No Avail Slaps the Tale - A Jordan Dane Mystery
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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? 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."
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
"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
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.