Reports of mysterious animal deaths were being noticed by news organizations across the U.S. Interpol agent Bernie Benedict hoped that the animal slaughters wouldn’t be linked to his very own, very big, and very hungry kitty.
Each of Bomba’s latest victims was larger than the previous. The cat was leaving his old “can opener,” Bernie, gifts strewn across the U.S. Thanks, Bomba. I miss you, too. What Bernie found on that muggy Milwaukee night was the ruination of a very large snow-white bird. There were feathers and wing bones strewn across the alley. The head of was gone, as was the bottom half of the poor creature. Bernie’s partner, Frankie had picked up a piece of evidence that he held outward on a stick.
“Check it out, buddy boy. Some angel lost his halo. That’s nutty.” Frankie held out a golden ring that was about a foot in diameter, pulsing with light.
Bernie looked up at the moon. Damned cat, he thought. Jesus K. Ries…No. Wait. Cancel that. (Every time that Bernie mentioned the Messiah, Jesus would show up and ask Bernie to find him a date for his big comeback tour). “Bomba, what have you done, now?”
“Ooowee this place stinks!” A powerful smell forced Bernie to move back toward the curb. Bernie could barely breathe as it burned his lungs. The smell came from Bomba’s acidic urine. The big kitty had not only marked his territory, but also etched Bernie’s, radioactive luminescing name into the alley’s brick wall.
“I’ll bag and tag the ring, pal — looks like a halo to me. I’ll ask Dr. Green to bring it down to the lab. We both could use some shut eye.”
Bernie had a terrible feeling in his gut about this particular “bird.”
Bomba, the big pussycat, seemed to be enjoying his road trip with his new leggy, ‘best bud,’ the goddess Artemis, as he followed the trail of Edwin MacHeath’s cannibals eastward. “Macky” MacHeath was back in town and the “big show” was moving quickly. The prophetic showdown between the shark gods loomed.
Two dark figures came out of the shadows. “Agent Benedict?”
“Who are you guys?”
“Sorry to surprise you, sir? (Oh, geez, cough cough) What happened here? I’m detective London and this is detective France.” London picked up a huge white feather. “It must have been a real beast that killed this ostrich. Let’s move out to the curb.”
“That was no bird, Mack!” said Frankie, who was walking toward his car with the evidence bag full of glowing halo.
“Do you see the size of the teeth marks on the back of the wing?” asked London.
“Yes. I see, London,” said Bernie.
“What about you?” asked France.
“I see, France,” said Bernie.
“Beware of people who dislike cats.” — Irish Proverb
“How we behave toward cats here below determines our status in heaven.” — Robert A. Heinlein
“When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.” — Ernest Hemingway
“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.” ― Robert A. Heinlein
“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.”― Albert Schweitzer
“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” ― Charles Dickens
“Of all God’s creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.” ― Mark Twain
“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” ― Leonardo da Vinci
“I love cats because I love my home and after a while they become its visible soul.” — Jean Cocteau
Photo by Fred Barnett 2013, Sorrento, Italy
Go ahead, Bomba, Bernie thought. Abandon me for this…this…wow. Go with her, you big dumb animal. Bernie, after watching his cat and his punching-bag-of-a-heart follow the dreamsicle out the door, he gave up, calmed down and tried really, really hard to fall asleep. Ow!
Bomba’s new-bestest-long-leggiest-goddess friend had left the half asleep human a souvenir. One of her signature golden arrows stuck out from Bernie’s pillow. The arrow was vibrating and still sticky with chili. The beautiful Artemis.
Half dreaming, Bernie heard the voices of his blue caped cat and the goddess, outside, laughing hysterically as they walked toward Artemis’ fine set of wheels. “Did you see the look on chew toy’s face?” the two said in chorus.
Bomba, looked down at a phantom of Bernie’s broken heart laying on the car’s front seat between them, and let out a sigh of surrender. Bernie’s cat’s new-bestest-long-leggiest-goddess friend ever seemed to be amused by the imploded human they left behind.
The daunting goddess and the mighty Bomba took a sip from their root beer floats and sped off toward the setting moon.
