ClickHole

Death Attends The Matinee

The dame walks into your office without knocking, and boy, does she look uneasy.

She stares at you with piercing gray eyes and asks, “Are you Sam Stonemarrow, the private detective?”

The dame immediately turns around and leaves. You sit back in your chair and look around at your empty office. Even though nobody is there to see it, you give a thumbs-up. The day passes without any other incident, and 50 years later you die of old age.

“I saw your name and office address spray-painted onto a stray dog outside and I came straight to you.”

“My name is Vera Calypso,” says the dame.

“I’m afraid I’m being blackmailed,” says Vera Calypso.

“His name is Benedict Kane. He’s a very wealthy man. A billionaire, in fact. We used to be...close...and during that time he managed to get his hands on a photograph of me writing the words ‘I’m glad the Titanic sank’ on a sleeping police officer. If that picture gets out, it’s curtains for me. I’ll have to go to jail for the rest of my life. Will you help me get it back, Mr. Stonemarrow?”

“Oh, it’s not money Ben’s after. He wants something else. You see, he recently bought a Komodo dragon egg from Indonesia for $250 million, only to find out that Komodo dragon eggs need to be incubated for no less than seven months.

“Ben says that he’ll release the photograph of me unless I sit on the Komodo dragon egg until it hatches. That’s such a long time, and I don’t want to do it. You have to help me, Mr. Stonemarrow!”

“And what’s that, Mr. Stonemarrow?”

“Name your price,” says Vera Calypso.

“You’ve got yourself a deal, detective,” says Vera. She seems calmer now, calm like a tired ghost or a calm doctor. She starts to leave your office, but she stops at the door and turns.

“Oh, and if you’re looking for Benedict Kane, you should try the Grand Picador Theater today at three. There’s a new play opening there called The Hogg Brothers Eat Each Other. Kane will be in a luxury skybox at the matinee showing. There won’t be a better time to get to him.”

The Hogg Brothers Eat Each Other is the latest play in the beloved Hogg Brothers franchise,” says the dame. “It’s the sequel to the theatrical classics The Hogg Brothers Murder A Wizard and The Hogg Brothers Run Over A Benevolent King.”

“Call me Vera,” she says before disappearing through the door.

And with that, the dame is gone. You’re alone in your office now, with nothing to keep you company but a double of Cruel Boy’s Bourbon you’ve nursed down to less than a single, and the smoldering remains of a cigarette you just can’t bring yourself to snub.

But that’s the way you like it. Friends are just well-meaning distractions.

Especially now that you’ve got a case.

No sense in waiting around. You take your cases like you take your bourbons: whenever you can get them, and polished off as fast as possible. You toss a revolver into your Gun Pouch and leave your office.

You arrive at the Grand Picador Theater. You better go buy your ticket to The Hogg Brothers Eat Each Other.

You walk up to the box office. The man working there is wearing a T-shirt that says “I went ‘Hogg Wild’ at the Grand Picador Theater.”

“Oh, Mr. Stonemarrow, we already have a ticket waiting for you,” says the man at the box office. He gives you a grin so big you could eat dinner off of his teeth. “Ms. Vera Calypso took the liberty of reserving you a seat to this afternoon’s matinee.”

The box office guy hands you your ticket.

All right, you have your ticket. You better head inside the theater now. The play is going to start any minute.

You take your seat in the Grand Picador Theater. Out of the corner of your eye, you can see Benedict Kane sitting in the luxury skybox, just like Vera said he would be.

And now the lights go down and the curtains come up. A hush falls over the audience. The Hogg Brothers Eat Each Other is about to begin.

The Hogg Brothers Eat Each Other: A Tragedy

[Enter GORDON HOGG. He looks out over the audience and speaks.]

Gordon Hogg: Here I am. Gordon Hogg, the eldest of the three Hogg brothers. I love my brothers too much. I just can’t get enough of them. In fact, I only like doing three things: Looking at my brothers, thinking about my brothers, and dreaming that an insane doctor is sewing my brothers and me together.

Gordon Hogg (cont’d): Hark! I hear the approach of a man. By the sound of the footsteps, I can tell that it is my middle brother, Prentice Hogg.

