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To No Avail Slaps the Tale - A Jordan Dane Mystery
To No Avail Slaps the Tail - A Jordan Dane Mystery
* Chapter One
* Interlude One
* Chapter Two
* Chapter Three
* Chapter Four
* Chapter Five
* Chapter Six
* Chapter Seven
* Chapter Eight
* Chapter Nine
* Chapter Ten
* Chapter Eleven
* Chapter Twelve
* Chapter Thirteen

 

 
 
 
To No Avail
      Slaps the Tail - Chapter Eight

When questioned about the evening of August 16th, a night when the mesa proper apparently abounded with untoward events, the self appointed guardian of the area, Ex-Lieutenant Colonel Sherman Proud, claims to have been hunkered down in his bunker. Oblivious to it all.

In fact, when asked to recount his exact whereabouts during the evening of his wife Rosemary Rosewater's death, the one night when he could have been of some use, Mangas Mesa's unsolicited chaperone, the Ex Lute Col, paints a rather desperate picture of himself. It is that of a man hiding out and plotting strategy, in disharmony and seclusion from a world gone wrong, behind a faux rock wall in the cold stone basement of the house he and his dying at that moment wife had built together.

Or more accurately, had paid B.O.N.E Construction Company a pretty penny to build for them.

And it is said Mr. B.O.N.E. earned his money on that house bid, what with the Proud/Rosewaters constantly chittering around the job site, making after the fact architectural corrections, some of which directly contradicted each other not to mention the original drawings, and making demands of alteration so impossible that carpenters and masons alike often found themselves stalking into the woods to regain their composure. A good number of artisans had simply left the jobsite never to return. A couple had even moved out of the area.

The only reason this is noteworthy to this account, other than as testimony towards the character of the eventual homeowners, is that one such last minute afterthought of design involved the hollowing out, shoring up, rewiring, and stoning in of what should have been a crawl space in the back of the basement. For it was in this hidden chamber that Sherman had fabricated his secret war room. He had spent most of his free time since his helicopter accident bringing the room up to spec.

Although what spec would have been for such a project would have been hard to determine. Along with a knife and gun collection that could only be called impressive, the bunker housed computers, Hamm radios, short-wave scanners, infrared monitors attached to rooftop cameras, and a library of war books, charts, pamphlets and journals. Maps adorned the walls; maps, which a casual observer might mistakenly assume, depicted the tricky topography of ancient battlefields or the puzzling logistics of tunnel systems beneath East-Asian jungles. Close inspection of the cartography however revealed something perhaps more disconcerting in that most of the maps featured Mangas Mesa or the mountainous regions immediately surrounding Telluride.

The displayed maps were peppered with pushpins that seemed in no apparent pattern unless one was informed that they symbolized significant personal occurrences during Sherman's stay in the area. Clusters of black tacks, for example, represented sites of prior confrontations with neighbors or townsfolk whereas red pushpins or, "hot zones" in Sherman speak, indicated points of some anticipated conflict. Pins with white nubbins connected by string zigzagged along many of the maps loosely following contour lines and marked hiking and X-Country ski trails. Blue pins with small dangles of black ribbon noted those cabins equipped with telephones or computer lines

The presence of a large American flag and life-size glossy photograph of General Douglas Macarthur screaming orders in a rainstorm added a fanatical feel to this already rather sinister room and made it easy for one to forget that the only war Sherman had participated in during the twenty years since he had been airlifted to safety out of Phnom Phen (all beshit and quaking with fear) was with himself, his neighbors, their animals, and the liberal establishment that seemed to govern the area where he had, for reasons few understood, chosen to make his home.

The North wall of the bunker also commanded the eye when the floodlights were flicked upon it since it was wallpapered with an enormous aerial view, taken during the autumn foliage, of only that part of Mangas Mesa where the Loop and surrounding houses stood. It was an enlargement of a picture Sherman had taken himself from his helicopter.

