A HOSEMASTER OF WINE PULP FICTION CLASSIC
CHAPTER 3 Three Feet Under
Nothing cheers me up faster than a dame pointing a heater at my melon. Crystal was still sporting that dead smile, and the way she handled her piece I knew she’d had plenty of experience with guns. I was as nervous as Marvin Shanken at a harpoon factory. But I was having a change of heart about not wanting Crystal Geyser for a client. I was also definitely needing a change of underwear.
“Please, HoseMaster, I need your help. If you don’t help me, I don’t know what I’ll do!” And with that, she aimed the gat at herself, the barrel gently pressed against her temple. I didn’t think she’d actually pull the trigger, splatter her brains all over my walls like a Jackson Pollack label for Mouton. But I wasn’t going to take any chances.
“Put the gun down, Crystal. I’ll take your case. I know I’m going to regret this. The whole M.W. game stinks like orange wine. But, hell, I’ve got nothing going on right now, maybe I can finally nail some of those pompous bung sniffers.”
I slowly stood up and walked over to Crystal. She let me take the gun from her hand. I could see in her perfect brown eyes, the color of 40-year-old Tawny Port, 20-year-old per eye, that she hadn’t planned on killing herself. There was a lot going on behind those eyes, a cold calculatedness that sent a shiver down my spine, like watching a sommelier walking toward you with a wine list. You want to run, but you don’t. And you end up enduring a long speech about the wonders of Grüner Veltliner, how versatile it is with food, which it is, if your dinner of choice is Tender Vittles. You should run. I should have run.
“Thank you, HoseMaster, thank you. I knew you’d help me. When can you start?”
“Start? Hell, I’m almost finished.”
“I meant on my case.”
“Oh, I guess I can start right away. What was your friend’s name? The one who was murdered?”
“His name was Larry Anosmia.”
I was shocked. I knew Larry Anosmia. He was an M.S. I’d run into in an earlier case. Ran around with midgets. He even got shot because of me. And now he was dead, six feet under. I wondered what happened to the midget. Maybe he was dead, too. Three feet under. So Larry had decided to pursue an M.W., somehow met up with Crystal, was undoubtedly spraying his gunite in her wine cave, and ended up getting his throat slashed. Can’t say I’d miss him. Though at least now he’d finally become a good M.S. But I didn’t want Crystal to know I’d met Larry Anosmia before. I still didn’t trust her. I just hoped she was still going to be around in the middle of the book. Crystal was better endowed than Stanford University, and had probably received as many incoming freshmen.
“And this Larry Anosmia, where did you meet him?”
“At one of my wine tasting parties. I invite men who are studying for their M.W. over to my house and open rare wines for them. To help them study. It’s how I met all my friends who were murdered.”
“How many ‘friends’ of yours have been killed, Crystal? What kind of madness is going on with the M.W. program?”
Crystal’s eyes began to moisten. This time I didn’t think she was faking it. Had she really loved Larry Anosmia, and all the others? What kind of pathetic soul would fall for a bunch of wine dweebs? And how much could it be simple coincidence that Crystal had been involved with so many victims? And, why, I wondered most of all, was she so insistent about the HoseMaster being her private dick?
“Larry was the fourth.”
I didn’t want to be it, but I needed a fifth.