Monday, February 28, 2011

Exceprt Monday: Sometimes A Great Commotion by Mike Nettleton and Carolyn J. Rose

Sometimes A Great Commotion
by Mike Nettleton and Carolyn J. Rose

This is the most recent collaboration between husband and wife team Carolyn J. Rose and Mike Nettleton.  It's on Krill Press and available as a paperback or a Kindle from or at

Chapter 1

“The situation is dire, Molly. Dire and disgusting.” Mayor Henri Trevelle waved an official letter under my nose, and then fanned himself with it. “Fecal contamination. E. coli bacteria.” He shuddered. “Such horrid words emerging from my lips.”
He plopped into his rocking chair at the rear of the Gilded Puffin Gift and Gun Shoppe and peered over the rims of rhinestone-studded reading glasses. “If I had even the tiniest inkling that the sewage facility had reached the end of its days, I would not have allowed Adam to sweet talk me into being mayor.” Henri squeezed his eyes shut and I spotted glittery blue shadow on the lids, eye shadow the same shade as his ruffled silk shirt. “It’s probably not legal anyway,” he muttered, “since I am not a citizen.”
I tapped my pen against a blank page in my notebook, ignoring Henri’s reference to his French-Canadian heritage. Nobody in Devil’s Harbor would consider checking the charter for a citizenship requirement. For one thing, no one else wanted the job. For another, they respected the former hockey legend—some in spite of and some because of his flamboyant style. “Are you saying Brighton Deeds knew the wastewater plant needed a major overhaul but did nothing?”
“Nothing was what Deeds did best.” Henri handed me the letter, then patted his ample lap; Angel, his three-legged Balinese, hopped aboard. “And that is fortunate since what he did was usually far worse than what he didn’t do.” Henri petted the cat with a hand-over-hand stroke. Hair crackling with static electricity, Angel arched her back and kneaded his meaty thighs. “His sole civic improvement was bashing Grabowski with that frozen fish and tossing his carcass off Perdition Point, but don’t quote me.”
I grinned. “Spoilsport.”
He growled and shot me a scowl that must have terrified high-sticking opponents back in the day.
“Strictly off the record,” I promised, raising my hands in surrender.
The truth was that most of my conversations with Henri were off the record. He was an incurable gossip with a huge heart and a mouth that ran non-stop; he was also my best friend—next to Jeffrey Wolfe who wouldn’t be back until a few days before Christmas. I missed him like crazy, but we’d agreed he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make enough in three months to live and write in Devil’s Harbor for two years. He’d left my dad without a first mate, but the charter business was about to go dormant until spring anyway.
I noticed I’d drawn a tiny heart on the paper and quickly scribbled over it. Did I love Jeffrey? That was a mystery. The summer months had been among the best of my life. But, thanks to my ex-husband who’d chosen to announce our honeymoon was over by getting it on with my best friend, when it came to love, I was prone to search for a cloud whenever I discovered a silver lining.
I yanked myself back to my job and studied the letter from the state agency in charge of environmental matters. Translated from bureaucratese, it indicated that the Devil’s Harbor wastewater treatment plant was out of compliance and that twice over the summer hadn’t processed sewage fast enough. Partially treated waste had spilled into the ocean, raising bacterial pollution and putting swimmers and surfers at risk. Not that Oregon’s chill waters attracted many of either, but pollution wasn’t an existential issue—it was there, whether anyone was exposed to it or not.
“It’s not like we intentionally dumped that—well, let’s call it what it is—poo-pay. Bucky Mallory says the system is antiquated. When the sky opens or a bus load of tourists contracts the two-step miseries because Grover hasn’t changed the deep fat fryer grease for a month, then it’s too much.” He pointed at my notebook. “There. That you may include.”
Obediently I made a note and tapped the official letter. “This says state and federal grants may be available to overhaul the system. Are you looking into that?”
Mais oui. But in order to get a grant, we must have what they call matching funds. Money. Big bucks.”
I drew a dollar sign on the pad. Too many things revolved around money—or the lack of it. “Doesn’t the town have a contingency fund?”
“Thirty-seven dollars worth,” Henri snorted. “There is no money even to pay Bucky’s salary. Fortunately fender benders were plentiful this summer and his body shop was busy. More fortunately, he accepts IOU’s.”
I nodded. Like many Devil’s Harbor residents, Bucky worked two jobs. Note that I said “jobs.” No one in Devil’s Harbor put the label “career” on what they did to make a living. We were a hardy band of realists. Studying the dollar sign, I realized how little I knew about municipal financing. “Where do all the taxes go? Why isn’t there more?”
Henri shrugged. “Two words. Brighton Deeds.”
I sat up straighter. Now here was a tidbit my editors in Portland would leap at, more dirty dealings by the former mayor who’d go to trial next month. “He embezzled from the town?”
“Puh-leeze.” Henri raised eyebrows dyed to match his highlighted blond hair. “Don’t insult embezzlers. The fishmonger mayor was merely a shortsighted, mismanaging wastrel who flew first class to every conference and convention he heard about. His meal allowance for one trip would buy your wardrobe for a year.”
Henri pursed his lips and studied my tennis shoes, jeans, and the T-shirt that read: “What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?” I held my chin up. We’d been down this road before. Often. “I’m a reporter, not a fashion model.”
He sighed heavily and waggled his finger, a sign he’d get back to that later. “Anyway, right now the town’s situation is the opposite of the sewer plant’s—nothing coming in and too much going out.”
“Too bad you can’t route the sewage through city hall,” I quipped.
Henri shot me that scowl again.
“Bad joke,” I mumbled. Devil’s Harbor’s city hall was a file cabinet behind Henri’s counter and a table at the Belly Up Bar near the bait cooler. Maybelline Yamamoto, the town secretary, took down the minutes in between pulling beers and mixing drinks. “Can you borrow money for the matching funds?”
“To be able to borrow, one must be able to pay back. With interest.”
“What about increasing taxes?”
He shook his head. “Gus Custer has been—as you say—in my face about that. And Prudence Deeds claims she knows people in high places.”
“In the biblical sense,” I assured him. “And plenty in low places, too.” The former mayor’s wife was legendary for her sexcapades. Most recently she’d been cavorting with Joe Benton who’d finessed the congressional seat Brighton Deeds had pursued before his arrest.
“But I have a plan. And the town council has approved it.” His chest swelled. “The plan is two-pronged.”
I grinned. “You’re one of the few men who can use the word ‘prong’ in an intelligent conversation. Most would try to make it into a limerick.”
A mischievous smile tweaked Henri’s lips. “I understand the temptation. It does rhyme with quite a number of interesting words.”

No comments:

Post a Comment