Fiction: Gumshoe Extraordinaire
Yo, listen up guys and dolls, because I’ve got a tale to fork over that you just won’t want to swallow.
Who am I? Good question, but I suppose it depends on to whom you lend your ears. There has been talk that I’m as crazy as a loon—certifiable as they say—but that kind of backbiting banter has always flowed from the mouths of my enemies, of which I have many.
Nope, Duncan Trotsky is the name, gumshoe extraordinaire at your service. Yeah, that’s right, Trotsky. The same moniker as that Russian joker who the KGB tracked down to Mexico and tried to make a unicorn out of by sticking an ice-pick in his forehead, but that ill-fated stiff was no relative of mine.
You see, I’m of Polish extraction and my turf is Buffalo, so have a hearty snicker about that the next time the snow flies.
Anyway gang, I was sitting in this neighborhood gin joint a couple nights back, minding my own business getting mildly gassed on Wild Turkey when this good looking brunette ambled into the place.
Now I ain’t no fool, and right away my gut told me that this fine specimen of womanhood was out of her element. She was a high-class broad, swaddled in mink and dripping with jewelry. Not really dripping actually. There were a pair of turquoise shells dangling from her lobes, but I have this overpowering tendency to exaggerate.
She did a sexy little pirouette, obviously searching for someone. I sucked in my considerable belly and straightened up. My trained detective eyes followed her as she sidled toward the bar, catching the attention of every red-blooded dude in the smoky room.
She was all circles. Round face, round jugs, and a rounded rump that was a wee-bit large for my liking, but so what? Her sizable caboose had to please some lucky operator because it had an untamed curve in it that made my eyes water.
She sauntered over to me as I fired up a black-lunger—a Camel short, no filter to be exact—and planted her tantalizing derriere on the stool beside me. “I’ve been looking for you,” she said, in a warm and innocent voice that sounded like a breeze caressing satin.
I gave her my patented tough-guy look. “What for?”
She slid out one of my ciggies and slapped it to her glossy kisser. “I’ve got a problem that needs fixing.”
I nodded, shoving my fedora to a cocky tilt. “That’s my line,” I replied, lighting her weed. Oh yeah, that’s me—fixer of problems and finder of lost articles.
There was no fooling this chick. I searched her over real good and decided that with eyes like that—soft brown and as vulnerable as a cuddly critter’s—she couldn’t be trouble. Well, perhaps she could get me tangled up, but there was only one way to find out for sure so I gave her a slow Freudian shrug, encouraging her to spill the beans.
“Mavis O’Toole,” she said, offering her hand. I accepted it and held it a bit longer than necessary, but what the heck? It was lukewarm and sticky, bathed with a clammy sheen of nervous moisture. Her name set-off a loud clattering bell in my brain that rattled my eardrums—I rifled through the files of memory, but alas, only produced a blank folder.
“You know me?” I asked, releasing her hand. My mouth puckered—my head was a swirling mass of confusion.
“Yes, Mr. Trotsky, I certainly believe I do,” she answered, batting those vulnerable doe-like peepers.
I flinched. My sixth sense suddenly registered danger, but I was intrigued. “How can I help you?”
She smiled. “Somehow a certain. . .how shall I say? An item. . .” She paused, crossing her legs to give me a flash of milky thigh. “I suppose it fits. Yes, an item is missing from where it belongs,” she said tentatively. “I must see that this specific item is returned and that’s where I will require your assistance,” she explained, wetting her rouged lips.
My blood pressure rose perceptively. “I see,” I mumbled, taking a hard drag. “Is this item, as you put it, valuable?”
She chewed on the question for a moment. “That’s difficult to say, but to someone I’m sure he. . .um, it is.”
Ah-huh, she slipped up there, didn’t she? She definitely said he, so what’s going down here? Who is he—an ex-husband or lover possibly?
That’s it! She’s knocked off some poor clown, and now she wants to hire me to go through the motions of a missing-persons investigation to divert suspicion from her. Oh, my mind worked out the details so fast that I had to smirk at its efficiency.
I took a final puff on my Camel, then smashed it into the ashtray and eyeballed her. “I’ll need more info.”
Oh, I was smooth. I’d go along with the slick game until I could pin the murder on her, and then escape with bouquets from the weary and overwrought Police Department. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’d have to do the legwork for them. No sir, I’ve made a career out of correcting their errors in judgment.
