An Assignment for Sam Vicara, State Investigator (episode 3)

Episode 3 - 'She moved through the fair'

THE STORY SO FAR: His task was simple, to track down Citta1. Some said meeting her was like a slug in the guts, others like a pleasant thrill. He'd tailed her down mean streets, staked out hotel rooms and now . . .

It was the state fair in Sankharaville2. Sam Vicara3 elbowed through the crowd, dodging the candy floss sticks that could take your eye out. The hotdog stalls sizzled tempting steam clouds. But Sam was busy. He'd seen Citta!

She was just ahead. The highlights in her hair — blonde or auburn, he was never sure, she must change it to confuse him — reflected the colours of a thousand light bulbs. He wondered where she was headed. He mustn't lose her now.

Sam VicaraAhead the Big Wheel turned and turned to raucous music. Round the ticket booth at the base was a seedy crowd, clutching nickels and dimes in sweaty hands, waiting their turn to be whisked high in the night air. Their breath smelt of onions. Sam spotted Citta on the edge of the crowd. Wearing shades — at night for Pete's sake — and hanging on some guy's arm. A thickset guy wearing a battered derby hat at a rakish angle, flourishing a white cane. "The blind lead the half-blind," Sam thought.

Edging nearer he saw the fellow's face in the glare of arc lamps. Blind Mat Moha4. What was his game? Some shady deal, no doubt. He wasn't about to pay, that was for sure. He had the ticket clerk covered with a tommy gun and had shoved the poor guy out in his shirtsleeves.

"A doll like you gets to ride free," he told Citta with a smirk. Next thing Sam knew Blind Mat was at the controls. The Big Wheel came to a stop and Citta climbed in a car, grinning.

Sam Vicara"And so do all my buddies," Blind Mat gritted. As each car stopped, two types from the crowd got in it. Sam recognised them all. Red Ahirika5 and his cousin Pat Anottappa6, who "Didn't give a hoot for nuthin'." Then Johnny 'The Twitch' Uddhacca7 climbed in with Fats Lobha8. Next, in cheap furs with a haughty air, Marlene Mana9, together with Danny 'The Icebox' Dosa10. Then envious Irene Issa11 and Mike 'Tightwad' Macchariya12. Then Vern Kukkucca13 and Tina Thina14. Finally 'Slow Drag' Middha15 and from Missouri, Babe Vicikiccha16.

"All aboard?" Blind Mat grunted. "Let 'er rip". He slammed the lever to full. The wheel went faster. Too fast. The pale puffy faces in the cars were blurs. Sam pushed forward anxiously. Where was Citta? As he watched, the car she was in shot down past him and climbed again. She looked green.

"I'm gonna be sick," he heard her plead. "I'm gonna be sick."

"Hey, stop the wheel," Sam shouted.

The black snout of the tommy gun appeared from under Blind Mat's gaberdine.
"Back off," he snarled.

Sam did just that, in case Blind Mat would start firing wildly. "I need reinforcements," he thought. He looked around the crowd of pleasure seekers. Who could help?

Suddenly he clocked a familiar face, head and shoulders above the crowd. It was Sally Saddha17. "Now she's a dame you can count on," Sam told himself. He waved to get her attention and she came over. She saw right away that the wheel was going at a crazy speed. She moved in.

"Hold it, Sally!" Sam snapped. "He'll drill you full of holes."

Sally just grinned. "Cool it, Sam. I'm goin' in."

Next thing, she'd sneaked the gun out of Blind Mat's hands and was leaning on the control lever. Smoke poured.

"It's no good," Sam yelled. "It's not slowing. I guess the brake pads are burned out'"

Sally threw him a walkie-talkie. "Call Joe," she panted, still on the lever. "He's around."

Sam was relieved to hear the calm tones of Joe Sati18, the Incorruptible.

"Joe," he said, "We got trouble."

"Okay," Joe replied, unflustered. "I'm all ears."

Sam explained the situation. "We need a lot of hands to slow the wheel."

"Hang in there. I'll bring a crowd."

A minute later Sam was cheered by the sight of Joe thrusting through the crowd, with an athletic-looking posse of guys and dames behind him. Sam recognised a few — Alma Hiri19 and her cousin Tom Ottappa19, big hearted Mimi Alobha20, Billy Adosa21 and Toots Tatramajjhattata22. He made a note to get to know the others sometime.

Joe shook Sam's hand. "Hi Sam," he murmured in deep level tones. "Thanks for the call."

He and the others moved in to help Sally. They grabbed at whatever piece of the Big Wheel they could lay hands on, slowing it bit by bit. Faster than Sam thought possible, it had stopped. Citta staggered out, looking like death and Sam saw Joe hold her arm to steady her. The other cars came slowly to earth, their occupants disembarking to form a disgruntled crowd.

Sam gave himself a mental pat on the back. "I did a great job spotting Sally," he told himself. "And now Citta's right there."

He pushed closer through the crowd. Someone caught his arm. He had a whiff of cheap perfume.

"Hi, big boy. Didja see that? We're havin' us a ball when some jerk stops the wheel."

It was Marlene Mana, batting her inch long eyelashes at him.

"Hi, Marlene," he muttered. " Listen, I'm —"

"Hey, handsome, what's the hurry? Aincha gonna buy me some candy?"

By the time Sam got free, it was too late. He climbed a fence to peer over the crowd, and saw Citta with Joe heading for the exit. She'd lost that sickly dishevelled look — in fact, she looked stunning. But once again the elusive dame had given the sleuth the go-by. She's gotten away, and he'd have to start all over . . . . .

To be continued...

Some notes on Abhidhamma concerning skilful and unskilful mind:

Ferris wheel

  • Generally the mind is either skilful or unskilful.
  • Unskilful mind is underpinned by delusion or ignorance which carries with it lack of care about oneself from both an internal and external viewpoint, and also a sense of uneasiness or restlessness.
  • Ignorance can be linked with either attachment or rejection.
  • These can easily slip into indecision, lethargy and dullness.
  • When the mind has attachment or greed this can spread into pride or rigidty of views.
  • When it acts by rejection or ill-will this can spread into envy, meanness and worry.
  • The mind can also be skilful!
  • When it is, it is underpinned by non-attaching or generosity, by non-rejecting or love and by non-ignoring or wisdom.
  • Skilful (i.e. both generous and loving and sometimes wise as well) mind always spreads into a multitude of good things (too many to include in the story.)
  • Amongst these are confidence, mindfulness, care for one's own well-being from both viewpoints and equipoise or balance.

[1] Citta – heart/mind

[2] Saṅkhāra – habitual states of mind

[3] Vicāra – examining

Unskilful qualities

[4] moha – ignorance

[5] ahirika, anottappa – lack of care

[6] uddhacca – uneasiness

[7] lobha – greed

[8] māna – pride or conceit

[9] diṭṭhi – rigid views

[10] dosa – ill-will

[11] issā – envy

[12] macchariya – meanness

[13] kukkucca – worry

[14] thīna – lethargy

[15] middha – dullness

[16] vicikiccha – indecision

Skilful qualities (some of them)

[17] saddhā – confidence

[18] sati – mindfulness

[19] hiri, ottappa – care for oneself

[20] alobha – non-greed

[21] adosa – non-hate

[22] tatramajjhattatā – equipoise