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The Return of Blake Madison

Lonesome EJ 07 Sep 99 - 12:43 AM
Peter T. 07 Sep 99 - 12:44 PM
Lonesome EJ 07 Sep 99 - 04:40 PM
jon a 07 Sep 99 - 06:24 PM
Alice 07 Sep 99 - 08:20 PM
katlaughing 07 Sep 99 - 09:08 PM
Lonesome EJ 08 Sep 99 - 02:33 AM
08 Sep 99 - 10:11 AM
katlaughing 08 Sep 99 - 06:40 PM
Lonesome EJ 09 Sep 99 - 01:58 AM
Peter T. 09 Sep 99 - 12:33 PM
Neil Lowe 10 Sep 99 - 01:14 PM
Lonesome EJ 10 Sep 99 - 02:45 PM
Peter T. 10 Sep 99 - 05:21 PM
Lonesome EJ 10 Sep 99 - 07:35 PM
Neil Lowe 10 Sep 99 - 11:00 PM
katlaughing 10 Sep 99 - 11:21 PM
Lonesome EJ 10 Sep 99 - 11:47 PM
Lonesome EJ 10 Sep 99 - 11:50 PM
katlaughing 11 Sep 99 - 12:38 AM
Lonesome EJ 11 Sep 99 - 08:51 PM
Lonesome EJ 15 Sep 99 - 02:29 AM
Lonesome EJ 18 Sep 99 - 02:14 AM
bseed(charleskratz) 18 Sep 99 - 03:53 AM
Lonesome EJ 21 Sep 99 - 06:41 PM
katlaughing 21 Sep 99 - 07:50 PM
Lonesome EJ 22 Sep 99 - 02:17 AM
Neil Lowe 26 Sep 99 - 01:50 AM
Lonesome EJ 30 Sep 99 - 08:58 PM
Neil Lowe 10 Nov 99 - 02:49 PM
Lonesome EJ 11 Nov 99 - 11:35 PM
Peter T. 12 Nov 99 - 10:48 AM
GUEST,Neil Lowe 10 Feb 00 - 11:02 PM
Lonesome EJ 16 Feb 00 - 11:15 PM
Lonesome EJ 25 May 00 - 04:43 PM
Lonesome EJ 27 May 00 - 05:20 PM
katlaughing 27 May 00 - 05:42 PM
Lonesome EJ 14 Feb 01 - 02:44 AM
Lonesome EJ 30 Mar 02 - 05:28 PM
Amos 30 Mar 02 - 09:07 PM
Lonesome EJ 31 Mar 02 - 02:22 AM
Lonesome EJ 06 Jul 02 - 01:28 PM
Amos 06 Jul 02 - 01:37 PM
Lonesome EJ 23 Jul 02 - 01:41 PM
Amos 23 Jul 02 - 03:19 PM
Alice 09 Sep 07 - 03:44 PM
Lonesome EJ 07 Oct 08 - 01:01 AM
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Subject: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 07 Sep 99 - 12:43 AM

With a rumble and a flash the LA sky cut loose it's burden of rain. A fresh breeze whistled through the window and I clicked into my e-mail with my left hand, as I poured a tumbler of Four Roses bourbon with my right. My name is Madison. Blake Madison, Private Dick. " Close that, wouldja Tina," I said. The tall red-head rose from her desk and her duties( which primarily consisted of finding creative ways of putting off my numerous creditors) and stalked to the window. The breeze flung the split-skirt she was wearing back, revealing a pair of long legs that would make Suzanne Summers give up her thigh master. Taking a sip of the whiskey, I turned my attention back to the computer, finding a message from my old college pal Philip Letourneau.

" Blake, hope and trust this finds you as much of a useless freeloading bastard as you have always been. Congratulations on getting a computer. I know you would have preferred cash, but considering your clientele you were lucky to get any kind of payment, and a Pentium 2 should certainly meet your needs in terms of cruising the internet for porn sites and exchanging useless information in late-night chat rooms with other substance abusers.

You may be wondering why I am being so uncharacteristically nice to you- it's because I need your help. Do you remember Bobby "Three Hands" Washington? We saw him in that little club called Poteet's on Basin Street 5 or 6 years ago. Well, two nights ago somebody emptied a 357 Magnum into him in a back alley by Toulouse Street. We are at a dead end, and since I'm a DA in this town, you know I've turned over every slimy rock in New Orleans as well as across the river in Algiers looking for the perpetrator. You see, Blake, this is personal. The old man wasn't just a blues legend- he was my friend.

I've taken the liberty of wiring you two tickets on the Saturday AM flight to the Big Easy, and two grand in cash to your account. I'll pick you up at the airport. I realize you are a truly worthless and shiftless son of a bitch, but I also know your innate sense of loyalty and the two grand will make sure you don't let me down. Phil Letourneau."

I drained the glass of Four Roses and laughed. Philip was about as subtle as a blackjack at the base of the skull, but he was persuasive. I'll need to pack, I thought. Then I realized I had never unpacked after that last little excursion to Montana. I would be ready in the morning, but first I had time for a nightcap and a little reconnaissance at The Blue Bayou . The owner, Pete Martell, had connections in New Orleans. Maybe he knew something. I pulled on my trench coat and ran through the rain to the Studebaker. I woke the bum who was passed out in the passenger seat, gave him two bucks, and sent him on his way. I really needed to get the locks fixed on this piece of shit.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Peter T.
Date: 07 Sep 99 - 12:44 PM

The night had that early September smell in it, the grindstones revving up, the sphincter muscles of the workers tightening once more on long cold office chairs, the summer promises giving way to the fall of waves of e-mails like autumn leaves, the fuzzy pictures tacked on the corkboard of the woman you almost had it off with at the Club Med until the incident with the volleyball, the return of the boss man in his tanned Mercedes ....What was it Rimbaud said: "Even the plants have to work for a living now".
There would be weeping in the Blue Bayou tonight. I reached down into the glove compartment, to check up on my spare, and her picture fell out. Not the fuzzy one with her volleyballs. But the real thing, and that damn horse. The days grow short when you reach September -- somebody should make that into a song.
yours, Peter t.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 07 Sep 99 - 04:40 PM

The curb-feelers struck sparks and a spray of rainwater splashed onto the sidewalk in front of Martell's joint as I pulled up. Pete had rigged a pair of concrete gargoyles to the roof, and these spat water at innocent passersby, like streams of disparaging remarks. The outside of the building had been tarted up to approximate an antebellum planter's mansion, with plaster columns and painted-on wrought-iron balconies. A two-dimensional southern belle waved from a fake second story window, and just above her head the blue neon sign that was meant to read The Blue Bayou buzzed and flickered, reading The Blu B ou .

I stumbled in the door, and was surprised to see that the place was hopping. A waiter walked past with a tray, and the aroma of Shrimp Etouffee grabbed my salivaries and held on tight. Every table was taken, and as I looked around for Martell, the indigo spotlights came up on the stage,and a Blues quartet jumped into Hootchie Cootchie Man . I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder, and turned to look straight up into the eyes of Sergei, Pete's lurching hulk of a Russian bouncer/ bodyguard. " come with me, " Sergei commanded. A corner door gave access to a long narrow office which had as one wall a two-way mirror looking out into the club. Martell sat behind a large oak desk whose centerpiece was a plate that bore a small Matterhorn of cocaine . He jammed one end of a rolled up hundred dollar bill into the little white mountain, the other end in his nose, and made a noise like a garbage disposal with a fork stuck in it." Want some, Blake?" he smiled.

"No thanks, " I said, "I was told it was bad for my health." He chuckled. " Doctor's orders, huh?" " No," I answered." Parole officer's."


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: jon a
Date: 07 Sep 99 - 06:24 PM

I quickly realised my mistake,I owed pete money and he was not a patient man. "Pete; old friend, I got a job on, I can pay you next week!" Pete looked at me with a hungry eye, I knew that if I wanted to stay alive, never mind gain information, I must persuade pete I was telling the truth. "let me use your internet connection," Pete looked harder, "I will retrieve my e-mail from here and show you the proof!". I waited with baited breath, would Pete give me a chance?.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Alice
Date: 07 Sep 99 - 08:20 PM

(baited breath or bated breath, jon, what had you been eating/drinking to bait your breath?)


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: katlaughing
Date: 07 Sep 99 - 09:08 PM

Swallowing the fish bait that passed for food on my limited income these days, I pleaded with Pete to let me online.

Handing me a stick of juicy fruit, he said, "Grr, you lowlife, dumbass, foul-smelling, deadbeat, I'm not waiting any longer! You show me the goods or it'll be yer kneecaps first, then I'll let Luggo here work over the rest of ya. You'll be so bad, none of the fishes in the deep, sludgy, filthy rivah will even think about nibbling on yer sorry ass! Now get over here and log on!"

With trembling hands and one eye on Luggo-the No Brainer, I sat down at Pete's computer, praying that I could remember my dawgdam password!


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 08 Sep 99 - 02:33 AM

Foul-smelling? What the hell had he meant by that? Considering I was a rather low-rent private eye, driving a rusted Studebaker, living in a one-room, cold-water flat, and wearing a suit that had caught my eye hanging in the window of the Goodwill Store on Alvarado Street, I had considerable pride in my level of personal hygiene. Maybe he was talking about my baited breath.

After three "wrong password" messages, two "server not available" glitches, and a rather disturbing notice that my "program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down", I was able to access my e-mail and assure Martell that my story was on the level. He seemed to relax a bit in his swivel chair." May Ling!" he called out," bring us some drinks. Snifter of Courvoisier for me. Madison...?" I smiled at May Ling, an oriental beauty clad in a tight gold skirt that showed off a plethora of dangerous curves, any one of which threatened to send my out-of-control libido skidding to disaster."Four Roses neat please." She gave me a smile that sent a shiver up my spine like the shrill ultra-sonic whistle from a possum ocarina.

I took my drink. "What brings you here, Madison?" said my jovial host. " What do you know about an old Bluesman named Three Hands Washington, played at a place called Poteet's in Algiers?"


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From:
Date: 08 Sep 99 - 10:11 AM

"Well, what do I recall about Three Hands, the Triangle Man, put yoah hypoteneuse up against the square of my two sides, mama? Hmm, Graduated magna cum magnum from Parchman Farm, played on street corners with Seriously Disabled Nectarine Smith, took up with Muddy Waters black sheep brother, Bottled Waters, made the trip north in 41 and missed the Chicago stop and found himself in Elk Crotch, Saskatchewan. Set himself up as the blues king of Saskatchewan, recorded "Goin' Against the Grain Blues", went back down to the South, found the crossroads, sold his soul for the ability to snake-play the guitar and three rooms of carpeting, then went into the record business operating out of his mom's decrepit old furniture store and his father's tax haven in the Cayman Islands. Now worth about 6 billion dollars. Typical hardass blues story, nothing special. Why?"


