Napa Valley Private Eye "P. Noir" in: Phat Goose and the Sonoma Cellar
Worth living for. Worthy dying for. Worth going to Woot for.
The Woot Cellar. I don’t know how many times I’ve been back here, how many cases have led me down these dusky steps, steps that creak like a bitter old miser’s hip. Napa Valley has a population of over 136,000 people, and yet my cases always seem to end up here, in the darkest, dreariest hole this side of the Amazon.
This time, at least, I know who to blame. Phat Goose, an evil rat with a sharp drunken smile that looks like he’s been sipping the Cabernet of Dr. Calagari. He’s back from Italy, and looking to remind everyone, up to and including the evil bastard who runs the Cellar, who he is. Phat Goose is an old-school vendetta type, his family’s been in the Bay Area as long as anyone can remember. Once upon a time they ran champagne into San Francisco, but these days they’ve moved on to bigger, better things. Bloodier things. Reds, mostly.
Goose and I have tangled before, when he corked my girl a few years back. That got my attention; took every bit of my craftiness to force him into the bottleneck that ultimately led him to flee the country. Guess he’s forgotten our last little chat, or maybe just remembered it a little too well. At any rate, he’s back, and looking to put my grapes in a press. Going to succeed, too, if I can’t find that bottle.
The bottle in question, a top shelf Central Coast red, belongs to Timmy Sulfites, Napa’s most dangerous hitman. He and I’ve had our differences, but we’ve been able to breathe easy around each other since I scored him a couple dozen cases of back-alley Merlot. But this was one of his personal stock, and Phat Goose had framed me for the job. I was a picture perfect mark for it, too, a dead-end Wino with no future and way too much past. Only way I was gonna keep Timmy Sulfites from knocking my head around was to find the bottle before he knew it was gone.
As I weave through the racks, looking for the missing bottle, I let my mind wander back to that girl of mine. Full bodied, and sweet, sure, but with a dry wit that complimented me perfectly. Every day together, I was drunk on her. Ever since Goose put the corkscrews to her, I’ve just been hungover. Makes me wanna puke, but I’d hate for the old goat who runs the Cellar to know I was here, so I bite it back and gag on the aftertaste.
Don’t know why I’m here, anyhow. Just a hunch in my gut, I guess, but it’s a stupid risk. Last time the boss caught me in the Cellar, he locked me in a cask and chucked me in the Bay. He’s probably heard by now I didn’t drown, but hasn’t gotten around to finishing the job yet. He’s got a lot going on besides the Cellar; word is, he’s gotten his filthy paws into tech and housewares now, so while wine may still be his passion, murdering over it is just his hobby.
But back to the bottle. I figure Phat Goose wouldn’t keep it on him, just in case Timmy was dumb enough to believe me if I was dumb enough to tell ‘im the truth. He’s got a score to settle with the Cellar boss, so it’s just barely plausible he’d stash the bottle here, figuring that Timmy, being Timmy, was gonna kill somebody when he figured it was missing. Wouldn’t much matter to Goose which one of us it was.
I’m just about to give up when I notice an unmarked bottle on the bottom shelf, sticking out like an adulterous Pinocchio at Bible camp, swearing he’d never stick his nose in some poor girl’s business ever again. I examine the bottle, and while I can’t be sure without opening it, it smells ever so faintly of vanilla. And hope.
Two hours later, I’ve got the bottle back to Timmy Sulfites, and a couple hundred bucks I found in Goose’s wallet when he dropped it. Woulda handed it back to him, but he seemed awful busy having his belt buckle chained to the back of Timmy’s truck, and I didn’t wanna interrupt.
There’s enough here that I can afford a few days off. Maybe head down to the beach, with a couple good bottles, work on my tannins.