Saturday, December 9, 2017

Public Domain Goodness: Plan 9 from Outer Space


And I'm back. Hey readers welcome back to the blog of Public Domain Goodness and again nothing that good in it. Today's flick has been deemed "The Worse Movie Ever Made," and I call b.s.to that. I have yet to view the worse movie ever made because every time I am ready to declare that flick, another film bashes that one over and I am back at square one. Whomever decreed this the worse movie ever hasn't sat through Andreas Schnass Violent Sh*t movies but I digress. This film is brought to us by Ed Wood himself as writer, producer and director. Is it a massive steaming pile or just low budgeted, poorly written and edited? This is Plan 9 from Outer Space.



A sperm whale? Oh wait, that's Tor.
















Given 8 plans came prior I shudder to think how dumb those were. Ed Wood (Outlaw Queen, Bride of the Monster, The Bride and the Beast, The Sinister Urge, Married Too Young, Glen or Glenda) brings us a very clunky plot as aliens who have contacted Earth prior threaten to take over the planet...apparently one town at a time. They're not very organized but they do have a plan. Plan 9 involves the resurrection of the dead and using them as a disposable army to swarm the populous and subjugate them to their dastardly will. 



No Timmy, you cannot have more than 4 cookies.















Thus far they decided a late bride, played by character actress/horror glamour model/chorus girl Vampira a.k.a. Maila Nurmi. A flight from Burbank is going on at 4 in the morning, in spite of the daily stock footage looking about 3 in the afternoon. Co-pilot Danny (David De Mering of Plan 9 from Outer Space and Night of the Ghouls) and Captain Jeff (Gregory Walcott of The Sugarland Express, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Eiger Sanction, Kojak, Midway, The Six Million Dollar Man, ChiPs and Vega$) witness a spectacle not common in their skies. A flying saucer...that looks like a Jiffy Pop bag on a string. Shocking!

Somehow the wife of Old Man (Bela Lugosi of Dracula, Island of Lost Souls, The Black Cat, The Black Sleep, Bride of the Monster, Brooklyn Gorilla, Suspense, Scared to Death and Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein) animates and kills two grave diggers...presumptuously.  It was off camera.

No sooner is Old Man is buried a couple of family friends found the sweaty grave diggers and their sweat coated pants. Dead Swamp Ass!!!


L.A.'s finest are hot on the case led by Inspector Clay (Tor Johnson of The Unearthly, Bride of the Monster, The Black Sheep, Journey to Freedom, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Night of the Ghouls, The Beast of Yucca Flats and Head) as they explore where the grave diggers' bodies were found. While his team secures the scene (sound stage), Clay decides to knock around a whale. Yeah folks, if you are the many that complain about Schwarzenegger's accent, GOOD LUCK deciphering what the hell Tor Johnson said. Close Captions told me he was having a look around.

Jeff reminisces over the flying saucer to his wife and Army Brass told him to keep his yap shut. In spite of telling his wife.

Clay is buzzed by the saucer and then attacked by Vampira and Not Bela Lugosi (a stand-in had to step in when Bela passed away during filming) thus killing him off camera on the lone sound stage they had. So yes they bury Clay in the very same graveyard.

Soon it is revealed by an Army Colonel to Jeff that aliens are responsible for all of these shenanigans of the dead. Colonel, Lt. Harper and Jeff spring into action to fend off these incompetent aliens. With pistols.



Bring in the space steamer for the space drapes.















Our best army stock footage from Korea new reels couldn't stop these aliens.

What do we take away from this ambitious film? Well the film attempts science fiction/gothic horror and the period piece term Atompunk (From 1945-1965 atomic age, jet and space age dealing with Soviet communism, Cold War era and superhero films and comics) a 50s take on what the future looks like. Nonsensical dialogue, theatre with way too much melodrama and an introduction by Ed Wood's friend Criswell, a psychic. Narrative approach to explain the action. Trying a hand at government conspiracy to cover up the UFO sightings.





The problem is shots do not match from scene to scene, Afternoon to mid evening to suddenly jet black at night on a sound stage and most of the dialogue just sounds like odd rambling. Trying for a The Day the Earth Stood Still, a more advanced civilization attempts to invade the Earth but clearly they did not have the budget for spaceship models, scale work or even that large of a cast. Props of the "spaceship" look like they have been lifted from previous Frankenstein movie sets, ham radios and loads of curtains when they clearly couldn't get some set builders.

No objectives are clear, the plot does not add up the subplots, the characters really have no motivation and there is no real direct meshing of these scenes. I did get to enjoy (loathe) several sweaty large men swamp ass shots. This film is great for maybe a drinking game, something a gathering of friends to make fun of and yes thankfully Rifftrax made a version to mock outright.




He's a tween, his partner a goob. Stay tuned for Cop and 3 Quarters.

















(US) Image Entertainment, 2000
(Germany) Winkler Film/Alive AG, 2009
(Austrailia) Force Video, 2011
(US) Legend Films 2009

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Public Domain Goodness: Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny


And we're back with more Public Domain Goodness. Actually that is a contradiction because there is nothing good to be had about today's gut wrenching pain. Dragging at the speed of a snail on a leave, our film tops off at a whopping 96 minutes of pure unadulterated Hell. Tis' the season after all and given I am in warmer climates I have to look a bit harder for Christmas.

This is Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.


I can't see in this mask.  Was that a log or a hobo I ran over?















This particular abomination in the eyes of God and humanity is brought to us by R&S Film Entertainment from the year of 1972. Written, directed and musically scored by R. Winer (Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny) and clearly gone and never seen nor heard from again. Production comes from a children stories/exploitation producer Barry Mahon (Cuban Rebel Girls, Rocket Attack U.S.A., The Dead One, Santa's Christmas Elf Named Calvin) and boy oh boy are we in for a treat. I mean, if you can't trust quality morality and noble intentions from the producer of Sex Killer, Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico and The Wonderful Land of Oz, then frankly you are a touch cynical.


Santa is stuck in Florida as all his reindeer revolted and left his bulbous ass in the heat and surf.    No real mention why and Santa doesn't exactly seem to be busting his hump to fix this.   This thread bare plot was linking a jolly old fat man, some zany kids and helping good old Santa out of his plight so he can get back to delivering toys. This film is so poorly executed aside from finding out the actor playing Santa, I think the parents of the kids demanded their names stricken from the bill. Seriously most of them didn't even have names.



