Flipping the Frozen Finger Farewell
By Michael D. Davis
Posey Peale walked into the grimy, dark bar all kinds of eyes from all sorts of skulls
looked her over. She walked up to the counter, her beautiful body wading through the pool
“I’m looking for Count Whorton,”
The bartender, a man with a face like a movie star and a body big enough
to give anyone trouble said, “Why’s someone like you looking for him?”
“Because I need his help,” Posey Peale said, “And am
I correct in saying I just found him?”
smile spread across the bartender’s face like mildew in moist weather. “You
think I’m Count Whorton?”
burst out laughing. He laughed so hard his side started to hurt and tears formed in his
eyes. He only stopped to get a few other men in on the joke and they started laughing just
“Hey, what’s the joke here?” Said Posey severely.
Miss,” the bartender wiped his eyes. “I’ll show you where Whorton is.”
took her outside and showed her a door on the front of the building opposite of the bar
entrance on the right. He opened the door where a lump of a man slept on stone stairs leading
to a second-floor apartment.
“Is he in the apartment up
The bartender smiled. “That's his place,
but he seems to be taking a nap on his porch.” He turned and left Posey at the bottom
of the steps.
“Um… Count, Count Whorton,”
Posey Peale said standing in the door. “Count Whorton?” He didn’t wake
or even move, just laid there like a dead man.
up a few steps and started shaking his shoulders while repeating his name until the Count
awoke saying, in an accent like no other she’d heard of, “If you desire to
preserve your futile life, leave me alone.”
face was turned away from her, resting flat on the cold stone she heard him clearly. And
she ignored him.
“Count Whorton, I must speak with you.”
may leave a note, but Count Whorton isn’t here.”
and held up the wall with her shoulder. “I am not leaving.”
Whorton released a long groan. “Fine,” He stood up and walked through the apartment
door, leaving it open for her. By the time she shut the door, he was in the bathroom. Posey
perched on the end of the couch as she waited.
Whorton finally burst back out of the bathroom. “I owe you my gratitude.”
“If I slept any longer there would have been no requirement to
retreat to the John if you get me.”
stiffly and said, “I do.”
Posey Peale looked at the Count
under the light and she was brought in on the bartender’s joke. Count Whorton was
a short, pudgy, no-necked creature with skin the color of a wet napkin. He had a hunched
back and deep, dark circles under his eyes. Hidden under his hat was short, dry hair like
nothing else in nature and when he smiled his fat cheeks contorted in a look of pain to
reveal only the top row of his yellowish-white, crooked, animal-like teeth. On the
outside, Posey released a small smile for having mixed up the very different-looking men
and on the inside, she shuddered at Count Whorton’s grim appearance.
the Count said, “Divulge what you came here to, then scoot at no slow pace.”
walked into his shoebox-sized kitchen and took out a plastic fast food cup with a bent
straw then slithered up and sat in a large chair opposite Posey.
I need your detective services.”
“Stop right there, I don’t
do that anymore. I’m a part-time night stocker at a grocery store and a full-time
drunk. So, if that's all you needed you can be getting along about now.”
Posey said, “I went to a friend. A friend that comes from a long line of cops. And
I said I needed someone. I needed a private eye like you see in the movies, one that doesn't
keep records, but always solves the case. One that can take care of himself and always
has a bead on everyone but won’t be running to the papers or the cops. And he said
you. I was told you’d be grumpy, odd, probably drunk, and overall unpleasant, but
that you’d help me.”
granted I thought you’d look like the bartender downstairs but nonetheless.”
that pretty boy has less brains than a goldfish. So, who is this rare human being with
the badge in his blood and a few kind words to say about me?”
“Christ, the Nash family.”
and he sent me here.”
Count Whorton looked Posey over, his sleepy
dark brown eyes darting over her from head to toe before finally sighing heavily. “What’s
reached into her purse and brought out a plastic baggy. “I found this in my mother’s
mini fridge.” She tossed the baggy over to him. Count Whorton looked it over without
opening it. Then he threw the baggy back at her saying, “so, it’s a finger.”
was located in mother’s mini fridge,” Posey said her eyebrows lowering.
your mother has all ten of hers, did you confront her and inquire where the lone digit
Posey shook her head. “No, what a conversation
that would be. ‘Mother I was nabbing some of the good liquor you keep in your room
when I found a finger, care to explain?’ Anyways, I know who’s finger it is,
Whorton leaned forward. “Who’s is it?”
He reached into his jacket over his cardigan,
pulled out a cigarette, lit it and leaned back. “So’s your sister dearly departed
or just missing one of her nose pickers?”
sister’s alive and well.”
“So, she’s missing
a middle finger, you find a middle finger. Where's the problem here?”
Posey paused then said, “How do you know it’s a middle finger?”
“I’ve seen my share.”
corners of Poseys lips perked up. “Well, the thing is a few years ago Violet, due
to a kitchen accident, got an infection in her left hand and had to have it amputated.”
you got a finger that you believe to have at one time or the other sat at the end of your
sisters now, I’m guessing, hook hand. Why not go to your sister?”
is something else as well. My brother went missing around the same time of my sister’s
nineteen, my parents say he ran away. He left a note, but it just wasn’t like him.”
did this all happen?”
“Six years ago, I was thirteen and my
sister was sixteen.”
Count Whorton put out his cigarette. “Alright,
I’m slightly interested. My fee will be a thousand dollars.”
gave him a shocked look. “That’s pretty steep.”
tells me you can afford it.”
“Fine, I don’t have
it on me.”
“That’s alright, we’re leaving
anyway.” Count Whorton sucked on his bent plastic straw then put it down and went
for the door.
Posey stood up. “Wait, where are we going?”
opened the door and started down the stairs saying over his shoulder, “Your humble
home to get my payment and to find the former owner of that finger.”
the sidewalk, out front, Posey was leading the way to her car when a shrill voice that
could split wood called, “Countey.” Across the alley, leaning out the ground
floor window of a brick apartment house was a chubby, light brown skinned prostitute in
her early fifties. She wore blood red lipstick and a low-cut top that was fighting a losing
battle to contain her large breasts.
Whorton turned to her, showing his hound dog teeth in a smile. “Irma Side, how are
“Same as always, Countey.”
there anything I can do for you?” asked the Count walking from Posey to the prostitute.
“I just didn’t know if you wanted me to come over tonight.”
“Well, I’m not in the money as it were.”
okay, you’ve owed me before. Unless you want someone else, like her. Who is she?”
“That is my client, I’ve taken a case.”
her name then?”
Count Whorton’s brows furrowed. “I
didn’t ask,” he turned, “Miss disembodied-finger what’s your name?”
reddened and said her name.
Count Whorton turned back to Irma.
“Posey Peale, I asked for a thousand for my fee.”
looks like she has money.”
“Yes,” he turned to
Posey then back. “You think I should have asked for more?”
she’ll give you a bonus.”
“Anyways, after I get paid,
I’m right back here. Me, you, a bottle of booze, we’ll make a night of it.”
stomach turned a bit as Count Whorton and Irma kissed. The sight of the ugly man smooching
the aged hooker in broad daylight wasn’t a sight for school children.
they got in the car Posey said, “So, your girlfriend’s a hooker.”
“We are not in a formal relationship. She’s a friend and
I’m her regular.”
“Well, you could tell she’s
a prostitute a mile away. She might as well advertise.”
did for a while,” Count Whorton said, “Put up a sign in the window that said come
in Side for 75$ Irma Side prostitute Apt. 3.”
“Yes, but the police made her take it
down. I thought it was proactive. There are more prostitutes here in Quartertown than there
are trees in the park. You have to find a way around the competition.”
Peale family had money. That showed in their house which stood taller than all the other
domino-like houses on the west side of the city. Following Posey inside, Count Whorton
saw a woman cleaning about and could tell she was the maid.
led him into a sitting room and said, “Wait here, I’ll go get the money.”
kinda got dry mouth, anything to drink?”
to a cabinet then left the room.
Count Whorton went to the cabinet.
He pulled out a bottle of bourbon and brought it to his lips. When he returned it, two-thirds
were gone. He put some in a glass and walked around.
pictures around the room contained Posey, her parents and some other mucky-mucks. Count
Whorton couldn’t pick out the sister at first till he figured out she was wearing
a high-end plastic prosthetic for a hand. (Money can buy anything.) As he was examining
a silver framed picture, a tall older man came into the room.
the hell are you?” said the old man.
“Christ, the last time I saw something like you in this house I
had to call the exterminator.”
must be Mr. Peale.”
“I am, and you?”
Whorley Whorton, investigator hired by your daughter.”
for… don’t tell me. This is about Peter.”
“Of course it is. She’s been obsessed with her brother since
he… went away. Is there any way you can talk her out of this?”
get paid by her, not you.”
“Fine,” Mr. Peale
went over to an old rolltop and took out an envelope. “Here's five hundred, in cash,
tell her there's nothing to it.”
Count Whorton took the five bills
and put them in his pocket. “I’ll see what I can do.”
came back into the room. “Hi, dad.”
is Count Whorton, a friend. I’m gonna show him the house.”
Peale nodded his head. “Good to meet you Count.”
Once out of
the room, Posey gave Count Whorton a check. He slid it into his pocket with the five green
“I’m taking you to Peter’s room, so, you can look it
Count Whorton just nodded. He felt slightly
drunk from the bourbon, but it was a good feeling. Posey led him to a room on the second
floor. The contents of it had been swallowed up by boxes stacked against a wall.
his stuff in boxes?”
“Mom says it’s if he wants us to
ship it to him, like I believe that. I think she just didn’t want his room to be
his room anymore.”
Count Whorton opened a box and rifled the contents.
There was nothing special. He went through two more uninteresting boxes before the fourth
which held an old cell phone and power cord. Sitting on the bare mattress of the bed, he
plugged the phone into the wall. It lit up and turned on easily. Posey hovered over
Count Whorton like a vulture over a retirement home before he told her to sit down. There
were several un-deleted texts from May, 2012. All to and from someone listed as Nick in
moms being a bitch again
has… and it's not just me she did something bad to Violet
Peter: I can't tell you… I’d
just like to tell her off for once. If not for me then for Violet and Posey
Nick: I’d like to see that.
“Nick Nash, he and my brother were best
friends. He doesn't think Peter ran away either. That’s half the reason he gave me
Count Whorton searched more on the phone until
he found some pictures. There were several, all taken on a gravel pathway. Peter and Nick
starred in most of the shots accompanied by a few others of similar age. In the last photo,
a woman that looked like a human prune stood in the background like looming death.
“Where were these taken?”
took the phone. “Just outside, the driveway used to be dirt and gravel. We put the
cement down some years back.”
Count Whorton took the phone, slipping
it in his pocket as he stood up with a hand on the wall to keep himself steady. Posey stood
up next to him, her legs spring loaded. “You know what happened to my brother.”
have a theory at least.”
“Yeah, I got a theory,”
Count Whorton said, “but theories in this business are like toilet paper to a grizzly
bear. You can have loads of the stuff, but if you don’t know how to use it, it’s
just thin scratchy paper on a roll. I do have a hypothesis, but I can’t go telling
it. It would just be a bunch of words said by a hard-to-look-at drunk. However, we have
something putting bullets in those words and that's that frosty finger of yours. Hell,
you give any shitbrained boy in blue bearing the badge a finger and he’ll want to
know two things, ‘whose is it?’ and ‘how did the owner happen to lose
it?’ you follow?”
“Yeah, I follow. Does this
mean you’re going to the police?”
“I don’t know.”
here, you aren’t paying me to run to the police. You’re paying me to put two
and two together. So, I can tell you what I think right now and leave you to do what you
“What’s this?” said a voice
from the door. It was Posey's mother. She looked just how she did in the picture on the
phone. Her dark bug-like eyes crawled across the room, spreading disease as they went,
finally landing on Count Whorton. “Who is this ugly man?”
jumped like a scared cat at the woman who stood in the door cutting off the room’s
air. “This is Count Whorton.”
“Why is he in this room?”
said Count Whorton, “I believe I know what happened to Peter. Um… apologies
what's your first name?”
Julia, let us go downstairs. Find your husband, your other daughter, have a drink and solve
“My son ran away.”
let's talk about it.”
Mr. Peale and Violet were already in the sitting
room when the three of them filed in. Julia took a chair and said, “Phillip, get
this horrible looking man out of our house, now!”
Peale started to get up from the couch.
“Keep your seat, Phillip,”
Count Whorton said making his way to the cabinet. “I’m gonna have my say and
leave.” He pulled a bottle out, opened it and drank.
looked at the faces in the room. “What is going on?”
I assume,” Count Whorton said, “the daughter with the missing hand. You know I
personally would have gotten a hook.”
“I’m the one saying your mother
killed your brother.”
her and pops buried him in the driveway, then paved it over.” Count Whorton fell
into the corner of the couch cradling the bottle of booze. “The way I got it figured
is Julia, granted I just met her, is a supreme bitch and if we were in the wild, she would
have ate her young. But we ain’t. So, when Petey stood up to her, told her off as
it were, she killed him instead of eating him. And Pops helped bury him and cover it up
because, well, the damage was already done and he’s a mucky-muck who wants to stay
that way.” Towards the end, his words started to slur as he felt the weight of the
“That's insane, I loved Peter,” Julia said.
anyone else catch that?”
“You said ‘loved’,
not love,” Posey said.
“Well, that thing was talking about him in the past tense and I made the mistake of doing
Count Whorton said, “I forgot the finger. I think what set Petey off was him seeing
his mom whack off his sister’s finger.”
was a kitchen accident,” Julia said.
think so. I think teenage daughter in a heated moment gave you the finger and as punishment,
you took it from her. Hell, a bus passed me the other day and an eight-year-old gave me
the bird. Anyways, I bet you didn’t plan on infection taking the rest of the hand
or Petey boy seeing you do it.”
“It was an accident.”
it was an accident,” Posey said, “Why’d you keep the finger?” She held up for
all to see the plastic baggy from her purse.
kept it?” Violet said, “why, why?”
you,” Julia said sternly, “show you what you get when you do such things.”
how could you?” Mr. Peale said.
“Shut up, you spineless shit.
If you were a better father none of this would have happened.”
Julia talked, Violet started to cry, Mr. Peale sat as stiff as a corpse and Posey made
her way to the phone. Count Whorton stood up slowly, straightened himself, then his hat.
He sidled up to Posey and gave her the cell phone.
gonna bug out before the bulls get here, darling. I’m also taking this bottle. Something
tells me if you’re on that phone, moms and pops will be moving in behind cement walls
and not be needing it.”
“Do you have to leave before
the police come?”
