This is the second short story I wrote for the blog, the first, of course, being my magnum opus A Shot At the Title.
Clearly I was going for a 50s pulp novel kind of feel. And I think I was partially successful there. Keep in mind, I put even less thought into these stories then than I do now.
So I’ll let you be the judge.
Shoot Me, Deadly
I burned the apartment complex down while making nachos. After the court cases were settled and 20 people were made homeless, I needed the money.
A strange man walked into my office. He laid his briefcase on the desk and pulled out his revolver.
“I’m here to offer you a shot at redemption,” he told me.
“What’s the case?” I asked.
“You’re the worst private dick in town,” he said. “I need a moron, a dipshit, a loser, a complete piece of shit that would be willing to take the fall when things go south.”
I took out a cigarette and thought for a moment. Fuck it, I thought. I needed the paycheck.
“Give it to me,” I said.
“A mafiosos daughter has gone missing. She was last seen in San Diego. Here’s her picture.”
She looked like a woman that could eat your heart out and save room for dessert.
“What’s the dame’s name,” I ask.
“Isabella Maria,” he replied. “She was a spoiled brat. She dropped out of law school to pursue a career in phlebotomy but got caught up in the wrong crowd if you know what I mean.”
“No, improv comedy. She was terrible.”
“Well,” I said. “I’ll need a $5,000 deposit and a list of references.”
“Just send me the bill. Everything you need to know is in this briefcase.”
The briefcase was a Boccio. Italian leather. Not sure why he bothered. A Manila folder would have worked just fine.
“I didn’t get your name sir,” I said.
“My name’s not important. But what I represent is.”
The man left and I told my secretary to not take any calls. I went back into the office and pulled out a handle of Everclear. After popping my Zeldox and Zoloft, I lifted the glass up to a picture of my dead mother.
“Welp, things are shit and they ain’t getting any better,” I said.
And down the hatch she went.
I took the Sunday drive up to San Luis Obispo in my Chevy SSR to visit Isabella’s father, the mafioso Roberto Benigni Vittorio Stararo. Or “Vito”.
The county sheriff pulled me over.
“You don’t know what you’re getting into James,” the sheriff said.
“Just hand me the ticket so that I can be on my way,” I replied.
The sheriff wrote up the ticket and gave me another warning: “I better not see you or this piece of shit vehicle in my county again.”
I pulled up to Stararo’s estate. His wife came out to greet me.
“I’m Michaela Sabine Stararo,” she said. “Vito is fox hunting. He’ll be joining us shortly.”
She was wearing a white blouse tucked into her equestrian pants with boots. Her figure could make a man have a boner, if you know what I mean.
Michaela invited me in and offered a Chardonnay.
“Are you Isabella’s mother?” I asked.
“Her step-mother. Poor girl. She never got to know her real mother,” she replied.
I took a sip of the Chardonnay. It was Laguiche, ‘09.
“It must be rough being an LA detective,” Michaela said.
“If people quit disappearing and fucking around on their spouses, I’d be out of a job.”
Vito walked in with his Winchester. “È questo il detective idiota assunto dal mio socio?” he said.
“The fuck did he say?” I asked Michaela.
“Vito welcomes you into his home,” she replied.
Vito had to of been 90 if he was a day. Michaela was clearly a distraction from that fact. Still, tough old man. He pulled out a cigar and poured a Chardonnay.
“Quindi questo perdente pensa di poter trovare mia figlia?” he asked.
I looked over to Michaela.
“Vito is prepared to give you all the information you need to find his daughter,” she said.
“I need to know her entire background. Who her friends are. Her lovers. Her enemies. And any enemies that you might have, Mr. Stararo,” I said.
“Chiamami Vito,” he replied.
We talked for hours discussing the case. We went through the bottle of Chardonnay. Then another. Then came the brandy.
As I prepared to leave, Michaela came up to me. “LA is a long drive,” she said. “Why don’t you stay in the guest house. I’ll have the servants prepare it.”
Why not, I thought. It sure beats sleeping in a burned down apartment building.
As I was laying in bed, Michaela came in wearing a silk robe. She slowly walked towards the bedside.
“Stanotte siamo solo io e te,” she said.
Michaela dropped the robe and climbed into bed.
