinsville says you’re looking for two people to tend your sick folks and do farm chores,” she said.
“We’ll talk care of my … parents,” the goon in front said. He was looking at me suspiciously. “We need people to run this farm … and keep away visitors.”
“What’s them fields planted in?” I looked behind me and around with wide eyes. I sounded extra stupid … even to my own ears.
“Horseradish!” one of the men said. The gun in his hand was now visible. “What else do they grow around here?”
“Is that a duck gun?” I yodeled, pointing at the Colt .38 Special in his hand. “Can you teach me how to aim it?”
“I’m Vincent,” the mobster in front smiled and the guns vanished from the men behind him. “These are my brothers … Slim and Tony. There’s a cook-stove with pans and utensils in the barn. I’ll have Tony bring you out some sugar and flour.  You can sleep in the hayloft. This house is off limits. Do your work … and we’ll get along just fine!”
“Will we be paid?” I stammered.
“We’ll see,” Vincent said. “Forget about them horseradish fields … we got us a bug infestation … and we’re planning to burn them.”
One of the goons was frisking Beth with his eyes. If he moved, he was in danger of stepping on his tongue. “Thank you so much,” I told the mobsters. “You won’t be sorry!”

-------2-------

The farm’s previous owners were into raising beef, possibly to hide the taste of all that horseradish.  At least two hundred head of bawling Black Angus steers were crowded into a too small corral without grass or water. A tired plow-horse leaned against an outhouse. I finally got the cattle moved into a bigger pasture, forked them some hay and filled all their drinking troughs. It was suppertime when I trudged back to the barn.
Biddies are harder to catch than you’d think. By the time I cornered two hens; I’d lost at least five pounds, wore a sweaty jacket of feathers and was famished. Beth grew up on a farm and cooked the birds along with corn and other vegetables plucked from a parched-garden. After we ate, my secretary’s sister decided to take a plate of fried chicken up to the mob hideout … just to get a look inside.
            There was a half-starved hound sharing the barn with us and I fed and watered him while I waited for Beth to return.

-------3-------

            Beth came back more than an hour later. Her blouse was torn and a couple of her buttons were missing. I was stomping toward the farm house when she stopped me. There are eight men inside. All of them are ready to shoot ducks.” She smiled. “Well I guess there are now just seven hunters still on their feet. I’ve learned a few tricks working at the Horn Section. I think these thugs will leave the one who tore my blouse behind when they go. Tony wants to be a farmer now. He’s moaning on a cot in the back room … crying over the two acres I just gifted him.”
            “Do you have any idea where they’re holding your sister and Lynette McGooganheimer?”
            “I’m sure they’re locked in a small cellar under the back bedroom. I heard two women’s voices whispering below me as Tony tried to persuade me to make his bed.”
            “Any chance of breaking them out?”
            “The only entrance is through a trap door in the living room.”
She started to leave. “Where are you going?”
            “To wash off the drool,” she said looking for a clean towel. “I feel like I’ve been locked in a cage with a baboon.”


-------4------

            It was like a scene from a Gary Cooper western. Beth mounted the plow horse with her boots firmly in the stirrups of a moth eaten saddle. “There’s only one way around the house once the gate is open!” She handed me a broken hay-rake handle with coal-oil soaked rags tied around the top and tucked another one just like it behind her.  “You stand over there and keep any strays from going around the house,” she ordered.
            Five minutes later, I heard what sounded like a storm approaching at a fast pace. Beth rode behind the herd waving her torch and turning the panicked cattle into a stampede. The Bell Cow was racing in front with its tail on fire. I found out later it was the only way Beth could get the bovine leader to move. Eight hundred hoofs pounding the ground was enough to make the old farm house shake. Vincent and Slim stumbled out on the porch just as the herd charged through the open gate. I lit my torch and began to wave it in the air. Both men on the porch fired their guns. The stampede suddenly turned in my direction and I lit a pile of oil-soaked wood beside me.
It was hard to see what was happening with all the dust and flying wood splinters. The first twenty cows crashed into the porch and broke away the supports. The next one hundred tore down the front wall and thundered through the living room wearing the shake-roof like a wooden hat. An explosion somewhere started an enormous fire. There were screams and a couple more gunshots. I heard cursing in Italian and caught a glimpse of Beth as she rode past. I’d never seen such excitement and pleasure in one person’s eyes. She looked orgasmic. By the time the last cow ran through the ruins, the farm house was just a smoldering scrap pile. The thugs were all dead, and we could hear two female voices crying for help beneath the debris.

