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 Our Lady Of The Blues

Vol. VII, Clip 7

by

R.E. Prindle

 

      Dewey too had caught the Big Chief at a moment of psychic crisis.  The Hero Of Saipan had come to realize and accept that the past had irrevocably slipped away.  The grads of ’57 and ’58 had no interest in his heroism, in fact, they scoffed at it.  The grads of’ ’59 would just see him for what he was; a fat old man in a blue suit.

     The Chief turned to walk out of the rope locker leaving his seamen behind.  As he walked he seemed to visibly shrink.  Whereas before he had filled his Chief’s suit to bursting from then on it just seemed to fit him.  He still filled it with distinction but it was no longer the suit of the Hero Of Saipan; Dieter had become the Navy equivalent of the Man In The Grey Flannel Suit.  An heroic era had ended.  Let us bow our head for a moment in prayer to the memory of his noble deeds in yesteryear.

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

     Trueman’s act of open defiance had defused Dieter’s hatred of him.  The big Chief now had a grudging admiration of him but he had no way to bridge the gulf between them so he more or less ignored the sailor.

     There were others to take up the slack.  The Second Class, Norm Castrato, when he realized the chief had lost interest in Trueman determined to do something but as he was not a man of action he would only wait for direction from others.

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     An other was Brant Crowther.

     Brant had entered into an area of extreme psychological stress.  The defloration of his bride had been the determining psychic trauma of his life.  The proof of his wife’s virginity had been so central to his identity that he had failed to consult his bride’s needs as well as his own.  His feeling of  triumph as he leapt from the nuptial bed with arms upraised had been as complete as that of Richard Speck on his ritual murders of the nurses to be followed by an equal plunge into the very abyss of despair.

     His young wife did not share his elation at the proof of her virginity.  She had anticipated the pain of defloration and had prepared herself for it but she could not endure the humliation of being penetrated before witnesses.  Nothing in her life had prepared her for such an experience.  She considered Brant to be a perverted monster.  She had boarded a bus back to Memphis before Brant had a hint she was leaving.

     When his bride related the story of his perfidy to her family their sense of injury was just as strong.  Both Brant’s mother and father-in-law had called to revile him in no uncertain terms.  It was quite plain to him that if he ever returned to Memphis it was at his own peril.  Brant became a Californian on that day.

     He had also not thought out the reception his boasted act would receive amongst his fellow sailors.  Rather than being applauded for having proved the virginity of his wife he was derided.  Trueman, who never learned to keep his opinions to himself had been obvious in his horror and contempt of Brant’s deed.

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     Brant now loaded his shame on Trueman as his own scapegoat.  His shame was so great that suicide while not out of the question was impossible to him but a surrogate sacrifice seemed appropriate.  While consulting with his friends, Castrato, who was standing near suggested Trueman as an appropriate surrogate.

     Per the evidence Brant was prone to act first and think later.  He and his cronies set about to devise a plan for killing Trueman.  Castrato, who understood appearances, suggested that they make it look like an accident.

     Brant was of somewhat limited imagination while being more attuned to direct action than subterfuge.  Thus while the ship was at sea on maneuvers Castrato, Brant and his friends came up with a notion.

      The Teufelsdreck had a mast quite similar to a giant cross.  The mast was secured fore and aft by one inch steel cables that were secured by buckles the forward one anchored to the deck just aft of the bridge superstructure.  The upper end was attached to the end of the cross bar which extended a foot beyond the boat deck.  The steel buckle itself weighed ten pounds.  Castrato determined that if they disconnected the buckle and let the cable swing free it would hit Trueman emerging from the hatch on the head with enough force to ‘accidentally’ crack his skull.

     Letting the buckle swing free was no problem.  The difficulty arose in getting Trueman to exit the hatch at the appropriate moment.  Brant executed this as clumsily as he had the defloration of his wife.  He asked his fellow Memphian, Dant, to ask Trueman to step through the hatch.  Dant did as he was bid.

     Some call it paranoia, some call it alertness.  Trueman called it learning to be wary.  When Dant gave him the very specific instructions Dewey was wary but curious.  Dant preceded him stepping through the hatch first then standing opposite looking up toward the Yeoman’s shack.  He might as well have given Trueman a diagram.

     Standing just inside the hatch Trueman turned his gaze toward the Yeoman’s shack.  There he saw Brant standing holding the buckle in his hands waiting for him to emerge.  Trueman grasped that they intended to hit him with the buckle but he couldn’t credit his guess.

     At any rate he knew that the buckle should have been released in the expectation of his exiting the hatch.  Curious to see if his guess was right Trueman stepped through the hatch.  As he did so Brant released the buckle.  In the three or four seconds it took to descend Trueman was across the deck.  The buckle swung harmlessly past him.  Brant was no genius.

     ‘I can’t believe how stupid you guys are.’  Trueman spat out contemptuously as he explained how they should have done it.

     Brant while no genius was neither bright.  He had made no provision for after Trueman was hit or what to do in the event he wasn’t.  Now his position was as exposed as when he had deflowered his wife.  He had compounded his guilt with devastating effect on both his character and his reputation.

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     Meanwhile the buckle was swinging free.  The first swing had been in a more or less straight line but the motion of the ship on the swings caused it to circle.  The buckle slammed into the bulkhead on the port circumference rebounding crazily several feet from the bulkhead still swinging fore and aft.

     Once adapted to the motion of the ship the buckle may as well have become a loose cannon.  Castrato who had been watching like a voyeur at a sorority house stepped out shouting:  ‘Secure that buckle, Trueman.’

     ‘Up yours, Castrato.  I didn’t let it loose; get them to secure it.’

     ‘Yeah, but…’  Castrato began but then realizing the damage the buckle could do he rushed down from the boat deck to try to seize it.  This was an extremely dangerous task on the rolling and pitching ship.  The buckle appeared to have assumed a life of its own seeming to consciously avoid Castrato’s grasp as he fought to keep his balance while grappling for it.  He might easily have been decked by the loose buckle but he managed to seize it on the fourth try.

     He and Brant refastened the buckle in place.

     If the attempt on his life had consequences for the psyche of Brant the effect on Trueman was no less profound.  Any other attempts on his life had been covert; they could have been accidents.  Indeed, Trueman did not consciously attribute Dieter’s attempted entombment in the Depth Charge locker as an attempt on his life; he didn’t dwell on those aspects while he was on the Buoy in Hong Kong Harbor; in his own muddle headed way he could place a different construction on the situations.  Thus, while his reaction to the other attempts was wholly in the subconscious, Brant’s attempt had to be managed on the conscious level.  No sublimation was possible.

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     To say that Trueman was pushed over the edge would be an exaggeration nevertheless his psychology was not so developed that he had the means of dissipating the effect.  In a way he did go over the edge but in a manner that allowed him to dissociate himself not only from the circumstance, but his Navy life.

     Some of the boys of First had made contact with some version of Schopenhauer’s notion of the world as will and idea.  This led to earnest discussions as to whether the world existed at all or whether it was a projection of the individual mind.  Trueman had been asked directly how he knew he was really living the life he seemed to be leading.  Isn’t it possible, he was asked, that he had been hit on the head and was unconscious merely dreaming his life from a hospital bed.

     At the time his reply had been that if he were dreaming it those guys wouldn’t have been in his dream and he wouldn’t be in the Navy.  There may have been some way to prove this wasn’t true but it had been beyond Trueman’s capacity to do it.  Now, unable to deal with such savage antipathy for which he had no explanation, he, prompted by the attempt to brain him, now began to wonder whether it might not be true that he was unconscious on a hospital bed.

     If all this were a nightmare he could tolerate it in the hope that he might wake up making it all go away.  As luck would have it this was real and no projection; there would be no waking up.  However for the next couple months he had displaced reality so much that he believed that it might be, probably was, true.  The feeling lingered with him for a decade and a half.

     The feeling of a projection was dispelled by a leave he decided to take in December.  His original notion had been to acrue leave for his enlistment receiving payment in lieu on discharge.  As he had broken in the summer of ’57 he now broke againapplying for Christmas leave.