“Yeah I do, told Irma after I was done
here we’d make a night of it.” And with that one of the ugliest men Posey had
ever seen walked out, he had fifteen hundred dollars in his pocket, a bottle of liquor
in his hand, a drunken buzz on, and he was on his way to his old hooker.
|Art by Steve Cartwright © 2019
The Bloody Whorehouse
By Michael D. Davis
When the stick stabbed the soft part between his ribs for the third
or fourth time Count Whorton said in a voice as smooth as dry skin, “one more poke
and it goes in your eye socket.”
alive,” the poker yelled.
Count Whorton opened his eyes and waited to see if the
poker was right. He was. The Count was laying on something hard. What or where he wasn’t
sure. He rolled over and fell to the rock bottom; which was the cement base of the park
bench. The cold dirty cement’s slap cleared enough fog to remind Count Whorton where
he was. The night before he’d been walking home, more drunk than human, and got the
idea to take a shortcut through the Phillip M. Pennypacker memorial park. This was an idea
so awful that only a hungover Count that spent the night on a bench could see the fault;
he lived nowhere near the park.
It’s better the night is clouded and broken into
crumb and bit memories that comes from a night of cheap booze. Something told him that
if he did remember everything that happened last evening it wouldn’t be his most
cherished memory. Then again how would he know?
the cement like a dazed slug Count Whorton looked up at the two twenty-something fools
in running shorts that were one mistimed jostle away from falling out onto the sex offender
registry. Count took all the detective skills, common sense, gumption, shrewd astuteness,
and little gray cells he could muster and deduced the one with the stick was the one that
woke him. The Count got up on his knees then leaned on the bench. For the first time, he
noticed the back of the bench which said: “In Memory of Cliff Skipper.” That is
nice, Count figured, if you have to spend the night on a bench why not Cliff Skipper’s.
Whorton propelled himself off the ground the same way you propel a frisbee into the air,
although with less form and accuracy, because he saw no other way around getting his ass
off the ground. When he finally reached a standing position, he heard something hit the
cement. Count looked to see what he dropped and saw a large hunting knife covered in dried
blood. The two runners stared at Count and the knife then one of them turned and looked
behind him at a body in the grass.
One of them
said into a phone he had to his ear, “you need to get here quick.”
Count Whorton sat in a cold
stone-walled room filled intoxicatingly with his own smell, a smell strong enough to wake
a dead horse. His ass hurt from the metal chair; his hunch hurt from sleeping on the bench;
his head hurt from the booze the night before, and his throat hurt from answering the same
questions again and again. On the last go around he’d asked for a nip of something
just to keep his strength up, but no one was amused or obliging. Not even when he showed
his crooked yellow teeth in a look of pitiful dehydration.
after God knows how long officer Klunkel came in and said he was free to go. Whether they
didn’t have enough to hold him or believed the fact he was too drunk to kill anyone,
Count Whorton didn’t care.
Klunkel said as Count reached the door, “if you
killed that girl we will find out. If you didn’t… we will find out that as
well. Just don’t do like the PI’s do in the movies sticking your nose into
where it doesn’t belong trying to prove your innocence. This ain’t no movie.”
Klunkel,” Count Whorton said, “I thought we were friends. Plus, I thought this
was a movie, with my dashing good looks and your winning personality. Don’t I look
ready for my close up?”
Klunkel gritted his teeth. “Anything that gets
close to you needs shots afterwards.”
Count saw her before he even entered the room. She was
sitting in a chair looking as pissed as ever wearing a large purple fake fur coat and hat.
It made her both look like a hunter and fake fur trapper of children’s imaginary
friends. Also impossibly beautiful. As Count walked in, Irma Side stood up, she was more
than the average woman, she was taller, wider, curvier, older and she knew how to
use it all as a soldier with his gun. Many wouldn’t look her way if they didn’t
already have a few under their belt or were just desperate with a few bucks to spend. But
Count Whorton loved the light brown-skinned beauty and against every force in nature, she
seemed to love him too. When the Count came right up to her in the middle of the police
station Irma slapped him across the face.
Irma said in a voice that broke glass two towns away,
“you got arrested without me.”
have a phone call or nothing. You didn’t even think of me.”
thinking of you Irmie. You were working last night.”
“Someone has too.”
Irmie, love. And I didn’t even do anything today. I just woke up in Pennypacker on
a bench with a bloody knife and a dead woman ten feet away. They thought I did it, I said
I didn’t, now they don’t think I did.”
officer behind a desk mumbled, “alcoholic asshole,” loud enough for everyone to
“Okay,” Count said, “he thinks I did it, but who
cares. Let’s go.”
Countey if that’s all it is. No hard feelings just remember to invite me next time.”
were walking out an officer said to Irma, “don’t I know you? You look familiar.”
arrested me last year for prostitution. Don’t worry no hard feelings, dearie.”
Whorton took a shower that was needed more than a cure for cancer and slipped into some
new crummy clothes that looked just like his old crummy clothes he took a drink, a seat
next to Irma and the remote.
Flipping through the channels Count felt a great disturbance
and he knew exactly what it was. He looked at Irma who had been staring at him since he
“What?” Count said.
“How else am I supposed
to figure out what you’re pissed about?”
damn well what I’m pissed about.”
“I am most assured I don’t have the simplest
of clues.” Count turned back to the TV and kept turning over channels like dead leaves.
just gonna sit here?”
“That’s the plan.”
gonna look into this at all?”
woman in the park, fucks sake, you aren’t even gonna try to clear your name?”
was too dirty to be cleared before the woman in the park. Secondly, it’s a police
case. Thirdly, no one’s paying me for this. They are paying me to be a night stocker
at the store so that I’ll do. And six-hundredthly I just want to stay home, Irmie
I had a tough night.”
“Whose fault was that?” Irma stood up and went to the
door. She put on her purple fur hat and her purple fur coat then turned back to the Count
who still sat in front of the TV, not watching it. She walked over and stood between him
and the TV saying, “Countey, love.”
“For me, Countey, will you look into it for me?” Irma put
extra syrup in her words.
said, trying but failing to ignore her.
Irma whined and walked to the side of the couch. She
bent down, kissing the Count on the forehead and the cheek. Then she plunged his head into
her voluminous chest and writhed about letting him go only seconds before he died of oxygen
Count stood up slightly angry
and said, “fine, fine we’ll go. But don’t you know you could have killed
me there, don’t you listen to the narrator?”
Irma ignored him, she was too
delighted. “This is gonna be fun.”
gonna be a hoot,” Count said, “I was at Dynamite Dotty’s last night. Let’s
start there, I could use a drink.” The count downed the glass he had in his hand
and went for his coat.
Dotty’s is a place on the other end of town, it’s the only gay bar around.
There is one little thing and one big thing that keeps Count Whorton coming back. The little
thing is Dotty herself. She wears button up shirts, jeans, leather jackets, and her phone
on her belt like a six-shooter. Dotty has dynamite hellfire red hair and if God fell from
heaven, she’d wear heels, but she still wouldn’t surpass five-two. She’s
also a good friend. The big thing that keeps him coming back is the thing that keeps him
coming back to every bar in town and that’s the booze.
hadn’t opened yet when they walked in and Dotty sat at a table eating take out and
listening to a drag queen with a wig higher than her, singing voice belt out a tune on
stage. Count took a seat and stole some fries. Irma pulled up a chair saying hey.
hey back and added, “So, how many teddy bears did you have to murder to get that
Irma made a face and said, “None, they died naturally.”
some more of Dotty’s fries and watched the singer on stage. She was alright but needed
more work before she went on in front of paying people. Whether it was the song she picked
or the voice that she played it on it had a way of making a dog feel like his cat just
died. Count turned to Dotty, “I was here last night, you know if I hung around anyone?”
shit you were here last night. Do you know who was here a few hours ago?”
you fucking moron,” said Dotty. “Plus what would he be doing in a gay bar in
the middle of Iowa you expired-milk-looking piece of shit.”
“You’re a lovely
“Damn right I am. I was talkin’ about the cops. They
came in askin’ about your drunk ass.” The singer was done on stage and just
standing around listening to Dotty curse until she noticed. “Wasn’t half bad—go
backstage and talk to Nicky two necks.” The singer walked off and Dotty got back
to cursing. “I didn’t tell them shit, not that there’s shit to tell because
you don’t seem to do any fucking thing but drink anyways. Except the times you start
a brawl or get on stage and sing like sheet metal in a broken fucking dryer.”
remember that,” said Count.
“You wouldn’t,” she said having attitude
that walks hand and hand with her voice.
The Count leaned over the table still eating Dotty’s
food. “Come on Polkadotty, the police think I murdered a woman.”
“Of course not,”
Irma said, then thought about her answer. “We don’t think so, anyway.”
a sigh like a balloon dying a miserable death then said, “fuck, I don’t know.
You were hanging around Sour Kraut. So, ask her.”
“Good,” Count said,
“I need a drink,” and got up out of his chair.
of that,” Dotty said, “your tabs due.”
“So, are my library books.”
like it by the end of the week or you’re cut off, Count.”
that’s what the library said.” Count fished out a cigarette, slightly bent, put
it between two chapped lips and lit it as Dotty made a face that once caused a grizzly
bear to commit suicide.
Irma cut in with, “He’s just joking, Dotty… everyone
knows he can’t read.”
This lightened Dotty’s eyes and gave Count a moment
to strike. “I could pay you Dotty, but you could also ease off… after all two
years ago today,” Count paused to look choked up. Irma rolled her eyes not so much
at the acting, but at the feeble attempt to it. “My dear mother died,” Count
finished then with a clincher, he crushed his hat to his chest and gave a pitiful hangdog
look that worked most times when his mother died.
Dotty said crossing her arms over her chest. “I saw your mother just the other day
at the store. I have to admit she looked pretty good for two years dead.”
face dropped a few inches. “That was my biological mother, I was talking about my
“Bullshit, you dumb fuck.”
Count said, putting back on his hat.
“I can’t believe you thought that was gonna
work, fuckin’ moron.”
“He does it
all the time,” Irma threw out.
“I bet he fuckin’ does, Jesus Christ. Also,
Count, you should visit your mother more often. I mean how old is she?”
know, but I’ve heard rumors that she killed Abel and blamed Cain for it. And for
Christ in a cave, I visit the old bat every few days… when I remember. We just had
dinner there on Monday for fuck’s sake.”
“Yeah, she invited me
to dinner when I saw her.”
Irma took the wheel on the conversation from here. “How
about Friday? We’ll come along too.”
fine. Maybe you’ll have my money by then Count? I’ll bring a bottle of wine.”
started towards the bar saying, “Don’t bother, mom likes brandy.”
the bar on a stool like a priestess on her throne was Sour Kraut. She was well over six
feet tall heels or no heels and wore a dress that was snugger to her body than a key is
to its lock—pinker too.
Count Whorton slipped into the chair next to her like
an elephant into a tunic. “How you doin’ Sour?”
you should know,” Sour said giving Count a look. “Saying just another, just
another last night. I ended up puking everything up in my closet.”
of drinking where’s the bartender?”
“Not here yet.”
Count Whorton slipped out of his chair like an elephant out of a tunic and gave it to Irma
who managed it better. In his element among the bottles behind the bar, Count found some
bourbon and three glasses.
“Hey Irma,” Sour said, “I heard Count had a murderous
“Yup, woke up in the Pennypacker park on a bench next to a
“That blows me out of
“How’d you hear?” Count asked pouring drinks.
bulls were in earlier, pissing off Dotty.”
drained his glass while everyone else sipped then poured himself another. “Not much
for hair of the dog?”
“What?” Sour said.
“I was just
looking at your glass.”
She gave a slight smile then said, “I often catch
men looking at my glass.” That made everyone smile.
seriously,” said Count.
“Seriously? Seriously, I feel like shit and think
if I drink too much I’ll be running right back to the closet.”
why are you here?”
“Bitch, where else am
I supposed to be? Home with the closet? I work here.”
Count said moving his glass around. “So, you remember what happened last night?”
mean about you? Like how you made two women hold out your scarf so you could play
limbo or when you sat on that poor man in the wheelchair’s lap and told him what
you wanted for Christmas or when you got up on stage and sang the best of disco.”
remember that,” Count said.
Irma giggled, “Sounds like a fun night.”
was, Sour, was there like anything or anybody weird around last night? Anything suspicious?”
was that girl that followed you in.”
girl?” Irma said.
“Twenties something, long hair, I don’t know. She followed
you in trying to talk your ear off then that big guy who works over at that fast food place
next to that auto shop dragged her out. He was wearing the uniform.”
you don’t remember this at all?” Irma asked the Count.
doing some errands and getting a little thirsty. So, I went to a bar then I did a few more
things then there was this other place then I remember vaguely here. Then of course Pennypacker
“Good times were had there, baby,” Sour said. “Pennypacker
park’s where I lost my virginity.”
true you’re the one that should get their name on a bench.”
Sour said standing up. “I don’t need a monument tying me to this town. Bitch,
where do you see me in five years? I will tell you where… headlining a place a lot
bigger than this in a town a lot better. Now I gotta do some work, see you all later.”
Sour walked away in only a way she could.
Count Whorton grabbed Sour’s partial glass and
downed it saving the rest of the bottle like an orphan from a fire by putting it quickly
under his coat. “Ready, Irma?”
off to?” Irma said finishing her drink.
“I’m hungry, so why don’t we see a
big guy about a burger?”
“Sounds good to me, but Countey I want to ask
you something first. Where do you see yourself in five years?”
it some thought and said, “Dead in an Iowa whorehouse, and you?”
“That’s my girl. What do they say, together to the end?”
smiled. “Yeah, the bloody whorehouse end.” Then they sent the little hairs on
the back of necks standing up with a kiss only they could achieve.
The uniform at the burger joint
was like most fast food place uniforms a shirt, a hat, and a collection of stains. Count
Whorton and Irma recognized their guy two ways; one was that he had to duck at every door
he came to so he didn’t hit the frame with his cement block head and cause the whole
place to crumble. The second way was he was the only man in a uniform.
walked up to him and said, “Buddy, can I ask you a few questions?”
in cotton turned to look at Count. “You?” was all he said.
Countered the Count leaning on the counter.
“What are you doing here?”
you some questions.”
“No, you aren’t.”
“No, because you’re
not a cop.”
“You’re right, I work at a grocery store. I still want
to ask you some questions.”
“Is she a
cop?” The big guy pointed at Irma.
“No,” Count said, “she’s a prostitute.
Can I ask you those questions now?”
because you’re an ugly drunk grocery man and she’s an ugly whore.”
Count yelled, his eyes wide yellow pus balls of craziness. “Listen here you fucking
fucktard of a fuck, don’t you ever say that kind of shit to my girlfriend again or
I’ll shove so many of these little salt packets up your ass anything you crap out
will be pre-salted, you endangered ape-looking fuck.”
his name tag read, looked a little stunned and then threw a fist the size of three green
bean cans. Count moved, but it still clipped his cheekbone, he fell back and Kenny came
over the counter. Count gave a kick at Kenny’s crotch but missed with the aim of
a man who loved his booze. Kenny grabbed Count by his pants and lapels and threw him across
the room. Landing on a garbage can, Count tried to get his wits about him before Kenny
was on him again. He failed. Kenny gave him two rights on the floor before Count grabbed
a sticky plastic fork and stabbed it into Kenny’s shoulder or tried to as most of
the tongs broke against his muscle. But it slowed him up a second or two giving Count the
opportunity to hit him a few dozen times in the head with a plastic tray.
