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A Montana Mystery Featuring Gabriel Du Pré
By Peter Bowen
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2005 Peter Bowen
All rights reserved.
Du Pré and Madelaine and Pallas were standing in the Billings Airport. The lines for the planes were long and the security people were carefully searching everyone and everything.
"You are ten years old," said Madelaine. "Eleven soon. You sure you want to do this?"
Pallas looked at Madelaine.
"Sure," she said. "I am supposed, sit, listen to Mrs. Chalfont tell me seven times six is forty-two? Listen to bad poetry, See Spot fuck Jane?"
"Your mouth," said Madelaine.
"Well," said Madelaine, "all right then."
"I miss you," said Du Pré, looking at Madelaine. She put a hand on his cheek.
Two men in blue blazers led an old woman away, while another carried her bag behind.
"Arabs, they are using seventy-five-year-old women, hijack planes now," said Madelaine. "I am so much safer, these people watching out for me."
"I miss everybody," said Pallas. "But Ripper he is only maybe an hour away."
"I talk Ripper last night," said Madelaine. "Him, he is going to new job."
"Where?" said Pallas. She had decided three years before that Ripper was to be hers and she had been implacably moving after him ever since. Ripper was thirty, an FBI agent, and doomed.
"South Pole," said Madelaine. "He say he hopes to grow old and die there."
"Hah," said Pallas. "Dumb shit think I fall for that."
"You," said Madelaine. "Me, I tell you something. Men, they do not like their women smarter than them. We always are but we don't say so."
"Never do," said Du Pré. He and Madelaine looked at each other and laughed.
"... Flight 497 will be delayed for one hour ... Flight 497 ..."
"Ah," said Madelaine, "that little old lady, her girdle is made of dynamite."
Dispirited passengers turned to go to the coffee shop.
"We could maybe drive," said Du Pré.
"Way you drive," said Madelaine, "you be in jail, North Dakota, die of old age there."
"Grandpapa is a very good driver," said Pallas.
"Montana, he is a good driver. Montana, they do not care you drive one-twenty everywhere," said Madelaine. "Other places they get upset, drive like Du Pré."
"There is that Bart," said Du Pré.
"He is ver' rich, always doin' things for people," said Madelaine. "Me, I don't want to use him wrong."
Du Pré nodded.
Bart, him send Madelaine and Pallas, Baltimore, in one of his private jets, him be upset we don't ask.
A cell phone chirred and Pallas took it out of her backpack.
"Yes," she said. "Yes. They are being, you know, polite."
She listened some more.
"It is true, both assholes," said Pallas. "You want, tell them that?"
Du Pré and Madelaine looked down at Pallas, who looked up and grinned.
"Uncle Bart thinks you are assholes," she said. She handed the phone to Du Pré.
"You hurt my feelings," said Bart.
"Madelaine, she does not want, treat you bad," said Du Pré.
"I understand," said Bart. "Now give me Madelaine."
Du Pré handed the telephone to Madelaine.
"Bart," she said, "you are too good, don't want—"
She listened, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth.
"I don't mean that, you know," she said.
She listened some more.
"OK, OK," said Madelaine. "You don't shit your pants on me now."
Du Pré looked at the ceiling, grinning.
Madelaine handed the phone to Du Pré.
"Don't do this again," said Bart. "It isn't safe, they aren't safe, you know what a bunch of bozos we got these days."
"OK," said Du Pré. "So what?"
"Foote was in Seattle seeing to something," said Bart, "so he will touch down at Billings in forty-five minutes, the plane will drop him off in Chicago, and then take Madelaine and Pallas on—"
"OK" said Du Pré.
"I appreciate your trying to be polite," said Bart. "I do not appreciate my friends sneaking around on me."
"I am sorry," said Du Pré.
"I know it is Madelaine," said Bart, "and I love her for it, but please don't do this again."
"You talk, her," said Du Pré.
He handed the cell phone to Madelaine.
She listened for a moment.
"OK," she said. "You are right I was being selfish, thinking I am a good person."
"Thank you," said Bart. "Now may I speak to the monster?"