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: katlaughing
Date: 08 Sep 99 - 06:40 PM

COMMERCIAL BREAK:

Announcer: That's right folks, Blake is poised on the Edge of Deestruction (song playing in background), but before we can let you know if he makes it to Algiers, we want to give you this little reminder:

"Hi, folks, Aunt SallyAnn here. Ya know I've been going over to the Clear Ridge Country Store for years now and I've never heard such good music on the front porch as I did this week. Ole Lahdeedah Wilson's got hisself a banjo, he joined up with SlimeCat Jensen, and Melanie Two-Foot Bitters has the sweetest voice. They are gonna be there agian on Friday night and I'd like to invite ya'll to come on down and join in the good clean family fun. While you're there, Missus, check out the great buys on ham and beans this week, plus them ears a'corn are getting just the right size, if ya know what I mean, girls!(shyly laughing

Announcer: That's right folks, go on over to the Clear Ridge Country Store, out there on Route 58 and a half. Tell ole' Clarence the Blake Madison Hour of Tales, Escapades, and General Nonsense sentcha.

And, now (drum roll with dramatic music)will Blake find out who killed Three Fingers? Who would inherit all that money? Did Blake pay off his debt and get free of Pete and Luggo? Did the cat come back? Listen......


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 09 Sep 99 - 01:58 AM

I smiled as Martell snapped open a silver cigarette case. He offered me one. "Menthol?" I queried. "No," he responded. I took two. They were Gaul Oiseaus, the kind of cigarettes that take a day off your life with each puff- two if you french inhale." Well, Pete. You seem to know everything there is to know about Three Hands Washington." Martell inhaled, then released a series of smoke rings toward the ceiling, where they hung in a blue cloud." Yeah, he was one of the greats," he said. I looked into his red-rimmed eyes "was?" He chuckled, then cleared his throat." Yeah. Was. Somebody offed him in an alley with a 357." I took a big gulp of bourbon, and slammed down the empty glass."Interesting, Pete. Very interesting...especially since nobody but the cops know about the weapon." Martell's eyes narrowed, and he stubbed out his smoke. "You know, Madison, you keep sticking your nose in where it don't belong, somebody's gonna cut it off." Funny, the last few words echoed loudly in the room. "Hey," I said, and that echoed as well. I wanted to ask him how the hell he was coming up with the sound effects, but my tongue had suddenly become numb and felt as if it was swollen to about twice it's size. I rubbed my eyes with my fingers, and when I opened them I was staring at a room full of people dining, chatting, but making no sound at all. I laughed and tried to step forward into the room, and that's when something solid hit me in the forehead and I went down. As the lights went out I heard Martell say " Sweet dreams, asshole" and I had the sensation of being dragged feet first across the carpet.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Peter T.
Date: 09 Sep 99 - 12:33 PM

Somewhere in what was left of my cerebrum I had one final thought: A roomful of people dining, chatting, but making no sound at all? Something solid hitting me in the forehead? I must be visiting the U.S. Congress or the Kansas Board of Education -- then I went for a long ride into Dreamsburg.<


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Neil Lowe
Date: 10 Sep 99 - 01:14 PM

...Kerouac floated above me, smiling absurdly as he pulled a fresh pack of Lucky's from the rolled-up sleeve of his white tee.

"Crazy scene, man," he said, snapping his fingers. "Dig it, Bird becoming 'one' with his sax before the discovery of navel lint. Naval jelly on the hoe handle of life, gripping unhurriedly the remains of the day. They were all there - lined up like dead soldiers waiting for a handout: 'Brother, can you spare a damn?'" He took a long pull from his uncapped bottle of Thunderbird and lit his cigarette. I could smell lighter fluid. Suddenly he was wearing dark glasses and a beret. I was sitting at a table with him in a smokey cafe.

"My Blues," he continued, "lives in a sleazy little flat in the heart of Sodom, on a night so second-skin close even the pushers and flesh peddlers seek respite elsewhere. My Blues wanders the blighted, urban streets at 3 in the morning, past the rusted carcass of a 1963 Chrysler Imperial, tail fins cocked high into the murky ether. My Blues stumbles into an after hours bar, perches himself on the last bar stool and says to the bartender, 'by any other name, sweet smell of success, four-in-the-corner, neat.'" Kerouac leans into me. "Now, what sound track should I play for My Blues?" he asks. He waits for me to answer. I move my mouth but no sound comes out. My tongue feels as if it's made of kevlar. Kerouac leans back, obviously pleased with himself, and exudes a mushroom cloud of smoke.

"But hark!" he says, his body tensing. "I surmise you yourself have questions." He scrutinizes me. "Yes, yes," he says knowingly, "the secret,the secret, is in the sauce, daddy-o. The cops saw only through doughnut eyes. Something they missed."

He began to float back into the wall, which had begun to dissolve into a shimmering pool of light. "Rationality is a one trick pony," he called, "but when you're good and crazy, the sky's the limit!" And then strains of "Sneakin' Godzilla Through The Alley" began playing in my ears. Not the kind of heavy handed guitar work I wanted to hear upon coming to. But what the hey. I was glad to be waking up at all. I seemed to be all in one piece. No bullet holes seeping precious bodily fluids, good sign. I was still not fully awake, and I desperately needed a drink. But what was I to make of that ridiculous dream?


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 99 - 02:45 PM

I had to use my fingertips to open my eyes- and then close them again. The morning sun was shining on me like Jehovah's mighty kleig light. I turned to face the pavement underneath what was apparently a concrete and wood-slat park bench. Someone had thoughtfully placed my fedora beside the bench, and it was full of a variety of denominations of change and small bills. I sat up, supporting my very heavy head with both hands. Whatever Martell had slipped me had put me under for a long time- maybe days. I felt for the snubnosed revolver - gone, of course. I saw a giants shadow cast on the pavement before me, and turned around to look up. There he was, reflecting the morning sun, cast in ancient bronze and towering over me. It was W.C. Handy. His statue anyway. Shit. I was in Memphis. I laughed out loud, and was immediately poked in the ribs by a passing beat cop. "move on, pal," he said. I got up and put on my hat. Coins scattered on the sidewalk like pennies from heaven.

"Like Jack said" I smiled at the officer," secret's in the sauce." I stumbled toward the siren sound of that blues guitar.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Peter T.
Date: 10 Sep 99 - 05:21 PM

As I staggered along I reminded myself what a good thing it was that I was the main character in this story. Everyone else in detective stories gets shot or tossed into a Roto-rooter testing vat, but the detective always gets hit on the head or drugged, and never killed. It was some comfort, especially considering the mashed melon I was wearing on my neck. It was a good thing they were wearing caved-in hats this year. In the distance, someone was plincking on a guitar, doing a rendition of "Old Shep", I guess in honour of its being Elvis' favourite song. Anyway, there were all kinds of cats sitting around smiling and whistling the tune, so I imagine it was probably their favourite tune too. I made myself a mental note in what was left of my mind to be sure and get my cat a video of the last ten minutes of "Old Yeller" for Christmas, and headed off down the road.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 99 - 07:35 PM

I spotted the club which was pounding the electric blues out in to the street. Glancing in, I saw a tall skinny kid with spiked dyeblond hair bending the strings on a cherry red Strat. Sounded like he was doing an impression of Stevie Ray doing an impression of Jimi doing an impression of Howlin' Wolf. He ended with a crescendo of feedback that could have knocked a magpie off a garbage truck. "Thanks. That's one by the late Bobby Three Hands Washington, no matter what Todd Shafter says. Todd just made a million dollars recording it and claiming he wrote it."

"Small world," I mumbled as I picked up the receiver on the pay phone. Phil Letourneau took my collect call. "Madison, you royal screw-up! Where the hell are you? I waited at the airport for two hours yesterday. Even your secretary couldn't tell me where you were!" "I'm in Memphis" I answered." Memphis!! What the hell are you doing in Memphis." " I wanted to visit Graceland," I said. "Where are you?" "Beale Street," I said. I looked at the marquee on the bar." The Honey DO Club." "Where are you staying?" said Phil. "The Park Bench at Handy Square,"I answered. " I don't know the hotel." " It's not a hotel. It's a goddamn park bench!" Letourneau let out a long exasperated breath." Look," he said." I'm going to drive up and get you. I'll meet you at the Honey Do Club tonight at 10. Oh, and we discovered something new.An LA nightclub owner named Martell may have some involvement." "No shit." I glanced at my Casio Talking Multi-Time Zone Altimeter watch. I had 12 hours to kill. It was then I saw her: high heels, skin-tight slacks, a leopard skin blouse, sequinned sunglasses, standing next to a mini-bus that said Beale Street Tours Graceland/ Sun Studios .


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Neil Lowe
Date: 10 Sep 99 - 11:00 PM

Reminded me of ex-wife #2. Now there was a story. Met her when I was working that drug case in Cartagena. Jesus, but I must have been crazy to take that job. You'd think I'd have taken a cue from the local policia and the Colombian navy. They knew to leave well enough alone, but did I? Not only no, but hell no. All the same I wasn't going to argue with a fat cash advance and a first class ticket on . I figured a little R & R south of the border would do me good. I needed a break from the L.A. smog.

The captain of Cartagena's finest wasn't too supportive when I told him my intentions. The fact that I was down there poking around made it seem as though his officers couldn't solve the murder of a gringo pack mule who just happened to be the son of a California state senator. It wasn't that they couldn't, more like they wouldn't. Who could blame them? War in the cocaine trenches was very hazardous to one's health. He refused my request to see the file on the investigation. I got the impression there had not been much of an investigation. What would have been the use? My own hunch was that Surfer-dude had gotten a little too selfish with the nose candy and had been skimming too much off the top. Probably one of the cartel's lieutenants had taken care of the "problem." All I wanted was a name or two I could pass along to the senator so as to set the wheels of political favors in motion. Looked like I wasn't even going to get that. The captain's eyes were red and dilated, and his nostrils were rimmed with white powder. I got the distinct impression I wasn't dealing with a rational man. He stood up menacingly and put a heavy hand on my shoulder.

"Gringo loco," he said, "I tell you la verdad. Continue with this investigation and it will end badly for you, perhaps at the bottom of the ocean as food for all the little pescados. And I don't like all the paperwork involved. Leave my country or I will shoot you myself."

Okay, I could take a hint. I left his office. So much for my political aspirations, I thought. The senator wouldn't be happy. I would be lucky if I got to keep my private investigator's license after this case. Nothing much to do now but enjoy the weather for a few days, spend the rest of the retainer, and look for the nearest cantina.

