Valley of Sinners Ch. 01byEgmont Grigor©
THE SETTING is Auckland, New Zealand, and the 'Valley of Sinners' is a mythical locality to the north-west of the city business district which actually is a grape growing region, the development of which is loosely based in this action-adventure-romance short novel though all the characters are entirely fictitious. Enjoy.
Disappointed yet again by another new century Hollywood 'blockbuster' that had failed to eclipse any of his Top 50 great films of the 20th Century, employment-sensitive Nash Carson walked from the movie theatre in Auckland City wondering if there was a cure against being suckered like this by the advance promotional hype.
What about staying home and writing book - then sell the movie rights? He grinned thinking other people had done it!
Nash passed a busty young woman in a little black dress and black fishnets who eyed him disinterestedly. Above him flapped a theatre banner promoting two upcoming 'blockbusters' while to his right, fat-faced people in the fast-food franchise were cramming the nightmares of nutritionists into greedy mouths.
Sunlight filtered through haze shrouding the city's central business district and immediately outside the multi-complex cinema entrance Nash spotted a striking mid-aged woman in a cream suit arguing with a beefy man wearing a ripped black bush singlet, dirty blue jeans and a steel-capped boots. Obviously the quasi-ruffian intended towing her vehicle away.
Curious, Nash eavesdropped on the heated exchange.
"Look, lady, it's my job to take illegally parked vehicles to the pound. You parked where you shouldn't have, so don't gripe. Just front up with two hundred and twenty bucks at Jason's Towing Services in MacKay Street and your problem will be over."
Nash's interest shifted to the vehicle itself, a 1939 American Chevrolet half-ton pickup painted the colour of his mother's favourite lipstick -- blood red (actually the vehicle colour was Torch Red). He switched back from drooling to update on whether the well-dressed blonde was winning the battle. But oh no, there she was, standing aside, hand on hip and rhythmically banging her handbag against her other leg, red-faced in anger waiting for the tow-away to occur.
This called for intervention as the tow driver was lowering the rear end of his vehicle and within a couple of minutes the Chevy would be winched up the rusty steel incline for an uncaring trip to impoundment until $220 was handed across to secure its release.
Nash called to the blonde: "Miss -- pull out forty bucks and offer it to the Sod."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Just do it, before he scrapes your paintwork. Bribes often work."
Two minutes later the distance between the parked Chevy and the tow truck rapidly widened as the now cheerful driver, forty dollars richer, began looking for another motorist to upset.
Nash stood alongside the twitching woman watching the disappearing pariah.
"I can't believe I just did that, and he took my money. That's nothing but corruption; we're supposed to be an incorruptible society."
Nash asked lazily: "Do you attend church?"
"Yes, I do. But what relevance is that?"
"It indicates your lack of worldliness, I guess."
"To hell it does!"
The woman flounced up into the Chevy, slammed the door, grated the gears as she moved forward but had to wait for passing traffic to clear before pulling out into the busy thoroughfare.
Nash smiled, listening to the burbling of the well-tuned V8 motor echoing through the exhaust. No-one would have finished a rebuild like that so immaculately without tossing in a new motor. Why anyone would place such a vehicle in the hands of a woman was beyond reason -- unless, of course, she'd been widowed.
He turned to walk to the bus stop when twin air-horns sounded. Nash turned to see who was being harassed. Instead he discovered the horn blast was for him; the now smiling woman having returned to her original parking position had wound down the passenger window and was beckoning.
Hullo, he was going to be offered a tip?
"I'm sorry," she smiled pleasantly through well-assembled teeth. "I didn't thank you. Perhaps I could take you for afternoon tea?"
Oh yeah, Jasmine-scented tea and stale scones served with cake forks and white lace table napkins? It's was an offer begging to be declined with a gruff no thanks; instead Nash heeded a signal from his brain and accepted, thinking it was an opportunity to find out more about the Chevy.
"Jump in Mr...?"
"Carson, but call me Nash."
"My goodness, what an unusual first name," she said, introducing herself as Hope Honeybun. Nash didn't comment about both of her names, both their rare.
"I like your modernised Chevy."
"That I guessed, Nash. Otherwise why would a young man like you intervene on behalf of an old woman like me?"
