The Midlife Ride of Harvey Revere by A.M. Potter

When Harvey Revere escapes from a Las Vegas prison cell, his wife and mother persuade bounty hunter Domenick Vanucci to capture him again, and they have a pretty good idea of where he might be.

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I stared at the stack of bond revocation notices in front of me. Doesn't anybody show up for court these days? To work almost anywhere in Las Vegas, Joe or Jane citizen is required to pony up ninety bucks for the privilege of being fingerprinted and run through the national crime databases. That way, if the cops want to chat about something, they know where to find you on your lunch break. But despite the best efforts of law enforcement, Vegas is home to a disturbingly high number of miscreants. An astonishing percentage of them manage to murder each other between siestas at the county jail, but the numbers still boggle. Six shooters and chaw may have given way to AKs and crack, but the West is still pretty damn wild.

Running feet hammered the concrete out front, but I didn't cross the room and fling the door open to satisfy my curiosity. One in three Las Vegans own a gun and they aren't miserly with bullets. A second pair of feet pounded past and then a third. Our storefront office is a block from the downtown resort corridor, but old Vegas can't compete with castle turrets and gondola rides. You can still get a decent breakfast for two bucks, but the glitter is definitely off the gulch.

As a kid, I had stolen and dog eared every Rex Stout novel I could find. I'd done most of my reading between beatings from one foster parent or another, and by the age of sixteen I felt tough enough to follow Archie Goodwin down any dark alley. Real life had fallen a few miles short of fiction, however. I doubt if drunks ever whizzed on the steps of the old brownstone on 35th Street, and the only Fritz I know cooks meth in a house trailer on East Sahara Avenue.

The boss weebled back shortly after eleven. Pound for pound, Pavel Klimus could probably match Nero Wolfe's seventh of a ton, but a glandular issue had squashed it into a five-and-a-half-foot pear. He uses a lot of four-letter words, none of them pfui, and wouldn't know an orchid if he sat on it.

"How was your stop at the PitStop?" The PitStop Poker Den is the boss's favorite casino. Probably because he can walk there without breaking a sweat. Or any speed records, for that matter. He's been AWOL for three hours.

His grumble was basso profundo and thick with the remnants of a Slavic childhood. "Fuckin' Broncos screwed my over and under. I'm down eighteen bucks for the week." The boss's literary tastes run to the sports book and not a step farther.

"Sorry to hear that." My sympathy was all for show, of course. The boss may dress like a starvation army reject, but I happen to know the man has squirreled away enough money to buy the sports book (and the Broncos). "Anything happening on the street? Cops been running by in droves."

"Maggie heard from Kelvin that the jail had a sprinter." Maggie is a cocktailer with pink cotton candy hair and breasts that could have sunk the Titanic. Nice legs, though. Kelvin is the Portuguese porter that cleans the ashtrays in the lobby. Stooped and arthritic, he's probably older than the sand he sifts through his bronzed pooper scooper. I've never seen his legs.

"Hmmm." It happens sometimes. Guys in handcuffs and jailhouse jumpsuits running down Casino Center Boulevard, dodging winos and tourists. It always rated a chuckle. They didn't usually make it this far east, though. Not my problem. I just deliver the miserable mopes. It's not my fault if the cops can't hold onto the creeps.

A shrill scream, gender indeterminate, rose in the still morning air, sank two octaves and died in a subhuman moan. I looked up and waited for my heart to stop hammering my ribs. My right hand had instinctively gone for the Glock under my armpit, but I stopped myself before it cleared the holster. The scream machine doorbell, installed last Halloween, operated like everything and everyone else in the place. It only worked when it felt like it.

In 1973, the Las Vegas Police Department and the Clark County Sheriff's Department consolidated to form the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Far from the small town backward antics usually associated with an elected sheriff, Metro is a modern, well-equipped, well-trained army of law enforcement professionals. One of their finest was currently glaring at me and prying adrenalized fingers from his sidearm. He was a big man, made huge by the bullet proof vest secreted under his tan uniform. He'd obviously been running; his sunburned baby fat face was shiny with sweat and the gel slicked spikes of his crew cut were starting to wilt. He unclenched his jaw (and no doubt his sphincter) long enough to say, "Harvey Revere."

