Slaps the Tail - Chapter Eight
When questioned about the evening of August 16th, a night when
the mesa proper apparently abounded with untoward events, the self
appointed guardian of the area, Ex-Lieutenant Colonel Sherman Proud,
claims to have been hunkered down in his bunker. Oblivious to it all.
In fact, when asked to recount his exact whereabouts during the
evening of his wife Rosemary Rosewater's death, the one night when he could
have been of some use, Mangas Mesa's unsolicited chaperone, the Ex
Lute Col, paints a rather desperate picture of himself. It is that
of a man hiding out and plotting strategy, in disharmony and
seclusion from a world gone wrong, behind a faux rock wall in the
cold stone basement of the house he and his dying at that moment
wife had built together.
Or more accurately, had paid B.O.N.E Construction Company a pretty
penny to build for them.
And it is said Mr. B.O.N.E. earned his money on that house bid, what
with the Proud/Rosewaters constantly chittering around the job site,
making after the fact architectural corrections, some of which
directly contradicted each other not to mention the original
drawings, and making demands of alteration so impossible that
carpenters and masons alike often found themselves stalking into the
woods to regain their composure. A good number of artisans had
simply left the jobsite never to return. A couple had even moved out
of the area.
The only reason this is noteworthy to this account, other than as
testimony towards the character of the eventual homeowners, is that
one such last minute afterthought of design involved the hollowing
out, shoring up, rewiring, and stoning in of what should have been a
crawl space in the back of the basement. For it was in this hidden
chamber that Sherman had fabricated his secret war room. He had
spent most of his free time since his helicopter accident bringing
the room up to spec.
Although what spec would have been for such a project would have
been hard to determine. Along with a knife and gun collection that
could only be called impressive, the bunker housed computers, Hamm
radios, short-wave scanners, infrared monitors attached to rooftop
cameras, and a library of war books, charts, pamphlets and journals.
Maps adorned the walls; maps, which a casual observer might
mistakenly assume, depicted the tricky topography of ancient
battlefields or the puzzling logistics of tunnel systems beneath
East-Asian jungles. Close inspection of the cartography however
revealed something perhaps more disconcerting in that most of the
maps featured Mangas Mesa or the mountainous regions immediately
The displayed maps were peppered with pushpins that seemed in no
apparent pattern unless one was informed that they symbolized
significant personal occurrences during Sherman's stay in the area.
Clusters of black tacks, for example, represented sites of prior
confrontations with neighbors or townsfolk whereas red pushpins or,
"hot zones" in Sherman speak, indicated points of some
anticipated conflict. Pins with white nubbins connected by string
zigzagged along many of the maps loosely following contour lines and
marked hiking and X-Country ski trails. Blue pins with small dangles
of black ribbon noted those cabins equipped with telephones or
The presence of a large American flag and life-size glossy
photograph of General Douglas Macarthur screaming orders in a
rainstorm added a fanatical feel to this already rather sinister
room and made it easy for one to forget that the only war Sherman
had participated in during the twenty years since he had been
airlifted to safety out of Phnom Phen (all beshit and quaking with
fear) was with himself, his neighbors, their animals, and the
liberal establishment that seemed to govern the area where he had,
for reasons few understood, chosen to make his home.
The North wall of the bunker also commanded the eye when the
floodlights were flicked upon it since it was wallpapered with an
enormous aerial view, taken during the autumn foliage, of only that
part of Mangas Mesa where the Loop and surrounding houses stood. It
was an enlargement of a picture Sherman had taken himself from his
Written on assorted post-it notes next to the roof of each dwelling
was the name of the owner, as well as that of any renters, known
guests or other current occupants Sherman knew about. Other notes
had sketches of as much of the floor plan as Sherman was aware, and
any personal conclusions involving character of the occupant he had
been able to draw. Next to C. E. McFetter's sprawling estate, for
example, along with the layout of the front entryway, which was as
far inside as Sherman had ever been invited, were notes listing all
the movies in which the veteran actor had appeared supported by
Sherman's short review of each film. On another note to the side of
one review the word "Commie" followed by a large question
mark was written in red ink.
