Desert Wedding: A True Arizona Chronicle

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Mat O’Donnell and Carolyn Langlois

Life is ultimately about the stories we make.  Currently I’m on a plane heading back to Omaha from the wedding reception of a good friend.  Originally I thought that I would not be writing this one up, but last night I realized it that it is the real life stories we make that are most worth sharing.

My friend, Mat O’Donnell, has been mentioned in this blog before under the guise of Arizona Mat for my faux adventure series, The Arizona Chronicles, but let me tell you a bit about the real Mat.

I’ve known Mat for nearly 18 years when a mutual friend introduced us a few weeks after I graduated from college.  Mat and I struck up an instant rapport as we had a number of similar interests.  He also shares my somewhat off kilter sense of humor.  Over the past two decades, Mat has become one of my closest friends.  We’ve shared a lot of happy times, a lot of fun times, and some heavy times as well.  He’s my most frequent traveling companion as we have gone all over the globe from Las Vegas to Tokyo.   One would be lucky to have a friend even half as loyal as Mat.

About 5 years ago, a promotion took Mat to Phoenix, AZ.  That one choice brought a plethora of good things for Mat including a wonderful woman named Carolyn Langlois.

I still remember the night that Mat told me about Carolyn.  I was in Abilene, KS reviewing Abilene’s Victorian Inn when I decided to FB chat Mat since I hadn’t spoken to him in a little spell.  We were talking about a mystery/puzzle game we both were playing and then he said he hadn’t been able to finish it as he’d been a little busy lately and then he posted a picture of himself and Carolyn.

I was beyond excited for Mat as he had long deserved some happiness of this type.  Giddily, I asked him about the whole story.  Who was she?  How did you meet?  Etc.  Etc.  I could hear the glee in his voice as he shared his tale of how the two of them met.

About six months later, I finally got to meet Carolyn and I knew that Mat had found his soulmate.  In less than ten minutes I realized that Mat had found someone that completed him in every way, shape, and form.  Over the next year, their deep love grew only deeper and suddenly a wedding was upon us.

Now Mat and Carolyn actually married on October 26 which was the anniversary of their first date.  But the reception was held on November 5 at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix.

On November 3, I found myself heading to Eppley Airfield for a non-stop flight to Phoenix.  Now I’ve enjoyed an unusually long streak of successful or even more than successful flights so I was long overdue for a bit of difficulty.  Just before I reached the airport, I felt my phone vibrate and found that my flight was delayed for nearly an hour and a half.

Not too terrible and I had a novel with which to occupy myself.  Then just before boarding would begin for the delayed flight, a Southwest employee changed the 8 to a 9.  Another hour delay.  Then they announced that the delays were due to runways at Sky Harbor International being shut down due to construction and a ripping thunderstorm over Phoenix which was preventing any and all flights from landing.

Finally at 9pm, we finally boarded the plane.  I was grateful for the gain of 2 hours as it was only about 10pm local time when I arrived in Phoenix.

I called the Crowne Plaza which would be my temporary home and they said they get a shuttle to me in just a few minutes.  Their word was good as gold as a shuttle pulled up to the pickup curb within ten minutes and whisked me a mile down the road.

While I prefer B & Bs, I do admit that I had long wanted to stay at a Crowne Plaza.  This particular hotel had recently undergone a multimillion dollar renovation and looked brand new.  As I checked in I was ecstatic that my standby for an upper level floor had been approved.

This hotel took its security very seriously as you couldn’t even use the elevator without a room key.  I zipped up to the 8th floor and found myself with a comfortable king sized bed, a spectacular view of downtown Phoenix, and a nice office area.  I also found myself with a door that didn’t latch too well unless you slammed it.  After beating my door in a wrestling match, I closed the thick drapes and crawled into bed for the evening.

I awoke the next morning and headed down to the gym for a workout.  The gym was not too bad with free weights, balance balls, treadmills, and elliptical.  I exercised for 40 minutes then returned to my room for a hot bath with a less than cooperative drain before spending the morning thumbing through my novel or finding something interesting on TV.

Around noon, Mat and Carolyn came to pick me up for lunch and we caught up on the goings-on of our lives since we last met.  We ate at Four Peaks Brewing Company where I enjoyed an Oatmeal Stout and a Mexican chicken wrap.  Carolyn had chicken rolls and Mat noshed on chicken wings.

During lunch, Carolyn suddenly got an “I’ve got a great idea!” look on her face.  It turns out that an old friend of her mother wanted to throw a dinner party for Mat and Carolyn.  One of the guests was going to be unable to attend so Carolyn suggested that I take that person’s place.  Mat and I both thought that was a great idea so we drove back to the Crowne Plaza where I grabbed my dress clothes and we returned to Mat’s house.

I spent the afternoon helping Carolyn tie jellybean bags for the reception and catching up on things with Barry, Mat’s father, and John Velasquez, an old friend of the O’Donnell family.

Around 5pm, we piled in Carolyn’s vehicle and drove deep into Scottsdale to the home of the Haggertys where the dinner would be held.  I met Carolyn’s father, Joe, who was a hoot and his girlfriend, Fran, who was a delightful conversationalist.  I also met the Haggertys and a number of other of Carolyn’s relatives who were truly wonderful people.

The home was gorgeous with a beautiful fire pit, an impressive infinity pool, fine works of art, and quartz rocks peppering the abode.  The event began with conversation, cocktails, and light hors d’oeuvres of prawns, cheese, and crackers.  We enjoyed a fantastic sunset as the sun dropped below the horizon backlighting the Black Mountain.  As the stars and planets became visible, we headed inside for the dinner.

