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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                                               <<PREVIOUS CHAPTER
      Slaps the Tail - Chapter Two

These two trusties then, and their dog Rasta Pasta, being basically jobless house sitters with little else to do, had made quotidian ritual of walking the Loop. The Loop was how Mangas Mesa residents had come to refer to the dirt road which winds through the quaking Aspens, quivering firs, and rolling alpine meadows that grace Southwestern Colorado's higher altitudes. Sunshine Creek Road provides the only maintained vehicular access, hitching off the Loop just below Ms. Timmerman's sprawling ranch house and winding down to Redstone Canyon and across the San Miguel River below. From there, a right turn on Colorado Highway 145 would take a person upstream towards Bridal Veil Falls and the spectacular box canyon which encases the town of Telluride. A left would lead them through Sawpit, over the Dallas Divide and out to the world beyond.

Mornings are usually preferable for walking along the area's roads and trails because, due to the altitude and jagged topography, the afternoon weather will often rear an ugly head no matter the season. Neither Ira or Deb, or for that matter, Rasta Pasta, would have been feeling so well on this particular morning however on account of the big reggae moon splash bash held over in the nearby town of Rico on the previous evening. Rasta Pasta hadn't actually been allowed inside the show himself but rather had remained in Ira's bus, which had been parked on the main street just outside the theater. And although Newfoundland's are historically one of your more reserved breeds, RP was also only nine month's old at the time and had not yet reached the stage where he might loll comfortably in the back of a bus on a futon and ignore the welcoming committee of Rico's hounds that had convened at the theater to bay at the moon and act out a playful revue of their own.

The three Loop walkers then, along with the rest of the folks who had made the winding drive to descend on Rico from the surrounding areas, had devoted the night before and some of the morning to howling, dancing, grinding and pawing the air to the rhythms of One Bloody Word and opening act Ja Kiss. Debra had even been seen dancing after hours at the Quonset Hut back in Telluride with a group that included Itchy Richie and Rasta Jones which, if things held to form, would suggest that Ira and RP were nearby as well. It would be a surprise if any of them had gotten to bed before dawn. In any event, it wasn't until early evening that Ira and Deb got around to attempting their daily turn.

The Loop serves as extended common driveway to the nine homes which are scattered across the Mesa on twenty loosely surveyed lots, mapped out to surround the two hundred acre horse commons of which Mesa residents all share privilege and custody. It is a slanted, jerky, snaking oval which eats its tail at nearly three miles and loses and gains five hundred feet or so of elevation making it the ideal exercise circuit for anyone who wants to stay in some semblance of shape without actually doing much.

Debra's parents, confirmed eastern seaboard muckety mucks who had been advised by their accountant's lawyer that Telluride was where everybody who was anybody was acquiring vacations homes these days, had done just that by investing in an aging cabin at the Loop's nadir, a cabin which they had yet to see in person. The printout provided by a Telluride based real estate agent claimed that the dwelling and its "rustic charm" stood on the edge of Mangas Mesa's lower meadow, 9300 feet above sea level and had a small back deck offering "spectacular majestic views" of the entire Sunshine Creek drainage and of Little Cone Mountain to the south. Deb and Ira would have written it differently to say that they lived in the slums of the mesa in a cold dark hollow where the sun refused to shine.

Sherman Proud, the Mangas Mesa Homeowner's President and his wife Rosemary Rosewater, by contrast, resided at the time in a monstrous lodge which stood near the circle's apex, carved back in the deep woods and constructed on an outcropping of shale. Their wrap-around porch provides glorious sightlines up the gnarled streaking faces of Wilson Peak, Mt. Wilson and El Diente to the east along with a panoramic view of the Sneffels range to the north. If they were to look off to the west, they might gaze down across the horse commons, past the Finkelstein's roof, and over the Sunshine Creek drainage all the way to canyon country in Utah.

Ira and Deb liked to say that despite their poverty hollow status on the mesa, they were glad for their cabin's location in one regard since whether they opted to circumnavigate the Loop clockwise or counter, it demanded that they ascend initially, getting a sweat started and the cardiovascular strain over with before the descent allowed them to coast back down to their door. Ira always compared it to climbing a peak as opposed to hiking a canyon. Not that, despite an enviable proximity to spectacular examples of each, he had been spending his time in Colorado doing very much of either.

Ira had been sitting on the back deck that evening, trying to clear his head by working aimlessly on some whittling project and by smoking and drinking. He had just cracked the third Rolling Rock when he noticed RP standing next to him with a slobbery leash dangling from his jowls. The sun had disappeared again, ducking behind the clouds that shrouded Little Cone where distant flashes of lightning strobed the evening air. Thunderheads were billowing up over the Wilsons and it was beginning to look decidedly ominous down valley as well. Ira could never figure out if the storms were coming or going.

