The Little Translator claws his way back: http://www.proz.com/topic/85405
The Little Translator goes for the Big Lie: http://www.proz.com/topic/86945
The Little Translator meets the Mob: http://www.proz.com/topic/88711
The Little Translator runs into Brookesduddy: http://www.proz.com/topic/90107
The Little Translator runs into Brookesduddy (II): http://www.proz.com/topic/91508
The Little Translator turns Little Detective: http://www.proz.com/topic/91763
The Little Translator in the dying hours of 2007: http://www.proz.com/topic/92996
The Little Translator and the Basque sex kittens: http://www.proz.com/topic/93904
The Little Translator turns Little Detective (I½): http://www.proz.com/topic/94708
The Little Translator and the reluctant Sergeant: http://www.proz.com/topic/96349
The Little Translator goes for a ride in a car: http://www.proz.com/forum/lighter_side_of_trans_interp/101798-the_little_translator_goes_for_a_ride_in_a_car.html
The Little Translator addresses the Queen of England: http://www.proz.com/forum/lighter_side_of_trans_interp/107185-the_little_translator_addresses_the_queen_of_england.html
The Little Translator relates the Barcelona Connection:
The Little Translator makes a right royal faux pas:
The Little Translator throws his hat in the ring with Obama and McCain:
The Little Translator solves the world economic crisis
The Little Translator slides into the crease at the end of 2008:
The Little Translator amid terrible rates and late payment too:
In a smoky room somewhere in Whitehall, London, two men were sorting through documents and photos at a table.
“I don’t see why we have to bother with this Little Translator bloke at all," said the fresh-faced younger man. “I mean, HM rang up specially to cancel it.”
His boss, a gnarled specimen with greying hair, sighed.
“Ee, you’ve got a lot to learn, lad. I know it’s been a long time since Swansea University, and you’re not totally green either after all that training at Cheltenham, but it makes no difference what Liz says from Company HQ. Does no harm to watch out for potential subversives like this one. Reminds me of the scumbags who used to paint FTQ on the rooftops of Belfast in the 80s, so’s we could see it from the choppers as we flew around.”
“Let’s just say “TQ” stands for The Queen, Cartwright.”
“But,” said his subordinate, “he hasn’t actually done anything, has he? And let’s not forget he's from the right side, too.”
“Got to keep tabs on him just the same, son. And yes, technically he’s one of our own, but it’s always the converts that are the worst. They’re from Northern Ireland, an island on an island, they know nothing, they go off on the boat to England at eighteen, they get an education, they meet up with some ruddy second-generation pot-smoking longhair Seamus O'Semtex who tells them how they've exploited their Republican brethren for years, how it’s not “Northern Ireland”, they have to say “the North of Ireland”, they learn a few rebel songs, they learn to say Our Day Will Come in their bloody Gaelic, Tiocfaidh ar La, and they come back in the know thinking it's time to show some solidarity. And then our job got a lot more difficult the day the wolves turned on Mrs. Thatcher, bless her.”
The veteran spook's features relaxed a little in nostalgia. “Ah, them were't days," he mused. “Nobody messed with us then. You could do anything you wanted in the Ardoyne or Crossmaglen without so much as a by-your-leave, and the whole establishment was behind you. Then along came Major, who didn’t have the balls, and more recently Tiptoe Tony who just wanted to be friends with everyone, and since the Stockwell tube fiasco and Guantánamo it’s all red tape and warrants now just to ask any bugger at all a few questions.”
He heaved a sigh.
“Talking of Guantánamo, Cartwright, the Irish thing's not going to get any better now there’s one of their own in the top job across the Pond, either.”
“The President of the United States? You can’t seriously be suggesting Barack Obama's Irish.”
“O’Hara, O'Mara, O'Gara, O'Bama, same difference. He’s just kept it under wraps. Kept it dark, if you like," Blenkinsop added dryly.
“But Mr Blenkinsop, he’s black, for God's sake, sir. His ancestors were Kenyan. He’s a black man in a white house."
“So? Michael Jackson was black, too, and every child’s friend. Now he's white, and kids don’t sleep over at Neverland no more. What I mean is, they have this thing with the Irish Americans. They used to tell them British soldiers were bayoneting babies in the streets so’s they would shell out their dollars to buy Armalites. There’s a photo of JFK in every Republican household, you know. That, and one of the Pope too, of course. They all got caught out when they bought the new ones of John Paul I, though, because he only lasted a month before he was murdered, and then they had one of the Polish guy for years. I imagine they have Ratzinger leering down banefully from the mantelpiece these days, but then I haven’t been active. It’s been a long time, see, since I was in at the thick of it with the army and the RUC breaking down doors at four in the morning. Ah, the good times – all gone, gone, gone.”