[Enter PRENTICE HOGG.]

Prentice Hogg: Hello my brother Gordon Hogg. I love you too much.

Gordon Hogg: Hello Prentice Hogg my brother, I was just thinking of you and dreaming of you at the same time. I love you too much. How are you today?

Prentice Hogg: I have a fatal and incurable case of Brother Fever. Other than that, I am extremely strong. I just came from our three-tiered bunk bed, where I lay sleeping in the middle bunk dreaming that my two brothers were taking turns picking me up and putting me down for 1,000 years.

Gordon Hogg: Prentice Hogg my brother, that dream about your brothers is so good. That dream is my king now. I hate God, and I love my two brothers.

Prentice Hogg: Thank you for understanding that you are my brother named Gordon Hogg. My love for my brothers is the only thing stronger than my hatred for God.

Prentice Hogg: Hark! I hear the sound of a man’s legs doing a walk. From the sounds of the footsteps, I know that it is the youngest of the Hogg brothers, our beloved brother named Whipple Hogg.

[Enter WHIPPLE HOGG.]

Whipple Hogg: Hello my two brothers. I love you too much. Your names are Gordon Hogg and Prentice Hogg. I wish I could kill God.

Prentice Hogg: Hello Whipple Hogg my brother. When it comes to dreaming about you, I am the world’s champ. I love you too much.

Gordon Hogg: Our mother gave birth to us at the same time, but we are not triplets.

Prentice Hogg: Whipple Hogg my brother, how are you feeling?

Whipple Hogg: My Brother Fever threatens to claim my life at any moment. Other than that, I am endlessly powerful. I have just come from our three-tiered bunk bed, where I lay sleeping in the bottom bunk dreaming that I was getting a haircut from both of my brothers at the same time.

Gordon Hogg: Whipple Hogg, you are my brother. Your dream is magnificent. When your brothers were finished cutting your hair, what did you do with the hair?

Whipple Hogg: I dumped the hair on the floor in Room 242 of the San Torero Hotel.

Prentice Hogg: I wish a magician would rip God in half.

All Three Hogg Brothers In Unison: These have been the nice and brother-haunted dreams of the glorious Hogg Brothers. May we never die, for if we do, we will surely go to Heaven, the house of God the monster. We love each other too much, and now we will go eat each other. Amen.

[The HOGG BROTHERS exit. The sounds of tearing flesh, snapping bones, and three mouths chewing are heard from offstage.]

The actors take a bow. The Hogg Brothers Eat Each Other has come to an end.

The audience is on its feet. The play is receiving a well-deserved standing ovation.

“Do you mind?” says the man sitting next to you as he scribbles something in a notebook. “You are not allowed to see what I’m writing because it is very important and good.”

My name is Peter Leroy. I’m a critic for Nautical Stage Magazine, the only theater magazine written entirely by former sailors for a general audience of non-sailors. Perhaps you’ve read my column.”

“Well, it’s very popular. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“It’s not my fault that I’ve never seen a bad play. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“Do you mind?” says the man sitting next to you as he scribbles something in a notebook. “You are not allowed to see what I’m writing because it is very important and good.”

My name is Peter Leroy. I’m a critic for Nautical Stage Magazine, the only theater magazine written entirely by former sailors for a general audience of non-sailors. Perhaps you’ve read my column.”

“Well, it’s very popular. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“It’s not my fault that I’ve never seen a bad play. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

Gordon Hogg (cont’d): Hark! I hear the approach of a man. By the sound of the footsteps, I can tell that it is my middle brother, Prentice Hogg.

[Enter PRENTICE HOGG.]

Prentice Hogg: Hello my brother Gordon Hogg. I love you too much.

Gordon Hogg: Hello Prentice Hogg my brother, I was just thinking of you and dreaming of you at the same time. I love you too much. How are you today?

Prentice Hogg: I have a fatal and incurable case of Brother Fever. Other than that, I am extremely strong. I just came from our three-tiered bunk bed, where I lay sleeping in the middle bunk dreaming that my two brothers were taking turns picking me up and putting me down for 1,000 years.