Now children, you must be wondering why Santa has no pants.















Santa has been baking in the sun for a while as we were treated (and by we I mean I suffered) saggy sweaty swamp ass. Yup that pan about of Santa getting in and out of the sleigh was a treat for all to behold. HOLIDAY SWAMP ASS!!! Or Santa's saggy diaper sprung a leak.

So the kids find alternative animals to pull the sleigh while Santa decides to have a musical number. Did I mention this was also a musical? Probably still reeling from experiencing it myself. After many vain attempts at different animals, the kids are tired and stumped what to do. To pad the film uh I mean pass the time, Santa apparently dropped acid and has a flashback about a story he heard.

A completely separate fairy tale, told at a theme park in Dania Florida called Pirate's World. A tale that has no bearing on Christmas, a moral lesson or any relevance WHATSOEVER!!!!

Instead the kids get to delight at the whimsy of a crazy old man in a Santa suit as we have stock footage from Pirate World and Thumbellina.   Because Thumbellina is so...Christmas like.  At best guess as this story is narrated from a PA speaker system in the park, you get the idea they originally had these live action fairy tales as a means to entertain the kids when the rides made them throw up too many times.


I tell you elves, we need to strike.















Dig this. The bloody story is almost 36 minutes long. Yup Santa and the kids share in this wondrous tale with paper mach'e toadstools, large creature suits and music that had all its potential charms strangled from it.   Over a half hour this diverting story and what does it have to do with Santa and his reindeer on strike??? Absolutely nothing.  A complete and deliberate waste of your time.


Swamp Ass Claus finishes this long winded tale and if you look at it analytically, he speaks of a narrator telling the tale. So then kids, the nice lady spoke of how Thumbellina was lost in the woods with the poor backdrop, the high school production quality sets and the lighting that changes from moment to moment.

Bearing this time wasting bastard no more, several of the kids head out in search of the one being that could summon all his might to do what's right. Yes the Ice Cream Bunny. With it's cold, dead shark-like eyes and not saying a single word, this nightmare fuel proves Santa a lift in his old timey fire truck of which I can't even guess how the guy in the suit saw to steer it. Moving at speeds of maybe 10 mph, they head over to pick up Santa and then...well more music and roll credits.







I kid you not. That's it. Again like Planet of the Dinosaurs, this also has been picked apart by Rifftrax and they have a holly jolly time mocking this hellish creation. Andrew Lloyd Webber plays are more enjoyable. Shot in 16mm and converted to 35mm print, normally I cheer at this but no, I have no love for this film.

I am not even certain who this film could entertain.   I guess if you have a small child that smacks him or herself with a brick, this would be a distraction.  If your child suffers from eating too much lead paint when you are not looking, well this film might induce vomiting, clearing the toxic material from him or her.

If you were planning on creating a Saw based torture chamber and just simply force your victims to watch a movie, with locked and bolted doors, a projector against a tile wall and turned up the built-in speakers encased in shatterproof boxes so they can never drown out the sounds of this awful movie... well you're unhinged and have an excellent flick to cause agony.

Personally I would make it part of my last will and testament to torment family members greedily awaiting a good sized payoff. Ya wants the dough, on wif da show.

96 minutes does not seem like much normally and I would agree if it wasn't for the incredibly slow pace, next to no plot, the child actors looking like they can't wait to leave and this asinine link to Pirate World and... yeah I lost my point. Oh yes, skip the original incarnation of this movie. If you have to stare at this in order to believe in its existence, watch the Rifftrax version.



A witch's brew...for Christmas.

Public Domain Goodness: Planet of the Dinosaurs


Hey gang. I know it has been a while for a write up. Trying to create some video reviews and YouTube is...well currently having a few issues but we are not going to talk about that.

Instead I am going to find us some nice, safe public domain films I can review. Loosely translated, I am tired of copyright issues and placating to egos. Today's movie brings us the intrepid starship Odyssey crew forced to make an emergency landing on a planet that has a hostile environment.
This is Planet of the Dinosaurs.



Are you guys SuperTramp?  I'm a huge fan!















Director James K. Shea (Suburbia Confidential, The Scavengers a.k.a. The Grabbers and Planet of the Dinosaurs) had a vision. Spirit quest or just tripping balls on some peyote aside, it was still a vision.

Set way into the far time line of...yeah they never point that out but apparently they had a seventies revival look and slang to go along with it, this 1977 Sci-Fi wonder forces Captain Lee (actor and producer Louie Lawless of Manson, Shame, Shame on the Bixby Boys, Mind Games and Abducted II: The Reunion) to make an emergency landing on a planet near to Earth conditions. Apparently the engines had a MacGuffin drive and with no Scotty or Geordi to fix it, down they plummet. Much like the writing. (Again a MacGuffin is also known as a plot device depicting a goal, desired object, place or other such motivation)

As the ship sinks in the massive lake, our crew has to swim for shore. Of course the communications officer forgets the beacon, Bad Cindy! No wonder everyone prefers Marcia.
Yes I just pandered to the 50 plus crowd for a moment. Don't worry. More of those on it's way.

Cindy (Mary Appleseth of Slumber Party '57 and Planet of the Dinosaurs) has to strip down to her undies to swim back. Guess nudity clause issue but bikini lingerie is fine. She and Chuck (Chuck Pennington of Planet of the Dinosaurs) both go swimming for this huge metal clamshell camera case when Cindy is attacked by an aquatic creature and thus does her part to thin the cast out.


Oily T zones ahead, Captain Harry Reems!!!














A lot of complaints, ribs and comments made about this magnum opus of a movie. The biggest comment made about this movie is the uniform. The full body blue onesies with a white v pointing to everyone's crotch. Men and women alike. The officers' oneises were white with orange shoulder and neck line so not much better.
I realize they are fighting for their lives, struggling to find shelter, edible food and a means to communicate back to Earth but my God these uniforms are just making me laugh.

 Many pig folk complained the "Hot Asian Chick" or Derna (Derma Wylde of Partners in Crime, Wonder Woman TV show, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie) isn't nude in every scene.

