Tools for sale 

Miami Brace


It was just another day in Miami for the Marples boys until the phone rang. It was the chief. He wasn’t happy and he’d been drinking. The chief was the sort of guy who chopped his toes off so he could stand nearer the bar.
‘Get down to the waterfront now, there’s something big going down.’

The phone went dead. Robert and William went for their hardware, Robert chose a beech plated brace with a lever chuck, William, a simple ebony Ultimatum.
‘Sure thats gonna be big enough?’ said William.

Without answering Robert changed it for an improved double bound octagonal model. They left the building in a hurry only nodding to Pearl on the desk. Pearl was the kind of blonde to make a Bishop kick out a stained glass window. She stared after them, worried but proud.

It was dark at the wharf. Very dark. The Chief had not been too explicit, but what could you expect from a man who once claimed he had shaken hands with Oral Roberts and his whole right side had sobered up. It was quiet, almost too quiet. They approached the warehouse under the huge shadow of the ‘Formosan Queen’ which had docked that afternoon. The security guard’s body lay on the sidewalk in front of them. William knelt down.
‘Either this man is dead or my watch has stopped!’

Inside was the cargo from the ‘Formosan Queen’. Robert broke open a crate and broke into a cold sweat – back at the station the Chief broke open a bottle of ‘Mad Dog’. Row upon row of cheap Taiwanese Spoffords stared up at them.
‘That’s far enough boys.’
They turned to find they were looking down the chuck of a solid brass model with rotating rosewood handle. It was ‘Happy’ Horton, and hanging on him like a cheap suit was Lips. Lips was the kind of girl who had the figure of a rolltop desk and the morals of a duck.

William looked into the eyes of their arch enemy and spat.
‘Looks like you’ve been busier than a set of jump cables at a mexican funeral.’
‘Yeah, thought I’d try a little brace running. You wait ’til these babies hit the street!’ snarled Happy.
The boys shuddered at the thought of honest workmen using the inferior Spoffords. Something had to be done … but what?

Meanwhile, on the other side of town in the Lagoon Club, the Chief cradled another umbrella laden cerise cocktail. In the background the gentle crooning of Hank Sonata washed the air. Hank, it was rumoured, had had lifelong links with the Mafia. These rumours had their roots in the fact that Hank had lifelong links with the Mafia. The Lagoon, owned by Happy Horton, was run by Lucky. Lucky was called Lucky because he was Lucky. Lucky’s idea of a wild night was watching the weather channel with a can of Diet Irn-Bru. But the Chief was waiting for something…

or someone…
She drifted across the dance floor like gossamer on a breeze, and came to rest in front of the Chief. Sometimes he wondered why he had never married her, but deep down he knew it would have been a mistake.
‘Why get married?’ he had asked himself. ‘Just find a woman you don’t like and buy her a house.’
‘Your boys are in trouble,’ she breathed, ‘The waterfront.’ Then she was gone; but so was the Chief

The Chief arrived at ‘The Waterfront’ knowing that, like a midget at a urinal, he would have to stay on his toes. Inside, Horton held the Marples boys hostage. He reached inside his jacket for his self ejecting Boxwood Ultimatum. He needed to get even with Horton. He would show the critics who kept telling him that pizzas arrive quicker than the police. He kicked the door open…

It all happened so quickly. The Chief let off two centre bits which ripped into Horton. Lips had a Spofford rammed into Robert’s neck, but the Chief was black belt origami, and in a moment she lay folded on the ground. But Horton had fled. The noise of a chopper on the roof shattered the silence.
‘Quick! The stairs.” shouted William.

But it was too late. Horton had gone. The boys felt cheated, the Chief felt lonely, lonelier than the guy walking down lovers lane holding his own hand. The trail had gone cold. Lips, meanwhile, was being taken down town, but would she arrive? She could charm her way out of a snakepit.
Over at the lagoon club a smokey eyed blonde stared into her drink.

‘I need a leak’ said Lips
‘OK, but watch her like a hawk’ said Robert, ‘She’s more cunning than the fox that became Professor of Cunning at Oxford University.’
Meanwhile Horton had made it back to the Lagoon Club.
‘Get me a drink’ he barked at Trixiebell, the large breasted feminist cocktail waitress. (When she burned her bra it took the fire department four days to put it out!!)
‘Mind if I join you?’ said a familiar voice.

