I’m still plugging away on the novel and trying to shove the myriad of story ideas, new contrivances, and tweaks on existing tales into the back of my brain. I find myself steadily losing steam as moments to work on this seem to get fewer and farther between, but I just keep pushing that self-deadline back, little-by-little, and hoping to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Partially as a treat for my 2 or 3 regular readers, and partially as a means to renew my vigor, I have decided to post one of my favorite segments of the book. This is first-draft stuff – so be kind and generous… please? – but, by all means, leave me some commentary to help me get back on track.
A little background to get you up to speed… Mossimo Cole – reluctant P.I., wasted musical wunderkind and regretfully dedicated orphaned grandson – is on the trail of a stolen Sinatra record of the rarest nature. Obadiah Stetch, the cantankerous old Club promoter/record producer that has hired him has been ‘less than cooperative’ and the exact details of what is on the album are still in question. Cole has been braced by Las Vegas mobsters who also want the record, so it must be valuable, and his single lead is an orderly from the old man’s Rest Home who may or may not be related to an old enemy of Stetch. Confusing matters is the unexpected romantic entanglement Cole finds himself sharing with Stetch’s daughter Rose, and his growing affection for Rose’s little girl, Holly.
Cole’s best friend and primary source of aggravation is Danny Fox – a loudmouthed, frequently drunk, but highly intelligent and well-read Irish punk rocker also known as Foxy Thunders. I based the character of Danny on a dear old friend of mine who was always in the middle of a good time. While not quite the drunken fool that Danny is, Ryan Fox was the definition of Bon Vivant – living Life the way he saw fit, always at the center of the jubilation and always there for his friends. He had become a mainstay in the local Rockabilly punk scene. I say ‘was’ and ‘had’ because he passed away a few short weeks ago, long after I had written these chapters and, sadly, before I sent him any of it to read. In memoriam I went back and changed the name from ‘Danny Boyle/Danny Thunders’ to ‘Danny Fox/Foxy Thunders’… the least I could do for an old pal. R.I.P. Ryan ‘Foxy’ Fox, a most hilarious rogue and a Gentleman of the highest order..
R.I.P. Ryan ‘Foxy’ Fox
At this point, Danny has told Cole about a bootleg record expert named ‘Olaf Skogerbo’ or ‘The Swede’ who may have the goods on the ‘Hot Sinatra’…
Admittedly, I have wallowed in cultural stereotypes in a couple of instances here, but only in the hopes of subverting them with unexpected traits and attitudes. Also, throughout the story, I have tried to use discrimination as a means to differentiate the protaganist from some of the more unsavory characters, also I thought throwing the two stereotypes together would be hilarious. So read on for Chapter 10 of Hot Sinatra and leave me your comments, suggestions and (constructive) criticisms.
Howerton / Hot Sinatra
I awoke to the phone. It was Rosie.
‘Good morning. Hope I didn’t wake you or… interrupt anything…’
I rubbed sleep out of my still swollen eyes and stifled a moan as I absently rolled over onto my bad shoulder.
‘Hmmm? No, what? No. Just home late… early… you know what I mean…’
‘Partying late with your friend the rock star?’ She asked.
‘What? No, no. I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking about your father all night. I mean your father’s case…’
‘I know what you mean, Cole. I just wanted to call and make sure you were still in one piece.’
‘Yeah, yeah. I’m fine. Ran into some old friends last night, but we’re all sorted out now.’
‘Not the guys who beat you up?!’
‘Yep. But they were just doing a job. We have our own understanding now. No big deal. I spent most of my night listening to Danny bullshit 20 year-old girls.’
‘None for you though?’
‘Not my speed, honey. I like my women, women.’
‘Mmm-hmm. Are we still on for tonight?’
‘Of course. What time is it?’ I rummaged on the nightstand for the piece-of-shit excuse for an alarm clock I’d been using. It had been Pops. It was 69 years old and had to be wound. It rarely had anywhere close to the right time. It said 7:45.
‘It’s quarter to eleven.’ She said.
‘FUCKSHIT!’ I hollered, dropping the phone. I fumbled out of the bed and grabbed the phone from the floor.
‘What the hell was that about?’ she asked.