Whorton was off the floor and Kenny started to lunge when Irma pulled out her gun. “I
wouldn’t,” she said, “or the ugly whore’s gonna shoot ya.”
Count said, “my bottle of bourbon broke.” He pointed to the remnants on the
“Now,” Irma preceded, “you gonna answer our questions?”
not now, Irma,” Count said pointing to a teenager on her cellphone. “Bulls
are comin’, we gots to scram.”
Irma said, putting her gun away and making her way to the door.
Passing Kenny on the floor Count
said, “Ma and Pa will be back, sonny.”
blocks away as they slowed at a stop sign Irma said, “That work as planned?”
plan to lose my bourbon.”
“What do we do now?”
nap, nourishment… lay on the couch like a lemon peel in the landfill.”
will stop off at the cop shop, see if they identified my murder victim yet. I don’t
think I pissed off every cop I know, we’ll find out anyways. But, I wanna drive thru
someplace on the way.”
grew up when moats were dug around residences and three out of four children died of weakness
or consumption. Miss Pinky wasn’t her name nor was she a cop, she worked the front
desk and no one knew her by any other name. She was a short, stout woman with the unbreakable
belief that her poodle cut hairstyle never went out of fashion.
Whorton sidled up to her desk, a honey-sweet dead tooth smile on his face. “Grand
tidings, Miss Pinky…looking like a fresh picked flower as usual.”
please,” Miss Pinky said with a snort. “Cut the crap, what are you doing back
here after this morning?”
“Turning myself in.”
and your mother wouldn’t stand for such a foolish thing.”
know that,” said Irma leaning on the large desk.
“Told ya, dummy.
Now, tell me the truth.”
“Just lookin’ for an update on my victim.”
looked around her and over into the back rooms which were all buzzing like a stone-knocked
hive then got up saying words that caused Count and Irma to question the trustworthiness
of their ears.
With painted old lips she said, “Meet me in the crapper, on
Count Whorton and Irma shared
a look that showed each other’s worry for the tapestry of life and all the decisions
that led up to them following Miss Pinky into the can. Then Count shrugged lazily and said,
“It’s a dirty business.”
The three of them packed into the woman’s bathroom
like three rotten peas into a pod.
“So, the girl’s name is Ginny Hollis, twenty-eight,
I believe. She was stabbed multiple times.”
“What? Did you want the killer’s name and address? How
about his unlisted phone number?”
“It would be nice.”
do everything for ya, honey. Maybe you could surprise us all and use that head of
yours for something other than just growing out your bald spot.”
you’re mean today.”
“I’m just telling the truth, honey.”
Pinky,” Irma said, “did Ginny have long hair?”
“They don’t have
a lot of photos of her just yet, but I’d say that’s a safe bet. Most of the
pictures now have been from the scene. They’re still there. Hell, he woke up there,
shouldn’t he know about the length of her hair?”
“They should already be on their way. Some don’t like
it, but Quartertown ain’t Chicago. When something like this goes down you need the
big Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation boys.”
with iron jockey shorts,” Count Whorton said, “I’d want my case put in their
hands more than I would the Quartertown bunch.”
“Hey, I work with these
guys daily, not all of them are bad… but I agree.”
guess that’s it. Thanks for the help.”
“No, problem. Hey, how’s
your mom doin’ I haven’t seen her in a while?”
said, moving towards the door.
“We are having dinner with her on Friday,”
Irma said, “if you wanna come. Dotty of Dynamite Dotty’s is coming as well.”
just be delighted, I will make a pie if no one objects.”
Count Whorton was nearing the urge to slam his forehead against
a stall door when Irma turned ready to go.
Out in the
car, Irma drove away from the cop shop. “Where are we going now?”
some sleep and a drink and a vacation house and a colonoscopy probably, but let’s
focus on a nap right now.”
“Do you think the dead girl is the same girl that
followed you into Dotty’s?”
see why not.”
“Then who you think killed her?”
of my head, I’d guess it was that fee fo giant at the burger joint.”
“Yeah, how you feeling?”
A large bruise had started to form on the side of Count Whortons already mangled-looking
Back at the apartment, Count Whorton stripped off his coat and pulled
down the murphy bed.
“How long are you gonna
sleep?” Said Irma helping him off with his clothes.
“I guess I’ll go to work for a while then, see if I
can turn any tricks.”
“At the store, yes, but
I think I’ll call in. You know, may have murdered a woman and all.”
I better let you sleep. Unless you wanna screw around some.”
Whorton fell back onto the bed in an unbuttoned shirt and pants. “I’m way too
tired for anything like that.”
“I could just defile you in your sleep.”
like that a lot, Irmie.”
“Okay,” she said,
“I’ll go get the naughty toys,” before patting his leg and heading towards
“Just no whip Irmie, I’m really tired,” Count
Whorton said already asleep.
A few hours later Count woke
up to the sound of the doorbell hitting his eardrums like a three-car collision. He stumbled
across the room swearing as he went and descended the stairs to the outer door.
his head out half asleep, holding his shirt together like a woman with her robe
caught coming out of the shower. A short, long-haired girl barely out of her
teens stood on the sidewalk.
“What do you want?”
said you were looking for me,” said the girl. It had become dark since Count Whorton
got home, but he could see her clearly painted in colors from the neon sign and
other lights the bar he lived above had to offer.
hell are you?”
“Rea Coatwell, we, well, I tried to talk to you
“You’re the girl from Dotty’s.”
I followed you in there because I was trying to speak to you. You see-”
“Hold it,” Count Whorton said holding up
a hand. “You go up inside, turn on the light. I gotta get my… partner.”
out the door and held it for her as she went in and up the stairs.
“I won’t be a minute.”
shut the door quickly and crossed the alley to the next building. A few steps
in he realized he was shoeless. Good thing he didn’t have far to go. He still
had the fortune to step on several pebbles, something too sharp to be a rock
and something he didn’t look down to see but made a squishing noise. At the
other building, Count tapped furiously on a first-floor window. There were a few
swears, the sound of a bed creaking, then the window was opened by a topless Irma.
the problem, Countey?”
“Girl just showed up at my door,
says she’s the one from Dotty’s last night.”
at my place, can you get out of here?”
“No problem, it’s
a regular, and we were just finishing up.”
the window. Count waited on the sidewalk. A few minutes
later a man came out buckling his pants, a look of regret on his face. Then Irma came out
in a black t-shirt and jeans.
The bare yellow bulb hanging from the ceiling
at Count’s place flickered in and out as if battling to cling
to life. Rea sat on the very edge of the couch, trying to sit without touching anything.
When Count and Irma came in Irma switched on a lamp and joined Rea on the couch, Count
put up the bed and found his way to the chair.
“You obviously know
me,” Count said, “but this is Irma, my
partner. Now, I had some to drink last night, so maybe you could start with what happened.”
of all, I’d just like to apologize about Kenny. I know
you all had a… scuffle as it were. And I just think that’s awful.”
his bruised cheek because caressing his bruised ribs
in front of company is strange.
“You were pointed out to me last night
by a friend, during bingo.”
“Yes, Count Whorton was at my church’s
weekly bible bingo game, I help out. He didn’t have any cards, but he
still yelled out bingo several times causing a ruckus.”
remember that,” Count said.
“Well, Pastor Dave
walked him out and one of the older ladies said who
you are and what you do so, I caught up with you and tried to tell you about my sister.
Kenny came along as well. We followed you into Dynamite Dotty’s and finally, Kenny
dragged me away saying you were a…”
drunk or something?” Count finished.
wrong with your sister?” Irma said.
has been gone for three days now.”
“Why don’t you
go to the police?”
“My parents say not to. It’s not
the first time she’s gone missing, you see. She has run away before, but never
for this long. The first few times we did go to the police, but then she’d just show
up like it was nothing.”
“She usually just at a friend’s?”
her boyfriend’s and this last one, he’s just bad. I’m always
at work or helping at the church and can’t look after her a hundred percent of
the time and neither can my parents. So, they got her a babysitter. It’s not a
regular babysitter because Tara is nearly fifteen, but since they don’t trust
her, the neighbor girl comes over and watches her. Which she was our babysitter
when we were smaller.”
“How old is she?”
or twenty-eight, I think. And she said this latest boyfriend
of Tara’s is into drugs and might even be a dealer or something. That’s what
got me so scared, what Ginny said.”
“Ginny?” Count said.
Irma looked at Count, he glanced back, his yellow
eyes big like that of an old man finding a penny on the ground.
Count continued, “how do you think she knew this about
your sister’s boyfriend?”
“I don’t know, maybe she saw him
somewhere, doing something. She didn’t tell me how she knew.”
you think your sister’s doing drugs?”
“Do you have a picture of your sister?”
Rea said taking out her phone and showing Count a picture
of a bright shiny teenager.
“Do you have any paper photos?”
Count sighed then got out of his chair and went
over to the far wall. He flicked up some wood paneling revealing a hidden area
stuffed with odds and ends. Count found a flask, tried it, then swore at its emptiness
and threw it behind him like a dead bird he thought would take flight. When he
found what he was looking for, he replaced the panel and sat back down.
“Sorry ‘bout that,” Count
said, “I don’t use it that much.” He flipped open an old phone and
turned it on. “Could you text that picture to me?”
Rea said. She got the number, sent the picture, then
listened to the 1960’s rock smash hit that was Count’s ring tone.
“Do you know Tara’s boyfriend’s name?” Irma
“I only know him as Blippy.”
I doubt it, but it may say on his Facebook page if I can
Rea kept her face on her phone for several minutes
as Count wished there’d been something in that flask.
we are… um, Tyler Liptone.”
“There pictures of him on there?”
“Sure,” Rea handed Count the phone
and he swiped through the pictures.
“Look at that.” Count showed
her the phone, a picture of Blippy on it.
that in the background?”
“That big guy? He looks a little familiar.”
Count swiped through a few more pictures then handed the
phone back. Grabbing the landline, Whorton dragged it over to the TV tray next to
his chair, the cord just reaching. He lit a bent cigarette and dialed.
“Who ya callin’?” Irma said.
“Police,” the other line picked
up and Count said, “Miss Pinky, glad to know you’re
“Murder, Count, that means all hands on
deck including front desk people.”
you do me a favor?”
“Get me an address.”
even if I wanted to.”
“Please, we both know you got a finger
in every bowl of soup down there. An address would be nothing.”
Miss Pinky, the name is Tyler Liptone.”
“Alright, give me
a minute.” She paused then gave the address when
she got it.
“Thanks, Miss Pinky, hey another thing
how old is he?”
I thought, thanks Miss Pinky, you’re a lovely and
“Shit, detective Klunkel’s coming
“Give him my love.”
Miss Pinky said before slamming the phone down.
was that?” Klunkel said, now up at the desk.
Moines reporter, he tried to sweet talk me. Asked me if I
look as good as I sound. I said depends, how bad do I sound over the phone.”
“Don’t tell them anything.” He then walked away
as happy-go-lucky as a diseased puppy stuck in the sewer, but that was normal.
“Alright,” Count said leaning back in his
chair, “I think I can get your sister.”
smile took over her face like a planned attack. “Really?
That’s great, what will I owe you?”
“Um…” Count thought
about it for the first time. “Fifty bucks and
a phone call.”
She paid up front.
looked about as comfortable in his car as a mouse in a
cat’s digestive system. The car squished him in two, leaving him little room to
breathe or turn the steering wheel. Then again, a school bus would do the same thing
After he parked, Kenny sauntered over to Count
and Irma’s rust bucket. He was either going to talk or throw the car to Pluto
with little strain.
“I’m here. How’s the
face?” he said through the window to Count.
face?” Count said.
“So, what am I doing here?”
Irma in the car saying to Kenny, “Rea’s sister Tara
is, we’re figuring, in that house with her ne’er-do-well boyfriend Blippy. And
I need you to act as my heavy.”
um, I’ll be like the good cop and you’ll be the bad cop. I
say things like we’re on your side and we know you’re the brains. And you say
things like this fool don’t know shit and I’ve seen more useful shit on my
shoe. All while you beat the crap out of him.”
we go in there and I get out Tara. Then we talk to Blippy.
You gonna have my ass.”
“If I have to.”
walked up to the door wishing he had a nip of something,
then knocked. There was no answer, so Kenny knocked harder. When the door swung open a
half-naked, twig-skinny man stood there with a giant wolf’s head tattooed on his
“What the fuck do you want?” Blippy said.
punched the wolf between the eyes making a few of Blippy’s
ribs crack. Blippy collapsed on the floor in a heap that looked like last week’s
trash. Count stepped over him and said to Kenny, “Watch him, I’ll find Tara.”
shooting star must have been flying overhead as Count was
talking because just like that Tara came around the corner.
“What the fuck’s going on?”
she muttered. She had mussed hair like she just woke
up and wore only a large shirt. Count knew her age but thought she looked about ten years
“Get some clothes on.”
“What? Who are you?”
matter, get dressed.”
“No,” Tara said not moving defiantly.
“Listen, girl, I’m detective Klunkel
of the Quartertown police department and your sister Rea Coatwell
was found dead earlier tonight.”
“She was reportedly out looking for you,
little girl. When she was killed. We’ve only found the head thus far, but
I think it’s safe to say she’s dead.”
in a heap screaming and crying. Count grabbed her shoulders
and pulled her up. “Get your clothes, now!”
She disappeared into the house.
the fuck was that?” said Kenny.
her Rea’s dead.”
“Maybe she’ll think next time she
runs away. Either way, it was a little fun; this must have been
how Bela Lugosi felt all the time.”
kinda fucked up.”
“Eh… little bit.”
back her eyes dark clouds ready to break any moment
with another storm. Count shuffled her out to the back seat of the car. She shrunk on the
cracked and torn upholstery looking like a kitten in a shoe box.
Count put a finger under her chin and said, “Now, there, there.
Don’t worry. Your sisters alive and well.”
“We were hired by Rea to retrieve you,
girlie. If you’re thinking of running I wouldn’t, the driver’s
got a gun.” Irma smiled from the front seat then Count said, “Toodle-oo.”
shut the door as Tara started a screaming of a different
Back inside, Blippy was put in a chair and Kenny
stood over him like a hammer waiting to be dropped.
you with me pal?” Count said shaking him.
you,” was the response.
“Good, now do you know Ginny Hollis?”
Kenny twisted Blippys nose
till it nearly came off making him yelp in pain. Kenny
let go and blood dripped from the nostrils.
“Now, do you know Ginny Hollis?”
do you get your drugs?”
who’s your supplier?”