-------5------

            McGooganheimer’s men arrived in minutes and helped us move the wreckage. My secretary was the first one out and she screamed at me. “What the hell?”  Lynette McGooganheimer crawled out after Linda. She was covered with soot but was still more beautiful than I’d ever imagined.
            The three women went into the barn to clean up while me and Machine Gun’s men dragged the smoldering bodies from the ashes searched and then buried them behind a pig pen.
            Later Linda found me alone while I was rolling a cigarette in the garden. “I’m sorry I got you mixed up in this,” she said. “Lynette and I have been lovers for more than a year!” I tore the cigarette I was rolling … and had to start over. “We knew her father would never approve of our relationship, so we planned an elaborate honeymoon-escape to the Mediterranean. We thought he would eventually stop looking for us if he thought it was just another mob-abduction.” She went on. “It was me that typed the ransom note on your typewriter. We booked passage on a cruise ship, but our travel-agent was one of Joey Lenardo’s associates. His men lured us into one of their taxis in order to extort her father.”
            I felt sorry for Linda when she looked at me with her help-me eyes. There was more than ten grand that Machine Gun’s men took off the bodies before they were buried. I made them give all the dough to Lynette. No one complained. I told them both to remember the Titanic and to count life boats before they boarded any ship. I watched them drive away sitting next to each other in one of McGooganheimer’s cars.


-------6-------

            The driver dropped Beth off at her apartment. She complained she smelled like smoke and I daydreamed about her soaking in a tub filled with bubbles. We drove right past the office where I occasionally slept. “McGooganheimer wants to see you … now,” the driver explained. My dreams were chased away by a growing sense of doom. Machine Gun would of course demand to know why his precious daughter hadn’t been returned to him.
            There were at least twenty guards with tommy guns guarding the gates to his magnificent estate. The Chicago gang wars of 1929 were evidentially still very popular with mobsters. Two men escorted me into McGooganheimer’s enormous office then closed the door behind us. It was like I was being locked in my own cage … this time with a tiger.
            The most notorious killer in Chicago lit a cigar and then stared at me for a full minute before he spoke. The silence was creeping up on me like a Sicilian neck-tie salesman and I was wearing a sweaty shirt. “Where is she?” he finally asked.
            “I helped rescue Lynette from her captors,” I told him. “With all the buildings getting blown down in the Windy City by the big bad wolfs …” I hoped he didn’t think I included him. “We figured she needed a vacation … at least until this dark fairy tale ends. She’s on a cruise ship under an assumed name and with my very capable secretary along to … guard her.”
            McGooganheimer stared at me for another full minute. I had the distinct feeling that he knew all about his lesbian daughter. I could almost feel the knife sliding across my throat.
            “Make sure her vacation remains a secret,” he said, reaching into his desk drawer and tossing me a fat envelope … filled with pictures of Andrew Jackson.

-------Post-------

Machine Gun didn’t spring for the ride back to my home so I took a cab. On the way back a black sedan pulled up next to us and shot out all our tires. Another car chased them away. I heard gunfire and saw the explosion about a block away.
An hour later, the hallway that led to my office was the same twenty bucks a month cockroach hotel … but this time it smelled strongly like lavender. I thought it was my imagination until I pushed on the door … it was unlocked.
Beth lounged in a large bathtub filled with hot water and was popping bubbles with a hat-pin right in front of my desk. I don’t know how she got the heavy cast iron tub and the heated water up two flights of stairs; she was obviously into some kind of magic.
            “I hear you’re looking for a secretary.” She smiled and my heart danced the Charleston.
            “You must be a mind reader.”
            “Only the bestsellers.”
            “Can you type?”
            “Almost eight words a minute,” she said, “when I’m wearing my glasses.”
            “You won’t need glasses.”
            “You smell like a hobo camp!” Her nose wrinkled. “I don’t work for dirty old men … you’ll have to clean up your act!” She slid to one side of the bathtub.
 … and I locked my office door.

THE END ?


