Friday, February 12, 2010
The M.S. Conspiracy
A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic
Chapter 12 With a Madman Behind Me
I woke up thinking that the sound of the gun firing had reminded me of the sound made by a 1975 Salon Champagne opened by an incompetent M.S., its precious contents spewing into the white napkin he had wrapped around the bottle like a llama horking at an innocent bystander at the zoo, at the first anniversary dinner my first wife and I shared at a snooty restaurant in Los Angeles, if that isn't redundant. But then I remembered that Salon didn't produce a Champagne in 1975, and that I didn't make it to a first anniversary with my first wife. In that vintage, Salon didn't need a cage, and neither did I. I'd been spewing into white napkins ever since.
I checked myself for gunshot wounds. Luckily, I hadn't been shot since I was a sommelier and refused to put Rancho Zabaco on my wine list. But that had been worth it. This was a stupid case that had somehow turned violent and deadly. Once again I wondered why I'd ever become a private dick. I'd had everything when I was a sommelier. A ten-year-old car, a drinking problem, a liver the size of a Wurlitzer organ, bad breath, a luxurious apartment above a crack dealer and prestige. What sort of a fool gives that up to be a private dick? No wonder everyone wanted to earn an M.S. There's real glamour in it, the glamour of imaginary accomplishment, the glamour of knowing the bottom of a spitbucket better than your partner's face, the glamour of free trips to romantic far-off lands with other drunks and losers, the glamour of knowing about obscure varieties of grapes and boring the crap out of everyone extolling their virtues, the glamour of wearing a brightly polished tastevin around your neck like you're Sammy Davis, Jr in whiteface. I'd given that prestigious life up for the life of a dick. Why? I guess because people like dicks. Women, especially, like dicks. Where would the world be without dicks? It's a dick world. I like saying dick.
I had a lump on the back of my head the size of Lance Armstrong's remaining testicle. Great. Someone had whacked me on the back of the head again. Only this time the gun had gone off. The jerk hadn't had the safety on, apparently, and the gun's impact with my beleaguered head had caused it to inadvertently discharge like a guy with P.E. at a Women in Wine conference. I was getting tired of this. I'd had my head banged around recently like I was an NFL lineman, and I wasn't excited about the idea of spending my last days drooling like a Saint Bernard and calling everybody Deacon. This case was getting to me.
I was alone in my office. I must have been out for a while. Damn. I'd missed the midget running. I could have used the laugh. And Tiny was gone too, though the floor was still warm where he'd been posing as Fugly's divan, warm enough to have made a fine Madeira, though if I wanted oxidized wines I could shop at Trader Joe's. Larry Anosmia, M.S. was gone too, but there was blood where he'd been standing. Seems the bullet had grazed him, maybe even caught him. I thought about calling Chief of Police Jokes, but I had a feeling I shouldn't. She was probably still comforting Veronica.
But who had hit me? It couldn't have been Fugly, Mr. Teebagger, I'd been hit from behind. The only explanation was that there had been another person in my office when I'd arrived, someone hidden in the coat closet slightly behind me and to my right, someone who'd been hiding there in order to assault me and who'd used my rant at Anosmia as the opportunity to sneak up behind me and use my head as a gong. Whoever it was had been nervous, an amateur, and no doubt part of the M.S. Conspiracy. Though accidentally shooting Anosmia wasn't going to score many points. Except with anyone who'd ever dealt with an M.S. before. They'd give him 100. With a bullet.
When the phone rang it scared the Temecula out of me. I was getting jumpier than a wine writer with ethics--well, if there were any they'd be jumpy. I didn't recognize the voice on the other end of the call at first, but then I realized it was Avril Cadavril, Butcher/Coroner.
"HoseMaster, I think you'd better get back here to the morgue. I've got something for you."
I was pretty sure she meant a drawer.