Case of the Bare Bear
Spizano Amadorous Hummer was his name. In grade school the kids took the first two letters of his first and middle name and nicknamed him Spam. It stuck. That’s why folks called him Spam for short. He was proud of his Italian heritage, but he didn’t mind the nickname. It was better than Spizano. No one, even vehicle registration knew his real name. He was going to keep it that way, at least if he had anything to say about it.
He was a gumshoe, a P.I, a private eye. Some folks didn't think that was much of a job. Slinking around spying on cheating husbands, finding lost kids, digging up dirt—all jobs had unpopular aspects. But, Spam was good at what he did. He didn’t cheat, take cheesy photographs, or doctor the facts--that is unless it was absolutely necessary. He was the genuine article--a good P.I. However, regardless of how good he was at his job, it was tough being an unemployed private-eye. And, right now, he needed somebody to walk through his door and give him some work. Otherwise, he’d be saying goodbye to the luxury of his one room, one desk and a chair suite.
Maybe the weather had something to do with the lack of client activity; it had been a real stinker, recently. When the rain wasn't falling in torrents, the clouds simply hung overhead oppressively. During the past dreary week, he developed a hundred tips for spending time on a rainy day; but, not one would make him any money. And, that’s what he needed most—money.
In the midst of the gloomy room, he heard a single knock on his door—just one solitary knock, as if someone was reluctant to enter. At first, Spam was not certain he heard the knock. However, the silhouette in the smoked glass revealed someone standing outside the door.
“It’s open. Come on in!” he called.
After a lengthy pause, the door slowly opened, casting a slim ray of hope that it may be a client and tomorrow he might be paying the rent. Spam focused on the opened doorway. His visitor paused in the darkened hallway, as if they were reluctant to enter. Eventually, the reluctant stranger stepped through the doorway, presenting Spam with a pleasant sight. Her luxurious auburn hair cascaded down around her face, caressing her shoulders, or at least it would have if the fur coat around her neckline would have allowed it. Veronica Lake would have been impressed. Spam recognized straightway this dame had class. She also had the shape of a starlet, and was dressed out nicely—perhaps too classy for his office.
“Are you the only one here?” she asked, glancing around the one-room office.
“I’m all there is, Doll. You’re looking at the top banana. What can I do for you?”
“Are you sure there's no one else here?” She persisted with unconcealed disappointment, which did little for his self confidence.
“Doll, what you see is what you get, and it doesn't get any better than this. If you gotta’ problem and need a good P.I, you've come to the right place. Now, why don’t you meet me halfway and tell me your name? We’ll work on your problem after that.”
The goddess took a few steps into the room, as if she finally committed to the task at hand. Her demeanor softened somewhat and she spoke softly but clearly.
“In real life I can’t afford to trust anyone. You see, I have to be very careful. Therefore, It’s hard for me to talk to strangers, especially someone like you.”
That stung--he refrained from asking, “What'dya mean someone like me?” Instead, he asked, “Tell me about real life then. What brings you to my office?”
Spam motioned to the single hard-backed wooden chair positioned in front of his desk. She considered his invitation, smiled, and took a seat, skillfully sitting and crossing her shapely legs in what seemed like single motion. Her legs did not escape Spam’s notice. And his notice of them did not escape her. Her legs were long and well shaped, framed by the expensive nylons that provided the final touch and accented their perfection. Her dress, which revealed the proper amount of cleavage, parted at her knee and also exposed a respectable amount of thigh.
"Dames like this look gorgeous anytime--even in a hard-backed wooden chair in a dank office.", Spam affirmed to himself, trying unsuccessfully to not stare at the sensual creature sitting across from him.
“I’m an heiress, Mr. Hummer” she began, immediately capturing his attention. The one thing which could trump his sensual interest in the doll was money. “My name is Katie and I’m here to talk about Kristi, actually, Kristi’s Teddy Bear.”
She reached into the pocket of her fur coat, pulled out a photograph, dropped it on his desk. Spam picked up the photo and studied it. He saw the same auburn hair, same green eyes, same shapely legs, and same shoulders hidden in the wrap of the fur coat.
