the Goliard
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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 Seven

Town Marshall Chester Rhimes would readily admit that he isn't much of a driver. Truth be told, one of the reasons he'd pursued the Telluride Marshall's position in the first place was that after years spent loitering around town with much occasion to observe first hand the workaday habits of the former Marshall, he'd decided that it was a job he might just be able to handle. And one of the reasons he came to this conclusion was because it didn't appear that the position could possibly involve much driving.

The former Marshall, from what Chester had been able to make out, was a lecherous old sot who did little besides dodder about the streets hitching up his pants. He was known also for shaking a craggy finger at open containers, cackling with glee at his own derisive wit, and tisk tisking sanctimoniously at any situations he suspected might eventually lead to lewd or tawdry behavior in which he wouldn't be invited to participate.

"Stuff up those booze holes ya suspects afor the law finds cause to stuff um for ya," the former Marshall would rasp without cause at groups of bundled skiers while he hobbled forward to glower into the eyeholes of their ski masks as they downloaded off the chairlift at days end.

"Get a room!" he was known to blurt into the sunny summer countenances of startled honeymooners after materializing suddenly from an alcove where he'd been standing unnoticed peering at them lasciviously.

"We're just on our way there," they'd sometimes respond, looking askance at this odd grizzled bird and his uniformed plumage of authority.

Chester, who'd been hiding out in Telluride himself to clear his mind as he considered a career change, marveled at this behavior from the sidelines and finally decided he could carry the police baton of sarcastic admonition through these quaint streets as well as anyone. He then cashed a few royalty checks he had laying around and enrolled himself in a private academy where he spent a year absorbing the finer points of law enforcement. Once he felt he had soaked in enough to be sufficient in dealing with Telluride's criminal ilk, he returned to town to join Balzac as a deputy.

A few months later when the former Marshall's heart finally seized up on him one night as he chortled a little too heartily while sharing an observation about "cow tipping fags" with a group of flabbergasted Texans, Chester had stepped forward to claim the job.

And although Chester was still known to nearly everyone in town and, for that matter, anywhere else he went as "Chet Rhimes, you know, the singer. Yeah the country dude from Woodstock, the 'Quarter Turn From Gone' and 'No More No War' guy", he badly needed, for once in his life, to feel legitimate. Since taking the job as Marshall he had worked hard to exchange the tired idolization of the washed up country rock star for the genuine confidence of the citizens who, he hoped would appreciate the new professionalism he brought to the position.

He'd started by putting the word out that he wished to be addressed as Chester or Marshall Rhimes instead of Chet. When he continued to hear mostly Chets, Bustas, and Deputys from the jovial populace he decided that Telluride was a town just not ready for serious policing. He also continued to do more autograph signing than he felt was appropriate for an elected official in law enforcement.

During those nights when he sat bolt in his bed, racked with self doubt and panic, and fretting over his status in this, the first real job he'd ever held, he tried to remind himself that he had been re-elected to the post by a popular vote of the constituents he served. This provided little comfort in the end however since Balzac had been his only announced opponent in the Marshall's race and although he had defeated his fellow deputy in landslide style 972 votes to 44, the fact that over four hundred other ballots had been written in for "neither", "free love", "other", "yo mama", and the "old dead Marshall" not to mention a couple hundred votes for other alive and random locals with no interest in the job (led by 100 even for Jordan Dane) certainly kept him from feeling any false security in the position.
It wasn't that Chester begrudged any one else the votes and certainly not Jordan as it was well known that her dad had directed the F.B.I for years and Jordan herself had spent some time at the F.B.I Academy. It just seemed to Chester that she had made it clearly understood around town that she wanted to concentrate on her skiing and wouldn't accept the appointment.

Chester also learned quickly that the job wasn't only about the heckle and harangue of tourists and, unfortunately, did seem to involve a fair amount of driving. And since Chester was only a misplaced city boy in experience if not at heart who'd grown up being chauffeured around the Bay Area by his mother's insolent bodyguard Johnson J. Judge, he had been years behind in the driving game before he even first got behind a wheel. When he had finally escaped his mother's clutches by heading off to college, Chester had stumbled into the music business during his freshman year at Middlebury, which, as it happened, was a campus where freshman weren't allowed to keep automobiles.