‘Sorry. Gotta go. I have to pick up Danny, he’s taking me to meet some dude who might know about your father’s record.’
‘No twenty year-old girls?’
‘No twenty year-old girls. I’ll see you tonight. Meet me here at six?’
‘I’ll trust you.’
I blew her a kiss over the phone and told her she was beautiful. Then I ran through a lukewarm shower, threw on some jeans and a Clash T-shirt that was lying in the closet. I grabbed my jacket and a hat and bolted out the door. Then I came back for my keys and my sunglasses. And my boots.
I pulled up in front of the Luxe on Rodeo at exactly 12:04. I had the valet call in a page for Foxy Thunders. Danny sauntered out the front door about 25 minutes later, accompanied by two nubile young women who were too well dressed and too surgically enhanced to be fans. I assumed they were call girls. They parted ways with him at the door where he hugged them, kissed their hands like a proper Irish gentleman and then bowed courteously as they entered their cab.
I would have honked and hollered, but I caught sight of a bellboy rushing out to hand him two giant coffee cups, which he accepted with a wink and a palmed twenty dollar bill.
I popped the passenger-side door open and he bent down to hand me the cups, rolling his eyes over the top of his designer shades.
‘Why don’tcha let me get ye a real car, Cole. This piece of shite is fair reprehensible in this kind of neighborhood. I can’t be seen drivin’ around town with a fella in a Chevy Geo. Fook sakes.’
‘Shut up an get in the car, your Majesty.’
‘Now, I’ve met the Queen of England, mind ye. Classy gal. I ain’t no Queen of England.’
I shook my head and started away from the hotel before he could close his door. I love Danny Fox, even Foxy Thunders, they’re both like my own dear brothers, but his constant, irrepressible swagger could wear on you, especially after a mere 3 hours sleep.
Danny slumped back into the seat and lowered his glasses to glower at me.
‘Ye Gods! And yer wearing another one a them goddamn hats! Jaysus Cole! Get some style from yer ol’ pal Foxy, eh? Let me at least send you some designer threads from the piles of shit I get fer free.’
‘‘Behoove this sound of Irish sense’ where the fuck are we going?’ I bellowed in my best approximation of a proper Dubliner accent.
‘To the sea, lad. The snotgreen sea. The scrotumtightening sea.’ He replied, nailing my Joyce with is own Joyce.
Smartass. Danny always managed to best me at my own clever games. I adjusted the hat, just to spite him in my own ridiculous way. It was a lime-green straw porkpie with a striped-tie band. I knew he’d hate it. I was halfway down North Rodeo heading for the Boulevard and still didn’t know where we were going.
‘Alright, alright, forget the literary games, Mister Fox. Where are we going? I kind of need to know here.’
‘It’s ‘Thunders’ west of An Mhuir Cheilteach, my brother.’
‘Pog mo thoin…’
‘Aye Aye, Cap’n. To Vista Del Mar!’ Danny shouted.
I shook my head in disbelief.
‘You’ve got to be fucking kidding me! Playa Del Ray?! I have a date at 6. I have to be back home at 6!’
He laughed, grabbed my hat and winked over his glasses.
‘Then I guess we’d best to be moving, Master Cole!’ He said, perching my hat on his eyebrows.
I pulled out onto Santa Monica Boulevard and into the lunch rush traffic jam that probably started around 6 AM.
‘Sooo, are we seeing the lovely long redhead this evening?’ Danny asked.
‘If you didn’t just give me a huge coffee, you’d be riding in the trunk.’
‘So that’s a ‘yes, then?’
‘We’re not talking about her, Danny.’
Danny giggled in his mischievous impish way and put his seat back. With the hat over his eyes.
‘Must be serious if you won’t even talk about her with yer dearest, oldest pal.’
I was getting flustered, just like he wanted.
‘Yeah, well, what’s with the hookers at the hotel, huh?’
‘Why Mossimo Cole, you right bastard. Those ladies were stewardesses. And very fine representatives of the service community to be sure. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.’
‘You are unbelievable.’
‘So they say, boyo. So they say.’
I took a long draw off of my coffee. Irish as all hellfire. Fuckin’ Foxy Thunders.
