Friday, August 1, 2008

Arrogity and stupidance

Did I mention a while back that a madman yearns to decapitate me with a machete? Very Third-Worldish. He thinks I slept with his wife. I didn't. The fact is that said Wife, a beautiful and smart young teacher, had enough of the man's drunkenness, anger, and violence. Also, she thought he should stop smoking dope and get a job.

Situations like that have a tendency to either escalate or spiral out of control. They separated and he became more abusive. She got a protective order which he immediately violated. Since this occurred in Fairfax County, one of the richest areas in the country and blessed with a no-shit-taken police force, Estranged Husband, now living at his mom's house, was picked up and jailed. Mom bailed him out. (About a year earlier, EH had come to my home when I was out of town, tried to break the windows of my car and, failing in his efforts, pissed on my door. More recently, there was an episode in a church parking lot where EH, cursing in what I later realized was high school French, tried to goad me into a fight.)

As EH's behavior took a turn for the worse, Wife retained an attorney who suggested getting a two-year protective order. Children would be exchanged in a police parking lot for purposes of visitation, but other than this, there would be no communications, surprise appearances, or contact of any kind between Wife and EH. The order was granted by a Fairfax County judge, and just before both Wife and EH went their separate ways, EH slipped Wife's father (who was in attendance) a card, asking that he give it to Wife. Bingo. A violation of the court order right there in the courthouse. Buuuusted. The we-take-this-stuff-seriously police force go back to EH Mom's house and arrest him again.

This, of course, is good news for all concerned except for EH and EH Mom who will have to dip into the retirement account a second time for bail. Also, EH Mom is out of town so there is a strong possibility EH will cool his angry ass in jail for the entire weekend.

So here are two new words worth adding to the vocabulary: arrogity and stupidance. Use them

Here is installment 36 of Wasted Miracles.

