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Martin Garvin

THREE

Tarzan Stetsov, himself over two meters, had seen many giants in his hockey career. The biggest, an American named Max Asker, had shoved him through the net and into the boards during an exhibition game in Kalamazoo. None of them, not even Max Asker, could have stood eye-to-eye with the behemoth now squeezing into the back of his taxi van.

Stetsov calculated the damage if his passenger, whom we know to be Martin Garvin, were to challenge Max Asker in a brawl. Almost every day Stetsov made some plan of revenge against the brutal enforcer who had ended his career. Asker’s shove, which had drawn more applause than Stetsov’s game-winning goal a moment earlier, had concussed him. The concussion had not been too severe but enough that he forgot about the special bag of sticks in his locker. The rink manager found them later and knew just enough about hockey equipment to realize the bag was too heavy. Further investigation uncovered the cocaine hidden in the pockets, the hollow sticks, and the lining of the “spare” helmets.

Very quickly Stetsov lost his cargo and his player credentials. He was fortunate to avoid jail, but he was useless to the international crime syndicate that had been propping up his career. Since Stetsov was too high profile to execute outright, the bosses in Moscow moved him to one of their side businesses, a car service in the small town of Plum Hollow, where one night he would have a fatal accident on an isolated road. But time and other concerns whittled at their intentions, until finally no one remembered Stetsov as anyone but a failed athlete and adequate taxi driver.

“Welcome my friend,” Stetsov said to Martin.

Without a word Martin slid across the back seat, tilting the van to one side. Rufus hoisted himself into the vacancy. “The Foot Farm,” he said as tried to settle on the apex of the now-uneven bench seat.

“Any time someone goes to the Foot Farm, I ask for pay in advance.” Stetsov nodded to Martin as he drove out of the theater parking lot and onto the highway. “For you, I make exception.”

“Meister Corp. is handling all our expenses,” Rufus said. “The issue of payment is moot.”

“But we are still friends. I am your driver. I know this town better than anyone.”

“Tell me everything you know about Herb Ockham.”

“Who?”

Rufus turned to Martin but spoke loud enough to fill the cab. “We arrive as investigators but become the interrogated, as if we are bringing fire to this dim hamlet. Should we share our knowledge with a town so willfully ignorant of its own lineage? It produces the most significant musician of the last twenty years, and no one knows him.”

“So this Ockham, he is good?” Stetsov said.

“Good is a subjective term. Martin and I, we deal only in truths, and truth is Herb Ockham changed music forever. The quality of this change is debatable. You are probably familiar with the band Wretched.”

“Yes, yes, they were Germans, right?” Stetsov said, excited now. “We played them before our hockey games. To get the blood flowing.” He turned around, still driving, to address Martin. “Have you ever thought of playing hockey? No one could beat you.”

Then Stetsov did on his own what his Russian bosses had intended but forgotten to do years ago – he wrecked his cab. Facing the backseat, with his whole body pivoted to the right, he allowed the car to drift off the road and smash into a tree. It did not have the intended outcome of the original plan in that Stetsov survived the low-speed impact, as did his passengers, although Rufus got a small bump on the right side of his head.

Soon all three were standing on the side of the road. Stetsov’s cab was still running, but it had two flat tires. “No problem, no problem. I can call for another car. No extra charge.” Stetsov surveyed Martin as he waited for an answer on his cell phone. The giant was unscratched, with the same implacable expression on his wide face. “You could carry the car to the Foot Farm, right? I must teach you hockey. You would rule the world."

This is as far as the story goes... for now.

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