I was sitting in a sidewalk cafe, the seal newly broken on a bottle of Tres Esquinas when she walked by. God, what a dish. Long black hair worn freely, lightly brushing her waist. Sultry eyes burning like two black coals. Full lips slightly parted. Legs all the way up.

Raoul noticed my interest. "Oh,gringo, he said, half laughing, half apologetically, she es muy expensive. But," he shrugged, if you have the dinero, I would be most happy to make the introductions. For a price, of course."

"Of course," I said cynically. "I thought you were my amigo, you opportunistic bastard. Why don't you ever consider doing some pro bono work once in a while? It would be good public relations, you know? Good for the tourista trade. So how many Simon Bolivar's is this going to cost me?"

"Only one thousand pesos for my time. I am only too happy to make this introduction," he said, faking humbleness. "My children thank you. And you may want to know," he added, "her name is Jasmine."

Jasmine. Pretty name. We didn't talk much. But she understood only too well that I had a small bank roll I didn't mind going through post haste. She showed me the underbelly of Cartagena, a seamier side of the city that the touristas don't usually see. When the money began to run short she arranged for transportation by bus to Cali, where she had people. We stayed with her mother, who made me right off, and took an instant disliking to me. Par for the course. I didn't care. Perhaps it was all that time we spent in bed during the day, and all the Tres Esquinas we drank at night that clinched it for her.

Jasmine had brothers that worked at night in the jungle, in the "labs" where they processed the cocaine. They began to get a little suspicious about my relationship with their sister, what I was doing so far from the sweet confines of L.A., and my profession as an investigador. It didn't take much convincing from the working end of an Uzi that I had worn out my welcome. It was time to head back to Cartagena, and from there to the airport and the City Of The Angels. Jasmine begged to come with me. I foolishly believed her when she said that she had fallen in love with me and that she was pregnant with my baby. We got a quickie marriage in Cartagena, and she had a friend at the Embassy who pushed the paperwork through to get her passport in order. It all happened so fast.

Long story short, she got to L.A. and realized that life with me was less than glamourous. Not what the glossy photos in the travel guides had promised, evidently. She miscarried and became despondent and dissatisfied with me and my love affair with Four Roses. It didn't take her long to locate some of her Colombian compadres that she had known from Cali, and begin life in the fast lane. I couldn't compete with Mercedes Benz and celebrity studded parties in the Hollywood Hills.

So now this tour guide reminded me of her. What the hey, I had time to kill. I sauntered up and delivered my standard line.

"I can name all three of the Hudson Brothers," I said. She gave me the once over, then began looking around in case she needed to call a cop. If only she knew at this moment how harmless I really was, I thought. I still couldn't get that crazy dream out of my head. The secret is in the sauce. Three Hands was always munching tostada chips dipped in Screamin' Mimi's Sweet Hotter Sauce. I couldn't get the idea of poison out of my mind. Yeah, he had been shot, but maybe that was an afterthought, to throw the cops off the trail. Pure conjecture at this point. I could be dead wrong. It wouldn't be the first or the last time. Just like I had been duped by Jasmine. Legwork needed to be done. Who would want him dead, and why? Did he owe money? Did he have any bad habits? Gambling? Drugs? Did he like the ladies? Was he sleeping with someone's wife? Maybe Phil could shed some light on this. But first, the dish....


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Sep 99 - 11:21 PM

So this fella comes up to me. I was in Memphis, outside the Honey DO Club looking for some more suckers who'd let you have the grandmother to see the bed Elvis broke wind in. This guy looked and smelled like he'd been through a gin mill, rolled solo in the hay, and hadn't seen a razor in days. His eyes were bloodshot, his clothes rumpled and I knew he was trouble, but he had this little lost boy look to him, mixed in with a little bit of a sexy smile, that of course melted my oh-so-soft heart and I knew, just knew I was gonna regret giving him the time of day, let alone crawling in bed with him.

What the hell, my shift was over, I was sick of spewing about the *King*, actually I was so sick of the whole Elvis thing, I was thinking about cutting out on my boss anyway, and along came Mr. Lost Boy.

So, I asked him, "Hey, suge, how ya doing? Somebody roll ya or something?"

"Yea, or something," he replied. "Say, do you know where a guy who's lost all his money can get a hot bath and shave around here? I could wash dishes or something. You know of anybody might be able to help me? Oh, my name's Blake, Blake Madison. And, you must be the Answer to My Dreams?"

"Nice try, fella. Just call me Serita, rhymes with Chiquita, ya know, like the bananas? I got a little apartment upstairs from the Hushabye Club; it's just around the corner. I guess you could come up there. I've got pepper spray, though and my dog will kill you if you try any funny stuff! Say...you're new in town aren't cha?"


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 99 - 11:47 PM

" You interested in the tour?" she asked, a little smile starting to play around those full, cherry-red lips. " I'm all yours," I replied," at least until 10 o'clock tonight." She definitely had the look of the young Lauren Bacall, the look and the husky voice. " So what happens then? You turn back into a Prince?" I couldn't see her eyes through the shades, but I was guessing they were green. " Ribbit," I said. She laughed, then immediately caught herself." Got a smoke?" she asked. I patted my pocket, then produced one of Martell's Gaul Oiseaus - flat, bent and broken in the middle. "The tour is 15 bucks." She ignored the cigarette I was still holding out, so it went back in my pocket. I found my wallet- intact. Apparently Martell hadn't been interested in the eight dollars, Ramses condom, lottery ticket or assorted forms of ID it contained. I handed her the bills. "you're seven short, Rockefeller," she said. Then I remembered the fedora, lifted the brim, and twelve dollars fell out onto the street. " There you are, Ma'am. Your fee in full, plus enough left over to start us off with a drink at the establishment of your choice." Now she truly smiled a gorgeous, fever-inspiring, let-the-sun-shine-in smile that drove all the wickedness from my heart, and made me want to settle down somewhere in Iowa with her. " How can I refuse?" she said.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 10 Sep 99 - 11:50 PM

Sorry, Kat! Stepped on your post. Let's go with yours though..it moves quicker!...LEJ


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: katlaughing
Date: 11 Sep 99 - 12:38 AM

(no problemo...yer the Master Storyteller, LeeJ:-)

As I followed her around the corner, like a lost puppy dog, I had a hard time focussing on anything but those legs, and the movement of her nice little behind. Now wonder they had her giving tours! What an attraction!

Her apartment was directly above the Hushabye Club, a soft, bluesy kinda place, some woman singing low and tired about her man leaving her. The oldest story in the book. We climbed the stairs, narrow and dark, with only one naked lightbulb, hanging from a dangerous looking wire at the top, near enough to her door, that I could see the nameplate on her mailbox, "S. Costas-Washington".


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 11 Sep 99 - 08:51 PM

I took a long, hot shower. I usually sing in the shower, but not this time. I could smell the savory aroma of sausage, onion and peppers being fried, and I could hear Serita singing as she cooked, singing with a strong and sultry voice." If you don't want my peaches
please don't shake my tree"
When I got out of the shower, I found a clean linen suit and shirt spread out on the bed. "Figured you could use some clean clothes. Those were my ex's," she said. The label said Giorgio Armani . "He had good taste" I said. "Nice name, Washington. That yours or his?" She walked into the bedroom, drying a plate with a dishtowel."Mine," she said." I'm mixed race, you know. Pop was Black and Irish, Grandpa was all black." I smiled," It's a nice combination. Funny thing, I'm on some business concerning a man named Washington. Ever hear of Three Hands Washington?" Her eyes showed surprie. "That's Uncle Robert. My Pop said he was Grandpa's cousin.He died last week..." She gave me a very suspicious look." Say, what kind of business are you in?" I met her gaze. "I'm a private detective. I'm trying to find out who killed him." She smiled." Then I'll do anything I can to help. Starting with dinner..."

Dinner was delicious, and so was the bottle of Cabernet we shared. We spent the day in her place. At 8;30 I said a reluctant goodbye, making my way to the Honey DO Club.. I ordered a Four Roses at the bar, and found myself sitting next to the kid I had heard playing guitar that morning. "Hey," I said. " Heard you playing earlier. Song by Bobby Washington?" He looked up from his Dixie beer." Cabbage Alley. You a fan of his?" "You said that song was claimed by someone else?" I asked. He lit a Pall Mall. "Right. It was stolen from him by Todd Shafter. You know, the lead guitar player for The Plum Roses. He took that one and about five others Bobby wrote back in the Forties, copyrighted and recorded them. Three Hands never got a dime. Those songs and a lot of other classic blues songs were pirated by Shafter and Cannibal Records." He stubbed out the smoke." Now Three Hands is dead in an alley, and Shafter and people like him are sitting in mansions and counting their blood money." He downed his beer. "Ain't no justice in this world. Nice talkin' to you. I gotta go back on stage."


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 15 Sep 99 - 02:29 AM

" I know what yer thinkin." The voice came from the guy sitting on the other side of me. "Yeah? What am I thinking" The guy was a tall heavy set dude, blond hair moving toward gray and tied back in a pony tail, glass of Jack Daniels in front of him. He smiled." You need to talk to the Possum," he said. I wasn't sure that I had heard him right. " Go ahead," he indicated, pointing at a small clay figurine which sat beside his drink," talk to the possum." I took a quick glance around the bar, charting the clearsest path to the exit should this guy go completely loony on me." Go ahead," the guy chuckled." Ask the Possum what your thinking." I paused in mid-sip of my whiskey..."Ok. I'll bite." Maybe it was some crazy bar game-" What am I thinking?" The guy actually turned the Possum to face me, and starts in with this kind of Barney the Dinosaur voice. " You were thinking that maybe Todd Hacker had Washington killed. You were thinking that Three Hands had wised up and was making legal trouble over the stolen songs. You were thinking that it was easier, with millions at stake, for Todd to have Washington offed in a back alley than fight a protracted battle in court." The dull thud was my jaw hitting the oak bar." And would I be right?" the big guy looked at me askance." Oh... I'm talking to the possum here." The big guy smiled, and looked back at the possum, lovingly, I thought." Sorry," said the possum," I can't tell you anything else until I get a drink." I looked at the big guy, who was still grinning at the possum." Let me guess," I said," Jack Daniels?" The Possum replied "You bet!" The big guy turned to me, saying " I'll have one, too. But not here. Come on." With that he grabbed the possum and headed out the door. I glanced at my watch. I still had the better part of an hour. " Where to?" I called. I could see the big guy standing in the neon light of another tavern just down the street. "In here!" He yelled back to me. I caught up to him, and looked at the sign in the plate glass window. The Mudcat Tavern He entered, and I followed, half expecting a black jack to come out of the shadows like a cruise missile.

