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Authors: Josh Shoemake

Planet Willie

BOOK: Planet Willie
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Josh Shoemake



An Opium Book


Planet Willie

Copyright © 2013 by Josh Shoemake



All rights reserved. No part of this
book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means
including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval without
permission in writing from the author.


ISBN-13: 978-1490334431

ISBN-10: 1490334432


Opium Books

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @opiumbooks







“In heaven an angel is nobody in particular.”


- George Bernard Shaw



In my earthly experience,
when you see her across that crowded room, you’re better off just heading right
over and hitting her with a little Mister Friedrich Nietzsche, as in when
nothing matters, everything is permitted, specifically you and me. As in this
blonde I’m contemplating in the Rancho Notorious who’s got me feeling
philosophical. I give her a little look quite popular among the ladies that
goes by the name of the Duke of Love. Sort of raise an eyebrow, stroke the chin
a bit, and let her draw her own conclusions, which if experience has taught me
anything will tend towards Italian palazzos and horse rides through the family
acres. This combined with a little philosophy will generally get her pining,
but the lady in question just looks off towards the jukebox and rolls those
pretty blue eyes clear to Tokyo and back. So I buy her a drink on my tab, she
wants another, and soon enough we’re hunched over the facilities in the ladies
restroom trying to keep that blonde hair out of her face as it all comes back
up again. Then there’s a vague memory of me driving her around to her sister’s
house, where she’s crashing for the night, and I do mean crashing, and her
saying to me, “This is so my life,” which are more or less my thoughts exactly
when I wake the next morning in the backseat of my truck with a hangover the
size of Japan, assuming you go ahead and count all of Asia.

The good news,
I’m thinking as a hyperactive early bird pecks at the windshield, is that after
being abandoned for three months out behind the dumpsters of the Rancho Notorious,
the old truck still responds to my sensitive touch. The bad news is that I can’t
seem to learn that you don’t spend more than four seconds in the Notorious if
you can help it, particularly when you consider that it was beside the sloping
pool table of that fine establishment where some misguided stranger put a
bullet through the back of my pretty head – four years, eight months, and
fifteen days ago. I may as well get this out of the way since you’ll likely be
wondering. So the other bad news? I’m dead. Fortunately there’s more good news
too, in that some of your steelier angels, a category that may honestly include
only me, will zip down every once and a while to inhabit the bodies that were
woefully lost to them, specifically those detectives in the Paradise Police
Department, Lost Souls Division. We are an elite unit of highly bored
individuals. We sit around decorating clouds until some urgent prayer comes
into the switchboard, and then if you’re lucky and have miraculously avoided
offending the delicate sensibilities of one of the higher-ups, Saint Chief
Mahoney might send you down to investigate.

“We got
another one down in South Texas, Willie,” he growled as I stepped into his
office, which I guess was only yesterday. Saint Chief’s been in a bad mood ever
since he smoked his last cigar twenty years ago and proceeded to kick the
bucket. “Belinda’s obviously the better detective, but I’ve already got her
down in San Antonio chasing that repentant alcoholic, so I got no choice.
You’re going down.”

“Your confidence
in me is a daily inspiration, Saint Chief,” I said. “I can say with almost
total sincerity that you make me want to be a better angel.”

“Cut the crap,
Lee. The supplicant’s name is Harry Shore. Elder at Saint Pete’s in Galveston.
They just named the new Sunday School wing after him, and no, I’m not commenting
on that. Apparently his daughter has lost her way. Of the seven deadlies, principally
greed and lust. The prayer came in a few days ago, urgent. So you just go down,
find her, and put her back on the straight and narrow, and then we pull you right
out. No doodling, for Chrissake. I’m warning you.”

Saint Chief,” I replied with a crisp little salute. My heart would have been
pounding with excitement if I’d had an actual beating heart, but then mister I’d
feel that heart beating soon enough. It was about time. I’d been on a cloud for
a while after an unexpectedly complex case involving an obstreperous Biloxi
chorus girl with an unseemly boot fetish, and I couldn’t wait to get back in
action, especially on my home turf, where I might also get a little closer to unraveling
the mystery of what misguided soul could have possibly seen fit to put a bullet
in me. Also, the name of this Shore was ringing some distant earthly bell. Hell,
I was already doing a little steely detecting from the clouds.