Dinner began with a terrific salad which was followed by roasted carrots, chilled pea salad, and a main entrée of chicken and mushrooms.  For dessert there was an absolutely delectable mint chocolate ice cream cake.  After that, there was more conversation before we broke up for the evening.  Joe and Fran were gracious enough to give me a lift back to my hotel where we chatted and listened to opera music on the long drive.

The next morning I decided to give the hotel restaurant, The Post, a try.  The prices were about what I expected for a hotel and the food wasn’t too bad.  I had orange juice with Eggs Benedict which I spiced up with the hotel’s homemade salsa (which was excellent) and a splash of Tabasco.

Around noon, I was joined by David Sundberg, another long time friend of both Mat and myself.  Dave was planning on turning the reception into a week’s vacation so he had rented a Mustang for himself.  And this puppy had some serious horsepower and Dave REALLY likes horsepower.

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Dave and his Mustang

Dave was starving so we found a nearby In N Out Burger where we munched on cheeseburgers done animal style and with animal fries.  Afterwards, we drove around a bit and found a flea market which brought Dave a lot of joy as he likes looking for hidden treasures.  And I’ll be dipped if he didn’t find some Viking horn glasses which he turned into a wedding present for Mat and Carolyn.

From there we drove to Dave’s hotel to pick up his dress shirt and killed a few hours at Castles N Coasters.  I won a large amount of redemption tickets, bested Dave in Mario Kart, and made a stupid mistake which permitted Dave to top me in Connect Four.  Dave and I donated the remnants of our game cards to a group of kids, then drove to my hotel to change into our nicer duds before we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens for the reception.

I’d like to visit the Gardens again when there’s more time as it was absolutely stunning and a very popular place for receptions as 4 were being held there that evening.

It was a truly magical night.  Carolyn looked resplendent in her wedding dress and Mat was quite dapper in his tuxedo.  The bride and groom shared some touching words about why they were spending the rest of their lives together.  Then toasts from the audience were opened up and I even offered one of my own, the bulk of which you actually read in my opening paragraphs.  After that it was a dinner of salad with a chipotle dressing, mixed vegetables, spinach stuffed chicken breast, risotto cakes, and a beef cutlet.  Then came conversation, dancing, and a little Mat and Carolyn trivia game.

All too soon it was time to call it a night as Dave’s internal clock was still two hours ahead and I had an early morning flight the next day.  I said my good-byes and was driven back to Crowne Plaza by Dave.  I shook his hand and wished him a fun vacation.

I’ll carry the memories of this trip for a long time and look forward to the next visit with Mat and Carolyn.

Until the next time. . .

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The Arizona Chronicles, Vol. 3, Night 3-Day 8: Arizona Mat and the Voodoo Blue (Woo Woo!)

After our escape from Schulte and the traitorous Johnny V, Arizona Mat zipped through the interstate traffic and we found ourselves in Las Vegas in slightly less than 2 hours.  We arrived at the Rio where we checked in under a pair of assumed names:  Drs. Alvin Koholic and Sy Schwardo.

“Which of us is which?” I asked.

“Does it really matter?” countered an exasperated Arizona Mat.

I shrugged my shoulders and we made our way to the 19th floor with a good view of the pool and mountains.  Believing we had shaken off the Oatmeal Gang, Arizona Mat suggested we go downstairs for some dinner and make some plans.

We chose the All American Grille.  Arizona Mat enjoyed fish and chips with a beer while I settled for French Dip.  The food tasted great and felt good after the long day of driving, escaping, and not eating.  As we dined, Arizona Mat laid out the scheme.

“There’s a fan fest for the Final Fantasy series of video games going on this weekend.  I have a contact attending who has the clues I need to ferret out the location of the Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!).”

“Would you stop that?”

“I try, but I can’t.  In any event, I’ll attend the fest tomorrow to meet my contact.  I suggest while I’m investigating, that you just relax and enjoy yourself.”

That sounded agreeable and I wandered around the Rio while Arizona Mat registered for the fan fest.  Upon completion we wandered across the street to the Palms where John Fogerty was playing a concert.  I found a new slot machine based on the 1960s Batman TV series and Arizona Mat and I tested our luck on it.  I dropped $20, but it was the most fun I had losing money in quite a while.  The machine was true to the spirit of the TV series, complete with campy fun and bonuses with narration done by Adam West.

After spending some time there, we went back across the street to wander through the Gold Coast.  Arizona Mat found a Wylund machine that treated him fairly well.  Upon winning a bit of cash, we returned to the Rio for a good night’s rest.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast at the BK Whopper Bar.  We agreed to meet at our room in the evening.  Arizona Mat headed off to the fan fest while I returned to the Gold Coast where I considered playing a little Bingo.  As I walked past the Port O’Calls buffet, I froze.  Walking out of the exit were Robert Schulte and Johnny V.

I decided to follow them to see if I could find their base of operations and discover if they were any closer than Arizona Mat to discovering the Voodoo Blue.  I trailed them to Bally’s where I joined the Total Rewards club in order to better blend into the background.  As a new member I was gifted with some slot free play which I utilized while I kept my eyes on the dangerous duo.

I seated myself at a Goldfish slot machine where I hit a bonus almost immediately and ended up banking $40 in profit.  As I pocketed my winnings, I saw my quarries leave Bally’s and begin heading across the street to the Cromwell.

