Private Eye sez: "Why don't you put the gun down, doll; that look you're giving me is deadly enough. Unless that gun is loaded, in which case, I guess the gun is more deadly."

It’s two in the afternoon, and I can’t tell if the incessant pounding is coming from my head or my office door.  I put a fresh clip in my .45 and ready myself, just in case the person outside isn’t some poor sap looking to hire a gumshoe with a bad temperament and drinking problem to trail his hussy of a wife.  “Come in,” I croak, my voice shaky from a night of drinking and who knows what else.  As the giant of a man in a black suit enters, I’m thanking Vishnu I’ve got Reba cocked and ready to spit lead.  Where have I seen this guy before?  Was it last night?  Oh, God, last night.  A kaleidoscope of fragmented memories slam against my frontal lobe, like so many of my bullets into bad guys’ heads.  I know I was trailing some dame when, as usual, I got side-tracked.  Like a drunken Proust, I try to recall what happened.  I vaguely remember stepping into some dark, smokey room, and drinking a bourbon.  Nothing new there.  I remember cheering and activity, all with an underlying sense of danger.  I remember the dice in my hand, the bourbon commanding me to continue throwing them.  I wonder if I won.  As I check my pockets for evidence of my winnings, the giant who’s now taking up most of my office snaps me out of my introspection.

It seems as though the large man needs me to track down some money which belongs to his employers.  Some scumbag hightailed it out of their place of business without having paid them their two large.  I tell him I’ll track the guy, and their money, down for them, but that it may take a little time.  A guy running from men as large as this one don’t generally make themselves easy targets.  “You’ve got two days,” he says, apparently not savvy to the process of a private eye, “two grand.”  And I thought broads were demanding.  “I’ll get the money,” I says to him, I says, “but I’m going to need at least a week – these types of cases don’t just crack themselves in the first day.”  We stay in silence for a while, and the migraine continues to pound out a tympani solo on the backs of my eyeballs.  “You’ve got two days.”  Sensing my incredulity at getting the job done in such short shrift, he describes what they’ll do to the crook if they find him on their own, and needless to say, it ain’t pretty.  Unless your version of pretty involves putting someone’s head in a vice.  Great; now the perp’s problem is my problem – I don’t find the guy before the deadline, he ends up disappeared.  I may hunt these scumbags down for a living, but that just don’t seem right.  The Goliath then brings his point home by leveling a snub-nose .38 yours truly, and reiterates: “Two days.  Two grand.”  Obviously this guy had been to some Toastmasters classes.

Private eye sez: "Alright, I'll find your guy; but you've got to tell me what kind of shampoo you use, because your hair is soooo shiny!"

After the giant leaves, I rack my racked brain to come up with a plan.  Where would one go if one wanted to get out of town with two G’s of debt hanging over his head and “This Thing of Ours” on his trail?  The answer seemed obvious: New Orleans.  And if I were a guy who had just lost two grand in a bourbon-infused craps game and was on the lam in the Big Easy, I knew where I would be found – in a restaurant.

Oysters

Had I been the chef, I would have grilled these oysters with a combination of my icy stare and a phone book to the head.

I confer with the 32-ounce daiquiri I’m carrying down Bourbon street, and we agree that even a guy on the lam would want to stuff his face with the best New Orleans has to offer – after all, each meal could be his last.  After finishing the dregs of my nuclear-infused concoction, I enter an oyster house to grab however many bivalves I can before some forty-weight gets them in the Gulf.  The joint is dark – just the kind of place a guy on the run would grab a bite.  I opt for several dozen grilled oysters, and for the time being my spirits are lifted.  The smokey oyster is topped with seasoned butter and Romano cheese, and accompanied with New Orleans French rolls.   I chase each one with an Abita beer, and after I’m done I search the room for some shady character trying to take his mind off outrunning death with a few oysters and a few more beers; maybe my mark will be as careless as I hope he’ll be.  The crowd, however,  seems to be a mixture of hard-working locals working hard at not working, and wide-eyed tourists ignoring everything around them.  When the waitress returns I make a point of indicating that one of the three dozen oysters I just ate had a hair on it, and that I won’t be paying.  After I demand to speak to the manager, I wait until she storms off, then I hightail it out of the joint, getting lost in a sea of people.  I set about on the streets of the French Quarter, hoping some dumb luck and even dumber private eye cunning will take me to my perp before the Syndicate catches up to him.

