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Michael D. Davis
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flippingfrozenfinger.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2019

Flipping the Frozen Finger Farewell

 

By Michael D. Davis

 

When 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 of degenerates.

“I’m looking for Count Whorton,” she said.

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?”

A smile spread across the bartender’s face like mildew in moist weather. “You think I’m Count Whorton?”

“Maybe.”

The bartender 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 as hard.

“Hey, what’s the joke here?” Said Posey severely.

“Sorry Miss,” the bartender wiped his eyes. “I’ll show you where Whorton is.”

He 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 there?”

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.

Posey went 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.”

Although his 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.”

“You may leave a note, but Count Whorton isn’t here.”

Posey leaned and held up the wall with her shoulder. “I am not leaving.”

Count 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.

Count Whorton finally burst back out of the bathroom. “I owe you my gratitude.”

“What for?”

“If I slept any longer there would have been no requirement to retreat to the John if you get me.”

Posey smiled 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.

“So,” the Count said, “Divulge what you came here to, then scoot at no slow pace.”

He 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.

“Well, 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.”

“Hey,” 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.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, granted I thought you’d look like the bartender downstairs but nonetheless.”

“Please, 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?”

“Nick Nash.”

“Christ, the Nash family.”

“Yes, 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 the problem?”

Posey 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.”

“Which was located in mother’s mini fridge,” Posey said her eyebrows lowering.

“Assuming your mother has all ten of hers, did you confront her and inquire where the lone digit originated?”

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, I think.”

Count Whorton leaned forward. “Who’s is it?”

“My sister, Violet’s.”

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?”

“My sister’s alive and well.”

“So, she’s missing a middle finger, you find a middle finger. Where's the problem here?”

“Well,” Posey paused then said, “How do you know it’s a middle finger?”

“I’ve seen my share.”

The 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.”

“So, 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?”

“There is something else as well. My brother went missing around the same time of my sister’s hand.”

“Missing?”

“He was nineteen, my parents say he ran away. He left a note, but it just wasn’t like him.”

“When 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.”

Posey gave him a shocked look. “That’s pretty steep.”

“Something 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?”

He 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.”

On 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.

Count Whorton turned to her, showing his hound dog teeth in a smile. “Irma Side, how are you doing?”

“Same as always, Countey.”

“Is 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.”

“That’s 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.”

“What’s her name then?”

Count Whorton’s brows furrowed. “I didn’t ask,” he turned, “Miss disembodied-finger what’s your name?”

Posey reddened and said her name.

Count Whorton turned back to Irma. “Posey Peale, I asked for a thousand for my fee.”

“She looks like she has money.”

“Yes,” he turned to Posey then back. “You think I should have asked for more?”

“Maybe 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.”

Posey's 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.

After 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.”

“She 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.”

“Are you serious?”

“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.”

The 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.

Posey led him into a sitting room and said, “Wait here, I’ll go get the money.”

“I kinda got dry mouth, anything to drink?”

She pointed 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.

The 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.

“Who the hell are you?” said the old man.

Count Whorton faced him.

“Christ, the last time I saw something like you in this house I had to call the exterminator.”

“You must be Mr. Peale.”

“I am, and you?”

“Count Whorley Whorton, investigator hired by your daughter.”

“What for… don’t tell me. This is about Peter.”

“Could be.”

“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?”

“I 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.”

Posey came back into the room. “Hi, dad.”

“Posey.”

“This is Count Whorton, a friend. I’m gonna show him the house.”

Mr. 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 misters.

“I’m taking you to Peter’s room, so, you can look it over.”

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.

“Why’s 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 the contacts.

Peter: moms being a bitch again

Nick: like usual?

Peter: Been worse lately

Nick: Why?

Peter: Just has… and it's not just me she did something bad to Violet

Nick: What?

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.

“Who’s Nick?”

“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 your name.”

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.

“Who’s that?”

“My mother.”

“Where were these taken?”

Posey 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.”

“No.”

“You 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?”

“Do you want to?”

“I don’t know.”

“Look 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 will.”

“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?”

Posey 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?”

“Because,” said Count Whorton, “I believe I know what happened to Peter. Um… apologies what's your first name?”

“Julia.”

“Well, Julia, let us go downstairs. Find your husband, your other daughter, have a drink and solve a mystery.”

