Once upon a time I was sitting in my office on Fairfax reading a racing form.
My name’s Harryhausen and I’m a dick. A detective, that is. I’m also a
cyclops. Six-foot two, eye of blue, that’s me.
Business was slow, so I’d given my girl the day off. That’s was two years
ago. I was thinking about closing up shop for the day and saying hello to the
bottle of bourbon I keep in the bottom drawer of my desk when my phone
rang. I’d forgotten I had a phone. I found it under a pile of newspapers and
answered on the fifth ring.
It was a job.
I hustled over to the nice side of Beverly Boulevard. The houses were big,
the lawns manicured and the hedges were carved into familiar shapes. Like
dollar signs. I pulled up to a monstrous three-story Tudor at the end of the
block. I rang the bell and wondered how a family of bears could afford a
joint like this. Then the door opened.
On the other side of the massive oak door stood a bear in a conservative
dress and a pillbox hat. “Missus Bear?” I said. “I’m Harryhausen. We spoke
on the phone earlier?” She’d been crying. I think. She’s a bear. It’s hard to
tell. “Mister Hausen? You’re a… Cyclops?” she asked. “Count the pupils,
ma’am,” I quipped “And the name’s Harryhausen. Just Harryhausen. May I
come in?” She stepped back and led me into a foyer the size of my
apartment when the Murphy bed was up. “I’m sorry, Mr. Harryhausen. I
thought your type was… taller.”
Yes, most Cyclopses are 8-foot brutes that carry clubs and imprison Greek
heroes. Stereotypes. We’re all victims. “That’s true, ma’am. I got my pop’s
looks and my mother’s height. You mentioned something about a break in on
“Papa Bear is in the kitchen where we found the….” She welled up. Unable
to finish, she waved me to follow her. We passed artwork, vases and antique
furniture on our way to the kitchen where Papa Bear waited.
“We left everything as we found it,” he said, his stare dripping contempt. He
seemed like a mirthless lug in pinstripes. Hello to you, too.
The kitchen doubled for a dining room with a large table at the end near
French doors big enough for a bear to navigate. Near the door knob, a busted
pane of glass, but no shards littered the expensive kitchen tile. On the table:
three bowls, two full of something that appeared to be oatmeal. Three chairs
at the table. One of them broken.
“Looks like a typical B & E to me,” I said.
“We surprised an intruder when we came home an hour ago,” said Papa
Bear. “We heard footsteps upstairs. By the time I reached the second floor,
the culprit already fled.”
“Right, but why not just call the cops?” I asked. Mama Bear sniffled. She
was near hysterics. Papa Bear put a massive paw on her shoulder,
comforting her. Though what’s comforting about a size 12 meat hook with
six-inch claws was lost on me.
“Mama didn’t want any more strangers in her house than necessary,” Papa
I’ve been around the burger joint a few times. Seen some things. I could tell
when a talking bear was lying to me. There was something in this lush
English mansion that the Bear family didn’t want the cops seeing. “What
business are you in, Papa Bear?”
“Import/Export, MISTER Hausen,” he answered.
Usually bears aren’t so formal. I guess foraging for nuts and berries invites a
casual attitude. Then again, when you stand almost ten-feet tall, you can dish
out any attitude that suits you.
“It’s just Harryhausen, MISTER Bear. What do you import?” I asked.
“Sugar,” he said.
“And what do you export?” I countered.
“Toothpaste,” he replied, in a voice that was not quite a growl, but just as
sincere, revealing incisors bigger than my pinky. This place might as well
have been a deli for all the bologna flying around. Trouble was brewing and
Papa Bear was stonewalling. I almost walked out, but Mama Bear was
desperate, crying “Help!” with her eyes.
I examined the bowls. One was still warm. Must’ve been hot enough to scald
the tongue an hour ago. The biggest chair was hard as granite. Apparently,
Papa Bear had a bad back and needed serious lumbar support. He shifted
uncomfortably from paw to paw. I knew what was troubling him.
Pride. Pride kept him up on hind legs for most of his waking hours even
though it caused what must have been severe back pain. He was more than a
bear. He was successful and sophisticated, and he had to prove it to
everyone. Mostly to himself.
