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An old friend asks Leo to find the reason behind his son's death. So Waterman and his Irregulars, an assortment of Seattle street people, pick up the paper trail that leads them to a small town with a huge secret. From Seattle to Wisconsin, the puzzle twists and turns, tangling the present with a past so tragic that the final truth will leave readers gasping.
A stronger villain and tighter plotting lifts this search- and-destroyer over Leo's debut, Who in Hell Is Wanda Fuca?
There were two Tony Moldonados. One was the lovable fat guy we all knew from the TV ads. The one who dressed up like the Wagnerian opera singer, horned helmet and all, and proclaimed to all the world that "Da deal ain't over till da fat lady sings." That Tony had a thirty-year marriage, grown children, a successful string of auto dealerships, and, as we all knew, would beat any deal in town.
The other Tony was an entirely different matter. I hadn't figured him out yet and wasn't sure I wanted to. Tony number two was, if nothing else, a man of consistent habits. Unfortunately, those habits were consistently disgusting, which was where I came into it.
Once a year, like clockwork, Tony number two went on a binge. He'd fake an out-of-town business trip, pack enough luggage for a safari, kiss the wife good bye, and take a taxi to the airport. From the airport, he'd take another taxi across the street to the hotel strip on Pacific Highway South, find himself a roach motel, and begin the serious business of partaking of those prurient pleasures that cruel fate denied Tony number one. Tony number two was into young girls. For that matter, young anything. The younger the better. Rumor had it that he billed himself as Tony Coitus.
For the past four years, Tony was no sooner out the door than his wife was on the phone to me. I have no idea how Rose Moldonado got hip to Tony's meandering ways; it didn't much matter. My duty was to see that Tony was returned safely to the bosom of his family. I wasn't supposed to stop him; I was merely to see to it that he survived the experience. I'd been holed up for the past six days in the Pacific Vista Motel, a pink, U-shaped,cinder-block emporium that specialized in adult movies and a quick turnover. I was on the same floor, directly across the U from Tony's room, with an excellent view of the seemingly endless stream of demented debutantes who stumbled in and out.
The first year I'd been part of this little charade, in a fit of misplaced responsibility, I'd taken the room next door to Tony's, but the sounds and smells that filtered through the cardboard walls had for weeks afterward polluted my dreams. Rose Moldonado paid promptly and well, but neither promptly nor well enough for my dreams. There were limits.
I'd since cut a deal with the management. To reduce the chances of both apprehension and infection, they kept the rooms on either side of Tony's vacant, made an honest effort to provide disease-free specimens, and gave me the proverbial room with a view. Not only was I paying them, but tumid Tony passed out hundred-dollar bills like candy. It was the mythical offer they just couldn't refuse.
I was well prepared this year. I had enough food for a rural village, a couple of good books, and a new pair of slippers that kept my feet from ever touching the matted green shag carpet, which seemed determined to stick to the soles of my shoes. This year, I'd even brought my own sheets. Those provided by the management invariably looked like a road map of northern Bosnia, embossed, I'd always assumed, with the same substance that gave the carpet its adhesive quality.
I was up early. Tony's last volunteer, a prematurely purple prepubescent type in road warrior garb, had left at about 3:00 A.M. In spite of the massed mercury vapor lights, I'd been unable to ascertain the gender of this particular specimen. I had the feeling that it didn't much matter to Tony. Tony, I presumed, would be sleeping in.
I rummaged in my cooler and selected an onion bagel, some cream cheese, and the last of the smoked salmon for breakfast. I washed it all down with some orange juice, cleaned up my mess, and headed for the shower, careful not to let any part of my body touch an exposed surface.
The shower head had only two adjustments. The first provided an incredibly fine spray that was like trying to wash in fog. The other setting could have easily been used for crowd control. It had been set that way the first time I'd used the shower. I'd gotten in, turned the handle up, and immediately been hit right in the groin by a water cannon. It paralyzed me. If I hadn't been able to scoot down by the drain, I'd still be pinned to the back of the tub with a hole in my chest. Thank God I'd been wearing my new slippers.
After about ten minutes of being alternately misted and bludgeoned, I squashed back into the room, got out some fresh clothes, and stood up on the bed to get dressed. While I was lacing up my Reeboks, I wondered what Tony dreamed about at night, deciding that I probably didn't want to know.
I was putting my slippers on the windowsill heat register to dry when I noticed that Tony was about to have his first visitor of the day. This was a bit of a disappointment. I'd figured he would be running out of gas by now. Obviously the man had unimagined reserves of strength. I wondered if maybe he'd been going to the health club in preparation for his yearly sojourn, which, in turn, led me to wondering exactly what would constitute a workout for a sport like Tony's. How many sets of what? I quickly wrote this off as something else I didn't want to know.
This morning's repast was pretty much standard fare, about five foot seven, skinny, long blond hair grown out brown at the roots, wearing jeans, a green flowered blouse, earrings the size of hubcaps, and red shoes with impossibly high heels.
She knocked and was instantly admitted. Obviously, Tony had been up and expecting her. All was as well as it was going to be until I managed to get out of this virus culture of a motel.
I settled into the tape-patched coral Naugahyde chair by the window and got out my book. Nobody but John McPhee could keep me reading about oranges for two hundred pages. I was immersed in citric splendor when a sudden movement in my peripheral vision jerked my attention from the Indian River Country of central Florida to the door of Tony's room.
I was greeted by a scene that presented limited possibilities; either Tony was broadening his area of interest to include large black men-a notion that, while unspeakable, was not beyond the realm of possibility-or we were about to have a serious problem. As I grabbed the jacket that held my 9mm from its hanger, I got my answer. The larger of the two, using the balcony rail for leverage, reared back, cocked his leg, and planted one of his 14EEEs right in the middle of the door.
I had just begun my sprint around the third-floor balcony when the door splintered and both men disappeared inside. I was ready for trouble. I wasn't ready, however, for the scene that greeted me as I burst through the door. The smaller of the two was madly snapping pictures while the door kicker was holding down the center of the room.
The room smelled like a stable and looked like a back room at Central Casting. Costumes of all types were scattered about the room. A pink leotard and tutu, size fifty-two stout. A sawed-off canoe paddle with a taped grip. A World War I leather helmet, complete with goggles. A yellow plastic miner's hat. A pair of white, woolly chaps, with matching vest. Swim fins. Swim fins? Jesus. Whatever his myriad failings, the man led a rich fantasy life. You had to give him that.
Tony was backed up against the far wall, wearing his famous Viking costume, sans the breeches, trying valiantly to cover his distended organ with his hands. This type of intrusion would have deflated me in a hurry, but not old Tony. I made it a point not to look at him.
The girl was lying facedown on the unmade bed, naked from waist to ankles, making no attempt to cover herself. Her frilly dress was up over her head. What looked like an accordion was bunched around her ankles. If it hadn't been for the shepherd's crook leaning against the wall, I probably would never have recognized her costume. Now I was certain I didn't want into Tony's dreams.
I lowered my shoulder and launched the picture taker toward the middle of the room. He rocketed forward, tripped himself up in Zorro's cape, which was lying on the floor, and fell heavily into the back of the door kicker. They both went down in a heap. The big one started to jump to his feet. The picture taker began to reach into his coat. Staring down the muzzle of the 9mm put an immediate stop to both actions. A picture's worth a thousand words.
Copyright ) 1996 by G.M. Ford