Relax piggies, go see her in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie or Chained Heat. There, your problem of lack of flesh is solved. Your psyche, well that's not my department but seek help.

Still trying to decide if the menfolk of this crew look more like Starlight Vocal Band or Supertramp.



Debbie, you're supposed to be in the shot.  Whatever.














Captain Lee's extensive training in wildlife gave them the ability to produce fire, edible plants, rudimentary grain meals and my favorite, a crappy barrier made of some weak branches. YOU HAVE LASERS!!!! Saw down some trees, drag them up and start relearning making hemp rope!!!

Dear God I have seen snow forts that looked more durable. Now for me the best of the bunch is the fellow playing Jim.

Rugged and manly. (James Whitworth of Black Angels, Fandango, Emergency!, .357 magnum, The Rockford Files and The Hills Have Eyes) actually has a few acting credits so that was good.

First off, he looks a bit like George Eastman from Absurd, Warriors of the Wasteland, 2019: After the Fall of New York and Stagefright.

Rocking that Andy Gibb beard and has enough muscle to be a decent linebacker. Secondly, he is Jupiter from the original Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes so he has an alpha male fear factor working for him.

Throughout "rest periods" and general padding of the film, this troupe of morons managed to misplace a blaster, drop one and lose party members by simply not using their coconut for something other than keeping a hat on it. NO ONE is wearing any hats. Or sunscreen, that could be dangerous and bad for the complexion.

A T-Rex roams the area killing the planet eaters and subjugating terror across the desert and plains.
Lee tells everyone to get to high ground so he cannot pursue them. Or LASERS!!!!! Meat for days!

Well in the end, this is a film with a substantially low budget, less than trained actors, some really good scale stop motion animation for the dinosaurs and the ambition was there. It just fell short of grace due to so much walking and forced dialogue, bad blocking so not all the "actors" are in scene, not much story to begin with and the characters were more wooden than Big Sur.



That being said, watch the RiffTrax version and laugh your ass off. God I wish I saw this flick prior with their jokes. My comments throughout the movie consisted of, "So are they all dead yet? No? How much longer?"

Dragging pace ends at 84 minutes, thanks to rest periods and in general, a decent story could have been made. Months of roughing it, their senses improve, instincts take over and find the life they lead prior was soft and weak. Alas, that is not this film. If you need a drinking game, grab this flick. If you need a nap, grab this flick. If you need a complex, compelling story with good arc, motives, characters developed and fleshed out. Grab a better movie.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Rotten Reelz Reviews Audio Review #47: Phantasm


Hey gang.  Sorry for the absence for that last couple of weeks.  Migraines have been a bitch and I am hoping to get that under control.

That being said, I have finished a review of Phantasm

I hope you enjoy it.  Give me input, comments, compliments and critiques.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Rotten Reelz Reviews Audio Review #46: Tremors

THE VOTE WAS CAST!!!  So apparently folks wanted to see my take on Tremors rather than Subspecies 2.  Either that or they could completely pass on seeing Radu drool some more.
 
 Enjoy audio review of Tremors.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Random Reelz: Robotech:New Generation


And we're back! Welcome back to the blog, readers. Thanks for the birthday wishes on Sunday. Most appreciated.

Today is the start of a random week as I am waiting on a poll count on whether or not to do a Subspecies II or a Tremors review in front of the camera. Should be fascinating. So this time around we are back into anime as we head to the third Robotech War. With years of conflict, the REF (Robotech Expeditionary Force) have just fended off the Robotech Masters, saved their planet and kicked their asses out of the solar system. Alas a new enemy has risen to dominate the world. This is Robotech: New Generation.


Reminds me a bit of Babylon 5.















With the Flower of Life spores released ten years ago by the Robotech Masters, their conflict with Southern Cross Armies brought out a hunger for protoculture, something this new species the Invid covet, so with the REF fleet scattered still fending off the Robotech Masters and Admiral Rick Hunter's expedition being attacked by the Invid, a collective of protoplasmic beings that thrive on protoculture. Most of the Robotech forces fled the Earth to reestablish a fighting force to retake the Earth. The 10th Mars Division can be sent to deal with this new menace. With reversed engineered Zentraedi cruisers and battleships at the ready and squads of Veritech fighter jets, this inexperienced but readily trained crew is ready to take back their ancestral home. Ten years later under Invid reign, large pits have been made for hives and what they call genesis pits to evolve their species into the Ultimate Life Form!!! * Cue Wesker* The Earth now appearing as a wasteland, the colonies of humanity are enslaved to process and procure protoculture.



Space Crabs! Get the medicated shampoo STAT!!!















Humans live at the whim of the Invid and it is time for the 21st Mars Division to come in, kick some ass and stomp some big bugs. With ten years of weapons, engines, armor and mecha improvement, the REF is hopeful to stand a bigger fight against the Invid. Lt. Scott Bernard, Veritech Alpha Squadron flies cover to stop the Invid shock troops. His men take heavy casualties while defending the cruisers, medical frigates and battleships.

Well defending the Earth, most of the populous (that conveniently all speak English) is either scared, tired or flat out doesn't even care about their Invid masters. In spite of not being allowed new tech, growth or a development to their own legacy. Yup humans have just rolled over to their alien masters. Well not all of them as there are guerilla tactics being used for covert attacks but the Invid patrols usually squash them at a moment's notice.


Boom, baby.















As luck would have it, Scott slowly adds a band of freedom fighters willing to follow his command. Some are undisciplined, a few former REF members and just people without a home thanks to the Invid but they are ready to fight no matter the odds.

Can the freedom fighters hold out until Admiral Hunter's Expeditionary Forces arrive? Is there a chance their mission to Reflex Point will succeed? How do you go pee in battleloid armor?






Just a sidenote here. Robotech has never been shy about characters, secondary characters and even main characters getting killed. It was almost if Harmony Gold Productions wanted kids to realize that the good guys don't always walk away unscathed. With G.I. Joe, Thundercats, Silverhawks and Transformers giving most of their characters virtually immortality, this series always pointed out that these men and women were mortal. That they must be clever and capable or dead.

