Page 3 of 23

Premiere Night

Ryūki agreed to keep tabs on Joji but insisted that the show must go on. So it did. The following week was the premiere night. The networks greenlit the show and Grigsby was getting everything prepared for the U.S. debut of the Very Ferry Game Show. Joji had spent several hours trying on new neon colored suits. Grigsby watched him from the bridge while smoking a cigar.

“How can a swashbuckling wimp like Joji be a gangster?” Grigsby asked Ira. He was reviewing insurance estimates for covering the show’s dangerous obstacles. “Ira?”

“What? Grigs, I don’t know, don’t piss him off tonight. He cannot know that we’re on to him.”

Grigsby pouted and ate some chocolate cake that Bunny made his team. The double fudge layers made him smile. It was no Baked Alaska, his favorite, but it still tasted glorious.

“How the insurance looking? We covered?” Grigsby asked.
“Almost…I think, I think we’re going to be okay. If someone dies were screwed. But maimed or burned, we’re covered.”
“Good. You, sir, get a nice piece of cake!” Grigsby slid a plate across the table which knocked all the papers down.
“Dammit Grigsby!”
“Sorry. I got excited. Forget that stuff, we’ll deal with it later. Take your cake and come with me. We need to get ready for the premiere.”

Grigsby didn’t know what hell waited for him tonight.


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Yakuza

Ryūki pushed his hair back and exhaled, “I saw Joji during a wardrobe change. His tattoos are tebori style, the Japanese way, no gun, only wood and metal rods. I saw the designs, one is an Oni Mask, the demon.” Ira handed Ryūki some water.

“What does this all mean Ryūki?”
Ryūki finished his water in a single gulp, “Joji is Yakuza.”
“The Japanese Mafia?” Ira asked.
“Keep your voice down.” Ryūki said, “Yes. They’re horrible people.”
“Where is he now?” Grigsby asked.
“On the rear deck. They’re filming the Dolphin, ping-pong and banana obstacle course.”
Grigsby pounded the table, “Dammit, that’s my favorite obstacle.”

Ryūki walked over toward the small bar Grigsby setup. He opened the humidor and removed a false floor from the bottom. It contained a silver sub-compact revolver.

“Jesus, do you have guns hidden everywhere?” Grigsby asked.
“Take this,” Ryūki said, handing Grigsby the gun.
“I’m not John Wilkes Booth,”
“Take it.”
Grigsby pocketed the gun and looked at Ira. “I thought you vetted this guy?”

Ira was staring at the small TV screen watching the contestants catch ping pong balls shot out by Dolphins.

“Ira!”
“Sorry, yes we vetted him. Clearly it’s a pseudonym. And the Tokyo investors we’re tied up with must also be connected with the Yakuza.”
“Terrific, I got a flamboyant Tony Soprano running my game show.” Grigsby stood and looked at the TV. The contestants were now inside a plastic tank that was gushing with seawater and they’re trying to stuff bananas in the holes to prevent themselves from drowning. “What a mess.”

Ira looked at Ryūki, “What should we do?”
Ryūki considered this in silence for a long time, “We wait. Study him and when the time’s right, we’ll strike.”


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Fearless

Filming went on for six days without a hitch. Their new filming location off the coast of Connecticut offered suitable privacy. The coast guard, however, did stop by after reports of strange goat noises coming from the ship. Ira assured them there are no farm animals aboard. Grigsby felt there was enough sample footage to make the networks happy. His goal is to have the game show on 3 prime time slots.

After a full day of negotiating from the deck of the ferry, every network agreed to air the show. The key selling point is the live capability Grigsby presented. Although, one network asked if there were limits to viewers requests.

“Limits?” Grigsby asked into the speaker phone.
“Well aren’t your contestants fearful of odd or dangerous requests?” the executive answered.
“My contestants are fearless.”
“Fair enough…okay Grigsby, we’ll give you Tuesday nights at 8 pm.”
Grigsby popped champagne with one hand, the cork nearly blinded Ira. “Thanks, Benjamin, looking forward to doing business with you.” Grigsby hung up and poured champagne flutes for Ira and himself.

Hurried footsteps sounded and Grigsby turned to see Ryūki hustling toward him.

“We under attack?” Grigsby chuckled.
“No,” Ryūki said trying to catch his breath, “We got a problem,” Ryūki sipped more air into his lungs, “It’s Joji. It’s serious.”


