Thursday, June 16, 2016

Another case for Hasp Deadbolt

I wrote a series of murder mysteries based on nursery rhymes. I used a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated volume, inherited from my mother, for my source material, These short stories are about as serious as you'd expect, but some are unsuitable for young children.

A sample story. Not strictly a nursery rhyme, but the Easter Bunny myth is in a similar spirit, I feel:

R.I.P., Easter Bun

I have my soft, sensitive side, just like anyone else. I don’t show it to just anybody who walks in off the street, but it’s there. That’s why my last assignment really hit me hard. I caught the dirty rat who did it, but nothing can bring back the Easter Bunny. The fact is, life is just like that sometimes. Especially in my business. Men call me Deadbolt, Hasp Deadbolt.
I’m a private eye. It started like this….

I was leaning back in my desk chair, feet up on the desk, reviewing my notes from the Muffet case, when my keen ears detected a knock on the door.

Come in,” I called, after shoving all the crap on my desk into a neat pile.

In walked the Easter Bunny. I knew who it was. You know how sometimes you just have a gut reaction that slips you information you didn’t know you had? Well, this was like that. Plus, she was wearing a fur-tight pastel jumpsuit embroidered with Easter eggs, and a baseball cap with the words “Easter Bun” embroidered in pink and pastel green thread. She moved up to my desk and put her hands on it, leaning forward until my face was just 3 inches from her cleavage. “Mr. Deadbolt,” she breathed (her chest expanding alarmingly), “I need your help.” I eased back from her decolletage and got up to open the window. It was getting pretty warm.

Care for a drink?” I asked, as I manhandled the sash in its cheap aluminum frame. I turned around and she was right behind me.

Please,” she begged, putting her hand on my arm, “I don’t know where else to turn!”

Anyone who’s read my reports in the past knows that I’m not
species-centric, but business is business. I cleared my throat and escorted her to a chair.

Miss Bun,” I began, “why don’t you tell me all about it?” I got out my notebook, she took a few more deep breaths to settle her nerves and unsettle mine, and told me the following story.

It seems that a large dog or wolf had been hanging around the hutch for the past few weeks. Every time she went outside, he was waiting for her. She wouldn’t necessarily see him right away, but he was always there. Sometimes she’d see his tail sticking out from behind a bush. Or maybe a shadow would dart behind one of the painting sheds. She could feel his eyes on her, undressing her, possibly even skinning her. He seemed to have designs on her person, she said, that had more to do with the kitchen than the bedroom, if I caught her drift. I sure did. She couldn’t work, she continued, Easter was coming up very soon , and she had eggs to harvest, sort, and paint, not to mention all the candy chicks and so on that had to be prepared. She was way behind her schedule and losing ground fast.

I’m afraid for my life,” she concluded, “won’t you help me?”

I promised her that I would give her problem my undivided attention. “You can rest assured I’ll find out who this wolf is and see that he stops bothering you,” I told her, and she seemed relieved.

I’ll take that drink now, Mr. Deadbolt,” she said, and I mixed her a stiff one. I was on duty, so I went easy on mine. We talked for awhile, or rather, she talked and I listened. She talked about her business, how she’d inherited the job from an aged pika who wanted to move back to Mount Lassen, how she really loved making little children happy. I asked her about the hat. She’d made it herself and she hadn’t had room for the last two letters. She thought it looked OK and I assured her it did. She’d made the jumpsuit too, and done a fine job, I might add. By the time her drink was gone she seemed to be a lot less nervous.

I think I’ll be able to focus on my work now,” she said, setting her glass on the credenza, “it’s so nice knowing you’ll be protecting me.”

We’d been chatting a while, and I’d almost forgotten how good she looked, but when she turned and picked up her purse, I saw that, just as her hat had made accommodations for her slender ears, her jumpsuit had had to adjust to her tail. I had to do some adjusting myself, so I quickly saw her to the door, telling her I’d get right on her case.