This series was released on the airwaves stateside in 1985 and was a welcome addition to viewing at my young age. With the Zentraedi, Robotech Masters (they genetically engineered the Zentraedi as a peace keeping force) and the Invid, we saw humans rallying together, squabble with each other, cry, get hurt and even killed.

Witnessing a gambit of emotions through your favorite characters really made the show worth viewing. With this show, Voltron and Transformers I started getting into Anime at a very early age and have never regretted it. The influences these cartoons had on America is obvious in the mainstream for the last 30 years. While I highly recommend this series I would point out watch the previous two first starting with the Macross Saga and then the Robotech Masters. With the films, well you kind of have to be a fan outright with Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and Super Space Fortress Macross as these are the precursors to the series. Robotech: The Movie and Robotech II: The Sentinels brings you Admiral Hunter, crew and fleet stories.



Tight formation, crab brothers!!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Bug Hunt: Starship Troopers 3: Marauder


And back again. Sorry for the delay as that last video review for Rotten Reelz Reviews via vid.me was a lot to work on. Not complaining just was a bit of work that I hadn't done before.

Now then I think we can squeeze in a write up about bugs today. So back to the Federation and the on-going war in Starship Troopers III: Marauder


Mechs and bugs!!!!














Okay first off, let me be clear. Given I grew up reading the Robert A. Heinlein novel and 1997 rolled around I was thrilled to see the mobile infantry take on the bugs. Directed by Robocop and Total Recall master of Sci-Fi/Action splatter Paul Verhoeven, I knew we were in for a treat. Granted CGI was still in its infancy and so the green screens were able to bring us the bugs bUuuUuUuuut...no Marauders. The heavily armed and armored mecha of at least one rifleman (7 men or women) squad. Instead we got introduced to Jake Busey, Dina Meyers, Denise Richards, Casper Van Dien and reintroduced to Neil Patrick Harris. Also character actor Dean Norris and former Highlander villains Clancy Brown and Michael Ironside. Some snappy lines, some silly lines and all in all, a fun film to be had for the fleet and ground pounders.

Starship Troopers 2, devolved into a survival horror movie with bugs, less budget and a massive downer ending with an abandoned outpost, talent like Richard Burgi, Brian Tee, Brenda Strong, Ed Quinn, Colleen Porch and character actor Ed Lauter. With only a 7 million dollar budget compared to the $100 million dollar budget of the original it fell on its ass. I do not fault the talent, writer and director for this. Lack of budget meant less effects to be had and they needed to treat it like a practical effects gore gags, ghost story and horror scenario. Not a great film but it wasn't give a chance to shine with the solid writing it had. So after that flaming pile, I was skeptical to get anywhere near the levels we got from the original. And yet...hope prevailed.



Heavy Mutilating Metal!!!















Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) returns to the frontlines as a Colonel in the Federation's mobile infantry. Assigned a base and troops protecting a local farming colony, Rico has to endure keeping the brass happy, his troops in top form and keeping the peace. With one of the brass being a former Mobile moved into rank and relocated to Intelligence, General Diggs (Boris Kodjoe of Soul Food, Surrogates, Resident Evil: Afterlife, Resident Evil: Retribution, Capetown and Code Black) and an ex-lover Fleet Captain Lola Beck (Jolene Blalock of Enterprise, Stargate SG-1, Jason and the Argonauts, Sex Tape and Killing Frisco).





As their Commander-in-Chief, Sky Marshal Omar Anoke (Stephen Hogan of Earthbound, Dracula: The Dark Prince, Doctors, Jubilee Nurse and Trial of the Century) comes for a surprise inspection, all hell goes loose when the power to the outer fences drops and the troopers and farmers are savaged, in spite of the Roughnecks valiant combat. Deemed a failure, Rico is arrested awaiting a court martial and treason conspiracies piling up. They apparently hang traitors for public broadcasting. Slow ratings I guess.

The sky marshal, some of the ship's crew, its mobile infantry and Lola have crashed in the outer regions or restricted zones. A bug planet. With lead Admiral no longer trusting the Sky Marshal due to him exhibiting radical behavior, a rescue mission is scrubbed.


Attention!!!














Diggs wanting to get back his boss and his girl Lola, fakes Rico's death and assigns him to the Marauders, fresh out of R & D. Now keep in mind, we are on film #3 and dammit I want some Mechs mowing down bugs with caseless ammo, explosions and some motherhumpin' flamethrowers!!!

With a subplot of God saving his true believers, Athetists converting and mind altering mental bugs, I was feeling a bit off. That being said, MECHS!!! Yes I would have loved more screen time with them. Hell I would have loved seeing about 3 platoons of them planetside rocking and rollin' every bug in sight and a few mini-nukes for good measure but the CGI creations vs practical effects and CGI bugs was outstanding. The story is solid enough, sadly only Dien is of the original cast. Really would have loved to see Harris or Busey back but overall a decent bug hunt.

I did laugh realizing the Admiral was Amanda Donohue who has an amazing body of work but of course my first voyage into her acting was Lair of the White Worm as Lady Silvia.

Now I have heard of another animated film for Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars but haven't seen it. Who knows. I may take a look at it.


Hope no one noticed I beefed.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Rotten Reelz Reviews Video Review# 1: Camel Spiders


Hey Folks.  Bug Hunt has been dragging, I know.  Editing this video review took much longer than I anticipated and well here is the end results of Jake and Shawn of Rotten Ramblin' On poking fun at Camel Spiders.   So check it out!  Comment! Critique!  Say just about anything!!!



Our heroes! Thwarting big bugs!!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Case of Financial Woe: Chapter 4

Hey folks!   Sorry for the writing blog delays.  The editing for a movie review takes me at least two to three days overall, so here's a continuation in Case of Financial Woe.  Enjoy!



Chapter 4

A cultured Spanish voice inquired, "Senor Malone?" I scooted my chair back and pointed the Sig right at his stomach, "Tell your goons to drop their cannons in the front room, then everyone comes in nice and easy." "Do you always do business at gunpoint, Senor Malone?" I smirked, "It's a tough racket and I might not always want to hear what the potential client has to say. Drop the rods and grab a seat, fellas. Last warning." Reluctantly the apes dropped a Desert Eagle .44 and a Ruger Blackhawk. Good God. Were they expecting grizzly bears in my office?