We pulled up in front of a dingy looking duplex in the area they call ‘the jungle’, right in front of the marina in Playa Del Ray. The garage door was open and even from the car I could see that it was lined, floor to ceiling with records. I got out of the car, stretched and yawned before walking around the car to take my hat back from Danny, who hunched over to light a cigarette in his cupped hands. Walking into the open garage, I could see that there were hundreds, thousands of cardboard sleeves, the smell of vinyl and windex heavy in the air. Small hand-drawn signs stated prices on various tables that held milk crates full of records and CD’s.
‘Hey. You can’t fuckin’ smoke in here, pal.’ Came a thick South Boston accent.
Danny bobbed around to see where the voice was coming from, looking like a bad impression of Keith Richards, all dark glasses and messy hair as he mumbled unintelligibly.
‘What? What’s that then?’ He stammered. He’d finished off both of our high-octane coffees on the way, then dipped liberally into the flask hidden in his jacket. He was more or less soused.
‘I said NO FUCKIN SMOKE IN HERE, fuckin’ smart guy.’ But ‘smart’ was ‘smaaht’.
The proprietor was a skinny white guy in track pants and a pub T-shirt with a backwards dark blue ball cap. I would have bet money it was a Red Sox cap, and I was right.
‘We’re looking for The Swede.’ I said, as if I didn’t realize how ridiculous that sounded.
‘Swede. Do I look like a fuckin’ swede, kid?’
Danny had stumbled outside and, after frantically sucking on his cigarette, tossed it out into the sand and returned looking a little green.
‘SKOGERBO!’ He shouted. ‘We must see Skogerbo! Olaf Skogerbo!’
‘It’s fuckin’ Ollie, pal. Got it? Ollie.’ He said. ‘Always with the fuckin’ ‘Swede’ shit. Fuck sakes. What the fuck do you want, anyways? Do I fuckin’ know you two?’
I could tell it was going to be a lovely Sunday. Between the drunken foulmouthed Irish and the angry foulmouthed Southie, I was sure to get no help at all.
‘Look…’ I began.
‘SKOGERBO!’ Danny continued to holler. ‘WE MUST SEE SKOGERBO!’
‘Jesus Danny! Go sit in the car.’ I said, shoving him back into the sunshine. He bawled like a scorched kitten.
‘Look… Ollie.’ I said. ‘My name is Cole, Moss Cole. I’ve been told you’re the man to see about information on a very rare record.’
‘Moss Cole? What the fuck kinda name is fuckin Moss?’
I sunk under the weight of the other half-million times I’d heard it.
‘Italian. My name is Mossimo Cole. I’m a detective.’
He set down the album he’d been wiping off and took a step back towards the inner door.
‘Like a cop? Are you a fuckin cop? You have to tell me if you’re a fuckin cop… not that I got anything to fuckin hide…’
‘Relax. I’m not a cop. I’m a private detective.’
‘Fuck off. Do they even fuckin have that anymore? Is that a fuckin real thing still?’
‘Yes. Yes it is.’ I stated, for the record
‘Does that explain that fuckin hat? Come on, kid? It’s fuckin atrocious!’
‘Just a hat.’ I said, biting down on my cheek.
Usually on a Sunday I’d be drinking coffee, listening to some jazz, maybe watching a movie. This was much better. I reminded myself to get a new line of work for the three-hundredth time that week.
‘Ollie. I want to know if you’ve heard anything about an ultra-rare Sinatra pressing. Private recording from the Mocambo in ’48…’
He eyeballed me carefully before speaking.
‘You sellin’ or buyin’, pal?’
‘I’m just trying to return it to the owner.’
Ollie laughed, doubling over in mock theatricality. He was a terrible actor.
‘Oh, that’s a good one, that’s fuckin’ wicked hilarious, pal!’
He continued to laugh, wiping at fake tears and sobbing to catch his breath. Showy fucker.
‘Look, kid,’ said Cole. ‘I just want to know if you’ve heard of this fucking record, OK?’
Skogerbo collected himself, looked Cole up and down, then turned his back and went back to cleaning records.
‘Ain’t nothin’ in that for me, pal.’ He said, taking pains to avoid Cole’s stare. ‘I think you collect your fuckin’ drunken Mick and fuck off.’
