Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
(Intro Announcer:) Tonight, the second half of Ricochet Silent Radio’s latest adventure! In a time of quarantine, Judge Mental plunges into Miami’s underground worlds of lap dancers, seamy politics, steamy love, and sudden violence!
Last night, we learned that four of America’s top spy satellite experts were driven to suicide when sinister forces of social media tempted them onto an island of carnal sin, blackmailed them, and targeted them for social cancellation and personal destruction.
Two more of them, the only ones impervious to blackmail, were targeted to be killed at an elegant Miami Beach prize ceremony. Unbeknownst to anyone but the authorities, those two actually escaped. The secret survivors were GLD III, a wiry, witty, peppery straight-arrow super-engineer, and a gorgeous young practitioner of heat science, Leanne Jones.
As we pick up the story, they’re hiding out with Judge in a secluded hotel suite. They can’t escape the effects of the local media frenzy around a fast-rising radical Latina politician, or the spreading waves of citywide ethnic hostility and destruction that form in her wake. The violence is getting to be all too personal.
(Voice of Judge Mental) Very personal. In the morning, Lee was already dressed and gone. I got dressed and went out to the kitchen. Idly, I looked at the newspaper. It breathlessly reported a connection between the widespread, or White-spread habit of brooding over bad times and a venomous secret organization of white solidarity called Der Bruder, or The Brother. It was insane. Then I turned the page, and my blood froze.
That was my picture. “John “Judge Mental” Mantle, 51, Received Funds in “Brooder” Plot”. Stunned, I read “Some have questioned whether the menace of Der Bruder is real, but tangible evidence was gathered of funds transfers from Frankfurt, center of the new German Right. According to police wiretaps, enemy agents were directed to send the funds to the suspect’s Ohio bank”.
My phone rang. The obscene hate calls were starting. I hung up. Instantly it rang again, with another one. I tried to send an email. Google locked me out. I needed to know what was going on with my bank account. It had already been canceled. Then the phone stopped working altogether. With a hasty unanimity, a handful of private companies cut me off from the modern world.
I reserve my anger for special occasions. This felt like one of them.
I needed some answers. I made a swift trip to Little Havana and bought a no-trace burner phone on the street. I couldn’t reach Lee, but then I’d told her not to answer the phone if the calling number was unknown.
When night fell, I crossed back over the MacArthur Causeway and headed for South Beach. In this town I was driving more causeways than Santino Corleone. It didn’t work out so well for Sonny, I reflected as I handed the Buick over to the valet at Zafar’s Enchanted Parrot. Yep, the gay night club, now a Miami landmark made famous by a ‘90s comedy with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, loosely based on life on and off stage at the Parrot. I look, and am, hopelessly straight, but a quintet of crisp twenties ensured respect from the doorman.
It was a thin crowd tonight, tourists by the looks of them, some middle-aged gay couples, some men with their parents from out of town. Just like the movie, the moms were smiling, trying to get into the club groove, and the dads were stonily indifferent. A singer in a red-and-lime green outfit led four dancers on stage, for the big cabaret production number, “A Little Song, A Little Dance, A Little Salsa in Your Pants”.
Greasing a few more eager palms brought me to the base of a staircase next to the main entrance of the club. Here, a grimly efficient looking bruiser looked me over and got his boss on the phone. “No weapons…investigating the Fontainebleau killings…says he wants to ask you about XJB…okay, I’ll let him up”. He gave me a cold look and gestured towards the stairs. “The boss says he’ll talk to you”. The bulge under his coat didn’t mean he was happy to see me. His right hand stayed within easy reach of that holster all the time I nodded my thanks and walked up the stairs warily. At the top of the stairs another bodyguard gave me the frisk before knocking twice on a mahogany door. I was nudged to enter.
The office was half-dark. The boss got up from his desk and walked over to me. “I’m Zafar”, he said. “What can I do for you?”
I got to the point. “I’m being canceled. I don’t know who’s behind it”.
