It was getting late, and the Chicago rain was beating down on the windows of my office. I was getting ready to call it a night – drink some dinner and go home. But then the door opened, and in walked a dame.
Yeah. There’s aaalways a dame…
“Are you Max Facepunch, Private Eye?” she said.
“That’s right, dollface,” I said. “The guy who sent Gorfowsky to the chair — even though he preferred to stand. And who broke up that criminal ethnic minority syndicate.”
“Yeah, I heard that was a backgammon club for elderly Greek men.”
“Tomato, tomahto,” I said. “I charge twenty-five dollars a day plus expenses – you can PayPal me, but I prefer bank transfer. But first, how can I help you?”
“It’s my fiancée Lance Crappy, Mr Facepunch,” she said, choking up a little. “He… runs with scissors.”
I let out a low whistle. “I ought to have said thirty dollars a day,” I said. “Doesn’t he know how unsafe that is?”
“I know, I know,” she sniffed.
“Next thing he’ll be playing with matches.”
“Stop!” she gasped, tears pouring from her eyes. “I know it – but please don’t say it!”
“I’ll take the case,” I said. “But it won’t be easy, miss…”
“Dollface,” she said. “I thought you knew that.”
“Honestly, no. It was a lucky guess.”
“Full name: Broad Dollface,” she continued. “Or it was, until I was given special recognition by the King of England. Now I’m Dame Broad Dollface, DBE.”
As soon as she left, I unlocked my gun safe and took out my Police .38. Then I opened my other safe and took out some bullets, which I stored in a separate pocket to my revolver.
Safety first, safety last, safety always.
I found the future Mr Dollface downtown, in a sleezy scissor den. The bouncer was a big gorilla, who I knew from way back.
Non-literal gorilla. Just to be clear. He was a person, and quite large.
“That you, Max?” he said.
“That’s right, Butch,” I said. “Lemme in, I got an urge to run with scissors.”
“Yeah. I wanna run with scissors with my shoelaces untied, by the edge of the swimming pool, even though I only ate five minutes ago.”
“You ain’t foolin’ no-one, gumshoe,” he said. “Beat it! Amscray!”
He pulled a knife on me.
“Be careful!” I said. “You’ll have someone’s eye out with that!”
“Oh, sorry,” he said, and held it by the handle, point down.
I punched him. In the face. He went down like a sack of potatoes, and I entered the dive.
It was bad inside. Real bad. Around the outside of the huge space were men lying on bunks, nursing bruised knees, barked shins… all sorts of owies. Through the middle of the space, men and women ran shrieking. Some had umbrellas up inside, but most had scissors—and I don’t mean safety scissors. And they were running… running… Running on loose carpets, and leaf-litter and banana peals, with crayons and toy cars all over the floor. It made me so sick, I could hardly look.
A bored looking girl approached with a box of scissors.
“Left or right handed?” he asked.
“I’m looking for Lance Crappy,” I said.
“Over there,” the girl shrugged, pointing to a bunk. It was him alright. Dollface had shown me his picture. He was stretched out on his back, his eyes barely open. There was a Ninja Turtles bandaid on his knee. His head rested on a filthy pillow next to a juicebox, the straw of which had fallen from his lips.
“Get up,” I said, pushing him upright.
“Wha?” he wha-ed.
“Your fiancée sent me. I need to dry you out.”
Twenty minutes later, we were in a diner. He was shivering and squinting against the light, but I felt no pity. The waiteress plopped a cup of joe on the table, and he reached for it straight away. I rapped his knuckles with a ruler.
“After it cools.”
He looked away sulkily until the ham and eggs arrived.
“You need some solid food,” I said. “And I’m going to watch you cut up everything you eat and chew it thoroughly before swallowing, understand?”
He looked like he was going to argue. But he saw from my face that would get him nowhere, so he started eating.
“And be careful with that fork!”
“So Broad sent you?”
“Yeah. She must care about you.”
“Or her reputation.”
“Well, I don’t care about either,” I said. “What I saw tonight… I’ve earned my $25 dollars and the cost of this meal, but I need to shut that place down. Forever. For that I need to know: who was behind it?”
“You really wanna know?” he said. “It was…”
He never finished the sentence. He just keeled forward into his plate, a metal object in his back. The door slammed, and I heard a car outside, its tires squealing as it sped away. The waitress screamed. “Aren’t you gonna chase them?” she demanded. “They just killed this guy with a pair of scissors!”
“Look again,” I said. “It’s not scissors. I know who did it.”
She looked at the dead man. “Garden shears!” she said. “So that must mean…”
I nodded. “The Hortico Syndicate! I wondered when they were gonna show up again.”