As his career took off like a bottle rocket, Chester spent those years when most American males are bonding and becoming intimately familiar with their chosen set of wheels, traveling about the countryside in the back of various and always improving tour busses. Finally, after more years of this than he remembered, as he was headlining the fifteenth annual Telluride bluegrass festival, he had been gazing out from the stage at the majestic mountains rising up in red rocked grandeur to the pure blue sky, the waterfalls tumbling off the box canyon, the quaking Aspen trees, and the braless clogging dancers surrounding the stage and decided to call it a career and stay put. He'd decided to get off the bus for good, choosing to remain behind in a town with chairlifts dropping in on one side and bike, hike, and horse trails running out on the other that offered no real reason to drive anywhere. Chester's first extended experience driving, as it so happened, corresponded exactly with his first real job as Marshall.

Factor in the snowy weather and ill maintained, winding mountain roads of San Miguel County and it soon became common knowledge that those perpetrators perpetrating on Chester's watch who could make it safely behind the wheel of a vehicle of some kind were all but assured a clean get away.

Chester had been issued a patrol car with the Marshall's job of course, a decked out Jeep Cherokee complete with all sorts of interesting cop type gadgets that beeped intermittently and blinked red. Chester hadn't come close to mastering the numerous scanners, short waves, and field breathalyzers since he had almost no occasion to use them. He would have become proficient with the police radio except that the only other person on the channel was Balzac. And it seemed like anytime Chester turned up the volume on the police band, Balzac's whiny Barney Fife falsetto crackled through the speakers with information he didn't want or need like "We've got a ten ninety nine in progress and I need back up ASAP" or "Come in Come in all units! Come in! I've got a black suspect, possibly male, definitely canine, perpetrating north on Spruce about to commit a eight seventy seven." Chester ignored Balzac's calls when he did hear them and anymore, had just been keeping the radio off.

The Jeep also was equipped with eight powerful K.C. lights, a winch, two ten-gallon spare gas cans, and a limo style divider window and separating cage. Chester learned quickly how to operate the automated separator even though, since he had always considered himself to be what they call a people person, he hadn't expected to use it much. He found however, that it did come in handy when he was forced to transport retching and blathering tourons over to the drunk tank in Montrose as well as for keeping the nervous dogs he periodically delivered to Jordan's from bounding into the front seat and distracting him more than he already was.

Chester had been cited three times by Balzac and no less then seven times by San Miguel County Sheriff Johnson Judge, (yes the same J.J. Judge that had once been his mother's chauffeur), for being at fault in minor accidents and traffic mishaps in the eighteen months he'd been Marshall. On five of those occasions, Chester had blamed distraction from within the vehicle for the incident.

Chester had seen many trials and tribulations behind the wheel since taking over the keys to his patrol car but on this day he would out do himself. Today's actions in fact would involve not only trials and tribulations, but at least one tributary and eventually even a tribunal.

The journey out to Jordan's got off to a shaky start when he backed the Jeep up behind the station and against his better judgment, attempted to get four dogs on board at once. No sooner would he have Beagle mix and Weimreiner pup safely loaded and be bending to help elderly Basset shimmy up when Shepard/Chow would lunge to the end of his line intent on investigating some passing figure. The tug of the lunge line, which Chester had looped around his elbow, caused him to drop the back of Basset and fall away from the door which left an opening for Beagle to bolt out in hopes of becoming part of the action. Weimreiner puppy was then inspired to leap for freedom as well only to tumble head over haunches halfway out and nearly hang itself from it's own petardish leash which had become snagged on a cop gizmo knob.

The commotion had caused neighbors to appear on their sundecks where they sipped coffee and offered the familiar witticisms like "Whyant ya try singing "Get along little doggies" to em Marshall Chet," or "Get out here sweetie it's an all out jailbreak and the coppers have their hands full." Chester heard one woman cry out to no one in particular, "Hey isn't that Abbey Steele's hound there? Dammit, come to think of it I haven't seen little Abbey in awhile. What ever happened to her anyway?"

