The Scrambled Detective - A Craven Danger Mystery
The Scrambled Detective
All my life has been a silly dream with a lousy pay day and plenty of days off. Maybe I wasn’t born to be a detective at all. Maybe what I was really meant to do is write about detectives, just like them gumshoe pencil-pushers that get their pulp pages swallowed up at every grimy bus station in America. Ah, who am I kiddin’. What I don’t know about detectin’ could fill a book."
Betty Felcher flipped the switch on her intercom.
“You say somethin’ in there, Mr Danger?”
“Just thinking again, Betty.”
“Well, stop snivelin’ so loud. All that doubtin’ Thomas drivel don’t look good in a pin-striped suit and fedora. If ya wanna write about detectives, write about detectives. Talkin’ don’t get the well dug.”
“Next time I’m thinkin’ out loud, Betty, I’m gonna do it at the library. At least all they ever do there is tell me to shush. Two exclamation points and I'm down for the count.”
“If ya want my opinion, Mr. Danger - and I know that ya don't - all the best detective books have been written already. Philip Marlow? Sam Spade? Hard to top class acts like those two mugs. I sure wouldn't say no to one of those two honeys carryin' me up a flight of stairs after a cozy Saturday night of soft music and hard liquor. Yowser! Hard boiled all the way. You? You’re more the soft-boiled type."
"Hey! I carried you up a flight of stairs once."
"Yeah, ya did. Then ya slipped a disc and I had to carry you back down and put you in a cab where you cried whiney buckets a tears all the way to the hospital."
"You sure know how to hurt a guy."
"Okay, Mr. Sensitive, I'll upgrade your manly status to scrambled. But what ya really need to do is write a play.”
“What difference does it make? Words is words.”
"The difference is simple, Mr. Danger. I can be in a play, but I can't be in a book. I'd get claustrophobic sittin' up there on a dusty shelf with all them other damsels in dresses. But in a play I can breathe easy, say smart stuff, and maybe even clobber a henceman or two. By the way, what kind of stuff would ya have me doin' an' sayin' in this play of yours? And when do we start rehearsin'?"
"Who says I'm puttin' you in a book?"
"Whatever. Who says?"
"The lady with the pouty red lips and a little finger that has men like you twirlin' around it like it was nickel-beer night at Ned's tavern. That's who."
The Man in the Fancy Fedora
A One Act Play by Craven Danger
JOHNNY: ACE DETECTIVE AND SWELL DRESSER
JUDY: LOCAL BEAUTY AND WISE-CRACKER
STAN: JOHNNY’S PERSONAL DRIVER AND FOOD TASTER. (THE PAY’S LOUSY, BUT HE EATS PRETTY GOOD)
ACT 1 SCENE 1
(A hot summer Saturday night in 1948. Only two stools at Ned's tavern are seeing any action.)
NED: Haven't seen you around here before, bud. What are you all about?
JOHNNY: Me? I'm all about havin' another whiskey. Three fingers. No ice. And if I don't get it quick I'm all about wringin' your neck with that lousy flappin’ tongue of yours!
NED: Cool your steam engine, pal. I just like to know who I'm servin' is all. Ain't everyday we get a guy walk in here wearin' a pin-striped fedora. Somethin' new from those Madison Ave. jokers?
JOHNNY: Nah. Japanese mail order. I shoulda known it was too early to start trustin' those guys. Sore losers is what they are. Every one of 'em!
NED: Goes swell with the suit, though.
JOHNNY: Yeah? You think so? I mean, what would you know about it! I only wear the hat so that when I see myself in the mirror it gets me all steamed up and ready for action!
NED: Yeah? What kinda racket you in?
JOHNNY: I'm a private eye with a nose for clues and a fist that does all the talkin' when certain saloon keepers start motivatin’ their liver lips with too many questions! Get me! And make sure that beer chaser's icy cold! Don't make me say it twice!
(Judy looks up from her roast beef sandwich and eyes the man with the pin-striped fedora.)
JUDY: You call this stench from a backed-up sewer a play?
(Johnny chokes on his whiskey and turns to face Judy.)
JOHNNY: Hey! That ain't the next line. Your supposed ta say, 'Hey, handsome. Why don't ya slide ya stool over my way.' Then I say, 'Any dame that wants a piece a this serious hunk a manhood is gonna have ta do the slidin'.' Like that.
JUDY: I can’t believe ya planted me on a bar stool just so I can watch ya crack wise and slosh around in a whiskey barrel!
(Enter Johnny’s driver Stan.)
STAN: Hey, Mr. Bazooka, ya want I should keep cruisin' the neighborhood handin' out business cards ta all the pretty babes? 'Cause I don't mind tellin' ya it's the best assignment ya ever give me, besides eatin', that is.
JUDY: Bazooka? Ya call yourself Johnny Bazooka? Let' see . . . Spade, Marlowe, Bazooka? Ya sound about as tough as marshmallow sauce over a bowl a warm Jello. Won't someone take pity an' drop a curtain on this stinker? Where the heck is the exit sign? I gotta get out of here!
STAN: Hey, I got dibs on Judy’s left-over sandwich!
NED: Looks like we're closin' before we open, Mr. Bazooka.
JOHNNY: The name's Craven! Craven Danger! And pour me another whiskey!
(Judy exits Ned’s tavern and heads back to her real life as Betty Felcher, promising herself never to encourage Craven Danger in any more artistic endeavors. Craven Danger falls asleep on his stool, promising himself that at future rehearsals he will stick to apple juice.)
Picture courtesy of Wiki Commons.