Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The M.S. Conspiracy

A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic

Chapter 11
Bullet From Nowhere

Lately I'd been in more cavities than Mike Tyson's dentist. I was holding the three slips of paper in my hand, Veronica gently weeping in the background, and thinking, Well, I always wanted to be a crack detective. Be careful what you wish for. We like to think that the Universe is benevolent but I've always found that it's a vicious practical joker. Turns out God is an old Jewish man named Allen Funt. Lorna had found that out. She'd come to Healdsburg to get a couple of letters behind her name, pursuing her dream of becoming an M.S., and that's what the ol' Practical Joker had given her. A Murder Suppository. Smile, You're on Candid Chimera.

But somehow the killer had made a mistake and put Lorna's message in my dumpster and mine in hers. That seemed like an honest mistake. I have a nice ass. And that was certainly Lorna's strong suit. So the difference was strong suit and hirsute, but apparently in haste to escape, Lorna's murderer hadn't noticed. It didn't matter. But how many damn sisters did Veronica have?

Avril Cadavril was replacing the morgue sheets over the dead girls. Veronica was still crying a
bit, her nose running all over Jessica's uniform. Something seemed to be going on between Jessica and Veronica, a strange chemistry had developed that was making me uncomfortable. But grief can do that to people. I'd had my share of grief, sunk to the sort of depths that only slime and wine bloggers can survive, and it had made me do all kinds of foolish things. Slow dancing with Robert Lawrence Balzer at the Wine Spectator Experience. Proposing marriage to Kevin Zraly (he said Yes, you're my Window on the World!). A menage a trois with Paul Prudhomme. But this felt somehow different. While the three ladies were distracted, I once again slipped out.

My entire investigation seemed to be going around in circles. All Veronica had hired me to do was to get her an interview for an M.S., get her into the exams that were scheduled for a few days from now. I'd been distracted by a midget, Tiny, Allen Funt and a couple of dead girls. I hadn't even been able to contact the thugs that ran the M.S. program. I'd been coldcocked in Les Mars Hotel and busted in a public rest room. So, all in all, the same old routine.

When I opened the door to my office I found I had visitors. Fugly the midget was sitting on my couch. Wait, I don't have a couch. Fugly was sitting on Tiny's lap, his Jimmy Buffett shirt made Tiny look like he'd been upholstered in a Roman vomitorium. And standing next to them was an unfamiliar character, but he smelled like a sommelier. You know, cheap suit that had just come back from the dry cleaner. He probably should have taken it out of the plastic before he put it on. But that's an M.S. for you, more plastic than anything else. But I was more concerned about Fugly. He was pointing a gun at me. Just once I'd like to meet a midget who wasn't sitting on a fat guy and packing a piece.

"I hear you're looking for me," the Man from Glad said.

"I don't even know who you are. But I can guess. You're a Master Sommelier, one of the examiners. Yeah, I'm lookin' for you. I just finished conducting exams on two of your candidates. Turns out they both passed. They both passed notes. Who are you? What's your name? What the hell are you doing in my office with Fat Man and Little Boy? I've seen enough dead bombshells for one day."

"You're right, HoseMaster, I am a Master Sommelier. My name is Larry Anosmia. Our friend Tiny here said that you were looking for me, for the M.S. judges. And it seems you've been busy knocking off all of our leading candidates. Just what is it that you want?"

I lunged for the pompous prick, but I stopped when I heard Fugly cock his gun. "I didn't kill those two women, but I think you know who did. And call off your midget before I pour cocktail sauce on him and throw him in the Cyrus dumpster for Tiny. Tiny loves a shrimp cocktail."

Anosmia turned to the midget and said, "It's OK, Mr. Teebagger, you can put away the gun. We're not here to cause any trouble for the HoseMaster." Fugly, or Mr. Teebagger as it turns out, put his gun away. "Now, HoseMaster, what is it you want from us?"

I strolled past Tiny and Mr. Teebagger and sat down behind my desk. Anosmia hadn't moved, he was just casually standing there in the way that sommeliers do, smirking like I'd just ordered a bottle of Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon from a poor vintage. Any of them.

"I have a client. Her name is Veronica. She knows a lot about wine and she hired me to get her into your exams next week for M.S. That's all I wanted to do, get her an invite."

"Well, HoseMaster, you didn't have to kill a couple of candidates to make an opening for her. This Veronica, I'm sure she didn't hire you for that."

I just stared. "I don't know who murdered those girls, but it wasn't me. And what killed them was their idiotic desire to line your pockets with money so you'd give them two letters after their names, two letters they thought would help them be somebody in the wine business, two letters they thought might validate their passion for wine, make people admire them, come to them for wine advice. Two letters that proved they know about wine. Shit. It's all shit. All it got them was an early trip to the Jim Jones Tasting Room, a permanent position at Copia, a reviewer's job at Wine and Spirits Magazine...Death. But you and the rest of your M.S. poseurs, the fake Gucci bags of wine connoisseurs, the counterfeit Rolexes of the wine world--hell, an M.S. is just fake tits for wine lovers--you'll just keep on taking money for your meaningless letters, your bogus degree, your manufactured status. The whole thing is a scam, and an ugly one, and now it's cost two lovely women their lives and I'm going to find out what's going on and I'm going to take you and all your fucking M.S. midgets down..."

I think I heard the gun go off.


Marcia Macomber said...

I can smell the gunpowder residue now..wafting through your office! (That'd be a nice, new descriptor for those MS candidates to identify...)

Who got it? Did the lights go out?