Come to think of it was right. Chester didn't remember seeing Abbey around town in quite awhile either and realized then that Beagle was her animal sure enough. He acknowledged that this qualified as the kind of thing he should be looking into, but it seemed like anytime he went prying into people's business, all his investigations uncovered were things nobody wanted to know or that everyone in town but him had been aware of for months.
Finally, with the assistance of the passing figure, who turned out to be Mikey Rabbit on his way to work a lunch shift at the Tips Up, Chester managed to get the four beasts untangled, unhung and into the vehicle.
"There's nothing to see out here." Chester growled. "Get your lazy trust fund rumps back inside." He gestured out the window waving the gapers off as he turned down Spruce Street towards the edge of town hoping to appear as nonchalant and in control as he could despite the sounds coming from directly behind him that suggested that at least one animal's tail might have been slammed in a door.

At the stop sign at the bottom of the hill, Chester turned on the public radio station intending to drown out the caterwauling. The local station KOTO, however, which was the only station that came in clearly within the canyon walls, was replaying the town council meeting and Chester, who was immediately annoyed by what he heard, just couldn't bear it. He almost went off the road for the first time when he thought he understood Councilwoman Smuggle to be proposing yet another parking ordinance.

He pounded his fist on the dash in frustration. The majority of the council had come to be made up of busybody transplants from the eastern seaboard who seemed to have nothing better to do then pass endless new legislation copied from the cities they had all abandoned and although each piece was more pointless than the last, Chester was expected to devote his day to enforcing them. The fist pounding succeeded only in reaggravating a wrist injury he'd sustained practicing with his gun and whipping the dogs to new frenzied heights. Despite it all, he managed to make it down valley and arrived at the Mangas Mesa access road without further mishap.

As he turned off Highway 145 however, leaving the stress of tailgating gravel trucks behind for the dirt road ascent up Sunshine Creek Road towards the Mesa, he allowed himself to take notice of the beautiful colors of summer and promptly steered the Jeep directly into Sunshine Creek itself.
He had been marveling at a particularly scenic spot where aspen saplings skirted a small leaking spring that glistened in the sun as it oozed from the red clay of the canyon wall. Chester was thinking it was a spot that might provide for some fine beginner's ice climbing in the winter months. Ice climbing was a sport he had been thinking of taking up for several winters but hadn't got much farther along then purchasing all the gear. As his rig bounced to a halt along the cobble of the creek bottom, he put ice climbing out of his mind and started worrying that someone would happen along and he'd feel obligated to climb out, stand in the chilly water and write himself a ticket for reckless destruction of vegetation in a national forest. The four dogs were invigorated by the development of course, at the creek surrounding them, and by the fact that the vehicle had bounced to a halt. They commenced with deafening yipping and nipping as they slammed each other off the separating cage.

Chester hit the switch to bring the Plexiglas divider flush with the roof to reduce the din and after composing himself for a moment began to rock the jeep in and out of reverse like Jordan had shown him. Eventually, in four-wheel drive, he was able to maneuver the vehicle up the other side of the creek, creep along through the shrubs in reverse and finally plow back across to the road a ways upstream. The dogs howled their approval.
Annoyed that he'd come close to seeing "distracted by canines" written on yet another report to be placed in his own personnel file he pounded on the window with his elbow. This did nothing but cause the dogs to step it up a notch. The problem is that these animals are unknown entities, Chester thought, as he fought the temptation to pull over and simply abandon them. Why the devil was he involved in these dog projects anyway? He furrowed his brow considering alternative plans that didn't involve euthanasia but found it hard to concentrate knowing that a beast might leap against a window or tear into another at any moment. He monitored them in the mirror until a sobering fishtail around a curving washboard nearly put them back in the creek and he decided to give the winding rutted dirt his full attention the rest of the way up to the Loop.

Chester had instructions from Jordan to drop the hounds by her place making sure to secure them in the lower pens before meeting her over at the Proud residence. Surveying the hodgepodge of trails and cages that surrounded her house, the other excited animals, and his watch that said he was late, Chester finally decided that backing the Jeep right up to one of the pen doors was his best move and did so until he heard the crunch of the fender against a pole. He pulled forward just far enough to make room to open the tailgate but still needed Matthew's help to get the beasts confined without an escape. Trying not to look at the Jeep's bumper, he pressed the food dispensers for multiple servings, opened the pump to fill the water troughs, and checked the gate latch. The dogs seemed compatible enough despite the howling and chased each other about playfully. Chester decided to hang around for a few minutes watching from a distance just to make sure everything was copasetic.

