Archive for December, 2007

It’s New Year’s Day 2008! (Scroll back, ya varmints!)

December 31, 2007

Can you believe it? another year has passed and what have we accomplished here? Hmmm…

Well, this New Year’s Day is AMRFP’s 201st entry. It has been a hit and miss affair as far as certain topics are concerned, readers feedback has been sporadic. Amazingly enough… some of my favorites have garnished the fewest hits, while the ones that seemed insignificant blasted the charts! I feel like Tommy Smothers or the court jester under the employment of the king. Can’t bite the hand that feeds you, but then again… I don’t want to lose my objectivity, that would be blogareer suicide.

My friend, dame… over at “matters of little consequence” recently wrote an interesting post about getting through Christmas. Sad day when the holidays catch us as burdensome rather than what they were intended to be… a time to be with family and friends. Perhaps with a sweetheart lounging on the beach, kissing in broad daylight while the whole world passes by and who’s to care? Perfect Christmas time when alligators made of sand greet you instead of snowmen… warm island breezes instead of arctic wind chill… glorious sun instead of overcast skies.

I wish I were there with you still, my fair one… the world could’ve ended then and I would have been satisfied. Lets keep the mas in Christmas.

Yes, the end of the year… a time to pause and reflect. This blog saw almost double the entries I posted in 2006, perhaps I have become too blabby in my old age…

Some were videos which is a poor substitute for good writing (or bad, depending on your view point) but I thought most of them were relevant to an adjoining topic, I tried to use them sparingly…

But for better or worse, in reverse order from last posted to the first…

scroll back…

peace.

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1)  Shades of Hemingway/ Medium Exposure  Parts 1-12 and epilogue… a joy for me to write but my hits for December were the lowest since the posting of the original Shades of Hemingway way back last spring.  I should’ve known better but “I say what the hey… people get that way…  I get that way, too.”

2)  Prelude to Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure… prophetic introduction but who listens to the voice of reason?

3)  A Holiday Wish… posted on 11-12-07.  Expounding on the frailities of life and it’s aftermath

4)  Ode to Daily Readers… I have one or two, perhaps you?  thanks for the encouraging words and frequent flier miles  😉

5)  …underwhelming… one of my favorite recent posts, life is like a box of chock ‘o’ nuts

6)  SPACE… the final front tear…   The fact that we all need a little space is not wasted here

7)  Love Should (video)… introduced to me by my #1 fan, and she is right (plays into the next entry, rules of engagement )

8)  rules of engagement…  All’s fair in love and bologna?  I am a firm believer in love, love above all else… I am a romantic, I make no bones about it

9)  convertible therapy…  Sometimes you just have to go out and burn a little ethanol

10)  A Spiritual Man… my so-so attempt at lyrics, but the inspiration remains true.  My fair one makes me feel like my sins have been atoned for

11)  rude, crude, lewd and socially unacceptable behavior… Love will make you crazy, this is my account of one instance where my emotions got the better of me

12)  Marry Me (video)…  A great song and request.  I posted it for the L&M entry, but it stands alone for it’s message… which shot me right through the heart

13)  L&M…  Love set to the tone of Romeo and Juliet, but without the sad ending and the thee, thy, those or what for

14)  Goodbye! … it’s great to be back again… My vacation and the advances I made on finally meeting my true companion

15)  Michelle (video)  these are words that go together well.  Posted for Love is… an entry and inspiration that I am most grateful for

16)  Love is…  This post, above all others… changed my life.  Before… I hoped she did, from this day on… she knew she would.  Glorious

17)  the other life I should have led…  We all wonder what might have been, here are a few of mine

18)  Goodbye freebee T.V… set to the tune of the Stones, Ruby Tuesday

19)  Goodbye Ruby Tuesday (video) for Goodbye freebee T.V. for those of you who couldn’t catch the riff

20)  Thank You…  acknowledging the best month ever for AMRFP

21)  Ben & Ted’s Abhorrent Misadventure… Alaskan politics at it’s finest and who are we kidding? it’s the same all over

22)  TMTV (video) information on the misconduct of Senator Ted Stevens

23)  live and let liv tyler… there’s just not enough love in the world

24)  Dear Abby, “ma’am” and me…  I love Dear Abby and this was a tribute to her advice column

25)  Dear Abby (video)  self explanatory

26)  The Brave Highway… my life at a crossroads, speed bump ahead

27)  Sunday Morning Coming Down (video)  posted for The Brave Highway

28)  learn to avoid Internet scams!  …good advice

29)  pass it on… our sometimes not so subtle influences

30)  Amazing Guitar Player (video)  definately lives up to it’s hype, this one serves as an inspiration

31)  I Never Thought I’d Live To Be A Hundred (video) posted for Live to be 100 entry

32)  Live to be 100…  live like you weren’t dying (for a while)

33)  What If God Surfed the Internet?  …inspired by damewiggensoflee and written to the tune of One of Us

34)  One of Us (video) …in case you couldn’t catch the riff

35)  I’m Too Sexy for S.W. Airlines… written for the passengers that were asked to leave their flights because of the clothing they wore… was that a threat to national security?

36)  I’m Too Sexy (video) …in case you couldn’t catch the riff

37)  Leave Britney Spears Alone… a parody of Leave Virginia Alone this entry garnished the most hits on this blog EVER in a single day

38)  Leave Virginia Alone (video) …in case you couldn’t catch the riff 

39)  Yikes! discomblogulation… why do we blog?

40)  just another day in paradox… our fine government at work covering up

41)  Just Gimme Some Truth (video) posted for just another day in paradox and expresses my sentiments towards the Bush administration

42)  Hey Jack Karouac (lyrics)… follows the video

41)  Hey Jack Karouac (video) … in celebration of AMRFP’s 10,000th hit

42)  You’ll Be in My Heart (video)  … a promise to a memory

43)  Whispering Pines (video)  … music from a period in and around the post My First Bicycle

44)  My First Bicycle… a tribute to the memory of my brother-in-law, Bob Henderson

45)  Viva Las Vegas (video) …follows CD’s & Elvis as apropos to the theme

46)  CD’s & Elvis… marks the anniversary of Elvis’ death and the invention of the Compact Disc

47)  Rehab (video) … in case you couldn’t catch the riff

48)  rehab redux… based on the song by Winehouse, she is one messed up chick

49)  as time goes by (video) …the fundamental things apply

50)  I’m in repair (video)  … recovering from a broken romance

51)  new socks… same ol’ jaw …some people can write about anything

52)  bad attitudes, sick bastards and cheaters win… got some flak on this one in my comments section, which was kinda cool

53)  today is the best day ever! woo hoo!  …and it was until Leave Britney Spears Alone

54)  no time for the blues… or how to recover from them

55)  Gravity (video) precedes no time for the blues

56)  I Believe In You (video)  follows What I Believe and seemed to fit

57)  What I Believe… well, it’s about… what I believe

58)  Running on Faith (video) follows Death, where is thy sting?

59)  Death, where is thy sting?  …written for a friend who lost a loved one

60)  What a great idea!  …something to make you think about fairness in our government’s welfare policy

61)  A Good Line With High Extentions…  a link to another site I enjoy

62)  How come it always parades on my rain?  …I’d still like to know the answer to that one

63)  7-7-7  (unlucky in love but still willing to gamble)…  title says it all

64)  Don’t You Love Me Anymore (video)

65)  It’s Over (video)

66)  Life By The Drop (video)

67)  Please Forgive Me (video)

68)  breaking up is hard to do…  painful but true

69)  See SiCKO (b4ubasicko2)… this film makes you think.  Panned by the critics but, you be the judge

70)  Hello Hillary… last attempt to influence the candidate.  Interestingly, though she has never written me, I am on her e-mail list.  ha

71)  and still more pet peeves!  …gosh, I enjoy complaining

72)  the illegal immigration solution, conclusion… a 3 parter that began last year

73)  Whilst I was away… catching up on the events that were going on that I didn’t comment on while I was posting Shades of Hemingway that I might have if I hadn’t taken the time to post Shades of Hemingway.  Does that make sense?

