Table of Contents

The Fat PI

The Reluctant Shopper

The Art of Waiting for Things to Happen

Bodybuilding Bank Robbers

Caribbean Hustle

Chemo and the Red Flower

Stakeout on Summer Street

Coffee with Too Much Sugar

Marathon Maniac

Never Insult a Cop

The Mistress and the Money

Great Power and No Responsibility

The Murders in Maple Valley

The Mathematics of Love

Murder at the Creative Conference

Serial Murder for Breakfast

Playing Golf with Hitler

The Island of Lost Women

Written By: Andrew Johnson

The Fat PI

Chapter 1 The Fat PI

Gregson was fat. He loved to eat. He played chess in the park against himself. This was less about the game and more to do with watching people. They all had someplace to go and something to do; lives that didn’t concern him and this was best. If friends or acquaintances asked him what he did, Gregson said, “I’m a private investigator.” But he was really retired. He just couldn’t face another day without the possibility of a case. He knew that Frank would be riding by at any moment and that would at least break up the monotony. What did he have left to do? Feed the birds? God; he was retired.

“You know, I think you have been playing the same game since I met you three weeks ago.”

“This is the second.”

“Really, I couldn’t tell.” Gregson knew the voice only too well. He turned his attention from his game and looked up. He was staring at a horse’s mouth. He looked up a bit higher and there was Frank.

“Brought you a hot dog,” Frank said.

“Thanks.”

“Say, did you read the newspaper this morning?”

“I never miss it, except for today.”

“Well, you missed something all right. Somebody was murdered right here in Chess-Field Park. Apparently, they were killed the medieval way; poor bloke took a lance right through the chest. He was propped up in the main lawn this morning.”

“Do the police have any leads?”

“No, not really, but there was something… kind of unusual if you ask me. They found a solitary black knight positioned in the middle of a chessboard where he was killed. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or the killer is trying to make a statement, but he left his calling card.”

Gregson looked at Frank. “You know what? You really should be a detective.”

“Thanks Greg, but I’m not sure I want to stop riding Charlie.”

“Ummm.”

Charlie is my horse.” Greg sighed and they both laughed.

“Let me know if you find anything else,” Gregson said.

And Frank rode on, waving a parking ticket behind him and placing it on the windshield of a red sportscar that was double parked.

“Well, checkmate.” Gregson said to himself. And he left the table to go feed the birds.

The park was wide. It was old. It took up too much space in the city. Soon the plot was going to be developed. Some asshole who knew another asshole got the rights to it. Crying shame, Greg thought.

“Man, I’ve got to lose weight. I can’t believe I ran the park marathon 5 years ago. I guess that’s what happens when you change your routine and you stop chasing bad guys. He walked up the hill and admired the old castle. Then he walked back to his studio. Gregson was trying to write his memoirs, but he was struggling. Could it be that he didn’t have a case worth writing about? Real detective work just wasn’t that interesting. Maybe detective stories were just stories? And Gregson turned out the lights and went to sleep.

Chapter 2 The Black Bishop

It was not an ordinary morning even though Gregson followed his ordinary routine. He set the coffee pot to brew and made fresh squeezed orange juice. He ate his toast, read the funnies, and then progressed to more serious sections of the newspaper. Gregson did this out of habit. Somehow, the best part of his day was when he put it in order. Reading the newspaper was his reboot, his reset. He found something he could identify with and this helped him to feel less alone. It was murder out there and studying murder is what he loved, but Gregson also knew that murder could not be his whole life. Still, the medieval killing kept entering his mind. He couldn’t shake it; there had to be a reason for it. Gregson had an older partner who had a similar case he couldn’t solve. It drove him mad. Most cops didn’t voluntarily check themselves into the nearest hospital when they couldn’t handle the next day; it was always a bullet from their retired revolver. It was starting to be a thing in his unit and Greg thought about his gun on lonely nights.

Gregson knew he was stewing on the wrong thoughts so he went for a walk. Soon he was lost in the theoretical and abstract. Gregson discovered a long time ago that he didn’t have the typical police officer’s mind—one without imagination. Instead, he had learned a long time ago that murder is conceived in the imagination and that is where it must be solved. Gregson was following another train of thought when he crossed some yellow tape; he had literally walked into a crime scene.

A forensic expert walked towards him. “Get out of here. Do you want to get arrested?”

Gregson followed his instinct. He reached for his back pocket and pulled out his identification.

“This says Homicide-Retired. I’m afraid you still can’t be here.” Gregson knew the possibility of promotion is the currency of the police force and he tailored his questions carefully. “Have you found the weapon? I’d wager that you’ve just discovered an unusual killing that you can’t explain. Am I right?”

“So, what if the killing is unusual? It is none of your business?”

“You haven’t found the weapon, have you?”

“You know a bit too much about this case, perhaps I should detain you.”

“I don’t think that would be healthy for your career as I still have connections in the police force, but I can help you get promoted, if you like?”

“I’m listening,” said the investigator.

“Have you noticed those low-hanging branches? Some of the twigs have been broken, and recently too because the sap is fresh. The weapon that killed that fellow was thrown from an easterly direction. I don’t see any wounds on the body and his face is covered. Therefore, his skull must’ve been crushed by a primitive weapon. Given the medieval killing from yesterday, I’d wager it was a ballistice or three balls tied to a leather strap. They are designed to strangle and crush the skull. I’d bet there are ligature marks around his neck.

“How did you know?”

“Just a deduction, and if I might make another, you will find something important in his right hand.”

“It’s closed like a vise.”

“Get your crowbar out of the truck and use some leverage.”

Gregson and the investigator applied force to the grip of death. It was locked in rigor mortis.

The hand only budged a hair, but it was enough for a solitary black bishop to fall to the ground.

Chapter 3 The Castle Library

When you don’t have answers, you might find them in the public library. It’s not a dusty abstraction, but a living brain where minds come together to discuss politics or current events happening in the city. Gregson left the crime scene, pondering who could be behind the murders. A psychological profile was not materializing in his foggy brain because he could not understand the motive. He glanced at the landmark castle on the hill and decided to visit the library. It was old on the outside and modern on the inside. The information desk in the lobby was run by a tense librarian who had so many rules that even objects felt guilty for being out of place. Computers were setup in rows in the east wing where the unemployed looked-for jobs. Students worked on their homework in the study zone and old men discussed politics in high-backed chairs in the lounge. The tense librarian kept walking over to them to insist they be quiet.

“Gentlemen, you are too loud. Not everyone wants to hear about your politics and your love of scotch.”

“Awe… yes we’ll quiet down a bit,” they said.

Gregson smiled.

“Can I help you?” The tense librarian asked.

“I was wondering if this library has a section devoted to medieval weaponry.”

“Yes; it’s three floors above you. That wing of the library is being remodeled so you’ll have to negotiate the space with construction workers.”

“That’s not a problem,” Gregson replied. He was used to interacting with all kinds of people. The elevator was old, and he had a fear of enclosed spaces, so he opted to take the stairs.

“Boy, am I out of shape,” Gregson signed. Three flights up and he was out of breath. The books were different on the third floor; 100 years old was young and they looked untouched. There was a thick veneer of dust coating everything. These books are for library use only; Gregson read. Then why were there several gaps between the books? A thought occurred to him and he mustered up the courage to take the elevator down.

“I think someone’s stealing books!”

Scandalized, the librarian followed him back to the medieval section.

“Could somebody be reading them in the library?” Gregson asked.

“No.”

Then Gregson glanced at a construction worker walking up the tower towards the roof. He was carrying something in his tool-belt, and it wasn’t a hammer.

“Stop!” Gregson shouted and the chase was on. He walked up the scaffolding, threatening to break under his weight. “I’m too old for this!” Gregson said, but he got to the roof in decent time anyway. It was empty and then he heard screaming from below. He looked over the edge and saw the suicide splattered on the sidewalk. Gregson hurried down to the courtyard to retrieve the book, but it wasn’t there. A solitary castle was resting in the construction worker’s tool-belt where the book had been.

Chapter 4 The Missing Books

“Tampering with evidence?” A voice asked.

“Since when have I not?” Greg said.

Frank was looking at the body and the retired PI from his horse. “You didn’t push him off, did you?”

“That’s what I can’t understand. He was running away from me and then he just jumped! There’s nobody up there who could’ve pushed him. To make matters worse, somebody stole what he stole. This case is becoming more complicated.”

“Why don’t you check with the library to see what books are missing?”

“You know, you should be a detective! You have the brains for it.”

Frank smiled. “Maybe one day, but Charlie needs me right now. There’s a lady horse he met in the park yesterday who pulls tourists. I think I’ll take him to meet her.”

Gregson walked into the library again. “I need to know what books are missing.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t just give that information out to anybody,” the tense librarian said. She looked positively frazzled now. The library collects neurotics; perhaps because reading is the next best thing to risking your life.

Gregson showed her his police ID and neatly covered up the retired part with his thumb.

“Oh, why didn’t you say you were police? I guess they don’t have age or weight standards anymore.”

Gregson shrugged off the criticism. He was used to bitter women and he didn’t try to sweeten them with his humor. A man learns not to do these things over time.

“I’ve cataloged the books that went missing: Chess-field Park: A History, The Voodoo Queen, Lances and Projectiles, How to Dig up a Cursed Graveyard, and Rituals for Reign.”

“It sounds like someone is interested in black magic and medieval power,” Gregson said.

“Leave me out of it. I cling to the Lord and I want no part of Satan’s games.”

“That makes two of us, but somebody’s got to catch this killer,” Gregson said.

It was getting on to the evening and a thick fog was spreading across the park from all sides. Gregson knew where the graveyard was, and he also knew it was time to load his revolver.

Chapter 5 The Voodoo Queen

Gregson counted out six bullets and slipped them into his retirement present. It was madness to give a cop a gun when they quit the force. He walked down the pedestrian trail into the woods. Only romantics and homeless stayed out this late. There were occasional muggers, but Gregson had long-ago learned that acting dangerous was the best way to avoid danger. He clenched his flashlight in his left hand and held his revolver in his right. He never used the light until he needed it. His eyes adjusted to the dark and his other senses turned on. Now it was just a matter of listening and following his nose. Gregson approached the cemetery wall and tried to climb it, but realized he was much fatter than he used to be. He found a wooden access door and picked the lock.

“I’ve still got it,” he whispered.

Not 40 paces away, a lantern was burning. A fresh hole had been dug at the base of a headstone and Gregson checked the perimeter like a pro. He didn’t want to make himself a target. A rotten casket lay next to the grave with bones strewn everywhere. Gregson walked forward and stepped on something; The Voodoo Queen and How to dig up a cursed graveyard. His heart was pumping adrenaline to the tips of his fingers and his gun started shaking. “I’ve been in tighter places than this before; keep it together.”

Holly Helfrich was carved into the headstone. Besides the dirt, books, and bones, there wasn’t much to see.

“Maybe I need to call it quits,” Gregson said. But then he noticed hoofmarks in the soil and his intuition began to work overtime. He checked behind the headstone. Rituals and Reign was propped up against a bloodied lance and a balistice covered in brain matter. Gold coins were scattered all over the place.

“Who had the time to learn the Secret of Chess-field Park?” Gregson asked out loud.

“Me!”

Chapter 6 The Secret of Chess-field Park

Gregson shined his flashlight on the bushes, hoping his intuition was wrong. “Who’s that!”

“I think you know who it is.”

“Frank!”

And the park officer rode into view.

“You’ve been behind these murders?”

“I’ve been at every crime scene. You were a good detective, but you really should retire.

“But why have you been killing people and leaving chess pieces at every crime scene?”

“I spent hours in the castle library on my lunch break. One day I was listening to the guys who drink scotch and they spoke of a treasure in Chess-field park that has never been found. I did my research on the third floor and discovered that the lady who ruled these parts had her fortune buried with her. Her treasure has gone untouched because of its voodoo power. I’m not a superstitious man, but I’m a cautious one, so I did my research. I couldn’t smuggle the books out of the library, so I had a construction worker lower them down from the roof. The one you chased would’ve been caught if I hadn’t pushed him to his death.”

“But what about the guy who got a lance through the chest and the other one whose skull was crushed?”

“When I located the grave site in Chess-field Park: A History, I wanted to take every precaution. It said that Queen Helfrich could only be exhumed if the proper sacrifices were made. A bloodied lance and balistice should point to the south while the proper rituals were read. I did these things very carefully and the treasure is greater than you can possibly imagine.”

“But why leave chess pieces at every crime scene?”

“Well, I like to play chess and the thought just occurred to me. It was better for the police to think they were chasing a madman, than somebody who was just after treasure.”

“But what about your career and your duty as a police officer?” Gregson asked.

“You really think somebody can be satisfied passing out parking tickets for the rest of their life? My dad was a police officer and my grandfather before him. They served the state and died without a penny to their name.”

“There are things more valuable than money,” Gregson said.

“Yes, I know; real estate and stocks that pay dividends.”

“No, that’s not what I was thinking; courage and honor.”

“Let’s see the size of your courage and honor when it’s put to the test, Frank said”

“Excuse me?”

“Excuse you! Choose your weapon!”

Chapter 7 The Duel

Frank pointed to the bloodied lance and the brain covered balistice on the ground. “I’ve even brought you a horse.”

Gregson noticed Charlie’s girlfriend standing in the bushes for the first time.

“A fight to the death? To what end?” Gregson asked.

“Well… I can’t let you tell anyone about the murders, and it wouldn’t be good sport just to do you with this revolver.” Gregson noticed it for the first time. It poked out of Frank’s pocket with intent. “You’d better drop your gun in the grave. We can’t have modern weapons spoiling our honor.”

Gregson did as he was told.

“So, what weapon will it be?” Frank asked.

Gregson had pitched for the police softball team, so he reached for the balistice. Frank grabbed the lance. “I’ll meet you on the field of battle in 10 minutes and don’t try anything funny.”

Gregson laughed. He finally had memoires to write about.

Riding with a lance poking into your back can make a man uneasy and Tulip sensed Gregson’s dismay. They were nearing the main courtyard and his mind was racing. Should I just bolt for it? But he’d shoot me. And something deeper was stirring within him. It was a sense of honor. If he fought to the death and won, he could retire into his memoires, knowing that courage survived when heroes stayed alive.

“Ride to the first murder and stop!” Frank shouted.

And Gregson rode slowly to the first crime scene, thinking quickly. He had a plan.

“When I fire my revolver, we joist!”

BANG

On instinct, Tulip charged towards Charlie. Frank lowered his lance and Gregson swung his balistice.

CRACK…SMACK

Gregson landed on the ground, seeing stars. But he wasn’t knocked out and he wasn’t dead. He was looking at Orion until he saw a revolver pointed at his chest.

“Just to be sure!” Frank said. And he fired three bullets into him. He walked back to his horse, but before he got there, something peculiar happened. He heard whirring behind him, and three balls wrapped around his neck. It was lights out!

“Good shot!” A park officer cheered, “but how are you alive?”

Gregson examined the splintered wood in his chest and the three bullets that had burned through his shirt. He pulled a thick book from his coat and showed it to the officer.

Rituals and Reign?”

“Magic comes in handy if you know how to use it,” Gregson said.

Epilogue

Frank wasn’t dead, just stunned, and he had a tremendous headache when they loaded him into the ambulance. Gregson led Charlie to Tulip so they might comfort each other, while he debriefed the curious officer.

“Where did you learn to throw like that?”

“Softball Saturdays,” Gregson laughed.

“Now tell me everything…”

“Gregson explained himself.

“Don’t leave town. We may have a few more questions for you.”

“Gregson nodded and led the horses home. When he got there, he noticed the saddlebags on Charlie. They were filled with gold and jewels.

“Well, I guess I don’t need to worry about retirement,” Gregson said.

How right he was. The next day he got a phone call.

“This is the police force, zone 10.” Oh no, Gregson thought. “Would you be interested in doing some consulting for us? We have a strange situation on our hands.”

THE END

The Reluctant Shopper

Chapter 1 The Reluctant Shopper

Gregson shopped once a year. That was too much. He bought the best and he didn’t browse. The women in the mall wanted to fix his style or lack of style, but he believed a man with style didn’t wear it on the outside. He practiced his craft in the mall where cons depended on the sea of distraction to pull-off their petty crimes. It kept him sharp. Gregson avoided most stores. He would not allow his heightened senses to be dulled by toxic perfume or pop music. He long ago learned it was the nose and ears that caught criminals and not the eyes. Sleight of hand is the conman’s trick. So, Gregson learned how to sniff-out their cheap cologne and insincere spin. He enjoyed looking for people he couldn’t figure out. But today, Gregson was not there to observe; he was there to buy a suit. His sensitivities had to be hidden by toughness and intimidation. It was a man’s world on the police force and the world of men wanted answers through logic and reason, not intuition and feelings.

“Can I help you sir?”

Gregson swiveled around, noticing a cute young cashier looking at him.

“Where would you go to buy a suit if you wanted to make a statement?”

She giggled at Gregson. Why was it that they always laughed? He was taken seriously when he solved crimes, but in the interim, women thought he was a lovable fool. Maybe that’s why he never married.

“You should try Suits and Blooms; they’re the hottest new department store.”

“Thanks,” Gregson said. He walked in the direction of the crowd. Shoppers entered and exited Suits and Blooms like bees who couldn’t get enough nectar. Roses and tulips grew everywhere. Black was not in fashion and Gregson seriously doubted whether he was going to intimidate anyone with a pick from their store.

“What kind of suit are you looking for?” A slender smiling man asked.

“Oh, one that will scare people away,” Gregson said.

“I’m sorry… You came to the wrong place. You see, Suits and Blooms draws people in with sweet smells, beautiful colors, and style unmatched anywhere.”

Another salesman talking about style, Gregson thought. “At least, do you have a suit that would impress working men?”

“Not high society, but blue-collar types?”

“Exactly.”

“You want to make an impression, as a man, am I right?”

“You’re a mind reader,” Gregson said.

“Um, well follow me and I’ll show you what we have. Not many of your sort shop here, but I assure you, that will only work in your favor.”

Gregson followed the stylized man through colors that might’ve damaged his brain. He looked at mannequins reaching out to him along the flowered path. He had an uneasy feeling. They were too real. Maybe they were professional mimes, but no, their eyes were glazed over like professionals who worked the 9 to 5.

“Here is our section for the working man.”

Gregson looked around. If he entered a crime scene dressed like this, they would question his sanity.

Suddenly, screams erupted. “She’s unresponsive. Somebody call 911; she’s had a seizure or something.”

Gregson capered toward the cries like a dancer, smelling a crime. His enormous frame engulfed the scene. A woman in a white dress stared into space, vacantly. She looked lifeless, like a mannequin and he touched his fingers to her neck.

“She’s dead,” he said.

Chapter 2 The Phantom in the Camera

Gregson scanned the people looking at him. He didn’t see a murderer, but what did a murderer look like? They were ordinary; too ordinary. Plain and unassuming. Nobody resembled a murderer in Suits and Blooms because they wore the merchandise. Their suits were a mixture of colors; a complete wash that made Gregson dizzy.

“Who are you? I’ll need to see some identification!” Barked a short manager with a Hitler mustache. Gregson flashed his badge and covered up RETIRED with his thumb. He was technically on the force, but it wasn’t official yet.

“I’d like to see your security tapes,” Gregson said.

“We don’t call them tapes anymore. You really are past your time.”

Gregson ignored the insult. A lifetime of working with small men with big egos taught him they were responsible for most of the world’s problems.

He followed the manager into the loft where a fat security guard was asleep with a half-eaten Twinkie on his stomach.

“George, wake up! You’re on the clock.”

“Oh, sorry boss.”

“Did you see anything strange a few moments ago?”

“No.”

“That’s because you were asleep. A girl just died downstairs! We need to look at the security feed.”

George wiped the crumbs off his shirt and clicked the red rewind button.

“There. There it is! She’s walking around. She’s admiring her white dress in the mirror. Then… What was that?” A shadow crossed the room in front of her and looked at the camera.

“Is that one of our mannequins?” The manager asked.

“This store is going to have big problems,” Gregson warned. “I’d dump your stock today.”

“I’m contacting headquarters!”

“That would be a good idea. Who designs your mannequins?” Gregson asked.

“A strange man who lives on an island. You seem to know what you’re doing. I’ll recommend you to the owner, if you want. Perhaps you can get to the bottom of this.”

Chapter 3 Castle Island

It was raining and the chopper was jumping all over the sky. Gregson grabbed his barf bag and hurled. “Turbulence,” he muttered.

Suddenly an island came into view. A castle rose out of the north where the ocean crashed into the rocks. There was a dark forest there and a lighthouse at the heart of the island.

A butler in a black and white suit waited to greet them with an inside-out umbrella threatening to be stolen by the wind.

“Can I take your luggage, sir?”

“That won’t be necessary,” Gregson said. He never parted with his revolver or his underwear; he couldn’t afford to lose either one.

“The owner will see you shortly,” the butler said. “In the meantime, you can rest and ring me if you need anything.”

It was getting into the evening and the lighthouse turned on, but rather than pointing out to sea, it shined on the dark forest, searching for something.

Chapter 4 What was in the Forest

Gregson thought he saw something moving between the trees, but he couldn’t say for sure.

“Enjoying the view?”

Gregson jumped out of his skin. He turned around and noticed an elderly man in a smoking jacket and pink rabbit slippers.

“My butler said you wished to talk to me and that it was urgent.”

“Yes,” Gregson said. “A girl is dead, and we think one of your mannequins might have something to do with it.”

“But that’s impossible. There’s nothing but wood and fabric and cotton in there. I’ll admit, they’re life-like, but to think they could have anything to do with a murder?”

“We have one of your mannequins on camera. It walked across a room.”

“But that’s impossible. Are you sure it wasn’t a customer dressed like a mannequin?”

“I considered that and perhaps I can show you the video?”

“I’d like that.”

Gregson pulled out his smart phone and showed him.

“Someone is playing a practical joke on you, that’s all.”

“That joke cost a girl her life.”

“Well, I’ll show you my factory in the morning, but there isn’t much to see; just some needle and thread and countless hours of doing what I love.”

“Well… goodnight then.”

“Goodnight.”

And Gregson heard the pitter-patter of rabbit feet walking down the stone steps.

Gregson looked at the dark forest. This time he definitely saw something. “Time to load the revolver,” he said. But when he walked to the door, he noticed the butler downstairs, on watch, or so it appeared. “There must be another way.” Gregson looked at his bedsheets and smiled. “I’m too old for this.” But he was out the window and touching his feet to the ground like he was 21. He walked boldly towards the trees with his silver flashlight in one hand and his revolver in the other. God, it was good to be young again.

And there it was again. A figure danced in front of him. “Stop or I’ll shoot!” But it just kept running. Gregson held his fire. He walked deeper into the woods until he found what he was looking for. A mannequin lay prostrate on the ground, lifeless. And Gregson checked to see that it was unarmed. “I wonder if it’s playing dead?” But there was no way to find out and he walked back to the castle to ring the doorbell.

Chapter 5 The Butler is always Guilty

“Already breaking rules, I see.”

Gregson looked at the butler. Butlers were always guilty. “I took an evening stroll.”

“That’s fine but clear it with me first.”

“Whatever you say, I’m off to bed.” And Gregson walked up the stairs two at a time, sliding under the covers, wishing himself a goodnight.

Gregson forgot how working a case made him feel. There was always some problem to look forward to and he was good at solving them. In the morning, the butler was waiting for him.

“Will you take coffee, sir?”

“That will be fine,” Gregson said. In the lounge, there were leather-backed armchairs tucked under a stone table with a bear rug on the floor. A mummy in a green dress was encased in a glass display on the wall.

“That’s my mother,” Jesepi Vargas said. “Probably one of the last really powerful women in history.”

Gregson looked at the face. Even in death, she was beautiful.

“We have bacon and eggs and hash browns. Everything an Englishman needs. Except perhaps the fox chase afterward, but maybe you will have that too.”

“Why does the lighthouse point into the forest and not out to sea?” Gregson asked.

“I used to walk through the woods at night, but I started to see strange figures between the trees. It could be my imagination, but shining the light on the forest helps me sleep; call it an oversized night-light.

“I found one of your mannequins in the woods. Do you have any idea how it got there?”

“No; perhaps Steven knows.”

“You called me sir?”

“Yes; how did a mannequin end up in the middle of the woods last night?”

“That’s incredible sir. We are the only ones on this island, save for the fisherman, but he hasn’t been here in some weeks.”

“We’d better ask him. Is he due back anytime soon?”

“Not until Tuesday, I think.”

“Well, you’d better take me to the spot after breakfast,” Jesepi said.

“Indeed.”

The woods were dark, even in the daytime. But Gregson knew where to go. He led Jesepi to the rock where he found the mannequin.

“It’s gone!”

“Are you sure this is the spot?”

“Yes, do you see? I marked it with an X.”

“Well… there is nothing for us to do now. I’ll take you to my shop.”

There were heads floating on spindles and arms waiting to be sown into torsos. Jesepi was an artist; there was no doubt.

“Have you ever wondered what would happen if you made one of these look so real that it came to life?” Gregson asked.

“Mannequins don’t have a heart or a soul, so it’s horrible to think what they’d be capable of, but luckily you’re speaking of the impossible.”

“Maybe the impossible is possible, for an artist like yourself.”

“You are too kind.”

Chapter 6 Mummified Mother

“Jesepi, how long have ghosts been haunting this island?”

“I can’t say for sure, but about the same time my mother’s mummy returned from Egypt.”

“Where did her power come from?”

She was a gypsy who abandoned my father to study the black arts. Her life’s ambition was to transcend death, and, in a way, she has.

“How do you get the mannequins into the stores?”

“We have a contract with a local fisherman, but Steven takes care of that.”

“I bet he does. It sounds like you depend on him. Would you be able to take me to the wharf?”

“But of course; it’s quite a distance, so we’ll need to take horses.”

As they rode in silence, Gregson looked at the ocean. It was magic. It was power. It was all those things that exist beyond the world.

The fisherman’s hut was nothing more than rotting planks and a dock you couldn’t trust to walk on. Rectangular boxes were stacked in perfect rows, accept one; it was splintered open, like a resurrected body got tired of lying there.

“We’d better chart your helicopter out of here and I need to call Jeff Bezos.”

“What for?”

He manufactured 40,000 flamethrowers and I’m told they’re very effective.”

Back at the castle, Gregson looked at Jesepi’s mother. “Has the hem of her dress always been unraveling?”

“No.”

“And this glass has recently been removed.”

“Oh.”

“I think you’d better talk with your butler.”

Chapter 7 Mr. Bezos and His Flamethrower

The flight to Amazon Headquarters was gut-wrenching as Gregson clutched his barf bag with sweaty fingers. The helicopter was like a blender churning the clouds into a whirlwind and when they landed, Gregson was ready to fight anything besides the weather. Bezos was there to greet them. “I have your package here, on time; happy hunting.” It looked like a vacuum cleaner ready to hurl fire and Gregson couldn’t wait to test it out. “To the shopping mall and Suits and Blooms!”

Jesepi drove them in his Maserati until they reached the mall and Gregson surveyed the mannequins, wondering if he detected worry on their faces.

“We’ll need to burn one-at-a-time in the dumpster out back.” And when Gregson said this, he swore 50 eyes darted towards him. Let’s start with the dandies in the men’s section.” But before he reached the mannequin, it jumped off its pedestal and ran. Gregson let the fire rip out of the vacuum cleaner and the wooden man incinerated. When this happened, all the mannequin men and women rushed for the exit and Gregson didn’t have time to throw fire.

“Where do you suppose their headed?”

“Into the crowd. And telling them apart from regular folks, will be impossible. They’ll be well-dressed and too polite. Shoppers were exiting the mall like bees buzzing out of a hive. And all those fake people were entering society.

“What should we do?” Jesepi asked.

“There’s nothing we can do. Let’s just hope your mannequins want to be responsible. If they pay their taxes, the government won’t care.”

Epilogue

And that’s why there are so many fake people in society. Of course, the butler did it, but Gregson couldn’t prove it. Hopefully, mannequins can’t reproduce, but lately I’m starting to think they do.

The Art of Waiting for Things to Happen

Chapter 1 The Art of Waiting for Things to Happen

Gregson sat on his red seat cushions, soaking his feet in a bubble bath. He had learned how to relax a long time ago when most men forgot about their health or neglected it on the force. Comfort gave him an edge. He was reading the meditations of Marcus Aurelius. The stoic philosophers intentionally went out of their way to make themselves uncomfortable so they would be ready when life got hard. Gregson had a different attitude; it wasn’t hedonistic, but he knew how to enjoy himself. Life was hard enough. There was nothing in the world that interested him at the present moment and he wasn’t going to go looking for it. It would find him; it always did. On cue, there was knocking at his apartment door.

“Just a moment,” Gregson said. He pocketed his revolver in his pink bath robe and stepped into his rabbit slippers. He shuffled across his oriental rug and opened the door.

It was a woman in distress. It always was.

“Come in,” Gregson said. “Before you say anything, I just want to let you know that you are being recorded.”

“That’s fine; I’ve come to talk to you about my brother. I need a private investigator and I heard you are the best.”

“Who told you that?” Gregson asked.

“A Detective Murphy at the police station.”

“Oh yes, Murphy. Not a bad man; surprised he still has a job; likes to shoot first and ask questions later; a police officer of the old school. Now how can I help you? You said you were worried about your brother?”

The woman was beautiful; she wore a pink bridesmaid’s dress. “My name’s Kate and my brother was supposed to be married today, but he didn’t show up at the altar.”

“Is he a drinking man?” Gregson asked.

“No, he never touches alcohol.”

“Maybe he made an exception before the wedding; I can tell you, that would cause me to take a few drinks.”

“His friends said he had a bachelor party two nights ago, but he didn’t drink a drop. He left the party and nobody has seen him since.”

“Okay, I’ll look into it,” Gregson said. “Do you have your brother’s address and a key to his residence?”

“It’s right here,” Kate offered.

“Give me a few days and I’ll find your brother.”

“Okay, thank you mister.”

“Call me Gregson.”

Chapter 2 Murphy’s Law

When Kate left, Gregson relaxed. He always felt on edge with a woman around. Maybe it was because he couldn’t figure them out. Gregson relied on his intuition the way most seasoned investigators do, and right now, he sensed that he should give Murphy a call. He dialed using his old rotary phone and waited for the detective to pick up.

“This is Murphy.”

“It’s Gregson; you referred a woman to me.”

“Oh yeah, Gregson. I haven’t talked to you in a while. How’ve you been?

“Just waiting for something to happen; and yourself?”

“It’s a grind; crime is so commonplace these days, although the case I sent you is different.”

“I sensed that. Would you care to play 9 holes on the city’s time and talk about it?”

“You read my mind. I’ll meet you at Chessfield Golf Course in one hour.”

“Deal,” Gregson said. He hung up. Murphy was competitive and Gregson wanted to beat him. His golf clubs had cobwebs between them, but he brushed them off anyway, ready to do battle. Gregson did his best thinking on the golf course because the game had purity; it was a way to measure if he still had it. He walked onto the putting green. His regular putter was just like a belly putter. Gregson had to lose weight. He choked up and plopped his ball in the hole.

“Bet you can’t do that on the golf course,” Murphy said.

“How much you wanna bet?” Gregson asked.

“Shall we play for 10 dollars a hole?”

“You’re on!”

Murphy teed it up. He took a practice swing.

“Come on, this isn’t the PGA!” Gregson said.

Murphy drove his ball 300 yards.

“God, do you sleep with that thing?”

“If it gave me pleasure, I would!” Murphy laughed.

Gregson teed it up and swung. His ball went 150 yards.

“Kinda weak.”

“You drive for show and putt for dough,” Gregson said. “Now what do you know about this woman you sent me?”

“I didn’t want to alarm her, but there have been several grisly murders in the area.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, a ghoulish affair. We think an animal is doing it; probably a canine.”

“Would you be able to show me one of the crime scenes?” Gregson asked.

“Yeah, I’ll take you there after the game.

Gregson lined up his putt on the last hole.

“That’s a 13-footer,” Murphy said.

Gregson took aim and fired. It lipped the cup.

“This is for 10 dollars,” Murphy said. He knocked his ball into Gregson’s and it went in.

“Why is it that you can’t just win; you have to bring chaos into the game?” Gregson asked.

“I call it Murphy’s Law. If something goes wrong, it all goes wrong.”

Chapter 3 Mr. McMasterson’s Attractive Assistant

Murphy celebrated his victory by buying Gregson lunch. They ate their hamburgers and walked to Murphy’s black Porsche.

“Is this company issue?” Gregson asked.

“If it was, the force wouldn’t need to recruit young blood.”

Gregson noticed his friend wince in pain when he got in.

“I was chasing a suspect a few days ago and caught my leg on a wooden fence,” Murphy said. He turned the ignition and before Gregson knew it, they were cruising down rolling hills diving into deep valleys. 

“We’re almost to the mansion grounds where the killing happened,” Murphy said. The air was getting think with fog. They drove in silence for a few minutes, trying to stay on the road when out of nowhere an enormous hound ran in front of them. Murphy slammed his breaks. “That’s my suspect!” He shouted. Murphy got out and ran after the dog.

“I lost him; looked like a land gator! Wait a second, where am I? Gregson?”

“I’m here; follow my voice.”

“Anyone could get lost in this fog. Gregson?”

“I’m here.”

“Gregson? Oh, I found you.”

“Let’s find the mansion before this fog makes us invisible. I could go for some rum and modern comfort right about now,” Gregson said.

They drove slowly down the road, looking for a graveled driveway.

“That looks promising,” Gregson said. And Murphy turned down the lane. It ended in front of a dark mansion. “This must be it?”

“I hope so, but I don’t recognize anything. I’ll ring the doorbell; the owner is a bit eccentric.”

RING…RING…RING

FOOTSTEPS…The door opened.

Standing in front of them was a blonde girl in her early 20s wearing a white spandex outfit. “I was just doing my butt exercises. Do you have an appointment? I’m Mr. McMasterson’s assistant.”

“I bet you are,” Gregson said. “We don’t have an appointment and we were hoping to look around the grounds before the fog rolled in, but now we just need a place to stay.”

“Mr. McMasterson’s last assistant was murdered in the mist by a hound from hell. I’m Darla.” She shook their hands. Now I need to get back to my body. Darla went into the downward dog position.

“I can’t believe I’m a bachelor,” Gregson mumbled.

There was a CLICK behind them. “Strangers… I don’t know what to do with you. McMasterson pointed a double-barrel shotgun at them. “I’ll mount you on my wall unless you talk!”

“Sir, don’t you remember me?” Murphy asked.

“No, and I would remember someone like you. You have an annoying quality. I can’t put my finger on what it is.”

“We spoke last week…about the murder…”

“Oh, yes. Now I remember. Police, right? Still haven’t caught the killer? Well, that’s not surprising. What do you want to know?”

“I brought Gregson along. He has talent.”

“Gregson…where do I know that name. Oh, you’re the fellow who solved the Chessfield Park Murders. Glad to meet you.” McMasterson lowered his gun and shook Gregson’s hand. Murphy held his out, but McMasterson ignored it. “What do you want to know?”

“For starters, is there anything strange that’s been happening? Anything out of the ordinary?”

“The howling is different. Can’t get any sleep. But Darla takes care of me. She dances on the weekends and studies for her nursing exams. Knows a great deal about anatomy.”

Murphy and Gregson exchanged looks.

“Sir, about the murder?”

“Oh, yes; but don’t you mean, murders?”

Chapter 4 Murder Again

“Did you say murders?” Murphy asked.

“Yes; but I’m the one asking the questions here,” McMasterson said. He raised his shotgun at Murphy again.

“Sir, remember? I’m the police?”

“Oh, that’s right. I probably shouldn’t point a gun at you. So, you were wondering about the other murder?”

“Yes.”

“Young man, terribly tragic, looked like he was on his way home from a wedding when the beast got ‘im.”

“That must be Kate’s brother,” Gregson said.

“Oh, you know him?” McMasterson asked.

“Yes; the victim is who I’m supposed to find.

“You found ‘im. Now, why don’t you leave me in peace.”

“But sir, the fog hasn’t lifted.”

“I don’t care! If you’re a real man of the law, you won’t let a little fog bother you. Here, I’ll draw you a map where I found the body. Just be sure not to eat your lunch before you see it. The corpse has been horribly mutilated.”

McMasterson sketched with the confidence of Michelangelo, but a kindergartener could have done a better drawing.

“It’s on the southern end of the swamp. A curious place to go for a walk if you ask me. There isn’t much there but a bar and 13 head of cattle.”

“You’ve been most helpful,” Murphy said.

“Always glad to help the police; you guys need as much as you can get. Gregson, it’s been a real pleasure.” McMasterson shook his hand. “Now I need to get back to my library. If you boys need anything, call first; otherwise, you might get a bullet in your head.”

Gregson and Murphy walked out the mansion doors into the semi haze.

“He was a charming fellow,” Gregson said.

Murphy looked back through the window. McMasterson was in the downward dog position next to his attractive assistant. Murphy tried to shake the image out of his mind.

“These directions say it’ll take 20 minutes to get to the bar. What do you think about the fog?”

“Let’s risk it,” Murphy said.

They got into the black Porsche and turned on the fog lights.

Chapter 5 The Monster

Gregson’s brain was digesting the facts of the case like a hungry stomach. “Kate’s brother will speak to us at the bar.”

“He’s dead,” Murphy said.

“I know; a dead body says more than a live one.”

“Whatever you say.”

When they got to the bar, it was just a hole in the wall with a pasture out back.

Gregson opened the door.

“What could have done it?” A fat man asked. “It came in the fog.”

“Who are you?” The room asked.

“Show them your badge,” Gregson mumbled.

Murphy showed his identification and the room relaxed.

“About time law enforcement got here. There’s a decapitated man out back and a herd of dead cattle.”

“A herd?” Gregson asked.

The fat man took them to the pasture.

Cattle carcasses were strewn everywhere.

Then out of the silent swamp came a bone-chilling howl.

“That’s the creature,” the fat man said. “Do you believe in monsters?”

“No,” Gregson said.

“Then you best be believin.”

“Where’s the decapitated man?”

“Behind the refrigerator.”

“That’s him alright,” Gregson said. He compared the head with the photograph. “Looks like a clean cut across the neck and gash marks on the face. You know what Murphy—I might start believing in monsters.”

“I guess we should call the police.”

“It’ll take two hours for reinforcements to get here. By then we’ll all be eaten!” The fat man said.

“Calm down, and have a few drinks. Whatever’s been killing people can’t open doors.

MEANWHILE…

Mr. McMasterson slinked back to his study. His scarecrow shadow flitted across the walls. He wanted the woman downstairs and his lust was howling inside, but when he looked for his potion, it was gone. “I mislaid it. That’s right, I put it in the refrigerator.”

McMasterson walked downstairs. His assistant was growing hair in all the wrong places. She had a bottle in her hand. “I thought this was Gatorade—not quick-grow body hair?” Then her butt began to expand and her back blew up. A beast erupted from her tiny frame until it filled the kitchen.

Chapter 6 The Creature Cometh

As Darla transformed, her painted nails became talons; sensuous skin cracked; pouting lips became poison; and blue eyes washed into white. She was blind, sniffing the air, searching for meat. Darla aspired to be a fitness model and years of repressed hunger was unleashed. Her claws opened the refrigerator and she ate three steaks.

McMasterson inched towards the stairway. He hoped his infrequent bathing made him undesirable, but dogs will eat anything, and lizards… well lizards will eat their own kind. Darla turned to McMasterson. “Yes, I know you are there. You really should keep your chemicals locked up.”

“You’re not going to eat me?”

“Look at you… skin and bones, old and too tough. No; I have a taste for that PI who stopped by. What was his name? Gregson?”

“Would you prefer beef or pork?”

“No; I want a man who eats daily donuts. He’ll have sweet meat.”

Darla walked out of the house on two legs; her back expanded. Two enormous wings erupted from her scales and she sailed off into the mist.

MEANWHILE…

Gregson and Murphy swapped jokes at the bar, pretending there weren’t monsters in the fog.

“What do you call a man with no arms and no legs floating in a swamp?” Gregson asked.

“Bob,” said Bob. “That’s a good one.”

Creature noise rang out, silencing their laughter. Everybody took another drink.

“If I’m going to die, it won’t be sober.” The fat man said. “It sounds like there is more than one monster out there.”

“It’s just your imagination,” Murphy replied.

“Perhaps you’d like to go for a walk and check?” The fat man asked.

Murphy rolled his eyes. “Pour another. The police will be here in 30.”

Chapter 7 Into the Primordial Swamp

Gregson trusted his revolver, petting its trigger like a rattlesnake in his pocket. Even the police, with their automatic weapons, were no match for a well-placed shot. Shrieking labor pains cut the cold air with palpable terror.

“It’ll be every man for himself,” Bob said. “I’ve got Billy-Boy here to save my bacon.” The squat balding man clenched a double barrel shotgun.

“That’s only got two shots; this here’s what I carry,” bragged the fat man. “My grandpa gave it to me— left over from World War II. He held up a BAR that hadn’t been oiled in 50 years.

“That barrel is rusted up, certain sure. When the Misses has one of her tentacles up your pant leg and you’re defending your manhood, you’ll want one of these.” Standish buried a bowie knife into the wooded table. He looked like a monster at 6′ 4″.

“Gentlemen, wait for the police. Otherwise, you’re liable to kill the neighbor’s dog,” Murphy said.

“What do you know, city man?” Standish yelled. “It sounds like the monsters out there are multiplying. We’ve got to hunt this thing in the swamp before it decides to knock on the front door.”

Bob looked at the floor. The fat man cringed. Gregson was amused. The barkeep wanted to sell everybody one last drink before his customers got eaten.

“Alright, I’ll follow,” Murphy said. “Anybody with a gun is welcome. Let’s go kill this thing.”

Standish took the lead with his knife in his fighting hand and a torch in the other. Everybody walked where he walked; the swamp was more dangerous than the creatures in it. One false step and it would suck you in like an oatmeal raisin pudding. The water was like black volcanic glass, glinting in the moonlight with razor sharpness ready to emerge. A shadow past and then another. The horrific bird song was silent; only the wind or the creatures in the wind could be heard.

Up ahead, a lonely cabin was propped out of the water between two trees. What looked like glowing blood dripped into the swamp.

“Chemicals. That loon, McMasterson has been experimenting again; gone and woke the hounds from hell and a few other creatures. What was he trying to do?” Standish asked.

“What any man wants who hasn’t lived his life long enough,” a voice rang out. “Eternal Life.” A canoe cut through the water and McMasterson stepped onto the dock.

Chapter 8 An Experiment that Went Bad

Eternity is tempting for those who love life and an obsession for those who fear death. -Intellectual Shaman

McMasterson pulled a stick of dynamite from his jacket. “Hey, can I get a light?”

Standish extended his torch.

“Don’t, you fool,” Gregson whispered. “He’s still on the drug. Sometimes monsters are made and sometimes they make monsters. McMasterson has always been and will always be. Grab him.”

Standish grabbed at McMasterson, but the old man was too fast. He scurried into his cabin and locked the door. Screaming and thrashing followed. Wallboards flew into the swamp, disturbing the water.

Gregson pulled his six-shooter from his pocket and gave the first tentacles lead poisoning.

Darla jettisoned from above like a bird of prey and Standish leaped into the swamp. Retreat was their only option, but they couldn’t turn their backs on the beasts.

Murphy was firing at anything that moved, but now the swamp was crawling. A tentacle grabbed him by the leg and pulled him halfway in. Gregson couldn’t see where to shoot as the mist was getting thicker and thicker, but through the fog emerged a hound, grabbing Murphy by the collar and pulling him to safety.

“That’s my suspect,” Murphy laughed. He got licked twice in the ear. “Knock that off.” It was all they could do to outrace the creatures and pretty soon they were back at the bar.

“Where’s the barkeep?” Gregson barked. In response, a Gatling gun sounded-off from the roof. Sirens wailed as squad cars bounded up the lane. Tentacles and human flying monsters, and poisonous toads, and enormous snakes were trying to crawl out of the bush, but got mowed down. The police took cover and began to lay on the lead.

“This is Detective Murphy; yes, I need a helicopter near Chessfield. Napalm… lots and lots of napalm. In a matter of minutes, helicopter blades chopped the air and the fireball that erupted was so large God could have roasted a hot dog from outer space. Everything burned; the creatures, the water, the bush, and an experiment that went bad.

Epilogue

The swamp looked like a melted smore that caught fire. Syrupy sludge and white foam oozed out of the ground like life was still trying to evolve.

“I love the smell of Napalm in the evening,” Gregson said. “It smells like a weenie roast. I’m hungry.”

