A HOSEMASTER OF WINE™ PULP FICTION CLASSIC
Chapter 4: The Bodily Fluid Fandango
Master of Wine. Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? But what does that make us? They’re Masters, we must be servants. That’s certainly how they look at it. But what is it they’ve really mastered? Memorization and taking tests, primarily. Or maybe it’s more like the Masters Golf Tournament. Only there are a lot more holes when it comes to M.W.’s, and they think the more strokes the better. There is always a parade of sycophants lined up to sit for the M.W. exams. Yeah, “sit.” They also learn “beg,” “roll over,” and “when you’re done licking yours, lick mine.” I was glad Larry Anosmia was dead. But now that I’d accepted the case, his murder was getting under my skin, like a James Suckling video, or a tick. I’m creeped out by that kind of insect. I don’t like ticks much either.
I needed to learn more about Anosmia’s murder. Why did the cops think it was a suicide? Yes, they’re small town cops, and not really familiar with murder. The usual crimes in Healdsburg are drunk driving, jaywalking and being Mexican. The cops don’t see a lot of dead bodies unless they visit the Ferrari-Carano tasting room and talk to the hospitality crew. And a murder means an investigation, means gathering evidence, means chasing someone capable of slashing a guy’s throat with a piece of glass. They’d just as soon a dick like me does that. The more I thought about it, the more this case made me nervous. It was already starting to smell worse than a four dollar Argentinian Malbec, the ones that retail for forty. And I’d only just started.
I decided I needed to talk to Avril Cadavril about Anosmia’s death. Avril and I had been doing the bodily fluid fandango for several months now, ever since she had dropped more blubber than Captain Ahab. She was a whole new woman, not afraid to show off and share that magnificent new poopdeck of hers. And I had just the seamen to do it. Avril only worked part-time as the city coroner. The rest of the time she worked as a butcher. The girl could handle meat.
Was I in love with Avril? Love doesn’t exist in the world I live in; neither does justice or honor or truth. I live in the dark underbelly of existence. I deal with betrayal, dishonesty, violence, hatred, and BevMo’s 5 Cent Sale. At the end of my day, I can’t wash the smell of evil off my skin, not even with Drew Barrymore Pinot Grigio and water. Which adds up to hot water. And now I was wading into the M.W. cesspool. Maybe Anosmia wasn’t the suicide, maybe I was. There are quick suicides, like a gunshot through the roof of your mouth, or jumping off the top of Thomas Keller’s ego-inflated toque; and then there are the long, slow, but every bit as deliberate suicides—smoking cigarettes, binge-drinking, and, maybe for me, listening to M.W.’s.
Avril wasn’t at Big John’s, where she usually worked as a butcher. She was quite the draw now that she’d become a babe. Guys were lined up at her meat counter. I guess you could say the same about Crystal. Rather than drive over to the coroner’s office to see if she was there, I dialed Avril’s cellphone. My call went directly to voicemail. “Hello, this is Avril. If you have a dead body and want to know where the night deposit box is, press 1. For roasts, prime ribs, rack of lamb, and all your butchering needs, press 2. If you want to pork loins, please leave a message at the beep.” I don’t leave messages, so I hung up and headed over to Avril’s office.
When I got to her office, the door was open. That made me suspicious. Avril always kept the door locked, even when she was there. Quietly, I pushed the door open. I didn’t want to scare her, but I also didn’t want whomever was in the office, in case it was someone other than Avril, to hear me. It was one of those moments when I wished I carried a piece. Not a gun, a hair piece. But I’d forgotten it. I was beginning to think there would be hell toupee later.
I had one foot in the door when I heard heavy breathing. It wasn’t Avril. I knew what her heavy breathing sounded like, we’d done the tongue triathlon tango enough times that I’d know her panting anywhere. This was much heavier breathing. It sounded more like Robert Parker walking all over Jay Miller. And then I knew who it was.
Tiny. The local gossip columnist for the Healdsburg Herald-Flatulence. Nothing happens in Healdsburg that Tiny doesn’t know about. The first half of that sentence could stand alone. As did Tiny. All 400 pounds of him.
“Hey, Tiny,” I said, “what are you looking for? Avril’s diet books?”
Tiny didn’t even seem surprised to see me. “HoseMaster, man, haven’t you heard?”
“Don’t fill me with all of your stupid gossip. I want stupid gossip, I’ll read wine blogs.”
“Well, I guess you haven’t heard,” Tiny said, with a smirk on that fartyface of his, “Avril’s disappeared.”
From the pounding of my heart, I thought maybe I was a little in love with the butcher babe. Maybe she’d finally tenderized my meat.