"You're not old; you are about my mother's age."
The good-looking woman beamed at him.
Nash wondered who'd create a stupid name like Honeybun. Perhaps her father was Norwegian or Austrian and it was one of those names that don't translate well into English?
"Why Nash, that's the second time you have cheered me up within fifteen minutes. It's so lovely to meet a charming man."
Nash wasn't about to disillusion her. Names he's been called in recent years include 'Good for nothing bastard', 'Dole bludger', 'Wanker' and 'Unstable and unreliable'. This was the first time he could recall anyone tagging him 'a charming man'. A blush threatened to wipe across his palely handsome face.
Hope's choice of venue surprised him. It was a trendy café with no scones in sight and was licensed to serve liquor. Hope chose English Breakfast tea and no food while Nash ordered a double shot long black coffee and a slice of fruit cake.
"Tell me about yourself, Nash."
He replied there was nothing much to tell and set about telling it.
The 25-year-old lived with his mother in a modest house in the inner-city; his father lived with his partner -- another man -- in Nelson. A parental split occurred some fifteen years earlier, so Dan Carson no longer figured in Nash's mind.
In her youth, his mother Rose had been a country and western singer of some merit, for many summers singing under the name of Debbie Reno at beach resorts and doing dancehall tours in the off-season. She'd always wanted to visit one of the homes of country music, Nashville but so far that had not happened. Dan was away on a rugby tour of Australia when her baby arrived prematurely, so instead of registering him under the agreed name of Raymond, which had been a compromise name between the couple, Rose named the baby Nash.
Fortunately, Dan rather liked the name and when he arrived home from Australia he and Rose were playing happy families for almost six months before Dan broke into tears one evening, declaring to his astonished wife that he'd found his sexual preferences were changing. From that point they drifted apart both socially and emotionally but it was not until more than a year of grating unhappiness that Rose finally kicked him out and got herself a lodger named Harry. Nash was then aged eleven.
Nash, showing little emotion, said that Harry remained lodging in his mum's bed until Nash was fifteen. Although accepting the situation as normal, he and Harry had nothing into common including blood ties.
Hope was a little taken aback by this juiced up potted personal history.
"What about you?" Nash mumbled, finishing off his snack.
"Oh, there's nothing much to tell," she said modestly, and then proceeded to give a fascinating synopsis.
The daughter of Cedric Honeybun, a country veterinarian, and Patricia who'd bred Springer Spaniels, Hope did well at school and continued on to half complete a degree in education before sailing off to Europe with a group of young people. It took almost two years and many memorable moments before they finally arrived in Plymouth with two of the women on board pregnant and a third missing at sea.
Returning home after a year in England, Hope completed her degree and trained as a teacher. She later married Albert (Bert) Wilson, the principal of her first school. They produced two daughters and that kept Hope busy as the two infants born only eleven months apart. Bert began staying longer and longer at school and became grizzly and eventually confessed that he no longer much cared for her. So, said Hope, she found a man who cheered her up although he made it quite clear he had no intention of leaving his own wife, their lovely house, two cars and his wife's very generous parents.
Displaying an openness that Nash found surprising, Hope said she'd found herself pregnant again and passed the baby off as Bert's until after eleven years he began divorce proceedings when learning that the third child (another daughter) wasn't his. The two older children went off with Bert and Hope was left alone with her newborn.
"God," Nash said, looking at Hope in awe. "What a story and you told it with so much emotion. It really moved me. You should write a book."
"Huh, I'm a talker, not a writer," Hope said, showing that sweet smile again. "Anyway, you mentioned that you had spent longer in unemployment that in work, so how do you fill in time?"
"Rather badly, like reading, turning up for the minimum required number of job interviews, fishing and going to uninspiring blockbuster movies. My one redeeming daub of creativity is that I write short stories."
"Obviously you don't mean aimlessly just to fill in time, judging by that sudden smile that's come to your face?"
"Well spotted, Hope. I write for the love of expressing my inner-self. Perhaps that's because it allows me to remain confident, acknowledging privately that I'm not a wastrel. Christ, listen to me; why am I telling you this?"
"Because I'm encouraging you to talk."
Staring at the kind face opposite him, Nash realised that was the truth.
