Like Sun Flashing Upon the Mohawk

It was the smell that caught my attention first.

Not the usual smell of woodsmoke you’d expect from a farm settlement back along the Hudson. Nor the aroma of your mum’s cooking or baking on the breeze. No, this was an earthier smell, more like burnt meat, a grease fire and boiled out vegetable pots. This was the Mohawk town called Teatontaloga.

Strange how the longer I kneeled there in the hills above the north shore of the Mohawks’ River among the hemlock, hickory and spruce, the less offensive the smell became, tempered, as it were, by the scent of nature. I almost felt like dozing in this odd perfume, transfixed by the sparkle of the sun on the river.

But I could not afford the time to sleep. I had been sent out here to scout for the German colonists on their way up the Hudson with designs on settling land patents purchased from the old Dutch burghers in Albany. Traveling through the valley, for the past six days, keeping a cold camp, always alert lest I run across the trail of some Mohawk hunting party, I never allowed myself to sleep more than a few minutes at a time.

One more look at the sun flashing on the mouth of Schoharie Creek joining the river and I was ready to go. I’d seen what I needed to see. Then came that one big flash.

I awoke not feeling like I’d slept, but more like a a trussed up Christmas goose that had been dragged behind a wagon on Albany’s cobblestone main street. It was dark and smoky.  That smell I’d discovered from the hill above the river was stronger than ever and there was no forest to soften it. A dog growled next to me when I stirred.

“Finally awake I see,” said a voice in perfect English, if a Yorkshireman’s accent could be called perfect.

“What happened to me? Where am I? Who in the name of God are you?” I said, my head dully aching except where I imagine a rifle butt sparked the big flash then darkness.

“I should think what happened would be quite evident, young scout. I suspect you know where you are, as well. As to who I am, my Kanien’kéha family here call me Karawase, their word for ‘A New Way’.” Who I was back in Sheffield doesn’t much matter anymore,” the silhouette outlined by the glowing fire said.

“What do they plan to do with me?” I said.

“First, you are lucky to be alive to ask that question. Secondly, that is still being debated. Before the clan leaders make any decision on that, they want me to find out what you’re doing here,” Karawase said. “I suspect it might be something of the nefarious ilk, knowing my greedy and unconscionable English brethren as I do.”

“You appear to be an educated man, sir. I would hope that we could reach an understanding that the people who sent me here to scout this country would be more than willing to parley with your leaders to reach an accommodation in terms of…”

“Stealing their ancestral homes? I don’t believe that is possible, young scout. By the by, youngster, what is you’re name?” Karawase said, edging closer to me so finally I could see his features.

“My name is Jacob Brown. Actually, Jacob Braun. But since the Huron killed my Papa, my mother went back to her English roots and translated it.”

“I see. You’re also a man of two camps.”

“I suppose you could say that. But, my two camps aren’t making war against one another,” I replied.

“Not yet. But they will. It’s the way of the world, young Jacob Brown,” Karawase said, rubbing his fingers on a new tattoo he sported on his cheek. “So you’re representing English or German interests?”

“German. Families of Palatinites are coming upriver to Albany, looking to establish homes out here in these valleys. And they would like to make sure they can do that, raise their crops and families, without having to fear attacks from your people,” I said, figuring my recognizing his current status might soften him to my plight.

“It’s true that some of my people have taken a shine to the English trade representative, Mister Johnson. Or, should I say, he has taken a shine to us. But these Dutchman you describe will only foul our rivers and streams with their hogs and cattle, use up the land with their constant planting, never letting our Mother rest from her labors of feeding the people.”

“Not if I can spell out terms that the Mohawk can make, allowing them to come here and live in peace. Their coming here is a definite thing. The peace will be up to you.”

“That is quite true, Jacob Brown. For we are a great people, the Guardians of the Eastern Door of the Five Nations. It is our place to see that your western-advancing floods do not drown us with their foul smelling beasts and fouler smelling progeny.”

The entrance to the longhouse opened and a tall, lean man entered. He walked toward Karawase, ignoring my bound-up form on the mat next to the fire. He spoke softly but forcefully to Karawase, who replied in kind. This surprised me, for I never expected a white man to be so familiar with the savage red man.

Karawase leaned down after the man left, and said, “My brother, the son of my Kanien’kéha mother, asked me what we have been discussing. I told him what you told me and he would like to see you roasted over coals and fed to the dogs. Strictly as a means of ensuring you not only never return to Albany with your scouting account, but also to ensure your spirit never leaves this place, as well.”

