Reader Response II, Detective Fiction, Fall of 2004.
[Coben's basketball thriller, Fade Away; our class assignment was to write an add-on to the ending, having first repeated the last three lines of the book itself, good exercise in creative writing! One, further that anyone can do no matter who she (or he) is, UTEP English & American Lit major, or not. Ernesto was a not. Ernesto waxed yours truly on the final exam, like by some 10 or 12 points. Ernesto was damn good!]"Are you Burt Wesson?"The big man nodded. "Can I help you with something?"Win smiled. "Yes," he said. "I think you can." (Coben -- 346)
"Win!" A piercing feminine shriek coming at the same instant as the sound of squealing tires momentarily froze the scene. Ms. Shari Weinberg, a.k.a. Mrs. Saddam Hussein, (34) tumbled out of a white subcompact and rushed towards him.
For months she had wondered when she might see Win again. She had longed to thank him for the fabulous contract he had won her with the number one studio of Hollywood Moguls Inc. for her English language adaptation of the campy French comedy, Papy Fait de la Résistance.
Win had figured, correctly, that Myron was still involved emotionally with other matters, and so had handled the details himself, making sure Esperanza took charge of the paper work. This guaranteed that everything was kosher, for all Win had scored off Shari's designated agent Martin Felder in the process. But that hadn't bothered Win.
Now here he was! And in Shari's own hometown of Tucson, no less.
The split second's interruption was enough to foil Win's grab at Burt Wesson's gaudy Hawaiian luau shirt. Burt slammed the door in his face and darted toward the back of his house in a blind panic. He shoud surprising speed for such a big man.
For all the memory came from far out of his past, this shrill cry of "Win!" was enough to make Burt Wesson shudder. And for his adrenalin and instinct for self-preservation to kick in on overdrive.
And it was due to that headlong flight in blind fear that Burt Wesson forgot a basic physical reality. One that related directly to his new neighbors on the other side of the ramshackle wooden privacy fence, seven feet tall, that separated the two back yards in this otherwise quiet neighborhood of low-cost bungalows and sour orange trees.
Burt had knocked the fence together after a drunken row with the previous owner, winding up giving his neighbor the smooth side of the fence and himself the other. This meant that whatever nails Burt had managed to drive in straight all faced towards his own place. In the passage of years many had become quite loose.
As luck would have it, new renters ha drecently moved in. For one Ronnie Dimwitz, a.k.a. Camouflage Pants, (202) had annoyed Mr. B. Man once too often, and so B. Man had dispensed with his services and at the same time recommended that Pants move away, like far, far, away.
Pants had thought it owuld be cool to move to Phoenix and move up in society by taking the high road as a "crystal meth cook." Hi sfirst cousin Lonnie Dimwitz had often invited him to come out West and try his hand at "being somebody." It had been some itme, however, since they had last been in contact.
But alas! When Ronnie-the-Pants stepped off the airliner, Cousin Lonnie ha dmet him at the airport curbside pickup zone wearing a tight-lipped expression on his thin and morose face. Without further ado he had driven them both straight to Tucson, meanwhile giving Pants lurid accounts of how things had undergone a violent change.
For one Sam the Man Graviano had begun parlaying his exalted status as a star member of the US Marshal Service's Protected Witness Program in Phoenix into a multimillion dollar crystal meth empire. According to history buff Cousin Lonnie, Sam the Man's business methods were right out of the classical eras of Sicilian mob history in the Rocky Mountian and Southwest regions of America. Those bad old days when bosses like Santos Trafficante and Don Pasquale Calabreze called the shots from Denver to Mexico.
Pants listened, yawned, and concurred. Nowadays, Phoenix would have a hostile business climate for ambitious do it yourselfers.
Hence, Tucson was the place for enteprising freelance "meth cooks" to set up shop. But, first tings first. The cousins needed to invest in the biggest, meanest, ugliest, cross-bred Doberman-Pit Bull combination money could buy. Better yet, why not one with that all-important Tibetan Mastiff Y Chromosome? Now, that would guarantee a body weight of at least one hundred and eighty-five lean pounds of bone and muscle and bone-crunching jaw strength equal to thrity-five hundred pounds to the square inch.