Danny had stumbled quietly back into the shop and was digging through the piles of records labeled ‘A’, no doubt searching for some of his own albums. Now he slunk quietly up behind Skogerbo and cuffed him behind the ear.
‘Who’re you calling a drunken Mick? You Boston, wannabe-Irish sodomite COCKSUCKER?!’
Skogerbo spun around to face Danny and the two of them got chest to chest like a couple of umpires at a Red Sox/Yankees game, and started screaming into each others red faces in a steady stream of invective liberally interspersed with ‘fooks’ and ‘fahks’. The gist of the confrontation was Danny’s assertion that all Bostonians wished they were real Irishmen. Skogerbo’s retort was that Ireland was an island of terrorists, whores and ‘monkey-faced drunken leprechauns, which were only good for decorating Bostons St Paddy’s parade… It was fairly disgusting.
The whole ugly affair ended when Skogerbo finally recognized the infamous Foxy Thunders and stopped dead in his tracks to vigorously shake Danny’s hand and ask for a picture and if he would sign a few records.
‘Only if ye answer my friend Cole’s questions.’
‘Alright, alright. Fackin’ ask away, Mr. Detective.’
‘I just want to know if you’ve heard of the Sinatra record or anybody trying to sell it.’
I was tired, exasperated, fed up with bullheaded loudmouths with thick accents, and I wanted to go home and sleep before my date with the divine Rosie Stetch.
Ollie Skogerbo dug through a shelf at the front of his store and pulled out a stack of notebooks. He dug through those until he found a battered green-covered looseleaf number. He flipped back halfway through the book until he found what he was looking for.
‘I had 2 guys call about that record, basically implied they’d pay top top fuckin dollar. The one guy, Testicles or something…’
‘Testaverde.’ I corrected.
‘Yeah, that’s it. I can barely read my own fuckin writing, y’know… How’d you know? You working for that fuckin guy? He fuckin threatened me, like if I found the fuckin record and didn’t fuckin call him, he’d come down here and stomp my fuckin ass like buttered mash.’
‘No, I’m not working for that shithead. He’s a thug. Works for a guy named DeFrancesco. Vegas mob.’
‘I thought they fuckin chased the mob outta that fuckin town.’
I guessed that Skogerbo had never been mistaken for Ernest Hemingway. And I was really enjoying how everyone thought they knew better than the professional investigator. Just like Rodney Dangerfield, I got no respect.
‘Who else?’ I asked.
‘I gotta worry about this fuckin’ mob guy?’ He asked.
‘No.’ I assured him. ‘Just don’t tell him you talked to me and don’t tell him anything you do find out about the record.’
He looked nervously back and forth between Danny and I, obviously weighing the increased value of a half dozen signed Atomic Sphinkters albums against the possibility of Godfather-like reprisals.
‘I uh, I already told him what I fuckin’ knew! He said he’d fuckin check back! Am I fuckin hoped? Those guys like to fuckin’ cut off your balls. I happen to fuckin’ like my fuckin balls, pal!’
‘Relax, kid’ I told him. ‘Joey Testaverde is a scumbag, he just likes scaring people. He’s not going to bother you unless he thinks you have the record. Get it?’
‘Yeah.’ He replied with no small amount of nervousness. ‘I’m out of the fuckin’ Sinatra market.’
‘So who else called about it?’
‘Some guy fuckin tellin’ me he was Obie fuckin Stetch. You know. Fuckin legendary fuckin record producer. Obie Stetch?’
‘Yeah, I know him. He’s a miserable, senile old prick. And yes, he probably did call to ask about it. What else?’
He dug though the notebooks again and came up with a brown cover. Much flipping ensued. It didn’t look like much of a filing system to me, but it obviously worked.
‘Yeah, right here. Fuckin’ Sinatra. 1948. The Mocambo. They say Ella Fitzgerald sat in on ‘Stormy fuckin Weather’ and fuckin’ ‘La Vie En Rose’. That would be fuckin magical , kid!’ He smiled.
‘Yeah.’ I agreed. I was getting very impatient with our new Southie friend. ‘Tell me what I don’t know.’
