Eidetic Sunshine

Eidetic Sunshine

Friday, August 8, 2014

Chapter 11


Danny snorted and said, “Yeah, I said the same thing as I was trying to drag the bodies outside.  All three of those men had money belts on them … full money belts, and we aren’t talking paper scrip either.” 

After a moment’s hesitation Butch opened the drawstring on the first burlap bag.  He looked inside and then pulled out what was obviously a blood and sweat-stained money belt.  He hefted it and then quirked an eyebrow at Danny.  “Did you count it?” 

“No smart aleck, but it isn’t too hard to figure what you’re looking at once you realize they are all blanks.” 

“Blanks?  No face value?” 

“Nope.  And the blanks are soft so barring some geologist telling me that this is fool’s gold or that there is a lead core to the disks I’m going to say these are fairly pure and meant for back room trading and not anything you do over a table or in writing.” 

Butch nodded absentmindedly while examining the belt further.  “They all like this?” 

“Yeah, standard issue black marketeer belt.” 

“Or drug courier’s belt.  I’ve seen these used to bank baggies of powder and pills in easy to sell quantities.” 

Danny nodded, not even pretending she didn’t know about such things. 

“You measured them and saved me the trouble?” 

“All three belts are about 30-inches plus the tie strings.  Those double rows of pockets are about one-inch wide … so those blanks are probably ¼ troy ounce each and there are two of them in each pocket.  So 120 blanks at ¼ oz. each … meaning each man was walking around with thirty ounces of gold just in the belts.” 

“What do you mean just in the belts?” 

“Dig a little deeper Detective Pinder.” 

Shaking his head at what he considered Danny’s unnecessary levity he upended the rest of the bag onto his lap and promptly started cussing. 

“Will you hush?” Danny admonished him.  “You want to draw attention … or at least anymore than we’ve already got on us?  The way you’re making noise they’ll think … well there’s lots they could think and none of them particularly nice.” 

Butch glared at her.  “Fine time to start thinking of your reputation.” 

“I never had a reputation, or at least not like one of your light-skinned, lemon-headed girl friends.  So just …” 

“What’s that supposed to mean?!” 

Danny had snapped before she thought, a habit she had thought she left behind a few years back.  With regret she said, “Just ignore me.  Bringing up the old story stirred up stuff I thought I’d dealt with.” 

“Bull, you made it personal on purpose.” 

“Butch, stay on topic here.  I don’t want to wind up with a bullet in the back of my head; not because I’m particularly enamored of this life but because I still have Tito and Joey to take care of, and Nita too for that matter since I don’t mean to leave Delia stuck with it all.  That’s just not my way.” 

“You ain’t putting me off … but I’m willing to put it aside for now.  We will be discussing this again at some point; count on it.” 

“I’m trembling with anticipation.  Now you tell me what you see here isn’t worth a bullet or two.” 

Butch growled a little in frustration but knowing Danny also knew it was useless to try and push her in any direction she wasn’t willing to go.  The girl was mule stubborn to the core.  Turning to look at the mess in his lap Butch sighed, “Just tell me Danny.  I’m getting … I’m getting tired.” 

Danny noticed that there was a tremble in one of Butch’s hands that he tried to hide by wiping it on the covers and she decided that compassion was in order … just not where he could tell what she was doing; no need to give him ideas.  “Fine.  Be that way.  And I don’t care what you think I didn’t nick anything.  Wouldn’t have done much good had I wanted to.  Kinda hard to get that amount of blood out of paper scrip without damaging the raised seal.  I suppose you could rinse it but it would be a tiresome job.  The federal notes would be easier to clean but harder to get rid of.  Not too many people take them locally.  The closest exchange office is in Leesburg.” 

“But they’re good for interstate travel and bribes, especially as they are what the federal troops get paid with.” 

“Yep,” Danny agreed.  “The wallet has both state scrip and federal notes.  Not necessarily anything to convict a man on so just more circumstantial evidence.  Not even adding the other three currencies.” 

“Name ‘em.” 

