Danny Confesses…

I’m taking the day off and turning things over to my dog, Danny.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Good morning, gentle souls; I am Daniel J. Daniels, Dog Extraordinaire. Most of you will know me by my nom de plume, Danny the Dog. As another great writer (but not as good as me) once said, “A rose by any other name . . .”

danny-xxx
Today I have a smorgasbord of tales to tell. So sit back and relax. Put your feet up, light your favorite pipe, have a glass of wine, or dig into that box of chocolates that has been calling to you—for you are in for a rare treat. Today I am going to confess a few (just a few) of my sins. At least Andrew, my human, refers to them as sins. I say they are only idiosyncrasies. But I’ll let you kind, empathetic, thoughtful, and intelligent folks be the judge.

I think I’ll start off with the longest-running complaint Andrew has about me…

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Black-Haired Beauty

womanWe were in love … so in love. It was summertime, it was the beginning of our lives—it was the end of our lives. She was a black-haired beauty, loving me as no one has ever loved me. The time spent with her was so sweet. Her soul, her smile, her everything … I loved her so much. So it’s funny how things worked out.

Her father did not approve of me; he thought me a loser … not good enough for his daughter. When I came a-calling, he would show his disapproval by addressing me as the bug he thought I was. Never a civil word did I get from him.

But she and I were in love. The old man didn’t matter … nothing mattered. We had each other.

We decided to run away … we were young and so in love.wise-guy-ll

I went to her house that night … that horrible night. She was to be outside waiting for me, but she wasn’t. Instead, her father met me and he had a gun in his hand.

I loved his daughter, and because of that, he pointed the gun at me and squeezed the trigger.

The gun misfired. Without thinking, I took it from him. Without thinking, I turned it and pointed it at him. Without thinking, I killed him. The weapon did not misfire for me. Although I wish it had.

Now I  await my execution. I sit in a prison cell and every day I think of my black-haired beauty. And what might have been.

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#FreeBook, blog awards, and other failures #humor, #SundayBlogShare

Here again, one of my favourite bloggers.

Barb Taub

No, seriously—you really should not have.

I'm so proud to dedicate my life to blogging. And whirled peas. I’m so proud to dedicate my life to blogging. And whirled peas.

It seems to come in waves, but lately I’ve received a number of shoutouts/awards from lovely, wonderful, and (obviously!) perceptive readers. You shouldn’t have.  As I explained here, I’m not allowed to get blog awards. In addition to the reasons listed there, I’m absolute rubbish at responding, pathologically unable to come up with interesting things to put into the questions I’m supposed to answer, and (even if I could) criminally slow about doing so.

Take this fun blog idea that came my way via Terry Tyler and Shelley Wilson. [Check out their posts if you want to see how to properly respond to invites with grace and nonstop entertainment.]

See what I mean?

Whoa? You’re back already? Okay, well… I’ll give it a shot, but mostly for deeply selfish goals. You…

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Kelly

kelly lllHowdy, the name’s Jim Bridger and I’ve got me a story to tell. It ain’t no shoot ‘em up western tale, though it does take place in the west. It ain’t no detective yarn, though something is found. And it sure as hell ain’t no love story, though a love blossoms. I reckon I best be gettin’ to it.

I rode the rodeo circuit all my life, started out as a snot-nosed kid handling stock. Then I was given a chance to break horses for the promoter I worked for. And I was pretty damn good at it. So I saved up the fee and entered myself in the bronco event when we set up in Salinas. I came in second and that was all she wrote. With the prize money, I bought myself a pickup truck and started to follow the circuit. I was never the best, but I made out all right. It wasn’t long before I was entering other events. I was particular to bull riding and steer wrestling. Of course, I had to do chute dogging first to prove myself before I could do any steer wrestling.

I broke my fair share of bones, and nowadays when I wake up in the morning, it takes me ’bout an hour to work out all the kinks before I can walk straight up. I never had no social life. It was just movin’ from town to town, mostly sleeping in my truck. I reckon the only thing I was ever close to was my horse, a gray dun that I had named Tex. I had to put him down five years back when he got the colic.

When all the broken bones and the other abuse I had put my body through finally caught up with me and I couldn’t compete no more, I became a rodeo clown. Then even that became too much for my old bones. I was offered a job handling stock, but that was where I started out thirty years earlier. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I hit the road in my twenty-year-old pickup looking for something, although I had no idea what. I was fifty-five-years old, had a hundred and twenty dollars in my pocket and a half a tank of gas in my truck.

I picked up day labor here and there. It kept me fed and gas in my truck, but one Sunday morning, a year after leaving the rodeo, I found myself out of gas, out of money, and out of hope. There was a gnawin’ in my stomach. I hadn’t eaten in a day. I was outside of Blythe, California, just across from the Arizona line.

The truck coasted to a stop and I looked about. The country looked as desolate as my spirits felt. There was only one building that I could see; it looked like a small farmhouse, but then I noticed the sign. It read: KATE ARCHER, VETERINARIAN. With nothing to lose, I decided to go up and ask to trade some work for a meal. It being Sunday and all, I figured no one would be about, but it was my only option.

As I approached the house, my heart sank. It was in disrepair; it looked as though no one had lived in it for a while. Then I saw the corral. There was a single horse in it, a skinny pinto. I knocked on the back door, which was immediately opened by a woman of about fifty.

“Yes?” she asked.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry to disturb you on a Sunday mornin’, but I was wonderin’ if you might have some work that needs doing in exchange for a meal?”

She took so long to say something, I thought she was gonna slam the door in my face. But finally she told me to come in, that she was just fixin’ breakfast.

“Ma’am, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather do the work first.”

She smiled and said, “I can tell you’re hungry, and a man can’t work on an empty stomach. God knows there’s plenty that needs doing, so don’t worry, you’ll earn your meal.” Then she stood aside so that I could enter.

While she busied herself at the stove, I sat at the kitchen table and we introduced ourselves. Her name was Kate Archer, and she was a veterinarian as the sign had suggested. We made small talk until the food was ready. Nothing never looked so good. As I shoveled eggs and bacon into my mouth, Kate said that it was good to see a man enjoy her cooking.

The short of it is, Kate told me there were some shingles that needed replacin’ on the roof, and that there were a stack of ’em in the lean-to out back. I thanked her for the grub, found the ladder and shingles and got to work. Four hours later, just as I was finishing up, she called me down to lunch.

While we were eating, she asked, “So, what are your plans?”

“Reckon when I git done with this here fine food, I’ll walk into town and look for work.”

She looked shocked and asked, “You’ll walk to town? Don’t you have a car?”

“I’ve got a truck, but it’s kinda outta gas.”

Then she wanted to know what kind of work I did.

“Whatever needs doin’. ’Ceptin’ I don’t do no doctorin’ of animals, nothing like that.”

She smiled at my little joke and said, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a lot of work that needs doing right here. I can’t pay much, but I’ll feed you and you can sleep in the lean-to.”

I didn’t have to think on it long.

I pushed my truck into the yard, put my kit in the lean-to, then went up to the kitchen door and knocked. When she opened it, I said, “All moved in, ma’am. What do you want me to tackle first?”

“First, I want you to call me Kate. Then I want you to get comfortable. That lean-to needs some fixing up if you’re going to live in it. So why don’t you work on that for now. At dinner I’ll give you a list of things to get started on and you can get to them in the morning. It’s Sunday after all, a day of rest.”

That’s how it started. There were always things that needed looking after, both inside the house and out. And somehow, I just never left. But after almost two years, I had the place looking pretty good and a few dollars in my pocket, so I reckoned it was time to move on.

Generally Kate was gone during the day making her rounds. So I was alone out back at the corral replacing a cracked board when Kelly trotted into my life. She was a black mustang . . . not much more than a foal. Of course her name wasn’t Kelly then. She was just a scrawny little filly looking the worse for wear. I gave her water and some oats and put her in the corral, then went about my work.

When Kate got back that night, a troubled look crossed her face. I was rubbing the mustang down in the lean-to and talking to her gently. “Hello,” said Kate. “How did she get here?”

I was startled for I had not heard her drive up, probably because all my attention was on the mustang. But I recovered quickly and answered her question. “I don’t know how she got here. She just came into the yard, trotted right up and nuzzled me. I think it was love at first sight on both our parts.”

“Well, we have a problem. That horse belongs to John Middleton and he’s not a very nice man. It’s likely when he learns she’s here, he’ll swear you stole her and have the law on you.”

I stopped rubbing the mustang and said, “Hang John Middleton! This horse has been mistreated and if I ever meet up with the man, I’ll beat the tar outta him. This horse goes back to him over my dead body.”

Kate sighed and said, “Put her in the corral and come inside. We’ll talk about it.”

As I sat down at the table, a name flashed in my head. KELLY!

Kate made us a drink of bourbon and water and sat down opposite me. “Jim, we’ll talk about the horse in a minute. But first I want to talk about us.” She saw that I was uncomfortable, so she hurried on. “You’ve been making noises over the last few weeks about leaving. I just want to ask you, aren’t you happy here?”

I sipped my whiskey and told her the truth. “Kate, when I showed up at your door, I was a broken man. I didn’t have a dime to my name and my prospects were zero. You fed me and housed me. For two years now, this has been my home. The only home I’ve ever known. I never told you, but I was an orphan. I ran away from the place at seventeen, and in all these years, you are the only person that showed me any kindness.”

I noticed that my glass was empty and stood to pour me another shot. Seeing her glass was still half full, I sat back down and continued. “I can’t stay here. If I do, I won’t have no self-respect. There’s no work here anymore.”

Kate sighed, downed her drink in one gulp, and said, “Make yourself useful. Pour me another one, no water this time.”

When I handed her the drink, she put it down, leaned back in her chair, and stared at me for a long minute. She shook her head before saying, “Now you listen here, Mister Jim Bridger. This place was worthless until you showed up. It’s now worth three times what it was. You work all day and then if I have a night call, you drive me. You have a way with animals. There were many a time if you had not been there to calm a sick and scared horse, I might have been trampled. I figure you earned your way into a partnership. And I dare you to say otherwise!” With that she downed the entire contents of her glass.

I didn’t know what to say. I’ve never seen her like that, I mean angry. She stood up and retrieved the bottle from the counter, saying, “This will save steps because we’re not leaving this table until we work things out.”

There was nothing to say to that neither, so I sat there with my mouth shut. But Kate sure had more to say. “For two years now, every single day we’ve eaten our meals together. We go shopping together. We talk on the porch in the cool of the evening. And not once, Jim Bridger, have you ever made a move on me. What’s wrong with me? You make a girl feel unattractive.”

She was so wrong. I thought her the most beautiful woman in the world, at least to me. There were many a night I lay in my bed and I thought of her. How I wanted to say something to let her know how I felt. But a man with nothing has no right to speak of such things to a woman.

There we sat, across the table from each other, neither one of us speaking. Then Kate got up, came over, and plopped herself right down on my lap. She put her arms around my neck and gave me the longest, deepest kiss I’ve ever had. It took me a few seconds, but then I returned it.

When we broke apart, she said, “Now that we have that settled, go get your things and move them into our bedroom.”