It was the Chief dressed in full Scottish traditional dress, right down to the kilt

‘But how…?’, stuttered Horton, not able to finish his sentence.
‘Well you might ask laddie’ said the Chief, in his native Perthshire brogue. ‘You didn’t think I’d let you get away, did you? I’ve got this town sewn up tighter than a hooker’s skirt.’
The Chief knew that it was pointless trying to explain. A glaze formed over his eyes as he wandered back to his childhood in Scotland during WWII. Those were hard times but they forged the iron character that now sat sipping laphroig. He smiled as he remembered his widowed mother being courted by a sargeant in the US Army. She would paint a line on the back of her legs with Marmite so it looked like she was wearing stockings. A masterpiece of social trompe l’oeil.

Horton coughed nervously…..

…Horton was banged up and they threw away the chuck key. MIAMI was a safe place once again. The Marples boys went back to a life of parking tickets and re-runs of the Dukes of Hazzard.
And the Chief retired from the Force. He opened a small Investigations Agency in the wrong part of town.

The Millennium had come and with it came changes. Life was not easy for the Chief in his new vocation. Days without work were commonplace. It was on one of these days, when his wallet was flat as the tyres on his straight eight Buick and the landlord was knocking louder than the hooker upstairs and he was about to hide from him inside a bottle of cheap bourbon, when SHE walked in. What a Broad. She had legs – he counted them. Then he counted them again. He looked her up and down, she was just as hot both ways.

She had been shoe-horned into a little black velvet number. Her raven hair cascaded over her shoulders. More hair than a builder’s cleavage. She was half Australian, half Chinese, not fancy but more style than a farmer’s wall and her body threw more curves than Babe Ruth.

‘Who are you?’ stammered the Chief. The sultry Sex Goddess from Szechuan allowed an enigmatic smile to play around her rosepetal mouth…

…’You don’t recognise me ‘ she sighed, and the air in the room stifled with the thick aroma of cherry blossom. Suddenly the chief smelled a rat and it wasn’t running around in a cage. It doesn’t take a trip to the garden centre to know that you don’t mow a bedroom carpet. This babe was up to no good and a glance at her inscrutable porcelain features told the chief one thing, retreat. He could smell trouble like a dog smells a streetlamp, but he knew there was nothing he could do, there was no turning back from her. The slim, (she was the sort of girl who could lose weight by shaving her legs!) and seductive Sezhuan sex siren had snagged the chief and the rest as they say is…. pastry…

…It came to the chief like a bad smell at a wedding reception, she was the Don Corleone of chinatown, the triad temptress and worse, Happy Hortons broad !!
‘Thats history,’ she said, referring to her very public affaire de coeur with Horton ‘since you put him away for thirty years. My Argentinian boy is cheating on me.’ she added without emotion. ‘Here’s the address. I want photos.’

Then she was gone, but not before flashing a smile forged on the anvil of seduction and tempered in the oil of passion .The Chief knew what was on offer it was just a question of whether…

The next day was hot, too hot . The heat hung over the eastside like a six dollar suit on a one eyed fatman and the Chief was sweating in places he didn’t know he had places. He’d been standing on the side walk like a hooker outside the Vatican when he saw Him. The guy was dressed to kill.

‘You oughta need a license to wear pants with a crease that sharp,’ muttered the Chief under his breath. Then he noticed the swastika…

…A cold sweat crept over him like a Bankok bar girl.
‘I knew it!’ he muttered ‘Buffem Tool Company!’

Buffem tool, Louisiana, Missouri, supposedly out of business, were in fact alive and well in Argentina.

‘Indian good luck charm my ass!’ spat the Chief. He fell in behind the Malvinas stealing gigolo and called the Marples boys. ‘We’re back in business. I’ve got a lead on the Buffem crowd, but hurry, he’s as thin as a racing snake and twice as fast.’

The Chief was on thin ice. He knew if he was trapped by the Buffem crowd, he’d be as popular as a bacon sandwich at a Barmitzvah. He made another call…

…A cold sweat crept over him like a Bankok bar girl. The trail led all the way to Buenos Aires. The chief stepped out of the airport into the heat and was greeted by a vision. He was no stranger to beautiful women, unlike the Marples boys whose only expectations in that department was a heartbeat and a full set of limbs, and they were prepared to compromise on the limbs. Here was a beautiful woman but also a hard woman. A woman who would eat you up and spit you out without breaking her stride. The sort of woman who could make a man run roughshod over moral dogmas and rent asunder the shackles of sexual convention. In short a powerful bewitching, teasing temptress dovetailed into designer denim and more dangerous than a pit-bull on a diet.

