Anybody who chases weirdoes is a candidate for the loony bin. That’s why I’m keeping my mouth shut. Wouldn’t be good for business if people knew what I know. But, before you whistle for the guys in white coats, let me tell you it started on a quiet afternoon with me cross-examining Marilyn Monroe in Playboy. Elvis was wailing “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” on my Philco.
Then the door opened and the babe walked in. I hoped she was a client the way I hoped someday I could afford to kill cockroaches with Flit spray instead of a hammer. Right now, I’d need to borrow the hammer.
She startled me because she was so short I had to lean over the desk to see her. Eyes would’ve reached my belt buckle with my pants hanging off my hips. She was stacked, but in a comic book sort of way. A lot of excess curves drawn by a hop-head artist.
“You are man who find lost people?”
“I’m the man, Miss. Who’ve you lost?” That was the second thing. She talked funny, like one of those war brides from the Far East. Her skin didn’t look tanned like she was from Los Angeles. More like some kind of citrus fruit. Not sun-kissed. Sunkist.
I guess we were all skittish in the ‘50s. Beatniks had come in from the Mojave the week before, claiming they saw flying saucers. Politicians were shouting about Commies disguised as State Department officials. Brain-washed war vets were being shipped back from Pyongyang. All that stuff filled a normal news day.
“Man I want to find is lost,” she said. “Last night. Near … what is name? Pas-a-de-na.”
“Pasadena,” I told her. “Up the freeway a few miles. Tell me the circumstances.”
Her name was – what the hell, I couldn’t understand her, so I began calling her Almond because of the shape of her eyes. Big eyes. White as eggs. Ostrich eggs with little black olives in the middle.
Two things my agency was good for since I was dismissed from the police force over a silly misunderstanding. I could find lost people and I took good photos admissible in divorce court. The way Almond Eyes was built, I debated trying to discover a few more things, like how she stacked up to Marilyn Monroe in three-quarter size. Sex with an un-Sanforized pinup wasn’t far from my mind.
She took 20 minutes to explain she’d come to town with this guy – another unpronounceable name – and they got separated when they were in a bar drinking Champagne.
“Is funny drink,” she mused. “Like joke that tickles nose and brain at same time.”
Somebody’s brain was tickled alright. Bouncer tossed him out on the street and took her in the back room for questioning. Questioning that turned funny.
“So why’d he let you go?”
“I,” she searched for a word the way a lady might excavate her pocket book for loose change. “I disable him, then go to see my friend outside. But he disappear. We go Pas-a-de-na now? I show you where.”
Colorado Boulevard was lit with a fiery red glow from the sun dropping into the Pacific. Street lights were coming on, turning the six lanes of asphalt into a rosy landing strip for derelicts. “This the place?” I asked, pulling onto a side street near the bar
“Last time I see him he tell me he go look around. Be right back.”
Champagne will do it every time. It’s often kidnapped my brain.
We strolled up one block and down the next. I was getting tired, but kept my mind on my 25 buck fee.
“Maybe here,” Almond suggested, pointing to an alley. I tossed her idea around the way a pansy dribbles a basketball. I could use her 25 bucks, but dark alleys mean trouble.
“Okay, Miss,” I told her, making sure my .38 Police Special was loose under my jacket. “You walk behind me,”
We got about 30 yards in when the some ungodly wailing came from behind a pile of empty cartons. Sent chills up my back, me hoping it was only a cat facing down a platoon of rats. Almond Eyes began chattering in the same double talk, sounding like a Polynesian who’d overdosed on fermented pineapple juice.
“This him!” she shouted. “Here. I give you 25, um, 25 bucks.”
This was too easy, I thought. Was the mini-babe unable to hail a taxi to this place, or was she missing a gas station map that had Pasadena on it? But she pushed two sawbucks and a fiver into my hand.
“Hold on, honey. I need to know what’s going on here.” I pointed at the little guy coming at me in a garage mechanic’s suit.
“We are lost. Before. Maybe not now. Must go home now.”
“Not enough detail for me to fill out a report,” I said as threw her tiny arms around my waist. My arms went around her neck by force of habit and my mouth went down to taste those lips before they could say goodbye.
The guy, who was about an inch taller than a short stack of flapjacks, shouted when we clinched. Then, he pulled out a thing that looked like a piece of fruit.
I laughed. “Nice try with the stick-up, pal, but a banana isn’t a good defense against a .38.” That’s when he zapped me. I went cold as a Popsicle, wondering if this was when I shake hands with St. Peter at the booking desk. I could see the two midgets and heard them chattering parrot talk, but I couldn’t move a muscle.
“Goodbye, sir,” Almond Eyes said graciously. “We go now. Thank you for mouth-to-mouth greeting.”
I heard their footsteps go about five feet, and then – nothing. Silence. Even though I couldn’t turn my head, I knew they were gone.
It took me 20 minutes to thaw out, see that the alley was empty, and get back to my Plymouth. Somewhere down the street, the Platters were crooning “My Prayer.” Colorado Boulevard was as empty as a church on Monday.
I got back to the office an hour later as my former partner, O’Malley waltzed in. “Christ, you look like you shook hands with a mummy,” he said.
“You don’t want to know, O’Malley. Tell me, do you believe in little people from outer space?”
His eyes closed down like a bank teller’s window on Sunday. “You back on the sauce again?”
“Nah, I’m joking. I think my last client was just another Commie.”
# # #
Bio: Walt bounces between writing genres, from mystery to humor, speculative fiction to romance. His work has appeared in print and online in over a score of publications. Two volumes of short stories, Cruising the Green of Second Avenue, are available at Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers. He’s also bounced from Fortune 500 firms to university posts, and from homes in eight states and to a couple of Asian countries.