“Why should I tell you?”
rabbit punched Blippy in the side of the face.
“Fuck, fuck fine it’s
that son-of-a-bitch Darren Hollis.”
last time you saw him?”
“I don’t know, night ago or two.”
do you meet?”
“Club across town…Dynamite Dotty’s”
done here…he’s yours Kenny.”
Kenny worked him over for
a few minutes breaking one of Blippy’s arms and
knocking him unconscious. Hopefully, infusing in him the knowledge that if he meets anyone
with the name Coatwell again he should commit suicide instead of mingling.
found a piece of paper and a pen, he wrote on it, then set
it on Blippy’s lap. Kenny smiled and started out. Count called 911, gave them
the address then hung up and followed him, but not before taking Blippy’s money
The paper on Blippy’s lap read: Hello
I am Blippy, a drug addict and pedophile. I am badly injured, please help.
later in the Phillip M. Pennypacker memorial park on the
Cliff Skipper bench Count Whorton and Irma laid on top of each other in a lewd display
of affection as the sun rose over the treetops.
Whorton pulled his eyes from Irma to see Klunkel standing
over them, a twisted look like he just licked a bulldog’s ass painted on his
“Detective,” Count said as him and Irma
sat up and straightened. “Good, you got my call.”
of a call, sneaking up on a rookie officer telling him to
tell me to come out here alone so we could talk. Fuck, if you want to confess come
to the office, you know where it is. That kid is now thinking of quitting the force.”
a shame, but it’s more dramatic this way. And I said
talk, not confess.”
Klunkel didn’t say anything, just stood
unmoving in the morning wind.
Irma said, “first of all he didn’t do it.”
“But we know who did.”
as silent as a gravestone in July.
“You see,” Count
said, “we started by goin’ over and retracin’
my steps because I didn’t remember nothin’. I was drinkin’ you know. That
didn’t get us too far. We did learn a girl was tryin’ to talk to me and I
“Fast forward a little,” Irma said,
“we get word to this mystery girl who we first assumed
was the dead girl, but she’s not.”
she’s not dead.”
“I think he’s got that, Countey.”
girl’s got a missing sister with an asshole pedophile
boyfriend and a babysitter that was none other than dot, dot, dot Ginny Hollis.”
crossed his arms.
“So, we get the runaway sister and have
a convo with this creep. You see, we found a picture of him on the Facebook with
someone in the background we recognized. I asked him where he got his drugs and you know
what he says, but Darren Hollis. I know what you are thinking, pretty coincidental,
the name Hollis.”
“We,” Irma said, “know
Darren by the name Sour Kraut, leading drag queen act
at a place called Dynamite Dotty’s.”
“We went down there and asked around
after talkin’ to the pedophile and I did have
“Night of the murder, Sour left early,”
Irma said. “Also didn’t drink as much as usual.”
nothing,” Klunkel said, “no proof in that.”
talked around to some of the other girls there,” Count said.
“A few know Sour was dealing and all of them saw an incident in which Sour
fought and hit a woman matching Ginny’s description. Plus, Irma thought of
“Well, considering Darren probably got
rid of the clothes he was wearing I figured that would suck, him
being of a larger size, well, mostly I’m talking about his shoes. Sour has some big
feet and I mean big feet.”
allowed to keep things at Dotty’s. We checked, there’s
a pair of size 14 men’s sneakers in Sour’s stuff among the wedges and pumps.
They had a few bits of blood on them. I think Darren started selling drugs for
the money, he wants to be the biggest drag queen out there, but he can’t do it
in a town like this. His sister Ginny didn’t agree with it. Ginny warned the
not dead girl that her little sister is messing around a druggy, because she saw him
around Darren. She confronts him and he kills her. Not just for confronting him, but because
she’s bugging in his client’s lives and that’s not good for business.”
Klunkel said, “I will look into it.”
“What can I say?”
“Well, here, I will
absolutely prove it to you. I stole the druggy pedophile’s
phone and texted Darren. My text reads: was in the park last night, saw you and that girl.
Then Darren wrote back: what you talking about Blippy. And I said: you know…let’s
meet there to talk. Then he said: when, and I said, well just about now.”
went from annoyed to infuriated as Count talked and was
about to release his fury like air from a pin-pricked balloon when like on cue, footsteps
started up the nearby gravel path. Klunkel drew his gun and Count drew a partial bottle
he had hidden.
Darren came up the path and stopped suddenly
like he hit a wall. He didn’t try to run or fight, he just let Klunkel put
the handcuffs on him, looking like he expected this or like there was too much sand in
Irma and Count sat on, watching and drinking
as Klunkel pulled Darren over.
Irma said looking down, “he’s got the sneakers on.”
and Count looked at Darren’s feet and count said, “just
gotta find the blood on ‘em.”
Count looked at Darren, one of the few
times he wasn’t in a dress, heels, or wig. Just
some light makeup and small earrings. “Darren, two things. First is, I was curious
since earlier, when we had that drink because you didn’t look as hungover as you
were puttin’ on and I’ve seen my share of hangovers. The second is you put
on one hell of a show at Dotty’s. I’m gonna miss that.”
too,” said Irma.
“I still don’t
get,” Klunkel said, “how you got the knife and
found the body.”
“The old drunken fuck stumbled over her,”
Darren said with a slight smile.
it happened, I knew it was gonna be trouble. He came along
up the path like he followed me, but he was too drunk to follow anything but the
smell of more booze. He tripped over her arm, saw her, said he’d help and pulled
the knife out of her chest. He then started yelling about murder and police, but he finally
found the bench and went to sleep.”
“I don’t remember that,” Count
Whorton said, taking another swig from the bottle.
Friday night everybody swarmed around mother Whorton’s house.
Miss Pinky showed up first, pie in hand. Then Dotty came in her best leather
jacket with some brandy and fifteen minutes after everyone else, Irma and Count came
through the door.
“You’re late, Whorely,” said
mother Whorton. She was an old woman with a bad smoking habit, an oxygen tank always
on her heels and a chubby little dog that liked chewing the cord.
know, ma,” said Count, “take the belt to me later will ya?”
pencil it in,” she said with a smile.
They all sat around the
table eating mother Whorton’s great cooking, drinking
and talking like it was a holiday.
“God-damn you two,” Dotty said to
Irma, “that was the best singer I had.”
I went down for it?” Count cut in.
“If it’s gonna
lose me money and you owe me money, so fuck yeah.”
Irma said, “until you find someone, why don’t you have Count
fill in with his lovely voice.”
“Fuckin’ hell, I hope you’re
kiddin’ Irma. I’d rather shove toothpicks
into my eardrums than have that.”
They all laughed, having a good night.
in the apartment after dinner, Count went up to the east
wall and put his hand on the wood.
“I think it’s time, Irma,”
“For what,” she said then saw him
at the wall. “You serious?”
“I am, but just one thing.”
do all of this together?”
“Till the bloody whorehouse end, Countey.”
“Love you too, Countey.”
Whorton opened the pocket doors that separated his apartment
from his office. Everything was covered with a thick layer of dust. On a far window was
painted the words Count Whorton Investigations and Security.
fix that,” Count said, “I wanna make it Count Whorton and
Irma Side Investigations and Security. Ain’t that nice?”
“Fuck, no, that name sounds horrible.”
“Alright, you pick the name.”
Irma walked into the office that no one’s
been in for years and smiled. She turned to Count and said, “The
Bloody Whorehouse Detective Agency.”
|Art by Steve Cartwright © 2019
Halloween Psychopath Special
By Michael D. Davis
Count Whorton wiped
his nose on the back of his hand then went back to ignoring the goober half his age
in front of him. Mark Miller, otherwise known as The Mole Man, for his pimple-bespeckled
face with rodent-like qualities and large dark John-Boy blemish on his
forehead, called himself Count’s boss. He continued his lecture all while
scratching around a newly formed zit.
“You just can’t
be coming in drunk or drinking. This is not that kind of place. Consider this a warning,
it,” Count said, “but Mole Man, stop your worrying. All I do is put shit on
shelves in the middle of the night when it’s a wasteland where only the occasional
druggy or scumbag comes in for a melon. What’s it really matter if I’m nippin’
some or not?”
“Well, like yesterday,
when you put the hunting knives in the cereal aisle.”
don’t remember that.”
“Well, it happened. How? I don’t
know because the knives are on the other end of the store.”
“Maybe for someone
comin’ in who needed cheap tasty flakes and a quality blade it was a convenience.”
Man rolled his eyes in an overly dramatic fashion then said, “even so, here at SWEENEY’S
SUPERMART we don’t place knives with the cereal.”
you say, Mole Man.”
“Damn right, now
try to stay sober, its Halloween, we’re probably gonna have an increase in customers.”
right boss sir,” Count said with a salute.
Mole Man wandered off Count put a few more toys on the shelf then saw someone moving up
the aisle. It was a clown with a bowtie, polka dots, and large floppy shoes. Although
diverting from clown normalcy was the dried drips of blood coming from its ruby
red lips and the sliced open throat. Standing still Count Whorton watched the
clown move toward him at a slow pace. It got closer and closer until its face
was only inches away from his own. It breathed heavily in his face while watching
him with wide eyes before finally kissing him.
you had me spooked,” Count Whorton said pulling himself away from her.
“Good,” she said. Irma Side, Count’s
better half in more ways than one, was unrecognizable. She took Halloween seriously, it
being her favorite day of the year, even though she celebrated it her way year around.
“I was leaving the apartment for the midnight bash at Dynamite Dotty’s when
I saw you forgot your work flask.”
“Yeah, I hid it.” Irma pulled from
her pocket a black flask with a skull and crow on it. “Happy Halloween, Countey,”
she said with her sweet screechy voice.
Irmie that’s fantastic. Is it-”
to the brim, what am I, stupid?”
you’re great.” Popping the top, Count took a sip.
he placed his new flask in his pocket a scream rang out through the store. Quickly getting
to the front of the building Count and Irma saw a crowd of people running to hide. Crouched
down one aisle of men’s socks and underwear was Mole Man. Approaching him Count
said, “Mole Man, what’s goin’ on?”
Man looked up at Count and Irma, let loose a scream, and ran away with surprising speed.
“What the hells
goin’ on around here?”
The stores constant
80’s pop background music came to a halt with the clearing of a man’s throat
over the intercom. “Excuse me shoppers and Sweeney’s Supermart employees the
store is now on lockdown,” the man said. Count and Irma started toward the registers.
“We have already killed one of your night owl shoppers and we will continue to
kill everyone in this building until we have what we want. Which is either
death of everyone here or something a little more personal. If anyone contacts
the police, they will die a miserable death. Happy Halloween and as always,
thank you for shopping at Sweeney’s Supermart.” The man’s voice stopped and
“Come On Eileen” started over the speakers.
Hiding behind racks
of sunglasses, Count and Irma could see the only two people at the registers. The
man who had been speaking stood over six feet tall and was wire thin. He wore a
fanged pointy eared and bald-headed mask that left his chin and neck exposed.
The other one wore a white sheet with holes cut out around the eyes. The Ghost had
small gloved women’s hands showing with blood on the front of her sheet.
the hell are these people?” Irma said.
the hell out of me.”
Retreating from the front of the store they
found another Sweeney’s employee in bedding. Laying on the bottom shelf amongst a
bunch of pillows was Alfred Box. He stood three and a half feet tall after crawling out
of the shelf he said, “Criminy, that one of them Count?”
Doc, this is Irma, my girlfriend. She just loves Halloween. Irma this is Doctor Box.”
Pushing up his glasses and putting out a hand
Doctor Box said, “I’m not in actuality a doctor. He just calls me that. Good
to meet you.”
Irma shook his hand as Count said, “he’s
the smartest son of a bitch around and I sent him up the river once.”
was an incident of unrequited love and regretful decisions. I harbor no ill will towards
Count. Incidentally, I consider him a friend.”
a good friend too, now are the others dead or just trying to hide?”
middle-aged woman in a Sweeney’s Supermart uniform ran by at the end of the aisle
straight towards the front of the store.
hiding,” Irma said. The three of them went to the end of the aisle and watched. The
woman ran with the grace of a fish swimming in the gut of a bloated tiger. She went right
for the doors which wouldn’t open. She shook them and beat the glass before
catching a glimpse of the lanky Vampire coming up behind her. She screamed,
running towards the pharmacy. The Vampire was on her quickly swinging a machete
wildly. As she passed the shelves the woman threw over the counter medication
and bandages at the Vampire. Many hit him but few slowed him. He swung the machete landing
it in the back of her head, she fell pulling down a rack of laxatives as she went.
Carol,” Doctor Box said.
“We need to move,
Countey. Where are the others you think?”
towards the back room, Irmie, let’s move.”
moved quietly through the rows of items not meeting anyone as they got closer towards the
back. Arriving at the door to the break room things seemed normal. Count tried the
door, the knob turned but it didn’t open. Pushing against the metal door with
his shoulder did nothing. “Anyone in there?” Count called out. “This is Count
Whorton. Doctor Box is here too. Living employees.”
were some sounds coming from inside the room then the door opened a crack. It was Mole
Man. “Is that one of them?” He said nodding towards Irma.
Count said, “this is Irma, my girlfriend.”
Man hesitated then opened the door completely. Inside the small room were several people,
some customers, mostly employees.
“What are we going
to do?” a man said.
“Did you see Carol
out there?” one of the employees asked.
here,” Count said, “we’re in a bit of a situation but we’ll get
out of this. First of all, Carol’s dead, sorry.”
“A machete to the head is usually fatal.
Now, we need to call the blue boys to help us out of this jam.”
“They said they’d
kill us if we did.”
“They also said
they may kill us anyway so what are we really risking here? The few last hairs off a
shaking snowman’s ass?”
“What does that
mean?” said someone towards the back.
even make the call if it makes you all happier. Irmie you got your phone?”
Countey, I’m just kickin’ myself for leavin’ my gun at home.”
Whorton took Irma’s phone and called the Quartertown police station. “Irmie
what’s Klunkel’s extension again?”
putting in the extension number Count waited for him to pick up even though it was the
middle of the night. Count never knew Klunkel not to be there and sure enough, he
answered. “Detective Klunkel Quartertown Police Department.”
“Klunky, its Count. I’m at work
over at Sweeney’s Supermart and it’s a real store of horrors. We got two masked
assholes trying to kill everyone. Two are already dead.”
one asshole,” Klunkel said.