Sunday, June 7, 2020

FRANK JAGGER Gang Wars part 3

Copyright (c) 2020 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



FRANK JAGGER
GANG WARS
Part 3
“Why didn’t I see you before?” I asked the girl with the long gams wiggling on my lap. The paddy wagon we were in, a converted Morris Minor van, was racing through the deserted streets of Chicago, along with five others, at 4 AM on August 10, 1929.
            “I was in the back … cooking,” she told me. She had a mouth full of gum and she blew and popped a bubble. It was Linda Farmgirl’s little-sister Beth all right. She was even more gorgeous up close.
            “I didn’t know the Horn Section served food?”  I was referring to the speakeasy we had all been in … that had just been raided. At least three male customers had been shot.
            “The books!” She shook her head and I got a whiff of Demi Jour perfume. “You’ve never heard of cooking the books?”
            ‘I’ve never been hungry enough to eat paper,” I told her, “boiling an old leather shoe with a few potatoes is as low as I go.”
            “You’re a funny egg.’ She played along. ‘I hope you have enough dough once we get to their restaurant.”
            “You don’t seem worried.”
            “My boss, Charley, works for McGooganheimer,” she boasted. “These bums ain’t real peaches. They belong to Big Joey Lenardo and he’s a pig. The lard’s up here from Cleveland, trying to cut himself a large, juicy slice of Chicago.”  She smiled and popped another bubble. “Charley has the lettuce to pay for my ride … plus he packs enough heat to make these mugs boil over.”
            “I’m sure he does.”
She looked at me and her eyebrows scrunched together. “Why all the questions? Are you some kind of snooper?”
            “Jagger Investigations,” I told her. “Your sister works for me.”
Beth gasped. “Do you know where Linda is?”
            “No, but I’m going to find out!”
            “I was just about to ask Charley … to barber you.”
            “Thanks, but I’ve already had my close-shave. Where are they taking us?”
            “The fourth precinct. It’s the only cabbage patch Joey has at the moment … but he’s out on his tractor every night, plowing fields … and looking to expand.”
            “At the moment?”
            “You’ll see.” She spat out her gum and kissed me. I was beginning to get dizzy.

-------2-------

The jail behind the fourth precinct police station was packed with people who couldn’t resist the beguiling temptations of illegal alcohol. Release until some fantasy court date was twenty bucks and was collected by a cop with a big smile on his face. Luckily, Beth and I were herded into the same cage. We were the only two left when I offered to pay our bail. Linda’s little sister shook her head. “Charley says not to give these bums any money it just encourages them.”
            A little while later, a large beefy cop with a leather-handled beat-stick pushed a heavy black material through the bars and into Beth’s hands. “You got five minutes,” he whispered.
I helped her carry it to the back of the cell. When unfolded, the material was the size of a double sheet and woven from the same metal fabric used for welder’s glove. She pointed to an empty bunk. “Let’s crawl under there and wrap ourselves up,” she suggested. Beth had me under her spell the first time she popped her bubble gum. I crawled under the bunk behind her and pulled the blanket over us.
We were barely on our second or third kiss when the explosion came. Broken-iron, cement, bits of police uniform fabric, and blood rained down on us. When I finally managed to push what remained of the bunk off from us, the cage we were in had been blasted open.
Dead cops lay everywhere. Some were still calling for their mothers in the smoke filled carnage while others pleaded-with or threatened Jesus. We had barely made it to the street when a taxi skidded to a stop next to us. “Get in … if you want to live,” the driver told us. The cab had a good heater. We drove for more than an hour and I finally fell asleep with Beth snuggled against my chest.

