the Goliard
To No Avail Slaps the Tale - 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 Nine

The Carpenter was sweating it out in his shop.

Two space heaters in the corners glowed red and rattled away on high heat in perfect juxtaposition to the dueling pot bellied stoves which snapped with scrap wood fires. Roiling on the stove's tops were various kettles of potpourri which had been fastidiously packed with tropical fruit rinds. A small stream of hot water dripped from a spigot into a sink where baked and steaming cobblestones had been arranged. Jungle fauna hung densely from the beams and warmed wet towels were wedged to block the draft under every window and door crack. The Carpenter, stripped to the waist and wearing only tie-dyed leggings, was attempting to immerse himself in aura.

Aura of the tropical rain forest kind. It was all part of a mental Gestalt recalibration scheme undertaken and specifically designed by the Carpenter himself to prepare his mind for the work he would soon be doing with his tropical rain forest wood.

And while he was at it, The Carpenter was in hot pursuit of the purification he thought could be found in a Navajo Sweat Sing, Norwegian Huva-Sauna combo. He'd been reading up on both rituals recently and had concluded that he hadn't done nearly enough sweating in his life. And it was time, he decided, high time in fact, that he got down to sweating out the resins and toxins of his sins.

The Carpenter had become recently convinced, again through the reading he'd been doing lately of extensive, if perhaps questionable, sources, that it would be well worth investing whatever energy it took to become one with his wood - the physical material of his art. It wasn't just any material after all but the Koa, Teak, and Red Cedar Rosemary had imported for them from such exotic locales as Brazil, Jakarta and Lebanon. It had all arrived finally, been retrieved from the Montrose Airport, and was now stacked neatly on pallets, separated from the corrupting sappy pine beneath by layers of cotton gauze and covered tightly with a specially treated cloth.

Things became blurry to The Carpenter suddenly as some of the aura began dripping down his face and he mopped his brow and ran a finger across his eyes. He tilted his head back and continued to gaze contentedly around the immaculate space that was now his shop but that had once been his friend Gumpy's garage. Quite a transformation over the past six months that the Carpenter had been house sitting. The Carpenter had commenced with modifications soon after Gumpy had ceased communication from overseas. "Overseas!" the Carpenter now chortled to himself. "You have your overseas and I'll have mine. I'm the Overseer of this project here. The overseer of an undertaking that will benefit us both back here stateside."

It was true that the Carpenter had overseen the whole job himself, involving nobody at all from the outside save Rosemary who he had been driven into cahoots with because he needed her to fund the transformation and serve as a front woman at the supply stores so no small town busy bodies would guess what he was up to. Between them they had transformed a greasy and useless storage bay into a complete and functional studio with aura so thick that a heated machete would soon be required to forge ones way about. The Carpenter, it so happened, would be well suited for the space as he was machete-like in appearance, struthious as all get out and of rapian face. And he sashayed about his new workspace like a warm dagger stirring circles in a pot of bubbling beer-cheese soup.

The Carpenter hoped against personal experience that Gumpy would appreciate what he had done with the place if he ever returned from the Orient, the Hague, or wherever in the Great Beyond he was. Deep within his heart of hearts however, he suspected that he had gone over the line this time and even the benevolent and distracted Gumpy would object to his latest maneuver. Since he would have no way of knowing this for sure until Gumpy reappeared in the flesh, he felt a sense of urgency to get his career and reputation as an artist on solid ground in the event that he once again found himself friendless and back out in the cold.

But how could Gumpy do anything but thank him for the transformation? The new eighteen speaker surround sound system pulsed in jungle rhythms as the revamped ventilation and air purification motors quietly filtered out the dust. Virtually the only modification the Carpenter hadn't realized was an urge to raise high the roof beams.

