This is another episode from the files of Max Fly, Private Eye, President and CEO of Max Fly Private & Nefarious Investigations & Pest Control Services located in downtown Burnt Corn, Alabama, where we have been protecting the innocent people of Burnt Corn from murder, narcotics distribution, robbery, extortion, loansharking and other nasty mafia behavior as well as rodents for over ten years.
Our corporate meeting, where we discussed bringing in a line of ultraviolet equipment to sell to augment our work in case we experienced a downturn in our business, ended with a 3-1 nay vote. Tommy Sneakers Corona was still on an extended leave of absence in Costa Rica so he didn’t vote. The only one voting in favor was Luigi Lips Licavoli, our V. P. of Operations whose uncle was the sole owner of the ultraviolet equipment distributorship out of Cleveland, Ohio.
Chico Zippy Doo Rodriguez was picking up the empty lunch cartons and disposing of the leftover Pork Brains stewed in Camel’s Milk and Sundried Texas Armadillo Tenders lathered in Opossum Gravy that was delivered from the Soon Fatt Chinese Take Away Restaurant.
I poured a plastic snifter half full of Napolean brandy as I was close to wrapping everything up for the day. I began to clip off the end of my Cohiba when Wanda Winchester, the head of our Reconciliation Department, who was staring at the parts lying on her desk from the unassembled oscillating fan that had stopped oscillating, yelled out, “Max, I think this is a lost cause. There is so much cigar smoke and dust in this motor it can’t breathe, let alone oscillate. I think we ought to get a new one.”
Wanda, who grew up in a rough neighborhood, claimed she had gunpowder with her porridge while she clung to her mother’s skirt ducking incoming rounds every morning. When she was sober, which usually occurred between Tuesdays and Thursdays, she was in charge of our firearms safety courses.
The phone rang and Wanda yelled out again, “Max, line one is for you.”
“Wanda, we only have one line. Who is it?”
“It’s that new lady at the Burnt Corn Daily Gazette, Liz Tureen.”
“If she’s a reporter, she’s no lady, Wanda” I replied.
I knew who Liz Tureen was. I met her last month at the Burnt Corn Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Golden Stool Bar and Night Club, whose owner, Mike Rotch, reserved a back room the first Wednesday of every month for the chamber meetings. Mayor Sam Manella introduced the new members and Liz Tureen was in the group. She was cute as a button but her brassiness left a bad taste in my mouth.
I sighed as I picked up the phone. “This is Max Fly, how may I help you?”
“Mr. Fly, this is Liz Tureen. I’m the new crime reporter for the Burnt Corn Daily Gazette and I am working on what may be one of the biggest scoops I ever had and I may need your help.”
“I’m doing fine, Miss Tureen. Thank you for asking.”
“I am sorry for my poor manners, Mr. Fly, it’s just that I am so excited. What do you know about that guy who was at last weeks chamber luncheon? The one who is renting that run-down warehouse on Choctawhatchee Boulevard where he plans to start a fertilizer plant.”
“Who, Harry Verderici?”
Yes, that’s the guy, Harry Verderici. His assistant is a fellow named Willie R. “Billy Dick” Romano.”
“That chamber meeting is the only time I met Harry Verderici and I have never met Billy Dick. Why do you ask?”
“Something smells in there, Mr. Fly.”
“You do know fertilizer is supposed to smell, don’t you, Miss Tureen?” I replied.
“Yes, I know but this fertilizer smells different and I’m afraid it might be something very bad.
“Like what?” I enquired.
“I can’t say over the phone. Would you be available to meet me for dinner tonight at the Six Feet Under Pub and Fish House on Saugahatchee Creek Road? I have a table reserved, table 13, my lucky number.”
“Of course I know where that is, what time?”
“Sixish, if that is okay with you.”
“Sixish? What’s sixish?”
“You know, six, six-fifteen, six-thirty; goodbye Mr. Fly.” She hung up.
The Six Feet Under Pub and Fish House table number 13. It was located in the back of the restaurant near the pastry cart which was filled with glazed and frosted petit-fours and donuts.
I arrived at 5:55 p.m. to avoid any confusion. The dining room was separated from the bar by a long planter filled with fake greenery, plastic philodendrons rising nearly to the ceiling, purchased from the Burnt Corn Nursery, Plants, and Cemetery Lots run by Clay and Helen Earth. The sales tags were still visible.
I had a nervous stomach so I went first into the kitchen to pay my respects to Nick the cook and smell the fish and then I went to the men’s room to relieve myself before coming back and taking a seat across from Crime Reporter, Liz Tureen. She was sitting on the other side of the roundtable, where she could see anyone entering the dining room. She reminded me of a nervous little bird. I guess fertilizer can do that to you.
Dr. Kent C. Strait, proprietor of Burnt Corn Optometry And Glassworks, who was blind in one eye already and the other one didn’t work too well either, was sitting at the end of the bar trying to read the fine print on that most important publication, the Racing Form, and his well-endowed fiancé, Emma Royds, who I had a history with, was next to him applying a foundation to her Botox injected cheeks. He saw me looking at her and nodded.
I returned the nod.
“My editor recommends this place. Have you eaten here before, Mr. Fly?” Liz Tureen said, bringing me back to the present.