Thugs 1 and 2 took seats on either side of their boss as he causally sat down and removed his hat revealing a slowly thinning head of hair and placed his hat in his lap. "Look Mr. Motoya, it's not that I am not glad to see you but we've had some friction in the past." Montoya sneered at this. "Friction? Malone you held my associates and I at gunpoint, called the cops on us and then took pictures of us being hauled away." He sighed. "Let the past be the past, Malone. I have need of a detective to find a man."

I damn near laughed. I held it in but snickered a bit. "Yeah I think you can find a much larger sucker than me." Montoya looked irked. "We came here to discuss business like civilized men. If you do not care for the proposal, I will leave and not return." With an incredulous scowl on my face, I ventured. "And if by some small miracle I agree, you what? Smoke the guy I find for you? Not sure I can live with that at any price."

Montoya leaned back in his chair at ease. "Not only will you recieve a substantial fee but I will owe you one. The man I wish found has stolen from me and he has...what is term? Ah besmirched my name! I will have what is mine and you turn him to police, yes?"

I try to hide my smirk rapidly approaching my face. "Let me get this straight. You want to hire me to track down a former "associate" of yours, giving him over to you, doing God knows what and I should take my money and keep quiet?"

Montoya stirred in his chair. I reminded him of the sig in my hand by cocking the hammer back.

"My professional advice, Mr. Montoya is to find a less moral P.I.and offer him the same terms. No I will not call the officials because technically you have not committed a crime. I think you need to leave and you will leave your hardware on my floor."

Thugs 1 and 2's gaze got shifty like they were actually going to dive for their cannons when Montoya cleared his throat, straightened his tie clip (silver of course) and placed his fedora on his head and proceeded to carefully leave his chair. "Very well." He turned to face his goons and with a head nod assured them they will get replacement cannons. Five minutes tick by as they all left my office. I finally exhale and put the hammer back. Yeah that wasn't too stressful. So I have the US Marshals pissed off, a con man's kill happy gunsel and now the lieutenant of the Montoya syndicate looking rather annoyed with me.

Yup when it rains, it strikes the ground with lighting and fries everything in its path. Also it pours.







I glance over what I know thus far. Chet is looking to burn the Montoyas and the feds are trying to close the noose around their necks. This info has to be juicy enough for them to take it serious but they won't argee to scumbag Chet's wishlist. Chet being the decent soul that he is hires his Moose and Jimmy the knife nut that wants me or should I say, my cover ID gone. Reynolds and Clarke sat on my place for at least a couple of hours but didn't know my client and yet figured out who I was.

I never met those guys until today so who circulated my pic to them? Did they make a trip downtown to my favorite precinct? Did that little prick Marsden show them my file? God dammit.

Once again I play pool and I'm behind the 8 ball. Well the mob are honked off, I loathe Bishop so that's out. The cops won't be much help and the feds can kiss my ass.

Time to go bend Chatty Charlie's ear. If I hustle I can catch him at Shooter's. I speed dial and head out the office. "Shooter's. Shelby speaking." Somethings will never change. "Hey Shelby, Malone here. Charlie in?" Shelby snorted. "Yeah and he's sharking the tables again. Some of dem hipsters are gettin' their asses handed to them." A gin graced my face as I unlocked the Impala. "Well I am in route. Let him know, would you?" "Sure thing, kid. See ya when we see ya."

A quick hop on the freeway and I am in Shooter's parking lot. Not so odd considering the hour. Not that many hardcore drinkers at 2 in the afternoon. Before I go any further, I turn off my smart ass smartphone and pull the memory card. Paul once told me the easiest way to trace a guy is to bounce a signal using cell towers to triangulate a perp's location. Well I'm not the bad guy but these cats don't seem to realize that. If I am going to make any headway in this with Baker, I am going to need Charlie's help.

People look at Charlie, they see an 40 to 50 pounds overweight drunk in a velure track suit and a pool cue. Me? I see the man with his fingers on the pulse of the underworld. Charlie knows so many crooked cats, cops and mouth pieces it is a wonder he doesn't know what's going down in Hell right now. From a package boy to running numbers in the day, to info and pool sharking, if Charlie doesn't know then it's not happening. Hell Charlie and Clancy were kids in the neighborhood in Chi Town. Guess Clancy couldn't ever give up on Charlie.

Coming in the front, the smell of smoke, whiskey and beer hang in the air. This watering hole brings back memories. Some good, some bad and all the ones inbetween.

I give a nod to Shelby. Ex-Marine 25 years in, 6 foot 5 black with a shaved head and enough scar tissue you'd think he was in a fire. I think he's almost 55 now? All I know is no one fucks with Shelby in his own bar. Under the counter is a pair of twin Colts and a very illegal Mossberg with a magazine giving him 8 rounds of double ought buckshot. Arms and legs as thick as rolled carpet. This is one gay man very few have the balls to mock. I see he is back into his martini shirts and khakis again. I belly up to the bar. "Geeze Shelby, you watch a Burn Notice marathon or something?" I saw out of the corner of my right eye some of the patrons scoot down from the tops and away.

"Hey punk. You wear anything but suits in 80 degree weather?" I smiled. "Fair enough. How the hell are you Shelby?" "Kid I barely got hit on at all this week. Starting to lose my touch." he stated sliding me and Charlie's scotches, light ice.

I scooped up the drinks, sliding $40 on the bar top and had a chuckle burp up. " Hell if I wasn't already seeing someone, Shelby I'd give you a pester."

"Scram kid, yer bothering me," Shelby exaggerated in a horrific impression of W.C. Fields.

It's not that the inflections were dead on, it's the trachia scar that makes Shelby sound like the Kurgan in Highlander. I've never had the balls to ask him how he got it because...well he would tell me and probably scar me for life in the process.

Moseying around the tables, eyes slightly tearing up from all the smoke pluming in the air, I spotted Charlie smoking a table filled with hipsters standing mouths wide open as he clears the table. I dont't think the little pukes even got to play. Begrudgely they toss their money down and put up their sticks. Charlie maybe getting older, the bursitis is kicking in but his reflexes on the green felt never looked better. I think he lost a bit of weight since last I saw him. "Come back again if you want a rematch," Charlie bellowed and the kids stomped off and out the door. I cocked my head at him shaking it in disbelief, "When are you going to give these kids a chance, Charlie?" Charlie swung his head around and with a broad grin replied, "Hey Jakey, I let them break first. Not my fault if they suck."