Blenkinsop shook his head ruefully.
“But you take my word for it, lad. Obama’ll be on an official roots-seeking tour before you can say Look there’s a Leprechaun Laughing in the Liffey, but not African roots. Kennedy did it, you know, and Reagan too. Reagan created an incident when he insisted on visiting Bushmills, where they make the whiskey. Near where our translator friend comes from, incidentally. The Bushmills Distillery exploited the Reagan-whiskey connection to the full and put up hoardings everywhere in the town, saying “Bushmills Whiskey – THE PRESIDENT’S CHOICE”. Not all the locals were pleased about this, though. They reckoned the whiskey was more theirs than Reagan's, naturally. Inside the distillery they have historic photos on the walls, and one of them shows a local up a ladder at one of these hoardings with a pot of paint and a brush, painting out the P in “PRESIDENT”.
“So we have to keep an eye on certain people who mess with the Queen, just in case. No use locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, is there? Wherever they may be. I might even have to parachute you in over there one of these days, Cartwright. Check out things on the ground, if you see what I mean."
“To the Basque Country? Me? Are you sure you've thought this through properly, sir? Can you get authorization for that kind of thing from a Labor administration?”
Blenkinsop looked at him wearily.
“I won’t say anything if you don’t,” he smiled. “And the word is “authorisation”, if you don’t mind. And “Labour”.”
“But that's what I said."
“You said authorisation with a Z, and labour without a U. It’s “authorisation” and “labour” around here, please. And, while we're at it, please don't say "administration". It's a government, not a gaggle of secretaries and accountants at an engineering company. We’re not animals, for God’s sake. We’re British.”
Cartwright scratched his head as his boss left the room. He was beginning to have doubts about a dream career in British intelligence.
Meanwhile, totally oblivious to all this, if you know what I mean, Garmendia and I were still at the bar. He called the barman over and flashed his badge, said this was a drugs raid and he wanted the keys to lock the door so nobody could come in or leave. I noticed that he looked at him sideways Caruso-like as he told him all this.
“Suit yourself,” said the barman with the dreadlocks. “You won’t find anything on me, and I don't own the place."
He looked over at yours truly.
“On a big case then, are we?”
“Actually,” I said confidentially across the bar in a low voice, "it's not so big here, but part of a much broader investigation. Murder. Intrigue. Suspense.”
The barman seemed interested.
“Like private eyes waging uneven battles as hapless anti-hero underdogs amid the upper échelons of organised crime, rough diamonds with a heart, striving to make sense of life, love and loneliness in a bitty gritty world of mindless violence? Like the Dashiell Hammett stories, you mean?”
“Er, perhaps not quite so specific, but yes,” I agreed.
I put my glass down on the counter as the Sergeant carried out some last-minute pre-raid adjustments to his sunglasses. Dreadlocks was looking at me expectantly.
“What?" I said, “What? What’s the matter?”
“Well,” he said, “I’m waiting for those wavies. Aren’t the wavies meant to kick in now?”
I turned to the Sergeant.
“Would you ever listen to this one. Only in the story five minutes, and he wants to give everyone orders. A control freak.”
“It just seemed like a sensible interlude,” said Dreadlocks, disappointed.
The Sergeant put his sunglasses back down on the counter and folded his arms.
“Not you as well,” I said.
They both looked at me.
“It’s like kindergarten,” I muttered. “At this rate we’re never going to get anywhere with the Asmatutakoizena Killer.”
Garmendia was drumming his fingers on the bar.
“Oh, please yourself then,” I said, as my eyes finally started to glaze over …
The phone rang at four in the morning. Nine times out of ten, when the phone rang in my office at that time it meant two things. One, it meant it was a dame, and two, it meant it was trouble. And it meant I was in the office at the time. That makes three, now I come to think of it, but who’s counting anyways, this is only line five or six, and the place is coming down with numbers, so let’s get on with it already.
You may think that's mighty strange, I’ll allow, me being in the office at that time. Hell, it wasn’t as if I had no place to go – I had an apartment out there somewheres for sure, but I never remembered getting there and I never remembered leaving neither, so mostly I stayed put at the office to keep things simple.
“Broads,” I was thinking when it rang. “Can’t live with them, can't live without them." Sure, it was one of those days. I was crashed out at the office, just me and Mr Bourbon, thinking back to when a dame had messed with my mind so bad I’d crawled right inside a bottle of strong booze to forget, to remember, to remember to forget, to forget to remember, or forget to forget, even, and stayed there.