‘I was told you needed help to find Rico?’ she murmured. The words floated into the chiefs ears and turned his brain into a furnace. ‘Thats right its urgent’ ,he replied, ‘come with me then’, she whispered. As if he had a choice!

They found themselves in the doorway of an old house that sagged like a broken smile. Suddenly a lavender 59 Cadillac fishtailed out of a side street and caroomed off a kerb. A hubcap chased a stray dog up the road. Her name was Rio and they were waiting for Carlos who would lead them to Rico.

The striking of a match announced his arrival. He leaned forwards, towards the chief and lowered his voice to a low candid tone, as if disclosing he had once been arrested in a public toilet with a sailor. ‘Eef you double cross me I weel keel you.’ The chief didn’t doubt him. Here was a guy who not only wrestled bears but dated their sisters. He handed over an envelope and they followed him to the car.

The car came to a rest outside a ramshackle warehouse. Through a broken window, half starved children could be seen assembling hideous facsimiles of carpenters tools and stamping them with the swastika emblem. They were guarded by a large man with a stretched collar that cut into his throat like a garotte. Next to him an ashen faced woman drew on a cigarette so hard that you could see the outline of her teeth on her cheeks. Rio leaned much closer to the Chief, to peer at the terrible scene and before the Chief could raise an erotic thought, she whispered,
‘No funny stuff Senor, the only way you’ll end up lying next to me is if we are run down by the same car’

The Chief reached for his Scotch pattern Mathieson springlock……but it was too late. A tall, thin man with breath like an airplane breakfast was pointing a rosewood boatsway into his face.

‘Don’t even think about it’, he purred. ‘Drop it, I’m much cleverer than you!’

The Chief didn’t need encouraging, he had learned long ago that the three things you should always avoid were, a strange dog, a flood and a man that thought he was wise. The lights of the factory blinded them as they were forced inside. The guy with the tuxedo smiled the smile of a man with more sides to him than a Rubiks cube. The cigarette woman stared at the Chief, and he recognised her from La Ropa Vieja in Miami.

‘We meet again.’ She smirked ,in a voice that oozed illicit bedroom fun. La Ropa Vieja, the Chief daydreamed, a fabulous restaurant in Little Habana, and he was a good judge. He was a man who only ate in places where the port was four years older than the chef. Reality snapped back.

‘Kill them!’ snorted the Tuxedo, and they were forced to the floor, but where was carlos ?……..

But death was not what fate had in store for them, at least not yet ……! They were mancuffed into a black sedan, and in minutes arrived at a swanky residence. The Chief wasn’t fooled, evil doesn’t have a zipcode. This Tuxedo guy was bad, and we’re not talking about someone who owes the library for overdue books. The area of Buenos Aires he had grown up in was so rough even the pensioners had love bites. As they were taken up the path, the front door opened to reveal a smirking Carlos.
Their hands were freed, and then it hit the Chief like a Frenchman’s breath after lunch, Carlos was Rico!!

‘I see you understand’, smirked the cigarette woman, ‘but don’t worry we will explain when we get to Brazil!’

The Chief’s mind went into overdrive as he tried to piece the jigsaw together. C.I.A.! of course, the cigarette babe had Langley written all over her. There had always been a whisper back in Miami that this surgically enhanced, trawlerman’s daughter from Seattle was government, moreover Carlos/Rico was American, not the kind, mind you that the Chief liked. To him an American was a good, redblooded guy who got up in the morning, drank Maxwell House with a Marlboro, ate toasted Wonderbread and went to work in a Chevy. This guy was about as sincere as the Mayor of Tinseltown, who lived in a world where money wasn’t even a currency. The Chief glanced at a confused Rio, her looks put a pause in his heart.

‘Destination Brazil’, announced Rico, ‘it will all become clear, I assure you we are on the same side’.

The Chief had his doubts ….. they left for Rio de Janeiro.