Klunky they already killed Karen from produce.”
was a cashier,” corrected an employee.
need to get your gun-toting, badge-wearing ass down here.”
would honestly Count, but all these camp counselors are being killed down by the lake and
I won’t even get into what’s happening with this babysitter’s batshit
crazy brother. So, have another drink and Happy Halloween.”
got out, “you dumb son of a,” before the call ended.
he could tell Irma or the crowd that help wasn’t imminent the Vampire’s voice
came over the loudspeakers again. “Hello once more, this is going beautifully, but
sadly a little slow. So far, my lovely partner has taken a customer’s life and I’ve
split an employee’s head in two. Frankly, I thought we’d be a lot farther along
by now either; I’d have what I came for or there’d be a pile of bodies but
two does not make a pile. So, let’s speed things along. I would like some personal
information that only one person here has and that person is Count Whorley
Whorton. Like before, either I get what I came here for or you all die. I’m
content either way. You pick. Thank you.” The 80’s jams returned with a hit from
The Cars as Count Whorton mumbled a swear, all eyes turning towards him.
“Throw the ugly bastard out,” said
the voice towards the back.
“Now wait a second,” said Doctor
Box holding up a hand, “let’s think now.”
woman employee who’d asked about Carol took a pocket knife out and flipped open the
“Listen here you
fuckers, we ain’t going anywhere,” Irma said.
you or us,” said the woman with the knife before charging forward. Count hardly blinked,
Irma moved defensively in front of him and Doctor Box hit the woman with a chair and said,
“Nice one, Doc
Box,” Irma said, “but Countey I think we should be scootin’ on out of
here on second thought. They got awfully hungry eyes and I think we’re on the menu
“Right next to
the mummy hot dogs. Doc, you comin’?”
had started to stir on the ground while the rest of the room formed an angry looking group.
“I don’t think my actions will be kindly forgotten, so yes please.”
The Mole Man unlocked and unbarricaded the door
to let them out then whispered good luck before quickly slamming it behind them.
against two we got the majority at least,” Count said taking out his flask.
“Well, two and a half,” Doctor
Box said with a slight smile.
“There’s someone I can call for
help, I think he’ll come.”
“The giant,” said Count finding
the number on the phone. After he finally got it dialed and ringing a teenager’s
voice answered saying, “Happy Halloween this is Bing Bing Burger would you like to
try our Super Slick Slammer Slider for two-ninety-five?” in a slow unenthusiastic
“No,” Count said, “I need
to speak to Kenny.”
After a second of silence,
there came a booming voice, “yeah?”
good, this is Count Whorton.”
him in the same quick slurred enthusiastic summary he gave Klunkel only moments earlier
Count Whorton had Kenny coming to the same conclusion.
fucking with me, you drunken ugly bastard,” was Kenny’s response before hanging
the phone back up on the wall. He sighed, shook his head and walked three steps before
the phone rang again. This time it was Irma. She had two profanity injected sentences for
him that had the gorilla-sized Kenny apologizing and running out the back of
the burger joint.
Returning our attention
back to the Supermart, Irma hung up the phone just as Count Whorton started
talking. “Good, the Giant’s on his way, but he’ll be a while. This is the plan
to figure out who those Universal Horror wanna-be fucks are, why they want to
kill me while keeping them from killing anyone else as we hopefully kill or at
least maim them. Surviving the night while staying generally not dead
ourselves. Since its Halloween, I call it Plan B: from outer space.”
“What happened to Plan A?”
A was to have a quiet fucking night at work where none of this shit happened. Now, Irma
call back the coppers, but instead of dialing extension 666 for demon dumbass Klunky, try
to get Miss Pinky. She’d try to get the national guard over here. Doc Box, you be
as stealthy as a one-eyed pussy cat and try to see what the killers are up to.
I’m gonna head to the cereal aisle and grab a few weapons so we don’t end up
living life in a lead-lined coffin.”
hurried plans were made to meet back up at the handicap accessible bathroom, everyone went
about executing Count’s Plan B: from outer space. I could tell you which route Count
took to the knife possessing cereal aisle or how Doc Box army crawled up to a
view of the cash registers but I’m not going to. Instead, I’m sticking with
She ripped her wig off which had started to
sweat and itch then ran a hand through her short hair all while dialing the phone. It rang
twice then a voice which Irma knew well answered. “Miss Pinky its Irm-”, dropping
to her knees pain burst from Irma’s back where she’d been kicked in the kidneys.
Slipping the phone in her pocket Irma got herself up and saw the Sheet Ghost.
gotta pretty high, hard kick there for a skinny little bitch in a bed sheet,” said
The Sheet Ghost waved
a large butcher knife in front of her face. “And you’re gonna die screaming
an old hag in clown’s makeup.”
that’s on my bucket list, let’s get to it.”
kicked the Ghost in the stomach sending her reeling backward just as Eurythmics “Sweet
Dreams” started playing. The Ghost ran at Irma, knife slashing through the air in
front of her. Irma blocked the knife with her arm, the blade cutting her skin-deep.
Then grabbing the wrist of the hand that held the knife, she twirled the Ghost
around ripping the knife from her. The Ghost fell back, then ran at Irma again
although she now had no weapon. Irma had had enough. She punched the Ghost in
the head once, twice, three times to lay her out cold.
When Count Whorton finally
rounded the corner making his way in the handicap accessible bathroom both Irma
and Doctor box were already standing by the door nervously waiting.
“I went as fast as I could,” he
said, “ripped a few packages right off the shelf we’ll just have to take the
fucking knives out the plastic.”
need one,” Irma said showing the bloody butcher knife.
the hell you get that, Irmie?”
opened the door to the handicap accessible bathroom. Tied up on the floor was the Sheet
“Bitch cut me,
I bandaged my arm with my oversized bow tie.”
Irmie you okay?”
clown costume’s practically a utility belt,” said Doctor Box, “got bandages
“More than that,” said Irma pointing
at the Ghost on the floor, “look, tied her up with my handkerchief rope.”
know, clown pulls out a handkerchief, but it’s actually fifty all tied together different
colors. That’s what I used. What else was I gonna use? My ten feet of chain?”
did amazing, Irmie. Get anything out of her?”
she wanted to kill me.”
“Good to know,
Doc, what you see?”
Doc pushed up his glasses
scratching his nose in the process. “Um, not much really. The man in the
vampire mask is sitting at register thirteen eating candy.”
“Alright Doc,” Count took another
nip from his flask. “Fuck a rickety rocking chair, who are these bastards?”
someone who knows you, Countey,” said Irma, “maybe even someone you know.”
“Hey,” said Doctor Box, “didn’t
you just start up a detective agency? Could it be a disgruntled client?”
Bloody Whorehouse Detective Agency has only had one case, a missing dog.”
“Find the dog?”
funny story, guy was a nut, never had a dog.”
on, Countey, other than the mask, did he look like someone you know? Did his voice sound
know. I don’t know.” Count closed his eyes and put his hands over his temples.
A few minutes later, looking on the verge of tears Count opened his eyes again and said,
“I think I know who it is.”
tore open the plastic of one of the hunting knives. “Then let’s go get him,
Devo’s “Whip It” snapped through
the aisles as the three of them made their way to the front of the store like three very
odd trick or treaters. Creeping past aisles and aisles of deathly quiet items, Count whispered
to Doctor Box. “Doc, could you make out what kind of candy he was eating? I want
to confirm somethin’?”
Yeah, caramels. The same that are on sale.”
As they reached the front, they poked their
heads around the end of a shelf to see if the Vampire had moved. He hadn’t. The best
plan they could come up with was one of surprise attack. So, the three of them crouched
down and began to crawl with knives at the ready across the slightly sticky store floor.
Their Olympian swim to register thirteen wasn’t a fraction of the way over before
the Vampires’ voice pierced their ears.
this clown, dwarf, and ugly drunken bastard walk into a bar…stop me if you’ve
Irma, Doctor Box, and Count stopped and exchanged
stunned glances for a moment that felt like an eternity then Count stood up. Brushing himself
off while still holding the knife, Count said, “Thank God you said something. I’ve
never been good at the whole sneaky thing and I just want to get this whole fucking thing
done with, all while keeping my asshole hairs from getting plucked in the process.”
“What a way of putting it, Count,”
said the Vampire sitting atop the conveyor belt, “I’m disappointed you didn’t
dress up today. Then again, maybe you did. What has snow white pale skin, dark circles
under the eyes, crooked yellow teeth, a twisted hunchback, and a drinking problem?”
“I was going to say a rotten son of a
“Yeah, sure, whatever. You care if I go
get a pack of cigarettes while you talk?”
“Have your little
friend do it.”
Count turned around
to Doc and Irma standing behind him. “Could you Doc?”
Count,” said Doctor Box.
“Who is this man,
Countey?” asked Irma.
pointed his knife at the Vampire and said, “This, dear Irma is Stuart Stegman. Former
accountant, current murderer and forever a psychopathic asshole… right?”
not very nice,” said Stuart, popping another caramel into his mouth.
true though,” Doc returned with Count’s cigarettes. “Thanks, Doc. You’re
just in time to hear about Stuart there. You see, years ago, before I met you Irmie and
before I sent you up the river, Doc, I was a regular Quartertown private investigator.
And one day Stuart the accountant got off work and was heading home to kill his
wife, Carmilla. However, Carmilla, a bright woman either aware of the plan or
fed up with her spindly-ass toothpick psychopathic asshole husband decided she
was leaving. And before her husband got home, caught her and killed her, she
hid their daughter, Mina, somewhere he has never found her. In his search for his daughter,
he hired me of all people. I didn’t find her but if I did, I wouldn’t tell
that skinny fanged fucker over there.”
off his vampire mask Stuart said, “Allegedly killed, Carmilla. It was never proven
that I killed my love.”
“Maybe not by
law, but common sense has you frying in the chair,” Count said looking at his face.
A face Count hadn’t seen in years. A face consisting of two beady eyes and a
boney nose tied together with a receding hairline. In other words, just a
normal fucking face. “By the way, asshole, what’s with the old lady caramels
you popped those back then too.”
“My vice is a
penchant for hard candies similar to your booze.”
said Count lighting a bent cigarette, “let’s get down to brass tacks the blue
boys are on their way and your ghostly henchman is tied up in the handicap shitter, so
hand over the machete and weep in the fetal position until we haul your ass off to
move, but he did smile. “I’m not going anywhere until I learn where my daughter
Irma stepped forward with a question, “Why
do you think Count knows?”
“Well, because in spite of looking like
an incompetent dumb fucker he gets things done. I read a while back he solved a case where
a woman came to him with just a finger. Then he took down a murdering drag queen and reopened
his P.I. office with a new colorful name. I know he knows where she is.”
threw up his hands. “I really don’t. Not. Lying.”
my loves… passing, I’ve learned to love again. With not only one, but two.
You met one of my new Carmilla’s earlier, dressed as a ghost. My other new lovely
Carmilla has been going by the name Becky and is currently in a crowded breakroom with
a knife to the back of a certain pimple-faced manager. One text from me he dies. Then the
gonna kill Mole Man?”
“And then the
others. If you don’t tell me where she is.”
last question Stuart,” said Count waving his knife around. “These new women
in your life, they’re also named Carmilla?”
my loves are named Carmilla.”
H. Christ, I didn’t know we were having a Halloween half-off sale on psychopaths.
Fuck, Irmie? Doc? Did you know that?”
said Stuart holding his cell phone up. “One text and they start dying. Tell me where
she is now.”
do it, Stuart,” Irma said.
“I will if I hav-”
Stuart suddenly ducked as Count’s knife came flying at him. “What the hell
“Worth a try,” Count said with a
“That’s it, they’re dead.”
started to make the text as the front door exploded inwards. A twenty-pound Halloween-decorated
rock skidded and rolled across the floor. Emerging from the broken glass of the
sliding door was Kenny. He stood tall and wide wearing a stained apron, Bing
Bing Burger paper hat and for Halloween a large red cape that flapped in the
wind. He tightened his grip on the bat he held looking around. He saw Stuart who
had grabbed up his machete upon hearing the glass break. Knowing the threat, Kenny ran
full speed ahead across the store like a lunatic loose of the ward, cape flapping, bat
swinging. When Stuart glimpsed the bullet that was Kenny coming for him, he ran without
stopping to drop his machete.
Irma, and Doctor Box stayed back as Kenny’s blur passed them in pursuit of Stuart.
Count said, “I
don’t know if it’s a hallucination or this story’s narration, but did
Kenny look like a superhero?”
Count’s comment Irma said, “Look he dropped the phone.”
he send the text?”
Irma picked up the phone and hit a few buttons.
“Thank God,” said Doctor Box.
they’re still alive. Let’s go make sure they stay that way.”
reached the back of the store just as “Another One Bites The Dust” split through
the air. They had a rough time getting Mole Man to open the door to the breakroom but at
least that meant he was still alive. After they kicked their way in Irma went up to
the girl with the Becky nametag sitting amongst the others. Before a word could
be said Irma had her out cold, bleeding and the pocket knife she went at Count
with earlier taken away. The crowd started to panic, yelling and screaming.
“Hey,” Count said, “she was
one of them. God dammit, ready to kill you all. Now either get the fuck back or help
tie her up.”
The room went suddenly quiet, no one moved or
breathed. Count was amazed his speech had such an effect until he realized that Kenny was
eclipsing the door behind him, his bat still ready to roll heads.
Christ, Kenny, you get him?”
“I hit him a few
times, but then he disappeared.”
shit you not. I got two good whacks in then he went around a corner and disappeared. I’m
so sorry Irma, Count I mean it.”
okay Kenny,” said Irma, “the police will be here any minute they’ll find
“I already heard sirens.”
we need to check on the Ghost.”
they got to the bathroom the door was open and the room was empty.
Happy Halloween, Irmie,” said Count drinking from his flask, “Happy Halloween.”
When Klunkel showed up Count asked him if he
caught the camp counselor killer or that babysitters’ brother. Klunkel didn’t
Count Whorton and Irma walked out of Sweeney’s
Supermart just as the sun was rising. Klunkel had said they couldn’t leave yet, but
Count said his flask was empty and that always meant his shift was over. As they got in
the car Irma started it up and Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”
came on the radio. Just before pulling out of the parking lot Irma said, “I gotta
ask Countey. Do you or do you not know where Stuart Stegman’s daughter is?”
course, I do, but I’m not telling that fucking psychopath,” Count said and
turned up the radio.
Pursuit of Presley Penguin
By Michael D. Davis
It was four days till Christmas and Quartertown
was blanketed with snow that turned to mush upon hitting the ground. Count Whorley Whorton
sat in front of his television in his small apartment, attempting to soak up the heat and
survive another Iowa winter. Through the pocket doors behind him in the office,
Count’s love and partner in every endeavor, Irma Side, sat trying to pay a few
of the red lettered bills. Kenny, a giant from the tip of his toes to the bridge
of his nose, sat across from Irma and complained.
“I tell you I’m doing my best but
I lose’er every time,” Irma didn’t look up at him or respond which frightened
Kenny more than if she chewed him out. “Okay, okay, I’m sorry Irma, but I’m
not cut out for shadowing somebody. I ain’t good at it. Why don’t you get Alfred
Box over here to do it?”