Cooper D. Rogers expects me to be a smart ass and I hate to disappoint. "Degenerate crack heads for two hundred?"

"He escaped from the detention center this morning. Just thought you should know." Now the cop was grinning like an idiot, but I wasn't going to take the bait. I'd already taken so much ribbing over the Revere caper that my sides were permanently dented.

Old Coop wasn't giving up, though. "Media's going to have a field day - again."

"I'm sure they will, Officer Rogers. Sure hate to be the guys who let a dangerous felon wander off like a toddler at a Sunday picnic. We all know how the Sheriff loves negative publicity."

Cooper turned a lovely shade of purple and reached for the door handle. The ensuing scream made him flinch like a green-bottle under the shadow of a fly swatter. The crash of the slamming door upended the hula girl on my desk and she went down in a heap of tiny leis and plastic grass.

"What a putz," Pavel said from behind the sports section. I sighed, sat back, and tried not to think about Harvey Revere. The first time I hauled Harvey in, it went smooth. Well, except the part where I chased him into the Starlight Casino. The Starlight is a dingy local's joint that had been around since the mob treated Vegas like a personal candy store. No doubt the backrooms had collected their share of whispered deals and colorful stories; they'd certainly collected everything else. When I tackled Harvey in the break room behind the Keno parlor, we both went down in a flurry of cigarette butts, stale donuts and dented plastic balls. But Harvey was pushing fifty, ancient for a junkie, and one good thump on the back of the head had taken all the fight out of him. It was my second encounter with Harvey that had gotten me in hot water with the constabulary and both our mugs on the evening news.

I'd tracked Harvey through his girlfriend to a dope house in Naked City, one of Vegas' more socially challenged neighborhoods. I'm built big, but I'm fast, and this time Harvey didn't even bother to do his jackrabbit impersonation. I cuffed him, stuffed him into the front seat of my green Comet, and told him if he tried anything funny, I'd crack him a good one. I'm mostly a pussycat, but that morning my girlfriend had walked out with my St. Christopher shoehorn and most of my paycheck. I wasn't in the mood for any nonsense.

The car wouldn't start. Not even a sputter.

I had my cell phone, but nobody to call. My brother would be in the middle of Mass at St. Sebs, and we don't let Mom drive anything bigger than a shopping cart. The boss, in an effort to make the world a safer, happier place, had relinquished his driver's license a decade ago. Even if I could afford a cab, no taxi driver would venture into Naked City without a SWAT escort.

So, I did what any enterprising fellow in my position would do. I dragged Harvey the two blocks to Las Vegas Boulevard and hauled his sorry rearend up the stairs of the city bus. Harvey was crawling on his knees and bleating about being jacked, but I ignored him and stuffed my last ten bucks into the fare box. I shoved Harvey into a front seat and stood over him, ready to bop him one if he gave me grief.

Las Vegas has a decent bus system, if you ignore the unwashed butt smell, the twitching tweakers, and the occasional drunk dressed like Elvis. The Strip bus is a handy way for tourists to travel between the main drag and the light show on Fremont Street. Judging from the number of cell phone cameras aimed in my direction, I was providing a different kind of show for our visitors from small-town America.

By the time we hit Hoover, Harvey had changed tactics. He turned on the tap and implored the other passengers to save him from the injustice of it all. Reviews were mixed. Two elderly women clutched their purses and took turns swatting Harvey with their Bibles. A couple of wanna-be punks with dreadlocks looked like they were about to take up the cause until I turned sideways and gave them a healthy view of the Glock.