Loners and folk with a penchant for keeping their private life and deeper thoughts bottled up tend to loosen up under persuasive and friendly interfacing, and Nash accepted he was in the presence of an expert; after all, she was a former teacher. He remembered his mother once telling him that most men were just like boys that 'any woman can read them a mile away'. Without doubt Rose had included him in that unflattering appraisal.
The truth was Nash never has acknowledged the need to develop himself as a complex character. His inside world, yes, but not in the way he projected himself. Recognising that he and Hope were heading into an expanding analytical discourse, he chooses to dumb down.
"Do you see your children regularly?"
That obviously was the end of that topic. He looked at his watch, but she chose not to take the hint and asked, "Will you do a wee thing for me?"
Nash hesitated before saying yes.
Hope handed him her card: 'Hope Honeybun, 1028 Grapeville Road, Te Henui, West Auckland'.
"I'd like you to send me a couple of samples of your short stories. Don't bother if it's too much trouble."
"No, I'll do it."
Hope looked at her watch, so Nash rose to go to the counter to pay.
"I paid when I placed our order; you're not overly observant for a writer, are you?"
Actually, at that time Nash's attention had been diverted by a waitress wiping the counter, bent so low that Nash had no option but to check out her well-filled lacy blue bra.
"Or was your attention diverted?" Hope said with a knowing smile.
"Thanks for afternoon tea and the chat," he said. "You are a very interesting lady."
They walked to the door where Hope asked if she can give Nash a ride home.
"Nah, I'm sweet," he replied, using street vernacular, immediately regretting his lapse.
"Oh, I don't doubt that for a moment," Hope muttered as she rummaged in her handbag for her keys.
"Your keys: I saw you put them in your jacket pocket."
"Why yes, thank you. Perhaps you are an observer after all. Goodbye."
They shook hands and separated. Nash walked along the street to a bus stop.
Dressed economically in cheap linen grey trousers, grey boat shoes and a pale blue polo shirt, Nash turned for his last look at the departing Chevy. Hope had neatly executed a U-turn and was powering off, elbow resting on the open window of the eye-catching vehicle. It had been a full-on conversation and he regretted not asking how the Chevy had come into Hope's life.
Squashed against the window seat in the bus by a huge woman, in an unfashionable dress and a stupid floral clip on the side of her headband, Nash thought about the very fashionable lady from Te Henui driving home in her bright red pick-up, its original bits now almost seventy years old.
Not an observer, eh?
Wrong madam, Nash thought, visualising the somewhat fleshy but smooth-shaped and fit-looking Hope with her attractive duck eggshell blue eyes, slightly-flaring nostrils and generously wide mouth.
Anyone coming into contact with Nash who gains an eight-plus rating receives more than a passing interest from him. Because Hope drives a Chevy truck and projected an inner attractiveness as well as being outwardly chic, she'd been awarded a nine rating; that is, nine out of ten. Such ratings have nothing to do with sexuality nor are restricted to females. Nash stores such impressions and any unusual mannerisms or idiosyncrasies to build a database from which he can draw upon for fictitious characters for his short stories and, eventually, for his first novel.
Nash planned to begin writing a novel before the year's end. Already he'd drafted an outline and had filled almost four notebooks on memories of past conversations with his mother and also transcribing interesting extracts taken from her old scrapbooks. His interviews with his mother were surreptitious, so she had no idea that she was the model for the heroine of his book, about a young New Zealand country and western singer designed to finally hit the big time in Nashville, USA. Rose simply thought Nash was being lovely to her by asking her to re-tell her old stories about her past; Rose adored reminiscing about her era as a pat-time professional singer.
Nash had observed that Hope wore a wedding ring. Why...to keep the wolves away?
A casual glance had recorded she was heavy breasted, has surprisingly shapely legs and obviously was not a cream cake-eating older woman sedately passing the second half of her life away watching 'soaps' on TV. The shoes and matching handbag looked possibly Italian and expensive and her hair appeared professionally groomed. He's even worked out her age: married at twenty her youngest daughter born in the year of that divorce would be almost twenty-five, so mama would be between forty-seven and forty-nine.