“Is this you?” he asked.
“No, that’s my sister, Kristi.”
He looked closer. The image was a carbon copy of the woman sitting before him, however, in the photo she was holding an overstuffed teddy bear. He glanced back and forth from the photo to the woman. Spam concluded that the two were obviously twins. However, he just had to ask.
“Brilliant,” the auburn-haired beauty in the fur wrapper remarked. She shrugged and looked to the door as if she was considering leaving.
“Lose the sarcasm, Doll.” Spam chided. “Neither of us have time to play games. Either tell me what you want or hit the road."
She considered his terse words, hesitated, and then began, “It’s that bear. You have got to get it for me. You see, I have 850 million dollars riding on that bear.”
The mention of such a large sum of money achieved her desired effect. She had Spam’s total attention, and right then that bear was the most important thing in the world.
“You’ve come to the right place, Doll. I specialize in lost-and-found cases.”
“Actually,” she interrupted, “it’s more of a found-and-lost case. You see, I know where it is. What I want is for it to be lost.
“Well, that's a new wrinkle," he thought to himself. Then he continued, “I’ve found lots of things, Doll. But, I’ve never been asked to lose any of them. You sure you’ve come to the right place?”
“I have fifty-thousand dollars in cash for you when that bear is lost.”
“You’ve come to the right place, Doll. Losin’ bears is my specialty.”
She smiled, “I kind of thought so.”
“I need ten-thousand up-front—right now.” Spam figured that he'd find out just how serious the dame was about this proposition.
“Here’s twenty-five,” she responded with a slight smile hinting at the corners of her perfectly shaped mouth. She set her purse on his desk. “You can keep the purse. I’ve got others.”
He stared at the purse, wanting to open it and count the money. You dare to dream of this kind of thing. In fact it was something that only happened in dreams.
He thought, “Goodbye, Brighton’s Bar and Grill—Hello, Ritz Carlton, I’ll be eating fine cuisine tonight.”
“Is that enough?” she said, smiling, knowing full well that she had captured his undivided attention.
“Sure, Doll, it’s enough." Spam stammered, failing miserably to act as if the twenty-five grand sitting in front of him was inconsequential. Then he continued, "Tell me about that bear. Why’s it so important?”
“Actually it’s not. Rather, it’s what’s on the bear that's important. You see, there’s a spot of blood on the bear—my blood. That bear was found at a murder scene. Sterling Clayton was my sister’s husband. I’m sure you’ve read about it in the papers; it's all in the papers. He was found murdered at the Starlite Motel. What nobody knows is that that bear was found in the room with him.” Then she slowly added, "Mr. Hummer, don't ask me how, but the blood on that bear can be tied directly to me. That's why you have got to get that bear."
The mention of the word 'murder' had a way of casting a different light on the situation. That one little word changed things from finding lost articles to playing deadlier games. At this level the twenty-five grand tended to diminish somewhat in value. However, it was all a matter of perspective—how you looked at it. This was the big leagues and murder has a way of ordering your priorities. The twenty-five grand laying on his desk was a great equalizer, and Spam wasn’t going to just say no to the possibility of fifty grand.
“Where’s this bear?” he asked, resigning himself to the fact that this may get a little messy.
“Ask the police; I’m not sure. But, I know that bear was in that room—I know.”
Katie spoke the last “I know” slowly and deliberately. It was clear to Spam that the only way Katie could know for sure was if she were in that room also. Clayton must have slapped her around, somehow getting blood on the bear. It didn’t really matter to Spam why Katie was in a motel room with her sister's husband. She could have lured him there. He could have lured her there. Hell, they could have gone there together. It really didn't matter; that wasn’t part of the job. All he was being asked to do was to get that bear.
Spam paused for a moment before he continued. Katie patiently waited. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and then spoke.
“You know, Katie, there are some of my friends in the police department who would say what you are asking me to do is against the law. It's tampering with evidence. That's not a wise thing to do, and besides, it's just not right. You know you are asking me to break the law?"