By the time we passed Gass (Avenue), Harvey was mewling like a dying goat and snot was stringing out of his nose like moldy vermicelli. The bus driver was going half a mile an hour and babbling frantically into his emergency phone. The passengers had mashed themselves into a clump in the back of the bus. A few looked at me like I'd been caught drowning a kitten, but the majority seemed ready to help me stomp Harvey into hairy jam. From the front row of the refugee section, a pretty blond fluttered false eyelashes at me and gabbled into her cell phone. She looked familiar, but I couldn't place her.

When I finally shoved Harvey off the bus at Bonneville, I knew exactly where I'd seen the blond with the energetic eyes: the Kamikaze Coyote Bar and Grill in Northtown. I'd been unwinding with nachos and sushi (I'm nothing if not eclectic), and she'd been playing arm cheese for a plastic rodent named Delli Saachs. Delli's real occupation is deviating his septum with Columbia's cheapest, but occasionally he does interviews for one of the local news channels.

For decades, the Las Vegas media played puppet to the interests of big gaming. Nothing as piddling as the truth was allowed to interfere with the fantasy driven image of paradise in the desert. Ball boiling temperatures dropped ten degrees and casino gunfire morphed into errant champagne corks. Maybe it's gotten better, but I'm not tuning in at eleven to find out.

Anyway, to make a long story even more humiliating, Delli stuck a microphone in my face the minute I climbed off the bus. Behind him, a cameraman hoisted an expensive piece of equipment on his shoulder. Red lights winked at me, but I was far from being seduced.

"I'm talking to Domenick Vanucci, an employee of Klimus Investigations and one of Las Vegas' busiest bounty hunters. What were you doing bringing a prisoner in on the city bus, Domenick?" Of course he had to shout to be heard above Harvey, who was blubbering about being 'abducticated' and modeling his handcuffs for the camera. (Farmer Brown couldn't have gotten more milk out of the situation.) I tried to push pass Saachs, but he wasn't giving up. "Seriously, Nicky, what were you doing on that bus?"

That stopped me cold (only my brother gets to call me Nicky). I chest butted Delli so hard he stumbled backward. "What was I doing on that bus? Your girlfriend, Saachs." I made a show of studying his face up close. "You been at the powdered donuts again, Delli? Your left nostril's a mess." Of course his hand shot straight to his snozz. The cameraman snickered and gave me a thumbs up.

The equipment developed technical difficulties during that part of the interview, but it was working fine when the dweebs in the dreadlocks described the cannon I was waving around like Old Glory. I might have ended up in the cell next to Harvey if the bus driver and other passengers hadn't backed me up with assorted and colorful versions of the truth. I was still treated to a twenty-minute lecture (from the big man himself) on the wisdom of carrying a weapon on a crowded city bus. I reminded him that half the armed security guards in the city ride the bus, pea shooters displayed proudly on their hips. Being a fair man, the Sheriff conceded the point, then told me that if I ever did it again, I'd be wearing an orange jumpsuit until I was ninety.

The stink died down after a few days, but business at Klimus Investigations went through the roof. Pavel was acting like all his horses came in, even though he had to answer the phone once when I ran out of ears. That call got me sent to talk to a lady about a missing Maltese. Only she was a he who answered the door wearing a Pocahontas wig and nada else. I don't let the boss answer the phone anymore.

But we go from where we stand and by lunchtime, I was done stewing about Harvey Revere. A news van sat out front and I was feeling camera shy, so I locked the door and ordered in chicken enchiladas with a side of Mongolian beef. The boss had wafted home for lentil soup and I had the office all to myself. Ah, blessed silence.

The phone rang, the front door screamed, and a herd of something was trying to kick down the back door. Since the phone was closer than either door, I answered it first. No surprise it was Delli Saachs, trying to wheedle a post-escape interview. I told him to find a pimento and stuff himself. Then I headed for the front door, which is closer than the back door (by a good four feet) and moved the blinds enough to take a peek.

Now, when Archie Goodwin opens the front door of Mr. Wolfe's brownstone, he usually finds a good-looking dame begging for help. When I open the door of Klimus Investigations, I usually find a derelict begging to use the can. When I'd gotten an eyeful through the blinds, I sighed and opened the door. Some days are destined to suck more than others.

