When hotshot blues guitarist Wyatt “Earp” Ringold hires The Repeaters to back him up at a blues festival in Belize, Mitty Andersen and Pete Bolden expect to find fun in the sun. What they don’t expect is notorious racketeer and blues enthusiast Big Bossman, who is anxiously awaiting their arrival.
The Bossman conducts his illicit activities from a hideaway in the jungles of Howling Mountain. A botched kidnapping has recently put him on the wrong side of a Mexican drug cartel, and he hopes to rectify the situation by mixing business with pleasure at the blues festival.
Knowing that trouble always follows Mitty and Pete, ATF agent Lenora Charles insists on tagging along for security detail. When she warns them that something doesn’t quite seem right in paradise, the laid-back band members don’t take her instincts seriously—leading to another kidnapping. Can the crime fighting bluesmen pull off a dangerous rescue mission in time?
“Fans of Elmore Leonard will find a lot to like in Ricky Bush’s work. Howling Mountain Blues features the type of incompetent bad guys that figure prominently in Leonard’s books, with the dialogue to match. A band of blues-playing good guys, the son of a wealthy oilman for kidnap bait, and the exotic setting of Belize give you a caper worth reading. Fast-paced and fun, this story rolls along on the rhythm of rollicking blues music. Highly recommended!” — J.E. Seymour, author of Lead Poisoning and Stress Fractures
“Bush achieves a perfect trifecta of humor, mayhem, and music in the third installment of the Crime Fighting Bluesman series, skillfully weaving suspense, the blues, and tribute band banter in this tale of an unexpected kidnapping south of the border.” — Jennifer Leeper, author of Padre: The Narrowing Path
Ricky Bush has provided this chapter-by-chapter playlist to go along with reading Howling Mountain Blues. Just click on each song title to hear the song at YouTube.
|2||Roller Coaster||Little Walter|
|4||The Things I Used To Do||Guitar Slim|
|5||Big Boss Man||Jimmy Reed|
|Down In Virginia||Jimmy Reed|
|11||Hey Bo Diddley||Bo Diddley|
|She’s Tough||Jerry McCain|
|12||Ah’w Baby||Little Walter|
|15||Born in Chicago||Paul Butterfield|
|26||Wang Dang Doodle||Howling Wolf|
|St. James Infirmary||Bobby Bland|
|Further On Up The Road||Bobby Bland|
|28||Dust My Broom||Elmore James|
|29||Mean Old World||Little Walter|
|Fast Boogie||Little Walter|
Ralph wanted to knock the goofy smile off Bunky’s face as the big, dumb Texan steered their skiff up the Monkey River. The ignoramus just didn’t realize what pain they would face from the wrath of Big Bossman.
“No sweat,” the big galoot had said. “I’ll smooth things over with your boss. Hell it ain’t my fault the little skinny butthead refused to go easy.”
Ralph sighed. There wouldn’t any “smoothing over.” It was his fault for recruiting Bunky, and he was going to catch hell. Just thinking about the rage that Big Bossman would sling at him had Ralph’s stomach in knots. All they had to do was secure the “package” and deliver him. But, hell no, Billy-Bob-Bad-Ass let the scrawny movie star knock the Taser from his hand. Then Mr. Movie Star got a lucky kick into the side of Bunky’s face. All hell broke loose when Bunky went wild on the little guy. Okay, Mr. Movie Star was stupid enough to stand there like he’d won the MMA Championship after the Taser flew and his kick connected. Maybe he was waiting for the director to yell “CUT!”
Bunky used the hesitation to move in and pummel their quarry bloody. Ralph tried his damnedest to pull the big guy off, but got swatted like a bug. Now their package lay unconscious and physically unrecognizable under a tarp in the bottom of their boat.
Ralph had met Willam Burris “Bunky” Rogers in Punta Gorda, having bet against him in a pit fight. Bunky beat a huge Mayan senseless in less than a couple of minutes. Ralph lost a few dollars, but got them back when the organizers brought the gamecocks out. Apparently the human battles were only a warm-up to the cockfights. Ralph and Bunky spent the rest of the weekend drinking, found they shared a taste for most things criminal, and neither knew much about their parents. “Burris was my mama’s name, not that I knew her,” Bunky said. “It was on the birth certificate, but I grew up in the home. Outta there when I was thirteen.”
Bunky regaled Ralph with details of his street fights and apparently legendary bouts on the Ultimate Fighting Championship circuit. He said he won all his bouts, Ralph doubted most of the tales. However, Big Bossman had decided a couple of weeks later that Punta Gorda would be the perfect place to snag their movie star, and Ralph thought Bunky fit the scheme perfectly. All he needed was a strongman who didn’t think much, but he underestimated Bunky, who kept trying to think.
Yep. Big Bossman would be mighty unhappy. Bunky Rogers would wish he were back in Houston before their employer got finished with them. Ralph wished that he were elsewhere at the moment.
