-Strange – 31 Pages
I was playing trombone in a Megadeth cover band when she caught my eye.
She was sitting across the crowded smoky bar drinking something wet and pink.
I knew right away I was going to stick my penis in her.
I’d been struggling with an especially tough case and had taken the night off to unwind and give the old noodle some room to wiggle.
Mickey Dick’s pounding drum beats were rattling my hemorrhoids from behind, while beside me Johnny Fagula extracted tortured and heavily-distorted power chords from the old axe his mom had bought for him secondhand just to get him out of her basement every once in awhile. Me, I was blowing up a storm and working the old slide like a teenage boy hiding under the covers at night with a flashlight and an old copy of National Geographic.
We were in The Zone.
Wartballs the lead singer had just finished his yodeling bit which was a signal to the rest of the band that it was about time to take a break.
We wrapped up the number and I opened up my spit valve, blowing hot saliva all over the kids in the front row. That part of the show was always a big hit.
As the boys shuffled off backstage to enjoy a well earned reefer stick I made my way across the bar to where she was sitting. I gently brushed aside a group of autograph seekers, explaining how I needed to rest my slide hand in order to be ready for the next set.
“I’ll have what she’s having,” I told the bartender.
Without missing a beat I casually turned to her and said, “Buy you another one, baby?”
“No thank you,” she politely replied. “A girl has to maintain her regularity you know.”
The bartender came back with an ice-filled martini glass in one hand and an unopened bottle of Pepto-Bismol in the other.
“I pulled out a bottle of the special vintage stuff just for you, Skip,” he announced.
“Maybe I will have another drink after all…” she purred as she nudged her barstool up closer to mine.
“I saw you how you were working that trombone slide up there,” she said, her eyes sparkling like wet anchovies.
“I’ll bet you did, baby,” I answered. “I’ll bet you did.”
The bartender poured her a fresh cocktail and we raised our glasses for a toast.
“To new beginnings,” I said, and we both took a drink.
And that was the last thing I remembered.
I learned a long time ago that dames are nothing but trouble.
But man does it sure feel swell to have one wrapped around your Longfellow.
When I finally came to that was precisely the situation in which I found myself.
“What the hell did you slip into that bismuth subsalicylate?” I asked her, withdrawing my quickly shriveling wienerschnitzel and shrinking off to my own side of the bed.
“Why, nothing at all, Skip!” she replied, seemingly in confusion.
But I wasn’t falling for it.
“Why would you even ask me that?” she continued, suddenly getting all pouty.
This dame was good.
“Because I can’t remember the last…” I looked around for a clock and found one on what I presumed to be her night stand, “…ten hours!” I finished.
And that was assuming it was only the next day.
“But you were with me the whole night, Skip!” she pleaded desperately. “Don’t you remember??”
Damn, this dame was good.
“The last thing I remember is toasting our first drink together, sweetheart.” I said. “And now I wake up with you all wrapped around my Robert Johnson like a pig in a poke. How did I even get here? I can’t even remember if I played the second set or not.”
“You were incredible, Skip!” she suddenly exclaimed.
“In the second set, or in the poke?” I asked, still confused.
“Both, baby!” she cooed. “Both!”
We both slid on some underpants and she fixed me a big breakfast. I figured I’d been poisoned already so anything else she would try to slip me at this point was immaterial.
“Nice place you’ve got here,” I said. “You loaded or something?”
“That’s what you asked me last night,” she replied. “Are you sure you’re OK, Skip?”
“I don’t know, baby. I just don’t know.”
Over the next hour we ate the breakfast she had cooked up and she attempted to catch me up on everything that had happened the night before.
Whatever else you might say about her damn could that dame fix a mean breakfast.
It turned out (according to her anyway) that I had indeed played the second set and that I had absolutely blown everybody in the whole joint off their feet. She said at first the other guys in the band just kept glancing at each other sort of funny but that before long they had gotten into the vibe themselves and that we had shaken the whole place to its foundations. She said that after the show a famous record executive had approached us and insisted upon us signing a contract to record 9½ albums for his record label right there on the spot. Apparently when I told him I wasn’t even officially in the band he insisted that the deal had to include me or it wasn’t happening at all.
(Again, this was all according to her anyway.)
“Did I sign it?” I asked.
She looked at me concernedly. “You really don’t remember any of this?” she said.
“Baby, I can’t remember anything, including whatever it was we were doing in your bedroom when I came to and believe me, that’s the part that hurts most of all.”
Again I could see the concern in her eyes. I was beginning to think this dame just might be on the up and up.
“No, you didn’t sign it,” she finally answered. “You said you were working on a big case and didn’t have time to be screwing around in some recording studio day in and day out.”
Now the big case I did remember. It had been turning into a real pisser.
“What about the other guys in the band?” I asked her.
“They got totally miffed and said you were ruining their one shot at fame and fortune and if that’s how you were going to be then they didn’t want you playing with the band anymore anyhow.”
“And what did I do then?” I enquired.
“You told them you were sorry but they knew how it was and if they couldn’t live with that then you would just find some other cats to blow around with every once in awhile.”
After that she got all quiet and just kept staring worriedly at me.
“What wrong, sugarhips?” I asked her.
“I was just wondering if maybe we shouldn’t get you to a doctor.”
After the doctor had finished examining me he asked if it was alright for him to talk in front of the dame.
“Might as well,” I answered. She seemed to be the only one who even halfway knew what was going on anyway.
“You’ve suffered a concussion, Mr. Noir,” he said.
And I’ll be damned if it wasn’t right then and there that it all came back to me.
Sadie (I suddenly remembered that was her name—Sadie) and I had finished our drinks, and I had excused myself to sidle off to the head and drain the weasel. As soon as the weasel was finished going I stepped in front of the urinal to relieve my own bulging bladder. I remembered some guy walking up behind me and asking me if I had a light. As I was reaching into my jacket with my free hand he must have clocked me over the noggin with something real good and heavy. And that was all she wrote.
“I remember it all, baby!” I excitedly exclaimed.
“Everything?” she asked me, suddenly beginning to turn a subtle shade of crimson red.
“Everything, baby!” I assured her, and we exchanged knowing grins.