-------3-------

When I woke up, the sun was rising. A rooster was crowing as we pulled into a farm yard. “Wash up!” a bearded-hick carrying two pails of milk and with a stem of straw dangling from his mouth told us. “Breakfast is in ten minutes.”
The water in a large trough was clean enough to drink and after I splashed my face Beth made me leave while she took a bath. I wandered around a huge barn, corrals and behind a freshly painted yellow farmhouse to gaze at the countryside. Most mornings I wake up thankful to be alive … and this was one of them. My mother, Julia, was a laundress and a struggling poet before influenza stole her in nineteen eighteen. I couldn’t help thinking of her soft and brilliant eyes when she wrote … as I lit a cigarette and surveyed the countryside.
Endless fields of ripe-wheat paraded gold in the early light. Red apples sparkled like rubies from trees … around pale and misty farmyards. Distant meadows became shallow bowls of emeralds. A scattering of crows brought hope … like tiny ink splatters on fresh new paper … just under the horizon. Far off, a stream and a few ponds shimmered like pearls against deep thread-banks … trenching moist and blackened earth. Azure silk was the enormous lid that covered this open chest of rural Illinois … night the gentle closing. And one loud, cricket … would become the clicking lock that secured nature’s treasure… from the darkness. 
Beth kissed me. She smelled like lavender. “I’m hungry,” she said as she took my arm. “I hope you like bacon.”
The man and woman cooking breakfast in the farmhouse looked like they could have been my grandparents. The taxi driver was eating as well. “We got you out of the forth precinct jail just in time,” he said. “Joey Lenardo’s associates were planning for you to have an accident.”
“Why?” I asked as I shoveled bacon and two sunny-side-up onto my plate.
“Because you’re good at what you do and you work for McGooganheimer,” The woman said. “They thought Machine Gun would terminate you himself when he found out the ransom note for his daughter came from your typewriter.”
“They underestimated his intelligence,” the man said as he scooped hash browns next to my eggs.
“You’ve found my sister?” Beth asked.
“Yes, she’s being held along with McGooganheimer’s daughter at a heavily guarded farmhouse about two miles from here.” The taxi driver had finished eating and was changing his clothes. The red plaid shirt and faded bib-overalls he put on made him look like a country bumpkin.
“Why would they abduct my secretary?”
“We don’t know why,” the farmer said. “Maybe they had her type the ransom note.”
“Something doesn’t add up,” the farmer’s wife said.
“The men who abducted Lynette McGooganheimer are from New York City and are very dangerous but they’re unfamiliar with you people and farm life. The old couple who lived in the house before they arrived have disappeared.” The taxi driver explained.
 “The Smiths were nice people,” the old woman shook her head.
The taxi driver finished dressing. “These big city mobsters are looking for a hard working couple to manage the farm … while they secretly hide their captives there. McGooganheimer wants you two to apply for the job. Once you find out where they are hiding his daughter and your secretary you must help them to escape. You both are known to the captives … they’ll trust you.”
            “Say we do manage to extract them safely from the farm,” I asked. “How far will we get before they catch up to us?”
            “McGooganheimer has an army watching the place around the clock,’ the farmer said. ‘Once his daughter is safely out of firing range … all hell is going to break loose.”

-------4-------

            We spent the rest of the day making plans and learning how to do farm chores. In the morning, the taxi driver would drive us to the hideout-farm in an old truck.
Beth had a bed in the house and I was sleeping in the barn. I woke up when I heard the hay in the loft shift next to me. A pigeon flew past my ear.  I could smell her perfume. I leaned in to kiss her and she pushed me away. I heard a bubble pop and she spat out her gum. “Do you really think we should be doing this?” I asked.
            “I know more about McGooganheimer’s daughter than he does,” Beth said. “If he finds out … he’ll probably kill all of us.”
            “That should help me to sleep,’ I said.
            “No,” Beth whispered. “But I know something that will.”

TO BE CONTINUED …




Sunday, May 31, 2020

FRANK JAGGER Gang Wars part 2

Copyright (c) 2020 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.



FRANK JAGGER
GANG WARS
Part 2
By R. Peterson

An Albatross crew member was pressing both hands against my back forcing Michigan Lake water out of my lungs while another removed the cable they had used to pull me, and the chunk of cement my feet were encased in, to the surface. I wasn’t dead … but I wanted to be. Albert McGooganheimer stood next to Captain O'Sullivan. “I’m sorry if we caused you some discomfort,” he said. “We had to be sure you couldn’t be persuaded to disclose any of my secrets.”
When I heard the word discomfort I reached for the forty-five I kept inside my dripping coat … but of course it was gone. “Next time, remind me to ask for a bigger retainer!” I sounded like a sick beaver gnawing on a tree. The retort wasn’t nearly as good as a bullet would have been … but it would have to do. One of the crewmen offered me a cigarette; I shook my head. My lungs already felt like they were filled with ashes. Captain O’Sullivan offered me a tin cup that I’d watched him fill with Old Forester Bourbon Whiskey. I snatched the bottle from him and tried to put out the fire in my throat. Machine Gun had to know everything about me … including my exact taste in booze. “Now that you know I don’t sing,” I told him when I stopped gulping. “How can I make you happy?”
            “I’m a family man,” McGooganheimer said. I wanted to laugh but I didn’t dare. The cement was still encased around my feet; a crew member with a hammer was busting it away.
“Most people think all I care about is money and power,” he went on. “That’s not true. I have a twenty-two year old daughter from my third wife named Lynette. She means more to me than a bakery full of dough. She was kidnapped about a week ago by what I assume is a rival business organization.”
            “You haven’t received a ransom demand?”
            “Not exactly,” Albert said. “Lynette caught that Hollywood virus so many young girls get. She was singing in one of my speakeasies called the Delicia. After the club closed at 3 AM both her bodyguards were found in the alley wearing Sicilian neckties. My employees always turn the chairs over and place them on the tables before they clean. An envelope with my name on it was taped to the bottom of one of the seats.”
Machine Gun handed me an envelope with his name typed on the front. There was a single sheet of paper inside with these words also typed. Daddy Bear! Please get out of the alcohol importation business … so I can come home!
            “Daddy Bear?”
            “It’s what Lynette called me at home.” McGooganheimer smiled. It made my flesh crawl.
            “Any idea who sent the note?”
            “We know where the note was typed,” Albert took a card from his pocket. “Typewriters are like fingerprints,’ he said. “Each one types slightly different letters on the page!” He handed me the card. It was last year’s license application for my Packard Town Car filled out in the name of Jagger Investigations. “I have lots of employees moonlighting at the DMV … and many other city offices.” He didn’t have to tell me I knew … especially the court house and police stations.
            “This note was typed on the old Royal … sitting on your office desk!”