“My son ran away.”

“Well, 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!”

Mr. 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.

Violet looked at the faces in the room. “What is going on?”

“Violet, I assume,” Count Whorton said, “the daughter with the missing hand. You know I personally would have gotten a hook.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m the one saying your mother killed your brother.”

“That's absurd.”

“Then 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 liquor.

“That's insane, I loved Peter,” Julia said.

“Did 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 the same.”

“Sure.”

“Wait,” Count Whorton said, “I forgot the finger. I think what set Petey off was him seeing his mom whack off his sister’s finger.”

“That was a kitchen accident,” Julia said.

“Don’t 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.”

“If 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.

“You kept it?” Violet said, “why, why?”

“To show you,” Julia said sternly, “show you what you get when you do such things.”

“Julia, how could you?” Mr. Peale said.

“Shut up, you spineless shit. If you were a better father none of this would have happened.”

As 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.

“I’m 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.

The End



ym75bloodywhorehouse.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2019

The Bloody Whorehouse Detective Agency

By Michael D. Davis

 

Chapter One

 

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.”

“This one’s 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?

Laying on 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.

Count 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.”

 

Chapter Two

 

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.

Finally, 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.”

“Gosh 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.

 “Countey,” Irma said in a voice that broke glass two towns away, “you got arrested without me.”

“Just detained.”

“I didn’t have a phone call or nothing. You didn’t even think of me.”

“I’m always thinking of you Irmie. You were working last night.”

“Someone has too.”

“I know 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.”

A uniformed officer behind a desk mumbled, “alcoholic asshole,” loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Okay,” Count said, “he thinks I did it, but who cares. Let’s go.”

“Fine, Countey if that’s all it is. No hard feelings just remember to invite me next time.”

As they were walking out an officer said to Irma, “don’t I know you? You look familiar.”

“You arrested me last year for prostitution. Don’t worry no hard feelings, dearie.”

 

Chapter Three

 

After Count 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 sat down.

“What?” Count said.

“Don’t what me.”

“How else am I supposed to figure out what you’re pissed about?”

“You know 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.

“You’re just gonna sit here?”

“That’s the plan.”

“You aren’t gonna look into this at all?”

“What?”

“The dead woman in the park, fucks sake, you aren’t even gonna try to clear your name?”

“My 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.”

“No,” Count said.

“For me, Countey, will you look into it for me?” Irma put extra syrup in her words.

“No,” Count 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 deprivation.

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.”

“Yeah, it’s 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.

 

Chapter Four

 

Dynamite 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.

The place 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.

Dotty said hey back and added, “So, how many teddy bears did you have to murder to get that coat?”

Irma made a face and said, “None, they died naturally.”

Count ate 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?”

“No shit you were here last night. Do you know who was here a few hours ago?”

“Patrick Swayze?”

“He’s dead, 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 friend, Dotty.”

“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.”

“I don’t 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.”

“Did you?”

“Of course not,” Irma said, then thought about her answer. “We don’t think so, anyway.”

Dotty gave 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.

“Speaking of that,” Dotty said, “your tabs due.”

“So, are my library books.”

“I’d like it by the end of the week or you’re cut off, Count.”

“Strange, 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.

“Count,” 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.”

Count’s face dropped a few inches. “That was my biological mother, I was talking about my stepmother.”

“Bullshit, you dumb fuck.”

“Shit,” 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?”

“I don’t 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.”

“Sounds fine. Maybe you’ll have my money by then Count? I’ll bring a bottle of wine.”

Count started towards the bar saying, “Don’t bother, mom likes brandy.”

 

Chapter Five

 

Sitting at 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?”

“Bitch, 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.”

“Speaking of drinking where’s the bartender?”

“Not here yet.”

“Fuck.” 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 hangover.”

“Yup, woke up in the Pennypacker park on a bench next to a dead woman.”

“That blows me out of the water.”

“How’d you hear?” Count asked pouring drinks.

“Two bulls were in earlier, pissing off Dotty.”

Count 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.

“No, 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.”

“So, why are you here?”

“Bitch, where else am I supposed to be? Home with the closet? I work here.”

“Whatever,” Count said moving his glass around. “So, you remember what happened last night?”

“You 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.”