Since my last visit to Vegas, the area had undergone some massive renovations.  The area around the High Roller (the world’s largest ferris wheel) had been completely redone.  One of the changes was the Cromwell (formerly Bill’s Gambling Hall).  The outside looked brand new; like a 5 star resort.  The inside matched the outside.  Very classy and elegant.  I slipped over to a Jurassic Park machine where I promptly lost the $10 in free play.

I glanced over my shoulder and saw that Schulte and Johnny V were no longer in the casino.  I quickly swept  the Cromwell and wondered if they might not have headed over to the Quad (formerly the Imperial Palace).  I was unable to find the Oatmeal Gang, but did find a Phantom of the Opera machine.  I hit a Music of the Night bonus which earned me a bit more money.

Thanks to the bonus I was able to earn enough Tier Credits to earn a pull on the Million Dollar Slot Machine at the front of the building.  I didn’t win a million dollars, but I did win a buy one, get one free buffet at most of the buffets owned by the Las Vegas Harrah’s properties.

From there, I investigated the Linq (which is where the High Roller is housed).  I was still unable to relocate Schulte and Johnny V, so I returned to the Rio where I relaxed in my room and worked on Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright, a puzzle/mystery game Arizona Mat had brought along on his 3DS.

Late in the afternoon, Arizona Mat came into our room all excited.

“I’ve found the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!)!”

“Where?”

“Based on the clues I’ve received from my contact, I’ve concluded that the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!) is somewhere in the vicinity of the Voodoo Lounge at the top of the Rio.  When the club opens later tonight, we’ll go and obtain it.  For now, let’s eat.”

Arizona Mat and I went downstairs to the Seafood Buffet where we supped on salmon, seafood gumbo, sushi, and other delicacies.  After a very filling meal, I told Arizona Mat I would walk off the meal and would meet him in the room later.  I took a shuttle over to Harrah’s where I walked over to the Bellagio to watch one of their famed water shows.

As the show reached to its climax, a man next to me said, “Beautiful sight, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” I agreed as I turned to face the man.

I felt the blood rush from my head as I stared into the hard, cruel eyes of Robert Schulte.  I felt the barrel of a revolver press against my ribs.

“How did you find me?”

“Find you?” replied Schulte.  “I’ve been trailing you. . .for hours.  For an amateur, you’re not a bad tracker.  It actually took me until the Cromwell for me to notice you.”

“So that’s why I couldn’t find you.”

“Correct.  I saw you over at the Jurassic Park machine.  Johnny V and I slipped outdoors and into the crowd and began following you.”

“Now what?”

“Now we return to the Rio and you and Arizona Mat lead us to the Voodoo Blue.”

Keeping his gun pressed to my back, Schulte forced me into the Rio shuttle at Bally’s and made me lead him to our room.  As I unlocked the door, I saw Arizona Mat sitting on the couch.

“Arizona, I’ve got some bad news.  They found me,” I said sheepishly.

“Don’t feel too bad.  They found me, too.”

As Schulte and I came further into the room, we saw a grinning Johnny V seated on one of the beds, his German Luger pointed directly at Arizona Mat.

“All right, Arizona Mat,” said Schulte, comfortably seating himself in a chair.  “Where’s the Voodoo Blue?”

“Woo woo!” cried Arizona Mat.

“If you do that one more time, I’m going to yank your tongue so hard that your ears will flip like window shades!” I snapped.

“Sorry,” said Arizona Mat.  “It’s somewhere on the roof around the Voodoo Lounge.”

“Excellent,” said Schulte.  “Let’s go and retrieve it.”

Schulte and Johnny V forced us into the elevator leading to the Voodoo Lounge.  Within a matter of moments, we were whisked up to the 52nd floor and we entered the rooftop nightclub.  As we weaved our way through the dancing partygoers, Schulte began to get impatient.

“Where is it?” he snarled.

“I don’t know, precisely.  I just know it’s somewhere up here,” said Arizona Mat.  “It’s going to take a bit of time to search for it with all of these people here.”

Despite having my life threatened, I had to admit that the view was pretty good.  I scanned in all directions, trying to enjoy the sparkling lights and awesome vista of the city.  I happened to glance down towards the Voodoo Zipline, a zipline that stretched from the top of the Masquerade Tower and went down to the Ipanema Tower.  Towards the end of the zipline, I saw a curious blue flash shining in the light.

“Arizona Mat, look!” I shouted, pointing towards the glow.

“It’s the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!)” said Arizona Mat.

Upon seeing the legendary stone, Arizona Mat broke out into a spastic dance out of sheer excitement or so I thought until he gave Schulte a hard shove into Johnny V.  Grabbing my sleeve, Arizona Mat pulled me down the stairs towards the Voodoo Zipline.  Shoving his way past the attendants, he bolted the door shut behind him.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” said Arizona Mat, pulling out his trusty foam noodle.

Flinging it over the zipline, he motioned for me to grab one end of it.

“Are you crazy?” I yelled.

A shot from Schulte’s revolver whizzed over my head and I immediately grabbed one end of the noodle.  Arizona Mat and I screamed bloody murder as we slid towards the Ipanema Tower.  Bullets flew over our heads and the wire began to saw through the noodle.  It fell into two pieces just as we reached the Ipanema Tower.  I crossed myself in sheer relief as I peered over the edge of the building.  It was a long way down.

Triumphantly, Arizona Mat climbed the pole and removed the Voodoo Blue from its perch.

“I’ve done it!  I’ve found the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!)” crowed Arizona Mat.

“SHUT UP!!!” I thundered.

“Simmer down, friend.  Let’s get out of here before the goon platoon catches up with us,” said Arizona Mat.

We found a service ladder and made our way down to street level.  In order to stay hidden from the Oatmeal Gang, Arzona Mat and I spent the night in a dumpster where I used a rat for a pillow.