Zafar nodded with what appeared to be genuine sympathy. “Ah, my friend, it’s happening to so many of us. But what can I do?”
“I need to find out what really happened out on the Beach and why. It has something to do with you, with a couple of girls who used to work here, and mostly it has to do with Xuxa Jada Bom”
“Ah, the ‘island girls’ rumors”. Zafar flashed me a brief, cynical grin. “That’s straight people, Not me.”
“Two of the girls once worked for you”.
He sighed. “How about a drink?”, he asked, pouring us each one before waiting for an answer. He downed his. “I know what you’re thinking. Maybe I’m mixed up in whatever’s going on”. He looked up at me sharply. “Am I right?” Walking over to the big fish tank, he picked up a container of fish food and sprinkled some in as he gazed gloomily at the colorful darting shapes within. “Zafar, you look kind of…brooding, if you don’t mind my saying so”.
He gave me a tight, sour grin. “Oh, yes, the big new race theory. Nice girl, Xuxa. Once upon a time. I don’t know what happened with her”.
“When she was working here, anything special about her?”
“Over the years, I’ve hired a lot of lesbian bartenders. No, nothing about this one stood out. She didn’t stay long, but they never do”.
“Remember anyone special? Anyone she was close to, maybe went out with?”
“Hmm. Yeah, a couple of friends. I hired one of them, some farm girl who loved horses. Then there was a kooky artist. Another one was a gym teacher. Xuxa ran off with the waitress on her shift, a Latina. Haven’t seen her since, except for seeing her on TV. A reporter showed up here to ask about the lesbian thing but it’s never been secret, everybody knows. And that’s about it”.
It used to be a reporter was in the same realm as being a policeman, a priest, or a bartender; someone who hears confessions, someone who ministered to those in great trouble, pain, or proximity to death. A humble, honorable job.
I asked, “Shouldn’t you say, Latinx?”
He laughed. “I’m more Latin than all of Manhattan, and queerer than a three-dollar bill, but you’ll never get me to use that stupid made-up word”.
“Thanks for the talk, Zafar”.
“Not at all. Good luck with your work”.
When I got back to our hideaway hotel, there were several large SUVs in the street, official black with tinted windows. I tensed up and rushed to our suite.
It was okay; I knew the boss of the operation, Boss Mongo. We shook hands, an unusual thing these days, but he was gloved and we go back a long way. If any man can be both secret and a legend, it’s Mongo. He was leading a composite Federal team to extract and protect GLD III. The Southcom muscle looked awfully heavy for NASA; Boss smiled and shook his head. “National Reconnaissance Office”, he said quietly.
Evidently the opposition had figured out that Geordie wasn’t killed in the Fontainebleau attack, so he was being moved to another location. He’d be reunited with his family there and they’d stay away from home until this was unraveled.
“So where are you going?”, I asked the man known as Gold Three, He lit up with enthusiasm. “Oshkosh! I’ll be hiding in plain sight at the Fly-In. Fifty thousand aging white guys in casual clothes! They’ll never find me!”, he said, laughing. GLD III had a point. We shook hands, and when Mongo’s walkie-talkie crackled with an all-clear, six grimly protective giants in dark suits escorted Gold Three to his car.
Lee could have remained under my protection for a few more days, but she elected to leave. A couple of feds stuck around to escort her to her next protective location. In Lee’s room, she was packing a suitcase. She was wearing her face mask, supposedly because of all the cops. But she didn’t bother to take it off. The intimacy was over.
“I’m sorry, Johnny. I believe you. I really do. I know you could never be the—well, the kind of person I’m reading about. But I’m sorry. I mean, they have all the proof. And you say they aren’t real, the Bruders are all a myth…but their money is in your bank account.”
“You know who else nobody ever heard of before?” I put a photo of the prize dinner at the Fontainebleau in front of us and pointed to the banner over the dais. “National Thermal Engineers Awards”. I had her full attention now.