"What the hell kind of place is this?" I exclaimed.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 18 Sep 99 - 02:14 AM

It was after my seventh whiskey that I noticed the strange group sitting together in a booth by the window of the tavern, eating onion rings and passing a bottle of cheap wine in a paper bag. The guy who was doing most of the talking,paused, looked over at me and said "you find the secret yet?" I walked over to the table. A tall thin guy was chain-smoking Lucky Strikes, and had the pack rolled up in his t-shirt sleeve." Mind if I bum a smoke," I said to him. "No," he said "of course not, comrade, have a cigarette and join with us in our comraderie, you are a man who likes spirits , am I correct in that assumption? For you are certainly among kindred spirits.. ghosts of our former selves as it were, free spirits, our favorite haunt.." The dark-haired guy is in a fit of laughter and stammers "..whoah...Whoah Neal! Just..just give the man a smoke."

It was about this time I looked at my watch and realized I was supposed to meet Phil LeTourneau two hours ago." Ah, hell..." I said. " Too late" smiles the dark haired guy." But don't worry, we'll give you a ride. You okay to drive, Cowboy?" The guy named Neal jumps up, flips his keys into the air, catches them behind his back, and heads out the door."C'mon, amigo." By the time we got out the door, Neal had the Merc parked in front of the Tavern, one wheel up on the sidewalk. "Wait a goddam minute," I said," who the hell are you, anyway?"

The guy with the oily black hair laughed, then washed down a little white pill with the cheap wine."Kerouac, man." I climbed in the back, and he turned to face me." Jack Kerouac."


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: bseed(charleskratz)
Date: 18 Sep 99 - 03:53 AM

Kerouac gestured toward the front seat and I followed his gesture and slid into the shotgun spot. The driver--Neal--stepped on the gas when Jack was halfway into the back seat. He stumbled the second half and was thrown against the seatback by the acceleration.

"Hot car," I observed.

Neal grunted. He didn't say much. As he drove he glanced over at me from time to time looking like he knew the secret of life and would tell me if only I would ask him, but I figured his secret might not be the same as my secret, that my secret might not even like his secret, that if my secret was thesis and his antithesis, this was one case where there wasn't gonna be no goddamned synthesis, and anyway, when someone lets you in on his secrets, no matter how weird they might be, he figures you owe him big and have gotto kiss his ass for the rest of your life.

I ignored Neal and turned around to where Jack had managed to drag his foot into the car and pull the door shut. "You wanna know about Three Hands, don'tcha?" I said yes, I was getting the picture but it kept jumping around like bad TV reception. He leaned forward and slapped me hard on the side of the head. "Is that better?" he asked, and damned if it didn't have the same effect it had when I slapped the old black and white TV I grew up with: it turned the screen into a blizzard so at least I didn't have to wonder what I was missing. "Thanks," I said. "I needed that--not." Then little bits of the picture began filtering their way through the snow, and just as I was beginning to take inventory of what little I knew, Jack started talking. I swear he ran on for five minutes, maybe ten, without once stopping to take a breath...

--seed


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 06:41 PM

Somewhere beyond the staccato patter that was leaping out of Kerouac's chapped lips, I noticed the high whine of a police siren coming from somewhere amid the manic whir of motors, frogs, locusts, wind and radio static in the Tennessee night. I leaned over and looked at the speedometer, which said we were standing still. Neal gritted his teeth and grinned. " Doesn't work!" he yelled, "but we're going about 6 lines per second," he pointed at the broken dividing line of the two-lane road." That's about 80 or 90."

" I hear a police siren !" I yelled. He grinned again. " It's the possum!" he shouted, pointing at a familiar piece of clay sculpture perched on the nose of the Mercury. " Cool, huh? I copped it from the weird guy back at the Mudcat Tavern while he was trying to get the door open!" The little ceramic bastard was whistling like a teapot as we sailed through the damp darkness.

" What a night," I said, as Kerouac passed me the wine bottle.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: katlaughing
Date: 21 Sep 99 - 07:50 PM

The possum had plans of his own. As much as he enjoyed the breeze tooting through his arse and our through his nose, it was a little chilly and he wasn't sure he was up to quite that much excitement. His speed was more the type of jumping in a hot tub full of dames. Though, just to give the siren some competitions, he hieked his little butt up in the air, juts a tad more, catching a slipstream of high jetstream, which would've sent him sailing through the air if it weren't for his tenacious clawed feet, a legacy from his "dad", Catspaw49.

Having proved his wailing ability to himself, once again, he let lose his toehold, inch by inch, backing up until he could climb up and over the windshiled, into the Merc. Almost falling over from the intoxicating fumes, he hunkered down, out of sight, in the backseat, sinking into the plush leather, stained from too many nightly gropes, and dug out his O'Possum Clarion handheld communicator. Push the one-call-gets-all button, he waited for 'Spaw to pick up his matching, though larger, Clarion.....


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 22 Sep 99 - 02:17 AM

I barely noticed when the wailing of the possum stopped. The radio crackled and said "It's 2:17 in the AM here at K-Blues, KBLZ in Tupelo, Mississippi, and this is Malcolm Sturgis keeping you company 'til the wee hours. This one goes out from Serita to Blake, a golden oldie from Richie Valens called We Belong Together .
You're mine
and we belong together
Yes, we belong together
for Eternity


You're mine
Your lips belong to me
and they belong to only me
for Eternity

The stilted lyrics of the old song bounced off the sky full of stars, gaining resonance. It was clear that this journey, this night had significance for me." We had to do this, man" Kerouac was saying," we had to take you on this journey. It took us to get you to your destination, it took you to get us on the road again..."

"Who the hell are you guys, anyway," I said," half-assed belly button gazers who croaked in the late 60's, icons of the Beat Generation doomed to be stage props in the corner of a cyber-pub?" Kerouac took the bag of wine from me and eyed me cynically. I was on a roll. " Nobody even reads your crap anymore, unless it's been assigned by some balding professor at a community college..."

" Relax," said Cassady" we're here to get you to the place, the spot where it all becomes clear, the holy interstices, the crux, the sanctus sancti..."

" Hey," I said, " I'm here to figure out who killed Bobby Three Hands Washington, not attain enlightenment." Kerouac leaned forward and rasped "both are within your grasp." He tapped Cassady on the shoulder. "That's it up ahead." Cassady swept the convertible to a stop at an intersection of two country roads , then got out and opened the trunk and took out a guitar case. He said to me "you get out here." Kerouac reached out to shake my hand. "you wait. A tall black man will come up to you. Ask him your questions. Give him the guitar and let him tune it." The Merc made a u-turn and headed back toward Memphis. The crickets chirped in concert, like a clock ticking. I sat down on the guitar case to wait.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Neil Lowe
Date: 26 Sep 99 - 01:50 AM

I pulled my hip flask out and took a drink. The night canopy was bursting with little pinpricks of twinkling light, and I tried to remember the last time I had seen so many stars. Must've been during that little Colombian jag somewhere outside of Cali, with Jasmine. I half wished I was back in that briar patch; this waiting by the side of the road in the dark was getting a little spooky, even for me. The night was hot (so second-skin close), said a little voice in my ear. I started. Then I smiled knowingly. I knew what this was, an hallucination. Yep, no doubt about it. Like that time I was blasting through Albuquerque during rush hour on I-40 after having driven all night, and the bumper of the car in front of me transformed into a mouth and began lip-syncing the words to a song I was listening to on the radio. Scared the living bejeezus out of me, I don't mind telling you. What I needed now was about a week of uninterrupted shuteye. Still, I couldn't help wonder what it is about the mind that demands a few hours of play in the sandbox of the Absurd. And if you don't allow it that playtime, it will move its sandbox into your back yard, and then car bumpers turn into mouths and begin singing Rod Stewart's "Handbags and Gladrags" to you. Something strange about those words, though: so second-skin close. If this was an hallucination, it was an hallucination I had had before. And recently. I was too tired to think about it now. I dragged the guitar case into the weeds, propped my head against it and fell asleep.

The morning sun broke over me like the First Wave of the Normandy Invasion. German troops and the Allies were recreating the battle inside my head. Nothing like a little hair of the dog that bit you for those trying "morning after" times. I took a swig from my flask and put it back in my hip pocket. I wondered what time it was. There was something to be said for being drunk before noon. I would heartily recommend that everyone try it at least once in their lives. It makes taking care of all those mundane yet necessary morning tasks, like buying lettuce at the supermarket, or standing in line at the post office to mail a package, so much more enjoyable and entertaining. And the spin that it puts on the rest of the day! Puts everything into its proper perspective: hazy.

I heard a car approaching. I stumbled out of the weeds with the guitar case to see a 1963 Chrysler Imperial, tail fins cocked high, said the little voice in my ear again. Where the hell was that voice coming from? The jet black Chrysler stopped in the middle of the intersection. The driver let the big block four-forty rumble low and easy at idle while I stood waiting at the front of the car. Then he shut off the motor, opened the door, and stepped out. The sun was in my eyes and I couldn't quite make out the tall slender figure as he sidled away from the car and patted down his suit. Then he began to walk toward me. Three steps later I could make out the face of a smiling black man, shaking his head from side to side as if in disbelief. From somewhere behind him I heard the strain from the car radio, "Come on in,
To my kitchen; and the little voice in my ear said, "Now what soundtrack should I play for My Blues?"

"Damn, dere you be, looking sho' nuff like something de cat done drug in, " said the black man, and he threw back his head and laughed heartily. "Sho' nuff." Then he began to look around.

"Shoo-wee, don' dis bring back some times. You don' know where you be, does you, ole man? You don' know where you standin' is de 'voodoo' groun'. Dey's blood runs like a river 'neath yo' feet, you jes' can't see it. Son, dis is where it all began fo' me - many, many long years ago."

I stood dumbfounded. I couldn't think of anything to say. Suddenly the instructions Kerouac gave me popped back into my head but the black man anticipated me.

"What you got dere, boy? Lemme see dat box," and he took the guitar case out of my hand. He opened the case and removed the guitar. "Hmmmm....ain' de bes', but it got some ring to it," he said as he deftly strummed a full-bodied chord. Soun' like de 'D' is a little off, though," he declared, and began to tune the string. I found my tongue.

"Who killed 'Three Hands' Washington?" I blurted. The black man looked up from where he had been squatting in the middle of the road. He seemed a little surprised by my question.