Mama Bear had no such trouble, her chair looked softer than the clouds. The
third chair looked just right. I nodded thoughtfully. “But this isn’t all you
found, is it?” Annoyed that I could actually do what he’d called me for, Papa
Bear whisked me upstairs to the bedroom.
It was another version of the same tune. Three beds, one too hard, one too
soft… you get the idea. The window was thrown open so violently, there
was a crack in the pane. The place was tossed. Slightly. The contents of a
jewelry box spilled on top of a chest of drawers.
“Someone was sleeping in my bed,” Papa Bear growled.
“Was your son home at the time?” I asked.
Shocked, Mama Bear asked, “How did you know?”
“Please, Mama. There’s two of us and three of everything else. He guessed,”
growled Papa Bear from the end of his patience. “Mister Harryhausen, you
came highly recommended by not one, not two, but three little pigs. They
are friends of ours from the Bel-Air Bay Club. They spoke highly of you,
and yet you’ve shown only the most rudimentary observational skills.”
“I never guess, Mister Bear,” I said to Papa Bear. In a more gentle tone, I
asked Mama Bear, “Where was your son at the time of the break in?”
Mama Bear said, “Baby Bear was visiting friends. He’s home recently from
“Really? Which broad was he studying?” I said reaching down to Baby
Bear’s rumpled duvet cover. Papa Bear pulled himself up to his full height
and moved toward me to physically and probably harmfully remove me
from his home when I showed him my first clue. It was a long strand of
golden blond hair from the duvet.
“Someone broke in. They had breakfast and got caught when you came
home early. So they only had time to grab some cheap jewelry off a dresser
before fleeing out the second story. Makes sense. Times are tough and
people are hungry, desperate. Seems like a real coffee-and-donuts job. The
problem is that the kitchen window downstairs was broken from the inside
because there’s no glass on the floor of your dining room. Also, there are
several hundred things more valuable than costume jewelry on the way from
the kitchen to that open window,” I said.
I let it hang in the air like a bad smell that only the truth can summon. Papa
Bear knew I’d figured out a bunch already. He sat down on Mama Bear’s
bed, sinking almost up to his navel, if bears have navels.
“What are you suggesting?” he asked to the floor.
The contempt had vanished from his voice. “I’m sorry, but this was an inside
job,” I said. “Someone who’s been here before, but not a maid.”
“W-Why not the maid?” Mama Bear asked. She’d started the water works
again sometime in the last few minutes. More tears dampened the fur around
her tired eyes.
“Because the only jewelry that means anything to you is in the box by your
nightstand. You keep it close. Someone needed this to look random, like a
robbery but didn’t want to hurt your feelings. Your son is mixed up in
something, and a woman is involved. Which is how I knew you had a son.
It’s usually a woman that gets young cubs in trouble. In this case, it’s a
blonde woman. My fee is twenty-five a day plus expenses. Agree to this and
I’ll start digging.”
Papa Bear handed me thirty-five dollars to start and a promise to get me
more if needed. I told them I’d be in touch and that they should search the
place for anything else that might be missing.
I took the retainer from the Bears and made dust to search for the mysterious
blonde woman. A single blonde woman in a city of waitresses and cigarette
girls all looking to get discovered and be the next Lana Turner. Needle, meet
the haystack. I was so up in my own head I didn’t notice when a late model
Plymouth Roadking drove by without a driver.
I needed a lead. When the cops need a lead, they find a rat. I use mice.
Three Blind Mice, in fact. I pulled my jalopy up to the red light at the Sunset
off ramp of the 101 Freeway. They were there as usual, wearing sunglasses
and selling oranges to passing cars.
“Good to see you again, Harry,” one of them said. “You should get that
timing belt checked out. It’s starting to slip.” The little rodents were
“Thanks buddy. Whaddya know?”
His brother said, “Not much unless you want oranges.” I handed them a
fiver. The third mouse, the smallest one, grabbed the five-spot and snapped it
in his brother’s ear. I was legit, so I made with the questions.
“Looking for a dame. A blonde,” I said.