“What’s my
cover?” I asked, which is the first question you ask, since as far as anybody
really knows, we don’t exist. You can’t exactly tell them straight out you’re an
angel, although don’t think I haven’t tried on probably too many occasions, with
mixed results in the romance department. Unfortunately they don’t give you
superpowers to make the ladies reconsider.

“He’s been
given a sign to call a detective. We’re keeping it just that simple this time
in the hopes that you won’t screw another one up. No
, Lee, or
you won’t see another chance for eternity. Now get out of here before I change
my mind. We incarnate you in an hour.”

On most jobs I
like to take on an earthly persona that allows me to flex a few dramatic
muscles, but detective suited me just fine, since I’d done a little
moonlighting as one in my breathing days and knew the lines. So I skipped right
out of there before Saint Chief could reconsider the wisdom of setting me loose
on the planet. Figured I might get in a little siesta since incarnation tends
to be exhausting and I had every intention of commencing investigations as soon
as my feet were back on solid ground, specifically with a cogitative little
drink or three. You probably don’t need to be told that there’s no bourbon in
heaven. What’s more astonishing to me is that with all the recent advances in
modern technology, they still haven’t figured out a better way to do these
incarnations. With all the people they’ve got sitting around doing absolutely
nothing, you’d think they’d put a few of the brighter ones on the problem. Angels
are generally lazy, however, and they are without a doubt the most bureaucratic
crowd I’ve ever encountered, particularly over in logistics. They’re still
using a system they put into place about the time I was born back in 1966, and
this system only allows them to incarnate you in the place you left your mortal
body, which means I only tend to get cases in South Texas, and which also
explains why I keep finding myself in the Rancho Notorious. Fortunately you
also appear wearing the clothes in which you said adios, which explains the
hand-tooled boots.

God knows it’s
all pretty frustrating for us detectives, but to be perfectly honest, God
doesn’t know. Don’t get me wrong: I love God. Let me just say that right up
front. He means well, and he’s never been anything but a perfect gentleman to
me, but his all-knowingness apparently doesn’t extend to his inner circle, who
are the biggest band of con artists, crooks, loafs, and liars you’ve ever met. Suffice
it to say that I’m more or less a hallelujah incarnate whenever they let me

So I’m getting
reacquainted with the pleasures of ham and eggs over at Luby’s diner when the
pay phone starts ringing over by the pinball machine, and I know it’s for me. I
take a deep breath and poke a finger to my forehead to see if my reacquired skull
is still wrapped around my reacquired brain. You’d like to think there’s a hair
of the dog for this level of hangover, but I’d need all the 101 Dalmatians plus
that lady they run around with to make this one right. Fortunately grace under
pressure may as well be tattooed on my hindquarters, so I steel the body and
stride over to pick up the phone. Luby sees me bopping along and gives me a
little wink, if I’m not mistaken, which I slip into my mental case file for further
investigation once I’ve dealt with this elder.

Honestly there’s
more on my mind than Luby as I walk across that diner floor. Four years, eight
months, and fifteen days ago somebody wanted me dead, and nobody around here
realizes that his bullet did the trick. Sure, they know about the shooting, but
then I vanished, and they just figured I’d holed up somewhere to nurse the
wounds. Now I just disappear a little more often than I used to, for longer
periods of time – nothing too unusual in that when you consider it’s yours
truly. Needless to say, the police never caught the guy. All I remember is a
pink paisley shirt out the corner of my eye just before I felt the pain. So it’s
always a little nerve-racking walking around my hometown again. I’m always
keeping an eye out for pink paisley or suspicious men, because you’ve got to
figure that if he wanted me dead almost five years ago, he probably wants me
doubly dead today. “What happens if a detective gets shot in the course of an
investigation?” I once asked Saint Chief back in the early days. “Is there like
some other heaven for angels misfortunate enough to get themselves killed

“We pull you
out,” Saint Chief answered with a smirk. “You’re off the case, that’s all.
Don’t get shot.” Which honestly may be the only piece of sound advice I’ve ever
gotten from Saint Chief.