“That will be 150 bucks,” the doctor interjected.
We went back to my place after that.
“I’m fine, baby!” I kept reassuring her.
“But that doctor said you needed to take it easy for awhile,” she said, gazing down on me like a concerned mother.
“I am taking it easy,” I assured her. “Now come on over here, sugartits. Floyd Collins wants to go spelunking.” She cozied up beneath me and we began to pick up where we had left off that morning.
It took another hour and a half before it finally hit me.
“Where’s Waldo???” I suddenly exclaimed, frantically jumping out of bed naked as a newborn babe with Skip Jr. and the wrinkly crinkly boys flapping in the breeze.
“Who Waldo??” she said. “Are you sure you’re OK, baby?”
“Waldo is my pet weasel,” I explained to her. “I guess you never got to meet him with everything that happened last night.”
We’ve got to get back to that bar! I suddenly realized.
Johnny Walker the bartender had Waldo with him behind the bar. Waldo was drunk as a proverbial skunk. Not that I ever seen a drunk skunk. But I hear they’re real souses.
“Someone found him in the men’s john after you left,” Johnny told me. “I knew you’d be coming back for him eventually so I kept him here safe behind the bar with me. I’m afraid he got into the bismuth subsalicylate when I wasn’t looking though. After that he was all constipated so I gave him a double-shot of bourbon and he loosened right up.”
“Thanks, Johnny,” I said. “You’re a real swell peach.”
“I guess the boys weren’t too happy last night, eh?” Johnny inquired.
“Guess not,” I admitted.
“That’s OK, Skip,” he answered. “You can blow solo here anytime you want.”
I thanked him again and slipped him a twelver for his troubles, and Waldo, Sadie and I split the joint.
I told Sadie I had some work to do and she offered to watch Waldo so I gave her a quick peck on the puss and for the time being we went our separate ways.
If this case had been a real pisser before, now it had become a bonified steaming pile of shit.
I walked the streets in my dark trench coat trying to clear my head and figure out what the hell I was going to do next.
Whoever had conked me on the noggin obviously didn’t want me sniffing around anymore, so I decided that I apparently needed to start taking some bigger whiffs.
And that’s when I smelled her. It was Annie Dimplecheeks, my ex.
I abruptly turned around and confronted her. “Are you following me?” I asked.
“Maybe you just keep walking in front of me,” she coyly replied. I never could get one over on old Oyster Annie.
She caught up with me and began to walk by my side.
“Anything in particular you want?” I asked her none too friendly-like.
“I’ve got some information for you,” she said. “Something I think you’re going to be real interested in.”
Annie was bad news and she knew it and I knew it, and she knew that I knew it and I knew that she knew that I knew it. Just having her standing this close to me again was beginning to make the hairs stand up on the back of my rectum.
“Rectum? Nearly killed him!” she mocked, proving that she still always knew exactly what I was thinking.
“Hardy Har Har,” I replied, “So why don’t you just tell me what you’re doing stinking up my breathing space again and then get on out of here?”
“It’s my breathing space too,” she answered. “You don’t own all the air in the whole city you know.”
“If you have to breathe it too then why do you keep stinking it up so damn much?” I retorted. “Oh, that’s right. You never could smell so good.”
“I can smell a rat,” she replied, “And you’d better watch out for this one because it’s got very sharp claws and teeth and probably also a little bit of rabies on the side.”
“Just get to the point, Dimplecheeks,” I angrily snarled.
“Oh, I’ll get to it, eventually,” she promised, “but first I believe you and I have an old score to settle.”
Annie Dimplecheeks and I were an item back before I had decided to become a P.I.
Back when my older brother Nick was still alive.
Nick was the real deal, baby. He was the best Pirate Investigator this rancid old bayside city had ever seen. He’s the guy who made Pirate Investigation hip. It was Nick who made me want to become a P.I. in the first place. But as long as he was around and working I knew the city had no need for some wannabe schmuck like me. He was the greatest there ever was.
Of course that all changed after we met Annie.
Oyster Annie was the kind of chick who made men want to overlook the way she smelled just for a chance to get at where that smell originated from.
Guys who are thinking with their Longfellows have a bad habit of being noseblind that way.
And Annie had this strange power of making a guy’s Longfellow stand right up and take charge.
Walking beside her, I tried to remember what it was about her that had driven Nick and I so out of our noggins to begin with.
But Annie had a way of turning it on and off whenever it pleased her, and when it was turned off she just seemed like a regular dame with some personal hygiene issues.
Those issues were all I could think of now. I pulled my shirt up over my nose.
“I don’t like the way we left things, Skip,” she said as we made our way towards the docks.
“Then you shouldn’t have played my brother and me against each other and ruined his career and destroyed his life,” I curtly replied.
“I’m sorry for all that, Skip,” she said, “But believe it or not I’ve changed.”
“Not from what I can smell you haven’t.”
“Enough with that, Skip,” she said, acting all injured. “You know I can’t help it.”
“Yeah, I remember. It’s just your so-called ‘condition’.”
“You were there when the doctor diagnosed me,” she said.
“And I was still around when you had your way with him and drove him away from his family and his practice,” I reminded her.
“I was a different person in those days, Skip. I know now how wrong I was. I was all twisted up inside then, but I’ve gotten better. Really. I don’t expect you to believe me but I’ve come to try to make things right.”
“So then have you found some way to bring my brother back from the dead?” I angrily asked her.
“No, but I might know something that could save your life,” she replied.
“I’m listening,” I said.
“So just how much do you know about this client you’re working for?” she asked.
“I know he pays his bills.”
“Is that all that’s important to you?”
“No,” I replied, “But it’s a start.”
“Bill Blackovski isn’t what he seems,” she said.
“So how is it you seem to know so much about my business and my clients?” I asked her.
“You know how I used to get around, Skip. I still hear things through the grapevine from time to time.”
“As I recall you used to spend a lot of time under the grapevine.”
Annie sighed. “I know I deserved that, Skip, but you’ve got to listen to me.”
“I ain’t got to do nothing,” I said.
And then it happened.
Something in the air seemed to change and Skip Jr. suddenly snapped to attention. Getting him back into her was the only thing I could think about.
