Easy Reader 47th Anniversary Story Winner
Patamon, Prince of El Porto
by J.E. Marshall
“That’s him?” Flint grimaced.
“I thought you knew him.” Harry looked at his friend Edison.
“I’m a reporter. I took photos 20 years ago in Hawaii.” Lester was old and tired.
Patamon was sleeping on the floor, wearing boxer shorts and his deceased wife’s bathrobe. He was emaciated. His hip length hair and matted beard went off in all directions. The smell was unbearable. The art studio portion of the house was dusty and obviously not in use.
The men went to the rooftop patio to talk.
“Shouldn’t you put him to bed?” Lester suggested.
“He’ll tear your head off,” Edison nodded.
“He speaks from experience,” Harry agreed.
“This is how you live?” Lester’s head tilted.
“This is how it’s been since his daughter died three months ago,” Edison said.
“It took more than three months to grow that hair,” Lester exclaimed.
“Patamon stopped cutting his hair when his wife Birdie died. He wore it in a man bun and was going to cut it off on his daughter’s wedding day,” Harry explained.
“Is that a millennial thing?” Lester wet his pencil tip with his tongue.
“You could get lead poisoning.” Harry had only seen old people in movies do that.
“Birdie isn’t dead,” Lester leaned in.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Edison declared.
“I know things you don’t know. You tell me what Patamon was running from. I’ll tell you about Birdie.” Lester bargained.
“You’ve been looking for Patamon for 20 years!?” Harry’s jaw dropped.
“I’ve been looking for Patamon for 42 years!” Lester got up to stretch his legs. The FBI’s SUV was parked across the street.
“Back in the day we were THE DOORS of El Porto. Patamon’s sculptures sold for outrageous amounts. We paid off the mortgage. We never wanted for anything. One day this character named Freddie Boult pulls up in a limo and drags Patamon off to this gazillionaire’s mansion in Manhattan Beach. That day our lives blew up.….” Edison drifted.
“Patamon comes back screaming that we have to leave. We closed our bank accounts, cut up our credit cards, sold our cars and smashed our phones. We took a bus. We hitchhiked. At a truck stop in the middle of nowhere we met Leon and Dee Dee Pine. They offered us a home cooked meal and when we saw their circumstances we knew we found a hideout. It used to be a rustic resort but from the look of it, the heyday must have been in the 1920s. The sauna, steam rooms and pools were repulsive. We worked day and night in exchange for a safe place to sleep. Leon and Dee Dee had no money so we paid for the materials. We did a lot of trout fishing in the stream that ran through the property. One morning Patamon said we better move on. Leon and Dee Dee thanked us. We thanked them,” Harry sighed. “They seemed like nice people.”
“Where did you go next?” Lester asked.
“Hawaii. We hid in plain sight on a beach crammed with tourists. I did some bartending. Harry took up lounge singing. Patamon became a lifeguard. That’s where he met Birdie. Met her on the beach. She was having a birthday party. Birdie was a rich kid but she wasn’t spoiled. It killed Patamon that he couldn’t be an artist anymore, that Birdie’s father could think he was after her money. He tried not to fall in love but couldn’t help himself. They got married in the courthouse. Patamon told Birdie’s parents that they would have another wedding once he got his finances in order. Birdie got pregnant on the honeymoon in Fiji. A week after Maribelle was born the news about the gazillionaire was in all the papers. It was gruesome but it meant we could finally go back to El Porto and resume our lives,” Edison looked sad.
Lester tapped the patio table with one finger like he was sending a telegraph. He pulled the photos out of his jacket and put them on the table.
In the SUV Agent Gower explained to his young partner how Bargus, his daughter and henchman Freddie Boult died in a freak accident, struck by lightning while having an orgy in a hot tub.
“Shut the door! Who has an orgy with their children present!” Agent Curtis was disgusted.
“Technically, the coroner called it an ‘August sandwich’.”
“Nothing explains Patamon’s actions. We don’t know if Patamon knew about the incest. We know he wasn’t blackmailing Bargus. We do know Patamon’s biggest patron, Oliver Mowbray completely disappeared from the face of the earth shortly before Patamon disappeared. This time tomorrow we’ll know if Patamon’s real name is Dovico, if he’s Senator Thaliard’s grandson.
The world agreed that the Dovico child met the same fate as the Lindberg baby.
“When King Tomas Dovico and his Hollywood bride Margaret died in the avalanche that derailed their train car, the kidnappers probably figured they were in over their heads. Along comes Lester Flint. The old geezer flew all the way from Vermont to Hawaii on his own dime just because a drunk war buddy called and said there was a lifeguard on the beach who was the spitting image of His Majesty Dovico. Flint trots up and down that beach wearing a ratty tweed suit. He follows Patamon everywhere. Patamon is head over heels for the heiress Birdie Ratcliff. Patamon wouldn’t have noticed if Barney the purple dinosaur was tailing him,” Gower handed Curtis an iPad loaded with Flint’s photos.
“Flint also stole a vial of blood when he followed the happy couple to their prenuptial blood tests and kept the blood in his freezer in Vermont all this time. Flint lost track of Patamon and now he thinks he’s found him again,” Gower was suddenly distracted.
“What?” Agent Curtis looked up.
