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About the Author
BOMBER BOMBSThe Ninth Bomber Hanson Mystery
By David Champion
ALLEN A. KNOLL, PUBLISHERSCopyright © 2010 Allen A. Knoll, Publishers
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Football," Bomber shouted so they could hear him a mile and a half away on the beach at Angelton, "is a brutal, barbaric sport. Don't come around here expecting me to take a football player for a client. It won't happen. Period. End of report."
At the time of this explosion, Bomber, the big boss around here, and coincidentally, my father, didn't know it was not one player, but ten. Bomber, as in bombast. His nickname, Bomber, came from the Korean War. He was a bombardier and his crew was turned around on his first mission when they got word of the Armistice. Bomber lobbied to complete the mission to bomb the bejesus out of some harbor or other, but the pilot overruled him. The name stuck, though my suspicion is Bomber made it stick. No one else was that interested. It gave him a macho air—like his elevator shoes, which he thought made an impression on the juries he argued his cases in front of. The judges didn't seem to fool as easily.
The phone call had come from Clarence Dixon, the head honcho of the Cal Southern alumni football booster club. It was an elite collection of rich over-the-hill boys (women need not apply—not that they would want to) who purported to further the interests of the University, the players and coaches, and the game itself. What it seemed more like to me was guys who sought fulfillment in the association with young, strapping, fit-as-a-fiddle bucks, who were biding their time enroute to the pros.
Mr. Dixon sought the pleasure of an interview with the great man. I'd explained our hidebound protocol to him and I could hear him swallow his pride, accepting our unfriendly terms. He would have to talk to me before Bomber would deign to see him—and that was not by any means guaranteed. Most likely if Bomber did condescend to see him, it would not be at the supplicant's convenience, but at Bomber's whim.
"All right," Dixon had said. "I'll get a hotel room."
This kind of perseverance might have been admirable, but Bomber would see it as a sign of weakness, and take full advantage of his relative strength. Though in the scheme of things, yes or no didn't require a lot of subtlety.
Dixon showed up a few minutes before his appointed time, and to pretend we had a weighty operation, Bonnie, Bomber's half-baked secretary, buzzed me on the intercom to announce the visitor.
With an amateurish attempt at graciousness, I emerged from my broom closet to greet Mr. Dixon in Bonnie V. Doon's vastly superior digs, which passed as our waiting room.
Being a representative male of the species, Clarence registered his appreciation for Bonnie's knockout beauty with a polite, if unsubtle, gulp. Bonnie could evoke that kind of response, until she opened her mouth. I always thought it would be to our advantage to pass the sexy receptionist off as a deaf mute. Hiring the handicapped is all the rage. Bomber called it sour grapes when I mentioned Bonnie had a better office than I did.
Clarence Dixon and I shook hands. "Tod Hanson. Thanks for coming," I said, automatically. Bomber would have never said that, but my DNA had a contribution from my mother who had, after all, put up with Bomber, the world's biggest showman and survived. Whatever else Bomber may think of Dixon, he had driven a couple hours to be interviewed by me, an under-underling. A guy who had squeaked through law school when it finally dawned on him (with no small input from the aforementioned Bomber) that being a classical composer was a very hard dollar.
Clarence was a thin, short, wiry guy—almost insignificant in the scheme of things. An ant at the picnic. Though parts of him kept moving, if only his shoulders or eyes. Perhaps he thought if nothing moved, he would cease to exist.
You wouldn't want to turn your back on him at a party, he'd be liable to sneak up on you, pound you on your scapula, and say, "How the heck are you?" sending that olive pit across the room like a bullet, likely ending up in some blue hair's newly coiffed pile.
He had developed an easy familiarity that, depending on your genetic makeup, could put you at ease or annoy you.
"Happy to do it," he said, as I led him to my less than insignificant office.
Mr. Dixon was polite. He tried not to let on how disappointed he was to be cooped up in my space where a midget would feel cramped. But his eyes betrayed him, darting around the confinement as though to cement in his memory bank all the possible exits, then resigning himself that the door he came in was pretty much it. Then it became a matter of could he beat me to it or not? (He could—he was closer.)
My offer of the only chair in the room was met with disdain, then surrender. Without waiting for an invitation, Mr. Dixon launched into his story.
"Some of the boys on the team let off a little steam with kind of a stag party here in your fair city. Or do you call it a town?"
"Call it what you please, Mr. Dixon." I said.
"Oh, call me Dixie, please. My wife does."
The relevance of anyone else calling him what his wife did was not in the scope of my sophistication. Nor was his suggested name one that tripped off my tongue with any ease.
"Well, as you well know, boys will be boys. Guys who play football are swimming in testosterone. I sometimes wonder if all these gridiron heroics aren't to catch the eye of the female of the species. You take one-hundred thousand fans cheering wildly at your escapades, its got to be pretty hard to keep your head from swelling.