And then I knew she had snagged me again—hook, line, and stinker.
And as suddenly as she had turned it on she turned it right back off again.
“I see you’ve still got it,” I told her, still half in a daze.
“I just wanted to show you I was being sincere,” she replied. “You know as well as I do I could have you again any time I wanted. But that’s not the way I work anymore.”
“Then how it is you do work?” I asked her warily.
“I could really use a drink,” was all she said.
We ducked into The Bearded Clam, a local oyster bar and one of the few places where she could effectively mask her scent.
We ordered up a couple Bloody Bismuths and she told me all about how she had undergone years of psychotherapy and had discovered that the root of all her neuroses were some bad things that had happened to her in her childhood which she had completely forgotten about. She had taken up transcendental meditation and had learned to recognize and control her impulses. She seemed so sincere I almost believed her.
“So what does all this have to do with me?” I finally asked her.
“Well,” she said, “I was subbing for my friend Melinda who busses tables down at The Weeping Onion, and I overheard a couple wise guys sitting in a booth in the back corner.”
“I’m surprised they would even let you into a classy joint like that,” I said.
“Well, I had charmed the manager, so to speak,” she admitted.
“I thought you were through with your wily ways,” I sneered.
“I was only doing it for Melinda,” she defended herself. “Her brother had just OD’ed on Pepto-Bismol and she needed to be there for her mom and the bastard wouldn’t let her off work without a replacement.”
“You gotta watch that stuff,” I said remembering my own recent misadventures.
“Anyway, what caught my attention is they were talking about you, and how this guy Blackovski had you right where he wanted you.”
“Is that all?” I asked.
“No. After that I started asking some of my old associates about this Blackovski and I found out he’s a ship-slaver who has recently taken over Scruffybeard’s old territory.”
I eyed her cautiously as I recalled that night I had came in to find old Blackovski sitting in my office.
He was dressed up like your typical businessman wearing a three-piece suit and shiny new black Oxfords. He also wore what looked to be a very expensive black cowboy hat. He told me he had recently taken over managing one of the local banks. I had followed up afterwards and knew at least that much checked out.
He told me that his son, who had gotten into some trouble with the law back East, had recently disappeared and from what he had determined in tracking his last-known whereabouts he suspected the kid had gotten himself shanghaied while hanging around down at the docks.
I had been poking around asking questions for two weeks and had gotten absolutely nowhere with the case. Nobody I could find had ever heard of the kid or Blackovski and everybody said that no one had gotten shanghaied down at the docks since old Scruffybeard had mysteriously disappeared almost a year ago.
Reflecting on everything Annie had just told me some things were finally starting to snap into place.
“But why me?” I wondered aloud.
“I think it has something to do with Nick” she said. “From what I gather Blackovski is out for some sort of revenge.”
We talked some more and I thanked her for the info and anted up for the bar tab. Blackovski was paying for it so I figured what the hell.
Before we parted she asked me if there was anyone special in my life. I told her maybe but I still wasn’t sure yet and she left me with her number just in case I ever wanted to “talk”. Then we went our separate ways.
Walking back towards my apartment I began poring over everything I had recently learned.
So if Oyster Annie were to be believed then Blackovski had been playing me all along. That would certainly explain why nobody down at the docks seemed to have ever heard of this so-called son of his. Actually, it explained a lot of things.
“Why the hell didn’t I see this coming?” I asked myself.
After all these years I obviously was still nowhere near the Pirate Investigator my brother Nick had been. He would have smelled a rat in no time flat. Of course, that hadn’t saved him from the wiles of old Oyster Annie…
But how exactly was Nick wrapped up in all this?
I knew I had to start looking over his old case files.
I finally arrived home at 2:00am and Sadie and Waldo were there waiting up for me.
“How you doin’, boy?” I said as Waldo leapt into my arms.
“He’s been as regular as an old man with a prune juice addiction,” Sadie informed me.
“Glad to hear it,” I told her, giving her a peck on the front cheek and a pat on the rear one.
“So how is that nasty old case of yours going?” she asked wrapping her arms around me from behind and nuzzling my neck and shoulder.
“I might just have had a lucky break,” I told her, turning around to grab her in my own embrace.
“What’s that funny smell?” she asked, crinkling up her nose and sniffing into the air.
“It’s a long story,” was all I said before dragging her off to the shower with me.
The next morning I told her I had some work to do and she said that she had as well so Waldo and I made off towards my office while she climbed into a cab and headed downtown to the foundation her father had started which she had inherited when he died. The air seemed fresh and the sun was shining brightly and it looked like it just might turn out to be one helluva day.
And it certainly did. Just not in the way I was expecting.
By the time I got to my office building it had already clouded up again and started raining. I set Waldo loose to run around in the hallway and dry out. I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled a wet weasel but it’s something like a cross between a mangy dog and a dead possum.
When I got to my office I found the door was unlocked and I’ll be damned if he wasn’t sitting right there again. Blackovski!
“How is it you keep getting into my locked office whenever I’m away?” I asked him even as the same question occurred to me.
“Landlady must have let me in,” he replied before changing the subject to ask how things were coming along on his case.
“It’s been a really pisser,” I answered honestly. “But I think I may have some new leads opening up.”
As we sat there I couldn’t help thinking there was something familiar about him.
“I suppose you’ll need some more expense money,” he finally said.
“Does the Pope wear a funny hat?” I replied. I was no fool.
He wrote me a check and made me promise to call him if there were any new developments. I told him if there were he’d be the first to know and he said he had to get off to the sperm bank.
As soon as he had left I walked over to the closet where I had stuck all of Nick’s old things and cautiously opened the door.
For a moment I stood amazed at all of Nick’s old costumes. Like the great Sherlock Holmes my brother had certainly been a master of disguise. I drug out all the boxes containing his old case files and sat down on the floor to begin going through them.
About that time Sadie showed up carrying Waldo under her arm and asked if I needed any help.
“Sure, baby,” I said. “I could use all the help I can get.”
“We’re looking for anything with the name Blackovski,” I told her and together we started going through the boxes.
When evening finally came around we had still gotten nowhere.
