A Detective Story: Part Four
3.23.2004 by .
[Author’s Note: Let’s not discuss the various, banal factors in my life that have prevented me from concluding our little detective romp. Instead, let’s recap! Our narrator, detective at the firm of Johnson and Meyers, is shaken out of the monotony of a ferret-infested day by one Velma Rhodes. Mrs. Rhodes, a toothless beauty with a purse full of mackerel, beseeches our narrator to off her husband. The hapless detective, wholly taken with the darkness of her eyes and the gentleness of her touch (when helping him reattach his prosthetic arm), agrees. The next morning our narrator drives across town to the assigned meeting place, inadvertently taking out a couple of giraffes, and arrives at the Big Boy on time. Things begin to look iffy for the detective when his femme fatale disarms him, literally, and forces him into the back of a Chevy Camaro with a bovine chauffer. After an uncomfortable conversation in which differing political philosophies are revealed, they arrive at a bar familiar to the detective from his drinking days. And now, the action-packed, derivative non-conclusion! Hi Mom!]
Velma shoved me forward through the darkened threshold of the bar. My old stomping ground, I knew to expect a step staircase descending abruptly to my left. To my right I knew there’d be a cavernous hole boasting a wide bar, two taps, and half a bottle of Jack D’s, mostly water. The main bar was at the bottom of the stairs and the roughness of the upstairs served primarily to discourage a certain clientele from roosting. Specifically, the sort of clientele that cared about sports, popular music, exotic drinks, clean glassware and personal hygiene to the point of an unmitigated disdain for open sores.
To be honest, though, the downstairs portion of the bar looked about the same as the upstairs, but with more taps and at least one fellow passed out amongst the woodchips in the men’s room. Oh, and high on the wall behind the bar perched a giant stuffed Monitor lizard, clinging with glinting talons to a branch in a pose of fierce, contorted disapproval and/or indigestion, like George W. after three trips around the buffet at a gay wedding reception. Down the stairs we went, an insistent hiss issuing from betwixt the missing teeth my not-so-sweet Lady Disdain.
“Here we are, Mr. Detective,” she snarled.
And suddenly I realized that my surroundings were not familiar at all. I must have expressed my bewilderment, for Velma giggled, then snorted, which I found unattractive, yet strangely alluring. I found the gun barrel abruptly pressed against my back equally unattractive, yet also strangely alluring, and I wondered, briefly, if this was a part of me that I wanted to explore with an understanding and adventurous partner, perhaps during a romantic getaway in Granada. I felt fairly certain that Velma would be the wrong person to accompany me on such an intimate journey of self-awareness, though I’m sure she’d find the cuisine on said island paradise to her liking, not to mention the miles of sandy beaches.
“How do you like my renovations, dearie?”
Oh right, the bar. Frankly, the place looked pretty good. There was an overstuffed chair and a reading lamp in the corner, and atop the scuffed hardwood floor lay a pea-green Berber carpet whose perimeter looked chewy and frayed. Hanging on the wall above the chair was a portrait of a woman with an ugly scar across her cheek and a mandolin clutched in her long-fingered hand. To the left of the chair, framed by the doorway to the men’s room, stood an admittedly chunky gentlemen with a similar scar across his cheek, clutching not so much a mandolin as a handgun, and I found the effect to be rather less aesthetically pleasing. I heard the chauffer, Roman, clomp down the stairs behind me. Velma shoved me forward again, and I voluntarily stumbled towards the armchair.
“Yes, by all means, take a seat. I want you to be comfortable, above all.” I obliged. From this throne I faced my captive and chauffer; out of the corner of my eye I could see the chunky man bulging to my right. I spoke, since it seemed like a good idea.
“Is this why you brought me down here,” I asked, waving my one arm at my surroundings, “to show me some ratty decorations and to wave a gun at my face?”
“Sort of…but, no. Not really.” She paused, screwing up her face as if suddenly confused, or unsure how to proceed. “I brought you here, darling, because I wanted you to feel at home, and because I thought it might help you remember.”
“Remember what? The bar, yes, I’m familiar with the bar. Is that what this is all about, the bar?
“I don’t think so,” she snarled. “The bar is just a red herring. Speaking of which…” She signaled to Roman, who tossed her a soggy paper sack. She withdrew a live fish, scales glinting in the dusty yellow light, and hurled it at me. I knew it was a test of wills, so I didn’t flinch. The fish flapped against my forehead, then onto the floor where it wriggled and gasped. Velma continued.
“This is about you. You and your appointment with the Dark Lord of Hell, which starts just after I’m finished taunting you mercilessly with the forgotten secrets of your past. Capische?”
Like all good non-Italians, she mispronounced that word. I have this friend who’s Italian and he’s always moaning about how people pronounce it ‘capeesh,’ which is completely wrong. It’s a thing with him. Like, every time I see him it’s, “people think it’s capeesh, but it’s not,” and I’m all, “give it a rest, big guy,” and then he gets mad and punches me in the gut, and then I apologize and give him all my money which he claims is his fee for all the protection he’s offering me, which is total bull, because there I was in the basement of a bar with a couple of guns in my face and a fish and a broad who was talking like the secretary of the undead. Appointment with the Dark Lord, c’mon. That’s just silly.
“You mind telling me what’s going on?” I was getting impatient. “You walk into my office asking me to bump off your husband. Then today you turn around and decide it’s ME you want to bump off. What gives, sweetcheeks?”
She seemed to find this funny. “Oh no,” she giggled, sashaying towards me, “no no no. You’ve missed the crucial point, haven’t you, dearie?” She stopped directly in front of me and placed her hands on her hips. “You, my dearest darling, are the husband I asked you to murder.”
This was an unexpected turn of events.