The entire book appears at this link with chapters added after appearing online: https://www.escondidograpevine.com/surveillance-pelicana-full-book-chapters-added-as-they-appear-online/.
Observations about New Orleans precede Tyger’s
meeting at the Hyatt Hotel with Joe Fine.
They go over upcoming cases. Joe gives Tyger
Mildred Baker’s deposition to read in what will
become a celebrated encounter. Later, Dorothy calls
Tyger, tells him to meet Joe in Baton Rouge under
surprising circumstances, Tyger, Joe and the mysterious
Lana work some Baton Rouge area cases.
“Busted Flat at Baton Rouge”
No reefer this morning for Tyger Williams about to breakfast
with the boss man. Just as well as he clears his mind
of all that before has passed.
The Tyger front moves right along to Claiborne Avenue on the
way to meeting Joe Fine at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
African-American kids play football along the neutral ground
in-between Claiborne Avenue.
Future Saints are looking good. Too bad Tyger is past
his prime or he might consider running a few pass routes.
Unfortunately too, the innocent looking youths are
surrounded in all directions by poverty’s residue. Public housing
projects stand testament to man’s inhumanity to man to the right
of them. Decrepit shacks passing for family homes nod to the left.
Strange unknown to white folk black music establishments,
sort of hotels, various exotic eating and commercial
establishments specializing in such items as chicken gizzards and
African-American hair products loom also along the mysterious
Claiborne Avenue traffic pattern.
A sea of black faces floats all around. This day Tyger
Williams is merely a small vessel passing by the blackbird
projects on his personal quest for substance and meaning as well
as an acceptable paycheck.
Tyger flies by the exotic black heartland abutting
Downtown, sidestepping the well populated space underneath the
Claiborne overpass. A mini-community of black elders sits on lawn
chairs passing time by playing dice and cards, judiciously
settling pertinent disputes as well.
Loop de-loop Earhart Expressway around and to the ocean of
monoliths forming a silly skyline. Lee Circle stands at
attention stage right. The losing general on horseback reviews his
troops circling in modern monster mash machines
awash with modern horsepower.
Past the main post office and Poydras Street, Tyger looking
looking looking for a parking place, no small assignment.
The fearsome race of cosmically awful meter maids
lurk about like jackals ready to pounce. Those amazing Amazon
Philistines have as their sole purpose in life the bedevilment of
motorists with tickets, some valid, most not,
given as rudely as imaginable.
Three strikes and yeeeer out, a victim of the dreaded orange
boot that is affixed to those with as many tickets as strikes.
Native and tourist alike fear these evil ticket writing maniacs
who know no civilized bounds.
Ahh, a parking ,place suddenly materializes saving Tyger the
expense of a parking garage. He tries to plug a quarter in the
slot, but alas, as is often the case, the meter is broken.
Oh well, another ticket to contest, no doubt. Nothing ever
works around here except corruption.
Such a splendid hotel among all the rising edifices battling
the sky for space. Monuments to what has become New Orleans·
leading industry besides corruption, tourista trappings.
The Big Easy has built upon its natural and historical charm
with the development of a Disneyland for adults mentality.
Civic leaders scramble to take credit for the natural order
of job creation and development.
Goodbye high paying jobs related to the oil and gas industry.
Other real industries that used to dot the riverfront
have died one by one due to a lack of imagination on the
part of city mismanagement.
Hello nowhere minimum wage jobs sucking up to tourists in
partial replacement. Thanks for the grand vision,
civic movers and shakers. Shake and move this middle finger.
Yet, a certain wonderful feeling strikes an investigator
out among the ruins to come. Filling the sky to the east the giant
— and yes, rather beautiful — Superdome, home of the Saints and
coming National Republican Convention.
Big muddy Mississippi River flows to the west.
Northward ho, looms the historic Vieux Carre, otherwise
known as the French Quarter, where New Orleans was settled
originally. It houses historic structures, restaurants, t-shirt
shops, strip shows; and a few residents besides the actual derelicts.
Southward stands the familiar sights and sounds of
residential Uptown, and the great beyond.
That is the location of Tygertown as well.
Dostoyevsky might have lived in 80 residences around
St. Petersburg. But he has nothing on wandering Tygerlust who already
has squatted in seven or eight different locations during a 10
year stuck in the below sea level mud experience of New Orleans.