You're sure pilin' up the bodies, HoseMaster. What next?

Puff Daddy said...

Another brilliant chapter. I can hardly wait for the movie.

Samantha Dugan said...

You think you heard the gun go off?! WTF?! Dude, you're killing me with these things....and might I say I am awfully glad not to find you elbow deep in bung hole in this chapter....

Puff Daddy said...

Elbow deep in the bung hole? That's a tricky one. Sam, I think you are trying to be polite.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Dearest Marcia,

I've missed you! I knew I had to kill somebody just to hear from you. Come to Healdsburg, I'll show you my office and we'll have lunch with the midget and Tiny!

My Gorgeous Samantha,

I already got hit over the head, I may as well get shot! Eventually I might even get laid. Let's see, Veronica, Jessica or the midget...Hey, he does have the gun.

Yup, I painted myself into a rather nasty corner with my hidden messages, but I seem to have escaped and can move on to more pleasant things. Like gunshot wounds.

I adore you!

Puff Daddy,

Every so often I get it right.

I'm casting the movie in my head now. Any suggestions for who should play the HoseMaster? I'm thinking Denzel.

Puff Daddy said...

<< I'm casting the movie in my head now. Any suggestions for who should play the HoseMaster? I'm thinking Denzel. >>

I have given this matter a great deal of thought. I can see Denzel and you. After all, he is tall, black and handsome. It's a bit of a stretch, but at least you did not ask for Sean Penn, who is short, white and does not smile.

But, I am thinking about some kind of middle ground here. Somebody middle-aged, tough as nails, funny, understands irony, maybe a little shorter than Denzel, but likely to deliver a knockout phrase with aplomp.

My first nomination was Brando, but the guy went and checked out on us. So, how about DeNiro? OK, so he sometimes like to play it a little "run down at the heels", but at least he would never be mistaken for somebody who was an MS candidate.

Marcia Macomber said...

Dear HMW and Puff Daddy - Funny, I thought Denzel, too, on gut reaction. Sean Penn - ohhhhhhhhh, definitely wrong. Brando? No. DeNiro, too rumpled at this point. (Not that HMW, PI, isn't well-rumpled, but that's another post....)

I would consider other casting choices: Given the bung hole episode (I mean...really...), I'd have to say Ben many...mishaps (and ellipses!) But, no.... That leads to William H. Macy as a compromise (caught with so many bodies in Fargo).

Then turning away from these under-something PI-types, there's always Jack ("the gun was under the chair"), but he's too short. Or perhaps the worn Russell Crowe from LA Confidential...nah, the accent is a problem. Or David Duchovny with the ever-present underdog/trenchcoat-ness. But I've seen no aliens yet crop up in Les Mars....

I suspect Mr. HoseMaster, sir, would prefer Clive Owen to play his alter-ego.... (Leaving Ms. Dugan to play the role originated by....)

Marcia Macomber said...

Oh, yes, HMW, H-burg...soon. Too much bloody rain, Luv. Can't even get out for the Mayo's sale this w/end, and the water's too high now for a paddle down the Russian River (although given the number of vineyards siphoning off for frost protection....) When the sun comes out!

Ron Washam said...

After much contemplation, I think the role of HoseMaster will be played by Linda Hunt, in an echo of her Oscar-winning portrayal of a man. And, in a dual role, she can also play Mr. Teebagger aka Fugly!

OOOOH, brilliant casting.

Marcia Love,

It just seems completely apropos that you arrive when the sunshine does. I look forward to it.

Samantha Dugan said...

Hey! How did I get dragged into this Marcia?! I must admit, the thought of HoseMaster being played by Denzel...damn, made my skin all bumply.

Marcia Macomber said...

Sam, I dunno, but it's kinda inevitable, don't cha think?

I was starting to think old school now...maybe Lana Turner. But she didn't have the 'tude. Then I thought Lauren Bacall. She's got the mouth and sass to play you.

On the other hand, maybe you'd prefer Kate Hepburn or Bette Davis, two women who never failed to say what they meant?

Puff Daddy said...

I am kind of thinking of Rosalind Russell as Sam. Bold, brassy, wholly independent and lovable.

Streep could do it, except for that she has never struck me as the flirty, inviting type. Kathleen Turner maybe.

Marcia Macomber said...

P.D. -

You are entirely spot on! Ms. Russell is the best match to play Ms. Dugan.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Puff Daddy and Marcia,

Play Ms. Dugan? As far as I can tell she's not a character in The MS Conspiracy, any more than you are, Charlie, or you, Marcia. If you mean Veronica, then I'm thinking Scarlet Johansen or Dame Edna. If you mean Jessica, well, I'm thinking Halle Berry or Chuck Berry.

Samantha could only be played by the inimitable Ms. Dugan, whom I deeply adore.

Marcia Macomber said...


I'm not sure how Ms. Dugan got inserted into this M.S. story either! Not by me.

But if ANYONE should play Ms. Dugan in ANY storyline here, I concur with Mr. P.D. - Rosalind Russell.

(And definitely Ms. Berry over Mr. Berry for Jessica, should the occasion arise.)

Samantha Dugan said...

I get back from Dallas, pop on my favorite blog and now I am totally confused, flattered as hell but confused. Wonder if just being in Texas killed some brain cells but...I'm glad I'm not a player in this little story, (wouldn't mind having the ass that dead girl in the tub had, but other than that) I was just grateful not to be the inspiration for Tiny!

Pat Savoie said...

Oh my. He's the Duckman of Vineland.

Jesse Becker, MS said...