The Blue Parrot



As perhaps you can surmise, today is International Chalkboard Einstein Day, done by yours truly. Over on the International___Day site I explain how to create your own Einstein pictures, as well as a few others I came up with. Warning: that Albert, he's a perv.


Over on Monkey Barn I have more gifts to buy Hyperion or someone you love (and this time they are all cheap!), plus a look at how university professors grade final exams and Tobias found a guy jumping into a wall.


Now, before you just ignore what's below because you haven't gotten into the story, at least read the intro this time. Pleaaaaaaase? Thanks.


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[I'm not entirely sure how many of you are reading Fagin Dupree. The comments are quiet, but that's not unusual with this site. If for some reason you didn't start reading, I really think you would enjoy it. However, if you just refuse to go back to the prologue (over on the left), this might be a good place to start. I reference a couple of things from earlier chapters, but you won't be confused. Actually, I'm hoping this might make you want to go back and read. This is the first chapter I've read back through that I really enjoyed. It's clearly a set-up for what's about to come, but I loved it. I think you might too. Give it a shot, won't you?]



THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE ADVENTURES OF FAGIN DUPREE


Read Chapter 4


Chapter Five - The Blue Parrot

The lecture was over, went pretty well, too. The official title was The Disputed Veracity of Gallic Neolithic Subterranean Artistic Expression, but Fagin Dupree won points with the crowd when he quickly pointed out that was a five-dollar title that actually meant "Are French Cave Paintings Fake?"

Soon after BÏSTDÅGG ACQUISITIONS got off the ground, Fagin had officially resigned his post as an Art Historian. Now, he was able to freelance; to take only the jobs he wanted, in the best locations, with the most interesting topics; not to mention charging three times the rate his old employer used to lend him out for.

Today Fagin toured Davidson College, and he had come off a resounding success. The students, faculty and general public were a literate bunch, and appreciated Fagin's subtle but biting humor. In years' past (a time Fagin mentally referred to as B.P., or Before the Parchment), his jokes would have fallen flat, but now Fagin had an easy confidence to go with his voluminous knowledge and agile mind.

The free weights did not hurt either, as Fagin noticed more than one tasty co-ed giving him the 'eye.' Well, he had to do something after the lecture. Now they were in the Q & A period. Fagin zoned back in.

"Is it your contention, Mr. Dupree, that the French Government could have been involved in this cover-up?" The questioner looked like she was about 23; Poly-Sci major, Fagin was guessing.

"Well, Darlin', remember; no one is saying there is a big conspiracy, at least no one above the level of a homemade Geocities website," Fagin began with a grin. This girl was a possibility. Fagin wished he had an assistant to scan the crowds, like rock stars at concerts.

"The problem is: the scientific experts have methodological concerns over the linear regression used to age-identify the art. In Other Words," Fagin continued with a sardonic look, "the Frenchies countin' might be a bit screwy."

The audience hooted. Fagin noticed a white-haired man slip in the back, a moll 1/3 his age on one arm and two men who moved like bodyguards surrounding him. There was instantly something Fagin did not like about the man.

The questions continued for a bit, and when it was over, they gave Fagin a second standing ovation. Afterward, Fagin stood talking with the Senior Fellow of Davidson's Art History Department and casually mentioned the white-haired man.

"Oh, him," said the professor. "That is Arbuckle Greene. I'm surprised you have never heard of him. Arbuckle Greene owns half of Atlanta."

"Really?" Fagin asked. He had never kept up with local machinations, but now that he was an Entrepreneur, Fagin Dupree tried to know these things. "What is he doing up here?"

"Greene has a daughter attending," the professor explained. "He visits her quite often. That was her with him." The man leaned in conspiratorially. "He has given quite a lot of money lately, so they treat him like a Big-Wig. Comes and goes as he pleases. I think he is in town for a few days. Do you want me to introduce you?"

Fagin said, Thank you; no. It shouldn't be nothing but a thing, but for some reason Arbuckle Greene bothered Fagin. Maybe it was his eyes. They seemed flat and dead. Maybe it was the way his daughter clinged to him. Whatever, Fagin decided to see if Pittsnogle knew any Private Dicks up here in Carolina. But first, he would check in with Ricky. The business virtually ran itself, but a good C.E.O. kept on top of things.

***

Christine Baran now dreaded her trips to Pittsnogle Consulting Services, but it was no longer just the thought of where she was. Christine could feel it; she was no longer welcome here.