"Now, Blake, if'n I was to tell you dat straight off, why, it won' be right. It wouldn' mean nothing to you. You ain' had to do no real detective work yet. It's all been easy, what with you dreamin' and de ole ghost boys from de Tavern tellin' you what you got to do. Now it's time to pay up. It's time to settle wif de Man."

I thought I knew what he meant and reached for my wallet. "Okay, right...'there ain't no such thing as a free lunch,' I get it. How much is this going to cost me?"

The man just smiled. "You ain' got enough money to pay what you gots to pay for what I know. I ain' got no use for money, not no mo'. You's got to suffer de Curse."

"The Curse?" I was beginning to think I had stepped into the Twilight Zone. "What Curse?" I asked.

"You's got to know Love," the man said as he handed the guitar back to me. "Love like you's never known befo'. You know what I'm talking 'bout?"

"Sure," I replied. "You're talking about that itch you got to scratch. That urge to play 'Hide the Salami.'" The Curse. "When the little head does all the thinking for the big head." I was crestfallen. "Does this mean I have to get married again?"

No, no, Blake, you got it all wrong," the black man laughed. "Not jes' that. I'm talking about de kind of love you gets with the right woman. De one woman on de face of de eart' you know's right for you. De one dat when you meet her, you know she completes some part of you dat you didn' even know was missin'. De woman you takes the simple pleasures in, like seein' her firs' thing when you opens your eyes in de mornin', or listenin' to her breathe as she sleeps beside you. De woman you knows is the reason you was put on dis eart' to love. De one dat you live to make happy. De woman who inspires you to write poetry or sing songs, when you knows dat you ain' no poet or singer. De one you gets so deep into that you can' tell where you leave off and she begin. De one dat when you looks into her eyes you see worlds you didn' know existed. De 'one-of-a-kind' woman, one like you never met befo', an' you knows will never meet again. De woman you lose yourself in. And hopes no one ever finds you. Dat's what it's all about. Dat's gonna make a love like you never seen befo'. Den poof."

"Then 'poof'?" asked Blake, not understanding.

"She gone. One day she up and leaves, no reason. Jes' gone. Not dead. An' you know she out dere somewhere, you can feel her, but she not dere for you. And when she leave, she take the bes' part of you with her, she take the kernel an' leave you the husk. She jes' leave you with a big empty hole where you life used to be, an' you gonna try to fill it in again. You think you's got a healthy and hearty drinking habit now, you jes' wait. You gonna be swimmin' in Four Roses. Or maybe you try to fill it up wit' some other women's. But it ain' gonna be the same, and sad part is, you know it ain' never gonna be the same, but you keep tryin' anyway, jes' spinning your wheels, like some fool. Dat's de Curse. Dat's knowing you got a love burnin' a hole in your pocket, and dere's a woman you wants to spend it on out dere, but you can', 'cause you don' know where she is, an' she ain' never coming back. An' you gots to go about, to and fro, thinking on her, just this side of a breakdown, wit' dat river o' tears runnin' just behind your eyes, any minute ready to spill over its banks and onto your cheeks."

"Dat's de price you gotta pay for de answer to de mystery. Now, put your wallet away," he said gravely, "and get ready to pay some real dues."

"No," I said. "Not that. You're asking me to feel things again, and I don't know if I can take that, not after so long. It'd be too much of a shock."

"Too late," said the black man. "De fix done in. Congratulations, you got what's known as, da blues." And he tipped his hat as he smiled and began to walk back to the car. I looked down at the guitar in my hand and strummed a chord, an E, solid and definitive in sound. The chord seemed to say it all, but when it was coupled with the A7 that followed, I almost cried right there on the spot. Funny, I didn't know I could play guitar. Maybe when this was over I would follow the Beat ghosts over and jam a little with Memphis Slim.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"Man, I'm de King o' de Delta Blues players," he said as he was getting into the car. "I'm Johnson. Robert Johnson." Hr started the car. The four-forty big block roared to life. I ran up to the window, guitar still in hand.

"But you didn't answer the question," I said. "Who killed Three Hands?"

"Want a lift to Memphis?" Johnson offered. "I ain' never seen Elvis' grave. It only be right one King ought to go pay his respects to another King. I'll tell you on de way."

I slid into the passenger seat and threw the guitar in the back, which was almost big enough for a king-size bed to fit in. Johnson stepped on the accelerator and spun us around headed northeast. I heard Woke up this morning, blues all around my head in my ears as the Chrysler's transmission shifted into second.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 30 Sep 99 - 08:58 PM

I splashed some cold water into my face, and looked at my reflection in the mirror. I definitely looked like a man that had seen a long string of hard nights. And a man that had been consorting with all manner of deceased Beatnicks and bluesmen. I reached out for a paper towel, but whoever was responsible for the upkeep of the restroom in the Tower Exxon off I-55 had been sleeping on the job, and the bin was empty. I pulled out my shirt tail and wiped my face, thinking again about the King of the Delta Blues, who was outside filling the tank with premium unleaded."In the Realm of the Spirits," I said to my pale and dripping reflection.

" Madison? Blake, is that you?" The voice came from a pair of Florsheim wingtips in the stall behind me.

The john flushed, the door swung open, and out stepped Phil LeTourneau. " Madison, I swear to God, you are one living, breathing, technicolor adventure movie. I waited at that damned Honey Doo Bar for three and a half hours for you!" He pulled out a monogrammed handkerchief." here wipe the water out of your eyebrows. Christ, you look like Death eating a cracker." I had to laugh, and I gestured at the stall. "So.. you decided to wait for me in there? Or is that just a standard hang-out for you every Thursday? You leave this graffitti that says 'Lonely Six Foot 7 inch attorney looking for well-endowed effeminate dwarf'? He grinned," yeah. I was hoping you'd see it and give me a call. C'mon. Let's go to New Orleans." I blew my nose in his handkerchief and handed it back. He held it by one corner and let it fall into the over-flowing trash can." Can't," I said. " I'm going to Graceland with Robert Johnson."

I walked out into the sunshine and the roar of Interstate traffic, and I watched the big Chrysler vanishing up the entrance ramp. I caught a glimpse of the vanity license plate on the rear bumper just before he merged: LEGBA it read. " Over here," said LeTourneau, directing me toward a gold Lexus parked by the pumps. I opened the passenger door, and there she was, decked out in shorts, high-heel sandals, Vuarnet shades, and a black t-shirt that said Rick Fielding This One's the Dreamer Tour 99 . It was Serita. She smiled and said " climb in back and lay your head down on my lap. Let me massage your scalp wwhile you drift off. You can float to New Orleans." Her soft voice was a balm to my soul. "oh," she said, extending a peach-colored business card toward me, " the sharp-dresser in the Chrysler said I should give you this." The card said

Crossroads
Souls bought, sold, and saved
R Johnson

I settled into the backseat of the Lexus, as Serita began to stroke my temple. Phil turned the key in the ignition and said "so what's the Realm of Spirits?"

"Nothing. It's where I spent the night last night. Let's go to New Orleans." I was asleep before we hit the highway.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Neil Lowe
Date: 10 Nov 99 - 02:49 PM