I woke up in Vito’s guest house. I was alone. Except for the large bald man standing over me.
“Who the fuck are you?” I asked
“Luigi. Michaela wants to talk to you.”
“Can you give me a minute? I still got morning wood.”
Luigi escorted me through the garden to the large chateau. There, standing in the kitchen, was Michaela holding a glass of brandy.
“Vito died”, she said.
Luigi punched me in the stomach and I fell to the ground. While on my knees, I tried to catch my breath.
“My condolences, Mrs. Stararo,” I said.
“Don’t give me that shit. What happened to Vito? Where were you?” She asked.
“I think you know where I was.”
Luigi then socked me in the face. I got up and wiped the blood from my nose.
“Does it look like foul play? The man was 90 years old and drunk as hell last night,” I said.
Michaela downed the brandy.
“No,” she replied. “I need to know if I can trust you.”
For good measure, Luigi kicked me in the dick.
“I don’t know who any of you are! I was just hired by some man with a leather briefcase to find Isabella!” I said.
She waved Luigi out of the room and handed me a towel.
“Is this how you treat all your guests?” I asked.
“Sorry, a lot of people have wanted Vito dead for a long time. With him gone, I don’t know if they will come after me,” she said.
Michaela grabbed an ice pack and put it over my eye. “I’m going to need protection,” she said longingly.
“I just got my ass kicked. Are you sure you’re asking the right person?” I replied.
“Don’t go back to LA. Stay here with me.”
“I gotta find Isabella.”
“I don’t know where she is. But as long as she stays away from here, she’ll be safe.”
“I can’t take that chance.”
I grabbed my bowler hat and coat. “I’ll check on you soon. If things get tough, come to LA,” I said.
I took a shot of brandy and departed.
It was clear that Michaela was behind the death of Vito. I’ve seen these cases hundreds of times: wife gets jealous of husband, wife kills husband, wife takes husband’s place as head of a crime family. It’s a tale as old as time.
But one thing was clear: Isabella was certainly in trouble.
I arrived at the LA office. The secretary said that the strange man looking for Isabella was sitting in my office. I walked in and hung up my coat.
“Well well well Mr. Italian Leather, perhaps you have answers for me,” I said.
“That’s what we’re paying you for Jimmy,” he replied.
I sat down at the desk and put my feet up. “Who’s ‘we’? Vito’s dead,” I said.
“I know. I see that Luigi paid you a visit,” Mr. Leather said referring to my bruises. “She’s dangerous you know?”
“You don’t say?” I said sarcastically. “Do you really think this is my first rodeo?”
“I know that you’re a busy man, so I don’t want to take up too much of your time. But I want you to meet me on the campus of UC Irvine on Thursday,” Mr. Leather told me.
“You could have told me this by email,” I replied.
“I just wanted to make sure you got the message.”
Mr. Leather stood up and as he was walking towards the door, I said: “if you’re gonna make me drive all over SoCal, I’m gonna start charging by the mile.”
“Keep sending me the bill,” he said. Then he shut the door.
I told the secretary that I didn’t want any interruptions. I popped open a beer and a Vicodin and took a nap.
I put a hurtin’ on the whisky bottle, hoping that it would clear my head. Nothing about this case made sense.
I met Mr. Leather at UC Irvine. He was sitting alone in an empty theater.
“What’s this about?” I asked.
“Take a seat. I’m about to make your life a little easier,” he replied.
Two other people entered the theater. The lights dimmed and the curtains opened. Entering stage left was Isabella, all alone.
“I guess I owe you a refund,” I told Mr. Leather.
“Forget it,” he said.
Isabella began her solo performance with a vaguely racist monologue. Then she stripped to her underwear and two nude men flanked her on both sides and they began rolling around on the floor.
“The fuck is going on?” I asked Mr. Leather.
The two men then turned around, spread their ass cheeks, and took a squat while Isabella pissed all over the stage. The performance ended with her reciting the lyrics to Motownphilly. When the curtains lowered, no one clapped.
“That was godawful,” I said to Mr. Leather. “I’ve never seen anything more disgusting in my life.”
But when I looked over, Mr. Leather was nowhere to be found.
I went back stage. Isabella was in her dressing room removing the clown makeup.