“We barbecued the monsters… why don’t we barbecue those cows out back. The meat hasn’t gone bad yet and if we don’t eat them, it’ll start to smell,” the barkeep said.

“Is that Kosher?” Murphy asked.

“Don’t worry,” I’ll say a prayer; I’m half Jewish.”

Cops juiced with adrenaline have bigger appetites than monsters and 13 head of cattle disappeared faster than you can say “moo”. When morning came, house wives warded off toads with brooms and kids collected snakes in terrariums. The monsters lived long enough to horrify teachers for show and tell.

Police were gutting McMasterson’s house when Gregson arrived. Scanners moved over every inch of the residence. “Maybe he kept his formula in his own head,” a rookie said.

“Why don’t you get us some coffee and donuts as long as you’re thinking, Sherlock.”

Gregson chuckled; it was only yesterday when he was a rookie.

“Who invited you?” A fat lieutenant asked.

“Don’t you know who he is?” The rookie said.

“Go get the coffee,” the officers chimed. Gregson had come home and suddenly, a volume on the shelf caught his attention.

“The Purloined Letter… don’t you know… the best way to keep something hidden is to put it in plain sight,” Gregson said. He pulled the volume off the shelf and opened it. Two sheets of formulas floated to the floor.

“I think this is what you’re after.”

“Who are you?” The lieutenant asked.

“I’m Gregson.”

Bodybuilding Bank Robbers

Chapter 1 Bodybuilding Bank Robbers

Gregson still read the newspaper in the internet age. He looked for stories to divert his boredom because when he became really bored, he ate. One pleasure needed to balance out the other and when he found a promising article, he circled it in red pen. “Bodybuilders Carry-off Perfect Bank Robbery, interesting,” Gregson mused. He unconsciously reached for another blueberry muffin. The problem was that he also ate when he got really excited. “Maybe it’s time to get a gym membership,” he said out loud. “In downtown Chessfield.” He slurped his black coffee and kept reading with his thick spectacles.

“Says here, they operate as a tight-knit team, ummm. They use Brazilian Jujitsu on the guards. I’ll make a few phone calls.”

Gregson dialed. “Yes; do you have a Jujitsu club attached to your gym?”

“No. We cater to 50-year-old women.”

“Well, could you tell me where to find the gym I’m looking for?”

“You want Muscles and Thongs.”

“You’re kidding; sounds like a gentlemen’s club.”

“I don’t make the names mister.” CLICK.

“Well, he was an abrupt fellow. I’ll just finish off this muffin and then find my exercise clothes. Where did I put my shorts? That’s right; it’s been a few years since I wore them. Maybe the maid threw them out. I’ll stop on the way. The sports store was deserted and Gregson was mildly pleased.

“I may be taking martial arts and I need something that holds my weight well,” Gregson said to the high schooler behind the counter. “What do you have?”

“You could go with a singlet.”

“Ah, kinda like overalls; yeah, that’ll work.”

“We have one in your size, I think,” the kid said. He went into the back room and got Extra Extra Large.

“That looks kinda small.”

“It’s elastic; don’t worry.”

Gregson paid and then found Muscles and Thongs. Beautiful women were walking into the gym from the parking lot. He sucked in his belly and held his breath. “Maybe this is just what I need to get my blood pumping again.”

Chapter 2 Muscles and Thongs

Every place has an energy; it comes from the way people talk and the dreams they still hold onto. Gregson walked through the glass doors of Muscles and Thongs. It was like entering a fishbowl and the fish were greedy. They wanted the gold in each other.

Gregson couldn’t understand why people at the peak of fitness still worked behind a counter. Many lives were lost, standing around, waiting for the shift to be over, dreaming of sex, and thinking about favorite TV shows.

“I’d like a membership,” Gregson said to an attractive brunette. She looked at him, like she knew more than he did. “I’m Liz. What are your fitness goals?” She asked.

“I want to become a lethal weapon,” Gregson said.

Liz giggled. “You’re cute. We do have a Jujitsu class, but you might need to shave a few pounds to improve your performance on the floor.”

“Performance has never been my problem,” Gregson said.

Liz blushed. “Do you have a personal trainer?”

No; how much do you charge?”

“Your first session is free with me; then we can talk about money.”

“I’ll get ready,” Gregson said. He went into the locker room. Men with enormous muscles were walking around in the nude. Gregson found a tiny corner and started to stretch his body into the singlet; it was like wrapping himself in a slingshot. Any action could cause his fat to fly off in all different directions, but when he was done, he looked 50 pounds lighter. His rolls molded into a barrel shape, giving him a power lifter look.

Liz was waiting for him on the mats. Her pink sports bra and yoga pants were pure sex. Gregson felt 20 years younger.

“We’ll start with the butterfly stretch and move into the downward dog,” Liz said. Gregson followed her every movement, trying to make his body do what hers could do. In 20 minutes, he felt like a rubber band, stretched to snap.

“Now I’ll turn you over to Jackson in the Jujitsu class,” Liz said. “Follow me.” Gregson followed her curly brown hair and curvy legs through sweat and iron and agony. Her smell kept him going, even though his joints jiggled.

“If you want a private tutor, here’s my card. I know a little Jujitsu. We can wrestle on the mat during my off hours.” Gregson took her card in disbelief and walked into hand-to-hand combat.

Jackson had muscles the size of tree trunks and he was throwing suburban moms across the room. They all had silly smiles on their faces when he wrestled them to the ground or pinned them in submission holds.

“You’re the new guy, huh?” Jackson said.

Gregson nodded.

“Well, we’ll pair you up with somebody who can teach you a few things.” Gregson followed him to an enormous mom who was meditating. “Karen, I have a new guy for you to break in.”

She opened her eyes and shook Gregson’s hand.

“Positions,” Jackson shouted.

“Wait, I’m not ready,” Gregson said.

“There’s no such thing as not ready! Show him the torpedo.”

Karen screamed in martial arts and dove toward him like a battering ram.

Gregson’s eyes got really big and then everything went blank.

When he woke up, the gym was empty. There was a hot compress on his forehead and a cup of tea next to his limp body.

“I’ll take you home,” Liz said. “You did good today.”

Gregson felt like squash. When he made it to the parking lot, Jackson was putting his duffel bag into his Challenger. Gregson noticed the outline of a shotgun inside. He had come to the right place.

Chapter 3 What He Thought About in the Dark

Gregson never let anyone drive his car; it was a classic 911 Porsche Turbo. Mechanical, none of this electric bullshit. But Liz was different. He gave her the keys; he was in no mind to fight traffic, let alone a woman.

Liz opened the car door and two golf balls fell out. Your balls are rolling away,” Liz said.

“Don’t I know it.”

Gregson thought about the gym. He thought about Liz. He thought about the shotgun in the duffel bag.

“You’re awfully quiet, Liz said. “You got a girl?”

“Uhhh,” Gregson mumbled. He was 50; he just didn’t have the time, energy, or money to keep pace with a younger woman, or any woman for that matter.

“We need to work on your communication skills,” Liz laughed.

Gregson smiled. He was looking forward to his warm bed, a glass of rum, his pipe, and one of those books, so boring he’d be asleep before the second chapter.

Liz parked and looked into his starry eyes. “You’re not a fighter, are you?” She said. “You’re a lover.” She kissed him. Gregson didn’t understand women. “Thanks for the ride,” he said. “This is for your taxi fare.” He gave her a couple bills.

“Aren’t you going to invite me up?”

“Maybe some other time; when my head doesn’t hurt,” Gregson said.

“Then take care of yourself old man.” Liz gave him a hug and flagged down an Uber. Gregson climbed the steps to his apartment, one at a time. Then he puffed his pipe in the dark. It wasn’t his fault that women found him more attractive the older he got, but his priorities had changed. It wasn’t women that he thought about all night; it was solving crime; the thought of it kept him warm under the covers.

Chapter 4 A Taste for Crime

Instinct. Gregson woke up to it. It was in his blood and behind his eyes. Women knew he had it. It was a fire that made them feel warm. Gregson investigated with a scientific sense, a sensual love for what he did. On a slow day, he would move even slower, seeing things others missed. Today was different. Gregson had to move fast. He put his revolver in his pocket and hoisted a gas-powered shotgun from his safe. His red pen circled five banks on a gas station map.

“The Continental is the only one that hasn’t been hit. Maybe I should open an account.” Gregson got into his Porsche and sped down the early morning roads with his turbo exhaust howling. A motorcycle cop lit him up.

“No,” Gregson moaned. The cop took off her helmet and strawberry blonde hair fell to her shoulders.

“You’re not a young man; you should know better.”

Gregson smiled at her. “I know I’m not young; that’s why I have to drive fast; time is running out.”

She took his ID. “You were a cop?”

“I’m a PI now.”

“Well Gregson, look me up at Handcuffs and Arms; it’s where all us cops hang out.”

“I know the place; I probably drank your dad under the table.”

“I’m warning you, but the next time I catch you, I’m going to take a sizable chunk out of your pension.”

“Yes officer…?”

“Barbie, and I’ve heard all the jokes.”

Several went through Gregson’s mind, but he held his tongue; he had a taste for crime instead.

Chapter 5 Buddha Shares His Knowledge

RADIO CHATTER. “In later news, the Continental was robbed today.”

“What?” Gregson gasped. “Jackson and his bank robbers beat me to it!” Sweat beaded on his forehead. “Officer Barbie stopped me from stopping crime. The rules always get in the way of justice. Now the gloves come off! I’ll give Liz a call.”

“Hello, this is Gregson.

Yeah, I need a lesson.

Your place?

Sure, I’ll bring the wine.”

Gregson got off the phone. He floored it to her apartment. Bottles of wine were stashed in his trunk for such occasions. Gregson grabbed one and knocked.

Liz came to the door wearing yoga pants and a halter top. Gregson compulsively gave her the bottle.

“Rye Whiskey, interesting choice. More than 80 proof. Is your plan to get me drunk?” Liz asked.

“How else can I win?” Gregson improvised. He followed her perfect body to the mats in the living room. Fat Buddha statues were crouched on the floor. They were smoking incense cigarettes. Gregson looked at his belly. Maybe he had a chance with her? Liz poured a glass and drank. Then he took a swig. Before he could swallow, she choked him from behind.

“Ahhh,” Gregson gasped.

“Where should you grab me?”

Gregson swung wildly like a flailing cat in a swimming pool.

“Where should you grab me?” Liz repeated.

There were stars in his eyes and then the room went black. When Gregson woke, smoke and mirrors jarred his reality. The studio was like a disturbing dream.

“Take a steam with me, it will make you feel better,” a hypnotic voice suggested. Gregson followed her sweet sound. He felt lightheaded. Then he glanced at the bulletin-board. Jujitsu Tournament in Honolulu: Compliments of International Savings Bank.

“I’ve got learning to do, but I need to stay conscious for it— this is high school all over again.”

Gregson’s body was just like Buddha’s. Liz worshiped Buddha; she believed in his teachings.

Gregson shared his knowledge with her that evening.

Chapter 6 Where His Power Comes From

Gregson contemplated his belly; his instinct was fed by food and now he had to lose weight. He would make the cut for the International Jujitsu Competition.

At Muscles and Thongs, he prepared his body.

“Positions,” Jackson shouted. “Karen, show him the torpedo.” The middle-aged mother rushed him again. Gregson moved out of the way like a dancer and swept her off her feet. She giggled when he landed on top of her.

“I give up; I give up,” she laughed.

“You’ve progressed faster than any of my pupils,” Jackson said. “Where does your power come from?”

“From my desire to solve crime,” Gregson said.

In the following weeks, Gregson got an apartment on the beach and practiced meditation from his lawn chair. The ocean waves were hypnotic.

“Another umbrella drink, sir?”

“Yes,” Gregson said.

He sipped his drink and watched the babes tanning. He was larger than life under the sun. He didn’t need to enter tournaments and catch bank robbers.

Ice water splashed on top of his head. “You’re in training; alcohol is forbidden,” Liz screamed.

“Oh no,” Gregson complained.

“Let’s go for a run big fellow.”

Gregson got out of his meditative chair and chased her. He walked off his jog and then shared his knowledge with her back at his apartment.

Gregson made his way to the main entrance of the Japanese owned bank in his robe. It was a natural state for him.

The tournament was in full swing; Samurai swords were slicing melons; Jackson punched a table full of bricks; and Gregson walked to the hotdog stand. “What’s the record here?”

“The wecord for what? The cook demanded.

“The weenie record; I can eat any man under the table.”

“Ohhh, you think so?” The cook challenged. “My son is Sumo. Nobody beat him.”

A man-child walked out of the back room wearing a gee. His gut looked like it was designed for cow parts.

“He beat you. You bet money?”

Gregson put his money down.

Chapter 7 Fooled by a Woman

Inside Gregson’s mind there was a switch. It seldom got used; most people doubted it was even there, but when that switch got pulled, he became something not even he understood.

“More hotdogs…!” The fry cook screamed. “Ready on my mark… Go!”

Gregson put those dogs into his food chipper and watched the Sumo-child doing the same. They smiled at each other, as one belly grew larger than the other. It was a race for space or a space race inside their tummies. Gregson’s second mind was in his gut. He used it constantly. When it got stretched, he became creative. When it was full, he could solve crime. Insights were flooding through his body as the dogs chased each other, looking for space.

“Ruff…ruff,” Gregson chortled.

“What’s wrong with you?” The fry cook asked.

“You become what you eat,” Gregson said.

The Sumo son looked confused and then he got it. He laughed and laughed until the dogs ran out of his mouth.

“Okay…you win!” The fry cook said. “Nobody take the title from my son until now.”

Gregson wiped his mouth and shook his hand. Then he entered the arena.

Jackson was throwing contestants like rag dolls. Gregson looked for familiar faces from Muscles and Thongs. They were all there, competing. He decided to do the same. Gregson had some weight on the first chap, complements of the hot dogs. His opponent tried to take him to the floor and Gregson sat on him.

“You’re out!” The referee said. Gregson progressed to the next round.

Suddenly, he heard sirens. “That’s the bank from upstairs,” a security guard said. Gregson couldn’t figure it; all suspects were accounted for. He rushed to the fire escape to get to the roof. A figure in black jumped and he recognized her sensuous curves and curly brown hair.

Liz flew away; she was lighter than air; a woman fooled him again.

Epilogue

Gregson didn’t make it past round two. Some overzealous white belt put his arm in a cast. He was in paradise and he couldn’t golf. It was hell in paradise. If he couldn’t golf, he would fish, he would drink like a fish, he would blow smoke and skipper a boat to some godless shore where the sand was warm and his ass could appreciate it.

He laid there, trying to look at the sun. Isolated moments made him feel good. The trees talked to him. He glanced at a fiddler crab. Gregson had things in common with the shore. It was an island unto itself. If he stayed, nothing mattered. If he left, the wants of the world were waiting for him. He got up.

“Where are you going old man?” He felt her naked skin on his back. “Stay here with me.”

Gregson didn’t look. His purpose was his own; some things can’t be given away.

Women won’t wait and neither will the world, even though everybody seems to be waiting. Waiting to live and waiting to die.

Gregson left the shore. He wouldn’t wait a second longer.

THE END

Caribbean Hustle

Chapter 1 Caribbean Hustle

Gregson watched the park from his apartment window; the fog rolled in and the fog rolled out. Chess pieces were getting rained on; the players had left. Gregson smiled. He sipped his coffee and watched from a distance. Reality needed him, but he didn’t need reality. Deep down, Gregson wanted to be fooled. Most crime was too commonplace. He crumpled the advertisement for the Caribbean Cruise.

“I guess I’ll go,” he said.

The flight was tedious. The people were impatient. Boredom was killing him. If the ship lacked intrigue, he didn’t know what he would do. Gamble. Drink. Eat Seafood. What else was there? His flight landed in Texas and he boarded Voodoo Sands for Haiti. It was five stories of entertainment. He stripped down to his speedo, soaked in a hot tub, and drank Budweiser. It was hurricane season, but he didn’t worry about that; the winds favored him.

“Are you here for the tournament?” A girl asked.

Gregson popped out of his daze like a sunflower seeing the light. “What kind of tournament?”

“Poker; what else?”

“I guess this ship is too small for golf.”

“They have that too, but not until Island 3.”

“Maybe this cruise was worth it,” Gregson said.

“I’m Tiffany; will you spot me 50?”

“What the hell.” Gregson slipped her the bill.

“What’s your room number?” She asked.

“Oh… 665. Why do you ask?”

Just that you might have a surprise waiting for you later this evening.”

Gregson smiled and Tiffany walked away. She had more hustles to make.

Poker took balls to win and Gregson was ready to play.

Chapter 2 The Game Begins

Gregson dried himself.

“Poker is a game best played at night,” he said. He toweled up and went to the locker room. “I’ve got to lose weight. I can’t even see my junk.” Gregson walked to the deck. A runner ran past. “Why do people obsess about health on vacation?” He smelled fresh onion rings and stopped.

Gregson was in communist waters, the house picked his pocket, money couldn’t buy happiness, but none of that mattered. The food was good and he longed for the roll of the dice. Risk. The battle of wits. Life can’t be won, but he could win before he lost. He walked to the casino. The game was just getting started. Gregson eyed the players. They looked like the typical sort, crabs without shells, wearing gold chains, with beady eyes, and cocaine courage. One man stood out. He had Caribbean skin, but his dark pallor had a pale quality. His eyes were red, not blood shot, but laser like; they could see past your face and into your hand. Uncommonly tall, he was like a skeleton wrapped in flesh.

“Does poker amuse you,” he asked in a baritone voice.

Gregson glanced at his top hat. “We’ll see,” he said. “Deal me in.”

The game went slow. Flop. Turn. River.

“Fold. Fold. Fold,” Gregson said.

“You are not a risk taker. You must take risks to win.”

“Poker is about players,” Gregson said. “I think you know that.”

The skeleton smirked and the game continued.

“Raise,” Gregson said. The skeleton’s laser eyes looked across the room.

“Re-raise,” it said, grinning. The skeleton puffed smoke like hell was letting off steam.

Tiffany walked by the table in a poisonous green dress. Her tanned skin popped. Most women can’t wear clothes like that, Gregson thought.

“Excuse me sir, the bet is 50,000; do you want to call?”

Gregson’s mind returned to the game.

“Call,” he said.

“Cards,” demanded the dealer.

“A full house from the man with the top hat. And you sir?”

“A strait flush, Jack high,” Gregson said.

“The pot goes to you.”

“Another game?” Asked the skeleton.

“The trick is to quit while you’re ahead,” Gregson said. He walked out of the room with a smile on his face.

He ventured under the Caribbean stars that had seen pirates and lonely PIs.

Gregson strolled to his room. There was Tiffany, half-dressed in black panties. But he wasn’t looking at her skin. It was her eyes. They were terrified.

CRACK. He got hit from behind. BLACK OUT.

When Gregson came to, a thick beast was preparing to push Tiffany out the window.

“What brought you here?” The skeleton demanded. It walked out of the closet.

“Booze, women, and dice; what else?” Gregson asked.

The skeleton nodded and the beast pushed Tiffany out the window.

Her screams pierced the night. SPLASH.

“Nice shot,” Gregson said.

“I wasn’t aiming for the swimming pool.”

“Now tell me what I want to hear,” the skeleton demanded.

Chapter 3 Die and Find Out

In death, a man knows who he is, or maybe not; the only way is to die and find out.

“I won’t talk,” Gregson said.

“Then out the window,” the skeleton sneered. A silver Derringer pointed at Gregson’s chest.

Gravity or the gun? Gregson had to choose. He dove, hoping to see blue.

POP. POP. He felt red.

When he hit the water, he used up one of his nine lives. Cats don’t like water and Gregson shook himself off. There would be no cat naps this evening. Midnight turned into morning.

Voodoo Sands was advertised as a pleasure cruise full of comfort and mind-expanding serenity, but Gregson felt half dead. He staggered past pot smoking halls where fogged up windows looked like confused brains. His crimson blood dripped on the white carpet when an arm grabbed him from behind. It was slender and strong. Tiffany led him to her bed and he flopped on it like a beached whale.

“You’re lucky,” she said. Scissors cut his suit and alcohol sterilized his wound. “It went straight through. You’re lucky.”

“You keep saying that,” Gregson said.

She closed the hole.

“Now, how are you mixed up with that skeleton?”

“You’re better off if you don’t know.”

“Really? I was just thrown out of a five-story window.”

Gregson felt a hypodermic on his neck. “Tell me the truth.”

“Drugs and death don’t influence me and what I know is only a smoke screen.”

“Tell me.” He felt the prick of the needle.

“I’m hired for security on this diamond cruise, but I don’t think the skeleton is planning a jewel heist. He’s far more subtle, in an unsubtle way, if you catch my drift.”

“Possibly; so, what’s your next move?”

“Play it cool; we’ll let death deal the next hand.”

Chapter 4 A Different Kind of Style

The reef, and the white sand, and the sparkling water, and the Caribbean trees were almost enough to forget death. Horse racing and polo punctured the air. It was a big island. Gregson knew he wouldn’t be murdered in the sunshine.

“Care for a picnic?” He asked Tiffany.

“Yes,” she smiled.

They walked down the dock to the arena.

“Horses,” Gregson said. “Two.”

“Dos Caballos,” a boy yelled.

“Your fittest, if you have ’em.”

“Si, Senior.”

Gregson looked half cowboy, maybe Hawaiian cowboy. His hula shirt and tan shorts didn’t go well with his sombrero, but the benefits of being a life-time bachelor were that he could be whomever he wanted to be.

“You don’t wear clothes well,” Tiffany said.

“Uh, hu,” Gregson grunted.

“A hallmark of a man’s style is his watch and his shirt. You can tell a lot by how a man dresses.”

Gregson looked at her.

She was a young woman and he was much older. He admired her hooks and screws. Younger men were probably tortured by her advice and they changed. She turned them into ideal men.

Gregson smiled a deep smile that penetrated his insides. He had style; a different kind of style.

“I know you,” Tiffany said, “but what are you smiling about?”

“The trail is long and the adventure is near,” Gregson said. He kneed his horse and the galloping began. His shirt blew in the breeze and Tiffany spotted a silver six-shooter fastened to his hip. Their horses followed island trails, churning up dust, and breathing volcanic fire.

Chapter 5 When Horses Run Under the Sky

Gregson needed to see the dangerous parts of people; the things kept hidden. It was a spirit that drove him and was only kept at bay on the razor’s edge. Gregson pushed his horse up the volcanic ridge. His imagination solved crimes and every now and then he peered out from it. 

He soaked in the island air and smelled sweet in the tropical heat. “I’ve got to lay off the sugar.”

“Let’s see if you can catch up,” Tiffany said.

Gregson smiled.

Death was one mis-step over the rocky ledge as they tore down the valley.

A red biplane flew out of the blue sky.

Rat-a-tat-tat.

Gregson and Tiffany charged through a faded barn that exploded in white powder. They were higher than kites and thicker than dusted donuts.

“Cocaine, I think,” Tiffany said.

“Hold the reins.” They went through a curtain of green and found themselves falling towards the ocean.

Tiffany hopped on Gregson’s belly and they floated to shore. They lay in the sand and Gregson felt Tiffany’s dangerous parts; those regions that enslave a man. Danger is a thousand different things to a thousand different people. It makes horses go. The ocean was beautiful and under the dark water a black thing emerged. It moved towards them and crawled onto the land. It was a submarine. A death head popped up.

“If it’s not the gambler that took me for 50,000. I’m going to take more than my money back. You put your stomach where it doesn’t belong.”

“What?”

The skeleton pointed at Gregson’s belly. “You’re covered with cocaine. The sharks will love you. You’ll be like a raspberry dusted donut. We’ll launch you through the torpedo tubes, if you’ll fit.”

Bad guys always came up with creative ways to kill him, but Gregson didn’t mind. In times of stress, the solution always presented itself when he ate.

“Can the condemned man have a last meal?”

“Excellent! What will it be?”

“Caviar and Champagne.”

“What are you celebrating?”

“Our dance with death.”

Chapter 6 In the Belly of the Beast

Inside the U-Boat, the skeleton handcuffed Gregson and Tiffany to a pole. It was Caribbean Voodoo and WWII.

“You’ve threatened my entire operation. So, tell me what I want to know.”

“What?” Gregson asked.

“You tell me!” The skeleton said. He walked to a basket and bumped the lid. “Nagina knows when you are lying; she senses fear.” His bony hand went into the basket and pulled a thin green snake oozing poison from her expressed fangs. It jumped towards Gregson, but the skeleton restrained the tail.

“Don’t cry my dear; the venom is painless.”

“Okay, we know about the cocaine. We know about your operation. We didn’t mean to find it, but the cat is out of the bag,” Tiffany sobbed.

Gregson looked at her. She didn’t know. She wasn’t even close.

“Tell me what I want to hear,” the skeleton said. The snake spit poison at Gregson’s eyes.

“It’s not the diamond and it’s not the drugs. It’s the ship.” Gregson pulled a watch from his pocket.

“Is that an Omega?” Tiffany asked.

“Something like that. It tells the time, but it’s also a Geiger counter. They’re moving cocaine for the cartel to learn smuggling routes.”

“Who are you?” The skeleton asked.

“That doesn’t matter,” Gregson said. “You’re going to blow up DC.”

“As high as I can.”

“What?” Tiffany cried.

Voodoo Sands is a nuclear bomb.”

Chapter 7 Visit Death, but Don’t Stay Long

Gregson was handcuffed to a beautiful woman by a skeleton from hell. Under the water, the pressure compressed his mind. He cracked a vial between his teeth; not cyanide, but adrenaline. His heart raced like one beat was trying to beat another beat. Gregson clicked his watch and the skeleton faltered. Its arm was outstretched. “To the torpedo roooooom.” It slunk over like a wind puppet without air. Gregson felt bloated and squeezed at the same time. The room was asleep; gas. He uncuffed himself and manned the controls.

He had minutes to warn Voodoo Sands and sink her.

The pressure inside him kept building. It desired a release. His torpedo was cocked—ready to explode inside the pleasure cruise.

He throttled ahead and called in advance.

“Hello, all guests and crew must evacuate. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY.”

“Only the captain and the con use this broadcast. Identify yourself!”

“This is Gregson. Identification #: 01134. I’ve been assigned to protect this vessel. Take her beyond the seaboard and abandon ship for pleasure island.” Gregson prepared the forward torpedoes and aimed for her hull.

The skeleton moaned on the floor, but Gregson ignored him. His focus was on Voodoo Sands.

FIRE. Gregson instantly felt weak. He watched the torpedo drawing nearer and nearer. It closed the distance. The explosion cut the air like the big bang, but the ship didn’t go nuclear. It sunk below the water blanket and Gregson manned the con, launching himself towards another sandy beach. Hopefully, there would be a prison cell and endless umbrella drinks.

Epilogue

“Oh, my head,” Tiffany moaned. “What happened?”

“I just prevented the system from going nuclear,” Gregson said.

“The what?”

“She was carrying death and the bomb, but now it’s buried. And death, well… he will have to go away for a while and do time on pleasure island while I go on solving crime.”

“I don’t understand what you mean, but you’re a hero and so much man.”

“Don’t I know it,” Gregson laughed. He put his arm around her and turned the submarine towards the setting sun. He wouldn’t stay on pleasure island, but he would visit from time to time. Death needed company because most people ignored him. Gregson valued death and visited often, if not just to cheat the skeleton one more time.

THE END

Chemo and the Red Flower

Chapter 1 Chemo and the Red Flower

Gregson looked at his I-V drip. One drop and then another drop. He was counting the drops. He had fun under the sun, and then he got cancer. He was sitting in his favorite chair, when it started poking him in the back. He didn’t feel a nail or anything sharp, but when he sat down, there it was again. It took him two weeks to figure out it was something inside him, and not the chair. Some detective.

Was this the end of the line? No more mysteries to solve; just the big one that waited for everyone when their lights went out. Gregson mused. What else could he do? Watch TV? Killing time was insane, now that time was all he had. The doctors said 6 months. But Gregson knew it was just a scare tactic to get him to do chemo. He didn’t know which was more frightening, having his own body eat itself or having a certified butcher cut him to pieces and then microwave his organs.

There were alternatives, but they seemed like false hopes. Gregson smiled. He always imagined that a worthy adversary would kill him in a creative way. Like maybe draining off each drop of his blood, until he was nothing but skin and bones; or perhaps, pushing him out of an airplane, seeing the ground grow larger and larger until impact. Having his own body turn on him, that was not something Gregson planned for. Of course, he should have, with his 3 cups of scotch a day and 5 cigars. Plus, he ate like it was his last meal at the all-you-can-eat buffets. That was the price of being a bachelor. No wife. No cook. Just freedom. But now he was facing the end and chemo made him feel inhuman. He didn’t appreciate the sun. He couldn’t taste his food. His manhood didn’t work.

All the things Gregson loved were being killed before he was actually dead. He was reading the national geographic. Flipping through the pages to see if he could spot nudes; it reminded him of being 14, but he couldn’t find any. Political correctness. You can’t read what you want to read or say what you want to say. You can’t even die the way you want to die, or can you? He stumbled upon a rather interesting article. It concerned a lost orchid that was discovered and reported-on by a biologist. Unfortunately, the natives got him before it could be extracted and reproduced. The chemical make-up might cure cancer.

“Nurse!” Gregson said. “I’m checking out.”

“Wait! You can’t!” She screamed.

But Gregson had already pinched the I-Vs from his veins and uncoupled his restraints. He flushed his meds down the toilet and grabbed the nurse’s keycard, opening the door.

“Sorry, but this case could be my greatest ever. It’s a race against time; it concerns life and death, my own. And if I live to see the day…” The nurse’s mouth was wide open. Gregson was missing his pants and giving a speech in the nude.

“Well, never mind. Speeches are overrated, anyway.” And with that, Gregson left for his greatest adventure, to find a rare orchid that could save his life and cure cancer.

Chapter 2 Last Minute Flight

Gregson was more himself, the closer he got to death, and maybe that’s why he chased things that could kill ‘im, but this time he didn’t have to chase anything. It was inside him. Hospital patients looked at Gregson like he was a god, or at least that’s what he thought. He was a spiritual being, closer to his true self than he had ever been before. Men kept staring at his manhood, so he chose to spare their esteem and put a robe on. It made him feel like Sherlock Holmes or a mall flasher; he couldn’t decide. Oh well, the quest for the orchid was dangerous, if not impossible, a fool’s errand. And Gregson was part fool. The foolish part of him relied on luck; when he didn’t know what to do, he trusted it to guide him.

“Sir, will you be checking out?”

“Yes; and I need you to chart me a flight to the Amazon.”

“Stop him. Don’t let him leave!” The nurses shouted.

The intern looked confused. “It’s only my first day. What do I do?”

“They want me to stay while I shrivel into an adult baby,” Gregson said. “Don’t listen to authority.”

“He doesn’t know what he’s saying. He’s got chemo brain.”

“My head has never been clearer. Call me a plane to take me out of here.”

The intern was being pulled in all different directions. She looked right and then left. It was the medical staff on the one hand, and then a man who spoke like a prophet with so much confidence he could have been running the hospital.

She faltered and then punched the red button. EMERGENCY sounds rang out. Gregson lunged for the sliding doors. If he had still been fat, he wouldn’t have made it, and there was a taxi.

“Take me to the airport.”

“Right away sir. You know, I have not been in your country very long, but you are unusually dressed.”

“Just drive buddy and the faster you go, the more I’ll pay you.”

Gregson wished he could take his words back when his driver hit 110 miles per hour, but then the airport was in sight.

“Amigo, wait a second while I check my lock box.” Gregson got his cash and passport. He left the silver six-shooter. “They’d frown if I took that onto the airplane.”

Gregson passed a large tip to the Indian driver.

“Two hundred dollars. I drive you next time.”

“You bet amigo.”

Airport security looked at Gregson suspiciously. “Do you have any items to declare?”

“Just my suit.”

“Where?”

“My birthday suit.”

“Oh, keep your robe on.”

Boarding in 5 minutes…

Gregson never felt more comfortable on a plane. He was 100 pounds lighter and wearing a bed sheet.

Chapter 3 Stranger on a Plane

Gregson breathed the recycled air and watched the ground get smaller. He was fasting the last 10 days. His goal was to starve the cancer so it couldn’t metabolize. Tumors love sugar and so did he, but he resisted his love to live a bit longer, that was… until he couldn’t.

“Stewardess, would you get me a beer?”

“We aren’t called stewardesses anymore.” Gregson looked at her.

“Oh, what do they call you then?” He asked.

“Flight attendant.” She said this with status. Gregson looked at her tall figure; she was a vase without any flowers. Her long legs flowed into her swollen head.

CRUSH. She popped the top off his beer.

“Too many sleeping pills,” he muttered.

“What?” She demanded.

“Did I say that out loud? I must be tired. I need to rest; I have cancer, after all.”

Her porcelain face broke into teddy bear sadness. “I hope it’s not serious,” she said.

“Stage 4. I’ve got six months left to live, if I’m lucky.”

Tears rolled into her eyes like waves. Why was it that women wanted him dead when he was alive, but when he was dying, they couldn’t bear the thought?

Solving their mystery was worthwhile; it was unfathomable, the type of hard case that confounds a detective until he realizes some mysteries are not meant to be solved.

Gregson sipped his beer and looked out the window at the blue Atlantic. It was always moving. His eyes were heavy. He slept for hours, passing over jungles, long-forgotten ruins, major cities, and the Brazil beach dancing with babes.

“We will begin our descent in 20 minutes…”

Gregson woke up and buckled his seat-belt. He felt oddly calm, it was his psychic sense reaching out into the world with an eye for things that can’t be seen and suddenly, he knew he was being watched. Somebody was on the plane with similar business; the red flower was many things to many different people; its fragrance was life and wealth and beauty.

Chapter 4 Admiral Lafayette

“Did I hear that you have cancer?” A short man with purple lips asked.

“Yes; it’s terminal.”

“I may be able to help you with that. I’m Lafayette, Admiral Lafayette.” He extended a pudgy hand.

“I don’t need any help,” Gregson said. “If it gets too bad, I have a revolver.”

“That’s not what I mean. I unlocked a secret greater than the invention of the wheel and I’m willing to share it with you.”

“What’s your secret then?” Gregson asked.

“Everlasting life; I have a Mission up the river.”

“Jesus, or something else?”

“Oh no, nothing like that. If you follow me, I can help you live forever.”

“Why?”

“Life is an adventure; without adventure, there is no life. I’ve made friends with native bandits who can take us to the red flower.”

“How did you know?”

“It’s a gift.”

Gregson followed the portly man with receding orange hair. He wasn’t sure if Lafayette was delusional, lucky, or devious; maybe a combination of all three. His opinion changed when a Rolls arrived on the tarmac.

“All aboard,” Lafayette said. “Stevens, take us to the H.M.S. Marie Delaine, named after my third ex-wife,” Lafayette explained.

Gregson felt his health declining in the car, even with the air conditioning and the wet bar.

Lafayette mixed a drink. It looked like a margarita. “This will chase your troubles away,” he said.

Gregson drank it and instantly felt like he was 21 again. “What was in that drink?” He asked.

“C-2142, better known as the elixir of life. The Portuguese found it and lost it. Strange, how that works…”

“Then how did you come by it?”

“A recent biologist was picked-up down river. In a water-tight bag, there were red petals pressed between the folds of this map.”

Chapter 5 The Marie Delaine

Gregson looked at the geography; there were notes written between the mountains. “Mosquitoes blot out the sun. Poisonous snakes hang from trees. This journey looks uncomfortable. Where is your Mission, Lafayette?”

“Just up the river, a way. We have some comforts for our VIPs, hot tubs and beautiful women.” Lafayette put his cowboy hat on and opened a box of Cools. He put the cigarette between his lips and grinned. It was a smile that knew how to defeat the day. He opened his door and walked down the dock to a ship moored in the river.

Gregson followed the Admiral on unsteady feet, admiring the Marie Delaine.

“This ship looks like she could sail herself,” Gregson said.

“Oh, but you are mistaken. I have a perfectly trained crew; they observe the utmost discipline.” Lieutenants and midshipmen stood like statues; they didn’t blink. There was something strange in their faces. It was like their souls were depleted in some way.

“What’s wrong with your crew?” Gregson asked.

“Wrong? They are perfect,” Lafayette said.

“A little too perfect, don’t you think?”

“No.”

The ship gave Gregson the creeps, and Lafayette continued to beam like a morning star. His vibes positively glowed when he grabbed the controls.

Honnnnk. Honnnk. The horn sounded and the Marie Delaine left the dock.

Who was Lafayette and why did he want to live forever? Gregson was escorted to his cabin and given an itinerary.

1. Freshen Up

2. Pool, Party, Gambling, Women, General Frivolities

3. The Secret to Everything

“I must be dreaming,” Gregson said. “Perhaps I really do have chemo brain.” But his experience was too real for it to be just a dream. He had surrendered to something that wouldn’t let go. He was in the stream, moving beyond.

Chapter 6 The Secret to Everything

Gregson looked for his mojo in the mirror. It usually came to him when he least expected it. Now, all he could see were his sunken features.

The thin PI left his room for the deck where Admiral Lafayette was at the controls.

 “The admiral is one of the most alluring men,” a blonde girl said.

Gregson raised his eyebrows. “He has a pot belly and receding hairline.”

“Don’t talk bad about the admiral. It’s his mind that is seductive. You’ll see,” she said. “Just wait for the second act.”

At the Mission, Lafayette was giving a speech… “I know all of you have been waiting to read my second book. I will unveil the secret to everything. When you hear it, you will know it, you have always known it. It came from the valley of the red flower, a place touched by eternity and knowing.”

With that, Lafayette left the podium and went behind the curtain.

Gregson followed.

“You have something, none of us have,” Lafayette said.

“What?” Gregson asked.

“A reason and an emotion behind it. I’ve been searching for what you have, but I can’t get it. I keep convincing others that I have it, but all they want to be is convinced.”

Gregson didn’t know what to say.

“I’ve gotten these most recent answers under the influence of nitrous oxide.” Lafayette petted his manuscript like it was an animal.

“What?” Gregson asked.

“Laughing Gas. I had a few teeth extracted last week. In the jungle, I find it difficult to brush consistently.”

“What did you mean about the valley of the red flower?”

“It came to me in a dream. When we get there, only one of us will come out of the jungle alive.

“Who will it be?”

“He’s fat and got a receding hairline.”

“Do you believe in dreams?” Gregson asked.

“Dreams make life tolerable. We all have to believe in something, whether we are asleep or not.”

Gregson didn’t tell him what he was thinking…

Chapter 7 The Second Act

Admiral Lafayette left Gregson for the stage and the second act. He started reading his manuscript and the more he read, the more Gregson had thoughts of insanity and suicide. Lafayette’s followers began to sway like a stormy sea. It was horrifying and amazing to watch the will of one man work like a spell on the weak-minded. It was TV and social media and political commentary rolled up into a grand philosophy that numbed the soul and hijacked the mind.

“I leave you now and hope to find you where I left you,” Lafayette said.

The little-big man looked Gregson in the eyes with his beady thumbtacks. Gregson didn’t blink. His life depended on finding the valley of the red flower and Lafayette knew this. He had a sixth sense for dependency. Only mojo could keep the PI alive.

Down river, black clouds blotted out the sun.

“Mosquitos!”

A few more miles and Anacondas dropped from trees. Lafayette pulled a saber from his hip and swung wildly at the coils that squashed his mid-shipman.

“Brace for impact!” A rushing sound made it impossible to hear and Gregson felt his feet leaving the deck. “Waterfall!”

Rather than dropping like a rock, The Marie Delaine glided into the valley.

“Gentlemen, I give you the red flower, untouched by civilized man until only a few months ago.” An arrow pounded into the side of the boat, and then another.

“Take cover!”

The river oozed with blood and bodies. It was hard to spot the red petals among the crimson. Gregson grabbed a handful and stuffed them into his pocket. Little men in tree-trunk canoes paddled towards them.

“Ahead, full!” Lafayette screamed.

“Sir, the engines conked out!”

“What?”

“Get me my side-arm.” Lafayette took a crouching position and started blasting the natives like he was at the fair or in some video game. If this was the end, Gregson preferred to go-out with his boots on, rather than watching the drip of morphine in a hospital bed. He ran to the galley and boiled some water. Soon he had a pot of orchid tea. Gregson took a sip.

“Tastes like love and knowledge.” And suddenly, he had the wisdom of every library in his head. He had opened his brain to something that couldn’t be read. His appetite returned.

Meanwhile… the crew of the Marie Delaine were being murdered.

Lafayette had a smile on his face.

Some measure life and death on a timeline, whereas others see mojo and madness on the same continuum.

An arrow went right through Lafayette’s chest, and he breathed his last. Gregson was the last man standing. There was nowhere to run.

“Gi gi,” the chief said.

“I don’t speak native.”

“Oh, no matter; we speak yours. There is something wrong with your look.”

“What?”

“I see skin and bones where there should be a fat man. You come with us to the campfire to become our god.”

Gregson nodded. If he was to be sacrificed, so be it.

Epilogue

Gregson stared at the flames with a sense of foreboding, but Lafayette’s dream kept echoing inside his head.

“Only one man survives—he’s fat with a receding hairline.” He was the last man standing; did that mean he would survive?”

The chief stared into his eyes. There is only one last task for you to do before you become our god.”

“And what is that?” Gregson asked.

“You must beat the village shaman in our pizza eating contest.”

“You get pizza down here?

“Air dropped!”

Gregson looked at the tower of Pizza Hut boxes and suddenly his hunger returned. He gazed at the village shaman, who was fat with a receding hairline.

“It’s not over til it’s over,” Gregson said.

“You got that right!”

“1…2…3…EAT!”

Gregson tasted the cheese and he was his old self again. One pizza disappeared and then another. The shaman couldn’t continue. And Gregson reach for the last slice and swallowed it whole.

“Hail our god!”

That’s all good and well, but I do need to get home. Do any of you know how to get there?”

The chief handed Gregson his cell phone. “Call helicopter.”

“What?” Gregson said. “I thought you people were untouched by human kind.”

“Who are you calling, ‘you people.'”

“What?” Gregson said.

THE END

Stakeout on Summer Street

Chapter 1 Stakeout on Summer Street

A neighborhood is smaller and larger through binoculars. Gregson spun the dials and Summer Street came into view. It was ordinary; used a lot at 8 AM in the morning and 5 PM at night; quite dull in the middle of the day. A girl was running up the street in a sports bra.

“Emmm, the fairer sex, quite fair,” Gregson said. He reached for his potato chips. Crumbs flaked onto his golf sweater. He had a tee time at 2 pm, which meant that the stakeout couldn’t last much longer. Cheating stay-at-home husbands were not his regular fare, but after surviving cancer and a drastic weight gain, Gregson was ready to take it easy. He was descending into a food comma, so he juiced himself with stakeout coffee. “Strong stuff, ahhh, that’s just about right.” Even with the caffeine, Gregson drifted to sleep. Acorns kept falling on him and into his convertible.

Then a car that didn’t belong, with a driver who didn’t belong, tore down the street and parked. It was a white Lotus and the flower that stepped out of it wore a white tennis skirt and top. She was tanned and curvy—a dangerous temptation. And Gregson zoomed in.

“This job has its perks. Now all I need to do is snap a few pictures for the lawyer and collect my fee.”

He quickly reviewed his mini notepad. Gregson took the wife’s statement, verbatim. “Catch the bastard in the act.”

“Okay,” he chuckled, stepping out of his t-bird and walking to the front lawn. Gregson had to take his pictures fast or someone might think he was a peeping tom. He looked at the rickety scaffolding and decided to risk it. Halfway up, he realized it was a bad idea.

Then he heard sounds… love-making?

She was riding the dad bod and stopped.

“Listen Alex, you agreed to get rid of your wife for the life insurance money.”

“But I can’t, she’s still a good person.”

“It’s me or her; and what’s going on down there?”

“It has trouble standing at attention when you yell.”

“Well… if you can’t take some action, I will!” She used an ice pick and jabbed him in the chest.

“Wow! Gregson said. He snapped the photo.

“Shoot! I left the flash on!”

He fell off the landing. Paralyzed. The air sucked from his lungs. And he couldn’t move.

FOOTSTEPS.

“This is the 21st century old man.” She pulled the film from his disposable camera. Her ice pick flashed in the sun.

He always knew it would be a woman.

But then a minivan pulled into the driveway before the needle could do its work.

The Lotus left and Gregson longed for her perfume; dangerous women were his weakness.

“God, you’re lucky!” A soccer mom said, running over.

“Don’t I know it, but sometimes, I wonder…”

Chapter 2 Following the Lotus Flower

The blonde soccer mom gave Gregson a hand up; it was as strong as a vice.

