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"She was some pissed," said Bassman. He looked carefully at the bullet holes in the rear window of his van. "Shit, I know she can shoot that good, maybe I am nicer to her."
"You are lucky," said Madelaine, "you don't get one of them the back of the head."
"Cheap-ass little twenty-five," said Bassman. "She shot me that two times. Gun jammed. She is messing, the slide, think I am going to hit her. Me, I am taking out my jackknife, I open the blade, dig out them two slugs are stuck in my arm. They don't even go in so far."
Bassman held out his left forearm. There were two round scabs on the side of his elbow.
Du Pré snorted.
Bassman, he thought, him, always got that burlap blonde girlfriend, all look the same from the neck down. Big tits, round ass. Neck up they all got mean eyes. I live with that Bassman, I am probably mean, too.
They were standing out in front of the Toussaint Saloon, and it was a miserable gray April day, dead sky, old leaves and grass, and plenty of dog turds.
"So maybe she is coming after you?" said Madelaine. "You fill them women that true love, Bassman."
"Yah," said Bassman, "maybe she does, you know. She got a temper, that one. I give it some time, she start shooting at someone else maybe."
We go and play the roadhouse down the Missouri, thought Du Pré, make that good music, Bassman have another burlap blonde by the second set tomorrow night. Latest he will have her then.
Bassman went in to get another beer. The giant joint he had been smoking had dried his throat.
"You got maybe one cousin is not crazy?" said Madelaine.
Du Pré shook his head.
"Me, either," said Madelaine. "All of them, crazy."
Du Pré laughed and he put his arm around her.
The air smelled of snow.
The clouds broke and the Wolf Mountains blazed white in the sun.
"Maybe we don' burn up this year," said Madelaine.
Du Pré shrugged.
It is very dry here still. I don't see it so dry so deep, a long time. Bart, he is digging a coffer slot for a little dam, he says he never hit the water table, goes down twenty feet. In the bottom of a coulee.
Bassman came back out, belching. He had a huge can of beer, blue and gold, in his hand.
"Australia," he said, holding up the can. "We maybe move there, yes?"
"Long way to go, a beer," she said.
"Some people," said Bassman, "they see the Virgin Mary, a tortilla or maybe a birthmark, their kid's ass, me, I see this. I maybe make a pilgrimage."
Father Van Den Heuvel came out of the tiny white Catholic church. He waved and he tripped over something in the yard. He fell on his hands, bounced up, and went on.
The big Jesuit got in his ratty old Ford and he started it and he drove away.
"Least him, don't shut his head in the car door this time," said Madelaine.
"Him shut his head, the car door?" said Bassman.
"Knocked cold," said Madelaine.
"I never hear that before," said Bassman.
"Stay a week," said Du Pré. "You see that, couple times."
Bart drove up in his pickup. He got out and came over to them. He looked tired, and his clothes were caked with clay.
"Water down pret' far," said Du Pré.
"Way down," said Bart.
"Bad summer," said Madelaine. "Or maybe it rain."
"Julie's coming," said Bart.
"You got a new girlfriend," said Madelaine. "Ver' good."
"No," said Bart, "I got a niece. My sister Angela's kid. Angie is a counselor in Portland."
"OK," she said.
Du Pré looked at his friend. Bart's family had been blown apart by money and alcohol. So had Bart. He was rich, and he dug holes, and
he liked it.
"Trouble?" said Madelaine.
"Trouble," he said.
Madelaine went to him. She kissed him on the cheek.
"It be OK," she said. "Now, you maybe come along hear some good music."
Bart shook his head.
"I got to have that dam done tomorrow," he said. "I just came in to get a hamburger and check my messages."
"OK," said Bassman, "we got some miles maybe."
"Take a long time you piss so much," said Madelaine.
The three of them got into Bassman's van. It was a dope crib on wheels, with two small refrigerators and three captain's chairs and a thick sweet fug of marijuana in the air.
"Jesus," said Madelaine. "I get high just sitting in here."
"Yeah," said Bassman, starting the engine, "nice, ain't it."