“Listen. Flint’s not talking to them. He’s talking to us,” Gower turned the sound up.
“I think we should finish this conversation later,” Flint told the men.
“You didn’t tell us about Birdie!” Edison protested.
“Your friend needs medical attention,” Flint asserted.
“We told you he won’t listen. We don’t want him locked up in some mental ward!” Harry cried out.
“Yeah. What are you, from Social Services? Did one of those tight ass Manhattan Beach bitches call you because Pat bought a carton of milk wearing his wife’s bathrobe? The manager of the grocery store knows Pat. Who do you think made the sculpture in the parking lot? He’ll be ok. He just needs time,” Edison’s face was beet red with anger.
“I’m no doctor but Patamon looks dehydrated. You say he fights anyone who tries to help. He doesn’t have a gun. He’s weak from not eating. A medic could be advised to give him an injection before trying to move him. Your friend is dying of a broken heart. He might not make it to tomorrow,” Flint said.
Flint met the FBI at the door and showed them where Patamon was curled up on the cold floor. Patamon was given an injection of Haldol and transported to the ER.
Flint, Harry, Edison, and Agents Gower and Curtis waited for hours in a private waiting room.
“Maribella almost died. Leon and Dee Dee Pine took out a huge life insurance policy and began slowly poisoning her. We got a tip and let them think they succeeded while we continued to collect evidence. We had no idea Patamon would show up,” Gower told Harry and Edison.
“Patamon lost his mind the day he came to pick up Maribelle and was directed to the graveyard. Who killed Dee Dee and Leon and their daughter Evelyn?” Edison was confused.
“The Russian hitman, Freddie Boult. He thought he was killing Patamon, Birdie and Mirabelle. The same insurance flag that alerted us of a suspicious policy was accessed by Russians hackers and they accessed Mirabelle’s birth certificate. Then Patamon’s name on that certificate triggered another Russian flag and the hitman was dispatched,” Gower explained.
“You saved Mirabelle twice. Then a Russian hitman named ‘Boult’ goes home and gets hit by a bolt of lightning! Patamon learns that Boult and Bargus are dead so he comes back to pick up his daughter before you have time to correct the tombstone!” Harry marveled at the mess.
“What the hell are the Russians doing monitoring our medical and insurance transactions?” Edison asked.
“Information is power. They almost got Maribelle,” Curtis replied.
“Birdie’s parents died when the tidal wave hit the island resort. The whole family had gathered there to celebrate their first wedding anniversary and the birth of their daughter,” Harry said.
“Birdie survived but was rescued by pirates who planned to sell her. She tried to kill herself by jumping overboard but was rescued again, this time by kind fishermen who took her to the priory on an impoverished island far from the ravaged resort. The nuns nursed Birdie’s cuts and broken bones. Birdie decided to live out the rest of her days there, which she did until a photo taken by a tourist put her back on the grid,” Agent Curtis filled in the blanks.
Birdie had no hope that the baby the water ripped from her arms could survive. She couldn’t know that Patamon’s lifeguard training kicked in and combined with a father’s love, empowered him to snatch his daughter back from the sea.
“Edison and I were still in Hawaii. We flew to Fiji to help Pat find Birdie. It was too brutal for an infant, so we flew to California and asked Dee Dee and Leon to look after Maribelle. Dee Dee had just given birth to Evelyn and promised to treat Maribelle as Evelyn’s twin while we searched for Birdie,” Harry shared his piece of the puzzle.
The waiting room door creaked and there stood Birdie and her daughter Maribelle. An hour later a stern, elderly man in a black suit and overcoat entered the room.
“Maribelle, meet your great grandfather, Senator Gunther Thaliard,” Gower introduced them.
A nurse appeared and informed Gower he could speak to Patamon. Gower went in alone. They had a very interesting conversation.
“Curtis, don’t react,” Gower said into his communication device.
Curtis kept his poker face and pushed his earpiece in deeper.
“Look at your watch, calmly tell the Senator it’s time to meet his grandson. When he is clear of the waiting room, cuff the bastard. I’m right outside. I got your back.”
On the night in question when Freddie Boult whisked Patamon from his studio in El Porto to the Bargus mansion in Manhattan Beach, Patamon did indeed witness acts of incest. August Bargus was having sex with his daughter while Senator Gunther Thaliard sodomized her. Freddie Boult was watching it on his laptop while commissioning a work of art from Patamon.
“Our country needs your country to change some outdated policies. Everybody is happy.” Boult laughed at Patamon’s naivete.
The obscene amount of money Patamon was offered shocked him. What turned his bones to rubber was the sight of a skull on a spike in the tropical themed pool area. Most people would shrug it off as tacky décor but anyone who knew Oliver Mowbray would recognize that skull. Patamon walked past the pool to the beach. Once he reached the moonlit shore he ran like the wind to El Porto to protect his business partners Edison and Harry.
Senator Thaliard was taken out of the hospital in handcuffs.
“I guess this explains the senator’s voting history. God, I wouldn’t want to be Patamon,” Curtis mused.
“I think the Prince of El Porto is feeling better now than he has in years,” Gower patted his partner on the back.
Indeed, Patamon was hugging his wife and daughter, shedding tears of relief and joy.