Authors: Tony Dunbar
Tags: #Mystery: Thriller - Lawyer - Hardboiled - Humor - New Orleans
|Tony Dunbar - Tubby Dubonnet 06 - Lucky Man|
|Tubby Dubonnet |
|Tags:||Mystery: Thriller - Lawyer - Hardboiled - Humor - New Orleans|
Mystery: Thriller - Lawyer - Hardboiled - Humor - New Orleansttt
Praise for LUCKY MAN, SIXTH book in the TUBBY DUBONNET SERIES by author Tony Dunbar.
“Dunbar catches the rich, dark spirit of New Orleans better than anyone.”
“A remarkable feel for local color is the great strength of Tony Dunbar … and Dubonnet [is] a lovable wisecracking eccentric who has an uncanny ability to track down other eccentrics living on the wrong side of the law.”
“A treat … wry humor, stylish writing, and authentic New Orleans flavor.”
-NEW ORLEANS TIMES PICAYUNE
A TUBBY DUBONNET MYSTERY
New Orleans, La.
Copyright © 1999 by Tony Dunbar
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Cover by Roy Migabon
eBook ISBN: 9781625173058
Originally published by Dell.
First booksBnimble electronic publication: November 2013
Digital Editions (epub and mobi formats) produced by
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. There is no Tubby Dubonnet and the real New Orleans is different from his make-believe city.
“I don’t know why you have to be difficult,” Raisin Partlow told his date. “You said you wanted to go on the town.”
“This is not ‘town.’ This is crackville!” Her arms were crossed and she wouldn’t get out of the car.
“This is the Irish Channel, honey. Forget about crackville. You’re safe as can be,” he coaxed.
She wasn’t having it. “There’s a sign right there on that house that says SLUM PROPERTY. Does that tell you anything?”
“That’s some stupid thing the city bureaucrats put up. I’ve been coming to this bar all my life. Trust me. You’ll like it.”
The din inside was deafening. Men and women shouted and shoved, waving fistfuls of money in the air to get their bets down. Raisin pushed forward through the smoky haze until he reached the center of the action, dragging his reluctant companion behind him. A space had been cleared on the floor, brightly illuminated by a fluorescent light. You could barely hear the chicken clucking.
“Black Ten, Black Ten,” he cried, trying to keep a grip on his girlfriend.
One hundred numbered squares were painted on the tavern’s cement floor. Resting over them was a big wire cage, like a giant crab trap, inside of which a flustered chicken hopped about and scratched.
“This way, little darlin’!”
“Don’t be shy!”
“Now, Now, Now!”
They pleaded with the bird and whooped and hollered. Somebody slammed into Raisin’s back and gave him a drunken hug when he protested. A barmaid dispensing potions from her tray poked him in the side, elbowing her way through the excited throng. His date got lost for a moment. Raisin looked down and found her on the floor, trying to grab his leg, sputtering at him.
Laughing, Raisin pulled her up and tried to ignore her fist pounding on his chest.
Finally the fowl’s gullet quivered. Her feathers shook politely, and she carefully shat.
“Red number eighty-two!” the master of the game proclaimed, unleashing a chorus of groans and threats upon the bird’s life, but the proof was unmistakably there.
The proprietor’s burly arm reached in and retrieved the bird, which he cradled protectively against his chest.
“Settle up at the bar,” he called out to quiet the crowd. “Next drop in one hour.”
At his signal a nephew tugged a rope and lifted the cage up to the ceiling. The chicken was carried to the back room, where her reward of fresh pellets and bread pudding awaited.
Patrons walked over the game board to verify the result until the evidence was ground away by countless feet.
“That’s certainly a rare form of entertainment,” Raisin exulted. “You won’t see that every day.”
“You are too crude for words,” his date said. “Take me home, and I mean it.”
Outside, a dog barked on the quiet street and chemical tank cars on the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad clanked together and slowly started to roll.
Raisin crushed his cigarette on the broken pavement and held the car door open for the woman.
“I guess that was your first chicken drop,” he said, trying to get a conversation going.
She slammed the door.
She’s a moody one, Raisin thought.
“It’s always like this when we work together,” Johnny Vodka complained. “Your car breaks down and we’re on the bus.”
“Not every time. Last time we rode in a cab.”
“We drove a cab. That was our cover. And you ran over a lady’s Chihuahua.”
“So? The department paid for it.”
“You’re always focusing on money. I’m talking loss of life.”
“A Chihuahua is life?”
They were still debating this issue when the bus let them off at the end of the line. Aging brick apartment buildings arranged like orange boxes squatted on hard-packed earth, beaten flat by generations of little children and police car tires.
Johnny Vodka and his partner Frank Daneel walked across the first yard they came to, pool sticks in hand and duffel bags in the other. A couple of sharks coming for a private weekend in the super’s secret vice den — that was the charade. They dumped it all in a heap in front of a featureless concrete facade while Daneel went to a door marked 3-G and knocked.
Johnny “V” stepped around the corner to light a cigarette out of the wind and to gaze upon the barren landscape, dotted with pockets of people, a group of children playing with a soccer ball, fat ladies clustered in a circle on folding chairs.