Irma still didn’t look up, but she did
respond, “First of all, Alfred just started this week at the paper as well as working
at the Supermart and you can do it yourself if you stop fuckin’ whining and mebbe
keep your eyes open. I’m not gonna tell our client, hey your wife mebbe cheating,
but we couldn’t fuckin’ follow her and find out. Get your head outta your
ass, dumb shit.”
“Yeah, you’re right Irma…so,
Alfred started at the Times Zephyr? That’s cool.”
“Uh-huh, I’m trying to work here,
leave me the hell alone.”
Kenny got up and walked through the pocket door
saying, “What ya watching, Count?”
“Nothin’ at all,” Whorton
took a sip from a large pop and turned the channel, “every year I watch ‘A
Werewolf Christmas’, but this year I keep missin’ it.”
“That old crappy cartoon special with
the narration and all?”
Count was on his feet faster than Kenny had
ever seen him. “How dare you? ‘A Werewolf Christmas’ is the best Christmas
special of all time. All those old cartoons are the best. What is wrong with you?”
as Kenny was about to respond there came a knock at the door. Not the apartment
door, either, but the office door. All the while looking down at what she was
doing, Irma called out for whoever it was to come in. Quickly, before the knocker entered,
Kenny and Count Whorton slipped into the office, closing the pocket doors behind them,
hiding the messy apartment.
A man in an expensive wool coat and Homburg
hat with flecks of snow about him came into the office, shivering. Without moving from
the entryway, he said, “Is this the… um, The Bloody Whorehouse Detective Agency?”
“It’s what it says on the door,” said
Irma looking up for the first time in this story to eye the man in the coat, “what
can we do you for?”
“Yes, my name is Doug Astor and I was
given your card by a lady at the police station. She said you could help me.”
gave Count a side-eye look, and said in her high-pitched screechy voice, “Told
ya givin’ those cards to Miss Pinky was a good idea.”
Count didn’t respond and Mr. Astor continued.
“I’m only passing through town, but last night I was robbed. I am staying at
the St. Belvedere hotel and an item has been taken from my room.”
kind of item, Mr. Astor?”
“I have a bronze statue worth roughly
fifty thousand dollars that was taken.”
“Shit a biscuit,” said Count Whorton,
“why would you travel with such a thing?”
“Well, some pay to see it, but I’m
traveling with it now because it looks like it’s going to be my father’s last
Christmas. In actuality, it’s his statue. I just handle it for him since he doesn’t
get off the estate anymore. You see, I’m taking it to him.”
didn’t you put it in the safe?”
Irma repeated her question saying, “I’m
sure a fancy joint like the Belvedere has a safe for such things, why wasn’t your
statue in it?”
“Oh, good question, I’ve had some trouble with
past hotels and their safes, so I’ve acquired an impenetrable bulletproof case for
it. However, last night I took it out for regular cleaning, then in a moment of stupidity
that I regret, I dozed off. When I awoke my wallet and the statue were gone.”
an attempt to be more of a detective rather than the strong arm he was Kenny
asked a question. “What’s the statue of?”
“It is a statue of Presley Penguin,”
said Mr. Astor making Count jump forward in alarm.
“You don’t mean,” said Count
Whorton, “the wisecracking cartoon penguin with top hat and bow tie?”
damn, he’s my favorite cartoon. His creator, Chuck Freleng, also made my
favorite Christmas special, ‘A Werewolf Christmas’.”
said Mr. Astor, “Chuck Freleng created a lot of the older cartoons.”
“Wait a minute,” said Irma, “a cartoon
penguin is worth fifty thousand dollars?”
“Correct. The creator, Chuck Freleng,
hand-sculpted four different statues of Presley Penguin that were cast in bronze. One is
with his children. Another is in a museum in California. The third was supposedly given
away to a friend, but no one knows exactly where it is and the fourth was in my possession
until last night.”
“We’ll do what we can to retrieve
your statue, Mr. Astor,” said Count Whorton.
discussing the situation and price some more Mr. Astor left. As he crossed the
threshold Count beamed, a crooked yellow smile was spread from ear to ear on
his ghostly white face.
“This is great,” he said.
so great,” said Irma, “it’s just another case.”
“Oh, Irmie baby don’t you see? We are living
Dashiell Hammett’s dream. You, me, chasing down through the city streets the statue
of a bird, Irmie, we are in ‘The Maltese Falcon’.”
you, every day is a Humphrey Bogart Picture.” Irma got up from behind the desk
and made her way to her purple fuzzy coat on the rack. “I got an appointment
across the alley I gotta get to. Kenny, keep following what’s her name and
don’t be a dumb fucker, you’ll get the hang of it. Countie, you start thinkin’
up ways to work this penguin case. Tomorrow morning, we can go out to the St.
Belvedere and see if anyone saw anything.”
“No use in that,” said Count, “Mr.
Astor said he went to the coppers before he came here and that’s the first place
they’ll start. He ain’t payin’ us to shadow the blue boys, not that I
think Kenny’d be able to do it.”
“Hey,” said Kenny making a face.
figure out where to start.” Irma walked over and gave Count a kiss before
saying, “Gotta go, client’s already probably outside my chamber door.”
Irma left, Count poured some booze into his pop and lit a bent cigarette while
asking Kenny if he wanted to join him in front of the television.
Mrs. DeSilva gets off work in an hour, I gotta see where she goes.”
Count nodded then said, “That’s an idea, or
we could watch Presley Penguin cartoons for the next fifty minutes, givin’ you enough
time to get wherever DeSilva works. And if Irma asks, we were just doing research on the
Kenny thought for a moment then agreed.
Whorton slept most of the next morning, but by early afternoon he and Irma were
on the case. Their first stop was the only gay club in town, Dynamite Dotty’s.
A tight-jeaned man taller than most pine trees escorted them back to Dotty
herself who sat behind a big desk in an even bigger office. Before Stretch left them to
their business, Count said to him, “Would you bring me back a glass of something?
My tonsils are itchy.”
When Dotty saw the hunchback in the hat and
the fuzzy coat with the scratchy voice coming into her office she said, “I knew this
was going to be a bad day. You’re never here this early without wanting something,
so what the fuck is it?”
“How rude, yet how accurate. Dotty, we
need to see Wilmer.”
still works for Kasper French, doesn’t he?” Irma said taking a seat in front of
“Actually, he doesn’t, but he does
have dealings with him. Fuck, most the town does.”
“Well we need to get to French and the
only way I thought of was your brother Wilmer,” said Count, also sitting.
“How fortunate for me and Wilmer, fuck.” Dotty
leaned back in her chair, “Knowing my luck, Wilmer would get you to him. Then you’d
piss him off drinking his booze and generally being your fuckin’ self, then we’d
all end up floating in the fuckin’ Iowa River.”
“You don’t have more faith in me
than that?” asked Count just as Stretch came in carrying his drink.
gonna pay for that?” said Dotty.
“Don’t I always?” Count smiled
and sipped as he looked straight at Dotty who wore a less amused expression.
Dotty,” said Irma, “we need to get to French for a case. So, we need Wilmer.
You gonna call him or not?”
“Fine,” Dotty picked her phone
up off the desk. “but I’m leaving the decision up to Wilmer. I’m not
going to fucking force him to do it.”
“Thank you,” said Irma, taking Count’s
glass and finishing it off for him.
After a few minutes of semi-pleasant talk on
the phone, Dotty hung up and said, “He said he’d do it. Meet him here around
eight and he’ll take you to French.”
Count stood up saying, “Thank you, Dotty.
It’s been a pleasure as always, leaving me feel all warm and special inside.”
“Alright then, I think I’ll be moseying
on over to the bar since we got a few hours to kill.”
“Fuck you are,” Dotty said getting
up, “you’d drink us out of house and home.”
“Don’t worry, he won’t,”
said Irma, “thanks again and see ya later.” She ushered him forward and out
was short, with a forever puffed-out chest. He had more spit and fire than
sense, shown by his right ear, which was lopped off in a fight before he got
out of grade school. When eight o’clock rolled around, Count Whorton and Irma
were already at the bar, it was a good twenty minutes after that Wilmer sauntered
ready to roll?” Was Wilmer’s greeting.
Irma started saying, “We’ve been
ready,” when Count cut her off, asking to have a word with Wilmer privately. She
made her way to the door to wait and Count said, “Wilmer, I’m looking for somethin’.”
“What kind of somethin’?”
kind of somethin’ that falls off the back of a truck.”
Count and Wilmer were done talking, they found Irma and went out. When they hit
the street Wilmer said to them, “One of youse is drivin’.”
Irma got behind the wheel of their old Buick station wagon
and Wilmer told her when to turn. A few minutes later they were pulling up to a little
old diner. The place was mostly empty inside. Next to a door on the back wall sat an old
man in a suit reading a sleazy paperback, highlighting the smutty parts. When they
walked up to him the old man looked at Wilmer then hit his fist on the door. A
moment later it opened.
On the other side of the door, Wilmer spoke
to a man who looked like he’d been hit one too many times in the head, then left
saying they’d get in to see Mr. French in a few minutes. It made Irma nervous, Wilmer
leaving before they saw the big man behind the curtain, but true to his word they were
ushered into his office only minutes after Wilmer left.
Kasper French was a heavy-set man who wore expensive
suits and a dead-rat looking toupee. It was said that when his own mother made fun of the
animal hide on his head, he had her shot. Count and Irma were directed to large leather
chairs opposite his desk, all while trying to keep their eyes off his horrendous
“Thank you for seeing us, Mr. French,”
welcome, I hear Wilmer’s with you.”
“He left after Orville Redenbacher let
us in,” said Count gesturing towards the door.
Mr. French stared at Count under furrowed eyebrows,
making Irma think dotty was right, they were going to end up in the Iowa River. Then he
burst into laughter, bouncing in such a way that the squirrel on his head came back to
life flipping this way and that way.
Addressing Irma but pointing at Count, Mr. French
said, “that’s a funny guy.” Sucking back in his chubby finger, talking
through a big smile, “I’ve said before the bastard’s anywhere from sixty
to a thousand years old. All he does is sit there all day highlighting pages. So, what
can I do you for?”
“Well,” said Count, “we are private investigators
and are on the search for a statue that has been stolen.”
you want to know if I heard anything or even better have it in my possession.”
“That is what we were hoping Mr. French.”
“Well, umm… names?”
“I’m Count Whorton and this is Irma.”
“Well, Count, Irma, let’s see what we can do.” Mr. French hit
a button on his desk and spoke into a speaker, “Get me Luxor.” A few moments
later a small man in a tuxedo with a cigarette stuck on his lip came swaggering in. “This,”
said Mr. French, “is Peter Luxor, my right-hand man and the knower of all things.”
simply tilted his head in greeting to Count and Irma.
“Peter, these people are looking for a statue that’s recently been stolen,
I thought you may be able to help.”
“What kind of statue?” said Luxor.
“Bronze,” said Count, “about a foot high. It was pilfered from
a man who was staying at the St. Belvedere. It’s worth roughly $50,000.”
French whistled, “That’s a pretty big chunk of change.”
“That’s why our client wants it back,” said Irma.
said Luxor, “You people cops? Or what here?”
Count smiled showing crooked dog teeth, “Private investigators, Mr. Luxor.”
“P.I.’s looking for a statue, what is this? ‘The Maltese Falcon’?”
“Oh, stop joshing, Luxor,” said Mr. French, “and tell us if you
“There is only a handful or two of people in town that would go after a fifty-grand
job. But I haven’t heard a thing.” As he spoke Luxor kept his eyes on Count and
Irma. Even when Mr. French addressed him, he didn’t look away.
“Looks like we can’t be of any help tonight,” said Mr. French
holding up his hands.
“Well, thank you,” said Irma getting up to leave.
said Count doing the same, “thanks a lot.”
“No problem, come again,” said Mr. French waving them out the door.
Out in the station wagon, Irma steered them from the parking lot saying, “Now
what do we do?”
Count, laying down in the back seat, sipping from his flask said, “Head around
the block then park it at that gas station over there.”
“Had a thought.”
Irma parked the rusted old Buick station wagon at the gas station and they waited.
Count remained in the back propped up just far enough so he could see out the window while
Irma stayed behind the wheel praying she didn’t get hypothermia.
“What are we waiting for, Countie? It’s colder than a witches titty
Just then he saw it and said, “We were waiting for that.”
looked in the rearview mirror and saw Luxor exiting the diner, heading for a big black
car. He had with him the guy that looked like he took one too many to the head and a couple
of others that were probably born with bloody knuckles. Irma started up the station wagon
and slowly followed them through the dark winter night.
Where the big black car finally stopped was as seedy a place as the diner it
originated from. Parking just outside what looked like an abandoned garage, Luxor walked
up and banged on a dented metal door. A ways away on a street corner Count and Irma watched
from the station wagon.
“What is he doing?” said Irma.
The dented door opened and a skinny guy with more tattoos than clear skin peeked
his head out.
there is asking the homeowner a question,” said Count.
After they seemed to have had some words back and forth, Tattoo shut the door on
Luxor. Turning towards the car, Luxor made a hand gesture that had the other three exiting
in a determined fashion. One of the knuckle draggers forced the dented door back open and
they all rushed in like a swarm of bees in spring with Luxor following behind lazily like
the queen bee he was.
“I don’t think he liked the answer he got to that question,” said
After the better part of an hour, the dented door opened once more, all four of
them streaming out, the queen bee leading the workers. They loaded up in the big black
car and drove off. This time Irma didn’t start up the station wagon.
The two of them crossed the snow and slush-covered street on foot. When they got
close to the garage, they slowed up to listen. There wasn’t a sound, not a voice.
Count opened the dented door hesitantly then went in followed by Irma.
Shit was everywhere. The whole place had been trashed, glass broken, shelves
overturned. Then in the middle of the room three bodies lay in a large pool of blood. Tattoo,
who had come to the door was one of them. They were beaten to death with a couple of hammers,
which lay next to the pile of bodies.
“Well, I think we know what they were looking for,” said Count.
radio in the corner played faintly, the speaker was saying, “I’m Six-fingered
Sally bringing Quartertown all the hits. Next up, Bobby Darrin singing to all you with
the Christmas spirit.” Count and Irma knew that wasn’t going to be anyone in
they drove through the cold winter night the only thing Irma said was, “Home, right?”
two in the afternoon the next day Count rolled off the bed onto the floor causing the feeble
old thing to fold back up into the wall with a smack, then come catapulting back down with
a thud. Irma, sitting on the couch, said, “About time you’re up. Alfred dropped
off the list about an hour ago.”
You see, after they made an anonymous call into the Quartertown police department
and quickly fled the scene of the crime at the old garage, Irma and Count came home. Count
then proceeded to call multiple times Alfred Box, it being the middle of the night, he
was working his shift at Sweeney’s Supermart. That didn’t phase Count much.
He needed some information and knew Alfred could get it from his new part-time job at the
like Irma was saying, “He came in, gave me the list, cussed you out then left. For
a little man, he’s gotta lot of anger in him.”
