PART 2 | Part 1
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.
Sid Row. Last refuge of the desperate. The décor was early American rat’s nest. It smelled of vomit and barbecued shoe leather. Times were tough. The residents weren’t just junkies and boozehounds. They were honest folk on the nut, and these makeshift tents and corrugated metal huts stretched out for blocks. If I didn’t find Baby soon, I’d lose him.
Dipped in bad alcohol, I announced my presence to winos and grizzlies alike. I pulled my peashooter and called out, “She’s all right!” I got no response from the squalor. “She’ll have a decent bump on her hat-holder, but she came to after you left,” I said as I wandered further into the tent city with my regular brand of cautious bravado.
I pushed aside curtains and scooted around makeshift walls, trying not to step on rodents and residents sleeping off a fit of bad luck. No sign of him. So I switched tactics. “You’re mom’s awful worried about you, kid.” A bottle clinked somewhere in the darkness. “You haven’t really done anything yet. Nothing bad. It can always get worse.”
I stepped in a puddle, submerging my wing tips up to my ankle. “C’mon, kid! What’d Goldie promise you?” I pulled my foot from its watery grave, adding a squish to my usually perky step. “You were gonna run away together? Maybe Acapulco? She’s got you twisted, son! Conned! Bamboozled! Flim-flammed—“
I planned on following those up with “duped, swindled and hornswoggled” but never got the chance as Baby Bear came straight through a tin wall to grab me from behind. He pinned my arms by my side in a vicious… bear hug. I couldn’t move my arm to point my gun anywhere but my soggy wing tips. Luckily, he’d knocked my hat off. He leaned in close enough to assault me with cheap scotch on his breath. Which is saying something because I still reeked of rot-gut.
“What do you know about it, gumshoe?” Baby Bear grumbled. I didn’t hear his voice so much as I felt it rumble through my rib cage. “A bit,” I grunted. “How much is she in for?”
Surprised, his grip relaxed a dime’s width. “Well, it’s you or her, right?” I said. “You need fast money. Fast enough to rob your own mother, who means the world to you. So it’s the mob. Which one, by the way? Never mind. Doesn’t matter. How much?” He relaxed further. Leaned back a little.
“More than I can scrape together even after we pawned Mama’s things. We didn’t have enough time to find Papa’s stash. I’ll split it with it you if—” And then I jammed my horn straight up his nose. He let go of my left arm to try and wrangle my head out from half way up his beezer. I flipped my roscoe to my left hand and caught it, jamming it in his gut as he spun me around to look me eyes to eye.
He glanced at my heater. “You think you can fill me with enough moonlight with that bean shooter before I snap your neck?” That look in his eyes, I’d seen it before. It was there when a fella begged for change to feed his family. It was there when a bird in a drugged haze sidled up to your car in a skirt that’s too short. It spoke volumes. To me it said, “Not much else to lose.”
“Not much” being the key words. A bruno with a look like that has one last thing he’s holding onto.
“Honest Injun, Kid. I’m here because of your ma. She wants you home,” I said. “This doesn’t need to play out the way you expect. So you put away your claws, I’ll put away the roscoe away, and we’ll just jaw about your problems. Maybe try to keep the bulls and the goons out of it for the night.”
He was coming around. Had to keeping him thinking about his mother instead of the canary back at the bar. He was about to place me back on the ground when a group of vagrants showed. They were carrying sticks and a tire iron.
“Drop the dick,” said the lead tramp. Made again. I’d have to check my coat later for a sign that read “SLEUTH” on the back. “This here’s our place and we don’t want no trouble,” the tramp continued. Then he went too far. “You got that, Smokey!?”
Baby Bear looked past me, real angry-like. He got two things from Papa Bear: his size and his pride. “Applesauce…” was all I said as Baby Bear picked me up over his head and tossed me 15 feet at the fleeing vagrants.
I think I hit one of them. Then I caromed off something vaguely metal sounding. Whatever it was rung my bell something fierce. I kissed the pavement and landed in the same damn puddle I’d stepped in a minute ago. The last thing I heard before I blacked out was Baby Bear’s angry roar as he charged the fleeing squatters.
I dreamed the dreams of the concussed. Stars floated around little birds and swirling clouds until the pain hit. It felt as if someone was trying to shove my horn back from whence it came. When my eyes finally split open, the early morning murk felt like staring into a floodlight at a Hollywood premiere.
I rolled back and forth for minute and someone might’ve relieved themselves on me before I was finally able to get vertical. Stooped, but vertical. With a sightly welt on the side of my head.
Cyclopses heal pretty quick, so I limped with purpose back to the last place I saw Baby Bear. Maybe Goldilocks would have a bead on where he was holed up. The rising sun burned off the rest of the fog that clung to the air and the puddles dried with them.
The ringing in my ears prevented me from hearing the sirens. They got louder and more annoying the closer I got to the bar. I was ready to shove bullets in my ears to quiet the racket by the time I reached the King Eddy, but I was then greeted by the insistent and considerably more annoying whine of—
“Detective Huntsman!” I said, trying appear as if I hadn’t been roughed up by a grizzly bear and slept in a shanty town alley.
