Find out what really happened to Little Bo' Peep's sheep. Noir from a PI's note book.
| My motto is, 'I've been called allot a of things but the worst was being called late for dinner.' You have to have a bad, and I mean a really bad, morbid sense of humor in my business or you'll die young. My name is Jackson Carter, I'm a private investigator. I own and operate Beanstalk Investigations and have many clients. Sometimes a jilted lover wanting the goods for a divorce, a rich widower wanting a background check on the most recent lounge lizard but my mainstay is as a sub-contractor for Agricultural Commercial Mechanical Emporium, otherwise known as ACME. They make everything and insure everything.
As a matter of fact, they insure my computer.
I work in the urban tar pits of a caricature that passes itself off as a metropolitan mecca, otherwise known as the South Side of Pittsburgh. My office over looks a sloppy excuse of a detritus infested river the not so mighty Monongahela. On the other side of the mud flow I can see the gleaming towers of ACME with their flashing lime green, brilliant orange and neon pink billboard on the roof.
Not a pretty sight but every time I see it, I smell money.
It keeps me coming to work.
Well let me tell you about my last paycheck. Its one for my books. Not that anyone would ever read anything I wrote but I noted it anyhow. See, it was a dark and stormy night with hail the size of golf balls bouncing off my office windows with flashes of lightening and everything generally wrong with meteorology happening outside. Now before you think that's melodramatic, in Pittsburgh, that's almost every night in the summer. We don't even notice it here all that much.
"Hey Jack!" my secretary January Lane shouted as she stormed into the office. She then threw a wad of paperwork on my desk. "Got this in from ACME. Looks like you get to eat more perogies."
"You look this over?" I asked as I lit a cigarette.
"Yeah and you should too," she sharply replied. "Stop smoking or you'll get cancer..."
"What are you my mother?"
"No, I'm your half-sister. That's why you hired me," January replied tying a scarf over her retro bleach-blonde hair style. "Which by the way I'm grateful for...Now stop smoking before your lungs drop out. Stop drinking too."
"Well what's left?"
"Good point," she replied. "I'll work on it. Now I'm moving my car before it gets swallowed by a sinkhole and I'll see you tomorrow..."
I spent the rest of the night reading through ACME's dossier. Little Bo' Peep had filed three insurance claims in the past nine weeks. Her sheep kept coming up missing under mysterious circumstance. One from the back of the Little Old Lady's Shoe where she claimed to have been renting a room for a week as she had a septic tank repaired. Another from the parking lot of Eat'n Park in McKeesport, according to the police report it was a smash and grab. She left the critter unattended and returned ten minutes later to find the rear window to her AMC Gremlin busted and the sheep gone. That's a rookie mistake I wouldn't suspect of Bo' Peep, but anyone can have a bad day, right? Then the last, another disappeared while on a fishing trip to Kinzua Dam Reservoir...Everyone knows that's where the wolves' fish too. Only a complete novice shepherd from Ohio would do that.
Bo' Peep is from down the road in Tidioute...She grew up in wolf country.
The usual suspect emerged, the Big Bad Wolf and his crowd. At first, I figured I'd just run him down, follow him until he struck again after all he wasn't too hard to find. If anything, his gold-plated Duesenberg stood out. Problem was I drove a Chevy Impala, fast for sure, but his straight eight stick beat a V-6 any day of the week on a straight away. Then it struck me...
On two of those days Big Bad was in lock-up on morals charges, the last time, in Allegheny County Jail, a place I could see out my window across the big oil slick. Naturally, he was charged with cross-dressing but the initial investigator didn't note the circumstances.
This is where I come in. I do ACME's long game.
No problem I know where he drinks when he's in the big city landscape of Pittsburgh.
I paid him a visit the next night at Phyllis's a seedy dive off the five-hundred block of East Carson, with the front door facing Cabot Way, and the back letting out into a parking lot parallel to Bingham. To call Phyllis's a seedy dive does a disservice to the notion of a seedy dive.
Picture a seedy dive and multiply that out by five. You open the door and the first thing that hits you across the face like a two-by-four piece of blue spruce is the stench of greasy hot food mixed with flea dip. It sticks on your clothing like what it is, a bad smell, and it took my dry cleaners three attempts to get that vapor off my suit the last time I was there. The ventilation is almost non-existent and there's always this eye level cloud of tobacco and burnt catnip hanging around.