“Keep trying kid,” I told her as I lit up a cigarette. “You’ll get em next time.”
“Did you enjoy it?” she asked.
“No, my mother was Canadian so I’m partly offended. But keep your head up.”
“Oh,” she replied and slumped back in her chair. I walked over to cheer her up.
“Look,” I said. “If you’ve got a passion, you gotta keep chasing it. Sure you’re gonna hit some potholes in the road, but keep going. You’ll get there eventually.”
“There’s just nothing that I’m good at.”
“That’s not true. You’ve got talent. It just needs some finessing,” I said.
“Yeah I guess,” Isabella said while she was packing her things. “Say, who are you mister?”
I took a big hit off the flask and offered it to Isabella. “I got some bad news kid,” I told her.
She took the flask and waited for the news.
“Your father is dead,” I said.
A blank look came over her face. Then she took a drink. “Was it Michaela?” she asked.
“I suspect it was.”
Isabella sat back down and looked at the floor. “I knew this would happen.”
“Your life is probably in danger,” I said. I took out the wad of cash that Mr. Leather paid me and I handed it over. “You need to get out of town.”
“But there is nowhere I can go where they can’t find me.”
I took out a pin and paper and wrote down an address. “This is my father’s old cabin up in Big Bear. Lay low there and I’ll come and get you in a few days.”
“But who are you?” Isabella asked.
“I’m James, Private Detective.” I handed her a business card. “Also, one other thing.” Then I handed her a .38 special.
“You may need it.”
She packed the items into her purse.
“Go now,” I said. “There’s some things I got to take care of here. I’ll see you in a couple of days when I have more information.”
I drove back to the office for the night. The apartment was still burned to shit. I walked in the office, removed my coat and holster, turned on the light, and there was Michaela and Luigi.
“Sorry, business hours are over,” I said.
Luigi picked up a phone book and ripped it in half. Michaela stood up from the couch, again with a glass of brandy in her hand, and walked towards me in her form fitting gown.
“But darling,” she said. “We’re just here to check in on a case.”
When she got close, Michaela head butted me and I fell backwards into the filing cabinets. While dazed, I tried to stand up and reach for my holster. Luigi grabbed my hand and threw me over the desk.
“Couldn’t this have waited until morning?” I asked.
“You need to tell us where Isabella is going,” Michaela said.
Luigi picked me up by the shirt and held me to the wall. I thought that this was the end until Mr. Leather busted in with his Tommy Gun.
“Let him go,” he said to Luigi. “Or I’ll blow you ten new assholes.”
“What’s it gonna be Luigi?” Mr. Leather said with his tommy gun.
Luigi paused and slowly lowered me to the ground. Leather pointed his tommy at Michaela.
“You’re not gonna get away with this,” she said.
“Beat it bitch,” he replied.
Luigi quickly reached for his sidearm. Mr. Leather unleashed his machine gun, blasting holes and blood everywhere. Luigi smashed through the window, falling five stories to the ground.
If the bullets didn’t kill him, the fall certainly did.
Michaela pulled a single shot derringer out of the bosom of her dress, hitting Mr. Leather in the stomach. She ran out the room. I ran over to him.
“We gotta get you to the hospital,” I said.
“Can’t. They’ll take me to prison.”
“I was a medic in the Army, I can probably stop the bleeding,” I replied.
“I’d rather go to prison.”
I helped the blood soaked Mr. Leather to the car. As we sped out of there, he took out a cigarette.
“Where you taking me?” he asked.
“The only place we can go.”
We arrived at the Big Bear cabin early in the morning. Isabella helped carry the wounded man inside.
“Who is this guy?” she asked.
“You know,” I thought for a moment. “That’s a good question.”
As Mr. Leather began fading in and out of consciousness, he began speaking to Isabella.
“Am fost îngerul păzitor al tatălui tău. Și sunt și a ta. Dar timpul meu este aproape terminat. Ai încredere în acest om prost,” he said.
“Am știut întotdeauna,” she replied.
“What did he say?” I asked.
“It’s not important,” Isabella said. “He doesn’t have long.”
“Just let me die,” Mr. Leather said. “It’s time.”
“Are you ever going to tell me who you are?” I asked.