His words turned my empty stomach into knots. I had already seen what the Abenaki and Seneca could do to a man, his color notwithstanding. I had also seen what the English could do to Delaware, Huron and even the unfortunate Mohawk who crossed the trail the whites were determined to own, as well as the hectares on both sides of it for miles.

“It doesn’t have to be this way, Karawase.  You could be the man who helps the Mohawk become the wealthiest of the Five Nations, accepting tribute from the Palatinites for the meager amounts of land they need for their farms. They truck in fine silver and fabrics from Europe. The guns they make are legendary for their small size but powerful kick. Perfect for your people to defend, if not expand their reach to the south and west.”

“Jacob Brown, we can take those treasures from your Dutchman any time we have a mind to. We are not only Kanien’kéha, which you call Mohawk, but one of a confederacy of five nations that rule the lands from the north river you call Hudson’s to the biggest of the western lakes, from the northern mountains to the lands of the Cherokee. We are stewards of this country, given that charge by the Creator himself. We have never been defeated and never will, save for if one of our own nations aligns against us. And why would they do that? They wouldn’t. So, you Jacob Brown, man of two camps, I would prepare to see the light of the Creator this day. You seem to be a brave boy, but my brother has broken brave men many times. He is a fearsome warrior. I will ask him if I may kill you before he lets you suffer. You seem a nice enough chap,” Karawase said. And then he left the longhouse, the dog following him.

I looked down the smoky, dim length of the longhouse, realizing that the last smell I would inhale on this earth was the one that drew me to where I would die. I was both intrigued and repulsed that I would soon be another source of that burnt meat smell. I felt just the same about that German silver waiting for me back in Albany. How it more than likely would end up dangling from the ear of some Mohawk warrior. Or it could be pounded and shaped and used to decorate the fine Jaeger rifle he took from its Palatine owner.

If I was to fail in my mission, as I indeed had, I was happy for the promise of Karawase to dispatch me before I succumbed to the fires of hell on earth. I wondered if I would be able to see the flashes of light on the river once more before I went before the light of the Lord’s judgment.

Karawase threw aside the cover of the longhouse entrance and stood in the doorway, the light of dawn surrounding him like he was a saint, instead of a traitor to his people, which is what I imagined was why he lived among and abetted such savages that would cook a man for looking at where they lived.

“I have spoken with the elders and the old mothers who hold sway over the clans. They have decided you will not die the slow death my brother spoke so stridently for. At my claim for leniency, they wish to see you run through a long gauntlet from the center of the village and the river,” Karawase said. “Reach the river and you may float back to Albany.”

“This is good news,” I said.

“Depends on how quick and shifty you are, Jacob Brown. By my eye, the distance between here and the river is twenty rods if an inch. Easily half a furrow-long,” Karawase said.

“I’ll take my chances.”

“Aye, and a chance is all ye have.”

“When do I begin?”

“I’d say when the sun clears the hills to the east. Perhaps another hour or so.”

“I’ll be ready.”

That hour passed and I could hear a crowd milling, laughing, shouting outside the longhouse. Karawase and his brother entered and loosed my bindings, setting me on my feet for the first time since someone, I imagine Karawase, brought that musket butt down upon my head.

The crowd of people had strung themselves out in two lines snaking from the center of the village to the shore. I could not see the river from where I stood, nor would I until I made it to nearly the end of the gauntlet. If I made it.

“Are you ready, Jacob Brown?” Karawase said above the din of warriors hooting, women keening and youngsters laughing. All but the women were carrying switches of birch or elm. The men and older boys had something more resembling weapons, clubs or the like.

“I don’t expect I’d better not be ready, Karawase. I should thank you for saving me from the fire.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure this is going to have any better ending, Jacob Brown.”

“If I may, could you tell me what your name was before you became one of these barbarians?”

“You wouldn’t believe me, Jacob Brown.”

“Please. In case we don’t have another chance to talk.”

“You might not believe me, but it was Brown, Simon Brown. Now prepare yourself, boy. My brother and I will be waiting at the far end to see you make it to the river. Godspeed, Jacob Brown,” the man called Karawase said.

“I will, Simon. I will.”

And then he was gone. Two warriors ripped off my shirt, took my arms and stood me between the long lines of impatient savages looking to mete out their worst punishment on the white man who represented all the whites encroaching on their country. They didn’t know I was but one drop in an ocean whose tide was coming in from the Atlantic.