I just smiled in response. I mean you can't argue with his logic. The man is a pool hall legend and every young buck keeps trying to knock him down a peg or two. "How's Madge?" Charlie slumped to a stool. "She's got me on this macrobiotic diet or she's tossing me out on my ass. Don't get me wrong, the food's okay but she's harping about my drinking again." I smirked, "Well Charlie maybe she just wants to keep you around a little longer." Scoffing, Charlie swung his scotch back for a gulp. "I tell ya Jakey, it's gettting so a man can't have no vices no more. Toss me a smoke and let's hear it."

I opened the silver cigarette case Tom got for me and presented a smoke for Charlie, struck a match with my thumb and lit it. "So what's the worry, kid? You look nervous as Hell." So I laid it out for him plenty. The client's problem, the scumbag, the visit from Montoya and even the WitSec scuffle. Charlie seemed to be taking it all in stride. I swear the archangel Michael could roll up in here, flaming sword in hand, dispatching sinners and Charlie wouldn't blink. Tough old bird.

Charlie puffed a bit, mulling it around and I could see he knew the score once again. "Well kid, it's like this. Montoyas' goon squad has been looking for your boy Chet for over a month. He's kept well hidden where he hangs his hat but you know it is only a matter of time before they find him." I nodded thinking why the hell haven't they scoped out La Jolla. Then it dawns on me that is Caprici territory and reigning lieutenant, John Bishop would have them cut up into parcel sized packages and set back to the family with postage due.

"So Charlie, how much jack is involved finding this cat's whereabouts?" Charlie thought about it for a moment, "Well my boy, I could take Madge on that Carnival cruise she wants to go on free and clear. $50 gees last I checked." I choked on my scotch for a couple of minutes, coughed and righted myself. "Okay, then with that hanging over his head, why doesn't he take the deal and get out of town? I am scratching my head on that one." Charlie smirked a toothy grin, "Kid, you know them feds ain't gonna let him hold on to any of that con money or whatever swag he bought with it. The guy's had a taste of the lifestyle out here and he wants to get fat."

"Yeah but they need this little prick, his info and testimony so why the fuck is it taking so long to toss him in Arizona or Omaha with a new name and house? You'd think they would transfer some of his dough to an account or something."




Charlie just shook his head. "Nah kid. They make an exception like that and before you know it, the goobahs and the goodfellas that want out but still living large is going to be on Johnny Taxpayers' dime. Nothing doin'."

I looked at my watch for the time. Still three hours before my meet and greet with Gruber. I'd better scout out the location prior. I tossed the usual cabbage to Charlie plus a couple hundred extra. "You're a prince among men, Charlie. I got to jet." "Thanks Jakey. Hey Madge wants you over for supper. I think she's found you yet another girl to look at." "I'll call you if work gets less screwy this week. Bye Charlie."


Got back behind the Impala, starting piecing it together. Why would Baker roll on Montoyas if he thought the feds couldn't work with him? Why haven't they pressed him for the info? What is the end game? Why would Montoya, a guy who loathes me even offer to pay me to rat Baker out? Who the hell did Madge find this time to lump me with?

I drove down to the Broadway, locked up the ride and made my way through the food court area. I love how when clandestine meetings go down the guy that agrees too eagerly to the terms thinks you'll sit and kill time until the meeting happens. Like those are the rules or something. Three hours is long enough to put together a force to nab, apprehend or even bump me off if needed. Maybe I have just dealt with too many mobsters, pimps, drug kingpins but you tend to trust your instincts when it comes to dealing with men in power.

A cursory glance around the court shown more than 4 guys in sunglasses in tacky civvies monitoring the area with newspapers in hand, some walking about and window shopping but you can read between the lines. I ducked back towards the comic store on second level and spotted a "couple" walking a bit ridgid and their off the rack coats didn't conceal their bulges very well. Oh yeah Gruber wasn't taking any chances on this one at all. So what's the deal? He can't be serious in nabbing me up and keeping me on ice. He's not Hoover and his authority for this clearly less than legal maneuver must have him scared about something.

I putter around in the shop for a few minutes, browsing back issues I'd actually buy but on the job prevents such bliss. Instead I get a Hellboy ballcap and wear it out of the store, exiting down the walk ramp and head towards the parking lot. No need to go rushing to the Impala. Look cool and calm and no one questions your motives. My SEAL buddy, Ecarde taught me the fine art of hiding in plain sight. Fiddle with a phone, wear clothes appropriate the scenario and occasionally play "Lost Tourist" and no one thinks anything of it. Now if you are trained to spot details, movement and expressions on a perp's face, you know that no everyone can keep their cool. A $25 dollar hat and just causal walking allowed me to leave their sting operation. Hmm, now that I know that is in play, how do I handle it? Quiet, diginity and grace? Loud and obnoxious? Do I drop dime to the cops I think there is something shady going on near Fuddruckers?

Could also point out to Ray that the FBI is probably wondering why WITSEC is going to this length. I mean I don't know the ins and outs of their jurisdiction but plotting a snatch and grab cannot be legal in the least. I text Ray on my burner what's going on at Broadway and tell him I won't provoke them too terribly. I place a call to Gruber's office with my cell and his secretary tells me to she'll connect us in just a minute or so. Back at the office, I notice no lumbering shapes of terror looming about.





A couple of minutes tick by as I am subjected to muzak via Hungry like the Wolf. No justice in the world sometimes. Gruber finally picks up and sounds flustered. "Yes, Mr. Malone? Is there something we needed to discuss before the meeting?" "You sound a little out of breath, Special Agent Gruber. Everything alright?" I can envision wrinkles forming on his face. "You are well aware of the situation at hand and my need to resolve quickly so I may get back to work."

I grinned. "Yeah about that. I am stuck at the office filing at least a dozen reports right now. I just wanted to make sure you knew it may take me longer than I predicted. Perhaps we should shoot for another time?" Gruber cleared his throat and I heard the sound of kids shouting and playing in the background. Fun fact, did you know cheaper cellphones have an omni-directional microphone that picks up a lot of sound? Guessing his Cricket is doing just that as he regains his composure.