     As always the application had to go through Kanary.  The Yeoman quickly passed the information on to Our Lady for whatever it might be worth to him.  Yisraeli did find the information useful.

I Will Smite Mine Enemy Hip And Thigh

     At this time Our Lady Of The Blues found it expedient to hold open house in his ‘studio’ across from the faux Playboy Club in Escondido.  Showbaby Zion had successfully launched the Michael label with his first recordings of Con Creat and the Rebars called ‘Hanging Ten Forever.’  The rather unimaginative but effective cover, effective is always better than imaginative, depicted a large close up of comic toes curled around the front edge of a surf board.

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     The record was what is called a regional hit.  Few copies made it out of the Southland while the record was unheard of even in such close proximity as the San Francisco Bay Area.  In fact the record was barely known five miles from the beach front in the Southland but within those five miles close to twenty-five thousand surfing enthusiasts rallied to the surf and sex anthems of Con Creat and the Rebars.

      Most of the sales were done in eighteen months so Yisraeli realized a tidy sum.  Production costs were less than two thousand dollars.  Con and the Rebars had strolled into the studio at eleven never having to return from lunch at twelve.  It was rough but it sounded live and man did it have drive.

     Manufacturing costs for record and cover came in at thirty-five cents per.  There were no promotion costs and you may be sure Yehouda Yisraeli collected every dollar of the three-fifty-four wholesale price.

     In addition Showbaby got free air play from the beach stations for ‘Hanging Ten Forever’ and ‘Beach Banging’ with its slightly, did I say slightly, risque lyrics.  The two forty fives sold in excess of fifteen thousand each so Yehouda got a lot of bang for his bucks.

     Con had an abbreviated career as, with all those wild boys trying to live life to the max, he terminated from the seat of a Harley going ninety miles an hour down a dead end street.  If he hadn’t died he might have been as big as Dick Dale and the Deltones.

     Showbaby was hot on the trail of similar acts of which there were many so the future looked bright, as indeed it would prove to be, for Our Lady.  With legitimate financial success, however legitiamte success in the record business may be, before him, Yisraeli began to lose his taste for selling pictures of men in obscene poses.  His mind began to phase out criminal porn.

     For the time being however he carried on.  He was standing in the kitchen holding on a desultory conversation with various boys when the kitchen door opened revealing Teal Kanary with a glowing face.

     He immediately blurted:  ‘I don’t know what it’s worth to you Yehouda but that guy you don’t like very much is going home for Christmas.’

      ‘What?  He’s got leave for the holidays?”

      ‘Holiday, not holidays.  I’ve limited him to just Christmas.  He’s got to be back the twenty-eighth.’  Kanary chuckled over his cleverness.  Trueman had applied for the fifteenth of December through the second of January but the evil mind of Kanary ever seeking to inconvenience anyone he didn’t like or who wouldn’t cater to him had on his own initiative declared that New Year’s was out and Trueman would have to be back on the twenty-eight.

     ‘Ha. Ha.  He’ll have to get up from Christmas dinner to catch the bus back.’  Kanary chuckled with a glee that only a perverted mind could appreciate.

     ‘He has to leave Christmas day to get back in time?  Oh, that’s rude, who thought of that?’

     ‘I don’t know what you mean, Yehouda.’  Kanary giggled girlishly.  ‘He got the only dates available…for him.  He was lucky to get that.  Otherwise he might not of been there for Christmas dinner.’  Kanary broke down in hysterics at the thought of Trueman getting up from Christmas dinner to catch the bus.

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     Yehouda let out a couple loud guffaws in sympathy.  His mind began running through possibilities but came up blank.  Heaving a sigh he walked into the adjoining room to pick up a cigarette.

     ‘Yeah, we got this real hard case in now.  He’s a real gas.’  I.P. Rivers was talking.  I.P. was with Shore Patrol.  He was serving on the staff of the brig.

     ‘Hm. Yeah.’  I.P. said swigging his beer.  ‘This guy’s real tough if you can believe it.  His name is Dalton Dagger.  Marine.  He’s in for insubordination.  Slugging his Sergeant.  The guy’s a real card.  He says the recruiters are full of shit.  He says they say they want a few good men but that no real man would put up with the horseshit.’

     There were a couple mutters of approval.

     ‘Well, I don’t know, I’m sure, but the guy’s got a real mouth, whew, won’t let it alone.  I got this electric cattle prod…every time he isn’t looking I give him a jolt.  You oughta see the prick jump.’

     Murmurs of disapproval.

     ‘He’s always talking gay guys down.’  I.P. added hastily.  ‘He either thinks I’m gay or because we accept the discipline we must be and he can’t so he calls us all faggots.  Hates fags.’

     Murmurs of unconcern for his fate.

     ‘Where’s he from?’  Yehouda asked idly.

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     “Bay City, Michigan.  They must take a lot of pride in him.  When he gets out, if it’s not feet first, in a couple weeks he says he can’t wait to get back.  I’ll bet they can.’

     Yehouda thoughtfully tipped his can into his mouth.  Bay City?  Dalton Dagger?  Not one of the notorious Daggers was he?  The Daggers were well known in official circles in the Valley.  They were quite a family of wild people.  A light went off in Yehouda’s head.  ‘Do you think he’s that mean?  Do you think he’d kill anybody?’

     ‘He says so.  I mean, he put the Sarge in the hospital; beat him up bad, might have killed him if they hadn’t pulled him off.  He thinks he’s a real bad motor scooter.  He’s always warning us what he’s going to do to us when he gets out.  I think killing us has come up once or twice.’

     ‘Yeh?  Aren’t you afraid?’

     ‘Aw, Yehouda, those guys are all talk.  Soon as they get out they’re so glad they get as far away as possible.  Besides it becomes their life, they’re going to be in and out until the day they die.  We’re the law.  They like us guards as much as they hate us.  You know, and this guy is going to be back to Bay City, Michigan and who knows where I’ll be.  I get out in five months.’

     I.P.  would get out a lttle sooner.  It would have been better for him if Our Lady had not overheard him talking about Dalton Dagger.  In early December they would find his body in the surf bumping up against the rocks with an electric cattle prod up his ass south of the border down Tijuana way.

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      They found dead sailors down there on a fairly regular basis.  The Navy didn’t worry about it either.  What was there to investigate?  Boys will be boys.  The Navy thought all its sailors were big boys who could take care of themselves.  They sort of believed in natural law.

     The appearance of Law and Order was necessary on base and aboard ship but even then you were expected to take care of yourself.  They just sent a letter to I.P. River’s mom with their condolences.

     Yisraeli received the information from I.P. without a blink but it set the back of his mind in motion.

     He went to find Showbaby.

     ‘There’s a guy in the brig by the name of Dalton Dagger.  He’s due out in a couple weeks on a DD.  Find out what you can about him before he gets out.  If he checks out have him meet me at the Horseshoe.  I may have a deal for him.’

     The pieces were beginning to fall in place for Our Lady.  ‘Oh, my god.’  He thought.  ‘Deliver mine enemy unto me and I will smite him hip and thigh.’

From A Buick 8

     Soter Kreskin moved fast.  Within the week Joe McLean had himself a car gassed up and loaded with marijuana ready for the San Diego to Oakland run.

     McLean wanted a luxury car of sorts so he got a ’51 red convertible Buick.  Buicks were a status car back where he came from and, indeed, throughout the country.  Buick was one of the earliest successful cars.  At one time a competitor for Ford selling as many cars the company fell behind when the bankers took over the company from William Durant.  Ford then shot way ahead.

     Buicks were the beginning of GM’s luxury lines.  Those who had arrived and wanted people to know it drove Cadillacs.  Those who were almost there and hoped people would notice drove Oldsmobiles.  Those who had reached a comfortable status in life and didn’t hope for much more drove Buicks.

     These distinctions were quite clear cut in those days unlike today where you drive an expensive car or a less expensive car but they all look alike.