Noni Revere had outdone herself today. The orange ball gown clashed violently with the ruby tutu, but at least she'd tried. Her lemon-colored hair was teased into a lopsided snow cone and her coffee colored face was slathered with what appeared to be high gloss house paint. She had maybe five teeth left in her head and resembled a shriveled pumpkin. If she'd ever had breasts, they'd withered with the rest of her.

Noni and I had met before and her opinion of me hadn't improved with time. Haitian born, she must have learned English from the sailors at Port Au Prince, because her mouth could wilt a steel girder. But, being a gentleman and a professional, I endured her vitriolic screeches about my doubtful parentage and diminutive manhood with nary a twitch. I settled her in a chair and went to answer what was left of the back door.

Deborah Delilah Revere, or DeDe for those of us with a diminutive attention span, said, "It's about time!" That's not an exact quote, but even the most powerful words lose their punch when used eleven times in a single sentence. She hurricaned into the office, but stopped dead when she saw Noni. Travelling close behind, I slammed nose first into her armpit. She's a tall woman.

"You!" screeched Noni, fingering the dried chicken leg that hung around her neck.

"You!" hissed DeDe, fingering the blade she had tucked in her bra.

I opened a pack of soy sauce, dribbled it onto an enchilada, and sat back to enjoy the dinner show. The ladies spent a pleasant ten minutes hurling insults and accusations at each other before turning on me like blood baited pit bulls.

"You gotta find Harvey and put him back in the jailhouse!" DeDe's eyes were deep, dark, and desperate.

"I do?" The last time we'd chatted, DeDe had cursed, clawed, and then begged me to leave her husband alone. She'd finally given him up when I threatened to flush her stash.

"Yes sir, Mr. Bounty Hunter. You surely do!" Nothing on DeDe had withered and I confess to being a little distracted. A thousand rocks ago, she'd been one of the best pole dancers in town.

Noni cackled like a deranged Mynah bird. "That means she already moved a new man into her bed. What's it been, two whole weeks?"

"Bitch!" DeDe snarled.

"Whore!" Noni spat back. She had a death squeeze on the chicken leg and I imagined its mojo dripping onto the carpet.

I moved my plastic fork out of reach and said, "Ladies, you've come to the wrong man. I'm not going after Harvey this time."

Noni's hard green eyes filled with tears. "You have to," she whispered. "If you don't, I'll lose my house."

"You put your house up as collateral for Harvey's bond?" I was stunned. Equating her son with the low life who had fathered him, Noni's maternal utterances usually ran along the line of "garbage in, garbage out."

Noni looked down at her turquoise toenails. "He begged me. The house was all I had, so I put it up."

I've been to Noni's house, a rotting wood breadbox on the other side of the tracks. Literally. In the early days, Blacks in Las Vegas were banished to the desolate wasteland west of the Main Street train yard. These days, the neighborhood is more frijoles than fried catfish, but a few of the old timers hang onto their property with ferocious pride. "You know, "I said softly, "Harvey's used up all his free passes. If he goes in this time, he's not coming out for a while."

The tears spilled, but she seemed too exhausted to wipe them. "The child I raised been gone a long time, Mr. Vanucci. I don't even remember what he looked like." Her lips trembled and she looked a hundred years old. "I lived in my house for fifty-seven years and I know every inch of it. I can find my way around in the dark. The eye doctor man, he say pretty soon it going to be dark all the time."

As I believe I've mentioned, I'm a pussycat. When a woman cries, even a nasty old bat like Noni Revere, I turn into cookie dough. Roll me into a ball, squash me flat, and cut me into pieces. I sighed. "All right. Where would he go, ladies?"

"Straight to the dope man," Noni said.

DeDe shook her head. "He gotta have money to go to the dope man." She smiled suddenly and I caught a glimpse of a child who dreamed of dancing without a pole. "He'd go to that crazy white woman's house!"