"I'm sorry, what?" he burbled. I felt a smile and I hoisted the sound of warm telemarketer voice. "It's just with you handling your case load, dealing with subordiants and whatever else your job entails, you can't be drug out of your office at a moment's whim. I am thinking you're right I should just come down to your office, I'm heading out the door now." Gruber sounding like he was choking on a big piece of steak came back with, "Well see here now...I'm, I'm right in the middle of something on my cases and can't be bothered...right now...that is."

With the same jovial tone, "Oh it's no worry, Special Agent Gruber. I can wait in the lobby untill you are ready to recieve me, unless today's just not good for you either."

You could almost hear the beads of sweat dribbling down his presumbly chubby face with all the hard b's he has been attempting to conceal. Tersely he came back with, "Mr. Malone! We have an agreement! We meet at 4 o'clock at the Broadway at of all places, the Fuddruckers." "Well I do enjoy a good burger and fries. I just rethought the whole situation and felt I was being entirely too harsh. To offer an olive branch if you will. I could even swing by Fuddruckers on my way to your office and snag you some dinner." I made sure he could hear my car door unlock.

"NO! That is...that won't be necessary, Mr. Malone. Just meet me down at the mall at 4 would be fine." Gruber blurted out. My God, how long as it been since he was on a sting?

"Okay well I guess I could just head there, maybe fine a book to read and wait for you there," I said starting up the car. "Sorry got to put you on hands free." "Mr. Malone...um...yes well." Gruber was afraid the gig was up and trying to rally a new course of action. I hadn't the heart to end this little show. More entertaining than anything on HULU right now.

"Say Agent Gruber, can you close the door to your office. I can't believe how busy it sounds there." I actually had to bite my tongue hearing him run to I am guessing the bathroom to continue his ruse.

Within a minute I hear a bit of panting. Our boy must be more out of shape than I thought. The moment I heard a gasp it echoed like a cathedral or a ceramic tiled bathroom with enough reverb to be worthy of an auditorium. "Alright, Mr. Malone I have had quite enough of this. We are going to meet at the designated place...at... the designated time. Am I understood?" I let it hang in the air for a moment trying to stifle a laugh. Tears rolling down my eyes, "Well Agent Gruber, I was just hoping for some plain old fashioned honesty and not a ruse." "Excuse me?!" Gruber barked back. I smirked. "A ruse. That bit of cunning to orchestrate a trap or ensnarement."

Gruber sounded as though he wanted to rip my nuts off and force me to wear them as earrings. "YES! I know what a ruse is! What is your point?"


Finally I couldn't hold it back. I started snickering in the phone. "What is so DAMN FUNNY?!!" Gruber added, his tone vibrating against the tiles again. "Sorry I am just envisioning you in a bathroom getting irate and your voice ringing isn't helping. So do you write all your reports on the can or just when your stomach acts up?"

Gruber went silent. "I'm. I'm not sure what you mean." Piping up before an even more pathetic lie crept into conversation, "Fun fact, Agent Gruber. Some cheaper model cellphones have an omni-directional microphone that picks up background noises something fierce. So unless your office is Spanish tiled, you sound as though you ducked into the head." Gruber sputtered a bit and I continued on. "See I went with an smartphone myself. Pocket sized computer, phone, great net surfing tool and I am warming to the apps."

Gruber finally had enough. "Who the hell do you think you are, Mr. Malone? You call me to mock me about an agent that may or may not have been in his right mind, you demand this audience at a Fuddruckers and now you are changing the time of the meeting? Just who the fuck do you think you are messing with??!! By God I will have your license pulled, your ass thrown in jail and maybe even your business closed. Yes I think with the right strings even the IRS will look at you funny!" Sounding shocked, "Why Special Agent Gruber, what are you saying?"

Frustrated and clearly out of patience, "I'm saying if I can't have you banned from the P.I. Business, maybe I will just have you shot for the sake of National security!" Just then, it dawned on him. I went quiet and let him sweat.

"Oh. Oh my God. My God you are recording this, aren't you?" Just rubbing my index finger and thumb on my right temple. "Hey, now. There's a plan. Kind of like a clearly less than legal snatch and grab at say...oh probably a mall next to a family restaurant? Which of course is by the book if I were a guy that ducked out of WITSEC. Of course I'm not so just looks as though your brute squad is standing around in this heat waiting to snag a private citizen."

Gruber back to making his motorboat sounds, "Now s-see here..." I interrupted, "Nope, this is how this is going down. This recording goes next to the previous one. Already stopped recording and submitting it to every national newspaper in the country. You want this black mark? You start explaining yourself damn quick, alone and now a new time and place. I catch even a whiff of your stooges and Agent Reynolds and you can both share some cell time together. Decide." I hung up letting it sink in.

Shockingly enough my cell blew up with Gruber's cell number. Meh, swipe left.

A quick dial to Bernie Libowitz, my attorney and I sent him both digital copies of my harassment.

"Jakey my boy, you trying to put me in the grave? Why can't you be a mench and find a lost dog or long lost relative for a will? My uclers hate you."
"Well Bernie, if detective work was easy, everyone would be doing it. Hold on to that. You don't hear from me in two days, you sling that damning recordings all over. Leak it to papers, the news, the net. Hell chuck it at Twitter for all I care."

"Alright kid. You've got yourself one fine mess but I will see what I can do. Watch yourself."

"Thanks Bernie. You're a good man. See ya."


Hanging up with Bernie I am still unclear what to do about Montoya. I check out the window to see any obvious black SUVs again and thus far nothing. That could just mean they're up the block. I lock my office but left the front open as per usual. Passing the dentist office I can see Doc Mitchell passing out some sugar free candy to a 5 year old as he gabbed with the boy's mother.

Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted me so I flipped him off just to see him get beet red.
Yup the little things in life really give you joy.

Down the block I walk nice and slow to see if I have any activity coming my way and shoot a message to my favorite skirt chaser Ex-SEAL and give him the lowdown. From my burner, duh. I don't know if Gruber can arrange a tap on my phones, home, office and cell but I am not taking any chances. We settled for a quick trip to Mr. D's. Being only just shy of 3, the joint should be fairly calm but enough background noise to drown out YET another conversation I rather not heard.