Count chuckled, laying on the floor, “Naw, he’s just riled up.”
“Whatever, Countie. Here’s the list of every hoodlum and lowlife that
Alfred thought could pull the fifty-grand job. He said the paper has pretty good files.”
“Lucky us… you know there’s mebbe a body at every place on that
“Think they worked all night?”
“If French told ‘em to and the cops didn’t get too close. The
Screaming Mimi can cause people to do crazy things.”
“Oh, and Countie, Wilmer
dropped off a box for you.”
“What’s in it?”
“Mutant cucumbers with a taste for human flesh, I’m thinking of making
“You’re a witty one,” said Irma in a sarcastic tone.
than an hour later the pair were in the station wagon marking off addresses. The first
one brought them to an empty house. They probably had the right guy at the second place,
but he was drunk and angry. Apparently so was his dog who kept showing his teeth and Count
felt like they were getting bigger and bigger with each curl of the gums.
wind had picked up, blowing snow everywhere, making it hard for Irma to see anything out
the windshield. It just wasn’t their day, it didn’t help that Six-fingered
Sally on the radio kept playing the same carols over and over again, pissing both of them
off. When she asked for requests, Count took Irma’s cell phone and made a call. Soon
out of the speakers Sally was saying, “I’ve just had a profane call from what
I would describe as a disgruntled listener and I agree with him. Count wherever you are,
no more carols. This is Six-fingered Sally playing a classic from Queen. Have a merry musical
The third place on the list seemed to be a nice-looking house only missing a few
shingles. Irma and Count knocked on the door till their fingers had frostbite then they
kicked in the door. Well, not as much kicked in the door as paraded through the snow bluffs
beside the house to an unlocked back door. They entered a dark empty kitchen, meeting a
rotten putrid smell. Going through a small hallway to the living room they found the origin
of the stench. A man lay dead on his couch, beaten to death like Tattoo and the others,
his little heater still running at his feet. The small machine was on oscillate, warming
the dead body and spreading his odor all over the house.
“It looks like there’s not going to be any good moments today,”
said Count turning Irma, “so, I guess we’ll just have to make our own good
“Don’t we always, Countie?”
“That we do, Irma.” Count looked at the dead guy and smiled, then turned
back to Irma. “I gotta say I didn’t know what to get you, this Christmas. Not
a clue. Then it hit me like a brick to the temple when I was watchin’ cartoons with
Kenny none the less. Because I’ve had some rough years, but today is good because
of you. You are good, Irma. I couldn’t love anyone more, I couldn’t be happier
with anyone more, and I couldn’t need anyone more than I need you. So, Irma E. Lanchester
Side, in the presence of this dead man would you agree to marry me?” Count Whorton
took from the pocket of his overcoat a small box and presented it to Irma.
first, Irma didn’t move but soon her lips twitched into a big smile and she jumped
forward onto Count, nearly throwing him to the floor. She kissed him over and over finally
stopping to say yes. When they finally regained control of themselves Count gave her the
ring. It was a gold band with a large gold question mark on the front of it.
sorry about the ring,” said Count, “I got it last minute from Wilmer. He said
it’s all he could get and its real gold, not that I believe him. Sorry, Irmie.”
“Sorry nothing, I love it and it fits perfectly.” Irma gave him another
kiss just as the furnace kicked on making the smell that much worse.
there was a call made to the Quartertown police detective Klunkel. They even stayed around
to answer a few questions and deflect a few accusations. When they were back in the station
wagon with smiles on their faces the sun was turning it in. Looking brightly out at the
dark night, Count said, “Where’s the next address?”
just had a thought about that,” said Irma.
“Hit me with it.”
“We’ve been assuming this was a professional job.”
fifty-grand is pretty professional.”
“Yeah, but it’s a fucking statue of a cartoon character. No one in their
right fucking mind are gonna think a statue of Presley Penguin is worth that much. There’s
Presley Penguin knickknacks at garage sales all the time. What if small-time asshole looking
to knock off Mr. Astor’s wallet, which he did, broke in, saw the statue and thought
“That makes sense. Son of a bitch could work there, maid, manager, whatever.”
Count took out his flask and drank saying, “Irmie, hang a u-ey we are headin’
for the Belvedere.”
As they turned into the parking lot of the hotel Count said, “Like I told
ya before, we may not learn much here because this is where the blue boys would
have started. But I think you’re on to something, Irmie and another thing to our
advantage is Luxor and French don’t know what the statue looks like.”
“That’s the spirit Countie, although you know if we find the statue
this way then, I was right. And if we started the investigation off at the hotel, like
I said, things would have been over in a snap.”
“Yeah, yeah we didn’t find nothin’ yet,” said Count getting
out of the car and going into the Belvedere.
Sitting at the front desk in dark makeup with a jet-black Santa hat was a girl who
looked barely out of her teens. As Count and Irma approached the desk the girl said in
an unenthusiastic tone all while looking at her phone, “Checking in?”
“No, we just need to ask a few questions,” said Irma.
kind of questions?”
“Well, firstly, what’s so damn important on your phone you can’t
look at me when I speak?”
The girl sighed and put her phone away saying, “I was just watching ‘A
Werewolf Christmas’, okay?”
“Oh my God,” said Count, “I love ‘A Werewolf Christmas’.
It hasn’t been on like any fucking channel this year.”
know,” said the girl, looking at Count, “I’m watching it online. They have the
other ones on a fucking loop, but not the one I watch.”
“I’m right there with ya, that fuckin’ blond-haired elf and red-nosed
son of a bitch are everywhere. But no Werewolf Christmas.”
“There was a statue stolen from a room here the other day, did you happen
to see anything?” Said Irma.
“No, I was off that night, but I heard about it. Apparently, the police were
here talking to everyone. Even talked to me and like I said, I wasn’t here.”
you know of anyone on the staff or otherwise who has a tendency to take wallets from rooms?
Or other items?”
“Not like statues or anything but this night supervisor that used to be here.
I know he got fired for taking money out of rooms and stuff. We’re not supposed to
let him come around the building but he’s dating on and off one of the maids.”
what’s his name?”
Irma and Count thanked the girl at the desk, gave her a card and left. Out in the
station wagon, Irma drove while Count took a phone book that he’d left on the floor
of the backseat and read by the dim illumination of an old flashlight. There was only two
Hazen’s in the book, neither of them was named Dicky, but they both had the same
was well after midnight when Count and Irma rolled onto the Hazen’s street. The snow
had been cleared well and there was only one car parked out on the curb. When Irma saw
the car, she had to believe she was mistaken, but she wasn’t. They pulled up behind
the vehicle and proceeded to get out of their car and into the one with the hulking figure
behind the wheel.
When they got in Kenny said, “What the fuck are you two doin’ here?”
Irma said, “I was about to ask the same question.”
followed Mrs. DeSilva here, didn’t lose’er once.”
“You’re shittin’ me,” said Count.
I’m not, didn’t lose’er once.”
“Good boy,” said Irma reaching forward from the backseat to pat Kenny
on the shoulder. “But I believe Count was referring to the fact we think the guy
in that house has the statue.”
“Really, now what are the chances? So, what we gonna do?”
opened the door, “I don’t see why we can’t knock.”
At the front door, Count allowed Kenny to knock and crack the house’s foundation.
Quickly there was a response as a thin man came to the door in his boxer shorts with a
bat. As he opened the door Kenny took it upon himself to pluck the bat from the swearing
semi-nude man’s clutches, it proved to be not that difficult. From there Count said
a cheery hello and the three of them pushed their way inside.
“Who the fuck are you people?” said Mr. Boxer Shorts.
said Count, “are private detectives. I’m Count Whorton, this is Irma and that
is Kenny. What is your name?”
“Dicky Hazen, now get out.”
“We could, but you see we have two cases at the moment. One where a woman
seems to be runnin’ around with the local fool. And another where a statue was taken
by what we assume was a low life, small-time, two-bit moron and wouldn’t you know
both cases brought us here.”
A woman covering herself with a man’s dirty old robe came into the room asking
what the interruption was. Irma leaned over to Kenny and said, “Is that?”
“Yup,” said Kenny taking out his phone and snapping a shot of Mrs.
DeSilva with Dicky in his underwear (no pun intended). “For the client,” he
“Would you fuckin’ people be quiet,” said Dicky, “you’ll
wake my grandma.”
“This keeps gettin’ better,” said Count, moving to sit down in
a recliner next to a brightly lit tree. “Well, look here, Crabapple, I know you got
all the brains of a snowman with a yellow block of ice for a head, so I’ll lay it
out for ya. That statue we know you took, from the Belvedere where we know you used to
work, is worth more than your puny ass organs at a blackmarket yard sale. If I were to
call the big blue men in matchin’ caps right now, your ass wouldn’t be gettin’
out of the slammer until you had grey hair on your toes.” Count stopped speaking
for a moment and looking at Dicky, the man was trembling in his shorts. “However,
I’m thinking of playing Santa because its, what? One AM on Christmas eve morning
and there’s no reason to disturb Nan Nan Hazen. If you give us the statue, we will
leave you in peace, not calling in the coppers.”
“Its under the tree,” stuttered Dicky, pointing a finger.
go get it then,” said Irma urging him on.
Dicky stumbled over to and around the tree knocking off ornaments and kicking
presents. Finally, he stood up holding a badly wrapped green and red box. “Here it
is. I was gonna give it to my Grandma, she likes little statues and things. Honestly, I
was just gonna take his wallet then I saw this.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said Count standing up and taking the box. “I tell
ya, ya fool, if we find that it isn’t in here the only one coming back here is him.”
Count threw a thumb at Kenny. “So, don’t be on our naughty list, fool.”
After they left the Hazen place Count and Irma went back to the Belvedere, the girl
at the desk didn’t seem to have moved since they’d last been there. She called
up to Mr. Astor’s room and he came down to the lobby wearing a pair of striped pajamas
that must have been from the Cary Grant collection.
“Mr. Astor,” Count said, “we want ya to open your present early.”
Doug Astor pushed up his glasses and ripped open the wrapping paper right there
at the front desk. In an old shoebox smothered in green tissue paper was the
bronze cartoon penguin. Presley Penguin was grinning under his top hat, the little bow
tie he wore glinted in the light.
“It looks great,” said Mr. Astor, “not damaged or harmed at all.”
“What is it?” said the girl at the desk.
Before anyone else could answer, Count said, “It’s the stuff Saturday
mornings were made of.”
Once they were paid and Mr. Astor was on his way again with his statue safely
secured, Count and Irma went home. On the way, they stopped to send a nice card to Mr.
French and Luxor thanking them for their help in the retrieval of the bird, hopefully,
they’d appreciate the sarcasm. Christmas morning, they headed over to Mother Whorton’s.
She was found stirring a pot of something that smelled wonderful while a cigarette hung
from her lip and oxygen tubes swung from her nostrils.
As always Mother Whorton’s was the beacon for every stray dog in town bringing
in Miss Pinky, Kenny, Dotty, and her new girlfriend. Even the little goth girl who
worked the desk at the St. Belvedere showed up, Irma being the type of person to invite
any and all. At least with Mother Whorton’s cooking, there was no shortage of food,
including when Wilmer showed up late, ate three helpings then left with a wave.
dinner Count and Irma announced their engagement and showed off the ring. They were met
with excitement and questions about the question mark ring. Mother Whorton’s only
comments were, “Son of a bitch, I thought I’d be dead by the time this happened,
it’s been taking forever. But Irma, are you sure you thought about this, my son’s
an idiot. I’ll pray for you.”
As Christmas day started to wear to a close, Irma took Count aside and gave him
his present. When the first bit of colored paper tore, Count Whorton knew what it was and
the hunchbacked old man became a kid again.
“Oh, Irmie,” Count said, “a VHS copy of ‘A Werewolf Christmas’.
You know me so well.”
“Now, you know you can watch it every year.”
love you Irmie,” he said pulling her close.
“I love you too, Countie and Merry Christmas.”
Christmas,” said Count, “to everyone.”
The Return of The Ladykiller
By Michael D. Davis
“I will kill you slowly so I can watch your eyes go dull with death. I will
drain your blood into pots, pans, cups, bowls … and other items of the like. I will
strip the skin off your body like I’m plucking the feathers off a chicken. I will
make your meat into savory jerky then go on a hike, I will walk into the woods up a hill
over another hill towards a mountain sustaining myself on the jerky I made from your
remains and the juice I mixed from your blood. There I will start fresh, form a colony
of people in which I will be elected ruler, your skull will be my crown.”
Count Whorton turned over on the floor of the Quartertown jail cell. His head ringing
with a hangover. He looked at the old man talking who had Rip Van Winkle hair and wore
a shabby soiled suit. Count said, “Darwin, you’re my lawyer do you have to
keep threatening me with death?”
was the raggedy man’s response.
sighed and peeled himself from the floor. He stretched slightly, which helped slightly,
however, the crick in his neck was a lost cause. Leaving his left ear to lay on his
shoulder, Count sat down and asked Darwin for the time.
“For you it’s
limited,” said Darwin with his eyes gleaming with sinister intent and his cracked
lips parting to show his expensive dentures in a smile of dark delight. “For soon
I will begin the journey that will lead to your death.”
yeah, so what’s it like, nine-ish?”
time at the tone will be twelve-thirty-seven…bbeeeeeeeepppp.”
“Oh, fuck that was like a bullet goin’ through my brain. What are you
tryin’ to do kill me?”
“Wait, its noon already? Where the fuck’s Irma?”
Count wandered over to the bars and motioned to an officer a ways away. The officer
didn’t get up but instead let out a groaned, “what?”
“Can you get me Miss Pinky from the front desk?”
“I’m not here to get you people.”
“Then can I make a phone call?”
Count was walked over to a phone on a wall with the officer
hovering over him like an angered parent. “This’ll just be a minute,”
said Count dialing the phone. It was picked up immediately. “Hello, Miss Pinky,”
said Count talking into the receiver, “no, I’m fine and you? Oh, that’s
good. Hey, I got a favor to ask, I’m down here in a cell…yup right in the building.”
Count changed his voice some while saying, “the call is coming from inside the house,
yeah, yeah, anyways could you call Irma for me I don’t know where she could be. I
know usually she already knows I’m here, but if you could call her I don’t
remember numbers too good. What? Oh, well its on fucking posters all around me. Okay, thanks
Count hung up and turned
around to see the officer scowling at him. “What?” Count said.
“Very funny calling the station from the
station,” said the officer in a voice deeper than the bottomless pit.
“Thank you, Lurch, and I hope late tonight when you’re
sitting alone in the dark getting ready for that one laugh and smile you allow yourself
each and every day you’re thinking of what happened here.”
The officer grunted and led Count back to his cell.
It wasn’t long after that Count was sprung. He left
Darwin spouting another death threat behind bars to find Miss Pinky at the front desk talking
“What are you doing here?” was Count’s
greeting to the kid giant.