Early in his career as a junkie loser, Harvey had dealt product. He couldn't keep his snout out of the snort, though, and by the time he was twenty, nobody would front him an ounce of rhino spit. For a few years he fed his habit by stealing stereos from cars and snatching purses from little old ladies. But the cigarettes and dope affected his stamina, and his lungs and long runner's legs began betraying him at critical moments. The second time the cops got him for strong armed robbery, he decided it was time to try something less strenuous.

Boosting batteries and deodorant to sell at the swap-meet required diligence and a work ethic that Harvey didn't possess. Sometimes he just wanted to kick back and watch football, but his habit never took a day off. Tutored by a trustee at the county jail, Harvey embarked on a career in burglary. After all, with the exception of vicious dogs and redneck psychos with shotguns, where was the bad?

As it turned out, the bad was everywhere. Harvey was the unluckiest burglar to ever ply the trade. He tripped alarms. He tripped over a Chihuahua and fell headfirst into a glass aquarium housing a nine foot boa constrictor. A Vietnamese potbellied pig chased him through a back yard and he fell groin first onto a barrel cactus. Reaching behind a television set to unhook the cable, he was bitten by a brown recluse spider. (If the owners hadn't come back from bingo and called an ambulance, his arm would have fallen off.) Then, halfway through a dining room window, he came face to face with a little old lady holding a knife.

It was a butter knife and covered with something orange and slimy, but Harvey was one injury away from permanent disability. He didn't know what to do. In all his years of being a burglar, he had never been interrupted mid-burgle by a little old lady holding a butter knife. He would have backed out, but his crotch was caught on a nail and the thought of ripping himself free was too painful to contemplate. He could slither forward and land in a heap at her feet, but then what? Hit her over the head? Tie her up and stick a sock in her mouth? Harvey was no paragon of self-awareness, but he knew he didn't have it in him. Not anymore. Holy God, he was tired.

Maybe he could make a run for the front door before she started hollering too loud. She was a tiny thing; like a little bird. How much noise could she make? The one thing he couldn't do was stay here with his skinny black butt hanging out the window. Cops noticed things like that. He'd just ease himself...

"You're late!" She sounded angry, but when he looked at her, she was smiling.


"I've been looking forward to your visit, Jeffrey. I bought a special nightie just for the occasion."

Harvey didn't have a clue who Jeffrey was and he wasn't about to play house stud for this old biddy. Before he could protest, however, the woman pulled him through the window by an ear and began dragging him down a plushy carpeted hallway. The old battle ax had a grip like the jaws of a Rottweiler (an experience he could speak to personally). They stopped in the doorway of the living room and Harvey's eyes saucered with childlike wonder. "Is that a elephant?"

The huge grey creature, indeed an elephant, had been bagged by the woman's late husband, may he rest in peace. He hadn't bagged the beast in Africa or India, but in a sweltering warehouse on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. The elderly male pachyderm had packed it in after two decades with the Harrington Circus and Showgirl Revue, and Lyle Harrington had bagged him up and brought him home. A few seams had spread, exposing bright yellow packing peanuts, but all in all, the mammoth carcass had held up well. Then Edna's Pomeranian (may he also rest in peace), began peeing on its back legs. Mold and rot set in, the back legs began to buckle, and now the elephant looked like it was about to take a squat on the living room carpet.

"I'll go make us some tea," Edna Harrington said, her crinoline skirt making a swishing sound as she made her exit. The fabric had been in vogue when Harvey was still a tic in his father's eyelid, but Edna's confident grace made it work. Harvey, who appreciated elegance in a woman, was suddenly glad he hadn't hit her over the head.

He'd been contemplating a run for the front door but, overcome with juvenile fascination, Harvey ambled around the cluttered room. A few feet from the elephant, the Pomeranian lounged on an antique settee, its face forever frozen in an earnest snarl. Harvey looked around nervously, wondering if the late Mr. Harrington had suffered a similar fate. But despite his fear of coming face to face with a corpse, Harvey walked and gawked.

In the early years, Lyle and Edna Harrington had unfolded the big top in one Podunk town after another. They shared meager meals with a highly dysfunctional family of circus freaks and charged anal retentive Baptists two bits for the privilege of passing judgment and hurling insults, if not rotten cucumbers. At night they bunked down in the animal cars, hoping the elephants wouldn't dream of freedom, stomping their human roommates into tomato paste as they made a break for it.

By early middle age, they'd had enough and decided to take the show off the road and sink their roots into the dry Nevada sand. They arrived in Las Vegas during the worst of the Kennedy spawned witch hunts against organized crime. With insults, if not bullets, being flung at everyone in sight, the Harringtons felt right at home. The freaks, unable to compete with the local talent, moved on and left the Harringtons to start over with four elephants and an asthmatic orangutan.

Harvey sipped his tea, careful not to crack the delicate china in his big mitt. Edna had gone off again and he was left alone with orange pekoe and a dead orangutan. It was an ugly thing, with the worst case of dandruff he'd ever seen and fur coming out in clumps. It looked depressed and smelled like spoiled cottage cheese. Harvey turned from the molting monkey and came face to nipple with a beautiful woman. His hand shook as he reached out to touch her, relieved to feel cold plastic instead of dried flesh.

"I designed that costume myself," Edna said, swishing into the room.

Harvey tried to make an appreciative noise, but he was thinking that a piece of butt floss and a pair of pasties didn't take all that much fifth avenue fashion sense.

"When we first started out, I sewed dime store baubles into the girl's pasties. But these beauties contain real diamond chips. When the girls were on top of the elephants, close to the spotlights; oh, how they glittered!"

Harvey could only imagine.

"Harvey got forty bucks for those little diamond bits," DeDe chirped. "He said there ain't no tellin' what else the old biddy had stashed. Woman saved everything."

"I had a great auntie like that," Noni said through a mouthful of Mongolian beef. "She never threw nothing away. Cat hawked up a hairball, she put it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator."

DeDe choked on my last chicken enchilada and hawked up into the trash can. "Okayyyyy. Anyway, Harvey was itchin' to go back to that house."

"Why didn't he?" I asked.

"He did. Only he stopped off at the dope man's house on the way and some fool kidnapped him on a bus."

Mrs. Edna Harrington lived in the forty-two-hundred-block of Poison Tree Frog Lane. In its heyday, the neighborhood had been a place for casino executives to show off their profit skimming skills by building butt ugly McMansions. A few decades past its prime, the place still had charm if you were into cracked birdbaths and garden gnomes with missing appendages.

The widow Harrington wasn't much of a gardener, I noticed, as I reconned the rear of the property. The back door was jammed tight with ceramic pots, most of them holding dead or dying cacti. If Harvey made a run for it, he'd be picking stickers out of his scrotum until Christmas. I parked the Comet, passed two rosebushes and an oleander gasping their last, and rang the front doorbell.

Through the beveled glass of the door I could see her approach, floating like a specter in what appeared to be an old-fashioned wedding dress. Close up, however, the grace grew ancient and I decided she'd probably baked the cake for the wedding at Cana. She smelled like talcum powder and vermouth.

"You're late!" she said with a smile, dragging me thorough the house by my left bicep. She was a puny thing, but she had a grip like a raptor's beak. I didn't see much of the front hallway as she strong-armed me into the kitchen. "I've been looking forward to your visit, Curtis. I bought a special nightie, just for the occasion."

My meemies weren't screaming, but they were starting to whimper. I gently peeled her finch bone fingers from my inner thigh. "Actually, I was hoping to visit with Jeffrey first. Is he here today?"

"He certainly is. I forgot that the two of you went to school together. Harvard Law, wasn't it?"

"Yes Ma'am. Class of fifty-two." As if either of us could find Harvard on a map. A loud crash, followed by a heavy thud, came from somewhere deeper in the house. I pictured Harvey trying to force a grand piano out a twenty-inch window. I took Edna's tiny arm in mine and said, "Shall we?"