“Ain’t we all?” said one mouse as another plopped a bag of oranges in my
“This one has a thing for bears,” I said.
“Check the King Eddy downtown. Got a new torchie there that can sing the
shine off silk.”
“Thanks, fellas,” I said as I flicked them an extra 50 cent piece. The little
guy snatched it out of thin air and bit down.
“How come you guys know so much?” I asked as the light changed green.
“We hear things,” they said in unison. Like I said, unnerving. I sped off in
the direction of downtown.
I parked my car at the corner of Wrong Side of the Tracks and Pitsville. Just
like the neighborhood, the bar had seen better days. Specifically, Prohibition.
Back then the place was a piano store with a speakeasy downstairs.
Guarding the entrance was a troll of a man. A second glance confirmed that
he was indeed a troll.
“Three questions, three answers,” the door troll croaked through knotted
orthodontia. “Three questions, three answers to gain entrance…” he gestured
down the stairs, sweeping his arm theatrically.
“Otis!” a second troll popped his head out from around the door. “Boss said
no more riddles!” He swatted Otis in the head with a ball cap. He made like
he was going to swat again, but Otis cowered so pitifully, he reconsidered.
“Sorry Johnny,” Otis said, then turned to me. “We trolls are good at keepin’
our eyes on things, but some of us ain’t too keen for the new ways. You a,
uh… payin’ customer?”
I got as big as my small-for-a-cyclops frame allowed and fixed them with
my one huge eye. This is as intimidating as I got without pulling my pea
shooter and sticking the barrel in their faces. “This some kind of shake
down?” I asked. I did say “plus expenses” to the nice Bear family, but didn’t
want to dish out another couple of bits for no reason.
“No, no, no mister! Nothin’ like that, honest! Just tryin’ to keep out the
riffraff, ya know? Go right in.” Now it was his turn to sweep theatrically.
Otis smiled as innocently was possible for a troll. I paused for a moment,
pretending I was considering my next move, then headed into the smokey
The bartender was a real Prince Charming with an eye patch and a hook for
a hand. He probably had a peg leg behind the bar. I ordered a tumbler of
their finest rot-gut. Neat. The crowd was a mixed bag of degenerates and two
time losers. Three billy goats. A couple of witches. The usual.
I was beginning to think the Three Blind Mice handed me the grift when the
lights dimmed and a hush fell over the crowd. A dime-store lamp hit curtains
at the end of a riser, and she walked out. “Goldilocks,” it said on a bill by the
She was as advertised. Stage light pounced from her golden blond hair. The
Fairest of Them All was getting a run for her money. She sang a haunting
rendition of “I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good.” I couldn’t tell you what she
sang next, but the sirens themselves had nothing on her.
At the end of her set, she slipped a note to the cocktail waitress and made her
way off stage to a decent round of applause. Even the barkeep was clapping,
which must’ve been excruciating considering one of his hands was all kinds
of sharp and pointy. To my surprise the cocktail waitress brought me
Goldilocks’s note. It read:
“Saw you sitting all alone and thought you could use some company. Come
backstage. I drink shampain.”
So she wasn’t a spelling champ. I ordered another rot-gut for me and a
champagne for her, thinking that she could’ve spit in that note and I’d still
have found it delightful. Scooting from my place at the bar, I made my way
I was stopped just before I got to her door by an ogre in a three-piece suit
who took his bouncing job very seriously. So I flashed him Goldie’s note.
He rapped gently on her door. “What is it, Glenallen?” she asked from
inside. “Midget cyclops in a two-bit suit to see you.”
“Hey lumpy, I’m six-two,” I scoffed. He looked me over, unimpressed, “For
a cyclops, you’re a Munchkin.” He had me there.
“Let him in,” she sang. Glenallen looked me over. “Be a gentleman, you
hear? Don’t make me come in there and give you a shiner,” he said and
opened the door. “I wouldn’t dream of it, Glenallen,” I replied. “I just had
my cornea waxed.” Removing my hat, I exposed my best feature, a single
curved horn protruding from the top of my noggin. I eased past him.
Inside her dressing room there was probably a make up table and a wardrobe
change. I say probably because when a dame like Goldilocks smiles at you,
it’s akin to staring at the sun. I handed over her flute of giggle juice.