Yes the real artisan Carpenter, who had been held captive for so long within the downtrodden real world Carpenter, would finally be able to emerge. If, that is, now that he'd convinced Rosemary to finance the refurbishment, he could make her understand that the best use she could make of herself was to leave him alone so he could concentrate completely on his craft.
The Carpenter's euphoric admiration of his new pod gradually dissipated as he became aware of diseuphonious, and unsyncopated bursts of thumping that were interfering with the drums of the world beat. Could someone be pounding on an outside door? He was fairly sure it wasn't Rosemary so now what the God Damn. Parting the stringed beads he'd dangled to disguise the side entry, he snatched the damp rag off the floor, unbolted the door, and stepped gingerly through into the adjoining snow room where he pulled the door shut quickly behind him and slapped the sealing towel at its base. He didn't want any of the copasetic atmosphere he'd spent so long nurturing to follow him through.

Fighting his way through the cloaks, skis, shrapnel, and miscellaneous equipment that had once been in the garage but was now stacked to the entryway's roof, he finally traced the pounding to an outer door which he threw open. Standing before him, for reasons he couldn't begin to guess, was his Monday night nemesis, Hacker the inferior hoopster. And not in gym clothes but instead, holding a pen and legal pad in his hand.

The Carpenter played basketball religiously one night a week to keep in shape. For two years running, during open gym at the old high school, he had been the last player selected when choosing up teams. This despite being a lanky, six foot five and almost always one of the tallest players participating. He had become rather comfortable in this role of final selection as it carried little expectation. Since Mike Hacker's appearance on the scene however, the Carpenter was now the second to last player chosen. And instead of matching up with a better big man whom he could emulate to refine the provincial skills he did have while his understanding teammates compensated, he now was expected to cover Hacker who the same teammates agreed he should be dominating and taking to the hole. Hacker's arrival in town had been bringing out the worst in the Carpenter's game.

The Carpenter's game, as it was, had evolved into the manning of the defensive glass, which he had been slowly learning to clean of rebounds with a clumsy proficiency. That is until the scrappy Hacker checked in and began undercutting him and trodding all over his Jordans. Hacker, the Carpenter felt, had virtually no game at all save short bursts of wheezing tenacious and clumsy hustle and a sometimes effective set shot which he seemed to attempt nearly every time he got his hands on the ball. The much taller Carpenter, annoyed by Hacker's very presence, was sometimes fortunate enough to swat these shots aside and, when successful, celebrated with an unabashed glee and guttural utterances that he'd picked up on a trip to Venice Beach Ca. in the vein of "Don't bring that into my house" or "Back in your face little man".

By the most recent Monday, the two of them had all but given up struggling from free throw line to free throw line only to arrive too late to be of use to the ski patrols, mountaineers and ex Ivy League quarterbacks that made up the balance of the teams. As a result, they spent a lot of time standing around together, guarding each other unnecessarily at one end or another watching their teams sprint away to battle four on four at the other end and waiting for the game to rumble back their way. During these hiatuses, it had become clear almost immediately that they hadn't much in common to discuss.

"Mike Hacker with the Daily Lode," Hacker now said officiously from Gumpy's sunny, side stoop, sticking the pen in his mouth and thrusting forth his hand. "Would you have any comment on the Rosewater situation."

The Carpenter ignored Hacker's inky claw and used a bare forearm to again wipe his brow. "What Rosewater situation?" he said suspiciously.

Hacker scribbled on his pad. "Suspect half naked and appears jittery," he dictated to himself before looking back up and saying. "Regarding her disappearance of course."

"Disappearance? What are you talking about? And how do you mean? Suspect? Jittery? What the Aitch?"

Hacker was craning his neck to see past the Carpenter into the snow room. "Looks like you could be hoarding goods in there. Mind if I come in and just take a look around?"

The Carpenter's face went momentarily rictal. "Of course I mind if you come in and just take a look around." he recovered. "This is now a working atelier and I can't have you clutzing and stumbling about. I've seen you on the court you might remember."

"And I have seen you as well my friend." Hacker paused to scrawl dramatically before continuing.

"And one thing I've noticed is that you never seem to sweat all that much when you play ball. And now I come by to investigate a missing person who is reputed to frequent this address and I find a guy who comes blinking out of a dark den stacked to the roof with junk from which strange sounds can be heard only to stand in front of me on this, a relatively cool day, drenched with perspiration. Now that's a little odd don't you think? I better get a look inside."