"Let's go Deb," he called into the back door as he slipped the knife into the sheath that hung from his belt and set about attaching the leash to the excited R.P.'s leather collar. "This dog's about to crap himself."

Deb appeared from the bedroom massaging her temples under the tangles of hair. She groggily retrieved her Tam from the floor by the stove and began tucking her tangled mane up beneath it. She would have been better served to concentrate on this task alone but instead, as she tucked she attempted also to step, albeit rather absently, into one of her hiking boots. Stumbling and lurching suddenly to one side, she ended up hanging against the counter, which accelerated the pounding in her head and brought on a vertiginous nausea. As the nausea subsided slightly, she straightened, took a deep breath and bent to try again at the boot only to have her hat fall over her eyes as she tilted forward. She then lost her balance, trod upon one of R.P.'s squeaking chew toys and turned an ankle. Her hip and shoulder met the kitchen floor with a solid thud and when the spinning room finally slowed she focused to find Ira gawking at her from above. She studied his face with a confused and bitter, blurry annoyance.

"Nice maneuver Hoover," Ira said offering her a hand. R.P. bounded around them excitedly, tangling and untangling them in his leash. Deb ignored the proffered paw. Ira tried again. "Come on Grace, get to your feet. You'll feel better when we get going."

Deb didn't care for the names Hoover or Grace.

"Will you please put on a Tam or something," she screeched up at him without warning. "You look like a damn cue ball."

Startled but not surprised, Ira hesitated, considering the outburst and looked down at her as one might at a saucy child.

"But cue balls are bald my skanky little friend." He finally said. "Perhaps you mean Q-tip. Or are you still too fried to know what you mean?"

Deb pulled her own hat off and lowered her head into her hands, which caused her impressive matted locks to cascade around her knees. Having been blessed from birth with long, naturally kinky hair, the dreading process had been almost immediate and much easier for her than for Ira. His hair never seemed to grow much, certainly hadn't dreaded with any respectability, and simply looked dirty and frizzled as if he had had an unfortunate encounter with a eating utensil and a two-twenty socket.
"I just wish your dreads would come in, she finally muttered. "Like Rasta Jones's"

There was no hesitation this time.

"I'm tired of hearing that asshole's name!" Ira shouted down at her menacingly. "First you spend all night following him around like you were R.P. and he was some big ass to sniff, then you babble about him and Itchie Richie and their damn mobile karmic bus community the whole ride home. And now the first thing out of your mouth when you drag your lazy ass out of bed is 'I wish you were more like Rasta Jones. Why don't you just go move into his stinking bus with him."

"And leave you in my parents house? That's not to goddamn likely is it..."

"I'M GOING BACK TO THE CITY ANYWAY." Ira kicked R.P. aside with his foot.

"DON'T YOU SCREAM AT ME!" Deb shrieked springing unsteadily to her feet. "You want them to hear us again? And don't you dare hurt that animal. Goddammit!" She picked up the red and green Tam from the floor. "Let's do the walk and get it over with. Here, please take a hat." She offered him hers. Ira glowered at her for a long minute before ripping the hat out of her hands. He pulled it down over his head tightly as he marched out the door.

Thunder rolled in the distance, echoing off the peaks in a surround sound style that made it difficult to tell from where it came. The late summer evening light was taking a purple hue and the shifting breezes rustled the aspen leaves and stirred up miniature dust devils in the road. R.P. strained at his lead tugging Deb, who stumbled along behind him, to and fro in an unabashed effort to sniff as many bushes as possible and lift a leg where he deemed it appropriate. The trio marched around the first turn past Ms. Timmerman's driveway where they could see her through the aspens and scrub oak, standing on her porch, arms akimbo. They didn't wave and continued to let R.P. drag their hangovers up the gentle grade.

"She probably heard you shouting again," Deb hissed under her breath. "It's too quiet up here. When are you going to figure that out?"

"I'll figure it out when I'm not up here anymore which will be pretty goddamned soon if you're not careful." Ira gritted his teeth and picked up his pace leaving Deb struggling to keep up with R.P. who pulled her relentlessly like a lead dog suddenly being outdistanced by a lesser member of his team.
By the time they passed C.E. McFetter's towering polished oak entrance gate, which, as usual was locked with a heavy chain since the famous actor almost never blessed the mesa with his presence, they were flushed and sweating despite the cooling winds. R.P.'s tongue was lolling out the side of his mouth and strands of viscous slobber wrapped around the top of his black snout. Too preoccupied snuffing down a chuckhole to drink from the last stream they passed, he now had to endure his thirst until they reached Mangas Creek where it crossed under the road just after the hill topped out.
It was there that Deb and Ira, with the climbing phase of their walk over with, would often stop to gulp gratefully from their water bottles and catch their breaths while R.P. stood cooling his heels and lapping at the stream. With most of the mountain snow melted by this late in the summer, the creek was little more than a mossy, three-foot wide rivulet snaking out of the undergrowth.