The next morning, Arizona Mat and I slipped into the Gold Coast where he picked the lock of a, thankfully, empty room where we were able to get cleaned up.  We chanced a Sunday brunch at the Port O’Calls Buffet, hoping that the Oatmeal Gang wouldn’t suspect us of remaining so close to the Rio.  Luckily our gamble paid off.

We spent the day wandering the streets of the Strip, slipping in and out of casinos.  Towards the evening, we sneaked into Planet Hollywood where we “borrowed” an unoccupied room.  Starving, Arizona Mat and I went to BURGR for a meal.  Arizona Mat once again feasted upon the Farm Burger while I savored the Gordon Burger (a pork patty with duck breast bacon, a relish, tomatoes, and butter lettuce).  Slipping into our room, we managed to get a good night’s sleep and I hoped against hope that we had finally managed to elude the Oatmeal Gang.

Arizona Mat insisted that we spend the day at Qua Baths and Spa in Caesar’s Palace, arguing that the Oatmeal Gang would never look for us in there.  I reluctantly agreed.  Amazingly, Arizona Mat was right.  We truly seem to have evaded them.  I enjoyed a hard workout on their updated equipment and began to relax.

After a Thai massage I found myself relaxing on one of the heated lounge chairs in the Roman Baths, a towel draped over my face.  Arizona Mat brought me a bottle of water which I thirstily drank.  After a day of relaxation, we headed over to Harrah’s to get some supper.

Arizona Mat stopped at a food court where we ordered some ramen.  Shortly after ordering, a wave of nausea passed over me and I began sweating profusely.  I sat down in a chair and Arizona Mat asked if I were tired and I said I just felt very flush.  We took our ramen and sat at a table.  I could only manage a few bites.

To make matters worse, two very unwelcome guests sat at our table:  Johnny V and Robert Schulte.

“Give me the stone!” demanded Schulte.

The last thing I remembered was losing my few bites of food as everything went black.

I awoke a few hours later back in my room at the Rio.  A cold compress was pressed to my forehead and I saw a concerned Johnny V looking down at me.  I weakly tried to shove him away, but lacked any strength.

“Take it easy,” said Johnny V.   “It’s OK.  He’s awake.”

Arizona Mat came around the corner of the vanity area.

“Welcome back to the land of the living,” said Arizona Mat.

“What happened?  What’s going on?”

“It was all part of Arizona Mat’s plan,” said Johnny V.

“What plan?” I asked.

“A plan to retrieve the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!) and capture Robert Schulte.  Johnny V was really a triple agent.  I used him to get close to Schulte to keep an eye on him and keep me apprised of his movements.  We were never in danger at any point.”

“But then why did we go through the motions of being pursued?”

“To lull Schulte into a false sense of security.  I told Johnny V to bring Schulte to the food court.  Your spell of nausea got Schulte off his guard.  After you purged, Johnny V managed to karate chop Schulte at the base of the neck and knock him out.  Then the police officers waiting in the wings came out and arrested him.  Johnny V will take the Voodoo Blue (woo woo!) back with him to Omaha and place it in a museum,” said Arizona Mat.

“Kind of chancy.  What would have happened had I not fallen ill?”

“That was part of the plan.  The water I gave you was spiked.”

“It was what?”

“It was spiked.  I needed you to be genuinely sick to throw Schulte off balance.”

“I see,” I said, my hands balling into fists.  “And what happened after Schulte’s arrest?”

“Well, we brought you back here and Johnny V and I went and rode the High Roller and then watched people do the jump off the Stratosphere.”

“So you not only poisoned me, you had fun without me?” I asked.

“I suppose that’s one way of putting it,” admitted Arizona Mat.

I felt my right eyeball begin to violently twitch as I spied a foam noodle on Arizona Mat’s bed.  It was quite a strange sight that night as I chased Arizona Mat throughout the casino swinging the noodle like a baseball bat.

By the next morning I had forgiven Arizona Mat and he, Johnny V, and myself had a final breakfast at the Port O’Calls buffet where we enjoyed fruit, corned beef hash, French Toast, chicken fried steak, biscuits & gravy, bacon, O’Brien potatoes, sausages, coffee, and juice.  We checked out of the Rio and began the long drive back to Gilbert, Arizona.  A drive made longer still by road work which tacked an additional 90 minutes onto the drive.

After returning to Arizona Mat’s home, we stretched our legs a bit and then walked over to Café Rio where Arizona Mat and Johnny V partook of steak and taco salad respectively and I ate the most delicious chicken quesadilla I had ever tasted.  We returned to Arizona Mat’s and gathered around his fire pit sharing stories of the adventure we had just shared while sipping Blue Moon Pumpkin Ales.

Today Arizona Mat dropped me off at the airport.  We shook hands and I knew I was fated to join him in another adventure at some point in the future.  As I headed towards my gate, I saw a nearly emaciated Tall Square still squeezing the dummy’s hand with all his might.

“Submit!!  Submit!!” he grunted.

“Open your eyes, son,” I said as I patted him on the back as I passed him.

I saw him open his eyes and freeze in shock as he stared at the mannequin’s appendage he was holding.

“5. . .4. . .3. ..2. . .1,” I counted down.

“MATTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!!!” bellowed Tall Square.

Well, the more things change the more they stay the same.

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol 3, Day 1: Dope Springs Eternal

It started off as such a lovely day.

The birds were singing.  The sky was sunny.  And there was nary a cloud in the sky.  Yes, it truly was a good day for travel.