“I don’t remember that,” Count said.

Irma giggled, “Sounds like a fun night.”

“Probably was, Sour, was there like anything or anybody weird around last night? Anything suspicious?”

“There was that girl that followed you in.”

“What 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.”

“And you don’t remember this at all?” Irma asked the Count.

“I remember 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 Park.”

“Good times were had there, baby,” Sour said. “Pennypacker park’s where I lost my virginity.”

“If that’s true you’re the one that should get their name on a bench.”

“Please,” 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?”

“Where we 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?”

Count gave it some thought and said, “Dead in an Iowa whorehouse, and you?”

“The same.”

“That’s my girl. What do they say, together to the end?”

Irma 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.

 

Chapter Six

 

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.

Count walked up to him and said, “Buddy, can I ask you a few questions?”

The skyscraper in cotton turned to look at Count. “You?” was all he said.

“Me?” Countered the Count leaning on the counter.

“What are you doing here?”

“Asking you some questions.”

“No, you aren’t.”

“I’m not?”

“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?”

“No, because you’re an ugly drunk grocery man and she’s an ugly whore.”

“Hey,” the 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.”

Kenny, as 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.

Count 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.”

“Aw, fuck,” Count said, “my bottle of bourbon broke.” He pointed to the remnants on the ground.

“Now,” Irma preceded, “you gonna answer our questions?”

“Maybe not now, Irma,” Count said pointing to a teenager on her cellphone. “Bulls are comin’, we gots to scram.”

“Shit,” 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.”

A few blocks away as they slowed at a stop sign Irma said, “That work as planned?”

“I didn’t plan to lose my bourbon.”

“What do we do now?”

“Home, nap, nourishment… lay on the couch like a lemon peel in the landfill.”

“Really?”

“Fine, we 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.”

 

Chapter Seven

 

Miss Pinky 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.

Count 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.”

“Oh, please,” Miss Pinky said with a snort. “Cut the crap, what are you doing back here after this morning?”

“Turning myself in.”

“Irma and your mother wouldn’t stand for such a foolish thing.”

“You 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.”

Miss Pinky 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 the double.”

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.”

“That it?”

“What? Did you want the killer’s name and address? How about his unlisted phone number?”

“It would be nice.”

“I can’t 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.”

“Man, you’re mean today.”

“I’m just telling the truth, honey.”

“Miss 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?”

“Hungover.”

“Of course.”

“The DCI coming down?”

“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.”

“The ones 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.”

“Alright, I guess that’s it. Thanks for the help.”

“No, problem. Hey, how’s your mom doin’ I haven’t seen her in a while?”

“Good,” Whorton 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.”

“I would just be delighted, I will make a pie if no one objects.”

“Sounds fabulous,” Irma said.

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?”

“Home?”

“What?”

“I need 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?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“Then who you think killed her?”

“Top of my head, I’d guess it was that fee fo giant at the burger joint.”

“Yeah, how you feeling?”

“Eh…” A large bruise had started to form on the side of Count Whortons already mangled-looking face.

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 don’t know.”

“I guess I’ll go to work for a while then, see if I can turn any tricks.”

“Okay.”

“You work tonight.”

“At the store, yes, but I think I’ll call in. You know, may have murdered a woman and all.”

“I guess I better let you sleep. Unless you wanna screw around some.”

Count 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.”

“I would like that a lot, Irmie.”

“Okay,” she said, “I’ll go get the naughty toys,” before patting his leg and heading towards the door.

“Just no whip Irmie, I’m really tired,” Count Whorton said already asleep.

 

Chapter Eight

 

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.

Count poked 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?”

“Kenny 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.

“Who the hell are you?”

“Rea Coatwell, we, well, I tried to talk to you last night.”

“You’re the girl from Dotty’s.”

“Yes, 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.”

Count went out the door and held it for her as she went in and up the stairs.

“I won’t be a minute.”

Whorton 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.

“What’s the problem, Countey?”

“Girl just showed up at my door, says she’s the one from Dotty’s last night.”

“No shit?”

“No shit.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah, she’s at my place, can you get out of here?”

“No problem, it’s a regular, and we were just finishing up.”

Irma shut 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.”

“First, 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.”

Count caressed 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.”

“Bingo?” Irma said.

