Book Excerpt #2 – The Mad Ventures of Bindlestiff Cliff

Check out The Mad Ventures of Bindlestiff Cliff on Amazon. Paperback now available! Enjoy, like, share, and tweet!

“What do you fellas like to do?” Cliff asked, as if grasping for straws, which was precisely what he was doing.

Pedro answered first, and Peter listened before responding. It was obvious they had carved out a dynamic for their relationship, because they definitely had a routine. “Pedro says that there is a carnival in town. We could go check it out,” Peter said.

“What did you just say to me?” Cliff asked. He raised his voice sharply to the surprise of everyone in the car. “This cannot be happening,” Cliff said, as he closed his eyes and then rubbed his face hard enough to make his eye sockets go wonky and expose the weird red part under his eyelids.

“You don’t like carnivals I’m guessing,” John said. He painfully watched Cliff manhandle his face and wondered what the history behind his actions could be. Cliff was notorious for having history with many people, places, and events, but John did not yet know the extent of his mad methods.

“It’s no problem. We don’t have to go to the carnival,” Peter assured him.

“Oh, we are going!” Cliff adamantly proclaimed.

“That is interesting,” Peter commented.

“Why is that interesting?” Cliff asked.

“Pedro is the same way as you, I think. He hates carnivals but he loves going to them. Sometimes he stares at the same carnival worker for hours,” he said, as if he was spreading folklore. “It’s creepy,” he added.

“I realize we only just met, Peter, but what in the world is a carnival worker? You see, anyone you can call a worker is an actual human being,” he began to explain.  After an intentional pause to build up suspense, Cliff readied himself to finish explaining what he meant. “A carny is a person-like being that has been bastardized beyond their former self to the point that their own mother wouldn’t recognize them, thankfully. I have heard tale of mothers that weep for weeks after their child joins the carnival and, every once in a while, one of them will die from it. You can only hope the parents never find out about it at all,” he said, explaining his logical lunacy as best he could.

Pedro spoke to Peter. “They call them gypsies where Pedro is from,” he said and, as he said the word gypsies, Pedro spat towards the ground with a convincing scowl upon his face.

“I couldn’t agree more,” Cliff replied, specifically to the spitting. “Did you know that if a carny takes his shoes off,” he said but stopped to shudder at the thought, “and puts them into the soil, you can’t grow anything but cabbage in that soil for at least a decade?” he continued.

John decided he might as well play along, since Cliff noticed that he was amused. “Why only a decade? You said at least a decade,” he said.

Cliff was surprised by John’s participation. He also enjoyed that Peter was translating everything he said to Pedro. If the sedan and personal driver were not enough to make him feel important, his thoughts transformed into another language certainly did. “The length of time the soil suffers depends on several things: the soil quality, the climate, the amount of rainfall, and, most importantly, the blackness of the carny’s soul,” he explained, as Peter frantically translated his words. Once he had finished, he had the pleasure to translate Pedro’s rather heated response.

Cliff admired that Pedro seemed hate carnies with a similar passion. “What did he say, Peter?” he asked.

“The soul of a gypsy is as black as the devil’s dung,” he said irreverently.

John and Cliff both laughed, as did Pedro once he caught on. “That is funny stuff,” Cliff mentioned. “Remember, it is funny but also true,” he cautioned.

Pedro began speaking to Peter again and gestured for him to translate. Peter did not seem interested so they argued, once again, but Peter quickly caved in. “Pedro says that the urine of gypsies is a secret ingredient in napalm, and the government secretly houses them like cattle to milk it from them,” Pedro reluctantly translated.

“I think Pedro and I are going to be good friends,” Cliff replied.

The car ride was rather quiet and uneventful which, were not words usually used to describe anything having to do with Cliff. Nevertheless, it happened that way and, now, John pulled into the first available and acceptable parking spot near the carnival. This time, everyone got out on their own, and Cliff’s three companions stood aimlessly and waited for some direction.

The parking lot was brimming with moms, dads, grandparents, and, of course, children of all ages. The countless rows of cars in the lot seemed to be herding them towards the entrance. A limitless cacophony of talking and the crunch of gravely footsteps overlapped with the strong breeze and the faint mix of carnival music and screaming, no doubt from the more exciting rides. However, if Cliff had anything to say about the screams, he would likely have an altogether different theory.

Cliff was the last to get out of the car and did so with the most enthusiasm, even though his style of excitement for the carnival was in stark contrast to what a normal person’s would be. “Okay guys, we are going to need a good plan, and I think I have just the thing,” he said confidently, yet cryptically.