“Calling you a big, dumb animal. The big sap.” She patted the growing kitty on his head and smiled. “He should talk.” Bomba spat a hairball the size of a baseball out into the endless void (Within two days, Bomba’s projectile, traveling at a rate of 17,500 mph, would cause extensive and expensive damage to the Soyuz Space Station).
Perhaps, thought Artemis, my job is done. Tag and release. Why am I tingling?
…And then there was (God- Bless-Him everyone) sickly (well, he never gained an ounce) Little Sprout. He appealed to the sympathetic passer-byes as they offered their money and food to the poor, seemingly crippled Sprout (he could fight with his crutch in a most devilish way). Always the optimistic little waif, he helped the Beane family through their hard times with his boundless optimism.
(At a family meal….)
Sprout: “This body may be rotten, and full of maggots, but we’re going to eat the most delicious maggot-ridden-rotten corpse in all of Scotland this Christmas day!”
“It was only business…”
During its infancy, the family business was simple, but time consuming: stalk, ambush, rob, kill, and hide all evidence. The children were always too busy to go to school or hang out with boring teenage ‘villagies’ who could be seen on any given day, cruising the inn listening to their loud bagpipe music while loitering around the Seven Elfin Market. Every once in a while, one would see them slip behind the market to blow on some kid’s bagpipe bong.
The Beane kids all worked too hard for such idle play. Well before sunrise (depending on the tides), seven days a week, the fourteen Beane children would arise, dress, eat a meager breakfast of cold gruel and travel for over an hour, uphill, by foot, horse and cart, and crooked crutch through the cold fog and rain, to their work site (Locals called the Sawney’s trail near Galloway “Ambush Gardens”). From sunrise to sunset (depending on the tides again) the entire family would be busy stalking, ambushing, robbing and murdering (Dad said of these ‘fishing expeditions’ that “no witnesses should be left alive”). Then there was the “clean-up in which all bodies and evidence would be brought back to the cave, treasures would be cataloged, and evidence would be stockpiled or destroyed. If the bodies began to “stack up” they were buried under rocks on the beach or dried for later use as kindling. Next, the children, returned from school, would sit down to their meager supper of recooled gruel. Prayers were then said to Urtha the Fish God before they went to bed.
As you can imagine, all of this heck-raising pretty much filled up the ambitious Beane family’s busy day.
Since most of the wary travelers often didn’t carry cash, the ever growing Sawney clan rarely had enough money for store bought food. One magical snowy Christmas Eve, as Sprout sang the ancient Scottish tune: “Sawney”(You won’t see me no moor, when I get to that Sawney shooooorre !”) the family sat with cups of stale cold gruel in front of the fireplace. Their mittens warming over the roasty toasty body of victim #43 (Mr. Yule), cracklin’ over a small pile of burning evidence. Father Sawney, with his corncob pipe in hand, looked into the warm glow of the fire and offhandedly suggested that they “begin to eat the robbery victims.” Immediate gasps of phony surprise and disgust were followed by gales of laughter. They blamed the comment on dad’s drinking. Dear old dad was just talking nonsense again.
Pop always talked crazy after drinking liquor flasks stolen from the wayward travelers. After drinking too much, dad’s blue eyes were often set ablaze by fire water, the belt usually came off, and…. .
On this cold Galloway night, deep within the Beane clan’s seaside cave, it was not going to be all talk. Father Sawney’s loving family realized that dad was dead serious. “We can’t afford to buy meager portions of cold gruel any more, children,” he slurred. “Not if I’m gonna keep drinkin. You Scot-nosed bastards will either have to go to work, or we must start eating all of these piple, I mean peebles…I mean…. (snore)”
Sawney fell into a deep dream of sugar-plum fairies before he could finish his sentence.
Little sprout, the little pink cherub, chimed in with his choirboy voice, and an optimistic “ Aye! Why eat gruel, when we can have fresh meat nearly every night?”
Slowly they developed their unique culinary style. There were no cookbooks in Scotland at this time. Besides, the Beane family couldn’t read. It was often trial (guilty: execution!) and error. Eccy was born a natural chef who understood the cosmic secret of tenderizing.”
“True tenderizing,” my children, often requires multiple beatings with heavy clubs and the trampling of horses.”