Enough of this descriptive prosaic morning musing. Tyger
must enter the Hyatt lobby, take an escalator up two stories
to the glitzy hotel restaurant area. Joe Fine, briefcase by his
side, flirts with a random hotel maid.
“Nice lady,” he says to Tyger arriving. “Let’s get some
breakfast. What you say. On the house.
Business deduction tax write-off.”
They sit down in an open air restaurant by the side of the
Hyatt trademark see-through elevators climbing and descending
like a race of super- spiders flying along a web of wires.
Joe is his usual gregarious self. He slips off the shades,
ordering a modest breakfast of orange juice.
Tyger follows suit. Eggs and toast, coffee and
A variety of topics are covered including meter maid
scams previously cited. “This city is ridiculous,” concludes
Joe Fine. “And they wonder why no one wants to do business here.”
Down to business, Joe pulls a large document like a rabbit
from his leather briefcase. He thumbs through
it, leading the paper chase to Tyger.
“Know what this is?” Joe Fine asks. “No.”
“Deposition. Take a look at your leisure. We are
probably going out on that case in a couple of weeks.
It’s a doozy. This Mildred Baker broad will blow your mind.
She’s a former carnival trapeze artist who is absolutely loony
tunes. That is one elevator that doesn’t reach the top floor.
Claims she slipped and fell while working as a cook on a
Gulf rig. Supposedly completely paralyzed from the hips down .”
Joe pauses. “Not. She is about as legitimate as a Bourbon Street
barker. Big bucks in this case. She wants 10 million dollars.
This broad is full of shit. We’re going to work her good.
This could mean big bucks for us. Look over her deposition,
gather what information you can from it.
Depositions are funny. You can tell a lot about someone
by the way they answer the questions. Know what I mean?
If someone is an asshole they’ll answer questions like an asshole.
If they are honest, you can take that to the bank.”
“Read through Baker and see what you think. Crazy, yeah,
but a tough act to follow. Where fools fail, they go to the super
sleuth source. That’s why they want experts like us
to get the job done. hing probably ends up in federal court.”
They discuss other cases. Satherly is fried, might go back
on him in a few months. Mazel Tov on the wedding party.
Bet that made the social pages. Insurance company well satisfied.
Joe Fine mentions that he is giving a presentation for
the All-State adjusters over in Harvey the next day. Hopes to
grab a few new cases off that master class performance.
And Joe still wants to make that promotional tape sometime.
“See what you can come up with on that,” he says.
On the lighter side, Joe’s little “snot faces,” as he
“affectionately” refers to his kids, are going great guns down at
the beach. He will have to leave New Orleans after the All-State
show, drive home to Florida, make sure they don’t set fire to
the house or something worse, his third wife.
You know how kids are and wink wink.
A couple of probable cases, therefore, for Tyger burns.
Joe might have something good coming up in Baton Rouge, too.
Dorothy will be in touch. Joe pays the check,
engaging in some final flirting with the very attractive blonde
waitress shamelessly flirting back. Kismet.
Tyger flips through Mildred Baker’s deposition at home.
He begins to catch Joe’s drift. She is a total fruity gone tutti,
using baby-like language to describe her accident and subsequent
extreme pain and anguish. She also has the odd habit of
describing herself in the third person,
like Bo Jackson used to and Donald Trump.
So, it’s “Mildred can’t move her little bitty feet. Mildred
was a very active girl and now she can’t do anything for herself.
God will see to justice for Mildred.” And so forth. Weird shit this.
The basic outline of this case can be gleaned from the thick
court document. Pretty much like Joe said, she claims to have
been working as a cook on a Gulf rig, slip-slud on a wet deck and
became discombobulated, not to mention torn asunder. She has been living at
New Orleans East on Morrison Road since then. She claims her
teen-age son must assist her constantly in every activity. The
she-subject is apparently divorced, about 40 years old, and
according to the deposition, conflated perhaps with her dating profile,
loves cats and potted plants. Nice work if you can get it.
Bat-crazy up, she is the Babe Ruth of insurance
claimants going for the rip-off grand slam world series.
Mumbling, bumbling, grumbling, rumbling, stumbling, and
basically this woman doesn’t have a clue. Or does she? Maybe God
is on her side, after all, because she is causing lots of grief
for many heavy hitting insurance company upper echelon executives.
“Just the facts ma am, the defense attorney exclaims in
exasperation on Page 122 of the three-inch thick document.
“We have been here for four hours.”