Even Gloria was cold to her. (Of course, Christine had no idea that Fagin Dupree was a regular visitor, and often regaled Gloria with every nasty story he knew about Christine from his time with Deelea. Talk about poisoning the well…)

Christine sat in Pittsnogle's office, begging him to re-open the case. "You simply must, Mr. Pittsnogle." She pleaded. "I know he's guilty."

Pittsnogle looked back at Christine impassively. He noted she wore more alluring clothes this time, perhaps hoping to persuade him with more than just her words. Maybe if he…Pittsnogle smiled to himself at the thought. Just then, the phone rang.

"Pittsnogle. No, I'm not busy." Christine ground her teeth in frustration.

"Yeah, I do. Fella by the name of J.W. Lush. Works out of a motel called the Blue Parrot, out by the airport. Real character, this Lush. He will talk your ears off, but he's been around since the war. If he don't know it, it ain't worth knowing."

Christine sighed. Very loudly.

"That? Oh, that's Christine." She almost choked. Who was this that Pittsnogle would so casually reveal her presence?

"Yeah, I could. Yeah, I suppose it might. Hold on a minute." Pittsnogle took the receiver and leaned his bulk over the desk, handing the phone to Christine.

"Here." He said. "The man wants to talk to you."

***

Fagin clicked his phone shut with a dry chuckle. His only regret was that he had not been there to personally see her face when Christine first heard his voice. Fagin mused to himself that he could end all the speculation and just produce Deelea, but where was the fun in that?

Getting directions—and a phone number, and an invitation—from an attractive English Major (rare, but there were some), Fagin made his way to the Blue Parrot. Fagin supposed at one time (read: the '50s) the Blue Parrot might have been considered chic, but now it was slightly seedy and way past its prime.

J.W. Lush worked out of Bungalow #8. Even had a little flag hanging from the door. Fagin knocked and went in upon hearing a preemptory "Enter."

J.W. Lush did not disappoint. He was the kind of man P.G. Wodehouse would have written into a story. (Or possibly Douglass Adams.) Lush was tall and thin—angularly skinny—with a shock of blue-black hair, complete with a cowlick only Darla could love. He wore bright blue pants, a blue and white short-sleeved striped shirt, with a black tie covered with liquor bottles. Lush was singularly peculiar, and yet Fagin knew he'd instantly be lost in the memory. Perfect for a P.I.

J.W. Lush did indeed talk your ear off. Fagin found himself listening—with interest—to the story of how Lush had gone from one side of the badge to the other.

"I was the Lieutenant on this Po-Leece force down in Ocala, Florida." Lush began, warming to his audience. "This was back before they put the freeway in, and all the traffic came south on 19/41, so our town was pretty quiet. I remember the day; my sec'etery Debbie brought in the coffee, and I says to Debbie I says, 'We ain't ever gonna get nothin' excitin' happenin' 'round here.'"

Lush started coughing and needed a sip of something to settle him. (Cheap bourbon, if Fagin did not miss his guess.) Fagin took the opportunity to peek back past the sitting room to the bedroom. Half the bed was made neatly, but the other half had someone in it; Fagin could see her feet. He was not sure what impressed him most; that the old dog managed to find someone to fill the other half of that bed, or that whatever had happened here last night caused her to still be asleep at three in the afternoon!

J.W. was ready to continue. "Anyways, just as I get done sayin' that to Debbie, at that very moment the phone rings. 'Ocala Po-Leece Department' I answer. 'Lieutenant J.W. Lush speaking.'

"It's a fellow named Jonas, owns a plane over at the airfield. Some idiot, I think his name was Joshua Brown, he up and stole the plane. This Jonas feller, he's madder than a dog with fleas, and he wants me to get it back!

"So I says to this Jonas I says, 'I would love to catch him for you, but I just got one question: how do you suggest I go about doin' that?" J.W. Lush started wheezing in laughter at his own story, and had to take another drink.

"Well, that don't make the feller too happy, and he hangs up on me. But I can't even tell Debbie about it, because right then the phone rings again. It's old Mrs. Law, and she's calling to report a crazy man in a plane flying up and down her street.

"It seems that feller Brown had been fired from the hog-rendering factory, and went a little crazy. He stole that plane and managed to get it off the ground. But he didn't know nothin' about flying, and once he got up there, he couldn't figure out how to get back down!"

J.W. slapped the table and started to wheeze again. Fagin craned his neck, trying to get a gander of that filly in the back room, but he couldn't quite manage it. Lush took another big drink and collected himself.