74)  Shades of Hemingway… 13 parts and a prologue, lowest read posts of the year… but don’t let that stop you 😉

75)  Ladies and Gentleman, for your listening pleasure…  a tribute to Jesse Winchester

76)  sunrise… sunset and the we in between… reflections on the life we share

77)  Hello Hillary… more questions for the Democratic candidate (unanswered, of course)

78)  Viacom needs a hug… poor major conglomerate needs a little sympathy

79)  Everyday (video)  … I love this Dave Matthews Band song/video , goes well with respect your elders and admire them… it is the beginning of wisdom

80)  respect your elders and admire them… it is the beginning of wisdom…  which I think is good advice no matter who you are

81)  the definitive 200?  …lists suck (unless they are mine)

82)  amazing juggling finale… a keeper, I still enjoy watching this one 9 months after the posting

83)  hopeless romantic…  wax on, wax off about me wanting to be

84)  Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman? (video)  works well with  hopeless romantic 

85)  Hello Hillary… more unanswered questions for the Democratic candidate

86)  Comfortably Numb (video)  goes with traffic jam

87)  traffic jam… who hasn’t fretted about this?

88)  Save It For A Rainy Day (video)

89)  save it for a rainy day… you better

90)  black and white… oooh, started off innocent enough but boy did I catch the dickens over this one in my comments

91)  undercurrent with my big toe… and you thought my avatar was computer generated

92)  birthdays… na na na na na na… na na

93)  Hello Hillary… more unanswered questions for the Democratic candidate

94)  72 degrees in January… the fear factor

95)  Hello Hillary… more unanswered questions for the Democratic candidate

96)  the best dadgum country song, period!  … at least, I think so

97)  Hello Hillary… more unanswered questions for the Democratic candidate 

98)  people in the No…  people should know better 

99)  Hello Hillary… first letter to the Democratic candidate

100)  Flowers are better than bullets… remembering the Kent State Massacre

101)  the good ol’ days…  weren’t always good, tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems

102)  Let me call you sweetheart… though this was my first entry in 2006, it re-occurs as one of the most popular topics of the year for this blog.  Great fun for me to write as well as the reflection it creates

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Looking forward to a full and productive year in 2008.  Thanks to you, faithful reader, for making it all worthwhile.

Keep them comments coming…

peace.

Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure, Epilogue

December 26, 2007

All is not what it seems in paradise, there are evil powers at work that go about their illegal business in broad daylight. Brazenly, almost taunting the authorities in their defiance of our laws.

My experience in Key West the second time around was not like anything I had ever been involved with and as I sat back in that car seat I knew it was a long way from being over.

I couldn’t help but wonder what all this had to do with me, a small time businessman who just happened upon the ghosts of one of America’s most celebrated writers… something I still struggled to believe in. How did it all tie into Robert Jordan’s death and was I any closer to exposing his killer?

Now not only was I stranded in Key West, but the woman I had become hopelessly enamored with after only a brief encounter was missing and needed my help. I was without money, identification or a pair of shoes and riding around with a Cuban policeman that I still wasn’t too sure may have had the intention of causing me harm. I looked out the window as we made our way down Highway A1A, the mainline, and wondered about Rachel. Now it started to make a little sense. Robert Jordan was her brother, perhaps that explained her moods and changes in personality. Maybe the shades had some kind of influence on her, too. Could anything else happen to make this crazy scenario any worse? Almost on cue, Sgt. Garcia interrupted my thoughts.

“Our boat will be ready to take off when we arrive, Mr. Fiore, I’m sure any other questions you might have can be answered by the Captain or the consulate once we reach shore.”

“Boat? What boat? Where am I going?”

Garcia looked back at me again. “I presumed you knew, Mr. Fiore.”

“Knew what? You told me Rachel needed my help and now you say I’m getting on a boat? What for?”

Garcia wheeled the car into a small marina, a large yacht like looking boat was moored to the side. A couple of men were on hand to cast off the lines as we got out of the car. Garcia saluted one of the men at the bow and turned to pat me on the back. I was beginning to panic a little, but he smiled broadly then offered his hand to me. Everything was happening too fast.

“It is a very short ride, Mr. Fiore. But I can assure you safe passage to my country.”

Now the light bulb came on… brightly. I was going to Cuba.

.

Postscript: Be sure to stay tuned for Book Two, Shades of Hemingway / Deja’ Voodoo, to be posted in the Spring of 2008.

Thanks for reading,

peace.

Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 12, The Get Away

December 23, 2007

*Author’s note:  This is part 12 of 13 parts, to better understand the contents it is suggested that you scroll back to the Prelude.

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Ring Lardner, Jr. was standing on the shoreline, beckoning with his arm for me to join him.  I stepped out of the van and walked towards the water, the fading colors of the sunset becoming pastel grey on the horizon.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”

“They’ve taken her, Chris.”

“Taken who?”

“Rachel.”

He is looking out over the water, much the way he had done at Fort Zachary Taylor the first day we met.

“Who?  Ring who has taken Rachel?”

“Remember, Chris… kyklos tod mene…

“The cycle of the death moon.”

“The killer is very close to you…”

“Who has taken her, Ring? Who has taken Rachel?”

” …very close.”

……..

Jake Barnes is lightly slapping my face to awaken me.  I struggle to sit up and he pulls back, kneeling beside me.

“I must have fainted…”

“Dropped like a sack of potatoes.”

“I’m sorry, this has been a bit unsettling to me…”

“Yeah, I could see how it might be.  You’re in a tight spot, my friend.”

I sat up and rubbed the back of my neck.  Detective Barnes stands and steps back, then rifles his inside pocket for a pack of cigarettes.  He offers the pack to me, then removes one for himself and fires it up.

“She never liked it when I smoked, even before it became vogue to be a non-smoker.”

“How long ago were you married?”

“17… 18 years.  She was just out of high school.  Didn’t last 18 months.”

“I’m sorry…”  though I really wasn’t.

“Ah, don’t sweat it.  Wasn’t meant to be, that’s all.”  He took a long drag off his cigarette and blew smoke into the air.  “We sure had us a time, though… during those 18 months.”

Jake Barnes’ civility is disconcerting as he walks towards the counter.  I’m wondering if this is a good/bad cop routine.  He laughs through pursed lips, like puffs of steam are escaping from his lungs.  He flicks the ash off on the carpet and turns to face me, still sitting up on the kitchen floor.

“So… what’s your story?  Can you think of any good reason why I shouldn’t haul your ass down to the station right now?”

“On what charge?”

“How ’bout unlawful entry for starters?”

“Unlawful?  Rachel brought me here!”

“So you say, but she is gone and can’t collaborate your story now, can she?”

“I don’t know where she is…”

“Yeah, you told me that already.”

“Look, Detective…”

“Call me, Jake… Mr. Fiore.”

Now I was the one surprised.  “How do you know my name?”

“Told ya, kid… I’m a detective.  Spotted your wallet while you were passed out.  I checked out your story…”

“And…?”

“Jury is still debatin’ that one… let’s just say, for now… you’re cool.”

I breathed a sigh of relief and managed to get myself up off the floor with Jake stepping near and offering to pull me up with one of those catcher’s mitt hands of his.

“So, what happens now?”

“Well, I can take you down to the Ferry if you’re wanting to get back to Ft. Myers.”

“And what about Rachel?”

“Police business, kid… forget about it.  She’ll probably turn up and have forgotten she was supposed to meet me.”

“When she thought she knew who her brother’s killer was?  That’s not something you forget about!”