“Kanónhsa raksà:ʼa,” the biggest one grunted, and pushed me so hard I fell to the ground between the first couple of pairs on my run. They were older women with switches and they hit me with a fury of decades of pent-up anger. I rose to my feet and grabbed one of the switches and lunged forward, using the slender branch as one might a sword in warding off the cutting blows of the women and children.

My skin was aflame with small welts and scratches, but I was still alive. Up ahead, I could see I was coming to the older boys and men, who were waiting with angry faces and hooting and howling in such a frightening manner I almost soiled myself. But I plunged into their forest of branches and clubs.

I whipped my switch in the face of one of the boys and grabbed his club and swung it wildly around me to again deflect the worst of the blows. By now, my lungs were burning, as I had run a long way as fast as I could, bouncing from one side of the gauntlet to the other. My legs felt like tree trunks and I could taste blood. From where I did not know.

I looked up and could see the end of the lines ahead. And there was the Mohawk River. It sparkled like German silver and I had to fight to maintain my composure and best defensive parries and feints. I held off one warrior’s blow with my club, but felt the sting of a blade on my back from another. I turned for an instant and caught him a blow on the arm, whereupon his knife bounded to the ground ahead of me.

I ran best I could and picked it up and fought my way to the very last six men on the end of the line. Four of them crowded me and I battled my way through them and ran into Karawase’s brother, standing there in my path to the river.

The sun had climbed well above the hills now. I could feel it on my face. I could smell the mud and water waiting behind the savage in front of me. To my left, I saw Karawase, a club resting in his crossed arms. I dove at his brother, screaming like I was one of the Mohawks now. Perhaps this is how Simon Brown became Karawase. I’ll never know.

I charged the final warrior, as quickly as a desperate man could. I must have surprised him, because I got close to his body and his club came down dully on my back. I slashed his ribs with the knife and he went down, the smell of him, that same earthy smell from… Was it only day before yesterday?

I could see the river only a few yards away, see the sunlight flash in my eyes. I half-ran, half-staggered to its muddy margins. The sun above glared in my eyes and the moist smell of the Mohawk spoke of escape.

From the corner of my eye, I saw an Indian, a familiar form, rush toward me, his club raised above his head. The world suddenly lit up around me like a lightning flash. Then came the feeling of water on my face, beautiful, cool, like meine Mutter’s hands after drawing it from the creek called the Krum Kill.

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A Big Cup of Joe

I was sitting in a Starbucks in Albany, just hanging out and sipping my coffee for a change, rather than running out to the car in the early morning summer rainstorm, only to run someplace else, while gulping down all my venti Caffe Verona before I got to wherever that was. But not this day. I decided to sip at today, to savor its flavor, unhurriedly swishing it around my mind to parse its qualities and nuance instead of tipping it down my throat, like I was tossing it down a drain. Rather than tighten my focus to the narrow-gauge tunnel of vision before me and the compact thought of my present obsession, I opted to absorb the entire room before me from the chair by the door. I noticed the longer hair and scruffy beards of the university students that reminded me of myself from four decades before and wondered what next. Patched bell-bottoms? I looked into the faces of the coeds to discern their thoughts and dreams, rather than just peripherally noticing only their legs as I normally would while speeding out the door while focused on the steam and splash emanating from my cup’s white plastic top. They’re so young, I thought, so self-absorbed, so locked on what’s in the front of the line inside themselves while the world whooshes by around them. At a table in the far corner, a quintet of men about my age held a raucous conversation about politics, the Yankees and the weather, punctuated with thunderous laughs. They drew side-eyes and smirks from the students as they looked up from viewing their own worlds through the glowing windows most held in one hand while sucking down some frothy-topped espresso concoction in the other. I typed a note of this dichotomy on the electronic mirror that sat on my lap reflecting my own thoughts. I turned it off, slapped closed its flap and carried the rest of my still more-than-warm coffee out to the car, where I began sucking it into the gut that told me I really didn’t quite belong with either of the tribes with whom that morning I’d shared breathing in the aroma of roasted Arabica, fresh perfume and carpe diem. The rain had stopped and I started the engine, tucked my cup in its center console nest, pulled out of the parking lot, my eyes seeing little more than that framed by the windshield and my mind viewing more than the traffic around me. I took one long final pull on my Caffe Verona and tossed the cup of knowledge on the floor behind me with the others lying there since Monday. Today, I’d slowly consumed more of the world around me than usual and it tasted of sweet memory, bitter realization and the tempering half-and-half of middle age. I figured it would keep me going until 10:00.

