Deadly Doublewide Deceit.
It’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut, where it seems like you’re seeing the same damn case over and over and over. You get a run of cases involving crazy guys throwing garbage at you, and it won’t take long to start missing the jewel heists or the cons. You feel like the kid at the beach suddenly realizing that he’s wanted to go home for several hours now.
I can’t even remember the last time I solved a murder.
So I was pretty pleased when Max brought the day’s work in and there was nothing about the nuthouse or the dump. “Whatta ya got for me?” I said around my coffee.
Well, dere’s dis kidnapping. Seems dis lion’s gone missin. He was a star in some triple X films, see, and the prime suspect is one of his former employers: dis Elephant involved wit the heads of one of the undagroun’ smut rackets.
Ew. “What else?”
He flips a page on his clipboard. Penguin. Used ta be a prizefighter, now a bodybuilder and personal trainer. Dey fink he’s traffikin’ steroids.
“Hmm. Bit dull. Anything else?”
Justa vandalism call on some Rat guy.
“Alright,” I finish my coffee and grab my hat, “We’ll start with the easy one.”
My dad used to call places like this ‘Tornado Bait.’ On a road trip, or when we were moving from base to base (I was an army pup, before I wound up on the streets) he’d point off the side the road, and say ‘Lookit the Tornado Bait!’ And there they’d be, acres of faded plastic walls and sheet metal roofs and steps propped up with scraps of plywood. Yeah, I know, how dare he mock the people struggling to get along, backbone of this country, salt of the earth, blah blah blah. I know different. It was his way of telling me to aim for something better for myself.
Though he could have just shown me this Reeky Rat guy. That would’ve worked too.
Mrs. Rabbit said when she heard fireworks going off she, quote: looked out mah front dawr, and I saw that disgracefuhl , filthy beast runnin’ off, and there was mah poor mailbox, might as well have been jes a pile of matchsticks! Ah reckon it’s jes a shame the way good citizens live in fear of the criminal element houndin’ at their door! Ah cain’t think why he’d have to blow up mah property! Why, think of my poor children, if they’d been outside, it don’t even bear thinkin’ about!
I nod, pretending I’m still listening. Not that she needs someone listening to talk.
Sweet fancy Moses, Ah don’ know what the world is comin’ to! A mother cain’t never step out of her own home without being exposed to lawlessness and vandals! It’s pointless and wanton, what he did!
Pointless and Wanton. She’s just described the suspect perfectly. He gets picked up for little, trite, depressing stuff: public intoxication, disturbing the peace, vandalism, public lewdness. None of it ever does him any good. And every time we grab him, whatever cell we stick him in for the night smells like velveeta and cheap beer and beans and cigarette for days. I’d have said that he’d never do anything to make anyone remember him for five minutes.
And then he answers the door with Bright Pink Hair.
We all just stand there a second, blinking at eachother, all except Rabbit McIntyre, who launches into another tirade. I have to wonder if the woman ever needs to breathe.
Yew uncivilized mongrel! Ah’m gonna get yew ta pay for the damage yew done!
“Hold on! Let me handle this, please!”
Ah will not stand by while a threat to the life and safety of my young ones (the young one she dragged alone stares at me solemnly and picks his nose) is allowed to roam unchecked!
“Then you just stand back and let me take care of checking it, all right?”
Hmph! She backs up, clearly thinking up material for her next filibuster.
Man, says the rat as soon as he can be heard, that skirt is buggo, man.
“Nevermind that,” I growl as best I can without inhaling at all, “she’s got a reason to be. You busted her mailbox.”
Dude, I aint not never put no fireworks in no mailbox! Like, for real, man! I been here, eating soup! For the past ten minutes, even!
“…how much soup have you been eating?”
“How long does it take to eat a bowl of soup? Two, three minutes? Are you eating an entire gallon of the stuff? That why your hair is pink?”
Oh, uh, naw. I think that’s, uh… the stuff.
Ok, see, here’s how it is, dude. He steps further into the doorway and I feel my nosehairs wilting as he gets closer. I got this job, see? But they said I needed to bulk up a bit for it. So I got this stuff, right? And I like put it in my food or something or just shoot it when I work out, and I’ll get super buff?
My ears prick up. “Steroids?”
I dunno man. But I need em, cause the guy with the job? The Elephant? He says there’s no market for porn without-
They wuz gonna out you in PORN?! squawks Max, shocked, Dat’s horrifyin’!
Ah’ll say it is! chimes in Scarlet O’Hare, It’s filth and it’s utterly unseemly, and Ah’m surpraised even the laikes of yew is mixed up in-
Max shuffles his feet. Well, I meant more dat it’d be really bad porn-
“The next person who talks is walking back!” I shout. “That doesn’t include you, smelly. Keep going.”
Oh, right. So this Elephant who hired me, he says like, porn sells if there’s a real buff guy in it. So I gotta bulk up cuz that’s good cash. I think. So I got this stuff from this penguin dude I know. I been workin out with him. But… it kinda had some side effects, man.
“Sounds like dangerous stuff,” I say, gesturing to Max to look around. “Those side effects are a killer. Like that impromptu clown wig, which somehow I don’t think is going to be too useful in your new career. But I bet the fits of uncontrollable rage are even worse. Like the one you were in when you put cherry bombs in Mrs. Rabbit’s mailbox.”
Dude! I said I was-
“Eating soup, I know. But that was a lie, because even though I hadn’t said anything about it yet, you knew that the mailbox had been knocked down with fireworks AND knew when it happened.”
Screw you! And he flings the fork at my head. Good thing his aim stinks.
As I’m putting on the cuffs, Max calls I found the stuff, Sly! Is in dis bucket!
“Just so you know, I’m also booking you for the steroids.”
He doesn’t say anything. Not that there’d be anything he could say that’d be worse than the way he smells. I’ll pay him a visit, though, and get the details on his new employer and the buddy he was working out with. That may be the first time I’ve ever solved three cases at once.
But it’s just my luck: I break three cases wide open, and I’m still stuck in the rut of crazy guys chucking garbage at me.