Nash wondered how she'd fed her sexual appetite during those twenty-five years, presuming she'd felt the urge. Perhaps she still had visiting rights with the guy she'd bedded and blown her marriage with, or perhaps she has a cosy little arrangement with some of the males at her golf club or bridge club she had listed to him as being her social interests? Alternatively, could she now prefer women? I don't think so -- my instinct won't allow me to draw that conclusion, he thought. She lives in a grape growing district so conceivably works in that industry, possibly front of house manager or whatever one calls the hostess in a winery.
So Mrs Honeybun, quite a bit of information about you now stored in the mind of an unobservant writer who will transcribe those images and related thoughts on to a CD labelled 'Character Traits, Vol. 2'.
Walking home the short distance from the bus stop, Nash wondered what Hope had observed about him if she'd bothered -- an unshaven blue-eyed male with uncombed fair hair wearing scuffed boaters, overly tight pants and a nondescript unbuttoned polo shirt tucked in over a flat gut? Nothing much for her to remember!
Oh, correction. It was likely she's not a lesbian! He remembered when looking up from brushing cake crumbs off his pants when standing up that her eyes were directly at his crotch. Old Mrs Honeybun, he grinned, what naughty pale blue eyes you have!
"You're home dear?" commented his mother unnecessarily, but at least she was one person in the whole world that worried when he was not safely at home. Rose kissed him and he slapped her on the butt knowing that she calls such action 'improper' but loved him doing it. That he knew because one night when she was delivered home quite intoxicated (anyone else but his mother he would have said 'pissed'), he slapped her butt and playfully admonished her for being a naughty girl. Sitting at the table she asked him to pour her a wine, and then confessed she liked him smacking her bottom, saying it made her feel young.
In his opinion, biased no doubt, she looked young for her age, helped by a fortune spent on body care. Nash mechanically answered his mother's 'You're home dear' with a polite yes, and as usual asked what was for dinner.
"I've got a nice piece of rump for you from Mr Keyes," she giggled.
That giggle was not lost on Nash. He was aware that Mr Keyes also slapped his mother on the rump, grinning in a way he'd not seen the butcher do when committing such a playful ritual with his other 'special' customers. Once he'd seen Mr Keyes, a married man, with his hand on his mother where the hand of a stranger should not be, but Nash pretended having seen nothing untoward. Although only sixteen at the time, he appreciated that his mum was entitled to experience a touch up and enjoy the attention. Since the lodger had left he's never seen his mother out socially with another man or had ever found someone was locked in her bedroom with her. Either his mum was exceedingly devious or just wasn't interested. Possibly loud-mouth Keyes was a devious man as well? If so, good on you mum!
Females figured prominently in Nash's life -- women who were anatomically interested in him, that is. Always single and unattached women, or at least that's what these women he dated casually said they were. Off Nash's menu were loose women, married women, women going out with friends of his and relatives.
From earliest days Nash learned to be patient, that someone would turn up. That someone answering the need was usually from the one source -- a friend of a friend and came to him highly recommended. What more could a man ask? Nash's reply would be a female right on hand, but his job instability and tendency to fall asleep soon after ejaculating inevitably meant that his female partners moved on to find a better conservationist or whatever their other requirements were.
Currently he was unattached.
While his dinner was being cooked and ironing put into his dresser by his devoted mother, Nash phoned the very likeable Maria Mersey.
They chatted while Maria waited for the reason for the call.
"Can you suggest someone who'd like to accompany me to the movies on Friday night and on to a snack afterwards?"
"Oh Nash, my poor boy; developing a case of blue balls, are we?"
Nash sat open-mouthed holding the phone. Maria never speaks to him like that. Although very aware of the service she performed for him, she'd never commented -- until now.
"Well-er-if you don't wish to help..."
"Help you? For goodness sake Nash, why don't you shag me? You've worked through most of my friends and I'm the only one left to have the pleasure. Is there something wrong with me?"
"You're married," Nash croaked. "To Matt, my best friend from school days."
"For Christ sake, Nash, I know who I'm married to; you are so unfair."
Maria began crying and shouting her frustrations.
"I've just got to get pregnant, Nash. All of my married friends and some unmarried ones are either pregnant or have at least one baby. I think there's something wrong with Matt, so I want somebody else to try to father my baby. Tonight is a great time, Nash. Matt is overnight in Wellington so can you ..."