“I will. As soon as you get up off my lap.” She laughed and told me that she might not ever get up.

With her arms still around my neck, I asked her what we were going to do about Kelly. Kate tilted her head sideways and said, “Kelly?”

“The filly out in the corral.”

“Oh yes, her. Middleton is a son-of-a-bitch, but he owes me money. I’ll tell him I’m taking the horse as payment. If he gives me any trouble, I’ll report him for animal cruelty. What is her name again?”

“Kelly.”

“A nice name.”

That was the day I got me two first-class fillies. A year later, we sold the house, Kate sold her practice, and together with Kelly, we moved to Montana. We bought a small cabin and I built a heated barn for Kelly.

Now when it snows, Kelly is content in her barn. And Kate and I are content in each other’s arms.

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Good-Bye Miami

lovers

For the first time in my life, I’m in love. And I think she feels the same about me. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we may have to break up … sort of. Shit happens. Allow me to explain.

Her name is Jill; we met early on a Sunday morning. I was jogging along the beach at the water’s edge one minute, and the next I was splayed out in the sand. I had tripped over a woman’s recumbent body.

After the requisite apologies, we started talking. One thing led to another and we ended up having lunch together. That was eight months ago and we’ve barely been out of each other’s sight since.

Today is another Sunday much like the one when Jill and I met, but things are a little different now.

I’m an FBI agent assigned to the Miami Field Office. I was awakened at five o’clock this morning with an urgent phone call to report in immediately. There was a terrorist threat. Hell, this was the granddaddy of all threats. At 4:00 a.m., a local television station received a call stating that there was a nuclear bomb planted within the city, and at exactly 4:00 p.m., it would explode unless certain demands were met. The caller said there was a package sitting in the parking lot of the North Miami office of the FBI that would authenticate the threat.

It turned out to be a small nuclear bomb, which is also known as a suitcase bomb. An attached note informed us it was exactly like the one planted in downtown Miami. It also stated that if there was any effort to evacuate the populace, the bomb would be detonated the instant word hit the media.

Every law enforcement officer—city, state, and federal—was called in. We were given gadgets that register radiation, and all personnel were assigned grids. Each person would drive his or her grid. If the meter went off, a team would be dispatched with equipment to pinpoint the emanations. Then the eggheads would dismantle the bomb.

That was the plan.

We were ordered to tell no one of the threat, but there were many surreptitious phone calls made that morning, telling family members to drive to West Palm Beach for the day. I made my own call, telling Jill that I had planned a romantic day for the two of us and asked if she would meet me in Boca Raton. I gave her the name of the hotel where I had made a reservation before calling her and said I’d be there in the early afternoon. She readily agreed, and now I know that she is safe.

So here it is nearing four o’clock and we’ll soon see if it was a hoax or not. The clock on the dashboard reads 3:59 … 4:00 … 4:01 … 4:02. Nothing! I’ll be damned, the whole thing was a . . .

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The Case of the Purloined Goldfish

This little tale is a sequel to yesterday’s story, How I Became a Detective. I hate to leave loose ends lying about, or whatever the metaphor is.

 

goldfish

 

The Case of the Purloined Goldfish

The call came in at 2:35 on a Friday afternoon. My partner and I were jawboning about the up and coming weekend. My partner, Carl Peterson, has been a detective for forty years or so, both as a cop and private. Me, my name’s Herbert Walker. I’ve been a PI for a little over two years.

So there we were, in our office above the hardware store, talking about our big weekend plans. Carl said he was going to work over the weekend, going through the internet to try to run down a skip-trace we were working on. That wasn’t unusual, him working weekends and nights. He told me that, at his age, he has forgone the pleasures of the flesh. Or to put it in his words, “I’ve given up on women. The ones that would be interested in me are either buried or comatose.” Carl is seventy-two years old.

He asked me what hot spot I was going to hit that night. Of course, he was kidding me. Carl knew I was shy around women. I’m thirty-five years old, and though I’ve had a few dates now and again, I just don’t know how to talk to women. I don’t think I’m too bad looking. Many times I’m complimented on my blue eyes or my smile, but when that happens, I blush and murmur a weak “thank you” and then scurry home to lose myself in a good detective yarn.

When the phone rang, Carl grabbed it. His end of the conversation went something like this: “Private Investigations, Inc. (the name of our agency). May I help you? Yes … yes … no … you want my partner. Please hold a minute.”

Putting his hand over the mouthpiece, he thrust the receiver in my direction and said, “It’s some woman, she wants the genius that solved the McNally murder.” He was referring to our first case in which I got lucky and caught the murderer of our client.

Taking the phone I said, “Herbert Walker speaking. May I help you?”

“You most certainly may if you are the young man I saw on television.” To my never-ending chagrin, I had allowed myself to be interviewed by the local television stations once the case broke wide open. I’m still embarrassed about that, but Carl told me it was good for business.

When I assured the caller that I indeed was the person she was seeking, she asked if I could come and see her right away. “I’ve got a mystery on my hands and I’m sure you are the only one to solve it.”

I asked her name. “I’m Mrs. Gerald Lawless.”

I asked what her problem was. “I don’t want to go into it over the phone. You never know who might be listening in.” Obviously, I wasn’t the only one reading too many detective novels.

Seeing as how things were slow and I was thinking of cutting out early, I wrote down the woman’s address and told her I was on my way. When I hung up and showed the address to Carl, he said, “That’s a ritzy neighborhood. Don’t give her no discount. She can afford to pay the full ticket. Now get out of here, I’ve got work to do.”

That’s Carl, always looking out for our business. If it was up to me, we’d be charging fifty dollars a day, plus expenses. If it was good enough for Philip Marlowe, then it ought to be good enough for Walker and Peterson.

As I drove east toward Mrs. Lawless’ house, I thought it wouldn’t be so bad if I had a date that night. I love to read, detective stories in particular. But, on a Friday or Saturday night, it can get a bit lonesome thinking of the revelry going on that I’m not a part of. It was not so much the festivities; it was that I would like to sit and talk with a pretty woman. Tell her of my hopes and dreams and hear of hers. However, it didn’t seem to be in the cards for me in this life. So, as I drove, I mentally shrugged and wondered what Mrs. Lawless had in store for me. As it played out, she turned my life upside down—indirectly, that is.

When I arrived, I could not see the house for the tropical foliage, and my ingress was hindered by a large wrought-iron gate blocking the driveway. Looking to my left, I perceived what looked like a call box, decided it was, and pushed the button affixed thereon. After a minute, I was rewarded with a response. “Yes, what is it?” Not a warm response, but a response nevertheless.

“My name is Herbert Walker. Mrs. Lawless is expecting me.”

There were no further words from the box, but the gates swung inward and I proceeded forward. The driveway wasn’t long, and after about a hundred feet, it curved to the left where the house came into view. It was a modest affair, considering the neighborhood. There was a massive Cadillac SUV and an older Toyota parked in front. I pulled my heap next to the Toyota so it wouldn’t look so out of place.

As I made my way to the front door, I passed a small cement pond filled with goldfish. I dallied for a moment. I hadn’t seen a goldfish pond since I was a kid, and it evoked pleasant reminiscences of a bygone youth. Leaving my memories at the pond, I continued on. Before I could reach my objective, the front door opened and there stood an angel—an angel with a scowl on her face. She wasn’t beautiful in the modern super-model sort of way. But she was beautiful in the old-fashioned Norman Rockwell sort of way, which to me is the better of the two.

She had fair hair, green eyes, and if she would smile, I’m sure that too would be beautiful. From the bottom up, she wore high heels, tight-fitting slacks (if that is what they still call women’s pants) and a blouse (ditto). She was a couple of inches shorter than me, and I judged her to be about thirty-years old. I was so enthralled—no, enchanted would be a better word to describe my state of mind—that I stood there like the idiot that I am, with my mouth hanging open.

That’s about the time my angel said, “If you’re coming in. then come in. We’re letting the air-conditioning out.”

Without an avenue of retreat, I shut my mouth and entered the house, where once again I balled things up. “Mrs. Lawless, I’m Herbert Walker.”

“I know who you are. You announced yourself at the gate. And I’m not Mrs. Lawless. Just follow me, please, and I’ll take you to her.”

Without waiting for a reply, she turned and started down a hallway, with me in fast pursuit as her heels clicked on the Italian tiles. After a few steps, she abruptly came to a halt, so abruptly that I collided with her. Before I could manage an inept apology, she turned to me and in a soft, sweet tone said, “I’m sorry. I’m having a horrible day. Something has happened and through no fault of my own, it may cost me my job. So please forgive my actions up till now.” She stuck out her dainty little hand and asked, “Friends?”

Of course, we’re friends! Friends for life, is what I thought. However, I said only, “Sure,” as I took her hand and shook it. Though what I really wanted to do was pull her to me and kiss her. She had that kind of effect on me.

Before we could resume our trek, we were accosted by a young boy holding a model B-29 bomber. Making engine noises, he ran toward us; at the last possible moment before running into us, he did a pivot any NFL halfback would have been proud of and returned from whence he came. My guide informed me, “That’s Mrs. Lawless’ grandson. Sometimes he can be a handful.”

We finally made it to a room, a room that in my mind I called “The White Room.” The carpet was white without a stain upon it. There was a long sofa, white of course. And three chairs were situated in front of said sofa. Anyone want to bet on the color of the chairs? Between the sofa and the chairs was a coffee table that looked as though it was made of ebony. It was the only thing of color in the entire room. Opposite the sofa was a fireplace of white brick. It didn’t look like there had been any recent fires because there was no discernible soot. I thought: No respectable soot would dare show itself in this white, pristine room.

My escort told me to sit and make myself comfortable and that Mrs. Lawless would be with me presently. Before she left, I wanted to ask her name. But, as usual, I became tongue-tied and all I could manage was an ineffective “Thank you.”

A short while later, an elderly woman came in and announced, “I’m Mrs. Lawless, but my friends call me Jessie. Now sit down, young man. (I had stood upon her arrival.) I’m a tough old broad, no need for any of that stuff with me.” I liked her right away.

As we settled ourselves, she asked if I would like some tea. Tea? Where were we? In some Agatha Christie story? I declined the tea and asked her what her difficulty was.

“Well, it’s a complicated situation. You see, if my suspicions are correct, it can only mean that someone I brought to my bosom has betrayed me.”

Thinking this might be a case I could sink my teeth into, I asked her to continue.

“It’s just this … Mr. … I’m sorry, I seem to have forgotten your name?”

“It’s Walker, ma’am, Herbert Walker.”

“Yes, of course you are. Well, Mr. Walker, someone has stolen my goldfish!”

I liked the old girl, but really, perhaps she had entered her dotage, although I didn’t say as much. I merely said, “I saw the goldfish as I came in.”

For a moment she looked at me as though I might have been from outer space or had two heads. Then a light shone in her countenance and she said, “Oh, I know what you’re talking about. No, the goldfish of which I allude is a gold goldfish. I mean it is made of solid gold and was given to me by my husband on our fifth wedding anniversary. It’s not terribly valuable, maybe a few thousand dollars or so. But its sentimental value to me is priceless.”

