Johnson Toast, Private Eye
CHAPTER THREE – SLICE OF
Johnson Toast scanned the Sky Mall Magazine. He could find nothing of interest, other than a sling-type dog bed, made for the back seat of a car. It looked like it could possibly keep his Mustang free of dog hair and general dog scum. But then what would really keep his car free of dog hair and general dog scum would be for his sister to use her own vehicle when rushing Ginger to the vet when she gets a sand bur stuck in her paw. And what would be an absolute guarantee to be without dog hair and dog scum, would be if there was no dog.
Johnson was seated between his sister, who at the moment was flagging down the stewardess for another cocktail and the beautiful and mysterious Pearlina, who he could tell out of the corner of his eye, was deep in thought as she watched the cumulus puffs of clouds floating below them. He tried to recall how and why he’d gotten where he was in the first place.
“Jack Bender is in trouble,” is what Pearlina had said two days prior, while sitting in his office.
Johnson had answered, “Well, Jack Bender’s missing. The police report says that he took a flight to Montego Bay. And in case you don’t know, I have his DOG.”
“You are a good man to take her in. Jack loves that dog.”
“Oh really? What kind of an ass leaves the country without making arrangements for his dog that he loves?”
The woman looked across the desk in the home office, slash spare bedroom and said, “The kind of an ass that is in trouble.”
Johnson had replied, “I doubt he’s in trouble.”
“You Mr. Toast are a detective. You have to know something is not right about that. Jack told me that if he ever went missing that I was to contact you.”
“Me? Why in the hell would he say to contact me?”
“Two reasons. One, you are a private investigator, and two, you have the key to his survival.”
“What are you talking about?” he’d said. “I don’t have any key to his survival and I barley know the guy. And what little I do know of him, I don’t like. He’s a grown man who bought a one way ticket to the Caribbean and left his dog to die.”
“You’ve gotta believe me, mahn. Jack told me if he ever disappeared, I must take his money, fly to America to find you and bring you and the doll back to Jamaica. He said if I didn’t do what he said, he would have no chance and that he would be as good as dead.”
“Whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. His money? A doll?”
“Yes mahn. Jack left me money to pay you. And there is a very important doll, right here, in your home. It is buried in a wall downstairs.”
Jack stood up. “Excuse me, Pearlina is it?”
“What in the hell are you talking about?”
There were footsteps coming down the hallway. “Johnson,” his sister yelled. “I’m turning the burner off on the S.O.S. All you have to do is make toast and warm the sauce back up when you are ready to eat. Got that?”
“Yeah, yeah, got it,” he’d hollered back.
Pearlina stood up. “Mr. Toast, she said, “you are my only hope to find Jack. He promised me that once I am able to tell you the whole story that you will come around. And he said that if the story doesn’t turn your head, the money will.”
“Okay, let’s start there. How much money are we talking about?”
“I have forty thousand dollars, cash.”
Johnson sat back down and so did Pearlina.
“Mr. Toast,” Pearlina continued.
“Call me Johnson.”
“Johnson Toast. That is a strange name, mahn. You know if you say it fast it sounds like Jontsome Toast? You know, Want some Toast? Has anyone ever said that to you?”
“Only everyday. Just call me Johnson and forget the Toast. Tell me about this forty thousand dollars, this very important doll, Jack Bender and what any of it has to do with me.”
Pearlina’s eyes blackened. She spoke in a low whisper. “Jack’s troubles began when he was just a small boy. He was about eight or nine years old when the darklings entered his body. They came through his mouth, like they normally do.”
“Yes the darklings. They are from the other side.”
“The other side of what?”
“The other side of life.”
“I didn’t know there was another side of life.”
“Of course there is mahn. It is called death. That would be the other side of life.”
Chapter 2 – Shit on a Shingle
“Dustin! Dane! Sombeody! Answer that door.” Laney shouted from the kitchen.
“Wooof, wooof, woooof.”
“Ginger! Shut up! Boys, get the door,” she hollered again, stirring the slowly thickening white sauce with one hand, a cigarette in the other. She was wearing a fluorescent pink outfit that even her June Cleaver apron couldn’t hide the ample cleavage moving around with the wooden spoon. Her sandy blonde hair was up in a messy bun and her face was under some kind of a cream.
“I’ve got it,” said Johnson, coming out of the back room, his office. “Jesus, what the hell is going on around here?”
“Wooof, woof, woof.”
“Ginger, knock it off,” he said.
Johnson stopped at the door. It was still summer. It was only a screen. On the other side of it stood perhaps the most beautiful woman in the world. She was probably the same height as he was, six feet. Her skin was cocoa brown. Her eyes were black saucers. Her shiny jet black hair was pulled back taught, revealing model high cheekbones. Her long and slender arms grew out of a bright yellow cotton top and came to tiny wrists with long and lean fingers full of rings and nails that were painted dark blue, each with a sun. Her yellow top fit her body closely and stopped just above her petite waist where her skin-tight, black capris took over just below her diamond studded inney till just below her knees. There her smooth cocoa shins emerged and traveled all the way to fragile looking ankles, where a black, yellow, orange and green beaded bracelet lay on the left one and finally long and lean sandaled feet with nails painted the same dark blue as her fingernails, each toe displaying a moon, from crescent to full. She smiled. Johnson had never seen such white, straight and sparkly teeth, ever.