“What do you do for a living?”

Oh no, Gregson thought. She’s playing with her hair, that’s a sign of attraction.

“I’m a private investigator.”

“A real one?” She looked at him hungrily.

“Do you ever investigate divorced women?”

“Frequently.” Normally, Gregson would have seen the exit, but there was no escape.

“Are you hurt bad?” She started feeling his back and chest. Gregson was powerless to stop her.

“We’ll take over from here, mam.” A young paramedic gave Gregson an understanding look.

“The husband is upstairs with an ice pick in his chest,” Gregson said.

“How did that happen?” The paramedic asked.

“Dangerous love. Did I break anything doc?”

“Wiggle your toes.”

Gregson did.

“I think your back’s okay; you just got the wind knocked out of you.”

Gregson got up and glanced at the cheating husband.

“She missed your heart by two inches. Are you sure you don’t want to press any charges?”

“Yes, of course not. I’m in love.”

“I’ve had enough of this madness. I have a tee time to catch. We’ll sort this out in 4 hours.”

Gregson sped off in his t-bird, following the scent of the Lotus flower.

Chapter 3 A Dangerous Woman

The golf course wasn’t far, but Gregson didn’t want to play anymore; he wanted to chase the dangerous woman. Finding one who loves speed and violence and seduces with sex and excitement is rare. Most men are afraid, standing on the sidelines to watch, but Gregson shifted into fifth gear, listening to the sound of his American Muscle. He shot past the golf course like he was breaking a land speed record and just as he was leaving the patch of green in the desert, he noticed the white Lotus in his rearview.

BRAKE.

His rubber tires left a mark on the highway, like a signature. He stopped for the one thing that made life worth living, a dangerous woman. Gregson parked and walked towards her. The other men were staring, they could only stare.

She struck her ball with love and precision. It went into the hole.

“The police are looking for you,” Gregson said.

“Let them look. It’s true what they say about old men, they don’t know when to quit.”

“I don’t know… Many men have. Most never play the game.”

“That’s because they know they’d lose.”

She looked into his eyes. “People see your fat body, but they miss your fire.”

“Most people don’t think that counts for anything.”

“It does, if you know how to release it.”

“10 dollars a hole?”

“100.”

“Ladies first.” Gregson followed her tail to the first tee box. He admired her balance. It was a physics problem he wanted to solve.

STRIKE. 300 yards. Gregson had never seen a woman attack a golf ball that way. Although, he’d never seen a woman attack a man with an ice pick. What was he doing with her? It wasn’t rational. It was sexual, but his basic instinct told him there was something beyond.

Gregson swung his stick, striking his ball into the tall grass. “What made you want that man from the neighborhood?” He asked.

“Come over to my place for a drink, and find out.” Jessica gave him an evil smile. She was always two steps ahead, but Gregson didn’t mind. He admired her, from behind.

“You owe me 600 dollars,” she said.

“I’ll pay you at your place.”

“Deal,” she laughed. It was a cold laugh that gave Gregson chills. When they got to her place, there was unholy artwork on the walls. It made Gregson want to give up his soul.

Chapter 4 Feline Versus Canine

Gregson looked at the woman. A feline is a different type of criminal, especially when she’s not reacting to anything.

“Let me freshen up,” she said.

Gregson felt like a high school sophomore, sitting on the edge of her bed, but then she entered the room again, in professional clothes.

“You men all want the same thing,” she said.

“Peace and Solitude?” Gregson asked.

“No, the other thing. And you think you’re smarter than me.”

“Whatever gave you that idea?”

“It’s how you carry yourself. I don’t know if it’s superiority, but it’s something in the same family. It’s your attitude.”

“Well… what are you going to do about it?” Gregson asked.

“Nothing can be done. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can beat him at his own game.”

“What?” Gregson asked.

“You’re a detective, right?”

“Technically, I’m a PI.”

“What’s the difference?”

“I work for myself and I answer to nobody.”

“Whatever you say.” Jessica drank her scotch in two seconds. Then she gave Gregson a look of haughty defiance. “I’m going to pull off the crime of the century right under your nose, and you will be helpless to stop me.”

Gregson smiled. He didn’t know if he enjoyed being with women or playing their games.

“Now, get out!” Jessica said.

Chapter 5 Gregson, King of Crime

Gregson drove home, smiling.

When a criminal tells you, they are going to commit the crime of the century, one only needs to wait. It’s just like the hoodlums who wear baggy pants and try to run for it. Ease, Gregson thought. The night was big and dark. Only the headlights from his T-bird cut his solitude; insects attacked him from all directions, splattering like a Pollock painting on his windshield. Gregson turned up his radio and let the narrator indulge his imagination. Most cannot solve crime because their lives are run by schedules and busyness. People aren’t taken in by what they don’t understand. And Gregson continued listening to the conspiracy theorist talk about aliens.

He felt like an alien wherever he went, but there were some exceptions, and these were the places he loved to go. It was the golf course on a sunny day. It was the chess tournament in Chess-field Park where the old men drank vodka and laughed at the children after they said “checkmate.” Or there was the pizzeria Gregson frequented; the woman behind the counter insisted he meet each one of her babies. She had eight now and there were eight fathers paying child support. What a world, Gregson thought. He didn’t fit in, and yet, he could look at it differently because he didn’t fit, and maybe that’s why he solved crime so well.

Gregson drove into Chess-field, and got several texts on his prepaid phone.

“This is Murphy. You free late this evening?” It was sent two hours ago.

Gregson replied, “What’s on your mind?”

“I’ve got a bottle of wine and some business to discuss.”

“Come over to my new place and we’ll talk.”

Friends of the same feather are difficult to find and Gregson looked forward to their conversation. He pulled up to his driveway and spotted the Porsche 911 parked at the curb. Murphy got out. “How the hell are you, Gregson?”

“Retirement has never been better. I’ve been trying to write my memoirs, and since then, the most interesting cases have popped up. Let me get my mail; it’s been awhile.” Gregson picked up a long stick from his front lawn.

“What’s that for?” Murphy asked.

“I’ve got lots of enemies,” Gregson said. He dropped the lid of his mailbox with his pole and nothing happened.

“You got the wine?”

“Yes; it’s a Merlot?”

“Did you come into some money, or something?” Gregson asked.

“Let’s just say it’s a bribe from my employer.”

The inside of the rambler looked like hobos had been living there. “As you can see, I haven’t hired a maid yet,” Gregson said. “Now what do you want to talk about?” He was half-distracted by his mail while he listened to Murphy. It was the usual bills, until he came across a letter. It smelled like a woman.

“It’s a security job. The crown jewels of England are being put on display at Chess-field and I thought you might like to accompany our team with transport. It’ll be two weeks of standing around, but the pay is incredible.”

“Security jobs are worse than watching the grass grow,” Gregson said. He smelled the letter. “Now this is something that merits my attention.” Gregson slipped on his plastic gloves and began analyzing the picture-cypher. It was a fat man with a bird slung around his neck. “An albatross, if I’m not mistaken.”

“So, you don’t want the job?” Murphy asked.

“I’ll think about it. Yes; I’ll think about it.” Gregson was totally absorbed. “How about pouring some of that wine.”

Murphy knew better than to disturb him. Gregson got up from the table and started to play jazz. He played chords like they were creative synapses, firing inside his brain.

“I’ll just leave you to it, then,” Murphy said. “Call me in the morning, if you change your mind.” A crescendo responded to the warm, empty night.

Chapter 6 Tightrope Teaser

Even with the sun rising, Gregson played the piano like music could bridge the gap between his creative imagination and the albatross around his neck. It was from the Coleridge poem. A great burden and a curse. Days past like this. Gregson locked himself inside, letting his beard grow. All pizza delivery carriers knew him by name. To burn off the brain fog, Gregson juiced himself with stake out coffee. It made the mind desperate; desperate to solve crime. And then the phone rang.

“Yeah, this is Gregson.”

“Gregson, it’s Murphy. What have you been up to the last couple of weeks?”

“Bothered by a bird; it’s a burden.”

“You got to let go of that and join me at the museum this evening.”

“Oh really? Those special forces guys know what they’re doing. There’s no reason that you need me.”

“That’s not true, Gregson. You see things differently. Just humor me for one night. The Jewels are going back to the Tower of London this evening.”

“Okay, but I need coffee and doughnuts and I want the one with the raspberry filling.”

“Way ahead of you partner; they’re in the car.

Gregson felt sinful, eating a glazed doughnut with sticky fingers inside the leather Porsche interior, but sugar was one of the few things that could hijack his brain.

“Is it really necessary to drive so fast,” Gregson asked.

“More often than you’d think,” Murphy said. “We’re nearly there.” They tore around city corners in downtown Chess-field like they were a one-man car chase and parked in the loading dock of the museum.

The building was old, but a masterpiece of modern security. Gregson felt like he couldn’t take a leak without being violated by a security camera.

“So, what’s the plan?” Gregson asked.

“We got a stake out going on the third floor. That’s where the jewels are. To be honest, the guys are a bit too relaxed. Most of them shouldn’t be allowed inside a museum; they’re better off playing in the sandbox or bleeding somebody quiet-like at midnight.”

“Gotcha,” Gregson said. “We just keep our eyes open.”

The patrons were milling about. It was getting close to closing time. Then Gregson noticed something peculiar. An old woman was walking like a young woman.

“Pick up that fraud,” Gregson said into his radio. Two special forces guys moved in and grabbed her.

“Take your meat hooks off me!” She screamed.

“She must be wearing a wig and makeup,” Gregson shouted.

“Nope, she’s the real deal!”

“Why do you walk funny?” Gregson asked.

“I just had both knees replaced.”

“Oh, I’m getting too old for this job.”

“This is ageism, and I’m going to sue you boys.”

Then the security alarms went off. “To the roof!”

Gregson charged up the last flight of stairs and pulled his silver revolver from his pocket. There was the woman. She was halfway across the cable that held the lights up for closing night. “Catch me if you can, old dog.” She scampered across. Gregson pointed his gun, but he couldn’t shoot. He paused for a moment, held his breath, and then walked into thin air. He might’ve made it.

SNAP.

The cable broke and Gregson held on, like an overweight Tarzan, swinging into the opposite building.

“Help!”

Chapter 7 The Woman with Many Faces

Inverted buildings shook the change out of Gregson’s pockets. The ground looked different upside down; it was certain death. His fortune was hanging from a thread and Gregson regretted his days of over-eating, putting tension on the wire.

“Gregson, hang on!” Murphy yelled.

A cable dropped next to him and his friend descended. “Close call.”

“You have no idea. And now I have a fear of heights.”

“That’s something we can work on, but first, let’s get down from here. Can you identify the woman?”

“She was beautiful, that’s all.”

Murphy clipped him in and they repelled to the street. Gregson got rid of his lunch on the sidewalk. “I just need to sleep,” he said.

“How do you feel?” Murphy asked.

“I feel like the woman won.”

“That happens, sometimes.”

“What did she steal?”

“The Heart of Sumatra.”

“Is he one of the special forces guys?”

“No, it’s an uncut gem worth 30 million.”

Gregson and Murphy walked down the street together. They hit the climbing gym and Gregson worked the vertigo out of his system. It was like bleeding fear from a demon.

Epilogue

“You know what, Murphy. I still have to conclude my business with the wife who hired me for the stakeout on Summer Street.”

“I thought your mark stole your pictures?”

“She did, but this camera isn’t so old. It has negatives.”

“Really…? Well, finish up your business and let’s play golf.”

“You’re on.”

Gregson went back to his office and scheduled the appointment. “I need a secretary. All great PIs have secretaries,” he mumbled. A few hours later, the woman showed up.

“You said, you have negatives.”

“Something like that,” Gregson offered. The middle-aged wife had body. Gregson studied crime, but he preferred to study the female form and there was something about her that didn’t add up. He reached for his silver six-shooter under the table.

“Not so fast, old man.” The woman pointed a .38 at his chest and ripped her face off. It was Jessica.

“Boys with their toys,” she laughed and grabbed the camera.

When she left, it was oddly peaceful. It was like a whirlwind entered and exited.

“Okay, pick her up,” Gregson said over his radio. He knew the nature of a cunning psychopath. She wanted to play games with the greatest to pull off the greatest crime. Gregson looked at the tracer on his computer screen that was lodged in his camera. A red dot was surrounded by blue dots.

“Captain Styles to Gregson. Gregson come back.”

“This is Gregson.”

“We have her and the Heart of Sumatra. Case solved. The queen will be very happy; you may even get knighted.”

“Really?” Gregson asked. “Sir Gregson of Chess-field. I like the sound of that.”

THE END

Coffee with Too Much Sugar

Chapter 1 Coffee with Too Much Sugar

Gregson usually took his coffee black with a doughnut; that way he could indulge two desires at the same time. He walked to Sally’s Diner, across a busy metropolitan street. Downtown Chess-field was full of tourists enjoying 10 o’clock blue skies where the clouds were free to move any way they wished. He walked to the take-out window where a nervous teenager poured his coffee.

“Black with no sugar and a bear claw, if you got it,” Gregson said.

“Yes sir.”

“You must be new.”

“It’s my first day.”

“Well… it’s nice to meet you. My name’s Gregson.”

“Mine’s Alex.”

Gregson smiled and Alex tried to, but something was wrong. Gregson took his doughnut and coffee and walked around the corner. He sat on a park bench and took a drink. It was sugar water.

“What the…? That kid needs some serious direction. Even teenagers can’t screw up a cup of coffee these days. Something isn’t right here.” Gregson pulled his six-shooter from his pocket and loaded the bullets. He walked to the diner with a scowl on his face. Closed signs were hanging in the windows, so he walked through the back door. Three guys with Afros were emptying the cash register.

“I’ve gotten my coffee here for four years and it’s never been sweet,” Gregson said.

They pointed their guns at his head. He stared them down through his peep-sight. “Now, you can drop your guns and turn yourself in before anybody gets hurt or the janitor will have to squeegee your blood off the floor.”

Gregson saw the action in their eyes before they pulled their triggers. He ducked behind the counter and the plates behind him exploded into a million pieces. He rolled onto the floor and shot one of them in the leg.

The other pulled a scattergun and filled the counter full of lead. “Get that sucker!”

Gregson let the air out of his lungs like a pressure cooker.

BANG. BANG. BANG.

All three were on the ground. “Sally, I need to borrow your telephone to make a call.”

“Right away, Gregson.”

He dialed. “Yes, police? There’s been a robbery…”

Chapter 2 In the Wrong Place at the Right Time

After a shoot-out, the air carries with it a lingering tension; gun smoke, broken glass, and the smell of iron, a great big hole where a plate-glass window used to be. Heat and sweat and wax figures take-in the aftermath, trying to calculate the chaos. It is real and unreal; slow and fast; order and disorder.

“What happened here?” The commissioner asked.

Sally stood there with her white-blonde hair, pink apron, and fiftyish face. “Gregson,” she said.

“I might’ve known. Does chaos follow you around like a stalker or do you court it?”

“Maybe I’m just in the wrong place at the right time,” Gregson said.

“The medics will save these boys. Thank God you’re not associated with the police force anymore. They’re all wounded and know who you are, which means you have to lay low for a while before the trial. I’ll need to take your gun—retirement present, wasn’t it?

“That’s right.”

“Gregson, when are you going to retire? I’ve been following your exploits for a year and since then, disaster shadows you like a clingy woman.”

“She has a sense of humor, I guess. My memoirs still have to get done, so perhaps, crime comes to me like inspiration.”

“Take a break from violence and write them, please.”

“Okay, commissioner. You’re right. A vacation has been calling to me for some time.”

“Just be sure it’s a vacation.”

Gregson smiled. He found himself on a medium-sized sail boat in a harbor that looked more like a graveyard for long-forgotten retirement dreams.  “I guess the rich folks who own these boats plan to sail, but never do,” he said. He unwrapped his typewriter and threaded a crisp blank page into the machine. A gust blew sea-spray onto the page. The sun was tricky and magical, shining with blinding light as the clouds flew by. He poured a glass of champagne and toasted his retirement. Gregson lit his cigar with a match and breathed in and breathed out. He started to type and lost track of time. Then he noticed he was being watched. Across the way, the only other harbor inhabitant was eyeing him.

Chapter 3 Boat Bum Philosopher

The man, if it indeed was a man, lounged in a lawn chair on a boat that looked like it had been to the bottom a couple times and been resalvaged. Barnacles and green slime grew on the outside. The man wasn’t that different. His beard was a good six months of unkempt growth, cigarette ashes and Dorito crumbs. A faded baseball cap was perched on his stringy blonde hair that grew past his shoulders.

“Ahoy,” he grinned. His teeth were yellow. He held a smoldering cigarette in his left hand while shifting his beer belly to exit his lawn chair. He moved towards Gregson like a wounded slug.

“Folks on the water call me Fred.”

“My name’s Gregson.”

“You don’t know what you’re doing around here, do yah?”

“You’re pretty observant. The city told me to take a week off.”

“You a cop?”

“Private Investigator.”

“Really? I always wanted to serve and protect, but my old man thinks I’m a bum. He tells me every week when I call him from the harbor pay phone.”

His Tie Dye shirt was making Gregson nauseous. “Would you like a beer?” Fred asked.

“Sure,” Gregson said. He was having creative problems, so maybe the alcohol would help.

“This place doesn’t get many new people. Most of these boats belong to retirees in nursing homes. Nobody deals with their estates and the harbor continues to rot on the water. I’m sorry, I’m being too negative.”

“No. It’s quite all right.”

“I’d like to know what it feels like to collar some criminals and do some good, for a change. It seems like the older I get; the slower time goes.”

“How old are you? Aren’t you like, 30?” Gregson asked.

“33.”

“Well, you’re too young to be talking like that.”

“Maybe, but nothing changes around here. It’s just beer, and cigarettes, and trying to make sense of eternity. That’s why I hang around the ocean.”

“Maybe you’d like to help me on a case?” Gregson suggested.

Really? No foolin? I’d love that.”

“Well… I’m supposed to be laying low for a while, but next week we’ll go catch some criminals.”

Evening sank and the stars came out. Gregson noticed his neighbor puffing cigarettes until the air got too cold. Then it was dark and all he could hear was the regular lapping of waves. That was until footsteps, lots of footsteps, echoed on the gangplank.

Chapter 4 Fight in the Fog

Under the full moon, Gregson peeked through his cabin window. The harbor was awash with light; fog so thick, it made his eyes burn. Indistinct shadows moved through it, getting closer. Gregson reached for his revolver, but it wasn’t there. “That’s right, the city took it,” he muttered. He reached for his golf clubs instead. Gregson pulled out his 7 iron.

Then he heard guns cock.

“Hey fat man, get some.” His cabin splintered into a thousand pieces and Gregson hit the deck. The floor began to leak. His boat was sinking to the bottom. He couldn’t get away. His watery tomb was nearly ceiled when he remembered his scuba tank under his dirty laundry. Gregson put on his face-mask right when the water level engulfed his head. There were only a few minutes of breathable air left. It tasted like seaweed. Then his boat hit the bottom. Gregson opened his cabin and swam out. Bullets drilled above him.

There was another diver in the water, not 20 feet away. He had stringy blonde hair. It was Fred, holding a harpoon gun. He motioned to Gregson. There were two ladders on opposite sides of the dock. Gregson read Fred’s mind. They moved towards opposite ladders, ascending like invisible amphibians in the mist.

“Do you hear something? It sounds like sloshing.” Then a spear whistled through the air and pinned one of the assassins to the pier.

“It came from over there.”

WACK. The 7 iron cracked a skull.

Rat-a-tat-tat. Bullets whizzed through the fog and footsteps ran down the dock. Gregson pursued them, but he was too fat to keep up. The machine gun fired again and Gregson felt lead entering his heart. His insides melted. He crumpled to the ground. Consciousness left his eyes. The last thing he saw was Fred’s face.

Then he saw a surgeon and a saw.

BUZZING.

Gregson felt vulnerable. His heart was exposed. He never felt like he’d opened up this much to anybody. His I-V was giving him liquid dreams. If only he had a computer right now to write his memoirs. Time disappears on drugs. Gregson’s hair was longer than Fred’s. Figures of friends Gregson thought he knew appeared and disappeared in the room. There was a light and then the fog lifted.

“Gregson. I’m your doctor, Doctor Graves.”

“Somehow, I don’t feel reassured.”

Dr. Graves laughed. “You’ve recovered, but your heart is weak. Any significant strain and the sutures will explode. You’ll need a transplant. Your name has been put on a long list, and I’m afraid it will take too long for you to receive an available heart. You have six months, at the most.”

Chapter 5 Hospital Rockstar

Gregson lay in bed, letting the morphine work its magic. He felt like a hospital Rockstar. He could stare at the walls all day, completely entertained, but there was something blocking his view.

“Fred?”

“Gregson, I’ve been wanting to drop by and show you something. Crime is a passion of mine. You know, the mystery novels and detective stories. Well… there’s been some strange murders happening in the area.” Fred tossed Gregson a large manilla envelope and some poorly developed pictures slipped out.

“Took them myself. I know a few guys on the police force; buy them coffee and doughnuts when I can, and they let me take these pictures. Do you see anything similar, about them?”

“Just that the bodies are mutilated and opened up. Looks like we have a real sicko on our hands.”

“Exactly. I know you’re feeling a bit under the weather, but if you could just get well, we could catch this killer.”

“I don’t have much time left.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I mean, they’re only giving me a few months left to live.”

“All the more reason to die with your boots on.”

“I don’t know, I need to write my memoirs.”

“When you start doing that, your life is over. Why not try to solve these crimes before you kick off. You’re catholic, right?

“Yeah. What does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, there won’t be many criminals in heaven; so, now is the time to do what you were meant to do.”

Gregson smiled. “Maybe you’re right.”

“Of course, I’m right. Now, when can you check yourself out of here?”

“Doctor Graves told me one week.”

“You gotta push it. Besides, doctors make things up all the time.”

“Okay Fred, let’s check out.” Gregson got up and felt his sutures pulling apart. He was like Frankenstein’s monster.

Chapter 6 Gut Like a Fish

Gregson changed out of his hospital gown and into his red checked shirt and tan cargo pants. He adjusted his Stetson in the mirror. His face was pale, but there was sparkle in his eyes.

“Hold on, I’m getting a text,” Fred said. “It’s from a Detective Murphy. He says there’s another body on 17th street.”

“Detective Murphy, huh?” Gregson said.

“You know ‘im?”

“You could say that.”

“Well, let’s go.” Fred pulled a massive pink Cadillac to the curb, straight out of the 1980s.

“I haven’t ridden in one of these in years,” Gregson said.

“She’s all love, brother.”

Gregson got in and they rumbled up the avenue. “There’s the cornered off crime scene.”

Detective Murphy was drinking a coffee and having a smoke when they arrived.

“I thought you were a health nut,” Gregson said.

“No, just a nut. By the way, how are you feeling?”

Like I was shot in the heart and almost killed.”

“Yeah, I feel for you partner. This poor bastard had his insides stolen. It’s bad when a woman steals your heart and half your stuff, but this guy doesn’t have anything left inside, not even his manhood.”

“Do you think it’s a woman?” Fred asked.

“Hell, hath no fury like a woman scorned, but this is a series of murders. Predatory in nature. And I’m sure there is method in the madness. For instance, see the hack job done on the stomach and gonads. They were removed with a hunting knife. But notice the surgical job done on the heart. It was cut out with a scalpel, no doubt. Organs go for big dollars on the black market these days and there doesn’t seem to be any relation among the victims; so, I suspect they were murdered for their insides. You’re on a list for a heart, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, AB-. It’s a rare blood type and I’ll likely die before I get my transplant.”

Chapter 7 Catching Some Good Luck

“You know what I do when the answers are absent?” Fred asked.

“What?”

“I go fishing. I think it would do Gregson some good. Murder gets solved in the imagination, after all; and we might be able to catch some answers by not trying to.”

“I’ll join you guys when I get off my shift,” Murphy said.

When Gregson got back to the dock, he noticed his sunken sailboat on stilts by the shore. “I had it salvaged just for you,” Fred said.

“Why?”

“I’m your number one fan and it didn’t cost me a dime; my old man sponsored it. You can fish off your deck. I’ll join you in just a little bit.” Fred walked back to his boat and grabbed a couple coolers. “You wanna beer?”

“Sure,” Gregson said. “This is the life.” He dipped his hands into the harbor compost barrel and pulled out some warm worms; then he cast his line. The sun was beginning to set in the late afternoon.

Gregson and Fred stood there, plopping their bobbers in the water, admiring their rippling reflections.

Suddenly, Fred hooked a fish.

“Is that a shark?” Gregson asked.

“It’s big enough to be.”

“You have all the luck.”

“It comes from years of not trying,” Fred grinned.

“Whatever. Sounds like New Age philosophy to me, but if it helps you catch fish…”

“I’m just foolin. I use the right kind of bate. This is my special blend.”

Gregson peered inside. “Looks like a milkshake that went bad. Smells like it too.”

Then he got a text. “It’s from Dr. Graves. I’ve been moved to the top of the donor list. They want to do the heart transplant in five hours.”

“Looks like you caught some good luck, after all,” Fred smiled.

Epilogue

Gregson was thinking about life and death; his own. “Will you take me to the hospital?”

“Are you kiddin? Let’s go!”

With the top down, Gregson sucked in the cool breeze.

At the hospital entrance, a wheelchair was waiting for him. Dr. Graves stood there, tall and dour. “I guess you’re wondering how you made it to the top of the list? There’s been a string of murders in the area and they all have AB- blood. Five people got hearts today and five people died. Somebody’s playing God.”

“How do you know the murders are connected?” Gregson asked.

“Their organs were removed. Earlier, the hospital received five coolers on its doorstep. All of them contained a human heart, AB-.”

“Do you have reservations about performing the surgery Doc?”

“Hell no, a heart is a heart. When you recover, you can catch the murderer.”

“Why don’t we take care of that now.”

“What?”

Gregson slapped the cuffs on Fred’s hands like a magician.

“Hey, what’s going on here?” Fred stammered.

“Your fish bait; I’ve spent enough time around blood to know your chum was human.”

“But I saved your life.”

“No, you didn’t; it was some poor bastard who didn’t mean to.”

“Well, can I at least watch the surgery?” Fred asked.

“You’re not next of kin,” Dr. Graves said.

“But I’m his number one fan.”

THE END

Marathon Maniac

Chapter 1 Marathon Maniac

Gregson ran like he was being chased by a Grizzly Bear. He was 50 years old and 50 pounds over-weight, but he kept charging up the trail. His face was red and the sweat poured off his nose and out of his eyes, or maybe those were tears.

Marathon onlookers watched, and they were all thinking the same thing, he had to stop, but Gregson kept going. He had a new heart now and he intended to use it.

Running makes you feel young, until you realize you are old. The old motivations don’t work as well as they used to. During his younger days, Gregson would get behind some young tail and let his sex drive carry him over the finish line. Now he needed grander philosophies to survive the heat and pounding. His mind thought simple thoughts, like how good a hot dog would taste at the finish line or when he would wash it all down with ice-cold lemonade.

Mile 18 was coming up and the pacer group opened their mouths in awe as the man with style past.

Gregson embodied magic because he could not be explained. If doctors ever figured out how to transplant brains, nobody could handle his. The energy and mystery and complexity would terrify them.

Mile 22. Pain was an understatement. Mile 26. There was the finish line. Somehow, being able to finish at his age was a test. It was a test of how much he wanted to do it.

Some blacked out SUVs partitioned the crowd in Chessfield Park where the marathon ended and Gregson instantly knew they were there for him. Agents wearing black shades and suits opened the doors to usher Gregson inside.

“Have a Gatorade,” Murphy said.

“You work for the government now?” Gregson asked.

“Just some consulting work for the Federal BI. I recommended you to the agency, even though they questioned your abilities. I don’t think anyone can doubt you now, especially after today.”

Gregson smiled. “Let’s walk and talk. Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.”

Murphy laughed. “Same old Gregson, up for a challenge for the sake of a challenge. This one might be the greatest of your career.”

Chapter 2 Waiting on a Time Bomb

Chessfield Park was awash with summer sunshine in the late afternoon as pigeons walked in diagonal lines, like sentries, guarding the park path. Birdseed scattered and their patrol duty was neglected by involuntary eating, followed by chaotic cooing. Gregson gave the bird lady money and grabbed another handful of seeds.

“Did you hear what I just told you?” Murphy asked.

“Yeah, somebody wants to blow up a building full of people,” Gregson said.

“And that doesn’t bother you?”

“There is always someone who wants to blow up the city. What makes you think this threat should be taken seriously?”

“The words, something about the words. You can just tell when someone means business.”

“Is that what you told the Director?”

“Of course not. The accountants are running the Bureau these days and unless they fear for their bottom line, resources don’t get attached to threats.”

“Then how are you going to find this bomber before the bomb goes off?”

“We won’t.”

“Well, if you can’t find the bomber until the bomb explodes, why don’t we go play golf?”

“You just ran a marathon.”

“I know; you’ll have an advantage when we bet; say, three-to-one odds?”

“You’re on.”

The world’s most complex problems are always simpler on the golf course, and perhaps that’s why presidents play golf. Gregson teed up his shot like it was the most important problem in the world, squinting into the sun, concentrating. “When did you say this bomb was going to go off?”

“Within 24 hours.”

“So, how much time do we have left?”

“About four hours.”

“That should be enough time for us to finish our round of golf, don’t you think?” Gregson swung, launching his ball into oblivion.

Waiting for an explosion is a lot like waiting for the fourth of July; it always happens early; So, on thirteen, it went off. BOOM! Car alarms sounded in the distance.

“You can owe me,” Gregson said.

“I don’t owe you anything; the deal was for 18. Now let’s catch this bomber. Hopefully he’s crazy, the crazy ones always leave evidence behind.”

Chapter 3 The Building that Didn’t Blow Up

“Why don’t you take a ride with me?” Murphy asked.

“In that?”

“It’s a Porsche GT 2?”

“No class.”

Gregson got into his convertible Aston Martin Vantage.

“How can you afford that?”

“Check out the license plate.”

“For Rent?”

“Style is something one must practice, religiously. I’ll wait for you downtown.”

“To hell you will; it is you who will be waiting for me.” Both supercars tore into the street like toilet paper, leaving long streaks.

The city was like a bee hive, some delinquent teen set fire to. Mothers were screaming and protecting their babies, while taxi drivers honked, and men in business suits froze. It was a scene that cannot be painted; the emotions of death ravaged buildings like a firestorm of locusts, consuming metal skyscrapers, as smoke and glass billowed through the air like noxious clouds cutting the lungs of city commuters.

Gregson put the top up and drove through the raining debris. He popped onto the sidewalk and nailed a trash can, pulling the brim of his Stetson hat low. Being an investigator is similar to being a terrorist; when the bombs go off, both get excited. Good and evil are only words; motives in some men transcend traditional morality. Gregson was one of those, a man gunning for thrills, to push limits where the limits would push back. The squad was already there; men in bomber suits, with robots, sampling charred evidence from the impact zone.

Detective Spieth was giving orders; Gregson knew him; not a creative type with imagination, but organized, and he could get the job done. Gregson wasn’t two feet outside his car, when Spieth recognized him.

“Gregson, I should’ve known you’d show up. How’s retirement?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“Why don’t you wear a gas mask?”

“Sure. Are you worried about a secondary blast?”

“No. This was meant to send a message. It was big, a statement, and not intended to kill.”

“Well, the bomber was incompetent then. What is this place?”

“It’s the corner of Westfield Shopping mall. Look, here’s the map. Do you see? I think we’re standing in Victoria’s Secret.”

“Religious Fanatics?”

“Probably.

“How many dead?

“Not sure; many got vaporized; 400 meters out, the blast went right over people’s heads.”

“I want a detailed map of the mall and the surrounding buildings,” Gregson said.

“That shouldn’t be difficult.”

“Hey, there’s Murphy; perhaps he has a few ideas.”

“I heard you left the force,” Spieth said.

“I joined the dark side.”

“The Federal BI?”

“Only as a consultant.”

“Here’s the map.”

“There’s a Jamba Juice, a Victoria’s Secret, and an Abercrombie and Fitch. What’s outside the mall?”

“A Discount Tire. Hey, this is strange. It’s a shop with no name. Where would that be?

“Right about there.” Gregson pointed at the shop. The building was still standing; the walls were chard and the glass was broken, but the structure mysteriously remained.

Chapter 4 Mercury Poisoning or Poor Diet

“That’s not uncommon,” Spieth said. But Gregson had his doubts. The building stood for something; and Gregson wanted to find out what that was; he walked into it.

“Careful… it may be booby-trapped.”

Gregson paid no mind to the men over his shoulder. His head was in the crime and it gave his brain the familiar electrical impulses. He was still wearing his marathon shorts and Stetson—any passerby would think him a slob, but he quickly slipped into the shadows.

“An apothecary?” He mused. “And it didn’t blow up? No, this is something different…” There were masks on the walls, island faces with evil smiles. A queen of hearts stood in the corner, holding a hand. Gregson brandished his pen light and shined it about the shop. Urban Voodoo came to mind.

“This is a crime scene!” A woman shouted. Gregson looked at the queen of hearts and nearly jump out of his skin. Then he turned around and noticed a tall, slender cop.

“It’s okay; I’m a private investigator.”

“Come out this moment or I’ll have you arrested.”

Gregson walked towards her. “As you can see, I have no problem with female authority,” he smiled.

CRASH. Gregson stepped on something and shattered it. Bits of glass flew everywhere.

“Get out!”

Gregson shined his light on what he had stepped on. It was a mercury detonator. The metal was seeping into his running shoes. “Get the doc,” Gregson said. “I might be insane before the day is out.” The metal had already seeped into his skin.

Under the MRI, in the medical room, a young doctor looked at Gregson. “Metal poisoning is the least of your troubles,” he said. “Your cholesterol could kill two people. I’m surprised your heart hasn’t given out.”

“That’s because I got a new one last year. Can’t you see the scars?”

“I see the scars and your heart is swollen. The good news is that the mercury that got under your skin is nothing more than what the average person ingests from a can of tuna. It seems to me that you need to stop eating.”

“Tuna sandwiches?”

“No; stop eating food. I mean hot dogs, pizza, beer, everything you like.”

“I just ran a marathon; won’t that counteract my diet?”

“You’re not a stupid fellow, so your cognitive dissonance is one for the books. I doubt a psychologist has seen anything like it. And no more marathons, at least not until you drop 50 pounds.”

Gregson left the hospital feeling discouraged; young women and doctors were telling him what to do. Maybe he was getting old, but then again, maybe he was in his prime. There was only one way to find out. He went to the Chessfield Library and looked up the building registries.

“That shop next to the mall… what’s it called?”

“Sir, are you okay?” Gregson was lost in thought, until he noticed the girl. She wasn’t older than 24.

“I’m just looking up a building that didn’t blow up.”

“I’ll just leave you to it then; ask if you have any questions.” The young girl walked to the rather strict librarian behind the counter and told on him. Gregson didn’t mind; he knew how to talk to librarians. He told them of his travels and his mysteries, which became inspiration for their book clubs and writing groups.

“The South American Shop. A curator of Caribbean voodoo. Our other branch is located in Rio De Janeiro. It’s time to take a vacation,” Gregson said.

Chapter 5 The Island Clinic

Vacation is a chance for most people to get away, but for Gregson… it was a reminder that he still had a nose; he was a connoisseur of crime. Sometimes, the best wine is opened last; he was hoping that the South American Shop would give him a taste of his former self. As detectives age, they are like a collection of memories, evidence of a life they chased and solved, but there are always those mysteries that remain open, and Gregson was beginning to accumulate those. It made him feel desperate, desperate for more, at the end.

When the twin prop plane landed, Gregson squeezed between the seats in his hula shirt and oversized cargo shorts; his Stetson was planted firmly on his head.

A taxi driver in a classic Mercedes was holding a sign. GREGSON. “That’s me.” The driver’s olive skin and coffee brown hair, complimented his voice.

“What are your plans in Rio?”

“I’m looking for a bomber.”

“Police?”

“Private Investigator.”

“Oh, you should meet my cousin; he designs the tips of bombs. You know, the one that finds New York or Los Angeles; works for the Russian government, but he’s currently based out of Havana. Do you know the city?”

“Yes—fine women; they’ll steal your money, if you’re lucky, and not your life.”

“Yes, that’s about right.” The taxi went through traffic, between electric bicycles, and sellers. Gregson longed for the beach, but work had to intrude.

The shop was coming up on the right. “Will you wait?”

“That’s what you pay me for.”

Inside the South American Shop stood a man, at least 6 foot 6. He wore clothes that were half black and half white. His skin was black, but bleached by discolorations. His hair was curly, but it had been straightened.

“How can I help you?” He said with a Portuguese accent.

“I’m looking to remove a curse.”

“Oh, I see. Most of our weight-loss products are in the back, but I should warn you, you’ll spend half the time on the toilet.”

“Not weight-loss products. That’s not what I’m looking for. I’m tracking down a bomber; he uses mercury switches; do you have an antidote?”

“We don’t sell explosives.”

“But you deal in them.”

“No.”

“What connection does your shop have with the one in Chessfield Park?”

“Oh, that belongs to my brother. He got himself mixed up with some rich people who run an experimental clinic on an island in the Caribbean. I wouldn’t poke your nose around those people. Magic and bio-engineering left them with no soul.”

“Thanks for the tip,” Gregson said. “Do you have something for the common headache?”

“Yes; Advil. 14.95 US.”

“Where’s the clinic?”

“It’s located on a small island, off the coast of Cuba, in international waters. The governor is a queer fellow and is seeking sovereignty as an independent country. The US and Cuba have not granted his request and rumor has it that he threatened both superpowers with voodoo, which had gotten great laughs. You want to talk to Captain Jack, if you wish to go there. He’s a Brit, but not very sophisticated.”

Gregson paid the man and left for the island.

Chapter 6 Captain Jack

At the marina, Gregson looked for the description of Captain Jack—beer drinking, beard, gambler, womanizer, toughest cuss, and soulful adventurer, approximately 50 years old. There were some young guys, horsing around on their dad’s boat with some women, a couple ancient mariners, and a yacht in the distance with a snobby fellow smoking a long cigarette. No captain who had ever circumnavigated the globe in a fishing trawler was in sight. Only one boat fit the description. Barnacles were growing up the sides; it looked like it could barely float, a ghost ship, until life emerged from the water.

She was wearing a one-piece black bathing suit, with snorkel mask, and knife glinting in the sunlight. Her hair ran down her back like an underwater plant. She dried herself, while Gregson watched.

“Get a good look old man, she comes from my loins.” A sea salt pushed a Budweiser into Gregson’s belly. “I don’t understand why she still hangs out with me. You must be Gregson? Pero contacted me from the South American Shop. He’s usually the butt of my jokes but a very reliable fellow—has a knack for knowing whom to trust. My daughter, Domino, is studying archeology and marine biology; she can’t decide if she likes dead things or alive things, but she loves being underwater.

When Domino turned around, Gregson noticed her eyes. They were almond brown, bitter, like cyanide. Her breasts were perfect, glistening in the sunlight, and when she walked, she moved like a man.

“I’m Gregson.” He raised his hand, like he was in third grade. It was strange to give her so much power.”

“I’ll be in the hold, studying,” Domino said.

“Not terribly social. After two semesters at university, she started using words like Patriarchy, in reference to me, but I don’t own any land; I’m just a cork bobbing on the open ocean. Who knows what they teach these women in school? I tried to get out as soon as I could. It’s an easy world, you know. Women hold these thoughts in their heads and men go along with them. War or disease will correct things. Are you married?”

“No; I guess I could never solved the mystery of women, nor did I want to. Some mysteries are better left unsolved.”

“But what about companionship?”

“I prefer being around men. What about you?”

“The sea is my mistress. My wife left me for an ambitious man, ambitious, in the eyes of the world. What good is treasure, if you can never find it?”

“Did Pero tell you where I want to go?”

“Yes; and it’ll be damn dangerous. I’ve heard strange things about that clinic, like the governor wants to take over the world. He’s tried to pick a fight with America and Russia. His boots are too big for him.”

“Well… it has always been little men who have done big things.”

“Maybe you’re right. I’ll take you to the island horizon, but no farther. You’ll need to go underwater; I’ll give you a spear gun and perhaps Domino wants to go; she’s deadly on the land and under the sea.”

Chapter 7 The Domino Effect

Gregson long ago stopped being self-conscious about his body, in fact, he embraced male-body positivity. He stripped down to his camouflage swimming trunks when Domino walked in completely topless.

“Dad said that you’re going to that clinic.”

“Yes.”

“What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a private investigator, which means that I work for myself.”

“Oh, I thought you were retired.”

“One never retires in my line of work; rather, the mysteries don’t get solved and it’s really bad when you can’t figure them out on the TV.”

“So, do you want some company? I assume your investigating?

“Yes; I’m convinced the governor found a way to control the President of the United States. He visited last month for some orange tanning treatments and electric hair stimulation. When they revitalized his roots, I’m convinced they inserted a chip.”

“Oh, that would explain his misogyny.”

“I don’t know…”

“What don’t you know?”

“Just that voodoo confuses the mind and muddles the senses. Where’s your swimsuit?”

“I’m wearing it, silly. We’re in international waters now—all the women go topless.”

“I’ve been vacationing in the wrong spots.”

“Just don’t look at them.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

In the clear Caribbean water, Gregson could see for miles. Sharks were tearing a seal to pieces beyond the coral reef. Domino swam along a volcanic ridge where a hot spot forced lava through molten pores like pimples bursting with heat. The water was much warmer here, closer to the island.

Chapter 8 Subsonic Dog Whistle

It was the kind of day that glances at you and then it’s gone. Gregson emerged from the water, his belly bouncing in the starlight. Domino could’ve been a goddess of the deep as she marched up the beach under the full moon. “What’s your plan, or do you have one?” She asked.

“Just follow me.”

“You’re such a toxic masculine man.”

Gregson smiled.

Discarded umbrella drinks littered the sand, while he avoided them so they didn’t stick into the bottoms of his bare feet. A wall was up ahead, tall, and dark. He shouldered his spear gun and aimed at the security light with the mounted camera moving in their direction.

Fsh. The tensile line grappled through the air and stuck between the metal. “I don’t think it’ll hold my weight,” Gregson said. “How are you at climbing?”

Domino smirked at the fat detective, while she hoisted herself up the obstruction like a cat climbing a tree. Gregson stared at her, and kept staring. Then he realized the camera would catch him in two seconds. His belly hit the beach grass, as she fell over the wall.

In half a minute, a little door opened 20 yards away. Gregson followed her into a courtyard where two Dobermans looked at them like death. They were inching forward with open mouths. Gregson pointed his watch at their heads like a remote control and pressed a button. They instantly froze.

“What did you do?” Domino asked.

“It’s a subsonic dog whistle—sends out a signal that paralyzes any canine in a 100-meter radius—gives them a small seizure.”

“You are just full of surprises,” she said.

Gregson had that effect on women; it was his style, not in how he dressed, but in how he carried himself. It was his resourcefulness, though he appeared to lack resources—it was something that cannot be seen, until it materializes like magic.

Chapter 9 The Incomplete Man

“Good evening, Gregson.”

“Who am I talking to?”

“I’ll be asking the questions. Go to the bunker and wait.” Inside was a perfect room; it was so white; it was impossible to see where the walls began and ended. Gregson and Domino were lost in space, until a black hole emerged and a man entered.

He was not a tall man, nor a short man. Gregson scrutinized his features and deduced there was nothing exceptional about him. He looked like a young man who became old too quickly.

“You have penetrated my stronghold, Gregson—though not really. All of your movements were seen.

Domino looked at him distastefully, but he didn’t seem to notice. He was like a human clone that had not fully regenerated. There were things about him that were missing, like a light behind his eyes or shampoo in his slimy hair.

“Soon, the world will be owned by this island—an empire, ruled by magic.”

“Magic rubs off on people foolish enough to practice it,” Gregson said.

“Oh, I assume you’re referring to the South American Shop in Chessfield. Blew a mile high, didn’t it? Well, one must cover their tracks. All magic is deception and the only way to control people is to lie to them. The News does a poor job. Everyone knows they’re being lied to. The most brilliant deception is one that lies in wait; and the people who find it think they have stumbled onto the truth. A brilliant mind, like yours, will appreciate this…”

The incomplete man led Gregson and Domino through the black hole he entered. This room was playing soft music. “They’re all here for one thing, pleasure and relaxation. They want their worries to leave their minds, and I provide them with that.”

“Is that…?”

“Yes. The world’s greatest leaders are resting here. They deserve it.”