“No, of course not… what I meant is that she’ll be down at the station waiting for me and swear I had it wrong.”

“Had it wrong?”

“Our meeting place…”

“Where were you supposed to meet?”

Jake looks at me just a bit perplexed  “You wanna job, kid?”

“Job?  What do you mean?”

“Because I thought I was the one that was supposed to ask the questions.”

I found my shoes, walked over to the sofa to sit down and began putting them on.  Jake seemed amused that I was emboldened enough to move about without taking him into consideration any longer.  But my determiation must have been written all over my face because he stood in front of me, hands in his pockets, flashing that badge on his hip.

“I think she might be in trouble, Jake… I have to do something.”

“You’ll do nothing, Mr. Fiore… except go home while you still can.”

I sat back and looked up at him.  “While I still can?”

Jake Barnes shifted his weight, almost like he was ready to take a dance step but then thought better of it.  He had spread his legs apart like he was straddling a horse, I had a clear shot at his crotch.  I have been threatened in the past but I’ve never feared for my freedom before this moment.  Jake’s semi-friendly manner as gone, he stood there sizing me up… not afraid to broadcast the fact that he had me cornered.

“You know, I actually think… yeah, …I’m gonna enjoy this.”

I found myself thinking out loud.  “I’m not going to get arrested today!”

Instinctively I kicked him in the balls as hard as I could.  I lurched from the couch as Jake doubled over and I pushed him to the floor, kicking several times in the area of his private parts and mid-section.  Then I ran out of the apartment without my shoes, my wallet or any identification.  Down the stairs from the second floor and out into the parking area I went not giving a thought to where I was going. 

It was early morning, there still was a mist of dew and swirling ground fog common to South Florida climes.  I stopped in the middle of the drive way, turned to look back at the building I’d left… searching for the door and the man that sought to put me in handcuffs.  For a moment I thought of Keith, my ex-Marine buddy.  He would have led the charge and not thought twice about it.  I imagined him laughing at me now… standing half dressed and wild eyed on some cold, wet asphalt in Key West.

 Just then a car pulled up with the drivers side to me.  The power window went down and the driver put his face out.

“Mr. Fiore!  Hurry!  Get in!”

I looked down at the driver and realized a compromising position in a heart beat.  The driver of the car was the man they called ‘Manolo.’  Suddenly I was facing two obstacles and had nowhere to turn… or run to.  Manolo’s face was urgent, Jake Barnes face would be more so if he caught me.  I hesitated.  Manolo struck his open hand against the side of his car as if to sound an alarm.

“Mr. Fiore, I know here Rachel is!”

I had been looking back at the apartment and scanning the parking lot for Jake Barnes’ possible back up.  Manolo’s words snapped my face back to his.

“Please, Mr. Fiore, we don’t have much time!”

I turned back one last time and spied Detective Barnes coming out the front door of Rachel’s apartment, he had my wallet in his hand and was seaching the parking lot, finally looking in my direction.  He raised my wallet up when he saw me, pointed at it with his other hand and nodded like he knew my goose would be cooked.  I could not leave on the Key West Express without proper identification and Barnes knew it.

“Mr. Fiore!  Rachel needs your help!”

Instinctively I knew I could trust Manolo, I had no choice.  I opened the door behind him and jumped into the back seat.  He sped out of the parking lot, I turned to see if we were being followed but Jake was still standing on the second floor landing, tapping my wallet on the rail.

“Who the Hell are you?”

“Sargent Manuel Garcia, Republic of Cuba’s National Guard.”

“What are you doing here?  What the Hell is going on?” 

The urgency in Sgt. Garcia’s driving subsided after a few more moments, but he continually checked his rearview mirror as he spoke to me.

“I am part of a Federal investigation in cooperation with your government.”

“What kind of an investigation?  And since when did our government get involved with Castro?”

“Since 1962, Mr. Fiore.  Our investigation involves human trafficking between Cuba and the United States.”

“I thought that was all sanctioned by the U.S. government as a ploy to stick it to Castro’s regime!”

Garcia looks at me through the rearview mirror, not reacting favorably to my little jab at his president.  But after a few moments he slightly smiled, as if to have the last laugh but then let his face become solemn.

“You don’t understand, Mr. Fiore… we are not investigating Cubans being brought to the U.S.”

“Well, what other kind of human trafficking would you be investigating?”

He looked at me through the rearview mirror.

“American.”

Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 11, The Discovery

December 19, 2007

 *Author’s note:  This is part 11 of 13 parts, to better understand the contents it is suggested that you scroll back to the Prelude.

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Detective Jake Barnes was a burly man but moved lightly on his feet.  He moved through Rachel’s apartment like a scanner, taking everything in.  He had allowed  me to get dressed and step outside into the kitchen, but the consideration ended there.  No matter where he was, Barnes’ back never turned and he managed to keep himself between me and the door at all times.  I came out as he was sniffing a candle that had burnt all the way down to the bottom of it’s holder.

“Rachel never mentioned a husband… ” I began, wanting to maneuver towards the door as inconspicuously as possible, but not too close. 

“Ex…” he looked up at my reaction as he corrected me, “ex-husband.  Not that that matters now.  Where is she?”

“I honestly don’t know.  She picked me up last night and brought me here.  I woke up this morning and she had already left.”

“Picked you up?”  he grinned in disbelief.  I almost found it humorous myself.  A woman like Rachel didn’t need to pick up a man.

“Men flock to her like flies on a turd and you say she picked you up?”

I was getting a little irritated with the implication that I wasn’t worthy of a woman’s interest and was just about to say so when he added, “That’s just about typical of the bitch.”

I told him how I had been abducted and left out on the causeway.  How Rachel had just happened along and given me a ride.  Jake’s eyes raised a bit but he said nothing until I finished.  He questioned me about the van and the men driving it, why I had been at the courthouse the day before and what I knew of the men I saw him with at My Blue Heaven.  When I declared I didn’t know the men, his eyebrows raised again.

“Really?  Never seen ’em before?  Any of ’em?  Ever?”

Jack’s directness caught me off guard and I stammered a bit, which led him to raise up his hand to silence me.

“Okay, whoa! let’s back up here.  Those men were Cuban National’s, Castro’s elite guards.  They’re here investigating a human trafficking case.”

“Investigating human trafficking here? Why would they care who slips out of Cuba and who aids them?  I thought once Cubans reached the shore they were sanctioned by the U.S. government.  Besides, since when did we cooperate with Castro?”

Jake stopped for a moment, perhaps not used to one as outspoken as myself and I took a gulp of air while he mulled my logic.  Maybe I had impressed him with my knowledge of U.S. policy towards Cuban refugees or he realized he had already told me too much about something I had no business knowing.  I stood there nervously waiting for him to respond, then in my frustration blurted out a statement I would live to regret. 

“I saw the man they called Manolo at the Green Parrot Bar the first time I came to Key West.”

Jake’s features changed instantly.  “And when was this?”

“About six weeks ago.”

“What were you doing at the Green Parrot?”

Barnes’ direct questioning began to un-nerve me, I felt I was being cornered and knew no earthly reason why.

“I was with friends, we were tourists…”

“But you distinctly remember seeing Manolo six weeks ago at a bar you’ve never been in before?  Why?”

I knew I was stuck.  I couldn’t tell Barnes that a dead cop had directed me there as a preliminary to exposing his killer.  I stalled.

“We’d been up and down Duval St. and someone recommended we try the place out.”

“Who?  Who told you to go there?”

“I dunno, some guy had been talking to Keith and suggested we try the place out.”

“Keith?”

“My girlfriend at the time and I were traveling with some friends, Keith and his wife, Laura.  They’ve been to the Keys several times and were kinda showing us around.”

“Hmm… they’ve been here several times but never been to the Green Parrot before?”

“I guess not.”

