|This month's episode: "Pulp Affliction"
"The Hurt of the Matter"
And now, from the drooled-upon casebooks of Philo Fuselot, "The Stooped Snoop who lives on a Sloop." Pfleflys Health Bars, is proud to present another spine-stiffening adventure; Remember, If you’ve got questionable health, the answer for you, is Pfleflys! Pfleflys Health Bars, under the counter, but worth it! And now, Pfleflys brings you Philo Fuselot, the rough, tough, (yet vaguely handsome), scion of one of the founding families of Spondyville, who has chosen to refuse his birth-right and instead earn an honest living as a lowly private detective, solving crimes and helping the ‘little guy’ to even the odds against the fat-cats and corporate 'hoi-polloi' who always try to rig the 'system'. The 'system' that we know as 'America.'
Philo, and his faithful amanuensis, Billy-Bam Buspien, and their extremely tight-sweatered receptionist, Miss Payninda Baxter, work out of a dingy and cluttered office on the third floor of the Kyphosis Arms, a dump of a boarding house on the corner of Inflammation Avenue and Lower Hurt St. in Downtown Spondyville.
The smell of coffee and cigarettes lingers in the air, as well as the fragrance of Payninda's favorite perfume, "Irish Sprig" (Potato Blossom #3.) Crumpled papers overflow the wastebasket like apples at harvest time. Philo's desk has disappeared under a tsunami of unpaid bills and empty liquor bottles. Philo's cleaning lady, Iphegenia Westbank, went on vacation 10 years ago, and hasn't been seen since.
After a long day's work, and a few beers with the guys at Paddy McFuddin's, Philo heads back to Pier 27 and the barnacle-infested, bilge-water-filled sailboat he calls, "Home" and crawls into the used hammock he bought at the Army Surplus store to get some shut-eye. That's right, our stooped snoop sleeps in a sling on a sloop. He also once left some boy scouts watching a Betty Boop cartoon while he went to the bathroom; Yup, he left the troop with Boop to go poop... but that’s neither here nor there, nor part of our story. So forget I mentioned it.
(Clears throat) Anyway, like I said, this month's episode is titled, "Pulp Affliction", or "The Hurt of the... blah, blah, blah, etc, etc.”
Music fades up. The narrator (Philo) speaks:
“The far off wail of a lonely saxophone echoed through the rain-spattered streets of the city. It was late. Too Late. In fact, it was mid-morning. The staccato rhythm of my heels as they clicked along the pavement, rat-a-tat-ed through my brain like the sweet thud of a ball peen hammer... repeated a thousand times. My head was throbbing like the neon signs reflected in the oily puddles which caressed the gutters of Gotham like a cheap ermine around a chorine's shoulders. My hand reached up to wipe away the blood and sweat which inter-mingled on my forehead, but I only got as high as my nose, because I have range of motion issues... but never mind that. Sure, I'd felt better... Plenty of times. But I couldn't recall feeling worse.
My mind kept telling me to lie down like a chump and sleep it off. But I knew if I did, I might never get back up... I had to make it back to the office. I had to clear my head and Payninda's name. She was a heckuva broad and one tough cookie, but this time, she had bitten off more than she could chew... and believe me, she can chew. (What could I say, the women was a first-class masticator.) But, in spite of all that, I know I couldn’t do this job without her. And even after the savage beating I’d just received from some hired thugs, I knew I had to see Payninda. She was wearing a sweater this morning that was so tight, you could see more than the sun rise, if you know what I mean. But I digress.
I did a slow pivot to scope out the neighborhood. I looked up... strike that. I looked down... strike that, I looked straight ahead, but with a decidedly downward tilt, and saw the familiar broken sidewalk outside the Kyphosis Arms and so, I wearily, (and, by the way, painfully), made my way up the three flights of stairs to my office. The door was a jar. How that was possible, I don't know. Maybe I was hallucinating. I drew my gat and cautiously opened the door. My eyes widened. I was having an iritis flareup, and it hurt like heck, but no big deal. And then, suddenly, there she was... Payninda Baxter. Five foot nine inches of solid woman. She had more curves than the roller coaster at Spondyberry Farm, and she made my stomach feel the same way. Her brunette hair massaged her shoulders like a good rub-down at the Westside "Y". When my head cleared from taking inventory, I looked her straight in her 38 and a half inch pulchritude. (Well, whaddya want, my neck is fused and I'm a little stooped, okay? It just so happens that my...) Payninda cleared her throat to interupt my thought and I leaned back a little so that our eyes met. "Hiya Doll, what are you doin’ here so early?" She responded with a sob of, "Oh Philo!"
What can I say? The dame threw her arms around me. Dames do that sometimes. "Easy kid, I'm hurtin' big-time." "Oh my gosh, Philo, what happened?!" "The usual. A few of the "boys" down on the docks, did a flamenco on my face with their Florsheims... either that or I forgot to take my anti-inflammatories again. I don’t remember. "The boys? You mean...?" "Yeah, I swear they must have been eight or nine years old at least... but big for their age." "Oh, Philo." Payninda shook her head in that disapproving way that I knew meant she disapproved of something I said. "What?" "Jeepers, stealing lines from old Woody Allen movies, have you no pride?" "Listen Doll, Pride is a luxury I can only afford to pay half-price for." That shut her up… for a about five seconds. "Well, Philo, I’m afraid we’re going need more than your usual bravado and snappy patter. That low-life camera-bug said he’s going to print those pictures he took of me last year at the Grand Canyon and sell them to the Police Gazette!" Dollface became to sob again, this time uncontrollably. "How did I know that campground shower had peepholes?" My mind wandered down the street, across the country, all the way to the Grand Canyon campground... But just as I began to imagine the size of those peepholes, BillyBam Buspien, my trusted amanuensis, burst into the room. "HEY! I’ve been lookin’ all over town for youse two!"