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Participation Award

The two policemen woke up at once. The heavier one reached for his pistol but Grigsby calmed him down. The bright stage lights were blinding them, Grigsby gave the signal to dim them. The Very Ferry theme song faded with the lights. Soon the police saw what lain around them, dozens of pink energy drink cans.

The heavyset one stood up and puffed out his cheeks. Cupping his mouth he ran for the starboard side of the ferry and vomited overboard. Grigsby was happy the man had the decency to do that off of the ferry. The policeman, now pale, lumbered back to his seat. His partner looked at him, then at Grigsby.

“I don’t know what happened but you’re all under arrest.” he said.
“What? You two volunteered to be in the show. It was a chugging contest and you both crushed it.” Grigsby said, acting aloof. The cops looked at each other. Grigsby continued to tell a surprisingly detailed description of the fictitious events. Ryūki came down from the bridge and handed the police a gold trophy which was a unicorn piloting a flaming ferry. Ryūki pretended not to know English and disappeared.

“You’re both winners!” Grigsby declared. Confetti flared in the air and bikini clad models in sailor hats came running over to them for a fake photo shoot. Grigsby feels models in sailor hats are the anger antidote for men. It seemed to work, soon the police were making poses and high-fiving. Ira came over and showed them back to their police boat and they motored away.

Ira, Grigsby and Ryūki returned to the bridge. Grigsby brushed his hands through his hair and exhaled loudly. “Jesus what a clusterfuck.” His friends nodded. “Let’s get the hell out of here. I’ve charted a course to the Sound. We’ll anchor off of the coast of Fairfield, Connecticut, where medicated housewives and depraved trust fund babies run wild.”

The ferry hauled up its anchors and motored by Lady Liberty. She looked warm in the evening light. A cool breeze swept over the deck and brought hints of trash and fuel scents from Staten Island. Soon they made it out to the Sound with the Gotham skyline shimmering aft in distance. Skyscraper windows were pinpricks like stars across a black sky.


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Salty Actors

Grigsby and Ira looked down at the two unconscious NYPD officers. Their skin was hot pink like the Japanese energy drink cans they drank.

“Are they glowing?” Ira asked.
Grigsby nodded and picked up the can to examine it. “Joji, what does all this Japanese writing say?”
Joji squinted at the character and mumbled. “Can cause seizures and sedation.”

Ira looked down at the ferry floor where contestants were looking for their hypeman. He told Joji to get down there and ensure no one comes up to the bridge. Ira paced around the room trying to think about what to do with the police.

“Okay we can wait for them to wake up naturally and then explain what happened, they should—”

“That’ll take all night, we’re running out of time to film. Here’s what you can do.” Grigsby paused and picked up his radio, “Ryūki get to the bridge stat.”

Twenty seconds later the door opened. Ryūki noticed the unconscious police offers and didn’t flinch.

“First, have Joji send all the cameramen and contestants in the ship’s hold below deck.” Grigsby said. Ryūki radioed Joji’s earpiece and told him Grigsby’s orders. It took a few minutes to get everyone below deck.

“We’re clear,” Ira said looking out the windows.

Grigsby smirked, “Good, okay boys, let’s load New York’s finest on stage.”

After some backbreaking work, the three men were able to prop up the police officers into chairs on stage. Grigsby tossed the empty cans at their feet and began opening more energy drinks and dumping the contents into the water. Moments later there were dozens of empty cans surrounding the snoozing officers. They looked like two frat boys during welcome week at Rutgers.

“Ryūki, go into my golf bag and get some smelling salts,” Grigsby said.

“Why do you have those?” Ira asked.

Grigsby looked around, “It helps my golf game and keeps me awake during boring meetings, like at your firm.”

Ryūki returned and handed the smelling salts over. Grigsby fired up the lights to the stage. “It’s showtime!” Grigsby shouted. He walked over to the policemen and began to open the salts. Grigsby didn’t expect what happened next.


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Anti-Energy Drinks

The NYPD boat pulled along side Grigsby’s ferry. They told the crew to stop filming from the PA system upon their approach, some officers had rifles in hand. Grigsby told Ira he wished they were aboard during the Somalian pirate raid a few months ago.

Two officers climbed aboard and pushed away a fledgling production assistant who held a clipboard. The officers looked more like soldiers than the typical pudgy city cop. They were broad shouldered athletes holding rifles. The officers wondered why some people were running around the deck and others laughing hysterical.

“Eh! Settle down you bunch of morons.” The cop called out, “Who’s in charge here?”