They had grabbed their quarry, a B-list movie star, just before midnight. The morning sun was peeking above the jungle canopy and glistening off the river, giving it the appearance of a giant, golden-brown snake. Ralph took one last look at the tarp to see if their captive was stirring and then he turned to face the wind generated by the boat ride. The cool breeze soothed his headache a bit and he took in the scenery. He loved traveling up the river with its jungle canopy of luxurious tropical vegetation bordering either side. The river twisted and wormed past banks gnarled and tangled with mangrove roots, which gave way to the taller trees of the secondary growth forests the closer they got to the foothills of the Mayan Mountains.
The boat sputtered a bit, the gas was low. “Bunky, switch gas tanks.”
“On it!” Bunky said. He waved at a fly fisherman and his woman. Both were expertly flicking their lines in and out from a boat anchored close to the bank. Then the engine spit and sputtered to a stop.
He glared at Bunky. “Didn’t I just say to switch gas tanks?”
“Hey, no problem. I’m on it.”
They sat and drifted silently down the middle of Monkey River as the Texan pulled the cover from the engine and began tinkering with the motor. They slowly passed the fisherman’s boat again.
“Need a hand?” the woman yelled out.
“Just out of gas,” Ralph hollered back. “We’re okay.”
No breeze stirred now and the tropical Belizean heat generated sweat beads that began rolling down Ralph’s neck. He gingerly worked his way to the back of the boat, which swayed as he stepped around their comatose hostage.
“I said I had it, Ralphie Boy,” Bunky said. “Just keep your butt in the front of the boat.”
“Put the damn engine cover back on, we’re just out of gas,” Ralph said. “And you call me Ralphie Boy again, then we are going to go ’round and ’round my friend.”
Bunky smiled his goofy smile and said, “Oh, yeah. You’re making me tinkle my pants. Now, when my friend’s motor does that, it means the carburetor…”
“I know my own boat, dammit. Swap out the frigging tanks, you nitwit,” Ralph said, as he reached the back of the boat.
“Well, like I said…” the Texan began.
“Shut up and get out of the way.”
Ralph pulled up the empty gas tank and was about to berate the Texan again when the boat rocked and a loud splash got their attention. They watched in horror as their skinny captive began stroking strongly through the water.
“Damn it, I thought you zip-tied his hands,” Ralph said as he hooked the gas line up to the fresh tank.
“The dude was out cold. I didn’t see a need to tie him up.”
Ralph watched the swimmer’s swift progress as he primed the gas pump and cranked on the engine. It sputtered once and then burst to life. He cranked the throttle, swung the boat around, and headed for their escapee.
The water erupted into a furious explosion just before their captive reached shore, and Ralph had no doubts as to the cause. He yelled, “Crocodile!”
Bunky was frozen in place with eyes as wide as Texas, stammering, “Wha…wha…”
Ralph headed toward the shore, watched the twisting, swirling tail of the beast. He heard the screams above the engine noise, and knew they were too late. Bunky stood up shakily in the boat with a pistol and aimed in the direction of the croc. Ralph grabbed his arm.
“That won’t do any good,” he said. “You’re gonna hit our man.”
The boiling water began to calm down as Ralph let the boat drift towards shore. They saw no sign of the croc. Then, he watched in terror as the big creature began a slow crawl, backing up the bank with their still-twitching movie star in his powerful jaws. He watched the croc drag his prey into a tangle mess of mangrove trees. There was a final, horrifying scream.
Ralph turned around and saw the fisherman and his woman staring their direction. They had their motor going, in a minute they’d be past Ralph and Bunky. The woman had a look of horror on her face.
“Shoot them!” Ralph yelled.
“Why?” Bunky yelled back.
Ralph stepped to the front of the boat, yanked Bunky’s pistol from him, and fired four shots from the .45 as the boat fled past. Both the man and woman were propelled from the boat, which, driverless, began circling the middle of the river. Bunky sat, wild-eyed, wide-mouthed, frozen in place and speechless again. Ralph pushed him out of the way, cranked the engine, and slowly moved over to the bodies floating in an increasingly red pool of water. He placed two more point-blank shots into the head of each.
Bunky flinched. “Damn, man! Was that necessary? All they saw was a guy getting eaten by a croc.”
“You idiot, they saw a guy eaten by a croc, which they’ll report, and oh gosh, there’s this missing movie star and why was he swimming in the middle of the Monkey River?”
Bunky thought, looked around, and said, “Oh yeah, I get it.”
Ralph twisted the throttle wide open and the front of the boat leaped up, almost tossing Bunky out of the boat. “Those two tourists are on you, Bunky! Your first trip to Howling Mountain won’t be a pleasant one.”
“On me? Why”
“Because if you’d zip-tied Mr. Movie Star’s hands or changed that damn gas tank when I said to we’d be home free. You’ll be lucky if the Big Bossman leaves your face intact.”
Bunky frowned and looked at the river.
Ralph almost decided that heading in the opposite direction would be the wisest course of action, just haul ass back to Punta Gorda. He gritted his teeth and kept the boat pointed up the Monkey River.