Billybam was not known for his mental acuity. To say that he wasn’t the sharpest cheddar in the grater, would, unfortunately, elevate him to the intelligence of cheese.
Somehow, Billybam managed to NOT look for us in the one most obvious place, our office... but never mind that. "What’s happened, Billybam?" "That photog that snapped the pics of Miss Baxter, has been found... moidered, down by the docks. The police have put out an APB for you, Philo!"
"ME??!" "Yeah, Inspector Bekterev said YOU’RE the prime suspect! It’ll be in all the papers tomorrow morning." I tried to remain calm, so as not to panic Billybam and Payninda, "Eh, don’t worry, that guy’s been wrong more times than the cast of 'What’s my Line.'
Suddenly, a voice came from the shadows: "Hey, Bennett Cerf and Dorothy Killgallen had a very high rate of conviction... err, I mean, guessing correctly." A man with a gun stepped into the room. It was Inspector Bekterev!! He must have snuck in through the back door! (I’ve been meaning to fix that lock!) I had a thought about making a move and diving behind the sofa, but I quickly remembered that Spondy detectives just can't do that sort of thing with alacrity, or, in fact, at all. Instead, I did what Spondys do best: I froze... and then, slowly pivoted. "Well, hello Inspector. How's every little thing?"
Inspector Bekterev keep his gun trained on the three of us, as he surveyed the room. He turned his attention back to me, and said, "Well, if it isn't the stoop... stoop... stoop..." (Bekterev always stuttered when he got angry or excited.) I tried to help him out: "The stooped snoop... Yeah, that's what they call me..." I laughed a bit to try to put him at ease, but he shook his head and continued to stutter. "Stoop, Stoop, Stoop..." "Yeah, yeah, we got that part" He smiled wanly and finally managed to spit out: "Stoop-id Shlub who sleeps in a tub." Payninda stifled a chuckle, but Billybam had the bad taste to actually laugh out loud. I was insulted that he thought my houseboat was a tub, but I overlooked that, and reprimanded Billybam. "Don't encourage him, Billybam. He's not as funny as you think he is." Bekterev took offense at that, as I knew he would. "Aren't I, Fuselot?" "Cut to the chase, Bekterev. Are you here to arrest me for murdering that photog?" Bekterev tried reverse psychology: "Why? Are you confessing?" I played dumb. "Nah, I didn't do nothing! You know me, I'm not a killer. I'm a lover." As I said that, I noticed that Payninda raised her eyebrows, as if that thought had never occurred to her. I found that more than a little depressing. But then, Bekterev lowered his gun. "Yeah, I know that. Besides this shutterbug was strangled to death, and let's face it, you don't have the strength or range of motion in your arms to do that anymore." I didn't know whether to thank him or kick him in the shins for that remark, but just as I was making up my mind, he continued. "The truth is, I think there's someone else that was interested in this photog's demise. Ever hear of the “Ma” Toid crime family? Sure I had. Rue “Ma” Toid and her gang had been shaking down the good citizens of Spondyville for decades. I confided to Bekterev, "Sure, I got the goods on a couple of “Ma” Toid’s sons a few years ago as part of a divorce/murder case. The were smuggling Enbrel out of Vancouver. Billybam interrupted me with his usual thoughtful interjection: “Rue 'Ma' Toid? I loved her on The Golden Girls.” Bekterev shot BillyBam a look which would have killed a sentient being. I cleared my throat and whispered, “That was Rue McClanahan.” But Billybam was already distracted, looking out the window watching the air move. I looked at Bekterev. “So what’s 'Ma' Toid got to do with this photog?” Bekterev frowned, “We’re not sure. But we know that he was hired to take some photos for a former Miss Ecuador, Plantaar Fasci, who was once married to 'Ma' Toid’s brother, Mas. “I don’t know, Bekterev, that connection’s a bit tenuous, don’t you think?” I liked using big words like ‘tenuous’ in front of Bekterev. It made his eyes squint. “Yeah, I know, but it’s all we got, so far. That and an anonymous tip about a guy named Hy Lee Erratic. Ever hear of him?" I laughed. “Sure, I’ve heard of him. He’s one of the most unreliable people to ever run for the Spondyville town council. I ran a background check on him. He’s a bit of a flake. He didn't even show up for his own swearing-in ceremony. " Bekterev frowned even more, if that was possible. “Well, did you know his brother, H. “Mo” Erratic runs the largest health insurance company in the tri-state area?” “Sure, their motto is 'When it comes to your health, we’re Erratic.' But again, what’s the connection?” Just then, Payninda did us all a favor and took a deep breath. Then, she exhaled. “Jeez, you guys talk a lot. Can we at least sit down while you give the rest of the exposition?”
I was about to answer her when the Announcer cut me off ...
“Join us again next time, when Pfleflys Health Bars brings you another thrilling episode of ‘Philo Fuselot, the Stooped Snoop.’”
Jeez, I guess we went a little long… Well, at least we’re all sitting down now… Join us for the second installment of “Pulp Affliction” next month. Till then, fellow Spondys, keep reaching for the things you can reach, and remember, keep your head in your hat and your feet in your shoes. So long till next time.