The penultimate chapter of my epic adventure in AZ wine country is here! Part 4 of my story, “A Cottonwood Kill,” is where the tale takes a major twist. Read the latest entry by clicking the “Continue Reading” link below or click on the “Short Stories” tab on the menu above.
Burning Tree Cellars – Cottonwood, AZ
Located at 1040 N Main St, Cottonwood, AZ 86326
Open Sun-Thurs 12p-7p; Fri & Sat 12p-10p
The Classy Alcoholic walked into the Burning Tree Cellars wine tasting room, the last of the four located on Cottonwood’s Main Street. Burning Tree made wines with blends of Arizona and California grapes and their flights were $10 for five wine samples. The tasting room was very inviting with an ample patio outside and a couple couches inside.
The Classy Lady was sitting at one of the tables next to Lucius, the cholo who got chloroformed and left unconscious in a bathroom back in Part 1. The Classy Alcoholic knew he recognized Lucius’ voice on the phone. He approached the table slowly.
“Hi again, Ms. Classy. Are you okay?”
“As okay as I can be with a butterfly knife pointed right at my kidney.”
Lucius’ right hand was hidden under The Lady’s red blazer, concealing the knife.
“Don’t come any closer, dude,” Lucius said, “or I’ll cut this chick up.”
The Classy Alcoholic didn’t know if Lucius was actually dumb enough to hurt her out in public and didn’t want to take the chance. But he knew he had to get closer. One of Burning Tree’s staff walked up to the group.
“Excuse me, sir, I’m sorry to bother you but you’re The Classy Alcoholic, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am. Are you a fan of my wine blog?”
“Oh, no, not really. I find your writing derivative and way too pleased with itself to ever be funny. But my 13-year-old son worships your blog. He even had me buy him that bootleg Chinese action figure of you they sell at the swap meet.”
“Yeah, I was actually gonna sell the action figure at real toy stores at first but there was a manufacturing defect and it ended up looking too much like Lou Diamond Phillips. So we unloaded them for pennies on the dollar and I’m writing it off as losses next year.”
“Well it’s an honor to have you at Burning Tree Cellars. Can I get you and your friends something to drink?”
This was his chance. Lucius wasn’t going to do anything stupid with someone else watching. The Classy Alcoholic pulled up a chair at the table and sat right across from him.
“That would be lovely. This is The Classy Lady and this tough-looking guy with a neck tattoo is Lucius. He and I came up together in the same neighborhood. We’ve known each other for years.”
“Thank all of you for coming! So what can I get for you?”
“You tell us. I’m a big fan of red wines, as I’m sure your son can tell you. I need something bold…maybe a nice blend?”
“I’ve got just the thing. Burning Tree specializes in blends, actually. We’ve got this wine called The Impressionist. It’s 95% Syrah, 5% Viognier. It’s got a strong chocolate taste to it with some spice on the nose and a smoky finish.”
“Sounds amazing. We’ll take a bottle for the table and three glasses, please.”
The server walked away and left the trio alone. Lucius looked pissed. The Classy Lady was sweating. He could tell she was nervous even though she tried as hard as she could to hide it.
“You think you’re smart, don’t you?” Lucius asked.
“How do you feel about blended wines, my Classy Lady?” He intentionally ignored Lucius.
“Well…I used to have a negative impression of them,” she said. “A blended wine sounded like bologna to me. I used to think a winery would take a bunch of leftover grapes and toss them together all half-assed so they could just get some use out of them. But I found out recently that making a good blend means taking different types of quality fruit and pairing them in a way that amplifies their taste. A good blended wine is always greater than the sum of its parts.”
Lucius looked increasingly more annoyed.
“I do remember who you are. You’re Chico’s cousin. You’re the punk kid who used to run around our high school in a suit and tie thinking you were hot shit.”
“Yeah. That’s me. And you’re the asshole who used to bully me relentlessly because of how I dressed. You called me the ‘Regis Philbin-wannabe homo,’ remember?”
“Wow, you think I was a dick to you ‘cause you liked to dress fly? I dress fly. I’ve been getting up at 5AM every single day for the past fifteen years just so I can iron the line on my Dickies right. The line on these pants is so straight you can use it to calibrate a level. I respect that you wanna look good. But I was a dick to you ‘cause you thought you were better than everybody else. You walked around in that suit like you made something of yourself even though you were just a sixteen year old who ain’t done shit in his life. Maybe if you talked to me every now and then instead of just looking down on me and my homies I would’ve been cool with you.”
The server brought the bottle of wine to the table. He poured three glasses and left after asking if anyone needed anything else. They didn’t. The Classy Alcoholic and The Lady sipped their wine. Lucius didn’t touch his.
“What do you think of this wine, my Classy Lady?”
“It’s very good. And you know I normally don’t like reds. But I like how the flavor spreads all over the palate and takes you by surprise. It’s distractingly good.”
“Alright, Lucius. I admit I may have also been an asshole when we were kids. I’ve made mistakes. But I’m trying to make up for them now. Let The Classy Lady go and I’ll let you walk. But if you don’t, the FBI will take you in too and you’ll rot in a jail cell for the rest of your life right next to Jencarlos and Romeo.”