Jake Barnes gave me the type of look one gives when they peek over their reading glasses.

“Look, kid… been on the force a long time.  I’ve got this sort of built in bullshit detector that I’ve developed and fine tuned over the years and I’ve gotta tell ya… something stinks to high heaven in Denmark.”

My adrenaline was pumping.  This big man looked like he was ready to bounce me off the walls and my thoughts were racing for some sort of defensive maneuver to get the focus off of me.

“What does all this have to do with you being here now?”

Jake drew his head back like my words were a punch to be avoided.  We stood there in that kitchen, squared off.  It was all I could do to muster up the courage to stare into that bulldog face of his and not flinch.  Eventually he relaxed a little, walked over to the bar that separated the kitchen from the living room and propped himself on a stool, the very one Rachel had tossed her jacket on the night before.  He leaned on the counter with those big arms of his and gestured lightly with his fingertips in the air, a flippant move like what he was telling me was off the record.  I hopped up on the counter across from him, my bare feet dangling in the air, feeling better now that he had seated himself.

“She called me last night.  I was supposed to meet her this morning, she didn’t show. Came and found you here instead.”

“She called you last night?”  I had been with her the entire time and knew she hadn’t called while I was with her.

“Yeah, probably while you were in the shower…”

I did a double take.  He chuckled to himself.

“I’m a detective, mister… saw your towel on the floor in the bedroom.  Besides, we were married once.  Old habits and all that… it’s been a while ago, but I still remember some of the details.”

“Okay… why did she want to meet you this morning and what does it all have to do with me?”

He leaned closer to me, a half smile on his lips.  Any comfort I had been feeling with Jake Barnes seated at the bar was rapidly evaporating.

“She said she’d located a killer and needed my help bringng him in.”

“A killer?”  I slid off the counter top and onto my feet.

“Yeah, ain’t that strange?  She said she knew who had killed her brother and wanted me to help arrest him.”

“Her brother?”  I was feeling faint, my knees wobbled and I leaned back against the counter trying to keep my balance.

“Yeah, her brother was a cop, too.  Rode bicycle patrol during his rookie year.  Everybody loved him.  Got killed a year or so ago.”

“Robert Jordan was Rachel’s brother?” 

Now Jake stood up, the color drained from his face.  My stomach churned and I felt I was about to retch.  He came around the corner and filled the path between me and the front door.

“Gee…  I don’t recall mentioning it before so… how did you know his name?”

I felt myself slumping to the floor, my legs buckling beneath me. 

Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 10, The Other Half Lives

December 16, 2007

It was a long drive back to Rachel’s apartment.  After I had explained to her in detail what had happened to me and how I had dreamt of her and Robert Jordan, she suggested I go to her place to shower and rest until morning.  I was grateful, feeling a little more in control of the situation but still trying to grasp who would have put me out here on the causeway and why.  Rachel the cop was solemn, sober and in control.  Rachel the woman was alluring and I struggled to keep my eyes off of her.  Her manner was precise and professional.  I was angry with myself for feeling so helpless as I had revealed my vulnerability and concerns for safety.  She deserved better that that, I was thinking.  I wanted her to see me strong and in charge, not cowering… requiring her protection.

Her apartment building was a modest one, in one of those developments for public servants and affordable housing.  It seemed a shame to me that people in law enforcement, teachers, fire fighters, EMTs and government workers had to be lumped into that category, but Rachel didn’t seem to mind.  It was like her apartment was just a stop over anyway.  Home for her was a large 3 room closet with a kitchen, bath and some furniture thrown in for good measure.  Some women make up their domiciles into tidy little showrooms in order to place homemaking skills on display, but not Rachel.  The apartment was merely functional and showed little signs of familiarity or femininity.

She opened the door and walked in, I followed.  The lights came on and I looked around, anxious to see how this beautiful woman lived.  I wondered what little knickknacks, pictures or CD collection she would have in order to give me some insight to her personality.  But there were none in her living room, only a sofa with a coffee table, a television set and a sliding curtain that had been pulled closed which I assumed blocked the view from her patio.

“No pets?” I asked, moderately surprised.  “Most single women at least have a cat…”

“I hate cats.” she replied matter of factly.  She removed her blazer and slung it over a kitchen barstool.

“What about a dog?”

“What for?”

“Oh, I dunno… maybe some companionship, …or protection?”

She took off her shoulder holster, pulled out the pistol and held it aloft, a slight smirk on her face.  “Better than this?”

“No,” I chuckled, “I guess you have that covered.”

“Dogs bark and need walking, they’re always humpin’ your leg… besides, do I look like I lack for companionship?”

I was slightly taken aback by her candor, which she noticed right away and found amusing.  She returned the weapon to it’s holster, placed it on the counter and ran her fingers through her hair.  I watched her curves.  I imagined that she could stand in padded legging and a winter parka while reading the Wall Street Journal and deliver it in a sensuous manner.  It was odd, but as soon as that blazer and pistol was removed, Rachel emerged more receptive to my advances.  The tough facade had been removed like a cab driver who had just gone “off duty.”  She was relaxed and comfortable, almost coy.

“Are you hungry?”

I stopped and thought about it, I hadn’t eaten since before going to the courthouse.  With everything that had happened I hadn’t had a chance to acknowledge the gnawing hunger pangs.  She opened her refrigerator and peered inside.

“I have some left over lasagne and wine, if you’re interested.”

“What are you having?”

I moved in closer to her, standing beside the open refrigerator door feeling the cool air rushing out, my skin rising with goose bumps.  But I knew it wasn’t the refrigerator, it was her.  I felt suave and awkward at the same time.  We were in a scene from The Postman Always Rings Twice with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lang.  The one where they are in the kitchen of her husband’s restaurant, sizing each other up, unable to contain their lust for each other.  She starts by fighting him off then finishes by spilling flour dough and utensils onto the floor as they start ravaging each other right there on the prep table.  I knew someone was going to burst through her front door any moment now and ruin this rendezvous.  I had never been this lucky.  She had bent over to survey the contents of the refrigerator, now she stood upright and looked into my eyes.

“Maybe I’ll have you.”

She reached up and kissed me, an opened mouth, hungry kiss.  I thanked God I was taller and stronger than her, full of my manhood and in control.  I held her slinky body firmly to mine, feeling her bulging breasts flatten on my chest.  She was as fragile as a tiny kitten, all I wanted to do was consume and protect her.  I pulled away from our lip lock and looked into her face.

“I thought you’d never ask…”

The light from the open refrigerator door cast a slight shadow on her face.  I relaxed my hold a little, allowing my arms to drop down and rest on her hips.  I drew up tight again, lifting and pressing her against me.  We kissed again, slowly… deliberately.  Rachel filled each cavity, every crevasse, we clung together as one.  Finally she released my mouth and dreamily peered into my eyes.  She patted my chest and smiled.

“First you shower…”

I don’t know that I am a hopeless romantic, but sometimes life just plays into my hands and I feel compelled to favor it with a feeling like all is right with the world.  My past relationships with women always seemed to find me outside looking in, like the mix had been placed into a tin and now all that was left to do was to bake it, let it cool and serve it up on a plate.  That night with Rachel was as intimate as any I had ever encountered and we held nothing back from each other.  I wasn’t so naive as to think I had fallen in love with her, though I also knew that the concept was not too hard for me to imagine.  That night she was erotic as she was vulnerable.

But by morning I awoke alone, Rachel had left sometime in the early hours without so much as a whisper, wink or note of explanation.  I laid there looking up at her Gustav Klimt “The Kiss” print posted on the wall opposite the foot of her bed.  It is a portrait of a woman in the cradling embrace of her man, almost swooning from the gift of his affections.  I gazed at it, imagining Rachel was the woman and I the man in the painting that the artist called “the ultimate homage to erotic love.”  Several minutes passed until I started wondering what kind of mess I had gotten myself into.