“And they’re being hypnotized?” Gregson asked.

“Yes. You see, few of them really want to be leaders; they don’t know what they want, and they are the easiest to control. None want responsibility, though it’s been thrust upon them. Most, don’t even think they had a choice. Competition is the biggest deception; they don’t know what they want, but they do know they want to be better than the rest.”

“Where do they go?”

“Back to their positions, once their minds have become mine.”

“What’s in the next room?” Gregson asked.

“Paradise. It’s what you’ve always wanted, Gregson.” The door opened and a light took them to blue skies and crystal blue water. A boat, fully decked with beer and scuba gear was waiting. “You know who you are, Gregson. It would be impossible to fool you.”

“You know… you’re wrong.” Gregson rarely said “no” to his desire. He believed in it, like a compass that always pointed to adventure, but a storm was brewing above him, and he said the most powerful words in the English language, “No.” “No” is the journey to sovereignty. It’s a cutting off of pleasure and all things dependent. When you have it all, “no” acknowledges what’s important.

“No? Nobody says no to me.”

Chapter 10 No Could Mean Yes

“No could mean yes,” Gregson said.

“What?”

“I’m just joking.”

“If you won’t succumb to pleasure, perhaps pain…? And a little madness.”

“You have to catch us first,” Gregson said. He dove into the speedboat and turned the key in the ignition, while the rooster tail soaked everyone on shore.

Jet skis gave chase, while Gregson searched for anything explosive on the horizon. PROPANE. He pulled the flare gun out and lit the tanks. The observatory exploded and world celebrities filed out like hypnotized wanderers.

“Is that Hillary Clinton?” Domino asked.

“No, I think that’s a man with a bad haircut,” Gregson said.

“Look, the whole island is powered by solar from that magnifying glass.” Gregson hadn’t noticed the translucent glass that enlarged the sun.

“What if we switched the swivels?”

“And the looking-glass is reversed?”

“Right. The whole island would burn.” They rode out to the tower, with bullets popping off behind them. Gregson jumped out of the boat in full diving gear and went to the bottom of the reef where the handle of the glass was securely lodged. The controls were there, as he punched in the numbers to rotate the sun.

Epilogue

Gregson pressed the red button and waited…

and then the gears started turning.

Under the ocean, the detective looked up into the sunlight that filtered through the dark water. Sharks swam around it, like goldfish searching for a way out, and then the sun shifted. The yellow orb shrunk to the eye of a needle and turned red, like a lava sunset boiling the sky and burning a black hole through the heart of the island. Gregson thought he heard far-off screaming, but under the water, it sounded like a symphony, or perhaps it was his untrained ear and a dislike for politicians. He swam up the magnifying glass, until his face breached the surface. The core of the island was burning, like balsa wood, and the world’s leaders were swimming out to sea. Domino gave Gregson her hand and he nearly pulled her out of the boat.

“Should we rescue them?” Domino asked.

“They’d swamp us for sure. No, let’s make a discrete call to a communist country and have them picked up. It shouldn’t be a problem because most of them are communists.”

Domino, in her black bikini, pushed the throttle to FULL, and they rose out of the water, leaving the island behind.

“What are those red dots?” Gregson asked.

“Oh, that’s the fish finder,” Domino said. They’re too large to be regular fish, so I think they’re sharks or politicians or perhaps there isn’t any difference. Should we try to save them?”

“No, there’s blood in the water—it’ll be election day soon.”

THE END 

Never Insult a Cop

Chapter 1 Never Insult a Cop

It was raining…

and somehow the rain said more than the police commissioner.

“Sarah served her city. She was a fine officer. Nobody deserves to have their life cut short, especially someone who had so much love to give.”

Big droplets hit the crowd of black umbrellas in the police cemetery like a mournful applause, as Gregson stared-out from under one of them—a tear in his eye. He would drown his sadness in alcohol. It never fixed his problems, but it always deadened his pain.

The police bar had a heartbeat, it was the soul of the city and right now it was about to go into arrest. Gregson sipped his rum and coke, not wanting to talk to anybody, but knowing it was inevitable.

“I don’t care what they say, she was a two-bit-whore who didn’t put-out enough—that’s why she got it!”

Gregson looked at the kid. He’d had one too many, so it was the alcohol talking, but that didn’t mean he didn’t need to be taught a lesson.

“Boy, come over here,” Gregson said.

The young man stopped laughing, his sick insecurity noticed Gregson for the first time. “I’m not a boy. Why should I listen to you?”

“Sarah was my partner. I trained her.”

“You were her pimp?”

Gregson’s soul twisted. It was like he was given permission from the Devil. “Why don’t you step outside and prove that you’re not a boy,” Gregson said.

“With you? You look like you’re one step away from the grave.”

“Smart kid, huh? Can you back up your words with your fists?” The boy walked into the alley and Gregson sighed. He hadn’t done this for awhile…

When he exited the bar, he got punched in the face. It felt good—somehow the pain cut his sadness. “My partner worked undercover—you know. She put two mob bosses in the slammer. What’ve you ever done?”

There was more alcohol in the kid than water, but he moved with perfect coordination. His skinny frame and muscles looked like a drug addict.

Gregson’s belly bounced as he leaned 250 pounds into him. It only took one punch, then stars. Gregson vomited in the trash can. “I guess I still have it,” he said.

“My face…” the kid groaned.

“It’s an improvement. What’s your name?”

“Tony… Tony B.”

“Do you have a death wish Tony…? Never insult a cop in a police bar. I’m Gregson. Now I’ll buy you a drink and let’s go fishing.”

One drink turned into two…

and pretty soon Gregson and Tony were swimming in it.

“You can hold your liquor,” Gregson admired, “but can you hold a pole?” Tony looked at him through glassy eyes, like a dead fish.

“Why don’t I have a hangover?” He asked.

“Because you haven’t stopped drinking,” Gregson said. “A little secret of mine.” He lit a cigarette and sucked in the blue smoke. He’d been trying to kill himself for the last twenty years. Lung cancer hadn’t worked. Bad guys couldn’t do it. His ex-wife tried to do it. And despite these failures, Gregson knew he had a date with death. It would be a love affair, a romance, a mystery that he must solve.

 “I never thought I would live this long,” Gregson said. “My pecks are sagging, my ass is sagging, and the road never ends.”

“When are we going fishing?” Tony asked.

“Now.”

They staggered out of the bar, and Gregson grabbed his pole from his convertible and put on his waders and galoshes and swam into the river.

“It’s dangerous to fish while you’re drunk, but it’s an excellent way to get sober,” Gregson laughed.

Chapter 2 The river reveals the conscience of a city…

Gregson fished for that rainbow trout that can’t be caught. He stood in the stream, feeling the current tugging on his legs, glancing at Tony who awkwardly entered the river. “If you catch a fish before me, I’ll buy you breakfast,” Gregson said.

And Tony fumbled with his line, fixing a fly on the end, casting off. It skipped across the river, and a fat trout swallowed it.

“Beginner’s luck,” Gregson said. The PI cast his line like an artist, catching nothing. It’s the way of the world.

Twilight turned into day and the river got hot, as a grey suit swayed downstream like a shark, bumping into them.

Tony thought it was his headache at first, brought on by his hangover, but then the suit turned over and it was a man, bleeding from his head and gasping for air.

“A suicide?” Tony asked.

“Get ’em out of the water,” Gregson said.

The man lay sprawled-out in the mud on the riverbank.

“A stockbroker?”

“Close, he works with numbers, that’s for sure, but I don’t think he does it legally.”

The suit had wide-eyes, like cerebral edema.

“Stockbrokers don’t carry cash. This guy has a suit full of bills.”

Suddenly, the man choked up water. His black and white face tried to talk, but no words came out. He reminded Tony of a bloody sundae or a raspberry pancake. He was hungry. He had earned a breakfast and Gregson said he would pay for it.

“What this guy needs is a cup of coffee,” Gregson said.

“I could go for one of those, but shouldn’t we take him to the hospital?”

The suit’s eyes grew wider, and his mouth said, “No.”

Chapter 3 A Case of Identity

The eyes are the window to the soul and when someone has the evil eye, a seasoned investigator knows. Gregson saw guilt on the man’s face, like a lingering shadow.

“What’s your name?” Gregson asked.

“My name?”

It was clear the man didn’t know.

“Maybe coffee will help?” Tony said.

Gregson nodded and they hoisted the suit into the convertible.

Gregson aired out the man’s money on the back seat, so that it looked like his upholstery was dollar bills, instead of shammy leather.

“Do you have any identification? Wallet? ID? Clothing labels?” Gregson asked.

The man checked his suit, but they weren’t there. It was a puzzle that irritated Gregson like siriasis, and when he got the crime itch, he couldn’t stop scratching.

“Well… we should take you to the hospital to make sure you don’t have any hemorrhages.”

The suit piled into the backseat with his money. “Can I keep this stuff?” He asked.

“I don’t see why not?” Gregson said. “My contact in the FBI is running a trace on the bills now. Perhaps, he will tell us who you are.”

The suit was airing out, and his floppy hair blew in the wind, revealing a bald spot. He looked like an accountant who drank constantly and snorted cocaine. He glanced into Gregson’s rearview through bloodshot eyes. “I know that car,” he said in a terrified voice.

“They’ve been following us for three blocks,” Gregson said.

“Can you lose them?” Tony asked.

“Yes, but that’s not what I want to do.”

“Huh.”

“I want to bring them in closer. Murphy will run their make, model, and license plate.”

“Hold on, the window is rolling down. That’s an AR.”

Ringing…

“This is Gregson.”

“Murphy here; you know those bills you wanted me to trace…?”

“Yeah.”

“They belong to a church with ties to the mob. Maybe you cracked a money-laundering ring, and the guy you found… he’s either an accountant or a mule.”

“That makes sense, but there’s something else… a presence of evil I can’t put my finger on.”

“Call me if you need any help.”

“Will do; I got to let you go; I’m about to get shot at.

“What?”

CHUT, CHUT, CHUT… Bullets shattered the windshield. “We’re taking the side-road. Murphy just sent me coordinates.”

“But how do we lose ’em?” Tony asked.

“Let me pop the trunk. Now, go through the seat in the back and grab what you find.”

Tony squeezed through the hole and pulled out a tube. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

“Point it at the car and push the red button.”

Tony pulled the trigger and the car exploded. “Is it legal for you to have one of these?”

“That depends… the pen may be mightier than the sword, but it’s not better than a bazooka.”

Chapter 4 The Vanishing Lights

The convertible hit one pothole and then another, as it careened between the trees. They were moving into isolation now, where a planet hides a star in the space of darkness.

“What are we doing out here?” The suit asked.

“Waiting,” Gregson said.

“For what?”

“We’ll know it when we see it.”

It was dark, but Tony saw a smile on the PI’s face, and Gregson lit a cigarette.

“Do you see those lights?” Gregson asked.

“Yeah.”

“That’s what we’re looking for.”

Tony pulled plastic off some dark metal in the trunk. “Man, you’ve got a lot of guns…”

“It’s probably stemming from a masculine inferiority complex and my small Johnson, but I always get the job done.”

They each grabbed one and followed the vanishing lights.

Chapter 5 The Men in Red Pajamas

“If you follow a follower, does that make you a follower or something else?” Gregson asked.

“It makes you a fool,” Tony said.

“You know what, you’re getting smarter. Hang around me and you’ll be a genius before sunup.” 

All the figures wore red robes, crimson in the starlight, and in the open field, they began to walk in a circle.

“There have been mistakes!” It was not obvious where the voice was coming from, and then out of the earth emerged an enormous bull with black horns, and all the red robes bowed. Low humming blotted out the sound of crickets mating. “I demand sacrifices!”

“My Lord, who?”

“You! You were charmed by the woman. This organization needs to be kept secret from any business dealings, including pimping and racketeering. Our power comes from these silent circles.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“And they never are silent if you bring a woman into them. She worked for the Federal BI. That’s worse than a gossip.”

“This guy knows his stuff,” Gregson muttered.

“We stand on the outside of society, so that we may reform society. Your jobs and dealings are important, but our secrecy is essential. The water supply has been thoroughly saturated with Deep Blue. All the men of Chessfield are under the control of their women, and the city has told them they are the ones in control.”

“Finally, someone is saying what has been right in front of us all this time. Maybe I should join up,” Gregson said.

“You’re kidding, right?” The suit asked.

“In the next couple of days the entire city will be sterilized by Deep Blue. Take these Red Pills and the women of Chessfield will be submissive to you.”

“But I like being a bachelor!”

“Conrad, shut up! The purpose of our society is to remake society, not to give it over to morons who allow their women to make decisions for them.”

“But what about the larger world? Do you have enough Deep Red to saturate the oceans so that masculinity will rain?”

“Yes, but you must not falter in the tasks that have been given to you. Grow your beards. Retain your vital essence. And do not bend the knee!”

Chapter 6 After the Bull’s Speech

The red robes dispersed, walking in different directions throughout the woods. There was something about that bull that reminded Gregson of something or someone—it bothered him like the last cookie in the cookie jar. “We’ve got to follow that bull.”

“It said a lot of bullshit if you ask me,” Tony scoffed. “Nobody got sacrificed. Just a dramatic load of malarkey.”

“You sound disappointed, like they didn’t put on a good enough show for you,” the suit said.

“My feelings are none of your concern. You’re probably one of them, so I’d keep my mouth shut if I were you.”

Gregson watched the bull walking off through the woods. “It doesn’t walk like a man,” he said. “That’s what’s bothering me.”

“And how does a man walk?” The suit asked.

“Like this…” Gregson followed after the bull.

The suit and Tony followed him.

The forest looked like it was growing upside down. After a few minutes of walking, the bull twisted off its head, and long blonde hair fell behind her costume. She stepped into a clearing where a dirt road exited the woods in the moonlight. A black Mercedes was parked there, where she stripped off the animal hide revealing her milky white naked body. She threw the costume into the trunk and got into the driver-side door and sped off. Gregson realized his mouth was open. He wasn’t the only one.

Chapter 7 Thinking of Retirement and a Car Bomb

“Where’s the car?” Gregson asked.

“Back there, I guess,” the suit said.

“Being a detective isn’t what it used to be. This time I’m really going to retire. Thai food and my warm bed will love me, and to hell with crime. Which one of you wants to drive?”

The suit raised his hand.

“We’re not in school,” Gregson said.

And by the time they made it back to the convertible, the sun was up.

“How do you start this thing?”

Gregson tossed him the keys.

“Pump the gas,” Tony suggested.

BOOM!

The car burst into flames.

“I guess we’ll never know who he was,” Gregson said

“And we’ll never make it back home.”

“You want to wait for the train?”

“We won’t have to.”

The engine sounded off…

“It goes through downtown Chessfield, two blocks from my apartment,” Gregson said. They ran for the boxcar and jumped.

“I shouldn’t drink alcohol,” Gregson confessed. “It slows me down, increases my estrogen. I’m injecting myself with testosterone when I get back. Then I’m going to sleep for two days. Do you have a place to crash?

“No.”

“Well, you can join me.”

“In bed?”

“On the couch.”

Chapter 8 The Bachelor’s Apartment

Gregson and Tony wanted a soft landing, but main street was anything but soft; they landed on their butts, hard.

“Yesterday beat me up; if this is the second round, I don’t want to continue,” Gregson said.

“We’re alive,” Tony suggested.

Gregson huffed, turning the key in his apartment complex, and walking up the rickety staircase. He entered apartment 302. The first thing Tony noticed was the smell of orange peels, coffee, and a lingering bathroom aroma.

“Cleaning lady will be here later this afternoon,” Gregson said reassuringly.

There were rotting Chinese food containers in the kitchen sink and books on criminology stacked to the ceiling. Gregson punched his coffee maker and the drip started dripping. His golf clubs were in the corner in a leather Titleist bag, where the rats had eaten through the bottom, undoubtedly looking for his forgotten peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A Steinway Piano was propped up in the corner, and his bed in the bedroom was surrounded by half-eaten boxes of raspberries.

“Home sweet home,” Gregson said. He pulled a needle out of the kitchen drawer and stuck himself in the butt. “I’m going to bed. Help yourself to the coffee and turn on the diffuser.” Lavender filled his apartment mixing with the musky atmosphere.

Gregson went to sleep and dreamed about the woman inside the bull. He knew her, but she was dead. His ex-partner?”

“Gregson! Gregson!” Her voice was calling from the grave. He hurled out of bed, like a drunk with a bad hangover.

“We’ve got to dig up my ex-partner!” He shouted.

Chapter 9 Manhood, Rule Breaking, and Meth Coffee

For every man there is a moment when he stops trying to be something and he becomes… Gregson looked at his degrees on the wall, at the golf trophies, at all the evidence that pointed to who he thought he was when he was younger. He remembered the giant leap he took, when he became a man. It was when he solved the mystery of himself. Now he had the feeling that he was about to figure out what was wrong with Chessfield. The evidence frightened him, but he had to follow it; he could not ignore the truth.

Tony was face-planted into his synthetic couch and Gregson poked him with a golf club. “Get up, we’ve got to dig up my ex-partner.”

“What day is it?” Tony asked.

“The day of reckoning.”

“I got to get back to my security job.”

“You’re not a security guard, Tony; you’re something more.”

“How do you know?”

“You’ve made it this far…”

“Gregson, I’m no use, I’m not even awake.”

“I’ll buy you a coffee; I still owe you that.”

“I don’t think that will work.”

“It’s a special coffee, Martha’s Meth Coffee; I don’t know what she puts into it, but it has an extra kick.”

The streets were deserted. It was 3 AM. The rules of the road were asking to be tested. Gregson knew he was recycling his cars faster than a used car lot, but he couldn’t be worried about that now. It was his 1970s forest green Porsche 911.

“Give the red-light camera your middle finger,” Gregson said. “I have contacts in the police force.” His mechanical gears shifted and soon Martha took their order in nothing but a pink apron. Gregson smiled.

“This will wake you up in the morning boys,” she said.

“Yes mam.”

Gregson shifted his stick and they drove off.

Chapter 10 The Body of the City

The morning will test you, like a woman, and if you pass her test, the sun will rise. Gregson parked by the graveyard gate. The wind was blowing and the trees were speaking, like they had 50-year-old-gossip to share.

Tony got out. “I don’t know that this is such a good idea.”

“What? Digging up bodies?” Gregson asked.

“What else? It’s unnatural.”

“Don’t worry… when you’re dead, you’re dead,” Gregson said. “Grab a shovel.”

They walked between the crack in the wall, between the trees that grabbed them.

“That wasn’t a branch.”

“Then what was it?” Gregson asked.

Hoo Hoo

“This place gives me the creeps.”

“Listen, I believe in dreams, and if my dream is real, that coffin will be empty. Start digging.”

The ground was soft and the grave wasn’t deep and when they hit wood, Gregson reached for the latch.

“Empty.”

“What’s that? A note?”

“There’s nothing written on it but a picture. A faucet?”

“Oh, that’s waterworks. Don’t you play monopoly?”

“I try to avoid board games,” Gregson said. “They make me bored, although I do like to play chess.”

“What could it mean?” Tony asked.

“The city water supply. Sarah left us a clue. We’ve got to book-it before sunup.”

Chessfield Water Supply was a castle that harbored the city stream.

“We’ll storm it,” Gregson said.

“But how?”

“Through the water tunnels.” Gregson opened his trunk and pulled out two tanks. “Do you scuba?”

When they entered the stream and swam up through the bowels of the castle, it gave them the feeling that they had entered the body of the city. Soon they surfaced into a pool with a synthetic waterfall. And in a few seconds, they heard angry cackling. What little hair Gregson had on his head stood on end.

“He looked at me funny and I reported him. Toxic masculinity—that’s what it was. This will teach the men of Chessfield a lesson.” Two women with pink hair and enormous upper body strength tipped a blue barrel of Blue into the city water supply.

“What did we mix together this time?”

“Estrogen, progesterone, and synthetic hormones. This is our antidote to toxic masculinity. We’ve got to purify the men of Chessfield.”

Gregson was horrified. They were fatter than he was and covered in tattoos.

“Feminists,” he whispered.

Epilogue

The Blue was mixing with the water like oil, like some disgusting castrating substance. And in that moment, Gregson was acutely aware of his manhood, and the chemicals that would cut him off from his ability to solve crime. He was out of the water faster than if a barracuda had been eying his balls.

“You’re under arrest,” Gregson said.

The feminists dropped the barrel of Blue and it rolled into the stream. Masculinity was poisoned forever. Gregson pulled handcuffs out of his pocket. He hadn’t used them professionally in some time.

“Show me your hands,” he said, and the feminists shouted something about patriarchy. It was satisfying to hear the metallic click. Before Gregson and Tony could react, a man with a neck beard pointed a pink pistol at them.

It was horrible to be stopped by something beneath him.

“This isn’t a tranquilizer.”

“I believe you,” Gregson said. And another feminist joined the beta male.

“I’ll take that, Alex.”

Gregson recognized her voice, but it couldn’t be. Then she ripped off her fat suit.

“Sarah?”

“Okay, all of you get in line. You’re going to march.”

“But we aren’t protesting today,” one of the feminists screamed.

“You’re marching to the police station.”

“But how did you…?” Gregson asked

“I’ll explain later,” Sarah said.

“After the booking, he looked at his ex-partner. She was wearing an extra-large pink tee-shirt and half-a-pound of make-up.

“What happened to you?” He asked.

“I infiltrated that red pilled cult and discovered there was something wrong with our culture. Now the whole city has been poisoned with Deep Blue. Take these red pills; it’s the only way to keep your masculinity.

Gregson swallowed them, like they were hot tamales, and instantly felt more like a man.

“And the suit we found in the river?” He asked.

“He was one of those who discovered the truth, but couldn’t handle it. You can ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”

“Wow, that was deep,” Gregson said.

“Deep Red,” Tony echoed. “I misjudged you. I guess that makes you a great Undercover.”

Sarah smiled. Having the respect of real men meant something to her. Respect is all that matters in this life. Respect for yourself and respect for those who deserve respect. Honor is a forgotten word, and when men remember it and live by it, they become men again.

THE END

The Mistress and the Money

Chapter 1 The Mistress and the Money

Gregson sat at his polished steel desk pushing papers and talking to himself. “That one’s from the lawyer; they can’t find the ex-husband, rumored to be hiding in Japan, vacations in Switzerland, interesting.” He circled it with red sharpie, then looked at the other financial statements.

“His ex-wife bit a chunk out of his assets, that’s for sure, um… she thinks he may have millions hidden in Bitcoin? This brod can’t be satisfied; oh well, that’s not my problem, and full expenses paid. She wants to meet with me directly. I gotta get out of here, before I die inside.” He was aware of the fly teasing his remaining hairs on his bald head.

The world had been kind to Gregson. If you put enough bad guys behind bars and make enough ex-husbands pay, while staying out of the clutches of women, you can do alright for yourself, but there’s always one—a woman who can spot your weakness.

Gregson slid into his Porsche Boxster Spider; it was sex on the road, the best kind. He found himself driving along the coast where the ocean caused him to recollect memories. One of the benefits of being Gregson was that he liked who he was. The houses along the highway were mansions of magnificent proportions. Gregson wondered about the millionaires and billionaires who lived there. It seemed like paradise, but heaven is often caged with golden bars.

His GPS was out-of-date, so much so, that it had told him to make a left turn off the cliff, twice. Gregson used technology, but he didn’t trust it; he always believed his mind was smarter.

“That’s the address,” he mumbled to himself. The gate opened as if it had been listening to the words under his breath, and Gregson drove up the hill and parked next to a Lotus Exige. It was a flower, and the flower beyond the ivory walkway heightened his senses. She was wearing a white one-piece bathing suit, tanning herself like time had stopped.

“You’re the private investigator?” She asked.

“I’m Gregson.”

“Would you like some champagne?”

“Do you have beer?”

“Winston, get the man a beer.”

A butler who looked more machine than a man turned on his heels to fulfill her wish. It made Gregson cringe inside. So many people were following orders.

“You come highly recommended.” The woman flipped over on her tanning chair, exposing her legs that didn’t stop. Gregson had a weakness for legs.

“Would you rub a little lotion on my ass?”

It was horribly undignified, but Gregson knew he had to amuse his customers, and strangely enough, he found himself in this situation frequently. He began rubbing and she began talking.

“Jerry is on the run. The police can’t help me, and the last two detectives gave up the chase; no endurance. You don’t seem very fit.”

“Endurance is more important than truth. I always go the distance,” Gregson said.

“Really?”

Let’s sort out our business in the bedroom.” She grabbed Gregson’s hand and led him into her ivory castle. He was trying to figure out if her long blonde hair was real or fake. Gregson could usually spot a wig from a mile off, but this brod was different. He loved conducting business, and afterward, full expenses were paid.

Gigolo or PI, what was the difference? It didn’t matter. He was flying to Japan.

Chapter 2 The Long Sigh, Goodbye

Gregson watched the setting sun doing somersaults up and down the hills of Chessfield like a child touching the earth with her magic until she found the perfect hiding spot. He smiled a thin smile of memory, poking a pall-mall between his lips.

“There’s no smoking on this aircraft,” a skinny flight attendant hissed through made-up lips. Gregson looked at her bent body that had pushed too many trollies. Her eyes were glazed-over, like they never slept.

“Too many sleeping pills,” he mumbled.

“What?”

“I’m sorry, could you just bring me the alcohol?”

She thought of not serving him, and a smile, like a scar, appeared on her grim face. He was fat and happy. Why was he happy? She thought.

“I solve crime,” Gregson said.

“Pardon me?”

“Pardon you? I don’t think so; it’ll be a life sentence.

“Just drink up. What will it be?”

“Whiskey…Rocks.” Gregson took his glass from her vice-like grip, twirling the cubes with his red straw, like a carousel. The problem was, when he drank, he heard their voices, so loud he couldn’t hear his own. They were all trying to get somewhere. He just watched those cubes spinning, until all their conversations jumbled together, clink, clink, “ahhh.”

And he pulled his Stetson over his eyes and enjoyed the long sigh, goodbye.

Space and Time passed like a dream until…

“We here.” Gregson looked at her Japanese face. Her dark eyes smiled at his. He got up, and a crane fell to his feet.

“Origami?”

“Do you speak Japanese?” She asked.

Gregson smiled. “Not quite.” He unfolded the note.

Watch your step!

Gregson looked down at his blue running shoes. “That’s going to be impossible,” he said while stepping off the plane.

The winter wind blew up his wide cargo shorts. “Do they make espresso in Japan?” Gregson asked.

Chapter 3 The Airport at the Intersection of Time

Gregson stepped onto the runway, scanning the snowcapped mountains, those tear-drops that had fallen back into the ocean from a samurai sword, becoming the islands of Japan. The strip was not what he expected; it was far away from distant cities, and skyscrapers that had left tradition behind. Cherrie blossoms were blowing across the two-lane tarmac like pink snow. It might’ve been 50 years ago, until Gregson heard a roar, not of a lion, but of a Silver Porsche Carrera GT. The 500,000-dollar supercar hit the brakes at 100 miles per hour.

“This is your pilot, the pilot said. He bowed to Gregson and Gregson bowed back. The American gentleman wore silver aviators and a cotton shirt; he didn’t look anything like the black hair, blue uniform, and Gucci sunglasses of the Japanese.

“You had a safe flight?” The American asked.

“Yes,” Gregson said. “My instructions are to rendezvous at a health spa in the mountains.”

“I can understand why you might want to go there. Are you training to be Sumo?”

“Samurai; why do you ask?”

“Just that there is a weight limit on my airplane.”

“Get my bags,” Gregson said.

“You have luggage?”

“I don’t travel light.”

“We may experience turbulence, and you might have to lose your stuff.”

“That’s fine.”

Gregson admired him already. “What’s your name?”

“Tommy.”

“What do you do for work, Tommy?”

“I fly lost tourists here and there. When my business went under, I decided to live-out my adolescent fantasies.”

His twin-prop plane was canary yellow, like a beautiful bird.

“If you two gentlemen not waste anymore my time, I have a flight plan,” the Japanese said.

Tommy waved him on, nonchalant, with a wrench in his left hand and a beer in his right.

“You drink alcohol before you fly?”

“Usually when I’m flying,” Tommy said. “Here; have a beer.” Gregson felt like he might need something stronger.

“The duct tape should hold the wings together, and there was a fuel leak, but I put a cork in it. You ready?”

Gregson held his breath, but he wasn’t getting onto a submarine.

“Sorry, it’s the girl’s night off,” Tommy said. He tossed her emerald bra into the luggage compartment. Twin engines turned on, screaming. Gregson protested, but it was too loud.

“Hold your ass,” Tommy shouted.

Gregson had a sinking feeling— they were airborne.

“I’ll need to make a few drops,” Tommy said.

“You said I could keep my luggage.”

“This is business; hold my stick steady, will you?” Gregson held the throbbing shaft; it was enormous.

“Bombs away.”

Was that snow? Gregson saw one of the packages open. “Cocaine? You’re a drug dealer?”

“More like, drug smuggler,” Tommy corrected. “Don’t tell anybody, okay?” Gregson would’ve handcuffed him right there, but they were in the air.

“Is that another plane?” Gregson asked.

“That’s a Japanese Zero!”

Chut Chut Chut Chut Chut

Ssss

“We’re hit! We’re taking fire!”

Chapter 4 Instinct in the Sky

Gregson felt the instinct in his gut, like Thai food he had not properly digested. Food fed his instinct, and without it, there was an emptiness plaguing him like all great enthusiasts waiting for joy— connoisseurs without wine, lovers without sex, artists without creation.

Tommy grabbed his stick, shifting down, and to the left. “We’re going weightless.”

It was an odd sensation for Gregson.

Mountains of ice described the war in the sky, as Tommy grabbed his shaft, and pulled up; it throbbed, shaking in his hands. They passed by a waterfall, flowing into the ocean, and the zero struck the river like a missile.

“They don’t build ’em the way they do now,” Tommy said. “This bird is a deep roller, but It’ll never hit the ground.”

Gregson held onto his lunch, like a child whose mother packed him something special. He didn’t want to give it up, despite gravity tossing his stomach.

“There’s the clinic,” Tommy said. “I wouldn’t stay there for all the drug money in Florida.”

“Why not?” Gregson asked.

“The feminine makes a man soft, and that island has a reputation.”

Gregson’s bounty had escaped an ex-wife to fall into the clutches of a cult of women? Gregson mentally prepare himself, focusing on his masculinity. Hemmingway came to mind.

Tommy eased up on his shaft, and the canary bird made her landing.

Chapter 5 Unpacking Gregson

Gregson’s baggage was heavier than he was, and there was nothing but runway for half-a-mile.

“They call this a resort?” He asked.

“More like a health spa,” Tommy said.

“Not exactly the red-carpet treatment… Oh wait, it looks like we have company.”

Snowmobiles were digesting powder and kicking it up behind them like constipated roosters. Gregson recognized the female form, and at last, he relaxed. He was ready to be put in good hands. They wore yellow jumpsuits, ultra-thin, and Gregson mused, they must keep the body-heat in, among other things.

“We’ve been expecting you.”

Gregson looked at her as she got off. Her hips popped at an angle and her head tilted to the side like she was trying to understand him.

“Don’t try,” Gregson said.

“What?” Her blond hair was braided into pigtails that flicked in the wind.

Gregson couldn’t tell if it was real or fake. She was too perfect. “Let me get behind you. I need to warm up,” he said.

“That’s what I’m here for. Tommy, are you coming in, out of the cold?”

“I’d love to, but I have a flight plan to keep. Gregson.”

Gregson nodded. Mutual respect is like a mutual fund, there’s interest, there has to be interest, for a continuous investment; and Gregson had the feeling he would be seeing Tommy again. He looked at the other two girls. They weren’t as friendly as the one he sat behind. When he smiled at them, it took too long for them to smile back.

“What’s your name?” Gregson asked.

“Plenty, but let’s wait for formal introductions until we get inside. The Master is waiting.”

“The Master?”

“Yes; we do as he says.”

It was a concept so far away from the modern woman, it left Gregson wondering… There was another problem— Plenty was giving off too much heat. It wasn’t unpleasant—she had a hot body, almost too hot. The hanger they were gaining on was solid concrete. It reminded Gregson of an ammunition’s depo, similar to ones found in the Soviet Union before it fell. The doors opened and they entered. There was a red carpet, leading to stairs and a scaffolding where steam billowed into the air like a dragon giving off bad breath.

“Onions and Garlic; they’re a miracle remedy the Master believes in. Takes a bit of getting used to.”

“And what’s your name?” Gregson asked.

“I’m Play Thing 1 and this is Play Thing 2.” They both bowed in the Japanese style, giving Gregson respect. It was strange, even in a non-Western country. There was something odd about these women, they were too perfect—too much how a man wanted women to be.

“Now take off your clothes.”

“What?” Gregson asked.

“It’s for the steam,” Play Thing 2 said.

“Oh.” Gregson undid his cargo shorts, took off his shoes and shirt, and wrapped himself in the gee. The steam seeped into his pores like a drug. He instantly felt clean. A beer sweat came over him, similar to the asparagus smell or coffee percolation in the urinal.

“You smell good,” Play Thing 1 said. She kissed his shoulder and put her arm around his belly.

“You taste like alcohol and Chinese.”

“Those are two things I love,” Gregson said.

“And what else do you love?” She asked. Gregson noticed her zipper at the back of her neck. She had deliberately turned around and he started pulling, revealing skin, as soft and sensuous as his airbrushed imagination ever dreamed of.

“I see you have met Play Thing 1 and Play Thing 2,” a voice echoed across the room, with casual and commanding superiority.

A man in a business suite, with slicked-back hair and a predator nose walked out of the steam.

“I trust you have enjoyed our red-carpet treatment?”

“How did you know?”

“Let’s just say, I have eyes everywhere.” He looked at the blond beauties that stood in a perfect row in front of him, and the one who stood in front of Gregson with her top down.

“Um, I’m not sure I got them just right. Play Thing 1, come in for surgery tomorrow. Gregson, I’ll take you to your quarters, we have lots to talk about, but first I would like you to see my psychoanalyst.

The corridor was white, with no variation, which gave Gregson the impression that he had died and gone to heaven. It could’ve been heaven—there wasn’t much difference from how he pictured it.

“Here it is.” They stood in front of nothing. The Master put his hand on the wall and it opened. There was a twin bed, with an adjoining bathroom, and a window that looked out onto a launch pad where a rocket pointed to the stars.

“Do you like her?” The Master asked.

“Is she real?”

“We won’t know that until lift off in T minus 36 hours. Until then, I want you to get a mental checkup. Dinner at 5.”

Chapter 6 Doctor Swanson

Gregson was ushered into another invisible doorway. The office was covered in valentine hearts and birds hanging from the ceiling on fine threads. They were coo coo birds, which seemed appropriate for the office of a psychoanalyst, Gregson thought.

A woman entered the room in a tight-fitting skirt and a silk blouse. She had strawberry blonde hair and very kissable lips.

“How long do I have to wait?” Gregson asked.

“Not long; I’m Doctor Swanson.” She said this, not with authority or superiority, but casual comfort, like she had settled into her profession.

“Why don’t you lie down on my couch?” Gregson followed her into the next room, where a Freudian Bed rested in the corner.

“Face down, please.”

Gregson did as he was told. It was comfortable to be ordered around by a woman in charge, and he found himself getting drowsy.

“Now, I’m just going to put the straps on.”

“Straps?” Gregson asked.

“It’s so you don’t move around and lose concentration. I’ll be asking you lots of questions, and I’ll be giving you a massage too, so I’ll need to take-off your shirt. Gregson’s polo was easy enough to slip up, and Dr. Swanson started rubbing hot oils on his back. Her hands were stronger than a man’s, and Gregson felt vulnerable for the first time. It gave him an erotic feeling, like his inner beast was being subdued.

“Now, what do you want that you don’t have?” Dr. Swanson asked.

“Thai food,” Gregson said. Dr. Swanson made some notes and kept rubbing. The hair on his back was getting matted. “You are a man,” Dr. Swanson commented. “Now, just the filler information. Where do you live?”

“In my imagination,” Gregson said.

“And why are you here?”

“I’m tracking down an ex-husband.”

“Okay. Now I’m going to name-off some fruits. Listen carefully. Apple. Banana. Orange. Blueberry. Grape. Peach. Which one do you identify with?”

“Banana,” Gregson said.

“Which one do you want to eat?” Dr. Swan asked.

“Peach.”

“Interesting… Now I want you to look at these ink blots. What do you see?”

“Girls on the beach. Girls giving a guy a massage. Girls… I’m sorry Dr. Swanson, do you want me to say?”

“I think I got it. A fixation on sex. Okay. What is your grandest ambition?”

“To take an adventure I can never come back from, and be puzzled by a mystery I can never solve.”

“You check-out just fine. A most unusual personality,” Dr. Swanson said. “Now how about taking me out on a date?”

“Would love to, but I already have a dinner date at 5 with the Master, and it looks like I might be late. How about taking off these straps…?”

Dr. Swanson thought about it, and paused for a long moment.

“Dr. Swanson?”

She eventually undid the leather straps with hesitating fingers.

Gregson hated to disappoint a woman, especially a doctor as hot as Doctor Swanson, but investigating always came first; the woman would be investigated later.

Chapter 7 The Master’s Table

Dinner was served on a long table in an even longer room. The Master sat on the far end and motioned for Gregson to sit down. Silver trays were heaped with the most unusual delicacies. Gregson recognized them to be fruits and vegetables, but the center was filled with tentacles and purple sacks that looked horrifyingly like brains.

“I trust you have never eaten this kind before. It is out of this world. Similar to what the Japanese call Calamari. I hear you are looking for me?”

“What?” Gregson asked.

“You are looking for Madelyn’s ex-husband. I am he.”

“You don’t look like the picture she gave me.”

“Let me see that,” the Master said. “Oh yes. That was before I lost 100 pounds, got hair plugs, and reconstructed my face. It was a painful process. My name is Doctor Swanson.”

“I thought I just saw Doctor Swanson?”

“She is my creation; created in my image.” He said this like he was god, and Gregson quietly thought he knew why Madelyn divorced him.

“Your creation?”

“Yes. All of the women here, were created by me. They do what I tell them to do, unless I want a mild argument. The food you are eating is from a planet neighboring our solar system. I have built a retirement home there, on a beach with an endless shore.” He said this in a dreamy voice, recollecting his dream home.

It was difficult to disbelieve him. And none of the food resembled anything on planet earth, with the exception of the squid, but it looked more alien than underwater.

Digital ticker-tape rotated the room like a trading floor. There were pictures done by Salvador Dali on the walls. Melting clocks set the emotional tone in the room.

“Your ex-wife wants to collect,” Gregson said.

“I know. Madelyn will never be satisfied. She stole my heart and all my money. She wants to bleed me dry, like a spider. Now she wants what the government can’t trace—the most valuable commodity.”

“Bitcoin?” Gregson asked.

“Freedom.” Before he could speak again, an alarm sounded.

“Containment in Chemical Room 3!”

“Follow me,” Dr. Swanson said.

When they got to the chemical floor, Gregson looked through the glass. Scientists in lab coats were trying to escape.

“Not again; I told them it’s volatile.”

“What is?”

“The virus; I’ve designed it to wipe-out life on planet earth.”

“What?” Gregson asked.

“We need to start over. Women are in control now. Pretty soon masculinity will be dead, if it’s not already. There’s nothing left to explore; there’s nothing unknown; humanity has become civilized—too weak to wage war.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Gregson asked.

“Without war, there can be no heroes.”

It was all starting to make sense to Gregson. “What about your scientists? Aren’t you going to save them?”

“They can’t be bothered by the virus; like the good doctor, they’re robots. How do you think I got them to build my beach house on Planet S?”

“Planet S?”

“Planet Swanson.”

Epilogue

When choosing sides, a weasel will usually do it to save their own hide, or like in most bureaucracies, people politically maneuver to get on top; impressed with their own importance, they don’t realize honor has been replaced by cowardice, and rather than meeting someone on the field of battle, they use poison, not to kill but to defame. Poison is the feminine method, and it’s seldom wrapped in a glass bottle; it’s arsenic on the tongue or cyanide in the mouth.

Gregson lost all respect for Dr. Swanson. Like most men raised by women, they have been trained to act like them. Their method to save the world is to poison everyone in it. If they kill-off those who disagree, there can be no argument; and men like Dr. Swanson can’t stand a world where they are not in control. They have to rig the game before they play; and after years of cheating, they believe it’s the only way to win.

“Contain the virus!” Dr. Swanson shouted. His artery was protruding from his neck like a boa constrictor squeezing the blood into his brain.

“What about your scientists?” Gregson asked.

“They love to do experiments; it’s too bad they were the first one.”

It wasn’t often that Gregson met someone dangerous, someone toxic. He had all the signs of megalomania—perhaps the most telling, was his robot army of women. It was a good choice, but they were created for the wrong reasons.

“Would you fancy a drive in the country?” Gregson asked. “It might clear your head.”

At this point, Dr. Swanson’s brain looked like it was about to pop; it had swelled to enormous size. When a man tries to be god, his ego is stretched so far that his humanity becomes distorted.

“That might be good for me. Say, would you like to make a wager.”

“What kind?” Gregson asked.

“It’s the kind you can’t walk away from.”

“Death?”

“No, Bitcoin. 10 Bitcoins says that I beat you to the bottom.”

“Oh, that’s my retirement.”

“With Bitcoin, you can live in style.”

“I guess you’re right, but that’s not why I’ll race.”

“Then why?”

“Someone needs to teach you how to drive.”

The look of anger was the look of envy on Satan’s face when he realized he wasn’t god; he wasn’t god because he was looking at Gregson.

The garage was cut into the mountain, and full of exotics. Gregson sat down in a candy-red Ferrari and scratched his balding head. Maybe he experienced this feeling for the first time, when he started to lose his hair. It was the sense that nothing lasts, not youth, not beauty, not money or fame; the slow approach to death is always happening, or one could drive as fast as possible. Each time Gregson raced to his own death, he was younger. His belly and his balding head were reminders that he had to beat death in life. He had to cross the finish line before his engine died. The worst feeling, Gregson mused, was driving a racecar during rush-hour traffic.

“Are we going to do this, or not?” Dr. Swanson asked. He was driving an Aston Martin Vanquish. The guy thought he was James Bond, but if you take away the style of Bond, all you get is a boring guy in an expensive car.

Gregson revved the engine of the Italian V14, in response.

Girls were everywhere.

It was impossible to know who was real and who was fake. It might be like boobs— if you can’t tell, it doesn’t matter. A girl was wearing a yellow bikini, and it was 25 degrees outside. She was a robot, Gregson thought. She flashed the checkered flag, and the supercars took-off down the mountain.

Gregson past Swanson, and shifted into 4th. In some sections, it was a one-and-a-half lane road, cobbled with stones. In other parts, it opened up, like a woman’s mouth whistling and then yawning. Swanson past Gregson, but before he could re-adjust to the whistle, his car blew through the wall like a butterfly dying in the sun, its wings burned away, falling like a misguided missile.

“The mountains don’t move, even for god,” Gregson said. He drove back to the hanger where the women waited. If anyone noticed the Ferrari, they would’ve thought an old man was driving it. Gregson didn’t need to go fast. How many times had he beaten death in life? He had lost count. When he got there, the women were waiting.

“What’s the Bitcoin password?” Gregson asked.

“Women…women…women…”

“I got it; I got it; he had women on the brain. I guess it repeats 16 times.”

Gregson sent Madelyn 500,000 dollars in Bitcoin. “That should keep her at bay for a couple of weeks,” he said.

“Now, who here know how to get to Planet Swanson? I’m in the mood to sip margaritas on an endless shore.”

The girl in the yellow bikini stepped forward. “It’s not hard,” she said.

“At least not yet,” Gregson smiled.

“It’ll take four months to get there,” she said.

“Four months…” Gregson mused. “What will we do with all the time?”

The End

Great Power and No Responsibility

Chapter 1 Gregson’s Chair

Gregson sat in his leather chair. Every real man has one. His father had one, and his father before him. Sometimes it’s left over from the dorm room, or it’s picked up when a man moves out of his parent’s house. It’s a comfort; a man keeps it until it’s worn and cracked and the stuffing is coming out. And as soon as he passes on, the chair is thrown into the dumpster by relatives. Over time, the owner becomes one with his chair. A good book is enjoyed there, in a dark house, where a light shines on the chair; just one man and nobody else; just the imagination and infinity.

Gregson did his best thinking in his chair. He closed his book on murder and stared straight ahead; he was going to a reunion. His leather-bound copy of the Hounds of the Baskervilles waited on the shelf. And Gregson dusted it off.