A few minutes later I was out the door and beating the street. I didn’t know who this wolf was who’d been stalking my client, but I knew how to find out. In half an hour I was downtown, leaning up against the bar in The Jumping Cow. The Cow is located in an old warehouse, and minimal efforts have been made at decoration. The bar is the nicest piece of furniture in the place, and it looks like it fell off the back of a truck. The tables and chairs
were probably picked up from the dumpster outside another bar in a better part of town. I’m certain the Cow doesn’t contain a broom, a mop, or even a rag. It’s not an ideal spot for a classy date, but it’s the best place to find the Weasel. The Weasel knows all the low-lifes and tough guys around, and if this dog or wolf had been in the area long, the Weasel would have the scoop. The Weasel would squeal, too, for the right price.

Gimme a draft,” I told the ox behind the bar, and when he brought it to me I pumped him. “Seen the Weeze?”

He nodded and glanced over to his left. Sure enough, the Weasel was sitting alone at a table in the corner. “Thanks,” I said, grabbed my beer and headed over there. I slid into the seat across from him and shoved the beer into the middle of the table.

The Weasel took a sip. “Long time, no see, Deadbeat,” he hissed, “whatcha need?”

That’s Deadbolt,” I told him, “I’m looking for a big dog or a wolf, been stalkin’ the Easter Bun. You know anything about it?”

Yeah, whatever,” he said. “I know something.” I knew that’s all I’d get without the green, so I slipped him 5 twenties under the table. I had to give him another 3 bills before he spilled the beans. He knew the wolf alright. Went by the handle of BB (the Weasel didn’t know what it stood for) and he was one bad-assed dude. Wanted across the state line for all kinds of thievery and violence, and maybe murder. It seems he’d been under suspicion
in the case of three young swine who’d been killed and devoured right in their own homes. In fact, the homes had been pretty much destroyed by the unknown assailant. He was evidently one tough customer. Nothing had ever been proven, but the Weasel said BB had been overheard bragging about some “bacon” he’d “cooked.” At this point, I started to get worried, and I headed out to see my client. I wanted to make sure she was safe. She might need to move to a safe house until I could apprehend BB.

The Easter Bun lived way out in the country, and it took me quite a while to get there. She had a big ranch, with chicken houses, dormitories for the staff, painting and decorating areas, huge warehouses, a fleet of trucks, and more; it was a busy place. I was almost as impressed with her operation as I had been with her configuration. I pulled up in front of the main office and strode in. A spring chicken was behind the desk, chewing gum.

I need to see the Easter Bun,” I snapped, “and make it snappy.” She blew a bubble and it snapped in my face.

She’s back there,” the desk hen told me, “but she don’t wanna be
distoibed.” I pushed on past and opened the office door. I knew right away that something was wrong. The bunny that had embroidered more than 100 eggs on her jumpsuit would not willingly leave her office in this condition. Plus, the window was broken. I looked out in time to see a sorry-looking black Chevy pickup disappearing among the Easter-egg trees in a cloud of exhaust. I ran back out to the front, hopped in my Nova, and took off after the truck. The car took a beating going cross country, and I couldn’t make good time no matter how hard I pushed on the gas pedal. “Damn!” I slammed my hand on the wheel. Why hadn’t I bought an SUV!

I found the truck, finally, parked in front of a weather-beaten shed up against the big woods at the back of the Easter plantation. Smoke rose from the chimney. The license plate of the truck read “YUM YUM.” I had a sinking feeling in my gut as I slammed the Nova to a stop, jumped out with my gun in my hand, and ran for the shed. I took a deep breath, kicked the door hard,
and the whole place fell in.

And there he was. Seated at the table. Napkin tucked in. Red checked table cloth, white china plate, and the clean-picked bones of my client, as graceful in death as she had been in life. “Want some?” he asked, holding out a bloody tibia in his paw.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, not shooting him down in cold blood, but I didn’t do it. He’s doing 10-20 for consuming a mythic figure, and when he gets out, THEN I’ll shoot the bastard. In the meantime, there’s a new Easter bunny, a bright young fellow named Raoul. I’m sure the kids are happy, but I’m not. I’m just sitting here, drinking carrot juice and waiting for another case that might serve to draw a temporary veil over my painful memories of the best thing I ever saw in a pink jumpsuit.

Here’s to you, Easter Bun. I’ll always remember you the way you were when I first saw you, and not the way I saw you last, a litter of white curvilinear elements, blood-spattered, dotted with clumps of fur, your little jumpsuit in tatters by the fireplace … Oh, God!”


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