Claude got a call from Sammy’s step-aunt, a constant thorn in his side, constantly scheming to take Sammy away from Claude’s care. Today, she threw a last second family reunion which everyone but Claude seemed to know about. Because Claude was tight with Harry Batt, manager of the Lake Pontchartrain Amusement Park, then he should be able to get the park for the family reunion for next to nothing.
Claude did get it for nothing… except a condition Harry could have his patent science buddy try out his new concession device for the guests.
Claude wasn’t fighting false faces or engaging in a shoot-out with crazed gator farmers. He’s in a situation even more terrifying to him: a family reunion. Swarms of little kids run about chasing each other around a rented pavilion at Lake Pontchatrain Beach. He hears the whirling and slicing sound of the patent science device: the Sno-Bliz! The machine finely slices the ice and whips it with flavored sugar cane syrup. As the blades go to town on the block of ice like a digger to a human victim, the inventor Ernest Hansen, explains, “This is not a snow cone. This my friend is a sno-ball. My sno-ball is light and fluffy. Snow cones are coarse and crunchy. More important, with a snow cone, the flavored syrup sinks to the bottom. My sno-balls absorb the flavored cane syrup. You’ve never had anything like it! My wife Mary says everyone will want to be licking my balls this summer! Here’s a banana sno-ball. Wrap your lips around this, buddy!”
A few minutes later, Claude puts as much distance between yourself and Mister Sno-Ball. My, Claude thinks, it really does taste like banana. He enjoys the sno-ball and looks out at the lake, enjoying the breeze on his face. Then, his idiot brother-in-law by some complicated series of marriages shows up to ruin everything. “It isn’t as healthy as you think. You’re sucking in all the waste dumped into the lake by every corrupt industrialist in the city. They tell me all about how they’re getting away with murder… when we’re in the steam room at the Gentleman’s Club. I don’t know, Claude, there’s a subconscious connection between all-male nudity and an insuppressible desire to brag about your sins. Maybe you’d get quicker confessions if you did your interrogations in a steam room. Ever think about that? The steam room could be tax deductible.”
Before Claude can get away, Sheldon, the relative, gets to business. “My brother-in-law needs your help, Claude. Shamus work. I know, you’re family, but I was cursed with a plethora of sister siblings, and they all grew up playing house and wedding dress-up… consequentially, they all got married, not caring they made my family tree needlessly complicated.
“Anyway, Norman… that’s Holly’s husband… he thinks someone’s trying to kill him. I have to agree there is a logic to this. He is a corporate attorney and is privy to a lot of dirt powerful people would not want brought to light. Someone targeted him when he left the golf course after our Traditional Thursday Driving Range Breakfast, trademark pending. They made a valiant effort to try and run him off the road. Then, a few days ago, it was only blind luck he didn’t get into his office elevator, because it broke and crashed. Norman’s an attorney, as I mentioned, and has the resources to handle almost any rate you might charge him. Do yourself a favor and take the case. If you do, maybe the highlight of our next family reunion won’t be an insane guy wanting us to lick his new and improved balls.”
Founded in 1914 as an exclusive Gentleman’s Club, membership was only available to a carefully selected few, recruited by its own members. The average man on the street probably wouldn’t even know the NOCC existed. If they did, they’d call it the Snob Club. This is a very accurate review of the club and its members.
The clubhouse is a sprawling two story cottage surrounded by moss-covered trees that seem like they’ve been around since the dawn of time.
An expressionless valet with a day-fresh haircut and tuxedo meets the group at the front door of the club. This is Mason Burgess, the club’s butler. “Yes, I know every member, and none of you are members, so how can I help you?”
“Mister Murphy’s expecting us for business,” Father Ryan explains. Claude slips some cash into Mason’s hand.
“Indeed he is. Follow me,” Mason says.
A pool sits just a few steps from the club house. Only a few elderly gentlemen set foot in the actual pool. Most gather around the outdoor bar, sipping from hundred dollar bottles of booze as men in tuxedos wait on them hand and foot. On a small hill overlooking the pool and club house on one side and the sprawling meticulously manicured fairways the other three directions, Mason leads the gumshoes to a short man with bad yet expensive fashion sense, taking a full minute to line up a putt. Mason holds up a hand to stop the investigators until Mr. Murphy takes his putt.
The bad dresser takes his putt. The ball stops seven inches short of the hole. Murphy sighs and looks at his feet for thirty seconds. Only when he looks up again does Mason lower his gloved hand and nod for the group to proceed.
The golfer watches the investigators approach. “Hello? Are you the ones Dr. Wagamore recommended? Which of you are his brother-in-law or some other relation?”
Claude raises his hand, and Murphy shakes his head and asks, “Snow-balls? Really?”
“Is there anything I can get you, Mr. Murphy?” Mason asks.
“Club sandwich. And a bottle of ‘26 Macallan. You boys drink?”
Within minutes, six tuxedo-wearing men return with trays of food, chairs and patio tables. Mason personally delivers the bottle of 1926 Macallan. Mason presents the dark bottle. “A fine single malt Scottish whiskey, sir. You will enjoy it.”
“Two attempts have been made on my life, one on Lakeshore Drive after I left here Thursday morning. The second was when I arrived at my office at Walter Pigman in the Central Business District. The elevator went out just before I stepped on. I’m telling you, I was targeted!”