“This will scare the children, and make my sister upset,” he chuckled. “But no matter; most everything about me makes her upset.” He glanced at an oil painting on the wall. It was of a family estate built at the turn of the century, Spanish by design, overlooking the ocean in the tropical heat. Getting there was never easy, and living there never impressed Gregson. A man could appear wealthy and content, but he was marooned on his own island. No; Gregson thought he didn’t even want to die there. Some people have a place they call home. Some have a place they want to rest. Gregson needed the chase, in the same way girls need to be chased. Without attention or intrigue, what was there? The whole world ran on routines; some people had the next 30 years planned-out. It baffled Gregson that the whole lot of humanity was marching down a flat road with no twists or turns, just the inevitable conclusion without any mystery.

Gregson heard ringing. Was it his hangover, from drinking too much Sherry? Then he heard knuckles.

“The lawyer,” he said out loud. He had hired one, just for kicks. His sister wanted to steal the family estate. Gregson didn’t care about the land, but he was bothered by his sister. It was a competition with her. She had the brutish personality that gave a man a headache. Guys let her win because it was easier. And she always injected herself into as many deals or conversations as her stomach could hold, and they always went belly-up. Gregson got the solution in his chair. He opened the door. She was beautiful—straight skirt, straight jacket, and free-flowing silk blouse. He was crazy about her.

“I’m Evelyn, your attorney,” she said through muscular lips; they looked like they sucked souls for a living.

“I’m Gregson.”

“You’re paying me by the hour, so I suggest we leave promptly.”

“You only get paid, if you win,” Gregson said.

“I always win.” Evelyn turned and got into the black limousine. Her peach uniform reminded Gregson of the forbidden fruit.

“I wonder what she has hidden under that straight jacket,” he mused. “Something crazy…”

Chapter 2 Great Power and No Responsibility

His attorney had long legs; they weren’t knobby, but wiry, like a willow branch that could crack the whip.

“Your sister has already filed for property rights,” Evelyn said. “I’ve drawn up a counter claim, if you’d like to read it?”

Gregson read the man, or in this case, the woman—because he did his best to stay away from paperwork. There was precision in the fine features of her face, telling him all he needed to know.

“I’m sure it’s in order.”

“What do you want from this claim?”

“I already have everything I need, but if I could have even more… I’d ask for great power, and no responsibility.”

“Grow up,” Evelyn said.

“I don’t think so.”

She busied herself with her smart phone and laptop. Gregson stared out the window at the wide world. Somehow, it wasn’t how perfect one could be, but how large one could get. Gregson ate a doughnut and thought about his nieces and nephews. That was something his sister did right. Then she had the five dogs, and her husband who was an animal. Gregson knew they would go gator hunting together, which meant he would spring the legal paperwork on them afterward.

The bayou brought back memories… many mob hits. It was out in the bayou when Gregson decided to be a detective. It was either that or treasure hunting. Nobody had found the Spanish gold that was supposed to be hidden on the family estate, but that was probably just rumors past down, and a good story is worth more than rubies or diamonds or doubloons; it’s not so much about finding the gold, but looking for it. A man needs something to do. Gregson tipped his Stetson over his eyes and drifted to sleep, like a life-raft tossed by enormous waves.

BARKING…

“We’re here.”

Gregson woke to address his attorney. Instead, he was looking down the throat of a chocolate lab. It grinned at him and licked the window.

It was a new edition to his sister’s pack, but he was prepared. Gregson pulled the pig ear out of his pocket and tossed it out the sunroof. The lab ran for it, but the toy poodle grabbed it instead, and went into a drainage hole.

Gregson stepped out of the limo, and his presence was promptly recognized by two shotgun blasts. His brother-in-law was killing things, probably ducks. Three huskies ran to greet him. One grabbed his pant leg, and the other stuck it’s nose up his rear.

“Budd, how are you?”

“I’m doing fine; would you call off your dogs?”

“Oh, they just want to say ‘hi’; they have so much love…”

“Well, I’m a lover of myself, and my self-love is enough.”

“That’s why no girl would marry you; you don’t have enough love to give,” his sister said.

“I’d like to introduce you to my attorney. She loves the law, and I love to watch great lovers. This weekend should be quite an exhibition.”

Chapter 3 The longer something lives, the longer it has to become evil…

The sky was threatening, pink with purple flush, like a whirlpool of clouds, funneling into heaven.

“Oh Greg, you’re here.”

Gregson looked at his mother, her peppered-white hair, and smile that lit-up the dark clouds floating above the family.

“Jon wants to talk to you,” she said. “He has something to give you. Is this your girlfriend?”

“No, this is my attorney. Now, I’ll let you talk.”

Gregson walked through the tall grass, jumping with ticks and crawling with coral snakes. It was good to be home.

BOOM…BOOM!

“That’s your birthday present.” Jon pointed to a double-barrel shotgun resting on the bed of his beat-up pickup truck. There were four flounder fish and two dead ducks lying next to it.

“Just put the shells in here, like so?” Gregson asked.

“Yeah. I shouldn’t have to tell you.”

“This is a woman’s gun.”

“Do you know a lot about shotguns?”

“No… I know a few things about women.”

“Then, maybe you can help me understand your sister better?”

“I don’t think so. She’s impossible to figure out. You like to solve problems, and you married a big one.”

“That’s no way to talk about your sister.”

“What’s that?” The chocolate lab was swimming after a dead duck floating in the bayou.

“Third times the charm.”

“Not the duck or the dog, but that.” Gregson pointed out to sea. An enormous scaley tail from the blue water swam into the black.”

“That’s a croc!”

“You’re going to lose a dog.”

“Can you run an outboard?”

“Sure.”

“Well, gun it!”

Gregson got into the rear and Jon stood in the front with his double barrels ready, gaining on the dog.

BOOM…BOOM!

“I hit the bastard!”

“The dog?”

“No, the croc, and he’s bugging out. Now, slip your hand over the side and grab his collar.”

Gregson’s arm touched the water, and the croc went under. The dog jumped into the boat without encouragement, and they quickly turned it around. That’s when the head emerged, twice the width of their craft, with amber eyes, prehistoric, and malevolent.

“The longer something lives, the longer it has to become evil. If it’s true for a man; it’s true for that croc,” Gregson said.

Chapter 4 Wooden Legs Run in the Family

Gregson’s family loved him for who he was 20 years ago. Now that he was 50, all that potential was gone. A man must choose himself; it’s a style that he puts on. Many men let their wives dress them. Gregson thought there was nothing more horrific than letting a woman fumble with his necktie—not that he ever wore one. What’s even worse, is listening to people who don’t see you. Their internal monologues keep them sane. They see themselves in everything.

Gregson followed his brother-in-law through the tall grass.

Their estate had a white porch overlooking the ocean. Gregson’s dad rocked in a chair like a metronome, staring at the waves, thin as a skeleton, waiting for something.

“How’s the cancer, pop?”

“Not so good!”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“What’s the matter, do you want me to die?”

“Of course not.”

“Well, I’ve killed the cancer with Vitamin C mega doses. The only thing I miss, is not being able to take a drink of Coke. Cancer cells love the stuff, and so do I. Maybe, we have something in-common—your mother seems to think so.”

“That’s because you smoke your cigars inside her house.”

“Well, you’re probably right. If you had been smart, you could’ve made police commissioner.”

“There are many kinds of intelligence—best to choose the one that makes sense to you.”

Pop rolled his eyes. “I’ve been working on my will— been getting my affairs in order. And no, I didn’t cheat on your mother. It’s the other kind. I’ve decided to leave everything to your sister, except my library. Supposedly, you can find the treasure, if you read every book.”

“That would take a dozen lifetimes.”

“Probably right; I tried, myself, and now it’s up to you.”

“I’m going for a run.”

“Enjoy your legs while you have them, son. Wooden legs run in the family. Your grandfather lost his in a scuba diving accident, and I lost mine in a hunting accident. The way you’re headed, you’ll lose yours because of your diet. Murder doesn’t sit well with you.

“I know pop; that’s why I’m going for a run.”

Gregson did his best thinking on the trail…

Living, was a challenge. Most people were not alive. Gregson watched the boys playing in the soccer field, as he ran past. They were growing like weeds, and fighting the crushing concrete. He knew the weed-killer would get them in the end. They would all identify with their jobs. Even he, didn’t like to call himself a PI. Once you give yourself a title, you can put yourself on the shelf, like a dusty trophy. When society can’t use you, it ignores you. Praise, is the best form of control. You learn that in school, if you stay in school long enough. It’s like a Ponzi-scheme. Teachers learn how to control kids, and they kill them with kindness. It’s worse than murder.

The trail ran next to the canal. Gregson knew where he was headed. It was the old Spanish mission. Being home made him think about being a kid, and being a kid reminded him of lost dreams and lost gold. The Father was still alive, and the Father understood him. Perhaps, a conversation would reveal a clue. Gregson’s best friend, Murphy, was always running his age. It was a line-graph, where the body slows down and the miles pile up. At 45, Murphy hadn’t failed yet. At 50, Gregson was running in reverse. He was nearly to the terrible twos, and becoming a toddler of three, which was beyond him. He needed to stop eating kettle corn! The trail took a dog-leg left, through the swamps, and there was a runner, lying in his own blood, with his right leg bitten off. The mission was 100 feet away, and Gregson ran on two legs to get help.

Chapter 5 Miss Monster, or Mister?

“Father! Are you there?”

A bald man, in a black suit, walked out. “Gregson! My you’ve grown.”

“Father, I’ve been the same height for years…”

“No, I mean… you’ve gotten wider.”

“Oh—come quick. Someone’s been attacked. Their leg is bitten off.”

“I’m not a doctor.”

“I thought you went to medical school.”

“No; I got a doctorate in philosophy. I bore people to death. I never save them, unless you count their souls.”

“I’ve got a belt. We can stop the bleeding. Do you have a car?”

“No car; I believe they speed-up access to sin. No internet, either; I don’t even wear a zipper. All were inventions of the devil, to gratify the flesh.”

They pinched off the artery, but the man was dead, lying in a puddle of blood.

“I never made Eagle Scout,” Gregson lamented.

“He may’ve been dead for some time.”

“How do you figure?”

“Look at the congealed blood.”

Gregson noticed it, and gave the Father a look.

“Oh, I’ve seen a lot of dead bodies in my day— lots of last rights and funerals; plus, I watch CSI Miami.”

A girl ran towards them in spandex shorts and a red halter-top.

“Miss, you can’t run through here. This is a crime scene. We’ve got to tape-off the whole area.”

She pouted, and ran the other way. Gregson admired her form—her tropical legs, soaked in the summer sun, with red tattoos on her ankle.

“Be careful miss!” Gregson called after her. “There’s a monster on the loose!”

Chapter 6 The Coroner and the Family Jewels

“What do we do now?” Gregson asked.

“Wait for the coroner—she’s the undertaker and embalmer.”

“She?”

“She’s already taken, Gregson. She likes dead guys a bit too much. They don’t leave a mess, they don’t cheat, and they stay right where she leaves them.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“Just look. Here she comes…” The lady coroner wore long black nylons that hooked underneath her skirt. She had straight black hair, dark eye-shadow, and maroon lipstick.

Maybe dead guys like her look, Gregson thought. They’re always stiff.

“Miss Dexter, I presume?”

“Why do you always act like you don’t know me, Father?”

“Maybe because you tried to horn-in on my job, and perform the last rights.”

“You don’t have a monopoly on the spirit world, you know. And it’s not my fault I went to medical school. I just happen to like the dead more than the living. Who’s your friend?”

“The name’s Gregson.”

“My name’s Tara.” She extended her hand. Gregson noticed the pentagram etched on it.

“I think I’ll pass. I have reservations about shaking hands with the devil.”

“Suit yourself.”

“How did he die?” The Father asked.

“Acute blood loss,” Tara said.

“I could have told you that,” Gregson complained. “I’m hungry. Will you make me a sandwich, Father?”

“What are you, in third grade?”

Gregson shrugged his shoulders.

“Follow me, my son.”

The walk back to the church reminded Gregson of being a boy. “Father, do you ever get lonely?”

“No time for loneliness. You know the people here. They all have problems—usually newlyweds. I marry them and the judge in town, divorces them. I thought about going to law school, but realized it would be a conflict of interest. Getting paid to marry and divorce is too much power!

“I hear that. What about your personal life though? It must be tough—never to marry.”

“Not really. I’m married to God, and God doesn’t nag. Every day I am becoming more like him because I spend more time with him. Men who are married spend more time with their wives, and become more like them. I prefer to be like God, if you know what I mean?”

“I understand that,” Gregson said. “Around the age of 30, things changed.”

“How so?”

“Well, my friends got married, and pretty soon, the only male friends I had were ineligible bachelors. They all had problems.”

“What kind of problems?”

“Oh, you know… Brad worked one day a week. When I asked him about it, he told me that he didn’t want to marry a gold digger. His defense was not to work.”

“Sounds like a thoughtful fellow. But what about you, Gregson? Why didn’t you get married?”

“Some men want security. I need to chase.”

“You know, you shouldn’t chase women.”

“I know that, but what good is a woman if she isn’t a mystery? What good is a woman, if she isn’t dangerous? What good is a life, if you know when and where you are going to die?”

“You are different, Gregson. You always were. I guess you had the courage to keep running. Speaking of running, can you run a few books back to your dad? I confess, I’ve been searching for your family jewels.”

Chapter 7 Gregson’s Manhood is Tested

Gregson’s running shorts were getting tight. They revealed a bit too much of his manhood, but if he owned it, and strutted with confidence, he gained 2 extra pounds with the ladies, or I mean, points. Half of all success in life, is owning it.

“I’ve got a boat behind the church—do you fancy waterskiing?” The Father asked.

“Why?”

“It’s going to be 90 degrees today, and there’s a church potluck coming over. You know the kinds of people who only talk about superficial things, and after the conversation, you don’t remember what was said, because nothing was said?”

“I stay away from those kinds of people.”

“Me too, but unfortunately, it’s a hazard of the job. Potlucks are worse than meetings—everybody laughs, when nothing is funny. At least in meetings, everyone is serious, and something gets done.”

“Are you sure about that? And what’s this about looking for my family jewels?” Gregson asked.

“You don’t have to look very hard to see them,” the Father coughed.

“Our family is well-endowed.”

“Well, I’ve been reading books from your dad’s library, and been trying to become a wise man.”

“And…?”

“It’s more difficult than you might think. There is a reason real wisdom is hidden in riddles. Real wisdom is not for people who can read—it’s for people who can think, for themselves. Reading is part of it, but it takes significantly more thinking, about what you have read, and what you haven’t read, to get close to wisdom. There’s the boat.” The Father pointed at a brand-new Mastercraft.

“How can you afford that?” Gregson asked.

“Tithes and offerings… how else?”

“But isn’t that God’s money?”

“I listen to God, and do as He says. The Outlet was having a sale last week, and I felt God said, ‘Buy the boat.’ I never say no to God.”

“But what about the IRS?”

“Best to do God’s work in secret, so that we are rewarded in heaven.”

The Father unbuttoned his black shirt, revealing tanned muscles.

“You’re ripped,” Gregson said.

“Yes; the church bought me a Bowflex. It’s important to strengthen the body, and the spirit—they are more closely connected than you might think. The Father had a gold chain, hanging from his hairy chest. It was studded with diamonds. He could’ve been a rock star—a Jesus Christ Superstar, Gregson thought.

“Get in the boat, and we’ll push off,” the Father said. “Do you want to be the first to waterski?”

“It’s been a while, but I’ll give it a go.”

The Father gunned the engine, and tried to pull Gregson out of the water. It’s impossible to skip a round rock across a still pond. The rope broke.

“Damn; we need a thousand-pound test for you.” The Father tossed Gregson a thicker rope. This time, Gregson came out of the water like a pro. He jumped the wake, and held on with one arm. The Father looked at Gregson with respect.

Only a man with style, can recognize a man with style.

Chapter 8 Perfect Balance at the Extremes

Those who knew him, would say Gregson was a lover of excess, so the trick was to encourage equal excess in other areas to balance-out the extremes. This becomes difficult to manage. The average man can’t do it. He stays at the center of what’s common. Gregson was an outlier.

If anyone but God and the Father were witnessing what he was doing behind the Mastercraft, they would’ve classified it as a miracle. But God and the Father were not easily impressed. How can a man who is 250 pounds operate in the water like a pro? Like a smooth operator? Gregson could.

They were nearing Elephant Island, where the ocean carved a trunk into the rocks. Waves sounded like a screaming beast crashing against stone. Nobody went there; but the Father turned the boat into the shore anyway. Gregson glided to the sandy beach, coasting from the momentum, while a prehistoric tail tracked him, moving in, for the moveable feast.

“Gregson, watch your 6!” The Father shouted.

Gregson broke-off the skis, and trotted into shore before leviathan opened its jaws.

Every person has those moments when they nearly escape death. Gregson had done it more times than a 20-year-old cat, which would give him the luck of a 140-year-old man who hadn’t died yet. Cat’s have style, and so did Gregson. If you can cheat death in life, you can understand its meaning.

The Father jumped out of the boat and joined him on the shore.

“What are we doing here?” Gregson asked.

“It concerns your family jewels,” the Father said. “I’ve read enough books to know where the treasure is.”

Gregson felt exposed, for a moment, but he relaxed, knowing the Father loved God, and also women, though he had taken a vow chastity.

“If we enter the elephant’s skull, we will find precious stones, buried in its brains.”

“Whatever you say, Father.”

They hiked up the humid mountain, toward the elephant’s skull. On the way, Gregson noticed human skeletons along the path. This island was a safe-haven for pirates 200 years ago, and drug dealers today. Gregson knew, only too well, if they saw you, they would shoot you on sight. There was more cocaine buried on this island than treasure. It was paradise island for the cartel.  The Father was leaving Gregson in the dust because he was in perfect condition. If you love God, you’re less likely to over-eat. Somehow, following God allows you to enjoy an invisible feast; a spiritual one, that does not gratify the flesh. Gregson loved himself, and so he ate all the time.

Chapter 9 The Truth, Out of Sight

It’s not about the money—it never is. For Gregson, great wealth, was having the world by the balls. It’s not power over people that matters, but being able to rocket-fuel your life. Before money was created, a man could go anywhere, without limits. Now, money controlled everything. Fences separated neighbors, and people became willing slaves—all their decisions made with money in their minds—workhorses, and not the free stallion that was Gregson.

He was sweating like a wild horse at the top of the mountain.

“The opening is there,” the Father pointed. The cave was instantly cold, supercooled by the ocean gushing up from the deep.

“We’ll dive for it.” They jumped into the water, swimming down. Chests of Spanish Galleons and Jewels overflowed into the sand—red, and green, and clear diamonds. When they swam to the surface, they noticed cocaine packed against the walls like sandbags.

“Looks like we found a drug dump,” the Father said. “Think of all the work and lives lost, with the treasure just beneath the surface. That’s a metaphor for wisdom—the truth out of sight, for those who don’t seek it.”

“HOLD IT! Back up slowly, into the sun.”

They walked out, blinded by the light.

“You can fight me, or you can take one in the head, right now!” The silhouette threw his gun into the grass.

“I’ll fight you to the death,” Gregson said. “It’s better than living, and being dead at the same time.” The drug-runner was wearing a black gee, striking Gregson with a roundhouse. Gregson faltered. Being hit, jogged his memory. He remembered Jujitsu from Muscles and Thongs—his mind was centered. When the first fist struck his face, he countered with a Jujitsu throw, and the man left the mountain, like a bird with broken wings—screaming, all the way down.

Epilogue

Gregson looked out to sea. “Father, the ocean is a mystery. Your croc is the culprit, as sure as, I’m sure. No mystery there. I need to be getting home now.”

“What about your family, and your lawyer, and your estate?” The Father asked.

“You can’t escape your family, even if you want to. You are always thinking of them, even when they aren’t there—especially when they’re not there. Adults are so sophisticated with their legal and business senses, but they’re just grown-up kids with the same snot-nosed senses and larger vocabularies. My dad’s making out the will—you’ll get 10% of the family jewels and my sister gets the house. I don’t know what it is with chicks and houses—maybe a nesting syndrome—but the house always belongs to the female. The man belongs in the wide-open frontier—on the open ocean—where danger waits to swallow him up. It’s the only place he can be free. We can put the family jewels in my sailboat.”

The Father agreed. 10% was enough offering to keep his church going for 1,000 years. He was thinking of the inspiration God would give him for his next shopping spree. It took all day to load the treasure onto the boat.

Gregson thought he saw something changing on the Father’s face—something not quite human. It was prehistoric, malevolent, and evil, but maybe that’s just because the Father did battle with the forces of darkness. If you fight monsters, it can be difficult not to become one.

“Until next time, Gregson said. He waved to the Father, and sailed toward the peninsula where the Spanish Estate stood. Conversations with family were always superficial meals before long departures. It was important not offend, before everyone went their separate ways. Sometimes, you understand strangers more than the people you are closest to.

“I am about to sail around the world,” Gregson announced. “Give the estate to my sister, nieces and nephews. Evelyn, I won’t be needing your services. She glared at him like a whore who was given a venereal disease.

“Greg, I don’t think it’s safe to sail around the world,” his mother said.

“That’s the point. Goodbye, everyone.” He waved, and they waved, and he sailed into the pink horizon.

Meanwhile, the Father visited his shack, and his secret library, where a bloodied blade with alligator teeth hung on the wall. The ones who need God the most, are the ones who follow him the closest.

The End

The Murders in Maple Valley

Chapter 1 The Murder in Maple Valley

It was short notice, and Gregson didn’t have a T-time. He was visiting Maple Valley because a friend of his from university wanted to catch up. Andrew was a psychologist who worked with children and women 100% of his day. He was confused, and Gregson knew it. The PI was planning an intervention to save his friend from himself.

Gregson was paired-up with a guy in his early thirties, who looked like a teacher, and talked like he knew everything. It was like playing Russian Roulette on the golf course with strangers. Gregson couldn’t tell how many chambers were loaded until he started to play, but soon he wanted the bullet. The guy was annoying.

“You know what you did there—you bent your wrist—that’s why your ball went into the woods.”

Gregson looked at him and nodded. His body, prematurely tense. “Thanks.”

“Maybe you should lose a few pounds. It could be your coordination, or lack of it.”

Gregson ignored him, and transitioned into his imagination.

There were 14 clubs in his bag, and he kept looking at them, trying to decide which one would do the job, neatest. There were pine trees, and thickets of blackberries everywhere. If he got rid of this guy, the immediate world would be happier.

In response, a high caliber rifle echoed across the golf course like thunder. Gregson looked into the sky, but there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Then he looked at the green, rapidly turning red. The annoying golfer was lying face-down, with an exit wound in his back, twice the size of a golf ball.

“Someone got ‘im before I could,” Gregson muttered.

Blood was draining into hole number 5, like the shower scene in Psycho. Gregson knew better than to stand in the open, so he ran for cover, and scouted sniper positions. The only one, was the hay-loft of the old farmhouse that had been converted into the Pro Shop. It was a perfect day for murder, blue skies and a red biplane flew overhead. Mysteries followed Gregson into retirement. Murderers wanted to keep his soul alive. Gregson’s memoires were growing, but he was a crime solver and not a writer—his friend wanted to get published, so perhaps the murder in Maple Valley would give him something to write about.

Chapter 2 Suburban Moms Going through Menopause

Gregson snaked his way to the Pro Shop, as if cross-hairs were painted on him like a tattoo. He was a big target—51% of him was body fat, so the odds were slightly in his favor—any shot would just pass through. He was out-of-breath when he walked inside.

The head pro was joking with some of the regulars. “What happens when you teach a blonde how to use a corkscrew?”

Gregson pulled-out his .357 Magnum.

“It was only a joke,” the head pro protested.

“How do you get to the loft?”

“Are you police?”

“It doesn’t matter. There’s a shooter up there.”

“The door in the back.”

Gregson walked up the stairs. His body filled the corridor, so he couldn’t turn around, but when he got there, it was empty. Only a couple mice, and a few spiders. The dust on the floor wasn’t disturbed.

When he walked down, the head pro was laughing.

“Did you find who you were looking for?” He asked.

“Afraid not—you got a dead guy on number 5, though. I thought about killing him myself, but someone beat me to it. You’d better call the police.”

“You say he deserved to die?” One of the regulars asked, suspiciously.

“Yes, he gave me advice about my golf game,” Gregson said.

“Ohhhhh,” a murmur of understanding filled the Pro Shop.

When the Maple Valley police got there, Gregson noticed their uniforms. They were starched and perfect. They had a look of decency and civic duty about them. The worst offenders they had dealt with were suburban moms going through menopause. 

Chapter 3 Thai Food Philosophy

The detective wore a wrinkled trench coat, though it was nearly 70 degrees outside. His face didn’t have the lines—the character caused from staring down death, being tortured, or vexed by crime and murder.

“They say you were with him when he died?”

“That’s right,” Gregson said.

“How long between when you heard the shot and you noticed him dead on the green?”

“About 3 seconds—but I was thinking about my golf game and had no idea murder would follow me to Maple Valley.”

The detective made notes in his little brown book, “no idea murder would follow him” he mumbled. “Don’t leave town.”

Gregson gave him a noncommittal gesture that recognized the detective’s authority, while simultaneously suggesting his own freedom.

Andrew insisted that Gregson meet him at the Maple Valley Library—writers love places with atmosphere, and the library was like setting foot into the Middle Ages. What was missing was more telling than what was there. There were no computers, no new books, just brown and gold volumes stacked to the ceiling. There were no kids running around, no homeless snoring, no suburban moms gossiping—only quiet.

Andrew was working upstairs.

“How’s the story coming, Hemingway?” Gregson asked.

“Gregson, I heard you’re already the center of a murder investigation.”

“Yes—I’m the prime suspect. I don’t know what to think of these yocals.”

“They’re harmless enough—just a bit suspicious of outsiders. Let’s get some lunch. I want to show you my favorite Thai Food restaurant. You still like Thai Food, don’t you Gregson?” Andrew was looking at his belly.

At the restaurant, incense burned from a little buddha, and a tiny Taiwanese girl smiled as big as her face.

Gregson smiled back, but she was looking at Andrew.

“Would you like the Pad Thai Beef?” She asked.

“You know me only too well,” Andrew said.

Gregson looked at his friend. “You don’t have to be a detective to know she likes you. Why don’t you take her out on a date?”

“That would be linear thinking, and if the relationship goes wrong, and it usually does, my Thai Food connection will be gone.”

“Love is more important than your stomach.”

“I think they are one in the same.”

“No argument there.”

“Plus, when things do go wrong, I can never trust the food here. Poison is a woman’s weapon.”

“You should’ve been a detective,” Gregson said.

“Thanks, but I can’t stand blood.”

“It’s more or less a word game. Catching people who contradict themselves. Catching liars.”

“Writers lie for a living—only it must be believable,” Andrew said.

“How is your writing coming along?” Gregson asked.

“It’s not. You know old buddy, an inability to write is an inability to live. If your soul isn’t alive, forget it!”

“What does it take to be alive?”

“Love or success—love can be success, but it rarely is. Success is making a living with your heart. So many people are searching for love, but they don’t know how to touch someone.”

“And that’s what you are trying to do?”

“A story must be more real than life, and for it to come alive, you must put your heart into it.”

“You talk as if your life is on hold, because your writing is, or maybe your writing is on hold because your heart is. What do you think will break your writer’s block?”

“Love or murder. One must experience both to write about them. My current story is about a golfer who gets shot in Maple Valley.”

Gregson choked on his Pad Thai.

“Do I need to perform the heimlich?” Andrew asked.

“I’m fine… what else have you written?”

Chapter 4 Writing the Perfect Murder

“I’m working out this story, where a private investigator needs to clear his name because he has been accused of a murder in Maple Valley.”

“Hey, this sounds like what’s happening to me,” Gregson said.

“Exactly—there is no better inspiration than real life.”

“Well, don’t try to help the story along, because you might end up with a life sentence,” Gregson said.

“Don’t worry, fantasy is always more compelling than reality. The perfect murder can only be executed on paper. If you try to kill someone in real life, things always go wrong, and with modern forensics, it’s impossible not to get caught.”

“Who would you kill then?” Gregson asked.

“The usual suspects—bosses, ex-girlfriends, the guy who cut me off in traffic, or my landlord,” Andrew said.

“It’s good that you are a writer; perhaps, the catharsis and fear of the law keeps you from doing the real thing.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Once you conquer the fear of death, you lose your fear of the law, and as for writing—it may stimulate my creativity to pull-off the perfect crime. I just don’t know if I can do it outside of fiction.”

“Trust me, Andrew—don’t try. There is always someone smarter, waiting to catch you. If it’s your first murder, you don’t stand a chance against someone who has caught a thousand.”

“And that would be you?”

“Someone like me.”

“What about beginner’s luck?”

“I think you should eat your food.”

“Say, Gregson? What are you going to do to clear your name?”

“I’ve been thinking about that—it’s turning into a movie plot. I’ll need to catch the real murderer before I’m arrested, which doesn’t give me much time. First things, first—I’ll need to rent some office space in Maple Valley, and hire a sexy secretary. Do you have any ideas?”

“There’s a spot by four corners. And advertising for a sexy woman shouldn’t be a problem in the summertime. I’d put an ad in the Voice of the Valley. I can just see it, seeking a blonde, brunette, or red head, 21 to 24 years of age, able to type, and take dictation.”

“Why don’t we use that?”

“You forgot the salary, Gregson.”

“You don’t need to list a salary. Just put down benefits: Handsome Detective, who eats crime for breakfast, don’t you want to come along?

“It reads more like a dating profile.”

“Trust me, young girls are waiting for a man of action. They’ve been on far-too-many coffee dates. Every girl wants to feel like Nancy Drew.”

Chapter 5 Nancy Drew Saves Gregson’s Life

“Well, I have a lease to rent, and you have a story to write,” Gregson said.

Andrew looked bored. “If the words don’t come, what do I do?”

“I’m not a writer, but I would say, ‘Do something else.'”

“You know what, Gregson? You could be a writer.”

“I’m still trying to write my memoirs, but it seems like my detective game, is only in the third inning. If I need any help, I’ll give you a call.” Gregson paid the tip, and smiled at the Taiwanese.

In the meantime, he was looking for a secretary who was young and impressionable. Not a woman who had been to law school or handed out parking tickets. Gregson stopped off at the gym, to lift weights, for some reason. Maybe, it was Thai Food guilt, or the belief that he could be young at 50. There was an old lady in the gym who talked incessantly about her cats. She had gold hair, tied in a pony-tail, and a drinking-face. She was alone.

“They’re my babies,” she said. “Romeo is going into surgery today, and I’m just so anxious. I work out, so I don’t have to think about him.”

Gregson listened. Perhaps, we all need pussy, he thought.

His dirty mind inspired him to lift more weight. His testosterone levels were rising like a nuclear reactor melting down. Think, Chernobyl. Beads of sweat were dripping from his semi-bald head. His face was red, like a radiation burn. He was just shapely enough, so that his fat could be mistaken for muscles. Gregson was trying to lift his body weight, which meant death. The bar pressed against his chest, crushing his ribs.

“A little help…a little help.”

The lady who owned 15 cats, screamed. She was useless. The old man with a cane, appeared to be thinking about walking over there. There was nobody else in the gym, but retired folks.

So, this is how I die, Gregson thought.

But right then, a woman, 24 years of age, walked into the gym, with neon butt-tight shorts. Her shoes matched. You could wash clothes on her abs, and the girl had a golden-brown tan, like a trophy, waiting for her husband to ask.

“You old fool!” She said. When she grabbed the bar, her muscles flexed like a man’s.

“I like a woman who can pull her weight,” Gregson said.

“That’s right. You aren’t from my generation. Your comment is sexist.”

“Would you like a job?” Gregson asked.

“To do what?”

“I need a secretary who can look sexy and type.”

“You must be joking.”

“I never joke about my work,” Gregson said. “What’s your name?”

“Nancy… Nancy Drew. And don’t say another word. I’ve heard all the jokes.”

“My name’s Gregson. I’m a Private Investigator, and I would like you to help me solve a murder.”

Nancy almost let the bar crush him. He was a smart fool—the worst kind, but then she changed her mind.

“Do you have credentials?” She asked.

“In my pocket. Go ahead and reach for it.”

“I think it’s safer, if I let you take it out. I don’t want to get bitten by that thing.”

“Don’t worry. I keep it on a chain.”

Gregson shuffled through his pockets. Spare change, crumpled movie theater tickets to Titanic (A Reshowing), an enormous Trojan that could bring down the NSA, and his PI Retired Card, attached to his keys, he kept to impress beautiful women.

“My key chain.” He flashed it to the disbelieving girl.

“It says you’re retired.”

“Don’t be fooled—it never went out of action.”

Chapter 6 A Dick that Won’t Quit

“So, if you are retired, what do you want me to do about it?” Nancy asked.

“I’m a dick that won’t quit,” Gregson said.

Breaking local news in Maple Valley…

“Detective Talbert says he has solved the Wilderness Golf Course Murder based on the DNA samples he shaved from the right leg of a horrible golfer.”

Nancy looked down at Gregson’s right leg. It was shaved.

“It’s you?” She asked.

“I have to prove my innocence,” Gregson said.

“You need to shave your legs. Your right leg looks like the Amazon River, in an impenetrable jungle.”

“It’s penetrable. Heck, it’s hard for me to reach down there,” Gregson said.

“I’ll do it.”

“Does this mean you’ll take the job?”

“I need to question you first.”

Nancy walked him to the tanning room, while Gregson rested on the warm neon lights, and she shaved his legs. It was so wrong, it felt right.

The TV kept going…

“We found a Stetson, belonging to the perpetrator.”

“Wait. That’s my hat!” Gregson said. “I’m being framed. If I don’t solve this murder, I’m finished.”

“I’m finished,” Nancy said.

Gregson looked down at his shiny legs and felt like a woman. He looked at the woman. He wasn’t gay. Thank God.

“So, what did you want to ask me?”

“What are your expectations?” Nancy asked.

“Strictly professional. I need a girl who can type and take dictation.”

“I think you need more than that, judging by your style, or whatever you call it. Where do you shop, anyway? Or perhaps I should ask, when did you shop?”

“I don’t know that my style is the pressing problem,” Gregson said.

“It is—trust me. I’m taking you shopping.”

“Nooooo. Can we go to the gun range first?” Gregson asked.

“Okay, but make sure you don’t use-up all your rounds.”

Nancy’s BMW Z8 was sex on wheels. It was red, with shiny black tires. Nancy was sex on two legs. They fit like a glove.

“Let’s take my car,” Gregson said.

It was a pickup truck he borrowed from Andrew. There were chips sprinkled across the seats, and a melted protein bar on the dash. It was like driving inside a man’s locker. There was a smell, or a combination of smells… But Gregson had long ago learned one thing. It’s better to hold your breath and be a man in charge. As soon as a man gives up his keys or credit cards or balls to a woman, he can expect a crash, a break, or a severing of the worst parts known to man. Gregson said nothing. Women want to believe, men believe, what they believe. But men just want to get laid, and they will agree to anything, say anything, and do anything, to get laid, even if the world collapses.

It is the history of the bible. Women leading men astray. Even the wisest, strongest, and most moral men, had one exception, women.

Gregson took the lead, and Nancy followed. It’s better not to speak. There’s nothing worse than a guy who can’t keep his mouth shut, with one exception—a writer.

Chapter 7 Murder, Pressure, and Steam

Gregson felt the winter chill in the summer heat. Murder, is the most dangerous game. People are friendly, until they’re cornered. Put a person under pressure, and their nature will expand like a storm, striking at random.

Riding to the gun range with Nancy Drew, made Gregson feel like a comic book superhero. All of that tightness, next to his curves, went to his head, like a bolt of lightning.

“What kind of music do you like?” Nancy asked.

“I’m a connoisseur of the centuries. Classical,” Gregson said.

She clicked on the radio.

More breaking news in Maple Valley…

“A teacher has been shot! This makes two teachers in the last week—a pattern. Police say they are looking for a young man who may harbor a grudge, probably insane, and lives with his mother.”

“What was the caliber?” Gregson asked the radio.

“Police speculate, the lone gunman is using a Bushman.”

“Maybe, we’ll see our perp at the gun range,” Nancy suggested.

“Maybe.”

When they arrived at the non-descript building, it sounded like the 4th of July. There were posters and pamphlets tacked to the walls and pasted to the windows that read:

Don’t tread on me. You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers. Guns don’t kill people, I kill people.

Gregson opened the door for Nancy.

“You’re such as sexist,” she said.

Gregson smiled.

The man behind the counter was only 5 feet tall. He was at least 80 years old, with white hair, a collared shirt, and purplish-blue tattoos that looked like veins, but were shaped like skulls.

“So, you’ve come to protect yourself against a home invasion?” He asked. “Maybe, the Mexican gangs?”

Gregson didn’t nod his head.

“Or the blacks?”

“Gregson didn’t confirm.”

“Skin-heads?” Gregson was self-conscious—his hair was falling out.

“In-laws?” Gregson smiled.

“The government?” Gregson smiled wider.

“What do you have that’s worth shooting?” Gregson asked.

“I’ve got everything from a .22 Hummingbird to a .44 Magnum. Who do you fancy yourself to be, Dirty Hairy or Dirty Sally?”

“I’m not a pimp, if that’s what you’re getting at?” Gregson asked.

“Oh.” The man looked Nancy up and down. “You can never be sure these days.”

“We’ll try a Glock,” Gregson said.

“They’ll shoot every time. They’ll shoot underwater. It’s a great choice.”

Gregson carried the gun to the targets, and loaded. The Taiwanese was at the far end. Then the end of her gun barrel lit-up and her mouth expanded. The recoil made her back bend like a rubber band, and the noise was like a violent orgasm.

“I guess restaurant workers have to let-off steam too, and I don’t mean, for fried rice,” Gregson said.

Chapter 8 Gregson’s Zipper at Half-Mast

Gregson grabbed the Glock and lightly pulled the trigger—the bullet to the head was a sign.

“I’ve still got it. Would you like to try?” Gregson asked.

Nancy squeezed off a round. “Feels good to have your gun in my hand,” she said. “All that power…”

“That makes two holes in the head, snake eyes. I need to talk to Andrew. I don’t think the radio profile is right.”

“Doesn’t he work with kids?”

“Women too—and I would venture a guess that he knows more about children, women, and killers than any profiler working for the FBI.”

“Well, what should I do?”

“Why don’t you follow up with the latest murder—see if there’s a pattern between the victims.”

“They were all teachers and annoying.”

“There must be more to it than that.”

“Well, I’ll go for a steam and a massage then,” Nancy said.

“Does that help?”

“When I have a man rubbing my muscles, it loosens up my mind—my body too.” Nancy checked Gregson out, below the belt.

Women were always expecting something there, larger than life. It was his voice, his energy. Gregson hardly noticed. He couldn’t satisfy all women, even though he was more alive than all men. Crime, continence, and love were the ingredients that electrified and played the sensual organ of the opposite sex.

He drove to the middle school where Andrew worked. The building was painted a faded blue, with dark trim that was faded. When Gregson walked into the building, he felt out of place. It was a holding zone, where freedom lost its color.

“Can I help you?” A secretary asked. Her hair was pulled back into a bun, so that her wrinkles wouldn’t show. Her eyes were grey, and her lips, tight.

“I’m looking for Andrew—he’s a psychologist.”

“Do you have a child with a disability?”

“I hope not—I’m a bachelor,” Gregson said. His humor was lost on her face—maybe because her hair was pulled-back so tight.

“Come, I’ll show you to his office.” She glanced down at his pants. His zipper was at half-mast. “Uhum,” she coughed. It was a signal. Gregson pulled up the jib. It would be senseless to be suspected of murder and perversion in the same week.

Chapter 9 Negative Capability and the Missing Library Cards

“You have a visitor, Andrew.”

“Yeah…” came the voice. Gregson walked in, and Andrew came back to life.

“So, this is where you work,” Gregson said. He looked around, in the same way that children stare in horror at a nursing home. Gregson had bypassed slavery by going into business for himself, and his heart was stronger for it.

“Do you have time to talk?” Gregson asked.

“Yeah. I was just going to call you. I have a hunch about your profile based on some new information I gathered from Detective Talbert. There was pocket change scattered about each victim, and they all had library cards.”

“Sure,” Gregson said.

“Well, I don’t know if you’ve read Sherlock Holmes, but often, the most important clue is the one that’s missing.”

“Come again…”

“It’s the evidence that should be there, that isn’t. They call it, negative capability—being able to see what’s missing.”

“Like what?” Gregson asked.

“They were all patrons of the Maple Valley Library with outstanding library fines, and over 50 books checked out in their names, with several people waiting on items for months. That’s inconsiderate—like the boob who parks in a handicap zone, or the teenager who drives one of those power carts in the grocery store.”

“Okay, so are you telling me that our killer is polite?” Gregson asked.

“Extremely polite. We are looking for a neurotically pleasant person who always says and does the right thing,” Andrew said.

“So, what was missing?”

“Their library cards. The killer didn’t take any credit cards—so, money wasn’t the motive. You know that serial killers always take trophies from their victims.”

“Yes—that’s what was bothering me. There were no missing fingers… How did you get this information from Detective Talbert, anyway?”

“I coach his son’s basketball team. You know I have an interest in serial murder.”

“Yes, but it’s probably good not to advertise—people will think you are strange—or worse, a serial killer.”

“It’s okay—I’m a psychologist. People expect me to be a little weird, and it’s only natural for me to be interested in deviance.”

“Are you sure that’s not like perverts who become priests?”

“Maybe? Oh, well. It gives me an excuse to do what I do.”

“And that is?”

“Know the mind of a murderer. Let’s go to the Maple Valley Library, and load your revolver.

Gregson pulled it out of his jacket and started to load.

“Not here, you idiot—this is a gun-free zone.”

“Oh.” Gregson absentmindedly put the bullets back into his pocket. He looked at the knickknacks on the table and the artwork on the walls. It made him nauseous. No wonder people went insane.

Chapter 10 Nancy Drew, Suspect # 1

“Why don’t you get a new truck?” Gregson asked.

“This truck is new, or was three years ago. I bought it from a Mexican, and I have been getting offers from landscapers ever since,” Andrew said.

“Well, you should at least clean it. Don’t you want to take a girl out from time to time?”

“Yes, and no. Women create problems, complications, and have standards—kind of like you, but I can never get away from them—it’s their psychological hold that brings mood swings like an emotional roller coaster.”

“Well, I like roller coasters.”

“Me too, but I like to be able to get off, when I want to.”

“Suit yourself. Remember—we are looking for an extremely pleasant person.”

Many things were different at the Maple Valley Library. A big fat woman was handing out paper helicopters to children. It reminded Gregson of the surprises in life. Now, it took a grisly murder for him to get excited.

“How’s your novel coming?” Gregson asked.

“I’m almost to the conclusion. This is the part where you get framed, and I get away with murder. But not really—it’s only a story, Gregson.”

“You could’ve fooled me.”

Inside, big black men were installing computers. Children were running around antique stacks of books and screaming. Copiers, and beeping sounds filled the sanctum. Homeless bums were snoring. The lady with the 15 cats was complaining that the library didn’t have the latest issue of Cat Magazine.

“This isn’t even a library anymore—it’s more like a mental institution paid for by taxpayers who don’t read,” Andrew said.

“Quiet sir, you can’t say those sorts of things in the library.”

Gregson look at the librarian. She was tense. He looked at the other librarian. She was tense. So much for finding a pleasant person. The conditions had changed, hiding all potential suspects.

“Well, who do you think is the murderer?” Andrew asked.

“Someone with good eye-sight. We can rule-out the librarians—I doubt they can see fifty feet with their glasses. The Cat Lady is out. She’s crazy, but too unstable to pull a trigger with any accuracy. Is that Nancy Drew—in the True Crime section?”

Epilogue

“Nancy?”

“Oh, hi Gregson. Who is your friend?”

“Andrew—he’s a psychologist, and he is helping me to profile the murderer.”

Nancy and Andrew shook hands. Nancy’s grip was firm, like her body.

“My, you have such soft hands—like butter,” Nancy said.

“Well, I push paperwork most of my day…” Andrew wasn’t sure what Nancy meant. When a woman makes an observation with an underlying meaning, it’s always best to ignore her statement completely. Otherwise, she will sneak her way into your mind, and play your emotions like a harp. Even Freud couldn’t decipher women, and Andrew wasn’t going to try.

“So, what kind of suspect are we looking for?” Nancy asked.

“Someone with good eyesight, a steady hand, and overly pleasant,” Andrew suggested.