Eyebrows arched, she dropped a hand to my knee. “Is there someplace more private where we could talk business? Your office maybe?” she purred, giving my leg a quick suggestive squeeze.
My temperature skyrocketed. I did my level best to keep my stone cold expression in place, but could feel it melting. “Well you see, due to a flourish of remodeling activity I’m temporarily without an apartment or office, so it’s your call.”
“Shall we go to my place?” she chirped coyly.
“Lead on,” I rumbled, sliding off the stool. I flipped a ragged twenty onto the bar, and then scooped up my coffin nails.
“Gladly,” she cooed, taking my arm.
That bell in my brain started up again—the pulse-points in my temples pounded out a vintage Buddy Rich drum-roll, and a lump inched from my stomach and climbed all the way up my gullet as we strolled across the barroom.
I hacked it down about the time we hit the sidewalk, looking I suppose, like a pair of lovebirds heading for a rendezvous with passion. Yepper, I figured I was only minutes away from a tumble in the sack with this dame, and to tell you the truth the idea was beginning to make me sweat.
It didn’t help matters that the autumn night was humid and muggy, with a full moon that resembled—honest to God, I’m not exaggerating here—a great big gob of yellowish nasal mucus, snot if you like. Yes, indeed—the man in the moon must’ve had an awful sneezing fit to make such a snotty mess.
No guff, it was the ugliest moon I’d ever seen and I should have taken it as a sign to drop this saucy lady like a hot potato, but you see I’m a sick man. I’ve got these chromosomes or polliwogs or something down in my loins that start smoldering every now and then, and when they do the fire smokes up my eyes to blind my perspective.
“My car or yours?” I asked nonchalantly.
“Mr. Trotsky, you don’t have a. . .” She hedged, tossing me a tart baby doll look. “Why don’t we just take a taxi?”
My hackles rippled into ridges and I glowered, shooting her a withering glare. “Right,” I muttered tersely. Big hairy deal! Is this chick going to bust me in the chops every chance she gets?
So I don’t have an office or an apartment—what’s that have to do with wheels? I happen to own a rather nice jalopy—a fully restored classic Mustang, but come to think of it, perhaps it’s still at the Erie County impound lot.
There’s a certain transient aspect to my living arrangements. Is it my fault that some hotshot yuppie lawyer bought the building and booted all the tenants out on the street to convert it into a condominium complex? What does this broad and the rest of the world expect from me?
I don’t know what you might’ve heard, but I did not—I repeat!!!—I did not hole up in my bathroom and keep the gung-ho SWAT jockeys at bay with a shotgun when the boys-in-blue tried to serve the eviction papers.
No sir, that’s one of those myths perpetuated by my horde of enemies. Man, if you listened to their lies, they’d have you believing that I’d made WKBW’s Eyewitness News, but that’s sheer fantasy. I ain’t ever been on television, and you can cash in those chips at the bank because my mama raised an honest man.
Mavis and I stood side by side, just kind of checking each other out for a dozen minutes or so until a green and white cab approached. Sassy old Mavis hailed it with all the gusto of a shot and beer sailor.
The clunker of an automobile swooped to the curb, and since I’m the perfect gentleman, I opened and held the door as she maneuvered that rounded keister into the backseat. Close up it wasn’t really all that big, and I swear I detected a taut panty-line against her gray skirt.
That alluring sight sent a rush of blood to my brain and I had to steady myself by hanging onto the roof of the cab. My breathing became rapid and my legs felt like they belonged to Gumby.
“Come along, Mr. Trotsky,” she said forcibly. I hunkered in beside her, slammed the door and rolled down the window.
She gave an address to the bulky college kid behind the wheel, but I only caught the tail-end of it. My eyes bent worriedly toward her because what I’d heard sounded vaguely familiar.
The vehicle lurched away from the curb, and suddenly I was flat-out scared, as though I was riding into a fiery hurricane. Mavis must have read the anxiety on my face because she shimmied over close and tattooed a sweet promise into my ear.
Well, friends and neighbors, I must tell you right here and now, that as of that moment I was no longer in control of the situation. Those flaming buggers down below were leaping up and down like popcorn, and this mystery lady whose name had shook a skeleton of memory could now lead me anywhere her heart desired.
Duncan, my man, you’re going to have to see a doctor about this problem of yours! a voice in my head said. Oh, shut up! I grouched, slouching down in the seat.
A steel thread of panic stitched its way up my spine.