“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.”

“I don’t 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…”

“Useless drunk or something?” Count finished.

“Yes.”

“What’s wrong with your sister?” Irma said.

“She’s missing, 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?”

“Or 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?”

“Twenty-seven 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.

“Yeah, Ginny Hollis.”

Irma looked at Count, he glanced back, his yellow eyes big like that of an old man finding a penny on the ground.

“So,” 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.”

“Do you think your sister’s doing drugs?”

“I hope not.”

“Do you have a picture of your sister?”

“Yeah,” Rea said taking out her phone and showing Count a picture of a bright shiny teenager.

“Do you have any paper photos?”

“Um… no.”

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?”

“Sure,” 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 said.

“I only know him as Blippy.”

“Blippy?”

“Yeah… I doubt it, but it may say on his Facebook page if I can find it.”

Rea kept her face on her phone for several minutes as Count wished there’d been something in that flask.

“Here we are… um, Tyler Liptone.”

“There pictures of him on there?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I see?”

“Sure,” Rea handed Count the phone and he swiped through the pictures.

“Irma,” Count said.

“What?”

“Look at that.” Count showed her the phone, a picture of Blippy on it.

“What?”

“Who’s that in the background?”

“That big guy? He looks a little familiar.”

“Yup.” 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 still there.”

“Murder, Count, that means all hands on deck including front desk people.”

“Could you do me a favor?”

“What?”

“Get me an address.”

“Not 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.”

“Fine.”

“Thanks, 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?”

“Twenty.”

“That’s what I thought, thanks Miss Pinky, you’re a lovely and wonderful person.”

“Shit, detective Klunkel’s coming my way.”

“Give him my love.”

“Yup,” Miss Pinky said before slamming the phone down.

“Who was that?” Klunkel said, now up at the desk.

“Des 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.”

Klunkel frowned, “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.”

Rea’s 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.

 

Chapter Nine

 

Kenny 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 for Kenny.

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.

“What face?” Count said.

“So, what am I doing here?”

Count left 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.”

“Heavy what?”

“No, 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.”

“Okay.”

“First we go in there and I get out Tara. Then we talk to Blippy. You gonna have my ass.”

“If I have to.”

Count Whorton 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 chest.

“What the fuck do you want?” Blippy said.

Kenny 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.”

A 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 old.

“Get some clothes on.”

“What? Who are you?”

“Doesn’t matter, get dressed.”

“No,” Tara said not moving defiantly. “Fuck you.”

“Listen, girl, I’m detective Klunkel of the Quartertown police department and your sister Rea Coatwell was found dead earlier tonight.”

“What?” Tara screeched.

“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.”

Tara fell in a heap screaming and crying. Count grabbed her shoulders and pulled her up. “Get your clothes, now!”

She disappeared into the house.

“What the fuck was that?” said Kenny.

“What?”

“Tellin’ 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.”

“You’re kinda fucked up.”

“Eh… little bit.”

Tara came 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.”

“What?” Tara sniffled.

“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.”

Count shut the door as Tara started a screaming of a different sort.

Back inside, Blippy was put in a chair and Kenny stood over him like a hammer waiting to be dropped.

“Blippy, you with me pal?” Count said shaking him.

“Fuck you,” was the response.

“Good, now do you know Ginny Hollis?”

“Fuck you.”

“Kenny.”

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?”

“No…Fuck.”

“Where do you get your drugs?”

“What?”

“Blippy, who’s your supplier?”

“Why should I tell you?”

“Kenny.”

Kenny rabbit punched Blippy in the side of the face.

“Fuck, fuck fine it’s that son-of-a-bitch Darren Hollis.”

“When’s the last time you saw him?”

“I don’t know, night ago or two.”

“Where do you meet?”

“Club across town…Dynamite Dotty’s”

“I’m 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.

Count 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 and phone.

The paper on Blippy’s lap read: Hello I am Blippy, a drug addict and pedophile. I am badly injured, please help.

 

Chapter Ten

 

Hours 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.

“Dear God.”

Count 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 face.

“Detective,” Count said as him and Irma sat up and straightened. “Good, you got my call.”

“Hell 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.”

“That’s 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.

“Well,” Irma said, “first of all he didn’t do it.”

“Yeah,” Count agreed.