“You’re working for the FBI? You expect me to make a deal with a snitch?”
“No. We’re not making a deal. The Feds are on their way. You either leave right now or they take you with them. It’s pretty cut and dry.”
“And what the hell am I supposed to do? Go back and keep living at my mom’s place? That woman’s still crazy. You remember when she showed up drunk as shit to that school play you were in?”
“Yeah, she threw up on the Assistant Principal. But she did say my portrayal of Danny Zuko was exceptional and that I carried the entire production. It would’ve been a great compliment if she had just been wearing pants at the time.”
“That’s what I have to look forward to. This is why I took that delivery job for Jencarlos and Romeo. Hell, I was even gonna meet Romeo in person tonight at that brewery which he likes. I’ve been trying to do something better with my life so I don’t have to be stuck living with a psycho mom and working a shitty job at the Apple Store. Everybody knows I’m a Windows Phone guy! But you and this girl ruined all that. You ruined my chance to be somebody. So no, I’m not walking away. I’m taking this Lady with me. If the FBI wants her back you can tell them they’ll have to pay up.”
The Classy Alcoholic kept drinking his wine. He said nothing. He took a few more sips until his glass was totally empty.
“Do something, Mr. Classy!”
“What the hell do you want me to do? I don’t have a weapon on me anymore. He’s got the knife so he’s in charge.”
He looked The Classy Lady right in the eyes. She was terrified. Hell, so was he. He held up his empty wine glass and reached for the bottle. He made sure to give The Lady a quick wink as he knocked the bottle on its side, making it look like an accident. The wine spilled out and off the side of the table and onto Lucius’ Chino pants. He jumped up out of his chair to try and avoid the wine stream but he wasn’t fast enough.
“Dude! You fucked up my Dickies!”
The Classy Lady grabbed Lucius’ wrist and kicked his leg out from under him. She twisted his arm and slammed her knee into the back of his elbow, making him drop the knife. She picked it up off the floor and jammed it into his leg. Lucius fell on his back. The Classy Lady raised the knife and was about to slam it into his chest.
The Classy Alcoholic caught her wrist before it came down. He pulled her away from Lucius.
“It’s okay, he’s down. We’ve got him.” He took off his necktie and used it to tie Lucius’ hands behind his back.
The Classy Lady ran toward The Classy Alcoholic and threw her arms around him. She rested her face on his chest as she caught her breath. He could feel her tears seeping through his dress shirt as he held onto her tightly. His cheek grazed the top of her head and he could still smell the slightest hint of her perfume that didn’t get drowned out by her perspiration. She didn’t need any perfume, though. Her natural smell was intoxicating.
She looked up at him and put her hands on his cheeks. She smiled through the tear streaks and slowly moved her face closer to his. His heart was beating faster than it had the entire day. Just before their lips touched she whispered…
“I love you, Mr. Classy.”
They kissed for what felt like hours while Lucius writhed around the floor right next to them, cursing to himself and bleeding.
“I love you too, Ms. Classy.”
Lennix burst into the Burning Tree Cellars tasting room flanked by FBI agents in flak jackets. He saw The Classy Couple kissing and smiled.
“About fucking time, kid! Nice work catching this cholo dude. He and Jencarlos are gonna tell us how to find Romeo if they know what’s good for them.”
“Actually, Lennix,” The Classy Lady said, “I know where Romeo’s gonna be later today. I overheard the two of them talking. Mr. Classy, do you mind if I give Lennix the info really quick?”
“Not at all. You go ahead, I’m gonna grab another sip of that wine.”
He kissed her forehead and slowly ran his hands from the small of her back around to her waist before he walked away. He picked up what was left of the Impressionist wine bottle and poured himself another glass. Two agents wrapped Lucius’ leg wound and guided him outside, in real handcuffs by then. The Classy Alcoholic raised his glass and gave Lucius a wink. Lennix and The Classy Lady walked over to him.
“Thanks for ruining my vacation, Mr. Classy,” Lennix said sarcastically. “But I’m glad the two of you are okay. The agents here want me to join the raid to bring Romeo in so I’ll be out of commission for a little bit. But I got a room at the Iron Horse Inn down the block that I’m not gonna get to use. I think the two of you could use a place to relax after everything that happened today.”
Lennix reached into his pocket and handed the room key to The Classy Lady.
“Wow, that’s very generous of you, Lennix,” she said. “You’re a good guy. Even if you do look like a reject from a Buena Vista Social Club cover band that only plays casinos on weeknights.”
“Fuck you, Ms. Classy.”
“Fuck you too, Lennix. And thank you. For everything.”
“Hey, you might want to keep this.” Lennix handed her Lucius’ butterfly knife. “It saved your life. I don’t know about you but when something saves my life I make sure to keep it around for a while. It’ll bring you good luck. Right, Mr. Classy?”
“Oh shit, I still have those diamonds in my pocket,” The Classy Alcoholic said. “I assume you want them back?”