The place is so tough that the cockroaches carry knives. I walked in there running down a low-life once and watched Howard the Cockroach King waltz in and upon scaring Little Boy Blue, now there's a piece of work in himself, by throwing him through the back door, takes his barstool and drives a Ka-Bar into the bar. The barmaid, some dame, I didn't know serves him without saying a word.
Oh, in case you didn't know, a Ka-Bar is a military grade utility knife...I carry one too.
Thing is this place was packed. Horton the Elephant, the Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel and seven dwarfs, that crowd...They didn't even blink. According to legend he left smashed three hours later with Cinderella and Snow White hanging on him. I was glad I wasn't there to see that, the very thought of it churns my stomach. I mean who'd do that to a cockroach?
"So, what happened to Little Red?" I asked as I slithered into a barstool next to B.B. Wolf. I figured it might be a nice ice breaker. As for Big Bad, he just stopped drinking his ACME ginger ale and with the bottle still stuck in his snout, looked sideways at me with this blankness in his eyes.
He didn't look good at all.
"We split up," he replied carefully. "What's it to you?"
"Well I was curious to begin with. Secondly, I want to know what you know about Bo' Peep and her missing sheep," I asked.
At this point Jessica de Rabbit comes out of the kitchen and slaps a plate of steamed vegetables before him. I had to ask what that was for.
"The ginger ale is for an ulcer and the cottontail weed is because I got a cholesterol problem from eating too much mutton..." he barked. He then added, "Before you bring it up I got the mutton from the Little Old Lady who owns the Shoe retirement home. That's how I got busted the last few times...See my car was repossessed, reference Little Red Riding Hood and her divorce attorney..."
"I didn't know you two were married," I muttered as Jessica lobbed an ACME ginger ale my way.
"Only for a couple of months then she took me to the cleaners...That's why I was wearing little old lady clothing..."
"He's not a transvestite!" Jessica interjected as she washed glasses behind the bar.
"Yeah that big word," Big Bad went on. "See I would sneak into the Shoe on Friday night for the mutton they served...Beats waiting for left overs in the garbage out back. My divorce took my car, my job and my den...So again, before you ask I make my living running a hustle down at the Salvation Army mopping floors and running errands for Jack Be-Nimble's Candle Stick Company...Not much but enough. Then I got this ulcer going on and the mutton gave me a cholesterol problem..."
"Tough break," I sympathized.
"So, Jackson...Still single?" Jessica asked as I was getting up top leave.
"Yeah, ain't looking," I replied.
Jessica wasn't a bad girl, she was just drawn that way. It surprised me she was working here, the last I heard she was an exotic dancer at a gentlemen's club. Why they call it a gentlemen's club I don't know a gentleman never goes there. Anyway, that's where she landed after Rodger her first husband worked her over on the cutting room floor with his cousin Bugs. According to what I heard she was accused of colorful flirting with Babar and it got out of hand real fast. That's why she always wears her red hair down over the side of her face as it covers up a nasty scar. Now I personally wouldn't hold it against her but many people do. Her past that is. I don't give two nickels about the facial rearrangement with the way she slinks around the bar room floor, who's looking at her face? Besides, she's sweetie once you get to know her. Personality goes along way with me.
"What? A good-looking guy like you not on the make?" Jessica giggle like an over grown school-boy's fantasy.
"I'm avoiding what happened to him," I replied nodding toward Big Bad.
"See! Told you!" Big Bad chimed in. "Jackson always got a plan and focus...If I wasn't thinking outside the box Little Red would've never...Hey Jackson...I tell you I ran into that wench the other day? She's broke now! HA! I love karma!"
"So do I..." I answered.
"I wasn't talking about me," Jessica went on unperturbed. "I was thinking about the Little Mermaid..."
"She's half fish," I shrugged.
"Not anymore! She got surgery for that!" Big Bad howled. "She got legs! And generally everything else a woman would have in the right places almost...There was technical difficulty but hey Jackson! You should sniff around that sometime!"
"Another day," I grinned and left.
