THE CASE OF THE MISSING LIGHT
6:00 a.m. The name’s Danish. Rhubarb Danish. I’m a Chicago private eye with an attitude problem. Some like to refer to me as a private dick, but I like to keep personal matters out of the way of business.
I had overcome my previous addiction to Flintstone’s chewable tablets, but like any good addict, I substituted it for another one – children’s dry cereal.
I was munching on some Captain Crunch watching an episode of “The Honeymooners” on the Retro Television Network in my small office on 57th street when my front door burst open with such force I thought Orson Welles farted.
“What the hell is goin’ on?” I demanded.
Before me stood a rather frail man, sweating, looking more jacked up than Richard Simmons at a health food convention.
He wore horn rimmed spectacles and an outrageously loud checkered jacket. I figured this guy either sold insurance or was a walking advertisement for safe sex.
“D…..D…Danish! We have a travesty!” he stammered. “There is no more light!”
“Whaddya mean no more light?” I probed through pursed lips.
He pointed a shaky finger to my closed blinds. “Look out the window! You’ll see for yourself!”
Drawing the blinds, I peered outside. It was true. Our fine city was blacker than Stevie Wonder in a coalmine.
6:25 a.m. The sun should have arisen by now, but I still thought my guest had a brain as straight as a pretzel.
“I know it sounds crazy,” he continued, “but I know who took it.”
“The light?’ I queried.
“Yes!” he exclaimed profoundly.
“Buddy, you’re loonier than Charles Manson on Hee-Haw. Give it time. Nature won’t fail us,” I assured him.
“No, no,” my prospective client insisted. “It’s true! Someone took it! Look here!”
He produced a business card with directions on the back. They made as much sense as a screen door on a submarine.
“Go to this club called the Junkie Monkey. Ask for a guy named Ed Peslic. He has the light!”
I remembered that the Monkey was owned by an old buddy of mine from an Advanced Knitting course I took way back in the day, a guy named Johnny Zipp.
“The Monkey? Isn’t that Johnny Zipp’s joint? He’s a pal of mine.”
The man nodded emphatically. “He’s the one that sent me to ya.”
“You sure about all this?”
“It’ll cost ya.”
“Money is no object.”
That was a rate I could deal with.
“Tell the bartender that Rufus sent you!” he hollered as he tore out of my office.
Something didn’t add up. Who had the ability to steal sunlight and why? Who the hell was Ed Peslic? I found these questions more annoying than Roseanne Barr singing gangsta rap.
The club didn’t open until 12:00 p.m. so I had to kill some time before heading out over there. I gulped down a handful of Count Chocula and tried to piece this all together.
12:00 p.m. I sauntered into the Junkie Monkey. The place had deteriorated since I was last there ages ago. It smelled worse than tuna fish in a Memphis cathouse.
Right away I saw Zipp idly polishing a dirty beer mug behind the counter.
He stared at me for a second and then said, “Danish?”
“It sure as hell ain’t Ethel Merman,” I replied coolly. “Enjoying the dark?”
“You old dog,” he crooned as he pumped my hand. “Been a while. What brings you to these parts?”
I popped a couple of Sugar Crisps. “Lookin’ for a guy named Ed Peslic. Ever heard of him?”
He shook his head. “Tell ya the truth I’m rarely here. I don’t even know all the staff. I got a condo in Florida and I live there half the year.”
My envy was greener than a dollar bill in pea soup.
“Who would know?” I asked.
His head motioned to a bunch of tough looking goombahs standing outside the men’s room.“They’re regulars. Be careful Danish. This is a tough joint.”
I shrugged. “I eat brick ice cream, rock candy and stone crab. Ain’t nothing tougher than me.”
“Still got that wry sense of humor after all these years Danish.”
12:15 p.m. As I made my way towards the gorillas, I brushed up against a waitress passing by. She flicked her blonde mane in my face so we couldn’t make eye contact. I didn’t know what I was missing. She seemed better equipped with artillery than Rambo.
The three stooges started at me as I approached, massive arms folded over their chests. There was more meat there than Arnold Schwarzenegger in a deli.
I held out a palmful of Cocoa Puffs. “Anyone want?” They gave me a look that could have scared Bela Lugosi.
I slipped one of them a fin. “Know where I can find Ed Peslic?”.
One of the goons gestured with his head towards the bathroom door. I eased my way between the muscleheads and as soon as I got into the can, they followed me, looking more eager to plow my face in than my dentist.
I knew this was a frame.
My stomach felt like a washer on “spin”. I started to hallucinate about Vietnam even though I was never there.
Just as I saw my neighbor’s life flash before my eyes, Johnny Zipp burst in with a vintage tommygun and knocked them down faster than bowling pins in a snowstorm.
Stepping over the corpses I said, “That’s one I owe ya Zipp.”
“Forget it,” my friend replied. “Remember how you helped me with that afghan?”
I smiled at the recollection. Those were the days.
I figured I would keep a tight lip on the light case to Zipp even though I trusted him.
2:00 p.m. I was racking my brain about this missing light case and who the hell Ed Peslic was and where he was.
I paced in the office to the point that the soles of my Rockports were wearing into the hardwood floor that was older than an 8 track of Lawrence Welk’s Polka Favorites.
After popping a quartet of Fruit Loops, I came up with the answer. If you rearrange the letters in Peslic you get Clipse. First initial “E”. E.Clipse! It was a total eclipse of the sun that was blocking all our light! All I hadda do was watch the Weather Network! Damn Retro TV!
The only piece to fit back in the puzzle is to find the sonofabitch that framed me and why.
5:00 p.m. I returned to the Monkey and tried to get some more info from Zipp. The place already had about ten people in there ordering dinner or just trying to look cool.
He told me he didn’t know anything about it and I believed him. I told him I would be back at a later date.
“Maybe you should take that waitress with you. She was starin’ at you since you walked in.”
I turned around to see the same skirt that bumped into me earlier. As I neared, she tore off through the emergency exit at the back of the club. Thinking she was in on the frame job, I pursued her.
She ran out into the alleyway adjacent to the club and I tailed her several feet behind.
All of a sudden she whipped around pointing a snub nosed .38 at my chest with shaking hands.
My heart was beating faster than Buddy Rich on a treadmill. I yanked out my own piece and blasted first, hitting her in the shoulder.
That was the first time I ever shot a dame! As I ran over to her body on the alley floor, I noticed her blonde wig had flown off.
I then closely studied the face behind the layers of cosmetics. Finally I was able to make out the guy who had called himself Rufus in my office earlier. I quickly slapped the cuffs on him and dragged him against the alley wall.
I was mad. Not that I was framed, but because I thought he had a good body.
7:20 p.m. After I sent Rufus to the local cops, I talked over the whole story with Zipp and he told me that the guy who called himself Rufus was actually Dwight Shelbrooke, the club book keeper. Apparently Shelbrooke wanted to gain ownership of the club and he figured he get me out of the picture with the whole phony sunlight thing while his goons knocked off Johnny Zipp.
I had to make a full report so I shook Zipp’s hand and called it a night.
6:15 a.m. After enjoying a much-needed and rare sleep, I wrote a paper on the case that was more impressive than Pam Anderson’s rack.
Looking out the window, I basked in the sunlight the eclipse had previously hidden from view. I gobbled down Trix and contemplated life.
The name’s Danish. Rhubarb Danish. I’m a Chicago P.I. with an attitude problem.
© Copyright 2016 Steve Balsky. All rights reserved.