Gordon Hogg: Prentice Hogg my brother, that dream about your brothers is so good. That dream is my king now. I hate God, and I love my two brothers.

Prentice Hogg: Thank you for understanding that you are my brother named Gordon Hogg. My love for my brothers is the only thing stronger than my hatred for God.

Prentice Hogg: Hark! I hear the sound of a man’s legs doing a walk. From the sounds of the footsteps, I know that it is the youngest of the Hogg brothers, our beloved brother named Whipple Hogg.

[Enter WHIPPLE HOGG.]

Whipple Hogg: Hello my two brothers. I love you too much. Your names are Gordon Hogg and Prentice Hogg. I wish I could kill God.

Prentice Hogg: Hello Whipple Hogg my brother. When it comes to dreaming about you, I am the world’s champ. I love you too much.

Gordon Hogg: Our mother gave birth to us at the same time, but we are not triplets.

Prentice Hogg: Whipple Hogg my brother, how are you feeling?

Whipple Hogg: My Brother Fever threatens to claim my life at any moment. Other than that, I am endlessly powerful. I have just come from our three-tiered bunk bed, where I lay sleeping in the bottom bunk dreaming that I was getting a haircut from both of my brothers at the same time.

Gordon Hogg: Whipple Hogg you are my brother. Your dream is magnificent. When your brothers were finished cutting your hair, what did you do with the hair?

Whipple Hogg: I dumped the hair on the floor in Room 242 of the San Torero Hotel.

Prentice Hogg: I wish a magician would rip God in half.

All Three Hogg Brothers In Unison: These have been the nice and brother-haunted dreams of the glorious Hogg Brothers. May we never die, for if we do, we will surely go to Heaven, the house of God the monster. We love each other too much, and now we will go eat each other. Amen.

[The HOGG BROTHERS exit. The sounds of tearing flesh, snapping bones, and three mouths chewing are heard from offstage.]

The actors take a bow. The Hogg Brothers Eat Each Other has come to an end.

The audience is on its feet. The play is receiving a well-deserved standing ovation.

“Do you mind?” says the man sitting next to you as he scribbles something in a notebook. “You are not allowed to see what I’m writing because it is very important and good.”

My name is Peter Leroy. I’m a critic for Nautical Stage Magazine, the only theater magazine written entirely by former sailors for a general audience of non-sailors. Perhaps you’ve read my column.”

“Well, it’s very popular. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“It’s not my fault that I’ve never seen a bad play. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“Do you mind?” says the man sitting next to you as he scribbles something in a notebook. “You are not allowed to see what I’m writing because it is very important and good.”

My name is Peter Leroy. I’m a critic for Nautical Stage Magazine, the only theater magazine written entirely by former sailors for a general audience of non-sailors. Perhaps you’ve read my column.”

“Well, it’s very popular. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“It’s not my fault that I’ve never seen a bad play. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“Do you mind?” says the man sitting next to you as he scribbles something in a notebook. “You are not allowed to see what I’m writing because it is very important and good.”

My name is Peter Leroy. I’m a critic for Nautical Stage Magazine, the only theater magazine written entirely by former sailors for a general audience of non-sailors. Perhaps you’ve read my column.”

“Well, it’s very popular. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“It’s not my fault that I’ve never seen a bad play. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“Do you mind?” says the man sitting next to you as he scribbles something in a notebook. “You are not allowed to see what I’m writing because it is very important and good.”

“My name is Peter Leroy. I’m a critic for Nautical Stage Magazine, the only theater magazine written entirely by former sailors for a general audience of non-sailors. Perhaps you’ve read my column.”

“Well, it’s very popular. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“It’s not my fault that I’ve never seen a bad play. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“Do you mind?” says the man sitting next to you as he scribbles something in a notebook. “You are not allowed to see what I’m writing because it is very important and good.”

My name is Peter Leroy. I’m a critic for Nautical Stage Magazine, the only theater magazine written entirely by former sailors for a general audience of non-sailors. Perhaps you’ve read my column.”

