The book’s plot revolves around the hunt for the missing son of a multimillionaire, thoroughbred horse-breeder, but the story is so much more, made so by the eccentric characters encountered. It is driven by the likes of Sheriff Roger T Bensen, Judge Roy Lee Crockett, and Captain Billy Quesnell of the Kentucky State Police, all of whom have conspired to sell their tiny airport’s landing rights to a cocaine cartel. (The conspiracy is factual, having taken place in the county in which the story is set. All conspirators spent time in the Kentucky State Prison, thus ending their collective foray into crime and their lives as public servants.) The sheriff, however, returned from prison with the audacity to run for the office again. He did not win, of course, but no one can deny his moxie—and that moxie inspired this book.)
Pulp Noir, Noir Publishing
Cast of characters:
John W. Drues is a man fallen from grace, a disbarred attorney, ex-cop who has shot and killed an unarmed suspect, for which, he is now branded an ex-convict. His only means of livelihood left is that of skip-tracer, a vocation he is well armed for, having learned the ways of the gun and garrote in “Nam” as a CIA “specialist”. JW is only a hairsbreadth away from stepping over the line again as he pursues the would-be killers of Lawrence Jacoby.
Jessica Lowery is twenty-eight years old, gorgeous at 5’9’’, blonde, and has legs that reach from Maine to Mexico. She’s an ex-newspaper reporter, John’s partner in the bail-bond business, and she adores the ground he walks on. She’s as much at home with a Southern Cotillion as she is swinging a beer bottle at a belligerent hilljack. She’s got cojones, John says, and he loves her. She and John have a trust and a love that brooks no third party.
Sheriff Roger T Bensen isn’t in bad shape for a fifty-two year old. He’s tanned, just a few wrinkles, still has his teeth and hair, only a little overweight—and, oh, does that sweet little Mary Ann Puckett love his bod, his big eight-inch Kielbasa. She can never get enough, always hounding him to get more night work for her deputy husband, “Johnny”, so she and her big dicked daddy can get it on more often.
John Kilpatrick is a seventy-five-year-old ex-coal baron, a degenerate alcoholic whose nose has more color than athlete’s foot, a man slip-sliding, taking a header down sexual-dysfunction hill straight into limp-dick city, a walking-around psychopath if ever there was one. He’s carelessly killed more coal miners than black lung, and his forty-year-old wife is climbing the same Maypole that “Kitty-cat” Puckett scratches on fuck nights. He’s loading his shotgun now.
Little Stevie Storms is a man whose only claim to fame is being Judge Crockett’s brother-in-law and questionable owner of what’s left of airstrip hill. He’s forty-nine years old and reputed to have a bowel problem manifested by vociferous and copious windage at the most inopportune times, and he is short—as the joke goes—so short that his farts blow sand in his shoes. He even draws the short straw when it comes to murder.
Judge Roy Lee Crockett is fifty-nine years old, a grandfather many times, and a man profoundly disillusioned with his chosen profession—and living in general, for that matter. He has sucked the business end of his twelve-gauge shotgun many times but just can’t gumption the courage to toe the trigger. He’s on the edge and heading into the abyss. Who will he take with him?
Zenia Antonucci is 30 years old, five-foot-ten, gorgeous, muscular, and likes only one thing better than a sexy, petite blonde—and that’s kicking the crap out of a cop or a hilljack. She takes what she wants, and what she wants is more.
Captain Billy Quesnell of the Kentucky State Police is the Eye in the Sky traffic reporter who can’t live without Zenia Antonucci’s whip across his buttocks, and he’ll do anything to keep her favor, even get rid of a body.
Penny Grayson is rich and gorgeous, standing five-foot-five, well proportioned—maybe a little top heavy but carrying it well. Her blonde hair appears to be naturally curly and hangs to her shoulders. Too, she has the most endearing quality of making and holding eye contact as she speaks, a trait that makes one feel she speaks sincerely when she says it was only a one night fling and she’s not really a lesbian.