Total Eclipse

How dark it became when
the shadow fell between us,
some celestial body or karma
casting a silhouette that’s yet
to find another path.
That’s how it goes when we
stand still and never try
to find the light once shared.
I wonder if what illuminated us
as we sailed through the void
was really just the twilight margin
between shadow and light
from which only a step—
false or otherwise—would cast us
both where sight of neither of us exists.
I used to ponder who would be
the first to stumble back
to the relative warmth
of that old penumbral frontier.
I don’t anymore.
This eclipse is total and I
dare not look at that space
where a face used to reside,
unless it’s total blindness
I’m really looking for.

A roll-out-of-bed-and-just-write no-subtext ramble. Morning mush. You can go back under the covers to the warm, safe…and dark…now.

Ramble Tamble #1

When you’re in the middle of it, living and learning, learning about living, living as a means of learning, you don’t notice how you might be different from (or the same as) some guys across the ocean or across the room. You don’t notice much about anything but what’s inside the three inches of air surrounding your body.

They are Them, There, Then. You are You, Here, Now. Context is but a ghost, barely a specter of a concept through which you  your place in a wider world. You accept ideas, tenets, the virtual castle walls within which you secure your position as the center of the Universe. You don’t question. God just IS, He is a He and you need to toe his line in order to win the lovely parting gifts they hand you for completing the Home version of this dicey Game of Life.

The other day, I asked myself not only who I am, but what, forcing myself to look beyond myself as this sack of meat, its spark of intellectual and essential energy and the possessor of opposing thumbs that answers to Joseph, Joe, Joey and any of a hundred or so discrete alphanumeric identifiers that differentiate me from you. And you and you, as well.

I saw such a small thing, a cluster of cells both good and ill, beneficial and malignant, functional and inert, held modestly upright by some universally accepted beliefs that inherently make me superior to so much of the rest of the inhabitants of this blue marble upon which we stand as it falls, rises, or circles in the vastness of the Universe.

And so much of what I see is just a matter of dumb luck, some bit of kismet that Valentine met Maria and Patrick loved Lizzy and they all somehow decided to leave their homes in Europe to come to this coast-to-coast set of geographic coordinates that may make this the most varied and valuable piece of real estate on the planet. They came to this place where people can be free to become the monarchs of their own existence. Here in this nation established upon the premise that all men are created equal.

Except, of course, if you were on the wrong end of our “peculiar institution,” where white men owned black men who did the physical labor that either built or buttressed the Whites’ socioeconomic standing. And that sin was committed even in my hometown, tucked up here in the upper right corner of your map, which is the oldest chartered municipality in the country.

And also except if you were a member of the class of original inhabitants of this breadth of the continent. Then you were crushed in the essentially forgotten, if considered at all, dirty little secret of American’s Manifest Destiny, which included eviction, subjugation, military intimidation, interdiction and an open-air type of incarceration. And, quite often, our Euro-America’s God-blessed version of the final solution to the “Indian problem,” eradication.

Which brings us rambling back to my original premise. When you are so busy trying to make it from First to Twelfth Grade, from freshly minted believer to elder keeper of whatever Word you follow, from allowance grabber to worker bee and then retirement check-cashing senior, you don’t think of these things. You pretty much have to live within your insulated little castle keep, those walls of ideas and ideals I spoke of before.

It’s human nature. Self-preservation, self-centeredness, selfishness, maybe even a selective selflessness, draw blinders around us from which we might occasionally sneak a peek outside ourselves. Then we pull our heads back within the silken bonds of our own spiritual and intellectual cells. There in the comforting darkness we see house-of-mirrors reflections of ourselves, warm and fuzzy, clean and bright, dark and angry, volatile and violent. And we accept them or reject them with but a blink, a wink or a meditative, prayerful closing of the eyes.

Please forgive me this tedious ramble. I’ve been reading again, something I haven’t done as much as when I was younger. Back then it was hardcore youthful inquisitiveness, feeding the insatiable intellectual beast as much trivia, possibly necessary minutiae and winning team history it could take. Now, it’s my own version of sticking this silver-pated gourd out of the dusty crust of virtual Hesch topography to see what I missed. In my old age I’ve become another type of Self-something. Self-aware. It’s embarrassing and painful, yet somehow freeing.

I see the mistakes, poor judgments and failures I’ve made. I see the victories, loves and lucky guesses, too. On electronic and physical pages I’ve cast them out there like stars across a desert sky. And now I see how they tell stories and give necessary direction, even if I have almost reached my ultimate destination.