Zeus and Leto often watched Goddesses of Walmart for entertainment. That night they were horrified when they saw their daughter dressed in the giant muumuu while trolling the aisles for deals on chips and soda.
Then the following celestial evening, after 50,300 hits on YouTube the voguish goddess Leto was forced to watch (in shock and horror) a video of her daughter shopping while dressed in a hideous floral nightgown and tennis shoes.
The hotel phone rang.
Bernie (Artemis’ charge and pet human) picked it up and handed it to the goddess, who had ‘let herself go’ while visiting Earth. ‘Artie’ was eating a tub of bon-bons on the couch.
“It’s your dad, Artie.”
Artemis grabbed the phone. “Daddy?”
The voice on the phone was powerful enough for Bernie to hear every word. The voice was angry enough to generate lightning from the earpiece.
“Artie. Dear Artie. Your mom and I decided that you can’t come home until you lose weight and come to your fashion senses,” daddy Zeus had said. “And tell your hobo friend to hijack himself a new suit with real pants if he’s gonna paint the town with my baby. Bernie’s friend Frankie should have already told him that life’s too short to dress like a bum. And what the hell is that thing you’re drivin’?”
“Uh…” Munch, munch, munch. “Bernie rented a Chia.”
“Everyone up here thinks that you’ve gotten weak and out of control. We can’t afford to have the other deities think that the Olympians are pushovers.” Zeus shouted into the phone. “For gods and goddesses sakes, Art-Art, you used to knock ’em dead.”
“Art-Art?” Bernie heard that and giggled.
The goddess shot lethal optikos (eye) arrows at Bernie. “Shut up, sandal licker! No, not you, daddy. There is going to be an epic battle with MacHeath’s army, so I promised to help out Bernie and his trollop friend.”
“You mean Miss Soapy Puppies?”
“Princess,” the voice said. “Don’t come home until you’ve cleaned up your circle of friends.” Zeus hung up.
“But, daddyyyyyyyy?” The heroic figure wept a flood of diamond tears.
A text appeared.
Final judgment came to Artemis swiftly in a furious “bolt of rejection.” The bolt was hurled in the form of an angry text, with an angry minotaur emoji attached.
Artemis had just been officially banished from her home and family.
“What family, pop?” she texted back. “Do we even have a family name?”
“Good point, pumpkin. Let me ask your mom,” he wrote.
Back on Olympus, Zeus asked Leto, “Dear? What’s our last name?”
He texted Artemis, “You still there? Okay. Your mom says that our last name is ‘On High.’ We don’t need a last name, pumpkin, unlike the Kardashians. We’re bigger than Lady Gaga. We only use first names. Oh, your mom wants to know…what the hell kinds of shoes were you wearing on the Walmart show?”
Zeus’ mighty presence was suddenly gone, and Artemis was hurt, and that meant that she needed tacos.
Artemis had become “an embarrassment” to the fashion-conscious Olympian gods, who were tolerant to a point, often turning their backs on lesser Olympian crimes, such as torture, mass murder, incest, rape, infanticide and eating one’s own children.
During a storm, Jesus appeared on a blue tarp upon the deck of The Vinnie Maru, demanding that agent Bernie Benedict find him a date.
Shark Fin Soup
A tale of sharks, gods, cannibals, mad cows and endless love.
Since bygone days, two ancient Pacific cannibal tribes have fought over which of their respective shark gods should rule the Seven Seas. Today, the 3000-year-old Melanesian war has reached the shores of the US.
‘Word on the street’ has it that the shark gods and their peckish followers are gearing up for a final, pay-per-view televised battle which will take place in Jamaica Bay, NY, on New Year’s Eve.
Leading up to the match, Interpol agent Bernie ‘The God Whisperer’ Benedict and his paranormal crew are following the body count along US waterfronts.
And Jesus still wants a date.
Soon, our hero finds himself in dangerous waters as the ‘prize’ in an over-heated mating game between two deities, the majestic virgin moon goddess, Artemis, and her luscious friend, the potty-mouthed Fijian goddess, Dauna. Join the merriment as Bernie — having tasted forbidden fruit — becomes Cupcaecius, a cosmopolitan dead ringer for Cary Grant and the first new god to appear on Mount Olympus in over five-thousand years.