Mavis Grayson, another beautiful blonde, is married to an alcoholic heir to the Grayson fortune, but she’s unhappy and quickly turning to the bottle herself. She’s sexually frustrated, can’t get enough, and thinking about swinging both ways to better her odds. However, when she meets up with Zenia Antonucci she gets more than she can handle. Murder was not her agenda.
Vincent Vinchinzy is a rank-and-file mobster from Cleveland, Ohio, ordered to blaze a trail for toxic waste dumping in the hills of Kentucky. He thought it would be a breeze outsmarting the ignorant jagoffs but quickly finds that his stretch in the big-house was only a Sunday-on-the-farm compared to dealing with hilljacks armed to the gums and more than willing to drop him dead into the nearest river. Only his wit and instinct for survival will see him through.
Fat Tony Antonucci married Zenia knowing she was a bisexual but he did not know her murderous heart—he will learn. He will also find another life, perhaps another love as well and never leave the hills, though the outcome is very much in doubt as he and Vinchinzy fight for their clothes, their freedom, and their life.
Otis Ratliff is a 78 year-old moonshiner with a box full of dynamite and a mission. He will suffer no “dickhead” coming into his “holler” and dumping “that cancer causing shit.”
Sheriff Roger Bensen looked over the bluff into the yellow water of the Licking River. Beside him stood Deputy Dale Stanley and beside him stood Jimmy Clyde Bodet, forty-ish, barefoot, with bibbed overalls rolled to his knees and a string of catfish hanging from a web belt around his waist. He looked like a fisherman with a tale to tell.
“How far down,” asked Bensen.
“She’s three feet under the water right about there,” Jimmy Clyde said, plunking a sandstone into the turbid water. He leaned out and looked around the deputy to Sheriff Bensen. “Like I told Deputy Dale, here, me and Looney Bays was grappling for blue cats up under the banks along here. Well, Looney reached back under the ledge down there and latched on to the biggest, fattest blue-feline he’d ever seen. Right through the gills he had her, must have been fifty or sixty pounds. Only he just thought he had the big kitty; she was mean and ornery, hissin’ and spittin’. She shook her big ole head like a lion trying to get him offen her, and whilst doing so, she rammed her horn clean through his wrist and then took off. She drug him out of the boat and headed straight for the bottom. Drug him to right there.” Jimmy Clyde rose to his toes, arched his wrist and plunked another stone into the water. “I figured old Looney was a goner for sure. I figured he was out there in the big current and headed for the Ohio.” He kerplopped another stone into the water. “It was right there where they hit the vehicle, him and the big blue kitty, head-on. It knocked out the big blue and broke Looney loose.”
“Yeah, yeah, you’re sure there’s a car down there?” asked Bensen, wiping sweat, looking hot and feeling more than a little bit incredulous.
“Does a wild bear squat in the woods?” asked Jimmy Clyde, looking a bit incredulous himself. “Does Luann Hawkins have two nipples on her left titty?”
“How in hell would I know?” asked Bensen, feeling foolish enough for even listening to such an obvious fish tale, let alone answering a nitwit’s questions. He figured there might be a car down there, but not found in the way Jimmy Clyde just described. Frustrated, he threw his hands up in a “lord have mercy” gesture and looked away from the two, shaking his head.
Stanley broke the stalemate. “Yep, she does.”
“She does what?” Bensen said, his mind now elsewhere—on cocaine, bodies, and Rachel Kilpatrick.
“Luann Hawkins, she has two nipples on one tit. I saw it myself one night last week down at Spence’s Shell station. She needed two dollars worth of regular and didn’t have a farthing. Me and some of the boys was sitting on the bench in front drinking Coca Colas, and she said she’d show us a treat if we could raise two dollars. Well, we all chipped in, gave her the money and she flopped her titty out. Sure enough, there they was, two of’em, staring at us, nipples to eyeballs. For another dollar we could touch’em, she said, but I figured the seventy-five cents worth was all I needed. A couple of the boys coughed it up though.”