“Thanks doll,” she purred. She clinked my glass and sipped daintily,
somehow managing not to get any lipstick on the rim. I took a slug of my
own and replied, “Nice set you had out there, miss… uh, Locks.”
She threw her head back and laughed, exposing her neck. “Goldie, please.
“Harryhausen,” I said. “Just Harryhausen.”
She took another sip and asked, “Can I call you Harry?”
“You can call me Rumpelstiltskin if it makes you rosy,” I said and took a
seat. She laughed again, exposing her neck and this time placing her hand on
her chest. It’d be easy to think I was doing great with a beautiful dish, but
the moral of the story is I’m just not that funny. And while I was looking my
best in my two-bit suit, I’m not that handsome either. She wanted me there
for a reason. So I figured I’d get her talking about everyone’s favorite
“Where you from, Goldie?” I asked.
“Here and there,” she said, finishing her champagne.
“Been here long?”
“Been in LA for two months, but I only been singing here for a week.
Work’s hard to find. When you finally land something they expect you to be
some chippy or maybe they want you to sweep the floors. Can you imagine?
Me? Sweeping floors? It’s beneath me,” she said with a roll of her eyes.
“It’s the floor, sweetheart. It’s beneath everyone,” I said. She laughed again
and this time she touched my hand, lingering a bit too long.
“What brings you out tonight, handsome?” she asked.
I decided to put the screws to her. “Bears,” I said. If I wasn’t looking for it, I
might’ve missed the slight crack in her demeanor, a fraction of a moment’s
worth of discomfort. But she went right back to smiling and sipped again at
her champagne. Or at least she tried to before she remembered that she’d
“Oh, yeah. Got a big case with a family of bears. Papa Bear’s a real grump
and Mama Bear’s kind of a sap, but the pay’s good so I figure-“
And then I was hit by something that climbed down a beanstalk.
It was Baby Bear. And his name was a misnomer. He was huge. A mountain
with fur. He came roaring out from behind Goldie’s wardrobe in a blur of
brown fuzz and slammed me up against the cinder block wall of the dressing
room. The impact knocked the gusto out of me and my drink went flying,
spilling my rot-gut all over my two-bit suit.
I didn’t even have time to reach for my roscoe.
“You were saying about my Mama, shamus?” Baby Bear grumbled. He
threatened me with a paw the size of a catchers mitt. It had a broken claw
but that didn’t diminish its effect.
Goldie pleading, “Baby, no! This ain’t the plan!” She tried to pry him off
me. “We gotta find out who hired the detect—” She never got to finish as
Baby Bear shoved her aside, rage fueling his already ridiculous strength. He
almost knocked her clear into the hallway. She banged against the door and
slid down it like a cartoon coyote.
“Goldie!” Baby cried in remorse. He dropped me and went to see if she was
jake when the door flew open, and Glenallen stepped in to see about the
commotion. “The hell-?” was all he got out before Baby swiped at him.
He left three neat red lines across Glenallen’s chest and dropped him like he
was a house made of straw. I finally pulled my gat. Baby Bear saw my gun,
blood on his claws and Goldie lying in a heap and made for the door.
I thought about having to break the news to Mama Bear that I’d just shot her
son. It was all the time Baby needed to make a getaway. Maybe I’m the sap.
I moved over to Goldie and patted her cheeks, seeing the color return. She
had made me for a Private Eye as soon as I walked in the club which meant
she was watching the door. Whether she was paranoid or nervous for good
reason didn’t matter as I was glad she came to. “Don’t hurt him,” she
managed, rubbing what would be a sweet bruise on her noodle.
“I’m not sure I could if I wanted to. Wait here for me.”
“What are you gonna do, Harry?” she asked.
“Something stupid,” I said and ran out of the bar into the unforgiving
blackness of nighttime in Los Angeles.
I splashed through gritty puddles that littered the alleyways even though it
hadn’t rained in weeks. Baby Bear wasn’t hard to shadow. Knocked over
trashcans, broken glass and other detritus made a descriptive trail. I followed
him a couple blocks east and found myself in the middle of a shantytown.