I took a slug of the stuff as I answered. It was cheap and nasty, and that was the way I felt and the way I liked it. Washed over me cheap and nasty too, like a pool of warm blood seeping from a shotgun blast to a squealer’s head. I laughed as I felt the liquor rip the fuzz off my tongue and dissolve the plaque of hardened sludge on my palate better than paint-stripper, and just as economical. Yes, I laughed a long low laugh. Then I laughed a short low laugh, followed by a long loud laugh, and after that a short loud laugh, then a long low loud laugh, but I gotta admit by that stage I was getting kinda confused.
The broad sounded a little edgy, what with all the different kinds of laughing and all.
“Mr Jack Malone? Are you Jack Malone, the detective?”
“Sure I am, ma’am,” I replied. “Leastways, I was all day yesterday and the day before, but I can’t speak for any time previous without my attorney. If I had one.”
“I do apologise for the lateness of the hour,” she went on, “but I am extremely concerned about my husband. He’s disappeared without trace, you see.”
“So jump in a cab and come round the office," I told her. "Jack Malone’s Private Detective Agency never sleeps.”
“Isn’t that the Pinkerton motto?”
“Well, yes, lady. The difference being they never sleep at Pinkerton’s because it's a 24-hour outfit with a helluva lot of staff, but me I never sleep because I never get to bed.”
Doris Fairweather was a fine looker all right. Said she was from a place called “New Jersey”. Had to think about that one for a minute, and then I realized she meant what we call Noo Joizee round here. The way she said it, sounds like you've been shopping. One big-stepping classy dame, I thought as she big-stepped classily through the door, and when I see a big-stepping classy dame my guard goes up. To make sure she don't end up stepping big and classy all over me, see. A big-spending dame, too, judging by the fancy clothes. A big stepper and big spender's husband might decide to disappear just to stop paying for all that big stepping and big spending. But I'd been in this business long enough to know that certain people had a habit of making other people disappear pronto when the other people stopped doling out bucks, too. Jack Malone was working on a hunch, and reckoned he knew what the score was with the Fairweather broad’s husband even before she started to explain. I decided not to waste any time.
“So, Mrs Fairweather, were your husband and you having financial problems, by any chance?" was my first question.
“Why, yes we were,” she said, surprised and embarrassed, “but last month my husband told me he had secured a loan from a gentleman who has a club near here. Jimmy’s Joint. We seemed to be fine for a while, and then Norman - that's my husband - was nervous for days on end, and three days ago I came home and there he was - gone.”
I knew it.
“You don’t mean Jimmy the Weasel, do you?”
“I suppose so. It was Jimmy something. So you know him?”
I didn't know Jimmy the Weasel so intimately, but I did know it was a lousy idea to take a loan off him. People that couldn’t pay it back didn’t stay people too long.
“And why do they call him Jimmy the Weasel?" asked Doris.
“Because he looks like one. Because he has one. Because he breeds them. I’ve no idea, lady. But you sure as hell don’t get to be called Jimmy the Weasel because you’re a swell guy, a gentleman like you said. Listen, Doris, I’m real sorry and all, but I’m dollar sure I know what the take is with your old man. Jimmy the Weasel’s taken him for a ride.”
“That’s what I said, ma’am, a ride. But on a one-way ticket."
“Sure, a one-way ticket, lady. You got to understand he’s been iced.”
“You bet, doll. With a heater.”
“Say, is there an echo in here or what? You got it, a heater. Like the Spaghettis say, he sleeps wid da fishes. He’ll never show.”
“Mr Malone, please talk sense. How can anyone use a heater to ice anything? It defies logic. And what is this nonsense about sleeping with fish?”
I heaved a sigh, took it real slow, and explained. I gotta tell you, she didn’t seem too upset about my little theory. She just sniffed a little into a real pretty lace handkerchief, was all. By the time she looked up, her mind was on the ball again.
“You see, Mr Malone, if that's the case, I can’t collect on the insurance if there's no body. Norman had a policy for fifty thousand dollars. And if they never find him, like you said … unless somebody could talk to Jimmy the Weasel as to his, er, whereabouts … and the three of us could come to some monetary arrangement … ”
She was a quick thinker, the Fairweather. The little grief I’d seen had been replaced by greed with a capital $. Norman wasn’t her late husband no more, he was fifty big ones. And I was being cut in on the act, too. It was a little ways out of the gray area of principles, because sure, Jack Malone has his principles, but he has bills to pay also, and greenbacks don’t grow on trees.
“Tell you what I’ll do, lady. It’s a long shot, but it just might work.” I love saying that one. “I can’t promise you nuthin’, but I'll go talk to Jimmy the Weasel and see first if I’m right, and second if there's anything we can do about it.”
