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Weekly Column by Brian Codagnone

August 17, 2012

The Harryhausen Owl

A Spike Slammer Mystery

I was sitting at my desk watching the smoke curl up from the dented brass ash tray. It got that way when some cheap gunsel tried to lean on me. Nothing like an ashtray beating to get your message across. I hadn't touched the Lucky that was burning down to ashes, I was thinking about Lola. Lola was a swell dame, but like any skirt she takes it personally when you sleep with a comely client. I tried to explain to her that it was business, that I had to get close to her, but all I got for my trouble was a whiskey bottle hat blocking. When I woke up she was gone, probably to her sister's place in Fresno. She'd be back, though, she always came back. She was loyal like that, and with a body like hers and looks that won't quit, she could have her pick of guys with just a glance or a whistle. She just had a thing for thick headed gumshoes, I guess. I was still pondering the rising smoke when there was a knock on the door. I already had my .45 out and on the desk. You can't be too careful in this business. I finished my shot of Jack Daniels and said, "Come in."

A blonde walked in. She was the high society type; finishing school walk, expensive clothes that draped perfectly on her shapely body, understated jewelry and a haughty look. With her was what I could only guess was her lawyer, and not the white shoe law firm type, a real bottom feeder in a cheap suit. I wondered why a class act like her would hire a shyster like that.

"Mr. Slammer?" she asked.

"That's me. What can I do for you, doll face?"

I could tell she didn't like being addressed that way. I could tell dead-eyes didn't either, but he knew enough to keep his trap shut.

"I suspect my husband is cheating on me, Mr. Slammer. I want you to find out if he is and with whom. You'll be handsomely paid, of course."

"What's with Dracula there? Most people don't bring their lawyers to meet with me, except to the occasional coroner's inquest."

"This is Mr. Smerling Putrescine, and yes, he is my lawyer."

"Whatever. Have a seat." She sat down as elegantly as she stood. Putrescine preferred to stand. Just as well, I wouldn't have to burn the chair later.

"My husband is Pierce Packard. Perhaps you've heard of him."

I had. He was a big wheel in the world of finance, horse racing and yachting. Rumor had it that he was also the biggest loan shark in LA and that he worked for mob boss Tomasi Rollo, but no one could prove it or live long enough to try. He was bad news with a capital B.

"What make you think he's doing the mattress mambo with someone else? And what makes you think I can do anything about it?"

"A woman knows, Mr. Slammer. I just need proof."

"Rumor has it that your husband has some dangerous friends, Mrs. Packard. A guy could get very dead just asking about him."

"That's why I picked you, Mr. Slammer. I hear you don't mind, how shall I put it, getting your hands dirty. And, as I said, you'll be handsomely paid."

"The cemetery is full of handsomely paid private dicks, if they even found enough to bury." I was thinking of another shamus named Powell that I'd known. They eventually found him alright, but it was in twenty different places across LA County.

She saw that I was hesitant, so she reached into her gold clasped purse and pulled out a roll of bills. Hundreds and plenty of them.

"Here's a thousand dollars to start. Will you take the case? I glanced over at Putrescine to see if he was still breathing. Unfortunately he was.

"Okay, Mrs. Packard. Let me see what I can find out. I'll call you."

"No, Mr. Slammer, that wouldn't be safe. My husband has sources everywhere. You can contact me through Mr. Putrescine's office". She handed me a card. "Please help me, Mr. Slammer".

She stood as elegantly as she had sat down. With the grace of a goddess she wafted out the door. Putrescine followed. I noticed he hadn't said a word the whole time. Unusual for a lawyer. Something about this smelled like a hobo in August, but I needed the work. The trick was to stay alive long enough to collect a paycheck and, of course, get Lola back. I poured another shot and leaned back to think about it all; classy dame, a loan shark, a greasy ambulance chaser and me, the shamus in the middle.

Next: A Second Client.






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Surf Our Site

Home ... Misfits . Rafferty .. . S1019 .. . Star Crossed....
. .
Ginger & Shadow. ..Embrace the Pun.. ..Cool Links . ..More Cool Links .
Oddities ..Link To Us... Guest Comics .. ..Books for Sale . Online Store..
The Cartoonists ..In The Zone . .Emotional Chaos . .Number 9