‘Right. Fuckin’ relax, pal. Right here. Stetch told me it was a single press 78, cut from the original wax press, which was destroyed. Fuckin’ shame. He also said it had twelve tracks, six per side, but Ella only came up for the last two. Fuckin’ guy went on… Fuckin’.’
I shook my head in disbelief. Who swore like that? Seriously?
‘Anything that would help me find the record for Stetch? You help me find it, I bring Foxy back in a couple of weeks and you can set up a signing. I also happen to know Belinda Michaels and Charlie Moses…’
‘Fuck off! You know Charlie fuckin’ Moses? Charlie fuckin’ Moses who played the fuckin’ Long Bar with the fuckin’ Duke? Charlie fuckin’ Moses who backed Miles muthafuckin’ Davis on the fuckin’ ‘58 Sessions?’
‘Yeah. Charlie Moses.’ I replied.
‘Hells fuckin’ yeah, pal! Alright. You got yourself a fuckin deal. The other guy said his name was Jorge. Called asking what the sticker on something like that record would be. I told him all depends on the fuckin buyer, y’know. Could be ten grand could be fuckin two-fifty…’
‘Two hundred and fifty… thousand?’ Asked Danny. ‘Jaysus!’
‘Did this Jorge leave a number or anything? You see him in the flesh?’ I asked.
‘Hang on, Hang on’ Skogerbo stammered, digging through yet another notebook, ‘He fuckin left his number. It’s in here some fuckin place. Hang on. Fuckin.’
I stifled a laugh. Danny did not follow suit. He cackled and slapped Skogerbo on the back.
‘Fook me, son. Where d’ ya learn to fookin curse like that? ‘Fookin’ on the end of a sentence! That’s fookin brilliant.’
Ollie Skogerbo stared at Danny, a glossy look of vacuousness and lack of understanding across his face. I decided to step in before another altercation started.
‘Foxy, would you mind waiting in the car? I’ll be done in a couple of minutes and we’ll get you some lunch, alright?’
Danny gave me a questioning glance, but shrugged it off and stumbled off through the garage and out into the sunlight. He faltered at the doorway when the bright midday sun hit him, as if he’d taken a left hook and was about to take the mat to the face. He shambled for a second, grappling with his sunglasses to open and get over his poor nocturnal eyes. Once he had the shades on and straightened himself up, he spun like a quickdraw cowboy, shooting his index fingers out at Skogerbo.
‘SEE YA ROUND, BOSTON!’ He laughed ‘FOOKIN’!’
Then he shambled off into the day. Skogerbo shot me another dirty look.
‘Maybe ya don’t fuckin bring that fuckin retard back here. He’s fuckin irritatin’.
‘No problem.’ I replied.
Skogerbo gave me the number and a brief rundown of the conversation and I bought all the copies he had of Foxy Thunders’ records, which I planned to have him sign and then I’d ‘donate’ them back to Mr. Skogerbo’s collection.
I gave him my card and reassured him that Joey Testaverde was not to worry about, so long as he didn’t think Skogerbo had the record.
I found Danny asleep in the car, so I started up and headed back towards Santa Monica to get him back to the hotel before he woke up and caused me any more grief. I made it to Century City before he woke up swearing at me and insisting on lunch.
‘It’s 4 PM, Danny. You can get something to eat at the hotel.’
‘Fine way to treat the man who found the man who fookin gave you the goods… Fookin’
He laughed and scowled at me at the same time, which for anyone else would have been a mean feat.
‘Yeah, you also almost had the guy tossing us out on our asses.’
‘But you got your number, my son. Did you not?’
‘Yeah yeah. Thank you, Danny. Now will you please just go in the hotel, eat something and go to sleep for a few days?’
I dropped him off a few minutes later and watched him weave towards the lobby. He stopped at the door and dropped his pants to shake his ass at me, before two security officers lifted hi by the arms and whisked him off out of view. He’d be fine, once they knew who he was. Danny had been pulling shit like that every day of his life, and he hardly ever needed my help to get out of it.
I headed home, hoping to make good enough time to re-dress myself and call Manlove and Kickerdick to check out Joey Thumbs current activities. Maybe I’d even have time to call Jorge and have a quick pot of coffee.