I went over to the Little Old Lady's Shoe atop of Monastery Hill. I knew something is amiss as I wheeled into the empty parking lot. I found a stack of papers tapped to the pad locked front door. The dilapidated four-story retro-sneaker had been boarded up for back taxes and a week later condemned. There were several utility shut-off notices to boot. At this point the Four Sisters of Fate threw me a bone as opposed to what they normally do which is flip me the bird. From around the side of the shoe came a boy yelling 'wolf'.
"What else would I be doing?" he snottily replied when I asked him what he thought he was undertaking. "I'm the little boy who cried wolf...Everybody needs a hobby. Who are you and why do you dress like Dick Tracey? Wolf!"
"What you don't like Dick Tracey?" I had to ask.
"Wolf! Not after what he did to my sister! Wolf!"
Ask a question, get an answer. From him I learned about the sheep fiasco. It seems Bo' Peep didn't have just one sheep, she had about a dozen. Interestingly, all disappeared the last night she was there, though she only reported one. I also learned he saw her heard them down to Miss Muffet's Tuffet Emporium. After further questioning I got a clearer picture of what happened to the sheep. It was just a theory but Bo' Peep wasn't looking good. She was starting to look worse than the Big Bad Wolf.
Oh, a side not, he cried 'wolf' thirty-three time during the conversation and claimed the mutton they served was in his words, 'Wolf! Really rancid...And the mint sauce made Penn DoT's asphalt a delicacy. Wolf!'
I called January as I formulated a plan. If I walked in there she'd know something was up, as men don't buy tuffets. Especially single men if you get my drift. I did think about claiming it was a birthday gift for my mother, an idea I slapped myself for having. My mother collects tuffets, I haven't seen the living room carpet in her house in decades. You know, she even has a tuffet imported from Ireland...It has a flip top on it, the hinge being artfully hid by a shamrock encrusted skirt, and holds four fifths of whiskey.
No wonder she's always happy.
An hour later January wearing a wire strolled into the Emporium. During the conversation I learned that Miss Muffet had her own line of virgin wool tuffets. Stated plainly she had a source for local wool and had a slew of skilled craftsmen, namely Tom, Dick and a chap named Harry handcrafting them from a rented warehouse on the North Shore. I was starting to get the picture.
Bo' Peep offed her sheep to the tuffet factory. Now why the insurance fraud? Have to ask Bo' Peep. None the less, I needed more than a tip from a smart aleck with a weird pastime, and an enterprising woman that maybe involved the criminal underworld of ovicide, sort of.
Ovicide is chemical the kills the eggs of pests. What kills me, pun intended is sheep are properly defined as Ovis and the killing of a cow is bovicide but ovicide has nothing to do with mutton. In my mind I can't parse which is the greater atrocity that sheep are beneath cows or even in this enlightened age there isn't a fancy word for sheep murder.
My sister says I think too much.
Well everyone needs a hobby.
So later that night I sneak over to Tom, Harry and Dick's and break the case. It seems these three boneheads had a breeding program in full swing to produce high-capacity sheep as it relates to wool. I found the sheep in pens wired up to sensors inserted everywhere being forced to watch You Tube. Notably Tom, Dick and Harry had Eiv's Brotin looped. Good music but I fail to understand how an unshod Faroese pop singer has an influence on wool. That's under further investigation.
As for Miss Tuffet and Bo' Peep here's the scoop. It seems at one time Bo' Peep modeled for Pipi Longstalking, it's how she got through Shepard School. At first, I thought so what, great legs and she did get an award for modeling socks in the July catalogue. Things is, Tuffet found out the big secret and engaged in blackmail. She got free wool and Bo' Peep needed to commit insurance fraud just to eat. Now here's the big secret, Bo' Peep's ankles were air brushed. She went along with it because she, Bo' Peep, has fat ankles and this causes her a personal embarrassment.
Naturally, Mickey Mouse was the photographer.
The sheep were placed in protective custody while Bo' Peep awaits trail. Miss Tuffet escaped to England where it's rumored she's shacked up with Mary Poppins-who's also wanted in connection for vandalism, somebody wrote 'supercalifragilisticexpialidiocious' across the face of Big Ben- but that's a job for Scotland Yard. As for Tom, Dick and Harry they were sent to jail for several parole violations and banned from West Virginia.
The sad thing is I once thought this line of work would lead somewhere.