As soon as the Superdome became a prominant figure of the New Orleans skyline all the memories of a previous visit came rushing back to me, Proust-like, in a flurry similar to the one in which they were originally committed: support pylons - cool and smooth to the touch, immersed in ethereal echoes as traffic scurries along on cloverleafs stacked one on top of the other; scouting around for noisy places to crash, wondering how safe it was down here; the Greyhound station and the dingy diner attached to it - sitting in a booth with my head propped up in reverent tribute to a lukewarm cup of coffee, trying to study the inside of my eyelids unnoticed for a few brief minutes, but the waitress, no stanger to freeloaders, makes me: "No sleeping in here." So much for your tip, woman, I smile, as if I had coinage for the coffee even; and the empty boxcars out back on a forgotten spur - I crawl into one so bone-numbed exhausted when the yardmen discover me I don't bother, them pouring lantern libations over me and yelling "Hey!" and I twitch ever so slightly, enough that they are satisfied I'm not dead, miracle of miracles they don't rouse me, and in humble appreciation I slither towards the door and watch as they amble off in punch-drunk comeraderie that only 4:00am can induce; the city of many sculpted bird perches - the big one being domiciled at Lee Circle, Robert E. himself maintaining wizened vigilance over the Canal Street vista, where most of the Mardi Gras parades begin and end in unabashed decadence, me lying prostrate at his feet and soaking up the scene, filtering it through Four Roses sipped from my flask; curious kids gravitate toward me, mistakenly perceiving that I am some sort of forgotten amalgam of living history and hippie icon, and ask "what was the Vietnam war really like?"; one produces a guitar and begins strumming chords and I extract a crumpled piece of paper on which are scribbled some hastily conceived words which they sing but of course the melody and rhythm are wrong, and I try to put on a harmony but all that comes out are some lamentable "woo-woo" sounds a quarter tone out of tune, so that soon they are no longer amused and little by little take their leave in pursuit of something more contemporary, but hey you can leave the girl I transmit silently and hopefully she'll pause and look back wistfully but who'm I kidding; junkie pusher swims in and out of my periphery, leaving only the smallest ripple in my consciousness, eyeing me, sizing me up, junkie radar operating at maximum range and peak intensity, little blip on his fluorescent neural net-screen vacillating back and forth "buyer?" "no buyer?" and offers an introductory "hey man" and I a noncommital "hey" right back at him and it's as if I pushed the button on an animated program loaded up ready to run want to buy a dime good shit man I been selling it over on St. Charles like candy last dime I got what do you say so having no pressing itinerary actually no itinerary whatsoever I humor him, as if a junkie can be humored by something other than another dropperful of medicine, and inquire pedantically about potency and point of origin and quickly he realizes I'm no blood brother and becomes impatient, so my last string I spool out: "Okay, so if it's so good you been bangin' away" and by way of visual proof he says well this arm's not too bad but this one- pauses and slides his sleeve up to reveal virtually hundreds of irritated, red-rimmed portals where pharmaceutical nirvana had initiated an orgy with the four cardinal humors; and before me stood the bastard offspring, eyes no longer recognizable as belonging to a deliberately rational being, but to a shackled array of chemically dependent ganglia, broadcasting urgent maydays that can only be all too temporarily relieved of their distress. Junkie curses me for foolishly ticking off moments of precious time he could've spent more profitably elsewhere, and moves off stiffly, threatening man if there weren't so many cops around and leaving the rest up to my imagination. Canal Street beckons and I get up to immerse myself in the sea of mottled flesh closets milling around in purposeless circles below me. Canal Street - sidewalks brimming with tourist types, window shopping eyes darting around to catch glimpses of eagerly anticipated debauchery and soon enough not being disappointed; young acid casualty sits on the curb facing the street with face painted Day-Glo stars and rainbows, short skirt sans underpants, hugging her knees to her chest and "greeting" the delighted pedestrians crossing toward her - she smiles sweetly. Girl walking ahead of me hugs herself to fend against early evening chill and I, drunk with chivalrous spirit, gingerly wrap my tattered jacket around her shoulders as I overtake her and bid good evening, moving past intentionally without pursuing further in a feeble attempt to demonstrate that I just felt like doing something nice for its own sake, only to realize hours later there was a key in the pocket I needed to retrieve my bedroll from the bus station locker, blast it all to hell what was I thinking. Local benefactor overheard unsolicitously cautioning doe-eyed out-of-towners to stay off St. Charles after dark; sounds interesting so I head forthwith in that direction. St. Charles - if only the good saint could see how things have deteriorated since his canonization. For a moment I think I'm back on the Nickel in L.A., somewhere between Center and Wall, walking once again in the land of the living dead. No dearth of material here for Marlon I'll hold the camera while Jim wrestles the alligator Perkins' Wild Kingdom. Wino sleeping in a doorway resembles a crumpled pile of wet cardboard. Man with rheumy eyes and fresh cut on his forehead staggers past in horrific Peter Lorre mimicry. Dog-faced Jimmy Swaggart look-alikes in their fall from grace, shamefully ravenous for young boys, troll the murky grime for a while before taking refuge in the corner peep show feeding quarters into the boxes in booths with curtains closed, scratchy snippets of 8mm celluloid taboo garnering only half-hearted Pavlovian responses. They mark their territory with onanistic stains on the floor. Smooth-skinned adolescent boys in skin-tight jeans make lewd, suggestive remarks to passersby. Opiate molecules find their specific receptor sites in stoner's brain, lighting up pleasure grids like a pinball machine; he chooses the moment of my passing to respond with an enthusiastic "Whoo!" and I damn near have to change my underwear. I try talking a little trash to some local parajos de la noche and they coo seductively, "back up that trash with some cold, hard cash" - gee I wonder what gave me away: the unwashed, familiar way I wear a thin layer of dirt and grit like a favorite pair of pajamas? One sympathetic social worker takes pity and teaches me the way to say New Orleans before dispensing with me: "Not 'New or-LEENS,'" she says beseechingly, "but 'New AW-lins.' New Awlins." Then she cocks her head and reconsiders. "Look, honey," she begins, "I do lots of sex therapy night after night and I see all types of customers. My company don't come cheap, 'cause contrary to popular belief," she says sarcastically, "I ain't the department of social services - I'm only in it for the money. But you-" and for a moment I saw a trace of compassion begin to soften her cynical, cobblestoned features, "you look like you've been dancing on the knife edge a little too long. This town'll do that to you. Something in that crooked grin of yours says you're all right." She looks around apprehensively. "Don't you ever tell no one I did this, especially not to Rico, but you take this - quickly pulling a double sawski from a little beaded purse - "and don't turn around and give it right back to me!" she admonishes good-naturedly. "You couldn't buy ten minutes with this. You go down to Pancho's and get something to eat. Make sure you try the quesadillos with honey. After you've stuffed yourself proper, go down to the Camp Baths, just off St. Charles. They're the only one's got rooms this time of night. Jimmy works the window. Tell him Cleo sent you. He'll fix you up. You can sleep your meal off there. That'll put a little spring in your step!" She turns her eye away from me and resumes her patrol for paying johns. I take a sip of Four Roses from my flask as I watch her walk away. Jesus, just when I thought I'd seen it all. A hooker pays me to get lost. What wonders that'll do for your ego. This one I keep under my hat when I get back to L.A. After all, I've got my rep to maintain. Camp Baths - I double-check the street address. I'm where I'm supposed to be but this is just a door in a wall, no sign, nothing to indicate the place is inhabited. I open the door and cross the little foyer to the shuttered window and ring the bell. Quasimoto's younger brother pulls back the shutters, takes one look at me and barks, "We're full!" "Cleo sends her regards," I say, before he shuts the window completely. He eyes me suspiciously through the crack. "You a friend of hers?" "Sort of. I met her doing a little PR work over on St. Charles. She said you got a flop for me." "You a cop?" Fur above his bloodshot eyes comes to life as he tries to get a make on me. "Do I look like one?" "You look like trouble," he concludes. I was getting impatient. "I just want to sleep one off." He considers, then says, "Six bucks for four hours," and buzzes me in. From his side of the window the weather is markedly different. Stale, uncirculated air so humid it feels like I've been hit in the face with a steam iron. "Number four," he says, not looking up from the money he's counting. "Down the hall on the left." I wait. "Ain't no bell hop here to show you to your room," he laughs. "And," he checks his watch in mock regret, "curse your luck. Room service closed a half hour ago." Everyone's a comedian. "So what're you waiting for?" "Key?" "No key," he deadpans. "Door's open. Use the latch on the inside of the door." Number four is an eight by eight stall, indistinguishable from its neighbor with whom it shares a wall, constructed of flimsy plywood nailed a foot and a half off the floor to equally flimsy posts. Makes Motel 6 look like the luxury suite at the Beverly Hilton by comparison. Army surplus cot what passes for a bed, with a mattress so thin if there'd been a dime underneath I could've told you heads or tails. Stains, too, ominous and of unknown origin, and I not particularly keen on identifying them. Sheet so worn in places when I hold it up I can read the graffiti on the walls through it. I'm thinking parasite city: scabies, lice, crabs, and probably a few species yet to be named. Air so thick and heavy with humidity it has the consistency of fetid syrup, punctuated with the sounds of homosexual sex that I sense as if they were running headlong into me from the other side of a soft pillow. I sleep, if you can call it that, on my back with one eye open. Between dreamless fits of semi-consciousness I realize from whence came Dickens' "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" pronouncement.

But that was then, this is now, as they say. A long, long time ago. Thank the Powers That Be I had moved beyond all that, would never (ahem) have to face times like those again, now that I was a bona fide and respected private dick, whose services were in tepid demand by domestic engineers in flowery housecoats and fuzzy slippers, with hair permanently done up in curlers, willing to pay minimum wage (when I could collect) for me to stake out the local watering hole in hopes of catching their beer-bellied husbands with the floozy du jour. We were blasting through the center of the city, the mystery of who killed Three Hands looming on the horizon next to the Superdome. If this gig fell through, maybe I could update travel guides for the Tourism department.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 11 Nov 99 - 11:35 PM

Phil unlocked the hotel room door and dropped Serita's bags on the floor."Monsieur et Mademoiselle, votre suite fantastique," he said. We were in the Hotel Richmond, an old but upscale establishment on Bourbon Street, complete with wrought-iron decked balcony overlooking the rich pageant of the French Quarter."Get some rest. Get room service- the Coq au Vin is terrific, have it with a little Bourbon over cracked ice.We're going to Poteet's tonight, but I'll meet you at the Old Absinthe first.8 o'clock."

I lay down on the bed, watching the ceiling fan swirling over my head. Serita opened the french doors that led to the balcony."No air conditioning?" I said. "No," she said,"hot and sultry, the way the Delta should be." As I watched, she stripped off her clothes and stood silhouetted in the doorway. She placed a cigarette in her lips and lit it, inhaling deeply. The heavy sweet funk of marijuana filled the room."That shit'll make you crazy,"I said. She smiled and turned to look at me. Against the afternoon light, her naked body was hard to make out as she strode toward me. She knelt by the bed and placed the joint near my lips."Toke?" she smiled."Makes sex quite interesting." I glanced toward the phone on the nightstand."Why don't we order up a bottle- I'd rather have a whiskey." She smiled again."Don't you find it dulls the senses?" She took another pull on the joint."Alright," I said."Just one for old times' sake." I laughed. The doobie was rolled in pink cinnamon-flavored paper."Nothing but the best.." I said. She poured a glass of ice water from a silver pitcher on the dresser, took a sip, handed it to me.Her body shown in the lamplight, tiny beads of perspiration on her skin."It's hot," she said. A drop of sweat traced a line between her breasts and paused above her navel. I caught a cube of ice in my teeth and sat up on the bed, placing my hands in the small of her back and pulling her toward me. She smelled of musk as I pushed the ice against the place on her belly where the droplet had stopped. Slowly I slid the ice up her body, as if erasing the track of the hot moisture. She gasped, her fingers tangling in the hair on the back of my head. I pulled her onto the bed, and we fell together, kissing with eyes wide open and locked into each other.

"This is where it starts," I said. "What?" she whispered."The Blues," I said,"the Real Blues..."


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Peter T.
Date: 12 Nov 99 - 10:48 AM

[battle of the titans, or what!] yours, Peter T.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: GUEST,Neil Lowe
Date: 10 Feb 00 - 11:02 PM

I lay enveloped in predawn darkness, writing "Serita" in orange tracers with the burning ember of my cigarette. Serita's silhouette was barely discernible next to me, but the way the contours of her body interrupted the blank pattern of blackness indicated that her back was to me. She breathed deeply and rhythmically as she slept the sleep of one who had surrendered unconditionally to blissful exhaustion. I listened contentedly, and matched my breathing rhythm to hers. Overnight she had woven herself inextricably into the fabric of my world, to the extent that I observed her mirroring some of my mannerisms and subtle nuances, even as I mirrored some of hers, like a couple who had come to resemble each other after having grown old together.

I lit another cigarette and staggered out of bed and onto the balcony. In the street below, the unwashed masses began their ritualistic slouch towards Gomorrah. A junkie wiped his sniffles with the back of his hand as he shuffled off, inexhorably drawn in answer to what Burroughs termed "the algebra of need." Underneath me in an unseen doorway, a wino stirred from his inebriated slumber to laugh at a joke in his dream, then descended into an interminable bout of phlegmatic coughing. I watched as daylight made a gradual ascent up the wrought iron latticework. It spilled over my bare feet and into the suite. The darkness dissolved into a grainy film noir grey, and the contents of the room slowly assumed their familiar names and shapes.

I stumbled back through the open French doors, exhaling a languid cloud of smoke toward the ceiling fan. The wobbly blades sliced it up into ephemeral whorls. I looked around me. The remnants of our shattered libidinal energies lay strewn about the room: a stray sock in a corner by the door; an elegantly tasteful pump tangential to an overturned chair; one of Serita's trashed stockings draped carelessly over a skewed lampshade. Last night, we began and we ended; in between it was as if everything but us had frozen in time. Like Robert Johnson predicted at the crossroads, I could no longer tell where I left off and she began. I turned toward her. The sheet had fallen away, and I admired the graceful, swan-like way her neck blended effortlessly into her bare shoulder. I extended my hand to stroke her hair, to sift her strands of fine Persian silk through my fingers, but not wanting to disturb her, I thought better of it and withdrew.