“Let’s hear it,” John said. He was really getting into the spirit, though perhaps misguided, of Cliff’s grand strategy. Not only that, they all four instinctually formed a huddle as soon as John spoke up about the anticipated plan.

“For now, we should do some recon,” he said and popped his head up to look around. He was under some assumption that someone might hear him or, less likely, someone might actually care what he was saying. “John, I’m thinking that you know what you are doing. I’m making this plan, so I think I am covered. Peter, you and Pedro team up and look for anything unusual,” he continued. He was taking this matter more seriously than the numerous times he had gone to jail in the past.

“What are we looking for,” Peter asked.

“That’s a fair question. I want you to watch people play the games. Look for games that are especially suspicious and that nobody seems to win. We are going to crack down on them, so don’t bother with the rides or the food,” Cliff explained but Peter was still unsure of his role.

“So what do we do if we see this happen?” Peter followed up.

“Oh, you will see it. Believe me. Don’t take action without finding me first. I will come up with something once we know more,” he explained further.

“Know your enemy,” John added.

“Exactly, is everyone clear?” Cliff asked, although he was still himself unclear since he was making all this up as he went. He took their silence as agreement as they went their separate ways. John in particular vanished quickly while Peter and Pedro blended in well enough.

Cliff walked slightly slower than he usually did. In fact, it took more effort to intentionally walk slowly than to walk at his natural pace. Perhaps he was stalling but, whatever the case, he ceased to walk slowly for fear that he was actually drawing some attention.

After sometime walking normally, Cliff came upon two carnies sitting on the back of a trailer, behind one of the larger rides, on the outskirts of the main area. He felt he may be able to gather some useful information if he simply listened from the safety of cover. He assessed the area as he walked closer to them, making sure he was not downwind from them if possible. Eventually, he noticed an empty food cart behind the trailer that should hide him while maintaining an adequate range for eavesdropping. As soon as he got into position, he thought he might have heard a third voice, one that he recognized. He peaked around the corner to find John standing right in front of the two carnies having a seemingly normal conversation. John instantly spotted Cliff, he is a professional after all, and, as soon as he saw an opportunity, he gave him a signal to stay put. Luckily, Cliff understood the signal and complied.

Suddenly, Pedro came around the corner opposite Cliff and began yelling at the two carnies. John deftly bumped into one of them, distracted by Pedro. Pedro abruptly stopped yelling and walked behind John. As he did, it appeared that John gave him something. As Pedro stormed away from the men, he made a beeline for Cliff as if he knew he was there all along. Pedro proudly presented Cliff with a set of keys and then winked at him before going his own way. Cliff was beside himself, because he had no earthly idea what to do with the keys since he decided, in that very moment, that it was not part of the plan.

As Cliff gathered himself, he noticed that Peter and Pedro were together again, and Pedro was waving him over. Curious, he began to walk over to them, but a hand firmly planted on his shoulder held him up, literally. As he spun around, he discovered, happily, that it was John.

“Take it easy, John. I expected more subtlety and finesse from you here. Remember, Peter and Pedro is the broadsword and you are the scalpel,” he said, his voice lowered ever so slightly.

“Relax, I didn’t make a scene. The trick in a public place like this is to hide in plain sight. There’s no sense in walking next to twenty people and being the only one skulking about,” he replied, making a good point. “Let me have those keys back,” he demanded.

“Fine, but why didn’t you just keep them in the first place?” Cliff asked, as he gladly handed him the keys. He was more than a little disturbed by the number and the potency of the carny diseases that likely enveloped the set of keys.

“I was afraid those men would be suspicious of me, and they were, and they might ask me to turn out my pockets, which they did,” he explained, as if it was obvious.

“Fine, I get it,” Cliff replied. He was annoyed, not necessarily by John, by the fact that he failed to see the merits of the plan before he heard the explanation.

“Thanks, I have to go,” John said hastily and began to rush off.

“Hold on,” Cliff said. John sprang back as if an unknown force shoved him.

“What is it?” John asked, finally conceding the whole sir business, and was possibly more into their insurgence than was Cliff.

“What are you going to do with those keys?” Cliff asked. The mystery was quickly stripping away what little patience he could muster.

John sensed his eagerness and, rather than put his mind at ease, he simply smiled and began to scamper off to whatever mischiefs he had in store. “Trust me,” he said, as he trailed off into the distance. He had convinced Cliff about hiding in the open, because not one other carnival goer even flinched when John hollered back at him.

Speaking of hiding in the open, Cliff noticed that Pedro’s waving had become overzealous to the point that people did take notice of him. With this in mind, and an unhealthy pretension that he matters to strangers, Cliff hurriedly made way to the conspicuous rendezvous.