     At the boot of GM’s lines were the Pontiac and Chevy.  During the fifties the two cars were almost indistinguishable although Pontiac was the ritzier of the two.  Chevy was for the common folk but by the late fifties with the Impala and the later 409 Chevy was pretty much in a class by itself.

     The ’51 Buick still had the air holes in the hood although they were being phased out as the fifties ended and the sixties began.  The fifty-ones had big round chrome covers with a scoop at the back to draw the air through.  The Buick air hole whether simulated or real was a distinctive touch.

     McLean was ecstatic about his Buick.  The car was a good clean tight model.  On top of it all it was a convertible which for McLean was making it.  He couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel.  The maiden voyage included McLean, Trueman, Da Costa and Dennis Whatley.  Da Costa rode shotgun with Trueman in the middle because he wouldn’t sit in the back with Whatley.

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     McLean was in hog heaven as he raced the Buick V8 up the highway to LA at seventy per.  His elation was brought up short when a highway patrolman pointed a finger at him from the side of the road indicating he was to pull in to the police roadblock a half mile ahead.

     ‘Oh damn.  This is it.’  He said quietly to himself.

     ‘This is what?’  Dewey asked.  ‘What’s going on?’

     ‘It’s the cops.   They set up these road blocks to pull over cars to check for dope running.’  McLean explained.  ‘There’s tons of dope being driven up from Mexico.  They’re trying to intercept it.’

     ‘Well, why pull us over?  We don’t have any.’  Dewey said with full innocence.

     ‘Just a spot check.’  McLean lied as he pulled up before a half dozen officers.

     ‘Alright.  Out of the car boys.’  A cop intoned.

     Just as at Tijuana they all got out to stand roadside as the cops went over the car.  They must have thought the weed would be sitting on the seats because they gave the car only the most cursory inspection at most feeling up into the wheel housings.

     ‘I’m sure this is the car we had the report on.’  One cop said in a frustrated tone.

     ‘Aw, why don’t you guys go out and look for crooks rather than stopping decent people like us?’  Dewey griped.

     ‘Yeah.’  McLean chipped in who had stepped over beside Dewey assuming his pose just as Kreskin had at the Mexican border.

     ‘Alright,  Get the hell out of here.’  The cop snarled.

     The boys needed no second bidding but piled back into the car whipping into traffic while McLean’s face relaxed into a big grin of relief.  Still, he had heard the cop say he was sure this was the car.  If they were already unto him he feared he might get nailed the next time.

     He had little to worry about.  Already the wheels were in motion.  The American Civil Liberties Union had already filed suits before Soter sent them a few hundred to keep up the good work while offering his own professional opinion.  The ACLU took the money while tossing Soter’s opinion into the circular.  They had enough opinions of their own and they prevailed.  By the next week the ‘illegal search and seizures’ had been discontinued.

     The ACLU always seemed to be there to block law enforcement procedures.  In the name of ‘civil rights’ they constantly narrowed the range of law enforcement practices while enlarging the scope for criminal activity.  Thus the drugs flowed unimpeded into LA and points North while the rift between the people and the police widened in an ever increasing vicious circle.

     Dennis Whatley was chattering in the back seat about how an accident was inevitable because of the law of averages when about a mile ahead Dewey saw a semi jackknive at right angles to the trailer turning over across all four lanes.

     McLean was watching the cars ahead of him and didn’t see it.

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     ‘Bring it to a stop Joe quick.  That semi up there rolled over.’

     Already you could hear the crashing metal as the cars closest to the semi began crashing into each other.  Fortunately McLean caught the drift bringing the speeding car down while angling across the freeway from the slow lane to avoid the cars piling up.  the din of four lanes of cars crashing was terrifying.

     The car in front of them had just nudged into its leader when McLean brought the Buick to a stop inches from the bumper.

     Everyone was heaving a sigh of relief when the car filled with light.  Taking a quick look behind Dewey saw the headlights bearing down on them at a fast speed.

     Turning forward he said ‘Aw, Christ.’  going limp which he had heard was a good way to avoid injury.  The car slammed into them snapping Dewey’s head backward against the seat top.  The force of the crash drove the Buick into the car in front of it although Dewey came through it unhurt.

     McLean made a move to get out of the car but Trueman grabbed him saying:  ‘Wait till there are three or four cars behind us.  At that moment a car sliced to a halt beside the Buick stopping with its rear fender opposite the Buick’s front door.  Another came up behind that until the highway was filled with cars as far back as the eye could see.

     The sailors got out of the car.  Trueman exercised his neck, felt his back coming the conclusion he was unscathed.

     Miraculously the Buick was not demolished.  The front end had been pushed into the rear of the car in front bumper to bumper.  The forward car was more damaged than th Buick.

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     The front end of the following car had been nosed down as it was braking so the grille had cracked into the Buick bumper.  The Buick was not caved in although the integrity of the car was shattered.  Both bumpers were loosened to the point of rattling while the body was loosened.  The fastenings of the convertible top had been sprung so in the future the car had to be driven with the top down.

     The radiator of the following car had been punctured and pushed back into the engine.  Billows of steam rose as boiling water cascaded onto the pavement.  The car was undriveable.

     ‘Why the hell didn’t you guys pull up further?’  The driver truculently demanded.  ‘And you wouldn’t have got hit.’

     ‘Why were you going so fast; you must have seen the cars stopped from a mile back?’  Trueman exploded.

     ‘Why were you in front of us?  If you hadn’t been there you wouldn’t have got hit.’  The man replied with sanguine illogic as though he had made an irrefutable point.

     ‘I sure hope you’ve got insurance.’  McLean half blurted half whined chagrined because his erstwhile tight little ’51 now looked like he bought it from Jeeter Lester on Tobacco Road.

     ‘Not only don’t have insurance; I ain’t got a dime.’  The driver said jutting out his jaw in defiance.  ‘So sue away.’

     That left McLean in tears.

     Hundreds of people were now out milling around on the highway wondering what to do next in this monster crack up as the four lanes of cars stretched from Anaheim back to San Juan Capistrano.

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     It took three hours to get the toppled semi off the highway then the HWP began sorting through the massive pile up distributing tickets.

     By the time they got to the Buick and pulled it to the side of the road the lanes were clear releasing the enormous pent up stream of cursing drivers.  Due to the intricacies of the law McLean was cited for hitting the car in front even though he had been pushed into it from behind.  When the driver asked for his insurance company McLean merely repeated what the guy behind him had said:  ‘I don’t have any insurance; furthermore I don’t have a dime.  Go ahead and sue.’

     McLean was given no argument.  So when the dust had settled and the smoke had cleared the four men from the Buick and the three men from behind who had been in a ’54 Ford stood glaring at each other.

     ‘You guys going North over the Grapevine?’  Sal Veniti, the driver asked.

     ‘Yeah.’  McLean grunted.

     ‘Well, so were we before you guys got in our way.’  Veneti snarled.  ‘You at least owe us a ride.’

     ‘Bullroar.’  Da Costa exploded.

     ‘Put me on and strut down the runway.’  Trueman sneered.

     ‘How about it?’  Veneti demanded from McLean.

     ‘Well, OK.’  McLean assented.  ‘I guess we owe you that.’

     McLeans’s stupidity was greeted by a chorus of noes as each sailor remonstrated with McLean.

     ‘What are you going to do with your car?’  Trueman queried.

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     ‘Just leave it.  It’s just junk now.  The Highway Patrol will tow it away.’

     Trueman was standing mouth agape that anyone would abandon the car, but, in fact, Veneti was a practical guy.  He couldn’t have paid the towing bill nor could he have redeemed the car from the compound nor having done those things was it worthwhile to repair it.  He would incur the minimal amount of expense by letting California claim it.  He did.

     ‘So how about it?’  Veneti pleaded belligerently.

     McLean was nodding his head yes when Da Costa interjected:  ‘We might as well go back; it’s past midnight already and we haven’t even hit LA.’

     None but McLean knew of his secret cargo.  It was imperative to him to go on and the inane argument that the ’54 wouldn’t have been destroyed if the Buick hadn’t been in front of it carried weight with McLean.  To the disgust of the others he insisted of giving the four additional people a ride.