"Anyway, a bunch of boys came up here at spring break and hired this stripper for a stag party. I'm not excusing this or sanctioning their behavior in any way when I say the woman they hired was not, if you will excuse the comparison, Mother Teresa. I'm sure a cursory investigation will reveal she was not anything close."
He leaned forward, put his palms flat on my desk, wiggled his shoulders as if to try to free them of dandruff, and said, "She cried rape." He paused as if to emphasize the ridiculousness of the charge.
"Why?" I asked.
"I don't know. It's a mystery."
"You think crying rape had no foundation?"
"Well, certainly I do."
"But why not?" I asked. "You acknowledged raging hormones ..."
"You'd have to see her," he said. "Understand the Cal Southern boys could have any woman they wanted. This woman was ..." he paused for just the right word, "well, let's just say she was no rare beauty."
"You saw her?"
"You were at ... the party?"
He shook his head. "No," he said, "I saw her subsequently."
"Under what circumstances?"
Dixie was clearly embarrassed. "I went to see her to see if we couldn't make some arrangement ..." he trailed off.
"Well, I suppose. Money talks with those people."
"As with most?"
"And what was her response?"
"Well, I wouldn't be here if she'd accepted."
"Is she independently wealthy?" I asked. "Was it a matter of principle—or didn't you offer enough?"
"I wish I could tell you. She did not strike me as a highly principled individual, if you know what I mean."
I did. "How did she strike you?"
"As a woman—not too attractive—who was perpetually stoned."
"What's your take? Your bottom line on her?"
"That's why I'm here. She went to the cops who turned it over to the DA who sees blood. He's sort of a headline megalomaniac is my take. She's committed herself—I don't know why—but she would decimate the team. You know, I think it's the best in the country and she could bring them to their knees."
Again, I thought, but kept it to myself.
"She's probably got a high powered shyster in the back-ground—who sees a sky full of dollar signs. Who knows," he shrugged his active shoulders, "it could all be a setup in the first place. This case would never have gotten to first base in L.A."
"Should have had their party there."
"You're telling me," he agreed with a hearty nod. "That's about it," he said. "What do you think my chances are of getting Bomber to take the case?"
"Hard to tell—you never know about Bomber. His motives, his biases, his mood—they all play in his decisions," I said. "I must tell you he does not have a warm spot in his heart for football. Thinks it's barbaric."
"Oh no," Dixie said. "Let me talk to him. I can get him over that in a hurry."
"I salute your optimism," I said.
"Well, I didn't get here being a pessimist," he said.
Where here was, he didn't say, and I didn't ask, though I suspected it had to do with wealth.
"Here's my cell number. I can be here on ten minutes notice." He rose. "Thank you for your time. It was a pleasure to meet you," he said, as though it came from a stock of recorded pleasantries.
After he left I had some questions, which I thought better to have Bomber ask him, if we got that far.
Chapter TwoApproaching the immodest doors to Bomber's inner sanctum, doors you might find entering a cathedral, I began to feel the old stuttering jitters come upon me. Being with him was harmless enough as long as I didn't have to talk.
It was a huge, high-ceilinged room, and still suffocating for me. The floor to ceiling testimonial pictures were, I suspect, meant to intimidate his visitors. I don't know about his clients, but they had that effect on me.
Bomber offered me the moon to go to law school—and, more important, a job when I got out. Which I did with a less than stellar ranking. Bomber didn't care—my degree and subsequent squeaking by the Bar Association's test for membership served as a validation to Bomber of his life's work, and the devil could take my lack of aptitude.
He has since dragged me through the legal wars with him—ever since he dragged me from my love of composing.
Though I am the most base of assistants and do all the chores Bomber doesn't care to do himself, I have no aspirations to courtroom representation. Bomber tricked me into it once and I was petrified. He made a show of leaving the courtroom to alleviate my propensity to stutter in his presence—in no one else's presence, just Bomber's.
He hadn't left the courtroom and when I was finished with my lone witness, he shouted "Bravo!" from the cheap seats. It was terminally embarrassing and I vowed never again.
Bomber's desk was elevated to elevate his stature. Like, as I said, the elevator shoes. Bomber wasn't born, nor did he grow, tall. Only smart.
"So," he said, waving me to the chair in front (and slightly lower) than him. Again, my growth hormone was apparently the gift of my mother's family, "what are your impressions of Mr. Clarence Dixon?"
"Said we should c-c-call him D-D-Dixie."
"Dixie, eh, as in Dixie cup—and way down South in ...?"
Bomber sang a few bars of the venerable Southern song that in some parts of the land took on the status of an anthem.
"Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,
Old times there are not forgotten,
Look away! Look away!
Look away! Dixie Land.
O', I wish I was in Dixie!
In Dixie Land I'll take my stand
To live and die in Dixie.
