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Author Name: FreeLen 4 Comments
Date Added: July 20, 2013 15:07:27 Average Score: (Needs 2)
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Category: Mystery/Suspense Add To Favorites | Text Only
Jim Beam ~Double Jeopardy*8*~Blonde on the Run~

We're over the Pacific, just off the coast of Southern Brazil. I see lots of tall green mountains, covered in jungle. There's also no shortage of white beaches and palm trees. I'm thinking, this part of the world would be easy for a guy get used to.

   Twenty-eight hours and over six thousand miles is a long stretch to be up in the air, so I had passed some time playing Gin Rummy with Wanda. She was supposed to get off at our Mexico City stop. Seems the dame who was gonna to relieve her came down sick, so she had to stick it out for the whole run. That's good news for yours, truly, 'cause the dish offered to show me some of the local sites, plus some sights she brought along with her.

    While we played cards, I pumped her for some dope about the place Iím about to be dragging for Roberta Mason. She told me that Rio de Janeiro means, River of January, on account of the explorers who parked their ships in the area, January of 1502, mistook the deep bay for the mouth of a river.

   That put me in mind of a lost sailor named Columbus who landed in North America, thinking he was in India. Next thing you know, he's got the folks who live there calling themselves Indians. I guess back then, you could just sail off and land about anywhere, flashing mirrors, beads and a few trinkets around and make the locals suckers forget all about who they really were.

   As I'm gazing at the scenery, the sky-jockey up front comes over the P.A. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is Captain Mallory. We will be landing at the Santos Dumont Airport in approximately five minutes. Please have your personal articles packed and ready for departure. The airport is only two kilometers from the downtown Centro District and there should be no shortage of cabs waiting to take you wherever you desire. For those of you who are first timers, Rio de Janeiro is both the name of the capital city of Brazil, as well as one of the twenty-six states which make up this beautiful country."

   The pilot's golden tones comes back over the horn. "Please remain in your seats, ladies and gentlemen. Those on the port side of the plane are in for a treat. If you will look out your windows, you will see the famous statue of Christ. This modern marvel is called, Christo Redentor, meaning Christ, The Redeemer. As you can see, his arms are stretched out in welcome over the bay. The famous monument sitting atop Corcovado Mountain is ninety-eight feet tall, weighing over one thousand tons. His arm span reaches an impressive ninety-two feet. Welcome to Rio folks and thank you for flying Pan American Grace."

   Back in my Army Air Corps days before the war, we pilots used to refer to the DC-3 as Goonie Birds, on account of the way they tend to look when they're landing. The old silver bird starts to bank left as we swing around the massive stone figure and start our descent for the landing. I spy a gaggle of tourists on the stone steps at base of the statue, smiling and waving us in.

   Another thing I notice is the city of Rio, itself. The business district of the city is close to the beach and full of fancy domed buildings and green parks. It took a lot of cush to slap all that marble and alabaster together. There's enough statues standing around to populate a fair-sized burg. Things don't look so rosy for the slobs stuck living on the surrounding hillsides, though. From the air, it looks like a sprawling city dump, but I know it's just thousands of shacks crammed together like cord wood.

   I'll tell you one thing about this south of the equator tourist trap. The well-heeled haunting those swell haciendas and fancy hotels facing the beach don't have to peer too far out their back windows to see what might have been if they'd been born on the wrong side of the tracks. The hillsides leading up to the steep face of the mountain where Christ welcomes the world are just littered with makeshift tin roofs and some pretty ugly poverty.

   I hear the rubber squeal as the tires touch down. I straighten my tie. Before takeoff, Iíd booked a fancy suite overlooking the beach. Iím thinking my employer can stand the financial load. I figure it serves her right for giving me the run-around right out of the gate. The plane rolls off the patched-up runway over to the terminal building. I spy Wanda coming out the door to the galley section in the tail. I motion her to come over. "Hey doll," I say as she leans over, "I'll give you a jingle when I get settled into my new digs. I was just wondering about the dough situation. Where's the best place to exchange Yankee green for whatever the locals spread around this tropical paradise?"