The red adjective and indeed the whole map would certainly have
drawn astonishment and protest from any and each mesa resident had
they been aware of it but no one besides Rosemary had any clue that
the war room existed and even she, especially she, was denied
admittance. Rosemary had her workshop and Sherman had his. And, as
he often reminded her, at least his was here under their own roof
and not shared by a bunch of fairies and kooks off in someone's
garage in town.
On the night in question, Sherman Proud was working on the
covenants, plotting a strategy for how he could submit the latest
draft of the Homeowner's Association by-laws to the board, by-laws
that he, as president, was constantly at work modifying.
He couldn't hope to top the brilliant maneuvering of last year's
addendum, which he had driven through by gaining support for his
position by misrepresenting the situation through the mail to some
of the seasonal owners and collecting their votes by absentee
ballot. He had also utilized some creative scheduling by getting
majority approval to call the yearly gathering a month early,
happening to schedule it on the weekend of the Ironman Triathlon in
Maui, a time when he knew Jordan Dane would be out of town. Jordan,
he knew, a favorite with most of the homeowners, wouldn't have liked
anything about the new wording and would have stood before them with
some extemporaneously logical and witty speech that succeeded in
getting the whole thing voted down.
His mandate of the previous year disguised with verbiage involving
open spaces and the grazing rights of the forefathers had basically
dictated that all domestic animals needed to be on leashes whenever
they left their own property. The addendum stated that violators
were fair game and nobody but the author suspected that this was
meant to be taken literally until Sherman had gunned down a Shepard
in the middle of the road to emphasize his point. The dog had merely
been awakened from his spot on the porch of the O'Dowd cabin by
Sherman's parading by and wandered out to peer at the mutant puppy
wolves as they passed. No sooner had the poor animal crossed its own
property line than Sherman opened fire with the 45 Magnum he kept
strapped to his belt.
Fortunately for everyone, only one of the shots grazed the animal,
which Sherman claimed had been his intent all along and Jordan was
able to patch up the wound rather easily. The O'Dowd's, career house
sitters to the rich and famous, had left during the inquiry,
presumably to go squatting at some other playground, and a shop
owner on Main Street had inherited the Shepard. Whenever Sherman
dared to visit that side of town, the normally good natured Shepard
would spot him skulking by no matter what group he tried to blend in
with and growl menacingly at him as he passed, a phenomena which
caused the tourist children who were forever petting the animal to
regard Sherman as if he were the devil incarnate.
Sherman Proud would have been mortified to know that after he
slammed the bunker door in his wife's face on that August evening and
settled down to work on the new draft of the covenants, Rosemary
had, in turn, slammed out the front door of the house and went
marching down the driveway in direct violation of the covenant
rules. Both dogs and no leash. Blissfully unaware of this however,
Sherman continued crafting his revision, a new addendum that would
effectively abolish all gatherings of twenty or more.
His plan was to eliminate parties on the mesa of course. On two
separate occasions recently, Sherman had been outside doing
binocular reconnaissance on his expansive deck, when the revelry of
celebration emanating from one of the distant cabins had reached his
ears. He took an immediate dim view of this and had set off through
the woods following the noises of gaiety until he was able to peer
at the gatherings from the underbrush. The first he had found, again
at the O'Dowd cabin, was clearly attended by far too many
representatives of the hippie element from town, a group similar in
appearance to those deviants that had been irritating Sherman since
the sixties. He was also fairly sure he smelled reefer smoke in the
The second gathering, held at Jordan Dane's place, appeared to
Sherman looking through his telescope, to be a gathering of
musicians and amazon women, neither of which Sherman felt anymore
comfortable around then the hippies. Jordan and Sherman had always
been civil to one another and Sherman had no real complaints with
his young neighbor other than he suspected her of an occasional
delving into an immoral lifestyle. Sherman had always admired
Jordan's father from afar and couldn't imagine how an ex-director of
the F.B.I could live with his daughter's career choice or rather
lack thereof. Sherman suspected that if Bull Dane's only child had
been a son, things would have been much, much different.