“Well, it’s very popular. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“It’s not my fault that I’ve never seen a bad play. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“It’s not my fault that I’ve never seen a bad play. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“Well, it’s very popular. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“Do you mind?” says the man sitting next to you as he scribbles something in a notebook. “You are not allowed to see what I’m writing because it is very important and good.”

My name is Peter Leroy. I’m a critic for Nautical Stage Magazine, the only theater magazine written entirely by former sailors for a general audience of non-sailors. Perhaps you’ve read my column.”

You step out into the lobby. The rest of the audience leaves the theater. They can’t stop talking about how amazing the play was. You hang back and take a look around, though. A sleuth’s night doesn’t end when the curtain falls; in fact, that’s the exact moment a sleuth’s night begins.

You glance around the empty lobby. You’re on the lookout for anything that seems amiss, but your ears slurp up the sweet clue juice your eyes were craving: You hear muffled cries for help coming from somewhere nearby.

Even though this is the greatest play you’ve ever seen, you figure that you better go investigate the lobby. Better leave the highbrow theater to the rich men in their glass neckties and the upscale ladies in their mink smocks and oyster beads. Sleuths don’t watch drama; sleuths solve cases.

You glance around the empty lobby. You’re on the lookout for anything that seems amiss, but your ears slurp up the sweet clue juice your eyes were craving: You hear muffled cries for help coming from somewhere nearby.

Better leave the highbrow theater to the rich men in their glass neckties and the upscale ladies in their mink smocks and oyster beads. Sleuths don’t watch drama; sleuths solve cases.

You glance around the empty lobby. You’re on the lookout for anything that seems amiss, but it turns out that it’s your ears that get to slurp up the sweet clue juice your eyes were craving: You hear muffled cries for help coming from somewhere nearby.

It sounds like the cries for help are coming from behind this door. Slowly and quietly, you approach the door. You’re not sure what awaits you behind this door, but you don’t care. You’re thirsty for peril, and you’ll drink up whatever danger comes trickling out of this room.

Very neat and good: This closet has a tied-up man inside of it. As a private detective, you see these things all the time. You know exactly how to handle this.

You stoop down and untie the man. He stands up and looks you right in your clue-finding eyes. You were expecting gratitude, but strangely, this guy doesn’t seem too friendly.

“Thanks a lot, fella,” says the man in a voice so cold you could store a salad in it. “I have a gift for you as a token of my appreciation.”

All of a sudden, the man reaches into his Gun Pouch, and you find yourself eye-to-eye with the death-spitting mouth of a revolver.

“I’m afraid this was my plan all along,” says the man. “You see, I work for Benedict Kane. It’s my job to trap detectives by pretending to be in trouble and then killing anyone who comes to help me. I make $50,000 a year to do this job, which is a huge amount of money.

“You should have known better than to come snooping around Benedict Kane. I’m afraid your investigation ends here. Goodbye, detective.”

The gunman pulls the trigger. The shot rings out in the night, but it’s swallowed up by the sounds of a city that won’t remember your name. You sink to the ground with a hole in your chest.

The next day, the front page of the newspaper reads, “Shit Detective Solves Nothing And Dies.”

The End.

“All right,” says the man. “But don’t try any funny business.”

Suddenly, out of nowhere, you try a bunch of funny business. “No! Stop!” screams the gunman, but it’s too late. Your funny business sends him blasting through the ceiling and into the sky. “I told you not to try any funny business!” he cries out in a voice that grows fainter and fainter as he disappears over the horizon.

You turn without a word and leave him to whatever fate awaits him.

With a steady hand you light up a sweet-smelling billow stick. You feel your lungs fill with the life-giving black fog that you crave, and you begin to focus.

Your mind is clear, and you start to formulate a plan to get out of this sticky situation.

“I don’t see why not,” the man says with a sneer. “Here, hold my gun so that I can give you the finger.”

The man hands you his revolver so that his hand is free to flip you the bird.

You hand the gun back to the man, and he mows you down in a lead hailstorm.

You awake to the sounds of harps. Angelic voices are singing hymns of love and praise. “Welcome, my son,” says a deep and beautiful voice. “You looked at a middle finger right before you died, and so you are worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven! Enter, and embark upon an eternity of joy and peace. Praise be to the Middle Finger, the only thing more powerful than God! Mankind worships the Lord and the Lord worships the Middle Finger! Amen.”