“Your brother sure did solve a lot of cases,” she observed as we were going through the last box.
“He was the best there ever was,” I told her.
“What ever happened to him, if you don’t mind my asking?”
I sighed. “He got involved with the wrong dame,” I cautiously answered, not exactly looking to volunteer that I myself had gotten involved with the same dame and that she had played us against each other like dueling banjoes, turning two once-inseparable brothers into mortal enemies. “Everything ended up going south for him and he eventually took his own life.”
“I’m so sorry!” she said emphatically.
“That’s OK, baby,” I answered. “It wasn’t your fault. At least I got a new job out of it.”
“That must have been so horrible for you!”
“You don’t know the half of it, baby” I said, leaving it at that.
We decided to grab a drink so we stopped by The Constipated Monkey where we had first met.
“Two bismuth subsalicylates?” Johnny Walker asked us, grinning ear to ear.
I thought of poor Melinda’s recently belated brother and told him, “No thanks, Johnny,” I said. “I’ll just have a martini. Wet and dirty.”
“Just like your women, eh Skip?” he said before suddenly realizing Sadie was sitting right there. He apologized as face turned a bright shade of crimson.
“That’s OK,” Sadie said. “As I’m sure Skip can attest to I can be both of those things.”
We all had a good laugh and Sadie ordered up a Kaopectate & Cream. Johnny brought our drinks and went off to serve some of the other patrons.
I set Waldo down to run free and told him to stay away from the pink stuff.
“I was just sure we’d find something in those files,” I mused.
“Are you certain his name was Blackovski whenever your brother dealt with him?” Sadie asked.
I suddenly realized I wasn’t sure of anything.
“You’ll make a good Pirate Investigator someday, baby,” I told her.
How could I have been so stupid!?
I really had no business calling myself a detective.
But there was just something about this case that had continually been throwing me off my game. Something I just couldn’t quite put my finger on.
“It’s OK,” Sadie said encouragingly. “I have faith you’ll figure it all out eventually.
We finished our drinks and I gathered up Waldo from dry humping a stuffed beaver they kept in the window and we all headed back to Sadie’s place.
I slept fitfully that night and suffered from strange and horrific nightmares.
I dreamt I was standing in front of Nick’s grave when a boney hand reached up through the dirt. As I stood terrified Nick himself came up out of the grave, looking horribly disfigured just like the last way I had seen him after he decided to take the high dive off the top of our office building into a pool of hard concrete.
“You did this to me!” he moaned.
“It wasn’t me, Nick,” I stuttered. “It was that rotten dame Oyster Annie!”
“I loved that dame!” he screamed accusingly.
“Everybody loved that dame, Nick,” I pleaded. “You know that. And you weren’t her first victim either, or her last. Hell, she’d have ruined me if I had had anything to lose!”
“You’ll pay for this, Skippy!” he wailed, slowly sinking back into the grave.
I started kicking dirt in his face. It had always sent me into a rage whenever he called me Skippy.
Suddenly Oyster Annie appeared in the dirt beside him, laughing maniacally. Nick began laughing also as together they sank beneath the cold damp earth.
I awoke suddenly in a cold sweat and saw Sadie’s worried face hovering over me.
“I didn’t know if I should wake you or not,” she said. “You must have been having a nightmare.”
“You don’t know the half of it, baby,” I again said to her, and got up to take a cold shower.
The next day I decided to follow up on what Sadie had suggested back at the bar and went down to the docks to talk to one of my most trusted informants. Sadie said she had some work to do at the foundation and offered to take Waldo with her.
I found Dirty Larry right where I knew he would be, sitting at his personal table in The Scabbardly Scallop watching the miniature horse races on the television behind the bar.
“Who we bettin’ on today?” I asked him as I pulled up a chair.
“Certainly not you from what I hear,” he said.
Seeing the look on my face he immediately lightened up. “See that pony straggling along at the back of the pack?” he said.
“There’s no way you’re betting on that old nag!” I exclaimed.
“Just you watch,” he said.
We both looked on as in the final stretch the old glueball suddenly sprang forth like someone had set a raging tiger after his ass. He bolted past the other horses like they were standing still and easily stole the race.
“Well I’ll be damned,” I said, my mouth still hanging wide open.
“Told ya, Noir!” Dirty Larry said smiling. “You know I don’t mess around when it comes to the tiny horses.”
“No, I guess you sure don’t,” I admitted.
He ordered up a scotch and subsalicylate and eyed me warily.
“I don’t suppose you came here to watch the races with me,” he finally said.
“You know better than that, Dirty,” I replied. “I need some information.”
“That’s what I figured” he said. “I assume you’re willing to pay me for whatever knowledge I may be able to impart to you.”
I slipped him a sixer and told him that was just for starters.
“What you looking to know?” he asked.
“What can you tell me about this guy who took over old Scruffybeard’s racket?”
“I can tell you he’s trouble,” he answered, “and that you’re better off staying as far away from him as you can possibly get.”
“I already figured that much,” I told him. “Anything else?”
“He calls himself ‘Black Lazarus’,” he said. “Anything more than that will cost you another one of those sixers.”
I reached into my pocket and slid him another bill.
He warily looked over his shoulder as if to make sure no one was watching us. “I hear he’s tied up with the local sperm bank somehow. That’s supposedly how he launders his money.”
“It must get mighty sticky,” I joked just to ease the tension.
“You don’t know how sticky, my friend” he replied. “Now let me give you a tip. And it won’t cost you a single duodenarypiece. Walk away from this case, Skip. Hell, get yourself out of the whole damn dirty business for chrissake. And move as far away from here as possible.”
“You seem to know more than you’re telling me, Dirty,” I replied accusingly.
“Skip,” he said, “I’ve known you for a long time, and I knew your brother even longer. Hell, I’ve probably told you more than is good for you to know already. I’m begging you, Skip—if you know what’s good for you you’ll walk away from this one. There’s no dishonor in saving your own neck.”
“I’ll be the one to decide what’s good for me,” I said, handing him one last final sixer. “And now I’ve got a case to solve.”
“It’s your funeral,” was all he said as I stood up and walked out the door.
Now that I had another name to go on I knew I would be able to make some more inquiries.