“I’m bailin’ you out, what
the fucks wrong with your neck?”
“Slept on it wrong, where’s Irma?”
Kenny shrugged his shoulders, “Workin’?”
“I called,” said Miss Pinky, “she didn’t
answer. Maybe she’s off doin’ wedding preparations? Only two days till the
“Irma?” Said Count leaning on the
desk, “I don’t know? Technically you only need six things to get hitched. First,
you need a couple, two cake and booze, three, good flowers and good music, four fancy-ass
clothes, five family, and six church. And speaking technical, all of those are optional
except the cake and booze. All right, let’s get out of here, Kenny and I’ll
pay you back the bail.”
It’s your money.”
Kenny took an envelope
out of his pocket saying, “Irma gave me this envelope labeled Count’s bail
money. Told me to keep it and wait for the call.”
said Miss Pinky, “I got one too, I just figured you’d need a ride and I’m
workin’ so I called Kenny.”
be damned, well thanks.”
Count squeezed in next
to Kenny in the big man’s little car and they started towards the apartment. It
was February 12th, two days before Valentine’s Day and two days
before the wedding. The roads were clear, but Quartertown was blanketed with
dirty snow filled with thirty-degree temperatures. Count flipped on the radio
where Six-fingered Sally was playing “Tainted Love” by Softcell.
“Fuck,” said Count after they parked,
“what the hell did you have the heat set at in that toy car of yours, hellfire?”
“Well, shit its colder than an Eskimo’s asshole
out here.” As Kenny spoke the door of the bar that Count lived above opened as people
entered letting out an animal. The black-furred thing sauntered along the sidewalk up to
Count and Kenny. Upon noticing the beast’s presence Kenny jumped back with a slight
yelp. Count turned around just as Kenny said, “What the hell is that thing?”
Count grinned crooked teeth saying, “Don’t be
a pussy, Kenny it’s just a dog. This little guy is King Charlie Archibald. Found
him awhile back in the alley. Took him to the vet, now he’s usually either in the
bar or upstairs with us.”
Kenny, staying back as Count ushered the animal
up the stairs to the apartment said, “Are you sure that’s a dog?”
“Of course, although the vet said he’d seen
nothing like him before.”
As Count opened the inner door to the apartment
The King shot right inside. He ran across the apartment through the open pocket doors into
the office right up to Doctor Box who lay unconscious on the floor.
“Fuck,” was all Count could find to say as he
looked about the wreckage of his home and office. Furniture was overturned and broken as
well as just thrown about. Quickly joining The King at Doctor Box’s side, Count and
Kenny looked over the little man who didn’t seem to be bleeding. With a little shake
and The King’s sloppy tongue on his face, Doctor Box was soon aroused.
Kenny flipped the couch back right side up and laid Doctor
“Are you alright? What happened?”
Were the questions slipping off Kenny and Count’s tongues.
“My head hurts
excruciatingly and I’m not sure. I came in, saw the place was a wreck and Irma…”
“What about Irma?” Count pleaded.
“She was tied up, then everything went black.”
Count moved away from the couch, his hands were on the side
of his face and he repeated, “no,” over and over again. Kenny put his hand
on counts shoulder saying, “It’ll be alright, she’ll be alright.”
Shrugging off Kenny’s hand Count said, “Take
care of him, I’ll be back in a minute.” Then he went out the door and down
the steps, The King on his heels.
The bar below Count’s apartment had changed
names and owners multiple times over the years. It was currently called The Toe Tap Bar
and Grill, and it had a good-sized crowd when Count stepped in.
When the bartender saw him, he automatically put a full
glass on the table. Count emptied it in one swallow, then turned to face the room and said
at the top of his lungs, “I’m gonna need every dumb ugly son of a bitch’s
attention in this place.”
were grumbles and swears as a sea of eyes turned reluctantly towards him.
“Good,” Count said, “I need to know has
anyone seen Irma today?”
“Who’s that? Your mother?”
Came a voice towards the back.
“Listen up, you alcoholic pea-brain fuckers,
some of you may not know who I’m talkin’ about, but I know a lot of you do.
I need to know about Irma. Have you seen her today? Talked to her? Was she here? Upstairs?
Outside? I mean did you glance out the window and see her walk by? Or were you all too
busy watchin’ your fuckin’ ice cubes melt?”
“Yeah, I seen
her,” said a blurry-eyed man at the end of the bar. Count knew him to be a regular,
but couldn’t remember his name. The man looked like he’d played in the mud
as a boy and hadn’t taken a bath since. Count went up to his stool.
“Where’d you see her?”
in it for me?” asked the man slurping his drink.
“I’ll tell ya if ya give me a little inspiration
if ya know what I mean.”
Count Whorton was never a man of violence, but
he was even less a man of money. With his last nerve losing the battle to hold on Count
grabbed the man by the throat and shoulder pushing him backwards. With a high-pitched yelp,
the drunk was thrown off his barstool landing hard on the floor. Count stood over him as
The King growled.
“Tell me where
you saw her,” Count said.
she got into Rick’s car. She’s a pay-for whore ain’t she?”
Count kicked him hard in the crotch then turned
around to the bartender saying, “Who the fuck's Rick?”
He’d been gone
more than just a minute, but when he came back through the apartment door, he had a few
“What the fuck’s goin’
on?” Kenny said.
“Irma’s in trouble, we need to go
now, we’ll drop off Doc Box at the hospital on the way.”
“Not necessary,” said Doctor Box
getting up from the couch, “I’m fine, it’s just a knock on the head.”
Count wasn’t going to stop and argue with him so he
just said, “Fine, let’s go.”
were rolling away from the curb as the man from the bar came out the door screaming obscenities
with one hand on his crotch and the other making rude gestures. Before the door to
the bar could close The King slipped out running away from where Count had left
him and going right up to the drunk growling and barking.
car stopped half in and out of its parking space, the passenger’s side door opened
and Count yelled, “King.” The ghoulish looking dog stopped growling, ran over
to the car and jumped up onto Count’s lap.
started driving again saying, “Who the fuck was that guy?”
“Beats the hell outta me,” said Count, “now
head to Dotty’s.”
“Fine, but can you fill us in on what
the hell is going on?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m gettin’ to
it, keep your flip flops wet. A customer back there at the bar kindly offered up some
information sayin’ he’d seen Irma get in a car, black Chevy, with a man named
Rick. Bartender said this Rick has been hangin’ around a lot the last couple weeks.
Said he was a nice guy, a real ladykiller. He thought good’ol’Rick asked about
the people upstairs, but he wasn’t sure. I asked just what Rick looked like and I
got a pretty good description which made a few wires connect. Bartender said he was dark-skinned,
tall, good shape, looked damn near like a movie star. That’s when it hit me…
Rick is Brick.”
“What the fuck
does that mean?” said Kenny taking his eyes off the road.
“Who’s Brick?” asked Doc Box from the
“Brick, is Brick Side, Irma’s Ex-husband.”
“What?” Kenny swerved in his lane.
“I didn’t know Irma’s been
married,” said Doc Box, “and the man must be a complete idiot using Rick as an
alias for the name Brick.”
“No, he’s no idiot. The bastard
has used dozens of different names, fuck he goes into the shitter as Jeff and comes out
as George. He used Rick on purpose, he wanted Irma or me to know he was there.”
“You sure it’s him, Count and not a coincidence?”
Count reached into his coat pocket and took out an old wallet
that held three wrinkled one-dollar bills. Beside the money was a folded yellowed newspaper
article. He took it out then handed it back to Doc Box. The headline read, “Man Suspected
of Local Area Murder”. There was a picture between the text of a dark-skinned handsome
“That picture’s a few years old,
but when I showed it to the bartender, he recognized him right off. I know what I’m
talkin’ about. She was born Irma Elsa Lanchester, she had a rough childhood then,
she met him when she was in her twenties, and she thought she was in love. Or at least
she did before he started beating her senseless, but by then she was trapped. Married and
living with him. They stayed like that for years—he bruised her, scarred her, broke
her, nearly killed her a few times.”
Kenny parked out front of Dynamite Dotty’s
and said, “I can’t believe Irma went through that or didn’t stop it,
she’s so strong.”
“Every superhero has their weakness,”
said Count, “she wasn’t able to stop it. Finally, she got out with not much
more than the clothes on her back. Irma bounced around, hiding, getting a divorce without
ever seeing him. Then she found herself in Quartertown going through some bad times, she
became a prostitute. That’s when she moved in across the alley.”
As the three of them
walked into Dynamite Dotty’s, Count addressed the bartender saying, “Could
you get me somethin’ to soothe my streptococcus de fungily throat, Rita Haywart?”
A chunky man with a long beard and exquisite eye makeup
turned around saying, “It’s WARP. My name’s Rita Haywarp, legally
and all, you hunchbacked asshole.”
Count had his drink down practically before
Rita was done pouring it, then asked, “Dotty in back?”
out front, is she? So, she must be.”
yeah, Haywart,” Count started to walk away then turned back. “There been a
man named Rick hanging around?”
“Here,” said Doc Box handing Count
the newspaper article. Rita glanced at the picture and scratched at her beard. Then said,
“Oh, I do happen to recognize that beauty.”
“Beauty? Ya didn’t read the headline did ya,
Rita?” Count said.
“I did, but often the more rotten the
core the sweeter the surface. Never see a picture of Ted Bundy? Talk about ladykiller.”
“Alright, where you see him?”
“Here, of course, he’s maybe come in once or
twice in the last few weeks. A smooth talker, again ladykiller, why?”
“He took Irma,” said Count before walking away.
Kenny followed him to Dotty’s back office as Doc Box stayed upfront asking Rita for
some pain meds.
Dotty sat behind her desk and when she saw Count
said, “Aw fuck. If this is another thing about your damn Valentine’s Day wedding
here you can go to hell. Valentine’s is a big fucking day for this place and like
a big fucking idiot, I’m shuttin’ it down all day for you two’s. So,
be happy with what you fuckin’ get and why the hell ain’t Irma with ya? I texted
her just a minute ago and got nothin’ back.”
Count stood in front of Dotty’s desk listening quietly,
then said, “Can I speak now? Brick Side took Irma.”
Dotty stood up. “What? Where’d he take her?”
“The zoo, they’re pettin’ the baboons.”
know where they are, but I’m gonna find out and I’m gonna need a gun.”
I find him I’m gonna kill him. I’m gonna put that ladykiller right in the ground.”
“Fuck, very 80’s straight to VHS action hero,
Count,” said Dotty looking into Count’s dark-ringed bleary eyes, “but
bullshit. I give you a gun and you’ll blow your foot off like a drunken version of
Don Knotts in ‘The Shakiest Gun in The West’. I’ll hold the fuckin’
pea shooter, and I’ll fuckin’ drive. You drain the booze out of your brain
and figure out where that fucker took her.”
“Fine, we need
to attack this at all angles. We need to call Miss Pinky, even that ass Klunkel to get
the blue boys on it. APB and whatever. I got a tech wizard I know that can try to
track Irmie’s phone. Kenny, I want you to take Doc over to the paper, go
through the files, see if they have anything on Brick Side, everything is
useful. Dotty, I want you to talk to all of your regulars, your employees, everyone.
The son of a bitch has been following us at a distance, Rita out there said he’d
been here. So, see if he slipped up, said the smallest thing that could lead to the location.
Brick’s a smart asshole so, he’s had this planned. He knew where he was gonna
Count paused, he had to catch his breath after
having such a lucid moment. The silence was soon broken by the song “Beth”
by Kiss coming out of Dotty’s cell phone on her desk. She picked it up, looked at
it, then turned back to Count saying, “It’s a text from Irma’s cell.
Just says ‘Hotel Hinchley’.”
“Okay,” Count said nodding, “fuck
everything I just said, let’s go get Irma.”
“Wait,” said Kenny still standing in the doorway,
“it could be a trap or somethin’.”
“Doubtful, Brick already has what he wants, Irma.
There’s nothin’ I could give him. Plus, if it is a trap, I’ll have you
guys to help me get outta the snare.”
Dotty grabbed her revolver and the pump shotgun
that stayed behind the bar. Kenny got his bat from the
trunk of his car and they all met at the garage beside the club. Dotty hit
the button that rolled up the door revealing her fire red 60’s Oldsmobile nighty-eight
four-door. They quickly got in the big boat of a car including The King who sat in the
back seat between Kenny and Doc. Dotty hadn’t noticed the creature until it was
scrambling up onto the bench seat. Count’s only explanation was, “Don’t
worry—he’s with me.”
Dotty turned the key, the radio came on rivaling the roar of the engine and Six-fingered
Sally introduced the next song. “This is an old one,” she said, “The
Shangri-Las with ‘Leader of the Pack’, enjoy this classic, wherever you are,
wherever you’re going.” As the music started, they were already out on the
road and soon out of Quartertown.
destination was in the next county. Just twenty miles southeast out of Quartertown and you hit Hinchley Haddon. Officially
two towns, one of them the county seat, but they sat so close together most referred
to them as one. Dotty sped down the highway towards the two towns. The
Oldsmobile flew over the Iowa river and zoomed past the Meskwaki Settlement
right into the town limits.
Only Count had been
to the Hotel Hinchley before so he gave directions to the old building uptown. It was
still called hotel, but years before had been converted to apartments, it had
obviously seen better days.
“Black Chevy out
front,” said Count as they parked, “they’re here.”
“What’s the plan?” Dotty said.
go in the front with Kenny following behind. You make a loop of the building see if you
see anything. Doc will stay in the car, he’s not in the best shape anyway. If
things go bad he can either get help or keep the car running.”
“Seems like the best plan to get us killed,
let’s go,” said Dotty getting out of the car.
As Count and Kenny went up the stairs into the old hotel,
Dotty slipped around the side. Stepping in the empty lobby Count realized The King was
right on his heels, coming with him.
now?” said Kenny ready with his bat.
guess we start knockin’ on doors.”
first apartment they came to was dark and empty, so was the second. The third door was
opened by a man with thick glasses wearing not much more than boxers.
“Have you seen a good lookin’ man holdin’
a woman against her will?” asked Count.
Was the man’s reply.
Count dug out the old news article again and
showed the man the picture.
“Yeah, I think I know him. Why you askin’?”
“What apartment’s he in?”
a cop or somethin’?”
Kenny stepped from around the corner and said
to the man in the boxer shorts, “Or somethin’.”
“Fine, put Baby
Huey away, second floor on your left.”
said Count starting to walk away.
you can’t have dogs in here.”
a service animal.”
“Oh, yeah, what service?”
turned back to the man and said through clenched crooked yellow teeth, “Military,
the pooch served in Nam.”
and slammed his door.
Standing at the top
of the second floor Count loomed in front of the door that he hoped Irma was behind.
Kenny stood quietly a few feet away, out of sight; his grip tight on the bat.
Count knocked and waited, there wasn’t any movement inside, no one came to the
door. He knocked, again and again, there was no response.