I took my order to go, lest I arrive on the scene after they clean up the body. How often do you get to see a guy who was just shot five times in the dick, after all?
I'm a man of many talents, but no man can drive a car and eat Chinese take out with those goddamn tiny plastic forks they give you. I arrived at the address, easy enough to spot by all the flashing blue lights and yellow police tape, with a shirt streaked with duck sauce and a crotch full of wonton soup. Had Wang put the lid on loose on purpose? I'd thought there was something suspicious in those slanty eyes, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt because I felt guilty about that time he got me drunk on some Chinaman liquor he keeps in the back of the shop and I confided in him that I frequently jerk off to the girl pictured on the front of the menu. He told me that was his nephew. How the fuck was I supposed to know? I mean really, if you think they all look the same as adults... Anyway, I've never fully trusted those people. Not after Pearl Harbor.
I parked my Chrysler Town and Country station wagon on the street behind a cop car and shoved the last half of my third egg roll in my mouth. Grabbing my flashlight in case things got hairy, I stepped out of the car and ducked under some police tape.
“You!” shouted a young voice as a flashlight shined in my face. “What are you doing here?” He sounded black, and I thought I might ask him the same question, considering the neighborhood we were in.
“Mff hmmff fmmf mmf!” was all I could say without spitting out my egg roll, and I certainly wasn't going to waste that explaining myself to some dumb rookie piece of shit.
“Stand down, Brody,” said an older voice, one I recognized at once. Sal Greenbaum. That old Jew and I went way back.
The light lowered from shining directly in my face, but stayed on my crotch. “I caught him sneaking in under the tape.”
“It's alright,” said Sal. “You done good, son.” His gaze fell to where the light was shining. “Jesus Christ, Philmore. Did you piss yourself?”
I swallowed my egg roll. “That's soup, you fucking racist.”
“What the hell are you doing here? This isn't some John shacking up with a tranny in a dingy motel room. This is an actual crime scene, Philmore. You're out of your jurisdiction.”
“Would you like to see my badge?” I opened my jacket slowly, so the jive-talking rookie with the flashlight wouldn't have the excuse he was looking for to pump me full of lead, then reached for my laminated Private Investigator's badge.
“Save it, Philmore,” said Sal. “You've shown me that Cracker Jack prize of a badge more times than I can count.
“Are you suggesting my credentials aren't valid?” I lowered my badge to my crotch, where the light was still shining. “Read it and weep, Sal. I'm fucking registered.”
“Yeah, in South Dakota, where they don't require a license. At any rate, you need more than bullshit credentials to be allowed access to an active crime scene. You'd need –”
“To be hired by someone related to the victim?”
“No. That absolutely wouldn't –” He looked at me with narrowed eyes. “Hang on a tick. Who would hire you to investigate a murder?”
“Claire Belmont,” I said, trying to read the reaction on his face. I had to admit, it was difficult. Sal had been at this game a long time, and he knew how to keep his cards close to the chest.
“Who the fuck is Claire?”
Of course, there was also the possibility that he genuinely had no idea who I was talking about.
“The deceased's widow?”
“You mean Clara?” Sal shook his head. “Jesus Christ, Philmore. You don't even know your own client's name?” His eyes glazed over in thought as he lit up a cigarette. “Now why would Clara Belmont hire a bargain basement two-bit phony dick like you to investigate her husband's murder?”
“She thinks you like her for the shooter. Also, some of what you just said was hurtful.”
“We do like her for the shooter. It's a pretty cut-and-dry case.”
“Clearly she doesn't think so,” I said. “If she's the shooter, what kind of evidence could she possibly hope for me to dig up?”
Sal blew smoke in my face and laughed. “You just cracked the case, Philmore. She's obviously hoping that there's someone on the jury as dumb as you who she can sell that story to.”
“Again, that was hurtful. But I'm willing to be the bigger man and let it slide as a professional courtesy.”
“There's nothing professional about you, Philmore. You're a washed up never-has-been. Now get the hell out of my crime scene before I have Brody here slap a pair of cuffs on you.”
I glared at the young black cop. “I bet you'd like that, wouldn't you?”
He shrugged. “Now that you mention it, I think I would.”
“Figures.” I shook my head. “A fella can't even walk down the street nowadays without fear of being harassed by queers and nig–” Realizing I was speaking out loud, I stopped myself just in time. But Sal and Brody were looking at me expectantly to finish my sentence. “–caraguans.”
Brody shined the light back up in my face. “I'm neither a homosexual nor a Nicaraguan.”
“My mistake,” I said. “I must have misplaced your accent. Where are you from?”
“Ah.” I nodded. “That explains it.”
I left the scene no closer to cracking the case than when I'd arrived. But I had renewed determination. Sal would rue the day he called me a two-bit phony dick. I'd show him. I'd show them all. I was going to get to the bottom of this case and clear Mrs. Belmont's good name. But I needed to get a look inside that house before the trail got colder than a dead tranny's cock in a morgue. Ignoring my sudden erection, I looked for another way in.