Then I heard the front door rattle.  She was back, I thought, bringing me coffee or something as a reward for my performance in bed.  But as I heard the front door hinge squeak a little, panic rose into my throat.  Whoever was coming in was in stealth mode and moving softly… deliberately.

“Hello?  Rachel?”

There was a quick shuffle, like someone had just shifted their weight and were now heading towards the bedroom.

“Rachel!”

The bedroom door was open, I caught the slight movement of shadow.  I wanted to jump up and slam the door shut but I sat there naked with a sheet pulled over my mid section preparing myself… shitting myself.

“Who’s there?”

With that a drawn pistol came into view, followed by hands… arms… and a face.  The face of a man.  A face I had seen before at My Blue Heaven.  It was the detective in the sports jacket, gun raised… turning and pointing it at me.

“What do you want?”  I tried not to sound frightened, but the pitch of my voice raised slightly.

“Who the hell are you?”  The gun was still raised and pointed at me.  The face was snarled and menacing.

“I’m with Rachel, who the hell are you?”  I tried to sound tough, but it is difficult when a man nearly twice your size and fully clothed is pointing a gun at you while you are caught sitting up in bed naked with a sheet covering up your private parts.  He looked around the room and seemed satisfied that I was alone.  Then he returned his gun to it’s holster.  I saw his golden badge flash, still clipped to his belt as it had been when I first saw him two days ago.  He raised both fists to his hips like a schoolmaster and spat out the words…

“I’m her goddam husband, shit for brains!  Where is she?”

Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 9, Realizing Rachel

December 12, 2007

*Author’s note: this is part 9 of 13 parts, to better understand the contents it is suggested that you scroll back to the Prelude.

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She drives with elegant ease, she smiles and puts my mind in motion.  I can’t think about the irony of her appearing to pick me up, I don’t care. I slip into a relative calm, not worrying anymore about Manolo or the Death Moon. She is soothing, I am a child in need of his Mother’s caress. I am content to ride to the end of the road and on into the gulf. Let the waters consume me so I’ll never again have to think about the morning. I am with her and she is magnificent. I am enthralled and she is an aphrodisac. Then she speaks…

“Was that your van back there?”

“No,” I replied, “I was kidnapped and brought out here.”

She immediately becomes concerned, I am rescued… she is maternal, an angel. Her lips quiver a bit, I watch as she moistens them.

“Kidnapped? Why on earth would anyone want to kidnap you? Were you robbed? are you hurt?”

“No… no, I’m fine… just a little tired…” I propped my head against the window. The lights from her car spread just to the side of the road and I look down, watching the shoulder whizz by.

“Do you want me to take you to a hospital?”

There was genuine concern in her voice, I knew I was in good hands. I felt at ease, like all my bad luck had finally led me to her and my penitence was paid in full. I began to feel like things happen for a reason and somehow God placed me out on that causeway to meet with her this night. I began to believe the words I had said to her earier, my faith had been restored.

“No, honestly… I’m fine, just a bit groggy…”

“What happened?” Her eyes dart from watching the road to looking at my face, the night scenery speeding past her window.

“They grabbed me just as I was leaving the courthouse, right after I saw you. I couldn’t have been a block away… they swooped down in that van, shot something in my arm and threw me in back. I’ve probably been out of it for 6 or 7 hours…”

“What do you mean, ‘after I saw you’?”

I looked at her face, her eyes had stopped darting back and fort. She was staring straight ahead, both hands gripping the steering wheel, concentrating on what I was about to say.

“At the courthouse today… after we met outside the courtroom…” I felt a tad bit distraught that she acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about. The car started to slow down. We were on the shoulder again, rolling across the crushed shell, grinding it further with our weight. The car came to a complete stop and she put it in park. She turns in her seat, I notice her bosom again… protruding proudly. I am becoming aroused.

“Look mister… we have never met before.”

I am dumbfounded. “Of course we have, in the courthouse… today! We met in the hallway!”

“Okay, I was in court today, but I didn’t see you…”

“Wait a minute! We met this afternoon in the hallway outside of the courtroom, you rushed out and bumped into me? Remember?”

She shakes her head and raises one hand up in resignation. “No, I’m sorry… if we’d met, I’d remember it.”

A pang of disbelief ripped through my senses.

“What about at the Golden Earring? You don’t recall that either?”

She looked at my face, questioning… holding back a tinge of perplexing fear.

“Why would you be at the Golden Earring?” She eyed me suspiciously.

“Look, I’m not gay, okay? I stopped in for a drink on my way back to my hotel yesterday and met you there. You really don’t remember that?”

I could almost read her thoughts, ‘what had she gotten herself into? Who was this guy that was making these wild assertions?’ And was I dangerous? I struggled to assure her that I was harmless and at the same time couldn’t imagine what had happened to me during those last 24 hours. I thought I had run into the most beautiful creature in the world and she had responded favorably to the notion that I even existed.

“Look, Rachel… I’m not a creep. Please don’t get the wrong idea… This whole day has been completely turned upside down but… I’m not a crazy person! You might think so now but… please! don’t worry! give me time to think and I’ll try to explain…”

She looks at me differently now, a mixture of incredulous panic and controlled determination. “How do you know my name?”

I had just blurted it out, I’d forgotten that we hadn’t actually introduced ourselves… I had only heard Robert Jordan speaking to her in my dream, when she was working the camera… taking his picture.

“Ooh, I know this is gonna sound a little bit weird but… honestly, I’m not a stalker! Please believe that… I’m not a bad guy…”

A cell phone is perched in one of the cup holders. I watch her face as she appears to be pondering reaching for it.

“If you’ll just give me a minute, I’ll try to explain what is going on but I have to tell you I hardly believe it myself!”

She looks back at me and I think I might have her confidence.

“I’m not dangerous, Rachel… please… don’t call the cops”

She leans back against the door, away from the cell phone. I am relieved for the moment, confident that I have appealed to her better sense of judgement. I bring my leg up on the seat and turn towards her, leaning back against my door in like fashion, settling in for a long explanation. Her face is lovely, disarming, even as she is trying to give me a little leeway before deciding whether I am a lunatic.

“I know this is going to be hard to believe, and like I said I an hardly believe it myslf. But please trust me… I’m not trying to harm you or cause you any distress…” I raised my hands up before me in surrender. “You don’t need to call the police!”

But then the unexpected happened, she became assertive… authoritative, demanding and in control.

“Okay, stop telling me what a nice guy you are and tell me how you know my name! Oh, and by the way…” She reaches with one hand while the other produces a pistol. She pulls her visor down which displays her picture with a gold badge embossed next to it. “I am the police…”

Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 8, in the clutches of anarchy

December 9, 2007

*Author’s note:  This is part 8 of 13, to better understand the contents it is suggested that you scroll back to the Prelude.

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Immediately the needle from a syringe plunged into my arm as my head was covered with a hood.  I felt movement from the van and heard voices, but they were muffled… speaking Spanish, far away from me.  I was on the floor, someone had a knee in my back pinning me face down.  There was no air conditioning.  I could smell sweat and alcohol, cigarette smoke and take out food.  We were picking up speed and turning corners, it was hard for me to breathe with the hood over my face.  I fought to stay awake as terror gripped my body.  Manolo was going to kill me, I was certain.  They were only driving around to find a place to dump my body.  Oddly enough, as I began to drift out of consciousness… I thought of Annette.

Then Hem was sitting at his desk and I was there across from him.  His feet were propped up, he was wearing argyle socks without shoes.  He pitched a book in front of me, a copy of Men Without Women… a collection of his earlier short stories.

“Nice socks.”  I volunteered, though I was not particularly interested in the style.

“It’s funny you should mention socks, Sport.  I was just thinking I would like to have a new pair of socks, one for each day of the year!”