I think she sensed that I needed more of an explanation, so she hurriedly added, “I’ll start at the beginning.”

“Yes, please do.”

“Well, first of all, I’m a widow. Jerry, that’s my husband, passed away ten years ago this June.”

I was hoping that I wasn’t going to have to endure a recitation covering the last ten years. I was spared; she got right to the point.

“I kept the goldfish here on the mantel. And when I went to bed last night, it was the last thing I looked at. And this morning when I came into this room it was gone! No one has been in this house except my son and his wife—they’re visiting for a few days—and my assistant. You’ve met her. Her name is Rebecca Myers. I asked her about the goldfish and she says she is as mystified as I am.”

At that juncture, I felt that I had to interject a thought or two. “I saw a small child a while ago.”

“That was my grandchild. His name is Charles; he and his sister are here with their parents. But they cannot reach the mantel. It either has to be my daughter-in-law, her name is Christy, or Rebecca. I know my son would not have taken it. I hate to think it might be Christy, but I have never warmed up to her.”

A question popped into my mind and I gave it voice. “Where are your son and daughter-in-law now?”

“They’re out for the day with Susan, that’s my granddaughter.”

“So you haven’t talked with your daughter-in-law yet about the goldfish?”

“No, not yet.”

It was becoming obvious that this wasn’t a case for a private dick. It was either a police matter or a family matter. I stood to leave, saying, “Why not call your son and ask if he knows where the goldfish is? Perhaps he took it to show someone. I assume they left before you awakened.”

She fidgeted in her seat and said, “I don’t need a detective to tell me that. I’ve already spoken with him and he knows nothing about it. And I do not want the police involved. Though I would like the goldfish back, I’d rather drop the whole thing if you can’t determine who took it. Of course, I’ll have to let Rebecca go. I just can’t take a chance if it was her.”

That last statement put me back in my seat. I couldn’t walk out and let that angel lose her job without at least giving it a shot. So I said, “I’ll speak with Miss Myers, it is Miss, isn’t it?”

“She is not married.”

With relief at that bit of news, I exhaled the breath I did not know I was holding. I continued, “I’ll speak with her and your daughter-in-law and see if I can fathom anything. Does Miss Myers live here?”

“No, she arrives in the morning before I arise and prepares my tea and toast; she has a key to the house.”

“What time do you expect your son and Christy back?”

“Not until dinner time, about seven or so.”

“I’ll speak with Miss Myers now and return at seven. Perhaps you’ll be so kind as to invite me to dinner. I think I can discern more at the dinner table by observing your daughter-in-law as we speak of the missing goldfish, which I assume, will be the main topic of discussion.” I then asked where I might find Miss Myers. I was told she was probably in the study and was given the appropriate directions on how to find it. I left Mrs. Lawless sitting in The White Room looking much like the lady of the manor that she was.

I didn’t think for a minute that Rebecca Myers had taken the dingus, but I had to go through the motions. And besides, I wanted to stand next to her and smell her perfume and look into those green eyes once again.

She was in the study, seated at a desk and going through some papers when I entered. I stood waiting for her to acknowledge my presence. Finally, she turned to me and said, “May I help you with something?”

Feeling awkward, I stammered, “I presume that you know why I was called here. It was to find the dingus, I mean the goldfish. Mrs. Lawless has, in her mind, narrowed it down to you and her daughter-in-law as the likely suspects.”

I had more to say, but interrupted me with, “Do you want to search me? Is that why you are here?

“I very much want to lay my hands on you, but not in that fashion.”

Where in hell did that come from? Did I say that? And if I did, did I say it out loud? And if I did say it out loud can I expect a slap across the face at any moment now? Those were my thoughts as I readied myself for the onslaught, be it physical or verbal.

However, nothing happened. Well, something happened, but not what I expected. She blushed and smiled at the same time. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

I threw caution to the wind (for once in my life) and said, “Oh the hell with it. I just wanted to see you before I left. I know you didn’t take the damn fish and that your job is on the line, so I’m coming back later to see what the daughter-in-law has to say for herself.”

At that point, I had to take a breath. I had spit all those words out like I was firing a machine gun. The words ran so close together, I doubt if she understood half of what I said.

Before I could think of any more inane things to say, she walked over and kissed me on the cheek, saying, “You’re cute.” Then she left the room, leaving me standing there like the mope that I am. I decided it was a good time to take my leave. I made it to the front door without being accosted by precocious children, grand dames, or beautiful assistants.

Once outside, I saw Charles, the grandson, playing with a plastic boat at the goldfish pond. He must have resigned his commission in the Air Force and enlisted in the Navy. Having once been a boy myself, I dawdled to watch as he displayed his maritime skills complete with suitable engine noises.

As I watched him, my eye caught the glint of a small object lying on the bottom of the pond. My attention was drawn to it because of the sunlight reflecting off of it. Removing my coat and rolling up my sleeve, I thrust my hand into the warm, algae-laced water. My fingers grasped what I was after, and lo and behold. I held the dingus in my hand!

Of course, my actions did not go unnoticed by the naval commander, and he asked, “What are you doing with Fred?”

“Fred?” I rejoined. “What do you know of him?”

The little monster proceeded to tell me. “Fred is my friend. He was lonely all by himself and besides, goldfish need water to live.”

“So you put him in the pond?”

He didn’t answer right away; he was intent on discharging depth charges or causing some other sort of mayhem. Eventually, he deigned to answer my query.

“I knew he needed water, so I put him in here this morning while I was waiting for everyone to wake up.” He added, “I don’t think Fred likes being out of the water. Maybe you should put him back in now.”

“Just one more question. How did you get him off the mantel?”

“I dragged a chair over and stood on it.”

Out of the mouths of babes! And I call myself a detective. Assuring Captain Nemo that I would take good care of Fred, I headed back toward the house.

My persistent knocking was finally answered by Rebecca. Keeping Fred firmly enclosed in my hand, I walked past her and went straight to The White Room, leaving her to close the door and follow.

Mrs. Lawless was still there and I presented Fred to her with these words, “Compliments of Private Investigations, Inc. I suggest you ask your grandson how it found its way off the mantel.” As Rebecca entered the room, she heard me say, “The only fee I ask is that you apologize to Miss Myers for having thought her capable of such an act.”

Without waiting for a reply, I turned and left the room, avoiding Rebecca’s eyes. I mean what was the use? She’s beautiful, I’m a klutz, and she wouldn’t want to have anything to do with someone like me.

I made it as far as my car before she caught up with me. “Just a minute, mister. Do think you can pull a girl’s bacon out of the fire and then run away without so much as a by-your-leave?”

I started to say that I was sorry, but she cut me off. “I want you to come to my place tonight so that I can make you dinner. I’m a very good cook by the way. Here.” She handed me a piece of paper that looked as though it had been torn in haste from a notebook. Upon it was an address and phone number. Continuing, she said, “I’ll expect you at eight.”

Being my old idiotic self, I told her that was not necessary and that I was happy to have helped out.

That’s when she raised to her full height and said, “I’m asking you for a date. What happened in there has no bearing on the matter. I had a feeling that if I waited for you to get around to asking, I’d be an old maid. Now don’t disappoint me. I’ll see you at eight.” She turned and quickly reentered the house.

I, of course, stood there with a stupid look on my face, but slowly the dim-witted expression changed into a broad—a very broad—grin. I almost jumped into the air and clicked my heels together.

When I got back to the office, Carl asked me if I had solved the case. He was being facetious. But when I informed him that I had indeed solved it, his manner became business-like and he asked me what fee I had charged. I told him that, for the agency, nothing. But that I personally made a score. He started to say something, but I forestalled further comment by saying, “Carl, old buddy, I think it’s about time I got married.”

On Amazon
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How I Became a Detective

This one you can blame on Barb Taub. She got me to thinking about channeling Raymond Chandler. I tried and failed miserably. But here it is anyway. If you have any bitch, contact her at: https://barbtaub.com/ and leave me out of it.

How I Became a Detective

detectiveMy name is Spade, Sam Spade. Not really … it’s Herbert Walker, and I am a PI, a peeper, a gumshoe, a shamus, a private dick. You know, a private detective, and I work out of Hollywood. No, not that Hollywood; Hollywood, Florida—although sometimes my business will take me as far afield as Fort Lauderdale. It’s just that Sam Spade, along with Philip Marlowe, have been heroes of mine since I was a little boy and first read of their dangerous exploits. I am unmarried and have no dependents. I have always been shy around women, so it was easier to go home after work and read a good detective novel than to go out and try to meet a good woman.

I wasn’t always a detective. I used to be an accountant with Monroe and Monroe until one day the FBI, DEA, and the IRS swept into our offices and led Mr. Monroe, along with the other Mr. Monroe, out in handcuffs. I was told that it was the culmination of a six-month investigation, and it was known that I was “clean.” So I was allowed to go my own way, which at the time was very satisfying news indeed. However, when things had settled down a bit, and I was able to ponder my future, I realized that here I was, thirty-three years old and unemployed. And there was no possibility of a reference, seeing as how both Monroes were being held without bail. I didn’t think a request to see them in their prison cell for the purpose of getting a reference would get me very far. I’m sure they had far more pressing concerns on their minds.

Then it occurred to me that it wasn’t the catastrophe I thought it was. In fact, it was an opportunity to do something I had wanted to do all my life—become a detective. So I went to bed with images of busty blondes and found diamonds dancing in my head as I fell into a restful sleep.

The next morning, I set about fulfilling my dream. My plan was to use my savings to get an office and advertise my services. Then I would just wait for the clients to roll in. However, before I even left the house, I remembered that both Sam and Philip were always being threatened with the loss of their license by some hard-nosed lieutenant on the force. If even back in the 30s and 40s there were detective licenses to be lost, then how much more cumbersome would it be to obtain a license today, considering the paperwork and the prolificacy of hard-nosed lieutenants. I was soon to find out.

Thank God for the internet. From the comfort of my rental apartment, I ascertained the requirements.

They weren’t too rigorous, but it would take a while to comply with them. Like two years! Yes, two years’ experience working for an agency or the college equivalent. And a surety bond! With my meager savings, that was out of my reach. I was in a hurry to start rescuing damsels in distress and taking care of the bad guys. I didn’t have two years to waste. What was I going to do? Bulldog Drummond would not have been dissuaded by these minor obstacles, and neither would I. The state would allow one to work as an investigator without a license as long as it was as an intern at a licensed agency.

Luckily, I was still at my computer. I went to the state database of Private Investigator licenses and made a list of those licenses that had not been renewed and whose last known business addresses were in close proximity to my abode.

I won’t bore you with the details, but I ran down a man who had retired years ago and was living in what we used to call a nursing home. Today they are called Assisted Living Facilities. His name was Carl Peterson.

When I inquired of the young lady at the reception desk if I could see Mr. Peterson, she beamed a hundred-watt smile in my direction and said, “Oh, Mr. Peterson will be so pleased to have company.” She got on the loud speaker and hailed a Miss Sweeny to the front. I was told that Miss Sweeney would escort me to Mr. Peterson and that I could await her arrival in the waiting area off to the right. Thanking her, I left to take up my vigil for Miss Sweeny.