Once again I was flying to Arizona.  For my regular readers, you may recall that that the last time I traveled to Arizona, I was working on a deal with the SyFy Network to produce my script, Giraffealanche, as their latest original movie.  Regrettably, I was a bit sidetracked when I was reunited with an unwelcome acquaintance.

In the ensuing months since those escapades, I had ironed out a deal and was now returning to Arizona to watch a rough cut of the film.  This time, I felt certain I would not be bumping into certain individuals who shall remain nameless.

I arrived at the airport and hopped aboard my Southwest Airlines flight.  I found myself seated to a pleasant, elderly gent named John.  He was slightly below average height, had a short crew cut of gray hair, had a stocky build, and dressed very casually.  I found him to be a likable guy and we shot the breeze on many subjects.  I found that also was heading to Arizona to visit family and would be on the same connecting flight as I.

This was one of the smoothest flights I had taken in quite a while.  We left early and made it to Denver, CO in almost precisely an hour.  I had an hour layover between flights so I made a quick visit to Xpress Spa inside the Denver airport for a 20 minute neck and shoulder massage to relieve the tightness in my shoulders and right arm (the unfortunate curse of working at a keyboard all day).

Soon I was flying through the air on another smooth flight and arrived in Phoenix a little early.  As I grabbed my luggage from the carousel, John told me he had a car waiting for him and offered to give me a lift to my hotel.  I readily agreed and we stepped into a waiting limo.

I continued chatting with John as we rode down the interstate.  I happened to glance out the window and I noticed that we were passing Golfland in Mesa, AZ.  I then realized that this route seemed awfully familiar.

“John?” I asked.  “Where are we going?”

Suddenly the driver pressed a button on the dashboard and some distinctive music began to play.  To my mounting horror, John began to sing lyrics with the music.

“He’s Arizona!!  Arizona Mat!!  Arizona!!!  Arizona Mat!!”

The driver removed his hat and shades and turned to look at the both of us, an impish grin playing over his face.  I slowly turned my head to glare at John.  Suppressing my urge to throttle him, I buried my face in my hands and began to weep.  It was Arizona Mat.

For those of you new to this website, I refer you to the archives section for the stories entitled The Arizona Chronicles and The Arizona Chronicles, Vol 2 where I met a supposed explorer named Arizona Mat and his Neanderthal sidekick, Tall Square.  Arizona Mat was so full of himself that I’m surprised he didn’t refer to himself in the third person.  He had a strange love-hate relationship with his lackey, Tall Square.  By that I mean they loved to hate each other.  In fact, the last time I had seen the two of them, Tall Square was chasing Arizona Mat through the Sky Harbor airport.

“There, there,” said Arizona Mat.  “It’s nice to see you again, too.  No need to shed tears of joy.”

Resigning myself to the inevitable, I asked Arizona Mat how he managed to know that I was coming into town.  He explained that Johnny V, indicating John, was an old family friend based out of Omaha, NE.  He had Johnny V keep tabs on me until he knew I would be returning to Arizona.

“Why?” I asked.

“I’m about to make another epic discovery and I need my biographer to document my greatness,” replied Arizona Mat.

I rolled my eyes and asked what had happened to Tall Square.

“As you may recall, that Nordic gorilla was chasing me through the airport.  I tried to duck into a store to escape him, but plowed into some mannequins.  Applying my brilliant brain to the dilemma, I grabbed one of the mannequin arms and persuaded Tall Square to stop.  I told him that I knew he was only upset because he had lost the handshake duel.  I therefore offered him a rematch, but with the caveat that we both have our eyes closed because that allowed one to execute more force.  He agreed and I stuck the mannequin hand into his and made my daring escape.”

“Are you saying. . .” I began.

“Yep,” said Arizona Mat.  “As far as I know, that dummy is still trying to make a dummy submit.”

I rubbed my face and asked why he had “borrowed” me.

“Later, my Boswell.  Later.  Let’s enjoy ourselves for now,” said Arizona Mat.

After settling into his home, Arizona Mat, Johnny V, and myself walked the short distance to the Flaming Kebab for dinner.  I enjoyed a gyro sandwich with a cup of lentil soup and some water.  Arizona Mat feasted on Chicken Kafka, rice, Greek Salad, and iced tea.  Johnny V supped on a gyro platter with rice, Greek Salad, and raspberry tea.  Johnny V, a rather generous sort, paid for our meals.

After the meal we returned to Arizona Mat’s home where we sat around his new fire pit, drinking home brewed root beer, and listening to Arizona Mat regale us with some of his “legendary” adventures.  After finishing up the tale of his rescuing me from a homicidal ex-associate (read The Arizona Chronicles, Vol 2 to find out what really happened), Arizona Mat rubbed his hands with glee and announced it was time to get down to business.

“Have you ever heard of the Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!)?” asked Arizona Mat.

“What on earth is the Voodoo Blue Woo Woo?” I asked.

“I didn’t say the Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!) Woo woo.  I said the Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!)”

“You just did it again.  You keep making this high pitched sound after you say Voodoo Blue.”

“Woo woo!  I’m sorry.  It’s just that I get excited whenever I say or hear the words Voodoo Blue (Woo woo!)  It’s a rare blue diamond that was supposedly forged by a houngan (voodoo priest).  I’ve been researching its history and certain clues have led me to its discovery.  It’s somewhere in Las Vegas, NV.  On Friday, the three of us will drive over there, I’ll discover it, and your masterful writing will make me even more famous than I already am.”

“Have you ever read any of my articles about you?” I asked.

“No.  I’m modest in that way.  But you’re writing about wonderful me, so I’m sure they’re stunning pieces of work.”