Varig flight 168 tumbled down the runway. The chief tried not to think of the fact that ‘maintenance’ to a South American Airline was normally limited to ex-wives, but soon he was asleep …… he was back in Miami, eating at La Carreta with Rio, walking hand in hand down Calle Ocho, watching model wannabees in skimpy bathing suits rollerblading down Ocean Drive …..

The Tom Jobim Airport arrived with a jolt. Within a suspiciously short time they were through immigration and sitting at the roof bar of the Caesar Park Hotel in Ipanema. Everyone drank Caiperhinas, even the Chief, despite Guiness being his preferred breakfast cocktail……

Carlos began explaining thing to the Chief in a way that made Pete Sampras appear fascinating. ‘Hold it right there, just give me the bottom line’ demanded the chief.

‘OK, we’re both Langley and we need your help. We’ve compromised the Argentinian operation, but that’s just a cover for the Brazilian deal. They’re shipping drugs in hollow augers’.

The chief sipped his cacacha and lime cocktail, below him the Cariocas played on the sand, while a trail of taxis ferried German businessmen down to Copacabana, he glanced at Rio. She looked back at him like she would a side dish she hadn’t ordered.

‘OK lets get things straight’, barked the chief. ‘ I’m a washed up cop, playing private dick, from a town with one stop light and where the library only has newspapers and you want my help? You guys are CIA in my book that the biggest waste of money since Madonna’s father bought her pyjamas. Forget it!!’

The chief went for the elevator. He knew only too well if you make a contract with the devil and give him an airconditioned office, he doesn’t go home too easily.He

walked to a bar in Ipanema. A cold beer was delivered by a nearly pretty girl, a decade of pregnancy had stolen her looks. Teutonic music drifted out of a speaker, the chief wanted to leave. If he listened to Wagner too long it made him want to invade Poland.

There was a cough like a Romanian asbestos miner, he turned to see Carlos. ‘ You’ve got us all wrong, you think I am some sleeze from Puerto Rico who spent his youth chasing English girls with white handbags. Well you’re wrong! We were so poor we used to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken and lick other peoples fingers.

But I love America and I am an American and so are you, and you’re country needs you.’

Something snapped inside the chief. Here was a guy who shot people for having a bad haircut, but he was right. They had to clean up the world…….. A hand covered his, it was Rio. ‘Join us?’ she teased. The music changed to Eddie Money singing two tickets to Paradise…………..

He glanced into her eyes, she looked as if she would be more at home in a Chrysler Imperial with a backseat full of Willshire Boulevard shopping bags, but he nodded…..he would join them. How could he refuse to help the country he loved, a country that hosts eighty seven percent of all the worlds UFO sightings ,and they are not all by former truck drivers called Dusty who list their hobbies as ‘spitting and shooting anybody who comes too near my trailer’.

Just then shots rang out as shots are wont to do……..Carlos went down faster than the Tour De France on the Pyrenees,a small red mark appeared on his temple and the Chief knew he hadn’t just converted to Hinduism .He and Rio dived for the side streets. ’Follow me ‘she gasped, ‘I have a friend’.

A few minutes later they were in a small office belonging to Bertrand. Bertrand was the son of a famous Belgian juggler with a vocabulary of a brothel keeper specialising in sailors with Tourettes.He had grown up in a family so dysfunctional that it made Joan Crawford look like a benevolent aunt, but he was Quantico and more to the point he was all they had…… ‘We must find the bastard that killed Carlos ‘he spat.’ You two disappear for twenty four hours while I make some calls’ and then he was gone.

She lived 18 floors above the golden sand of Ipanema. Her bathroom had enough massage oil to fragrantly lubricate the entire rolling stock of every railroad east of the Mississippi. The Chief was not complaining ,this was better than lying in bed with an owners manual for a ride on mower ……and he was alive………

Episode II

The chief drifted back to consciousness when the phone rang.Rio answered and smiled.Her teeth could cause snowblindness at fifty yards.It was Bertrand,…………he had a lead.They met in the roof bar of the Cesar Park Hotel.The chief said nothing.Here was a guy so wired he could start an agument in an empty room.He took a sip of his beer,it was warm,popular with europeans but then so was John Denver ! “The shipment leaves for the US tonight, then we can get even for Carlos” The words left his mouth in a verbal ambush.

