Terry Raclaud, P.I. - The Unlife and Death of Uncle Bumpo - Part IV
The dame walked in with a short skirt, a fist full of sugar, and eyes full of tears.
Two out of three ain't bad.
I'm a sucker for a weepy tomato, so I parked her in the visitor's chair and she made with the sob story. Her gams were distracting, but I got the gist. Her brother, Larry Bumpolowski, disappeared on a party clown job a year ago. The bulls found his heap abandoned, no sign of rough stuff. Whoever dropped the wheels made a clean sneak, no prints, no clues. Nada.
My gut said he was dead, but she wanted details.
We chinned while I gave her the gentle grill. Did her brother owe a vig, was he a boozehound or hop-head? All I got was a whole lot of no. This broad knew zip, so I dried her tears, told her to breeze, then eyed her getaway sticks as she did the slow fade down the front stairs.
I checked my roscoe. She might be gone, but I had her lipstick on my glass and her dough in my pocket.
I was on the case.
I got on the horn with a lug I know down at the cop shop—a bruiser who made the dick squad, and usually knows the score. He confirmed her story, then added a peach; Bumpolowski wasn't the only clown in town to do a bunk. I asked for the scoop, but he wouldn't spill. Said he was being ranked in the station, and killed the connection.
I reached for the phone book, and let my fingers do the walking. I dropped dime after dime, but long story short, I got zilch. Every clown in town had either gone on the lam or showed up gone, their iron turning up just as clean as Bumpolowski's.
Someone was knocking off clowns. It was almost funny.
I thought that was a little hinky, so I sat on that raprod for another hour working my way down the Yellow Pages. I called every small-time entertainer I could think of: animal acts, clowns, hand-puppets, jugglers, magicians, and marionettes. Same story. The only group who were all still available were mimes, but that sort of made sense.
Mimes. Even too creepy for serial killers.
There was one magician left, this tall jasper, Marc Espesian. Went by Alakazam. Looked like a daisy, but who am I to judge? He was the only trick left in town, and he didn't seem to be packing a bag, so I started to shadow this palooka whenever he wasn't at his day job at the personal products plant. He drove a black bus—tailing this moke was eggs in the coffee.
Two weeks went by, nothing. Then one night he trots out to his heap wearing glad rags and a tall lid, carrying his bag of tricks. He was off to make the magic happen, and I was riding in his back pocket. He drove to a big old house on the outskirts of town and went up the driveway while I parked in the roadside bushes. By the time I got to the house, the door was closing. I snuck the place, looking for a window to give me a slant, and I was almost there when the screaming started. By the time I could see, it was over. Alakazam was on the floor, chilled, a crowd of runts all over him and chewing.
Looked like I'd found my serial killers.
I turned to take it on the heel and toe and bring back the bulls to pinch these bings, but something stopped me cold. The meat on the floor sat up! I'd taken him for a nance, but missing one eye and leaking from a dozen holes, he started fighting back! Well, I couldn't run out on the guy, so I smashed the window with my bean-shooter and started burning powder.
"Alakazam!" I yelled. "Come on, let's blow!"
He stumbled my way. They'd really given him the Broderick, and the room was lousy with busted chairs. Suddenly this real looker popped into view, right in front of me. Normally I wouldn't hurt a skirt, but this dame had a hand pulled back to sock me, so I drilled her.
She slapped the iron out of my hand with a rap that spun me halfway around and yanked me through the window. I spun back and gave her some chin music, but she just grinned at me, and my legs went wobbly when I saw teeth like shivs. She grabbed on to me like some chippy in a gin joint and sank those choppers into my neck; I started leaking like a sieve. I couldn't believe this broad was going to bump me off like some weak sister, but the truth was staring me in the face.
Up popped Alakazam, like some one-eyed vengeful god, a little monster riding his back like a monkey. He ignored the kid chewing his shoulder and stabbed the toothy sister in the back with a shattered chair leg. She screamed as she fell. I didn't want to go down as some kind of kitten, so I did the only thing I could think of: I bit the bitch back. Her blood filled my kisser as I sank into the Big Sleep.
I came to in my office, Alakazam sitting in the chair across from me in a trench coat and cheaters. He looked bad, but smelled even worse. I checked the clock: 8:00 pm.
"I knew you'd come back," he said, removing the cheaters and offering a hand that looked slightly green.
"Larry Bumpolowski. Thanks for trying."
Maggots squirmed in the ruined raw hole that was one eye socket. My stomach did a slow roll, then growled. I was . . . thirsty?
"Bumpolowski's dead," I said.
"Not anymore," he said.
My smile felt strangely toothy as I shook his cold hand.
"Terry Raclaud, P.I."
"Not anymore," he said.