She was a perky young thing, was Miss Sweeney. No more than eighteen and wearing a badge that proclaimed her to be a “Volunteer.” How nice. She zeroed in on me and in a breathless, sexy kind of voice (far too sexy for one of her tender age), she said, “If you will follow me, sir, I’ll take you to Mr. Peterson.”

I was tempted to quote Shakespeare and say, “Lay on McDuff.” But in the end thought better of it. After all, I was champing at the bit to get detecting and did not want to slow things up by explaining to this very nice young lady who William Shakespeare was. As we walked the halls, she told me Mr. Peterson was in the dayroom watching television with his friends.

When we entered the room, dayroom that is, I noticed that some of the inhabitants may have already passed on to the Great Beyond. A few of the conclave looked as though they hadn’t moved in a generation, but that was no concern of mine. I was there on business.

Miss Sweeney walked up to a man slouched in an armchair, not looking at the television that I’m sure had some inane program on, but staring at the blank wall before him. He was wearing pajamas under a bathrobe that was unfastened and hung open. He looked comatose to me, but Miss Sweeney bounced up to him and with a twinkle in her voice and, perky as ever, said, “Mr. Peterson, have I a treat for you! This nice young gentleman has come for a visit.”

If Mr. Peterson thought my visit a treat, he hid it well. Either that or whatever held his interest on the wall was more important to him than my miserable presence. He did not look at the comely Miss Sweeney as he said in a feeble voice, “Why don’t you all just leave me to die in peace?”

Miss Sweeney laughed as she said, “I know you don’t mean that. I’ll leave you men alone so you can talk boy talk. Then she left the dayroom, ignoring reality as most eighteen-year-olds do.

Boy talk?

I stood there for a moment thinking that this had been a wasted effort and that I’d have to scare up another old codger if I wanted to work under an existing license. As I started to turn away, I heard a not-so-feeble voice say, “Where ya goin’, sonny? I thought you wanted to converse with me?”

Turning back, I informed my ill-mannered host that he had made it crystal clear my company was not wanted, and it was my intention to leave him alone to die in peace. With a short laugh he retorted, “That’s just an act I put on for the help. I’d be pleased to jawbone with ya for a spell. Hell, I ain’t got nothin’ better to do; this here wall lost its fascination for me a long time ago.”

As I looked around for a place to sit, he stood, cinching his bathrobe about him, and told me to follow him. “Let’s get us some fresh air; a body can’t breathe ’round here.” What was there to do but trudge after him? After all, I still wanted to be a detective.

He led me to an area encircled by three very large oak trees. It’s probably why they called the place Oakwood Manor. Under one of the trees were two concrete benches facing one another. Peterson pointed to one and politely invited me to sit down. By the time I had alighted, he was sitting straight and tall on the other bench.

“Well, sonny, what’s on your mind?”

detective-3

The man who spoke those words was not the same man I’d met a few minutes earlier. His piercing blue eyes were focused and stared right into my own eyes. In fact, I had to avert my gaze; he seemed to be reading my mind. But that was silly. There was no way he could know why I was there. Looking in his general direction, but not into his eyes, I squared my shoulders and told him what I had in mind.

When I had finished, he said nothing. He just sat there with a thoughtful look on his face. Finally, he said, “So, you want to take a short cut? And what makes you so sure you could detect yourself out of a brown paper bag?”

Obviously this gambit failed, or at least it had with this individual. Rather than answer his pointed questions, I told him I was sorry for wasting his time and stood to leave.

“Hold on there, sonny. First of all, I’ve got nothing but time, so don’t let that worry you. And if you’re going to be a detective, you’re gonna have to have a little thicker hide on ya.”

Now I was confused, but I sat back down and looked earnestly at him (at least I hoped I had an earnest look on my face) and asked, “I don’t understand. Are you open to my proposal or not? I’ll pay you a percentage of my income if you will reinstate your license and allow me to work under it.”

“Yes,” he rejoined, “I heard you the first time.”

Then he smiled and leaned back, “What’s your name?”

“It’s Walker, sir. Herbert Walker.”

“Well, Herbert Walker, maybe we can make a deal. Detecting is not like Chandler and Hammett wrote about. There are very few long legged blondes involved—more’s the pity. Most of the work is skip tracing and background checks with an occasional missing person case thrown in for good measure.”

After a yawn and a stretch, he continued, “You’re going to need more than my license. You’re going to need the expertise I’ve accumulated in over forty-eight years of detecting both as a cop and as a private dick. So here’s my deal. I’ve got all the money I need. I’m only here because, a few years back, I fell and broke my hip and couldn’t take care of myself, so I went along with my daughter—who never visits me by the way—and allowed myself to be shuttled to this graveyard-in-waiting. And the first thing she did was finagled me into signing a Power of Attorney form when I was buzzed out on pain pills. Then she sold my house out from under me. I guess the only thing I can say for her is that she didn’t keep the loot; she deposited it into my bank account. So, money is not the problem. The problem is that I’m slowly going crazy. If you want a full partner, then you’ve got yourself a deal. It’s up to you.”

I had listened to his spiel with polite attention. What he said did make sense, but still I envisioned a solitary office. Then again there was “Spade and Archer.” Maybe we could work a deal.

He must have been reading my mind because he said, “My name is on the license. You can’t call it Peterson and Walker or Walker and Peterson. But I don’t give a damn what you call it just as long as I’ve got something to do. Why not call the firm ‘Private Investigations, Inc.?’ It’s classy, and no snoop from the state will come around asking why your name is on the firm’s letterhead.” The long and the short of it was we shook hands and became partners.

It took me a few days to find the right locale for our office. I wanted a walk-up office over a semi-seedy bar. I thought the atmosphere would be good for business. You know, give the aura of underhandedness so the underworld would more readily trust us. But try as I might, I just couldn’t find an office located over a bar of any sort, seedy or otherwise. So, I had to settle for a place over a hardware store. But there was a seedy bar half a block down the street.

It was one of those buildings built back in the twenties just before the land bust. The place had not been rented in a while. There was a fine film of dust over everything. And “everything” consisted of an old wooden desk, two file cabinets (empty), and two client chairs. There was one window that overlooked the street in the 25’ x 30’ room. There was also a bathroom/closet off to the side that one person at a time could fit into. But then again, how many people does one want in the bathroom at any one time. The office also had the additional benefit of having a two-room apartment next door. I thought it would be just right for Carl (we were now calling one another by our Christian names). It was a two-story building and the office and apartment covered the entire second floor.

By the time I found the office and signed a lease, Carl called me and told me we were in business. His license had been reinstated and the bond was in place. I, in turn, told him I’d pick him up the next day and bring him to the office and show him around. I didn’t tell him about the apartment because I wanted it to be a surprise.

The next thing I had to do was advertise our wares. Let people know we were around. I checked with the local newspaper, but they wanted $300.00 dollars a day for a little three-square-inch ad! After I hung up, I realized that I hadn’t thought of how the ad should read. The lady in the advertising department at the newspaper said a three-square-inch ad would catch the eye and was more apt to bring in business than an ad in the classifieds.

So, I set about designing something that Sam or Philip might have done in my place. What do you think?

Private Dick

For Hire

Call 954-555-1098

Then I had to find a publication in which to place the ad that would not bust my budget. The deal I had with Carl was that he would take care of the license fee and the premium for the bond and contribute his expertise. I, on the other hand, would cover the rent, cost of advertising, and do most, if not all, of the leg work.

Now, I’m not much of a drinker, but I thought I should start spending time at the bar down the street. I had to start cultivating my underworld contacts and maybe, just maybe, I might get a clue where to place my ad so that the “right” people would see it. The right people being, of course, people in trouble with ne’er-do-wells.

Before I even went inside the bar, I saw what I was looking for. In a paper rack outside was a publication entitled “City Streets, The Dark Side.” I picked up a copy; it was quite hefty for a free paper. So, without further ado, I took said publication back to the office, opened it to the page that gave the advertising department’s phone number, and made the call.

I was informed I could have a three-inch-square, black and white ad for $75.00 for the week (they’re published weekly) if it was camera ready. If not, there would be an additional $25.00 one-time charge. It sounded fair to me, so I closed up the office and headed across town to place the first of what I thought would be many advertisements for our detective agency. I liked the sound of that, our detective agency.

I gave the girl at the counter the copy of the ad I had written by hand and waited for her to squeal, “Oh, so you’re a private detective!” But she did no such thing. Instead she was very business-like and made a suggestion that I not include the phone number. She told me that I may get too many inquiries of the not-serious sort. She said I’d be surprised at the time some people have on their hands with nothing better to do than harass innocent people. She went on to suggest that I use our street address in that it would separate the curious from the serious customer. I had to inform her that in our business our clients were clients and not customers. She smiled at that and said, “Whatever.”

We were in luck. The paper was coming out the next day and I had made the cut-off deadline, so the ad would be in the next edition. Now that I had taken care of that, all I had to do was sit back and wait to be inundated by people seeking our help. I went home that night and called Carl. After a short delay, he came on the phone and told me not to bother picking him up the next day. He was feeling a little under the weather. “It was probably the goddamn Salisbury steak we had at lunch. I can’t wait to get out of this goddamn place!”

I told him about placing the ad and that by this time tomorrow we’d have our first few clients. He told me to hold on, things didn’t work that fast. He said the ad may take months to bring in even one client. He went on to say that, in the next day or so when he was feeling better, he’d go to the office with me and make a few calls to some old cronies, see if he could scare us up a little business. He rang off with the admonition not to be disappointed if there wasn’t a crowd outside the office tomorrow when I got there. I told him I didn’t expect a crowd, but during the day someone would respond to our ad. And you know, I wasn’t that far off.

Of course, no one showed up the next day. But the day after that, there were four letters waiting for me when I arrived at the office. With trembling hands, I picked them up off the floor and carried them over to the desk as though they were a sacred sacrament. Once seated, I opened the first letter and a picture fell out. Must be a missing person case, I thought. Without looking at the picture, I put it off to the side for the time being. I wanted to read about the case first.

As I read the missive, my face must have turned a bright crimson, for the letter was obscene. Now my hands were trembling again, but for a completely different reason. Then I looked at the picture and could not believe what I saw. It was a picture of … of … I cannot bring myself to describe what I beheld. Suffice it to say that it was a portion of the male anatomy at full attention! I quickly dropped the picture as though it were on fire and brushed it and the letter into the wastepaper basket. Just someone’s idea of a joke, I thought. But no, the other three contained similar content, although only two had pictures enclosed.

Outraged, I collected the offending material, including what I had thrown in the wastepaper basket, and stormed out the door. What kind of publication had I associated myself with? I hadn’t bothered to read any of the articles; in fact I hadn’t even picked up a copy to see how our ad looked. I reached the bar and grabbed a copy from the rack and started to page through the vile sheet looking for our ad. As I progressed, I saw that the articles were prosaic in nature and quite harmless. Then, on the last page, there was our ad, down in the lower left-hand corner, surrounded by smaller ads in the conventional classified format, they were all in color. I liked the way our black and white ad stuck out, and for a moment forgot my anger as I stood there admiring that little three-inch advertisement. Then I remembered what caused me to pick up the paper in the first place and read some of the surrounding advertisements. I could not believe what I was reading. They were all of a sexual nature! How could my ad—our ad—be placed among such filth? Well, I was going to find out.

