A Sense of Endless Woes: [Tornado Man Series #2] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Matthew L. Schoonover
eBook Category: Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: Former FBI agent Jack Monosmith survived being sucked into a tornado and thrust into fame. Now in A Sense of Endless Woes, Jack works for "Griselda the Great," astrologer to the stars, and finds himself the major suspect in the murder of her billionaire client. 206 pages.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net, Published: 2001
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2005
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I wanted a cigarette bad. Yeah, I know it's not politically correct. They say the last twelve years of a smoker's life can be a living hell, what with emphysema, heart problems, and about a dozen different kinds of cancer, but why trade on something I probably wasn't going to have anyway.
This isn't to excuse my behavior in the following hours but to explain it. When I'm cranky I show it and say it and I'm never at my best. I can apologize later, which I usually do, but people have told me I'm Jekyll and Hyde about my smokes. At least since the tornado I am.
It was almost ten hours--ten waking hours--since my last smoke and I was itching in places I couldn't scratch. First off, I don't like flying, and LAX did nothing to alleviate those fears. They have two rules at LAX. No smoking, and don't do anything today that you can put off until tomorrow. It took forever to get boarded on my flight and then we ended up sitting on the tarmac for an hour and a half, waiting for other planes to take off ahead of us. Then the flight, long and boring. After landing, another forty-five minutes in baggage claims--the airport was kind enough to lose only one of my two bags. All through the terminal I was looking for a place to stop and refresh myself but there were No Smoking signs everywhere.
When I stepped outside my first reflex was to reach for my pack and look for the crowd of guys off in one corner with a cloud for a halo and ecstasy--the short term kind--all over their faces. The night was hot and muggy and I felt sweat climb across my forehead and upper lip immediately. I spotted the crowd across the street under an overhang for a rent-a-car company. I stepped off the curb and damn near got run over. The driver of the taxi was kind enough to suggest ancestral fault and drove on without stopping. And me needing a ride. In return, I was kind enough to wave him good-bye with a special one-finger salute. I made it to the overhang, nodded at my fellow second class citizens, dropped my bag and had the pack out. Of all the second class citizens there, I was probably more second class than all of them. Here I was, thousands of miles from home, doing a job I wasn't getting paid for. And why? Because of my boss, that's why.
For those of you who haven't met her or seen her picture in all those ads she puts out, Griselda the Great is a tall woman (not that you can see that in the ads) of exceptional Mediterranean beauty. She wears black when she's working or wants to impress people. She has raven black hair and sultry dark eyes that slant ever so slightly to give a hint of Oriental mysticism to her trained look. High cheekbones, aristocratic nose and lips that could invite a man's temptations in neutral or incite riots at the Vatican when she let it beam. She could also turn her look into something terrible. Most people didn't know this, but Griselda had complete control over all her facial muscles and many was the time I've seen her do something undefined, unidentifiable, that changed her look completely and still left you wondering what was different. She was also a trained ventriloquist, which I guess was important if you were going to be Psychic to the Stars. Rumor had it that she first came to Hollywood with stars in her eyes, but cattle calls and directors' couches dissuaded her. She always insisted on being her own boss anyway.
Less then twenty-four hours before she had called me into her office. This was the working office, not the show office, where she took clients who wanted to be impressed--she had two of those kind of offices. One was a round room with a crystal ball on a round table and only two chairs on opposite sides of the table. The room was all dark and moody and gave me the creeps. She did a lot of business in there. The other room was on the third and top floor of her mansion. The ceiling had been rebuilt in some kind of glass to let in the night sky and stars. Hidden lights, holographic imaging and state of the art sound effects rounded out the special services. It was a room where you could just turn off the lights and stare up at the night for a long time. A very humbling room. I liked that one much better.
The working office was a white room with a couple of computers, DSL lines and satellite link-up. When I walked in, she was cracking and eating pistachios. She slid a paper--one of those rag mags you can pick up at any convenience store or supermarket--across the table at me. I looked at it briefly. There was a picture of me and some print.
THE TORNADO MAN
There once was a young man named Jack
Who rode a tornado and came back.
His memories were gone
His troubles were long
And his future looked bleaker than black.
"Is this a limerick," I said. "It's not even dirty. Where's the old man from Nantucket? At least he said I was young."
She smiled. "You think you are hard-boiled, don't you." There was a sly look in her eyes. "You do. This is me, Jack. Don't con a con-man."