Boudin

Frat guy sez: "Let's get outta here, brah; it's a total sausage party."

I walk into the unassuming building and sit down at an unassuming bar – just the sort of place a guy trying to not be assumed would be lurking.  I tell the bartender to pour me a martini with a bourbon chaser and try to decide on something with which to cover the pit in my stomach.  I’m tempted by the boudin noir, but the thought of blood is making mine run cold.  I opt for the non-sanguine variety of sausage, and settle into another martini in an attempt to calm my nerves.  After years of hunting down scumbags and exacting my own brand of extrajudicial adjudication, I can’t help but wonder why this particular tail is so nerve-racking.  What do I care if this perp gets his knees capped by big guys in big suits?  Something about it just doesn’t seem fair.  Before my introspection has time to burrow further into the horrifying confines of my psyche, the sausage arrives, as simple and unadorned as all good food should be.  I squeeze the casing and suck out the pig flesh, liver, rice, and seasonings.  It’s earthy and gamey, but smooth and delicious.  I follow each bite of sausage with pickles and bread and martini and bourbon and martini and bourbon, until my head is swimming.  I ask for the check, pretend to place money in the holder, and stealthily stumble out of the restaurant.  Just to make sure no one is trailing me, I duck into one of the ubiquitous daiquiri joints.

Crawfish Boil

Angry cop sez: "I repeat: put the weapons DOWN!"

It becomes immediately clear that the streets of the French Quarter are meant to be some sort of dare.  How else do you explain the fact that in a town where booze is flowing from every building and beverages are all in to-go cups, the sidewalks look like they belong in a post-war Dresden?  I extricate myself from the cobblestone minefield and follow the jazz music to an open-air restaurant.  I order the crawfish boil, hoping that the spicy broth will snap me into some state of sobriety, especially after the three shots of 151 I ordered upon being seated.  The big basket of miniature lobsters is placed in front of me, and before digging in I hunch down to look inconspicuous and scan the room, looking for someone trying to look inconspicuous.  The meat of the crawfish is tender and delicious, and the fiery broth and brain sucked from the head sends a message to my body that I need to snap into shape and get back on the trail.  I tell the waitress I’m going to step away from the band to make a phone call, which I pretend to do while walking away from the joint.

Po’ Boy

Actual po' boy sez: "Y'all don't think it's ironic that you can't find one of these for under ten dollars? Aw, shucks." Then that guy from "Goodfellas" showed up and said, "No, I don't think it's ironic. NOW GO GET YA SHINE BOX!"

It’s past midnight, and the crowds and music on Frenchmen have only grown larger and louder, respectively.  It seems like each bar I enter has some journeyman jazz musicians playing their asses off.  It seems like I’ve drunk all the punch this town has to offer, but no amount of diligent boozing has brought me any closer to the poor bastard who’s got a private dick and the mafia on his tail.  I take time out to listen to a rag-time band on the corner, while I order a shrimp po’ boy from a nearby stand.  The bread is fresh and dressed according to the standard menu, always letting the perfectly fried shrimp do most of the work.  I manage to not get half-a-pound of sandwich on the front of my shirt, and feel like I’ve accomplished something for the day.  Just as I’m contemplating the fact that my two-day deadline has technically already come to an end, when in the milling crowd I see two large men who stick out like two very large and threatening thumbs.  Before I can wonder if they got to their man before I did, one of them approaches: “You get our money, or were you just down here on vacation?” I explain that New Orleans is a big place and if given the opportunity and a few more days I would no doubt find both the deadbeat and their precious two grand, both of which I was sure were in this city.  The two gentlemen answer my request by showing me the handles of the revolvers tucked beneath their fine, tailored jackets.  I don’t know why they’re trying to strong-arm me, but I’m persuaded.  “Let’s take a walk, we’ve got a car waiting around the corner,” one of them says.  Nothing good has ever been waiting around a corner, so I back up and quickly assess my options.  Before I know what I’m doing, I yell above the din, “Hey!  These two assholes are from BP!!!”  Almost instantly, attention, followed by nasty words, get tossed toward the two men.  Like a sea of scorned Latinas, the crowd is shrinking in toward them, looking more and more threatening, and I pick this moment to do some shrinking, myself, back through the mob, and drunkenly run as fast as possible in the opposite direction, looking like a Special Olympics sprinter with an inner ear problem.

