THE CASE OF THE MISSING CASE
by Matt Pierce
Boyle's the name. Hardy Boyle,that is. I'm a private detective.I was sitting in my office one day,contemplating the rising cost of Belgian rutabagas when the phone rang. I answered it as I'm prone to do to keep the blasted ringing from making my hangover any worse than it already was. I usually regretted answering the phone because the running hole at the other end either wanted to sell me an incomplete set of sloppily bound encyclopedias or it was my ex saying we should get back together because this time she really HAD stopped getting hopped up on pills AND hopping on guys named Rudy. Either way, I wasn't buying it. Once in a lunar eclipse,it would be a client and in this case it actually was.
"Hardy Boyle?"chirped the nightingale on the other end.
"Well,it ain't Dan Duryea."I retorted.
"Mr. Boyle, I'm all a-flutter and have been extremely distraught.I can't believe this is happening to me. I've never called on the services of a private detective before but I don't know where else to turn.I'm wondering if you'll take my case."
"I'm wondering if you'll get to the point."I shot back.
"Fair enough.I suppose I deserved that.You see,Mr.Boyle-ohhh-"
And then she started bawling like a baby in a room full of onions.
"Lay off the waterworks,angel.We've got a drought in this county.Spill the beans before the chili gets cold."
"Call me Hardy.It'll save time."At least a syllable, I thought to myself.
"Well,Hardy,someone stole my briefcase."
"All this is for some broke down piece of luggage? What'd you keep in there? The dead sea scrolls?"
"If it's all the same to you,Mr.-"she caught herself-"Hardy,I'd rather not say."
"I'm not Mr.Hardy.He's a rather rotund fellow with a penchant for fine messes and it's not all the same to me. I like to know what I'm up against,especially if it's a wall."
"I could pay you quite handsomely."
"Look,sister,I charge $2oo dollars a day plus expenses and I don't care how much-"
"I'll double that!"
"You're on, lady. Where can we meet?"
Samolian's was an upscale bar on the lower east side whose clientele ranged from the tipsy well-to-do's to the blitzkrieged billionaires.I spotted my damsel in distress.She was in pink,I was in gray and the jukebox was playing Rhapsody in Blue.I sidled up to my lady in waiting like a deep sea diver wading into shark-infested waters.
"Excuse me,miss.The name's Boyle."
"Charla-Charla Tan.Pleased to meet you."The voice was unmistakable.This was the dame I spoke to on the phone as sure as the earth was round. Well,roundish.
She stuck out her gloved hand,I planted my kisser on her delectable knuckles,pushed my fedora up to get a better gander,and spouted"Charla Tan?"
She giggled like a horny squirrel whose mouth was full of nuts. "Yes,Hardy."she emphasized."My father was Chinese and my mother was from Boston.They made the most wonderful soup together."If that was a metaphor for something kinky,I didn't get it and wasn't sure I wanted to.
"So about this case-"I started.
"Yes,Hardy,dear.I believe I'm being blackmailed."
"Blackmailed? By who?"
She whispered something in my ear.I think she may have accidentally given me a wet willie.
"Senator Pool?"I blurted.
She shushed me.
"I'm sorry."I whispered."Senator Eugene Pool?"
"The very one."
"Why would HE want to blackmail YOU?"
"Why does anybody want to blackmail anybody? Money."
"Money? He's gotta be rolling in it."
"The only thing he's rolling is hashish.But he prefers morphine.All his money went straight into his arm."
"So what's he got on you?"She clammed up."You're good,angel.O.K.,I guess for 40,000 pennies a day I'll play by your rules.Any idea where I can find the senator?"
"3 booths down."she piped up.
Just then,the senator got up,and he,his $4.99 toupee and a couple of galoots from central casting headed out the door.
"Leave it to me,sweetheart.I'll take care of this bargain basement billbuster in 2 shakes of a leg."She looked at me in disbelief."O.K.,make that 3 shakes of a leg and a minute to leave an apology note on the fire hydrant."
I slipped out of that overpriced gin joint and started to follow Heckyl,Jeckyl,and Senator Cleghorn.The air was thick with the stench of cigar smoke and the kind of perfume your grandmother would wear on bingo night.Creeping through the parking lot,I crouched behind a black Cadillac,getting a good look at the senator and Heckyl.But where was Jeckyl?THWACK!Out went the lights!
The panoramic oligarchy of infinitesimal fortitude resoundly fatigued my soul until-unnnnnhh.I woke woozily from this dissertation of fools to find myself tied up,and not metaphorically.Miss Tan was tied up as well albeit more attractively,like a pretty package.