“Fuck off,” he replied.
I shrugged and did what I could to stop the bleeding. I stayed by his side all morning.
“What’s the deal with Isabella?” I asked him.
“Poor girl,” he said. “Vito had her mother killed when she was just a little girl. Vito never understood his daughter. She grew up lonely, neglected by her own family.”
“Why did Vito kill her mother?” I replied.
“I’ll never tell.”
“Did you kill her?”
There was no reply. The mysterious man was no more.
I buried him that evening.
Isabella joined me outside over his shallow grave. I took out another cigarette.
“I don’t know if this guy was a pervert or your guardian angel. But either way, I think he was your biggest fan,” I told her.
“Michaela will find us,” she replied. “We gotta move.”
I handed her the money out of Mr. Leather’s wallet, then I emptied out my own.
“Take this,” I said. “Go to New York. Go do Broadway. Go do stand up. Go do something with your life. That’s what our mystery man would have wanted.”
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“My father buried an entire arsenal from his time in Korea under this land. I outta put it to use.”
If Michaela and her army wanted to lay siege to this cabin, I was fully prepared.
After Isabella said her final goodbye, I began work on a defensive attack. Booby traps, trip wires, and explosives were scattered around the perimeter. Thanks to my father’s arsenal, I had RPGs, M16s, M4 Carbines, AKs, AR-15s, Uzis, and all the usual weapons you’d find in these stories.
I climbed up into a deer stand, and watched. Waited. I stared down the scope of my rifle. A caravan of black SUVs was rolling down the dirt road.
The first vehicle struck a trip wire, causing a massive explosion. It obliterated the SUV and the one behind it. Eight people were killed immediately.
Men in the vehicles behind began fanning out into the woods, but they kept triggering the C-4, causing more explosions and death. The unlucky ones got caught in bear traps where they became easy prey for the mountain lions.
I realized that I created a horrible, if not tragic, death trap.
I climbed down from the deer stand and ran back to the cabin. I knew that the men who survived the initial barrage would eventually breach the defensive perimeter. So I armed myself with multiple automatic weapons.
Meanwhile, explosions kept going off. I grabbed the RPG-7.
I knew Michaela was getting close. One of her men yelled “you fucking bitch! You told us that we’d only be facing three people! Not the threshold of hell!”
Her men started to retreat. So my defensive campaign suddenly became an offensive one. I fired an RPG right at her gaggle of men, killing or maiming all 20 of them.
The few survivors that weren’t screaming in agony began to fire back. So I let loose another RPG.
I looked out into the woods. Fires were emanating from the charred remains of hundreds of dead bodies. It was lighting up the night sky. Yet none of the bodies were Michaela.
I slowly paced through the woods. Then a bullet went right through my left kidney. I fell to the ground and Michaela popped out from behind a tree, doing all kinds of strange martial arts.
She round house kicked my face. She broke one of my arms, both legs and my eyes were nearly swollen shut. I was helplessly crawling on the ground.
“Where’s Isabella?!” Michaela kept asking while punching me in the face.
“If she was up your butt you’d know where she was,” I replied.
Out of frustration, Michaela stood up and pointed her Glock 19 at me. “Goodbye, private dick!”
Luckily, I had dozens of sidearms on me. So I managed to rip a clip into Michaela before she got off a shot.
With fire all around me, I managed to craw back into the cabin. I might’ve been a fuck up my entire life, but at least I’d go out the way I wanted.
I lit up a cigarette and looked over to a picture of mom and dad.
“I’ll be with you soon Ma and Pa!”
And I closed my eyes.
Unfortunately I woke up in the San Bernardino Community Hospital. Isabella and an FBI agent were in the room.
“I couldn’t leave you there mister,” Isabella said. “You were sitting in a pool of your own blood with all your limbs broken.”
“Despite the horrendous injuries and the state we found you in, you’re expected to make a full recovery!” the doctor said.
I didn’t have health insurance.
“You somehow managed to slaughter the entire west coast mafia. There will be a federal investigation into this,” the FBI agent said.
“Do I need to lawyer up?” I asked.
“Oh yeah, BIG TIME,” the agent replied.
“Aren’t you so happy to be alive?!” Isabella asked.
That night, I cried myself to sleep.