“Any leads?” Nancy asked. She was wearing a casual peach dress, and Gregson thought she was dressed to kill. How could any man subdue her? Gregson’s mind briefly drifted to Nancy in handcuffs. Just then, the Taiwanese girl walked through the door, and began talking to the tense librarian.

“I’ve been waiting for the Tao de Ching for over six months!” She demanded. I want to know who has checked it out!”

“We don’t give-out information on our patrons,” the librarian said. She had tattoos covering her arms, like ivy wrapped around the bark of a pale tree.

“So much for your pleasant profile,” Nancy suggested. “Do you think it’s her?”

“I don’t know, but I’m a bit worried. I’m the one who hasn’t returned the Tao de Ching,” Andrew said.

“He’s over here!” Nancy laughed.

“What?” The Taiwanese asked.

“Your culprit. He has the Tao.”

“Oh—Andrew—you get the Pad Thai Beef. Would you please return the book?”

The hairs on the back of Gregson’s neck stood on end. She was overly polite. “What do you have in your case?” He asked.

“I’m in the Maple Valley Orchestra—I play the flute.”

“Well… let’s just see what you have inside,” Gregson suggested.

“You can come to the concert on Tuesday, but you won’t be looking inside my case.”

“We’ll just see about that!” Nancy grabbed the case with her strong muscles, and the Taiwanese reacted with knees and elbows.

Gregson tried to break them up, but his manhood took several hits.

Andrew watched the scene without getting involved. The climax was perfect. If he only had a pen and paper, he could finish his story. But then he remembered, he did… and he pulled the pen out of his pocket, and pointed it at Nancy.

“I’m going to write you out of my story.” Nancy, the Taiwanese, and Gregson froze in mid-punch. They looked like they were playing twister, standing up.

Before Andrew could pull the trigger on his pen gun, he took a swift hit to the back of his head, and it was lights out.

“Why is it always a white guy? I think they must read too much!” One of the big black guys said.

“Well… case closed,” Gregson sighed. Now, where can I ice my balls?”

I’ll get you some ice from our restaurant,” the Taiwanese said. “Would you like the Pad Thai Beef?”

“You read my mind. Nancy, you will need to drive me—my manhood has taken a back-seat for the day.”

The End

The Mathematics of Love

Chapter 1 The Mathematics of Love

Gregson was changing… as much as a man of fifty can change—with Chinese take-out habits, wet towels left on morning floors, and clothes piled near an unmade bed. He was having bachelorhood doubt.

Maybe, it was the revelation that counting on himself was getting old, and he didn’t like to do math.

Gregson needed to find a woman—the ultimate crime would be to marry a woman half his age who would give him sex in the morning and scrambled eggs for breakfast. Now—that’s division! A math teacher would be perfect. She could pay the bills, and keep his house in order. The danger was, she might keep him in order. But where was he going to find her?

The police bar was his first thought, but no… he had to be more creative than that. If you are a man, your mind goes to the same places, or only one place, but you try to shake your head free. Police women were too masculine—and if he made the wrong move—he might get arrested. No, he had too much in common with them, and opposites attract.

The shopping mall was his second thought, because he had a horrible sense of style, and he could ask any beautiful woman to help him pick-out his clothes, but he hated shopping… and this was a mystery to him that he didn’t care to solve. It took Gregson a month to wear something he had bought, and he usually started with his socks—and gradually moved to his underwear, undershirts, and then suit—but by then, it was out of style.

Gregson was out of ideas… He could call his buddy Murphy, but it would be awkward. Murphy wasn’t good with women. He had been married four times, and divorced five—that’s some math Gregson didn’t understand. Getting married was one thing, but staying married was a whole other matter, and then there was the problem of not going insane. If she was young, and had good health habits—maybe he could die a happy man, but planning for his future was like pretending to be God—everybody does it, and God laughs.

Chapter 2 Gregson Calls His Mother

Gregson grabbed his rotary phone.

DIALING…

“Hey mom.”

“Greg—your father and I miss you. Are you working on a case?”

“I’m thinking about women…”

“Oh—you know what I think about that.”

“What?”

“It’s not good for a man to be alone.”

“It’s Utopia! But you’re right—there is something missing. Maybe if I had a long-term girlfriend and we lived in separate houses?”

“That wouldn’t work—we’re Catholic. When was the last time you went to confession?

“Sixth grade. When the Priest told me I couldn’t think about women, I had to choose.”

“And…?”

“Give me chastity, but not yet—St. Augustine said that.”

“He didn’t escape the fires of hell. Just find a nice Catholic girl.”

” Women give men rules—and then men become safe in society. I want to be dangerous! I want to find a dangerous woman! Maybe, I’ll try the non-denominational church?”

“Don’t you dare—a rockstar pastor speaks from a podium. We don’t believe in that.”

Well—maybe I’ll find a groupie.”

“Seek God, Greg—I need to go—you’re stressing me out!”

“I love you mom.”

CLICK.

Chapter 3 Too Many Flowers to Smell

Gregson drove his gold BMW Z3 to Sunday Church. Fall was in the air. It felt like death—it was a warm feeling—a welcoming sensation—like his soul was floating above him—it might leave, just like the leaves, breaking from their branches.

Every believer was dressed differently. There were Sunday suits and casual clothes, tennis shoes, and black boots. The pastor was wearing white leather loafers. Gregson’s dad had warned against this—never trust a man wearing white-leather shoes.

The women wore dresses—there were so many flowers to choose from—Gregson was overwhelmed by their smell. He didn’t just want to smell one—he wanted to sniff them all.

A sign hung on a power pole. Hit and Run. 25,000-dollar Reward. Gregson got ready to cross the street—a Semi barreled past. He thought about the afterlife. Hopefully, there would be Chinese food in heaven.

“Welcome to New Life!” An enthusiastic bald man said, shaking Gregson’s hand.

These people are friendly, Gregson thought. And they have free coffee. There was a woman standing in the middle of the foyer—all business. She looked like a lawyer in training. Maybe it was how she stood—all dominance—and Gregson liked to be dominated, but before he decided to talk to her, he noticed another woman. This one smiled at him, like she was up to something, and it wasn’t the kind of smile easily conquered. Gregson couldn’t choose. He could tell a gossip from a mile away, so he ordered a coffee. “Miss, could you tell me about the sign out front?”

“The church is offering the reward. She was the pastor’s secretary. It’s so awful. She was smooshed like a tomato. I shouldn’t talk about it. Nobody does. There’s a lot of mixed feelings about her. Some say, she was trying to seduce the pastor, like a harlot, but nobody knew her too well.”

“Thanks for the coffee,” Gregson said. The foam was thickening, like the plot, dissolving into his murky drink.

Chapter 4 Gregson Tries to Conquer Her Smile

The sermon left Gregson with a headache, like he had been hypnotized. It was a hungover feeling that he couldn’t shake with the church’s coffee. The girl with that sly smile was standing there, waiting for something… Gregson took his cue.

“Miss—can I get you a drink?”

“This isn’t a bar,” she laughed.

“Of course not! We’re in church. Maybe some holy water?” His humor was lost on her face, like empty wind blowing against her mountainous cheekbones. Then she smiled. It was delayed long enough to let him know—she could smile or not smile. It was her choice.

“I’m Liz,” she said.

“I’m Gregson,” Greg said. He was sizing-up her form—the features of her body were less obvious than his enormous frame— but taking up space was alpha, right?

“What do you like to do for fun?” He asked.

“Skiing.”

“Would you like to go?”

“When?”

“Tonight.”

“You are a man of action!”

“Just one question… who is the pastor’s new secretary?”

“That’s me!”

“Aren’t you worried about what happened to the last one?”

“Oh, that was an accident—a crime though.”

“Do you suspect Pastor Steve?”

“Oh no. He’s a terrific man! In fact, we go skiing together every Sunday. You’ll have a chance to meet him!”

Gregson contemplated their love triangle, or murder triangle, was more like it!”

Chapter 5 Triangle of Murder

When Gregson wasn’t chasing a woman, it was a lot easier to feel like he didn’t exist. Now that he had hopes and expectations, he felt for things, like he was trying to find the light-switch in the dark. His happiest moments were when he forgot who he was—this usually happened at the beach, when he watched the waves mixing with the sand. All of his striving to solve cases became a bag he had trouble finding at the claim. Women were a distraction, and being in a mystery was best—but finding the woman, and solving the perfect murder, was something he longed for, even though he was retired.

Was he too fat to go skiing? None of the clothes at the winter outfitter conformed to his body-type. The prospect of competing for a female’s attention left him wondering… what was he doing?

Still, she was a way of drawing-out the essence of him—and Gregson wanted to show her who he really was.

The first snow had fallen, and the slopes were cold.

Gregson took his convertible into the mountains. Being impractical is the essence of adventure. There were teenagers standing along the rope, like Whos from Whoville. Their multicolored coats were in sharp contrast to Gregson who wore a white jumpsuit. Perhaps, he wanted to blend in.

The aluminum lift creaked when he sat next to a blonde babe.

“Is this your first-time down Abominable Mountain?” She asked.

“Abominable what?”

“It’s the nickname for Crystal. Apparently, a snowman, dressed in white, kills innocent women. I was worried it might be you.”

“Well, I’m not him,” Gregson said.

“But how can I trust you?”

Gregson was getting annoyed. “Go skiing for a couple of hours and find out.”

“You know… I’m staying in Cabin 5 and I’m alone.”

“Great.” Gregson said. “I’m staying in Cabin 7, and I prefer to be alone.”

“You don’t like me?”

“It’s not a question of like—but one of dislike. I don’t like to mix business with pleasure.”

“What’s your business.”

“That’s none of your business.”

“Well… don’t try to follow me,” she said. And the girl jumped off the lift like an angel and skied down the mountain.

Gregson didn’t want anyone watching him—he was supposed to meet Liz at the top, along with Pastor Steve. Why is one man never enough? A woman needs at least 10 to choose from—they orbit her like moons, locked into her feminine-pull-of-gravity.

Pastor Steve stood at the top of the mountain. His white smile was whiter than the snow.

“This is my hunk of a man,” Liz said, touching the pastor on his shoulders. “Steve, this is…”

“Gregson.” He shook hands. Steve tried to crush his grip.

“You can’t know your limitations until you’ve been to the top of the mountain and back,” Steve said. “Liz and I have a season pass. Are you a seasoned skier?”

“I’m a seasonal skier.”

“Oh, well every kind is allowed.”

Something about him pissed Gregson off.

“Let’s do the double-diamond then. It’s where the abominable snowman strikes. Looking at your taste in clothes—that might be you.”

Gregson thought being heavier would help him to ski faster, but that wasn’t the case. Gregson was left in their powder. It reminded him of the prom—when his date was stolen by the captain of the football team—but now the captain worked fast-food, and Gregson ate crime for breakfast.

He drifted between the murderous trees. Going slowly was the way to stay alive. Gregson noticed the ski-tracks of Steve and Liz. They were turning red. Gregson dabbed his finger into the snow, and tasted blood. He started skiing faster. It had to be the pastor, unless the girl he liked was homicidal?

The blood sprayed in the snow as if Jackson Pollock became a serial killer. It was a snow cone of death.

The remaining hairs on Gregson’s head were standing on end. Then he saw the body, like someone had tried to shove it down the garbage disposal, and the arms and legs wouldn’t fit. There was a great-big-red-patch where the body had been.

“Liz?” Gregson whispered, but it wasn’t her. There was a wedding ring on her left hand. Jealous husband? Who knew? Then Gregson slipped in the blood. He had to get down the mountain to warn the ski patrol.

“Hold it right there…” Gregson was staring down the barrel of a shotgun.

Chapter 6 The Abominable Snowman and the Bloody Nose to Disprove It

“We caught the Abominable Snowman!” A college kid said.

“Are you the ski patrol?”

“Here—put these handcuffs on. And don’t ask questions!”

“Have you seen a sexy woman ski through here?” Gregson asked.

“Didn’t I tell you not to ask questions! Do you want to murder her too?”

“Think about it… where’s her body? It’s like it melted into the snow,” Gregson said.

“The Snowman has been killing women for years—I’m sure you have a way. Besides, we don’t have to solve the mystery. We just have to keep you from killing. You’re covered in blood!”

“I slipped in it! The real killer is out there! Hey, that shotgun isn’t loaded,” Gregson said.

“How do you know?”

“First off, it’s white—the kind used at shotgun weddings. That’s a prank gun found at the party store. When you pull the trigger, a flag shoots out that says, knocked up.”

The college kid pulled the trigger, and the flag came out. “How did you know?”

“I’m a detective—Private Investigator, Retired. Call me Gregson.”

“Wow! A real detective!”

“Before you boys get too excited, perhaps, we should catch the real killer.”

Gregson skied down the mountain without slowing down. After being clothes-lined by low-hanging trees, and skiing into a snow drift, he got to the bunny slopes. An attractive blonde kept falling on her perfect toosh. She stared at Gregson. He had something most women want. Creativity—only found in the balls. Gregson knew he was a man because of it. All men have their standard for what makes them men—but there is no fooling a woman. She knows it when she sees it—her attraction bypasses her brain. All theories of masculinity die, when one works. And Gregson was the aphrodisiac for the opposite sex.

Pastor Steve was waiting at the bottom, with no Liz in sight.

There was blood on his tight snowsuit.

“Where is she?” Gregson demanded.

“Who?”

“The girl you murdered.”

“Look who’s talking.”

Gregson looked at his front. It could’ve been spaghetti.

“Honey!” Liz walked over. She had blood on her white-beater. It looked like she had just taken a shower. Steam was pouring off her, and her hair was turning frosty. So was, her perfect chest. “I brought you coco! Hi Gregson!”

“Whose blood is that on you?”

“I’m a bit embarrassed. Hubby and I made-out halfway down the mountain, and I gave him a bloody nose.”

Steve smiled at Gregson through bloody teeth—he wasn’t the Snowman—he had the bloody nose to prove it.

Chapter 7 Gregson and Steve Race to Her Bottom

“Hey, Gregson! You’ll need to debrief with the police,” the ski patrol said.

“I know the drill. It’s uncomfortable and smells like I’m being put to sleep.”

“There’s a detective from Maple Valley on the slopes. He said that he would do it.”

“Okay. I’ll meet him at the lodge. Somebody will have to tape-off the crime scene.”

When Gregson walked inside, he saw Detective Talbert hunched across the espresso bar.

“It’s you.”

“Can’t stay away from crime, I see,” said Detective Talbert. He was looking at Gregson’s red and white snowsuit. “Whoever was murdered up there had a lot of guts.”

“How long is this going to take?” Gregson asked.

“Just long enough for you to incriminate yourself. Now, why were you skiing on the slopes? You are obviously too fat to be up here.”

“People in glass houses…” Gregson said.

“You have me there. I have put on some weight since the murders in Maple Valley, but that’s beside the point. What was your purpose of skiing on Abominable Mountain?”

“I wanted to commit abominable acts with women.”

“I see… a deviant… I thought so. You have remained unmarried for far too long. If a man is left to himself, he becomes strange. Slowly, he walks away from society until he can never get back. Take me, for instance. My wife rescued me, and gave me a purpose. I make more money as a married man, and on the weekends, I trim the lawn.”

“I thought you weren’t a deviant. Whose lawn do you trim?”

“I’m going to pretend that I don’t understand you. Now, how did you come across the body?”

“I was following a sexy woman, and who I think might be the murderer.”

“And, who is that?”

“Her boyfriend.”

“I’m going to stop you now. Perhaps, it is best that you remain retired, and you retire little Gregson before you squeeze into a crevice that you can’t pull-out of.”

“Listen, pal. All the retired people I know are dead. And the ones who want to retire, are dead. They think they won’t be when they get there, but they have been suffocating themselves for years, and they never pull-out and they never get in—it’s permanently shriveled.”

“Enough euphemisms. Who is the girl’s boyfriend?”

“He’s the pastor of a church in Maple Valley, and his last secretary was murdered on the road.”

“Hit and run?”

That’s right.”

“We’ll, I think I’ve gotten enough information from you now. Don’t leave town.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Gregson said.

When Gregson left the lodge, Liz and Pastor Steve were retiring to their White 4Runner. What was it about a woman who showed limited interest, and always went with the bad-boy?

Women seemed to be perpetually drawn to serial killers and rockstars—Steve was probably both. Rather than chasing Liz, perhaps he should date someone less interesting, but the thought bored Gregson. No—beautiful women were always surrounded by action.

“Hey, Gregson! You want to race down the mountain. 1000 bucks says that I get to her bottom before you.”

“You’re on!”

It wasn’t fair. Gregson’s BMW Z3 had slick tires that gripped the road, and Steve’s 4X4 could climb a mountain when it wanted to be left alone—under the covers of its snowy mistress.

“See you at the bottom,” Steve laughed. Liz was giggling.

Gregson got into his gold sportscar—it could’ve been a coffin. Something about women, made him desperate. All their beauty was a mirage. It didn’t mean anything. It was like their legs promised so much, but the goal was always the same. Getting to the end, and staying there, required love, and no man ever knew when love would grab him. They grabbed at flesh, at hope, hoped for love, just to forget their problems for a moment.

It was death-anxiety that drove Gregson. How could someone not be anxious? Most, go to a job for eight hours, that doesn’t mean anything. There is a struggle for recognition that doesn’t last longer than the employee of the month. Gregson long ago took comfort in the fact that when life got so bad, it was just about to get really good. Knowing… how temporary it is—was the music to dance by—the freedom, to be anyone, at any moment.

Gregson didn’t tap the breaks. He took the corners, like they belonged to him. The mountain smiled. Steve’s psychopathic pride was no match for Gregson’s dance. At the bottom, he waited, but Steve kept driving. If you win in life, it’s rarely recognized— less often celebrated. Gregson celebrated himself. Most people don’t know how. They are waiting for a party that never comes.

Chapter 8 What Gregson Found Between His Sheets

Gregson needed approximately two days to recover from chasing a woman and a killer who got away. Detecting is a hard grind—and to stay in the game, one needed to appreciate a soft bed, and a soft lifestyle. Men who are soft are always trying to get hard. Gregson was hard, and he enjoyed soft things—roses, romantic literature, wild women, perfumes, silk sheets, and bubble baths. He drove back to his cabin, and on the way, he got a hot chocolate from a bikini barista that he sipped in the cool mountain air. He licked the foam from his lips, while snowflakes floated out of the sky from nowhere. It was good to be alive.

Most men try to conquer, but Gregson believed all good things would happen by letting them happen. Women were another matter. Gregson thought about getting married, but he loved being a bachelor—this was why, whenever he chased women, they ran away. If he stood still—if he sat on a park bench—if he enjoyed who he was, the women came to him, and they were always unattached, not wanting to get attached—they were like cats—curious about the big man, who would love them, but loved himself more. Some men do what society says, and some men are destined to listen to their own voice. They are incapable of following the crowd—even when they chase after it.

The cabin was half-buried in snow when Gregson got there. He opened the door, and felt a stiff breeze. The wood pile was next to a wood stove and he lit a fire. He stripped off his white and red snowsuit, and got into a hot shower. Soon, his muscles relaxed. Gregson thought he heard the door opening and closing. Then he felt the unmistakable cold air. Someone was in the cabin. He grabbed his .357 Magnum from its leather shoulder-holster hanging next to the shower, and wiped off the mirror, so that he could get an angle into the adjoining room. There was movement. He was totally naked, as he opened the bedroom door. There was the girl from the ski-lift in his silk sheets.

“My, you have a big gun,” she giggled. “I thought it would be big.”

Gregson lowered his barrel.

“Why don’t you get in bed and I’ll relax you?” She giggled.

Gregson did as he was told. Her warm skin pressed against his. He lay on his stomach, and the girl rubbed hot oils onto his back—her golden hair and naked body rubbed against his.

“I thought you didn’t like women,” the girl accused.

“I do—I’ve just been thinking of love.”

“Oh, that’s different,” she said.

Gregson could feel tremors in her hot body. Then, out of the woods, he spotted a man in a white suit, carrying a long hunting rifle. There was in-season hunting, but the man didn’t move like a weekend predator. He embodied violence, walking towards their cabin.

Gregson got excited, and the ski lift babe screamed with pleasure.

Chapter 9 The Snowman Melts

“Get off me!” Gregson said.

The girl sat-up and pouted.

Gregson picked up his .357 Magnum—it felt light, like all the bullets had been shot.

“Did you empty my rounds?” He asked.

“We did it three times.”

“No. My bullets?”

Before she answered, the door burst open. A man covered in snow, walked in. His beard was white. His skin was albino. His eyes were black, like coals.

“Put some clothes on!”

The girl, smiled. She reached for her pink panties, and slipped on the shoestring. Gregson stood-up in the nude.

“My cheating girlfriend gets a thrill out of sleeping with the next person I kill.”

“What’s your name?” Gregson asked.

“You are different. Most guys caught with their pants down, plead for mercy.”

“Mercy from what?”

“A bullet to the head, what else?”

“Anybody can pull a trigger, and it doesn’t make you worthy.”

“Then what would?”

“Hand-to-hand.”

The Snowman pulled a hunting knife from his scabbard, and grinned. His black blade looked like death.

Gregson brought his hand into the light. His silver knife flashed in the sun. He extended, and their knives clicked. The Snowman struck from above, like a bolt of lightning, and Gregson grabbed his arm, throwing him into the wall.

The girl screamed.

Gregson shifted like a dancer, moving one step and then the second—the two-step dance of death—thrusting— impaling the Snowman through his heart.

“Why haven’t I heard of you?” He gasped.

“Because I don’t talk about myself.”

The snowman melted to the floor in his own steamy blood, and Gregson didn’t feel sorry for him. It felt good to kill—to feel the life leaving the body, and the power rushing into the room.

“Put these on! We never got to use them for sex.” Gregson threw the handcuffs in the girl’s direction. “I’ll drop you off with Detective Talbert. God knows, he needs some eye-candy.”

Epilogue

There was complaining coming from the back-seat of Gregson’s BMW Z3, but when he turned-up the classical music, her cursing was lost between the notes. Gregson wondered about his destiny, and as he drove down the mountain, it felt like fate was falling on him like snowflakes. Then the milky-gray sky opened up, and they were falling. Life only lasts for a moment.

He drove to the sheriff’s office and unloaded the ski-lift babe.

“She’s the Snowman’s girlfriend,” Gregson said.

“Would you like some hot chocolate?” Detective Talbert asked her.

Why was it, that a woman can poison her father’s coffee, and the next man is going to offer her hot chocolate? Men don’t think straight around women, Gregson thought.

“Are you okay, Gregson?”

“I’m fine. I just have women on my mind.

“Oh–don’t think too hard about that. Women muddle the mind.”

“Don’t I know it. Their love is an ingredient for insanity.”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far…”

“No, you wouldn’t. Give my regards to the Mrs.”

“Will do.”

And Gregson left.

Was it the elevation making his head swim? He felt sick—like he was the only one who saw reality for what it was, but this was only a fraction of life, and if some of it didn’t add up, it didn’t mean the rest couldn’t be solved. Gregson decided to find God, even if that God was inside himself.

The church service was dull. No wonder nobody attended, except married men, with their wives. It was a way they could keep their men in line.

Even in the valley, Gregson noticed the signs of snow in the air—that cool, wet, silent feeling—where nature covers its ugly self with a blanket of beauty.

Snowflakes started falling, and Gregson spotted Liz crossing the street. She was crying.

“Hey Liz,” Gregson waved.

She turned around in the middle of the road, when a semi barreled passed, honking. Gregson caught the white smile through the window. He was sure the white leather loafers were pressing against the gas.

“Liz!”

Then the scream.

“Oh, No! That’s the girl who broke up with Pastor Steve! I thought for sure they were going to be married. Well, Pastor Steve will need to find himself a new secretary. Maybe he’ll choose me.”

The End

Murder at the Creative Conference

Chapter 1 Painting in the Nude

Mixing oils, and trying to get her color just right. Pink. No—her arms were like the inside of a conch. Gregson looked her up and down with his artistic eye. He could spot crime from a mile away, but painting a nude, made him self-conscious. He had to get nude, himself, to feel normal—while he stroked the canvas.

“How’s my portrait coming?” She asked.

“I don’t know if I’ve done your breasts justice.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

“How’s my physique shaping up?” Gregson asked.

“I’ve painted you—the way I see you,” she giggled.

“How’s that?”

“You’ll see.”

Gregson met Madelynn wine tasting. After 3 glasses, one of them said… “Let’s get out of here.”

Gregson couldn’t remember who said it. He had a habit of painting to take his mind off oblivion, and when he looked at his work later—that’s when he saw it. Sometimes, it’s not what we finish that matters, but what we can forget.

“I can’t wait any longer,” Gregson said.

“I’m almost done. How am I looking?” Madelynn asked.

“Perfect.”

Madelynn huffed. “You big man—I want to see what you’ve painted.” She walked across the room like a cat, and felt the hair on his back with her middle finger. “My breasts aren’t that big!” She gasped.

“I know. Let me see my painting.” Gregson waddled over to his full portrait. “You’ve made me thinner.”

“That’s if you hit the gym 5 days a week and stop eating pizza.”

“But I love cheese. Life should be lived with love.”

Madelynn’s dark hair swayed behind the arch of her back. She was holding the brush to enunciate her words. It was better than sex—like smelling a peach before tasting it.

The art room was Gregson’s study—his leather chair, first edition books, note pad, and view of Chessfield Park. It was the place where thinking usually got done—now his head had been invaded by a woman. Gregson looked at her crimson lipstick, her wine glass. He was about to say something when his phone rang.

“Yes—this is Gregson.”

“It’s Murphy.”

“Jeezz—how long has it been?”

“Too long—what are you up to?”

“Painting nudes.”

“You dog—I have a case for you. There’s been a murder at a creative conference. Can you blend-in with artsy-fartsy-folks?”

“I can hold my own.”

“I’m going to text you the coordinates.”

Better send that via email.”

“You always were different, Gregson. Time to join the 21st Century.”

“I believe smart phones make people stupid.”

Chapter 2 Gertrude’s Mercedes

Gregson pondered the necessity of murder, in a world full of the dead and dying—people were in a hurry to end the life of someone else, but if they only waited… Hell, nobody can wait.

Knocking…

“Oh, that’s my neighbor,” Gregson said. “She’s taking a trip back to the Fatherland. What’s worse is that Gertrude is an educator, and wants me to watch her electric Mercedes.”

Madelynn put on a bathrobe. Her curves were mysterious, like silhouettes of sex.

Gregson smiled, opening the door. “Mein Fuhrer.” He clicked his boots together and saluted.

“You big child. Will you ever grow up?” Gertrude asked. She had a thick accent, and spoke with a boisterous baritone, verging on hysterics with a loving German quality. Her clothes were tan, and rolled up at the knees and elbows.

“Trust me Gertrude, your car is safer with me, than at the auto club.”

“You go through cars faster than you go through women.”

Gregson coughed.

“Oh—you have another woman over. Well, be sure to take your STD medications.”

“Keys?” Gregson asked.

Gertrude dangled them over his fat palm. Her trust in him was like a mother trying to give her adolescent son more responsibility. 

“Have a great trip, Gertrude. Now, I need to get back to my art.”

“Fornicating?”

“I’ve been studying the female form and its functions.”

Her look of disgust was for the ages, and Gregson closed the door.

“How is she going to get to the airport?” Madelynn asked.

“She has many man- slaves who will chauffeur her, or she’ll call an Uber. Speaking of which, we should go. I’d like to stop-off at an art gallery to brush-up on snob lingo.”

Madelynn laughed, but Gregson was serious. A great detective is undetectable.

“Is she gone?” Gregson asked.

“I don’t know,” Madelynn said.

“Well, look out the window.”

Madelynn checked. “There’s a short man with round features helping her into his Prius.”

“Oh—that’s Paul—her number one. She been trying to make me her number one since I moved in here. Why don’t you put-on a dress that shows off your body?”

“Or, I could just go like I am,” Madelynn suggested.

“There’s a law against that, but the police would make an exception in your case.”

“What about you?”

“No—it wouldn’t work. The coast is clear. Let’s go.”

They opened the doors of the pristine black Mercedes and smelled the new-car-smell.

“Hey—there’s butt warmers in these seats,” Madelynn noticed.

“I know. The German’s can make a useful car.”

“Put seatbelt on,” came a woman’s voice.”

“Oh no,” Gregson said. “Her car comes with a woman who tells me what to do. DEACTIVATE!”

“Nein.”

“No—it’s speaking German.”

“Just do as she says, and everything will be all right,” Madelynn suggested.

Gregson laughed. “You don’t know women. We’re not far from the conference—it’s on an island, and there’s a ferry schedule.”

“Reduce speed now.”

“What is she talking about?” Gregson complained. “I’m going the speed limit.”

“You’re doing 20-over.”

“Don’t gang-up on me, Madelynn. I can barely handle one woman giving me directions.”

“You like it when I do it in bed.”

“That’s different. You women always want to take something out of context.”

Madelynn pouted.

“All right, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Madelynn smiled and kissed him.

Chapter 3 Gregson Learns Snob Lingo

On the wharf were gay clubs, art galleries, bars, houses of witchcraft, fish markets, and a steady stream of smells, coming from the sea urchins that lived like barnacles on the boardwalk—they were sailors, hairstylists, painters, antique dealers, vendors, and tourists. Patches in the fog of scents were mixing, without anyone’s permission—cotton candy and fish, tacos and ketchup, tobacco and coffee.

Gregson was thinking about scones. He smelled them, but then they washed-out to sea in the salty air.

It was the art gallery he intended to visit. Gregson opened the glass door, and walked inside with Madelynn.

Thin, non-binary art appraisers were pointing at paintings with spindly fingers, and gasping at the bad taste, hanging on the walls.

“Oh my god—have you ever seen something so disgusting—quite hideous.”

They walked by the paintings and graded the artwork. Then they looked at Gregson who had decided to put-on cargo shorts, with a golf shirt. He failed their appraisal. Gregson was a portrait of slobby masculinity.

“You can’t possibly want anything to do with these finger paintings,” one of them said. “Are you a collector?”

“I collect guns.”

“Oh—how horrifying.”

“I would be interested in a portrait of a naked woman. Do you have one?” Gregson asked.

“Let me see—ah—Henry, from the merchant marine—doesn’t have any women he can paint—that’s why we have so many naked men for sale—they’re sailors. Henry wishes he could paint the opposite sex, but no women have volunteered to be scrutinized by his artistic eye.”

“I’ve been working on the female form, myself,” Gregson said. “It can be difficult to paint the cunt hairs. I haven’t perfected the technique yet.”

“Honey, you can’t say that in public,” Madelynn corrected.

“I can say cunt in pubic!” Gregson shouted.

“Sir, you are a toxic man. Perhaps, you should educate yourself.”

“I just did,” Gregson said. “Now—we have a ferry to catch, so I will leave you to watch the paint dry.”

Chapter 4 What’s the Point of Living, if You Can’t Feel Alive?

Gregson drove Gertrude’s electric Mercedes onto the ferry. There were white caps on the water. Leaves were leaving, caught-up by the wind, blown by what they didn’t plan for—so beautiful, and yet, so dead—lost forever. Gregson thought about his time. He knew when he was wasting it; and when he wasn’t, it was beautiful.

“This could be my day,” Gregson said.

“What do you mean by that?” Madelynn asked.

“When the planets align—when you feel good, and then something makes you feel better—when death doesn’t matter, because the moment is too beautiful.”

“Oh—I’ve never heard anyone say that before.”

“Just watch,” Gregson said. “This feeling floats around and lands on me from time to time. If there’s gambling on this cruise, I have the magic hand.”

They left for the bar. The wind kept hitting the windows, and the waves rocked the ferry. Everyone was drinking.

“Don’t worry. We’re in the Bay, and the island is 10 minutes away. Anyone care to chance their luck?” A dealer in a purple tuxedo asked.

Gregson raised his hand. “I want to gamble.”

“21 is the game.”

“One game—50,000 dollars.”

“I’ll have to call my manager. Are you sure you don’t want to place a smaller bet?”

“It’s not gambling, if you can’t lose?”

“Sir—vacationers do it for amusement, to stave-off boredom.”

“Exactly—they’re neither living nor dead—and what’s the point of living, if you can’t feel alive?”

“He can play,” a voice said through the radio.

“Just one thing—bury the top three cards. Now, deal!” Gregson flipped his over. “20!”

“19. Hit! 27! Bust! You just made it. Collect your winnings at the Creative Conference.”

Gregson walked to the observation deck, feeling like God, or at least how he thought God might feel when beating the odds.

A patch of rocks at the horizon was growing, like a whale worshiping the sun—an island, cut-off from the horde of humanity—mysterious, like an individual, unwilling to cross the ocean to join the mainland.

“She’s perfect, isn’t she?” Came a voice.

“Where?” Gregson was looking for a strawberry-blonde.

“The island.”

“Rocks?”

“Not just rocks—but possibilities.” He had an athletic build, and wore a silver beard with binoculars draped across his neck. He looked like a tourist.

“What’s your purpose at the conference?”

“Are you a cop?”

“Ex-cop—private investigator.”

“I’m an artist.”

“Maybe we’ll see each other again?”

“Maybe.”

They shook hands.

“My name’s Gregson.”

“Mac.”

Gregson wanted to be with Madelynn in the Mercedes. He walked down to the main deck and got in, turning-up the butt warmers. It was too chilly, not to enjoy some heat.

Chapter 5 a Head, a Body and a Chainsaw

Gregson wiped the windows of Gertrude’s Mercedes with his shirt sleeve—they were fogging-up from his animal passions. He was wooing the female. Then he punched the electricity, and they rolled onto the island. It was tall beach grass, and then—dark woods, and moorlands.

“If you walk out there—you won’t ever come back,” Gregson said.

“Why?” Madelynn asked.

“Underground streams—swamps that will swallow a city whole, if tempted by footsteps that don’t know their way.”

HOWLING.

“Those are the moor wolves. I did a bit of research on Wikipedia before we left. Nobody knows if they’re real, or if the howls are the crying of the wind. It’s theorized, there’s a moor bird, uncategorized by ornithologists. Whatever it is, people disappear out here. Locals say, it’s the mourning of those sunk into the mire.”

Madelynn put her hands on Gregson’s chest.

“Just stick with me, baby—and it will be all right,” he said.

The dirt road was turning to mud. Intermittent rains, like flurries of fury from the gods hit their automobile without mercy.

“It’s up ahead,” Gregson pointed through foggy windows.

“It looks like an abbey, or a mental institution, right up there on the cliff,” Madelynn gasped.

When they pulled up, there were warm lights on the inside. It was like they were entering the bowels of a steel octopus. A butler opened the doors, and Gregson glanced around. There was a Bugatti Veyron, Ferraris, and a Lime Green Lamborghini. Obviously, they were the poorest guests.

“Where are the starving artists?” Gregson asked.

“Oh—they’re parked out back,” the butler said. “There’s a Volkswagen Rabbit, and a junk-heap of a pickup truck. The creative conference has to keep-up appearances, if you know what I mean?”

“Yeah,” Gregson yawned.

Mac got out of his Ferrari.

“You must eat well,” Gregson said.

“What?”

“Never mind.”

They walked inside, and saw the spectacle. A staircase with yellow crime-scene tape. A head and a Body and a Chainsaw.

“I judge the murderer dropped it from the second-floor,” said the officer in charge. “What’s your name?”

“Gregson.”

“And your affiliation?”

“I’m working with Detective Murphy.”

“Oh—the maverick asshole. He’s over there. What’s your judgement of the situation?”

“My judgement is the poor bastard is dead. What else could it be?”

Chapter 6 A Body Leaves Clues, Especially When it Can’t Talk

“Gregson—I need you to start talking to the dead body—see if he tells you anything,” Murphy said.

“Who was he?”

“The president of the conference.”

“A chainsaw is an unusual weapon,” Gregson speculated.

“Not when you have a totem carving competition going-on.” Murphy pointed at the lumberjacks inching-up trees, preparing to carve smiles into the wooden faces.

“Was the president married?” Gregson asked.

“No—but he had a long-term girlfriend.”

“A chainsaw is the last weapon of choice for a woman—usually reserved for maniacal masculine serial killers.”

“All she would need to do is drop it,” Murphy suggested.

“Yes—but why use a chainsaw?” Gregson asked.

“So we would suspect someone else, what else? There she is.” Murphy pointed at a woman in an orange dress. Her legs were orange— her strawberry-blonde hair was a fruit Gregson wanted to taste.”

“Look at those arms,” he admired. “Perfectly toned.”

“Able to hold a chainsaw,” Murphy suggested.

“Suspending judgement is the first rule of creative thinking,” Gregson corrected. “I want to question her.”

“Better that you question the dead body first—that way, you won’t be seduced. She’s already a widow—you don’t want to get in bed, and find an hourglass birthmark on her butt.”

“Yes I do,” Gregson said.

“I can’t help you.”

“Yes, you can. Entertain Madelynn, while I talk to the Strawberry-Blonde. The dead body will have to wait.”

Gregson walked under the staircase tape, looking-up at her, like a woman on a pedestal. “My name’s Gregson.”

“Karli.”

He shook her fingers—they were ice cold, despite her radiant glow.

“You have warm hands—the hands of someone who investigates,” Karli said.

“Yes.”

“And quite delicate too—I’m guessing, they’ve removed delicates?”

“Did your boyfriend have many enemies?”

“Roger loved art, and hated people. It was his way—not a nice man, but he treated me well enough. His enemies were artists. He was a critic. I guess we all can be, at times, but the weight of his words sunk careers.”

“I see. How was the health of your relationship?”

“I gave him what he wanted—and he gave me what I wanted.”

“And that was…?”

“Sex. Lots of sex. You see, Roger was an unusual man. Not beautiful on the outside, but potent. Women followed him around—wanting him, and I wanted him. He resisted me, and he resisted them, until he couldn’t any longer. If you wonder who might’ve killed him, ask the women who paint nudes.”

Chapter 7 The Women Who Paint Nudes

Gregson wondered if the women who paint nudes, ever got self-conscious and took their clothes off. He needed to visit with the dead body, but what could it say? He was feeling animal impulses—electricity trying to escape his body—Gregson needed to plug-in somewhere.

“What are those red marks around the neck?” He asked the officer in charge.

“You’re joking, right? —that’s not pizza sauce, but the real thing.”

“I’m not so sure. There’s magenta, strawberry red, and pink flairs near his erogenous zone—that’s where my girlfriend turns me on like a light bulb—she just needs to lick the switch.”

“Make-up? Should we be looking for a woman?”

“Women—in the plural sense. He probably didn’t do what they wanted him to do.”

“When you put it like that—being with lots of women is like being in bed with the government.”

“They’ll be one-in-the-same, soon.”

Gregson walked through the creative conference, admiring the exhibits. Women in Eskimo suits were chiseling naked men with icepicks. When they got near the balls, Gregson winced. Art is the manifestation of culture.

There were valuable paintings on display. Gregson was a fan of Georgia O’Keeffe. Somehow, death and the feminine radiated from her flowers like symbolic vaginas. Was this a warning? Artists have the luxury of being undefined—they change so often, critics aren’t able to keep up. The culture complains, and then it wants more.

Mac was showing his drawings of ballerinas—their legs and bodies were more delicate than a hummingbird’s—still, art is an expression of the soul—and Mac’s soul didn’t match his image.

“Would you care to play 9 holes, tomorrow?” Gregson asked. “There’s a course on the edge of the moor.”

“8 AM, tomorrow morning.” Mac said.

“Bring your irons, and don’t be late.”

Gregson noticed the women who paint nudes. They were lying on sofas and smoking cigars. A woman who smokes a cigar can be a major turn-on because it’s a symbol of sexual liberation and her independence from society—while simultaneously signaling how dangerous she is. Men feel most alive when they are closest to death, and women with cigars allow them to flirt with sex at the same time.

Their first assessment of him was his manhood—they glanced down there like scientists, and looked-up into his eyes like prostitutes.

“I’m Gregson.”

The blonde in the middle, wearing a white cocktail dress, spoke first. “This is Claire, Kathleen, Charlotte, and I’m Kathrine.” Gregson kissed the backs of their hands one at a time. He noticed their make-up.

“Your names all begin with the same sound.”

“And they all end that way, when we’re together.”

Gregson wanted to ask her what she meant, but then decided to start with the important question. “How did you know the deceased?”

“We slept with him.”

“Did his girlfriend know?”

“I think so—we slept with her too.”

“Just to be clear, ‘slept with’ is a euphemism for sex, right?”

“What rock did you crawl out from under?” Claire asked. She had red hair, and a red dress. Some women are on fire, and they can burn down a house, with the man inside it. She smoked her cigar, and exhaled—hell was inside her, and a popular vacation spot for the naive male.

“So, just to be clear, you were all having relations?”

“Yes.”

“Who do you paint?”

“Each other.”

“Did you ever paint the deceased?”

“Frequently.”

The innuendo, and follow-up questions were giving Gregson a headache. One woman could launch a man’s migraine to the moon. Four women could cause him to colonize Mars.

“I need to go to bed,” Gregson said.

“Would you like some company?” Charlotte asked.

“No.”

“You’re gay.”

“Yes—peace and quiet is a state of bliss.”

They all pouted.

Gregson left and considered smoking a cigar.

Chapter 8 Smoking in the Dark, and Morning Wolf

Gregson lit a big cigar with a bitter taste and blew smoke to the ceiling while resting in bed. The lights were out. Being alone with his thoughts was one of the best discoveries he made in adult life. Darkness was welcoming, like a close friend. Being in the light, was being exposed to chatter, and endless trivialities. The smoke vanished. Gregson knew who killed the president—it was obvious—there was no mystery. When a man sleeps with society, the odds of meeting a crazy one, increases exponentially. Women are like bees—they have a hive-mind—they do what’s best for them—and any threat to the feminine, gets stung from multiple sides.

SPLASH. Ice water and screaming washed over him, putting-out his cigar.

“Why did you leave me alone with your idiot friend? He doesn’t know how to talk to women!”

“Oh—Murphy is a sociable guy.”

“You’ve lost touch, Gregson! When a man reaches a certain age without a woman, that’s it!”

“What did he say?”

“Never mind! You had to talk to that barbie on the stairs, and then visit that orgy of sluts, puffing cigars.”

“It’s my job, Madelynn. It’s what I live for—it’s what I’ll die for.”

“What you’ll die for?”

“Yes. Every man must decide what he loves—and then let it kill him.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That’s okay. I’ll collect my winnings in the morning, and after I play golf, I’ll take you out.”

Gregson could feel her disapproval in the dark. It felt like hell. Every man must deal with it, and still play the next hand with hearts.

Some mornings are full of sunshine, and others dare a man to walk into the open. The clouds were angry. Murphy knocked on Gregson’s door with a cup of coffee, and 50,000 dollars.

“I claimed your winnings this morning. You’ll need to be alert. If you’ve ever played golf in the South, you know never to reach into a pond full of alligators.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means, there’s worse stuff on the moor, so keep your ball in the middle of the fairway. We’re squared off—us, versus, Mac and Madelynn.”

“You mean, she’s playing golf with the enemy? I didn’t know she could play.”

“I guess, we’ll find out.”

Mac was dressed in black. His golf bag was black. His white hair made him look like a stud.

“5,000 dollars a hole, in a best-ball competition?” Mac asked.

“Okay.”

Gregson didn’t feel the magic in his hands, but he couldn’t back-down from a challenge. He sealed his fate with a handshake and then teed-off into the wind like a pro. Madelynn followed him with a perfect swing. Murphy hacked his shot into the mire.

“That’s out-of-bounds. You’ll play Gregson’s ball,” Mac said.

Their game was neck and neck, until Number 5. “Do you get the feeling we’re being followed?” Murphy asked.

“Yeah. The hairs on my head are standing up,” Gregson said.

By Number 7, Madelynn and Mac were up 10,000 dollars. Murphy hit his ball into no man’s land. He pulled a 5-iron from his bag and was about to hit, when a wolf attacked.

Mac pulled a double-barrel shotgun out of his golf bag, and fired.

BANG. BANG.

“It’s die dog, or eat the hatchet. We got to get him to a doctor.”

Murphy was turning pale. The bacteria in the wolf’s saliva was more painful than the actual bight—venom, seeping into his veins—popping out of his face.

Epilogue

“We’ve got to get Murphy to a doctor!” Gregson shouted. “But the nearest hospital is twenty miles away!”

“I think Paul has a Doctorate in Philosophy—he’s the artist who paints demons,” Mac said.

“Not what I was thinking of—a real doctor.”

Madelynn took-off her belt, and put a tourniquet around Murphy. “I work in pediatrics—you boys are like children, so I might be able to help.” She started to suck the venom out, and Gregson got jealous.

“I’ll go back to the mansion and call emergency,” Mac said.

“Murphy, you’ll have to walk.”