By the time I reached the paper’s office, I had calmed somewhat. I explained my consternation to the woman at the counter and showed her the page containing our ad and told her to read some of the surrounding ads. At that point, a small smile played across her lips and she asked me what kind of business I was in. “The private detecting business, naturally.”

She smiled again and said, “I think I know what happened. May I see the letters you received this morning?” I didn’t think she should see what I had read earlier and when she saw my hesitation she said, “Now, Mr. Walker, I must know all the facts if I’m to remedy your problem.” So I handed her the letters, but I held on to the pictures.

After reading the first two epistles, with that same slight smile, she looked up and inquired, “You mentioned pictures?”

My hand involuntarily went to the pocket that held the offensive images. Now she knew I had them on me. She stood there with her hand out, as though she were the teacher expecting the wayward student to spit his gum out onto her proffered hand.

Reluctantly, very reluctantly, I reached into my coat and withdrew said pictures. Once she had them in her hand, she gave them a quick perusal and, with her usual smile, placed them and the letters on her desk, saying, “I’ll dispose of these later; now, to correcting our little mistake.”

She explained to me what had happened. It seems the last few pages of their publication advertises things of an adult nature, and because of the wording of my ad, someone inadvertently placed the ad in the wrong section.

Of course, my first remark upon hearing that was, “How could anyone misconstrue so simple an ad?”

Shaking her head slightly, she said, “May I make a suggestion?”

I answered in the affirmative.

“Change Private Dick to Private Investigator and then we’ll place it in a different section of the paper … one more conducive to the clientele you hope to cultivate.”

“I don’t see how that can make a difference.”

“Mr. Walker, I’m the professional. Please take my advice and I think you will be pleased with the response you receive.”

Shrugging my shoulders, I acquiesced. And as I was walking away from the counter, I saw her pick up the pictures and approach one of her female coworkers; but I reached the door and was out of the building before I could see what transpired next.

Driving back to the office, I was feeling dejected because now I would have to wait another whole week before I could get to work as a detective.

detective-5In the rush to procure the office and get the advertising started, I had neglected one very important item. Namely, the “office bottle.” Both Sam and Philip kept a bottle in their desk drawer. I like to think it was bourbon, but neither of them specified their poison. So, on the way back to the office, I stopped at a liquor store and bought the cheapest brand I could find. I wanted a quart bottle like they had, but nowadays all you can get is a liter. I also picked up two small glasses. It would have been better if they were jelly glasses, but one cannot have everything.

Upon returning to the office, I entered the closet/bathroom and emptied half the bottle down the sink. I don’t drink hard spirits and I didn’t want a full bottle sitting on the desk. I wanted it to look as though I had just had a belt before the client walked in.

Then, without anything else to do, I put my feet up on the desk, tilted back in my swivel chair, and thought of cases to come:

I just had my second shot from the office bottle and it wasn’t even ten o’clock yet. This morning was dragging. I put my feet up on the desk and leaned back in my chair. It had been a long, hard night. I don’t like to kill, but sometimes it’s kill or be killed. The police had just released me after hours of questioning. The lieutenant let me go with these words, “Okay, Walker, I can’t pin anything on you this time. The DA says it was justifiable, but from now on, I’m keepin’ an eye on you and if you slip, it’ll mean your license.”

It was at that point in my musings that I heard the voice of an angel, “Can a girl get a drink around here?” I opened one eye and beheld her silhouetted in my doorway. She had more curves than a mountain road, and her legs … well they weren’t quite as long as the Mississippi, but they’d do.

Taking my feet off the desk, I straightened in my seat and said, “The bar’s open.”

She was standing with her left hand on a cocked hip. Her lip-gloss was bright red—blood red—as were her nails. She was dressed in black, the skirt ending at mid-thigh. Her shoes matched the dress; they were black and sported five inch heels. As I took all this in, she sauntered in my direction.

When she reached the desk, I pointed to the client chair and said, “Sit, Beautiful.”

While she settled in, I poured bourbon into the two glasses and handed her one. She took the glass without saying a word and looked at me from over the rim as she demurely sipped the amber liquid. I, on the other hand, downed the contents of my glass in one shot, placed it, empty, on the desk, and waited to hear her story. I did not have to wait long.

detective-4“Mr. Walker, you are the only person I can trust, and you are the only person who can help me. Please say you will!”

My reverie was interrupted at that point by a knocking sound. Someone said, “Are you the detective?” I opened my eyes to see her standing in the doorway. No, not the client of my dreams, this lady was in her seventies if she was a day, and she wasn’t much over five feet tall.

Shaking my head to dissipate the last vestige of the blonde, I stood and told my visitor that I was indeed the detective. She did not saunter towards my desk, but purposely walked up to me and held out her hand, “I’m Kathleen McNally and I have need of your services.” I shook her hand and asked her to sit down, which she did, and I did the same. Once seated, she wasted no time getting to the point. “Mr. Smith has gone missing and I need you to find him before he gets into trouble.”

Ah, a missing person case, I thought. Aloud, I said, “First of all, tell me how you found us.”

“I saw your advertisement in the free paper.”

“You mean you did not get the wrong impression?”

“How could I? Don’t you think I know what a private dick is?” Then she smiled and a blush came to her cheeks, “Oh, I see what you mean. I like glancing through that section, but I also read every detective novel ever written. Well, maybe not all of them, but enough to know what you were peddling.”

Thus ensued a lively discussion on the finer points of detecting vis à vis Sam Spade vs. Philip Marlowe. Then we talked about the writing styles of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. We even got modern for a bit and dragged in Westlake and Block. We went on as only two die-hard enthusiasts could, until simultaneously we came to the same thought—that it would be best to get down to business. She fumbled in her handbag for a while, as all women do, then she came up with a picture. Handing it to me, she told me it was a picture of Mr. Smith.

According to the picture, Mr. Smith was a young girl about sixteen with pretty features and long black hair. Noticing my quizzical countenance, Ms. McNally took the picture back and laughed as she looked at it. “This is a picture of my granddaughter. Her name is Cathy, she was named after me.” Then she added, “I have a problem with her that I think I’ll need your help on, but first let’s find Mr. Smith.”

“Yes, let’s find Mr. Smith, but it would help if I knew what he looked like.”

“How silly of me.” It was back into the bag, and before long she came up with another picture, which she handed across the desk. It was black and white. Not the picture, but the face staring out at me from the picture. Mr. Smith, it seemed, was a cat.

Holding the photograph in my hands, I turned it toward her and asked, “Is this Mr. Smith?” Hoping against all hope that she once again had pulled out the wrong photo. But no, it was indeed Mr. Smith. So, my first case was to be a missing cat? Please, God, no!

Mrs. McNally filled me in on the missing feline. “He disappeared two nights ago and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of him since. And I’m very worried. You see, he’s not an outdoor cat and he doesn’t know of the dangers associated with being outside. You know, cars and dogs and so forth.”

With a sigh, I nodded my head in agreement that the world could be a dark and dangerous place for an indoor cat who found himself out-of-doors. But then I added, “I don’t know if my case load will allow me to take on anything new at the moment.”

And that’s where she got me. Not as my imaginary blonde had done, with sex appeal, but with a sniffle and a single tear rolling down her right cheek.

“You know what? Maybe I can give it a little time. Why don’t I come by your place tomorrow about noon and I’ll see what I can turn up. Who knows, he may show up in the meantime. The smile on her face should have been payment enough, but when she asked what my rates were, I had to think fast because I had given no thought to what I should charge, so I said the first thing that came to mind: Philip Marlowe’s fee.

“Fifty dollars a day plus expenses.”

She gave me her address and her phone number along with a check for fifty dollars to cement our arrangement. I knew I would never cash the check; however, it would look nice hanging on the office wall. My first fee as a detective!

Before she left, I reminded her that she had said something about needing help concerning her granddaughter. “That’s right. She’s visiting me for the summer. Her parents sent her down here because she was falling in with a bad crowd and they thought if she got away for a while, and if I could introduce her to some nice young people, the grandkids of my friends and neighbors, she’d come back a little older and wiser.”

So far I saw no problem, but then she continued. “It wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be. There aren’t very many young people where I live, in fact they’re non-existent. So, really, there was no one for her to associate with. Of course, once in a while, a grandchild of one of my neighbors would visit with his or her parents, but those times were few and far between.”

The expression on my face must have conveyed that I was starting to lose interest; hence, she hurried up and got to the point. “She’s taken up with a boy a few years older than she, and he’s not very nice. In fact, I’d say he was a hoodlum in training. He’s got her staying out late and it’s gotten to the point that she will not listen to me. If you can’t help, I’ll have to call her parents for one of them to come and take her back home. I don’t think I could get her to the airport by myself. She’s a willful young thing, and if she doesn’t want to go home, then she’ll have to be dragged onto the plane.”

“So, what is it you think I can do?”

“You can have a talk with the boy and warn him off like you detectives do. But you better be careful, he’s a mean one. You should probably bring your gat with you.”

“My gat? Oh, you mean my gun.” I didn’t think it was the time to tell her I didn’t own a gun and that, even if I did, pulling a gun on a teenager for the purpose of scaring him was, I’m sure, on some level, illegal.

We agreed to meet at her condominium the next day at noon. I walked her down the stairs and to her car, a massive 1970s Cadillac. Her eyes barely came even with the dashboard and she had to look through the rim of the steering wheel to see out of the windshield. Little did I know as she drove off that the next time I saw her she would be dead.

The next day I headed out bright and early to see Carl. I wanted to get his advice about the cat caper and see if he thought we should get mixed up with the granddaughter and the boyfriend.

This time I didn’t need an escort. The girl at the desk told me I could find him either in the dayroom or out on the grounds. I came upon him on one of the benches under the three oaks.

“Hello, Carl, I hope you’re feeling better today.”

“I’ll live.”

“That’s good because I need your help. We got a client from the ad I placed, but I don’t know how to handle it.” I filled him in on Mrs. McNally and her two concerns, Mr. Smith and the granddaughter. When I finished, he did not look any too happy.

“Let me get this straight. You took money from this woman to find her damn cat? And by the way, what fee did you quote her?”

When I told him, he rolled his eyes and told me fifty dollars wouldn’t cover lunch nowadays. Then he gave me the advice I was seeking. Well, maybe advice is not the right word. It was more like he gave me my marching orders.

“The goddamn cat probably went out to get laid. When he gets his rocks off, he’ll go back home. Now, you go and see the old broad, give her the money back. Tell her you have your paid informants on the lookout for the cat and not to worry about a thing. Then get the hell out of there and come and get me. I want to see the office and I need to tell you a few things concerning the business—like, we don’t do missing animals!”

“I did turn her down at first, but she started to cry. What else could I do?”