“Harryhausen,” Huntsman groaned with the weary enthusiasm of a cop with 20 years of service. He was a tall man with a close-shaved beard and a suit almost as rumpled as mine. Cops. His piercing blues might’ve made all the dames swoon if he wasn’t such a hard ass button man. “I might’ve guessed.” We’d done this dance a thousand times, each of us trying to get the dime out of the other without giving up our own hands. “Where were you last night? Criminy, did somebody piss on you?”
“Possibly,” I answered. “I was here last night having a nice conversation with a lovely damsel when her boyfriend went and ruined it all by chasing me a couple blocks. I had to wait until the coast was clear before I came back. She, uh… she still here?” I asked. But the look that sank into his face told me everything I needed to know.
“She’s here, Harryhausen,” Huntsman started, “But she ain’t gonna answer any questions anytime soon.” I noticed an ambulance with the rest of the black and whites. Huntsman turned back down the stairs, inviting me to follow. I passed the bar and little stage which only a few hours ago was home to patrons. It looked cheap in the daylight that seeped through the ceiling windows.
Her dressing room was a mess. But not as messy as she was. Someone had worked her over pretty good. Gashes covered her body, making a mess of her dress and her fair skin under it. As they loaded her onto a gurney, I noticed her face had just started to purple from what looked like a Joe Louis haymaker.
“Doc thinks there won’t be any permanent damage,” said Huntsman. “But her jaw’s busted. Won’t be singing for a while and she’ll have to eat her Cheerioats through a straw for four-to-six weeks, but she’ll be okay.”
“This boyfriend…” Huntsman continued. He pulled out a pen and pad and checked his notes. “Was he some kind of tiger or something?” I said, “Bear, actually. Didn’t get his name.” Huntsman eyed me for a second too long. I never could tell if he knew when I was lying.
Then I remembered there was a framed license hanging in my office that read “Private Eyeball.” Suddenly the detective in me snapped back into focus. Baby Bear didn’t do this. He was distraught for merely knocking into his beloved Goldilocks. No way would he make such a mess of her by clawing her up.
Claw marks. They were in groups of four. Baby Bear had a busted claw. Someone beat Goldilocks half to death and set Baby Bear up as a patsy.
“Did the door guy see anything?” I asked Huntsman.
“The trolls? Nah, they were useless, and I think one of them tried to bribe me.” Huntsman responded. I hurried out of the dressing room and past the bar. I almost made it to the stairs when Huntsman grabbed me by the collar.
“Dammit, Harryhausen. What do you know? Come clean, or I’ll haul you in. Again. And I won’t be nice about it this time.”
“End of day tomorrow, detective. At five o’clock, I’ll hand you everything with all the trimmings. I’ll find you at the precinct.” Huntsman glared suspicion at me like I was yesterday’s egg salad. “I’m good for it, remember?”
When in doubt I played the nostalgia card. He always thought I’d have made a good cop, but I went to the private sector, and he was still a little peeved about that. What with my life of luxury and all.
“Five o’clock, Harryhausen. You make me late for my wife’s pot roast, and I’ll see you get three squares and a cot for obstruction.”
I hurried up the stairs and spun around at the top step. “Delores can count on me, detective.”
“Doris! My wife’s name is Doris, you heel!”
“What I said,” I muttered as I hustled down to 6th Street.
I ducked into a French Dip joint above the Red Trolley and jammed my “slight for a cyclops” frame into a phone booth and flipped the receiver.
“Operator,” said the disembodied voice at the other end. Actually it might have literally been disembodied. A lot of “Mirror-Mirrors” worked for the phone company.
“Crestview. Number for All-The-King’s-Men Security.” I waited as the rumble of the 6:15 pulled out of the station. The operator connected me to the dispatch of the guy who ran security for the Eddy and half of the flop joints in the city. We were chummy from an incident involving an egg and a wall a few years back.
He gave me the address of a one Glenallen, Bringer-Of-Blood-and-Bile. Ogres. Typical. So Glenallen had bugged out after the tussle with Baby Bear but before the cops showed. That means Goldilocks was swell when he’d left, or he was paid to leave so someone could make her not swell.
I hauled it back to the office to change my shirt and damp shoes. The smells coming from the diner across the street were an enchanted mix of coffee and breakfast meats. But I had to get to the Star Brite Motel on San Fernando Road in Burbank.
I turned the corner to my office and caught a slight flash of light at the end of the corridor. That means I had a serious concussion, or I was being followed. Either was a possibility, so I pulled my heater and entered my office real slow like.
It was as empty as I’d left it. I changed and grabbed my camera plus extra flash bulbs. And some chewing gum.
Traffic heading into the valley was murder due to road work on Cahuenga Boulevard. A bunch of dwarves were whistling their heads off while they filled in potholes. It took a full 10 minutes to get from Fairfax to San Fernando Road.