“Hey fellas, what’s the emergency?” Cliff asked sarcastically. He had an unusually high percentage of sarcasm in his day-to-day dealings, and he meant to meet his daily quota just as he imagined Bob was, wherever he was.

“You said we should let you know if we saw something, so we signaled for you to come over here,” Peter explained. Sarcasm had no effect on him.

“I did say that, so let me hear it,” he replied.

“This game here seems to be unwinnable. People keep trying but nobody can do it. There was one very angry man that I thought was going to hit the worker, and there was a child that cried too,” Peter explained.

“Well, many of the games are going to be like that to an extent. Otherwise, they would not make any money at all, and they might as well leave,” he said. He thought about what to do next, since John seemed to be the only part of the plan that was bearing any fruit. At least he had a set of keys to show for his efforts. “I’m confused because we just got here, so why are you already focusing on this one game?” he asked.

Pedro spoke. “Pedro is right. When you smell a rat, you smell a rat,” Peter replied. Cliff was getting a sense that he may never know who is actually sharing thoughts when it came to Peter and Pedro. It also occurred to him that it might not even matter.

“What do you mean by that, and can he understand what I am saying?” Cliff asked. He was naturally suspicious, as always, and noticed that Peter did not translate any part of his last statement.

“We know this game stinks,” Peter answered, ignoring Cliff’s inquiry about Pedro. “We didn’t just watch. John took Pedro for something and, while they were doing that, I asked some people which game was the hardest. Most people said it was this one.” Peter explained their conclusion rather well, and Cliff seemed convinced of their theory.

“What do you want to do about it?” Cliff asked.

Pedro and Peter conferred briefly. “I will play the game and try to win the panda with the pink fur,” Peter said and felt the need to point to the panda as if it was not as big as a chubby toddler was. Pedro shook his head adamantly, so there was little doubt that he agreed with Peter’s plan, which gave Cliff some insight into their combined thought process.

“It doesn’t matter which one you win, just try to win something,” Cliff said, unaware at the offense he just caused.

It came as little surprise that Pedro began yelling again and mainly focused it on Peter, which seemed to be typical. “No, it has to be that panda,” Peter said, relaying the message.

“Okay, he did it again. I know he can understand me at least a little,” Cliff accused.

Peter, maybe out of habit, glanced at Pedro before speaking and then chastised himself for doing so. “Okay, so he can understand some things but he still can’t speak to you. We never said he could,” Peter explained.

“Forget it,” Cliff said and he sighed out of frustration. “Let’s move ahead with your plan,” he continued and took in the deep breath of a yogi. “Now go win that panda!” he exclaimed. Despite his excitement, he was more interested in motivating Peter and earning a temporary reprieve from the excruciating process of talking to them. Unfortunately, he was yet to be free of them, for Peter crept in and squatted on his bubble of personal space.

“I hate to bring this up, Cliff, but we need a little something to get the plan rolling,” Peter said, making the clichéd three-fingered gesture to indicate money.

Cliff did not reply, because he found it much easier to cover their expenses. After all, he said he would pay them to hang out with him, and this was merely part of that promise. Peter readily accepted the cash. Then, he and Pedro walked merrily away, because they have never had a job that required them to attempt to win a stuffed animal.

Cliff stayed back for a while and observed his cohorts in action. Since neither of them appeared to be having much luck, he decided to take a closer look at the goings-on. To that end, he walked up to the tent and was amazed, not in a good way, at what he saw.

The tent was a sad yellowy color that screamed out as if to convince the world that it actually used to be white. Rusty metal spikes, not unlike railroad spikes, anchored it to the ground. Furthermore, the game itself was an organized chaos of little jugs with the goal being to toss a ring over the neck of the jug. Cliff did not know whether the jugs were formerly milk jugs, but the tent certainly reeked with a rotten milk smell. Of course, the smell certainly could have come from the game’s attendant, who was quite a remarkable sight.

The attendant was skinny with overly knobby knees and elbows, and his fingernails were nearly as thick as dominos and overrun with a sickly shade of brown. In addition, his hair was thin as if he had a terminal illness yet his mustache, body hair, and eyebrows were thick and vibrant. His eyebrows were not technically a unibrow but they had a sporadic organization forming an archipelago of hairs that became part of his eyebrows by default. It was as though his body used so much energy growing all the mustache, eyebrow, and body hair that there was nothing left when it came to growing the hair on his head. In addition, the excessive fueling of hair growth by his body almost certainly had weakened his immune system, because he coughed viciously every thirty seconds or so, like clockwork. When taking the tent and attendant as parts of a whole, the entire setup looked like an eccentric serial killer had retired and used the tools of his former trade to construct a carnival game.