“But we know who did.”

Klunkel remained 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 ignored her.”

“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.”

“Because she’s not dead.”

“I think he’s got that, Countey.”

“Anyway, girl’s got a missing sister with an asshole pedophile boyfriend and a babysitter that was none other than dot, dot, dot Ginny Hollis.”

Klunkel 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 a few.”

“Night of the murder, Sour left early,” Irma said. “Also didn’t drink as much as usual.”

“That’s nothing,” Klunkel said, “no proof in that.”

“We 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 something fantastic.”

“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.”

“They’re 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.”

“Fine,” Klunkel said, “I will look into it.”

“That’s 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.”

Klunkel 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 his eyes.

Irma and Count sat on, watching and drinking as Klunkel pulled Darren over.

“Shit,” Irma said looking down, “he’s got the sneakers on.”

Klunkel 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.”

“Me too,” said Irma.

“Thanks.”

“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.

“What?”

“When 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.

 

Chapter Eleven

 

On 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.

“I know, ma,” said Count, “take the belt to me later will ya?”

“I’ll 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.”

“Rather I went down for it?” Count cut in.

“If it’s gonna lose me money and you owe me money, so fuck yeah.”

“Well,” 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.

 

Chapter Twelve

 

Back 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,” he said.

“For what,” she said then saw him at the wall. “You serious?”

“I am, but just one thing.”

“What?”

“We do all of this together?”

“Till the bloody whorehouse end, Countey.”

“Love you, Irmie.”

“Love you too, Countey.”

Count Whorley 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.

“We’ll 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.”

Count smiled. “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.”

The End






ym_76_oct19_supermarthalloweenspecial.jpg
Art by Steve Cartwright 2019

The Supermart 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, Count.”

          “I’ll consider 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.”

          “I 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.”

          Mole 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.”

          “Whatever you say, Mole Man.”

          “Damn right, now try to stay sober, its Halloween, we’re probably gonna have an increase in customers.”

          “Right, right boss sir,” Count said with a salute.

          After 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.

          “Christ, Irmie, 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.”

          “I couldn’t find it.”

          “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.

          “Oh, Irmie that’s fantastic. Is it-”

          “Filled to the brim, what am I, stupid?”

          “No, you’re great.” Popping the top, Count took a sip.

          As 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?”

          Mole 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.

          “Who the hell are these people?” Irma said.

          “Beats 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?”

          “No, 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.”

          “It was an incident of unrequited love and regretful decisions. I harbor no ill will towards Count. Incidentally, I consider him a friend.”

          “And a good friend too, now are the others dead or just trying to hide?”

          A middle-aged woman in a Sweeney’s Supermart uniform ran by at the end of the aisle straight towards the front of the store.

          “Not 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.

          “Poor Carol,” Doctor Box said.

          “We need to move, Countey. Where are the others you think?”

          “Probably towards the back room, Irmie, let’s move.”

          They 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.”

          There 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.

          “Naw,” Count said, “this is Irma, my girlfriend.”

          Mole 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.

          “Look 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.”

          “Are you sure?”

          “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.

          “I’ll even make the call if it makes you all happier. Irmie you got your phone?”

          “Yeah, Countey, I’m just kickin’ myself for leavin’ my gun at home.”

          Count Whorton took Irma’s phone and called the Quartertown police station. “Irmie what’s Klunkel’s extension again?”

          “666.”

          After 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.”

          “Good one asshole,” Klunkel said.

          “I’m serious, Klunky they already killed Karen from produce.”

          “CAROL was a cashier,” corrected an employee.

          “You need to get your gun-toting, badge-wearing ass down here.”

          “I 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.”

          Count got out, “you dumb son of a,” before the call ended.

          Before 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.”

          The woman employee who’d asked about Carol took a pocket knife out and flipped open the blade.

          “Listen here you fuckers, we ain’t going anywhere,” Irma said.

          “It’s 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, “sorry Becky.”

          “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 this Halloween.”

          “Right next to the mummy hot dogs. Doc, you comin’?”

          Becky 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.

          “Three 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.”

          “Who?” said Irma.

          “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 tone.

          “No,” Count said, “I need to speak to Kenny.”

          “Hold please.”

          After a second of silence, there came a booming voice, “yeah?”

