Vicious Versus

I've taken my fun where I've found it;
I've rogued an' I've ranged in my time;

-Rudyard Kipling

Good morning, all you Austrian Art-School Rejects! It is good of you to come. Did you know that today is International Back-to-School Supplies Day? I personally would like some sort of pen that I can use to write upside down. If you happen to find one while out school shopping (for yourself or a loved one), send it to me!

Many people are still pursuing Sunday's International Read Poetry to Someone you Love, although one reader wrote in that he tried out Rudyard Kipling's "The Ladies," and now has a black eye and no woman. Ouch! While an interesting poem, perhaps not the one you should use to woo. Try some Ben Johnson, instead.


Hey, over on Monkey Barn we are trying to figure out what TV character would win in a verbal smack down, but we need your help! Go take a look at our Vicious Versus.

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[Fagin Dupree marches on, with Chapter 2. I used to read a lot about writers "finding their voice," which I always took to be pretentious, but looking over Chapter 2 here I have to agree that at this point in the story there was no consistency. I knew what had happened to Fagin, but I didn't really know him. Yesterday the narration was ironic and almost leering, but this time it's….sassy! Of course I set the story up to be episodic, so in some ways the different tones aren't that bad, but reading once a month vs. once a day makes a big difference. Yesterday's chapter featured Vanderbilt mostly because my sister went there and I knew the area. Today's plot came about because I lived in a crash pad by the airport. In fact, at least 80% of this plot actually happened to me, and with most of the characters listed as named!]


THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE ADVENTURES OF FAGIN DUPREE


Read Chapter 1


Chapter Two: "there are some crimes…"


Fagin Dupree worked the intricate knot on his Italian silk tie in the semi-gloom, not really needing any light to create the perfect Triple Windsor. Fagin looked in the mirror and smiled to himself; even in the near dark, he could see the curved shadows of the hotel bed. Yes, Nashville had been a profitable trip, in more ways than one.

Finishing dressing and packing up the last few items, Fagin considered turning on the lamp and doing that "in-the-morning" thing. But why spoil a perfect day? Instead, Fagin opted to write a classy note, and placed it on the bathroom sink alongside one of the flowers from the shop. Simple. Elegant. Time to go.

Driving back to Atlanta, Fagin considered what to do about his "financial windfall." Helping the police made Fagin a good Public Citizen, but from years of reading detective novels and watching crime shows Fagin also knew that those helpful types were often suspects as well. Best to keep everything on the DL for a while.

***

Back at home, Fagin Dupree spent a few days pouring over real estate magazines and home furnishings catalogues. Would it be safe to buy a brand new house, or just redo the inside of this one? Fagin had always wanted a new stove, with two ovens like the Chefs on the Food Network…

The decision depended greatly on how much money was actually in those bags. Sadly, Fagin did not have much experience estimating large sums of cash, but he guessed about $250,000. There was only one way to find out.

Three days after arriving home Fagin opened safety deposit boxes at five different banks all over the city. He prepaid in cash for a year's service on each, and not one time was Fagin asked to provide photo ID. While this was a disturbing commentary on the security of the banking system, it suited Fagin just fine.

He also rented rooms in two "crash pads" near the airport. They were houses that held rooms for pilots who could not get back to their home city after a flight and did not want to pay through the nose for a hotel room. Thus, the interaction was sparse and Fagin found it easy to impersonate a pilot with the landlords (thank you Catch Me If You Can). Fagin was not quite sure if all of this cloak-and-dagger was really necessary, but it made him feel like a spy, and that was cool.

Over a week gone by now, and not a sign of heat from Johnny Law. If it were going to come, it would have. A bit nervous and a lot excited, Fagin went to the post office box he'd rented under an assumed name (Douglas Massey, in case you were wondering). Fagin signed for the package with his right hand (not his usual, but he had been practicing just in case they checked these sort of things), and drove to one of his crash pads, or as Fagin called them, "Safe Houses."

There, in his dingy room, Fagin put on latex gloves and began to count his money; not so much to avoid fingerprints as because of a Dateline special with Stone Phillips that horrified with lurid tales of what is actually on money.

Counting—and recounting—took almost 11 hours; you try it sometime. When he was through, Fagin had $ 768,488 sitting in front of him. His estimate had been a bit off.

Fagin had dreams of houses and cars and trips to the Bahamas, but he knew he had to be careful here. The money was still missing, and the guy who found the robbers could not suddenly start spending like a trophy wife. This had to be done right.

Wisely, Fagin brought several suitcases with him, under-packed with a few clothes and accessories that a pilot might need for a stopover. He filled the now-empty suitcases with the money, threw the gloves and markers into the original box, and went out to load up his car with the cash and the trash.

Outside, Fagin walked smartly with his head on a swivel. Like most cities, the area surrounding the airport catered to hotels and the crime that came with them. This was not a nice neighborhood, and Fagin felt conspicuous as a man loading up suitcases into a brand new Lincoln Navigator. Three months ago Fagin would have been terrified surrounded by this many poor black people, but with his newfound confidence, he might even try rapping. Well, maybe not that chillin' just yet, but Fagin was at ease with that aspect of the situation.

The bags were in the car and Fagin was getting ready to leave when he heard the screaming from next door. A man and woman were arguing, quite loudly, and it sounded like violence was imminent. Fagin was torn about what to do. His whole life he hated letting this stuff just go, but he had always been a coward. Because of the Parchment Fagin could now do something about it. Except there was this matter of a few hundred thousand dollars in the car.