When Cliff got close enough, the carny moved in for the kill, so to speak. As he approached him, Cliff could feel a sense of heat drifting towards him like a fog gently rolling along. Once he got closer, a breeze picked up and blasted Cliff with a fragrance so pungent he could feel it all the way down to the pit of his stomach. Until then, he never knew it was possible to feel a smell, but it covered him with a film similar to bug repellant spray, stickiness and all. It was as if the stank of two centuries worth of medieval warfare somehow blasted him directly in the face.

“Do you think you have what it takes to win the game? Give it a try,” the carny greasily greeted him. Now that Cliff heard and saw him speak, he could see that the state of his teeth had very much in common with his monstrous fingernails. He applied the same theory about his hair to his teeth. It was likely that his breath was slowly killing his teeth with each lethal exhale. Cliff assumed that the carny’s breath had to be registered as a deadly weapon in more than a few states, particularly on the east and west coasts.

Cliff had a witty remark stored in his memory bank for this very occasion but, when he tried to speak, he instead dry-heaved fiercely right in the carny’s face. Peter and Pedro stopped what they were doing, as did anyone else within earshot, and were dumbfounded, though empathetic, by his reaction to the carny.

“Are you okay?” the carny asked.

Cliff was taking some deep breaths to counteract his compulsion to heave but, with each breath, he took in more of the carny’s toxicity, thus a perfect storm was beginning to hatch. “I would love to try your game,” Cliff uttered, as he managed to gather himself just enough to speak.

“That’s what I like to hear,” the carny said. He had a mischievous smile and a twinkle in his eye that, under the circumstances, resembled a glimpse into the flames of Hades, at least from Cliff’s point of view.

“Not so fast,” Cliff announced.

“Pardon me?” the carny replied.

“I want to see you place a ring around the jug, so I know that this isn’t just a scam,” Cliff explained loudly, before another dry-heave overcame him.

The carny was no stranger to this type of comment, since he peddled his lousy game all over the country, encountering more than a handful of skeptics along the way. “Absolutely, my friend, that is no problem at all,” he said and simply placed a ring over the neck of one of the jugs. “You see? There is no need to worry about that now. You certainly have an eye for things, so I bet you will do great if you decide to play,” he added.

“Thanks for humoring me. I think I will play after all,” Cliff said. Unbeknownst to him, the carny was playing right into Cliff’s hands.

“Here you are, my friend,” the carny said, as he traded a few of his rings for a few of Cliff’s dollars. Cliff stood there for a while and watched as Peter and Pedro failed while the carny was growing quite a crop of cash. After a minute or two, the carny noticed Cliff was not throwing his rings. “Is something wrong?” he asked.

“There’s just one more thing,” he said, as he offered one of his rings to the carny, “I want you to place one of my rings on the jug like you did before,” he continued.

The request flabbergasted the carny. “I don’t want any trouble, friend,” he announced. His body language made it clear that he wanted no part of Cliff’s idea.

“It’s no trouble at all, is it? All I want you to do is put one of my rings on the jug. I will even forfeit the rest of them,” Cliff persisted. “Stop calling me friend,” he added, as he, once again, violently dry-heaved in the carny’s face. To him, his complexion felt like it looked as though he had the late stages of radiation poisoning, but he could only guess how it looked to others.

“How about I give you a refund, and you can go try one of the other games?” he asked diplomatically.

“What are you afraid of? Besides soap and deodorant, I mean,” Cliff said. His insult had instantaneously changed the demeanor of the carny.

Suddenly, the carny grabbed all of the rings out of Cliff’s hand and nonchalantly tossed them over his head. “Oops, it looks like you lose,” the carny said, in an ocular deadlock with Cliff.

“Thanks for proving my point, carny,” Cliff said dismissively. “Everything about you is a scam, save your conception. I find that fact particularly unfortunate,” Cliff added. He was not typically so quick to insult people but, as far as he was concerned, carnies were the exception to the rule, since their status as people was perpetually a matter for debate.

“Get out of here!” the carny demanded.

Pedro quietly conferred with Peter. “Excuse me, carny sir, we were wondering if we could buy the panda with the pink fur,” he said and glanced apologetically at Cliff. “We were unable to win it by playing your game so, can we?”

The carny wasted very little time in making his decision, for he looked upon the lot of them with a disdain as thick as his cartoony mustache. “I don’t think so. Now, get out of here before there is trouble,” he threatened. “I don’t want to have to get Greasy Moe involved in this, but I will and you don’t want that to happen. I promise.”

“Who’s this Greasy Moe?” Cliff asked contemptuously.

“He’s the boss. Why, do you really want to meet him?” the carny asked eerily and smiled similarly.

