This Bum For Hire (Will Shoot People For Sandwiches)

10 October 2008

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"The bird's behind me, isn't it? No? It's just a shadow? Well then where the hell is the bird? I'll be honest with you, I think the shadow freaks me out more than the actual bird."

I had only been on the case for 24 hours – ever since the dame in the red dress came into my office and ruined my lunch – not to mention my life.  I hadn’t seen her in years; she had been abiding by her promise to never speak to me again.  Unfortunately it was another promise she couldn’t keep, just like our wedding vows.  And, like a woman, she wasn’t stopping by just to say “hey.”  She wanted a favor, naturally, and me and my fist hoped that it was a punch to the kisser.  Instead, she reminded me that it was 2008, not 1943, and that domestic violence was against law.  Also, she was pretty sure smoking in my office was illegal, as well, and that a blogging chef probably didn’t need a .38 laid out on his desk.  I didn’t know what the broad was talking about, so I just nodded and played along – she was always nitpicking.  “Enough with the chit-chat,” I said.  “Lay it on me, babe, who done ya wrong and, more importantly, what do you want me to do about it?”  It turned out that she had been burned by some punk.  Burned bad.  He had broken her heart, and if that wasn’t enough, had also disappeared with her TV, laptop, DVD player, and dog; he even managed to seduce her younger, prettier sister.  She said she wanted justice, but I could see she had revenge on her mind – cold, unfeeling, anti-Semitic revenge.  And, after all, they say it’s a dish best served by a scorned woman with a huge rack.  This wasn’t a job for an out of control dame with great gams, though.  This situation needed the steely logic and quick-triggered determination of a man and his gun.  His huge, throbbing gun.

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Veronica Lake. I'd like to peek-a-boo HER bang.

“So whaddya want, doll-face?  You want me to track this bum down and beat some manners into him?  You want I should whack him a couple’a times over the head with my black-jack?  Would that make ya feel better?  ‘Cause I could do that, sweetheart, but not because of our past, and not because we’ll never have a future, but because it’s my job.  Because it’s what I do best – besides being trampled on by the fairer sex, that is.”  She said she just wanted her stuff back and for her sister not to get caught up with some bum like she had, with me.  The dame was getting aggitated and started yelling – how novel: an emotional woman.  Needless to say, I didn’t like it.  It felt like old times when I wanted to strangle her for recording over The Shield with reruns of The Hills.  And those were the good days.  “Listen, Hon, I’ll take your case and I’ll get your stuff back.  Maybe even little sis will listen to reason, when I track ’em down.  But if you don’t cool it, there’s going to be some other private dick knocking on my door in about a week, investigating the case of ‘annoying bitch goes missing, and she can’t even be found at the mall, spending her husband’s hard-earned dough on a billion pairs of shoes she don’t need,’ if you know what I mean.”

Unfortunately, the dame was just getting more and more emotional, and then, like a dame, she started crying.  I knew how she felt – I was out of bourbon.  Predictably, she said she’d call the cops to do the job, if I wasn’t going to help her out.  “They can’t get results, sugar.  They’re just going to give you the run-around, and maybe let you know in a week that they did all that they could, but that it wasn’t enough.  The police have to abide by the rules,” I reasoned with her, “but I only have to answer to my conscience, and luckily I had that removed a long time ago.  Same with my appendix, ’cause I kept throwing up, and they said that if they didn’t operate that I could die.”  She gave me a funny look and put the phone away.  Finally, I thought I was getting through to her – maybe for the first time in either of our lives.  I was wrong, of course.

LISTEN – JUST GIVE ME BACK MY SHIT, STOP CALLING CRAIG AND I IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, AND LEAVE MY SISTER ALONE, OR I REALLY WILL CALL THE COPS.  OH, AND YOU CAN KEEP THE FUCKING DOG !!!”

Dames.  Can’t live with ’em, can’t cheat on ’em with their skinnier sister.  Either way, this was going to be a tough nut to crack, and I had suspects to track down if I was going to get to the bottom of the case.  Luckily, I knew right where to start – you don’t swim with the sharks for as long as I have and not learn a thing or two about putting all your eggs before the  horse.  What?

Medianoche

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I think it's the pork and ham and pickles and mustard and cheese and bread that make this sandwich so good.

Little Havana was a cesspool filled with vibrant colors, cheerful people, and lots and lots of beautiful women in bikinis.  All the sun and fun made me rethink my pro-immigration stance, as well as my decision to wear a trench coat in mid-July.  I stopped at a little joint that I knew would at least yield a good sandwich, if not a good lead.  The medianoche was hot and delicious and made me forget about my troubles for the two minutes it took me to pack it in my angst-hole.  I took note of the sandwich and it’s ingredients – that’s just how I was trained.  It’s lucky I didn’t shoot it, because I’m also trained to do that (if you count watching Lethal Weapon over 125 times as “training.”)  The Cuban bread merely hinted at sweet, and was filled with pork and ham, then topped with mustard, pickles, and Swiss cheese.  The whole kit ‘n caboodle was then shoved in a press and grilled like it was a suspect that I had gotten alone in a room with no windows.  The proprietor didn’t seem to know anything about a shady character who just scammed a naive girl dreaming of the big city, which is why I didn’t ask him about it.  Also, I don’t speak Spanish.  I was content to cool my heels on the bar stool, and cool my throat with an ice cold beer.