For all his bad habits, Bassman was a very good driver. He was soon rocketing down the highway. He saw a truck coming and he slowed down so he wouldn't meet it on the narrow bridge over Cooper's Creek.
"So you never been there to play before, Du Pré?" said Bassman.
"Non," said Du Pré, "that roadhouse it is closed for years, then it is bought, new people. Grand opening."
"Moon of Dog Turds," said Bassman. "These people are what? Yuppies come to Montana, open this fancy restaurant. Bad food cost a lot of money. I go one of them. All they got, goddamned noodles."
"Noodles," said Bassman again.
Du Pré slipped his flask out of his bag. He had some good bourbon whiskey. He rolled a cigarette.
"Pink wine the fridge," said Bassman.
"Non," said Madelaine, "too early."
"Too bad, Talley," said Bassman.
Du Pré nodded. Poor Talley, born with an open spine, lived for thirty-six years, most of the time infected, gets an infection they can do nothing for.
"Hell of an accordion player," said Bassman.
"He was that," said Du Pré. He lit his cigarette and he passed it to Madelaine. She took one long drag and gave it back.
"Him just go like that," said Madelaine. "I am talking to him, the telephone one day, I call back two days later he is dead."
Poor Talley, crippled, has to use crutches, plays hell out of that accordion.
Bassman got the van up to eighty-five and he kept it there.
Montana, you go fifty-five you never get anywhere, Du Pré thought. When you do get someplace, it is North Dakota.
"This girlfriend, she knows you are playing here?" said Madelaine.
"Maybe," said Bassman. "She don't got a car, though."
"What you do she shows up?" said Madelaine.
"Me, I am a brave Métis," said Bassman. "I run like hell, what I do, I see that damn woman."
"This is that Charmayne?" said Madelaine.
"Non," said Bassman, "this is Kim. Charmayne, she was maybe a year ago, little more."
"Ah," said Madelaine, "but they look like each other."
"Yah," said Bassman.
"All the time blondes," said Madelaine.
"White bread," said Bassman, "you know."
Du Pré laughed.
Poor Talley, he thought.
Bassman came to the highway that went south toward the Missouri. He looked both ways and he pulled out and accelerated.
Big fat wet flakes of snow started to fall.
The snow got thicker.
I play a song, maybe two, tonight for Talley, thought Du Pré.CHAPTER 2
"Jesus," said Bassman.
"Christ," said Du Pré.
"Well," said Madelaine, "it is pretty."
They were looking at what had been the old roadhouse, once a typical Great Plains hovel, weatherproof, warm in winter, racked in the frame, covered with plywood that bore a fading coat of cheap red paint, and the marks of drunken handiwork.
The new building was made of logs.
"Mahogany, maybe?" said Bassman.
"Jesus," said Du Pré, "maybe rosewood."
"It is pretty!" said Madelaine.
There were two long sparkling picture windows in the front, one on each side of the double doors.
"How long them last?" said Bassman.
"Maybe tonight," said Du Pré. "It is Friday."
"Things drunkest out Friday night," said Bassman.
"OK," said Madelaine, "so they are dumb windows. It is easy. Guys get thrown through them, they put in small ones, too small to throw anybody through."
"They are not from here," said Bassman. He looked over at a shiny dark green SUV parked beside the mailbox at the end of the ornamental hitching rail.
"Those are cedar shakes," said Du Pré, squinting at the roof.
"Those are in fucking Fargo first time the wind blows," said Bassman.
"I leave you two Laurel and Hardy here," said Madelaine. "I go in, I have a nice glass, pink wine, I say, 'The band is out in the van, they are shooting up, will be right in.'"
Du Pré sighed.
"This thing it belongs in Bozeman maybe," he said. Bozeman was full of buildings as pretty as the redone roadhouse.
Madelaine opened the van door.
"Wipe your feet, you go in," she said.
"Yeah, mom!" said Bassman and Du Pré.
Madelaine stepped up on the long porch that went the entire length of the front of the building. She pulled on the front door and it swung slowly open.
"I don't got a tie," said Bassman.
"You are wearing shoes," said Du Pré. "Maybe they let you come in."
"Jesus," said Bassman, "I liked that old place."
Du Pré nodded.