Katie's green eyes softened as she looked directly into Spam's. She spoke with conviction and sincerity as she responded to Spam's question. "Mr. Hummer, let me assure you justice will not be served if they tie me to that bear and send me to jail. There are times when you have to break the law to do the right thing. I'm asking you to believe me when I tell you this is one of those tmes."
The crazy thing was, he believed her. It wasn't because she was knock-out gorgeous, either. There was something about her that caused him to believer her.
"Well, Katie, darlin’, I guess I’ll just have to get that bear then. It shouldn’t be difficult. I have friends in the police department evidence room.” Spam lied.
That wasn’t quite true. First of all, it wouldn’t be easy. Secondly, the cops really weren’t his friends. Dave Frisco was his only friend in the police department, and Dave didn’t work in the evidence room.
“When?” she asked. “When can you get it?”
“Meet me at Brighton’s Bar and Grill at eight tomorrow night. I’ll have the bear.”
She nodded, offered Spam a smile and tossed back her head, making the auburn waves dance. She then skillfully uncrossed her legs, as she rose, and walked out the door—not bothering to close it. Spam listened as her footsteps faded in the hall, imagining her walk. Spam had a very good imagination.
The following morning Spam spent some of the twenty-five grand. A stop in The Ben-Franklin, a visit to the hardware store, and a purchase at the uniform clothing store completed his early morning shopping. It was a short drive to the police station. He parked in the lot where the cops parked their personal cars. His Fairlane was not out-of-place. Wearing his newly purchased coveralls and carrying his new toolbox, Spam walked briskly across the parking lot. A reasonable facsimile of the panda bear lay tucked in the toolbox. He resembled any other maintenance man wearing coveralls with a City logo. When you appear to belong, no one questions your existence. He entered the employee entrance and wandered down the halls of the police station, noting the signs on the doors and walls. Eventually, he came upon what he was looking for--the ‘Evidence Room.’
Upon entering, he found himself standing in a small room resembling a doctor’s waiting room. A few chairs were placed around the wall and there was a glassed in reception room with a door next to the sliding glass. A female officer behind the glass looked at him and asked without smiling, “What do you need?”
“I need to check your plugs,” Spam informed. “The City’s been notified that we’ve gotta have the plugs inspected to comply with the new building code requirements. I’m spose’ to check the plugs in here.”
“Nobody told me that you’d be in here,” the uniformed clerk challenged. "You're not on my list."
“Well, nobody told me that you’d be here either,” he shot back. “But, I still gotta do it. We can fuss about it or you can let me do my job. What’dya want to do? Whatever it is, though, hurry it up. I’ve got a thousand of these plugs to check.”
She stared at him momentarily, reached for the telephone, and then paused, thinking about what she should do. Then she spoke, “Alright, come on back. But, leave the box in the outer area. Just take the tools you need. And, be quick about it. I don’t like you being in here.”
“Geez, you people are paranoid,” Spam said opening his tool box and removing a screwdriver. The panda lay securely under the top tray. He figured he’d first see if he could find the confiscated bear. He’d worry later about exchanging it with the look-alike bear in his toolbox. She buzzed the door open, and he walked into her inner-sanctum.
“I’ll have to check each wall plug. There are supposed to be some floor plates in here also. I ought to be out of your way in a flash.” Spam mumbled, not slowing down as he walked into the Evidence Room, passing the clerk.
She frowned and returned to her paper-work. Spam concentrated on the plugs located on the outside wall. There were a number of vertical shelves placed in rows perpendicular to the side walls, extending to the rear of the room. Tagged baskets of stuff were placed orderly on the shelves. Spam mused that it was like a library, but instead of books there were wire baskets setting on the open shelves. Instead of the Dewey Decimal System there were labels located on the shelves identifying the contents of the baskets.
Spam checked the first wall plug, noticing the officer watching him as he removed the plate. He tugged on some wires, replaced the wall plate and then moved to the next wall plug. Glancing at a row of adjacent shelves he read the sign identifying that row: ‘Casey–Darlington’
“That’s my row,” he thought.