“Wait, so you’re telling me, this guy is significantly greasier than the rest of the carny scum, like yourself, to the point that you added the term greasy to his name. From where I’m standing, you people all look you would instantly catch fire if you banged two rocks together,” Cliff insulted him further.

“I said get out!” the carny yelled, once again, only this time a flock of his carny brethren backed him up.

Pedro began yelling at the carny and Peter and Cliff, especially Cliff, were all too happy to let him, even though it was unlikely he understood. Soon, Peter and Cliff began to walk away, but Pedro lingered, so he could yell as long as possible. Luckily, their timing could not have been better, because they walked right into John, as if they knew where he was all along.

“Hey, I was watching when you were at the ring toss. That wasn’t exactly subtle,” lectured John. Pedro finally caught up to the rest of them. Unfortunately, he immediately began to rant at Peter.

“Does that ever bother you, Peter?” Cliff asked. Furthermore, if it did bother him, Cliff intended to talk him into standing up for himself, not necessarily because he cared about his feelings, because he cared a great deal about mischief.

“I have gotten used to him,” Peter replied. “He’s not really yelling at me, most of the time, he is just using me as a medium to talk to everyone else. Honestly, he doesn’t usually talk this much when we are on the job,” he added.

“What is he saying? Is he trying to tell us something?” Cliff asked.

“I don’t think so. He is mostly just venting I think,” he explained. “He is still talking about that panda. He wanted it for his granddaughter, she asked for one that looks very much like that for her last birthday, but we could never find one. He keeps saying something about it raining pandas on the carny’s head or something,” he continued. “I think he wants to knock the tent down or shake it until all the animals fall down. I’m not sure.”

Cliff was now utterly convinced that the entire day was the beginning of his path towards destiny. In that moment, he had an idea about as crazy as he thought their little group could handle. He dramatically turned his head and looked at John. “The answer to this question is going to be yes, I can feel it,” he said and paused to increase the dramatic effect of said question. “John, can you fly a helicopter?”

“Actually, yes I can,” John replied, with swagger.

“We must go. There is much to do,” Cliff said, without explanation. Before anyone could ask for one, he was rather far away, showing no sign of slowing down. John, Peter, and Pedro all seemed at a loss for words, so the logical thing to do was simply catch up to Cliff and see where things went from there.

Copyright © 2016 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

Detective Darby #5 – The Trunk

Walt and I were petrified as we continued to stare into the trunk of that taxi. It seemed to have untold depths with only a glint of light captivating us while we squinted in vain to reason out its origin.

“For a second, I thought we were going to find that dog,” Walt remarked. His bravado was unrelenting, but that has always been his defining quality. During the war, I thought the guy had a death wish. More than once he grabbed me by the collar and threw me back into the fray. There never was a particular instance during which he saved my life, but I’m convinced that he did somehow. The cats of this city are undoubtedly grateful, though gratitude and cats are as oil and water in my opinion.

“Is he dead?” I asked, hoping maybe saying so would make it otherwise. The man looked like a typical businessman. He wore a suit and tie with a brown overcoat. His hands and feet were bound in a familiar manner. Unfortunately, I had some personal experience with such bindings. Then, I saw the suitcase, and it finally hit me.

“Maybe we ought to poke him with a stick,” suggested Walt. I asked myself if he was serious, but I’m not going to ask him. I don’t want to hear his answer.

My eyes locked on the man. Just as I feared, the echoes came back. They started off in the back of my mind and gradually intensified until it was the only thing I could hear. Walt’s voice was but a murmur muffled under layers of sonic pollution. Suddenly, I reached for my flask but, as soon as I touched it, the realization that it was empty mocked me. The feel of the cold, hard metal of the flask was an equally brutal reminder. Not only was I an emotional weakling, drowning my sorrows in poison, but I was also too inept to provide myself with the instrument to do so. In truth, my sorrows were drowning. Each time I swam the fermented seas to save them, they pulled me under with ease. Whenever I empty a bottle, I always lose a piece of myself to its void. This pace cannot go on forever, at least not as far as the universe is concerned, but it can go on for my forever, whether it be weeks or years. The universe is concerned as if the universe can spare some concern for a bum like me.

Wouldn’t you know, Walt grabbed me by the collar. I immediately snapped out of my trance. “Snap out of it!” he yelled, which was quite apropos.

I put my hands around his wrists. “I’m okay,” I said as he loosened his grip. Eventually, he let me go, but he did not mention anything. Walt was hardly the sensitive type yet somehow he knew when to keep quiet and when to get in my face. This situation called for the former. “I think this is the passenger that helped toss me in the trunk last night. I won’t lie; I love the irony,” I said as I studied him.