Sitting in a bar, hours later, listening to some old-timer in a three-piece band sing “Hellhound on my trail,” I can’t help but think I haven’t seen the last of those two enforcers.  I also can’t help but think about what I’m going to eat for breakfast in a few hours.

Saints cheerleader cheerz: "What I liked best about this post was the dichotomy of good and evil, and the archetypal anti-hero bent. Though the convoluted bricolage of the concept was slightly distracting."

Naive Dame sez: "Oh, relax, Charles...  We're perfectly alone.  What do you think there's some gumshoe outside, listening to all our secret plans?"

Naive Dame sez: "Oh, relax, Charles... We're perfectly alone. What, do you think there's some gumshoe outside, listening to all our secret plans? Why, that's patently ridiculous!"

I woke up at my desk to the sound of the world’s most annoying alarm clock: an angry woman.  The dame had marched in from off the street and directly into my frontal lobe.  She demanded that I take her case, without so much as a “How do you do?”.  I don’t cotton to people ordering me around, even if they do have legs that go all the way up, so I took a drag on my cigarette and thought about it for a minute.  Unfortunately, my wallet was as empty as that clip I poured into the last scumbag I ran into, so I didn’t have much choice but to take her on as a client.  So long as she was paying cash and didn’t expect her feminine wiles to get her any discounts.  After all, feminine wiles don’t buy you perfectas at the dog track.  “So what’s the deal, sweetheart; who done ya wrong, and how bad?”  It turned out that some so-and-so had taken all her dough, and I don’t mean the pizza kind.  He had wormed his way into her heart, and then into her purse, just long enough to get his sticky fingers all over her hard-earned cash.  Though, I’m not sure how hard a dame that looked like her had to work for a living.  “This is fucking ridiculous,” she screamed, “it was my life’s savings!”  Tell me about it, doll face – this economy’s been rough on everyone.  In fact, I hoped this perp didn’t have his sights set on going down swinging, because I couldn’t even afford to put bullets on layaway.  “I’ll take the case, Hon, but I can’t promise you’re going to get your money back,” I told her, and deep down I knew that something wasn’t quite on the up-and-up with this broad.  “You better fucking come up with something, and quick, or I’m just going to go to the fucking cops!”  Dames – always with the cops.  I got her to calm down, and finally she was able to speak rationally – as rationally as any broad can speak, that is.  “Look, I just want my money back, no questions asked.  I won’t go to the cops, I just want all of it back.  I don’t care where it went, or why it was taken, I just want my fucking money back.”  I told her I’d try my best to oblige, right before she left my office in huff, just like how all the broads in my life leave me.

After she sulked out of my office, I poured a double of the cheapest whiskey ever made, and thought for a while about my rotten luck.  It had only been two weeks ago that I encountered my own money problems.  The kind of problems that can’t be solved with quick thinking and a loaded .38.  I had stumbled onto an opportunity that was guaranteed to net me a pile of greenbacks, see, and without my having to lift a finger for it.  All I had to do was provide a little help to someone, and the pennies were sure to come raining from heaven.  It was so easy, I almost felt like one of the criminals I have to chase down and beat some justice into.  Almost.  Unfortunately, for a guy trained to pick out and track down bad guys, I fell victim to one of them easier than a greased-up monkey at a pie eating contest.  It looked like my client and I had something in common – besides hating me, that is.  Hers was going to be a tough case to crack, though, and my landlord’s daily eviction notices informed me of the importance of solving it, and lickity split, at that.  You don’t get to be this grizzled by sitting on your ass waiting for things to happen, though, and luckily I knew just where the type of people who steal from an unsuspecting bird generally hung out.

Carpaccio

Vigo The Carpathian's favorite dish is Carpaccio.  Because they sound kind of alike, that's why!