“Yes they are,” I said.

So once more I would be joining Arizona Mat on an adventure.  I knew not what the future would bring, but I knew trouble and hilarity probably were not far behind.

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol. 2, Day 7: Epilogue

After saving Arizona Mat’s bacon, the summertime cold I had picked up returned with a fury.  Burning throat, stuffy head, weak as a kitten.  I ended up Skypeing my meeting with the SyFy Network executive which went well.  Currently we’re ironing out the details about “Giraffealanche”.

Arizona Mat was kind enough to take me to Sky Harbor Airport so I could catch my flight back home.  After a meal at Chelsea’s Kitchen, we bade each other good-bye.  As I approached the security checkpoint, I suddenly heard a thunderous, “YOU!!!!”

I turned to look at the origination of the shout and saw Tall Square exiting the gate area and he had spotted Arizona Mat.

“Oh, crap!!” said Arizona Mat as he bolted down the hallway with Tall Square in hot pursuit.

I smiled and shook my head.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  I could only wonder what would happen when next I ran into Arizona Mat and Tall Square.  Surprisingly, I looked forward to it.

Fin

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol. 2, Day 6: Revelations & Bowling Balls

So a short while later, we found ourselves back at the estate of Arizona Mat where Mongrel, Arizona Mat, and the police sat around the living room while I stood court in the center of the room.  I pulled one officer to the side, whispered something in his ear, and sent him down the hall before beginning the denouement.

“In order to understand this case, we need to go back to the day of the first attack,” I said.

“Wait a moment,” said Arizona Mat.  “You’ve done well, my friend, but I’ll take it from here.  Obviously my colleague and I have come to the same conclusion.  Since I’ve been the target, I feel it’s my privilege to bring this fiend to justice.”

I stared at Arizona Mat for a moment, then gestured for him to take the stage while I stood in a corner.

“Thank you.  It has always been my philosophy that one truth prevails and that is certainly the case here.  The person responsible for these heinous attacks is Tall Square, my former sidekick.  He’s always been jealous of my intelligence, wit, good looks, and discoveries.  My besting him in the handshake contest was clearly the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Once he realized that he ended up in Nome, AK, he realized he had the perfect cover to launch a series of devastating attacks on me in secret.  

First, he arranged to have an explosive “surprise” sent to me, sans return address, so I wouldn’t be able to trace the package back to Alaska.  After arranging for the package, he chartered a flight back to Phoenix and has been following me around.  He rented a car so he could chase me down at Paseo Vista.  When my superior brain outfoxed him, he immediately drove to my home and set up the wasp farm, since he still had keys to my home.  When that failed, he trailed us to Buffalo Wild Wings where he paid off a thug to beat me senseless.  Unluckily for him, Chris spotted him waiting outside the scene of the crime.  

He slipped into my house, hoping he could get at me while the others were asleep.  Due to Chris’ propensity for deep sleep, he managed to get to me, but chose not to finish me off, as he would want it on a grand stage.  He hoped that stage might have been the sushi restaurant, but we managed to escape the sinister swordsman he had hired. In case that attack failed, he set up a bomb in my pool. Unfortunately, Chris took the evening swim that night and was nearly blown to kingdom come.  When he realized he failed, he followed Chris and I to Castles N Coasters where he used us like a real life shooting gallery.

By now, my former sidekick must have reached the limits of his patience and, any moment now, will kick in the door in an attempt to launch one final murderous assault upon my glorious personage.”

Everyone turned to look at the door.

Nothing happened.

I came out of the corner and patted Arizona Mat on the shoulder.

“That was actually a nimble piece of logical reasoning.  But you made two crucial errors.  One, Tall Square doesn’t strike me as the most subtle of people.  He would have started with the murderous assault.  Two, it’s a 10.5 hour flight from here to Nome and they are two hours behind us.  It’s simply not feasible for him to have arranged any of this.”

“Oh,” said Arizona Mat, sitting back down, his face red as a beet.

“Not that he was completely wrong,” I said.  “The assailant certainly wanted us to think Tall Square was behind this.  Hence, the little surprise delivered to Arizona Mat as well as hiring someone with a similar physical build to Tall Square for us to witness on the scene for the BWW brawl.  The attacker had to be someone with access to the house.  He also had to have knowledge of where Arizona Mat would be in order to set up these traps and attacks.  I realized that Arizona Mat’s need to broadcast his whereabouts to the world via Facebook was how the assaulter managed to set up his various death traps.

At that point I ordered Arizona Mat to stop broadcasting our whereabouts via FB and the combination of that plus our staying close to home closed off the avenues of attack for our villain.  The day of the Castles N Coasters attack, I happened to glance at Arizona Mat’s cell phone which was open to his FB page and I learned the truth.

He only has one FB friend.  Clearly that person must be the attacker.  But to be certain of my theory, I posted that we were at Castles N Coasters in an attempt to provoke an assault.  I had arranged for the police to be nearby, but the attacker managed to slip through the cordon.  Of course, the attacker didn’t always need FB to set up an attack.  On several occasions, he was right along our side.  Isn’t that right, Mongrel?”

Mongrel had blanched when I made that accusation.

“That’s ridiculous,” he said with a nervous chuckle.  “I was there at Paseo Vista and BWW.  I was also attacked by the wasps in the pool.”

“That was the brilliant and, dare I say, daring part of your plan.  You made yourself look like a potential victim of collateral damage so you wouldn’t be suspected.”

“But there’s no motivation,” countered Mongrel.