“This is the first time I’ve heard about this. Apparently, you made it out alive. That’s something,” Walt remarked. It never occurred to me to look at the bright side, unless it involved surrendering to the moonlight, and I certainly did not expect to be reminded to do so by Walt of all people. “Are you sure?” Walt asked. I couldn’t be sure whether he asked out of his curiosity or because he doubted my state of mind.

I think it might be time to do some detective work. With that in mind, I approached the trunk and began to rifle through the man’s pockets.

Walt seemed uneasy. “I’m going to get some air,” he announced.

“Who’s a jumpy girl this time?” I asked only to ridicule him. Truthfully, Walt is not a squeamish man in any sense, but he always had a problem with scrounging from the dead. During the war, he beat a man half to death for taking a pack of smokes from a fallen comrade. Eventually, he adopted a pragmatic viewpoint on the matter, but it always made him uncomfortable. At least he stopped piling up casualties of his own before a court-martial resulted.

He winced as I continued to search the man. “I’ll be close by,” he said before disappearing.

My search was rather disappointing. Amazingly, there was not a single drop of blood anywhere in the trunk, and I only found the things I would expect to find in anyone’s pockets such as money, a watch, a handkerchief, and a few other baubles. Suddenly, I had an excellent idea, for better or worse, so I quickly and calmly reached into the inside pocket of the victim’s overcoat to see the results of my panning. I may have been calm in my actions, but inside, my heart burned with the shoveling of a thousand stokers, and the fruits of their labor were bound to erupt from my ears momentarily. I was relieved to find that the man did not carry a flask even though I desired it to be otherwise. Instead, I procured a small brown envelope. I opened it up and found a picture of myself inside. It was an official photo that the Army took of me when I came home. Since that was going on five years ago, I was happy to be recognized by it. I flipped it over to discover that my name and the address of my apartment, which had been crossed off, and the office had been written down. I guess there was no denying that this was one of my kidnappers. For good measure, I checked the other pockets of his overcoat and discovered a book of matches from a local bar called Lucky’s. America’s pastime may well be baseball, but mine was such that I knew my bars all too well. When Emily came to me, she mentioned that she frequents a bar from which a man was presumably stalking her. They say the best lies contain a modicum of truth; this book of matches might be the lead I was hoping to find.

Suddenly, I heard sirens and the screeching tires of hard braking. I went over everything in my mind. I had my investigator’s license, my gun is registered, and I was hired to come here, technically. For the life of me, I can’t remember if I filled out any paperwork regarding Link’s favor. Depending on which coppers come through that door, my life might soon become immeasurably complicated.

Copyright © 2016 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

Like this post on my Facebook Page or Twitter and check back soon for Detective Darby #6 – The (insert title here). Check out my book, available for pre-order on Amazon.

“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

-Albert Einstein

Book Excerpt #1 – The Mad Ventures of Bindlestiff Cliff

Here’s an excerpt from my book for you to enjoy. Keep in mind, this isn’t from the final draft. Check back in the near future for more excerpts. Thank you.

“What’s this all about?” Bob said as he was driving towards a four-way stop sign. It appeared that there were two cars already stopped and they seemed to be in a stalemate in regards to who should go next. “Come on!” Bob yelled as he angrily mashed his car horn to no avail.

“This sort of thing is exactly why I don’t have a license, Bob,” Cliff mentioned, with the understanding that Bob would agree with him.

“You do realize that I was there when you lost your license, right?” Bob asked with a puzzled look on his face. He disengaged from Cliff to give the horn another blare. “Let’s go you jerks!”

“That whole situation was a huge misunderstanding,” Cliff responded but he often found himself mixed up in one misunderstanding or another. Bob knew that better than anyone.

“The judge didn’t seem confused about it,” Bob said, determined to pick at an old wound. “If I remember correctly, you somehow exposed yourself to the lady teaching your DUI class,” he continued.

“What’s your problem, Bob? You know there’s more to the story than that,” Cliff’s tone was noticeably shifting to a place of anger. “You know; I wasn’t even driving the car. I got a ride from a man who turns out was the ex-boyfriend of one of your colleague’s sister. That cop had it out for him for violating a restraining order and he took it out on me because I just happened to be there.”

“Listen, I’m sorry. I was just messing with you,” Bob apologized. “I’m on your side, Cliff. You remember who kept you out of jail, got the fine waived, and the cost of the classes too? They only made you do the classes so the officer involved saved face,” he explained, trying to calm him down.

“Well, I was too poor to defend myself and, I admit, I was lucky that you had my back. Not everyone has a Bob in their corner though,” he said, thanking him in so many words.