I thought that an odd request but I bit on it.  “Why?” I asked, not realizing we were headed for one of those cerebral conversations that I would one day reflect back on with wonder… (what the heck were we talkin’ about?)

Hem smiled, looking up at the ceiling, knowing he had piqued my curiosity and spawned this debate.

“That way I could know the feeling of wearing a new pair of socks every day for a full year!”

I pondered that briefly, seeking to match wits while searching for a rebuttal.

“Yeah, but after a while it would get to feeling old.”

“How could it?” Hem retorted, “They would always be new socks.  Every day a new pair of socks!”

“Yeah, but after a while they would start to feel the same.”

Hem was grinning ear to ear but still did not waiver.  “You know the way a new pair of socks feel the first time you put them on before you wash them?  That’s what I mean… Every single day of the year a new pair of socks.  You’d have the feeling of wearing a new pair of socks each time you put on a pair.”

“Yeah, I get it… but I’m saying it would start to feel old after a while because it is the same feeling over and over again.  They would no longer feel new to you, because you’d get used to it.”

“That’s the feeling I’m talking about, wearing new socks every day.  How could new socks not feel like new socks?”

“BECAUSE THEY WOULD START TO FEEL OLD!  You’d get used to the feeling each time you put them on.  After a while the feeling of a new pair of socks would get old because it no longer feels different!  Every day, day in and day out… a new pair of socks.  Your feet would become accustomed to wearing them, there would be nothing new about them.  It would be like driving the same new car every day, it would be a new car but it would be the same make, year and model as the day before and it will be the same make, year and model tomorrow and the next day and the next… eventually it would feel the same.”

“But it’s still a new car…”

“Yes.” I’m exasperated by now.  “You’re right, it’d still be a new car…”

“And it’s always going to feel like a new car…”

“Yes… it would always feel like the same new car… not a different feeling but the same feeling of a new car every day of the year.”

“That’s my point… that’s the feeling I’d like to have every day for a year with wearing a new pair of socks.”

We were in the midst of a paradox and Hem was relishing the fact that he had me frustrated to the point of throwing my hands up and acquiescing.  He seemed satisfied with himself and abruptly changed the subject.

“So… you’re enjoying the single life, eh, Sport?”  He was obviously amused at the setting and my predicament.

“Not hardly.” I replied, watching his big toe twitching.  We were in his study back at the Estate.  It was early morning, the light barely filtering through the door with the wrought iron gate.

“Oh no?  And what about that little scene in the courthouse?  Looks like you’re making up for lost time.”

I picked up the book and looked at it, the irony spread over it’s cover.  Men Without Women, the silhouette of a bull in an orange and yellow dust jacket.  “What’s this all about?”

“The book?  Just a collection of my earlier work.  Publishers, you know… write a successful novel and they want to print all you got, looking to cash in.”

“No, not the book,” I set it back on his desk, “this abduction… my kidnapping.  They’re going to kill me, I suppose?”

Hem drops his feet and sits up straight then looks me directly in the eye.

“Know this, Sport.  Nothing’s as you suppose it is…”

I awoke still on the floor.  The hood was off my head, the van was hot and empty except for me.  I sat up and looked around.  They had left me parked by some mangroves near the water.  I imagined I was being set up, that if I tried the door it would blow up and kill me, or have some poison on the handle that when touched would instantly put me in the Big Sleep.  I looked out over the front seats and through the windshield.  In that moment a person walked up from the driver’s side and continued on until he was in the middle of my view of the gulf waters.  He raised his arm to summon me, beckoning me to come out and follow him.  Relief swept through my groggy state of mind, it was Ring Lardner, Jr. 

Cautiously I opened the sliding door and stepped outside, it was dusk.  The site was abandoned.  I looked to the front of the van where I had just seen Ring, but he had vanished with the shoreline.  Where I had been left was right off Highway A1A.  I stood for a moment trying to decide what to do next.  I looked towards the west where the sun had just set moments before I awoke, trying to get my bearings.  I was still in the Florida Keys, I decided.  I walked south, confused about what had happened and why.  One thing was sure, my satchel was gone and I had missed the Express back to Ft. Myers.  I reached back in my pocket and was relieved to discover my wallet was still there.  I pulled it out and examined it’s contents.  Everything seemed to be intact.  I hadn’t been robbed, abused or killed, just set off my original course and delayed by a day.

Several cars passed me as I walked on the crushed shell shoulder of the highway.  I tried to flag down the first two cars but they made large arcs away to avoid me as they went by.  I decided to change tactics and just try hitchhiking.  It was getting dark and I was afraid I would have to walk back to civilization.  I even imagined my abductors returning.  Perhaps Manolo realized that the guy that was supposed to put a bullet in my head thought the other guy did it and they got halfway back only to figure out that neither of them had done the deed.  I imagined that Manolo was the ring leader and I figured now he was pissed.  I didn’t know if I should hide and wait for morning or head back north away from danger.  I walked faster.

Just as all vestiges of daylight ebbed into the horizon another car came along and began to pull over as it approached my outstretched thumb.  It was a modest, late model sedan.  At first I was happy to gain access to a ride and possibly a sympathetic ear to my plight.  But then as I walked towards the car I felt trapped, exposed… left out in the open.  Why would someone begin to pull over before they were sure of what I looked like?  I stopped and waited, the car a good ten yards before me.  Finally the driver’s side door opened, a woman stepped out and called to me.

“Well?  Are you going to get in or what?”

I stepped a few feet closer and recognized the face.  It was Rachel…

Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 7, Justice is an Angel

December 9, 2007

*Author’s note:  This is part 7 of 13 parts, to better understand the contents of the story it is suggested that you scroll back to the Prelude.

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There is something about a courthouse that is not unlike being in a public library.  As you wander about trying to make your court appearance on time and then sit waiting for your case to be called, the halls of justice echo with the past.  Portraits of judges and politicians line the walls.  Marble floors ‘click-clack’ with high heeled foot steps.  The swishing of passers by who know where they are going seem to lull you into a sense of resignation and foreboding.  No matter what they may say, in the criminal justice system you ARE a number.

Arbitration helps the matters of the magistrate settle disputes quickly.  My case was against the county and not the Hemingway Estate because they decided not to press charges.  I was counseled to enter a guilty plea to a ‘criminal mischief” charge, pay the fine, court costs and be on my merry way.  Which I did.   I was happy with the gentleman that helped me.  He had been a lawyer once and was now retired  He volunteered his time to help folks like me.  I imagined it was like a shark returning to the blood fest and offering condolences to the victim.

Once I had paid my debt to society, I was more than happy to leave and take the remarkable experience of witnessing the citizenries tax dollars hard at work home with me.  I was free.  There was nothing left for me to do but gather the paltry belongings that I had taken from my room, head to the Key West Bight and wait for my ride back to the civilized world I had left behind.

But as I was walking through the courtroom lobby I stopped and lingered for a moment at some Key West History display.  Then casually looking over at a group of people I saw Manolo amongst them.  I glanced at the other faces but didn’t see the men that had been with him at My Blue Heaven the day before.  But that didn’t matter.  Manolo had seen me and apparently this time he remembered seeing me from before.  I didn’t have time to think if it was from the restaurant or the Green Parrot that I seemed familiar to him.  At that point it didn’t matter if it was from one location or the other or both that I had piqued his interest, because he was headed in my direction.

Panic raced down my throat while my feet wore galoshes cast in ice.  Manolo had a cool and calm look on his face, like that of an assassin.  I knew I was a goner.  Somehow he was connected to Officer Jordan, I thought.  He was there, he had to know something about his death.  He must have been involved… that’s why Robert had sent me there in the first place.  It became obvious to me.  Manolo knew who had killed Robert Jordan.  My blundering into the bar announcing that Officer Jordan had sent me six weeks ago was all he needed to surmise I knew something I shouldn’t.  I figured out what Hem was trying to tell me in my dream two nights ago about exposing the killer.  I had been directed to the Green Parrot to flush out the killer.  Papa said yesterday at the library that we were still in the cycle of the death moon, the killer might kill again.  It all connected.  Manolo the Gazer was the killer, he had to be… and now he had his sights dead on me.