Hacker faked right and went left but The Carpenter boxed him out with a bony assed proficiency. A small tape recorder fell from Hacker's shirt pocket as he grunted and doubled over. They watched together as it clattered to the ground at their feet.

"What the Aitch?" said the Carpenter for a second time.

"Just a tool of the trade my nervous friend." Hacker said, pouncing on the recorder to check for damage. He noticed the Carpenter was cagily keeping his body between him and the door and was knee bent at the ready as if rebounds were likely to rain down. Hacker, after assuring himself that the recorder was still functional, clicked the device on and suddenly shoved it under the Carpenters angular chin.

"So you currently have no knowledge of Rosemary Rosewater's whereabouts?" He assumed a bored voice. "Is that your statement?"

"Statement? No one's making a statement here?" The Carpenter swept the machine aside and peered down his dripping nose. "I was in the middle of a Sweating Way Sing and quite likely was on my way to purification until you came pounding around."

"And it's your contention that one Rosemary Rosewater is not involved in this singing in any way?"

"Yes, that is my contention. I haven't seen her for days." The Carpenter rubbed his Adam's apple in what might have been reflection. "We picked up some wood together last week for our project and she left around six that evening. And I'm not singing I'm having a Sing. Not that you'd understand something like that. And tell me, why all of sudden, does the Daily Lode care about where somebody is anyway?"

Flipping pages, Hacker referred to his pad. "We have a lost and presumed missing, adult white female, mid forties, brownish hair, normally worn in ponytail or sometimes, in what one women referred to as "an upsweep", about five foot six inches in height and rather plain looking by one report," Hacker paused to peer triumphantly at the Carpenter, "who left her house sometime last evening and has not returned. I have other sources telling me, on the record, that this subject, for reasons none of them seem too sure of, has been known to spend a good deal of time in a garage with a character who calls himself the Carpenter." 

Hacker stopped to scribble "tie dyed pajama bottoms -- afternoon" in his notebook purposely allowing the Carpenter to see what he'd written before continuing. 

"And word is that this Carpenter fellow is an interesting one. It has been brought to the attention of this reporter by more than one witness that, despite residing in a town where the building of structures is rampant and the sale of wood at record levels, this "carpenter" has never been known to work in the construction business in any capacity. I'm here to clear up the matter."

"We're in business together. Or were going to be." The Carpenter put two and two together and suddenly was recalling another reason he didn't care for Hacker. "Wait a minute," the Carpenter exclaimed waving his arms. "You know that already. It was you who penned that preposterous account of her missing furniture. I caught you snooping around here a few weeks ago."

Hacker recalled the incident suddenly as well. One of the first stories he had written after landing his new job at the Lode was an investigatory expose regarding how items of furniture made by one Rosemary Rosewater were being reported stolen in alarming quantities. Hacker, by perusing police reports at the Marshall's office, had noticed a trend suggesting that the purloinage rate of these credenzas, dry sinks, and coffee tables, all bearing the double R insignia, had been reportedly pilfered more often even than such commonly coveted items as ski's, mountain bikes, and back packs. And while it was assumed that the latter goods were snatched mostly by tourists and that locals rarely stole from each other, furniture, seemed another matter entirely.

Hacker had interviewed Rosemary herself about the phenomena and quoted her in the story as saying she certainly didn't understand it seeing as how she gave most of her pieces away in the first place and couldn't imagine they held much value other than whatever sentimental worth might be attached by the original recipients. Nobody else in town had seemed at all eager to talk with Hacker about the story and he suspected a conspiracy, which he had vowed to uncover once he became more established. One non-interview he was now remembering had been at the door of a house listed as belonging to one Gumpy Greer. A tall shrouded figure had reported Gumpy to be "abroad", declined any other comment, and slammed the door in his face even though the police report Hacker had seen indicated that a whole garage full of Rosewater's had been reported cleaned out at that address the previous month.

Hacker stood tapping the pen on his chin thoughtfully as the Carpenter slammed the Greer door in his face for a second time.

Chapter Ten

Copyright 2002. All Rights Reserved.