“Don’t get mad,” Bob warned. “Refresh my memory as to how you exposed yourself to that lady. I remember the charges were dropped but I actually had nothing to do with that and nobody really told me what happened.”

“Like I said, it was a misunderstanding. I went to the class as they told me and everything was going fine until we took a break. I went to the bathroom and was doing my business when she grabbed my shoulder and started hollering at me. Naturally, I turned around and she starts screaming because she saw my man bits,” he tried to explain and was a little irritated to discover Bob was laughing uncontrollably at his story. “It turned out she came in the men’s room, like I told them, so they dropped the charges. I still got arrested though and they didn’t believe a word I said until half of the people in the class told them they saw her run out of the men’s room,” he continued.

“How does this stuff keep happening to you?” Bob managed to ask as his laughter had tapered off. “Look at this situation. You’re like a magnet for this,” he continued and shook his index finger in the air to suggest he had more to add to the conversation. “You’re some kind of bizarro Rumpelstiltskin that spins situations into chaos.”

“I’m happy I can entertain you, Bob,” he replied solemnly, if not sincerely.

Bob noticed his comments were getting to him so he attempted to turn things around. “You don’t usually let this get to you, Cliff. If I took it too far, I am sorry. Are we good?”

“We’re good,” he answered and nodded as well which boosted both his confidence in his answer and Bob’s confidence in its sincerity.

“Alright then,” he replied. He immediately turned his attention back to the two cars at the stop sign. “Go! You,” he pointed at one of the cars, “get going!”

Cliff, unlike Bob, sat patiently in the passenger’s seat and tried to figure out who the people in the other cars were. On the left side, there was a young girl driving a nice sedan and an older man sitting in the passenger seat. The man seemed to be trying to talk her through the situation but the girl seemed to be scared or arguing with him. It was hard to be sure from that distance.

On the right side, there was a man in one of those tiny little trucks. The truck had an unusual arm attached to the bed with a wheelchair hooked to it. That along with the handicapped sign hanging from his rear view mirror led Cliff to believe he was disabled.

“I still can’t believe nobody is going,” Bob said. At this point, it seemed he was too tired to get angry. Instead, he just shook his head and threw up his hands in disbelief.

“Don’t worry, Bob. I think I’ve got this,” Cliff said confidently.

“I can’t think of a single time you’ve told me not to worry that ended well at all,” Bob replied and the situation flew out of his hands before he knew it.

“Parley!” Cliff shouted as he stuck his head out the window and began to open his door.

“What are you doing? Are you kidding me?” Bob asked in disbelief.

Cliff scurried out of the car but then he turned and looked at Bob. “You remember, from the pirate movies, they’d have a little meeting to hash things out. That’s what I’m doing,” he explained while Bob looked on, helpless to do anything about the avalanche of absurdity except watch it unfold.

The girl in the sedan got out of her car as well, with only slight hesitation, even though the older man was about as bewildered about it as Bob. She walked timidly towards the middle of the intersection, following Cliff’s lead, and occasionally looked back at the car as if doing so would make the ordeal any safer or appropriate.

Eventually, Bob angrily got out of the car to see if he could assist in wrapping up the nonsense. “You do realize that this isn’t some stupid pirate movie, don’t you?” He asked as he slammed the car door hard enough for the others to notice. He was both disappointed and relieved that he failed to shatter the glass of the car door during his Herculean episode.

By the time Bob reached the others, the man from the sedan had joined the girl and Cliff. The four of them watched, in awkward silence, as the disabled man was in the process of using the little crane attached to the back of his truck to retrieve his wheelchair.

“Listen up,” Bob began to speak but Cliff interrupted him.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa…” Cliff said while gesturing him to slow down.

“What is it?” he replied impatiently.

“We can’t start without the other guy,” he explained as he pointed towards the disabled man who was, at last, in his wheelchair.

Bob did not have time to answer because the man in the wheelchair zoomed over with much greater speed than anyone expected. As he got closer, he stopped abruptly causing everyone in the group, save Cliff, to jump backwards to avoid a collision.

“Sorry about that,” he said, looking up at them. “I’m still getting used to this new chair I got from my grandma,” he explained.

“That was really nice of her to do that for you,” the girl replied in that tone people often use when they feign sincerity.

“Oh, she didn’t give it to me,” he said shaking his head, “she died and I took her chair because it’s so much better than the one I had.”

The group of people looked at one other. It was clear each of them was hoping someone would step up to the plate, so to speak, and steer the conversation back on course.