Written on assorted post-it notes next to the roof of each dwelling was the name of the owner, as well as that of any renters, known guests or other current occupants Sherman knew about. Other notes had sketches of as much of the floor plan as Sherman was aware, and any personal conclusions involving character of the occupant he had been able to draw. Next to C. E. McFetter's sprawling estate, for example, along with the layout of the front entryway, which was as far inside as Sherman had ever been invited, were notes listing all the movies in which the veteran actor had appeared supported by Sherman's short review of each film. On another note to the side of one review the word "Commie" followed by a large question mark was written in red ink.

The red adjective and indeed the whole map would certainly have drawn astonishment and protest from any and each mesa resident had they been aware of it but no one besides Rosemary had any clue that the war room existed and even she, especially she, was denied admittance. Rosemary had her workshop and Sherman had his. And, as he often reminded her, at least his was here under their own roof and not shared by a bunch of fairies and kooks off in someone's garage in town.

On the night in question, Sherman Proud was working on the covenants, plotting a strategy for how he could submit the latest draft of the Homeowner's Association by-laws to the board, by-laws that he, as president, was constantly at work modifying.

He couldn't hope to top the brilliant maneuvering of last year's addendum, which he had driven through by gaining support for his position by misrepresenting the situation through the mail to some of the seasonal owners and collecting their votes by absentee ballot. He had also utilized some creative scheduling by getting majority approval to call the yearly gathering a month early, happening to schedule it on the weekend of the Ironman Triathlon in Maui, a time when he knew Jordan Dane would be out of town. Jordan, he knew, a favorite with most of the homeowners, wouldn't have liked anything about the new wording and would have stood before them with some extemporaneously logical and witty speech that succeeded in getting the whole thing voted down.

His mandate of the previous year disguised with verbiage involving open spaces and the grazing rights of the forefathers had basically dictated that all domestic animals needed to be on leashes whenever they left their own property. The addendum stated that violators were fair game and nobody but the author suspected that this was meant to be taken literally until Sherman had gunned down a Shepard in the middle of the road to emphasize his point. The dog had merely been awakened from his spot on the porch of the O'Dowd cabin by Sherman's parading by and wandered out to peer at the mutant puppy wolves as they passed. No sooner had the poor animal crossed its own property line than Sherman opened fire with the 45 Magnum he kept strapped to his belt.

Fortunately for everyone, only one of the shots grazed the animal, which Sherman claimed had been his intent all along and Jordan was able to patch up the wound rather easily. The O'Dowd's, career house sitters to the rich and famous, had left during the inquiry, presumably to go squatting at some other playground, and a shop owner on Main Street had inherited the Shepard. Whenever Sherman dared to visit that side of town, the normally good natured Shepard would spot him skulking by no matter what group he tried to blend in with and growl menacingly at him as he passed, a phenomena which caused the tourist children who were forever petting the animal to regard Sherman as if he were the devil incarnate.

Sherman Proud would have been mortified to know that after he slammed the bunker door in his wife's face on that August evening and settled down to work on the new draft of the covenants, Rosemary had, in turn, slammed out the front door of the house and went marching down the driveway in direct violation of the covenant rules. Both dogs and no leash. Blissfully unaware of this however, Sherman continued crafting his revision, a new addendum that would effectively abolish all gatherings of twenty or more.

His plan was to eliminate parties on the mesa of course. On two separate occasions recently, Sherman had been outside doing binocular reconnaissance on his expansive deck, when the revelry of celebration emanating from one of the distant cabins had reached his ears. He took an immediate dim view of this and had set off through the woods following the noises of gaiety until he was able to peer at the gatherings from the underbrush. The first he had found, again at the O'Dowd cabin, was clearly attended by far too many representatives of the hippie element from town, a group similar in appearance to those deviants that had been irritating Sherman since the sixties. He was also fairly sure he smelled reefer smoke in the air.