     ‘How are we going to do that Joe?  We’ve got six seats and nine guys.

     ‘Somebody can sit on somebody’s lap.’  Mclean muttered idiotically.

     ‘None of us are going to that.’  Veneti threatened.

     ‘Don’t look at me.’  Trueman and Da Costa said together.

     ‘Somebody could lay down in the convertible top well.’  McLean suggested.

     When the top was up a large space capable of holding a man was behind the back seat.

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     Everyone was shaking their head no when Dennis Whatley said:  ‘Ill do it.’

     ‘That won’t work.’  Trueman said trying to avoid giving the four men a ride.

     ‘Watch this.’  Whatley said leaping into the space.  ‘See, it’ll work like a charm.’

     Without waiting the four from the ’54 piled into the back seat.

     McLean got the Buick back out on the highway where it took ten or fifteen fminutes for everyone to get used to all the rattles and the wind gushing through the top but the car ran fine.

     The four new passengers proved to be a real handful.

     ‘You were really stupid to stop where you did.  If you’d a moved over a lane where that other was we’d a been OK.’

     ‘Oh baloney.’  Trueman said really riled up.  ‘You were going so fast you’d a hit a car three up.’

     ‘How’d you like a knuckle sandwich, meathead.’  Veneti asked hitting the back of the seat.

     Strangely McLean took all this in stride while Trueman and Da Costa set up cries to put the four intruders out.  Amidst this vituperation the voice of Dennis Whatley emerged from the convertible top well:  ‘You guys want to pull over to the side a minute.’

     Stopping was anathema on these trips.  The whole run was made with no more than a stop for gas.  If you had any problems of nature that was the time to take care of them.  Besides no one but a hick like Whatley would be seen standing by the road taking a leak.

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     ‘What for Dennis?’  Da Costa asked who was Whately’s patron in the group.

     ‘I gotta take a leak.’

      At this time they had just passed through the Stack and were whizzing down the Hollywood freeway.

     ‘You’re going to have to hold it Dennis; there’s no place to pull over.’

     The four intruders kept up their abusive patter threatening not only Trueman but Da Costa and Mclean.

     ‘Let those guys out of here Joe.’  Trueman demanded seconded by Da Costa.

     Still McLean was dragging his feet.  As he had so often before caused trouble then vanished when it materialized, having given these guys a ride he was now intimidated by their threats preparing to endure abuse rather than face actual combat.

     In the meantime Whatley was making repeated calls to pull over.  Finally at the foot of the Grapevine McLean was prevailed upon to throw the three out.

    ‘Hey, you sons-of-bitches can’t throw us out.  First you assholes wreck our car and now you won’t give us a ride.  You owe us, man.  Stop this car and we’ll beat you to a bloody pulp.’

     ‘Pull over, these guys are out of this car.’

     The last threat had thoroughly intimidated  McLean but the request of Trueman and Da Costa had been equally forceful.

     As the car pulled to a stop Da Costa jumped out followed by Trueman to allow the others out of the back seat.  Having taken the men literally both were ready for a fist fight.

page 1601.

     ‘Get out!’ Da Costa commanded.  Then:  “Alright Dennis if you have to go now’s the time.’

     ‘That’s alright.’  Dennis’ voice came from the well.

     ‘C’mon Whatley, if you gotta go, go now.’

     ‘Naw, I already went.’  Dennis said.

     The three intruders guffawed as they got out of the car stepping well clear of Trueman and Da costa.

     Their leader rather than stepping up moved well back, saying:  ‘You guys better hope we don’t catch you down the road or you’ll be sore for weeks.’

     Trueman and Da Costa got the drift scoffing as they got back in the car.  Mclean had not left the wheel having been prepared to drive off if fighting began.

     ‘What do you mean you already went Dennis?  Where?’

     ‘Just where I am.’

     ‘Oh my god.’  Trueman muttered.  ‘That idiot is laying in a pool of piss.’

     ‘You can get out of there now, Dennis.’  Da Costa said.

     While Whatley was climbing out Trueman remonstrated with McLean.  ‘I told you not to give those jerks a ride Joe.  Jeez, they wreck your car and then you give them a ride?’

     ‘Well, I was in their way.’

     ‘Whadya mean we were in their way?  They had more time to stop than we did.  Aftr I spotted the wreck and told you stop we did it.’  Trueman said hoping for some thanks for enabling them to avoid the serious damage that would have ensued otherwise.  It might have been interesting if being towed away the load of weed had been discovered.  McLean owed more to Trueman than the dolt would ever realize.

page 1602.

     ‘I saw it.  I didn’t need you to tell me.’  McLean retorted unwilling to be indebted for any reason to the man he hated.

     Trueman let it lapse but, as he was to learn, ingratitude was characteristic of Mclean.

     The Buick rattled on into Oakland as rosy fingered dawn appeared behind them obviating the need to sleep.

     The group of men no longer hung out together.  Mclean spent the weekend with Chance and the criminal element.  Now that he was delivering his first load of contraband like the smugglers of old he was especially eager to be away where he could be with men with whom he could share his exploit.

     Whatley who was now courting Teresa and would eventually marry her stayed with Da Costa.  Trueman who was now able to spend all his time with Louise wandered over to Alton Clark’s to spend a couple hours until a reasonable time for showing up at Louise’s.

     Walking is virtually a punishable offence in California but as Dewey had no car he had to walk to Louise’s.  He always felt foolish and consipcuous walkng down her street to her house.

     On this evening he found that they were to attend a party.

     Admitted to the house of Jeremy Snyder they found the party in full progress.  Snyder was an audio nut, one of the first of his breed.  He not only had a component stereo system but had installed a full fledged broadcasting quality control room in his basement complete with dual turntables, theater type speakers and behind his glassed in control room thousands of dollars worth of electronic equipment.   As stereo had only recently been introduced he had a complete collection of stereo records, true stereo,  as well as thousands of forty-fives which included every top one hundred hit since 1955.

page 1603.

     He had all the stereo test records.

     This was the time that the Bohemian Beat style was reaching its apogee.  Herb Caen of the SF Chronicle had not yet dubbed the epigoni of the Beats, Beatniks but the descendants of the original Beats were already prominent.  The Beatnik was actually an intermediate step between the Beats and the Hippies.  The real Beats came out of the late forties and early fifties.  Dewey who admired the style was too young to be an actual Beat.  He would have had to become a Beatnik, which he never did.

     One of the marks of the Beatnik was the ubiquitous Bongo Drum.  The drums were a set of one larger and one smaller drum bound together.  They were placed between the knees of a seated person.  The rhythms were beaten out with thumb and fingers.  There were three aspiring young Beats at the party with their Bongos.

     To entertain his guests between records for dancing Jer broke out an RCA test record in which two men were playing ping pong.  The effect, new at the time, was awe inspiring; a complete novelty as the ping came from the right speaker seemed to hit a table between the speakers a second later, rebounding to the left speaker where with an answering pong it was hit back.   Responding to the slow rhythm of the ball one of the Bongo players accentuated the rhythm producing an intriguing beat.  The other two Bongo players melded in.  the sound elaborated into a symphony led bythe bouncing ball to the delight of everyone.

     Snyder who had a couple reel to reel tape decks in his control room captured the whole thing on tape.  He was especially delighted with it.

     As the music began again Louise produced a blanket which she threw over herself and Dewey.  While Louise was not particularly amorous in private she was a demon in backseats and parties or anywhere there was an audience.

     She and Dewey occupied a corner where they began kissing.  Louise heated up pretty quick.  Wiggling around under the blanket she didn’t wait for Dewey to loosen her bra but unsnapping it she then slid the straps down the arm of the sweater.  Quickly removing the bra she stuffed it in Dewey’s pocket.  Without actually guiding his hand she somehow bumped his arm to her chest where his hand seized her breast beneath her sweater.

     The shock was electric.  Dewey had been wondering how to get a chance to try but the breast, as it were, jumped into his hand.  Dewey became oblivious to the scene while Louise smugly conned the room trying to call attention to them.  She artfully fluffed the blanket up to give the impression that more was going on than was.  But she was ready while Dewey wasn’t.