"Hardy-darling-are you awake?"the sweet flower of moral turpitude intoned.
As my head pounded out the beat of the song of the Volga boatmen,I wincingly replied,"Sure,dollface.Rise and shine.Fix me up some bacon and some flapjacks while I pour us some hot joe and wait for the kiddies to bounce out of their bunk beds and start opening the presents Santy Claus left them."
"Seriously,Hardy,how are we going to get out of here?"
"Well,have you got any sharp objects?Like a hairpin or a knife?"
"Well then,we'll have to hop."
"We're tied to chairs aren't we?Let's go."
And we hopped,chairs in tow,to the door.I grasped the doorknob with my teeth.One of my molars started to surge with a pain that would drive weaker men to madness.Luckily,I was already insane.I got the door open and Easter couldn't happen soon enough as we hopped out of that accursed hellhole!
We hopped right into a boatload of ugly named Stubbs Mcelhanny.
"What are you doing here,Stubbs? Shouldn't you be off frightening small children and animals?"
"Very funny,Mr.Boyle.Shouldn't you be inside strapped to that chair?"
"I'm strapped to the chair,but I'm outside. It doesn't make any sense.Untie me before all logic withers asunder in this vast wasteland."
"You don't fool me with your fancy talk,shamus.Da boss wants you tied up and tied up you is."
"The boss,huh?And that would be-?"
"That would be me."Senator Pool interrupted,his toupee slightly shifting to the right.
"You!Senator Eugene Pool!So you're the character behind all these backstage shenanigans!"
"And what of it?"Pool answered unromantically.
"Well,for one thing,if you had a shred of dignity,you'd untie us!"
"Keep dreamin',dick!"Stubbs interjected.
"Go ahead and untie them,Stubbs.They're not going anywhere."Pool said democratically.Stubbs untied the ropes and freed us from our binds.
"Thanks,Stubbs.I'll remember you in my will.Isn't there an h in rhinoceros?"
"Hey-"Stubbs started,but Pool whimsically waved him off.
"Don't worry,Stubbs.This mindless cretin of a detective is merely a bug that will soon be squashed."He pronounced cretin as if it rhymed with frettin',which it doesn't and he should be by the time i got through with him. Of course, he was probably used to dealing with a higher class of cretin than I was.
"Senator Pool,couldn't we make a deal?"I offered.
"Oh,I've already tried that,Mr.-uh-"
"Well,Mr.Hardly Boiled,I tried to make a very generous deal with Miss Tan here but she refused."
"On what grounds?"I asked.
"On the very grounds you're standing on,Mr.Hardy."
"I am not Mr.Hardy and what do you mean?"I angrily countered.
"Well,I offered to return a few photos of Miss Tan and-"
Charla cracked her skull open and interrupted."And we don't need to speak of those photographs,Mr.Senator!"
This time I interrupted."No,go ahead,senator.I think we do need to speak of those photographs.They were of Miss Tan and whom?"
"They were of Miss Tan,matinee idol Van Joplin and a duck!"
"A duck?"I exclaimed!
"Show him the photos!"Pool ordered and Stubbs,the obedient brute that he was,did just that.This was the sickest thing I'd seen since my Aunt Gertrude had the chicken pox.
"You don't understand,"she fluttered."I-I-"Her lack of words matched her morality.
"This case isn't all it was quacked up to be."I posed.
"Ooohhhhh!"moaned Charla,Stubbs,and the senator in unison.
"I'm sorry.Somebody had to say it."
The senator shook himself a little and became composed(which is a hell of a lot better than becoming decomposed)."There will be no more negotiations."spoke Senator Pool."You two have caused me too much trouble."He pulled out his gun.
"Too bad that thing ain't loaded."I cackled.
The senator chortled."Of course it's loaded.Why would you think it wasn't?"
"Because when we were in the bar,I took it from you and unloaded it.But,of course,you were too loaded to notice."
"You stupid fool!Don't you think I'd notice someone taking my gun away?"the senator flambustered.His tone became more self-questioning as he spoke.He became so filled with doubt that he decided to check to see if there were any bullets in the chamber.I seized that moment of doubt,stepping to the side and grappling the pistol away from him.
"Hands up!You too,Stubbs!"I had them right where I wanted them and they knew it and there was nothing they could do about it.
"Oh,Hardy,my love!"Charla started.
"Don't my love me,sister!Get in line with the rest of the goon squad!You've been involved in fowl play and you're going down!Downtown,that is.I just solved the case of the missing case!And after I've booked the lot of you,I'm heading straight to the liquor store and getting myself a case!And then I'm heading home.Because this case,"I paused dramatically,"is closed!"