Joji came running toward the cops and introduced himself as the lead man. The cops both laughed and asked if his boss was aboard. Disgruntled and embarrassed, Joji lead the policemen to the bridge. The cops opened the door without knocking. Grigsby and Ira were watching reruns of the game show.

“Uh oh,” Grigsby said, “Serpico’s here.”

The statement didn’t start things out on the right foot. Ira cooled the police officers down. “Can we get you something to drink?” Ira asked as he opened up the cooler. “We have…” Ira sifted through the ice and only found the Japanese energy drinks. “Soda from Japan.”

The two officers looked at each other and shrugged, “Sure.” One said. Ira handed them the pink cold cans. Joji thought to warn them but still felt dejected so he stayed silent.

One officer looked at the small English writing, “Very Ferry Mango Merry?”

Grigsby shrugged. After a few sips, the officers spoke to Grigsby and Ira. They said they could no longer film in the vicinity of the City of New York. A production assistant live streamed today’s filming. The police said the fire and bees are too dangerous.

“You’re going to have to go upriver or out into the Long Island Sound.” The taller officer said, still drinking the energy drink. It smelled of steamy gummy bears.

Ira then spotted a metamorphosis happening, the officer’s skin was turning blotchy red and green, like swelling candy apples. The officers didn’t seem to notice. Grigsby saw the reaction too. “Are they umpa lumpas?” Grigsby whispered.

Then the officers collapsed.


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Golfing at Bees

Filming began at 3 pm and the contestants walked onto the stage holding golf clubs. Grigsby and Ira watched from above inside the bridge of the ship. The theme song began to play, it consisted of 80s digital synthesizer music mixed with explosions and fog horns. Joji ran onto the stage that was adorned with Japanese writings and energy drink sponsors. He cartwheeled toward the microphone and began his shtick.

“Welcome to Very Ferry, the only game show where the body, mind, and spirit is challenged to its maximum limit. We’re filming from the Hudson River today and our contestants will be faced with a dire challenge.”

Ominous digital synth music lured as Joji lowered his voice, “Today contestants will be golfing at that hornet’s nest. There’s only one beekeeper’s suit and the first person to strike the beehive will be allowed to get it. The rest of the contestants must fend for themselves!”

The cameras zoomed in on the contestants who were taking practice swings. They tried to smile but couldn’t settle their nerves, the hornet’s nest was the size of an obese corgi.

Ira leaned over to Grigsby, “Did we test everyone for bee allergies?”
Grigsby’s eyes widened, “I guess we’ll find out.”

Joji counted down and ran for cover at the start. The contestants began lobbing chip shots at the nest. White golfballs sailed through the air and into the river. The clowns seemed the most nervous. Bees must hate clowns too.

“C’mon, c’mon.” Grigsby muttered biting into his cigar.

One woman hadn’t swung for a full minute, she composed herself and had an elegant swing. The Titleist Pro-V1 arched high and sank right into the nest but didn’t fall out. First there was nothing. Then the sound of a thousand desk fans hummed and a black swarm emerged. The woman screamed and pulled on the beekeeper suit while all the other contestants dropped their clubs and scattered.

No one was safe. The clowns leapt overboard. Grigsby and Ira were holding each other laughing uncontrollably. The bee attack lasted for ten full minutes. Joji cheered them on until the bees either died or flew away.

What everyone failed to notice were the blue police lights coming in their direction.


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Meet Joji

Joji’s cigarette boat slowed and approached the ferry. He dressed like a tasteless interior designer from Boca. His wide lapel suit matched the color of his ship’s hull, a terrible burnt orange. Joji’s sweat made his spray tan glisten in the sun. He climbed aboard and headed to the bridge to meet Grigsby.

Ira nudged Grigsby when he saw their new hype-man approach. Joji held out his arms like a welcoming drug kingpin.

“Grigsby my dear!” He sang out, “Haven’t seen you since that karaoke duet in Tokyo.”

“Joji, glad you’re here but listen, I have to,” Grigsby paused, “Manage expectations. You cannot be a lunatic, this isn’t your show it’s my show. You’re here to hype up Very Ferry, not Joji.”

Joji tried hiding his displeasure with a faint smile, “Of course Grigsby, I wouldn’t dream of it, let’s get started where’s hair and makeup.”

“Pump the breaks fella, anymore foundation you’d look like one of those clowns. Review this,” Grigsby tossed him a booklet, “It’s the list of obstacles and dangers that may happen.”

Joji looked down below and noticed a team scrapping the charred remains of a mechanical bull and a clown wig into the water. He swallowed his fear and complied with the Connecticut billionaire. Joji asked about the fire but Grigsby only shrugged.