Paul looked good. I swear the man should be swinging a beer and a shot belly by now but he runs every day, hits the weights and I think he's even in a spin class. Gotta be for the spandex clad girls to oggle. Looks like he recently dyed his hair back to the brunette of his youth and sporting yet another blinding martini poly-silk blended shirt and khakis. There ought to be a law against that much rayon.

I slide a scotch neat as he bellied up to the bar, we clinked glasses and took back a pull. I'm not a heavy drinker by nature but this job could drive you to chugging paint thinner some days. Paul was all smiles but it didn't quite reach his eyes when he saw my hound dog face. "Alright kid, one of these days we just go to a ball game or cruise for chicks. Deal?" "Hell Paul, I think that sounds a ton better than what's on my plate." We sipped our scotches and I gave him the full skinny. Paul's good people and I am not about to bullshit him. He's earned my trust tenfold.

Paul scratched his stubble beard giving this all some thought. "So your client, is she stacked?" I nearly choked on my drink. "Christ Ecarde, is that all you took away from this? " I wheezed out. Paul shot me a grin not unlike that of every used car salesman that has screwed me over and replied, "Well sure, kid. You in a pickle, suits are getting in your business and you managed to piss off the mob again. Now back to her funbags." With a face palm later I reluctantly agreed, my client was a looker but I try my damnedest to never mix business and pleasure.

"Okay, I know a guy that owes me since Desert Storm. Pulled his ass out the frying pan. Lemme make a couple of calls and see what's what. Be right back." I waved and ordered another round. Looking around at the afternoon crowd was mostly college kids playing some pool, a few near-do-wells talking in booths and at the bar mirror I spotted it. A black GM SUV, tinted windows and they were down for peeping. Thankfully at this hour, the sun's glare off the glass makes that two-way window difficult to make out anything. Why Mr. D's needs that for the customers? Hell I don't know. I barely get by with search engines most days.

A stunning black girl at the end of the bar seemed to be engrossed in a Anne Rice novel with a martini that looked barely touched. Either that or she passed on the ice. Tall, lean muscle and leggy I can't begin to believe no one has talked to her. Before I can muster looking less dishoveled, Paul made his way back, slipped his cell in his pocket and downed what was left his drink in a gulp.

Signaling the redhead behind the bar for another, he clasped my shoulder. "Well buddy I've got good news, bad news and what you come to expect. What do you want first?"



"Oh God, this is going to hurt." I thought. Fuck it. "Alright, bad news me, Paul." "Bad news is Baker's case looks like it's getting tossed. Without the crucial evidence that he is holding, the boys upstairs aren't interested in helping his scum bag ass out so this will be all over in less than a week." I frowned. "Wait, that's the bad news?" Paul sipped some more scotch. "Well buddy the good news is, it looks like Montoya didn't put a contract out on you after all so yeah happy times."

I blinked in disbelief. "Paul, what does your "friend" do?" He smirked with a cherise grin, "Oh a little of this, little of that. Not entirely...legal persay but.." "Yeah I get it." I interrupted. "Okay so what is the news you come to expect then?" Back to scratching that Don Johnson stubble, Paul looked cagey. "Well, skuttlebutt saying in-house shakedown. Not sure but seems like someone at WITSEC is dolling info out to the Montoyas because it is too ripe. If I had to guess I'd say someone is getting fat from the Montoyas giving up people."

My stomach just sank. It's so crazy but it makes damn good sense. Gruber is losing witnesses to what? Contract killers? 10-to-1 their common link is the Montoyas doing dirty deeds, seeing it in action and afraid for their lives. Gruber is piss scared his investigations, witnesses and probably career are all on the line. I glanced at my cell. 25 messages all Gruber. I guess I better rethink this strategy with him. Damn. He might be an overbearing asshole but he might also be one of the good guys.

"You okay, kid?" Paul asked around a glass. I rubbed my forehead. "Yeah it really does put things in perspective. Okay, assuming Gruber isn't the guy on the take and going on a further limb, assuming he is trying to find his mole, what the hell can I do? I'm not qualified for this. Shit, I am hard pressed to think of a guy that could fix this."

Gulping scotch down I placed the glass down for a refill. Paul's never one to sugar coat things of dire importance but God I wished he did this time. I looked up to realize he left to pester that gorgeous girl at the corner. Dammit not again. The man is a poacher. Not like I called dibs or something like that but just once he could keep his libido in check. I start watching him go into his speil and she placed her bookmark away, saving her page. It just hit me. She's not under his spell.

I think she is just letting him ramble and schmooze as he knows how to what? Pass the time? Idle entertainment? She reaches in her purse, pulling out a ten placing it on the counter then turns to face the master. I can't read lips but I think she is... Heh. She is graciously turning him down. Wow.

She walks with the fluidity of someone who enjoys a good stroll. Dressed in a light sweater and jeans with deep brown eyes. No, they're hazel, a smile that could melt butter and a carefree attitude, she walks over...to me? Huh?

This tall drink of water looks down where I am sitting and casually leans a hand out. "Janine." I took her hand gently. "Huh?" "My name. You've got one?" "Uh yeah, Jake." "Hi Jake." "Hi Janine. What can I do for you?" "Oh you can ask your friend to be a little less forward." I glanced at Paul giving me slumped shoulders and the what the hell expression and stared back at this goddess among men. "Yeah he's. He can be a bit full of himself but harmless. Mostly harmless."





This got another dazzling smile out of her. I noticed a slight tinge of red to her hair. I couldn't say it was bottled or a weave. I'm really a doof when it comes to treatments.

"Well his friend seems nice enough, Jake. I am going to need that hand back through." (internal scream) AHHHHHH!!!!!!! I smile and relaxed my grip. "Sorry. Been a bit of a day, well a few days now."

She snatches up a cocktail napkin, producing a metal ballpoint pen and hands me the napkin with a few words, "I am giving you this and you decide what you'll do with it. Nice meeting you, Jake." And before I can reply she pivots her curvy hips with a saunter that was easy on the eyes. A minute later I looked down at the napkin. Yup, that is definitely a phone number. I'm a detective. I notice details.