Cliff was all too happy to oblige, although the results with him were a mixed bag at best. “Well, it’s not like she needed it anymore,” Cliff blurted out the first thing that came to mind. To make matters worse, he raised his hand towards the man signaling a high-five and, to the surprise of the others, the man enthusiastically slapped his hand thus completing the aforementioned high-five and eliminating any possibility to leave Cliff hanging.

The situation evolved beyond the realm of what Bob had thought a simple drive from a motel room to his home could entail. He was determined to take control and saw little choice but to play the hand he was dealt. In this case, that was the police card. “Listen up,” he announced in a manner to suggest he was not foreign to taking action. “I’m a police officer and I really need everyone to return to your vehicles and move along. The middle of an intersection is no place for anyone to be standing.”

The five of them continued to stand in the middle of the road. It was astonishing that no other cars had showed up at this point.

“He’s right. Let’s just do as he says and get back in the car,” the older man said, clearly agitated, to the younger girl and attempted to grab her, albeit gently, by the arm.

The girl quickly pulled away from him and turned her attention to Bob. “I’m sorry, officer. It is just that my dad is totally stressing me out. I got my learner’s permit and Dad was going to show me a few driving tips since he is always driving in big cities. We started arguing at the stop sign and then I noticed the truck was there and I didn’t know if it was my turn to go or not so I just sort of froze,” she explained and talked extremely fast while doing so. Her dad suddenly seemed content to let her take the lead perhaps in the hopes that she would learn something or at least gain some valuable life experience out of the deal.

“Okay, calm down,” Bob said and the girl seemed to heed his advice by taking a deep breath. “Does anyone else remember who was there first?” Bob asked. He raised his eyebrows and looked over the two men.

The disabled man pounced at the chance to answer as if he were waiting for the question. “I remember. It stuck out in my mind because about halfway down the street, I almost hit a cat…”

“What kind of cat was it, house cat or feral?” Cliff interrupted. The nature of his question seemed to suggest it mattered one way or the other.

“Cliff!” Bob tried to stifle his voice to keep from shouting but his outburst startled the would-be commuters nonetheless.

“I don’t know. What’s the difference?” he asked.

“Maybe you should loan him your dictionary, Cliff,” Bob sarcastically added. He immediately regretted the suggestion for fear that he might actually go fetch it.

“Well, I’m sure you know what a house cat is. A feral cat is basically just a wild cat,” he explained. “As a matter of fact, I once met a Chinaman who taught me a lot about the virtues of feral cats. You see…”

“Let me just stop you right there,” Bob said as he casually shoved Cliff away from the man. “First of all, nobody says Chinaman anymore. I am not a historian but I’m pretty sure that is offensive. Secondly,” Bob leaned down to get uncomfortably close to the man, “do you know if it was your turn to go or not?”

The man leaned away in vain because the more he did, the closer Bob got. “It was definitely her turn,” he answered.

Bob lingered in the man’s face far longer than he had hoped especially since he had given him his answer.

Suddenly, another car pulled up to the stop sign. Now a car waited at every end of the intersection. A very old woman drove it, one of those older sedans with a hood almost as long as an entire modern car. In addition, the car was at least twenty years old but looked brand new and probably had fewer miles than Bob’s two-year old vehicle. Without any hesitation, the old woman honked her horn, screeched her tires, and flipped the group a very common hand gesture among motorists representing her disapproval of the situation.

“Well, she has a point,” Bob commented as he retreated from the absurd battlefield of wills.

“That’s not the first time an old lady did that to me,” said Cliff with a hint of pride in his voice. He apparently found it humorous.

“Imagine my surprise,” Bob replied and continued to walk.

“Hey, Bob! I think I can see your house from here!” Cliff exclaimed while still standing surreally in the street with three strangers.

“No kidding? You keep that up and you might make detective before I do,” Bob replied and was unrelenting with his sarcasm.

“He really is on fire today,” Cliff mentioned to them and got about as much reaction from them as he would have from a dairy cow. “It was nice to have met you all,” he added and scampered away abruptly. The motley trio of dawdlers finally took the hint and began to disperse.

Cliff quickly arrived back at Bob’s car. What he did not find, however, was Bob. In response, he looked all around the car, in the car, and down the street. As he did, he noticed that Bob was more than halfway to his house. He had walked, abandoning his car.

Cliff thought that to be out of character for Bob but always tried to be liberal in his understandings of people. On the contrary, he lived his life with his own kind of understanding: some things are not meant to be understood. With this in mind, Cliff tried his best to let people be who they are rather than shaping them, in his mind, to what he wants them to be. He quite often found himself on the pointy end of public judgment. Although he did not enjoy that, he took it for what it was and endeavored to move forward.

Copyright © 2016 by Adam L. Cobden. All Rights Reserved.

%d bloggers like this: