Monday, December 14, 2009

The M.S. Conspiracy


A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic


Chapter 8 The Wounded and the Slain



I've been a dick for years. Many would argue my whole life. But I'd never seen two dead bodies in one day. I felt like I was at a reunion of my ex-wives. First, there was Lorna at Les Mars Hotel, her neck broken like the Three-Tier Distribution system. Now I was looking at another young lady, apparently in town to take the M.S. exam, dead in her bathtub in the Hotel Healdsburg. It might have been an accident--most accidents take place in the bathroom, unless you count the ones I'd had in my bed as a kid that had been intended for the bathroom, though now, as an adult, I usually had a different three sheets to the wind--but for all of the corks floating in the tub with her. Which Jessica was putting into a trash bag.

"Maybe you should let me take a look at those corks, Jess, they might be clues."

Jessica shot me a sarcastic look, and, well, she was a crack shot. Which reminded me of my view of the victim. "Clues? I don't know, Hoseapalooza, I think you're barking up the wrong Quercus suber."

Wow, I thought, a cork joke. Maybe Jessica knew more about wine than she was letting on. "Just let me look through them."

Chief Jokes handed me the bag of corks. It was an impressive collection. Corks from many of the finest wines in the world. Chave, Rayas, Margaux, Leroy, Opus One... Opus One? How did that cork get in there? Man, I'd forgotten that turds float sometimes.

"Every one of these corks is from a great bottle of wine."

"So? She's been studying for her M.S., Hosedope, you don't exactly learn anything about wine drinking the slop they serve by the glass. They're probably all the corks she'd collected from her M.S. study group."

Everyone studying for an M.S. would form a group with other M.S. candidates, pool their resources, and get together weekly to taste wines from all over the world. Maybe Lorna and our still unknown victim had been in the same study group. That was an intriguing possibility. Which, among other things, meant that there were probably a few more members of that group around. Yet more sorry souls who had traded in their young lives for a longshot chance in the sommelier sweepstakes, trying to win an M.S. as if it were the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes Grand Prize and Ed McMahon would show up at their house and award them a gigantic cartoon tastevin, only Ed McMahon was dead, floating in his own bathtub gin of disappointment. I needed to find out who the victim was.

The victim's body, and a lovely body at that, like the silky smooth body of a fine Vosne-Romanee, though the only Romanees I'd been able to afford had come not from Vosne but from Safeway, had been discovered by a Hotel Healdsburg maid. The room was supposed to have been empty; it hadn't been registered to anyone. The last people to have occupied it were an elderly couple from Albuquerque who'd been in town celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. A much slower death. There were no clothes to be found anywhere in the room, no purse, not a single clue to the victim's identity. But Jessica had known she was an M.S. candidate. That's what she'd told me in the square when she'd gotten the call. It wasn't like her to jump to conclusions. She usually limped to them. But I decided to let her think I hadn't noticed. And, besides, the corks sort of proved her point. But how had she known?

"Sure was a lovely young woman," I said.

"Yeah, Hoselimp, you've got a real eye for the dead girls. Married several, didn't you?"

"I have an idea for how we can ID her. May I use your cellphone?"

I dialed Veronica's number from memory. 1-800-38D2436. I'd found a way to commit it to mammary. When she answered I asked her to come to the Hotel Healdsburg right away. She asked why, but I wanted to surprise her, see if I could tell anything by the look on her face. It was a bad idea.

When Veronica walked into the hotel bathroom she let out the kind of blood-curdling scream I hadn't heard since I'd asked Jessica to our high school prom. OK, I didn't mean to scream, it just came out of me. Veronica rushed over to the dead girl, her tears flowing like Korbel Brut at a
low-rent wedding, her beautiful face contorted in agony, like she'd just judged the under $12 Chardonnay category at the Livermore Valley Harvest Fair, and plunged her arms into the cold water and around the lifeless sommelier, if lifeless sommelier isn't redundant. Jessica and I stood by silently respectful.