The second gathering, held at Jordan Dane's place, appeared to Sherman looking through his telescope, to be a gathering of musicians and amazon women, neither of which Sherman felt anymore comfortable around then the hippies. Jordan and Sherman had always been civil to one another and Sherman had no real complaints with his young neighbor other than he suspected her of an occasional delving into an immoral lifestyle. Sherman had always admired Jordan's father from afar and couldn't imagine how an ex-director of the F.B.I could live with his daughter's career choice or rather lack thereof. Sherman suspected that if Bull Dane's only child had been a son, things would have been much, much different.

They certainly would have been different for Sherman since another activity to which he devoted much of his time was admiring Bull Dane's only daughter from afar as well. Explaining it to Rosemary as surveillance, he was constantly monitoring her movements around the mesa through his telescopes and video equipment. On those nights when he felt himself being overcome with this admiration and would consider creeping onto her property and up to her bedroom window, the scream of the puma usually put an end to the notion.

He also had little doubt that if Jordan ever caught him red-handed in his prurient stealth she would waste no time kicking his ass back and forth across the commons, and although the thought of this titillated Sherman slightly, the vision turned sour immediately when he was reminded that she'd more than likely mention the encounter to her father. Mortification set in immediately then as Sherman pictured Bull Dane's reaction and subsequent trip out to the mesa. Such an immoral breech would effectively get Sherman banned from the annual banquets he attended in Washington thus cutting him completely out of the loop.

In this latest modification of the Covenants Sherman was working on some verbiage to the effect that the mesa had been quiet before the human occupation began and all homeowners should be striving to maintain the sanctity keeping it as close to pristine as possible for the better enjoyment of all.

Of course quiet was not the way anyone would have described Sherman's helicopter, which he landed behind his house as often as he liked. He had utilized his war training in the past to give sightseeing tours to the rich and famous and shuttle thrill seekers on tele-skiing junkets for which he charged an arm and a leg. Flying regularly, he reasoned, kept him fresh in the event his country ever needed his services. It also provided him with a nifty little source of income to compensate his military pension and keep him from having to borrow money from his wife.

Or at least it had before the accident. These days his back seized up so often that it was unsafe to fly unless he ingested so many muscle relaxers that flying would have been unsafe. Besides, his pride had suffered such permanent damage after the accident, which had been well documented in the national press due to the celebrity of one of his clients, that he wasn't sure he'd allow his chopper to be seen in the southwestern Colorado skies again even if his injuries didn't keep permanently out of the pilot's chair.

And so, after ten years of marriage, he'd been forced to borrow more and more money from his wife. Sherman wasn't sure exactly how rich his wife was but she was a Rosewater after all and from what he understood of the family this meant that Rosemary had more money than she could ever hope to use. And other than her furniture making and the occasional trip to some new age conference or spiritual retreat, she didn't seem to spend much of it herself. Sherman had expensive hobbies that Rosemary didn't understand let alone share. He was going to have to find a way to raise some cash.

He had remained in his bunker until the wee hours on the night in question, and when he emerged found that his wife was not in their bed. This wasn't that uncommon and Sherman assumed that she was asleep in one of the other rooms. If he hadn't been so heavily sedated with tranquilizers and American beer he would have noticed his dogs did not come padding up to him as he stumbled towards his bed. It was noon the next day, before Sherman had finally called Jordan to report that one and possibly both of his beloved wolves were in trouble, and she had arrived within the hour with her vet's bag and immediately sedated the beast so she could work on the injuries without it snapping at her.

The other wolf, the female, was nowhere to be found and Sherman had no way of knowing that she had come whimpering back up to the house earlier and been sitting gasping outside the back door for most of the night and had eventually limped away through the woods. 

Once Jordan had done what she could for the male, who appeared to have several cracked ribs and a nasty wound on the neck that could have only been opened by a very sharp blade or talon, she had some questions for Sherman. She was asking them when movement on the other side of one of the picture windows turned out to be Town Marshall Chester Rhimes squishing up the drive.

Chapter Nine

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