With tears of joy streaming down your face, you step through the gates and into Paradise. The mystery you left behind remains unsolved, but it is gone from your mind as you pass onward into eternity to contemplate new mysteries far deeper and more profound than any a dusky-eyed dame ever brought before a private eye.

The End.

With the gunman thoroughly defeated, you return to the lobby. It looks like this case is more dangerous than you had anticipated. You better confront Benedict Kane and get those compromising photographs of Vera Calypso back.

With a hero’s grimace, you pull the trigger. You shoot the man a lot of times in the head, which knocks him unconscious. He’ll sleep like a baby for a few hours, and by the time he comes to, you’ll be gone.

You’re a little embarrassed that you walked in on a man who obviously wanted to be tied up and alone, but you shrug it off pretty quickly. You’re not the kind of detective who dwells on the past. None of the good ones are.

Besides, now that the show is over, the theater is almost completely empty. You better go confront Benedict Kane before you miss your chance.

Without a second thought, you choose to ignore the cries for help. You didn’t get into the detective business to save lives; you got into it for the cash, and the frequent opportunities to look out your window at night and say aloud to nobody in particular, “This city doesn’t run on electricity. It runs on corruption. And sometimes I wonder if I’m the only sap paying the utility bill.”

You love saying that. You say it all the time.

Besides, now that the show is over, the theater is almost completely empty. You better go confront Benedict Kane before you miss your chance.

As you make your way out of the theater, you accidentally bump into the man sitting next to you.

“Do you mind?” he says as he scribbles something in a notebook. “You are not allowed to see what I’m writing because it is very important and good.”

My name is Peter Leroy. I’m a critic for Nautical Stage Magazine, the only theater magazine written entirely by former sailors for a general audience of non-sailors. Perhaps you’ve read my column.”

“Well, it’s very popular. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“It’s not my fault that I’ve never seen a bad play. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

As you make your way out of the theater, you accidentally bump into the man sitting next to you.

“Do you mind?” he says as he scribbles something in a notebook. “You are not allowed to see what I’m writing because it is very important and good.”

My name is Peter Leroy. I’m a critic for Nautical Stage Magazine, the only theater magazine written entirely by former sailors for a general audience of non-sailors. Perhaps you’ve read my column.”

“Well, it’s very popular. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“It’s not my fault that I’ve never seen a bad play. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

As you make your way out of the theater, you accidentally bump into the man sitting next to you.

“Do you mind?” he says as he scribbles something in a notebook. “You are not allowed to see what I’m writing because it is very important and good.”

My name is Peter Leroy. I’m a critic for Nautical Stage Magazine, the only theater magazine written entirely by former sailors for a general audience of non-sailors. Perhaps you’ve read my column.”

“Well, it’s very popular. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

“It’s not my fault that I’ve never seen a bad play. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish writing notes. Why don’t you leave me alone?”

You walk into the luxury skybox with the confidence and swagger of a brave hero who drinks bourbon. Benedict Kane is waiting for you, flanked by a pair of silent bodyguards. He has the hardened, loveless look of a man who is not to be trifled with.

“I’ve seen you,” says Benedict Kane as he puffs his cigar. “You’ve been snooping around, and I’m not sure I like that. Who are you, and what is it that you want?”

“Ah, the strong, silent type,” says Benedict Kane as he puffs a smoke ring that dances nonchalantly toward the ceiling. “I certainly respect a man who knows when to keep his mouth shut, but I think right now you better speak up and tell me who you are and what you’re after.”

“I’m growing tired of this nonsense, sir,” says Kane, “Now, state your name and your business or you will live to regret your disrespect, though you won’t live much longer than that.”

“Sir, I am growing impatient. Now speak, or there will be consequences.”

“Are you mocking me, sir?” screams Benedict Kane. “Do you have any idea who you’re trifling with? If you won’t speak willingly, then I have a terror in store for you that will rip a scream out of your mouth by force. Now, I’ll give you one last chance: Who are you and what do you want?”