Vigo The Carpathian's favorite dish is Carpaccio. Because they sound kind of alike, that's why!

The deep mahogany walls, zinc bar, and fine crystal of the restaurant I was sitting in were belied by the nefarious and rough-neck clientele seated all around me in their three-piece suits.  I glanced side-to-side, trying to see if anyone reacted to my presence, but the candles seemed to be the only lighting in the place, which made it a perfect hide out.  Or maybe they couldn’t pay their electric bill, either.  I pressed the waiter into service, but the only tip he gave me was in connection to the wine list – a tip I graciously accepted, as it had been almost ten minutes since my last drink.  I ordered the carpaccio, hoping that they’d cut the price since they didn’t have to cook anything – no such luck, the wiry waiter informed me.  I didn’t trust him.  When it arrived, the beef was paper thin and dressed simply with olive oil, capers, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice.  It disappeared down my throat almost as fast as I did out the bathroom window.

Steak Au Poivre

Cow Chart (chart is to scale.)

Cow Chart (chart is to scale.)

Wandering around the city with only a hip flask of hootch and a hair-trigger .45 soon began to take its toll on my stomach, as well as on my psyche.  A little red meat was in order, and the restaurant I was standing in front of looked like just the type of place where a swindler would come to celebrate after fleecing some poor dame, or maybe even a road weary private investigator.  The maitre ‘d handed me a tie upon my entrance, and though I knew he wasn’t the perp I was looking for, his name shot right to the top of my shit list.  As I waited for someone to take my order, I couldn’t help noticing the sideways glances I was getting from the well-heeled assemblage of potential matchstick men seated around me.  I was on the job for my client, but I couldn’t help thinking that one of these fat cats may have been the mug that took me to the cleaners.  Perhaps our perps were one in the same, just like that he/she I met in the park last night, the lying bitch.  After the waiter took my order and promised to keep the martinis coming, I loosened my new tie and surveyed the room for a possible suspect.  It was hard to differentiate between tables, though, and I was as confused as a kitten at a koala bear convention.  Had I been hired to investigate the robbery of a Brooks Brothers, I would have been in business, but these weren’t the types of cats to slum it with some leggy chick with a killer ass just for a couple grand.  Nor, for that matter, a down-on-his-luck private dick with more bills than hollow points in his gun.  When my steak au poivre came, all those thoughts melted away, as the scent of cracked black peppercorns hit me in the face like a drunk guy who thinks you’re flirting with his girl, just because you accidentally bumped into her, then asked if she wanted to go in the bathroom and make an extra buck.  The steak was rare, and the creaminess of the beef was bolstered by the cognac, cream, and butter of the sauce.  Unfortunately, this restaurant’s bathroom was sans window, so I had to do it the old fashioned way: walk slowly out the front door, then run like I stole something.  Because that’s, actually, exactly what I’d just done.  The characters in the restaurant definitely had skeletons in their closets, but swindling my succubus of a client wasn’t one of them.  At least I got a new tie out of it.

Prime Rib

What prime rib is made of.  (Not pictured: puppy dogs kissing kitty cats.)

What prime rib is made of. (Not pictured: puppy dogs kissing kitty cats.)

