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Authors: Brian M Wiprud

Feelers

BOOK: Feelers
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FEELERS

 

 

 

 

ALSO BY BRIAN M. WIPRUD

          
Pipsqueak

          
Stuffed

          
Crooked

          
Sleep with the Fishes

          
Tailed

FEELERS

BRIAN M. WIPRUD

 

 

 

MINOTAUR BOOKS 
 NEW YORK

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

FEELERS
. Copyright © 2009 by Brian M. Wiprud. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

 

www.minotaurbooks.com

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

 

Wiprud, Brian M.

    Feelers / Brian M. Wiprud.—1st ed.

        p. cm.

    ISBN-13: 978-0-312-38861-4

    ISBN-10: 0-312-38861-6

    1. Junk trade—Fiction. 2. Buried treasure—Fiction. 3. Criminals—Fiction. 4. New York (N.Y.)—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3623.I73 F44 2009

813'.6—dc22

2008034161

First Edition: March 2009

 

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

 

 

 

For all you conquistadores out there

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

 

 

 

I’d like to thank Alex Glass, my agent, for the tenacity and guidance of Cortés. I’m also indebted to my editor, Michael Homler, truly a Pizarro of editorial sagacity. Last but not least, my thanks to the Ponce de León of friends, Jeff Parker.

 

 

Every man is as heaven made him, and sometimes a great deal worse.

—M
IGUEL DE
C
ERVANTES
(1547–1616)

 

 

 

FEELERS

Father Gomez Entropica
Nuestra Señora de Cortés
La Paz, BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR 23000
MEXICO

 

Dear Father Gomez:

As you will see, this letter is attached to two packages. One is an explanation. Of course, I know it is more like a book than an explanation, and more like a confession than a book, but that is just the way it came out once I got started. I went to mass as a kid, not much, but I think confession is somehow good when one has been through an ordeal such as mine. Especially when the confession is to someone who is honor bound by his God to keep his mouth shut, such as yourself. I am not an idiot, I know confession is usually done in person, but I did not think you wanted me to try to explain all this in a confessional booth. I think we would both get claustrophobic, and if I had to kneel the whole time, my knees would surely blister. To be brutally honest, I felt the second, larger package needed an explanation so that you would understand its meaning. As a spiritual person, it must be plain to you that life is all about meaning, whether or not something illegal happened.

And I ask that you excuse my occasional portrayals of weaknesses of the flesh, Father. I guess it wouldn’t be much of a confession without some of that. Yes?

 

Very truly yours,

 

M. Martinez

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nighteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter Forty-Eight

Chapter Forty-Nine

Chapter Fifty

Chapter Fifty-One

CHAPTER
ONE

 

 

 

 

A SQUAD OF DAY LABORERS
lifted the sofa. There on the wooden floor—where the couch had been—were thirty-two tight ones. An invasion of little cylindrical money robots that lived under the sofa.

I’m sure, Father Gomez, you are asking, “Yes, but what is a tight one? And why were thirty-two of them under the couch?” I will tell you.

A tight one is a short can—usually a Planters nut tin—with a roll of cash squeezed “tightly” into it. Some would have you believe that such a can of money is called a tight one because it sort of resembles . . . well, an asshole. It is what they call a play on words.

This may sound unusual, to find a tight one under a couch, much less thirty-two tight ones. Not so. Old people believe a sofa is somehow more secure than Citibank. They do this because they do not trust banks, because many of them remember the Great Depression, a time before ATMs and credit cards, a time when cold hard green cash was king, and so it is that these old people hoard cash. A nut can is a little taller than the bills are wide, but low enough to fit under most of the cheap-ass couches you’re liable to find in one of these places.

This is not to say they don’t hide money other places. I have found old people’s money built into drapery valances. I have found cash in hollow Bibles. I have found cash in mattresses, taped under dressers, built into the underside of Barcaloungers, and in a wall cavity behind a bathroom medicine cabinet. You have to be clever to find a geezer’s money, and you have to have a feeling, or sense, that the money is there in the house. Like people who find water in the ground with sticks, certain people have a talent for finding cash. I am one of them. It is in the blood of my ancestors.

