A HOSEMASTER OF WINE™ PULP FICTION CLASSIC
Chapter 6 That Big Spit Bucket in the Sky
The woman I was going to have sex with in the middle of the book was lying in a bloody puddle on the floor of Avril’s office. This didn’t seem fair. Hell, I’d just come out of the closet, like Sally Ride, only I’d gotten burned on re-entry. My sudden entrance had startled Crystal’s killer into discharging his weapon. Also, his gun went off. I slipped in the discharge, and the killer escaped. I knelt down to check Crystal’s pulse. I couldn’t find one in either breast. She was dead. Like print wine publications. Like Cabernet/Syrah blends. Like the look I’d first seen in her eyes.
I sat with her for the longest time. There’s something about spending time with dead people that clears the mind, which is why I like winemaker dinners. Crystal had come to me for help. Four of her lovers had been murdered, and now she had joined them in that Big Spit Bucket in the Sky. It wasn’t my fault, but I felt guilty anyway. I was determined to get to the bottom of this mess, even though my only paying client was lifeless on the floor in front of me, unmoving and cold, like sex with Martha Stewart.
Crystal was dead and it seemed to have something to do with the pursuit of letters after the names of wine jerks. As though having those letters validated your addictive pursuit of the holy grape, proved your importance in a world that just doesn’t care that you know the difference between Pierce’s Disease and tattoo infections, as though an M and a W could make an otherwise arrogant and profoundly lonely person somehow admirable. It made me sick to think about it. The big M.W. and M.S. machines, the prestige-craving lot of them, waving around their credential as though it’s an achievement to know a lot about overpriced, overvalued, fermented grape juice in a world that needs another wine expert like it needs another reality TV star. Maybe killing candidates before they qualified wasn’t such a bad idea. But Crystal was an innocent bystander, and I knew then and there, my eyes filling with tears as though I were judging orange wines, that I had to get to the bottom of this whole rotten business, this crummy, corrupt wine business.
I must be losing my touch. It seemed like every clue I needed in this case kept escaping my grasp. Avril was still missing. Tiny had left her office with something in his possession I had a hunch was important. And Crystal’s killer had also managed to get away. I put in an anonymous call to the police telling them they needed to check on Avril’s new office carpet, took a few minutes to get rid of any traces of my presence at the scene, and I left. I wasn’t doing Crystal any good just staring at her perfect breasts, magnificent as the twin peaks of Côte-Rôtie, Brune et Blonde, the thought of which made me nervously Guigal, and I didn’t want to have to explain my presence to the cops. I hightailed it out of there like Mitt Romney at an NAACP conference.
I went back to my office on the Healdsburg Square. I guess I was hoping that there might be a message for me from Avril. There were a few messages on my voicemail:
“BEEP…HoseMaster, it’s Crystal. I’m leaving town. I don’t know when I’ll be coming back, or if I’m coming back. Forget about the job. I’ve decided Larry did commit suicide. There’s nothing for you to investigate. Thanks, anyway. Oh, and you’re a lousy kisser. I’ve had better tongue from a deli case.” Unnecessary.
“BEEP…Hello, this is Fred from NothingsBiggerThanMyHead asking for your vote in the Wine Blog Awards. Please, I’m begging you. If you don’t vote for me I’ll…why, I’ll…I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m just so desperate for acclaim… Please vote for me, please, please, please…” Idiot.
“BEEP…HoseMaster, we’ve got Avril. Sheesh, what a pain in the ass. You do her? Man, you’ll stick that thing anywhere. If you want to see her alive again, HoseMonster, drop the M.W. case. We catch you snooping around, gumshoe, Miss Cadavril ends up like cow horns at a Biodynamic winery; she's already full of shit, we'll just bury her." The guy was good, he could use semicolons while talking.
The last caller sounded like he meant business. I admit, my hands began to sweat, my heart pounded and my balls migrated north into the Jarvis cave to turn off the waterfall. And that was from the second message. Jackass.
It was clear that if I was going to keep investigating Crystal’s murder, I was going to have to do it on the sly, and I’d need my family stones. The people I was dealing with meant business and would stop at nothing. Killing Crystal had been an accident, I thought, but not Anosmia and God knows how many others. I needed to find Tiny, find out what he took from Avril’s office.
I was just about to go looking for the big man when the door to my office opened. I turned just in time to watch the body hit the floor.