"Oh, God," Veronica cried, turning her lovely face to stare angrily at me, "she's my sister."



16 comments:

Arthur said...

[smack]
"She's my daughter!"
[smack]
"she's my sister!"
[smack]
"She's my daughter!"
[smack]
"she's my sister!"
[smack]
"She's my daughter!"
[smack]
"she's my daughter AND my sister!"

D J R-S said...

Wait a minute/something's wrong-
Lordmercy my key/won't open the door!

I got a bad bad feelin'...

Marcia Macomber said...

As always, so many fastball joke lines, but this is my favorite: “…neck broken like the Three-Tier Distribution system.” Ha! (Tom Wark will undoubtedly laugh hardest at that one.)

And you just couldn’t resist the phone number opportunity. Oy! What a groaner (pun intended). …But at least you redeemed yourself with the Korbel Brut line.

Veronica’s sister, huh? Sure… Arthur called that one right! When does the Hosemaster P.I. get his nose taped up (after the next pummeling)? And isn’t there a gun taped on the underside of a chair somewhere in the sister’s room? Sorry, wrong story… That would be a corkscrew…taped under the mini-bar!

Arthur said...

"Hello, Claude. Where’d you get the midget?"

Samantha Dugan said...

Dammit Washam, you've totally sucked me in, I reach the end of one of these damn posts and find myself groaning and wondering how much longer I have to wait for the next installment.

Marcia Macomber said...

I nominate Arthur for guest contributor! Give him a chapter and hold onto your seat.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Gang,

OK, I swear I was not thinking of "Chinatown" even the littlest bit when I wrote this chapter. Can't they just be sisters? Sheesh. I thought you were wine people, not movie freaks.

And, Marcia, I want YOU to do a chapter and then Arthur and then maybe Samantha or Charlie or any other volunteers. Though I don't expect any takers. You can do it anonymously, too, if you wish.

And, for the record, I have NO idea where this is going, don't know the endings until I get to them. The entire plot is in the hands, as it were, of my subconscious which takes me by surprise just as often as it takes you by surprise. I can't wait to see where this crap goes either!

And thanks everyone for taking the time to chime in. I very much appreciate it.

Samantha Dugan said...

Mr. HoseMaster Sir,
You know I adore you, love you with my whole heart but....no a freaking chance in hell.
Kisses
Samantha

Samantha Dugan said...

T....there should be a t there, so um....that would be, not a chance in hell.
Dammit

D J R-S said...

I, for one, would find it extremely uncomfortable, even in the best of mixed cases, to make some feeble attempt at putting my money where my mouth is. Now, putting my money where my mouth was the night of January 4th, 1984...nolo contendere...
Your Honor, the writing had for a postmodern, metatextual instant become a perversely multiple Exquisite Corpse, but it had immediately fallen into stinking decay...no, I couldn't-- I just couldn't do Your Honor anymore...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

OK, OK, I get it. No one wants to tackle MS Conspiracy. Can't say I blame you. One would need cyber-rubber gloves and a big jar of Purel.
I guess I'll just have to go it alone, like the private dick I am.

Arthur said...

Well, Ron, it's just that while we may have ideas (like the ones I shared with you), we could not even come close to doing justice to the style and wit.

Marcia Macomber said...

Amen, Arthur!

D J R-S said...

In true hardboiled sports parlance, 'We couldn't any of us hold your jockstrap, Mr. Master.' (Remind me sometime to tell you about the time on a tense set in Santo Domingo I missed my cue to spring that oh-so-colorful phrase on the late Sydney Pollack...)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks, everyone, your kindness does not go unappreciated. Though, in all honestly, I ain't that talented.

And this is getting dangerously close to "Great Post, Ron, as always," a phrase strictly forbidden on HoseMaster of Wine

Samantha Dugan said...

Okay, fine then...blow me Hosebag! You like that better?

I think you are very talented Love, when I read your posts it makes me very proud that you are at all interested in my stoopid ramblings...

Great post Ron! Keep up the good work.