Madelaine handed the telephone to Pallas.
"Uncle Bart," said Pallas.
"Now," said Bart, "you will not fail to call me if you need anything?"
"I promise," said Pallas. "I call you from the john here, don't I?"
Du Pré looked down at his granddaughter.
"Little shit," said Madelaine.
"They are getting old and slow," said Pallas. "Neither one of them figure it out till now, Uncle Bart. You take good care of them, they maybe start drooling and not remembering so good soon. Me, I hate to go off, leave them to themselves, it is probably dangerous, them."
"It is very good of you to be so concerned about your grandparents," said Bart. "And I am sure that they appreciate it—"
"Hang up," said Madelaine. "Me, I got a neck to break."
"She is going, break my neck," said Pallas.
"You can hardly blame her," said Bart, "all things considered."
"Bye," said Pallas. "Madelaine, she is gettin' red, bad sign."
"Make tracks," said Bart.
Pallas lunged for safety. Madelaine was a little faster and got a grip on the scruff of her neck.
People in the airport looked on, dismayed.
Madelaine lifted Pallas one-handed so they saw eye to eye.
"Ver' funny," she said. "Me, I am laughing."
"You better put me down," said Pallas. "You don't there will be a dozen social workers coming through that door, help—"
Madelaine set Pallas down. The two women beamed at each other.
"You are not a little girl," said Madelaine.
"Yeah," said Pallas. "Well, it is good disguise, last a little while."
She took Madelaine's hand and she laughed happily.
The busybodies looked away.
"I really miss you, I am there, Baltimore," said Pallas.
"Sure," said Madelaine. "Me, though, I not have so much headaches."
"I am not that bad," said Pallas.
"Yes," said Madelaine, "you are. Now you are not to play tricks, Ripper. He is dead meat already, it is not fair."
"I don't want him forget me," said Pallas.
"He is not going to forget you," said Madelaine. "Him, he tell me he wakes up in the night sweating and screaming, always dreaming of you."
"He is so sweet," said Pallas.
"Him be there, you land, Baltimore," said Madelaine.
"That is ver' nice, him," said Pallas.
"Nice," said Madelaine, "his butt. Him just want to give you a present."
"Sweet," said Pallas.
"It is an ankle bracelet," said Madelaine. "Tells him where you are all of the time."
"Oh," said Pallas.
"What you want?" said Madelaine. "Platinum, little plates, say, I love you truly?"
"You are kidding," said Pallas.
"I may be," said Madelaine. "But Ripper, he is not."
"Won't do him any good," said Pallas.
"I am going to the car," said Du Pré. "There is something there I forgot."
Du Pré found his old cruiser in the lot. He fished the bottle from under the seat, and he had some bourbon. Then he had some more.
He looked at the airport building, and he began to laugh.CHAPTER 2
Du Pré pulled into Toussaint and to the saloon, and he parked where he usually did by the side door. It was a pleasant day, cool for August, and he walked to the front of the saloon and he looked at all of the flowers in the boxes that the owner, Susan Klein, kept there. She was able to get prairie flowers to grow in the boxes, which very few people could do.
Du Pré glanced at the cars. One plate was Canadian, Alberta, and the car was dusty, and had been driven a long way recently. One headlight had been knocked out.
There was a hat on the back ledge, dark red, with a silver-and-gold band and a peacock feather at the clasp.
Du Pré frowned.
He sighed and he went into the saloon.
His Auntie Pauline was sitting on a stool. Her fringed jacket swayed a little as she turned to look.
Du Pré slid up on a stool beside her.
Trouble woman now she got trouble will soon be mine ... shit ...
Susan Klein set a ditchwater highball in front of Du Pré and a bowl of salted peanuts.
"Eat?" she said.
Du Pré nodded.
"They off all right?" said Susan.
Du Pré nodded and Susan went to the kitchen to make Du Pré a cheeseburger.
Auntie Pauline looked at Du Pré with her black eyes. Her makeup was very heavy. She was sixty and she did not like it.
"OK," said Du Pré. "You drive down, all this way, what trouble you got?"