I just thought I’d pass this on to you, since you’re traveling that way, too. Slán abhaile.  Auf wiedersehen.  Safe travels.  Ramble Tamble. Down the road I go.

This started its life as a poem, then grew like some good ol’ southern kudzu, spilling all aroun d the page, seemingly taking over everything from my writing hand to better judgment. By the way, Ramble Tamble is the title of the first cut on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s  classic 1970 album, Cosmo’s Factory. It one of the rockingest songs I know, a great road song and might be as good a fit for our current times as it was for my youth.

Casting for Carpe Diem

Another week has peaked and waned
and here I lie to wonder,
“What is it that you’ve gained
from living seven more days under
a plan with no plan contained,
in this life of blunder after blunder?”

Oh, I’ve seen seven suns rise
and watched them seven times fall.
But life no longer offers a prize
on the ride where you must be this tall.
Adulthood offered only losses and ties,
barely chance of winning at all.

So I guess this is a lesson learned
over time and rock hard ground,
that my life’s happiness is earned,
not serendipitously found.
That each time the Earth it turned
was my shot to make laughter’s chiming sound.

Maybe it was for a nebulous tomorrow I’d pine,
a today out of reach, a chance not yet blown.
A day where I could seize a ring so fine
on the ride not dependent on your joy alone.
So tonight, when I row in at sunset, I’ll be fine,
savoring the day I hooked all on my own.

Awaiting the Impossible Improbability

The waiting gets to you,
especially when you know
that for which you wait
will never come. Yet still
you sit by the window peering
at your out-of-focus world
hoping to see if those eyes
will come into view
and kindly set upon yours.
It’s just another pipe dream
a reverie, that, if realized,
would inevitably break your heart.
Nevertheless, you wait,
even knowing that if these
empty dreams ever came true,
you’d still spend your
graying days by that window
waiting for the next
impossible improbability
to manifest itself through
the pane from behind
your fog of sighs.

We’re all dreamers, to some extent, even if we know if that for which we wish will never come. Or, if it did, it would only make us more dreamy and miserable. At least that’s what I see from behind this foggy window, where I write about dreamers and the dreamed-about.

Another Case of Miss Apprehension

Hollywood Hills

Darcy Clyne was good, very good. Throughout her career as skip tracer, bounty hunter and private detective, she’d never failed to corral her target, be it a person with outstanding debts, serving a a process on some shadowy party of the second part in a legal proceeding, a bail jumper, a wanted criminal, or any other missing person.

She was so good at it, the cops, creeps and cons called her Miss Apprehension.

But her latest case, finding the Academy Award-winning actor Bruce Wilson, who had disappeared just before production was to begin on Mammoth Studies next blockbuster, Deafening Silence, was not what she thought it would be.

“Ms. Clyne, we have secured your services because of your reputation for success and discretion. True, we have insured  his participation in our film, but we want Wilson, we need Wilson, to make this film the success we think it will be. News of Bruce Wilson’s disappearance should by no means leak out to the press or even the prying ears and whispering lips of people inside the industry. In other words, I don’t want to see anything about him in the news or hear it in my club’s restroom until we have him in front of a camera again,” Deafening Silence’s executive producer Sig Schulmann said in their sole meeting at his Bel Air estate.

“Of course, Mr. Schulmann. Our catch rate is only part of the services you’re purchasing. Our ability to do it under the public radar, even here in LA, is what you’re paying for,” Darcy said from across an umbrellaed table next to Schulmann’s pool.

“We’re already working on some leads.”

“Oh, really? What is it you’ve found,” Schulmann asked, leaning forward conspiratorially.

“As I said, Mr. Schulmann, discretion and ‘remaining above the fray,’ if you will, including our clients’, is paramount to our success and your satisfaction with our services. You probably think that’s a unique way of doing business, but that’s the business I’m in. I shall give you what updates I feel we can share as we progress with our investigation and search for Mr. Wilson,” Darcy said, extending her hand to Schulmann’s and giving it a firm shake.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, my colleagues and I have some ground to make up. Wilson’s had three days off the grid and even these days a trail can grow cold in 48 hours,” Darcy said. “I’ll see myself out.”

On her way to her car, Darcy passed three servants, each of whom saw her approach and then averted their eyes or immediately busied themselves with polishing the unblemished, dusting the already mirror-like or entering a side room and closing and locking the door behind them with a loud click.