There in that courthouse, surrounded by the epitome of law and order I felt more vulnerable than ever.  I wanted to move, I tried to run away but I couldn’t.  Gazer had me in his tractor beam and was reeling me in.  I wanted to cry out but my throat was bulging with the bile I choked back.  He came closer; a menacing, determined look on his face.

Just as my doom seemed certain the double doors to the court room flew open and people started to exit out into the large foyer. I stepped back instinctively as a young woman barged through the crowd and blindly sideswiped me.  I caught her with my arm, spun her around and looked into the face of an angel.  The face I knew from the Golden Earring and the dream I had had the night before.  It was Robert Jordan’s “Rachel” and looking up she recognized me as if for the first time.

“You!” she spoke softly; eyes wide, sounding as if in disbelief.

“Me,” I responded, steadying her with my arm, “we meet again.”

“Why are you here?”

“You mean in this exact spot? or on the earth in general?  Because if I had to guess it would be in order to once again have my faith restored.”

“Faith…?” her voice trailed off.  It was Casablanca, only a happier ending.  Ilsa would remain with Rick.  They would witness the end of the war, marry, have children, grow magnificently old together…

“My faith in beauty… I had nearly lost hope, but you have made me a believer again.”

Normally I wouldn’t have tried that line again, usually I am not that glib or quick on my feet anyway.  But this was like no chance meeting I had ever experienced before.  My voice was sure and confident… almost scripted for the event, the words felt new and true.  Our eyes locked, transferring data.  She felt limp, vulnerable while I never felt so masculine.  I wanted to protect her, hold her… experience her.  What God had created was for me a religious epiphany.  I was saved.  I felt like a new man.  She smiled, I loosened my arm a little. 

“Oh, ye of little faith.” She escaped me then; backing away until, briefly, only our hands touched.  Then she dropped it and coyly stepped beyond my reach… smiling, leaving me to grope for her but only succeeding to grasp at the air.

“My Angel.” I said.  She leaned away from me then, slowly but deliberately.   I watched her float down the hall and out of sight.  She looked back at me as she rounded a corner, eyes beckoning like she knew and owned me.

“My Angel.” I whispered and I believed it, because after she had gone my confidence faltered as I looked around for Manolo, ready to face his judgement.  But he was nowhere to be seen, she had staved off my nemesis with a flick of her aura.

I stepped outside the courthouse, resigning myself to what might have been.  I had my life neatly sewn together back in Ft. Myers.  No spontaneity was allowed.  I had a business to run and pieces to pick up.  I reasoned that it was just as well because I probably wasn’t emotionally ready for any type of a relationship anyway.  I imagined my dreaming of her as Jordan’s “Rachel” was just an echo of my meeting her earlier yesterday.  Though she had seemed a different person then, more confident, distant and aloof.  Now, if only for that moment, she had been approachable and responsive.  Our conversation had practically been the same as we had had before, only the terms seemed different… outside our realm of control.

I crossed the street and walked towards Mallory Square.  Traffic was fairly busy and I was content just to make my way to the water, wait for the Key West Express and chalk up this experience in the annuals of my miserable existence.  Some things weren’t meant to be, I was thinking.  I walked along, lost in my thoughts, pretending that Rachel and I might have had a go under different circumstances.  I amused myself with several scenarios until the opening of a van’s sliding door caught my attention.  I followed the sound and faced the street just as everything went dark…

Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 6, The Girl in the Guy Bar

December 5, 2007

*Author’s note: This is part 6 of 13 parts, to better understand the contents it is suggested that you scroll back to the Prelude.

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With that, Papa faded from view. I felt nauseated. I feebly tried to turn the knob on the door in order to exit but a cold sweat permeated my body. I slumped to the floor and trembled. No one had ever told me I might be murdered before, I struggled with the concept. Who or why would anyone want to kill me? I decided to head back to my room and lay low. I’d make my day in court the next day, not talk to anyone in the meantime, then hang out down at the Key West Bight until the departure of the Key West Express.

Papa had only confirmed I might be killed. I convinced myself that I might be hit by a bus, too, but it wasn’t likely. This whole thing seemed more and more bizarre as time went on. I wondered if I was just the victim of some cruel joke being put on me by these restless spirits who had nothing but time on their hands.

I left the library and walked up Fleming St. then turned left on Duval St. After a few more steps I saw a bar named the Golden Earring and figured I could use a stiff drink. It was later in the afternoon. Traffic was crowding the streets, people were off work and heading home. It felt odd being a week-day tourist.

I entered the Golden Earring and immediately sensed I made a wrong turn. My friend Keith had jokingly referred to Fleming St. as flaming street because of all the ‘flaming homosexuals’ who are supposedly in the area past Fleming as you headed north. I never gave it much thought or actually saw any such activity. Until now. Other friends have told me that gays can spot a straight man a mile off. I don’t consider myself that naive but as I stood there trying to adjust my eyes to the dimming light, I felt uneasy. Determined not to let my homophobia get the better of me, I stepped up to the nearest barstool and ordered a blush wine. (which seemed appropriate)

I had sat with several seats between me and the next couple of men who were engrossed in conversation. They had noticed me with little interest at first, but after I received my drink one of them asked where I was from. Within a few minutes the conversation between the three of us grew more friendly. Half way through my drink I felt more at ease (possibly because I am not accustomed to drinking) and was sure I wasn’t going to be accosted. By the time my second drink arrived I was warm and secure, enjoying the company of my new friends.

Then the door to the bar opened again and a woman walked in. The bartender recognized her, as well as did the men at the bar. The joint livened up noticeably. It was almost like the entire establishment was just waiting for her to arrive. I watched her glide up to the bar, lean over, peck the bartender on the cheek with a kiss then sit down between me and the fruits I had been speaking to. I don’t know why, but my machismo seemed threatened. I didn’t want her to think I was gay.

She was willowy and elegant, obviously a professional and carried a confidence usually attributed to a man. But she was all woman and I found myself in awe of her. She smiled politely in my direction then turned to speak to the two men on her opposite side. There were two seats separating her from me, one seat between her and Adam ‘n’ Steve. The fact that she even noticed my existence had me enthralled. I had to speak to her. I mentally rifled through my dusty past of pick-up lines, desperately wanting to say something to gain her attention. I waited until there was a break in their conversation and then I pounced.

“Thank goodness you’ve arrived, I was about to lose hope!”

She turned to face me, amused… like my approach was inevitable, predictable… and laughable.

“And why is that?”

“You’ve restored my faith in beauty. I had just about lost it.”

She crossed her legs, partially twisting herself around to give me a side ways look at her bosom. “Now how did I do that?”

I smiled my best, I was out of practice by several years but I knew this line was perfect.

“Oh I don’t know, you just showed up, I guess. The rest just kinda took care of itself.” She had played right into it.

She smiled at me again, a beguiling, knowing smile that told me she was impressed with my bold maneuver.

“So what happens now?” Hook, line and sinker. It was easy, almost like falling off a bicycle. I was impressed with my own suavity and self assurance.

“I buy you a drink. We talk about my conversion and new found faith. Tomorrow, I might go to confession.”

But then, the unexpected…

“I’m sorry, but I’m just here for friendship. So unless you are gay like your friends, I’m afraid your wasting your time.”

She shook her head and turned back to the two men who had also been joined by the bartender. They looked at me like I’d just been blasted out of the sky. I was nothing but feathers, my Daffy Duck bill left laying on the bar. Dejectedly I left the Golden Earring and headed back to my room.