    "Make sure you do call, Jim," she winks. "I have a lot of interesting things to show you. About the money; the monetary units in Brazil are called rias. You can get two to one at the airport banks, but I wouldn't recommend it. Just about any club will convert your cash at three to one if you act like you know what you're doing. You don't have to exchange it all if you don't want to. Most of the local shops, cab drivers and businesses are happy to accept dollars. They usually get a better deal on it than you can, anyway."

    "Thanks for the heads-up, kid." I give her bare arm a light stroke with the back of my mitt. "I noticed a trolley going through town while we were landing. I'm just nuts about those things. How about a guided tour by rail tomorrow?"

   She smiles in a way that gets my pump racing. "It's a date."

   I hear the hum of the passenger door being lowered. Wanda gives my shoulder a gentle squeeze. "I have a three-day layover before I have to go back, but I've got to go play stewardess to the others right now if I want to keep my job."

   On the sorry road in front of the airport, I spy three beaten-up hacks the tourists hadn't already glommed. Of the lot, I decide on a little yellow British Hillman Minx with the black letters, T-A-X-I slopped on the door with a paint roller. I have to settle for leftover wheels, mainly because I'd spent too much time jawing with Wanda in the lobby, and it was the only one left that looked like it had a fighting chance of making it the mile and a half to town. After I toss my bags in the open trunk, I pile into the dusty back seat. I get the cabbie's attention as he pulls away. "Do you savvy the English, pal?"

    The brown-faced kid of about twenty turns and flashes gold caps at me. He bobs his head. "Oh yes, many people speak English here. I, Ramon Phillipe Diego Cordova Johnson speak English, French, Portuguese and even a little Spanish. There are many languages spoken in Rio de Janeiro."

   Jeepers," I chuckle, "that long handle sounds kinda funny with a name like Johnson tacked on its tail."

   Ramon scatters a bunch of screaming chickens off the dirt shoulder before recalling that he's behind the wheel.

   The kid glances back at me in the rear-view mirror. "My papa was American. He was killed fighting the Nazis in Sicily when I was boy. My sainted mother still lives. She is mulatto. How you say...a mixture of many peoples? She is very ill and I must work very hard to tend to her needs."

   "You can skip the rest of the sob story, Ray," I shoot back. "I won't stiff you for the cab fee, word of honor. You might even get a tip if you can manage to stay on the road all the way to a dump called the Copacabana Palace Hotel."

   His peepers get wide and greedy. "Ah, you are very wealthy American tourist, no?"

    "I am very wealthy American tourists, no, is right," I answer. "My poor sainted mother is spending her last remaining days cheating at roulette in that dive. I must work very hard to tend to her needs, see?"

    The cabbie starts laughing. "I think I like you, American tough guy. Ramon is most happy to be at your service."

   So, we tool through what must be the Centro district, past night clubs, stores and a million street vendors hawking food and every useless trinket you can imagine. The traffic rules seem to be strictly on a first come-first serve basis around here.

   I'm a little surprised to see that almost half the locals on the street are white, with quite a few Negroes sprinkled into the mix. It looks like the most part of the darker folks I see range from golden-brown to black, with every brown shade in between. The mixing of the races sure has produced some swell-looking people. A joe could fall in lust pretty easy in Rio.

   I'm guessing the black folks are left over from the glory plantation days Wanda told me about. Seems like wherever the Europeans landed around the world, they always felt God gave them the right to own the work force that did their dirty work.

   "How much farther to the hotel, Ray?" I ask the cabbie. "Iím not springing for a merry trip around this entire burg, pal"

   "Not far," he grins at me. "Copacabana Beach is very close. Your hotel is on last street up ahead. Basteao Bahiano Road is where many fine hotels look out over our beautiful waters. The Hotel Copacabana Palace is the most beautiful of them all. Charles De Gaulle and Eva Peron have stayed at the Palace; Queen of England, also. You must be very wealthy to afford such a place."

