Dick Casey is hired by a woman claiming to be from the future, to find a thief.
|She walked into my office like she owned the joint. Unlike the usual simpering, sighing broads, this kitten knew what she was after. I tipped my fedora back and ranked the dish up and down. From the way she was dressed I figured the dame was a chippy, crushed out from the head doctors.
"Should I grab air?" I asked, piping she was heeled with a fancy Roscoe. I pulled out a gasper and lit it. "Or are you here to do some spitting?"
The woman's nose wrinkled as she cocked her head. She frowned and tapped at a device strapped to her left, gloved arm.
"Ah, here we go," she mumbled. Her mouth moved as she silently read. I tried to get a slant at what she was reading but ended up shaking my head in frustration. It didn't take no peeper to crab that the tomato was a few cards short of a deck. She suddenly flashed a grin and nodded.
"The translator has been activated. I'll be able to understand you now."
"You gonna use that bean shooter?" I gestured to the weapon strapped to her hip and blew a stream of smoke to the ceiling. "'Cause I ain't ready to be dumped in a wooden kimono just yet." I pushed back my flogger so she could take a gander at my own gat. I wouldn't hesitate to squirt metal if the situation got hinky. And with a twist like the one standing in front of me, I expected things could get goofy pretty fast.
"This is so neat!" the woman squealed. My eyebrows rose as I crushed the butts out. "The way you talk is so cute!"
"You're not from around these parts, are ya, toots?"
She waved away the question with a hand and giggled. "Nope. And you can, uh, cheese it, with the gun, Casey. I'm not here to pop you. I came for help."
"You look like a hard Jane. Whadd'ya need my help for?"
The woman bit her bottom lip, hesitating. "Well, believe it or not, I'm...from the future."
I snorted. "I ain't no boob, dollface. Whatever your grift is, I ain't bitin'."
"I'm not trying to flimflam you, Casey. In fact, I've been authorized to pay you quite an, um, chunk of...how do you say it? Oh, yeah, cabbage, if you agree to help me out."
I drummed a beat against my desk with my fingers as I thought. "Barber," I grunted. She glanced at her arm and frowned.
"Barber?" She stared at me like a dumb bunny until I sighed and shrugged.
"Talk, toots. Talk."
"Oh," she blushed and pointed at the only extra chair in my office. "Can I sit?"
"Sure, get off those dogs," I pushed the seat over with one foot before hopping up to perch on the edge of my desk. She rested her elbows on her black-clad knees and leaned forward.
"This will sound, uh, goofy but I swear I'm being square with you. You see, a spy from the future, um, glaumed something important and fled to this place in time. I need to get it back ASAP."
"What's this hot dingus?" I asked, playing along. As long as the skirt had the dough to pay for my time, I was willing to let her string me along. She grimaced at her black boots, avoiding my gaze.
I pressed a hand to my Roscoe. "You really are jingle-brained, aren't ya, dollface? I think it's time for you to breeze off."
The woman jumped to her feet and held out her hands as if to show she meant no harm.
"Please, Casey, hear me out! I swear I'm not nuts!"
The silence stretched on for an eternity before I slapped my hand once again to my desk.
"Sing, then. Before I run out of patience."
"In the future we communicate using pictures. Like the hieroglyphics the Ancient Egyptians used."
I crossed my arms over my chest and nodded. I'd been to the Saqqara Pyramids, outside of Cairo, and read the mdju netjer or "words of the gods" myself. I chuckled as I remembered how the case that had sent me to Egypt was solved with the help of a monkey.
"Well, this spy has taken the codes that create our word for 'poop'," she frowned. "We're also missing our emoji for 'mermaid', 'applause', and —"
"Ee-moe-gee?" I rubbed my chin, feeling the rough stubble that had grown during the day, and felt a weariness pulling me down. This bim was chinning a language I couldn't begin to fathom. I wondered what loony bin she'd escaped from and how I'd get her back without her putting me down for a long dirt nap.
"They're what we call hieroglyphics, in the future," her matter-of-fact tone almost had me believing her yarn. "Without them, my people will struggle to converse. The world will fall into chaos! I mean, if our president doesn't have the emoji for 'launch the nuclear warhead', mankind could, potentially, be wiped out by our enemies!"
"All because of poop," I scoffed.
"Look, I've done my research, Casey. You're the guy to go to, in this time. You've got connections. I could try to find the spy on my own but I only have twenty-four hours before I'm zapped back to the future. I need to catch this spy and catch him fast!"
I was about to tell the kitten to dangle when she flashed a bundle of scratch.
"It's all yours if you help me catch this creep, savvy?"
I licked my lips, hoping I wouldn't regret my decision. "Savvy. Grab your flogger, toots. We're off to the big house."
"Prison? Why —"
Her boots tapped a beat as she chased after me. I flung open the front door, lifting my hand for a hack. The skirt plopped down next to me as I tossed the driver a sawbuck.
"If we're lookin' for a spy, then we'll want to talk to Little Joe."
"Is he a cop?"
I sniggered. "Little Joe? A flattie? No, he's under glass, toots."