(A prudent insurance investigator must perforce deduce that
there is some method to Mildred Baker’s madness.)
Dorothy telephones Tyger later that day.
“Joe wants toget with you on a case in Baton Rouge,” she notes.
“It’s a white male, 28 years old, married, no children, located at Magic
Mountain Subdivision. All they have out there are subdivisions.”
Funny thing about that Magic Mountain name. There are about
as many magic mountains in Southeastern Louisiana as there are
ice castles or maple syrup trees. That is to say between zero and no way.
“Anyhow,” Tyger asks, “where we going to meet?”
Dorothy pauses. “You know, Joe wouldn’t tell me,” she replies.
“Asked him. He just said he would find you. You know
how Joe is. Said be there for 9 a.m.”
Fine. That Joe Fine. Tyger is going all the way to Baton
Rouge and Joe Fine will find him somehow. Yeah, right.
No use thinking about it too much lest you blow out too
many brain cells. Tyger plans on taking the easiest path
by following Dorothy’s instructions.
Let the chips fall where they may.
Up and atoms the next morning, on l-10 west across
the Bonnet Carre Spillway, the long death stretch with no
turnarounds spanning the distance between Kenner and Reserve.
The traffic fatality toll soars and astronomically crashes
whenever fog shrouds the 4-lane interstate. This
meteorological phenomenon occurs with alarming frequency.
No state official seems prepared to take action to prevent the tragedies.
Whizzing by St. John the Baptist and Ascension Parishes,
that damn cancer belt again Tyger skirts signs pointing
to Sorrento and Donaldsonville, finally reaching the outer fringes
of Baton Rouge where Interstates 10 and 12 coalesce.
Tyger can see a few miles away in the distance the largest
structure in the Red Stick City, the State Capitol Downtown that
was ordained by Huey Long to be the tallest building in town and
as such has remained. The former Governor turned U.S. Senator who
was killed by his own bodyguards in a wild shoot-out with a
disgruntled physician lies in state in a garden down a long park
from that tower. Tyger turns off at the LSU exit, heading for the
aforementioned magic subdivision. No sign of Joe Fine.
“1 knew it,” Tyger tells the car radio switched on to KLSU,
a decent college radio station engaging in some kind of New Wave
prattle. “What am I going to do now?”
Tyger decides to buy the traditional diet Mountain Dew before calling Dorothy
for additional information that might come in handy, small
details like where the subject is located, what is his name, and
claim to shame. He stops at a nearby 7-come-Eleven.
A man in a hat reads a People magazine in the corner. Tyger
pays the clerk. “Uhh, ya got the time,” a tiny voice says.
Tyger looks over and, voila, off flies disguising
haberdashery. What do you know, a fine Joe Fine in the flesh.
“Hey, how did you know to find me here?” Tyger asks beside
himself in disbelief. “I’m a professional. There are some thing
we just know,” Joe Fine notes, laughing off his ass.
You can look it up, friends.
Joe buys a cold drink. Then, on with the big shoe.
Working as a team, Joe has Tyger knock on the door. A person
fitting the subject’s description answers. Tyger gives him the
old “I was lost around here can you give me some directions.”
Feigning complete ignorance — easy to do for such a fool —
he lures the subject outside.
Poor sot of a subject walks around the yard pointing out
various intersections and landmarks on the way to the Magic
Mountain Subdivision. Magic Mountain, Shmagic Shmountain; they
all look the same, comrades.
Meanwhile, Joe sits off in his 1987 grey Toyota Cressida
merrily shooting video and still photographs. This takes about 30
minutes from convenience store to inevitable conclusion.
Tyger walks down to the end of the clean street.
Joe Fine picks him up by the 7-Eleven, saying, “There is somebody
we must meet,” before driving towards Downtown Baton Rouge.
Tyger’s mother the car is parked in semi-retirement at the
inconvenience store after Joe asks the clerk if it is alright.
The Super Sleuth travels under the cover of politeness while on assignment.
Joe drives his nice new — if one can call 50,000 miles in
one year new — 1987 Cressida over to an innocuous looking minishopping
center parking lot, pulling up in front of a dry cleaners.
Beautiful young girl with long black hair and
devilishly delicious green eyes stands by waiting for a ride.
“Hey dummy, over here,” Joe shouts. An electric bulb lights
the blank space over her pretty little head. This, of course, is
no accidental pick-up.