“Very well,” says Benedict Kane. “You had your chance to cooperate.” He turns to his bodyguards.

“Release the Diver,” he tells them.

A hatch in the floor opens to reveal the furious churning ocean. Out of this furious sea crawls the Diver. He climbs out of the hatch and into the theater and, with his old-fashioned scuba suit clanking with every step, begins walking right toward you.

“I’m married to all the fish,” the Diver says to you in a booming, otherworldly voice as he gets closer and closer.

“I’m afraid it’s too late for apologies,” says Benedict Kane. “Here comes the Diver.”

A hatch in the floor opens to reveal the furious churning ocean. Out of this furious sea crawls the Diver. He climbs out of the hatch and into the theater and, with his old-fashioned scuba suit clanking with every step, begins walking right toward you.

“I’m married to all the fish,” the Diver says to you in a booming, otherworldly voice as he gets closer and closer.

In a few moments the Diver is upon you. He grabs you and hoists you over his shoulder.

“Now I will show you how,” he says in his deep and thundering voice. “I will show you how I am the one who is married to every fish there is.”

With your flailing body slung over his shoulder, the Diver leaps back through the hatch in the floor and into the ocean, dragging you with him into the icy water.

You try to run, but it’s all in vain. In a few moments the Diver is upon you. He grabs you and hoists you over his shoulder.

“Now I will show you how,” he says in his deep and thundering voice. “I will show you how I am the one who is married to every fish there is.”

With your flailing body slung over his shoulder, the Diver leaps back through the hatch in the floor and into the ocean, dragging you with him into the icy water.

The Diver carries you down into the farthest depths of the ocean. A fish swims by.

“Look at this thing,” says the Diver, pointing to the fish. “I’m married to that thing. It is my wife forever. I kiss it a lot. I have existed since before time began.”

The Diver carries you deeper into the sea. A shark swims by.

“This wet idiot is also my wife,” says the Diver, pointing to the shark. “I married this thing at the dump, and the second the wedding was finished the priest killed himself right there at the altar. I hate this thing. It is my wife until the sun explodes.”

The Diver carries you deeper still into the ocean. A humpback whale swims through the gathering dark, and its song floats eerily across the deep. The Diver points at the whale as it passes.

“This music monster is another example of what is my wife,” the Diver explains, as his booming, otherworldly voice echoes out across the sea. “I have no idea what it is, but I married it in a shed. Every day, this thing and I hold hands and I say to it, ‘I hate you. Our bond is endless. I can’t wait for you to finally die. You are everything to me.’”

A moment passes. “I am eternal,” the Diver adds.

This goes on for eons. The Diver drags you deeper and deeper into the sea, and even after you have drowned he carts your skeleton around, pointing to every single thing that swims in the ocean and telling you, “That is my wife. I can never die. That swimming catastrophe is also my wife. Look over therethat thing is my wife as well.”

Countless millennia later, the Diver completes his quest of showing you all the fish and telling you that they are his wife. At that time, he simply drops your skeleton on the ocean floor and walks silently onward through the sea.

He forgets you almost immediately.

The End.

“Ah, so you’re that private detective whose name is written on all those stray dogs around the city,” says Kane.

“Well, Mr. Stonemarrow, I’m afraid I can’t part with those pictures. I need them so that I can blackmail Ms. Calypso into sitting on my Komodo dragon egg.”

“Well, whoever you are, I’m afraid I can’t part with those pictures. I need them so that I can blackmail Ms. Calypso into sitting on my Komodo dragon egg until it hatches.”

“I need the lizard to eat me,” says Benedict Kane. “I have so much money, but wealth has brought me no joy. Only getting eaten by the lizard can make me happy. And so you see, I can’t part with Vera’s photographs or she’ll never sit on the lizard egg, and then the lizard will never hatch out of the egg and eat me.”

“Is that so, Mr. Stonemarrow?” says Kane, rising from his chair. He grins. “I’m not sure my guards would be very happy with you if you did that.”

The two men standing behind Kane look at you with grim eyes and crack their knuckles. They definitely look like they know a thing or two about breaking bones. One bodyguard is wearing an entire alligator skull around his neck on a golden chain, and the other one is wearing a T-shirt that says, “My best friend Jeremy killed the alligator whose skull he’s wearing around his neck with his bare hands, and I’ve killed an alligator too.”