     Dewey could handle making out in public; petting was already extreme for him, but actually doing it terrified him.  Louise threw her leg over him to make it easy at the same time seeming to accidently stroke his penis but the act was beyond the young man.  Besides he didn’t want to get her pregnant.  That particular hell could wait.

page 1605.

      The romance began to unravel that night   because he failed to live up to Louise’s expectations.  She would have been quite smug thinking she had done it in front of all those people.  Dewey, three years older than herself, had failed her.

     Dewey didn’t understand.  He began making plans to find a private place.  Private places were not where Louise was at.

     The party over Dewey took Louise home.  He spent the next day with her not noticing his lackluster reception.

     The trip back was less than exciting.  None of the other three had any of the flash or fire of Kayo Kreskin being rather a boring lot.  But they got back with time to spare.

Remember The Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man?

     It is always better for a man to incriminate himself.  However you have to stand around waiting for a very long time as he may never do it.  A better approach is to lead him into temptation.

     Bifrons Morford happened to be in the mess hall one daywhen he saw Judge Easy and Lawyer Screw examining a punch board, discussing it earnestly.

     ‘You fellows know those are illegal, don’t you?’  He said with a piercing nonchalance.

     ‘What’s that?’  Lawyer Screw said hastily putting the punch board in his pocket.

page 1606.

     ‘Punch Boards…’  Morford began but then stopped as an idea hit him.  ‘I could write you guys up right now but I’ll overlook it this time if you sell that to Trueman.’

     ‘Yeah, sure, no problem.’  Screw mumbled.

     Both he and Easy went in search of Trueman.

     Dewey looked up to see the Gold Dust Twins ambling down the port side.  They had a peculiar shambling walk that expressed dejection and criminality at the same time.  Dewey was surprised they had escaped the brig in Guam.  He couldn’t remember having seen them since that night in mess cooking when they’d tried to lure him into a card game.

     ‘Trueman, hey, see what we’ve got.’

     ‘What’s that?’

     ‘A way to make a pot of money.’

     ‘Uh huh, but what is it on the one hand, and I’m not giving it to you, on the other.’

     ‘A punch board.  Haven’t you ever seen one of these before?’

     ‘No.  Heard of ’em, haven’t seen one.’

     ‘This is it.  Could be yours.’

     ‘Why would I want it?’

     ‘Make money.  Here take a look.’

     ‘Aren’t these things illegal?’  Trueman said as he took the punch board.

     ‘Only if you get caught.’  Screw said easily.

     The punch boards were a quarter inch thick of layered papers with about fifty holes that were stuffed with wads of paper.  When you punched out the wads it told whether you’d won money or not.  The first buyer immediately punched out the winning numbers which were coded on the back.  The boards were so notorious for cheating that people who had never seen one, like Dewey, knew their reputation.

     ‘These things are all rigged besides half the holes on this one have already been punched out.  Probablythe good ones so who’d want to play even if they weren’t rigged.  No thanks.’

     Trueman remembered only too well how Screw and Easy had cleaned him at cards; he had no use for them but convention required him to tolerate them.

     ‘You got the wrong idea.’  Lawyer said.  ‘We’re not trying to sell you a chance, we’re selling you the whole punch board.’

     ‘Why would I want it?’

     ‘We’re only asking five dollars.  At half a dollar a chance you’ll make that back easy.’

     ‘I wouldn’t buy a chance for a dollar; probably neither would anyone else.’

     ‘Two fifty.’

     ‘Naa, everybody would see me coming.’  Trueman said looking pointedly at the Twins.

     ‘Last offer.  A buck.’

     ‘No, but I appreciate your thinking of me.’  Trueman replied sardonically.  His sarcasm was wasted on those two.

     ‘OK, only because it’s you Trueman, a quarter.’

     ‘Twenty-five cents?’  Dewey brightened.  For a quarter he could get his money’s worth in fun just punching out the holes which made a great sound and unrolling the wad.  Just looking at each result would while away an hour.

page 1608.

     ‘Sure.’  Dewey said flipping Screw a twenty-five cent piece.

     ‘We’ll even be our first customer.’  Screw said producing a dollar while eagerly siezing the punch board.

     Dewey was too leery of the Gold Dust Duo to be lured into that trap.

     ‘That’s alright.  I just bought it for a toy.’  Dewey said dismissing them.

     Now the proud owner of his own personal punch board Dewey leaned up against a K-gun and studied his acquisition.  Masterworks of psychology the punch boards were intriguing.  The message on each one was of that type of salesmanship that was exciting and masterful in its approach to the credulous, every bit as good as Charles Atlas and AMORC ads and lots better than Joe Weider’s efforts.  Even the combination of dull colors on the manila stock was artfully done in a kitsch sort of way.

     Dewey was studying the back where it gave the list of winning numbers checking each to see if it was punched out.  Number thirty-six paid ten dollars, the only good number left.  Dewey chuckled at the thought that he had outwitted Judge and Lawyer who obviously hoped to get back ten dollars and twenty-five cents for their dollar.

      ‘Those are illegal, Trueman.’  Morford said standing menacingly before the sailor.

     ‘No they’re not.’   Trueman said with an easy command of legal principle.  ‘Not any more than dice or cards.  Gambling only becomes gambling when money changes hands.  I’m not offering chances and I’m not taking any.’  Dewey replied with a smile.  ‘I’ll sell you the whole punch board for fifty cents.  Whadya say, Lieutenant?’

page 1609.

     Dewey had bobbled the J.G.  ‘Your number is going to come up Trueman and when it does…’  Bifrons snarled walking angrily away.

     Dewey returned to admiring his toy when Red Hanrahan walked over from the gun mount he’d been working on, snatching the punch board from his hands.  ‘All you got to do to get a winning number is read the list of numbers on the back here, a smart guy like me would clean you out in no time.’

     ‘Oh, well, in that case you can punch any number but thirty-one.’

     ‘See what I mean?  Lookit here.  Thirty-one pays ten dollars.  I coulda cleaned you out Trueman but I’m not that kind of guy.’  Hanrahan said not having paid attention to Dewey’s previous remark.  Smart guys never do.

     Dewey thought better than to argue.  He nodded sarcastically.  ‘I see what you mean.  I guess I owe you one, Hanrahan.’

     The Gunner’s Mate was so full of himself he failed to notice the sarcasm.  As an additional fillup of generosityhe gave Trueman what he thought was a bit of privy information.

     ‘Lieutenant Sieggren’s leaving next Wednesday, you know.  Getting discharged.’

     ‘No Kidding.’  Trueman said, who hadn’t heard.

page 1610

So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You

     Sieggren crossed the gangway with the same solemnity that he had performed his duties.  The Quarterdeck was thronged with sailors pushing to bid him goodbye.  Dewey had stationed himself on the bridge to get a good overview.  Unwilling to honor any officer in any way he pretended to be wiping the barriers.

     Sieggren had been a most respected officer.  He had in fact been scrupulously fair and incorruptible.  He never allowed himself to become involved in inter-personal shenanigans but had maintained an objective distance.  At the same time he had projected a bluff sensitivity that seemed to indicate that if he hadn’t known his duty he would have been sympathetic to your cause.

     His reward was this outpouring of what was really love and affection.

     Gonzo Lewis waited at the wardroom door like a lovesick girl as Sieggren took leave of his fellow officers to fawn over him all the way to the gangway.

     No one gave him presents but then he wasn’t an outgoing Captain.  With a stylized wave and a stiff upper lip concealed beneath his bushy blonde mustache Sieggren stepped ashore to walk smartly away without a backward glance.

     No replacement was sent.  Even though not a full lieutenant Bifrons Morford was made temporary Exec.

page 1611

On Top Of Old Teufelsdreck

     Brant had failed in his attempt to murder Trueman.  A certain shame and distress succeeds failed evil.  The deed had already been completed in the mind; the failure breeches the act of closure producing a malaise.  One has shown the real self.  Plus, there is a fear of retaliation.