Within the industry of estate liquidation, I am called a “feeler.” It is not because I have a feeling about money being in a house. The name suggests that we feel up the furniture looking for hidden money.

It does not surprise me you have not heard of feelers, unless maybe a parent died with a house full of crap that needed to go away. Nothing of obvious value, usually, just a kitchen full of dented saucepans, scratched glassware, soiled mattresses, a sagging sofa, and perhaps a curio cabinet choked with Lillian Vernon trinkets. It all goes to the dump, and it is feelers that are hired to load the junk into a container and haul it away. In the Brooklyn yellow pages, you would not find me under
FEELERS
but under
HOME CONTENT REMOVAL
, if I was actually listed. Dedicated feelers don’t advertise. Work comes to us mostly by referrals from estate lawyers, funeral homes, movers, real estate agents, what have you. I hire the day workers, arrange for the Dumpster, salvage and sell what I can, and make it go fast.

When called for a job, I take a look at the house, walk through and try to imagine where the money is, or if there are any antiques that could bring some money. The clients, relatives of the deceased, have removed anything they think is valuable from
the house—that they know of, anyway. Sometimes I am not sole sourced, and the client is taking bids from different feelers. In those cases, I have to have a very keen sense about what loot the house might contain to make a good bid on the work. And a keen sense about possible tight ones, of course. If it looks likely that there may be some return on the furniture, and I get the feeling the place might have hidden treasure, I might even barter our labor, clean the place for free.

No matter what, I have the client sign the complete release of all contents to me. All signed and legal. I explain to the client that this is to ensure that they have removed everything they want and that I am free to dump the whole lot. What this means to me is that any valuables I find, I get, even thirty-two tight ones.

At this particular house on Vanderhoosen Drive, I wasted no time in directing my day laborers to the greasy floral-print, sagging, stinking, crumb-laden couch and motioning them to lift it. What did I hope to find? One or two, maybe four or five, tight ones. Perhaps none at all. But thirty-two? There wasn’t room for many more under there. I about shit myself.

Especially since I narrowly beat out other feelers for the work. Including a feeler they call Pete the Prick. After I won the job and he didn’t, he shouted to me across the bar at Oscar’s Grille: “Good luck finding any tight ones in that shack, asshole spic motherfucker!” You see how Pete got his unfortunate name? From his unfortunate disposition.

How much was there in those cans? I could not know. If it were all Georges, Lincs, and Hams (ones, fives, and tens), nothing to write home about. Jacks? Now we’re talking. If the cans were loaded with Grants or Bens . . . there could be a million or more squeezed into those peanut tins. Routine procedure, no
matter how many tins there are, is to make them vanish. You don’t want the client to stumble in and see all that cash because they may balk and try to back out of the contract, call lawyers, the police. It gets ugly. Also, as a general rule, you want to limit the number of people who see you carrying large sums of mazuma, especially anybody from the government. You didn’t imagine that this was declared income, did you? So I grabbed a black construction bag from the pile of supplies, opened it, and motioned for the laborers to throw the cans inside. My foreman, Speedy, directed them in Spanish. Even though I am part Spanish and grew up in a Hispanic neighborhood, I speak Spanish poorly. So Gonzales speaks for me, in a variety of different South and Central American dialects. He also listens to what the workers are saying to make sure there’s no stealing on their part. I thumbed a wad of bills in one of the cans—twenties and fifties—and handed it to Speedy, for him to distribute to the workers at the end of the day, and to take his cut of whatever is inside. I share the wealth a little when I find loot. Good karma, they say, and worth every penny. Besides, you have to pay something in the hopes that the laborers will keep their mouths shut, at least for a little while.

BOOK: Feelers
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ads

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