“Yeah but I’ll grab them from you tomorrow. I need to start working on this raid immediately. I’ll tell the people in charge the diamonds are with someone I trust with my life.”
The Classy Couple left the scene and went to their room at the Iron Horse Inn on Main Street. They hung the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, turned off the lights and closed the curtains to block out as much natural light as possible. They made love. And The Classy Alcoholic was, like, super fucking good at it. Seriously, he was a total badass. He crushed that shit. If his ex-girlfriends tell you anything different they’re lying ‘cause they’re just jealous. Obviously.
Anyway, the couple laid in bed afterwards talking for hours. They shared stories about their jobs, their childhood experiences and the fact that both their dads had the same serious, cocaine-fueled anger issues. The Classy Alcoholic pressed his forehead against The Lady’s while they talked and laughed. His eyelids started to grow heavy.
“So what’s next for Arizona’s #1 beer and wine blogger?” She asked. “How are you gonna top an adventure like this?”
“Honestly, I’m not thinking about any of that right now. All I’m thinking is how much I want to stay in this moment for as long as possible.”
“You’re not planning on writing any of this down?”
“I’m not. I don’t want to share this with anyone else. This moment is just for us.”
The Classy Lady noticed he was having trouble keeping his eyes open.
“You’re about to crash, babe. You should get some sleep.”
“But I don’t want to leave you.”
“You won’t. I won’t let you. I’ll be right here by your side the whole time. And I’ll be here when you wake up. I love you, Mr. Classy.”
“I love you too, Ms. Classy.”
He closed his eyes. It was a long time since he felt this relaxed.
The Classy Alcoholic’s cell phone went off. The “It’s Raining Men” ringtone echoed through the hotel room. He woke up and flailed for the phone on the nightstand and put it up to his half-asleep face. The clock radio on the nightstand said it was almost midnight.
“Hurrr-awuzzdit?” he slurred into the phone.
“Classy, it’s Lennix. Sorry to interrupt your sexy time but I need to talk to The Classy Lady.” The Classy Alcoholic rolled over in bed and realized the spot next to him was empty. “She gave me a location just past Cornville where Romeo was gonna be at midnight but there’s nothing here. It’s basically empty desert. I need to double check the location with her.”
The Classy Alcoholic got out of bed and turned on the lights. The bathroom door was open and The Lady wasn’t in there either.
“Lennix, she’s not in here.” He rubbed his eyes and looked around the room once he adjusted to the light.
“What do you mean? Where is she?”
The Classy Lady’s clothes were gone. They were all over the floor before the two of them got into bed together. His suit jacket was still hanging on the chair, right where he had left it. There was a small desk in the hotel room up against the wall. The Lady’s cell phone was on top of it. He got closer…
“Shit. Lennix, her clothes and purse are gone. She took everything except her cell phone. It’s on the desk but…but it’s smashed. The screen is destroyed and it doesn’t turn on.”
“No. Please, don’t tell me that, Classy.”
The Classy Alcoholic reached slowly into the suit jacket pocket where he was keeping the diamonds. His hand started shaking. He knew exactly what he was going to find but for a brief second he hoped he was wrong. He didn’t want it to be true…
The pocket was empty.
“FUCK! Lennix, the diamonds are gone! She must’ve taken them. She played us. She played me! Getting close to me was just a fucking ruse!”
“Calm down, Classy! We have to figure out where she is. Did she say anything that could lead us to her?”
The Classy Alcoholic tried to think back to their conversations. They talked for hours. She said all kinds of shit. He tried to focus but his anger was clouding his memory. All he could think was that he needed a drink to calm down his thoughts. He needed wine. He needed beer. He needed…
He remembered Lucius. He remembered what Lucius said earlier about meeting with Romeo.
This is why I took that delivery job for Jencarlos and Romeo. Hell, I was even gonna meet Romeo in person tonight at that brewery which he likes.
During his travels for the blog The Classy Alcoholic went to the town of Pine, about two hours northeast of Phoenix. He visited a place called THAT Brewery. He remembered that THAT had another facility in Cottonwood where they did a large portion of their brewing and their canning. Lucius didn’t mean he was going to “a brewery.”
“Lennix, I know where Romeo is. He’s at THAT Brewery!”
“I told you. THAT Brewery.”
“Yeah but what’s it called?”
“What’s what called?”
“Yes. Exactly. THAT Brewery.”
“Look, I’ll text you the address. The place is less than ten minutes away from me by car. I’ll meet you there.”
“Woah, hold on, I’m kinda far outside of Cottonwood, Classy. There’s no way I can be there in ten minutes.”
“Then you’d better hit the sirens and drive fast. The Classy Lady probably told you to be where you are at midnight because she’s meeting Romeo at the same time on the opposite side of town. I need to find her.”
“Wait, Classy, don’t-”
He hung up the call. He put on his suit and pocket square and left the hotel to find his car. He drove away from Main Street and headed toward THAT Brewery. He spent most of the day chasing after The Classy Lady. Now, more than ever, he was ready to finally catch her.
To be concluded…