At the pay
phone the caller introduces himself as Harry Shore, and he wants the detective.
I’m standing there thinking I should get a little office for the duration of
the case, maybe a perky secretary who makes the coffee just right, but he’s
telling me he wants me over at the house in Galveston immediately, which unfortunately
won’t exactly give me time to interview perky candidates. I tell him I can be
there in about forty-five minutes and hang up, wondering how I’ll break it to

Harry Shore.
That name’s still distantly ringing as I freshen up in the toilet. I’m having a
look at the whole earthly ensemble in the broken mirror above the sink, and although
gorgeous may be too strong a word this time of morning, you can’t deny the
charm. Pretty good for a dead man approaching fifty, although I think it’s only
fair to count the years lived, so I tend to put it at forty six. Hell, pretty
good even for Mister Cary Grant, although the suit, as slick as it is, could
use a bit of attention. Full head of dark hair, though, lent a certain elegance
by some touches of gray. Tough face – damn, that’s a tough face. Quite a
package overall – big and smooth  as a Cadillac, horsepower coming out my ears.
Unfortunately I myself am driving a used truck, and used is putting it mildly,
but she does manage to get up to almost fifty five out on Las Colinas
Boulevard, which I take as a good sign for the day to come. Cruising along at
fifty-three, you can just about leave that hangover in the dust.

The Gulf of
Mexico comes into sight, and that’s when it finally hits me:
Harry Shore.
About five years back, due to unforeseen circumstances, which tend to be the
kind of circumstances I encounter, I found myself cleaning his Olympic swimming
pool under the employ of a crew of Mexican landscapers. Supplementing the income,
so to speak. I’d been vacuuming the bottom and skimming leaves all morning
while the foreman edged around it for the sheer pleasure of watching me fish
out grass. By lunchtime I was feeling so ornery I figured I’d take me a swim, and
when I surfaced I was unemployed. Cause and effect. Anyway, this Harry Shore had been sitting out on the porch supervising operations like a marine
commander and saw the whole scene unfold. He was about seventy, with grey hair
trimmed to his scalp, a hard face that could express without moving his
displeasure with a weed, and the torso of a boxer bulging out of a black
t-shirt. Also, he was in a wheelchair, his legs no bigger around than sticks.

I remember the
foreman was real pleased to inform Mister Shore how I was fired and now
officially trespassing. Shore looked over from the porch with his hard,
weed-hating eyes and boomed out some scripture: “Forgive us our trespasses, as
we forgive those who trespass against us.” Then he waved me over in my dripping
underwear for a glass of lemonade and proceeded to ask if maybe we’d met
somewhere before.

This was
around the time I’d been doing some private investigation, principally of my
ex-wife Caroline and the Galveston contractor she’d married, which more or less
meant watching their house from my truck and wondering what she could possibly
see in a dud like him. She’d said she wanted a life, and that Richard could
give her one, but I failed to see how I’d given her anything but unvarnished
life times about a million. What I guess she really wanted was the varnish. It
was eating at me then, and sometimes it still eats at me now, so don’t imagine
that heaven lets you forget. No, brother, you just brood for eternity on the
ones who got away, such that sometimes I can’t imagine hell could be any worse.

Honestly I don’t
know what I was hoping for out there on the streets of those toney
neighborhoods, actually not so far from Shore’s place. Partly I didn’t exactly
have any other cases to distract me at the time, so Caroline was the mystery I
was hoping to solve, doing more or less what I did on any case: sitting around
in a truck or a bar somewhere waiting for something to happen, waiting for some
slight change in the atmosphere that would tell me what I needed to know. It’s
like that Japanese Noh theater I once saw on a television program. These
Japanese men dress up like women, paint their faces white and stand for hours
like statues in front of packed crowds. Then every once in a while one of these
guys will turn up his wrist, or maybe blink, and the crowd, man, they’re just

High drama. That’s
my style. I spend my days waiting for Japanese men in dresses to blink, because
it’s the blink that gets me too, just like those packed houses in Kyoto or wherever. And these days when I get involved in a case, saving the soul itself honestly
never proves too interesting in the end. It’s the little details that intrigue,
so to speak. The details are where God is, as many wise thinkers have said, and
I wholly share the sentiment, even if that’s obviously not where he is at all.

BOOK: Planet Willie
9.41Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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