Sheriff Bensen suffered the banal badly and simply tuned it out, almost like turning off a hearing aid. He wiped his face again and took his clip-on tie off, loosened his collar. “There better be a car down there. The county’s not going to pay Red Spence fifty dollars again to be pulling out that worm eaten log you call a boat.”
“She’s down there, Sheriff, shore enough, and she weren’t there last week when me an Looney grappled this bank.”
“Radio the courthouse, Dale, and get Red out here with his rig.”
Jimmy Clyde gap-toothed a big one. “Do I get the reward and the hookin-up fee too if she’s the right one, Sheriff?”
“You’ll get the fifty dollars,” Bensen said, wiping sweat from the new stubble on his head.
Within a half hour, the tow truck arrived and Jimmy Clyde slipped into the muddy water to attach the tow hook.
“He must be half Carp,” Red Spence said, looking down at the end of the cable as Jimmy Clyde disappeared beneath the water. “He can hold his breath for five minutes.”
“Yeah, he’s a real Houdini, all right” replied Bensen. “A sixty pound catfish, my ass. Did you ever hear of anyone pulling a sixty pound catfish out of here, Red?”
“Sure, years ago before all of the pollution and crap. I used to hear tales of 80 pounders being grappled.”
Bensen simply nodded. He would have to see it to believe it. He looked at his watch. Jimmy Clyde had been down four and one half minutes and Bensen again began to wonder if he had another boat fiasco on his hands. It was about then that Jimmy Clyde popped to the surface.
“Take her away, Sheriff. She’s all yourn,” he said, motioning with a thumbs-up.
Red started the winch and in just a moment Bensen knew he had found the right car, a white Mercedes. He also realized he had seen the car before, several times at the airport. As the car came up over the bluff, he saw the body slumped forward against the steering wheel.
“I’ll get the coroner out here,” Stanley said, heading for his patrol car to radio in.
“Tell Deputy Wilson to get hold of Rufus Fairchild at the Courier,” yelled Bensen. “We need lots of pictures on this one, and tell him the county’s paying.”
Günter Hockman, the coroner, was a small man in his early fifties, visually challenged, wearing horn-rimmed glasses with thick lenses. Jimmy Clyde thought he looked a lot like a myopic white rabbit, hopping around the Mercedes in his little lab coat taking pictures from all angles, above and below, and scribbling notes in a little tablet.
“Hell, he’s looked up that car’s ass three times already. What do ya suppose he’s lookin’ for under there?”
Stanley squatted for a better view of the Mercedes’ underbelly. He looked at it intently for a moment then up at Jimmy Clyde. “Carbuncles,” he snickered. “It’s a car, ain’t it?”
Jimmy Clyde broke up. He was in the presence of greatness, a holy man.
As the Coroner started around again, Jimmy Clyde shadowed him, stooping and looking at the spot photographed each time the shutter whirred. “Hell, I can’t see anything wrong with it,” he said, as he arrived back at Stanley’s vantage point. “I think he just wants some pictures. He likes it cause it’s German?”
“I suspect he does,” said Stanley, who had witnessed the coroner’s methods before and knew that he was good at his job regardless of how silly he sometimes came across. “I’m apt to get a crosley, myself, looking at such a fine machine.”
“Yeah, it sorta crawls down your leg and feels good but don’t get as hard as a woody.”
“Hey,” Jimmy Clyde said, suddenly struck by an exigent non sequitur, shelf life immediate. “I bet you didn’t know Luann Hawkins has six toes on her foot?”
“I heard that before,” Stanley said, his interest suddenly piqued by the intellectual ascension, “but I never got a chance to see it. What’d it set you back?”
“Two blue cats and a Boker pocket knife. Damnedest thing. She had two little piggies goes to market.”
“I bet that was a sight . . . ”