Authors: Kinky Friedman
DON’T MISS KINKY FRIEDMAN’S PREVIOUS MYSTERY STARRING KINKY FRIEDMAN
“Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola
is this generation’s
Catcher in the Rye.
And it doesn’t make you want to shoot a Beatle.” —Don Imus
ALSO AVAILABLE FROM BANTAM BOOKS
PRAISE FOR KINKY FRIEDMAN
“Spreads more joy than Ross Perot’s ears.”
“For a guy who isn’t me, the Kinkster can really write.”
—ROBERT B. PARKER
“Kinky Friedman is one of Texas’s great natural resources.”
—FORMER GOVERNOR ANN W. RICHARDS
“Kinky Friedman is the best whodunit writer to come along since Dashiell What’s-his-name.”
“Kinky, Mozart, Shakespeare—with what could I equal them?”
“You don’t like the Kinkster? Next time you see your therapist, get your money back.”
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola
When the Cat’s Away
A Case of Lone Star
Greenwich Killing Time
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This edition contains the complete text of the original hardcover edition.
NOT ONE WORD HAS BEEN OMITTED.
ARMADILLOS & OLD LACE
A Bantam Book / published by arrangement with Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster edition published 1994
Bantam edition / September 1995
All rights reserved.
opyright © 1994 by Kinky Friedman.
Cover an copyright © 1995 by Tom Hallman.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 94-9811.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
For information address: Simon & Schuster,
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada
Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
This book is dedicated with lots of love to
There were ten pretty girls
in the village school
There were ten pretty girls
in the village school
Some were short, some were tall
And the boy loved them all
But you can’t marry ten pretty girls.
—TRADITIONAL TEXAS FOLK DANCE
It was my last night in New York before saddling up the cat, grabbing my old guitar, and heading back to the family ranch in Texas for the summer. Every spring, just about the time I heard my suitcase snap, I vowed never to return to the city. Every fall, I seemed to find myself, almost inexplicably, back in the Big Apple. Sooner or later I was going to have to decide whether Texas or New York was truly my home. Then, in that quiet moment of reflection, I’d hopefully find the answer to the grand and troubling question that has haunted mankind through the ages:
What is it that I really want out of life—horsemanure or pigeon shit?
Some of the boys had planned a little send-off at one of my favorite places, Big Wong’s on Mott Street in Chinatown. We were sitting at a large round table close enough to the kitchen to hear the cook whistling something from the Hong Kong Hit Parade. McGovern, large Irish society columnist for the
and master of the magical background check, had brought about fourteen cases of beer over in paper bags from the little grocery store across the street. Ratso, my flamboyant, flea-market friend, editor of
, and somewhat weatherbeaten Dr. Watson, had been quite disheartened when the waiter had told him: “No more roast pork.”
“No more roast pork,” Ratso was muttering to himself. The place closed at ten o’clock and we were pushing that now.
“It’s hard to keep continental dining hours at Big Wong’s,” said McGovern. “You get here after eight o’clock, you’re pretty well hosed.”
Rambam, a private investigator who’d worked with me on some of my cases and was wanted in every state that began with an “I,” stared stonily at the far wall and drank his beer. The few other guests had already left us with their botdes and the bill. At the next table, the waiters and busboys, dressed entirely in white, were silently shoveling down whatever’d been left over in the kitchen. Their outfits lent a nice institutional touch to the evening. It was a quiet affair.
I could use a little quiet, I reflected. I’d become somewhat ambivalent about performing country music gigs lately and I’d come to realize that anyone who uses the word “ambivalent” probably shouldn’t have been a country singer in the first place. Going on the road as a musician was always a killer, but these days, for me, even staying home could be murder.
Over the past few years I’d tried my fine Hebrew hand as an amateur detective in the city, resulting in both the criminals and the policemen not being my friends. I was an equal opportunity offender.
Worse, the crime-solving lifestyle had brought into my life a myriad of death, destruction, heartbreak, scandal, and a remorseless, lingering, spirit-sucking ennui, though several of the cases were not without charm. In my most recent adventure, which McGovern had dubbed
The Case of Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola
, I’d endeavored to locate a missing film about Elvis impersonators directed by my friend Tom Baker, who’d recently gone to Jesus himself. Because of that case I’d lost one or two girlfriends, depending on how you looked at it.
I glanced at my partners in crime seated around the table and wondered if they realized how much
Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola
had taken out of me. When I left New York this time, I figured, I might really never return. At least not until Jesus got his own postage stamp.
“You’ve never held a real job as long as I’ve known you,” Rambam was saying. “What makes you think you need a vacation?”
“It’s not a vacation,” I said, quoting my sister Marcie. “It’s a lifestyle.”
“The Kinkstah works,” said Ratso, rising above the roast pork situation to come to my defense. “He’s just finished a very grueling tour. Hey, I wonder if they have any pork gruel?”
“Believe me,” I said, “opening for Henny Young-man at a sports bar in New Jersey on Mother’s Day is hard work. I got so hammered after the show from being subjected to seven hundred video screens that I walked on my knuckles into a wall and smashed my guitar.”
“What a shame,” said Rambam. “It’s an omen. God wants you to go out and get a real job.”
“So you can be like the rest of us miserable bastards,” said McGovern. He laughed a loud, hearty, Irish laugh that seemed to echo in the little room. Several of our neighboring diners looked over briefly from their fish head soup.
“Why is it,” said Ratso, “that the kitchen help always gets better food than we do?”
“Racism,” said McGovern.
As Ratso began his uncanny shell game of putting money into and taking it out of a pot to pay the check, I sat back and looked around the table. McGovern, Ratso, and Rambam, while very different in style and substance, were all New York down to the core of the Big Apple. There weren’t many like them in the Texas Hill Country. We liked to keep it that way.
“Are you taking the cat?” McGovern asked. Ratso palmed a twenty from the middle of the table and replaced it with a five.
“Of course,” I said. “Last year I left the cat with Winnie and by the time I came back she’d turned her into a strident feminist.” Winnie Katz ran a lesbian dance class in the loft above mine.
“It’s not the first pussy Winnie’s gotten her hands on,” said Rambam.
The cat would like Texas, I figured. She’d live on a beautiful ranch in a little green valley surrounded by hills. There’d be oak and cottonwood and cedar trees, streams flowing by, and lizards to chase on every rock. There’d be the spiritual elbow room available that you’d never find in the city. The freedom just to be a cat. She’d like it, all right. Of course, the cat would like an exhibit of twelfth-century Portuguese architecture if you put a can of tuna in front of it.