“There’s a bag of gold shavings, a bag of gold nuggets and snips, and then there is a bag of old circulated silver coins … like ancient old, last century kinda stuff.  Each man carried similar though the third man, the one I didn’t recognize, carried about a third more than what Claudio and Terry had on them.  All of their personal crap was good quality … not expensive but not cheap either.  Good stuff but not what screams “look at me damn I’m rich”.  Again, the third man’s seemed to be just a little better than Claudio’s or Terry’s belongings right down to his bedroll and saddle bags.” 

Butch said, “I don’t see any saddle bags here.” 

“You won’t either.  That investigator took them off.” 

“But you looked in them.” 

“Of course I did after I saw what they were carrying on their persons.” 

“Anything in the bags?” 

“Nope.” 

“Huh?  Did you just say they were empty?” 

“Yep.” 

“Daniella …” 

“I’m not yanking your chain Butch, those saddle bags were empty.  Of course if I were those men I wouldn’t have left stuff in those bags when I wasn’t around either.  And they didn’t.  The idiots just had them in their boots.” 

“Dammit Danny … I mean Daniella … I mean …”  Butch started coughing. 

“Conyo, I shouldn’t be teasing you when you aren’t in any condition … here … sip this.” 

Embarrassed at his continued weakness Butch got foul.  “Tastes like bull piss.  Hate that shit.” 

“Well excuse me though I’m sure I don’t want to know how you know how the taste compares.  Now drink it or I’ll hold your nose and force it down your throat.  If I have to deal with this mess I’m not going to get stuck by myself … so you’re going to live whether you feel like it or not.  You understand me Butch Pinder?” 

It took Danny a few moments to realize that Butch wasn’t choking to death but trying not to laugh while he drank the concoction that she’d brewed for him to help break up the congestion in his lungs. 

“Oooooo, you are so lucky that I need you right now.” 

That only made Butch snicker more and Danny got madder.  She was tempted to just smother him with a handy pillow.  She was pretty sure no one would blame her much and she might even get off with involuntary manslaughter. 

Finally Butch had himself back under control.  “Daniella, you look like a fritzed out cat.”  He reached out and carefully tugged on a curl that had escaped the flat iron and the severe hair style that Danny normally kept her hair in.  “I wondered why you tortured yourself with those cast iron tongs.  You’re hair is even curlier than Nita and Delia’s.” 

“Yeah it is so you can stop pointing it out.  I’ve got a mirror and don’t need reminding.  It is embarrassing enough as it is.  Finish your tea.” 

“Already did.  Now what is it that I’m not seeing?” 

Danny handed him the burlap bag that held the belongings of the third man.  “The only thing really different in that one than the other two is that cigar case and the flask.” 

Butch opened the bag, verified what Danny had said, then pulled out the two items.  The flask had a hole in it.  “How’d this happen?” 

“During their attempted escape, he was the last man out and was the one that got filled with bullets.  The flask took one, that fancy cigar case took another.” 

Butch noted that Danny was waiting on him to notice something so he pulled his tired brain back together and tried to be the investigator he claimed to be.  After looking at the flask he sniffed what remained of the contents.  “This ain’t liquor … and the red ain’t blood.  What the hell?  Why would someone carry around a flask of red ink?” 

“Open the box and find out.” 

Butch did and then there came a long, low string of some of the most creative and descriptive cussing that Danny had ever heard.  Not even Mr. Maddox could have bested the dictionary that Butch had just dictated.  “My, my, my Detective Pinder.  Any more hidden talents like that one?” 

Butch growled, “Don’t tempt me Daniella.  Sum bitch!  You obviously know what this is.” 

“It doesn’t exactly take an Einstein to recognize a seal set Butch … and one close look at the seal would tell the rest of the story.” 

“Dammit to hell and back,” Butch said, almost in awe at what had to be either boldness or abject stupidity.  “Carrying around a state scrip seal in a cigarillo case.  Damn, damn, damn.  Let me take a look at the scrip again …” 

“Don’t need to, about half of it is counterfeit.  Good counterfeit but I’ve been a barmaid too long not to recognize a knock off when I see one.  The thing is I’m not surprised about the seal so much as I am about the quality of the paper.  The printing and seal may be counterfeit but that paper isn’t.” 

“Let me see,” he demanded.  Sure enough Danny was correct but her assessment had been a little exaggerated; it was more like one counterfeit for every three real pieces of scrip.   

