I’ve been busy with the Challenge Coin project. More have gone out to friends and donors, two yesterday, a couple more today.
It’s been awhile since we heard about the doings of Tracer Bullet, Private Eye. I think the last update was HERE. Our frequent commentator “Semper Gumby” posts on Tracer from time to time.
Come to think of it, SG also opined about the design of my challenge coin:
But I’m still partial to a coin with Fr. Z in Braveheart blueface, biretta, night vision goggles, and aspergillum. Ah well.
Well, SG isn’t the only one with word from Tracer, sent by Father Z to investigate the The Mysterious Case of the Hallow’s Missing Maniple.
Here’s my account, which I quickly typed out on my old Underwood.
The smell of stale beer and cigar smoke mixed in the dark low-ceilinged bar like a trench filled with poison gas. The slowly drifting fumes drifted languidly to the tune from the jukebox. Maybe it was his imagination, but to him the dust motes hanging in the flickers of the dying neon sign over the bottles by the dull cracked mirror spelt something. “Danger… danger….”
“Stubby” described both the bartender’s height and his face. He paced the length, seeing to refills and watching for trouble.
“What’ll it be, Faddah? The usual?”
The trial-worn priest sloughed of his rain dampened greca and romano, hanging them on the rack that stood like a sentinel near the door. Cocking his head he listened for a moment to the tune on the jukebox. It was like the stars were lining up.
“Not tonight, Stubs. I’ll have that one you made the other day for… well, you know who.”
The barkeep went very still and, after a few breaths, said quietly, just audible over the moaning blues.
“Yah, sure ‘ting, Faddah. One of doz’ … doz’ Inky Montanas. Right?”
“That’s right, Stubs, one of those ‘Inky Montanas’.”
Stubby turned to his potions, but his sad eyes fixed on the priest a beat too long.
A couple minutes passed before he neared the cleric’s place again, alone at the middle of the brass-railed bar, shining with the neon and the low-watt bulbs. He set the drink down.
“Jus’ like da…”.
There was a sudden change in the air. The barkeep froze, eyes widening as he peered beyond the cleric toward the door.
The priest’s old, sharply-honed senses tightened around him like the grip of an angry Swedish masseuse as the figure entered from the rain swept, street-light glittering darkness. He had the newcomer in the mirror. In the reflections off the cash register. Finally in Stubby’s horn-rimmed glasses. The smell of old wet trenchcoat and spent gunpowder all preceded him with the squeak of leather soles before the man sat heavily on the stool beside the priest, still dripping fedora pulled forward.
Beat… beat… beat…
“Tracer”, the ecclesiastic nodded.
“Z”, he returned, a little too informally.
The jukebox started to ratchet in a new tune. The priest didn’t move.
The private eye took off his hat. But as he set it down, his grip loosened an instant too soon. It dropped, spilling the priest’s untouched drink, which bled out over the flat surface finding his folded copy of the The Wanderer.
“Sorry, Z”, he mumbled, little too nonchalantly, tense.
Beat… beat… beat…
“Tracer?”, the priest said quietly.
There was a pause.
The long smoky room slowly quieted but for the sound of the neon buzz and “How Long, How Long”.
Heard the whistle blowin’, couldn’t see no train
Way down in my heart, I had an achin’ pain
How long, how long, baby how long
“My drink is no longer in my glass, Tracer.”
The Private Dick licked his lips and slowly stood back up.
The bartender stirred into action. “No problem, Faddah, I’ll jus…”
With the slightest raise of the cleric’s hand from the counter top, he stopped.
“There’s time for that in a moment, Stubs.”
Tracer Bullet stood by the bar stool in the haze of the long, dark smoky-laden watering hole, hands hanging at his side.
Father Z rose, cassock falling into place, hands at his sides.
Beat… beat… beat….
“My name is Father. You killed my Inigo Montoya. Prepare to die.”
Beat… beat… beat….
The house erupted in howls of mirth and everyone jolted back into motion.
“So, how do we settled this… little problem?, he said, “The usual way?”
Tracer’s shoulder visibly relaxed.
After a second’s pause, eyes locked, their hands flew to their pockets at the same moment. The black-clad divine filled his hand with smooth cold metal and drew, shooting his arm toward his opponent. Tracer was still fumbling, checking one pocket after another… trousers, jacket, trench coat.
The worn challenge coin glinted in the priest’s palm with the flickers of the dying neon sign by the cracked mirror.
“Tracer, you don’t have your coin.”
“You know what that means, right?”
“Stubbs! Set ’em up. Tonight the drinks are on our friend Mr. Bullet, here.”
Cheers went up from the shadowy length of the caliginous bar and someone by the jukebox punched up the Stevie Ray.
“So,” Father Z said reclaiming his barstool, “I take it that you saw my old friends at MI-6. What did you find out in London? Tell me everything, omitting nothing….”
The priest twisted his head sidelong and looked at the weary detective like a black cobra at mongoose having really bad day.
“If you do… I’ll know.”
The detective extracted a holy card from the breast pocket of his sharp-lapelled pinstripe and placed it on the counter which the hovering Stubby had just wiped down.
“Southworth”, said the priest, without moving his eyes from the investigator’s worn face.
“Southworth”, he replied. “And Moneypence sends her regards.”
The silent bespectacled bartender, nodded with a distant smile and went to clear some tables.
“Okay, Tracer, get to it or I’ll start on you with the Maledictory Psalms.”
“Okay, padre, keep your fascia on. It’s like this….
For those of you who don’t know… there is a cocktail called an “Inigo Montoya”, a movie character who utters a famous phrase echoed in the account above. The drink is quite similar to the Moscow Mule, which is growing in popularity, though it substitutes the vodka with tequilla. The ginger beer and lime remain, obviously, though a dash of cardamon is added.
Something to lighten up a Friday.