          “Kenny, good, this is Count Whorton.”

          Filling him in the same quick slurred enthusiastic summary he gave Klunkel only moments earlier Count Whorton had Kenny coming to the same conclusion.

          “Stop 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?”

          “Plan 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.”

          After 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 Irma.

          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.

          “You gotta pretty high, hard kick there for a skinny little bitch in a bed sheet,” said Irma.

          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.”

          “Bitch, that’s on my bucket list, let’s get to it.”

          Irma 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.”

          “I don’t need one,” Irma said showing the bloody butcher knife.

          “Where’d the hell you get that, Irmie?”

          Irma opened the door to the handicap accessible bathroom. Tied up on the floor was the Sheet Ghost.

          “Bitch cut me, I bandaged my arm with my oversized bow tie.”

          “Fuck, Irmie you okay?”

          “I’ll live.”

          “Your clown costume’s practically a utility belt,” said Doctor Box, “got bandages and everything.”

          “More than that,” said Irma pointing at the Ghost on the floor, “look, tied her up with my handkerchief rope.”

          “What?”

          “You 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?”

          “You did amazing, Irmie. Get anything out of her?”

          “Yeah, 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?”

          “It’s 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?”

          “The Bloody Whorehouse Detective Agency has only had one case, a missing dog.”

          “Find the dog?”

          “Naw, funny story, guy was a nut, never had a dog.”

          “Come on, Countey, other than the mask, did he look like someone you know? Did his voice sound familiar? Anything?”

          “I don’t 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.”

          Irma tore open the plastic of one of the hunting knives. “Then let’s go get him, Countey.”

          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’?”

          “What? Yeah, caramels. The same that are on sale.”

          Count nodded.

          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.

          “So, this clown, dwarf, and ugly drunken bastard walk into a bar…stop me if you’ve heard it.”

          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?”

          “My mother?”

          “I was going to say a rotten son of a bitch.”

          “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?”

          “Sure, Count,” said Doctor Box.

          “Who is this man, Countey?” asked Irma.

          “Count Whorton pointed his knife at the Vampire and said, “This, dear Irma is Stuart Stegman. Former accountant, current murderer and forever a psychopathic asshole… right?”

          “That’s not very nice,” said Stuart, popping another caramel into his mouth.

          “It’s 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.”

          Taking 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.”

          “Uh-huh,” 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 the hoosegow.”

          Stuart didn’t move, but he did smile. “I’m not going anywhere until I learn where my daughter is.”

          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.”

          Count threw up his hands. “I really don’t. Not. Lying.”

          “Since 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 others.”

          “You’re gonna kill Mole Man?”

          “And then the others. If you don’t tell me where she is.”

          “One last question Stuart,” said Count waving his knife around. “These new women in your life, they’re also named Carmilla?”

          “All my loves are named Carmilla.”

          “Jesus H. Christ, I didn’t know we were having a Halloween half-off sale on psychopaths. Fuck, Irmie? Doc? Did you know that?”

          “Enough!” said Stuart holding his cell phone up. “One text and they start dying. Tell me where she is now.”

          “Don’t you do it, Stuart,” Irma said.

          “I will if I hav-” Stuart suddenly ducked as Count’s knife came flying at him. “What the hell was that?”

          “Worth a try,” Count said with a shrug.

          “That’s it, they’re dead.”

          Stuart 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.

          Count, 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?”

          Ignoring Count’s comment Irma said, “Look he dropped the phone.”

          “Did he send the text?”

          Irma picked up the phone and hit a few buttons. “Text unsent.”

          “Thank God,” said Doctor Box.

          “Yeah, they’re still alive. Let’s go make sure they stay that way.”

          They 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.

          “Jesus Christ, Kenny, you get him?”

          “I hit him a few times, but then he disappeared.”

          “What?”

          “I 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.”

          “It’s okay Kenny,” said Irma, “the police will be here any minute they’ll find him.”

          “I already heard sirens.”

          “Good…shit, we need to check on the Ghost.”

          When they got to the bathroom the door was open and the room was empty.

          “Well, 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 respond.

          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?”

          “Of course, I do, but I’m not telling that fucking psychopath,” Count said and turned up the radio.

The End


The 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?”

          Just 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.”

          Irma 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.”