Butch finished examining the contents of all three bags and then helped Danny put them back where she’d had them hidden.  He sat there quietly thinking before looking at Danny and saying, “This is a separate business from the smuggling.  I’m not even sure if this has anything to do with the smuggling ring or not.” 

“You sure?” 

“No, I’m not but smuggling is a different business from counterfeiting.  Smuggling needs a market, counterfeiting destroys markets.  Smuggling needs inflation, counterfeiting will cause a depression.  Smuggling counts on their being a need for something, counterfeiting kills the value of the something it is pretending to be.” 

“OK, yeah, everyone knows that if you can’t count on your scrip being good it pretty much destroys the economy and your ability to trade outside your immediate area … it even hurts the smugglers as Mr. Maddox found out when it became impossible for him to buy certain types of liquor after Flare Day.  It’s why the state standardized all the scrips that were floating around and instituted the raised seal requirement to validate it … like they do with most original government documents.  So are you saying that someone is trying to tank Florida’s economy?” 

“I don’t know about tank it, but maybe knock the state down a bit.  We lost a bigger segment of the population the two years following Flare Day because of the number of elderly and medication dependent … uh …” 

“Don’t tippy toe around it Butch.  We both know my father would have died eventually.  He had a good life, just shorter than he expected … but he still left a lot of himself behind.  Just say what you have to.” 

Butch sighed.  “Not everyone deals with the aftermath of Flare Day that stoically.  Even Hunter … losing his son when his plane went down … lots of other people.”   

“Yeah I know.  No one seems content until they have your Flare Day story to match it against their own.  For some people its like a contest to see who suffered the most.”  Danny snorted.  “It doesn’t make a hill of beans as my grandfather would have said … and for all I know might still say if he is still alive.  What counts is what you are doing now, not what happened to you too many years ago.” 

Butch quirk his eyebrow and let it go though he knew what Danny was saying held more bravado than truth.  “Florida’s financial situation is a lot better than other states.  Oh, you have some with natural resources like coal and oil that don’t do too badly assuming they’ve been able to get the heavy equipment running again but that usually helpful to a small segment of the population.  Here in Florida our economy is more varied … we have the year round agriculture, the aquaculture, the phosphate mines, the timber industry … textiles, import/export at the ports, and a lot more.  We also have all the old military bases and installations that have their own microeconomies that feed into the local economies.  It has made us pretty damn independent of DC’s control.” 

“You aren’t saying that … that the federals have a hand in this?” 

“I don’t know what to think right now.  If feels like my brain has been used in a game of soccer … kicked all over the place.” 

“Then why don’t you rest for a while.  I need to get another batch of soda pop prepped.” 

Butch snorted.  “I can’t believe you are the maker of the Pop’s Pop.  I know people that save up just so they can take a date to Danner’s to have a bottle of that stuff.” 

Danny gave a satisfied smile.  “Good.  The more customers the better.  I’m trying to get ahead of Joey’s tuition payments.  Now stop talking and rest.” 

Danny walked away but it took Butch a lot longer to get to sleep.  He’d been overlooking a lot about the young woman he watched silently move about in the old RV.  He’d considered her just a kid and then a barmaid but that was such a small part of who she was.  And if he had figured things out by the small clues he’d been putting together the last  couple of months, she really no longer needed to work as a barmaid.  He also suspected that Danny might even own a partial interest in the tavern.  He suspected instead of an income it insured that she had a place to live … as in it paid her lot rent and taxes on the old RV that was her home and that had become his temporary refuge.  He couldn’t say for certain but he suspected it and he doubted anyone, even Tito, knew the extent of her financial dabbling.  He had barely begun to unwind all the pies she had her fingers in as most seemed to be sworn to secrecy.  He also suspected that she had more to do with that kid Ronnie than the Maddox family did.  Danny had an unexpected streak of soft-heartedness that she tried hard to hide but Butch had caught too many glimpses of it to ignore. 

What the hell was he going to do now?  This was a mess and that was a fact.

2 comments:

  1. Very good chapters :) thank you.

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  2. Thanks for the great story Kathy looking forward to more.
    Wayne

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