“Okay.”

His face was black and white, but he got to his feet, anyway.

30 minutes later…

Something had changed at the conference. The women who paint nudes were still there, but their style was gone. They were in pajamas, gossiping. There was an emptiness, there.

“Georgia O’Keefe is missing!” Somebody shouted.

“Who?”

“Her paintings!” Karli yelled.

The truth hit Gregson like an unhappy woman. Mac wasn’t there, and his Ferrari was gone.

Gregson had suspected the women who paint nudes—he was going to handcuff them to the bed, in a game of twist-her, but now he had to beat Mac to the ferry. Gregson checked the schedule—Mac had timed it perfectly. Gregson got into Gertrude’s Mercedes and gunned the engine. The rain was coming down, like dogs, howling. There were taillights, ahead. Mac must’ve seen him—the art thief drove like a man possessed. Over the next rise, he took the trail toward the ocean.

“He should’ve read Wikipedia,” Gregson said to himself. “Horses miss their footing here and sink into the mire.”

That’s when it happened—Mac’s right rear tire lost traction. He hit the gas, but the Ferrari went under—the galloping horse vanished below the dirt.

“That’s a sunk cost,” Gregson said. “Now I’ll need to make-up with Madelynn, if she’ll take me back. X marks the spot.” He arranged some logs, close to where the Ferrari sank, and called the hospital.

“It’s a dog bite,” Gregson said. “We have a full-moon tonight. So, send help fast.”

The PI drove back to the conference. In a month, he would have a new Ferrari with a dead guy in it, millions of dollars-worth in paintings, and Madelynn’s heart.

Back at the Conference…

“Mac is the art thief,” Gregson declared. “Why didn’t I suspect him?”

“Because you have women on the mind, honey,” Madelynn suggested. “Are the EMTs coming? Murphy is growing hair on his chest.”

The sound of a chopper, cut the storm. “That must be them.”

“Just one question,” Karli asked. “Why did Mac kill my husband?”

“Your husband, being an art-appraiser, figured-out Mac wasn’t an artist. Those drawings didn’t belong to him. Mac had no choice, but to drop a chainsaw on a critic, take the ferry to the mainland, and seal his alibi by not being at the crime scene when the body was found.”

“Oh—you are a detective!” Karli said.

“PI—Retired,” Gregson corrected.

“You get a lot of action for a man who is retired,” Madelynn said.

“You want some action?” The women who paint nudes, asked.

“I have all the action I need, right here—a good friend, and a good woman. Hey Madelynn, don’t let me forget to drop-off Gertrude’s electric Mercedes.

“She’ll hang you by piano wire, if you give it back to her, as it is.”

“We can have it detailed, while we practice our painting.”

Madelynn smiled. “I love you, you big man.”

The End

Serial Murder for Breakfast

Chapter 1 Serial Murder for Breakfast

Gregson was house-sitting for his friend Murphy—the poor guy had a rare blood infection, after being bitten by a moor wolf. Gregson had several bites, but they were from a woman—it didn’t require a hospital, but sometimes a psychiatrist. The problem was, psychiatrists today are trained to take the side of a woman, and blame the man—especially the white man—for all the ills in society. In fact, choosing to identify as a white man—is a choice today, and a mental disorder in the DSM-V. It didn’t matter much to Gregson—they were all quacks 50 years ago—and they were still quacks today—nothing changes under the sun, except the shadows that quack like ducks, and walk like ducks, and look like ducks, but aren’t always ducks—they choose to be whatever they want to be—Gregson felt it was best to let the crazies who look after crazies be.

He was staring at his cereal.

Why do serial killers need to communicate with the police? He thought. BTK sent a clue to the task force in a cereal box. “Can you trace this disk back to me?” He asked.

“No,” was their reply.

When they caught him, he was enraged that the police lied.

BTK had killed several families by binding and torturing them. He was a President of a Lutheran Church near Wichita Kansas. The human mind is impossible to fathom, and that’s why it’s so interesting.

Gregson munched on his cereal. The house reminded him of Top Gun and Cowboys. Murphy always wanted to fly jets, and be free on the open ranges. There were pictures of F29s, Broncos, and the Marlboro Man. Now, doctors were trying to come up with an antidote for a wolf’s bacteria that wasn’t supposed to exist. Murphy was bitten on the golf course.

Why would a guy who spent his whole life chasing psychopaths choose to live in suburbia, where the school bus picks-up 20 kids on every street corner? Maybe—Murphy secretly wanted to be married and to have a family. He had a good heart, even if—it still wanted to be a bachelor.

Gregson had no pending cases. Madelynn left him for a male doctor—said, he was too immature, despite being 20 years older than she was. Oh well—he wished her the best. Women won’t settle for anything less. Gregson was content with who he was—the women came and went—he preferred that. Once a female started to nest, there were rules—first, he would need to pick-up his laundry—second, he would need to get a vasectomy.

“Women will never get close to my manhood with a knife,” Gregson said out loud— “or their assassin’s knife—doctors have been doing it for too many years to too many men. Heck—they put toxic masculinity into the Mental Health Dictionary.”

Gregson was about to take another bite of cereal, when two gunshots rang out.

BANG. BANG.

“That’s not a drive-by—that’s a rifle!” Gregson peered through the blinds.

A bald man in a wife-beater was on his riding lawn mower with a bullet hole gaping through his chest. A fountain of blood was squirting onto his perfectly manicured lawn.

Chapter 2 When a Man Becomes Stranger than Fiction

It was a Honda lawnmower, with twin beer cups on the sides—the Japanese know that Americans prefer to be intoxicated while working at home. In fact, there might be less workplace tension, if everyone got a buzz on, Gregson thought. That’s when he saw the next-door neighbor. He was about 70 years old in a pink bathrobe. It parted near the crotch, and Gregson looked away. He saw enough dicks on the police force—and didn’t want to see the retired kind—shriveled and useless. The man had tuffs of hair on the sides of his head. He had a beer belly and a skinny frame—atrophied from watching TV in a leather arm chair.

Gregson immediately looked for angles. There was a water tower to the northeast, but the bullet-hole was angling upward. The victim had been shot from across the street. We can rule-out a woman, Gregson thought. Women poison or knife a guy in his sleep—not when he’s doing yardwork.

A police cruiser careened around the corner, and jumped onto the sidewalk. Detective Talbert got out of his vehicle, eating a Twinkie.

This guy has serial murder for breakfast, Gregson thought. Talbert held his gun on his hip. “Hey, you!” He yelled at the man in the bathrobe. “Come out here, into the light, with your hands up!”

“I didn’t kill him,” the suburbanite said.

“He’s not your guy,” Gregson yelled from across the street. Talbert swiveled around, pointing his .45 at Gregson’s chest.

“You!”

“Yes—it’s me.”

“Why are you always at the scene of a crime?”

“Some people attract money or fame—I’ve always been in the wrong place at the right time. Why fight who we are?”

“You think fate has something to do with it?”

“There is a plan,” the man in the bathrobe said.

Gregson and Detective Talbert stared at him.

“You are dealing with a disorganized serial killer.”

“What do you mean?” Talbert asked. “There’s only been one shooting.”

“There will be more… I can sense his thoughts. He believes the world will end, if he doesn’t kill masculine men. He went to university and got a doctorate degree in liberal theology—some kind of leadership training.”

“Are you a psychic?” Gregson asked.

“I don’t know. Thoughts come to me, but they’re rarely substantiated. When my wife passed, I started watching documentaries on aliens from the History channel. It gave me insight into my own mind. Since I’ve been following the practices of the ancients, my power has grown.”

“Are you sure you live here?” Detective Talbert asked.

“My whole life.”

Gregson knew what Talbert was thinking. The man belonged on the funny-farm.

“Can I search your house?”

“Just as long as you don’t touch anything.”

“Gregson—give me a hand.”

He followed Detective Talbert inside. There was a crystal skull glowing on an antique dresser.

“Aliens adjusted the DNA of the human race, so that select individuals would become seers. That is why I never reproduced. I’m alien.”

Gregson was worried for himself. When a man spends enough time away from women and society—he can never return—he becomes stranger than fiction.

Chapter 3 Gregson’s Date Crashes his Pajama Party

“I may need to retain you for questioning,” Detective Talbert said. “What’s your name?”

“Vick Beaty.”

“Well Vick—don’t leave town. Gregson—why are you here?”

“I’m house-sitting for my friend Murphy and trying to write my memoires.”

“You don’t seem like you’re past it.”

“Thanks.”

“Well—I’ll take this case from here.”

“What are you going to do about the murder?” Vick asked.

“Cross-reference the usual suspects—if that doesn’t work—wait for the next body to surface.”

Gregson walked across the street to his friend’s house. He poured himself a cup of coffee, and dabbed it with a drip of whiskey. Two weeks ago, he got into a conversation with a coffee barista. She had tattooed feathers up her arms and a perfect figure. He felt his enthusiasm for her, before he consciously realized what was happening. Usually, it’s best to think with your big head, but sometimes, instinct takes over. He had a date at 7 PM. That gave him almost 9 hours to write.

Understanding his relationship to the female, was like solving a puzzle with missing pieces. Gregson enjoyed their attention, energy, and sex, but, in no time, he was bored. Living with one, was beyond him. Not just because the most adventurous, were always trying to make it back to the nest, but because a man eventually ended-up a tool. Gregson had no intention of being a handyman or trying to fix a relationship.

After several pages and several beers, Gregson lost track of time. The evening fell, like a blanket on the neighborhood, like an egg, cracked into a frying pan.

KNOCKING.

“But it’s before 7,” Gregson protested. “A chick that’s early—is that a good thing? Or is it too much enthusiasm?” He went to the door, and opened it.

Four girls in pajamas were jumping up and down on the porch, trying to keep warm.

“Hey mister, can we come inside?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“We are rehearsing cheer practice for the University Football Team. Billy invited us over—he’s the captain. We are worried about him. He left to get some Vodka, and didn’t come back—then Kristina spotted blood by the barbecue—lots of it. Should we call the police?”

“I’ll dial. In the meantime, make yourselves comfortable.”

They began stretching on the living room rug. “I’m Jenny,” the blonde said. “I’m Sarah,” said the brunette with knockers, too big for a mansion. “I’m Kara.”

“Kara is studying to be a nurse. Maybe she can take your blood pressure,” Kristina suggested.

“It’s high,” Gregson admitted.

Kristina walked to the thermostat and turned up the heat. Then the cheerleaders began taking their clothes off. They were so comfortable doing it, Gregson thought—He was flabbergasted. Maybe it’s a millennial thing.

Then the doorbell rang. It was 7 o’clock.

“Oh, that’s Annie.”

“Annie? The girls asked.

“My date.” Gregson opened the door.

Annie was wearing a Native American dress with crimson lipstick. She looked like Pocahontas. Gregson wanted to explore her.

“Can I come in?” She asked.

He was staring at her. “Of course, come in.” Gregson wasn’t thinking.

“What’s going on, in here?”

“Oh, don’t mind them—we’ve called the police.”

“I should say so. They’re underage, Gregson—and you’re a pervert.”

“Well—I am a PI, but you have the wrong idea. Their male stud might be wounded.”

“What?”

“Don’t worry—Detective Talbert will explain everything when he gets here.”

When his police cruiser pulled up, Detective Talbert wore a somber smile. “There’s a body in the street. Looks like a physically fit male—missing his genitalia, with several stab wounds in his chest.”

“The work of our serial killer?” Gregson asked.

“What else?”

Chapter 4 Penis Envy and Gregson’s Limp Libido

“Serial murder is as random as human psychology. We think we know people, because they look like us and talk like us, but under their skin, they could be anybody,” Gregson said.

“You’re creeping me out.”

“The truth is more frightening than fiction, and most people don’t want to think about it—they are content in their own little worlds of fantasy—they assume their values are the same, as the man or woman sitting next to them in church.”

“I just got chills,” Detective Talbert said.

“Fairy stories depict the woods as being dangerous. Beware of the big bad wolf. Beware of the witch who eats children. Don’t go into her house. These are all lessons that used to be taught to the naive. We think they are just stories, but they are more real than we would care to admit.”

“You could lecture at the University on Serial Murder,” Detective Talbert said.

“There are two kinds of individuals—astronomers or astronauts. I prefer to be in outer space. Should we examine the body?”

“That depends—have you eaten dinner?”

“I’ll be okay.”

Gregson and Talbert stood over the body. A stream of blood purged from a severed fire-hose.

“Shame—he had so much potential,” Talbert said.

“Yeah. I guess fate has a sense of humor.”

“Or we’re dealing with a man who has an inferiority complex, and a jealous streak.”

“Penis envy?” Gregson asked.

“What else.”

“No defensive wounds on his hands. The knife was thrust downward, while facing the perpetrator. That means, he was standing, when attacked. Check for a cerebral hematoma on the back of his skull.

“It’s there.”

“He hit his head when he fell. The victim knew his attacker, or at least he was comfortable enough to be within 6 inches of a monster—people criticize me for being skeptical of human nature, but they never met a butcher before.”

“The coroner is here, and the psychologist.”

“I’ve seen enough.” Gregson walked into the house. The girls were crying.

“There—there—don’t cry. There’s a man willing to talk to you,” Gregson said. A short balding man walked in. He looked spineless, despite having no infirmities.

“We want to talk to Gregson,” the girls said.

“I’m trained to listen to you,” said the psychologist. He wore a sweater and cheap kakis. “That man is likely to take advantage of you, whereas, I am a professional, and won’t make any sexual overtures.”

Gregson was already shrunk, and didn’t need the wash cycle again. He wanted a stiff drink and bed. He got under the covers with some scotch and washed the world away.

The next morning, Gregson walked downstairs. It was like a bad dream. Nothing was out of place. There were no police and no women. It was heaven. The only clue that something bad had happened was a red mark in the middle of the street.

“I guess the human stain is difficult to clean-up,” Gregson said. He took a sip of black coffee. He had a slight hangover. The sun was shining. His neighbor was leaving with a golf bag.

“Do you want some company?” Gregson asked.

“Couldn’t hurt,” Vick said.

“Yes, it could, if you want to play a dollar a hole?”

“You’re on! When my wife died, I went back to my old ways,” Vick said. It was like getting to know my single self again—or having freedom as a best friend.”

“It’s the greatest secret outside of society—hidden knowledge.”

Gregson drove them in his BMW Z3 with the top down. Two guys without women can be a tragedy or a comedy—all that is required is laughter.

Gregson teed-off like a giant. Vick followed. On the fourth hole, the PI observed a pattern. Vick never missed. “You didn’t want to go pro?” Gregson asked.

“Okay—I’ll have to tell you something—ever since I was visited by aliens—I can move objects with my mind. It’s not a command, but more of a partnership, between me and the space between us. That golf ball does what I tell it to do, just like I know you’ve thought about sex 7 times in the last 30 minutes.”

“My libido must be slowing down,” Gregson admitted.

Chapter 5 Gregson Defines the Moment

“But tell me, are you serious about being able to read minds?” Gregson asked.

“Sure—and that’s not all I can do—but it’s a curse. The gods gift us with their abilities, and then sit-back and laugh,” Vick said.

Before Gregson could ask Vick about the gods, a meteor fell to earth, hitting him in the back.

“Fore!” A bellow came from a beast on the 3rd tee-box.

Gregson pulled-out his 2-iron. “I’m going to hit this pill up that guy’s ass and make him take it rectally.”

Before he could swing, another ball fell from the sky.

“What are you boys doing—waiting for the grass to grow?” Yelled the man. “Let me guess—you’re accountants.”

He was wearing a beret, with a dress uniform.

“Army?” Gregson asked—knowing full-well he was a Marine.

“What?” Are you yanking me?”

“Did anyone teach you the rules of golf—or course etiquette?”

“Did anyone teach you about the pace of play?”

“Okay—let’s settle this as men,” Gregson said. “What’s your name?”

“Cornel Weathers.”

“Well Cornel—we’re going to see if the ministry of propaganda turned you into a girl.”

“How dare you?”

Gregson balled up his fists, and the Cornel took an athletic pose.

“Might I suggest you settle this score as gentlemen—we’re on the golf course, after all,” Vick said.

“Sure,” Gregson replied, relaxing his shoulders a bit. “If you have pistols, we can duel to the death. My honor has been offended.”

“I’ll squash you like a bug—we don’t let fat boys into the Marines.”

“Perhaps—a wager on the next hole?” Vick suggested.

“What did you have in mind?”

“What are you driving?”

“A Hummer.”

“The loser walks home.”

“Closest to the pin wins a new car?”

“You’re on!” Gregson said.

Beads of sweat were dripping off Cornel Weather’s nose. “Shake on it?” He asked.

Gregson shook. Then he teed-up his ball. His muscles were tightening like a vice. The moment was a core of his philosophy—you define it, or it defines you. His swing was pure. His pill left the ground, entering the sky. It landed on the green, fourteen feet away from the flagstick.

“Not bad,” Cornel Weathers said. “But watch this.”

SMACK. It sounded awful, but his ball tracked the flagstick like a missile, landing within five feet of the hole.

“See what I did there? I taught you a lesson.”

“Wait a minute,” Gregson said. “What’s happening to your ball?”

“It’s movin'”

“Darn right it is—that pill is going underwater.” And sure enough, it trickled off the island. SPLASH.

“Well—I never. It was like the wind blew it, or something?”

“Keys?” Gregson asked.

“I honor my bets—it’s the first lesson they teach you in the Marines.”

“Gambling?”

“No, you fool—Honor.

“We’ll see you back at the pro shop.”

The Cornel walked away—defeated.

“Now tell me—did you interfere?” Gregson asked.

“Sure,” Vick said.

“I can’t accept his keys. He won in a fair bet. What else have you done?”

“Well—I didn’t mean to, but my neighbor got electrocuted in his bathtub when his radio fell in—he was always playing it so loud, I could never get any sleep.”

Chapter 6 Nuclear Holocaust and the Male Organ in Outer Space

Playing golf with a psychic was like fumbling with an atomic bomb—if you got the football, you wanted to be sure that you knew what to do with it—otherwise, you could get buried under bodies. Gregson was in the presence of unlimited energy—a hybrid in full possession of his imagination with human nature as fickle as a feather blowing in the wind.

“Vick, I don’t know how I feel about you.”

“Most people don’t know—and they don’t know the world is going to end.”

“What?” Gregson asked.

“Tomorrow. Aliens gave me the Lazarus Vaccine, but it won’t do me any good—nuclear holocaust is coming.”

“Why?”

“How I see it—the President of the United States wakes up without his morning coffee. When that happens, several caffeinated members of his cabinet suggest the country is at war with China. He believes he has already been attacked, so he orders def-con 1. China sees the heat plumes coming from our nuclear submarines. They launch their orbital ICBM and destroy DC like Sodom and Gomorra. We launch, and like a fission reaction, other countries launch in exponential retaliation, until nothing breathes.”

“Can we prevent this?” Gregson asked.

“We need to talk to Cornel Weathers.”

When Gregson and Vick got to the pro shop, Weathers had already called a cab. He walked away from the pay phone, and sat in a booth.

“You don’t use a cell phone?” Gregson asked.

“Are you kidding—they can track you, if you have one of those. What are you boys still doing here?”

“Can I buy you a drink?”

“Okay.”

With the beret off, Gregson noticed his crew cut and electric eyes. The Cornel had a scar running across his chin. He looked like Mel Gibson.

Is there a point to your visit?”

“Vick believes you can prevent the end of the world.”

The Cornel looked at the 70-year-old psychic, like he was reading his mind. They stared at each other, for over a minute.

“Can I tell him?” Vick asked.

“Go ahead,” Cornel Weathers said.

“Okay. Weathers works at Area 51. He was sent to this golf course to investigate me. Alien activity has escalated in the last few weeks—and the US Military believes, they are acting as a third party to instigate a nuclear war. If the human race is divided—we are no longer a threat. Probing has reached an all-time high. They are studying us.”

“Is there a connection between the murders in suburbia—and the alien probing?” Gregson asked.

“Yes—they want to study our motivations. They have been abducting military officials for years, but now they want to study the suburban male. He is the greatest threat.”

“Really?” Gregson asked. “All they do is watch TV.”

“Exactly—each one of them is just waiting for an alien invasion. They all want to be heroes—it’s sublimated—when the aliens come—it’ll be like a volcanic arms race. Aliens believe the suburban male has no fear. That’s why they shot that man on his riding lawn mower, and severed the vital organ on the captain of the football team. Apparently, most of male motivations come from our desire to have sex.”

“How did the aliens get close enough to kill him?” Gregson asked.

“Cheerleaders.”

“You mean he had sex with aliens?”

“Yes—and they experimented on him, sexually—then they severed his manhood.”

Where did they take it?”

“Outer Space.”

“That’s why you should always get a DNA Test before getting some strange,” Gregson said. “I thought the serial killer was University educated—and wanted to be male.

“Yes—the aliens are questioning their identity.”

Chapter 7 Cigars, and a Masculine Man’s Motivation

“So, what you’re telling me is that we have to get to the President of the United States before the aliens seduce him,” Gregson said.

“Yes.”

“And if he’s like JFK, they’re already pregnant with his baby.”

“Probably,” Vick said.

“And if he’s like Bill Clinton…”

“We don’t have any time to lose.”

“Gregson—we can’t all fit into your BMW—we’ll have to take the Cornel’s Hummer.”

“I can have a military transport plane pick us up and fly us over the capital,” Weathers said. “Let’s hope the President has strong character.”

“The Presidency is all about power, sex, and money. We can only hope he knows what he’s doing in the bedroom, war room, and bathroom.”

“Bathroom?”

“Yeah—when our economy goes down the toilet.”

“Isn’t this the guy who printed 6 trillion dollars, threatened three nuclear powers with holocaust, and fondled a man in the bathroom—thinking he was a woman?”

“You’re right. We’re fucked.”

They left the pro shop. Gregson gripped the steering wheel—he always wanted to be at the heart of Bagdad in one of these beasts. Heavy metal music and 50 Cal machine-gun shells.

“Does this thing have a radio?” Gregson asked.

“Of course—it’s our primary means of communication.”

“Well—let’s Rock-N-Roll.”

Gregson was doing 30-over the speed limit—and no cars honked. It might’ve been the military-grade vehicle he was driving, but he was pretty sure it was the machine-gun turret up top. The best way to protect yourself from society, is to carry a big gun, and let the liberals see it.

When they got to the airport—Vick and Cornel Weathers couldn’t wait to get off the ground—that meant—Gregson wouldn’t be behind the wheel.

“Just drive our Hummer up inside her,” the Cornel said. “She’s a big bitch but she’ll let us in.”

“Yes, sir!” Gregson parked in her rear.

“Now, attach the cables to the parachute platform.”

“We’re not going to jump out of this thing, are we?”

“No—we’re going to drive out, over DC.”

“You’re shitting me?”

“That’s what it’ll be like.”

The roar of the C130 caused Gregson to get aroused. It was a like a woman, being turned on. When all of her weight lifted off the ground, Gregson didn’t feel so self-conscious. They were airborne.

“When the lights turn yellow—get into the truck—and when they turn green, I’ll hit the reverse, and pull the chute. Until then, let’s smoke.”

The Cornel pulled three cigars out of his pocket. “Gentleman—we’re going to save the most hapless, corrupt president in history, so that he doesn’t end the West and the rest of the world. Why are you doing it, son?”

“I’m 70-years-old, Cornel. Now that I can live forever—I’d like to get laid again. How about you, Gregson?”

“Same here—the aliens are right. The suburban male lives for sex and dies for sex. It’s a masculine man’s motivation.”

Chapter 8 Blondes with Big Knockers are not to be Trusted

“How do we get inside the White House?” Vick asked.

“I’ve got a security clearance,” Weathers said. “We’ll drive up, and then knock on the front door. You boys will have to put-on uniforms. Gregson looks like a general, and you can be a corporal.”

Red lights in the cabin turned yellow. “We’re approaching the target area now. Get in.”

Gregson strapped-on his seatbelt, extra tight. Falling in a vehicle that weighed over a ton was not his idea of a soft landing.

“Okay—Green!”

The Cornel hit reverse and the Hummer entered free-fall. “Let’s hope I packed the chute right!”

“What?”

A black canopy expanded above them, and they floated toward the Washington Monument.

“We’re going to get impaled on that thing. Can’t you steer us in a different direction?”

“We go where the wind take us.” They nearly got draped on the enormous erection, but a breeze blew them, and they landed in the soft turf.

“Now—we just drive through the main gate. Show them my ID badge.” Weathers gave Gregson his White House Pass.

When they got to the front door, a black butler greeted them. “My name is Booker. His excellency—the President—is in his bed chamber right now. He’s entertaining cheerleaders from his alma mater.”

“They’re about to cut his manhood,” Vick said. “We’ve got to stop them! If the President loses his balls, the United States won’t be able to stand-up to its enemies.”

Gregson smashed through the bedroom doors with his shoulder. The president was being smothered by Kara and Kristina, while Sarah tested a pair of sewing scissors behind him.

Weathers pulled-out his handgun, and shot both Ks in the head. Momentarily, Sarah mesmerized the Cornel with her big knockers. He was hypnotized. Vick also was losing his mind. All of his blood left his big head and rushed to the small one.

Gregson spent years making himself invulnerable to feminine whiles. He pulled handcuffs from his pocket. “You’re under arrest,” he said.

“But I didn’t know they were underage!” The President shouted.

“Not you—the alien!”

“What? You mean I just had sex with aliens?”

“I’m afraid so. You used protection, right?”

The President drew a blank.

“Well—they live for thousands of years and copulate more than humans. Their technology can’t keep up with their diseases. Viruses keep mutating. You probably have an STD 1000 times more potent than syphilis.”

“How do I get treated for that?”

“I’m sure you can cook it up in a lab somewhere.”

“It’s dangerous to keep this one alive,” Cornel Weathers said.

“I know—but there’s more of them, and we need to know the extent of their plans. Vick—you’re half alien—read her mind.”

“Oww, ahhhh, yessss,” Vick said

“She’s mind F-ing him. This is useless.”

“Stay with it,” Gregson said.

“Okay—I can see their plans—I can read her thoughts. They want to breed with us. It’s the surest way to conquer the human species.”

“I’m okay with that,” Gregson said. “As long as I’m hooking up with a 10—who cares?”

“You would have sex with an alien, if she was a hottie? There’s no hope for the human race.”

“They know how to defeat us—that’s for sure. Any suburban male would gladly surrender to a woman with big knockers. It’s the soft power of seduction,” Gregson said.

“No—it’s hard.”

“Well—I’m going to put an end to it,” Cornel Weathers said. “With my gun.” He pulled it from his holster and shot her in the head. Now we have to spread the word—blondes with big knockers are not to be trusted.”

Epilogue

“Booker—I want you to make darn sure the President gets his cup of coffee in the morning!” Cornel Weathers shouted.

“Yes, sir!”

“And make sure he gets a blood test too.”

“I’m on it!”

“Vick—how did you get the Lazarus Vaccine?”

“In my living room, late at night—a hot nurse gave it to me.”

“That’s what we need.”

“What’s your blood type?” Vick asked.

“Type O.”

“Same here,” Gregson said.

“I’ll draw my blood, and give you both a transfusion.”

“It should give us some protection against death. We might be able to live thousands of years, if there isn’t a nuclear holocaust.”

“Won’t you get bored?” Vick asked.

“Are you kidding—I’ve only played 1% of the golf courses in the United States—and that’s not counting the world. You know—I just had an idea—Murphy is Type O. If I give him an injection, he’ll survive.”

“What are friends for?”

Friends keep each other alive,” Gregson said.

The End

Playing Golf with Hitler

Chapter 1 Bachelor Philosophy, and Gregson’s Untimely Death

“When did we become men who fish?” Gregson asked.

“Ever since I got a girlfriend,” Murphy said.

“You mean, we spend time in the river, so you can cope with your lady-problems?”

“Something like that, and I have a surprise for you.”

“You got Bud, rather than Bud Light?”

“No.”

“You’re all secrets, Murphy—now that a woman has part of your heart. And mark my words—women are not content with just a piece—they want the whole thing. A man has to save part of himself—and never give it away. It’s the piece nobody knows about, but him.”

“Doesn’t that get lonely?” Murphy asked.

“No—it keeps me warm at night. It gives me guts—after I’ve been gutted. It never takes away. If you won’t tell me what’s going on—have a cigar.”

“Naw—I promised Dina I’d quit.”

“She’s already invaded your mind, bro.”

“That might be, but she’s beautiful to think about.”

Gregson and Murphy parked their red pickup truck at the campground, while two women walked out of the river in their underwear.

“That’s your girlfriend, but who’s she?” Gregson asked.

“Dina thought you might be getting lonely.”

“Oh—no. No blind dates. Not after the last one you set me up with.”

“Who was she?”

“The religious fanatic who talked about Satan all the time. You told me that you found her in church, and that she was a good girl.”

“Oh—well, this one is different.”

“Murphy—you’ve violated the male trust. This is our time together—without it—we may forget we’re men.”

“I don’t see how that’s possible.”

“Look at the average man in society—he gets out from under his mother’s thumb—and enjoys two years of independence—tops—although, he doesn’t enjoy it—because he’s been conditioned to feel miserable alone—then he gets with the first woman who reminds him of his mother. Pretty soon he’s trained better than the family dog—and takes his place behind it, and when he does something wrong—he has to share the dog house.”

“You’re being overly dramatic, Gregson. Come on—let’s say ‘hi’ before they guess what we’re talking about.”

“You’ll regret this,” Gregson said.

“Gregson—have you lost weight?” Dina asked.

“Yes.”

“Have you stopped eating pizza?”

“No. I’ve been pumping iron.”

“I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Emma.”

“Oh—nice to meet you.” Her hand was like a wet willow branch. It made Gregson feel clammy when he shook it.

“Did you bring the worms?” Emma asked.

“A Royal Coachman—the trout in these waters eat flies. Worms are for bottom-feeders.”

It was normal for Gregson to size-up women without their clothes on, but he was in the mood to fish. Dina had already caught his friend. They were not there to catch fish, but to catch men.

“Gregson—why don’t you warm yourself by the fire?” Emma asked. She wore purple panties, and had pale skin. Her brown hair made her look like a creature of the water.

“The river is calling me,” Gregson said. “I’ll catch dinner.”

“Come back, buddy—girls don’t bite.”

“Nope—you do—they’ve already caught you.”

“You can’t stay out there in the stream for long,” Murphy said.

“Can’t be caught,” Gregson replied. He walked out, into the rapids, with his waders. Slimy stones caused his feet to slip.

“Ahhhh!” The current took him.

“Gregson!” Murphy yelled.

But the PI vanished.

Chapter 2 A Soliloquy on Drowning

How many men fake their own death, before attempting the real thing? Almost none.

It is not for lack of imagination, but for a lack of will. Once a man gets into this dark place—he doesn’t believe his imagination is real anymore. And this is the greatest shame—the real death. The one to follow, is only a consequence.

Many men want to get away from their problems, but they don’t have the guts to be a man at large—a man on the run.

Many, would not be missed. These are the types who trim their nasty yellow toenails once a month, and eat in bed. Society pities him, if they are even aware of his existence. When he was younger, he felt the pressure to join the rest of the rabble—like the man on the moon, but after years of brushing—when he wanted to—and forgetting to floss—he out-live his usefulness to society, but something else happened that society didn’t plan for—he found bigger things to occupy his mind.

And these bigger things, became him—it is the enlarging of his being, that cannot be rationally justified by his standing in society. It is his unquestioning sense that he is doing the ultimate—even if that is going to the grocery store to buy his dinner. When a man crosses over, into this place, he walks through society and into society, parting the crowd, like the Red Sea.

Gregson felt like a fish that had swallowed two gallons of water. Now—he needed to cough it back up. He swam to shore by the Military-grade Hum-vi, and lay on the muddy rocks like a beached whale.

“Gregson—you have a job to do.”

“Yes, sir.”

Cornel Weathers greeted him with a handshake. “We took your psych profile last week—thanks for that. Out of all our applicants—you were the only one with the psychological well-being to withstand Time Travel. Care to explain?”

“If your test says that—it must be true,” Gregson said.

“Don’t get smart with me, son. Even the special forces don’t think the way you do. Why is that?”

“Most people are trained to think, but it’s not really thinking. They think they are doing it the right way, but they have never dared to be wrong. If they attempt their own thinking, eventually—they become comfortable in the dark, and they don’t need the light on. Answers, are less obvious here, than the ones they have been trained to look for.”

“Sweet Jesus, son! What the hell did you just say?”

“Just believe the paperwork—in the end, what’s the purpose of philosophy anyway, accept intellectual masturbation—it doesn’t accomplish anything.”

“But it makes you feel good, am I right?”

“I’m ready to time travel. What’s my mission?”

“The Task Force will brief you when we get there. Until then, hang tough, Gregson, and don’t play with yourself.”

Chapter 3 Gregson Thinks About Time

It was a rotten trick—to die—while still being alive, Gregson thought. What does it all mean? We are only a splash in time—a raindrop in a puddle that evaporates. Being filled with thoughts of insignificance can be liberating, and crushing. Whatever we do, will disappear—so why do it? Our mistakes will vanish—nothing really matters.

“You’re doing a lot of thinking back there, Gregson,” Cornel Weathers said. He was driving the Hum-Vi, while listening to ACDC.

“What?” Gregson asked.

“You’re doing a lot of thinking!”

“Oh—yes—do we serve ourselves, or do we serve something larger?”

“You mean, like a grand plan, or the military?”

“A grand plan.”

“Let me tell you something, Gregson… our universe is about to collapse on itself because we sent a man back in time. Everything he does, is like a ripple in a pond the universe didn’t plan for. One man can change the course of existence.”

“You’ve thought about this…” Gregson said.

“No—I just have to listen to our physicist—Dr. Stanley. If you ask me, he’s the coward among the two we selected for this project. The one we sent back, was Dr. Dorian. We suspect he’s been murdered. Think about the implications, Gregson—what happens when you get murdered in the past?”

“This is all above my head. How did you even know that time-travel is possible?”

“Well—Einstein’s special theory of relativity suggests that it is. We’ve been able to go forward in time, but going backward is a whole different matter. Dr. Stanley proved that Time Travel to the past is possible.”

“How did he do that?” Gregson asked.

“He scheduled a cocktail party for time travelers, and didn’t announce it, until after the party. The catch is—the party already happened. If you can go back in time, you can attend the party. Four time travelers showed up. Apparently, alcohol is difficult to find in the future.”

“This is all a bit much,” Gregson said.

“Just wait until you see our facility. To go back in time, we send our traveler through a wormhole—similar to a black hole. Don’t ask how we found it, or how many time travelers got separated from their bodies, until we got it right. We think we got it right—Dorian went gradually insane—trapped in the past, but he was a little strange beforehand—bored all the time, you see, and borderline suicidal.”

“What about Dr. Stanley?”

“He’s happier than a clam to send other people to their deaths, and to take a government salary, while thinking for a living.”

“Where are we?” Gregson asked.

“Best that you don’t know that. Dr. Stanley will fill you in. Then you can decide what you want to do.”

The hanger housed an SR-71 Blackbird and a B2-Bomber. Gregson spotted a U2 Spy Plane. It was like driving into the past.

Chapter 4 “The less you know—the better.”

Gregson got out of the Hum-vi to the sound of Thunderstruck. Being 50 felt like he had crossed-over—it was more than a crisis. The typical anchors weren’t holding him down. It was maddening to know—whatever he did, would be lost in time. To go backwards, was to miss-out on the future, and to live in the present, was boring.

An agent was staring at him with enormous green eyes. His suit was baggy, his brown hair was long, his face was smart, and he looked like he had many things on his mind, but none of them merited much interest. Gregson, however, did.

“My name’s Dr. Stanley.”

“Gregson.”

They shook hands.

“Do you have a last name?” Gregson asked.

“Best that we remain anonymous. If you mess with the past, the past will mess with you. It will try to erase you.”

“Why?”

“Because the past is moving from order to disorder, and if you try to clean it up, like your apartment, the past will burn you down. It doesn’t want to be organized.”

“That’s why I’m the perfect time traveler,” Gregson said. “I naturally move from disorder, to a complete mess.”

“Bachelor, eh? Me too,” Dr. Stanley smiled. “You will be briefed for your expedition. Cornel Weathers will do it.” They walked through double doors that closed behind them.

“This is a clean room,” Dr. Stanley said. “We keep it static free. When you travel into the past, you’ll be dressed for the occasion.”

“What year am I going to?”

“1922.”

“A hundred years?”

“There abouts—and you’ll be trying to solve a murder, which will be a significant challenge. Not only will the past interfere with you, but those who killed Dr. Dorian, will.”

“Why is it important that we know who killed him?”

“The less you know, the better,” Dr. Stanley said.

Gregson wasn’t sure if he agreed, but it was the military, and not a community college classroom. They descended on a red carpet to a room, deep underground. There were scientists in white Hazmat suits inspecting artifacts.

“Is that King Tut?” Gregson asked.

“Yes—we borrowed him from Howard Carter. The scandal about artifacts going to the British Museum, was actually us, stealing them, into the future. Of course—we’ll replace them, in time, where they belong. Each time you journey into the past, the past resets itself.”

“Then how did the artifacts get back here, if Dr. Dorian is dead?”

“I told you he was sharp,” Cornel Weathers said.

“The less you know—the better-off you are,” Dr. Stanley suggested. It was becoming a mime, like in Hogan’s Heroes—”I know nothing.” But Gregson didn’t want to make waves with his opportunity to travel back in time.

“Now—look here—you’ll need a kit. Here is a World Almanac for sports betting—you can even bet on the weather—if you want to,” Cornel Weathers said. “But most importantly, your clothes. If you go dressed the way you are now—you’ll be socially shunned.”

“Oh—that’s alright,” Gregson said. “I’m socially shunned, already. Cargo shorts are not allowed on a 50-year-old man, in the past, present, or future.”

“That’s true, but this is a secret mission Gregson—and you need to go incognito.”

“If you say so.” Gregson tried on the suit. It made him feel successful. “It fits!”

“You say that—like you’re surprised.”

“Whenever I go shopping, it takes hours to find something in my size.”

“The suit is tailored.”

“How did you get my measurements?” Gregson asked.

“The less you know…”

“The better,” Gregson finished.

“Now—the last thing I’ll ask you to put-on is this watch,” Cornel Weathers said. “It will help you to keep track of time in the present, and it will draw you back to the future when you click this button.”

“How does that work?” Gregson asked.

“We are all made-up of particles, traveling through space. Your fatness is an illusion, Gregson. There is space inside your body—there is space between us—there is space between our planet and Jupiter. We are all like musical notes playing in time with the gaps giving us the score—a song of existence played backward one hundred years. This will deconstruct your physical body, and anything in your proximity, up to six feet.”

“Wow, that could be a Jenny Craig commercial!” Gregson suggested.

Chapter 5 Murder in the Male Latrine and Madame Pussy, Suspect # 1

Gregson got into the time machine.

“Stanley—you’re going too!” Cornel Weathers said.

“But I get sick on roller coasters…”

“That’s what the vomit bag is for.” He handed him a standard issue white bag.

Dr. Stanley breathed in-and-out, and the doors locked.

“What’s it like to arrive in the past?” Gregson asked.

“It feels like you’re falling, and then you hit the ground.”

BOOM.

They shot toward the wall.

“What are those splatter marks?”

The PI went unanswered— they were hurtling through time, like waiting at the DMV—doing nothing, for 100 years—the boredom broke most travelers, even though it lasted for 30 seconds.

Gregson had the sensation of splattering. “You didn’t tell me it would rain?”

That’s not precipitation—there’s a hole in my vomit bag.”

“Ugh.”

A crowd materialized, like a mirage, coming into focus. Camel dung, mixed with coffee, hashish, and sweet smells waffled into their nostrils like carbon monoxide.

“Where are we?” Gregson asked.

“The race track, if I’m not mistaken.”

Desert sands blew across the stadium, like the sands of time.

When they walked into the men’s latrine, it was worse than they thought. There was shit on the walls, and blood welling-up, out of the floor. Dorian’s body was already decomposing.

“I wonder what the ladies’ restroom looks like?” Stanley asked.

“Po peri and doylies—and you wouldn’t know they do their business there.”

“Men are all business,” Stanley observed. “And the almanac is missing.”

“How about his watch?”

“It’s gone too, and we might not be able to get back to the future.”

“Who would do this?” Gregson asked.

“Somebody who wants to own time. The stab wounds are around the genital region—a crime of passion?”

“Perhaps—or the perp was too short to stab him in the back,” Gregson suggested.

“A woman? Dorian was a lady’s man.”

“Was he successful?”

“If you mean, did he avoid getting his balls chopped off? Nearly. Some men can swallow fire, without getting burned—while others, bathe in gasoline, and play with matches.”

“Let’s look at the leader boards, and bet a few races.”

The camels were honking like swans.

“Number 6,” Stanley said.

“Don’t you want to check the book?”

“It’s not gambling if you know the future.”

The jockeys moved like go-fast boats of the desert.

“Number 4!”

“That was a 20 to 1 bet.”

“Who collected the purse?”

“Madame Pussy.”

“We best be hot on her tail.”

Madame Pussy wore tiger striped pants that flared at her feet. She wrapped a purple scarf around her face, daring to show her ebony hair to the Egyptian men. A walk—a tease—is more seductive than the whole woman. Today, there is nothing left to imagine. Modern women are like a medical journal, with intermittent fast-food advertising. An instant taste—with no lingering pleasure.

Gregson and Stanley stood out—even in period clothes. Madame Pussy pretended not to notice them. She was like a cat who enticed her prey with her walk, with her patient purring, with her dark eyes.

Chapter 6 When the Past Pushes Back

In the crowd of spectators, there was a sudden silence.

“The past is going to push back,” Stanley said.

“How do you know?”

“It’s like the quiet before it snows.”

A rock flew over Gregson’s shoulder, and 10 angry Arabs tried to tackle him.

“Keep chasing Pussy!” Stanley yelled.

Gregson ran after the scientist who was trying to unlock one of the great secrets of the universe.

Their mark got into a red Alpha Romeo, and drove off.

“I’m just borrowing her!” Gregson said. He galloped towards the pussy magnet on a camel.

He was going to smash into her, unless he could jump inside her convertible. Pussy didn’t notice.

He landed on her lap.

“Drive!” Gregson put his pen at the back of her neck, and her imagination took off.

They drove into a ritzy neighborhood where cats watched them from rooftops.

“I live at Number 3,” Pussy said.

There was a Persian rug on the floor and four cats that walked out of the shadows. A painting of an Egyptian hairless was on the wall.

“What’s this about?” Pussy asked.

“Do you know this man?” Gregson showed her Dorian’s ID.

“He was a big gambler at the track. He tried to seduce me, by telling me I was lady luck, but I could see the special kind of insanity in his eyes—bored all the time, you know—and looking for cheap thrills.”

“That’s him—Did you murder him?”

Chapter 7 Playing Golf with Hitler

It felt like prying, to ask Pussy about murder, but Gregson knew it was necessary to look into her dark psyche, to find skeletons hidden there. He put his hand on her shoulder, and she flushed.

“Don’t touch my Pussy!” A voice shouted out of the shadows. Gregson wasn’t sure what to expect—a lesbian lover? The tenor was tiny, and full of steel. A little man walked out, from behind a statue of a cat licking her paws. He had a Charlie Chaplin mustache and an arrogant gate.

Gregson immediately noticed his Luger, staring him down, like death.

“Now—I might be a failed artist at painting, but I can paint your brains on the wall like a genius.”

Gregson didn’t doubt his genius. Stanley was standing next to him, trying to be an invisible coat-hanger, but it wasn’t working.

“What’s the matter? You don’t say anything?”

“I’ve already met your Pussy. My name’s Gregson.”

“Adolf. Forgive me, but I don’t shake hands. I don’t know what to do with you.”

“You could let us go?” Stanley suggested.

“That’s out of the question. Both of you need to die—I just don’t know where to sort you—garbage or recycling?”

Gregson glanced around the room like a mouse, cornered by dozens of cats—desperate to find a way out. There it was. Adolf, in Scottish golfing gear, wearing a checked cap and knickerbockers, resting his putter on his shoulder, like the emperor of the world.

“You play the greatest game?” Gregson asked.

“If you mean, politics, I am creating my own party. It will be a third reign of power, like the romans, with the blood of gypsies running in the streets. The world will die to hear the sound of my name.”

“Actually, I was thinking about the game of golf. Do you play?”

“I don’t play. I win,” Hitler said.

Chapter 8 Negotiating with Hitler

“What’s your handicap?” Gregson asked.

“My handicap? How dare you—you mixed blood—I am an Arian, with perfect control of my abilities!”