"My husband," she said. "He disappeared. Him down here someplace."
Du Pré looked at her.
"You got a husband run off," said Du Pré. "Husbands they do that. Him is what? Fifth? More?"
"I don't drive down here listen to you be a pig," said Auntie Pauline. "Him get in some trouble, he have to go maybe find out some things, tell your FBI about them, but he is gone now two weeks and he was to be back four days ago and he is not, so maybe he is now in some trouble."
Du Pré took a long pull on his drink.
... trouble woman, my father kill Bart's brother over her, she has one man she says, you go now, blow his brains out, and she is sixty and last two husbands I meet are maybe thirty ... trouble woman, my aunt ...
"Him working for the FBI, eh?" said Du Pré. "Now, they tell you that, or him, he tell you that?"
"Pig," said Auntie Pauline.
"Yes," said Du Pré. "You got these husbands, change like you do underwear, and me, I think maybe he just get scared and run, yes?"
"Bullshit," said Pauline. "This is not a lie."
"So," said Du Pré, "this husband is someplace, America, me, I find him for you you think."
"You know people," said Auntie Pauline. "I talk to Madelaine, she tell me come."
... Madelaine believe her, well ...
"OK," said Du Pré. "You stay here maybe, couple days, I see what I can do."
Susan Klein brought the cheeseburger, and Du Pré ate.
"Madelaine tell me stay at her place," said Auntie Pauline.
Du Pré nodded. Madelaine would say that. She don't say dick to me, but she say that.
"She said I call you, you hang up," said Auntie Pauline.
Du Pré nodded and had another bite of cheeseburger.
"But Badger, he will not just go off and not tell me, he told me he had to come down here, do something, or he is going to jail, so ..." said Auntie Pauline.
Du Pré wolfed down the french fries. Susan Klein brought him another drink.
"Badger, he loves me," said Pauline. "Now, I don't need crap, you, I need help, Badger he is in trouble maybe, and me, I want you, find him."
Pauline stood up and she put five dollars on the bartop.
Canadian five. She went out the door. Susan picked up the bill.
"She," said Susan, "is one fell creature." Susan had been the schoolteacher for many years, until she bought the bar because it was less trouble.
Du Pré snorted.
Fierce tiger fell ... me, I remember that poem, trying to help my Maria understand it when I don't ... fell ...
"Deadly," said Susan Klein. "Beautiful and deadly."
Du Pré laughed.
"She is that," he said.
"Who is she exactly?" said Susan. "If I am not being too nosey ..."
Du Pré shook his head.
"My aunt," said Du Pré, "two years younger than me. My grandpapa he marry after his wife dies, young woman, then my grandfather dies, she is still young, she has Pauline, catch colt ..."
"Ah," said Susan.
"She is very beautiful, rodeo queen, makes four, five movies," said Du Pré. "Not big parts, but she has them, gets married, divorced, married, divorced, is in that Hollywood a while, comes back, Canada, goes on being married, divorced ..."
Susan Klein looked at Du Pré.
"She is the one Catfoot killed Gianni Fascelli over," she said.
"Yes," said Du Pré. "Long time gone."
"Too beautiful," said Susan. "Too beautiful for herself anyway."
Du Pré nodded.
"It won't be the same without Pallas about," said Susan. "She is one little pistol. I had bright kids in my classes but she is somethin' else."
"Yes," said Du Pré.
"She is going to be a really beautiful woman, too," said Susan. "Is she still deadly determined to have poor Ripper?"
Du Pré nodded.
"He could shoot himself I suppose," said Susan.
"Him, he think she come to her senses," said Du Pré. "She decides it is him she is seven, that is that."
"Pallas has a good heart," said Susan. "You know, Ripper is really a lucky guy. She's a real genius and she has so much love in her."
"Guy gets told by some kid he is it, luck is not what he thinks first off," said Du Pré.
Her husband, Benny, the county sheriff, came in. He was whistling.
He slid up on a stool by Du Pré, stood on the rungs, and leaned over to kiss Susan.