With the aid of a couple of joints now and again, the cousins became truly expansive as they pondered their prospective guardian angel. They decided that they would feed the lucky animal all the raw meat scraps it could hold, but only once every other day. They got the animal and named him "Backyard Monster."
Reason number one for this investment was simple. Sam the Man and his minions might not be content to stay in Phoenix. And reason number two was that some nosy neighbor might take to looking over the fence into their back yard, uninvited, like that big beer drinking loud-mouthed clown living behind them. As it was, it didn't take long for Backyard Monster to take exception to being constantly teased by one Burt Wesson, whether the man was drunk or sober.
Burt liked nothing better than to quietly creep up to a knot hole in the fence, scrabble lightly on the boards to catch the dog's attention, and then jab a stick into his muzzle. Backyard Monster soon caught on and learned to approach just so far and then to bark as he jumped straight up and down, drooling furiously.
Now, reason number three for having Backyard Monster never so mnuch as entered the cousins most stoned imaginations. Namely, that that same beer drinking and loud mouthed neighbor might one day actually lose all connection to reality and try a full scale hom einvasion smashing right through the fence itself. And then, in a fit of bellowing fear and rage, make a clumsy attempt to smack their Backyard Monster right in his hungry mouth, using his own bare and bloody right knee.
Here he came! Burt crashed through the flimsy boards like a three hundred pound human cannon ball, injuring his knee on a jagged nail in the process. He knew that Win was in hot pursuit, running parallel to him along a narrow utility easement, closely followed by Shari.
Perhaps in hi spanic Burt may have tought that he couud gain access to his neighbors' house and beg their help. Perhaps he figured anything was better than falling alive into Win's hands. If the latter was the case, then Burt figured wrong. Tragically, conclusively and terminally wrong.
Making things still worse, however, was the lamentable fact that the famished and neglected animal had actually passed two whole days without so much as a scrap of fresh meat, due to his masters' recent preoccupation with sampling the results of their culinary skills a little too freely.
Thus, due to youthful forgetfulness, they had left their Backyard Monster slavering with hunger indeed!
And so it was that less then ten seconds from Shari Weinberg's shriek of "Win!" the entire neighborhood was shaken by a loud crash, one that sounded like a dump truck suddenly upending a load of kindling wood onto a concrete floor, followed almost immediately by a screaming roar of pain and terminal agony. A sheer blast of sound reminiscent of nothing so much as some prehistoric battle at the beginning of time, between Primordial Man and Primeval Beast, with the Beast triumphant over the Man once again.
Win and Shari stopped abruptly, less than a yard from the wooden fence runing laong the edge of the utility easement that gave them a degree of protection from the sudden death and mayhem in the yard on the other side.
At that precise moment what looked like a shapeless, bloody blob suddenly sailed up into view and fell to the ground right at their feet. The remains of Burt Wesson's neatly severed right kneecap seemed to be telling them something.
Shari could do no more then gasp and lean against Win for support, but Win was still Win. Yet, albeit with a nonchalance that would have done credit to michael Caine in i srole of the suave London hood in "Get Carter," even Win felt obliged to raise a questioning eyebrow of well-bred distaste.
For the message in the evidence before them was plain.
Burt Wesson's foul deed in crippling Myron Bolitar had come full circle.
And the hungry perpetrator would never be prosecuted.
Or at least, not as a human.
Both Shari and Win could still hear Backyard Monster grunting and making a sort of chuckling sound as the victor of this latest primordial encounter happily gnawed away at the sudden largess of fresh, raw meat. Human meat.
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Un saludo cordial: to all you "UTEP English Department Palace Guard" who were there, and who, along with those two professors, whose names, for their continued physical well-being we likewise tactfully omit; thanks to all of you for making this class "The UTEP Class of Fall 2004 that Really Rocked!" Dennis