But that would have to wait because I had promised Sadie I would meet her for lunch at The Constipated Monkey. On the way there I realized I was being tailed.
Knowing the city like the wrinkles on my nutsack I led my pursuer on a wild goose chase through the streets and alleyways. When he finally came around the corner behind the old Nairobian Market I was waiting there for him.
“Something you’d like to discuss, buddy?” I asked, thrusting my revolver into his chest.
“I wasn’t following you, I swear!” he pathetically insisted. “You just kept walking in front of me, that’s all!”
“I’ve heard that one before,” I told him. “Now what is it you want?”
“N-n-n-nothing, I s-s-s-swear!” he began stuttering like a scared little pig.
“You sure do s-s-s-swear a lot,” I said pulling back the hammer on my sidepiece. “Now I’m gonna ask you one more time. Why are you following me?”
“He paid me! He paid me!” the little runt began confessing like a Catholic schoolboy who had had impure thoughts about his sister.
“Who paid you?” I said, shoving my pistol further into his ribcage.
“The g-g- guy at the sperm bank!” he pleaded. “He said I could make a few extra bucks if I followed you and told him what you were up to. I needed the money! I’ve got a sick mother to take care of you know.”
“So you decided to take care of her by squirting your love-sauce into a test tube, eh?”
“That, and selling my blood,” he replied. “Ain’t no one wants to hire an ex-con around here.”
“What were you in for?” I asked him, still holding my .45 to his chest.
“I got caught jacking it at the dirty cinema,” he admitted, not taking his eyes off of my pistol.
“Then it sounds like you found the perfect source of income,” I said. “You should have stuck to what you’re good at.”
“Look b-b-buddy,” he muttered, “You just let me go and I promise you won’t ever s-s-s-see me again. I s-s-s-swear!”
“And just what are you going to tell your boss down at the man-juice factory?” I asked.
“I’ll tell him you ditched me,” he promised. “It was almost true anyway.”
“I don’t think you’ll find him very forgiving,” I told him, sliding my piece back into its holster.
“Thanks, buddy! I won’t forget this,” he sniveled in relief before zig-zagging off like a scared rabbit.
Guess I’ll be paying a visit to the old juice bank, I thought as I made my way on to The Constipated Monkey to meet Sadie.
When I arrived at the Monkey Sadie was already sitting at the bar sipping on a bismuth subsalicylate. Suddenly I realized that in all the time I had known her I had never once seen her go off and stink up the bathroom. Oh the wiles of the feminine race, I thought.
As I pulled up a barstool to sit beside her Waldo rushed out from behind the bar and leapt into my arms.
“He sure misses his daddy when he’s gone,” Sadie said.
“And how about you?” I asked her.
“I missed his daddy too,” she said.
“So how exactly did you ever end up with a pet weasel in the first place?” she asked. Johnny Walker stood grinning behind the bar.
“I rescued him from this cobbler’s shop where I found him being chased around a bench by someone’s pet monkey,” I told her.
“Good thing for him,” she said.
“Good thing for the monkey,” I corrected her.
“What you drinking tonight, Skip?” Johnny asked as he emptied the cigarette butts from some dirty mugs somebody had left sitting on the bar.
“Gimme a bourbon and bismuth,” I said. I figured if Sadie wasn’t going to be stinking up the john that night then I probably shouldn’t either.
“You two know that stuff’ll turn your insides black,” Johnny said.
“That’s OK,” I replied. I’ve got my name to live up to you know.
“So how was you day, honey?” Sadie asked, sliding in and planting a big a wet kiss on my chops.
“Productive so far,” I told her. “But it appears someone’s been playing me like a rusty trombone.”
“So what are you going to do now?” she asked.
“I’m going to finish this drink, wolf down some fries and a cheeseburger and then take you home and try to forget all about it for now by engaging in other more pressing activities.”
Sadie cooed as Johnny came back over to take our food orders.
The next morning I awoke early and started formulating my game plan. Until this point all my cases had been pretty straight-forward and nobody had ever tried to double-cross me.
What would Nick have done in a situation like this? I asked myself.
Sadie got up and made us some coffee. Waldo ran gleefully around our feet, happy to be spending some quality time with his daddy and his new mommy. He climbed up into Sadie’s lap as she sipped her coffee and she stroked him behind his ears just the way he likes it.
“He’s even friendlier than some cats I’ve known,” she said groggily as she waited for the coffee to kick in.
“He likes you,” I said. “And I’m beginning to think he might just be a good judge of character.”
“I’m glad at least one of us is,” she said.
I wasn’t sure what she meant by that but I decided to let it slide for the time-being.
I told her I needed to go down to the semen bank and confront Blackovski, or Black Lazarus or whatever it was he was calling himself.
Sadie got that worried look in her eyes.
“Are you sure you shouldn’t maybe get the police involved?” she said.
“I wouldn’t have much anything to tell them,” I explained, “except for some wild rumors. Besides, in my business it’s generally a sound policy to involve the boys in blue as little as possible. Knowing you’re too tight with the fuzz tends to spook a lot of your better informants.”
“Well I don’t like it, Skip,” she said. “But I’m sure you know your own business better than I do.”
“Don’t worry about me, baby,” I told her as I fetched my shoulder-piece and began inspecting the chamber. “I’ve been in worse jams than this and it isn’t like I’m going in without any sort of protection.”
“Well you be careful,” she said. “I’d hate for anything to happen to you just when I was really starting to like you.”
“I like you too, baby,” I told her. “And I will be careful.”
Sadie said she would watch after Waldo and take him back to her place once she got done at the foundation.
I finished up my coffee and left them both with a belly rub and a kiss.
Still forming my game plan, I decided I had better arrange some backup protection just in case things went south. I headed down to Big Louie’s boxing arena where I knew I could retain some muscle.
Big Louie was a midget who had gotten banned from the sport for punching below the belt one too many times. Afterwards he had set up his arena where he trained up-and-coming boxers.
When I walked in he was watching a couple of trainees going at each other in the ring.
“How goes things, Louie?” I asked him.
“Skip!” he said. “Why I haven’t seen you around since we got into that scrape down at The Dirty Dogfish!”
