I stood at the window of my apartment in Capitol Hill and gazed at the beautiful snow-capped Rocky Mountains lit by the bright late morning sun hanging in a cloudless blue sky, thinking this is the reason people love Colorado.
Then I leaned over, puked into a wastebasket and slammed down the venetian blinds. I hate the sun. Why the fuck did I still live here?
I went over and sat down on the bed and held my foggy, hungover head in my hands. I could never leave Denver; a gumshoe needs to know his city, needs contacts and informers. My name is Rip Griffin, private dick. My roots were in the Queen City. My old man, Rip Griffin, Sr., had been a vice cop with the DPD and had recently retired with a full pension and a bottle-a-day thirst. He’d taught me everything I knew about first-class detective work and good whiskey and when he left Denver and moved up to Cop City in Idaho he gave me all he prized most in the world (the wastebasket I puked in was his). I had to pick him up at the airport today. I had a lead on a cold case of his and he was coming back to close it. If I showered and shaved now, I could just make his ETA.
There was a rustling in the sheets twisted on the bed. Raven-haired Gina “Ginny” Aiello poked her lovely head from under the bedcovers and smiled lazily at me.
“Come back to bed, Rip, it’s too early to get up. Unless you’re mixing me a ‘tini.”
Ginny was a real estate agent/call girl I’d been seeing awhile. “And make it dirty, please, three olives. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” I smiled back at her and went to the kitchen to mix the drinks; Ginny was my best girl and the airport was only forty minutes away.
A couple hours or so later I pulled my ‘65 Rambler up to the curb at the Denver International United Airlines arrival area. No Dad. He probably gave up and went inside to a bar. Like son, like father, I thought. I was about to drive over to short-term parking when my old man strolled out of the baggage area and headed for my car. He walked with that controlled stagger utilized by great drinkers the world over.
I swung open the door for him and he carefully threw his overnight bag into the back and gently flopped onto the passenger side of the bench seat.
“Did you shower with Maker’s Mark or just drink a few?” I asked him.
“You didn’t answer your cell phone, Junior.”
“I was busy.”
“Uh-huh. How is Ginny?”
“Did you make her breakfast?”
“Just a protein shake.”
Dad snorted with mock disgust.
“I’m your father, spare me the details. So, you know where to find Ned Butane.”
“We’re going there now.”
“Good. I wanna get this shit over with and spend some quality time with my son the dick.”
I sighed. “Good one, Dad.”
He grinned and punched me in the shoulder.
* * *
I parked across the street from Laissez Faire, a high-end wine shop located in Cherry Creek, an affluent Denver neighborhood.
“This’s Ned’s place?” asked Dad.
“This looks too clean for Ned’s kind of operation. I was trying to nail him for porno and blackmail. What’s this scam?”
“Ned puts rotgut vino in fancy bottles and sells it to the rich chumps around here. Probably rakes in thirty grand a month.”
“That sounds more like an ATF beef.”
“It is, but Ned’s still a film buff. He makes his cinema de whack-off in the basement.”
“Well, Junior, what’s say we go pick up a bottle of wine for dinner?”
“Sounds good. We’ll stop at a wine shop after we bust this grifter’s ass.”
I went in first and browsed through the racks of bottles; Ned had done a good job of phonying up the labels. I didn’t see Ned hanging around, but there was a snobby-looking clerk behind the counter. He seemed more interested in his fingernails than helping me. Dad came in and went straight for the clerk.
Dad grabbed the snob by the shirt and tried to light his nose with a Bic lighter. Before he could scream, Dad covered the snob’s mouth.
“Now d’you know which Ned?”
“Mr. Butane’s downstairs. I’ll let him know he has a customer.”
“All you’re gonna do is hang up the closed sign,” Dad said and smacked the clerk with a bottle of port. The snob slumped to the floor. I moved to the counter.
“I guess I could have stayed in the car, Pop.”
“You were a decoy. Ned’s downstairs in the soundstage, so to speak.”
“Let’s go. I’ve never been to Hollywood.”
Dad and I softly padded down the stairs, guns drawn. Lights blazed at a bed in the center of a room shabbily made up to look like a 19th Century boudoir. On the bed was a nude woman on all fours with one man in front of her and a hairy-assed, balding man pumping away at her haunches. This is what I hate about porno, I thought, all that hair. Dad strode into the light, pointed his gun at the hairy-assed balding man and yelled “CUT!” When the man turned and grinned at Dad, I saw that it was Ned Butane.
“Jesus, Rip,” Ned said,” now we’re gonna hafta shoot the scene all over again.” Ned slapped the girl on the ass. “Get up, honey, I think it’s a wrap.” The girl pushed away from Ned and sat up. She squinted at me in the light. It was Ginny Aiello. I turned around, walked back up the stairs, and called the cops.
* * *
Dad and I sat at the bar in my friend Juan Corona’s cantina, El Puerco Ciego, drinking shots of Sauza and cans of cold Tecate.
“Look, Junior, you knew Ginny was a hooker and that didn’t bother ya.”
“Dating a high-class hooker is romantic, Pop. Any detective would do it. But dating a porn star? That’s something a stand-up comic would do.”
“I’m glad you gave that up,” Dad said, then drained his glass of Sauza.