“The exit is this way, Miss,” a smarmy major-domo said, swooping in to take Darcy’s elbow and steer her down the hall and through the front door.

Jesus, F. Scott Fitzgerald was right even before he got out here and drank himself to death, the rich ARE different, Darcy thought as she climbed into her rental Mustang. At what she was charging Schulmann and Mammoth, plus per diem and expenses, she didn’t think the black Shelby GT350 was out of line for the market or the circles in which she would be investigating.

A call to her New York office had come up with Wilson’s phone and text records. In a case like this, privacy laws were made to be hopscotched. In the days before his disappearance, Wilson had made ten calls to Mammoth and Schulmann and had not answered thirty calls after that from the producer and his studio.

His text history was rich in language, participants and local geography. His girlfriend showed up here and there in cryptic, if only mildly affectionate language. Maryse Langois was a Canadian actress who had little public or professional profile before their relationship began four months ago. Now she was a daily subject for paps and gossips from Hollywood to cyberspace.

Another frequent correspondent was one Alessandra DeGrade, who ran a West Hollywood club called Willy O’Wōntshie.

And, of course there was Sig Schulmann, whose last three texts,  after his last phone calls to Wilson, were all related to holding off on Wilson’s “ vanity project” something until after the release of Deafening Silence.

“I’m gonna check Wilson’s crib first,” Darcy told her associate Ben Pierce, who was working the electronic and cyber end of the investigation from New York.

“Gotcha, Boss,” Ben said. “But no souvenirs, unless they’re pertinent to our investigation, of course” he said with a laugh.

Wilson lived in a glass-encased palace in a Hollywood Hills gated community called Beverly Ridge Estates, where the starter homes went for $19 million. Schulmann’s studio owned the property, which Wilson lived rent-free, a perk many cash cows were only too happy to enjoy.

With Schulmann’s call ahead and key card, Darcy entered Wilson’s home and found it to be furnished in not in Southwestern chic, nor mid-Century modern, but antiques and exclusive stuff from French Heritage in shades of gold and white and pastels of pink and blue.

“Ms. Langois seems to have made herself the home she has always aspired to, it would appear.” Darcy said aloud, which was how she conducted searches since her brother and partner Lonny Clyne was killed by a bail jumper two years ago. “What say we check the boudoir, eh, Lon?” she said.

The master bedroom was another museum-quality show-piece. Darcy checked one of the closets and found full of the slender Wilson’s trademark black outfits from high-end Italian and American designers. On the other side of the room, the closet, which Darcy thought would fit the Mustang, was full of exclusive couture outfits, lingerie and slick club clothes that no doubt were the pride of Ms. Langois’ recent fame and notoriety.

“Nothing much to offer here, Lon, unless I was interested in boosting enough product to retire to St. Maarten’s after we find this bird. Let’s check next door,” Darcy said.

This second bedroom was different from the first, appointed in the mid-century modern she expected to find elsewhere. It’s closet was filled with more of Ms. Langois’ wardrobe, though a look at a few of the dresses left Darcy with a new set of questions.

“Where’s the babe, Lonny? Why isn’t she here pining over her man? Let’s see if we can drum up the Mademoiselle Langois and see how’s she’s holding up in her time of woe and distress<“ Darcy said and headed the Mustang down into Hollywood.

A call to Schulmann, revealed that Langois had left Los Angeles a week before Wilson’s disappearance to film a movie in New Zealand.

“Can I reach her by phone?” Darcy asked.

“I doubt it,” Schulmann said. “We’ve tried and it’s a comeback project by that Australian wunderkind, Pearce, and he’s keeping it an airtight closed set, and I mean the whole project. Totally hush-hush,” Schulmann said. And that was that for Darcy’s most obvious lead to Wilson’s whereabouts.

“Okay, Lonny, let’s head on down to Willy O’Wōntshie’s and have a tête-à-tête with Ms. DeGrade,” Darcy said as she smoothed the Mustang onto the 8000 block of Sunset Boulevard.

Parking in the rear, even before the valet had set up shop, Darcy entered the club through the delivery entrance and slipped through the kitchen and into the main room, where dancers were rehearsing for a new show billed for that night.

Tall, thin and exquisitely costumed and made up women were being put through their routine by another woman who sat between the stage and the bar.

“Who the fuck let this civilian in?” Darcy heard her saying a very loud and raspy voice. A large, angry-looking man burst from the dark outside the stage lights and approached Darcy.