“Did they ever get that guy’s business sewed back on afterwards?” I asked him.
“Not after I got through with him,” he said, baring his pointy little teeth and grinning from ear to ear.
He told the boxers to knock off for the day and we went back into his office.
“You ever gonna get some real chairs in here?” I asked him, squatting down onto one of his tiny little seats.
“What do I need them for?” he asked. “So how’s the old detective business these days?”
“That’s what I came to talk to you about,” I told him. “I need to cash in on that favor you owe me, buddy.”
“So the big Pirate Investigator needs the little man’s help, eh?” he said.
I told him I how I was getting ready to walk into a shaky situation and that I could use some muscle for backup.
“How many guys you need?” he asked.
“Two or three should do it,” I told him. “I just need them to stick close by and make sure I make it back out of whatever sort of mess I’m heading into.
“Anything for you, old skunk,” he said. “And I think I know just the fellows.”
He pulled out a bottle of Old Underwear from his wall safe and poured us a couple drinks.
“So business is getting pretty hairy, eh?” he said. “From what I hear things have been pretty quiet down at the docks ever since old Scruffybeard disappeared.”
“Too quiet,” I told him. “Especially since there seems to be a new ship-slaver in town.”
“What’s his name?” Louie asked.
“Apparently he calls himself Black Lazarus,” I told him.
“Is he a Man of Color?” he said.
“Then what the hell kind of name is that supposed to be?” he asked, wiping off the whiskey dribbling from his stubbly little chin.
“Don’t ask me,” I said. “That’s one of the things I’m headed to find out.”
“Can you wait around for an hour or so?” he asked.
“I’ve waited this long”, I told him. “Another hour’s not going to set me back any.”
He picked up the phone and made a call.
“They’ll be right down,” he said after he had hung up. “Another snort?”
“I never did understand where you put that stuff the way you can slurp it down,” I told him.
“Hollow leg,” he said.
After about 45 minutes Louie’s goons showed up.
“Boys,” Louie told them, “this is Skip Noir and he’s an old and dear friend of mine and I want you to take good care of him.”
I told them we’d be heading down to the old juice factory and after Louie had poured us all another shot we got ready to head out.
“Knock ‘em dead, Skip,” Louie said as we were leaving. “And if Skip can’t knock ‘em dead then I want you boys to knock the living shit out them.”
“Whatever you say, boss,” the biggest of the goons replied.
“They ain’t got much brains but they’re good to have around in a rumble,” Louie told me.
I thanked him and we headed out for the come collector’s.
When we got there I told Louie’s boys to wait outside and if I hadn’t come out in an hour then they should come on in to see what goes.
I stepped through the door into a waiting room where a pretty blonde young secretary was sitting at her desk.
“Here to make a deposit?” she asked.
“I’m here to see Mr. Blackovski, baby,” I told her.
“Is Mr. Blackovski expecting you?”
“He should be, “ I replied. “Just tell him Skip Noir has come to see him.”
“Please take a seat over there,” she told me.
While I was waiting I thumbed through some of the magazines they had lying around. Most of them had pages that were stuck together. I marveled at the variety of choices they offered. We got some real sickos in this city, I thought.
“Mr. Blackovski will see you now,” the blonde dish announced.
I stood up and was led through a door back into a hallway containing a bunch of offices.
“Right through there,” she indicated, waving toward a door that said “Executive Office”.
“Thanks dumpling,” I told her and blew her a kiss just for good measure.
She pretended to catch it and stuff it down her pants.
As I walked through the door I saw Blackovski sitting behind a giant oaken desk.
“Well hello, Mr. Noir,” he said. “By your presence may I assume you’ve finally made some headway with my case?”
“That’s what I’m here to talk to you about,” I told him.
He motioned towards a chair sitting on an Oriental throw rug in front of his desk.
I sat down and took off my hat, holding it in my hands to shield my revolver from view.
I decided to get right down to business.
“I don’t appreciate being tailed,” I told him.
“Well, Mr. Noir,” he said, “a businessman like me sometimes has to protect his investments.”
“Let’s get right to the point,” I said. “I don’t think you ever had a son. And I’d like to know what sort of beef it was you had with my brother.”
“Ah, your brother,” he said, spinning around in his chair and removing his hat. He seemed to be messing around with something on his face.
When he turned back around I had my revolver pointed at him and cocked for business.
But I didn’t hold it there for long.
My jaw dropped even as my arms did the same.
Because sitting right there in front of me was a ghost. A ghost who looked just like my dead brother Nick.
“Hello Skippy!” he said as he began laughing maniacally just like in my dream.
Before I could even react he reached down under his desk for a lever and the rug dropped out from under me.
Both me and the chair went crashing through the trapdoor he had set up, and as soon as I landed someone cracked me on the noggin again and I was off to Sleepsville.
When I awoke I was tied up in a chair in a darkened room and Nick and Oyster Annie were standing in front of me.
“We thought you’d never wake up,” Annie said, cackling hideously like the old hag she was inside.
“Nick!” I said. “It can’t be you! I saw your dead body after they scraped you off the pavement!”
“You saw the poor fool I threw off the roof to fake my own death,” he said. “By the time I was through with him he could have been The Queen Mother and nobody would have recognized him.”
“But why’d you do it, Nick?” I asked him.
Oyster Annie was still laughing and he told her to shut the hell up.
“You never were cut out to be a detective, little brother,” he said.
“I’m a damn good Pirate Investigator and I’ve unraveled lots of cases,” I told him. “After all, I learned from the best.”
“Well being the best never was good enough,” he said. “I decided to get out of the business and get into something that really pays—Piracy!”
“You…a stinking pirate???” I asked him. “I just can’t believe it, Nick!”
“There are a lot of things about me you wouldn’t believe, my dear brother Skippy. And you have no idea how long we’ve been planning this little reunion.”
“But why, Nick?” I said.
“Because you thought you could horn in on my girl!” he bitterly replied.
Annie walked up behind him and put her arms around his shoulders.
“But this isn’t like you, Nick!” I pleaded. “You were the smartest most kindhearted fellow I ever knew—at least until you got mixed up with her.”