“Ginger,” he said again. “Sit.” He looked at the stranger and said, “Can I help you?” Wondering who she could possibly be. She obviously was not from the neighborhood. There were no cocoa faces living on his block or for several blocks of the little Midwestern urban area. Just blocks of cookie cutter houses and cookie cutter people. Who was she? Not a Jehovah’s Witness, they travel in groups. Didn’t look like she had anything to sell. Hmm, no car in the driveway, he thought. Maybe she’s got pamphlets or a petition and is going door to door. Maybe she’s political. Maybe she needs directions. What ever it is, I’m buying it or signing it or taking her anywhere she needs to go.
“Are you Mr. Johnson Toast?” is what she said, in a deep, silky voice, with an accent he didn’t recognize.
She’s not a sales person, he thought. She knows my name. Why the hell is she here?
“Yes, I am Johnson Toast.”
“Johnson Toast, Private Eye?”
Okay, now I get it. She’s looking for a detective. “That would be me.”
“Mr. Toast, my name is Pearlina. I am here from Negril and I need you to help me find Jack Bender.”
Okay, that I did not expect, he thought. “Would you like to step into my office?”
“Yah maahn. I would like that. So you will help me then, Mr. Toast?”
Yah maahn. Hmmm, Negril, I think that is Jamaica mahhn. “I’ll give it a shot,” he said.
Once inside Johnson led Pearlina past the show underway in the kitchen. Ginger was waiting patiently for the go ahead signal so that she could flip a piece of Carl Budding Beef off her snout and into her mouth. “Okay,” said the woman under the cream.
“Johnson,” she called after the two that were headed down the hallway, dinner will be early tonight and I’m going out, okay?”
“What’s for dinner?” he said.
“Shit on a shingle.”
Pearlina’s black saucer eyes widened.
There, a connection to Jamaica and voodoo possibilities. PK, I’m sure you are convinced that Pearlina is a man.
He’s tall. He’s dark. He’s Johnson Toast, Private Eye.
Johnson Toast has been lurking around for more than a year. All I know about him is, he’s a detective and he is involved with voodoo. I know nothing about detectives or voodoo. I’ve written, The Beginning. Once you read it you will know as much about Johnson Toast as I do. I’m inviting you to join me on this journey. You wouldn’t leave me all alone with a private eye I don’t even know with an f’d up private life, running into God knows what out there in Voodoo Land, would you? This could get scary. Help me write this. All ideas are welcome. Thanks.
Chapter One – The Toasted Bagel
“Johnson Toast?” She said with a light hearted giggle.
“Ha-ha, very funny,” muttered the forty-something guy, not looking up from the newspaper spread out on the kitchen table, his Benjamin Franklin reading glasses on the tip of his straight nose.
“I’m serious,” his sister answered. ” I said, do you want some toast?”
“I’ll take a half a bagel.”
Johnson Toast went back to the article that had caught his eye. It was about a carpenter named Jack Bender, who’d gone missing. The man only lived a few houses away. He was on the same block, kitty corner in the back. Jack was the type of neighbor that Johnson waved to, but that was about it. As far as Johnson knew, it was just Jack and his dog, Ginger who lived there. Ginger was a mutty kind of a thing. Looked like a mix between a beagle and a Rottweiler. She was the more popular of the two. Although dogs were not supposed to roam the streets unattended or off leash in Cedar Cove, Ginger did. It was no fault of her own of course. It was that irresponsible owner of hers who had complete disregard for the rules, but that didn’t make Ginger any less likeable. As a matter of fact she was considered to be everyone’s dog. It was not unusual to see her walk out of any of the neighboring houses after having invited herself over for dinner. She was a regular at the Toast residence whenever Johnson’s sister was in the mood for stroganoff. Laney liked to cook and she’d thought that her brother was getting a little too gaunt after Angela had run off with that young guy she’d met at the coffee shop, after five years of what Johnson had considered to be a blissful marriage.
Laney, Johnson’s youngest sister had eased herself into his spare bedroom a little bit at a time after she and Carter had split a few years back. She was only going to stay until she could figure out what to do and then she did figure out what to do. She hired Jack Bender to finish off her brother’s basement while Johnson was away on a much needed two week vacation. The remodel was complete with two bedrooms and a family room down there, so that her semi delinquent sons would be more comfortable when they came to stay on weekends and for the summer.
Johnson was miffed with his sister and her surprise. She jabbered on and on about some big change at the house that he was going to just LOVE, all the way home from the airport. He never liked how she referred to it as the house instead of his house. Weren’t guests supposed to call it, your house? He knew it was all over when she’d put the blindfold on him and walked him to the bottom of the stairs. He was a private eye. He’d already seen the traces of drywall dust on his black tarred driveway when they’d first pulled in. He could smell the fresh cut two by fours, new paint and carpet from the top of the stairwell.
“Do you like it?” She’d asked when he’d removed his blindfold and surveyed the damage.
“Nice,” he’d uttered.
“I thought the boys could sleep down here and this would be a great place for them to play their video games and watch their own T.V. shows. This way if they want to invite a friend or two over they won’t all be underfoot. And of course this will only add value to your property when we move out someday. It’s a win-win.”