Rios voice crooned in from the karaoke lounge.She was so musical she would tap her feet to the Lords Prayer.

“Ok ” said the chief “Lets do it , lets get the bastards”

Bertrand left before the bill came. He was too mean to even spend christmas ! …….so tight that if you put a piece of coal up his backside,in two weeks you would have a diamond.

The chief was in love again, when Rio sang he heard bells like a reversing garbage truck.

Darkness fell on the docks,the chief ,Rio and Bertrand slipped aboard. This was going to be a rough ride,especially for Rio whose idea of hardship was turning the air conditioning off……..

To be continued……..

Episode III

The Chief knew that this was going to be tough, but he was like a postage stamp – he always stuck to one thing until he got there. They found themselves on the empty deck of the drugboys’ ship and somewhere beneath them was a cargo of narcotic filled hollow augers. A prickle of unease rapidly turned into a full body itch. Then footsteps ……. they dived down some stairs to the hold.

The Chief was worried. He was on a ship full of gangsters and drugs with the son of a Belgian juggler and the woman he loved. His mouth was as dry as a short legged camel’s scrotum. “What am I doing here?” he murmured to himself. “I could be in Miami at “Joe’s” right now, eating crab and having more time off than John Wayne’s safety catch”. Then he saw the crates and he knew they had to hole up until the ship reached New York. They camped in the corner, out of sight.

His eyes closed and the nightmare came too quickly. He was in a club when a shaggy blonde with greenish teeth approached him. She was visual poison, so ugly that when she was born the doctor slapped her mother. The Chief got up. The naugahyde hissed as he raised himself off the lounger. “Hi”, he said,
“I’m … “, but he spotted the danger too late. She was holding a small folding undertaker’s brace and pointing it straight at him ….

“Wake up! Wake up !” …. Rio shook him hard and he realised it had all been a bad dream. “Thank God for that”, he breathed, he had been convinced he was about to take the big dirt sleepy sleep six foot under!
“Darleeeng”, she murmured, “you have been asleep for four days, we are just arriving at the New Jersey docks”.

Bertrand had been smart enough to tip off the Marples boys and they would be waiting dockside. Then the Chief heard a voice from the past – he couldn’t believe it. “Get those crates off now!” shouted Happy Horton.
Happy Horton! The Chief couldn’t believe it. What the Chief didn’t know was that Horton had jumped jail in Miami and was back doing bad again. Daylight flooded the hold as the deck lids popped open. The Chief and Bertrand stepped out from behind the crates. Horton turned, his face overloaded with hatred. If looks could kill they knew they would both be taking the big dirt nap right then.
Next thing they were staring down the chuck of an all brass Registered Design Horton brace. It all happened so quickly … catch! They looked up and Robert and William were above them. They snatched out of the air two Presentation ivory filled Ultimatums, snapped in a couple of 1/4″ auger bits and in seconds the tables had turned. Horton and his two sidekicks looked on in horror and knew they were outbraced.

The Marples boys jumped down along with a lady cop and in seconds Horton and the drugboys were handcuffed. She was a hatchet faced narcotics agent, so ugly that when she was a kid her mom had to tie steak around her neck to get the dog to play with her. But to Bertrand …. she was different. Bertrand’s first marriage had been like a training bra, not very sexy but had supported him until he grew out of it.
He wasn’t the emotional type – at banquets he would be mistaken for the fish course … but this was different. Bertrand was in love. She looked into his eyes, “Hi, I’m Darlene”. Their hands locked together. She pumped him with her long hot fingers as if he’d agreed to weed her garden for her. Her armpits were so hairy it looked like she had buckwheat in a headlock … but Bertrand was in love.

The sirens wailed as they left the New Jersey dockside. Horton was back behind bars. The cargo was destroyed and folk could sleep easy again. The Chief was content. Bertrand was holed up in a one bed condo in Hoboken with the woman of his dreams. The Chief, Rio and the Marples boys were in
Sushi Samba enjoying a Caipirinha.

So what next said Robert? “Well Rio and I are going back to South Beach, no more of these crazy tricks for me!” The Marples boys exchanged a glance. “So are you really retired now?” “Yes”, said the Chief.
But even as the words left his lips he knew he was being stupid … more stupid than the guy who took an hour and a half to watch “60 Minutes” ….. to be continued

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