   No wonder the kid got that cash-register gleam in his peepers when I told him where I'm hanging my hat. Roberta is going strictly first-class on that heisted two mill.

   When we pull in front of the hotel, I see the kid isn't just talking through his hat. To our left, on the far side of the street, the beach is lined with palm trees with a sidewalk full of goofy-looking suckers by the busy street. Past that are a lot of happy locals and tourists in various stages of undress, soaking in the warm sun on the endless stretch of white sand. To our right is the biggest darned hotel this shamus has ever laid his baby-blues on.

   The Hotel Copacabana Palace looks like it's a city block long if it's a foot. It has nine regular stories, at a quick count. Right in the center of the Spanish-style red, clay roof, some sort of penthouse sticks out to make a tenth floor. The mansion-sized level sports marble pillars between each of its five tall, arched windows. I'm supposing that's where Eva Peron cooled her heels.

   The ground floor of the white building seems to be for the restaurant, bars, shops and such. I get the notion you could live in that joint and never have to send out for a thing. A sprawling, stone plaza keeps the riff-raff on the street from loitering too close to the posh digs. Various trees are growing all over it in brick-lined planting areas.

    "If you wish, American tough guy," Ramon pipes in, "I will carry your bags inside."

   I climb out of the back seat and lean over his open window. "That's OK, kid, just tell me what the damage is and I'll carry them in myself."

   The driver is grinning like a shark. "For you, Ramon charges only three American dollars."

   I take out a fin and hand it to him. "Keep the change, pal. Even though I'm guessing your normal fee is a buck for guys who aren't me, I did enjoy the little yarn about your dear, sainted mother."

   That's when I see this tomato breeze in off the plaza and crawl into the cab in front of us, with a fuzzy mink coat draped over her arm. She's styling with one of those ridiculously large-rimmed straw hats. I can't get a clear shot of her mug, but that long platinum-blond hair and curvy frame fighting to pop out of that tight red dress sure looks all Mason to me.

   The tomato slams the door on the older Hudson. As the brown bucket pulls away from the curb, I scramble my pins back inside the taxi. I tap the kid on his sweaty shoulder. "Hey Ray, there's another ten clams in it for you, if as they say in the movies, you follow that cab!"

   The kid cranks the small four-banger over and jolts it back out into traffic. He turns his head and flashes his gold-studded choppers. "I knew I like you, American tough guy! I will stick to him like the glue, or my name is not Ramon Phillipe Diego Cordova Johnson!"

Author's Notes:
"Luck beats skill, every time."  James R. Beam
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'Jim Beam ~Double Jeopardy*8*~Blonde on the Run~ ' Copyright © Leonard Wilson
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Comment By: FreeShe Whispers on July 21, 2013 06:00:02 PM Report

Never been to this place but it sounds like  a place along the beach would be great..

LIke all cities the slums are a different story...Like all places the good with the bad ..

Like this story...It reads well and puts you right in the middle of it all A thriller indeed....

YOu have a best seller with this book!! ***** Love ya~ India

Comment By: FreeTomahawk on July 21, 2013 07:34:33 AM Report

It's true about all those shacks piled upon one another there in Brazil. I saw a documentary on Rio, where hundreds of houses, one after another, stacked up on top of each other on this high hill, like a house of cards. It was amazing how these houses and shacks didn't tumble down, it was like looking at a bunch of Lego block buildings. Oh yeah....this installment wasn't bad, either. lol. Good job, namesake.



Comment By: PremiumLindaM on July 21, 2013 06:05:12 AM Report

Your well penned descriptive information about the famous statue, the stunning beach front areas,

and the poverty ridden areas, made me feel I was right there and seeing it all first hand.

I wouldn't mind spending some time on that beach and in that very posh Hotel Casablanca Palace.

The story is a real winner. I am enjoying every minute of it.


Comment By: Freenoah count on July 21, 2013 12:40:46 AM Report
I play bridge, and one of the over-riding maxims is: I'd rather be lucky than good.  JB must be a player, of course, in more ways than one.


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