“Jeeze Louise! Look Herbert, you’re a good kid, but you’ve got a lot to learn. Now get out of here. I’ve got to shower and get dressed. I’ll see you in about an hour.”

I left the place with my tail between my legs. I guess I did have a lot to learn, and I was lucky I had Carl around to teach me. But if all we were going to do was background checks and things of that sort, I wasn’t too sure I wanted to be a detective. However, it was too soon to think of that.

I got to Mrs. McNally’s condo a little early, but I didn’t think she would mind. It was only a single, three-story building and there was no guard gate or anything like that. I parked in front of the building in a space marked “visitors” and proceeded to the third floor via the elevator. Her unit was 317.

detective-1Presently, I found myself in front of the right door; it was slightly ajar. I knocked and the door swung inward. I called out, “Hello, anybody home?” No answer, so I took a tentative step into the apartment and repeated my query. Still no answer. Then I took the plunge and walked in all the way. It was quiet, too quiet (as they say in the movies), and that’s not all. The place had been tossed. Cushions were off the chairs and couch, drawers were pulled out and they and their contents were strewn about the floor. I was standing in the living room and as I looked downward and to my left, I saw a pair of legs sticking out of the doorway to the kitchen. Of course, they belonged to Mrs. McNally, and of course, she was dead. She had been brutally beaten to death. It was, or I should say, she was, not a pretty sight. And seeing as how she was the first dead person I had ever seen, I’m surprised I didn’t run out of the apartment screaming. But I didn’t because the only thing going through my mind at the moment was the fact that she was my client. I owed her something. Maybe I couldn’t find the cat for her, but I was damn sure going to find her murderer!

When Philip Marlowe came across a corpse, the first thing he did was look for clues, usually by going through the dead man’s pockets. Unfortunately, Mrs. McNally had no pockets in the house dress she was wearing. And, besides, I already had a good idea who the culprit was. The scene was set to look like a robbery, and maybe it was, as an afterthought. However, I didn’t think a thief would go to the third floor to do his thing when there were plenty of unoccupied apartments on the ground floor, and they all had two ways of getting in: the front door or the sliding glass doors at the back of each condo. The condos on the second and third floors also had sliding glass doors, but there was no access to them unless one brought a ladder or could fly.

As I stood there wondering how to play my hand, my eyes fell upon a small piece of note paper attached to the refrigerator, and on said paper was the word “Cathy” along with a phone number. It was then that I knew what I had to do, and I was going to do it alone. I needed no help from Carl or the police. A nice little old lady had been killed, and because she was, at the time of her death, still my client, it was up to me to bring her killer to justice.

I took the granddaughter’s phone number from the fridge and placed it in my pocket. It was time to get out of there before someone happened along. I didn’t want to talk to the coppers until I could hand them Mrs. McNally’s killer all wrapped up with a bow. I closed the door and made sure the spring lock locked and went downstairs to my car.

I started the engine to get the air conditioner going and then I just sat there thinking. After a few minutes, I pulled out my phone and dialed the granddaughter’s number. She picked up on the second ring. “Hello, Cathy, my name is Herbert Walker. I work for your grandmother; she hired me to help her pick out a new car that she wanted to give you as a present. I just picked it up from the dealer and I’m sitting in it right now. The reason I’m calling is that I can’t seem to locate her at the moment. She called me first thing this morning and told me the car was ready and that I should pick it up. She was supposed to meet me at her condominium at noon. I’ve tried calling her and knocking on her door, but she isn’t around. I know she doesn’t have a cell phone (I was guessing), so I was wondering if you might know where she is.”

That was a lot to say in one breath, but it was even more to take in from a stranger. When I finished, there was a silence for about ten seconds, then she said, “A new car for me?”

“Yes, it was supposed to be a surprise, and I know I’ve ruined it for you, but I’ve got an appointment in a little while and I have to drop this car off somewhere. If you don’t know where your grandmother is, can I leave it with you?”

“Wait a minute.”

She must have muted her phone because there was no sound, then after two or three minutes, she came back on and I could hear a male voice in the background, though I couldn’t make out what he was saying.

“How did you get my phone number?”

“Your grandmother gave it to me. I needed it for the registration. The car is in your name after all.”

This time she didn’t mute her phone and I heard, “It’s all right. He got it from Grams; he needed it for the registration.” I figured the boyfriend was leery of gift horses, even when they came in the guise of a new car. I also figured it was time to get the show on the road. Therefore I delivered the clincher. “I can either drop it off to you now, or it will have to wait until tomorrow. I’m going to be busy the rest of the day.”

That got her. “No, no! I’ve give you the address.”

I heard her ask the boyfriend what the address was where they were. After a little background muttering, she came back on the line and told me she was at a motel on Federal Highway and gave me the room number, the name of the motel, and the name of the closest cross street. As it turned out, I was only five minutes away (the boyfriend must have picked the place to be close to Cathy).

“Thank you, Cathy. I’ll be there within the hour.” I didn’t want her hanging out in the parking lot when I drove up. If she saw my car, she’d be disappointed.

It turned out to be one of those little places that were built in the forties and fifties before the Interstate Highway System. And after they lost most of their business to I-95, they became a little seedy around the edges.

I knocked and the door opened about a foot to reveal a kid of about eighteen or nineteen. His hair was long and almost to his shoulders. It appeared greasy and unclean. His face sported no facial hair and he was wearing a denim jacket with the sleeves cut off, dirty jeans, and black boots of the type favored by motorcyclists. He looked like a Hell’s Angel wanna-be, or as Mrs. McNally had so aptly noted, “A hoodlum in training.”

“What’d ya want?”

“Is Miss McNally here? My name is Walker. I spoke with her a little while ago.”

He was standing in the doorway, his left hand on the doorknob, but when I identified myself, the door flew inward to disclose Cathy who had been standing (or hiding?) behind it. Pushing the boyfriend aside, she asked in a greedy voice, “Where’s my car?”

“Before I can turn it over to you, I have to see some identification. May I come in for a moment?”

The boyfriend didn’t seem to think that was a good idea and remained blocking the door. But Cathy wanted her car, so she invited me in and said she’d get her driver’s license. The boyfriend reluctantly stepped aside, allowing my ingress.

Once inside, and as Cathy was rooting around in her purse, I held out my hand to “Marlon Brando” and said, “I’m Herbert Walker, glad to meet you.” He said nothing. He just stood there trying to look tough. Cathy was back before things got too awkward and placed her license into my outstretched hand, saying while she did so, “This is Darrell. He’s not in a good mood today; you’ll have to excuse him. Now where is my car?”

I handed her back her license and said, “It’s over on the other side by the office. I wasn’t sure where your room was located. The keys are in it, all ready for you to take it for a ride.”

She ran out of the room with Darrell and me following in her wake. As we walked, I noticed that Darrell’s hands, his knuckles in particular, were scratched and bruised. That was all I needed to know.

When we rounded the corner, Cathy was standing there with a perplexed expression on her face. She was looking at a wreck of a car. It had rust spots, dents, and a faded blue paint job. The car was mine. She turned to me and said, “Where’s my car?” And the unspoken plea was, “Please, please let this not be it!”

I feigned astonishment and exclaimed, “It’s not here! I probably shouldn’t have left the keys in it. I’m sorry, I’ll call 911; whoever took it cannot have gotten far.”

Before I got my phone all the way out, Darrell shouted, “No!” Cathy looked at him as though he had two heads. “What do you mean ‘no’? I want my car!”

In a calmer, more sedate voice, Darrell explained, ‘We don’t need any cops. The car’s insured, right?” The last statement, or question, was directed at me.

“Yes, of course it’s insured, but Cathy will have to fill out a police report to collect on the insurance. I’ll tell you what. This is all my fault for not taking the keys with me. I’ll contend with the police. You two go back to your room.” Cathy started to say something, but Darrell grabbed her by the arm and dragged her away.

When they were out of sight, I dialed 911 and, as soon as the operator came on the line, I said, “I want to report a murder.” Then I gave Mrs. McNally’s address and apartment number to the woman on the other end of the line. She wanted me to hold on, but I gave her my location and phone number, telling her that I was with the killer and as soon as they confirmed the murder, I would hand him over to the proper authorities.

Within minutes, two police cars showed up at the motel and I filled them in. Just as I finished, a call came over the radio telling the officers that the body of Mrs. McNally had been found.

Cathy and Darrell were taken into custody, handcuffed, and put in the back of separate police vehicles. I was told to follow the officers to the station, which I did.

It was getting onto about midnight by the time I was allowed to leave. By then Darrell had confessed, saying it was Cathy’s idea. He said Cathy wanted her freedom and the old lady (Mrs. McNally) was making her life miserable. Cathy said she knew nothing about anything. I’m sure the police will sort everything out. Right then I was too tired to worry about it. I had caught my client’s murderer and that was all I cared about.

In all the excitement, I had forgotten about Carl. I went to see him the first thing the next morning, hoping he wouldn’t be too angry with me for standing him up the day before. I was prepared for a good tongue-lashing at the least, but I was not prepared for the reception I received. He slapped me on the back and told me I was one hell of a detective.

“Thank you, but you’re not angry with me for not coming back yesterday?”

“What are you taking about? You put our little agency on the map with your great bit of detecting yesterday.”

“How do you know about that?”

“You were all over the TV. And look at this,” he said as he handed me a newspaper. It was page one of the local section. It had the interview I had given that reported last night.

I guess I should have mentioned it before, but after the police told me I could go home, I was waylaid by the news media. I gave four, no, it was five, television interviews (one to a Spanish language station where my interview almost certainly came accompanied with subtitles). And I gave an interview to the reporter for the aforementioned newspaper. The same one in which I couldn’t afford to place an ad.

To tell the truth, I’d forgotten all about that stuff. I was dead on my feet and I agreed to speak with them because I couldn’t get to my car with them crowding around me. It was easier to give them a few minutes than to fight my way through.

Okay, I’ve prattled on long enough. When Carl and I got to the office, there were three people waiting. Each one of them wanted to hire our firm for various and sundry things. And I’m happy to report that no one wanted us to do a background check.

Carl grumbled a little about the office, but when I showed him the adjoining apartment and told him it was for him, he smiled and said, “Okay, kid, I was going to tell you we needed a computer, a fax machine, a land line, and hopefully a good-looking secretary. But we’ll play it your way for now. Maybe you can teach me a few things. You got any of those detective books I can borrow?”

And that is how I became a detective.

detective-2

If anyone feels so inclined, I’d appreciate it if you’d like my Facebook page. You can click on the button on the right side of the page, near to top. Thank you.

Wise Guy

 

wise-guyHe was dead when I got there. Dead as a doornail, deader than a dead fish, deader than Kelsey’s nuts, dead as … well, I think you’ve figured out the message I’m trying to convey here. The son-of-a-bitch was fuckin’ dead!

The door of the hotel room had been ajar, so I entered without knocking. Someone had bashed his brains in. No, that’s not accurate. Someone had bashed his brains out! They were oozing from the wound and congealing on the floor where he lay. His name is not important but, for the record, I’ll tell you. When he was breathing, he was known as Vinnie “Five Fingers” Diamonte. Now that he was no longer breathing, you can call him anything you want, which would have been a dangerous thing to do when he was among us—the living. He wasn’t called “Five Fingers” for nothing. (I’ll leave it to your imagination.)