“I’m still smart,” he said. “Smarter than you’ll ever be.”
Oyster Annie started laughing again and he turned around and backhanded her across the mouth.
“Shut up, I said!” he screamed at her.
Annie wiped the blood from her lip and quietly sat down in a chair behind him.
“I would have expected this from her,” I said to Nick, “But you?”
“Despite her big mouth and diseased aroma Annie has taught me a few things,” he said.
Annie started to say something but a quick darting glance from my brother shut her right back up again.
“And now, you’re going to find out what a pirate’s life is really like,” he said. “I’ve got very special new Captain picked out for you who goes by the name of Brown-Eye Pete. And I presume that very quickly you’ll be learning where he gets his name from.”
A dirty and scraggily-looking man came limping into the room though a closed door behind Nick. He had a wooden leg and a parrot on his shoulder and he wore a patch over one eye. I noticed his other eye was blue.
“Aye, he is a pretty one!” he said to my brother Nick. “I’ll be having lots of fun with this one!”
“Lots of fun with this one!” repeated the parrot. “Awwwwk!”
Suddenly I realized we were in the hull of a ship.
“The sperm bank!” I said. “That’s where you’ve been shanghaiing them from!”
“So you just now figured that out,” Nick said, laughing cruelly. “It’s the perfect setup too. Nobody ever misses a dirty old broken tramp who can’t keep hands off his own Charlie Chaplin.”
Sadie and Brown-Eye Pete started laughing.
“And now, Skippy, I must bid you adieu. The Captain and I have some business to settle.”
The three of them walked up the stairs to the deck of the ship laughing like a pack of rabid hyenas.
“Enjoy your new life, little brother” Nick said as he ducked upstairs. “I think you might even learn to appreciate it. You never were much one for the ladies anyway.”
“You don’t know me at all, Nick!” I screamed in anguish. “You’ll pay for this, ‘Black Lazarus’!”
But it was too late. He had already closed the hatch.
I had sat there for what seemed like an eternity wondering how the hell I was going to get myself out of this particular predicament when I heard the hatch open up and Brown-Eye Pete came hobbling his way down the stairs rubbing his grubby little hands together.
“Aye, matey!” he said. “You and I are about to become very intimate pals.”
“Pretty one! Pretty one!” squawked his bird.
He fetched some rope and bound my hands and feet tightly before untying me from the chair. He stuck a gag in my mouth and said, “I’ll be taking pulling this out later when it comes time to hear you scream.”
“Hear you scream! Hear you scream!” repeated the bird.
He shoved me down on my hands and knees and began to pull down my trousers.
Oh my God I’m about to get butt-raped by a dirty old one-eyed pirate while his goddam bird sits and watches! I thought.
I took a small amount of solace in the fact that at least he didn’t have a hook for a hand.
But that solace fled quickly just as soon as he unzipped his own trousers and unfurled what to this day has to be the biggest pork sword I have ever seen.
I mean, it had to be swinging almost down to his damn dirty knees.
It was all I could do to keep myself from passing out in fear as I began to clinch my butt cheeks together tight enough to squeeze a shiny new diamond out of a lump of coal.
And as he was starting to become enormously erect I was thinking how I would definitely prefer the lump of coal. I mean, the guy was a freaking tripod.
“At first I promised your brother I’d be takin’ it easy on you, my lass,” he told me. “But he said for me to really let you have it and then he even paid me a little extra just to make sure I understood.”
“Just to make sure! Just to make sure!” squawked the bird.
Dear God please let me just have a heart attack and die right now! I thought.
Brown-eye had just started moving in when up on the deck there was some sort of huge commotion.
“What the blue blazes be happenin’ now?” he asked as we both looked toward the stairs leading up to the deck.
Suddenly the hatch sprang open and Louie’s goons came bounding down the stairs. The parrot rose up and began to flap all around the room squawking his damn head off.
Before Brown-Eye Pete could even react they had ahold of him and began working him over pretty good. Big Louie walked down behind them and came over and started untying me.
“Looks like you owe me one now, sweetcheeks!” he said, pulling the gag away from my mouth.
Trying to look as dignified as a man in my position possibly could I stood up, pulled up my pants and said, “You don’t know how glad I am to see you, Louie.”
“Considering the look of things I think I have a pretty good idea,” he replied.
The goons had finished with Petey the Pirate and had deposited him like a sack of bloody pulp over in the corner.
Eying his enormous anaconda-like appendage Louie bared his teeth and asked me if I wanted he should finish him off.
“Not today,” I told him. “My eyes have already seen enough today for one lifetime.”
“Seen enough! Seen enough!” squawked the bird as it came landing on the chair.
Louie immediately snatched it up and bit off its head like he was Ozzy Osbourne.
He spat out a bunch of feathers and said, “Let’s get you out of here, Skip.”
His goons helped me up the stairs and when we got to the deck I saw Brown-Eye’s crew scattered all over the place like bowling pins.
We made our way onto the dock and Louie dismissed his thugs, telling them job well done.
We sat down on a nearby bench and I asked Louie how he had ever managed to find me.
“Well,” he said, “after you had gone into the juicery the boys went across the street to The Tipsy Turtle to wait it out for you. When you still hadn’t came out after an hour they moved in and smashed up the place pretty good. I hear the janitor quit his job after he came in and saw the gooey mess they had made. Anyway, they never found anybody in the whole joint other than the secretary and a couple of bums who were there jerking it so they came back and told me everything that had happened. I remembered what you had said about this Black Lazarus fellow so I put two and two together and we headed straight down to the docks. The boys took out the crews on three different ships before we finally found the right one.”
“God bless your tiny little heart, Louie,” I told him. “You should really consider becoming a detective.”
“You sure don’t make it look very appealing,” he said. “Besides, I’ve got a good thing going down at the arena now anyway.”
He asked me if I wanted a ride home and I told him I’d rather walk. I had some things I needed to think about.
I thanked him again and he headed back to the boxing club.
I sat there on the bench for awhile before I slowly began to meander my way back downtown.
I can’t believe it was Nick the whole time, I thought. He was the best brother a guy could ever have. Or at least I thought he was.
I remembered how when we were kids he had always looked out for me and protected me from the bullies, and how he had shown me all the ropes.