As he stood in the trees observing as the dogs settled down he became aware of heavy breathing quite close by and suddenly knew he had strayed too near the cougar run. He turned around slowly to find China Cat peering at him bemusedly from the large flat rock where she had been sleeping in the sun. "Good kitty," he whispered as he approached with tentative step trying to exude that confidence which he'd been told animals could sense but which he certainly did not feel.

Luckily, China, who wasn't above intimidating the Marshall, was in a languishing mood and, as he got closer she flicked her ears and rolled to expose her downy tummy. Chester moved forward gratefully to stroke the cat's taut stomach. Even lolling harmlessly on her tether in the sun he still found himself awestruck and a little intimidated by the large lithesome cat and certainly hadn't been relaxed, despite Jordan's assurances, on the few occasions they'd found themselves alone together.

With the dogs finally out of the car, Chester rolled down all the windows, lowered the separator and breathed in the sweet pine air. He didn't know for sure where the Proud's house was supposed to be since he'd never been invited up there but risked breaking the first rule of good police work by assuming that any road referred to as "the loop" wouldn't get him hopelessly lost and eventually bring him back to Jordan's if he didn't find what he was looking for. Playing a hunch, he elected to turn uphill which did indeed turn out to be the shorter route up to the Proud's. On the other hand if he had gone the long way he wouldn't have had to deal with the overflowing creek.
Already jittered enough by the way his morning had broken, when he first noticed the water running across the road in unnatural looking sheets he stomped on the brakes. Unable to tell immediately how deep the water was he crept the Jeep forward until he determined the spill over to be shallow. He then gunned the engine hoping to get through quickly and avoid any cloying mud. When the V-8 engine drove the back wheels across the water slickened red clay however, they spun out and began to slide, causing the Jeep's rear end to swing towards an unnatural looking pond that lapped at the roadside. Chester, remembering Jordan's lessons for winter driving, turned frantically into the slide which succeeded only in allowing the left front wheel and right back wheel to leave the road simultaneously. With a spraying, splashing gurgle and fritzing of gadgets, the jeep entered the pond and rolled slowly onto its side in the water.

With all the windows open, the cold water came rushing in and filled the cab immediately. Chester, who wasn't wearing his seatbelt, stayed rigid, paralyzed to any action and still gripping the wheel, staying in this position until he felt his left elbow bump in the mud as the jeep settled on the ditch bottom. Blinking at the stinging water he could make out rays of sunlight flittering above and was briefly relieved he had not plunged into one of the bottomless mine shafts he knew could be found in the area. Blowing bubbles and kicking his feet, he was able to struggle up to the passenger side window, defenestrate himself and come popping to the surface where he sat for a moment on the window brace sputtering and spewing while gaping confusedly about.

When he'd regained his bearings somewhat, he teetered to his feet and walked unsteadily along the jeep's doors until he got to the back wheel well from which, after quickly assessing the situation, he launched himself toward the nearby roadside. Landing a bit short he slid back down into the swirling mud of the pond floundering until his feet hit something solid. Using it as a step and clutching handfuls of mud and grass he was finally able to scramble out of the water on all fours. He then lay heaving in the road looking up at the sky through the trees and wishing suddenly that he'd ordered that beer and remained at the Nugget with Loose Leg Lenny.

Shivering, he stood for a moment looking down at the Jeep trying to figure a way to blame the dogs for this one and wondering how he was going to explain it all to the taxpayers and town council. Balzac would have a field day especially if it ever came out that Chester had visited the mesa delivering renegade dogs to Jordan Dane and had wrecked the patrol car, not during a high speed chase of any kind but during what amounted to a quiet drive in the country. And if Johnson J. Judge got wind of it well, that would be the absolute end. Just as he had decided his best move was to head back to Jordan's to use her phone he noticed for the first time that up the road a ways was an exotic looking carved sign with Proud/Rosewater etched into it. The sign indicated a winding rutted drive.

Realizing that Jordan probably had her phone with her up at the Proud house anyway, he used a stick to fish his floating service hat out of the water, pulled it down over his ears, took one last woeful gander into the pond, hooked his thumbs in his soggy belt loops and begin trudging up the trail.

Chapter Eight

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