I was sent by my boss, Tony Shivs, to pick up three hundred large from Vinnie. Now Vinnie was dead and I thoroughly searched the room, but there was no money to be found. You know whose fault it’s gonna turn out to be, who was gonna get the blame. Yeah, that’s right. Yours Truly.

Perhaps I should back up a little so you’ll know what I’m talking about. My name is Billy Irish. That’s not really my name, but it’s what the wise guys call me. My real name is William Michael Andrew Doyle. Andrew is my Confirmation name.

Through my girl, who was “connected,” I fell in with a crew of Italian-Americans. That’s what I called them to their face. When I was with my own kind (Irish-Americans or micks), I referred to them as wops and/or guineas.

Anyway, I’m getting off track here. I was an employee of Anthony “Tony Shivs” Salvintore, and I usually did as I was told. I was kind of low man on the totem pole because I’m not a wop. But that’s cool with me. Not being of Italian descent, there’s no way that I can be “made.” To be a made man, you’ve got to off someone … you know, kill a fellow human being, and that’s just not my style. I’m a gofer, a courier. It doesn’t pay well, but it beat working for a living. At least it did until I walked into Vinnie’s room and found him dead and the money I was supposed to pick up missing.

Making sure that I did not step on congealing brains, I stepped over the body and sat down in a nearby chair. I thought about my future, which, at the moment, did not seem very bright.

I knew that Tony, being the psychopath that he was, was going to think I killed the guy and stashed the moola. Because killing Vinnie and taking the money is exactly what he would have done in my place.

When he sent me there, he told me only three people knew about the pick-up and where it was to take place. And I was, as he phrased it, to keep my big yap shut. It was obvious that someone else was also privy to the information. But knowing that I was innocent of any wrongdoing didn’t mean shit. Yeah, eventually Tony would believe that I had not taken his money. But by then I would probably be missing a few digits (fingers mostly), and I’m sure I’d need a wheelchair to get around for the foreseeable future. So, as I sat there looking at the mortal remains of Vinnie “Five Fingers” Diamonte, the only thought going through my mind was what the hell do I do now?

If I disappeared, then there’d be no doubt as to my guilt. And I couldn’t go back without the money. I’d been sent to pick up a package and if I did not return with said package, then I was a fuckup. And I had heard the old bastard say on more than one occasion, “I ain’t got no room in my outfit for no fuckups.”

Sitting there staring at Vinnie wasn’t gonna help my situation any. So I figured I might as well test the water, so to speak. I got up, walked over to the phone—once again making sure I didn’t step in any brains—and started to call Tony. Then I remembered there would be a record of it, and once the body was found, the cops would be on Tony’s doorstep faster than I can write these words. Perhaps not that fast, but you know what I mean. Of course, Tony would give me up in a New York minute. Then I’d have Tony and the cops after me. So I wiped my prints off the phone and put it back down. I got out my cell phone and made the call I didn’t want to make.

I had been right. Tony was filled with sweetness and light. “That’s alright, Billy boy, as long as you’re okay. Why not come over and tell me all about it?” I knew that if he ever got his hands on me, I’d be lucky to hit the streets again with all my fingers. Hell, I’d be lucky to hit the streets again, period! No friggin’ way was I gonna walk into his lair, but I told him I was on my way and disconnected.

So that you get the full picture here, I’m gonna have to give you a little background info. The crew I was associated with worked mostly out of Miami Beach. Sure, the mainland entered into a lot of what went down, but we all lived and hung out on Miami Beach. Tony lived at Collins Avenue and 50th Street in the same building that Myer Lansky had lived in for ten years, and was still living in when he died. The building was a massive structure that had been built in the sixties, a real class place if your taste ran to garish and gaudy. My girl, Terry, and I also lived on Collins Avenue, but at 65th Street. Our place was a seedy hotel that had been built in the forties. Threadbare carpet in the halls, and the halls themselves were dark and dank. But we called it home. And for those of you who are not familiar with Miami Beach, it’s a long narrow island separated from the mainland by a body of water known as Biscayne Bay. Collins Avenue runs from the art deco district at the south end of the island to Golden Beach at the north end. The whole mess is eight and a half miles long and no more than a half mile wide. So if one needed to disappear, Miami Beach was probably not the best place to do it.

Okay, now back to my shit. The first thing I needed to do was get in touch with Terry and tell her to get the hell out of our room. I knew if Tony couldn’t get his hands on me, he would have no compunction about grabbing her in my stead.

No; actually, the first thing I had to do was get out of that goddamn room. Vinnie was starting to turn ripe, and how did I know some wise-ass hadn’t already called the cops (anonymously, of course). I called Terry as I went down the stairs—no elevators loaded with witnesses for me.

By the time I hit the street, I had Terry on the phone. I told her to ask no questions—like women love to do—and pack for the both of us for a few days out of town. “Be out of the room in ten minutes and wait for me in the bar across the street.” She asked no questions, and that is why I love her … that and a few million other reasons.

Vinnie had been ensconced in a hotel across from the airport on the mainland. Not that there’s an airport on the Beach, but I’m trying to be precise here. It should have taken me twenty minutes to get to the bar and to Terry. However, thanks to some damn broken-down piece of shit car on I-95, traffic was backed up and moved at a crawl. At the time, I cursed and fulminated about the goddamn traffic, but in hindsight, it was a godsend. It had given me time to think, which is something I had not been doing since I found Vinnie.

What I thought about was something Tony had told me. He said only three people knew about the pick-up. Him, Vinnie, and me. But that wasn’t exactly true; there was a fourth, Johnny Tits. Johnny was a breast man, hence the name.

Johnny was Tony’s bodyguard, a Neanderthal masquerading as a human being. He had been in the room when Tony gave me my marching orders. So, I’m sitting there in traffic thinking maybe Johnny might know who iced Vinnie and where the money disappeared to. I made up my mind to have a little talk with him before departing for parts unknown. But before I could do anything, I had to get Terry to a safe locale.

I finally got to the bar, double-parked, ran in, grabbed Terry and our bags, threw a Hamilton on the bar to cover her tab and tip, and got her into the car—all in less than a minute. We drove north on Collins Avenue in silence for a while before Terry turned to me and said, “Okay, when the hell are you planning on letting me know what the fuck’s goin’ on?” That’s one of the million things I love about her. She can get right to the point with no bullshitting around.

Considering that her health, if not her life, was up for grabs, I decided to be magnanimous and answer her query. “I’m in deep shit, baby. A job Tony gave me went south. There’s three hundred thousand smack-a-roos missing and I’m the fall guy.” Of course (and I don’t blame her), she wanted to know all the details. So I told her, starting with my finding Vinnie, sans brains, and ending with my epiphany concerning Johnny Tits.

When I had finished my narrative, I told her I wanted to talk with Johnny before we left town. That’s when she hit me (figuratively speaking) SMACK! right between the eyes. “What do you mean ‘leave town’? What are you? Some kind of pussy? I’m not leaving town!” Blah, blah, blah.

I told you I loved her, but sometimes … Hey! Did she just call me a pussy?

The upshot was, she tried to convince me that together we could find the money, get it to Tony, and everything would be cool. That broad can talk me into anything when she looks at me with those yellow-green eyes of hers.

I may be a pussy, but I’m not so much of a pussy as to drag my girl into something that could get her killed. If I couldn’t find out who offed Vinnie and took the money, and she was running around with me, then when (not if, but when) the shit hit the fan, she’d get splattered too. You married guys can relate to this: I said yes to everything she said while thinking how and where to ditch her while I took care of business.

As we crossed the causeway to the mainland, she was going on about what we should do first, which was run down Johnny. I love her, but only one of us could wear the pants in the family, and it sure as hell wasn’t gonna be her! Anyway, I knew of a motor court (yeah, right out of the 40s) where I could stash her until I either became her hero or she had to make my funeral arrangements.

Just in case some of you may not know what a motor court is, it’s kind of like a motel, but with individual, separate units, or rooms, if you will. At any rate, the place we went to was across from Gulfstream Race Track, a horse-racing establishment.

It was a real dump, and I think they got all their business from guys who lost the kids’ college funds at the track and went there to commit suicide. But it was just what I needed. I could pay cash and not have to show a credit card or ID. Tony’s pretty well connected; he had more than a few cops in his pocket, and I thought he might have one of them run down my card when I didn’t show up.

Once we checked in and Terry got all the bitching out of her system about what a shit-hole I’d taken her to, I told her to relax, I’d go get us something to eat and we could start our Nick and Nora Charles routine in the A.M.

As Terry will readily tell you, I’m a fuckin’ liar. If she was hungry, she could order a pizza. I was going to see Johnny. Tony always sent him home at six sharp every night so he, Tony, could have a private dinner with his mother. Johnny lived on a boat across the street from Tony’s place. I knew that and Terry didn’t, so there was no way she could follow me there. And just to make sure I was not bothered by her, I shut my phone off.

So it was back to the beach for me. I parked a block away from Johnny’s boat; I didn’t want anyone who knew me to see my car because by now Tony would have the word out that I was on the lam. And the sycophants that hung around Tony would have loved to make some points with him by bashing me over the head and delivering me to him in a cardboard box.

As I approached the boat, I saw Johnny’s car, so I knew he was around. Then I hesitated. What the hell was I thinking? If Johnny was the one who took down Vinnie, what chance did I have? I wasn’t even heeled. Then I remembered Terry calling me a pussy, so I squared my shoulders, stood tall, and did the dumbest thing I’d done in a long time. I knocked on Johnny’s door. I was kind of hoping there wouldn’t be an answer, and there wasn’t. So then I did the second dumbest thing I’d done in a long time—I tested the door. It was unlocked, and I went inside.

The lights were out. Maybe he went for a walk. Yeah, right. Johnny’s not the walking-in-the moonlight type. I’d never been on his boat before and I didn’t know where the light switch was. Do boats even have light switches? Maybe he used a kerosene lantern. As I was pondering those weighty questions, I walked further into the boat and tripped over a large obstacle lying in the middle of the floor, or was it a deck, considering I was on a boat.

As I lay sprawled on the floor/deck, my eyes became adjusted to the dim light coming in through the door. What I had tripped over was Johnny. Great! My second dead body of the day.

This, I had to ponder, but I couldn’t do it lying on the floor (I’ve decided to call it a floor). I got my ass up and looked to my right and saw a lamp on a table. I went over to it and felt for the switch, found it, and got some light in the room. I closed the door, and for the second time that day, sat in a chair and stared at a corpse.

I like to read. I’d rather read than watch TV, and I’d been reading Raymond Chandler recently. When his hero finds himself in a predicament like the one I was in, he always searched for clues. And he always started with the body. If given my druthers, I’d like to be with Terry at a fine restaurant, swilling down martinis while waiting for the sumptuous meal we had just ordered. I was getting hungry and I sure as hell could have used a drink right about then. But no one offered me my druthers. So I bent down and gave Johnny the once-over. He was lying face down, and there was a neat little bullet hole at the base of his skull, just above the neck. There was very little blood, which meant that he had died instantly. It looked to be the work of a .22, the gun of choice for professional killers. They always go for the back of the head.