“I’m afraid it’s too late for reason, detective,” says Kane. He snaps his fingers and his guards begin walking toward you. “Jeremy and Vincent Sr. here are going to kill you now.”

“Whatever you want, buddy,” the guards say in unison. Each one grabs one of your arms and they pull in opposite directions. You are ripped in half (vertically). Your last words are, “Thanks so much for ripping me in half.”

The two halves of you are buried in adjacent graves. Your left headstone says, “Here Lies Some Of A Bad Detective.” Your right headstone says, “Please Rob The Adjacent Grave.”

The End.

With a grim look, you reach into your Gun Pouch and pull out your revolver.

“A gun!” screams Benedict Kane. He turns to his guards. “Guards! Throw me to safety!”

Acting swiftly, each guard immediately grabs one of Kane’s arms and together they hurl him out the window. “Goodbye, detective!” Kane cackles as he flies out the window. He falls hundreds of feet to the hard pavement below. His body splatters on the ground in a shower of viscera.

The guards walk silently out of the room. You’re left alone, pointing your revolver at nobody at all. With Kane dead, you’ll never find out where the pictures are. You’re out of clues, you’re out of suspects, and you’re out of time. You return to your office defeated.

The next day, the front page of the newspaper has a picture of your parents getting matching tattoos of a heart with the words “My Son Did A Bad Job” written inside of it. The headline reads, “Parents Of Worst Detective Get Appropriate Tattoos.”

The End.

The guards look at each other and shrug.

“Sure, why not. You’ll be dead soon anyway,” says Jeremy.

With a motion so calm and unperturbed it borders on sleepwalking, you light up a cigarette. The beautiful life-giving smog fills your lungs and stimulates your brain.

Now, your mind is clear, and you’ve developed a plan to get yourself out of this tight scrape.

“What did you just say?” screams Jeremy. He’s so angry he punches a hole in the wall.

“Who said we didn’t know any bird calls?” shouts Vincent Sr. Rage has turned the veins in his neck into pulsating cobras of fury.

Muscular Bodyguard Quarterly?” screams Jeremy. “That’s one of the top periodicals for muscular bodyguards! We’ll be the laughingstock of our industry!”

“It’s a goddamned lie!” shrieks Vincent Sr. Tears are streaming down his face. “We know so many bird calls!”

“It’s a goddamned lie!” shrieks Vincent Sr. Tears are streaming down his face. “We know so many bird calls!”

“Okay, we will,” says Jeremy angrily. “We’ll do all the bird calls we know.”

The two guards start perfectly executing an extremely long string of different bird calls. “Here’s a sparrow,” says Vincent Sr. “Borse Borse! Borse Borse!”

“Yeah, and here’s a pelican,” says Jeremy, “Croom croom!”

On and on they go. They flawlessly imitate hundreds of birds from all regions of the world. Finally they finish, and they look at you with smug grins.

Suddenly, the growing thunder of distant wing flaps fills the air. The floor starts to shake, and the sound of a hundred thousand disparate beaks squawking in unison floods the room.

“Oh, no!” screams Jeremy. “We did too many bird calls!”

Vincent Sr. moves toward you with murder in his eyes. “You little rat, you tricked us!”

He tries to grab you, but it’s too late. The windows burst open and millions of different birds from all over the world fly into the room. The guards try to fight them off, but there are too many. Within seconds the birds peck all the meat off their bones, and then one weird pelican also eats their bones.

The birds fly back out the window as quickly as they flew in, leaving you alone with Benedict Kane.

“Okay, you win, detective. Just don’t hurt me,” says Benedict Kane. He reaches beneath his desk and pulls out a treasure chest. “Everything I stole from Vera is in this chest.”

Night has fallen outside the Grand Picador Theater. You stand in the lamplight with the treasure chest full of photographs. It feels heavier than you thought it would, but then, anything secret always seems to have an extra weight to it.

“Hey, Sam,” says a familiar voice.

It’s the dame.