"You're all the woman I ever wanted to be," I had whispered in her ear, and she laughed- because that line would not be all that absurd in this lascivious section of the city? Or because it was in direct contradiction to my hard-boiled image? Either way, I vowed to elicit from her a symphony in laughter, in any way and as often as I could, because, in fact, she was all the woman I ever wanted. A word from her was the introduction to a sonnet; a touch the prelude to a divine sculpture. When I was moody and withdrawn, I found her in me in places I could not go, and when her hands fluttered over me, I came out from behind my walls, emboldened to suffer gladly with the rest of humanity. A wisp of her breath on my cheek was the harbinger of change from winter to spring.

I tried to decide coffee or Four Roses to best ease the pounding in my head. What the hell, I thought. If one cure is good, two must be better. I dialed room service and ordered a coffee. When it came, I dosed it with an eye-opening dram from my flask and carried it to the wash basin. The reflection in the mirror recoiled from me in horror. The eyes, once blue, were now washed out the color of cigarette ash, and irretrievably sunk back in their sockets. Sallow flesh hung like melted candle wax off my emaciated frame. What she saw in me God only knew. I was a half step away from a twelve-step program. Dripping jewels and hanging off the arm of some oil sheik like an expensive accessory seemed more her speed. I sat down on the bed and watched her sleep.

Expect nothing and never be disappointed, that's my philosophy. And scrutinize happiness with a cynical and distrusting eye, for my personal history told me that riding on its coattails was an inevitable sorrow. Even as we were beginning our relationship, so I was sketching the denouement in my mind, fleshing out the scenario as I thought it would unfold: a Sunday in mid December perhaps, before the holidays. Cold and damp by Los Angeles' standards. Tailor made for nuzzling up to a roaring fire with a snifter of brandy. But instead I would be waiting for her in a vacant lot on the banks of the Los Angeles River. I would've been walking a while before that, if walking could accurately describe it. More like drifting with the current in this huge ocean of a town, ever since her phone call earlier this morning. I would be nursing a bastard of a hangover, as usual. Suddenly that little sports car of hers would come out of nowhere, ricocheting like a stray bullet across the lot, but I wouldn't notice. I would be lost watching a whirlpool of wind-driven rubbish do its mad little dance on the dry riverbed. She would pull up behind me and get out of the car, pausing. Her features would be set hard against me. No introductory remarks, no how are yous, no inquiries; she would launch, opening the floodgates and unleashing a torrent of frustration and resentment that had been welling up inside: about how loving me was killing her, how she couldn't take it anymore, how she loved me once but she couldn't continue to love me and survive. How she thought it would be different this time around, and how disappointed she was when it turned out to be just a variant on the same old theme. She'd be right. And I would listen quietly while the rubbish swirled around crazily. Not that I'd be so much in shock. It would be nothing I hadn't heard before, only this time I would actually give a damn - enough to eventually turn to face her and say something like, don't do this baby, please, not just now, at least give me a little time to get used to the idea. Why don't we go have a coffee and talk about it? Let's talk about the good times. Surely there were some in there somewhere. Like that night in the car with the soft rain on the roof, remember? Just us alone all night at the entrance to the park with that rain. Or the stairwell outside your office where you'd take your breaks, and we'd hold each other, not saying any words, just swaying to music in our heads. Things like that, remember? Forget that I'm a jerk. Forget all the stupid things I've done. Don't give up on us so hastily, I love you. Give me a chance to tear down some walls.

The tears would be brimming in her eyes, but she wouldn't blink them back. That would mean the words were ineffectual, were breaking up into shards of irrelevant syllables and left to drift away on the wind. She would just shake her head, turn and walk back to her car. Maybe she would glance once more at me before she drove away, but probably not. And I'd watch her take the better part of me with her, until she was no more than a mote in the undulating flow of traffic. By then the little whirlpool of trash would've played itself out, and without the willful energy to hold them together, the bits of dust and paper would lose their bonds and revert back to meaningless elements of matter. I would reassuringly pat the revolver tucked in my belt. Happiness, as the song goes, is a warm gun (bang bang shoot shoot), and the barren riverbed stretched out before me would typify the character of the days ahead.



My hands were shaking. I had to remember to breathe, and when I did, the air entering my lungs felt thin. Serita rolled over on her other side to face me. My back was to her.

"Good morning," she yawned.

"Good morning," I managed weakly. "Want me to ring for coffee?"

"What time is it?"

"I don't know." I looked at my watch but I couldn't make out the numbers. "Ten...or eleven, maybe." My voice broke. The sheets rustled behind me as she stretched out her arm. Her fingertips traced random patterns on the small of my back.

"What's wrong?" she asked. "Are you okay?"

My throat tightened and I swallowed hard. "I can't swim," I confessed.

"That's okay," she laughed, confused. "I can't either." She waited for an explanation.

I wheeled on her. "And every damn brick," I shouted, shaking my finger, "every damn brick of these walls I laid with my own two hands!"

She was horrified. She gathered the sheets closer to her. The idea that I was not the man she thought she knew took root in her mind and began to grow, vying with previous impressions for space and consideration. The telephone rang.

"Heartbreak hotel," I answered. "Elvis...just checked out. For good."

And there was evening, and there was morning, one day....


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 16 Feb 00 - 11:15 PM

Serita and I strolled down Rue Bourbon together, the long silences between us weighted with uncertain, nervous energy, the few phrases we exchanged thinly veiling our sudden estrangement. The Johnny Long Blues band was performing at the Old Absinthe that night, but it was early and the place was half-empty. We sat down at the bar. In front of me stood the ancient brass and marble contraption used for 175 years to dispense the essence of wormwood to patrons. An angel's form was reflected by the tap-handle, the spigot in the shape of a plumed serpent. Beneath it was the brass perforated cup that held the wormwood. Below, the marble basin was eroded one inch deep from the dripdrip of years of Absinthe. The bartendress wiped the oaken bar and asked for my order. "I'll have an absinthe please,"I said,"and one for the lady." The waitress gave me a weary smile."There's no absinthe. Been illegal since the twenties." I frowned."Sounds like false advertising. I'll have a Four Roses. Serita...?" But she was gone. I wasn't surprised.

"Tough night?" said the bartender, setting a tumbler down in front of me."Yeah," I said, picking up the glass."Needs some tenderizer." The lamp behind the bar cast a green beam through the liquor. The barkeep caught my puzzled look."You said absinthe didn't you? I keep a bottle especially for outcast souls." I drained the liquid, feeling the heat in my chest."D'you make this stuff with drain opener?" She smiled again. "you missed Phil," she said. " He said meet him at Poteet's on Toulouse. Wanna cab?" I snorted "hell, no, I can walk." "You sure?" she said. "Watch me," I answered, and stepped from the barstool onto a soft mist that enveloped the floor of the tavern. Smiling, I skated smoothly to the door and out into the chatter and flash of Bourbon Street.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 25 May 00 - 04:43 PM

I never made it to Poteet's. A half-block from Toulouse Street a crowd had gathered at the entrance to an alley. They were restrained from entering by a flimsy strip of yellow crime scene tape and a cop who had his hand in the chest of a local news cameraman. I heard the high whine of an ambulance as it crawled up Toulouse through the early drinking crowd, coming to a stop by a patrol car. Two plain clothes cops exited the car and guided the paramedics through the crowd.

I overheard a woman talking to a man next to her." This is the second murder in this alley in three months." Her friend said "another shooting?" "Yes...I heard the shots, both of them. Sounded like a cannon. They're doing live coverage on channel 4." The man said "not surprising with a victim of this.." "Caliber?" laughed the woman. The entire scene had a nightmare carnival aspect to it, enhanced by the absinthe I had imbibed. Flashing blue and red emergency light illuminated the faces in the crowd. "Who was the victim?" I said to the woman." LaFever,I think his name is. The DA." Her friend piped up "LaTourneau." I heard the blood rushing to my brain as a roar in my ears as I stumbled over to lean against a wall. "Are you ok?" asked the woman.

The crowd parted to allow the paramedics to wheel the gurney with its blanketed corpse through. I watched as they loaded it into the ambulance. I collected myself and noticed the bald detective patting his pockets,looking for a lighter for his Pall Mall. I lit his smoke, and mine."He was a friend of mine," I said."Sorry. Mine too," said the cop.He exhaled a cloud of smoke and confided "Twice in the chest. Big gun, but he didn't die immediately." "How do you know?" I said. He looked me in the eye."You Madison?" he said. I nodded. "He mentioned you. Come with me." We walked back through the crowd, past the police line, to the middle of the alley where there was a large pool of blood. He shone his flashlight on the adjoining wall, and said "he wrote it with his finger," said the cop. Phil's last words were crude but legible- W.P. Algiers. "He fell there," said the cop," but the first slug caught him over here." He turned away, and I took advantage of the moment to pocket something metallic that had caught the flashlight's beam. "Thanks," I said," I've seen enough." I staggered out of the alley, and followed my nose to the Mississippi, to where Phil and I had caught the Ferry for Algiers so many times on those long ago drunk and blues-hungry nights.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 27 May 00 - 05:20 PM

The Algiers Ferry sat in near darkness at the jetty. I reached into my pocket for the fare, and my fingers found a gold dollar for the Ferryman. I ascended to the deck, which was nearly deserted except for a mournful-looking teenager in gang colors. Near the bow, I found a section of railing and deck which were shaded from the string of incandescent lighting that were intended to make our crossing seem gay. In the darkness I nearly stumbled over a blind man who sat on the bench with a guitar perched on his lap, an empty cigar box open next to him. "Evenin'", he remarked.

The engines of the Ferry rumbled into motion and we crept out into the river. Behind us, the carnival light of New Orleans slipped slowly away as we slid toward the dull red and blue glow of the distant Algiers shore, gleaming like a bed of dying coals in the darkness."What kind of bidness you got in Algiers," said the man with the guitar." you best be careful over there. They kill you (here he snapped his fingers) boom..like that." I turned to him, still having difficulty seeing his face in the darkness. "I'm looking for a killer," I said. He laughed "then you goin' to the right place. Algiers full of killers, alright. You think you ought to go pokin' round over there in your condition?" "What do you mean?" I said. "You drink wormwood didn't you? I see it in your eyes." I mumbled "but..I thought.." He laughed again."Did you think it was like Four Roses neat?" The rail seemed to be moving under my hands as he continued, saying " when you saw your dead friend back there, did you think it'd be you crossing the river to Hell? "Cause that's what's on the other side, you know. Here..." and he tapped the empty cigar box, "you put a dollar in here, lemme sing you a song." I dropped a handful of change into the box as he began to sing

I got stones in my passway
And all the roads seem dark at night
I have pains in my heart
They have taken my appetite

The ferry nudged into the dock, and I descended to the landing, accompanied by the sullen teenager and several shadowy figures who melted into the dark. Behind me the old man was still moaning his blues as I staggered past a chain-linked yard that penned two large black dogs, who snarled and choked at me, their chain leads taut. Ahead, an ancient stone wall held the spray-painted legend 666 The Beast Rules. "Welcome to Hell, Blake" I said out loud." I hope they have taxis."