The wind picked up and the air began to smell as if the big drops of a summer storm would start slapping the ground at any moment. They pushed forward to make the top of the hill and the cover of the encroaching spruce. As R.P. led them over the final crest, his ears rolled suddenly forward, his head cocked, and he stopped short. His body quivered with attention.
Just below, where the creek gurgled out of the roots and moss to disappear into a pipe under the road was Rosemary Rosewater and her husband's two wolf dogs. Rosemary was bent by the stream picking wildflowers and didn't see them. The two wolf hybrids however, caught wind of them immediately.
Deb and Ira had encountered them on their walks before although always when Rosemary's husband Sherman had been along. These meetings were annoying to all involved since the animals would strain hard at their leads, R.P. with a playful cautious wonder and the hybrids with undisguised vicious fury. R.P., though only half a year old, already weighed a fluffy 90 pounds and resembled a little black bear to the wolves who had no doubt had their share of run ins with a few of the mesa's authentic ursines. It normally appeared all Sherman could do to maintain his balance as the dogs strained, each owner unreasonably annoyed by the others interruption of their walk in the woods.

But Sherman Proud was not along this time and the wolves were not on leashes. They came racing up the hill before Rosemary knew they were gone. R.P. begin to wag his tale cautiously as they approached since the world as he had experienced it thus far was filled only with creatures wanting to fawn over him, frolic with him, or flip him over and rub his tummy. Instead the bigger wolf wasted no time lunging straight for his throat and ripping into the thick fur. The smaller wolf circled warily, charging in when it saw an opening to nip and retreat.

R.P.'s leash, which had been looped around Deb's wrist, quickly tangled around her legs, and dragged her to the ground where she was caught briefly underneath the writhing, snarling jaws. Her kicking and screaming had no apparent affect. Ira tried at first to separate the gnashing animals but lost his balance and was knocked to the ground as well.

Rosemary arrived at the scene only to stand on the side of the road yelling Goddammit you goddamn dogs, Goddammit, Goddammit, Goddammit, over and over and over.

Ira, grabbing futilely at fur and tail, was briefly able to latch onto the larger wolf's collar but this only got him yanked back and forth and dragged about the road as the maniacal animal ripped and thrashed. It hadn't taken R.P. long to realize the stakes involved and he tried to fight back but had neither the muscle development nor the breeding to match the bastard lupine's instinctive primal fury. As it became increasingly clear that this was a playtime he wanted nothing to do with, R.P. decided that flight would not be ignoble and begin lurching desperately to break free, finally tearing away from the fray but leaving half of his left ear in the wolf's foaming red jaws. The puppy would have made a clean break except that the leash, still tangled in Deb's legs, dragged him down. Both wolves were on him, as he flipped over squealing, and ripped into his furry throat while the entire mass shimmied down the embankment towards the creek like fighting mice on a ouiji board.

At this point Ira apparently began to see red. He sprang to his feet and placed a running kick in the small wolf's rib cage. She let go, her ribs cracking under the hiking boot's hard toe. As she gasped for breath and went slinking and coughing towards the wood, Ira turned his flurry of kicks and punches to the male. He finally got between the bloody animals long enough for Deb to scramble to her feet and break into a run pulling the whimpering and confused R.P. along behind her until he got his bearings and returned the favor by sprinting out in front.

Ira was left behind to face the male wolf who had seemingly hyped himself into such a frenzy that he no longer cared whose blood he tasted. Ira pursued the animal relentlessly kicking when he could and swinging his fists. Suddenly he felt a backswing connect with Rosemary Rosewater who for some reason chose that moment to charge into their midst. As the wolf lunged they all fell together intertwined in a ferocious writhing mass with Rosemary clamped onto one of Ira's legs and Ira's hands tangled in the collar as the beast gnashed at his shirt. It was during this brief stalemate that Ira remembered the knife sheathed on his belt.

Deb could hear Rosemary's screaming, and Ira's bellowing mixed over the wolf's snarl and yelps as she dropped over the hill. Then she couldn't hear anything except the pounding of her heart and head as she ran.

Chapter Three

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