In the beginning, it would be all good manners, social graces and exaggerated politeness. The minister would take his glasses off. The party would hit a club or two,
after-hours places, drink more, dance, get much friendlier with the ladies who would of course respond in kind. In the end it would be a free-for-all. The minister and his friends would complain about having to wear condoms, offer blandishments and bribes. The girls would refuse. The Africans would be adamant at first, vocal and loud in their protest but in the end they would comply and spend a night long remembered and certainly often retold.
None of this would happen in the limo, however. That was the rule even the most illiterate visitor from whatever godforsaken nation knew. Discreet touching, that was all the owner of Africorps allowed in his vehicles. Mamadou Dioh, a strict and moral man, had spent years cultivating two divergent clienteles. One was the African diplomatic corps in Washington. He knew all the attaches, all the secretaries, the entire level of lesser embassy employees who made reservations, set up appointments, were hired to see that things ran smoothly. All these people knew his rules.
The other clientele was largely drug dealers.
The offices of Africorps were shabby, Mamadou recognized this and didn’t much care. The company’s business was done over the phone or increasingly, by fax. No need for a fancy storefront, in this Northeast neighborhood vandals would smash it nightly for the sheer thrill of it.
The limos were housed in a converted garage. There was a small sitting room to the side with one desk, a phone with three lines, the fax machine, a stained and rarely used coffee-maker, a ratty leather chair Mamadou had found at an Abby Rents auction of discarded furniture. No windows, no water cooler, a restroom the drivers avoided except in the direst emergencies. At night, a moonlighting city cop provided security. The man didn’t have to do much save make sure the two Dobermans he had trained and now handled were properly fed. There hadn’t been a break-in since a year earlier when two young men, recently arrived from Missouri and unaware of the place’s canine threat, had jimmied open the front door and, in the deep gloom, heard the growling of monsters from hell followed by the kachunka sound of a shotgun being loaded. That had proven to be enough for the visitors. The cop later told Mamadou he wished the boys had come in, it would have added a bit of excitement, but no such luck.
Mamadou clicked the remote, waited for the overhead door to rise, eased his limo in. He would vacuum and wash it before the night’s assignment, spray the insides with Nu Car, polish the chrome, make sure oil, transmission fluid and water were topped off. He was getting out of the car when he noticed the man sitting in the chair usually reserved for the guard. He seemed to be a large man who filled the chair, his shoulders somehow overflowing it. And he was white. That, more than anything, piqued Mamadou’s interest.
He nodded at the man, said, “I’ll be with you in a moment,” reached under the seat of the limo where he kept the pistol. It was an inexpensive weapon he’d bought on the street a year before when a serial killer was roaming Washington streets and murdering cabdrivers. With his back to the man, Mamadou slipped the gun into his waistband, pulled his jacket to cover it.
Now the man was standing. He was shorter than Mamadou expected, he’d somehow looked more imposing sitting. Mamadou asked, “What can I do for you?”
The man reached into a pocket and Mamadou’s heart skipped. He moved his hand, wrapped his fingers around the gun’s butt, had it halfway out when he saw the stranger raise both hands. “Please, Mr. Dioh. I’m not armed.”
Mamadou loosened his grip. “Sorry. Nature of the trade.” He motioned for the man to relax. “I am at a disadvantage here. You obviously know who I am, while I have no idea as to who you are, or how you got in here.”
“Colin Marsh, Mr. Dioh, and one of your drivers let me in. I told him it was important that I speak to you personally.”
Mamadou nodded, turned back to the limo. “You have my undivided attention. Well, not quite undivided. I have to get this car ready. What can I do for you?”
Marsh handed him a photo. Mamadou glanced at it, handed it back. “Handsome couple.”
Mamadou sprayed the inside of the vehicle with NuCar, did it carefully, took his time. Then he wiped the dashboard with a cloth, ran it around the steering wheel.
“Are you a policeman, Mr. Marsh?”
The man shook his head ‘no.’
“I didn’t think so. I was a policeman in my country of origin, and policemen all over the world have a tendency to recognize each other. You don’t look like a private detective either. Which leads me to believe you’re an acquaintance of one of the people in the photo. Am I right?”
He didn’t wait for an answer. “And I seriously doubt your acquaintance is with the man portrayed. Call it a hunch, as you say in America. So it must be the young woman.” He paused long enough to flick the rag, fold it into a neat square. “I have excellent powers of deduction, which is why I was an excellent, if unappreciated, law enforcement officer in my native country. How did you get my name?”
“A friend. A policeman.”
Mamadou nodded. “I see. That should not have been particularly difficult, I expect. A phone call or two, at best. Or a computer. They seem to do so much with computers nowadays.”
Marsh said, “The young woman in the photo. She’s missing.”
Mamadou Dioh thought that over for a moment. “And why should that interest me? Young women vanish all the time, Mr. Marsh. It’s a very hostile world out there, as I’m sure you know. Perhaps she ran away with the young man. How do you say, eloped?”
Marsh shook his head. “No. Something’s happened to her.”
“Well, that is unfortunate.” Mamadou unfolded the rag, wiped the limo’s radio antenna, squatted, rubbed away at a smudge on one of the wheelcover. “But I still don’t see how I can help you, Mr. Marsh. I certainly am not responsible for her actions.” The smudge was resistant. Mamadou spit on the cloth, applied more pressure.
Something in the calm West African voice seemed to anger the man. He drew two steps closer until he was standing over Mamadou. The Senegalese looked up at him calmly. “You’re standing in my light.”
Mamadou saw Colin Marsh’s fists clench. They were large, backed by overly developed forearms and biceps.
Mamadou’s arm sliced in a blur, connected with an ankle. Marsh yelled, fell to the floor. In one fluid motion the African grabbed a wrist, twisted it.
“I really do not like it when people move in a threatening manner, Mr. Marsh. Not one bit. It is impolite and it scares me. We are not well enough acquainted for me to permit you such familiarities.” He rose to his feet slowly, keeping the pressure on. Marsh tried to dance away, couldn’t.
“Now. Mr. Marsh, it’s obvious that you’re immensely strong, and this is a very silly situation for two grown men to be in. And given time, I’m sure you would overpower me. But you would get seriously hurt before you did so.” He walked Marsh back to the chair. “When I was a policeman in Dakar, I was called upon to move immensely strong men from one cell to another. It’s not difficult at all if you know how.” He squeezed Marsh’s wrist. Marsh grunted, stood on tip-toes to relieve the pressure.
Mamadou Dioh said, “I’ll strike a bargain. No more threatening moves and we’ll try to resolve whatever is troubling you as civilized men should. Please sit down. May I rely on your word?”
Marsh nodded. “I wasn’t going to attack you.”
“Good. Then I apologize, Mr. Marsh. But you looked quite fearsome for a moment, and the best defense is a good offense. Isn’t that the saying?”
Mamadou eased the pressure on Marsh’s wrist allowed the large man to sit. March looked up. “Aikido?”
Mamadou nodded, seemed pleased. “A West African version. Less stylish than the Oriental schools, but perhaps more effective.”
Marsh rubbed his wrist, rolled his shoulder.
“But you see?” Mamadou Dioh smiled. “Now we’re talking like well-bred people. Isn’t this much better?” He turned his back, entered the small office. “Coffee, Mr. Marsh? Instant is all I have, I’m afraid.” He returned in a moment bearing two stained mugs.

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