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: katlaughing
Date: 27 May 00 - 05:42 PM

Announcer: We'll get right back to Blake Madison, Detective in Hell, after a word from our sponsor: Looking for a fun night out on the town? Come to the Old Absinthe and take a long deep swallow of the best Four Roses you'll ever get anywhere! "But don't ask for absinthe...it's only for outcast souls!"

We've got cozy nooks, a dance floor slick as a whistle, a bartender that'll do ya up right, and the best dance music around provided by Take It To The Max, Mudcats, but "Don't ask for ansinthe...it's only for lost souls!"

Announcer: That's right folks, the Old Absinthe, just like the one Blake Madison visits, try them out! And, now, will our intrepid dick make it out of the hell of Algiers? Will he find the kiler of District Attorney LaVever? Is Algiers really Hell? Is the mysterious graffiti a clue for our private eye?

Tune in and we'll see in the next installment of BLAKE MADISON, PRIVATE EYE, brought to you by the fine folks at the Old Absinthe!


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 14 Feb 01 - 02:44 AM

They didn't have taxis. The air hung foetid and steaming as I stumbled along the cracked, deserted sidewalks. Occasionally, dimly lit figures would appear in doorways or silhouetted in windows, but brief, elusive as hallucinations. I saw the red cherry of a cigarette swing in a slow arc deep in the darkness of a decaying porch, and I hailed the smoker "good evening", but the red spark tumbled to the floor and disappeared. I heard the squeak and smack of a screendoor as the invisible figure entered its dwelling. I heard laughter from ahead, then saw two figures walking, their heads bent together in a shared joke, then staggering apart as they laughed. They appoached unwarily, then straightened as they took in my approach. Silent now, they crossed the street, disappearing into the shadow of trees and overgrown shrubs. I steered toward a distant light, a street light, and as I approached I heard the faint and blurred echoing of an amplified voice. The street became illuminated by the cold, blue artificial light, the voice almost decipherable.

And he shall come, the Traveller, who knows not what he is seeking, or if he even stumble across it, that the thing he seeks is there before his eyes. For he is lost on the shore of the night

And now, the street opened into a kind of courtyard, and I saw the source of the voice... three figures stood in the center of this white-shining illuminated concrete space. They stood peering in my direction, as if indeed I were that traveller described. I stood, hesitating, and one of the figures who held a megaphone continued

Why fear you the word of the Lord? Why dwell you in the darkness when you stand on the edge of the light

I approached the trio. The Preacher was a middle-aged black woman, dressed incongruously in a pink halter top and jogging pants. To her left was a shabby character holding a paper-bagged wine bottle, and shifting his weight uncertainly from foot to foot. The third character I at first took to be a child, but on closer inspection discovered to be a legless man, his bottom half strapped to a kind of sled on wheels. The preacher lowered her megaphone and looked at me sternly. "You seeking salvation?"

"No," I answered. "I'm looking for the Mousetrap Bar."

"The Rat Trap you mean. The soul trap." I steeled myself for a sermon, but she surprised me, saying "you just go up two streets, then left a block and a half." I gave a hasty thanks, and moved to the edge of lit square. As I adjusted my eyes to the darkness again, the voice continued its narrative

And he will seek and seek the key to the lock, turning over rocks and poking in the garbage for it, and he would kill and die for it, and it is in his pocket all the time

By the time I turned the corner, the voice had again subsided to an echoing babble, like an incoherent sound-track to a movie called Algiers.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 30 Mar 02 - 05:28 PM

I hadn't been in the Mousetrap since the late 70s, but the bar girls till wore the same fishnet hose, one-piece black cocktail swimsuits, and velvet mouse ears. Hell, they looked like the same waitresses for that matter. The original idea had been to design a bar based on the Playboy Clubs, but the ladies would be mice instead of bunnies. The clientele also tended to be less sophisticated than one might expect, consisting mainly of bikers and workers from the Algiers meatpacking plant. A line of video game machines lined the wall where the bandstand used to be, and all the sound came from a jukebox in the corner. But I wasn't really interested in all that. I was on a mission.

The dreadlocked black kid tending bar was busy chatting up a breasty blond waitress, and walked over at last with a questioning look. "Four Roses neat," I said. "Man," he said, "we don't sell Four Roses." I grinned back at him and said "yeah, I could see the place has gone downhill. Give me a vodka tonic." He brought the drink and I asked "Wade here?" He looked at me blankly for a moment, then called "Wade! Somebody to see you!" and he went back to the blonde.

The heavyset man emerged from the passage behind the bar. It had been a long time, but it was Wade Palmer alright. The red hair, once shoulder length, had vanished from the top of his freckled head, and the tattered remnant had been tied behind his neck in a scraggly pony tale. His face was jowelly and bearded now, but the eyes still glinted in the way Wade always had, like a street dog looking for a fight. He looked around, his eyes moving past me, unrecognizing, then returning. I sipped my vodka tonic as he said "what can I do for you?"

"Hungry," I said. "They told me you got the best oyster po'boy in town." He frowned, then said "Tony, tell Francine to drop an oyster po'boy." He lit a Lucky Strike, flipping the match into the trash. I had reached into my pocket and found the object from the alley, and I was toying with it. It was like a flat, thin, concave coin. I glanced down at it quickly, just long enough to read the word Special!, and I put it back in my pocket. A slow look of enlightenment crept across Palmer's face, and he said "been a coon's age, Madison."

I bummed a short off him and he sat down. "Thought you were on the West Coast," he said. "Yeah, mostly," I answered. "See Phil much anymore, Wade?" I thought he flinched a little before he said "not much. He don't come to Algiers much any more." Then he said "you guys were friends, yeah?"

The black kid appeared with the po'boy and slid it onto the bar in front of me. I picked it up in both hands, the aroma of fried seafood and spice curling all around my face. "Wait," said Wade, "Man, you can tell you don't live in New Orleans. You got to have this." And he set a large bottle of red liquid on the bar. "Most popular condiment in every bar and restaurant in Louisiana. It'll be on grocery shelves by Fall." I opened the cap and inhaled a delicious peppery odor. I looked at the label. Martell's Sauce it said. But what really caught my eye was the little silver medallion that hung from a fine chain around the bottle neck.

Special!, it read.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Amos
Date: 30 Mar 02 - 09:07 PM

[...Ladies and gentleman, tighten your britches, and grab onto someone's ears just like you knew what theywere doing. The Master has entered the building and the blessing of honor is upon us this night....]


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 31 Mar 02 - 02:22 AM

(Just give me two or three more years and I'll wrap this story up):>}


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 06 Jul 02 - 01:28 PM

"What do ya think?" Wade leaned on the bar, blowing smoke from the Pall Mall in my face as I savored the taste of the sandwich. I stopped chewing and grinned back. "Where does this stuff come from? I think I need a bottle of this." Wade smiled and said "that's the best part. It's my recipe." His eyes were gleaming like a the eyes of a rat caught in a flashlight. "Says 'Martell's'?" I responded. "Sounds more French than Palmer's. Besides, he's the money man. We're setting up a warehouse to produce this stuff by the barrel. I can't make nearly enough back in the kitchen to meet the demand. Like I said, we're going national with the sauce. We've already signed with Safeway and Kroger..." He seemed to sense he was spilling too much information, and clamped his mouth shut in mid-sentence. But he was doing what he most enjoyed...bragging. And Wade was having difficulty stifling his enthusiasm.

I polished off the vodka tonic, and the haze of wormwood was gradually burning away. I was seeing the writing on the wall, and it was in Phil LaTourneau's hand. W P Algiers. Wade Palmer. The fancy medallion from the Special Sauce. "So...can you spare a bottle of sauce for an old pal, Wade?" Palmer glanced up from whatever twisted little reverie he had been entertaining, and saw me as if for the first time. "You mean free?" he said. Still the Cheap bastard, I was thinking. "Yeah, I guess so." He put down the bar towell and walked back toward the kitchen. I eased off the barstool and followed him. Just inside the doorway, a big butcher knife lay on a cutting board. I picked it up as Wade opened a case marked Martell's. He didn't hear me come up behind him.


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Amos
Date: 06 Jul 02 - 01:37 PM

(LeJ, yer clearly not a tobacco guy!! Luckies never transmogrify into Pall Malls in ninety days. It takes at least a year! :>) Beautiful stuff, man!)

A


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 23 Jul 02 - 01:41 PM

"You don't want to do this, Blake," Palmer said through clenched teeth. His pony tail made a convenient handle for my left hand, while my right held the knife at his throat. "That's where you're wrong, Wade," I said. "Nothing would please me more. I lost an old friend tonight, and I think you pulled the trigger." A gulp rode under the knife blade and Palmer lied "I don't know what you mean..." I pressed the blade harder and said "if you don't tell the truth from here on out, I will kill you."

"OK...it was Martell," he said, "Martell had a trigger man do it. I don't know who he used." I yanked his hair back and said "yes you do." I turned his head slightly so I could see his eyes. Tears were running down his cheeks as he said "maybe it was Lenny Berrigan. Martell hired him...once before."

"You bastard!" I said. "Who was it before? Tell it all!"

"If I tell you I'm a dead man," he sniveled. "You're a dead man now if you don't," I said.

"It was Bobby Washington. Martell had him hit. I didn't want any part of it, though. You know Three Hands was my friend, Blake!" I felt the blood rush to my head, my breath coming in short gasps. For a second I was tempted to kill Palmer on the spot. Instead, I said "tell me why."

"LaTourneau? I think it was because he was getting too close."

"And Washington?"

Palmer took a deep breath. "The sauce, man. It's a gold mine. And it was Bobby Washington's recipe."


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Amos
Date: 23 Jul 02 - 03:19 PM

ROTFLMAO, LEJ!! "The sauce man...."!! LOL!!

You're BOOODIFUL, baby!


A


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Alice
Date: 09 Sep 07 - 03:44 PM


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Subject: RE: The Return of Blake Madison
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 07 Oct 08 - 01:01 AM

Refresh, so Bobert has a clue.


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