“Are you sure someone’s trying to kill you?” Father Ryan asked.
Before Murphy could respond to the inquiry, “Who do you think is trying to kill you,” the club’s pro calls out to Murphy. “Norman! I know I stole you house right out from under you, but I don’t think the Directors will let you turn their putting green into your new dining room. Any of you boys want to do a quick circuit? No membership needed. I’m the pro. Probably your only chance to ever get to walk these luscious fairways. Just one cost. Ten buck wager per hole. Whatcha say? Are you men, or are you squishy bug-things?”
The golf pro, Roy MacAvoy, is a forty year-old man with bloodshot eyes and a pair brown khakis and a cardigan that hasn’t been washed in days. He smiles as he sizes up the investigators with the smile of a shark. Murphy introduces the golf pro, says he doesn’t have time today for a circuit ”You’ve taken quite enough away from me, Roy,” and dismisses him.
Once Roy is gone, Murphy says, “In a moment of weakness, I got suckered into taking a loop with Roy, the stakes including Murphy’s townhouse. Roy won, and Murphy hasn’t told his wife about the lost property.
Murphy whispers, “I know who it is… at least who’s calling the shots. Claude, why is your relative trying to kill me?”
“Dr. Sheldon Wagamore is my best friend, and he is my only suspect. We were sitting in the club house together when Mason informed me my Ford T Speedster wouldn’t start again. I excused myself to use the phone and call my driver, Harry, who came over in the Packard and picked me up while a mechanic came out to get the Speedster running again. Harry pulled up. Mason informed me. I said goodbye to Dr. Wagamore. I asked Harry to take the scenic route alone Lakeshore Drive. It’s so beautiful, and I didn’t have to be in the office until after one. Next thing I know a Hexaco tanker comes charging us, riding in the oncoming traffic lane. I swear it was targeting me. If Harry hadn’t been driving… he raced in Indianapolis, you know… we would’ve been smashed to bits. A minute later, the Hexaco truck was on our tail again, ready to ram us. Harry earned his keep, pushing the Packard to its limit and getting us far away from that murderous Hexaco truck. The only person who could have known what vehicle I’d be riding in would be Mason and Sheldon. And Mason would know he’s one of two suspects… and he doesn’t have the resources to defend himself in the fallout. Sheldon has plenty of resources, even enough to pay someone else to do his dirty work, allowing him to have an alibi.
“Then, I go in to the office at ten on Wednesday. It’s me and this receptionist of ours. Of course, the elevator door opens. It was that conspiracy theory guy, Vader. I must not have done a good job closing my briefcase, because as the receptionist and I step forward, the case spills open, and all my papers go scattering about the lobby. I told Vader to take Adrienne… that was her name… to the office, and I’d catch the next ride. So, I get most of the papers together when I hear this shriek and crash. Someone screams, and I jump. All my papers go flying again. Can you believe it? I dropped my papers a second time! Some attorney-client privilege, huh?”
The gumshoes writhed in rage at how their new client dismissed the lives of two people they’d met. Tony whispered to Nicky, “Do you think we’re being targeted?”
Nicky replied, “Everyone we’ve met’s turning up dead.”
Murphy met the police in the lobby. The investigation was being handled by a young Detective David Mills. He was quick to note the door leading to the stairwell was busted open, as was the door leading from the stairwell to the maintenance area in the basement. Murphy called yesterday but was told by Detective William R. Somerset the case was closed. It was an unfortunate accident caused by a defect in the elevator drive sheave. It wore out quickly, ruptured, and the elevator dropped. This seemed to contradict what Detective Mills had said. That’s when Murphy decided to hire shamuses to find the answers.
The investigators tried to get Murphy to open up about his law clients. Murphy remained unswayed. “I’ll make that information available if this proves a dead end.
“Sheldon thinks I’m socially inept, that I can’t make friends. He’s partially correct. I’m a social parasite. I’m either unwilling or incapable of forming my own social connections. But once I’m involved in a social circle, I do just fine. Cultured people think I’m quite a dandy gentleman. I make witty conversations on the golf course and am a equally a good winner and a good loser. I’m the go-to choice to round out foursomes. At our sommelier organization, the members love my toasts and witty presentations. I’m the one selected to be the host or toast master at black tie events. As my social circle expands, I don’t think any lesser of Sheldon. He might be a pretentious buffoon, but he’s family, a brother in the Gentleman’s Club, a co-member of the New Orleans Country Club and the Tannin in Command at the Refined Palette.
“Do you call Sheldon up to have coffee and beignets on Sunday morning? I didn’t think so. We both feel the same way about Sheldon. After he told me you were coming, I had some people check in on you and your relationship with our brother-in-law. That’s why I can trust you.”
On the way out, Tony smiled at the orange sportster. He’d seen it before, parked in Storyville. When he brought it up, Sheldon blushed and said his mind was wandering one day he was driving home from the country club and ended up in Storyville. That’s when his car broke down again. He entered Cafe Le’Enfer to use the phone and call his driver-mechanic to pick him up. The bartender seemed relentless trying to get his interest. Murply didn’t give her the slightest sign of interest.