Muffaletta

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Some people say you should never put mayo on a muffaletta. I seem to recall a time when people said that blacks should never be allowed to vote. All I'm saying is that if you don't like mayo on your muffaletta, you probably hate black people.

The eye-ties are known for their food, their chest hair, and their fiery tempers.  But, then again, so am I.  Except for the chest hair, because I’ve never been able to grow any.  My therapist says that that’s why I compensate with a tough-guy attitude, guns, and an insatiable appetite for broads and their sisters.  There was no time to think about that, though, because the waiter in front of me was playing hard ball and demanding an answer.  I had no choice but to comply.  “Muffuletta,” I said, “And two bottles of wine to wash it down with.”  I didn’t know whether the sandwich needed the washing down, or, rather, my guilt at not being able to find my ex’s culprit.  Thankfully, I didn’t have time to think about it, because the sandwich was quickly at my table.  The big ciabatta loaf was cut in half and piled high with gardeniera and oil, cappacola, salami, prosciutto, mortadella, provolone cheese, and I’m pretty sure there was some chest hair in there, as well.  It was delicious, and maybe it was the wine talking, but I had a hunch that the waiter was just a patsy in this whole crazy mess.  I decided to let him go – I only hoped it wouldn’t come back to haunt me.  And, just so there’s no unnecessary suspense: it didn’t.

Croque-Madam

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This is either a properly executed croque-madam, or someone seriously needs lessons on how to construct a fried egg sandwich.

The wine had taken its toll, and I fast realized that I had to get to my perp before my perp got to me.  Unfortunately, I had stumbled into a dank, smelly dive bar, full of crisp white shirts and businessmen sipping martinis.  “When in Rome”, I thought, as I sidled up to the zinc bar to blend in with the local populace, and also to get shit-faced.  The pretty red-head next to me wasn’t talking, so I decided to change my tact and play “nice cop” with the leggy blond behind the bar.  It worked, and she opened up like your mother’s legs after our last date.  She answered all my questions, and I was able to deduce that the crazy language on the menu was something called “French.”  I think I had heard of it once before, in conjunction with the words “surrender,” “pretentious asshole,” and “tickler.”  All I know is that when my sandwich arrived, I was five martinis into the afternoon (six, if you count the one that got thrown in my face.)  My croque madam would add some much needed heft to my starting-to-get-queasy stomach, and I was happy to make its acquaintance.  Leave it to the French to gussy-up a ham and cheese sandwich by slathering on Dijon mustard, frying both sides, then broiling more cheese on top, all before the coup de grace of slapping on a runny-yolked egg.  After my meal, I questioned some more patrons and wet my whistle with some more martinis.  Somewhere along the line I must have hit upon a nerve, because the next thing I knew, two Vichy-loving thugs were giving me the bum’s rush out the door and onto the sidewalk.  I was making progress and getting closer to my nameless suspect, and I hoped that he was getting scared.  I knew I was.

Fried Egg Sandwich

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This is, like, the exact opposite of the end of "Old Yeller." Which isn't to say that I'm not weeping uncontrollably while eating one of these, though.

This city may never sleep, but I sure as fuck do.  That night, for instance, on a park bench, for use as a bum ATM.  I headed for home as the tyrannical sun rose once more in the East, my pockets as empty as my soul.  Luckily for me and my bad mood, the door to my apartment was open, so there was no need for the key I no longer had.  Apparently, whoever had been in my place the night before had been kind enough to leave it ajar for me as they got away with my DVD player, laptop, and TV.  The dog, sous-chef Bruno, was still there, though, and had made a valiant effort to ward off the intruders by peeing on the rug.  This wasn’t my first rodeo, so I knew exactly who the perp had been – after all, she had just hired me the day before.  The old double-cross: send the dupe out on a wild goose chase so you and your spikey-haired boyfriend can break in and get away with the loot.  Leave it to a dame to be so duplicitous.  With the case closed, I headed to the kitchen and decided to reward my gullibility with a fried egg sandwich – my favorite.  “Another happy customer,” I said to Bruno, as I piled the egg, a slice of heirloom tomato, some bacon, and a slice of sharp cheddar cheese on top of thick, white bread, toasted to perfection, “But we have other cases that need our attention.  Like that dame who thinks that the creepy guy she went out with that one time is using her apartment while she’s out of town on business all month.”  Sous-chef Bruno looked nervous.

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"So... You gonna eat that?"

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