If a guy like that can go rotten then what hope is there for any of us?
I thought about how he and Oyster Annie had played me every step of the way and about how I had been dumb enough to walk right into their trap.
By the time I got near my apartment I guess I was pretty despondent.
I decided to stop off at Wallberg’s Drug Store and make a little purchase.
“A whole case?” the lady pharmacist had asked me incredulously.
“That’s what I said,” I told her. She went to the back and came back up to the counter with my package.
“Well I hope this fixes up your problem, Mister,” she said as she rang up my purchase.
I paid her and told her, “Thank you, ma’am.”
I didn’t even have enough heart left to call her Toots.
I walked the rest of the way to my apartment and locked the door behind me after I had gotten inside.
Then I sat down on the floor and began to initiate my morbid plan.
I gazed at the label on the first bottle before I opened it up.
WARNING: MAY CAUSE A TEMPRARY DARKENING OF THE STOOL, it said.
I figured that was the least of my worries at this point.
After I had chugged the eighth or ninth bottle things started getting pretty hazy. My ears were ringing like church bells and I was feeling dizzy and breathing real heavy. I’m pretty sure that at some point I passed out.
I seem to recall someone fumbling with the lock and Waldo rushing in and licking me all over my face.
When I finally came to I was lying in a hospital bed hooked up to all sorts of machinery.
Sadie was standing there with a doctor.
“We almost lost you, Mr. Noir,” the doctor said.
“Skip, I’m so glad to see you alive!” Sadie chimed in.
I stuck out my tongue to speak and saw it was all black and hairy looking.
“Just get some rest now,” the doctor said. “There’ll be plenty of time for talking once the swelling goes down.
I realized my insides felt like someone had stuffed them full of concrete and I must have passed out again.
“Why’d you do it, Skip?” Sadie asked me a couple weeks later after she had gotten me back to her apartment.
Waldo jumped into my lap and started rubbing against me like an attention-starved stepchild.
“Nevermind,” Sadie sighed. “Considering everything that’s happened, I understand.”
She poured a glass of prune juice and handed it to me.
“Thank you, baby,” I said as I took it from her. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”
We sat down at her kitchen table and she started filling me in on everything that had happened since that day at the docks.
It turned out Sadie had been working for the IRS all along and that they had been investigating Blackovski, aka Black Lazarus, aka my “late” brother Nick.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you before, Skip,” she said, “but I knew I couldn’t say anything that might jeopardize our case.”
“So you were playing me all along too,” I sighed. “And when we met that night in the bar the whole thing was all a setup.”
“Not at all, Skip!” she pleaded. “I never even realized who you were until after we had hooked up.”
“Where is he?” I asked.
“We’ve still got him down in county lockup,” she said. “Along with that rotten-smelling strumpet of his. They’ll be transferred into federal custody just as soon as all the paperwork comes through.”
“Well I guess you were the real detective all along,” I told her.
“Not at all, Skip” she said. “Until I met you I wasn’t getting anywhere with this case.”
“So where do we go from here?” I asked her.
“As far as I’m concerned we can pick things up right where we left off,” she said sliding over into my lap.
I ran my fingers through her hair and started crying.
“There, there, baby” she said, gently stroking my face. “Mama’s here to make everything all better now.”
Waldo leapt up and started licking the both of us.
The next day I went down to the county lockup to see Nick. My insides were still pretty sore but I was getting around OK.
When they brought him into the room and he saw who it was visiting him he let out a huge sigh of relief and began to tear up.
“I am so sorry, little brother!” he sobbed. “That rotten dame had me so twisted up inside I had no idea what I was doing. I guess this whole time you were the real detective after all.”
“I had some help,” I told him.
We sat there just looking at each other for a long time.
“I guess they’ll be putting me away for good after all this,” he finally said.
“Well there were extenuating circumstances and I’ll be happy to testify in your favor,” I told him.
“Will you come visit me, Skip?” he asked.
“You bet your ass I will, big brother,” I said. I started telling him all about Sadie and how I never would have made it through everything without her.
“Yeah, I heard you had OD’ed on the pink stuff,” he said. “You don’t know how happy it makes me to see you here and to know you’re alright.
“I’m happy too, Nick,” I said. “Happy to have my big dead brother back.”
I gave him a hug and he started getting all weepy again.
“Let’s have none’a that!” I told him. “Everything’s going to be alright from now on and we’ll all be back together before you know it.”
“I don’t know, Skip, he said. “I done a lot of crazy rotten things for that smelly-ass broad. I hope she never sees the light of day again.”
“She won’t. Not if I have any say in the matter,” I told him. “And like I said I’ll come to visit you whenever I can so you don’t get so lonely.”
“You always were the best, Skip,” he said. “I’m sorry that I ever said otherwise. You take care of that dame of yours. She sounds like a real good egg.”
“I will, and she is” I told him as the guard began escorting him back to his cell. As I exited the jail I pulled up my collar to shield my neck from the rain.
What a beautiful day! I thought.
Eventually Sadie and I got hitched and I had the lettering on the door to my office changed to read “Skip and Sadie Noir: Pirate Detectives”.
The next time we went down to The Constipated Monkey we sat at the bar and Johnny asked us what we were drinking.
Sadie and I looked at each other, and I told him, “Two Pernod and Prune Juices.”
The boys were back playing on stage and during the break they came over to see me.
“We’re sorry about everything we said, Skip,” Wartballs told me. “You’re welcome to blow with us any old time you want.” The other guys nodded in agreement.
“I’ve been keeping that rusty trombone of yours in the storage closet ever since you left it here that night, Skip,” Johnny said. “Would you like me to fetch it for you?”
“Does the pope wear a shiny ring on his finger?” I said.
Johnny went to fetch my instrument while Sadie and I toasted to our new favorite drink.
I knew both our stools were going to be free-flowing from now on.
So I was sitting alone in this smoky dive sipping on a bismuth subsalicylate when he caught my ear.
He was blowing that rusty trombone like nobody’s business.
I knew right away he was going to stick his penis in me. A girl’s got a way of foreseeing these things you know…
© 2019 Bryan Patrick Deno