"The name's LJ hiding under the bed, not toots," she scowled, crossing her arms over her revealing, leather shirt. I averted my eyes to take in the view of the city. Rain had started pouring, causing the buildings that whizzed by to look withered and gloomy.
"Anything you say, dollface," I muttered. We came to a stop in front of the con college. LJ grabbed the door handle but paused when I cleared my throat.
"There are some hard men in this joint, dollface, and Little Joe is, well —"
"A wrong gee?" LJ winked. "Don't worry, Casey. I'm not a weak sister." She shrugged off my mitt, flung open the door, and bounced out of the heap.
With a wave at security, I led LJ to the clink. Catcalls echoed down the corridor until we stopped in front Little Joe's cell.
"What the...?" LJ's mouth fell open in astonishment. I chuckled at her expression.
"Little Joe has special...benefits here," I shared.
"And he seems to have an affinity for the color pink!" LJ giggled. The cement walls had been slathered in pink paint, the floor was cushioned with rose colored rugs, and the rumpled blankets gracing the metal bed were a deep coral.
"Who says a cat can't like pink?" Little Joe snarled from the corner of his room. He sauntered over and leaned against the bar cells. "The dames love pink. Makes'em think a jobbie's a touch soft and approachable-like." His steely eyes flickered from LJ to Casey, looking anything but soft.
"I ain't here to bump gums about our favorite colors like girlies, Little Joe," I snapped.
"We're trying to track down a spy," LJ cut in.
Who's the looker?" Little Joe leered. LJ's hand darted between the prison bars. She grabbed a fistful of Little Joe's fuchsia shirt. Little Joe grunted as LJ pulled him forward, smashing his face against the bars.
"Listen up, little man," LJ snarled through clenched teeth. "I have less than a day to find a spy and I'm not up for your games. Tell me what you know before I punch you in the kisser!"
I carefully reached out and tugged at LJ's arm. "As much as I'd like to see you give the goon a goog, this ain't the way to handle the situation."
LJ's eyes seemed to shoot daggers as she let go of Little Joe with a shove. He immediately pressed a hand to his shirt to flatten out the wrinkles before turning a red face my direction.
"Our regular arrangement, Casey, or I ain't singin'."
I nodded. "I'll have the flatties deliver a case of eel juice and a box of jujus this evening."
Without looking at LJ, Little Joe adjusted the hem of his shirt and sniffed. "Yer jasper has been hangin' round the docks. Word is, he's waitin' for a shipment to come in."
"What kind of shipment?" LJ asked. Little Joe clammed up and stepped away from the bars.
"C'mon, toots, let's go." I jerked my head toward the door.
"Hey, Casey!" Little Joe called. I paused and turned to find a snarl on his ugly mug. "Next time ya come, lose the skirt!" I gave a curt nod and drifted, LJ close at my heels.
Outside, I breathed in a lungful of smoggy air. The rain had stopped its deluge and the sun was jabbing beams of light through the clouds. "I assume you know what this egg looks like?"
LJ pressed her lips together into one, hard line. "Yes, I know exactly what he looks like. Red hair and beard, glasses, a tattoo of a piece of cherry pie on his right forearm—"
"A tattoo of...pie?"
LJ shrugged. "He's really into sweets."
"Then this should be duck soup, dollface. Let's go catch your gink." I was eager to be done with this case and pocket the berries LJ had hidden on her person.
As we neared the docks, LJ seemed to grow nervous. "He'll recognize me right away, Casey. I was thinking maybe you could—"
"Go ahead? Sure, toots."
The smell of fish hung heavy in the air as I walked down a wooden gangplank, past a string of large boats. A head of red hair sparkling under the sun caught my attention. I pursed my lips, whistling as I moved closer. The man glanced at me and then lifted his chin to gaze at the blue sky.
"You've been made, baby," I smirked, pulling out my Roscoe and aiming it at his belly. "Your moll is ready to take you and your stolen goods back to the future."
The man chuckled and pointed above his head. "Oh, really?"
A spaceship was hovering over the water. I felt my jaw go slack and the gun in my hand drooped. LJ's feet, pounding on the wooden planks, seemed a distant echo behind me as I watched a beam of light shoot out from the ship and hit the redheaded man.
"No!" LJ screamed as the Johnson Brother disappeared. She stomped her foot, grabbed her gat, and shot at the ship. I flinched as I realized she wasn't pumping metal, but a red laser. The UFO shot into the sky, untouched by the weapon, and vanished.
LJ tucked the rod back into its holster. "I should've known!" she grumbled. "The Venzeergs have been trying to steal our emojis for decades! Looks like it's time," the smile on her face was ice cold as she tossed me a stack of yards.
"Time for what?" I asked, licking my index finger and shuffling through the wad of sugar. "Your goon has flown the coop."
"It's time to hunt some space monsters." Pressing a finger to the device on her arm, she made a clean sneak.
Stuffing the cabbage into my pocket, I turned and headed for the nearest gin mill for a jorum of skee to drown out the memory of the day.