     A twenty-four hour a day guard of alertness was undertaken by Brant’s friends.  When Trueman made no attempt to avenge the attempt on his life or even spoke to Brant about it he was thought a pansy.

     A second attempt was determined on.  Rather than risk failure by springing a trap or incur blame as the first attempt had it was desirable to get Trueman to accede to the attempt.  They wanted him to volunteer for a dangerous assignment.  Norm Castrato provided the means.

     The same cable that had been used in the attempt to brain Trueman required greasing to protect it from the elements every so often.  This was a tricky job and very undesirable.  Considered very dangerous no one was assigned to the job, a request for volunteers was taken.

      The job required a sailor carrying a bucket of grease to climb the mast, crawl over the crossbar, straddle the one inch cable on his belly, then lower himself down while greasing the cable with the rags.

page 1612.

     As dangerous as that was it was even more important to have thoroughly trustworthy people tending you at the buckle.  Hatreds aboard ship being what they were if an enemy had been assigned to tend the greaser a judicious snap or two of the cable or the accidental disengagement of the buckle could send the greaser plunging to his death.  For this reason the greaser was allowed to select his own tenders from close friends.

     No one could be assigned to the task.  Tradition required volunteers.  Brant and his friends chose the Tom Sawyer fence painting ruse to try to get Trueman to volunteer.  Brant just kept trying demonstrate his stupidity.

     Jimmie ‘the Weasel’ Swindell of Brant’s group had been the man to volunteer to grease the cable.  The trick now was to induce Trueman to relieve Swindell of the onerous duty.

     The previous incident with the indentical cable being very fresh in Trueman’s mind he was naturally wary.

     He stood studying the situation.  There was no chance that he would volunteer.  As he saw it the critical point was the buckle.  His men might be standing there to guard it but if Dieter called them away they would be expected to obey first and complain later.  Once away Brant could unfasten the buckle.  Trying to hold onto the cable with greasy hands as it swung perpendicular would be impossible.  Trueman saw it as a shabby attempt to injure if not kill him.

     ‘Somebody has got to do this job, Trueman.’

     ‘So what’s the problem?  You already have Swindell.’

     ‘Well, he’s willing to give up the job if you want to volunteer.’

page 1613.

     ‘If you expect me to volunteer, I won’t.  Let the Weasel do it.’

     ‘Aah, you chicken-shit, Trueman.’

     ‘Take a flying fuck at a rolling donut.’

A Last Dip South Of The Border

     Parsons who was now compelled to associate with the criminal element aboard was given directions to lure Trueman into the life.  The only opening available was to induce him into a pattern of vice in Tijuana as he could not be induced into possible places of ill repute above the border.

     Parsons only recourse was to go South.  But Trueman didn’t like Tijuana.  Nevertheless after a fair amount of coaxing he was induced to go South with Parsons and three other men.  At this point their names are irrelevant.  The turnover in the crew had been extensive while Trueman had no interest in getting to know the new men.  Faces became a blur to him.

     Tijuana was less crude and vulgar on that night than it was on any other night.  All the other men with the exception of Trueman wanted to find a good whorehouse.  Trueman was of the opinion that there wasn’t any such thing expecially after his last experience.

     They were standing around on the street discussing the next move when they were approached by a cab driver trying to drum up business.

     It is a sad town where cab drivers don’t know all the vice dens.  To be sure, this cab driver knew of a wonderful place but he would have to be trusted because it was some distance from town out on the plateau.

page 1614

     The news of I.P. Rivers body having been washed up on the rocks off the Tijuana coast had just become known.  Rivers was only one of several bodies found over the last few weeks.  Trueman had no idea of the significance of Rivers’ death for himself as all extraneous events are shrouded in clouds but he was next on Dagger’s list.  Trueman had no use for Tijuana and wanted to leave; he was overruled.  He went along.

     The cab driver headed out over the large flat plateau for several miles until all signs of human habitation had disappeared.  There was nothing but daunting desert.

     The boys were getting fairly anxious as nothing passing for a whorehouse was in sight.

     Trueman, every ready to expect the worst, could see them all rolling in the surf.  The cab driver left the road driving out onto the plateau stopping before a deep arroyo which began a couple miles back toward Tijuana broadening out into a wide deep gully at the mouth of which could be seen the broad Pacific Ocean.

     The others remained trusting but Trueman thought the time for action had come, expecially as the cab driver flashed his lights as a signal.

     ‘All right, you guys.  This guy takes us back to town right now or else.  I’ll punch him in the back of the head while one of you guys opens the door and shoves him out.  Get behind the wheel and let’s get out of here before anyone else shows up.

     Now, take us back, Cabbie.’

 page 1615.

     The driver swallowed hard hoping his confederates would appear.  He wasn’t ready to give up.  He said he thought he had the wrong place.

     ‘No, senors.  That’s alright.  I thing I got the wrong place.  Further up…’

     ‘No.  Not further up.  Back to Tijuana now if you want to get back alive.’  Trueman threatened.

     The driver was all brass; he appealed to the others over Trueman’s head but by this time most had realized the driver’s game.  Still attempting to persuade them of his mythical whorehouse he drove protesting all the way back to town.

     ‘Enough for me; I’m leaving.’  Trueman said matter-of-factly as they got out of the car.  ‘I’ve had enough of this place, I’m not coming back.’

     From the Roses Of Old Japan to an empty field in Tijuana Dewey had seen as much of whore houses as he would ever see.  The first had been the best.  From then on it had been a progressive slide to nothing.  Enough was enough.  Nor could Trueman ever be persuaded to go South again.  Attempts were made to get him to down to Ensenada, fifty miles down the coast where ‘the real Mexico’ was but he could see himself getting stranded in Ensenada too far from the border for safety.  He wasn’t a drinker and he wasn’t a brawler; he left Mexico to the desperadoes.

page 1616.

Banker Trueman

     The opportunity to implicate Trueman in illegal activities presented by Screw and Easy and their punch board had set Morford’s mind to working.  His recent elevation to acting Executive Officer expanded his opportunities.  There was one less check on him.  With the integrity of Sieggren removed he felt more confidence in being able to manipulate Captain Gabriel Ratches.

     There was a practice common throughout the Navy that was frowned on but seldom acted against.  This was the practice of banking or loan sharking depending on which side of the fence you were.

     The least provident of the sailors who had spent their pay but wished to revel in the space between when their cash ran out and the next payday would borrow at what appeared to be sensationally exorbitant rates.  Six for five was prevalent throughout the fleet but on the Teufelsdreck the going rate was seven for five.  In other words if you borrowed five dollars three, two or even one day before payday you undertook to return seven.

     As with all weak willed persons the borrowers reviled the lenders.  To become a banker to some extent was to become a pariah.  Nevertheless wherever there are borrowers willing to make such a seemingly generous return there are sure to be lenders.

page 1617.

     Dewey was aware that there were one or two bankers aboard but as he husbanded his resources carefully to get from payday to payday he had no need for their services nor did the inclination to reward them so handsomely appear desirable to his mind.

     But now interested parties showed up to encourage Trueman to undertake the role of banker.  He was adverse to the proposal.  He was the sort that felt guilty when he didn’t pay his debts but having observed his shipmates carefully for nearly two years he had come to the conclusion that he was unique.

     He wasn’t big enough and tough enough to act as his own enforcer and he wasn’t going to share his earnings, if any, with anyone who was.

     Besides he wasn’t stupid.  To enforce is to engage in violence or the threat of violence.  To his observation anyone who did so sooner or later ran afoul of the law.    But beyond his ken the thing became somewhat of a joke others trying to lure him into it for reasons of their own.

     He was assured by various and sundry that collecting would be no problem because anyone who didn’t pay wouldn’t be able to borrow again.   This was true and persuasive to Trueman who didn’t follow the reasoning to the end that having burned him once they would willingly forfeit the chance to cheat him twice.

