The Deadly-Serious Comic
By Mike Stevens
An Oren Trough Mystery
I walked into the smoky bar, where my main suspect was up on the stage, like a country sheriff riding shotgun on a stage pulled by lame horses. I was investigating the brutal murder of Shelby Davis, the owner of a dumpy, run-down little comedy club downtown. I’d become suspicious of a weasel of a stand-up comedian named Ed Jamtoe, who, much as a bad case of V.D., kept coming back to my mind, like a thought or a head cold. He had admitted being in Davis’s office near the time of Davis’s unfortunate demise. I sat down, ordering a drink from a waitress who looked as bored as an old piece of driftwood washed up on a beach.
I had just settled into my seat, when an announcer, who looked like he’d been kept sealed inside an old mason jar for the last 20 years, exclaimed,
“Good evening, ladies and gentleman. (which, judging from the looks of the clientele, was being kind!) Tonight we have with us (as opposed to what, against us?) a very funny gentleman from out-of-town, Mr. Ed Jamtoe!”
A smattering of applause came from those people who could still manage to see well enough to bring their hands together. Into the beam of light cast by a single spotlight, which resembled an alien spacecraft circling a golf course, stepped my suspect, Mr. Ed Jamtoe.
“Hello you good people, I just flew in from Detroit, and boy, are my arms ever sore!”
Nothing but unsmiling faces gazed up at the stage. It was no wonder, that joke was older than a block of moldy cheddar cheese that was bought from a grocery store resembling a retirement home.
“So, you didn’t like that one, try this one on for size: A horse walks into a bar, and the bartender asks him, “Hey, why the long face?”
That’s when, sounding like some sort of demented fog-horn, the booing began, and the suspect ran off the stage, resembling a bad ice cream cake. I made my way backstage and spotted him crying, looking like a sprinkler gone haywire.
“Excuse me, Mr. Jamtoe, but I just caught your act, (like a bad cold) and I was wondering if you’d mind answering a couple of questions?”
“And who are you?” he asked me, sounding like the suspicious neighborhood gossip.
“My name is Oren Trough, and I’m a private detective.”
He looked at me like a lopsided clown, and asked, “What would you like to know, Orven?”
“That’s Oren, the name’s Oren.”
Yeah, as sorry as a little kid guzzling his parents spiked punch. “I’d like to ask you where you were between 4 and 6am yesterday morning?”
“Okay, I did it, okay?”
I was as surprised as taking an unexpected ice-cold shower on a freezing day. “Did what?” I asked him.
“Murdered the little cheap bastard!”
Well, that made it as clear as a piece of see-through plastic covering up the jagged hole you punched in you neighbor’s house using a backhoe. “Answer me one question, why did you do it, and why did you confess?”
He replied, “That’s two questions, actually.”
This guy was getting on my nerves, the way a 4-way stop that’s not working does. “Alright, two questions then.”
“The answer to the 1st question is the bastard got on my nerves, and the answer to the 2nd is because the my hoped-for career as a stand-up comedian just took a nosedive, right into the ground, so I’ve got nothing to live for anyway, and the guilt is eating me alive.”
“So, you’re going to fall back on the old guilt-is-eating-me-alive defense. That particular defense is older than clods of dirt stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Like a plane with cardboard wings, that baby just won’t work too well!”
“I’m not using it as a defense; I’m admitting I killed him.” Jamtoe replied.
“Well, that may be, but as a sailor who looks at the sun through a telescope says, “I can’t see dick! However, I’ll just squint my eyes so I can!”
“You must be the dumbest private eye, ever,” he then said. “I’m telling you I did it.”
“And you’re my number one suspect, but, like an old rotary phone, something about your story just doesn’t add up.”
“Oh, I give up!” Jamtoe exclaimed with a sigh.
The case has reached a dead-end, with not enough room to turn around, so I’m backing out, like you might from a bad prom date. I’ll just stay on the case, until I solve it, sort of like a terrible puzzle in a 3rd-rate newspaper. Speaking of newspapers, I just read in mine where the police had arrested Ed Jamtoe for the murder of Shelby Davis. Go figure!