She led me into what I assumed was the living room, although it could have been the movie museum for "Cathy does Clarence the Clown." The mostly nude show girl mannequins would do nicely for erotic dream candy, but the Pomeranian appeared rabid and the monkey looked like it wanted to pick my pocket.

"Jeffrey, Curtis is here. Why don't you join us for a brandy?

I steeled myself for the pitter patter of size thirteens or, if Harvey was feeling really stupid, a tight end tackle. There was nothing. Then I heard a groan, or maybe it was a moan, coming from the center of the room.

Life in Vegas comes with its own set of rules. Never play a machine unless you can afford to load it. Never get behind an Elvis in the grocery store line (they cut coupons). Never kiss a girl until you've frisked for a jock strap and never, ever, stand behind an elephant that's been peed on by a Pomeranian.

When I was done laughing, I grabbed hold of the flailing ankles and pulled with all my might. When the fire and rescue guys were done laughing, they delivered a slightly dented Harvey into my waiting handcuffs. Dazed, he sat under the shadow of a dead orangutan. "He sat on me. The elephant sat on me!"

"Take it as a sign from God, Harvey." I said philosophically.

"Or the Republicans," volunteered Edna, who was sitting on the settee, petting the Pomeranian. I thanked her for her tea and kindness and shoved Harvey out the front door.

Ahead of us, I saw a familiar white van, no doubt equipped with an emergency scanner. The cameraman looked bored, but Delli could barely contain himself as he jumped in my face like a spider monkey on crack. "I'm here again with Domenick Vanucci, an employee of Klimus Investigations and one of Vegas' busiest bounty hunters. The 911 call came in as a man trapped under an elephant." Delli was chittering like a capuchin and I wanted to pummel him into monkey meat. The look on Harvey's face said he'd fight his way out of a coma to help. "Seriously, Domenick, what's the story here? What's an elephant doing in this nice suburban neighborhood?"

They never learn. "Your girlfriend, Saachs. Go powder your nose and get out of my face." I was going to punctuate the statement with a healthy shove, but Delli managed to trip all by himself. We left him to fight his way out of the oleander and headed for the Comet.

"Harvey, if you tell any of those mopes at the County jail about Edna, I'll bring the elephant by for a conjugal visit."

Harvey, who'd had a bad day, could barely keep up. "I won't tell nobody. Any one of those guys would kill her and leave her to rot beside the monkey. She's nutty as hell, but she's a nice old lady."

"Noni's a nice old lady, too."

Harvey stared at me, his eyebrows arched toward heaven.

"Okay, so that might be stretching it. But she's old and going blind and scared to death. You need to do right by her."

Harvey was trying to get comfortable in the passenger seat of the Comet, but he'd be nibbling his knees all the way downtown. "Don't worry, Mr. V. I'm too tired to run anymore. The only place I'm going is the state pen."

I strapped him in and climbed into the driver's seat. By now, Delli the pest was back from the jungle and pounding on the windshield. His face was scratched, and his tie was crooked, but he looked more determined than ever. I ignored the rattling glass and strapped myself in. "They have programs in the penitentiary, Harvey. You could learn a legitimate trade. Auto mechanics or something." I turned the key.

The car wouldn't start. Not even a sputter.


  1. So colorful! So much street knowledge! Fast paced. Great narrator voice. A few slang expressions I didn’t understand. But I loved the ride!

  2. Yikes! This piece had a surfeit of metaphors! It evoked humor, but was so chock full that it was just a little exhausting. It brought back fond memories: the Comet, for example. You don’t run into many of those cars nowadays. The pace was wild and it reminded me, for whimsy, of Hammett; for grittiness of Lew Archer, and for general principles, or Raymond Chandler. All in all, not bad acts to follow. The secondary plot concerning the old lady was perhaps explored too deeply for a short story, but would work nicely for a novel (hint, hint). Keep writing, A.M.; you’re doing good!

  3. Great style and pace in a good, old, but modernised gumshoe type tradition - evoked the likes of Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy for me.