"The long and short of it, Mr. Dupree, was that the whole town, from that feller Jonas who owned the plane to busybodies like Mrs. Law who thought the Commies were invading, they all wanted me to do something about it and blamed me for not ending the situation.

"If someone steals a bike, or a car, or even a boat, the po-leece is a good place to go. But you tell me how I was supposed to go about recovering a stolen plane, while it was still in the air? There watn't nothin' to be done but wait for that Brown to run out of gas and hope he don't kill nobody landing."

"What happened to him?" Fagin asked.

"Oh, he eventually sobered up and came down in a field. Crashed into a tree. Ruined the plane, but not a scratch on him on account of the alcohol lubricatin' his system.

"Well, I arrested him, but that watn't good enough for the townsfolk. They held a big meeting. They were saying I should have done more to calm the town during the crisis. That feller Jonas, he got his plane stole. Ain't no calmin' a man when his plane is up in the air in the hands of a drunk!

"And as for folks like Mrs. Law, there ain't no calming them either when they decide to get their dander up. There watn't no winnin', and I could see what they was fixin' to do. So I up and quit right there. Packed my stuff and took off. Never been back. Never missed it."

That much story seemed to take a bit out of J.W. Lush, and he sat there for a moment, looking inward. Then he seemed to snap out of it. "What is it I can do for you, Mr. Dupree?"

"There is a man in town, named Arbuckle Greene. He's got a daughter who goes to the College." Lush nodded, recognition in his eyes.

"You know him?" Fagin asked.

"Everyone around here does. He gave a mint to the school awhile back, and they treat him like royalty."

"There is something about him I don't like." Fagin said. I can't quite put my finger on it. But I learned a few weeks ago to trust my gut. I want you to find out everything you can on him. When he's here, see what he does. When he's not here, see what his daughter does."

"Beth Ann." J.W. Lush supplied. "She's well known around here too. Poor Unfortunate girl."

"She's a tramp."

In spite of himself, Fagin jumped at the voice. He looked up to see a girl with tasseled dark hair in the bedroom doorway. Here only clothing was a white tee shirt that juuuuuuuuust barely covered her girlie parts. She could have been 20. Maybe.

J.W. Lush turned to look at the girl, big ol' grin on his face, the kind of grin a man has when he's too lucky for his own good. He tried to look stern, but was not doing a very good job of it. "She was a human being Debbie. Let me remind you that even the most unworthy of us has the right to life and the pursuit of happiness." Lush told the girl.

Debbie smiled insolently. "From what I hear, she pursued it in all directions."

"What do you know?" Fagin asked her.

"She comes in the Kit-Kat Club all the time, different boy every night of the week."

Lush turned back to Fagin. "The Kit-Kat Club is what they call a real throwback establishment. They got a bit of everything there, if you know what I mean."

"I think I do." Fagin said wryly. Debbie walked over put her arms around J.W. Lush's shoulders and rubbed her cheek against his.

"I'm hungry." She said.

"Well, get in the shower, and I'll take you out for breakfast." She girl happily skipped off. J.W. Lush (and Fagin Dupree, for that matter) watched the girl go. Lush took another long pull from his mug and said to Fagin:

"Every since the sec'etery back in Ocala, I got a thing for Debbies. Since then, they all been Debbies. They all look like her too."

"If it ain't broke….." Fagin said. Then he turned serious. "Arbuckle and the girl; everything you can find out." Fagin handed over his card. "Call me in a couple of days; tell me how's it going."

"Sure thing, Mr. Dupree."

Fagin shook J.W. Lush's hand and left. As he got in the car, he thought of his own 20 year old back in Atlanta. Fagin dialed the phone.

"Holly Gibb, Loan Officer." She answered her personal line in a singsong voice.

"Hey Darlin."

"Fagin!" She shrieked happily. There are a few joys like a 20-year-old girl happy to hear your voice.

"How would you like to take a trip?" He asked.

"Oh, Wicked! Can we? Can we?"

"Pack your bags. I will pick you up at 4:30 tomorrow morning. We'll take the red-eye."

"Where are we going?"

"You still have that fake ID?"

"Yeah." Holly said.

"I thought I'd take you to Vegas."

Fagin had to hold the phone away from his ear, she was screaming so loud. He bade her goodbye and hung up.

Fagin pulled out of the parking lot of the Blue Parrot. Fagin smiled, thinking of Debbie, in her tee shirt, and Holly back in Atlanta, all excited about the trip. He had driven his Navigator up here, and he had a few hours before he had to drive back. Fagin Dupree started grinning, and searched his pockets. Now where was that phone number?

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