Monday, June 27, 2011


By Steven Novak

The Chief is covered in sweat. His shirt is wrinkled, and the awful yellow stain of his pit juice is peeking out from underneath the crooks of his arms. He looks tired. He looks tired and beaten, and his face is more worn than the notoriously overcooked steaks at Rocco’s on the corner of 5th and Vine. He rubs his eyes, groans and sighs deep. When you offer him a cigarette, he waves it off. When you offer him a handkerchief to clean the rivers of perspiration running through the wrinkles on his forehead, he instead uses it blow his nose — then has the moxie to hand it back.

Lousy good for nothin’.

For a moment you consider reaching across the desk and bopping him square in the beezer. That would be stupid though — wouldn’t accomplish anything. Instead you opt to zip your gums and uncoil your meathooks. While it would be fun to put the old goat in his place, it isn’t worth your job and it sure as hell isn’t worth an unceremonious return to one of the flophouses downtown.

The Chief leans as far over your desk as he can before his belly impedes his progress. “We found two more this morning…both of them high priced girlies with gams for ages. He plugged ‘em both in the forehead, opened their chests like cans of sardines, pulled out their insides and tossed what was left in the dumpsters behind Rocco’s.”

Rocco’s? Yet another reason to stop waddling into Rocco’s at three in the morning, hopped up on goofballs and hungry for a tall stack of wheats. 

The Chief makes a fist and wallops your desk so hard you’d think it was his wife. “Find this son of a bitch! Do you hear me? When you find him, don’t you dare bring him in! The press is so far up my keyster on this one, I’m smearing them on my finger when I pick my nose!”

His eyes wide, his teeth clenchedb and his chest heaving like a doll on her back getting it all sorts of good, the old bull waits for a reaction after putting the period on his sentence.

You don’t give him one.

A second later the big lug is on his feet and heading for the door. Halfway there, he stops and turns again in your direction. “I want this egg boiled, peeled, and dropped in a Chicago overcoat by the end of the week. Got it?” 

After another puff of your cigarette, you nod. The Chief shakes his head and turns with a grunt. The fact that the seat of his britches is as soaked at the pits of his arms isn’t lost on you. 

You’ll need to burn the chair he was sitting on.

“There is one thing, Chief.”

The hotheaded old goon stops in the doorway. His back pops audibly when he turns toward you once more.

“Can’t do this one on my own. This jobbie’s playing with a full deck and I’ve got a hunch there’s a field full of dirty lettuce backing his operation. I’ll need some help.”

The Chief immediately knows exactly what “help” you’re talking aboutb and he’s immediately against the idea. “Oh no. No. No. No. You do this on your own. I don’t want those numbskulls anywhere near this case.”

You take another drag of your cigarette, lift your head and blow the smoke into the air. “You want this trouble-boy pinched? This is how he gets pinched. We need to take the direct route, Chief. No more fiddle-faddlin’ around the edge like a couple of crumb-bums betting on the bangtails.”

The Chief lowers his head and stares at his shoes over the mound of his gut. He knows you’re right. He knows you’re right and understands all too well it’s the only way. The aftermath of burger he swallowed down for lunch lurches up his windpipe and pops from his yap. You can smell half-digested onions from across the room.

“Fine. Do whatever you have to do. You bring those boys in and it’s on you. Got it? I’ve got nothing to do with this. If they drop the ball you’ll be dealing with the high-pillows, not me.”

When he leaves the room, he slams the door. 

Lousy good for nothin’.

Two minutes after that you’re on the horn with the only cats in town capable of finding the button man who’s been offing professional dames for the past month.

They offer to meet you at Rocco’s. You suggest Gino’s.

Thirty minutes later you stroll into Gino’s and spot your boys at the opposite end of the room. They’re in full gear — dressed to the nines in pinstripes and stars — afros reaching for the clouds.

They’re the best damn gumshoes the city has ever seen: Fred “Curly” Neal, Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, George “Meadowlark” Lemon, “Sweet Lou” Dunbar and James “Twiggy” Sanders. They’re the Harlem Globetrotters, and there ain’t a jingle-brained jasper been born that can put one over on them.

While Meadowlark meets you with a smile and shakes your hand, Twiggy sneaks up behind you and pulls your trousers down. The regulars at Gino’s erupt into laughter.

Despite the Chief’s reservations, you know you’ve made the right choice.

You fill the boys in on the situation over a family style plate of Gino’s three-meat lasagna. Sweet Lou dives in for seconds before everyone has finished their firsts. You let it pass — only because it’s Sweet Lou.

When dinner’s done and Curly has licked his plate clean, you loosen your belt, let your lasagna-laden belly flop free, and ask the boys if they’re willing to help.

Sweetwater retrieves a basketball from under the table, spins it on his finger and transfers it to the tip of your fedora. As expected, the trick elicits a round of cheers from Gino and his loyal patrons.

With a smile and a wink, Sweetwater adds, “Does that answer your question?”

Honestly, you’re not exactly sure.

Before you can respond, the sound of some chickie screaming just outside the front door fills the air. Sweetwater’s ball still spinning on your noggin, you and the ‘Trotters are on your feet quicker than a con in a creep joint. By the time you make it to the street, the leggy broad with the impressive screambox is already dead. Her chest’s ripped open and her intestines have been pulled halfway down the block.

A crowd of onlookers is already beginning to swell. The dames are in tears and a few of the Brunos don’t look much better. The damn newsie-leeches are already on the scene, forcing their way into the swelling crowd and starting a ruckus.

Out of the corner of your eye you spot a tall drink of water in a dark trench darting into an alleyway on the opposite end of the street. You retrieve the heater from the holster on your hip.


  1. I still say some sort of non-Kosher substance was involved in the writing.

  2. someone's been watching too much old Scooby-Doo!

  3. I was thinking the same thing myself, Scott :-)

  4. well - I need to take a shower after reading this..ewwwww

  5. Well, once again I'm late to the party. Always way late.

    Great writing, Steven! I could hear the voiceover reading in the back of my head. Loved it. =D