"Is that why you called me? To give me etiquette lessons?"
"I have a job for you."
"This one is different, I think, even for you."
I raised my eyebrows. "How much am I not getting paid this time?"
"In the five figures," she answered.
"What do I have to do for all this money I'm not getting paid?"
She paused, taking her time, cracking open a pistachio and eating it. "The job itself is simple enough, perhaps too simple. But there is a catch. For this one you must fly."
"Forget it." I turned to the door.
"If I forget this, I forget everything. You know what that means Jack; everything as in everything I have done for you, everything I am still doing for you. Do you want that?"
I turned back, a hard smile on my lips.
"I've worked for you for almost six months, Gris. I've made you lots of money. You call me hard-boiled. Well, I call you pseudo-capitalistic. You want others to think you're just in it for the money but there's more to you than that. I don't think you'd do that."
"No? Perhaps. Perhaps not."
"You know I hate flying."
"I know. I would not ask if it was not necessary. There is no time to drive there. The execution is tomorrow..."
Well, she talked me into it. But standing here I vowed never to fly again, regardless of the enticements or threats.
Just as I was looking for a place to put my butt I heard my name.
Every man has that ideal woman whom he can live with and love for the rest of his life. We dream of meeting her, of introducing our self to her and of wooing and winning her. How strange it was that she already knew my name."Mr. Monosmith?"I turned to see a beautiful blond with big blue eyes staring at me. There was awe and wonder in those baby blues. I had to stop and look back because blondes of that caliber don't usually look at me like that--well they do lately, but I'm still not used to it. She wore boots, blue jeans, a simple faded blue blouse and a light leather jacket. They were working clothes and not the kind of expensive clothes that looked like working clothes. I could tell by the way she wore them that she was comfortable in them. She moved very smoothly.
"I'm Monosmith," I said. She looked up at me. There was a time when being six foot tall meant something, but now I was just one of the crowd. Of course, with my gaunt looks and hollow eyes, I did kind of stand out. The second class citizens around us separated, inhaled deeply, and settled down to a good show. She stepped forward."They told me you were a smoker." Her nose crinkled in such a charming manner when she said it. "I think it's a disgusting habit myself." She had a lovely voice and I felt no offense at her statement.
"Then you definitely shouldn't start," I said, politely. "No need to ruin those fine young lungs on something as disgusting as this." I flipped open my Zippo and almost had it to the cigarette in my mouth when she said, "We need to hurry, please."
"They didn't tell me they were sending a ride."Mr. Harbuckle thought it best. He wanted to make sure you were at the execution on time."
I nodded and looked at my watch, completely ignoring the looks of those about me.
"We still have plenty of time," I suggested.
"Obviously, you don't know the traffic around here. We'll be lucky to make it."
Before I could say another word she had scooped up my bag, turned and was walking away. I was tempted to light up anyway and just wait but decided a paycheck was more important than a smoke. I left the cigarette in my mouth but unlit. She walked over to a gold Lincoln Continental and punched in the secret code on the buttons above the door handle. There was a funny sound and all the locks popped up.
I got in on the passenger side. As she started up the engine she looked at me sideways and said, "Mr. Harbuckle doesn't allow smoking in his cars."
"Don't blame him," I said and replaced the cigarette in the pack.
After five minutes of watching her wrestle with airport traffic I put on my seat belt and pretty much closed my eyes. Every jerk and swivel she made tensed my muscles spasmodically. Closing my eyes didn't work so I opened them and decided to stare at something else--anything else--except the road.
My driver seemed the perfect target. Her face was more or less relaxed but I could tell from this angle that her eyes were intense. She maneuvered around a minibus and a van and I cringed on my side of the car. "You do know they call this the suicide seat," I offered.
"Don't worry," she smiled, "you've got air bags. Besides, I thought you already died once. What do you have to be afraid of?"There it was. I had to admire her though. At least she fit it into the conversation.
"Take it from experience, Sweetheart, dying hurts. Once is enough."
Her face tightened. "Don't call me Sweetheart," she snapped. "Call me Dol."
"A thousand apologies," I said. "Doll it is, however, as I recall, we weren't introduced."That smoothed her facial muscles considerably. She was broad-shouldered for a woman but other than that had all the right curves in all the right places. I know that sounds chauvinistic, but I'm trying to be honest. Blue Eyes was the kind of woman I liked. She looked like someone I could wrestle with for hours. The only problem was that she would probably beat the crap out of me if I tried. Fortunately, I had no intention of trying. Still, it was worth the speculation.