It was still early by the time I went to bed, but I didn’t care. I figured I couldn’t get myself into too much trouble while sleeping. I tossed and turned thinking about what Papa had told me. I couldn’t see how there was any danger of my life being threatened. In less than 24 hours I would be heading back to Ft. Myers and this whole ugly business would be behind me. Finally convincing myself of that, I fell asleep…

I dreamed I was looking at the picture of Officer Jordan, the one hanging at the Key West Police Dept. Wall of Honor. The next instant I was in the picture, like I was the one taking the photograph and I was talking…

“Hold still, Rookie… let me get this set right. Okay, cheese! Okay, great! got it!”

“Get one of us both together!” Robert is saying, holding his bicycle up with one hand and grasping his helmet under his other arm.

“Aw… no, Bobby! I’m not dressed right… we’ll do that later!”

“C’mon… snap one! You know you’re beautiful, get over here!”

“Bobby! This is your day! Besides… no fraternizing within the department!”

Robert Jordan had that easy smile. “C’mon, Rachel! I’m not going anywhere until you do!”

“You’re going to make us late!”

“Nope… you are!” And he stood there poised beside his bicycle. “Not moving… set the camera… hm, hm, hmm… la, dee, da!”

“Oh… you!”

Then a woman came around and stood beside him, hugging him proudly while kissing his cheek as I snapped the picture. She stood gracefully, smiling confidently…

I recognized her as the femme fatale I had met earlier at the Golden Earring.

Shades of Hemingway / Medium Exposure Part 5, The Boundary and the Death Moon

December 3, 2007

 *Author’s note:  This is part 5 of 13 parts.  To better understand the content of the story, it is suggested that you scroll back to the Prelude.

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I left as inconspiculously as I could, which was difficult when from the far corner of the outside seating area I had to squeeze in, around and through all the other guest’s tables.  I wasn’t sure if Manolo had recognized me, but by his actions I surmised that he hadn’t.  After that little nod of appreciation, the Detective turned his attention to the other men and the four of them became engrossed in conversation.  Though they were only a table away I could scarcely make out a syllable.  Perhaps the blood pulsating through my ear drums drowned out any recognizable chatter, for all I knew they were discussing baseball scores.

I wandered for a bit not sure of where to go.  It was still too early to head back to my room so I walked towards Duval St.  I hadn’t gone far when I thought of the perfect place to go and while away the hours, an ideal spot to collect my thoughts and use up some time.  I’d forgotten I did have a friend to visit and when the destination dawned on me there was a bit more pep in my step.  I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it before.  With renewed purpose I made a beeline towards the public library.

It had not changed a bit since I last visited.  In fact, I half way expected to see the stack of reference books I had left on the table when my research had been cut short by the appearance of Officer Jordan.  I recalled that he had marched me outside without giving me any time to consider returning them to the appropriate shelves.  I past the familiar bulletin boards I had seen six weeks earlier thinking I might find my mug shot with the caption, “Inconsiderate Book User” below but gleefully I had escaped detection and that notoriety.  The last thing a library patron wants to do is be banned from the reference book section.

I found a magazine about Florida living and figured it a good enough excuse to sit and gather my thoughts while soaking up the air  conditioning.  But I hardly sat down and opened it to the centerfold (a golf community exclusive) when a familiar voice interrupted me.

“Hello Chris, it’s good to see you again.”

I looked up to see Papa Hemingway looking down at me, a twinkle in his expression.  Remembering our first encounter at the library he motioned with his head the way towards the men’s room.  Quietly, calmly I walked back, stepped inside and closed the door behind me.  Papa appeared on the commode again, obviously amused at the setting.  “We must stop meeting like this!”

“I never thought I’d see you again!” I said.  The fact that I was glad we were together seemed to please him.

“Oh, Chris, you needn’t think that… I’m a bad penny, you never know where I might show up.”

“Or when!  Can you believe that old timer?  I thought he would bust the door down the last time we were in here!”

“Yes, yes… well, you keep your bladder for half a century or so and see how it fills!”

“You mean ‘feels’?”

“I mean fills !” and we both laughed.  After a few moments the mood turned somber. I knew Papa wasn’t here to discuss an old man’s need to pee.  I also knew I needed his advice and help to understand what the shades required of me.

“I dreamed again last night, Papa.  I dreamt I was back at Sloppy Joe’s with Hem and he was telling me I had to expose Officer Jordan’s killer.”

“Yes, I know, Chris.  Jordan’s spirit is in a state of flux, caught between the living and the dead.  Your arrival was at an opportune time for him, a chance for him to rest in peace.”

“But doesn’t he know who did it?  Wouldn’t it be simpler just to have him appear before the authorities and tell them?”

“Simpler, yes, but not possible… that ability is sort of ‘out of bounds’ for us.”

“Why not?  He knows who did him in, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, he does.  But we are not empowered to speak about certain things.”

“Empowered?  I don’t get it, what keeps you guys from telling us anything?  Do you know what has happened in the past?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Do you know what will happen in the future?”

“To a certain extent, we have an idea… yes.”

“Then what gives?  Why can’t you give a poor mortal a little insight?  Help us pick some winning lottery numbers or something?”

“Let me ask you, Chris.  Are you familiar with the forces of gravity?”

“Well, sure.”

“Why can’t you defy it whenever you choose?”

“Because it goes against the laws of Physics.”

“Exactly.  We have laws, too.  There are certain things we are not capable of here in the spirit domain.  Don’t ask me why, that’s just the way it is… especially in this case.”

“Which case, Jordan’s?  Or mine?”

“Both.”

“Both?  I was only joking about there being a my case… why both?”

“The cycle is not complete… we are still in the present tense.”

I got a chill, you know the type.  One that makes you not want to know the answer to a question but you have to confirm your suspicions therefore asking the question was paramount to the understanding and thus the chills?  I swallowed my Adam’s apple and began to shake.  Papa looked at me, his face going from that of a cheerful old man to one that was grey, forlorn and foreboding.

“What sort of ‘cycle’?”

Papa cleared his throat, hesitant to speak.  He wasn’t all that forthright for being a poltergeist.  He looked up at me leaning against the bathroom door, I stared him down.

“Well?”

“There are certain times when death is deemed un-natural… premature.  The act of killing another human being goes against the emotional core,  the laws of nature… or God.  When it happens there begins a period when the “tear in the macrocosm”…must run it’s course.  It’s called kyklos tod mene… a cycle of the death moon”

“Death moon?”

“I’m afraid so… the ancients believed the moon influenced man’s emotions, much the way it effects tidal currents.  When the un-natural act of a murder took place, it was accredited to the ‘death moon’ and the cycle for that individual murderer began.”

“The cycle began?  When would it end, with the next moon?”

“There was always the thought that a new moon or another moon would have a reversal effect, that the killer would realize the error of his ways… his sin, thus have feelings of remorse.  But cycles don’t always follow a calender.  Jordan’s killer is still in the control of the kyklos tod mene.

“Which means?”

Papa shook his head slightly and turned away, not wanting to look me in the eyes.  “There may be another… victim.”

“Who?  Who else might be killed?”

“Out of bounds, Chris.  I can’t tell you what will happen, I can only warn you.  Robert Jordan’s killer is dangerous, and still out there.”

“I said who might be killed, Papa.  Who might be killed.  That’s just a generalization, isn’t it?  It could be so… then again, maybe not?  In the general realm of infinite possibilities… who might be killed?”

Papa faced me, the twinkle was gone.  His lips moved but I could not hear, my ears muffled by my own blood pounding in them.  But I didn’t have to hear the word, I knew it.  I knew it by the way he looked at me, the solitary word was perfectly formed with his mouth, my ears started ringing with anticipation…

“You.”