“Show’s not until 10:00, lady. You gotta leave. Now!” Darcy heard as the bouncer reached out to grab her arm.

Darcy grabbed the beefy heavily tattooed arm and used the bouncer’s momentum to enhance the power of her knee-strike to the temple. No more bouncer for a few minutes.

“My name’s Darcy Clyne and I’m a PI working for Sig Schulmann and Mammoth Pictures. I’m looking for Alessandra DeGrade to ask her a couple of questions about Bruce Wilson.

“Take ten, ladies,” the raspy voice sounded from the silhouette standing in front of the bar. “I don’t have anything I can tell you, Ms. Clyne, other than I’m looking for Bruce, too. Eddy, would you see to Odin and tell her she’s back to parking cars tonight?”

Darcy walked up to the Amazonian six-footer who now leaned her hip against the bar, extended her hand and said,” Ms. DeGrade?”

“The woman held up both hands in somewhat feigned fear and said, “I hope you’ll excuse me if I eschew the proprieties, Miss…”

“Clyne, Darcy Clyne.”

“Miss Clyne. But I’m beside myself over Bruce’s disappearance, too. I haven’t seen or heard from him in almost a week and I’m worried sick something’s happened to him. Something serious this time.”

“This time?”

“Well Bruce has had…issues…in the past and I thought I’d helped him get it together since we…well…”

“I see,” Darcy said. “Then the Langois relationship is just…”

“A business transaction, shall we say?

“And those beautiful clothes in master Bedroom’s the second closet are yours.”

“Guilty as charged, but only of having a fabulous wardrobe as befitting the lady of the manor.”

“Gotcha. I thought something was fishy when I found those size twos in the next-door bedroom. No offense, Ms. DeGrade,” Darcy said.

“Call me Alley, please. Have you found anything new about Bruce? I know he was having a terrible time with that bastard Schulmann.”

“About what?”

“Bruce just thought it was time, you know? His career is winding down and he’s made his gazillions. He just doesn’t want to keep up with this career-long role they’ve made him play,” DeGrade said.

“The fact he’s gay and you and he are…?”

“Engaged, actually,” DeGrade said and began to cry. “I’m so worried. I’ve stopped him twice from killing himself. He told me I was the only reason he hadn’t since then. But Schulmann  needs this last big score himself. Mammoth lost big on that last Cruise flick. He and the Scios take a huge cut up front and on the back-end. And that left mammoth on its heels.”

“I see. You don’t think Bruce would attempt to take his own life again, do you? It sounds like he was ready to make that huge leap and you two were ready to make that commitment for good.”

“No, I’m sure he wouldn’t. Like I said, he loves me and he’s ready to come out. No more closets, no locked up secrets.”

“I think I may have figured out something, Alley. Do you have any time over the next few hours?” Darcy said.

“Place opens at 8:00 and the show starts at 10:00. I really need to be back here by 6:00, but the is more important than any club or show. You’ve got me as long as you need me. Let me fetch my purse.”

Darcy and Alley DeGrade drove back to Schulmann’s estate. She made a call on the way, informing Schulmann she believed she’d found a real lead and wanted to discuss it with him in private.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to bring a confidential informant with me,” Darcy said.

“Informant?” Schulmann said. “Uh, of course. Anything to get this horrible affair over and bring Bruce back.”

“You know where he is, don’t you” Alley DeGrade said, hope shining on her face.

“Pretty sure I do, but I’m going to need your help.”

“I’ll do whatever you need.”

Darcy made one more phone call to an old friend before they arrived.

They were met by Schulmann’s major-domo in the entrance atrium, who quailed when he saw Alessandra with Darcy.

“Ms. Clyne, just what kind of freak show are you bringing into Mist Schulmann’s home?” he blustered.

“Nip it, Jeeves. The lady and I have business with your boss. now take us to him.”

“This way, please,” he said, sounding none to pleased and all too scared.

Schulmann met them in the hallway on the way to the pool patio. His expression of confident concern collapsed and was rebuilt as nervous anger.

“What is this…person…doing her, Ms. Clyne? We don’t have time for a burlesque. I have a movie to start filming in ten days,” he said.

“Ms. DeGrade has informed me that you and Mr. Wilson had been having harsh words about this project and where he wished to take his career, Mr Schulmann. Is that correct?” Darcy said, looking over the producer’s shoulder to the gold face of an 18th Century Seth Thomas clock against the wall.

“Temperamental these artists, Ms. Clyne. I hope I don’t have to explain that to you,” he said.