They were supposedly working undercover, but he could see that they stuck out like sore thumbs.
He looked over his shoulder and watched a scrawny female going through his luggage. It took him a moment to realize that she was brazenly stealing from him.
“Hey!” he yelled and tried to grab her.
Quick as a lizard she snagged a pool cue and darted away toward a playground where guys hustled chess and old men played bourré.
Instinctively, Johnny picked up the remaining stick and ran after her. His long strides gave him a chance, and he cornered her behind an overgrown bush.
The panting woman feinted one way and then the other, trying to get him off balance so she could run past him. She was twenty, maybe, pretty, and had wild black hair and a dress flecked with sweat.
Then they both jumped the same way. The policeman almost got a hand on her and then almost lost it when she swung her stick wickedly at his wrist.
Johnny raised his own cue in self-defense, and hers cracked down with a loud pop. To his amazement, she threw away her broken stick and had the gall to spit at him. Then she shot him a bird and tried to sprint away again.
Angry and flushed, Johnny whipped the pole across her butt and knocked her flat on the ground. When he reached for her ankle, she scrambled away like a crab and, holding her thigh in pain, she hissed at him.
“Get lost,” Vodka cursed, giving it up.
While he dusted off his pants, she danced away down the sidewalk, gleeful in escape, until she almost collided with the glassy-eyed tall man. He beckoned her forward and grinned.
The girl froze, while Johnny watched out of curiosity. She backed up. The tall man took a step toward her, and that was all.
Like a dove flushed from cover, the woman raced back toward the policeman, arms waving madly in the air.
She jumped on him and gave him a hug so tight he could feel her breasts through his shirt and smell the French fries in her hair.
“Help me, please,” she begged.
Johnny Vodka looked over her head, but the tall man was gone. He wished he had paid more attention to what the guy looked like.
It was a blazing hot autumn day, and the natives stayed indoors. So vivid was the lush greenery, the purple of the crape myrtle, the turquoise and orange pastels of the tilted cypress houses, the cloudless blue sky— that even through a protective shield of glass, Tubby Dubonnet was almost blinded. He was having a cup of strong coffee with his daughter at a shop on St. Charles Avenue. Squinting, he stared past her bare shoulder at the cars passing on the street, thinking how bright this city was, how hot it was
while she conversed about her life.
“I don’t know. He’s just not the kind of guy you’d want to marry, if you know what I mean. He’s real smart though, straight B’s, stuff like that, and lots of fun. He used to date Estelle…” Christine paused to bite into an enormous cinnamon bun. At eighteen, barely, she had most of life figured out. “I think he just needs to mature,” she continued, “and maybe he ought to move away from here for a while and see what the rest of the world is like…”
Her father appreciated the intimacy, but he had lost track of who this story was about. Since he had quit drinking he had focused most of his erratic mental energy on work. Other things seemed a distraction because they reminded him of booze. And it was so blessed hot his concentration was shot. Whatever beauty existed in this sleepy metropolis by the river surely vaporized at this temperature. It was almost Thanksgiving, for God’s sake. Give us a break.
He watched a cab driver stopped in traffic toss a crumpled-up Popeye’s bag and an empty plastic soda bottle out of the window, just like that. A passing streetcar blew the bag across the pavement and into the gutter. The plastic bottle bounced along the street until another car flattened it. As the lawyer glared at his colorful, lazy city, all he could see was the trash.
“So, what do you think, Dad?” Christine checked her fingernails, knocked back some decaf iced coffee, and looked over the rim of her glass at him expectantly.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. You want to know whether to date this guy?”
She looked at him in dismay.
“You know, I think maybe I’m getting too old for this place,” he said, cutting off her protest.
She frowned. “You don’t like the music they play, the coffee, what?”
“No, I mean New Orleans, the whole town.”
“Lots of other old people live here, Daddy,” she said, meaning him, he supposed, though in truth Tubby was only forty-something.
He watched a bum, an old one, shuffle along the neutral ground looking for aluminum cans.
“Besides, the whole family lives in New Orleans. Where else could you go?”
He shrugged. His family was an ex-wife and three daughters getting on with their lives. “No place, I guess. Just a thought. Could be I’m just tired of working.” Actually, he was just tired of not drinking. “Skip it. Tell me what’s going on with you.”
“Well, like I was saying” — she glanced at him with some exasperation — “it’s a choice between staying out of school next year and trying to start a literary magazine or maybe transferring to the University of Albuquerque with…” He was gone again.
Across the street a police car double-parked so that the officer could drop his laundry off at the Nouveau Cleaners. Traffic snarled down the block. At the corner they were putting up a banner for Rite Aid to cover up what had once been a handsome purple advertisement for K & B Drugs. The old drugstore’s beloved brilliant grape was being forever erased, except at Mardi Gras, from the New Orleans landscape. All of these events seemed to portend a greater collapse.
In his mind he was crossing a bridge and leaving New Orleans behind.
In a moment of weakness Tubby Dubonnet, basically a cautious person by virtue of his profession as a lawyer, had let Raisin Partlow move in. They were old pals, and Raisin’s girlfriend had just kicked him out. It was supposed to be for a few days only, but time was grinding on.