“Vlad. I think you’re becoming hearing dyslexic,” said Elizabeth ‘The Bloody Countess’ Bathory. “The woman said angles. Hell’s Angles. A-N-G-L-E-S.”
“Jonathan,” Vlad D. Impaler said as he sat back in the car and lit his pipe, “could you kill them? I’m hungry.”
“What a sorry bunch,” said Lupta, the tiny witch. “Look at them, huffing and puffing, and just from huffing and puffing. Elizabeth, you guys drink what you want and then I’ll help Mina (Elizabeth’s great-great-granddaughter) make skin cream out of the rest. Save the livers for the pups.”
“Wait,” said Jonathan (Vlad’s great-great-grandson). “They might be more useful alive. Meet your new army, Pops!”
“That’s a depressing thought, Jonny,” said Vlad. “I rather kill myself… No, I’d rather kill someone else.”
While Vlad and Elizabeth watched carefully, Lupta, Jonathan, and Mina pushed the wolves from their laps and stepped out of the Challenger. Tiny Lupta Axe walked forward to confront the wannabe ruffians. She’d decided to keep the conversation friendly. She had to keep in mind that Vlad and Elizabeth needed help—any help that they could get.
The four wolves—Dino, Frankie, Sammy, and Luciano—flanked the car. Glowing eyes, growling and drooling commenced in four-part harmony.
“All right,” said the tiny witch emerging from the headlights, smiling. “Just what are you delusional slabs of beef doing here?”
A seven-foot tall, five hundred-pound bald colossus parted a pathway through the illuminated crowd on the grass and bravely walked up to Lupta Axe.
Lupta stared up from the giant’s navel and said, “Give me your lunch money and I won’t turn that pretty face into meatloaf.”
“I am Tor, Tor Johansson. I own Killer Builders in LA. We’re only passing through your country, ma’am. Some of our American members have come to Europe for the summer to ride with some of our Danish friends like Inga, Olaf, Hakon, Magnus, Hardrade, Sigurd, and Siegfried, who are also designers from our Scandinavian furniture branch. Everybody in architecture knows the Angles! We took the gang to Europe for a very special trip.”
“Yeah, we heard that they’re going to open a Black Flags Tragic Mountain down the road,” said a man peeping his head out of the crowd. “That will be our last stop.”
“Oh, reeeeally. Who’s the big mouth?” Lupta asked pointing to the nerd who was even smaller than she was.
“That’s Isaiah Newton,” said Brutehilda. “Be nice to him. He’s our demolition expert. He makes crap fall.”
Jonathan’s newly pointed ears perked up. Demolition? Oh, really!
“We do a bike ride on a different continent every five years to get everyone out of the office,” said Chester. “The Angles are not allowed to bring anything work related on these vacations. Not even a pencil! We have members all over the planet. We ride on weekends in our respective countries.” Chester looked down at Lupta who was winding her hand buzzer. “Maybe you can help us out, young woman.”
“My name is Lupta Axe. Spells, cookies, practical jokes…and I write.”
“Well, Ms. Axe, this year my friends and I decided to visit the home of the original bad-asses, Vlad the Impaler and the Bloody Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Most of all, we really want to visit the home of our favorite author Infinity Upton-Downes. All three are baaaaad motherfuckers. Pardon my Danish.”
“Well, they ain’t at home, assholes!”
“Who ain’t home?” asked Brutehilde.
“The ones you came looking for,” said Lupta who was still shorter than Brutehilda who was sitting on a Harley. “It’s tourists like you who are ruining our habitat! Once I embarrass you doodie-heads with my X-ray specs we’ll have to eliminate you. Oh, look! You stepped in vomit!”
Jonathan put a hand on Lupta’s thin shoulder and whispered, “Enough, Aunty. We might need them.”
Lupta picked up her plastic vomit and mumbled “Clueless idiots. Buzz off!”
Tor stared at the tiny witch.
“Take a picture, Q-Ball. It will last longer,” she snapped.