Finally, I had a lead.  It seems my client and I weren’t the only ones who had been tricked out of their money by some evil genius.  I had been perusing the discount rum section of the liquor store when I heard another patron complaining about being defrauded by a scheme which seemed remarkably familiar.  In fact, I was more and more convinced that if I found the guy who ripped me off, I’d be led to my client’s guy, as well.  It seemed that everyone was getting the old bait and switch, lately.  The word on the street was that the man in question was a bigwig from overseas.  I knew exactly where bigwigs from overseas like to eat, so I tightened my tie and hightailed it over to one of the fanciest restaurants in town.  The Bentleys and Ferraris in the parking lot told me that I was in the right place.  Also, that I had made a lot of wrong decisions in life.  Blending in with my highfalutin counterparts at the bar, I talked about my thousand foot yacht, my rocket powered helicopter, and the media room in my mansion which only showed the movie Major League , on a continuous loop.  I couldn’t tell if they were laughing with me or at me, but I could definitely tell that I was in the right place.  Once seated, I scanned the room for a professional flim-flam man.  I assumed he’d be wearing rings on all his fingers, and maybe have a scepter of some kind.  I don’t know why I thought that.  Unfortunately, the other customers in the giant dining hall were as boring and unadorned as a Coldplay boxed set.  The waiter soon wheeled out a giant metal serving cart, however, full of wonderful cuts of beef to captivate my fevered mind.  I chose the largest one, and he served it on my plate next to mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and whipped horseradish, which I was assured was made out of real horses.  The beef melted in my mouth, and was complimented perfectly by the tartness of the horseradish and the richness of the bread.  It’s too bad my suspect wasn’t here, but my now eaten meal felt as good as having him cornered, on the business end of my partners, Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.  When I was ready to head out, I realized that I had left my non-existent wallet in my non-existent car, and asked to take my leave out the front door before running like I was being chased by a pack of rabid piranhas.

Cheesesteak

This must be the human equivilent of having a female presenting to you in the animal kingdom.

This must be the human equivalent of having a female animal present herself to you during mating season.

In the evening, I looked for what I was convinced was our mutual perpetrator high and low, but mostly in the bottom of a fifth of Jim Beam.  After surveying seedy martini bars and even a scotch tasting in the wrong part of town, I needed to bribe my stomach into holding on to its contents by buying it a rich, greasy dinner.  The place on the corner offering “The Best Cheesesteak In Town” sounded like a winner, though recent history had taught me not to believe everything I read.  Especially in unsolicited e-mails.  After I ordered, I closed one eye, steadied myself against the wall, and noted the ingredients.  The sliced rib-eye had been shaved paper thin and quickly cooked on a flattop.  The onions were sweet and transparent and provided a nice counterpoint to the fattiness of the beef.  The key to the whole thing, though, was the fresh Amoroso roll, which made all the difference – though, the Cheese Whiz spread inside didn’t hurt, either.

The thought of being harassed by missed messages, and the clients who left them, at my office forced me to change plans and swing by my apartment for a nap and some bad coffee.  What I arrived to, instead, was an angry client with a stare that sobered me up faster than than getting stabbed by a junky in the alley behind a strip club.  “Did you get my fucking money?”, she asked in the same manner Bo Jackson used to hit waist-high fastballs.  I sat her down on the stoop and explained to her that she wasn’t the only one who had been taken for a ride recently.  My theory of who perpetrated the crimes was laid out, but I could tell she wasn’t looking for explanations; she wanted revenge.  Cold, unfeeling, bitchtastic revenge.  “YOU GAVE MY BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER TO SOME GUY YOU THOUGHT WAS A NIGERIAN PRINCE BECAUSE YOU THOUGHT HE WAS GOING TO GIVE MONEY TO YOU ONCE HE MADE IT OUT OF THE COUNTRY?!?!?!?  I THOUGHT YOU JUST STOLE THE MONEY, YOURSELF!!!  ARE YOU FUCKING RETARDED?!?!?  Clearly she didn’t understand the obvious upside to the plan as it was presented to me two weeks ago.  Oh, well.  I told her that her case was probably unsolvable, and that whoever it was on the profiting end of this scheme had probably absconded long ago with all the loot – both hers and mine.  While she was on the phone, consulting with the cops for a second opinion, I took my cue and leisurely sprinted down the street towards the park at breakneck speed.  As my mind raced about being duped so badly – by a prince, no less – I stopped dead in my tracks.  Instantly, all my problems seemed far away, and I saw the rest of my life flash before my eyes – replete with champagne wishes and caviar dreams.  From the instant I saw the sign stapled to the phone poll, I knew what my future held, and that that future was brilliant: I was going to work from home for upwards of two thousand bucks a week.  And I didn’t even need any experience.  As visions of the good life danced in my head, my exuberance was tempered by only one concern: I just hoped they allowed pearl-handled .57 magnums at the Four Seasons.

Hope you like your new throne, ASSHOLE!!!

Hope you like your new throne, ASSHOLE!!!

a

"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.

a

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

a

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

a

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

a

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?"