"I'm sorry," she said. "Dolinda O'Shea." She slid her hand sideways across the seat, never taking her eyes off the road. "Call me Dol."
I quickly shook it, hoping that she didn't need it for the next second or two. "Dol it is," I said.
Suddenly, we were out of airport traffic and on a stretch of highway that had only a few scattered vehicles on it. Not too many people go to executions on Thursdays, I mused."I read your story, you know," Dol said."You and one point twenty-five million other readers of rag mags and international trash papers around the world."
Now she had time to eye me and the eye she gave me was very warm and inviting. "Is it true?" she almost cooed. Okay, maybe she didn't coo, but it sure sounded like that to me. It was definitely inviting. "Is what true," I asked. "I hear so much about myself I lose track."
"That you saw the face of God?"I laughed. "Sorry, but I hadn't heard it put quite that way before. No, I haven't seen the face of God, but I got a peek at the devil."
"No, I'm kidding. Obviously not a very good joke. Listen, Dol, I really don't remember a whole lot about that night, okay, and what I do remember I'd just as soon forget. For that matter, I don't remember a hell of a whole lot before that night either--"
"That's what they say," she interjected. "That you have no memory of anything in your life before that night."
"Not quite everything. Just everything personal."
"I envy you that."
"Don't. It's a pain in the ass."
"You mean the FBI thing?"
"The FBI thing, the DEA thing, the ATF thing, the IRS thing, the space alien thing and the supernatural thing, as well an assortment of other things--like finding out what foods I like and dislike all over again. Take your pick."
"But if it wasn't for the supernatural thing you wouldn't be here."
For the first time, there was a bit of sarcasm in her voice. I had to admit I even liked that on her."Yeah," I agreed. "That's what brings me here. What about you, what brings you here?"
She was silent, long enough for me to figure she wasn't going to answer. Then she surprised me. "A Lincoln Continental brought me here," she said.
"Oh ha, ha," I said in a neutral tone. I reached for my pack of cigarettes again but left them in the pocket.
"I take it you don't believe in the supernatural."
"But I do," she said, and her voice was sincere. Then she shut up.
"Then you don't believe in me."
She didn't say a thing. Then again, she really didn't have to."If it's any consolation," I said, "I don't believe in all that hokum either. Let's just say I did a poor impression of Pecos Bill and lived to tell about it."
"Then you're just in it for the money." There was that sarcasm again. This woman went from awe to sarcasm faster than a yo-yo goes up and down."It pays the bills," I agreed.
"Besides, in the last six months I've found that it really doesn't matter what I believe, only what the client believes. Think of me as a mirror, reflecting back what you yourself want to believe. Do you want to believe that I was sucked into that tornado by providence or God? Was I saved by divine grace or aliens? Was it fate or coincidence that National Geographic team happened to photograph my landing in living color and then sold all those pretty pictures to the rag mags? Fame was thrust upon me in my darkest hour. No one ever asked me if I wanted to be known as the Tornado Man, or have my past erased from my mind, or fall into disfavor with the FBI, the DEA, the IRS, and half a dozen counties across the Mid-West. Am I a charlatan? Hell if I know. People ask me questions and I answer them to the best of my ability. If they feel grateful and pay, that's no concern of mine. I don't see the money anyway."
"Your boss does," Dol said, nodding as if recalling a lost item. "What's her name?"
"The Great Griselda," I said. "Curandera, Palm Reader, Seer, fortune teller to movie stars and ex-president's wives."
"Is she for real?"
"She pays the bills and keeps the Feds off my back," I answered. "That's real enough for me."
"Not much of a personal reference," she quipped.
"She keeps me out of prison," I said. "That's the best personal reference I can think of."
There was a moment of silence between us. The radio was playing a rerun of the best of Rush Limbaugh. She started to laugh. It was a nice laugh, but confusing."What?" I asked."I was just thinking. You say she keeps you out of prison?" She tilted her head toward the big green highway sign ahead of us.
State Prison 37 Miles.
"Okay," I conceded. "She keeps me out of prison most of the time." Suddenly, I didn't feel like talking. I switched off the radio and leaned back in my seat with my arms folded across my chest. I closed my eyes. I seriously considered eating a cigarette, just to get my nicotine fix.