They certainly would have been different for Sherman since another
activity to which he devoted much of his time was admiring Bull
Dane's only daughter from afar as well. Explaining it to Rosemary as
surveillance, he was constantly monitoring her movements around the
mesa through his telescopes and video equipment. On those nights
when he felt himself being overcome with this admiration and would
consider creeping onto her property and up to her bedroom window,
the scream of the puma usually put an end to the notion.
He also had little doubt that if Jordan ever caught him red-handed
in his prurient stealth she would waste no time kicking his ass back
and forth across the commons, and although the thought of this
titillated Sherman slightly, the vision turned sour immediately when
he was reminded that she'd more than likely mention the encounter to
her father. Mortification set in immediately then as Sherman
pictured Bull Dane's reaction and subsequent trip out to the mesa.
Such an immoral breech would effectively get Sherman banned from the
annual banquets he attended in Washington thus cutting him
completely out of the loop.
In this latest modification of the Covenants Sherman was working on
some verbiage to the effect that the mesa had been quiet before the
human occupation began and all homeowners should be striving to
maintain the sanctity keeping it as close to pristine as possible
for the better enjoyment of all.
Of course quiet was not the way anyone would have described
Sherman's helicopter, which he landed behind his house as often as
he liked. He had utilized his war training in the past to give
sightseeing tours to the rich and famous and shuttle thrill seekers
on tele-skiing junkets for which he charged an arm and a leg. Flying
regularly, he reasoned, kept him fresh in the event his country ever
needed his services. It also provided him with a nifty little source
of income to compensate his military pension and keep him from
having to borrow money from his wife.
Or at least it had before the accident. These days his back seized
up so often that it was unsafe to fly unless he ingested so many
muscle relaxers that flying would have been unsafe. Besides, his
pride had suffered such permanent damage after the accident, which
had been well documented in the national press due to the celebrity
of one of his clients, that he wasn't sure he'd allow his chopper to
be seen in the southwestern Colorado skies again even if his
injuries didn't keep permanently out of the pilot's chair.
And so, after ten years of marriage, he'd been forced to borrow more
and more money from his wife. Sherman wasn't sure exactly how rich
his wife was but she was a Rosewater after all and from what he
understood of the family this meant that Rosemary had more money
than she could ever hope to use. And other than her furniture making
and the occasional trip to some new age conference or spiritual
retreat, she didn't seem to spend much of it herself. Sherman had
expensive hobbies that Rosemary didn't understand let alone share.
He was going to have to find a way to raise some cash.
He had remained in his bunker until the wee hours on the night in
question, and when he emerged found that his wife was not in their
bed. This wasn't that uncommon and Sherman assumed that she was
asleep in one of the other rooms. If he hadn't been so heavily
sedated with tranquilizers and American beer he would have noticed
his dogs did not come padding up to him as he stumbled towards his
bed. It was noon the next day, before Sherman had finally called Jordan to report that one and possibly
both of his beloved wolves were in trouble, and she had arrived within
the hour with her vet's bag and immediately sedated the beast so she
could work on the injuries without it snapping at her.
The other wolf, the female, was nowhere to be found and Sherman had no way of knowing
had come whimpering back up to the house earlier and been sitting gasping outside the back door for most of the night
and had eventually limped away through the woods.
Once Jordan had done what she could for the male, who appeared to
have several cracked ribs and a nasty wound on the neck that could
have only been opened by a very sharp blade or talon, she had some
questions for Sherman. She was asking them when movement on the
other side of one of the picture windows turned out to be Town
Marshall Chester Rhimes squishing up the drive.