The night air breezed through the window, mixing with her sultry fragrance to waft into my nostrils and weave a path to my brain. It was musky and animal-like. As if she needed help like that to perform a seduction on a man like me.
I impressed her with a crooked, lopsided grin. She responded with a flutter of those soft eyes. I had to look away for fear of grabbing hold of her to make out on the spot.
The junker skimmed along, and I stared at the passing sights, having the bizarre sensation that I’d lived through this trip before. The idea of reincarnation jumped into my brain—it seemed ludicrous. I puzzled on it for a bit, and then shrugged, willing to give credence to anything in an effort to explain my apprehension.
She leaned against me, breaking into the strange vault of my thoughts. “How do you feel, Mr. Trotsky?”
I worked my jaw slowly and twitched my facial muscles, doing my very best Bogart. “Like an old stud being led to the glue factory.”
She laughed easily—for a flickering second I thought I’d regained control, but no, it scampered away when she winked an eye. “We’re almost there, Mr. Trotsky.”
I frowned, pushing my hat up my crinkled brow. “I see,” I said, but I didn’t see anything. No way. Where’s this sweetie taking me? Oh right, Duncan, don’t forget that she’s probably a murderess so watch your step.
A Thin Line
The cabbie navigated onto a large circular driveway in front of a charcoal colored multilevel mausoleum of a building, then jammed the shifter into park. Mavis whacked a pair of ten-spots into his palm and told him to keep the change.
We got out, and I stood motionless, with the dame hanging on my arm as my hardboiled hawk-eyes surveyed the somber looking piece of medieval construction.
An icicle of fear formed in my chest and I wanted to run, but my feet were nailed down. My bowels cramped terribly—I had this skanky feeling that I was going to mess myself, but I managed to pinch off the disaster.
“Don’t give me a hard time now, Mr. Trotsky,” she coaxed, motioning to a pair of ghostly suits emerging from the night.
“Doctor O’Toole, I see you’ve ferreted out our runaway,” one of the white-clad men said, grinning crazily.
“Yes. Please take him to his room,” she instructed, then turned to me. “Mr. Trotsky, it’s a thin line between reality and fantasy, but I thought we were making progress. Don’t pull another one of these stunts or you’ll have to be restrained. I’ll check on you later,” she promised, eerily drifting away.
“No!” I screamed, fisting my hands in rage. “No. . .”
The images were growing long and distorted, dispersing like chugs of smoke on the wind. I heaved up and tumbled out of the bed, crashing to the floor with a bone-crunching thud.
By Judas, it was a nightmare! Holy moly, what a thrasher!
Pearls of sweat were racing down my face, and the skin on the nape of my neck felt all shriveled up. I gulped a lungful of air and dizzily crayfished my way up onto the edge of the bed, where I shuddered frightfully for several tense minutes.
Cripes, my enemies are crafty, ain’t they? Those devils can invade my sleep, but fear not, ladies and gents, I’ll figure out a way to destroy them.
Would I Lie?
I’d recovered my composure, I stood up and moved to the room’s only window. I felt like crud.
I peeked through the steel screen to the lawn below to see the brightly lit sign that proclaimed the fancy name of the building I’ve lived in ever since I was involved in a warped kind of eviction from my previous residence.
Yeah, it got a bit violent, but so what? You do what you have to do, and I’ll have you know that I’m mighty good at my job so if you’re ever in need of a first-class problem fixer look me up.
If you can’t scan me in that smoky gin joint, check room fifty-eight at the Oakbrook Sanitarium. I’ll be here, because according to my foes I’m a dangerous paranoid schizophrenic with delusions of grandeur, but don’t you dare believe it. Would I lie?
Heavens no, I’m Duncan Trotsky, gumshoe extraordinaire.
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
- Worship In The Badlands
Bruce Springsteen, a.k.a. The Boss turned sixty in September 2009. Way back in the spring of 1974, after seeing him perform at Harvard Square Theatre, music critic Jon Landau wrote in Boston's The Real Paper. . .
More by this Author
We often miss seeing the face of evil because it is ordinary and common. This essay illustrates that truth by tearing a headline out of the news.
Society is fragmented. We divide into tribal camps, and Christianity has proven it is not above the fray. This essay is a reality check for the church, asking the question: When will Christ-followers be obedient and...
God has a mark for each of us to hit. This essay explores that from the context of Scripture. It offers much encouragement to be courageous and proceed forward in the process of discipleship.