“Who are you and what do you know about Infinity Upton-Downes?” thundered Tor. “How would you know that she ain’t home? Infinity’s Witchipedia biography says that she lives in Transylvania year-round. I know everything about her…’cept what she looks like. I imagine that she’s pretty hot after readin’ her stuff.”
“Oh. Howwwww do I know she isn’t home, snowflake? ’Cause you’re talkin’ to her, ya big ugly bastard! What happened to your eye?”
“Your eye! Are ya deaf too? Bend down and let me take a look you got something…right there!” She poked it. “Nyuk, nyuk.”
“Ow! Old bat!”
“I am rubber, you are glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks back to you! Ohhh, stop your whining. You’re fine, petal. Look through this telescope. See!” The telescope left a big black greasy circle around Tor’s poked eye. “So, you don’t believe that I am the famous Infinity? Have you read Tragic Lust #34? Of course you haven’t! I just finished writing it. It’s a romantic called Go-Go West, Young Man.”
Lupta waved her cane and began to recite:
“Ahem… Time. Stood. Still. Broken by an intensifying vibration, Thunder’s glistening bronze thighs began to quake. Handsome Jack’s mighty maracas nearly shook loose. The Paiute guide howled when she clamped down and crushed the stunned studly Spillwell’s notorious hardened spike… The wagon master’s dying wail triggered the legendary Montana avalanche known by all school-age children today as ‘Fuckin’ awesome!’”
Tor turned to Chester. “Holy Swiss cheese, Chester!”
“Holy…It’s really her!” said Brutehilda.
Fuckin’ illiterates, thought Lupta.
“Yup. That’s Infinity,” said a Viking-helmeted man in a business suit, named Lutefisk.
Willowy Mina shook her head. She still couldn’t believe that her own aunty, Lupta Axe, was the famous author of the disturbing books that she had been hiding beneath her mattress with her deluxe Willie Wanker Bar.
The Milwaukee chief of police, William ‘Boulder Balls Bill’ Sagamore, had just shown up. “I hate hot weather. You must be agent Bernie. Whoa! It’s much too early for those blinding shorts. ” Boulder Balls walked toward the shoreline, “Sure smells ripe. With this hot weather we’ve been getting ’em ripe.”
Two more “ripples” offshore distracted agent Bernie. The waters of Lake Michigan sure looked inviting this morning.
Had it not been for the tattooed body parts strewn along the banks, kids would have been swimming in the toxic muck from the Milwaukee within a few hours.
“Torsos! I hate headless, armless, legless, genital-less, ass-less hairless torsos,” Chief Big Balls Bill grumbled on. “It looks just like the stuffed derma my Aunt Minnie used to cook — but not as smelly or pale. I mean the bodies aren’t as smelly or as pale. And, look! They took all these guy’s belly buttons!” Belly-buttonless.
Doctor Green spat from his tobacco-stained teeth, “No face, no prints, no belly buttons = no service. We’re gonna have to get some DNA. By the way, Bernie, your friend T.K. messaged me that belly buttons are a prized snack among New Guinea’s Hotat tribe.”
Another pattern of killings. Bernie had also been following a string of decapitated animals that would take him eastward.
Reports of mysterious animal deaths were being noticed by news organizations across the U.S. Bernie hoped that the cannibal killings wouldn’t be linked to his big hungry kitty.
Each of Bomba’s latest victims was larger than the previous. The cat was leaving his old “can opener,” Bernie, gifts strewn across the U.S. Thanks, Bomba. I miss you, too. What Bernie and the two local detectives found on that muggy Milwaukee night was the ruination of a very large snow-white bird. There were feathers and wing bones strewn across the alley. The head was missing as was the bottom half of the poor animal. Bernie’s partner, Frankie had picked up a piece of evidence that he held outward on a stick.
“Check it out, buddy boy. Some angel lost his halo. That’s nutty.” Frankie held out a golden ring that was about a foot in diameter and pulsed with light.
“Ooowee, this place stinks!” A powerful smell forced Bernie to move back toward the curb. Bernie could barely breathe as it burned his lungs. The smell came from Bomba’s acidic urine. The big kitty had not only marked his territory, but also etched Bernie’s, radioactive luminescing name into the alley’s brick wall.