"Well," he said, "we go say hello. This woman, she sounds very nice on the telephone."
They got out and they went up the front steps and they pulled open a door apiece and they went in.
The place was lovely.
Nice wooden chairs. Little tables.
No moldy moose heads.
Real paintings on the walls.
The backbar was new, and had been bought for a whole lot of money from some old saloon. There was a vast mirror in the center.
"Last maybe tonight," said Bassman, nodding at the silvered glass. "Maybe a month even, then a stool goes through it."
Du Pré nodded.
Madelaine was talking to a pretty young woman, blond and scrubbed, who had her hair in a thick plait down her back. The two of them were laughing.
Du Pré and Bassman walked on over.
"This is Du Pré," said Madelaine, "that is Bassman. This is Carol Canning. She owns the place."
"Me and Rob," she said. "He went to get some things we thought we might need."
Du Pré smiled and he shook her hand across the bar. He looked up and down it.
Some ashtrays, Du Pré thought, first hopeful sign I am seeing.
He rolled a smoke and he lit it and he blew out the tobacco.
Carol got an ashtray from under the bartop and she put it in front of him.
"Ditch?" she said.
"She studying on our language," said Bassman, grinning. "Him have one, me, too."
Carol made them quickly. One splash glop splash bourbon over ice tap water.
Du Pré nodded and he took his drink.
Carol set the other in front of Bassman.
"I love it here," said Carol. "We wanted to move to the real West. We found this place. I worked for six months at a roadhouse, and Rob went to work for a rancher. We learned a lot."
Du Pré nodded.
"These places are community centers," said Carol, "more even than they are saloons."
Bassman and Madelaine and Du Pré nodded.
"Everything we have is in this place," said Carol. "We're going to make a go of it."
Bassman got up and he went out the front door.
His van's sliding door opened and closed.
A tall young man in jeans and boots came in carrying a big box of groceries. He set them on the bartop and he came over to Du Pré and Madelaine.
"I'm Rob," he said, "Mr. Du Pré, and ..."
"Madelaine," said Madelaine.
He shook their hands and grinned and he went back out. Carol took the box in the back.
Rob came in again, with another huge box.
"You want some help?" said Du Pré.
"Appreciate," said Rob.
They went out together.
"I really like the people here," said Carol. "They are so helpful and courteous. I thought we would be resented, you know, goddamned flatlanders. So before we came we both went through the EMT course and got certified and Rob is part of the volunteer fire department."
"There's more traffic on the road now," said Carol. "We put in a good big truck parking lot, for the haulers."
Rob and Du Pré came in and they went round the end of the bar with the boxes.
"I think we got everything covered," said Carol. "Rob will tend bar tonight while I cook and we have four waitresses."
"We put up posters all over," said Carol. "Grand opening."
"Which roadhouse you work at?" she said.
"Tucker's," said Carol, "down by Forsyth."
Madelaine shook her head.
"Don't know that one," she said. "That smells good." A waft of air had come out of the kitchen.
"It was a real education," said Carol.
"Just you in the kitchen, maybe?" she said.
Carol nodded. "It'll be hard," she said.
"Well," said Madelaine, "you need help I help you."
"Thanks," said Carol.
Bassman opened the door and he rolled in his big amplifier. He looked round for the stage, and saw it at the far side of the room. The wheels went scritch scritch on the puncheon floor.
Du Pré went to help him. His hat brushed a wagon wheel chandelier. He looked up at it. He shook his head.
"Little blisters be hanging from that like apes," said Bassman, watching the wagon wheel rock gently.
Du Pré nodded.
"Maybe," said Du Pré, "there have been lots, Mormons move here or something."
"They don't go to bars," said Bassman.
Du Pré nodded.
"These are nice people," said Bassman.
Du Pré nodded.
"We make some, that good music," said Bassman.
"Wish Talley was here," said Du Pré.
Somebody came in the door.
"Père Godin!" said Madelaine, running to the old scoundrel.
Some Turtle Mountain people were with him.
"Ah," said Du Pré.
Père Godin was a very good accordion player.
"We play some for Talley, him," said Bassman.