The Star Brite Motel was across from a bowling alley just a mile away from the big motion picture studios. The place looked like a 7-10 split. A real rat hole. I parked my jalopy and crammed the flash bulbs in my jacket pocket and a stick of gum in my mouth. As I chewed, I crept up to the second floor to room number 212, leaving the delightful scent of spearmint in my wake.
Knocking, I stuffed the chewed gum on the door’s peep hole. “Police,” I said, in a stern voice. No sound on the other side. No doubt trying to figure out why his peep hole no longer peeped. I set my feet.
The door cracked open an inch and I punted it straight into Glenallen’s mug. He collapsed like Sleeping Beauty on his motel room’s sleazy floor. Raising my camera, I snapped a flash photo of three perfect slices dead center on the ogre’s chest.
I stepped in and closed the door.
“Here’s what I know,” I said as I wound the film in my camera and sat at the single seat by a small writing table in the motel room. “Goldilocks spun Baby Bear around her finger so bad he’d steal from his loving parents at the behest of the mob. Now your turn.” Glenallen shook off the knock to his cabeza and for a moment looked like he was about to charge. That was until a placed my roscoe on the table.
He spit on the floor. It was a very effective sign of defiance except that it was his own floor and he’d probably slip in it later. “What are you, some kinda gumshoe?” I winked at him. Of course with only one eye, it looked like I’d blinked with panache.
“Name’s Harryhausen. I’m a Private Eyeball. And you were paid to leave an innocent young lady’s door unattended.”
“Innocent?” He looked like he would spit again, then thought better of it. “You’re barking up the wrong beanstalk, dick. So go soak your head. Is she, uh… she okay?”
“She’s still breathing for now. If she stops, that’s on you. How much did they pay you?”
“I ain’t saying nothing. You might as well leave, or shoot me, runt.”
I picked up my gun. He swallowed hard. Then everything got crazy.
The motel room’s big picture window blew apart as a blast of fairy dust flew in and slammed into a rat that was basking on the nightstand. The rat transformed into a great white horse before my very eye. It neighed at me, baffled at his new economy size.
The mob had made their move.
I rolled backward on on the chair and shoved the table over to offer cover. Glenallen scrambled toward the bathroom when another series of blasts from outside cut short his escape.
A floor lamp suddenly morphed into a ball gown. The pillow changed into a pile of Jujubes. The “art” on the wall became an Indian Chief’s headdress and I became increasingly aware that there was more than one Fairy out there blasting us with their magic wands.
It stopped just as quickly as it began. The silence was as welcome as a coming storm. They could just turn the door into feathers and come on in if they’d wanted. From the other side of the door an old lady’s voice chimed, “Helloooooo?”
Glenallen motioned for me to answer her. “Uh, yeah. Hi. We’re still here,” I managed. “Well of course you’re still there, dearie. We weren’t aiming for you,” she cooed with a voice that sounded like she was offering us chocolate milk and rhubarb pie. “Now pipe down Mister Hausen or I’ll yank your skin off and sick the ants on you. Mister Glenallen? Have you told Mister Hausen anything?”
“Hell no,” Glenallen said.
“Good, good dearie. Although it’s strange you didn’t mention Ms. Goldilock’s one-eyed visitor this previous evening. You’re not working both sides, are you?”
“Do I look stupid?” Glenallen pleaded.
She didn’t answer. Of course. He was an ogre and they all looked stupid.
I know a couple things about fairies. A discussion was happening on the other side of the door. A discussion that was going to end with us being turned into chickens. Glenallen knew it, too and looked at me with desperation. I grabbed the Indian Cshief headdress. “Put this on, I said.”
BLAM! BLAM! I tossed two of my spare flash bulbs onto the walkway outside. The noise and light show made the Fairies scurry into the little balls of light they traveled in. The trick bought me seconds.
So we flew through the busted picture window on a horse that used to be a rat. I rode lead with Glenallen on the back wearing the headdress. I honestly couldn’t believe he put it on.
We galloped furiously down a flight of stairs, almost making it to the empty pool of the Star Brite Motel when the fairy dust blasts started up again. Dishes, pumpkins, alarm clocks and all manner of woodland creatures crowded our path to freedom. As we made it to the street, we found ourselves airborne as our horse that was previously a rat changed into a sheep dog.
I slammed down hard onto the curb as Glenallen slammed down hard on my back, smashing my camera. I tossed my last flash bulb across the street. It scattered our pursuers for a moment as I scooped up as much of my camera as I could. We scrambled to my car still parked at the bowling alley.
As the engine turned over, a blast of pixie dust zapped the rear view mirror of my driver’s side door. It was now a telephone, complete with corded receiver and a dial. But there was no time to marvel at the device as I ducked down and another blast shot over my head, barely missing me.
Glenallen wasn’t so lucky. When I looked up, I was staring into the eyes of a razorback hog. The Glenallen hog squealed and crashed through my passenger side window and scurried off into the night.
“Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo,” I muttered as I peeled out, racing for the relative safety of Hollywood.
To Be Continued in Part 3 (click here)