“I have. Many times and please, it’s Max.”
“Okay, Max, what do you suggest?”
“I highly recommend the Slimehead. It is delicious. They serve it over a bed of rice with candied baby carrots, Baked Mushrooms, Potatoes with Spinach and artichokes.”
“Most places refer to it as Orange Roughy, which I think is a dull, uninspired name that captures nothing of the grandeur of the defining characteristic of these deep-sea fishes. They take up to 30 years to reach maturity you know.”
“Wow, what I do know is why other restaurants have it on the menu as Orange Roughy. It’s a bit more appetizing.”
“Miss Tureen, you will find out folks here in Burnt Corn are a bit different than people from other parts of the country.”
“Please call me Liz. Why do they call them slimeheads?”
“Okay, Liz it is; but they don’t call the folks in Burnt Corn slimeheads, it’s the fish. They possess a system of sensory organs that run the length of the fish’s body and detect minute changes in pressure. The lateral line allows the fish to detect nearby vibrations and movement. It also consists of a concentrated array of mucus filled canals in the head. These canals are the inspiration for the moniker slimehead. Beyond inspiring a pretty sweet name, these canals can sense low-frequency sound. This makes slimeheads very good at avoiding predators and helps explain how such a tasty fish can survive for more than 100 years.”
“Wow, that’s very impressive, Max, probably more than I care to know. Why do you know so much about this fish?”
“An old girlfriend grew up in Mobile and her old man was a deep sea fisherman. He knew just about every kind of fish that swam in the gulf. He also claims to have had an on again off again relationship with a mermaid before he got married.”
After we finished our main course of the Slimehead plate grilled and a slice of raspberry cheesecake we got down to the business at hand, fertilizer.
“What exactly has you so worked up about fertilizer?” I asked.
“I think they have dead bodies,” Liz Tureen exclaimed.
“Yes, when they first moved in, they brought in four tractor-trailers and parked them in the back of the warehouse where it is really dark.
I drove there later that day to look around and nobody was there, just some big guy doing pushups in the office. The place stunk like rotten meat. I looked in one of the trailers and there were a bunch of black plastic bags stacked up in the trailer. They looked like bags a mortician puts dead bodies in and I think it was dead bodies.”
“Dead bodies? Why dead bodies?”
“I dunno, what else could it be?”
” I’m not sure. Where would they get two truckloads of dead bodies?”
“Chicago? Why Chicago?”
“Do you know how many people are killed in Chicago every week?”
“No, I don’t.”
“No? Well, I’ll tell you, dozens, that’s how many; dozens. Where else do you hear of a bunch of dead bodies lying around? Nowhere, not even Detroit. They are killing about 60 people a week. That’s a truckload of dead bodies every month. Plus I saw the bill of lading on the front seat in the cab. It said its origination was Chicago. They picked the bodies up there and are hiding them down here in Burnt Corn. I’m sure of it.”
“Why would they bring them to Burnt Corn Alabama?”
“Where do you think they can dispose of all those bodies in Chicago, huh? Nowhere. The cemeteries must be running out of room so they have to find someplace else to take them and, I am pretty sure, Mr. Fly, I mean Max, it’s Burnt Corn, Burnt Corn Alabama, that’s where.”
“Well, Ben Dover’s God’s Garden is in receivership, and I don’t mean that they are receiving bodies, they are looking for a new buyer so nothing is being planted out there. Where would they be burying them?”
“Maybe they aren’t going to bury them. Have you heard of dog food, Max?”
“Of course I’ve heard of dog food. Are you implying they are going to grind up human bodies and make dog food out of them? You must be out of your mind.”
“Okay, what about bombs? They use fertilizer in making bombs. Perhaps they are planning to overthrow our government. You can’t dismiss something like that when you are dealing with the mob. Remember JFK? He was assassinated, you know and some people think the mob was involved in that murder.”
“Have you gone to Sheriff Wyatt Hertz and discussed this with him?”
“I tried to but all I get is his answering machine. What’s with that by the way?”
“I don’t know, you’ll have to ask the mayor, Sam Manella, he’s the sheriff’s cousin.”
“Well, I was told Sheriff Hertz is in Tuscaloosa with his fiance, Lacy Shortz. The National Gun and Knife show is up there and he had Deputy Hiram Firam drive them; evidently, Sheriff Hertz doesn’t like to drive on Interstate highways.”
“Miss Tureen, I mean Liz, in all honesty, by any stretch of the imagination, believing that a plot to overthrow our federal government is being hatched here in little Burnt Corn Alabama is a bit too much.”
“I am telling you, Mr. Fly, I mean Max, size doesn’t matter. It could happen anywhere.”
“I agree with you, Liz, size doesn’t matter, but Burnt Corn? So, what is it you want me to do?”
“I want to hire you, Mr. Fly, you have a stellar reputation and come highly recommended by Mr. Frank Ferter, Head of Security over at the Burnt Corn Walmart. I have been allotted some money in my budget by my editor to hire you so I can get to the bottom of this, this, this deep state attempt to overthrow our Federal Government. I believe we must do something to protect and preserve our constitutionally elected government. This could be worse than Watergate. Are you in or out, Max?”
I stared at her for a few moments before answering. “How much did you say you were paying?”
To be continued…