Kindle Edition - Free. From 10/06/14 to 10/08/14.
Kindle Edition - Free. From 10/06/14 to 10/08/14.
Private Eye Ramone Ramone is approached one night by a mysterious woman offering him $10,000 to find a rare book. It seems her son has joined a cult and offered its guru a family heirloom: an original copy of The Corsican Dove. Ramone soon discovers that the book is worth less than a carton of cigarettes. With the murders of five interested parties, death threats to Ramone and his drug dealing partner, he learns there are some heavy hitters out there that have no intention of letting Ramone get his hands on The Corsican Dove. How can a $7.00 book be worth dying for?
THE CORSICAN DOVE
Thanks to Dashiell Hammett. “He was thin, walked with a stick, and was the only private dick I knew who used the pockets of his sport coat. Maybe that means something, maybe not.” Ramone Ramone, 2013.
Client Number One
Okay, she was good looking, enough to catch my attention even without all the style and the show of money. But that’s not why I took the case.
I took it because I'm an idiot. She just looked like the type of dame that usually got everything she wanted, and like most rich pretty women, she didn’t usually have to do much to get it. Maybe I just wanted to show her how things worked in my world. Maybe. I should have showed her the street.
“You are Mr. Ramone, no? Mr. Ramone Ramone?”
I pretended I was a receptionist for one of the departments at City Hall. I didn’t look up from my desk. “That depends, Sugar. Who are you and what do you want?”
“My name is Tatia.”
I kept shuffling the two pieces of paper in front of me as many different ways as I could think of, then finally looked up.
“Tatia, huh? Your parents get tongue tied when they named you, sweetheart, or is that it?”
She stuttered a bit, probably taken aback by my ear for detail. “Of course that is not my only name. I am, how you say, not calm. Maybe if I had a cigarette or two, I could answer your questions better.”
“Well, I tell you what. I am not, how you say, Phillip Morris, so I’ll give you one smoke and hear what you have to say.” I pulled out my bag of Bull Durham and some cigarette papers. I rolled two. I carefully measured out the tan tobacco flakes in equal quantities at both ends with a slight depression in the middle of the butt. My overly-large fingers rolled the paper up and down, and I finally licked the flap with my tongue. My left thumb and index finger held their ends to prevent the tobacco from falling out, and the right thumb and fore finger smoothed the damp seam. I passed it over to Tatia. I was still waiting for the nom de famille to be revealed as I rolled my own smoke.
“Can I sit?”
“Up to you, Peaches. Your dime.” I kept rolling.
“I knew you would be a kind man.” She sat down and crossed her legs like a welter weight.
As I was checking out the designer tag on her underwear, I said, “I can be any kind of man you want, Sweetheart, as long as somebody pays the rent.”
Something about her, though, maybe the way she spoke just by pushing air around the room. Maybe the way she wouldn’t look me in the eyes. Maybe it was the birth mark on the inside of her thigh next to the Christian Dior label. Maybe it was the six inch eye lashes. I didn’t know, but I began to think that this was going to be another one of those lost kitty cat cases and would wind up in the round file like my last six “capers”.
I lit her cigarette with a match while she held my hand with both of hers, presumably to keep either me or the butt from shaking. It was like in the old black and white movies. Greta Garbo, Ida Lupino, Howard Duff. They all did that in the movies. She finally looked at me and I thought I could feel the heat rising out of her soul. At least I think it was out of her soul. She kept holding my hand well after the tobacco was lit. Pressure was building up in my chest and I was running out of choices; keep holding Lady Lap Dance’s hands or put out the match.
She began to talk while I blew on my burned fingers. “Mr. Ramone, I am in trouble. I think someone is trying to injure me, maybe even kill me. I don’t know who, but I think it is my brother, or my ex-husband, or an old boyfriend, or my boss, or this guy I met last night in a bar. But he seemed to be, how you say, good people, yes?”
“Yes indeed, all the right people go to bars and have sexual relations with the first drunk woman they see.” The lady had narrowed down the list of possible suspects for me. I could eliminate the man who cleaned her pool, maybe.
“What makes you think we had sex?"
“Because you sat down like you had a corncob and three artichokes pinned to your pudendal nerve.”
“You talk in circles, but I believe you.”
“Well, that makes one of us, Virgo. I haven’t believed a word you’ve said since you burned the prints off two of my fingers. You know, we’re trained now to read people’s gestures and mannerisms to see if they’re telling the truth. For instance, you looked to the left with your right eye, which tells me your agenda is sixteen pages long with double columns. You looked to the right with your left eye, which means the man from the bar is still back at your place waiting for round six. You pouted your lips with a slight upward quiver, which tells me you have to get him out of your house before your daughters come from school and ask, ‘Who’s the scumbag in your bedroom? And don’t even think about doing the extra school money thing.’”
She started to cry crocodile tears that would have made a full grown Florida alligator blush. “I knew it. I knew this was the wrong approach, but my husband is a powerful man in a huge company that makes medical devices. He thought you would be, how you say, a foolish man who would do anything for money. That is not true, is it?”
“I didn’t say that. In general, if the story holds up and if the client can get through at least one dependent clause without prevaricating, I don’t mind taking a few bucks now and then. In your case, we either start over from scratch or you can frappe la rue while I go find a newspaper and see if the Raiders finally won a game.”
She sat back in her chair, wiped her eyes without disturbing a single fiber in her L’Oreal back-to-nature eyelashes, and re-composed herself. After a drag on her cigarette, which incinerated nearly an inch of tobacco (I’ve seen longshoremen cough up a lung with a drag half that size), she began fabricating another story.
“You are very kind, as I said before. Now I have made a fool of myself, and I’m not sure what to say, but I’m definitely in trouble.”
“That I believe. I’d offer you another cigarette, but I’m all out of ice to treat minor burns.”
“That is all right, I do not smoke. I am here because my son has joined a religious sect, which, if it makes him happy, I guess maybe it is good. In my heart I think it is bad, but I don’t know the thoughts of this generation. They have grown up without the fear of going to war or going through a major depression. They’ve never had to deny themselves anything because they get whatever they want. Maybe it is all I can hope for these, how you say, half assed little shits who don’t want to work.”
Her English was, how you say, picking up nicely, but she was still holding back her raison d’être for knocking on my door. “And…..”
“And he has taken a very valuable family heirloom to give to this, pardon me, lying piece of cow dung Guru. This heirloom is very valuable and the child has no idea what he has given away.”
I wanted to ask whose family heirloom it was, but I thought I’d been tough enough on the old girl already. “Keep talking.”
“He is twenty-five years old and has not allowed any information to seep into his brain since he was eight. The heirloom he stole is a first edition of The Corsican Dove.”
“Corsican Dove, huh? Never heard of it.”
“It is a book.”
“You don’t say!'
“Yes, it is a book. A very valuable book. It is almost two hundred pages long.”
Sure I knew the Corsican Dove. Written by Robert Parker, or JD McDonald, or Dick Chandler, or one of those authors who devoted their lives to what I considered the pinnacle of American literary achievement, the Noir Detective Story. A first edition of the Dove must run maybe six or seven dollars. The whole thing smelled like last week’s linguini with clam sauce. I got the feeling I was being played again.
As I think back, I’m not sure she was a blonde. She coulda been a brunette. It was tough to tell. Her blouse was cut pretty low.
I shoulda said, “Lady, you’re barking up the wrong tree, peeing on the wrong hydrant, borrowing trouble from the wrong banker. Why would a kid too lazy to even meditate run off to some cult where he might have to do some actual work before participating in all that cult sex? Her hiring me to find a stolen family heirloom worth less than a carton of cigarettes, now that made sense.” I’ve always appreciated the saying, ‘for evil to conquer it just requires stupid people to be more stupid than usual.’
Instead I said, “You’ve come to right place Sugar. If you’re going to play with the big boys, you better find yourself a big boy.” I said it with a straight face, too.
“Oh, Señor Ramone, I knew you could help me, but I cannot pay you anything. At least not right away.” With that the blouse seemed to descend a little farther towards her skirt. I’m pretty sure, now that I think about it, she was a brunette. I shoulda said, “No money, no private dicky,” but I wasn’t thinking clearly. Instead, I mentioned something about our work study program, and that most of her work would be under the desk. I just thought, if I played my cards right, there was a small chance I’d be up to my short hairs in eyelashes before the week was out.
By the time my head cleared and the lady who had doused the office with Eau de Beaver had left, I knew I had done the wrong thing.