So that evening I moseyed down to Jimmy the Weasel’s speakeasy two or three blocks away. They call them speakeasies because it’s a swell idea to speak easy and watch your dad-blamed mouth with the wise guys if you don’t want to find yourself trying on some cement boots for size. Jimmy’s Joint was jumping when I walked in. Jimmy's Joint. The joint with the most wise guys per square meter in the whole neighborhood. They were all standing around in their flashy suits and hats, knocking back the laughter juice, slapping each other’s backs, brushing little specks of dust off each other’s lapels, jabbing in fun at each other’s ribs, yapping “Hey muddafugga, you crazy?", "Get da fug oudda heah", like wise guys do.
At the middle of it all on a sofa I could see Mr Wise Guy himself. Jimmy the Weasel. Jimmy ran the whole range of outfits, what he called business and what the DA called ill-gotten gains but couldn't prove jack shit, but they were mostly dance halls and clubs. A short little fat guy. Kind of comical-looking, but there was nuthin’ funny about Jimmy the Weasel. Lots of guys had underestimated Jimmy that way. Guys that weren’t around no more.
Sitting across from Jimmy was his right-hand man, rumored to be a specialist in just that - guys that weren't around no more. Leastways, he made real sure they didn’t reappear. Ace Reilly was built like a bull. Ace Reilly got plenty of exercise. He kept an assortment of shovels, picks and spades in the trunk of his automobile. Ace could dig a shallow grave in under half an hour on a moment’s notice. Taller clients or dispatches upstate lengthened the timeline a tad, but that was what Ace did best. He sure had a funny way of looking at everyone Jimmy talked to as well, like he was measuring up just in case there would be a call-out later.
Moll was there too. Whether that was a name or a profession, people didn’t ask. As per usual, she was covered in bling from head to toe – rings, necklaces, brooches, and even a tiara. That night she was smothered in furs too. A minx in minks.
What a pack, I thought as I approached. Pack was the right word. What with the King of Clubs, Queen of Diamonds, the Ace of Spades, and Jack, I figured we were only short a ten for a neat-looking hand in five-card stud.
Moll looked up.
“Mr Malone. How nice to see you. Do you like my new wrap?"
I did a take on the dead animals.
“Fine duds for sure." I turned to Jimmy. “Must come pretty expensive, huh Jimmy?"
Jimmy nodded. “Cost me two hundred bucks. It’s a stole.”
“More like a steal”, I said.
“Haven’t seen ya on the patch lately, Malone,” said Jimmy. “We was just talkin' 'bout ya.”
“Were, Jimmy”, said Moll.
“Where? Why, right here with you and Ace, honey-bunch,” said Jimmy.
“Broads," he guffawed. “Can't live with them, can't live without them, huh Jack?"
“I’ve heard it said,” I agreed.
Moll rolled her eyes. Jimmy the Weasel wasn’t no grammarian, he was a mobster. You can take a man out of Hell’s Kitchen, but you can't take Hell’s Kitchen out of a man. He was watching me carefully. Not that I had ever gotten in Jimmy’s way because I preferred to go on breathing, and, like I said, he was smart enough not to ever get his hands dirty himself, but he knew what Jack Malone did for a living and he wasn’t taking no chances.
“So what gives, Jack? You’re welcome just so long as you’re not on official business.”
“Well, yes and no, Jimmy. Let's just say I've got a business proposition …”
There ain’t much more to tell. It all went smoothly in Jimmy’s office. While he didn’t actually admit to anything, when I mentioned the name Norman Fairweather he was wise to it. Said he’d get Ace on the job, see if he could “find” the body for the dame. I thought to myself it would put a little variety into Ace's work, since he was more used to putting folks to bed than waking them up, but I wasn’t about to say so. That wasn't my concern. I was just the middleman. The stiff was produced, Doris was paid, so was Jimmy, and so was I. Jimmy went back to racketeering, Doris went back to Noo Joizee, and I went back to the bottle to try to forget that dame I kept remembering.
Broads. Can’t live with them, can't live without them.
I looked at them both.
“Perhaps we can get on with things now?”
"Do you know, the wavies are inspiring me this time," said the Sergeant. "I’m picking my man,” he said, peering around the room. "There, the one rubbing his nose and sniffing coming out of the bog. Got to start with him.”
I looked. The coke-head was built like Mike Tyson. Little Garmendia was putting his sunglasses back on slowly.
“Are you sure about this, Garmendia? He looks pretty mean and dangerous.”
“Yes, that’s why. Got to start with the meanest ugliest one so the others shit themselves. Don't worry, I've done this hundreds of times. A cinch.”
And the little wiry terrier of a policeman walked purposefully across the floor of the bar.
[Edited at 2009-03-04 09:54 GMT]
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