Next, I turned him over so I could go through his pockets. I found only one thing of interest: He had Vinnie’s pinkie ring in his inside coat pocket. This was significant because if you knew Vinnie, you knew there was no way in hell he’d give up that ring. I don’t think he would have done so at the point of a gun. It was his pride and joy. He was always flashing it in your face and telling you about the three-carat diamond it housed.

After Johnny, I gave the room the once-over. His gun was lying on the table next to the lamp. I picked it up and gave it a sniff. It hadn’t been fired. It was a snub-nose .38 police special—a revolver. Johnny always said he liked it because it didn’t jam the way automatics are wont to do. (Of course, Johnny did not use the word wont.) I don’t know why, but I stuck it in the waistband of my pants and pulled my shirt out to cover it. Actually I do know why. There was a sicko running around killing people I know. I may not like them, but I knew them, and I’m one step behind him. If I kept blundering around, it would be only a matter of time before I blundered into whoever had iced Vinnie and Johnny.

Despite looking for clues, I was clueless. So, I sat back down and thought things over. I’m not the brightest bulb in the patch, to mix metaphors. But after a couple of minutes, a few things penetrated my thick skull. First of all, it must have been Johnny that did Vinnie; it’s the only way he could have gotten the ring. And second of all, the money was not on Johnny’s boat and probably never had been. The boat had not been tossed. Whoever killed Johnny came for the hit, not the money. It’s the only thing that explained why Johnny had only one hole in him. If someone wanted the money, they would have put a minimum of one into his knee to loosen him up. You don’t kill someone if they have info you want. And knowing Johnny, he’d take a lot of loosening up. He was dumb as shit, but he was one tough motherfucker. Johnny knew his killer. It’s the only way someone could get behind him with a gun—he was a pro. And Johnny’s gun was on the table, not in his hand—he knew his killer.

I had some more thinking to do, but I wanted to do it alone and without a dead guy with his half-closed eyes looking at me. So I hightailed it out of there, after wiping down any surface I touched or may have touched.

I wanted to walk along the water, but of course, the goddamn monstrosities like Tony lived in impeded my ingress onto the beach. Consequently, I walked up and down the sidewalk in front of Tony’s building. After about an hour of that shit, the pieces started to fall into place. It was time to talk to Tony Shivs.

Now we come to the crux of the matter. No, not the crux, but another one. I’ve been having cruxes throughout this whole goddamn story. This particular crux was that I needed a way to get into Tony’s building without being announced by the security people. But I had a plan.

I went back to my car and retrieved a baseball cap. It wasn’t much of a disguise, but it was better than nothing. What with video cameras everywhere nowadays, I thought it prudent not to make it too easy on any law enforcement personnel who, at some future date, might want to know who had visited Tony at nine o’clock that night. I went back to Tony’s building and walked down the incline into the underground parking garage.

The plan was, I would secrete myself behind a car near the door that led into the building; of course, the door was always locked. And then when an unsuspecting resident went through said door, I’d jump out before it closed. I would grab the handle and let it close almost, but not quite. I was counting on the person or persons to be too intent on getting up to their abode to notice what the door was up to. And guess what? It worked like a charm.

Okay, now I was in the building. I kept the hat pulled down low, kept my eyes on the carpet before me, and made my way to the elevator, hoping all the while I didn’t meet up with anyone. I didn’t. When I got outside Tony’s door, I took a deep breath and knocked.

“Yeah, who is it?”

“The doorman sent me up, sir. Someone left a package for you.”

I continued to keep my head down so that when he looked out of the peephole, all that he would see would be a teal baseball cap (Go Dolphins!). I did not want Tony answering the door with a gun in his hand, which he would have done if he knew it was me that had come a-calling.

I readied myself as I heard the locks being disengaged. When the door opened an inch, I pushed my way through and said, “Sorry I’m late, Mr. Salvintore, but I got tied up.”

“It’s about goddamn time you got your mick ass here. And what is this package shit?”

“Just my little joke, Mr. Salvintore.”

“It ain’t funny.”

“No sir, I guess it ain’t.”

“It’s late. Where’s my three hundred grand?”

“As I said, I’m sorry, but things came up. I hope I’m not disturbing your mother.”

“Naw, she’s down in the card room playin’ canasta with them other old broads.”

Now that I knew his mother was out of the way, I drew the gun from beneath my shirt and pointed it at the son-of-a-bitch. “Why don’t you sit down on the couch, you fat, greasy wop. I want to talk to you.”

You should have seen the look on his face. It was almost worth all the shit he’d put me through since I started working for him.

He was moving slow, so I reiterated my demand and told him that, because his building was so well constructed, no one would hear the pop of the gun when I put one into his fat ass. He must have seen something in my eyes because he kind of wilted and meekly sat on the couch. I availed myself of a nearby chair.

Once we were both seated and relatively comfortable, I asked him a question I’d been dying to ask. “Where did the three hundred large come from?”

“Some guys up in Tampa sent it down for me to invest for them.”

“Okay, why send me to pick it up? Vinnie worked for you, he could have just driven it in. You didn’t need me.”

“Ah … ah …”

“What’s the matter, Tony? Nothing comes to mind?”

“No! That ain’t it. I thought it would be safer if you brought it in. No one would think that you had that kind of dough on ya.”

“Tony, you are full of shit! I’ll tell you why you sent me there. I was to be your patsy. You are a greedy motherfucker. You didn’t want just your ten percent for placing their money. You wanted the whole shebang. And when they asked what happened, you were going to give them me. And then I’d be hanging from a meat hook in some freezer until I told them where their money was. Which of course, I couldn’t do. So me and the meat hook would have been closely associated until they went too far and offed me.”

At that juncture, Tony’s right hand started to migrate a little bit. I knew he had a gun stashed between the cushions, and I was waiting for him to make his move. I let him get almost there and then I said, “Touch that gun and you’re a dead man.” His hand rebounded as though his arm was made of rubber bands.

I continued. “Now that we understand one another, why did you have Johnny Tits kill Vinnie?”

“Who said I did?”

I raised the gun, pulled back the hammer, and said, “Any more bullshit and I’ll shoot you in the foot.”

“Okay! Okay! Yeah, I had Johnny take care of Vinnie. Vinnie had to go anyway, he was skimming from me and he thought I was too dumb to notice.”

“Why did you kill Johnny?”

“How the fuck …”

“Were you going to say, how the fuck did I know you killed Johnny or how the fuck did I know he was dead?”

“Alright, you seem to know everything. Man, I thought you were just some dumb mick bastard.”

“Yeah, I know, and that’s how you played me. But tell me about Johnny. There’s no way he could have been skimming from you.”

I could see the wheels turning in his head. He was trying to figure my angle. He was also trying to figure out an angle for himself.

Finally, he said, “I can use a smart operator like you. And I don’t mean as a gopher. It will mean a big raise from what I’m payin’ you now.”

“We’ll get to that in a minute. Right now tell me about Johnny.”

“You’re right. I sent him to off Vinnie and take the money. The plan was to hang it on you so the wise guys in Tampa would leave me alone. But I’m telling you, if I had known how on-the-ball you were, I would have played it different.”

“I’m flattered, but why did you off Johnny?”

“The son-of-a-bitch wanted a cut of the three hundred large. He even hinted he’d screw the deal if he didn’t get a fair shake. I don’t take that kind of shit from nobody.”

“No, Tony, I reckon you don’t. Did you do it yourself?”

“Yeah, I just walked across the street after dinner. I always go for a walk after dinner, but this time I visited Johnny.”

It was getting late and I wanted to get out of there before his mother came back. So I thought I’d bring our little meeting to a close. “Where’s the money now?”

“Why ya wanna know?”

“I just want to see what all the fuss was about, and besides, I think you owe me a couple of grand for the aggravation you put me through today. We can talk about my new job tomorrow.”

The look on his face was priceless. He had weathered the storm. All he had to do was let me walk out of there with a few bucks and then he could pick up the phone and put a hit out on me.

“It’s on the table over there, in the shoe box.”

I went to where he indicated and took the lid off the box. There sure was a lot of money staring back at me. I turned back to Tony and said, “I’ll get the money tomorrow; you give me whatever you think is fair.” Then I looked out his sliding glass doors and said, “You sure got some view,” as I walked behind the couch still looking out the doors. When I got behind Tony, I turned the gun around, and with the grip hit him behind his right ear as hard as I could. He fell over onto the couch, but he wasn’t knocked out, only stunned. Moving fast, I picked up a throw pillow from the couch, placed it on the back of his head, stuck the revolver into the pillow, and squeezed the trigger. What do you know? It really worked. The shot could not have been heard from outside of the apartment.

I went to the kitchen and got a dish rag. I wiped the gun of my prints and threw it on the floor. Then I went to the box, replaced the lid, and tucked it under my arm. At the door, I used the rag to open and close it. I also used the rag for the elevator buttons and the exit door to the garage. Luck was with me because I didn’t see anyone on my way out.

When I was back in my car and on my way to Terry, I turned on my phone and called her. She had been trying to call me for a couple hours. The conversation went something like this:

Terry: Oh, Billy, are you all right? I was so worried. I thought Tony might have gotten to you.

Me: No, I’m fine. I just had something to take care of.

Terry: You mean you shut off your phone and didn’t give me the courtesy of letting me know if you were alive or dead? You son-of-a-bitch! I never want to see you again. Drop dead!”

It went on like that for a while and then she got real quiet, and I could hear her crying. It made me feel like a heel. But, I’m happy to report that I have been forgiven. I think the money may have helped a little. We’re in San Francisco as I write these words. We’ve just gotten married and we’re going up to Oregon to set up housekeeping. She wants to have lots of kids.

If anyone feels so inclined, I’d appreciate it if you’d like my Facebook page. You can click on the button on the right side of the page, near to top. Thank you.

Bye, Bye Baby

red-dress-ll

I wake up every night ’bout midnight. I just cain’t sleep no more! I cain’t sleep ’cause my woman’s driving me crazy. I told my woman a long, long time ago she was gonna drive me crazy. To keep my peace of mind, I’m gonna have to kill her this night.

I’m walkin’ the dark and empty streets with gun in hand. I’m lookin’ for my woman.

If she’s with another man, I’ll kill him too.

Bye, bye little girl . . . tonight you die.

Bye, bye lover . . . bye, bye.

I see you through the window at Mose’s Place. You have on that red dress I bought you last year. You’re sittin’ with another man.

I ain’t got nothin’ to lose. I open the door and step inside.

The music, the cigarette smoke, and my sorrow assault me.

I know what I have to do.

You’re laughing at something he has said as I walk up to the table. You’re having a good time. I’m happy for you.

Bye, bye baby.

The first bullet takes off half your lover’s head.

I take my time with the next shot. I want you to know that you’re gonna die.

Times slows, I see the fear in your eyes. Your face is splattered with your lover’s blood. It goes well with your red dress.

Bye, bye baby . . . bye, bye.