Walking down the row while examining the names on the baskets, he found one that read, ‘Clayton, Sterling.’ he smiled noticing a floor plate beneath it on the floor. He bent and removed the floor plate and pulled the wires from the plate exposing them for examination. He then left them exposed, returning his attention to the ‘Clayton’ basket.
A manila envelope held Sterling Clayton’s personal effects. Shoes and clothing were enclosed in large, plastic zip-lock bags. Then he saw it. A panda bear in a zip-lock bag. If he’d had his tool box he could have easily switched the bears. But, he didn’t; so there was no need complaining to heaven. There would be a slight change in plans. Spam realized that he would have to leave the bear but remove the evidence.
Slipping on a pair of latex gloves that he’d purchased from the Ben-Franklin, he removed the bear from the zip-lock bag. An examination of the bear revealed a small dark discoloration the size of a dime—dried blood. If he couldn’t remove the bear, he’d have to remove the spot.
“Anybody got an Xacto knife?” he mused.
Looking around in the adjacent baskets, he saw stuff everywhere. Two baskets down he found what he needed. Secured in a zip-lock bag was a straight razor, the kind that barbers used. He didn’t want to even think about what crime it was connected with. Unzipping the bag, he retrieved the razor, noticing that it had residue of blood on the blade.
The sharp razor easily shaved the hair from the panda. He dumped the shaved residue in his shoe. As an afterthought, he wiped the blade on the shaved spot, noticing that a little of the residue from the blade was deposited on the shaved panda spot. “That should cause them to scratch their heads,” he chuckled.
The rest was easy. He retraced his steps, replaced all the tampered evidence, secured the floor plugs, said his goodbyes to the clerk, made his way to the parking lot, and ‘got outta’ Dodge!’ All he had left to do was to make his hot date with Katie.
She was waiting at dinner time in Brighton’s Bar and Grill. She tossed back her auburn hair as he sat down across from her.
“Have you got it?” She quizzed immediately.
“Nope!” he responded. He figured he’d tease her a little.
If looks could kill, he’d be a dead man. Katie’s green eyes flashed with instant anger. Her demeanor cooled perceptibly.
“What do you mean, ‘Nope?’”
“I mean I don’t have it. But, don’t worry they don’t have anything either. All they have is a clean bear. Or rather a bear with someone else’s blood on it. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about visiting ‘Old Sparky’ up at the big-house.”
“Of course I’m sure,” he replied. “That’s what I’m paid for.”
She relaxed visibly. Her features softened. Her green eyes sparkled and for the first time that evening she smiled. “I guess I owe you another purse.”
Spam nodded. The contents of that purse would come in handy. It would pay the rent and afford him to hire a girl Friday. He already had a girl picked out. It amazed Spam at how quickly fortunes changed in this business.
“I suppose so,” was all Spam said.
Katie took a sip of her wine and reached to the floor beside her. She placed a purse on the table. Spam’s eyes studied the purse.
“It’s all there,” she said, “twenty-five thousand dollars--not a bad day’s work. So, I guess our work is finished Mr. Hummer.”
She stood, leaving the purse on the table.
“Doll, before you go, I’ve gotta ask,” he spoke slowly and clearly. “Did you do it? Did you kill Clayton?”
She leaned over, put both hands on the table, drew her face close to his, smiled and said, “Yes.”
“Why?” he asked.
Tossing her auburn hair, she cooed, “Mr. Hummer, never ask a lady why. I have my reasons. That’s all you need to know”
Spam nodded his head affirmatively. He didn’t condone Clayton’s murder. But, he didn’t much think Katie was the cold blooded killer type. From what he knew about Clayton, the guy probably deserved what he got. If Katie didn’t do it, some bookie or jealous husband would have. Spam did what he had to do, he earned a good fee, he’d sleep well tonight. As far as he was concerned, justice had been served; one thing was for sure, in this case it was certainly blind.
Katie turned and walked out of his life, leaving only her memory, the two purses, and the fifty thousand dollars. Spam nodded, he could live with that.