     Nevertheless he was given good advice:  Always lend to the chronically improvident.  They have to pay because they know they will need the service again.  Good advice but seed that falls on unprepared ground never returns a good crop.  Dewey’s mind wasn’t attuned to the niceties of banking nor did he know who the least provident were.

page 1618

     He had no fear of incurring the displeasure of those who were already displeased with him.  And, once again, as he looked around he saw only firendships of convenience while nearly everyone seemed to despise everyone else.  He didn’t care whether they liked him or not.

     With the optimistic vision that was characteristic of him his mind turned the twenty dollars he was willing to venture into returns of hundreds of dollars within a few short months.  That could have been done but not by Dewey.

     While the other bankers were very discreet about the services they offered Dewey was blatant.  He saw nothing immoral with it as, indeed, there wasn’t.  He therefore saw no reason to disguise his activity.

     He loaned out twenty-five dollars in all.  Two of the loans went out to the terminally improvident which prompthly returned him fourteen dollars.

     One of the men in on the joke was Van Wye, another was Red Hanrahan.  Dewey was reluctant to lend to Van Wye who he knew much better than to trust, but he reluctantly gave in.  He also didn’t want to lend to Hanrahan who was among the toughest men on board, if not the toughest.  Dewey saw no possiblity of collecting if Red didn’t want to pay.  Red took ten.

     As he feared, Van Wye refused to pay, that is put him off.  Red Hanrahan also had excuses why he needed the money longer.  He refused to add the extra two dollars for the additional paydays.

page 1619.

      Now the joke got into full swing.  Without enforcement, collecting was reduced to a form of begging wihich was both comic to his detractors and uncomfortable if not humiliating to himself.  Displeased with the figure he was cutting to himself he terminated his career as Banker.

     Van Wye was transferred for discharge leaving Trueman high and dry with the promise that he would send him the money when he got back to San Francisco.  That was five dollars lost.

     Hanrahan kept putting him off until it was time for Dewey’s leave on December 13 when he took Dewey’s address and said that he would mail the money to him at home.

     So, as of December 13th Dewey had loaned out twenty-five and recovered fourteen.  Not a good record for a banker nor was the money he had loaned covered by the seemingly exorbitant rate of interest.  On the other hand his early discouragement  had kept Morford from being able to adduce loan sharking against him.

     There was more to it than that.  Morford would have to seek other opportunities.

     Bifrons himself was walking a narrow line.  Once back in the States he had taken up his gambling career in Las Vegas.  The high wild life had allure for him.  He was spending nearly every weekend in Vegas gambling, employing some really beautiful women for his pleasures, while watching Atom Bombs being exploded out in the desert at four in the morning through the windows of his hotel room.

page 1620

     The irony was that while he was trying to set Trueman up for loan sharking he was leaving a mounting debt of IOUs with the Mafia loansharks of Vegas.  Those guys were much more effective enforcers than Trueman would ever have dreamed of being.

Duelin’ Dalton Daggers Rides Again

     Showbaby Zion following his boss’s orders had checked out the desperado, Dalton Dagger.  The man was found to be a gun for hire.  Yisraeli had instructed Showbaby to have Dagger meet him at the Diamond Horseshoe.  Not content to merely bring Dagger to the Horseshoe, Yehouda arranged to have one of his homo accomplices bring Trueman on the same night so he could be pointed out to Dagger.

     Our Lady considered himself a clever and powerful man.  Oddly he didn’t adopt the role of Mastermind he only thought himself very smart.  Then as now there was a fairly sizable group of unsuccessful men who pulled strings behind the scenes as Masterminds.  They would try to control the floor of, say, a supermarket, directing the employees for their own ends against the interests of the successful men who ran the market.  Or they might control a ring of ‘operatives’ to harass and injure anyone they had developed a spite for; perhaps to break down a man or woman so that the victims would have sexual relations with the Mastermind to get rid of him.

     Yisraeli and Showbaby were sitting at a table against the wall so as to have a clear vision of the door.  The door opened to disclose a ferocious looking Trueman accompanied by Yisraeli’s appointed cicerone, Yale Hardy.  Both were dressed in civilian clothes.  Trueman had on his charcoal flannels and light grey lamb’s wool sweater pulled over a pink butttoned down Oxford cloth shirt; just as though he were back at high school in his home town.

     On his feet he had his Pat Boone white bucks.  They had now been so stretched by the repeated clandestine use of Joe McLean that they were three sizes too big for him, flapping loosely and ludicrously around his feet.  They had now been smudged and discolored to the point where the powder sachet would no longer obliterate the discoloration.  He should have thrown them out but even though a Privileged White Boy he didn’t have the money for a new pair.

     Although well meaning men from Operations had explained to him why the shoes were stretched and discolored but Dewey refused to believe that his friend, McLean, would so such a thing although they had no reason to lie to him.  In fact they were trying to wake him up to protect himself.

     Trueman’s so-called friend, Joe McLean, had observed the combination of Dewey’s lock and routinely wore whatever of Trueman’s that fit while Trueman was aboard.  As a criminal McLean disregarded Trueman’s rights having had the shoes stretched to fit his own feet.

page 1622.

     What another man would have considered friendship and loyalty, McLean considered simplicity.  He could barely restrain himself from laughing at Trueman whenever he was around him. 

      Thus Trueman’s attitude was exacerbated by these absurd shoes which he had trouble keeping on his feet.  He had been unwilling to come all the way to Escondido for an evening but Yale Hardy had promised him that the Diamond Horseshoe was quite a place.

     Trueman was immediately enraged when he realized that he had been brought to a low class strip joint.  As Yisraeli watched with bright and glowing hatred Trueman turned on Hardy:  ‘This is nothing but some degenerate strip joint, Hardy.’  Trueman said much too loudly.  ‘The broad’s not even good looking.  Look she’s skinny as a rail with sagging boobs.’

     Overhearing this, the piano player slowed to a pale tinkle; the fat bartender glared at him balefully while the stripper flipped him the bird.

     ‘Hah! To you too.  C’mon Hardy drive me back.’

     Looking at Yisraeli Hardy saw him shake his head no.

     ‘You’ll have to make it back on your own Trueman, I’m staying.’

     ‘Bull, man.  You got me out here to this godforsaken place, now get me back.’

     ‘Uh uh.’  Hardy hummed shaking his head no.

     ‘Well, don’t bother to ask me to go anywhere with you again.’  Trueman said stepping back into the night to find his way to San Diego as best he could.

page 1623.

     Hardy shrugged his shoulders at Yisraeli stepping to the bar  ordered a drink.  His Tom Collins had just been placed before him when the door of the Horseshoe was flung violently open.  The usual sparse crowd looked up in anticipation.  The bouncer stood erect.  For a moment no one entered as everyone waited with bated breath.  Then a savage form stepped over the threshold in a belligerent posture.

     ‘Duelin’ Dalton Daggerz is here.’  The form announced in a defiantly abrasive brazen manner as if to challenge everyone in the place on the spot.  No one got up to answer the challenge.

     Yisreali and Showbaby who had been talking over their drinks stared in disbelief.  The guy might be more than Our Lady had bargained for.  Yisraeli lowered his dark glasses for a moment to get a surer fix on this phenom then stood up and called him over.

     ‘Hello, Duelin’ Dalton Dagger,  I’m Barry.  I think you know this fellow he said indicating Showbaby.  He had forgotten the name Zion had used in his interview with Dagger.

     ‘Hi.  Morrie.’  Showbaby reintroduced himself covering for Yisraeli.

     Dagger grunted derisively.

     ‘Is your name Dagger or Daggers as you announced upon your entrance.  Perhaps I’ve been incorrectly informed it was in the singular.’

     Yisraeli’s question was both too poiitely put and too literate for the illiterate ex-Marine.  Dagger failed to understand it so he snarled defensively:  My name is whatever I say it is, Jack.’

     ‘To be sure, uh, to be sure, Duelin’ Dalton Daggers.’  Our Lady said in wonderment, looking sideways at Showbaby.

     ‘What’ll you have Dalton?  I’m buying.  Morrie and I have to go to the toilet.  Back in a minute.’