“Lana, this is Tyger. Tyger, Lana,” Joe introduces with
“Hello. Pleased to meet you,” all around. “Let’s get over to the
courthouse,” Joe continues, all business.
Joe continues with a few vaguely sexist remarks, saying them
in a funny way that offends no one back then.
Simply the Joe Fine style. Serves him well.
It becomes apparent that Tyger and Lana are both extras in
the continuing Joe Fine saga. They pass the time talking about
this and that; the weather and whether the Soviet Union really
will break up like the Berlin Wall.
Joe Fine says as he leaves,”Make yourselves comfortable,”
The two junior associates wait in the car while he wanders through the
courthouse for about 15 minutes looking up whatever. Doesn’t say.
Joe takes Tyger back to his car at the 7-Eleven. “I wanted you
two to meet,” he says. “We will be using Lana on some of our-
cases. She is an eager beaver, if you know what I mean.
“And a quick study. It’s always good to have an attractive female on hand
for some of our sleazier subjects who think with their dicks.”
Then, off again, this time to nearby Denham Springs. Here is
the scenario: Early afternoon. Joe wants Tyger to hang
around a guy’s house while he and Lana go off,
waiting down the block at a gas station.
Joe goes into the trunk of his car, pulling out a pair of CB
radios. Tuning them to the same frequency, the plan is for Tyger
to signal him if sub dives into his vehicle. Joe and Lana
will follow, hopefully also telling Tyger where to go,
so he can come in as backup.
“Ready to play the game?” Joe asks. “Sure, boss.” “And
remember,” — Joe does a nice “Hill Street Blues” imitation for-
someone who claims never to watch television —
“be careful out there.” “Right boss.”
They both have units and should be able to get some good
pictures if the guy moves.
“By the way, what’s my handle?” Tyger jokes.
“Do you know any code?” Joe asks. “Code?” Tyger replies confused.
“Yeah, Morse Code,” Joe says. “You know–the dots and dashes.”
“No sir .”
“Too bad,” Joe says. “Don’t worry about a handle for now.
We need to teach you some code so no one intercepts commos.”
Hurry up and wait. Hurry up and wait. Tyger sits sits sits.
Nothing in particular happens.
Of course, the usual unrelated activity that distracts
attention for a few moments at a spell breaks the boredom
somewhat. Dogs running, children running, adults running after
dogs and children; birds, other vehicles.
That guy chopping wood in his yard.
Was that a pit bull? Big Brother.
Wait, what? Subject chopping wood in his yard!
Tyger tries to call Joe, instead encountering miserable
static. Can’t get through. Damn the torpedoes.
Tyger gets what pictures he can, but the distance is quite
great. Try as he might, he can’t get in better position. When
the guy goes inside, Tyger finally gets through. Joe calls him
into temporary base camp, in this case the nearby Chevron Station.
Alas, it turns out to be the wrong house. Joe has been on
the horn with the client and his answering service.
No foul, no harm, Joe determines they need to break off the case.
There is some confusion as to where the actual subject is
hiding, so Joe needs to meet eyeball-to-eyeball with the client
to iron out the details of investigation.
“We’ll get that sucker another day,” Joe vows. “Every dog
has its day and his day will come. Follow me back to the 7-Eleven.”
They return to the store, swapping out various equipment
while the lovely Lana purchases cigarettes. Neither Joe nor Tyger smoke
“You keep this. I’ll take that. Here take this too. How has
the system been working?” Additional detective small talk is
“How do you like the detective biz so far?” Joe asks Lana
when she emerges radiant from the cancerous convenience purchase.
“It’s been fun,” she replies.
“Don’t worry kid. You’ll learn, ” Joe adds,
winking a knowing eye in Tyger’s directional headlight.
Turning to Tyger, Joe continues, “She says she wants to be
an investigator. This is a good way to break her in.”
And turning back to Lana: “You’ll do great, kid. All it
takes is intelligence and persistence. And it can be fun, too.”
Day is growing a bit long in the tooth, so last hurrahs
are parted after a few final equipment exchanges. Joe and Lana
take off for an undisclosed location. Tyger tiptoes out of town,
retracing his steps as he departs with his back to a fading sun.
A typical case of another day, another claim to follow.
Tyger wonders what game Joe and Lana are up to by now.
No matter. Have another hit … of sweet air.
Check to see if anyone is following. Out of now habit.
Traffic like Tyger’s head is surprisingly light all the way
to N’awlins. This new job sure beats working.