“It’s good to see you again. Do you have what I asked you for?”

“Yes, hubba hubba.” says Vera Calypso. “Hubba hubba forever and ever.”

“It’s good to see you again. Do you have what I asked you for?”

You hand the treasure chest to Vera. She opens it and checks the contents. “Okay,” she says. “Everything I needed is in there.”

“Thanks, Sam. You’ll have your payment in the morning.”

The dame smiles. “Like I said, Sam, you’ll have your payment tomorrow.” She turns and walks away, and soon she’s just one of the dozens of people on the street carrying treasure chests through the night.

The dame smiles. “I’ll see you around, Sam.” She turns and walks away, and soon she’s just one of the dozens of people on the street carrying treasure chests through the night.

You make your way home alone through the dark city streets.

One last time, you walk past the Grand Picador Theater. You cast a long shadow as you pass silently beneath the marquee lights.

You return to your office, light up a cigarette, and pour yourself a double of Cruel Boy’s Bourbon, the most heroic drink in the world.

The next day, the headline on the front page of the newspaper reads, “Competent Detective Solves Minor Problem.” You did an okay job. The city throws a very small parade in your honor consisting entirely of two trumpet players who march three blocks without playing any music and then go to sleep on the sidewalk.

That’s not bad work there, detective.

And sometimes, in this line of work, not bad is the best you can hope for.

The End.

You walk to the window and look out over the city. You light up a cigarette and launch into a brooding monologue:

“This city doesn’t run on electricity. It runs on corruption. And sometimes I wonder if I’m the only sap paying the utility bill.”

“I’ve seen things transpire on these streets that would make the Devil’s skin crawl. I’ve seen crime and cruelty. I’ve seen a man force a baby to marry a bucket of sewer water with a drowned rat floating in it.

“I’ve seen two policemen take turns throwing each other at a stray dog.

“I’ve stood by and watched the mayor of this city legally mandate an annual parade to commemorate the day he saw a fireman eat a spider that had eight human middle fingers where its legs should be.”

“And I’m no better than anyone else in this town. Here I am erasing some dame’s past sins just for a bit of dough. Detectives like me aren’t in the justice industry; we’re in the forgetfulness industry. It’s a smart business choice. There isn’t always a demand for justice, but there’s always a demand for forgetfulness.

“This concludes my brooding monologue. My diet consists entirely of cigarettes and bourbon, and I’ve never eaten a vegetable. Amen.”

You construct an enormous horse out of wood, knock on the door of the Grand Picador Theater, and then rush inside of the gigantic horse.

The theater’s ticket man opens the door and looks at the horse.

“No, no,” says the ticket man. “I didn’t ask for a big horse. This must belong to somebody else.”

“Yes, very normal, but still, I didn’t ask for a horse,” says the ticket man. “The postman must have delivered this horse by accident.”

He knocks on the door of the building across the street.

“The postman must have delivered this horse by accident,” says the ticket man.

He knocks on the door of the building across the street.

Oh, no! It looks like when you built the big horse, you built a door leading into the horse but forgot to build a door leading out of the horse. You’re stuck in here!

A man answers the door of the building. He looks at the giant wooden horse.

“I like this thing,” he says, and he pulls the giant wooden horse into his building and shuts the door.

“I like that the big horse screams, ‘I’m in here! I’m in here!’” says the man. You are in his bedroom. The man’s wife is here too.

“The big horse is better than my wife,” says the man. “Get out of here, wife. I’m married to the big horse now.”

“I hate you, big horse!” shrieks the wife, and she lunges across the room and sets the wooden horse on fire.

You are in the man’s bedroom now. The man’s wife is here too.

“The big horse is better than my wife,” says the man. “Get out of here, wife. I’m married to the big horse now.”

“I hate you, big horse!” shrieks the wife, and she lunges across the room and sets the wooden horse on fire.

The flames consume the giant wooden horse and you are burned alive.

The next morning, the front page headline of the newspaper says, “Nation Mourns Loss Of Bigger-Than-Usual Horse.”

On the last page of the same paper is a headline that reads, “Parents Of Missing Detective Urge City Not To Look For Him.”

The End.



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