     ‘Damn right you’ll buy.  I’m only here because you asked me to.  I’ll have  two JD’s on the rocks.  Pronto!’

     ‘OK, why not just have a double?’

     ‘Double, hell, give me a triple.’

     ‘Al, a triple JD on the rocks for our friend here.’  Yehouda called across to the bartender with a wink.

     As Yisraeli and Showbaby disappeared into the toilet they could hear Dalton shouting at the exotic dancer:  ‘Hey, nice tits, honey.  Do a couple turns clockwise and then a couple the other way.  Better yet get each one going in the opposite directions for me.’

     She was delighted at Dalton’s manner, quickly shimmying each one in different directions to Dalton’s hooting delight.

     ‘Oh my god.  You didn’t tell me we were dealing with a wild man.’  Yisraeli gasped to Showbaby.

     ‘Well, my god, he was rough when I talked to him but I didn’t have any idea he was like this.  My god, what a ridiculous entrance.’

     ‘What I mean is, do you really think we can use him?  It would be disastrous if anything came back to us?’

     ‘Sure, Yehouda, but we aren’t going to find a ‘gentleman’ to do this.  You kind of have to take them as they come.  Besides, if everything goes right they won’t be able to trace it back to you.  We use phony names, pay him in cash, he does the job somewhere out on the highway.  Years pass before it’s discovered, if at all, and we’re home free.  I say he’s perfect just because he is so crazy.  Who whould ever believe him?  Who can believe him?  I don’t right now.’

page 1625

     ‘Yeah.  Well, all the other considerations are too perfect and won’t come around again so it’s take this guy or miss the chance.  Maybe you’re right.  Let’s go.’

     ‘I put another triple on your tab, bud.  By the way, what’s your name again?’  Dalton said belligerently and provocatively testing Yesraeli to see if he could come up with the same name two times running.  Yisraeli was rattled and couldn’t.

     Yisraeli shook his head.  It was like this guy had just come in and they would have to start over.  Yisraeli made a classic mistake.  He had overestimated himself and underestimated Dagger.

     ‘OK.  Let’s start over.  Cornelius, Mr. Dagger, John Cornelius.  If you didn’t get Bill’s last name it’s Chrovane.  He’s Italian.’

     ‘Italians suck.  What do you want with me?’

     Yisraeli was taken back by the bluntness of Dalton’s observation.

     ‘Say, you’re a pretty tough guy.’  Yehouda said.

     ‘You don’t know the half of it, Bird.  Look in the dictionary under tough and you’ll find a little picture of me beside it.’  Dalton gave a knowing leer expecting laughter to follow his trite cleverness.  It did.

     ‘Just how tough are you, Duelin Dalton Daggerz?  Ever backed down in a fight?’

     ‘Hey…’  Dalton raised a fist at Yisraeli.

     ‘Just a question, Dalton, just curious.  It’s important that we know, if we employ you.  We have to be sure that you’re tough enough to be our man.’

     ‘Hell no, I ain’t never backed down in a fight.  I just got out of the brig for damn near stompin’ a sergeant to death.  Didn’t I?  Crane here knows that, I thought that was why you wanted to see me.’

     In his egocentricity in testing Dagger, Our Lady, as usual in these cases assumed that he was intelligent and Dalton stupid.  Thus he failed to notice that he failed Dagger’s test in failing to correct him in misstating Showbaby’s pseudonym.  In fact Dagger had kept a log of the various name changes.  He now knew he was dealing with duplicitous men who couldn’t be trusted.  In other words, they might double cross him before he could double cross them.

     ‘Yes, of course, that’s it.  You say you almost beat the sergeant to death?’

     ‘Yeah.  I would have if they hadn’t pulled me off of him.’

     ‘You think then that you could really kill a man?’

     ‘Yeah, I could.’  Dagger said with a mysterious mocking smile as though intending Yisraeli to assume that he already had.

     ‘I mean…uh…in cold blood?  Not in the heat of the moment but…I mean…with cool calculation?’

     ‘I make my own heat wherever I go.’  Dagger spat out contempuously.  ‘I’m not stupid.  I know what you mean.’

     Yisraeli should have heeded the meaning behind the I’m not stupid.  Dalton looked Our Lady in the eye, his lower lip drooped and he said:  ‘I could kill you right here, right now and it wouldn’t bother me a bit.’

     There was a certain sincerety in Dagger’s tone that reduced Yehouda to silence.

     Showbaby picked it up saying less insultingly and more diplomatically:  ‘Do you think you could kill someone for money?’

     ‘Special for money.’  Dagger’s eyes lit up at the thought of being a hired gun.  In his own perverted way he saw himself as Shane or Hondo.

     ‘Well, maybe we can work things out.’  Showbaby replied.

     ‘Maybe.  You got the money, I got the time.’

     ‘When I talked to you last you said you were from Bay City, Michigan and you were going back, right?’

     ‘You callin’ me a liar?’  Duelin’ Dalton said fixing an eye on Showbaby.

     ‘Hell no, I’m not calling you a liar.  You just said your name was whatever you said it was so I just figured you’re from wherever you say you are.  I was just checking to see if you still came from the same place, that’s all.  Simmer down.’

     ‘Yeah, OK, you’re right.  So what?’

     ‘There’s somebody that’s been giving me trouble for a long time.  I want to put a stop to it.  Yisraeli reentered.

     ‘So?’

     ‘He’s from the Valley, fifteen miles before you get to Bay City.  He’s in the Navy here and he’s going back home on leave real quick.  I think he’s been talked into hitchhiking back.  If someone picked him up on the highway, snuffed him and burried his body somewhere out there no one would ever know and it would be worth something to me.’

     ‘How much something?’  Dagger demanded in a knowingly belligerent way.

     Yisraeli as usual was going to try to finesse something for nothing so he said:  ‘How much do you think would be right?’    He expecterd Dagger to mention one or two hundred dollars.

     Dalton didn’t hesitate:  ‘One hundred thousand dollars.’

     ‘A hun…no, no man.  Nobody gets paid a houndred thou for this sort of thing.’  Showbaby remonstrated.

     ‘I do.’  Dagger said hopefully.

     ‘No, Dalton, listen to me.  If this guy were important and difficult to get to, maybe, ten thousand.  But we’re going to set this whole thing up for you.  All you have to do is pick him up drive him into the desert and off him.’

     ‘If he ain’t important to you why you want him killed?’

     There was a certain powerful logic to Dalton’s question.

     ‘He is important to me, but only to me.  Listen Dalton, three Gs is tops.’

     Dalton sat silently for a moment.  He was torn between a desire for a lot of money and the feeling of superiority that comes from taking another man’s life; you’ve fucked him and you’ve fucked him for good.

     ‘I want five thousand dollars cash on the barrelhead, son.’  He said subdued and sullen.

     ‘I’ll give you four Dalton.  Two down and two when you’ve finished it.’

     ‘Yeah.  But, see, I’m the one goes to the chair if I get caught.’

     ‘Who’s going to catch you, Dalton?  Middle of the night you pull into a side road, szzzt, bury the body and that’s it.’  Yisraeli had an inspiration.  ‘Besides, he’s going on leave.  He’s sure to have a couple hundred extra on him.  Take it.  It’s all yours.  We don’t want any of it.’

     ‘Couple hundred? ‘  At the thought of plundering his victim Duelin’ Dalton’s savage brain forgot the big money and concentrated on the change.  ‘Yeah?  Well, maybe…’

     ‘Done.  It’s a deal.  Right?  Shake, buddy.’

     Dalton shook on it, downed another triple.  He walked out forgetting to get his two grand down.  Our Lady chuckled sure he could chump Dalton out of all but a fraction.

Painting By The Numbers

     The February discharge date of Blaise Pardon was looming largely on his horizon.  Pardon concealed his desire but he desperately wanted to make Chief before he left.  What the hell, they were going to retire him as a Chief, what difference would it make if he was made Chief for his last couple months just to flatter him?  His yearning to bunk in the Chief’s quarters became a burning desire now that he knew it could never be attained.

 

     

    

 

  

    

    

 

 

 

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