“Get ready Joji, we’re filming in an hour, I need you to give it all you got. The contestants are a little shaken after the mishap with the kerosene and that fucking clown. Anyway, the next obstacle will be fun. It’s going to involve a couple of nine irons and that beehive.” Grigsby pointed at a massive gray hornet’s nest hanging off of a crane from the ferry.

“What’s the plot of the show?” Joji asked.

Grigsby pretended not to hear the hype-man. He found that the less sense the game show makes and the more danger there is, the higher the ratings can be. “If people will watch the Kardashians tweeze their eyebrows and eat Pringles for hours then this show will be a hit. Your only concern should be hyping this up. Go!”

Joji compiled and prepared for the first filming of the game show. He had no idea what terror waited for him.


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Clowns on Fire

Authors note:

This is the start of Book 3, a new story a part of the Grigsby Series. If you’re interested in starting from the beginning, check out Book 1 and Book 2. It’s being developed into a novella and I’ll be giving it away for free to my community. Learn more by emailing me at hi@robertmaisano.com. Now enjoy book 3.


The fire spread faster than anyone anticipated. The relay race seemed to be going smoothly. Footage later proved a clown tripped over a piece of equipment setting the stage ablaze. It wasn’t a good start to the first day of filming Very Ferry, Grigsby’s new game show.

The FDNY wasn’t happy when they arrived. Grigsby shooed them away and motored the ferry further up the Hudson River. The camera crew held onto their equipment and the contestants, three of which were actual clowns, went below to keep warm. The contestants were in prime physical shape, except the clowns. Their regalia didn’t help them either, loose fitting clothing doesn’t bode well on fiery obstacle courses.

Ira came topside to speak to Grigsby. “Grigs, the clown that set the fire has been kicked off the show.”

“Good, he wasn’t cheery enough anyway. What kind of clown does he think he is?” Grigsby said chomping on a cigar.

“Beside the fire, I think we’re doing well. We’re just working out the kinks.” Ira said. He’d been a good sport about this new venture. Grigsby had made a deal with a group of Tokyo businessmen to bring a Japanese game show to the United States. “Ryūki has been a great translator.”

“He better be, it’s his native tongue. Hang on,” Grigsby sounded the fog horn twice at some nearby paddle-boarders. They scurried by and the ferry wake knocked them into the water. They screamed profanities but no one could hear.

“Didn’t Mr. Hayakawa say he’d be sending over a hype-man today? He’s not on the ferry.” Ira asked.

“He’ll be here, just a matter of time. Ryūki’s happy he doesn’t have to host.” Grigsby said.

Grigsby anchored the ferry upriver from the George Washington Bridge. He positioned the ship in a way that if any debris or clowns fell overboard, they’d wash up in New Jersey. As he readied the helm he noticed an orange blur coming toward him.

An orange cigarette boat barreled along like a missile over the surf. Grigsby realized who it was and groaned. Ira asked what was wrong. “Mr. Hayakawa said he’d provide a level-headed hype-man.” Grigsby began powering down the engines. He pointed at the huge cigarette boat approaching, “That’s Joji, our new hype-man, the least subtle person on the planet.”


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Concorde of Elegance

Grigsby embraced Dalia and whispered something in her ear. Ryūki and Ira thanked her and then climbed aboard the Concorde. The French pilots saluted their three passengers and fired up the engines.

Ira had flown on the Concorde when it was in service in the 1990s. This Concorde was different to him. It had couches, a bar, an upright piano and other strange amenities. Grigsby was trying to unlock a humidor and ended jimmying open with a safety pin. He pulled out a cigar, cut it, and lit one.

“Grigs is that an animal pen?” Ira asked.

Grigsby set his cigar down and looked toward the rear of the plane where chicken wire and hay was strewn about. He laughed.

“That’s coach.”

The pilot came on and told everyone to take their seats. The Concorde taxied to the absolute end of the airstrip. The idling exhausts were uprooting small trees. At once the throttle went full tilt and the plane was tearing the Earth apart. Grigsby gazed out the oblong windows and saw Dalia waving. Seconds later they were weightless in flight. The green hills of Kenya shrank below and soon vanished under the clouds. Moments later a sonic boom roared as they broke the sound barrier.

Once they reached cruising altitude Grigsby went over to play the piano. He began with Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor.

“Grigs, where are we heading? Tokyo?” Ira asked.
“No,” Grigsby said without breaking a beat, “We’re going home gentlemen.”


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Page 3 of 23

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