-------2-------

            I didn’t go back in the water. Albert must have figured one bath a day was enough. I had the distinct feeling that if I failed to return his daughter unharmed … getting clean would be the least of my worries.
            There were only two people with keys to my office. I was all thumbs and it took an hour for me to type my own name. I went looking for Linda Farmgirl.
The bed in her upstairs apartment was made and when I asked, the stack of mail outside her door said she hadn’t been home for three days. I threatened the pile of newspapers, rent and utility bills that if they were lying … I’d be back with matches. A hungry cat named Felix almost bit through my shoe. Linda’s closet was filled with a rainbow assortment of flapper dresses and her bedroom drawers held mostly black lacy underwear. The Jagger Investigations envelope, with most of her pay still in it, was under a Ballerina music box.  There was a framed picture of Linda and her little sister with both parents at a train station. Her mother looked like she’d been crying. I fed her cat and watered a dozen house plants. My secretary lived better than I did.
I remembered Linda saying that Beth worked in one of Machine Gun’s clubs. Now I only had to find out which one … as far as I knew, he had over three-hundred of them … just in Illinois.

-------3-------

Twelve year old Sean O’Brian hawked newspapers on the west end of Water Street when he wasn’t running numbers for bookies. He knew which pony was going to win each week’s special race and you could know too … for a price. I figured if anyone knew where Farmgirl’s sister worked he would. He looked the train station photo carefully. “She’s catch and release,” he said. “No hooking!” He was telling me that Beth wasn’t a prostitute. “Try the Horn Section,” he said. “Downtown … below the Community Bank.” Sean pressed two fifties into my hand. “Tell Chester the doorman he has a gift for picking winners!”
“I don’t run numbers,” I told him … trying to give the dough back.
“And I don’t give away free information,” Sean said.

-------4-------

There was a line even before the stairs. Chester ordered me to “beat it” before I even told him who I was. He took the fifties and waved me inside after I gave him Sean’s message. There was a Negro jazz-band on stage with a complete orchestral horn section … thus the name. I scanned the crowd while I waited for a table. I gave away two fives and a ten … before one with two chairs opened up. About half the women in the place were working prostitutes … the other half were retired. A sultry blonde in a black cat-suit was singing multiple versions of Stardust while the horn section blew her kisses and the piano player ran his long, sensitive fingers up and down her many keys. A waiter poured my whiskey. He wanted twenty for the bottle. I paid him.
I hadn’t spotted Beth and from what Sean said … she didn’t work the back rooms. I was just about to try another club when the door crashed inward. Chester went flying end over end and landed on a table occupied by four city cops. The former doorman looked like an elephant I’d seen shot on safari photo. Blood dripped from a bullet wound in his head. Someone sprayed two tables to the left of the stage with a machine gun. “Everyone still breathing stay where you are!” a loud voice warned, “and finish your drinks!”
“This is an official police investigation!” another said as the smoke cleared. The cops at the broken table all gaped at the men wearing trench coats. “Not you meter monkeys!” The shooter pointed at the uniforms with his smoking gun barrel as if daring them to ask to see his badge. “You get the hell out in the street and block off all the traffic … from here to Detroit!” All four officers jumped up and became instantly on duty.
One of the oldest assailants walked to the stage and gave the singer a twenty. “Play In the Jailhouse Now.” He smiled and a woman screamed. We all listened to the band’s cover of the popular song by Jimmie Rodgers … and we really tried to act like we enjoyed it.
The detectives frisked everyone before we were lined up and crammed into a half-dozen paddy wagons. We were sitting on bales of straw. I could smell expensive perfume on the broad almost in my lap but it wasn’t until the guy across from me lit a cigarette that I saw her face.
“Hello,” I said.
It was Linda’s little-sister … Beth.

TO BE CONTINUED …