First, we really didn’t have a work-study program. Second, I hadn’t asked for the guru’s name. The latter was the easier of the two problems to sort through, though it’s not as easy as finding a crooked Congressman. Just read the want ads in the paper for “reformed government embezzler, entirely innocent, looking for similar position to be in charge of lots of unsupervised funds”.
The first thing I did was open the bottom drawer of my desk and pull out my bottle of morning scotch. Empty. Something was not right. I’d just bought it yesterday. It must have evaporated while it was uncorked last night. The two glasses were empty, too. This was a set-back to the case, but not an insurmountable one.
There were three things I needed to do. First, I needed to find out more about communes and gurus. Communes were not really my thing. When I was young I applied for disability instead of communes. The next thing I had to do was find out all I could about the availability of old noir detective literature, in particular The Corsican Dove. Berkeley was still heavy into bookstores, at least for the moment, so information was there to be had. Finally, I had to ask Effing to pick up some more scotch on her next two hour trip to the lavatory. I thought of one other thing: I needed to get a new partner.
I buzzed Effing, my secretary, who could take care of everything. She was gorgeous in a stately sort of way, with pretty blonde hair and some pneumos that covered quite a bit of geography. She dressed in a casual way that said, “I’m in the mood, but you’ll have to pay for the first round.” She was flexible, loyal, and madly in love with me. I have that effect on women. I’m tough, don’t take shit, exude more manliness than a Columbian State Trooper, and have this unyielding appreciation for the female half of the species. This includes even the least comely woman in Berkeley, where the competition for that accolade is ferocious. Effing was also the smartest person in this office. “Effing, can you come in here?”
The door opened on ‘here’ and she planted herself on the corner of my desk. “What’s up, boss?”
“Two things. One, I’m out of King George the Fourth. Two, I need to get a new partner. There’s too much leg work for one guy to do.” I decided to roll another cigarette while I spoke, sort of a social crutch. This time I licked everything but the paper. The whole soggy mess fell on the floor. Not too smooth, but charming in a boyish kind of way.
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Bio of Thomas de Kooning Thomas de Kooning is the pseudonym for an internationally known surgeon who has taught new surgical techniques all over the world. He is mostly known for his medical device inventions, and has over two hundred and fifty patents. De Kooning was born in Texas, finished college in Southern California, and graduated from medical school in 1979. After his surgical training in San Francisco, he joined a six-man surgical group in Northern California where he practiced for twenty-five years. Along the way he started seven medical device companies and eventually won the Lifetime Achievement Award in Medicine. Medicine is a major source of influence in The Corsican Dove, and one of the main focal points in The Beijing Duck. His first love was oil painting, which he has enjoyed for over forty years. His last show was in Washington DC. He has painted the covers for all three of his books. Thomas began writing in earnest in 1989 when he woke up from a dream about a fourth volume of the Lord of the Rings. He wrote several years on the travels of the Fellowship of the Ring from the moment they left the Grey Havens until they finally passed the torch to a group from other lands. However, the Tolkien estate would not allow it to be published, so that was the end of that. His second writing project was a science fiction novel with “quite a good plot” but with “quite awful characters”. In his own words it was dreadful, but he did learn something of the mechanics of writing a book, for instance, how to go back and change what happened early in novel, in order to change directions later. The Ramone Ramone series began as a short parody of The Maltese Falcon to give to a few friends. Then the characters started talking on their own and took over. Without much effort according to the author, they worked their own ways through The Corsican Dove and The Beijing Duck. Ramone, Mr. Phone, Effing, Edward Morning-Glory, Louise, and Little Nick have pushed themselves into a third book, The Gallic Chicken, which is nearing completion. Even though, this series is entirely tongue in cheek, and written only for entertainment, you never know who is going to react badly to things nowadays. Therefore, Thomas de Kooning has chosen to use a pseudonym. He figured he irritated enough people in real life without branching out into novels. Just like everything else in life, writing is not a one person job. Many people along the way reviewed this novel, pointing to the bad parts, the dead parts, and on rare occasions showing enthusiasm. Friends did this even though they all had better things to do, than read some highly unpolished, “first draft type” prose. He chose self-publishing because he was running of space to file all the rejections from literary agents. It is difficult to choose a publishing house from all the ads on line. Some gave the impression that they were trying to earn their income on the fees collected from would-be authors, which is probably unkind. Friesen Press publishing house had a low pressure approach and were extremely professional. They have been tremendous, especially in detail and content editing. The quality of the book jumped up a couple of notches by the time they were through with it.