By: Jake Hatcher, Official Bookshelf Battle Blog Private Eye
It was a dark and stormy night.
The kind of night where it doesn’t just rain cats and dogs. It pours flabby tabbies and labrador retrievers.
The H20 pumped down from the skies, dancing on the pavement like so many Swan Lake ballerinas. It sloshed all over my wingtips as I buttoned up my trench coat, tilted my fedora downward, and began wondering if an ark wouldn’t be a bad investment.
Luckily, I reached my office before I was swept away to Timbuktu.
Times were tough and money was harder to come by than integrity on network television. All I could afford was a one room hovel above a Chinese restaurant. It worked out well. I was a sucker for moo goo gai pan and my landlady, good ole Ms. Tsang, never failed to have a hot plate full of it waiting for me whenever I came home from a long night of sleuthing. Gratis. Free of charge. I didn’t even have to pay for it.
Ms. Tsang was truly a sweet old gal.
I ate a forkful of my free dinner and headed upstairs to my digs, the door of which was prominently marked:
Detective Jake Hatcher
Reasonable Rates/No Refunds
I popped open the door and relieved my worn out carcass from my sopping wet coat. The fedora? It stayed on. Many a ne’er-do-well has tried separate this gumshoe from his favorite hat and not lived to tell the tale. I wasn’t about to do the job for them.
My mind was swimming for shore and I was ready to drown it before it started doing the backstroke. I had an appointment with one Mr. Jack Daniels. He was an old friend I knew all too well. Some might say too well, my third ex-wife among them.
I poured myself a shot and there it sat before me, staring me straight in the puss like an uninvited house guest that refused to leave. An angel on my left shoulder told me to pour it out the window and sober up. The devil on my right shoulder told me to guzzle it down and keep ‘em comin.’
The devil won. He always does.
I tilted the glass against my lips and Mr. Daniels’ special prescription for what ailed me trickled through my lips, across my tongue, and down my gullet, where it immediately went to work on making all the bad memories go away.
Liquor – my best friend and my worst enemy.
“A bit rude not to offer a lady a drink, isn’t it detective?”
My heart beat faster than a conga drum in the hands of Matthew McConaughey during one of his special transcendental experiences. I turned around and there she was – a beautiful buxom blonde behind my desk, her shapely keister parked directly in my very own swivel chair.
“If we’re talking about manners ma’am, I assume it’s frowned upon to break into a man’s place of business and act like you own the place.”
She wasn’t your average broad. This dame had a face that could make the angels cry and a body that could convince Satan to turn the heat down in Hell. Lush red lips, flawless china doll skin and although she was sitting on it, I assumed she was packing the kind of caboose that could convince a man to ride the rails all the way to Albuquerque.
“Oh, I assure you there was no break in, Mr. Hatcher,” the dame said. “Your landlady let me in.”
“Oh she did, see?” I asked. “Now why in Sam Hill would she go and do a fool thing like that?”
“I told her we were old friends.”
“Friends?” I asked. “No offense ma’am, but I don’t know you from a hole in the wall.”
My visitor puffed away on a long filtered cigarette. She held it in a hand covered by a black glove that went all the way up to her elbow. Around her neck dangled a strand of pearls, the cost of which could have fed a small country.
She dressed like she had an account at every boutique on Rodeo Drive and spoke with the perfect and precise diction of a finishing school graduate.
“All friendships must begin somewhere, Mr. Hatcher,” the dame said. “What’s holding up that drink?”
I had half a mind to show her the way out, but my inquisitive side drew me in. I poured a shot of the sweet brown goodness and handed it to her, then suffered the indignity of having to sit down in the rickey chair on the opposite side of my desk, the one I reserved for clients in need of my services.
I checked my watch.
“I’m bushed after a long day of giving the criminal element of Los Angeles the old what for, ma’am,” I said. “So you’ve got five minutes to state your business before I give you the old heave-ho. No pun intended.”
“My, my, my,” the dame replied. Her lips pursed as they blew out a smokey circle that rose into the moonlight creeping in through my one and only window. “I must say, Mr. Hatcher, you’re the first man I’ve ever met who was in a rush to be free of my company.”
“Now see here, ma’am,” I said, matter-of-factly, “This old gumshoe’s heart has been pierced by more stiletto heels than I care to count. I’m sure you’ve convinced many a sailor to crash his ship on the rocks with your siren’s song, but this fish is wise to the hook in your worm, see? I’m immune to your feminine wiles.”
“Aww,” the dame said as she mocked me with an insincere pouty face. “Poor Mr. Hatcher. Still reeling over the loss of your ex-wives I take it?”
“All three of ‘em,” I said. “But I fail to see how that’s any of your business, doll face.”
“Your first wife, Trixie Bordeaux, she cheated on you with your old partner back in the day when you were a detective for the LA police department, didn’t she?”
“Walked in on them while they were dancing the horizontal mattress mambo in my own house,” I replied. “That’s a sight that can never be unseen.”
“Your second wife, Muffy Sinclair,” the dame continued. “She shot you six times and left you for dead, then ran off to Tahiti with your boorish brother Roscoe.”
“She was a crack shot and yet she managed to miss every vital organ,” I said. “Somewhere deep down that bird was still crazy for me.”
“Your third wife, Constance Connors,” the dame said. “She was the best wife you ever had and yet you fouled that one up on your own.”
“Sad but true,” I said. “I hit the giggle juice hard to dull the pain my first two wives caused me, never realizing I was pushing away the only dame that’d ever been loyal to me until it was too late. She ran away from me faster than a long distance marathon runner on uppity pills.”
“I certainly hope you’ve cured your addiction since then?” the dame asked.
“I can handle my hooch, sister,” I said as I poured myself another shot. “Say, how in the bloody blue blazes do you know so much about me anyway?”
On my desk was a big black briefcase. It wasn’t mine so I knew it belonged to my guest. She popped it open and pulled out a manilla file folder, stuffed to the brim with paperwork.
“I know everything there is to know about you, Mr. Hatcher.”
What’s in store for our fearless detective? Find out tomorrow on Pop Culture Mysteries, an exclusive new feature on the Bookshelf Battle Blog.
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