“Oh, I disagree.  You’ve had the run of the estate since Arizona Mat and Tall Square started their little handshake duel back in January.  It would be such a shame to lose it all and be reduced to a lowly B level sidekick again.  So at some point, you decided to eliminate Arizona Mat and frame Tall Square for the crime.  Or maybe you planned to get rid of both of them and adapted your plan after you found out Tall Square was flown to Alaska.”

While I was speaking, the officer whom I had sent out of the room returned with a sheaf of papers in his hand.

“And I believe this kind officer has provided me with the evidence I need to prove your guilt.”

An examination of the papers revealed Mongrel had been forging Arizona Mat’s name on various documents.  He had given himself power of attorney over Arizona Mat’s assets as well as rewriting his will to name himself sole heir.

“Anything you care to say, Mongrel?” I asked.

“You don’t know what it was like,” said Mongrel in a sad voice.  “I was kept so much in the background that you didn’t even know I existed.  Why shouldn’t I have had the estate?  I took care of it.  Arizona Mat was never around.  Occasionally he’d bed here, but normally he and Tall Square were out having misadventures.  When you started publicizing his antics, it made him even more insufferable.  This estate is mine.  I earned it.”

Mongrel was cuffed by one of the officers, read his rights, and taken away.

Needless to say, Arizona Mat was ecstatic now that the threat to his life had ended.  In celebration, we went out to the Brunswick Zone for a few hours of bowling.  Arizona Mat was back to his arrogant, self-aggrandizing ways.  As he bored me with tellings of his various “explorations”, he managed to have a red hot night of bowling, closing all, but 2 frames and bowling a 200+ point game for the first time in 20 years.  I, myself, had a sharp night of bowling as my old form began to reassert itself as I averaged 120 points.

We returned to his home and slept the sleep of the peaceful, but this adventure wasn’t over just yet.

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol. 2, Day 5: Catastrophe at the Castle (N Coasters)

It’s amazing how nearly dying truly opens up the mind.  As I sailed through the air, I saw the whole truth of the mystery for a brief flash, but it faded as I blacked out.  

I survived thanks to dumb luck.  While Arizona Mat’s lawn was the last thing I saw before fading into oblivion, the trajectory of the blast actually put me onto the roof of his house making my fall only a few feet.  I was slightly banged up and bruised, but none the worst for wear.  Later we found the remains of a bomb in Arizona Mat’s pool.

“Great!!  Now they’re after you,” said Arizona Mat.

“No, they’re not,” I replied.

“Did you hit your head when you hit my roof?”

“Think about it.  What do you normally do at night?”

“I take a swim.”

“Right.  The assailant was expecting you to be in the pool that night.  It was just coincidence that I happened to be in there.”

“I can’t take this anymore.  I’m scared!!” cried Arizona Mat as he ran to his bedroom and hid under the covers.

I paced around Arizona Mat’s living room, trying to think through this mystery.  I desperately tried to regain the momentary flash I’d had as I flew through the air.  I sat down on the couch for a moment and saw that Arizona Mat had left his phone unlocked.  I idly grabbed it and noticed it was on his FB page and there made an amazing discovery.  I was now certain as to the identity of the culprit, but knew I needed to give it an acid test.

After arranging the stage, I knocked on Arizona Mat’s door.

“Go away, Mr. Killer,” said Arizona Mat.

“It’s me.  I think we need to get out for a while.  I read about this place called Castles N Coasters.  Why don’t we stop there?”

“Are you sure it’s safe?” asked Arizona Mat.

“So far, the attacks have been focused solely on you and the attacker has tried to avoid Mongrel and myself.  If we’re in a place where there’s a lot of people, I think you’ll be all right.  You can even wear your disguise.”

There was silence for a moment.  Then Arizona Mat opened his door a crack.

“OK.”

Castles N Coasters is a small fun center/amusement park in the downtown Phoenix area.  It boasts 4 miniature golf courses, a decent arcade which includes a section for classic games, and a little amusement park area with 2 roller coasters, a log flume, bumper cars, and other such rides.

Despite 2 of the courses being closed, we actually had a grand day and Arizona Mat began to loosen up a bit.  He managed to defeat me at mini golf as a couple of bad holes at the end finished me off.  We enjoyed playing classic games such as Tron, Killer Instinct 2, Joust, Donkey Kong, and various pinball machines.

At 5pm the rides section opened up and I crushed Arizona Mat in a Go Kart race, rode the log flume multiple times, enjoyed a spin on the roller coaster, and dueled Arizona Mat on the bumper cars.  As we got ready to leave the park, I persuaded Arizona Mat to do the obstacle course at the front of the park.  We got hooked up as if we were going to go ziplining and had some fun walking balance beams, rickety rope bridges, and walking high wires.

“This was actually a good idea,” said Arizona Mat as he walked the rope wires on the third level.

Suddenly a shot rang out severing the rope Arizona Mat had been holding.

“This was a terrible idea,” said Arizona Mat.

After the first shot, I unbuckled myself from my harness.  I grabbed the severed rope and swung for all I was worth.  Using my feet, I gave Arizona Mat a mighty shove and pushed him to the far edge of the platform where he would have some cover under the pylons by the stairs.  A second swing brought me over to his position.

“How did he find me?” blubbered Arizona Mat.

“Because I used your phone to post that we would be at Castles N Coasters,” I replied.

“Why would you do such a thing?!!!!”

“Because I needed to confirm a theory and now I’ve done that.  Why do you think I suggested doing the obstacle course?  I knew it was the best time for the assailant to make another go at you.”

“Are you insane??????”

“Relax.  I took precautions.  See, there’s the police coming now.”