Away down south in Dixie!
Away down south in Dixie!"
It was a blessing he didn't sing more. Bomber's pitch was more in keeping with his height than his brains.
I nodded again.
"So," Bomber prodded, "Out with it."
"I think you s-s-should see him."
"You do?" He boomed. "What on earth for?"
"Interesting case," I said, economizing on words.
Bomber frowned. Then shot an accusative finger in my direction. "Let me just tell you something, boy," Bomber said, "in case you didn't know it, football is nothing but a boon to the orthopedic surgeon racket—those poor suckers are in and out of bone repair shops day in and day out and they can't wait to get back on the battlefield with all its attendant gory glory. Why, it's no different than feeding Christians to the lions.
"And where does this glory come from? From old men who, in their prime, would never have lasted two rounds in a ring with these kids—"
"Downs," I said, sotto voce. You don't correct Bomber fortissimo. "In football it's d-d-downs. Rounds are f-for p-p-prizefighting."
"Whatever." he mumbled. Then his full face twisted in disdain. "So you want me to defend a football player. Is it murder?"
I shook my head. "R-r-r-rape."
"What's his name?" he asked, "The accused."
"Lots of them," I said.
"Oh, no, the whole team? Gang rape?"
"Not all the t-t-team," I said. "Just some."
"I suppose this Dixie says it didn't happen?"
I shrugged. "One woman's word a-g-gainst the team; p-part of the team," I said, before Bomber had a chance to make a consistency correction.
"What's his explanation?"
"Boys will be boys."
Bomber banged the desk with his palm. "Oh my God—I could have predicted it. You know what I think of football?"
I nodded. How could I help but know? Bomber seldom kept his opinions to himself—nor was he modest about repetition. He began to launch into the brutal barbarism again, but I held up my hand.
"Save it for Clarence D-Dixon," I said, which was rather gutsy for me.
"What makes you think I'll call him?"
"Well if you w-won't, you're wasting it on m-me."
"Oh, well, where is he?"
I mentioned the poshest hotel in town. "He has a c-cell phone."
"He would," Bomber interrupted me. Bomber's feelings about technology were Neanderthal.
"Get him here in t-t-ten minutes," I said.
"Ten minutes!" Bomber boomed. "That long?"
It took me a minute to realize he was kidding. Being serious about the unreasonable was not beyond Bomber's ken.
"Okay, after lunch," he said. "Say, three o'clock—so he can't drive back to L.A. before rush hour. What's Dixie's place in this scheme?"
"He's the head of the f-f-foot-b-ball b-booster club."
"Oh my God!" Bomber exclaimed. "A grown man! Getting his kicks from watching a bunch of children knocking each other around—breaking bones, giving concussions."
"You want me to take the case, don't you?"
I tried to make a gesture of indifference.
"No, go on," he said. "You like the sport, don't you?"
I shrugged. I had from time to time gotten worked up about it. But Bomber knew that.
"Could you defend a bunch of macho football rapists in court?"
I sat bolt upright in my chair. Bomber's chair, actually. Everything was Bomber's.
"N-n-no," I stammered. "I don't d-d-do court."
"Yeah," he said, "might be time to start. You want to live your life as a gofer for me?"
I nodded vigorously.
"Spread your wings, boy," he said. "Take a sniff of the world—get close to reality. I'll give you all the help you need."
I shook my head while he talked. I was still shaking it when he stopped. "N-n-n-no!" I said. "The deal was when I c-came here ... I wouldn't h-h-have to g-go to court on my own."
"Fair enough," Bomber said. "I'll sit at the defendant's table with you—you and the kids in the back field."
"F-f-fine. I j-just won't b-b-be there."
Bomber was amused. He liked to go at me like that.
"And have Bonnie call this ... Dixie. Make him think we're a bunch of pros."
"Yes, sir," I said.
All his bluff and blunder notwithstanding, Bomber lusted for the arena. He was, alas, a showboater and the rays from the limelight made him blossom.
Chapter ThreeBonnie was excited at the prospect of getting the opportunity to oogle some jocks. Dixie was excited to be invited back. As though it were a tapping for some honor society.
He was ten minutes early, so Bomber let him cool his heels making small talk with Bonnie. This was up her alley—the smaller the talk, the better she was at it.
For his part, Dixie turned on the charm in that embarrassing way I've noticed older men have of flirting with younger women.
Finally, at ten after three, he was ushered (by me) into Bomber's lair and was immediately drawn to his over-the-top rogue's gallery display of photo-testimonials.
"Wow," Dixie said, with his singular shoulder shake, "that's quite a collection of pictures you have."
Excerpted from BOMBER BOMBS by David Champion Copyright © 2010 by Allen A. Knoll, Publishers. Excerpted by permission of ALLEN A. KNOLL, PUBLISHERS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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