“No—I mean, what do you normally shoot?”

“Gypsies, Jews, homosexuals, and anybody I disagree with.”

“What’s your golf score?” Gregson asked, a bit exasperated.

“Oh—I normally play in the low 70s. Although, the putter I found in a Scotsman’s grave has improved my short game immensely. Also, my dabbling in the occult has given me demonic powers. I can direct the ball with my mind. I can psychologically screw with my opponents. I can’t be defeated!”

“I say, you can!”

“Cannot.”

“Can too.”

Cannot.”

Rather than arguing, why don’t we play to see who is the king of the greatest game?” Gregson suggested.

“Okay—but you die, afterward—win or lose.”

“Sounds good to me! Dr. Stanley will be my caddie. He knows how to stand still and keep his mouth shut. And if I pass-out from heat stroke, he can play-out my holes.”

“Pussy will be mine!” Hitler said. “She has always carried my clubs. Let me change into my golfing gear, and I’ll be ready.”

When Hitler left, it was a bit awkward. Gregson thought about running, but Adolf would’ve thought of that. No—the only way to save their lives was to beat him at his own game.

“Would the condemned care for any refreshments?” Pussy asked.

“Can you make a martini?” Gregson suggested. “Shaken, not stirred?”

“I’ll shake you up some drinks—although, it’s going to be hot out there. Dehydration will kill you, before my boyfriend does.”

“Alcohol loosens up my mind.”

“You’d better be on your game, today,” Pussy said. “Let me change, and I’ll bring you drinks.” She left the room, and the cats, hanging on the walls took-on more sinister shapes—like tigers of the night.

“Gregson, did you see his watch?” Dr. Stanley asked.

“Yeah! And we know he has the red almanac. If we’re going to escape with our lives, we need some leverage.”

“That almanac is only good, until 1930. If we tell Hitler about WWII, and his many blunders, perhaps he will let us go.”

“That is out-of-the-question. You know the future would be forever changed! I’ll kill you, before you try to save our lives!” Gregson promised.

“Why don’t I kill him, when we have the opportunity?” Dr. Stanley suggested.

“How?”

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” He revealed the gold gun in his pocket.

“A pen gun?”

“.22 caliber. Many people have thought about going back in time to kill Hitler—in fact, that’s why we’re here,” Dr. Stanley said.

“So, this whole business of King Tut and artifacts was a cover-up. This is an assassination mission?”

“Yes—and we suspect that Hitler killed Dr. Dorian—or the past did.”

Pussy walked back into the living room, showing everything but her pussy. She was wearing a see-through silk blouse, and satin shorts.

“Drink up, gentlemen—it may be your last.”

“What do you see in him, anyway, Pussy?”

“Hitler is such a powerful man,” Pussy said.

“But he’s a failed artist—a vagabond—a nobody,” Dr. Stanley complained.

“You can tell things about a man. He will be great one day. It is not his political position, but his personal power—his indomitable will—his sexual…”

“Don’t tell me anymore—don’t you care about his character?”

“What about it?” Pussy asked

“Do you think he’s a good man?”

“No—but we will have the highest social status in the world one day.”

Hitler walked into the room with his golf clubs on his shoulder, looking like a Scotsman. “Ready golf—better get into my car.” He motioned with his German Luger.

Gregson sipped his alcohol, to get loose. He was about to play golf with a madman. The future, was in jeopardy. He had to steal that almanac. Gregson wondered why he always had to save the world.

Chapter 9 Gambling with Hitler

“That’s the first hole,” Hitler said. “We tee-off a mesa, into a valley of death, but you will fear my evil. Let’s check-in to the pro shop.” They got out of the Alpha Romeo next to a building that looked like a bus station. When they opened the front door, the bell jangled.

“Can I help you, gentlemen?” The head pro asked. He was bald, wearing black sunglasses. Obviously, an Englishman.

“18 holes—for two.” Hitler said.

“Will you be walking or riding?”

“I’ll be riding. Pack a cooler with your best beer.”

“How about your friend?”

“He can walk.”

“Are you sure? It’ll be a scorcher.”

“I’m sure—as sure as my name is Adolf Hitler!”

“German—eh? We beat you boys in The Great War!”

“It’s not over—till it’s over!”

“Come on, man. Of course, it is! Do you need any balls or tees?”

“I’ve got plenty of balls,” Hitler said. “I could use a few tees.”

“Okay. Give me your money.”

Hitler pulled his Luger, and painted the pro shop with his brains. “Intelligent,” he said. “Very intelligent. You see how the grey matter, mingles with the red.” After admiring his art, Hitler left the pro shop. “If only I could put some money on this game.”

“Why don’t we gamble for life and death?” Gregson suggested.

“You don’t have any leverage. You are going to die, regardless.”

“But what if I did?”

“Go on…”

“I know you stole the World Almanac—and it works. Not a bad way to make a few bucks, am I right?”

“Go on…”

“Well, money isn’t everything. It can buy power, but not all the way.”

“What are you driving at?”

“You almost become world chancellor, but you make several blunders, that force you to swallow a lead pill.”

“What kind of expert are you?”

“From the future.”

“The possibility of traveling into the past…” Hitler said in a far-off voice. “I could steal rare antiquities, that would enhance my power—recover the Cup of Christ, and melt my enemies with the ark of the covenant! What year did you come from?”

“Only if you win, will you find out!”

Chapter 10 Inside Hitler’s Head

“Damn—I killed the head pro, before he could pack my beer. Where’s the ice?” While Hitler was looking for the beer, Stanley’s trigger-finger began to itch.

“Not yet, Stanley,” Gregson said.

They walked to the first hole with their clubs. “These babies better get the job done.” Gregson pulled the driver from his bag, and swung it like a sword. “I’ve got to get inside Hitler’s head—it’s the only way to win.”

The PI teed-up, and launched his ball down the fairway. Hitler was right behind them, smoking a long cigarette. He plugged his tee into the ground and flicked his smoke into Gregson’s face.

CLICK. Hitler’s ball was short, but in-play. “I’ve got to increase my drive!” He lamented.

Both of them got onto the green in regulation, but it was Hitler who sunk his putt from 20 feet away, making birdie. It broke right, then left, and right again. Only someone possessed by magic could’ve made that putt. Gregson made par. It was the putter, stolen from a Scotsman, that gave Hitler the confidence to pull-off the impossible.

“Why do you want to conquer the world?” Gregson asked.

“Whatever we do in this life, is an expression of who we are. Most people don’t do shit—and guess what?”

“Okay—so, you need to prove your manhood?”

“Why is that a question?”

“But doesn’t a man press-up against the world, and discover his limitations? To not recognize his defeat, is to be defeated in a larger arena. Why compete, when he knows he will lose?”

“Because, he always believes he will win. He always plays to win. He does not look to the past to confirm his future—he looks to the future to confirm his past. He is limitless—he won’t accept any other truth but that.”

“That’s bordering on hybris.”

“To be humble—is to know your place. People with propriety don’t get very far.”

They played the next hole—a short par 3, and Hitler holed-out his putt. “Birdie again,” Hitler said.  He was indeed, a superman, consumed with Nietzschean belief. Gregson only got par.

“The reason you keep coming-up average, is because you think average,” Hitler said.

“Don’t you think that your thinking, is a bit beyond your doing?”

“It should always be that way. You will be criticized and laughed at, and called arrogant, but your dreams should always exceed your drive. Nobody will believe in you, until you do it. And then, everybody will say, ‘We always knew he could do it.'”

“But what if you don’t do it?” Gregson asked.

“The only difference between insanity and genius, is success,” Hitler said. “And I am willing to play the game.”

Chapter 11 Hitler’s Destiny

On the third hole, Hitler launched his drive 50 yards farther. His power was coming from somewhere. Gregson noticed it, like the sun going behind cold mountains—magical and mighty, transcending humanity—ever more dangerous, because it only cared about power.

“Fuck society,” Hitler said. “A society at peace, is a society not worth having.”

“Everybody is trying for the quiet life,” Gregson said. “It’s a life I can’t stomach.”

“Why?” Hitler asked, intrigued.

“People are trying to be the same. Their houses are the same—their clothes are the same—their mannerisms, and tastes are wholesale. They go to university, and they golf like they have arrived, but they don’t dominate anything. They don’t explore what they don’t know. They are afraid of being different.”

“You sound like me,” Hitler said. “A society at war, is a society where great men can salute each other.”

Gregson knew he was going to lose against Hitler. The man had strength. They got onto the green in regulation, and Hitler sunk his 30-foot putt.

“How do you do that?” Gregson asked. He two-putted for par.

“I have the power of hermits and priests, running through my blood,” Hitler said. “You know, Gregson—you remind me of me. I can’t kill myself. We think the same. I am three-strokes in the lead, so you will have to tell me my mistakes in history—otherwise, I won’t be able to conquer the world.”

“Your problem is, you want to make the whole world the same—you want to make people the same—you will do it through war—and you will bring about what you hate.”

“I’ve never thought about it that way,” Hitler said. “But we all have a destiny, whether or not we recognize it. Our lives are written in stone, and I have a need for power.”

“Do you believe the past can be changed, if time-travel is possible?”

“That would be my present,” Hitler said. “And nobody is going to change my destiny, but me.”

Chapter 12 Hitler’s Golf Game Goes to Hell

Pussy and Stanley watched the two golfing gods waging war on the golf course—dueling with their philosophies of power. On the fourth hole, Hitler hooked his ball into the woods.

Gregson swung easy, and put his ball into the short grass.

Hitler was mumbling to himself about Jews, while he looked for his ball. Pussy went to help him.

“This is our chance,” Stanley said. “We can run for it!”

“I don’t think so—We have to beat Hitler at his own game.”

“But he’ll kill us, no matter what we do—He’ll probably torcher us, if he loses.”

“Something Hitler said, stood out to me—He has balls! What if he didn’t?”

“Are you saying, what I think you’re saying?”

“We castrate the Fuhrer, and he won’t have the power to dominate! Do you still carry a pocketknife, Stanley?”

“I do—it’s a Swiss Army Knife—But why not kill him?”

“Because, it will be like toppling the Empire State Building, and the Past won’t like that—it’ll push back—but if we just cut the power…”

“We take away his potency.”

“Exactly.”

Then Hitler bounced back. His golf ball flew out of the trees like a rocket, and landed on the green. It was a miracle shot! Again, he holed-out for birdie. On hole 5, Hitler hooked it, again.

“Damn!”

This time, he was on the beach! But Hitler loved the beach. He played from the sand, the way he played from the short grass. He wore sunglasses, just to show off—and Gregson thought it was over—all he could do was make par, but then, divine intervention, or bad luck, or black magic intervened. Hitler got the shanks!

Hitler swung. “Damn!”

Again. Hitler swung. “Damn!”

His ball kept going right. It wouldn’t go straight—until it looked like Hitler had lost his mind. No matter what he did, his ball didn’t go where he wanted it to go. Then he picked it up, and the game was over.

“Pussy, give me a par on this hole,” Hitler said. She wrote it down on his score card.

“That’s cheating!” Stanley complained. Hitler leveled his Luger at Stanley’s heart and pulled the trigger. The scientist dropped like a bag of potatoes.

“Cadies are consumed with the rules!” Hitler said. “There are no rules—only what I make them to be. Now, tell me Gregson—what are my future flaws?”

“You should’ve never picked a fight with the Russians, sir. And rather than hesitating at Dunkirk—you might’ve gone all the way.”

“You say I hesitated? That’s not like me.” Hitler took studious notes on the back of the red almanac, and while he was writing, Gregson swung for the fences, knocking the Fuhrer flat on his ass.

“I hate to do this, sir” Gregson said. But he quickly removed the World Almanac and Hitler’s watch. Then he grabbed Stanley’s Swiss Army Knife, and opened Hitler’s pants.

“Pussy—you’d better look away,” Gregson warned. He quickly cut, and then reached into Stanley’s pocket for his vomit bag. Gregson dropped the oysters in—to go.

“Would you drive me back to Hitler’s house?” Gregson asked Pussy.

Pussy didn’t dare refuse the Fat PI. When they got back, there was a package waiting on Hitler’s doorstep, marked FRAGILE. Gregson was too curious not to look inside. It was an ancient cup, made for a carpenter.

“Is this what I think it is?” Gregson asked.

“Let me get you some wine,” Pussy offered. She poured, and Gregson drank. He felt invigorated. He felt like he would never die.

“Well—I guess this is where I leave you, Pussy.”

“Take me with you?”

“Sorry—but my friend is trying to hook me up on a blind date, and I can’t leave him hanging with two females. Perhaps, in a different time.” Then Gregson twisted his watch, and was history.

Epilogue

When Gregson got back to the future, it felt like his body bounced back. He felt fat again, and it felt good.

“Here’s Dorian’s watch, sir—and the almanac.”

“Sweet Jesus, son—is that all you have for me?”

“And Hitler’s balls in Stanley’s vomit bag. He didn’t make it back.”

“Who’s Hitler?”

“You mean—you don’t know?”

“Tell me…”

“He almost became world dictator during World War II.”

“World War II?”

“This is a bit much for me, sir” Gregson said.

“Well—your psych profile told us you can handle the hurdles of time travel. By the way, what happened to Stanley’s watch?”

“I must’ve left it in the past, sir.”

“Nobody will know what it can do. Suite up, Gregson! You need to rejoin those women in the river! You’ve only been gone for 25 minutes.”

There was a POP, and a beautiful woman materialized.

“Who’s this?” Weathers asked.

“This is Hitler’s Pussy. Let me introduce you.”

“Pleased to meet you, mam. I’m Cornel Weathers.”

“How high of a ranking officer are you?” Pussy asked.

“High,” Weathers said. His shoulders snapped to attention.

“Well—I think time has stuck me to this one.”

“Do you know how to swim?”

“Sure, I do,” Pussy said. I even have a suit on, underneath my silks.”

“It doesn’t look like you have one on,” Gregson said.

“My birthday suit, silly.”

“Let’s go to the river, and I’ll drive.”

“So, do you have a girlfriend yet?” Pussy asked.

“Not exactly.”

When they got there, they swam upstream to the campsite.

“Look what I caught!” Gregson said.

“Where have you been?” Murphy asked. “And who is that woman?”

“I prevented World War II, delivered Hitler’s balls in a to-go bag, and this is my Pussy.”

Murphy’s jaw dropped, and the girls were offended.

The End

The Island of Lost Women

Chapter 1 Gregson Breaks His Diet

Gregson cracked his eyes. The morning had finally come. He checked his clock above the stove. It ran two hours fast— it was 8:07.

“Okay, that’s close enough to 6. If I lie here and drink coffee in the dark, I can expel the poison I ate last night, without too much pain.”

Gregson was doing well on his diet; it had lasted almost two weeks—13 days to be exact. They say 13 is an unlucky number, but Gregson didn’t mind being unlucky—it was a lack of luck, entirely—that got to him—like there were no spiritual forces that wished him well or wished him evil.

The doctor called it self-sabotage. Gregson called it self-love. He pulled a piece of pizza from the box, and ate it in bed.

The phone rang, and clanged.

“Who would be calling me?” Gregson asked the dark. It took him a moment to formulate his words. “Hello.”

“This is your buddy Murphy.”

“Buddy—you know how early it is?”

“Have you been eating pizza, again, Gregson?”

“Is that why you called me? To check-up on my diet?”

“Don’t get grumpy, Gregson. I have a strange case to throw your way. In fact, it has me a bit scared. What do you know about the occult?”

“Oh—that’s just a few insecure men who like to play dress-up.”

“I’m not so sure Gregson. I’ve been undercover for three weeks on this island, and the atmosphere keeps getting stranger.”

“What does intelligence have to do with the occult?”

“Occult, means hidden—and it has a long history with espionage. Aleister Crowley, L. Ron Hubbard, Jack Parsons—they all had a connection to dark forces that shaped history. I can’t tell you everything, until you are sworn in by the President of the United States.”

“Can’t somebody else, do it? I’m enjoying reruns of Poirot.”

“Sorry, my friend, but this case needs a human touch. We need somebody who can mingle with the locals. These agent-types have spent too much time in their cubicles—they’re rigid. You have resisted all of that. You smoke cigars at midnight, and enjoy violating society. We need you, Gregson. You’re the only one who can blend in, and discover the secrets of this secret society.”

“Let me guess—the fate of the world is in jeopardy, again?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know, Murphy. I’m starting to think it would be better if the whole thing ended.”

“Okay—I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be telling you this, but this island…”

“Yeah?” Gregson asked a little bit more interested.

“Is a sex-cult,” Murphy said. He let out his breath.

Gregson did a sharp intake of air, like a drug. “And you want me to infiltrate it?”

Chapter 2 Gregson Infiltrates a Sex-Cult

Gregson felt hammering on his forehead, and an inability to think. His symptoms might’ve been demons knocking, but it was the Hot Tamales he ate last night. In the Middle Ages, he would’ve consulted a priest. His reaction was so bad, he wanted to die. Now, Gregson knew he had to eat healthy, which put his fat in jeopardy. Losing weight, made him fear, he might lose the best part of himself. His doctor would be happy though—and his mother too—he might out-live them both. That’s why Gregson had to test his life, like a thousand-pound test, to catch the criminals in the dark water.

He dressed for travel—putting-on his trench coat and galoshes, reaching for his wide-brimmed hat. Gregson glanced at his apartment. It was clean. Over the holidays, he had organized, while watching murder mysteries on TV. It was cozy now, with books arranged on his shelves. A personal library is different than a public one. A city library isn’t read—only checked-out. A private library holds sacred knowledge. A guest can look at the shelves and tell who lives there. That’s why, great thoughts are hidden, like secret light, locked away, in a forbidden study.

It was raining.

Gregson didn’t really want to talk to the President. Presidents are always acting presidential, like school principals… After talking to them, it feels like getting raped by a used car salesman, who tries to sell you on how good they are, but for some reason, you are sore, afterwards.

Gregson got onto a plane to D.C. The stewardess gave him 3 whiskeys because he begged. He was not going to visit the president, sober. The thought that an 80-year-old man could end the world with a push of a button…

Gregson got to the White House and sat in the red waiting room.

“He’s in the hot tub with two girls from Vegas,” a woman said.

“Are you the President’s secretary?” Gregson asked.

“I’m the president’s secretary’s secretary.” She looked plain, like a copy of a copy of a copy, in her black pants, and ironed top.

“Well, I need authorization.”

“Who made the request?” She asked.

“Murphy. I don’t know his rank or title.”

“Oh—we’ve been expecting you. Make your mark, and I’ll stamp it.”

Gregson did. With all the initials on the page, he wondered what else was going on in the world.

“That should do it,” she said.

Gregson felt like a checkmark. It’s the feeling one gets from working in a bureaucracy. At any moment, you can be erased.

Gregson collected his package, and promptly left for the airport. It didn’t make any sense, for everybody in the world to know where the president lived. Each president must have a body double who pretends to be the president. He’s the guy soaking in the hot tub with the prostitutes, and playing golf on the best courses. The real president gets into wars, gets his teeth cleaned (on a good day), and screws-up the economy. All the kids in elementary school want to be that guy. Gregson never understood it. Sure—your assassination risk is higher, if you’re the body double, but each day, you get to pretend to be the most powerful person in the world—without any responsibility.

Gregson checked his flight plan. It was South America—an island he couldn’t pronounce. It looked like a tourist trap, colonized by the French. The French put their name in front of everything, because they are egotistical assholes—French Fries, French Dressing, French Kissing—nobody complains. Without the French, there would be no one to make fun of.

Gregson listened to Chopin on the airplane. Each composition—a dream. Chopin was so shy, he performed in the dark. Gregson admired that—cowardice becomes courage, when it finds a way.

When he landed, it was hot. There was a man holding his name by a black limousine.

“Gregson? Me—no English. Me—drive you.”

The PI nodded, and got in. His driver was about four feet tall—barely able to see over the dash. When they got to the dock, there was a charter fisherman, waiting.

“So, you’re the fool, stupid enough to visit this island?” The man said. He reminded Gregson of Hemingway, but more macho.

“I’m Gregson.”

“Stephon.” They shook hands. “The island is by invitation only. Let me see it.”

Gregson pulled his papers from the manilla envelope.

“Okay—I’ll drop you off, but you’ll have to walk into shore.”

Stephon didn’t talk very much. He seemed nervous, so Gregson didn’t pry. You just never know about people—ever since the advent of the postal service. We are all trying to survive. Before there was mail, we had to fend-off wolves. Now, it’s boredom. You pray, the guy working next to you, has a reason to live—a wife, a family, or at least a hobby. That’s why people at the office ask, “What did you do over the weekend?” They are terrified of someone who can’t answer that question.

Stephon, looked at the horizon. “There it is…” he said. It was the source of his anxiety. “Take a life vest. I’m going to let you swim for it.”

Gregson didn’t complain.

“Don’t worry—the water is warm, and I haven’t seen a shark in two weeks.”

Gregson jumped, and swam for the beach. There was something moving on it. When he surfaced, he saw what it was—several naked women.

The blonde was wearing sunglass. The red-head was wearing sunscreen. There was a black-haired goddess with green eyes, wearing nothing. She saw Gregson, and puffed-out her chest.

“Did Stephon drop you off?” The red-head asked.

“Yes.”

“He doesn’t come around here anymore. We think he’s shy. What’s your name?”

“Gregson—and I’m not shy.”

Chapter 3 Gregson, and the Missing Women

“Why do you need that orange life preserver?” The red-head asked. “We can see that you have a large flotation device between your legs.” She put her hands on Gregson’s chest.

It was true. He could still see his manhood, even with several extra pounds. A doctor told him once, “If you lose weight, your testosterone will rise.”

“Doc, if I lose weight, I’ll go nuclear.”

The women were getting closer, and Gregson felt his blood boiling. Steam was rising off his body, like black-top on a sunny day, after a thunderstorm. The blonde had her hands on his waste, and the black-haired goddess walked like a cat towards him, preparing to pounce on prey.

“Gregson!”

The PI looked-up at the sand dunes. There was Murphy, standing in the beach grass with an umbrella drink.

“Sorry ladies, but I need to borrow my friend.”

Gregson followed Murphy’s voice. The women reacted like cats who had been kicked. They lay on their beach towels, and let the sun soak-up their disappointment.

“Some view, huh?” Murphy said.

“Some view.” Gregson looked back. “Do you think they’ll get melanoma?”

“No. But they might get crabs. They spend a lot of time, down there by the beach, hoping for a male to come out of the water.”

“That’s not how women act, where I’m from,” Gregson said.

“Precisely. The president put this place together, on a limited budget. It doesn’t exist, on a map. Technically, it doesn’t belong to anybody.”

“What is this place, then? And why did you ask me here?”

“Well… besides you being a bachelor, and me knowing you might appreciate the view, strange things have been happening…”

“Like what?” Gregson asked.

“Well…”

“How many women are on this island?” Gregson asked.

“There should be 104, but 4 are missing.”

“How many men?”

“Not counting the governor, you, or myself… about 8.”

“How can there be, about 8?” Gregson asked.

“Well, I was showering with Jeremy, one of the guards, and I saw his surgical scar. It might be testicular cancer, or an angry husband.”

Gregson winced in pain, just thinking about it. “So, you want me to find the missing women?”

“Not exactly,” Murphy said. “I want you to figure out, the real purpose behind this island. Occasionally, we get new women, but never any men. They’re all from well-to-do families, and University educated.”

“What’s your purpose here, Murphy?

“I’m supposed to find the women. The President visits twice a year, for entertainment, if you catch my drift?”

“Why do they stay? They can’t possibly want to be with an 80-year-old man, although—power goes a long way.”

“That’s what I want you to figure-out, Gregson. The governor is not normal. He has some form of clinical background—you can tell. Politicians are slick—but he is prickly, or just a down-right prick.”

Chapter 4 The Island of Lost Women

Gregson surveyed the island. There was a lighthouse on the far end, with several brick dormitories nearby. Volleyball, badminton, and croquet were happening on the front lawn. The girls looked like sorority airheads. Gregson didn’t mind—he was just trying to size-up what he was dealing with.

“It’s almost like the playboy mansion, without Hugh Hefner,” Gregson observed. “Where should we check-in?”

“I’ve been sleeping in the guard’s barracks. The rest of the island is woods, and cliffs. Nobody goes there, but we can take a jeep, if we need to.”

“Perhaps, the girls are on scholarship?” Gregson said.

“But what are they studying?” Murphy asked. “They play games most of the day. When a new one arrives, she sleeps for a week. Maybe the governor knows. Seasick, probably.”

“But all of them? They might be drugged. When is the governor available?”

“He keeps to himself. Periodically, women are taken-off the island, and he signs their release. I rarely see him. Stephon picks-up the girls, and drops them off. Nobody gets on or off this island without him.”

“What’s the weather like?” Gregson asked.

“Mostly sunny, with an occasional hurricane. Your suitcases arrived before you did. Air drop, I think. Let’s get you situated in the barracks and enjoy some lunch.”

The brick building gave Gregson the willies. There were bars on the windows. It was the kind of place one could never get used to, even if you knew every inch of brick. It felt like the person at work you’ve known for 20 years—you catch bits and pieces of their conversation, but they’re still a stranger, stranger still, because you have known them, without knowing them. Whoever belongs to this island, doesn’t belong anywhere else, Gregson thought.

“What do they call this place?” He asked.

“The Island of Lost Women,” Murphy said.

“You’re joking.”

Chapter 5 Double D Standards and Plastic Surgery

Gregson followed Murphy to the mess-hall. There was something sinister about the perfectly manicured lawn. Nobody cuts grass that cleanly—not even a Slavic family living in southern suburbia. Red brick buildings popped out of the grass, like eye soars—blood shot, infected with moss, like they belonged in a different century.

“This place looks like a mental institution for the criminally insane,” Gregson observed.

A crowd of girls moved through them like a flock of seagals, screaming for their testosterone.

“I need to commit a crime,” Gregson said. “I’ve been on the wrong side of the law. Can a man voluntarily be committed?”

“It’s not worth it. After sex, a man is drained of his manhood—too much, will turn him into a little boy.”

“Who cares.”

Murphy and Gregson walked into the mess-hall. Guards were eating island pizza, with pepperoni and black olives. There were root beer floats, and beer floats. Fat bellies, everywhere. A tossed salad was untouched on the table—symbolic—it said, anybody fat, can reach for a healthy snack, and save themselves. On the walls, were posters of war heroes, saving supermodels on the beaches of foreign soil. Women wearing bright dresses—peach, lime green, and blue. The occasional pants-suit, but not a Hillary Clinton look, more like a progressive sexy secretary.

“Something is wrong here,” Gregson said.

“Or perhaps, this place is so right, it feels wrong,” Murphy suggested.

“No. That’s not it. This room is screaming at me.”

“You sound insane.”

“Look—the women are eating different kinds of grass, and the men are eating pizza. Don’t you see the social messaging?”

“Of course.”

Then, a bell rang.

Gregson was half-way through a slice of pizza when a voice spoke. It was manly. Deep. Rich. Full of testosterone and vitality.

“I know you are concerned about the missing women. Trust me—we will find them. It’s an island. I have spoken with their fathers and soon-to-be husbands. There is an ample reward offered, if you know of their where-abouts. Senator McCleary is offering a full-package spa, and plastic surgery option to any woman who wants to increase the size of her chest. So, don’t hesitate to let me know. Dr. Boob, oh—I’m sorry—Dr. Bob is one of the best. He can also rejuvenate other areas. He promises an after-child option, with one stipulation. You must have a minimum of six kids, and then, he will make you, like you are 18 again. Think about the bowling ball, stretching, for hours… Not a pretty sight. Your husbands should wait in the waiting room. It’s a violation of their happy place. Okay. Are there any questions?”

A blonde in the front row, raised her hand. “What kind of Doctor are you? Can you perform surgery on me?” She giggled.

“I’m afraid, I cannot. I am a Doctor of Philosophy. But if you would like me to fertilize your mind, I can open up 30 minutes in my schedule. You will have to make an appointment with my secretary’s secretary’s secretary, and then I can get you in.”

There was a deep intake of breath, from the girls in the audience.

Gregson was trying to size-up the governor. Obviously, he was in command—a superman. The PI waved his hand. “Can I talk to you, sir?”

“Of course, you can. You must be the hired help to find the missing women? Let me know if my staff, or I, can be of any assistance to you.”

“Yes—you can. Is there a place we can talk?”

“My quarters, in 25 minutes. I will have my chauffer drive you to my mansion. Enjoy the pizza—it’s the best in the world.”

Gregson, didn’t think it wise to argue. He was a connoisseur of pizza, and knew several places that were better. The PI watched the governor leave. He wore a Scottish kilt, with green socks, and a purple waistcoat. He had a soldierly appearance. The creases on his forehead betrayed the battles he had seen.

“An interesting man,” Gregson mused. “Very rare.”

“Let me know what you find-out,” Murphy said. “I’m going to relieve my stress.” He walked to the pool, and to the fake sand dunes, where blondes, brunettes, and red-heads were sunning themselves under artificial lights. They were all wearing suits—birthday suits. Clothes were as foreign to them as the New World was to Columbus, when he discovered her, untouched, by the white man.

Gregson felt a tug, at the back of his Hawaiian shirt. It was a woman—very short—her head came to his waist.

“The governor wishes to see you. Follow me.”

Gregson followed her. There was something oddly attractive about her tiny legs. She wore low-cut, olive green, military shorts. Gregson loved, a tiny woman who could take command. She was all business.

“The governor is very precise about his schedule,” she said. She caught him staring at her legs. Then she smiled, through her commanding lips. “But we can take a detour, if you like?”

“I like,” Gregson said.

“Don’t worry, we will be on time.”

When they got to the mansion, Gregson got out, and she waved to him, like an Asian holiday.

Gregson staggered up the steps. The mansion was Greek-modern. Ugly. “If you have money, it only magnifies bad taste,” Gregson muttered.

He was about to knock, when the governor opened the door. “Welcome to my humble home,” he said. There was nothing humble about it. Portrait after portrait of him in masterful poses. Lines of golden books on the shelves of his deep red room, with Persian carpets, and a Steinway piano tucked in the corner.

The governor walked up the steel spiral staircase, leading to his third-floor study. Gregson followed him, looking up, seeing the biggest pair of testicles he had ever seen. Bigger than those in the shower rooms of America, larger than life, like tennis balls carefully preserved in their air-locked tube. Of course, the average American male is not a high standard. And European—is well—European.  Siberia is the last stronghold. Nobody wants to go there, and that’s where masculinity is cultivated.

Chapter 6 Always Read the Fine Print

“What should I call you?” Gregson asked.

“Call me Governor,” the Governor said. “And how about you?”

“Call me Gregson. I just have a few questions for you.”

“Shoot.”

The Governor sat on a red leather sofa, and motioned for Gregson to do the same. A suit of armor was staring at them, which gave Gregson the feeling that they were being watched.

“Do women regularly go missing on this island?” Gregson asked.

“If they do, they’re always found.”

“But this is the first time the government hired a private investigator, am I right?”

“True.”

“And why do they go missing?”

“We keep a structured schedule here, kind of like summer camp for blushing brides.”

“Close to university age?” Gregson asked.

“Right.”

The PI couldn’t contain himself any longer. “What is this place?”

“Do you want the real answer, or the dressed-up one?”

“Give it to me naked,” Gregson said.

“Women these days are not fit for marriage, especially university educated upper-class women. This is a reeducation camp, masquerading as a bachelorette fun party. Every once and a while I have a camera man come out to document some new activity that the girls think will end up on TV. It’s a reality show, but it’s not real. It’s a homemaker’s course on how to be a housewife that I found in my grandmother’s basement a decade ago. We have gotten government funding to do this research, from the most powerful men in the country.”

“Is it working?” Gregson asked.

“It does initially, but it wears-off, as they sip the cool-aid of the mainstream media and listen to their feminist friends when they get back home.”

“Why are men paying for this?”

“Because if they don’t pay for it now, they end up paying for it later,” the Governor said. “We guarantee up to 6 months, feminist free ideology—then the men are shit out of luck. It’s just enough insurance, for them to get married, and then she changes.”

“It seems like this training is in the women’s favor,” Gregson commented.

“It is, and the men have just realized that. Our enrollment numbers are down 50%.”

And the missing women?” Gregson asked again.

“The learning curve is steep here,” the Governor said. “Some of them get overwhelmed, and they can’t handle the isolation.”

“But this island is teaming with women.”

“Exactly. If they spend 6 months with each other in a confined space, they start to act like hens without a rooster.”

“What happens then?” Gregson asked.

“They’ll mount anything that moves. I was ordered to castrate one of the guards by a barking mad General. You don’t disagree with 3 stars.”

“Is that legal?”

“There is a stipulation in the fine print of their contract. It was a big surprise to Jeremy, when he found out. He didn’t let go of his balls easily.”

Gregson made a mental note to always check the fine print.

Chapter 7 Be Careful Who You Chase

“Do you have an idea of where the missing women might be?” Gregson asked.

“Not a clue, and if you’ll excuse me, I do have some work to do.” The Governor showed Gregson the door. “Can you see yourself out?”

“I can find my way back to the barracks.”

It was nice talking with you, Gregson.”

The PI walked down the spiral staircase. Was it just his paranoia, or was 90% of what the Governor told him, bullshit? Gregson trusted his instincts, more than his brains. That’s probably why he nailed more women than a carpenter, and the odds were significantly in his favor. Had he signed any paperwork recently? He was trying to remember, when a blond in pink yoga pants ran past.

“Beautiful day for a workout,” Gregson said.

“When was the last time you worked out?” she scoffed.

“You must be new here.”

“How did you know?”

“Just a hunch. I’m a private investigator.”

“Are you on a case?”

“Emphasis on the private.”

She looked down at his Johnson. “Well, you seem a little slow to be catching criminals.”

“I can give you a run for your money.”

“Really? How much?”

“100 dollars.”

“Can you afford that?”

“It’s my 10-minute rate.”

She took-off running, and Gregson chased her. His cargo shorts were chaffing, but he kept his eyes on her behind, knowing it would take him over the finish line. With 500 yards to go, she looked back, and he made his move. Then he heard her screaming. “That’s not fair!”

Gregson didn’t stop to listen—he touched the building.

Tear were streaming down her beautiful blue eyes— turning red, like in the horror movies.

“Are you okay?” Gregson asked. He went to touch her. “Don’t touch me! Assault! Assault! Police! Police! That man chased me!”

A security guard ran to the rescue. “How may I assist you, mam?”

“That man’s a pervert! He tried to touch me!”

“She’s just a bit hysterical,” Gregson said. “Let her take a shower and she’ll be fine.”

“That’s not rape protocol!” She shouted.

“What?”

All Gregson could think of was how great it was going to be to shower alone with his imagination.

Chapter 8 “Are We There Yet?” The Girls Giggled.

“If the public education system successfully teaches women how to hate men—what kind of pedagogy could reverse this process?” Gregson mused. He was curious about the Governor’s methods…

“If the island is a reeducation center, why are the women going back to feminism on the mainland?”

Gregson toweled off—enjoying his masterful body in the mirror. “It boils down to beliefs. Just like fat positivity. We buy into things that make us feel good, even if there’s an enormous cost.” He enjoyed talking to himself in the bathroom. Some men sing in the shower. Gregson was intellectual— in his own way. He considered the facts, while clipping his toenails.

The Governor was making serious money from the wealthy 1%. He was getting government funding, approved by the president, so that sitting senators could enjoy obedient housewives.

Now, reeducation wasn’t working, and enrollment numbers were down. It was costing the Governor an ugly penny.

“When cultural messaging overpowers brainwashing, what does a head of school do?”

“Surgery. That’s it!” Gregson put-on his cargo shorts, and went to find Murphy. His buddy was entertaining two blondes with enormous boobs.

“Those aren’t natural,” Gregson murmured.

“Oh—buddy, pull up a chair. I’m teaching Cindy and Samantha strip poker. They’re not very good at it.”

“Apparently,” Gregson said. They were already down to their underwear.

“Does two of a kind beat a straight-flush?” The girls asked.

“No.”

“Oh well.” They started to unclip their straps.

“Stop using your little head to play poke-her,” Gregson said. “I just cracked this case wide-open. Where does the Governor do plastic surgery?”

“By the lighthouse,” Cindy and Samantha said in unison.

“We don’t have a moment to lose. Load your revolver Murphy—and I’ll grab my flashlight.”

“It’s already loaded, man.”

Gregson spotted the military jeep by the barracks with the key in the ignition.

“What about the girls?” Murphy asked. “Shouldn’t they come?”

“Damn it! I told you to stop thinking with your little head.”

“Gregson—they’ve been to the lighthouse. For all we know, they’ve had boob surgery and brain surgery. I wasn’t challenged one time, while playing a competitive game. It was like they wanted to lose.”

“You do have a point. Bring them along,” Gregson said. When he got behind the wheel, he felt like a General in World War II, shifting his stick into second. The muddy road was full of potholes. Murphy was wearing his dress uniform. It kept getting splashed by dirty rain. The girls screamed every time. They were wearing trench coats, with nothing on underneath, like female mall flashers, and Gregson steered for more mud-puddles.

The peaceful Atlantic was turning grey, like an old man, disturbing what was once beautiful. Clouds were turning in circles, like windmills.

“Hurricane,” Murphy said. “We don’t have much time.”

The trees were clawing at their Jeep like angry women. The cliff threatened them with violence. The lighthouse was staring into the storm like God.

“Are we there yet?” The girls giggled.

Chapter 9 Boob Surgery or Brain Surgery?

Gregson stopped the Jeep. The lighthouse loomed above them, like a chess piece that could only be moved by God. The door in the tower whispered to them, as waves smashed into the rocks.

“Down below—I suppose,” Gregson said. Who wants to go first?”

“You have the flashlight,” Murphy said.

“That’s right. Good call. Back me up with your gun, and girls—back me up with… I’d better not say.”

“Oh, we will,” Cindy and Samantha giggled.

The circular staircase went up, and down. Gregson preferred going down. It was less work, and his stamina lasted longer.

It was like descending into a dungeon, but then, the lights became bright, and the elevator music was boring, and the drill was unmistakable.

“Are we in a dentist’s office?” Gregson asked.

“No, buddy. This is where great art is created.”

There were mirrors, lining the hallway. Cindy and Samantha kept flexing their silicon, to see who was perkier.

“It’s not fair. We were made the same.”

A soft voice seasoned the hallway like salt—it was as sweet as sugar.

“Leave your troubles at the door.”

“That’s not the Governor’s voice. It sounds feminine,” Gregson said. Then the hall of mirrors opened-up into an auditorium, with a well-endowed woman strapped to an examining table.

A doctor in a medical jacket stared at them through three different magnifying glasses. She was skinny, with bony fingers.

“Can I help you?”

“Where’s the Governor?” Gregson asked.

“He’s away on business. You aren’t supposed to be here.”

“This is one of the missing women,” Murphy said. “See.” He showed Gregson her photograph.

“What kind of surgery are you doing here?” Murphy asked.

“Breast reduction.”

“What kind of man would want that for his fiancé?”

“A male feminist. Mamery syndrome is real. The back just can’t support the weight,” the female doctor said.

“Oh—my word. What is this world coming to?” Gregson asked to nobody but himself. “I’m going to have to put you under arrest. To hurt those babies would be a crime.”

“Look!” Murphy whispered. A drill was exiting the patient’s skull. Her brain was plugged-in like a USB.

“Are you doing brain surgery?” Gregson asked.

“Of course not.”

In one of the mirrors, Gregson spotted the Governor, holding a machine-gun.

Chapter 10 The Male Destruction Button

The safety clicked off. “Gentlemen, if you will be so kind to put your hands above your heads…”

“But I thought you were on our side,” Gregson said.

“That’s because food has gotten between you and your brain. I would like to introduce to you, the woman responsible for putting the right thoughts in my mind, Doctor Evelynn Johnson,” the Governor said.

Doctor Evelynn smiled, like a woman who had finally won. “Men aren’t the problem—it’s years of football games, and cave-man ideas that hinder the human race. As you probably are figuring-out, I control this island. It was I, who cut off Jeremy’s balls. It was I, who suggested brain surgery to the fat cats of America who want docile women to play-with after brainwashing has failed.”

“So, the Governor isn’t head of school?” Gregson asked.

“He is, and when he failed miserably, the most powerful men in America wanted their money back. They were pleased with my plastic surgery option, and when they found out I was a certified brain surgeon, they asked me what science could do for their wives, after philosophy had failed. Ideas change in the blink of an eye, but a computer can be controlled by the programmer. Science and technology working together to save the world.” As she said this, she interlaced her fingers like Steve Jobs.

“But all those women who can’t think for themselves…” Murphy complained. “You are responsible for that. Don’t you understand the hypocrisy?”

“I make sure they do what the men want. They have been wearing aprons, and nothing else, cooking cookies, and serving guacamole on Superbowl Sunday.”

“Why did you do this?” Gregson asked the Doctor.

“For the money of course—and for the fact that I have a Plan B option.”

“Plan B?”

“The male destruction button,” Evelynn said. She held it in the palm of her hand.

It was a big red button.

Epilogue

“Stop her!” Gregson yelled.

The Governor unleased his machine-gun, smashing mirrors with lead—cursing the island clinic for centuries.

“That’s over 700 years bad luck!” Murphy cried. He tackled Evelyn, wrestling the red button out of her hands. Gregson dove behind a broken mirror, picking up a pointed shard. It was a maze of mirrors behind the auditorium where the Governor stood. The PI prepared to debug his brain.

“Here’s a little self-reflection for you,” Gregson said. “Everybody should look into the mirror, or the mirror will look into you.”

CLICK.

“You pushed the red button,” Murphy hissed at Doctor Evelynn.

Meanwhile…

In the living rooms of America, sitting senators sat on their fat asses eating nachos and guacamole made by their obedient housewives.

“McCleary darling? Would you like a margarita to go with your barbecued steak?”

“Would I!?”

His blonde beauty was sharpening the knives.

“Brain surgery pays dividends,” Senator McCleary laughed. “And to think she had me on a diet plan 6 months ago.”

“Do you like your steak medium or well-done?”

“Honey, why are you wearing that plastic poncho?”

“I don’t want any blood to get on my Dior.”

Back at the Clinic…

Gregson jammed the mirror into the Governor’s skull.

They say the brain doesn’t have any feelings, but the philosopher screamed anyway, and then the chip came out. It was like flossing a popcorn kernel out of the teeth.

Even with the mirror in his head, the Governor felt better.

Evelynn was being handcuffed by Murphy. Cindy and Samantha were staring at the scene with their mouths open. They didn’t have husbands to kill, so they were kind of like a computer glitch, frozen, until rebooted again.

Meanwhile…

Politicians across America were assassinated. It was to be a feminist holiday in memorandum of when women stood-up with one voice and said, “We will never make you cookies, or nachos, or guacamole again!”

“We better get out of here before reinforcements arrive. Bring the Governor—he’s pretty much lobotomized.”

“What about the twins?” Murphy asked.

“Bring ’em along. Not all of the women were programed with a husband to kill. When we get back to the mainland, we can go on a double date.

Meanwhile…

Stephon was fishing for sharks. He spotted them, running towards the dock. The hurricane made the harbor dangerous, but he threw them a line anyway, and became a fisher of robot men and women.

“I thought we were going to discover hidden knowledge on this island?” Gregson asked.

“We did,” Murphy said. “If you get married, be suspicious of your wife when she goes to the spa.”

The End

14 thoughts on “The Fat PI

      1. I’ll be at this a while. Thank you for this gracious effort. Geeze, is this a standard I must follow? I’m not nearly so, um, ah. accommodating. Tell ya what I did do, bookmarked the top page, so I can drift on over whenever I’m in need of a Gregson fix. For his corpulence, he does seem to get on with the ladies, the rogue!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Reluctant Shopper caught me unawares. By the ending and by the philosophic/societal turn. Good read. Hmm. Gregson seems to be ever caught on or taken to an island. On to the next installment…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just finished “body Building Bank Robbers” and “Caribbean Hustle.” Believe I’m going to stop trying to stay slim and fit and adopt Gregson’s tack. Hell, it works for him. Gotta meet these ladies who fall for Gregson.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Chemo and thee red flower. A departure for Gregson. Fast, easy read. Missed the babes. Until Gregson told us he’d terminal diagnosis, I’d; forgotten rule 102 for writers: you can kill all the heroes, all the villains at the close of the chapter and bring them back with he turn of a page – because you are the god, the writer! Thanks. On to the next. Tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Slowing a bit. Responsibilities, responsibilities, [you get the drift]. Look to pub and enter paying contests. Less author-slutting on WP. Too, home to manage. Catch you next time. Espie.

        Liked by 1 person

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