“I truly admire your bravery in the face of my danger,” said Arizona Mat.

“Don’t mention it.”

With the wail of the sirens, I was able to get a visual of the shooter.  She or he was too far away to see, but the person immediately got into a nearby car and burned rubber getting out of the lot.  The police were in hot pursuit and I prayed that they were able to catch the attacker.

They didn’t.

“I’m going to die!!!” squealed Arizona Mat.

“You’re not going to die,” I said.  “In fact, if the officers are willing to come back to your place, I’m ready to reveal who’s behind this whole scenario.”

To be continued. . .

The Arizona Chronicles, Vol. 2, Days 3 & 4: Guard Duty

“Who would want to hurt me?” whined Arizona Mat.  “I’m so sweet and lovable.”

Mongrel and I shared a look.  “Well,” I said, turning back to Arizona Mat, “you know there are a lot of strange people in this world.  Maybe we can come up with a list of suspects if you can think of anybody who might have a particular dislike for you.”

“Um, let’s see.  There’s Tall Square. . .my brother. . .a couple of old roommates. . .that UPS driver who delivered the package. . .the pizza delivery guy I never tip. . .my mailman. . .the curator of the museum. . .my barber. . .that elderly lady whose seat I stole on the bus. . .”

Two Hours Later

“my third grade teacher. . .that kid in kindergarten whose glue I always ate. . .and that’s about it.”

“Huh?” I grunted as I woke from a light sleep.  “All right.  Since we’ve narrowed down the list to everyone you’ve ever met, I think the best thing to do would be to post a guard until we catch whomever is behind this.”

I volunteered to take the first watch, though it was probably not the best of ideas.  I’m not much of a night owl and I was now forced to admit that I truly was sick.  My sore throat was still bothering me and now I was starting to ache as well as feel incredibly weak.  I fought sleep as long as I was able, but ended up nodding off.  I was awoken by a shake from Mongrel.

“Hey.  You OK?” asked Mongrel.

“Yeah, I just dozed off.  Let’s check out Arizona.”

We knocked on the door to Arizona Mat’s bedroom, but received no response.  Cautiously I opened the door and found Arizona Mat hanging from his ceiling fan by his underwear.  Somehow his attacker had slipped into the home and past me.  Man, I wish I wasn’t such a heavy sleeper.

Since his attacker had made it clear she or he could get to Arizona Mat at any time, we vowed that one or the other of us would keep an eye on Arizona Mat at all times.  I went to the local grocery store to lay in some supplies while Mongrel kept an eye on the panicky explorer.  After returning, Mongrel announced that he had to go out for a while and I agreed to watch over Arizona Mat since my illness rendered going out a highly unlikely scenario.  We stayed indoors all day playing Uno and watching films, though every sound seemed to send Arizona Mat into a frenzy.

CREAK!!

“What was that?”

“The house settling.”

TWEET!!

“Ah!  What was that?”

“Your electronic parrot, Polly.”

VROOOM!!

“Ah!  What was that?”

“My foot connecting with your keester in about a minute,” I said under my breath.

About 4pm, I asked Arizona Mat if he would drive me to St Mary Magdalene so I could attend a evening worship service.  Donning a cheesy disguise of an oversized handlebar moustache, a monocle, and a ten gallon hat, Arizona Mat drove me to the service.  I invited him in, but his paranoia made him reluctant to do so.

At 5:40, he picked me up and seemed a little more relaxed.  Apparently, he had killed the hour at a Barnes and Noble and when he wasn’t accosted, he thought the worst had passed.  He drove us to a sushi restaurant when we enjoyed a peaceful meal full of delicacies such as eel, salmon, spicy tuna, miso soup, and other delights.

Arizona Mat was starting to behave more like his old self, regaling me with stories of his explorations which I managed to ignore while nodding politely to present the illusion of listening.  As I turned to take a drink of water, I saw one of the teppanyaki chefs slowly approaching from behind.  In his hands, he held a samurai sword which he pulled down from the wall.

“Look out!” I shouted, shoving Arizona Mat to the side.  The sword passed harmlessly between us.  I grabbed my water glass and smashed it  over the attacker’s head, while Arizona Mat started walking over the teppanyaki grills to escape, dancing as the hot grills scorched the soles of his shoes.

We hotfooted (pun intended) it out to his car and he tore out of the parking lot.

“How were you found?” I wondered aloud.

“I don’t know.  I didn’t tell anybody.  I just posted it on Facebook.”

“You what?”

“I said I just posted in on FB.”

Given my normally polite nature, I’ll spare your ears from the barrage of invective I unleashed on Arizona Mat.  Suffice to say, I ordered him to have no contact at all with the outside world and not to leave the house unless Mongrel or myself was with him.

Mongrel had returned by the time we got back and he slept outside Arizona Mat’s bedroom, while I slept on a chair in the room.  The night passed without incident.

The next day, Mongrel again left to run some errands and Arizona Mat and I stayed indoors all day playing cards and watching movies except for a brief lunch stop at In and Out Burger where we picked up animal style double cheeseburgers to go.  No attacks happened that day and the slow day helped my health as my sore throat finally disappeared in the evening and I began to feel stronger.

After a supper of grilled steaks and salad, I decided to swim in the pool.  Too scared to take his customary evening swim, Arizona Mat stayed in the dining room area looking out so I could keep an eye on him.  As I floated in the water, letting it take all my stress away, I was suddenly surprised as I was carried off on a tidal wave that launched me into the air.  The last thing I remember before everything went dark was the backyard rushing up to meet my face.

To be continued