“The people who printed that banner never met anybody on that prize committee. Neither did the hotel. The photographers were brought in by a local PR company. They each got their instructions via email and were paid by wire transfer. None of them ever met the client. In Covid-19 days, nobody gave it a second thought. There is no “committee”. That website hasn’t been updated since the day of the event. Considering it was a story in every newspaper in the country, doesn’t that seem a little odd? It was all a shell company, nothing but a clever one-time scheme to get the victims into one place where they could be killed together.”
I turned to Lee dispassionately. “And you knew it, because you’re the one who set it up”.
“You’re crazy!” she gasped.
“But something went wrong. So you had to stick close to Geordie until you had another shot at him. Then something else went wrong, because I came along, ruining the chance of a clean kill that would make it look like suicide.”
A normal person, an innocent person, would be stunned, heartbroken, outraged. She laughed with forced bravado.
“Is this a joke, or have you gone stark raving insane?”
“You were the one who told Gold Three that the car service hadn’t come and you were both going to be late. But you told the police that your phone wasn’t working that night”.
“So what?”, Lee said, her mask beginning to slip, literally. “I read the story on Vox, Buzzfeed, all of them”, she said defiantly. “They all say you got that Nazi money from Frankfurt.”
“No, sweetheart. That’s what the cops think they heard. They heard someone give an order to deliver money from Frankfort. You know, the capital of Kentucky. The city your Pa lives outside of. Raises horses, I hear. You, Lee, you were the one who got the orders from your old girlfriend, XJB, the social media star. You took the cash. You drove it across the Ohio state line—and it isn’t very far, is it?–to make a deposit at a night drop”.
“I make a point of not driving to Ohio”, she said icily. “Too many weird guys”.
I casually took a plastic evidence pouch out of my briefcase. “The Ohio cops recovered the deposit envelope. Guess whose fingerprints are on it?”
She angrily moved to slap me. Why should I let her? I brushed her hand away. The police came in from the other room and cuffed her. She gave me a look of pure fury as they led her away.
The one witness to the arrest was Arahant, the beachcomber philosopher. “So that’s that, huh?”
I nodded. “She’s on her way to cool her heels in a big ice box somewhere”.
Arahant considered it. “Way-ell”, he said, “Conspiracy to murder…soon she’s headed someplace warmer, I reckon”.
I drove the rental Buick back to Ruben’s and bought it on the spot. That almost wrapped it up. It was my final night in town and I was determined to make the most of it. But I had one more little banking matter to discuss.
I drove back across to the Beach, to the 24-hour bank that had been the first stop in my Miami adventures. The evening shift tellers were just getting off work. The lively looking one who’d handed me my sacks of walking around money was surprised/happy, not surprised/creeped out to see me. She looked up and down at me appraisingly. “So was your trip a success?”
“Spend up all your money?”
“Got enough left for a late dinner at The Bazaar”.
I held the passenger door open. She got into the Buick and we drove off the lot. Nineteen feet of sculpted steel put forth its strength. The moonlight was glorious and the wind was in our hair. I still didn’t know her name yet and I didn’t know if she remembered mine. I gestured at the leather bench front seat. “Big wide seat. Socially distanced, see?”
To my pleasant surprise she slid across the seat and took off her mask. She had a radiant smile. She draped her arm around me and said, softly, “As of now, baby, this lockdown is over”.
We hope you’ve enjoyed Brooding Intelligence, another Ricochet Silent Radio story featuring Judge Mental in the Tales From the PIT series. Tonight’s conclusion featured @judgemental, @arahat, @zafar, @gldiii, and @bossmongo. This is a reminder that Ricochet Silent Radio is fan fiction. Although it is based on writing and personality traits of Ricochet members, all dialog, actions, and attitudes are purely fictional.
Radio fans, you can also enjoy our heroes in RSR Comics, on the newsstand each month. Look for the big bold R> wherever you buy comic books!
And as always, three chimes mean good times on Ricochet.
(Sound of Chimes. Fade to Silence.)Published in