          “What 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.”

          “Why didn’t you put it in the safe?”

          “What?”

          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.”

          In 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?”

          “Yes.”

          “Hot damn, he’s my favorite cartoon. His creator, Chuck Freleng, also made my favorite Christmas special, ‘A Werewolf Christmas’.”

          “Yeah,” 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.

          After 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.

          “What’s 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’.”

          “For 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.

          “Then 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.”

          After 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.

          “Naw, 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 case.”

          Kenny thought for a moment then agreed.

          Count 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.”

          “Fuckin’, why?”

          “He still works for Kasper French, doesn’t he?” Irma said taking a seat in front of the desk.

          “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.

          “You 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.

          “Look 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.”

          “Stop spoutin’ bullshit.”

          “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 the door.

          Wilmer 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 in.

          “Ya 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’?”

          “The kind of somethin’ that falls off the back of a truck.”

          When 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 hairpiece.

          “Thank you for seeing us, Mr. French,” said Irma.

          “You’re 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.”

          “And 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.”

          Luxor 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.”

          Mr. French whistled, “That’s a pretty big chunk of change.”

          “That’s why our client wants it back,” said Irma.

          “Client?” 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 know anything.”

          “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.

          “Yeah,” 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.”

          “Why, Countie?”

          “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 out here.”

          Just then he saw it and said, “We were waiting for that.”

          Irma 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.

          “Leopold 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 Irma.

          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.

          A 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 this room.

          As they drove through the cold winter night the only thing Irma said was, “Home, right?”

          “Yeah.”

          At 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 paper.

          So, 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 list today.”

          “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.”

          “Cool.”

          “What’s in it?”

          “Mutant cucumbers with a taste for human flesh, I’m thinking of making a salad.”

          “You’re a witty one,” said Irma in a sarcastic tone.

          Less 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.

          The 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 Christmas.”

          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 moments.”

          “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.

          At 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.

          “I’m 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.

          Eventually, 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?”

          “I just had a thought about that,” said Irma.

          “Hit me with it.”

          “We’ve been assuming this was a professional job.”

          “Well, 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 Merry Christmas.”

          “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.

          “What 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.”

          “I 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.”

          “Exactly…so, what questions?”

          “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.”

          “Do 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.”

          “And what’s his name?”

          “Dicky Hazen.”

          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 address.

          It 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.”

          “I followed Mrs. DeSilva here, didn’t lose’er once.”

          “You’re shittin’ me,” said Count.

          “No, 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?”

          Count 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.

          “We,” 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 said.

          “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.

          “Well, 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.

          Before 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.”

          “I love you Irmie,” he said pulling her close.

          “I love you too, Countie and Merry Christmas.”

          “Merry Christmas,” said Count, “to everyone.”

The End



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?”

          “Yes,” was the raggedy man’s response.

          Count 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, yeah, so what’s it like, nine-ish?”

          “The 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?”

          “Not yet.”

          “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 see ya.”

          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 to Kenny.

          “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 day.”

          “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.”

          “Why? It’s your money.”

          “What?”

          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.”

          “Yeah,” said Miss Pinky, “I got one too, I just figured you’d need a ride and I’m workin’ so I called Kenny.”

          “I’ll 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 Box down.

          “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.”

          There 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?”

          “What’s in it for me?” asked the man slurping his drink.

          “What?”

          “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.

          “Outside… 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 answers.

           “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.”

          They 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.

          Kenny’s 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.

          Kenny 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 back seat.

          “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 man.

          “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?”

          “She ain’t out front, is she? So, she must be.”

          “Yeah, yeah, Haywart,” Count started to walk away then turned back. “There been a man named Rick hanging around?”

          “I don’t know.”

          “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.”

          “What?”

          “I don’t know where they are, but I’m gonna find out and I’m gonna need a gun.”

          “Why?”

          “Because when 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 take her.”

          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.”

          When 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.

          Their 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.

          “I’ll 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.

          “What now?” said Kenny ready with his bat.

          “I guess we start knockin’ on doors.”

          The 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.

          “Huh?” 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?”

          “You 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.”

          “Thanks,” said Count starting to walk away.

          “Hey, hunchback, you can’t have dogs in here.”

          “He’s a service animal.”

          “Oh, yeah, what service?”