Before Fagin could properly weigh that over the fight spilled outside. The man was dressed shabbily, in dirty dungarees and what they flippantly call a "wife-beater." He was dragging the woman by her arm roughly. She was dressed in something Fagin could not quite make out, but whatever the clothes they were half torn off her.

The woman tried to cover her nakedness and plead with the man between her sobs. "Vernard, please! Let me go!" Vernard was not having any of it.

"You gonna say that about me, bitch, why don't you say it out here in front'a everybody? Huh? What you got to say now? What? What?"

The woman said nothing; just cried quietly, lying half-prostrate on the ground. Even from thirty feet Fagin could smell the alcohol on Vernard. Fagin's fingers itched to do something.

"I'm goin' to Larry's." Vernard snarled. "Give me keys." The woman did not move fast enough, and the man roughly went through her clothes and found them. He got into a beat up Chevy, yelling, "You best be cleaned up and have dinner waiting when I get back!" Vernard tore off, driving over the curb and almost swiping a telephone pole on his way.

The woman did not move, but lay there, body wracked with sobs. Money or not, Fagin did not hesitate now. He walked up to her and offered his coat so she could cover up.

When he got there, Fagin almost threw up. The woman's lip was split wide open and one of her eyes was fast closing. Even a cursory glance showed fresh and old bruises all over her arms and shoulders.

"Why don't you call the police?" He asked quietly. She just looked at him blankly. A neighbor answered, a young girl no older than 16.

"It don't do no good. I called the police over a dozen times. They hauled him away at least for or five of 'em. Every time he back less'n a week."

Fagin nodded grimly. The inadequacies of the domestic violence laws were not news. He walked over to the girl, and kept his voice low, easily slipping into her slangy vernacular. "You go up in there and pack her clothes and anything else she might need. Not everything, but enough to get her by for a few days, aiight?"

The girl looked doubtful. Fagin tilted his head slightly and his eyes bored into her. "C'mon, girl. You wanna help or not?" She nodded. "Be quick, then." She moved.

Fagin went back to the woman on the ground and helped her up. She did not protest. She did not even seem to notice. Fagin led the woman over to his Navigator, and took a bottle of water from the front console. He wet his handkerchief and washed the blood off her face.

"What's your name?" Fagin asked gently. The woman tried to answer, but with her split lip, she could barely speak. Fagin finally shushed her and told her to rest.

The girl came out two minutes later with an old suitcase and a duffel purse. Fagin put these bags in the back with his own, and smiled wryly at the juxtaposition.

He asked, "What's her name?"

"Starla James."

"She have family somewhere?"

"Her daddy lives down in Macon," the girl began, "But you don't want to send her there. He liable to do worse than that for botherin' him."

"Anyone else?" Fagin pressed. "Somewhere Vernard and her daddy don't know?"

The girl bit her lip and thought for a minute. "She told me once she had a sister named Janice in Seattle. Sometimes talked about going out there."

Fagin nodded. He turned to get in the car, but the girl tugged his arm. "Vernard come back and Starla's gone, he'll be awful furious. He knows I'm her friend. I'm scared of him." She sounded frightened.

"Where's that 'Larry's' he said he was going to?"

"It's a bar at one of the hotels."

"How long he usually there?"

"At least four or five hours."

Fagin nodded and said. "Don't worry. One thing at a time."

Fagin drove to the train station—the airport seemed too much for Starla to handle—and bought a one-way ticket to Seattle, first class all the way. He paid cash. Starla went to the restroom to change and put on some makeup. Fagin took three stacks of money, almost 80,000 dollars, and put them in one of her suitcases. He took another grand in twenties and put it in her purse.

She came back, looking still worse for wear, but okay to travel. Fagin looked at her. "I bought you a ticket to Seattle. You go out and see your sister. You DO NOT come back, you hear?" Starla nodded numbly.

"Your meals are covered, but there's some money in your purse for incidentals, and some more in your suitcase for when you get out there. Don't be flashing it around, okay? And keep those suitcases close to you. Lock up your room when you leave. I got you a room with a bed, by yourself, so no one will bother you."

Starla nodded gratefully, but then a look of apprehension came into her eyes. "What if he finds me? He told me once if I ever left him he'd hunt me down and kill me."

"Does he know about Janice in Seattle?"

"No, but…"she trailed off, tears forming in her eyes.

"Don't worry about it," Fagin told her decisively. "I'll take care of it."

"Who are you?" she asked as Fagin led her over to the platform. Fagin just looked at her for a moment.

"I'm the man with a plan." He said, and she got on the train.

***

Fagin had several stops to make. He went to a police-supply store and bought a taser. They were not supposed to sell those to people who were not law enforcement, but a couple of Benjamins aided the endeavor. Fagin then journeyed to a flea market and picked up a couple of large trunks, the kind you take to college. Finally, Fagin dropped by the local hardware store and bought a cordless power saw. It was a beauty.

Fagin dropped the stuff back at the crash pad, and then drove the car up to one of the hotels and parked it. He walked back to the house another way, and took stock of his gear. It was dark now, and Fagin took the taser and snuck into the house next door through the back. He left all the lights off, and sat down to wait.

There are some crimes the penal system is simply inadequate to handle.

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