“Yeah, ego and demands and possible drug relapses and even some silly personal quirk could cost millions. I mean, you even insured Bruce’s being ready to go before you even had the production buttoned down. Am i right?”

“He is known as a professional, a fine actor, but has been much distracted of late.” Schulmann glanced at Alessandra.

“You know where Bruce is, don’t you, Schulmann?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Why would I hire you if I knew that? He’s the indispensable man for this production. If we don’t have him, well…”

“I believe the insurance pays something like $200 million?”

“The cost of doing business these days, Ms. Clyne. Now I thought you said you had real information for me.”

“Yes, Ms DeGrade informs me she and Wilson have an intimate relationship. More than that, actually.”

“Preposterous. Why would one of Hollywood’s greatest action stars have a relationship with some WeHo drag queen. I think your services will no longer be needed, Ms. Clyne,” Schulmann said and turned toward the locked room to his right.

“Just hold on a second, Schulmann,” Darcy said. She pushed back her coat and placed her hands on her hips, exposing her holstered Beretta PX4 Storm Compact pistol.

At that, Alessandra grabbed the pistol and pointed it at Darcy.

“I didn’t come her to be bullshitted by you, you little bitch. Or by this pompous crook, either,” she said. She wagged the gun to move Darcy over toward Schulmann and his man.

“Now, if someone doesn’t tell me where my Bruce is I shoot this arrogant queen first,” pointing to the major-domo, then Miss Bitch here. I’ll save the last for you, Schulmann. I think you know exactly where Bruce is.”

“Calm down, Alley. I’ve got this under control.”

“Bullshit. I want my fiancé and I want him now! You know, I think I’ll skip the preliminaries and start with the one with the most to lose. And I mean LOSE. What do you say Schulmann? Everyone on your knees.”

Alessandra pushed the muzzle to the pistol to Schulmann’s temple and sobbed, “What have you donate my fiancé, Sig?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. For all I know, you’re the reason he’s disappeared,” Schulmann said.

Alessandra pulled the muzzle of the Beretta from Schulmann’s temple, leaving a 9mm red circle in the skin. She pivoted and squeezed a round off into the face-off the Seth Thomas.

She brought the hot barrel back to Schulmann’s head again and said, “Last chance Sig. If I don’t have Bruce, I’ve got nothing live for, so I’ve got nothing to lose in killing you right here, right now. So you’ve got five seconds to tell me. Five, four…”

“Let’s be reasonable, my dear. You know why I couldn’t let him make that announcement before the film premiered.” Sweat beaded oh Schulmann’s forehead, dripping onto the pistol.

“…three, two…”

“I needed the insurance and the carrier made me hire Clyne. We were desperate  and couldn’t afford for Bruce to be found until after the carrier paid off. But I wasn’t sure how to keep him out of the way. I’m sorry.”

“If you killed him, you bastard…” She pushed harder and Schulmann’s eyes teared.

“He’s in the basement. I couldn’t kill him. He’s behind the bar in that room on the right. Just don’t shoot!”

The butler made his move and Darcy caught him in the throat with a punch she’d trained a decade to make lethal or just shy of it.

“Open the door, Schulmann,” Darcy said. “It’s over. My old friend Lieutenant Galea from major crimes is waiting in the entry, listening to the whole thing. Now open the doors and let Wilson go home to his partner, his fiancé.”

Galea had Schulmann wrapped up and held for kidnapping, assault, unlawful imprisonment, insurance fraud, the list was as long as his potential stretch in Chino.

Two weeks later, Bruce Wilson announced he was taking time off from his film career, not to enter a hospital for the euphemistic “exhaustion” following his kidnapping or for rehab, but to begin the life he cutoff too long with his fiancé, Alex DiGrasse.

Darcy Clyne attended their Malibu wedding. She told them she regretted her misapprehension of Schulmann’s nefarious motives, and how that slowed down finding Bruce Wilson and freeing him from the very real potential of his death.

But, owing to ‘the award-winning performance of Miss Alessandra DeGrade as Best Actress in a Supporting Role,’ Darcy was able to keep her perfect record intact, as well as he own professional name as Miss Apprehension.

Here’s Day13’s very long (for an online story) Story-a-Day response to writer Tony Conaway’s prompt for a story  revolving around misapprehension. In this case, it was Darcy’s misapprehension of Sig Schulmann’s motives. Should I ever return to this story and this character, I can see a revision easily turning this into a 5,000-plus word story. Hope I hit the mark for Day 13.