"How's lawn forcement?" said Susan.
"Quiet," said Benny. "Very quiet, which is the best."
Benny hated to arrest people, and he was made sick by death. So he was the best man for the job.
"Du Pré's pistol of an aunt is down here," said Susan, "which is why he looks like his dog died."
"Pauline?" said Benny.
Du Pré nodded.
"I like her," he said. "I think she's good folks."
Du Pré nodded.
"She is worried about her husband," said Susan.
"Oh," said Benny, his soft heart crossing his forehead.
"I will be out, Bart's," said Du Pré. "Pauline, she will be at Madelaine's."
He went out and got into his cruiser.
"Shit. Damn," he said as he drove away.CHAPTER 3
The telephone rang and Du Pré nodded at Booger Tom, the old cowpoke, and he went to the phone on the wall of the kitchen.
"Yes," said Du Pré.
"You called me," said Harvey Wallace, Blackfeet and FBI.
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"Unusual," said Harvey. "Usually I call you. Usually you take to the weeds and do not wish to talk to me."
"Usually," said Du Pré, "you call I am up to my ears in shit next day, get shot at, am doing things I am too old for, never liked in the first place."
"I owe you one," said Harvey.
"You owe me about twenty," said Du Pré.
"We could haggle," said Harvey.
"My Auntie Pauline she is down, Canada, tells me her husband who is called Badger is working, you, and Badger he is missing," said Du Pré.
Harvey was silent for a very long time.
"The excellent Badger," said Harvey.
So he knew what Du Pré was talking about.
"So," said Du Pré, "I think she is giving me bullshit this Badger is working, you. Auntie Pauline, she eats men and tosses the husks out the window after she wipes her ass with them, and me, I think this is bullshit, Badger just take off, maybe not get used to wipe her ass, but you say maybe he did not. Him working, you?"
"I can't talk about this," said Harvey.
"Fine," said Du Pré. "So what is this anyway?"
Someone came into Harvey's office and Harvey put a hand over the telephone and he was gone for three minutes.
"Sorry," he said. "Now, I really didn't know Badger was related to you."
"Why would you?" said Du Pré. "So he is dead, you tell me."
"Yeah," said Harvey. "We found him last night."
"OK," said Du Pré. "Where?"
"Down in Wyoming," said Harvey.
"You need this Badger," said Du Pré. "So you convince him work for you, so what is it that he does, you convince him with."
"Drugs," said Harvey. "He came across the border with a load of Canadian blue Valium, enough for a whole lot of felonies, and so—"
"So you twist his nuts, and get you some dope dealers," said Du Pré.
"No," said Harvey. "The Canadians rolled up the other end and we got this one, and poor old Badger was flying lone when we got him. Of course, both ends were more than happy to tell us where poor old Badger was and what he had, in hopes of a light sentence. Badger, well, he had hopes, too."
"Who is this Badger?" said Du Pré.
"Really not a bad guy," said Harvey. "He was a diesel mechanic and damn good at it, had a bad divorce five years ago, cost him a lot, so he was ripe to do a little driving. You know how that is."
"Yah," said Du Pré.
"So," said Harvey, "I have been after this bunch for a while, and I thought maybe I could give old Badger a legend and a couple mil and he could give me them."
"Jesus," said Du Pré.
"Badger was a good guy, just screwed up a couple times," said Harvey. "I knew if he said he'd do it, he'd try, you see."
"OK," said Du Pré.
"And that is all I will say right now," said Harvey. "But if you were to, say, drive down to the Wind River country, stay at the Motel Six in Riverton, I will be there first thing in the morning."
"Shit," said Du Pré.
"Look," said Harvey. "This is outside the fence, you know."
"Yeah," said Du Pré.
Harvey had a way of handing things over the fence to Du Pré that no one on his side of the fence could do anything with.
"Look," said Harvey, "is that miserable old goat Booger Tom still living?"
Du Pré looked at Booger Tom.
"I think so," said Du Pré. "He is breathing anyway."
Excerpted from Stewball by Peter Bowen. Copyright © 2005 Peter Bowen. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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