Du Pré nodded.CHAPTER 3
The roadhouse was full of people. They could sit and stand in comfort, but if many more came in it would start to get difficult to move.
Père Godin was riffing notes on his accordion. The old man was spry and quick, and the notes stabbed and jabbed along the melody.
Du Pré stood back, marking time, while Bassman thumped away, putting a floor under Père Godin's runs. Du Pré stepped forward and he slid in to the melody and Père Godin stepped back.
Du Pré stood at the mike and he began to sing.
Pull that paddle long time to go
Madelaine I love her so
Pull on that rope, my Madelaine
And I come home to you ...
Some older couples were two-stepping on the little dance floor.
A young boy leaped up and grabbed the wagon wheel and he hung there for a moment until his mother snapped at him to get the hell down.
Du Pré and Bassman and Père Godin played for another twenty minutes and then they took a break.
The crowd went to talking to one another. There were all sorts of people in the room, young and old, families, single people, and many children.
The four waitresses were carrying armloads of plates. People had been eating a lot of beef.
Madelaine was pulling beers and pouring shots and mixing drinks, and so was Rob. People were three deep at the bar getting booze after the music stopped.
Du Pré and Bassman and Père Godin waited until the crowd thinned, and then they went to the end of the bar. Madelaine bustled down with three ditchwater highballs and she set them down and she went back to work.
The three musicians drank.
By the time they had drained their glasses Madelaine was back with three more. She set them down and was gone again.
Carol came out of the kitchen, looking sweaty and exhausted. She drank three tall glasses of water very quickly and she went back to the kitchen.
The bar crowd had thinned out and Madelaine waved at Du Pré and she went back to the kitchen, too.
Rob finished the last pulls and he looked up and down the bar and then he came down to Du Pré and Bassman and Père Godin.
"Great music," he said, "wonderful. Madelaine is even more wonderful. God, we'd have sunk without her." He looked at the crowd in the room.
Du Pré laughed.
"More people than we thought would come," said Rob.
"They like you," said Du Pré.
A couple of young hands went out the side door. Friends followed them prepared to slap the victor on his back and carry the vanquished to his truck until he woke up.
Families with young children began to leave, hugging parents and kin, and several tables opened up. No one went to them right away, so the rush was over at last.
Madelaine came back out of the kitchen.
"They are down to the last half of one prime ribs," she said. "It was a pret' good guess."
Du Pré nodded. Nice crowd, nice place. Wonder how long them picture windows will last.
The side door opened and a sound of cheering came in.
"Punchin' the spots off each other," said an old rancher bellied up to the bar. "Them youngsters been at it a while now. Must be about evenly matched."
Père Godin wandered off to charm a woman someplace.
Excerpted from The Tumbler by Peter Bowen. Copyright © 2004 Peter Bowen. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted February 19, 2004
Retired Brand inspector Gabriel Dupre hoped to live out the rest of his life in peace and tranquility but his ability to sniff out wrongdoers always seem to land him in the middle of a homicide investigation. This time Dupre is being sued by the U.S. government who wants him to turn over the lost journals of Louis and Clark that he dug out of the ground. When he goes to court Benetsee, an Indian mystic, persuades the judge to issue a six month continuance because the documents are needed in another case............................................ Dupre receives phone calls asking him to sell the documents for a handsome sum of money. Letters with thousands of dollars are left in his car and Benetsee¿s cabin as an incentive to get them to talk to the agents of the buyer. Reporters flock to the town of Toussaint sensing a juicy story but things start turning violent when someone beats up DuPre¿s friend Bassman. One of the reporters who got too close to the source of the trouble is killed and one of the private security agents guarding Julie, who was almost kidnapped, simply disappears. DuPre is determined to find out who the perpetrator is or die trying....................................... Montana breeds rugged individualists and nobody is more ornery and determined than the protagonist of THE TUMBLER. He has a lust for living life to the fullest that many people twenty years younger than him would envy and he needs no Viagra to enjoy his loving with Madeline who returns his attentions in full measure. The who-done-it is fascinating and author Peter Bowen deserves an award for creating a vivid sense of place that readers can easily imagine................................... Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.