Most of the private dicks I know would’ve taken being drugged and kidnapped as a sign. A sign that, perhaps, it’s time to drop the case, cut your losses, save some face, or another saying I don’t really understand.

But I’m not most private dicks.

So against the best of my still-developing judgment, I decided to keep doing the only thing I know how to do in this crazy world, which is sleuthing. A tricycle was missing, and I’d be darned to heck if I didn’t return it to its rightful owner.

Not that the rightful owner made it easy for me. As I was really contemplating this, sipping on a 2015 Danimals on her back porch, Scarlet was getting impatient.

“You know, Charles, I really had my pick. I could’ve asked Willy Wolfowitz to find this thing for me. Paul Pickering offered to do the job for free. But what did I say?”

She raised her eyebrows at me.

“What did you say, Scarlet?”

“I’ll tell you exactly what I said. I said, no, my friend Charles Ransom, he’s a professional, I’ll have him do it. And now I’ve been waiting for months.”

She took a long drag from a candy cigarette.

“I always pick the wrong men, Charles.”

Another drag. “Gosh, I’m turning into my mother.”

She shook her head and sighed.

“I suppose I’m supposed to ask if you have any more ‘leads,’ or whatever it is that you call it.”

“I don’t want to lie to you,” I lied to her.

Of course I wanted to lie to her. The truth gets me yelled at a lot.

“But right now, the only lead I have takes me straight into Big Luke’s right fist. So you can understand that I’m a little oppro, wait, eppre, no, hold on—”

“Apprehensive, Charles! Apprehensive!”

“Right. A-Prius-hen-sieve. That’s what I was trying to say. The point is that I’m stuck.”

Scarlet got up and silently paced across the porch.

“What’re you thinking?” I asked, squinting against the late afternoon light.

“You said that Big Luke mentioned the tricycle by name.”

“Yes.”

“Did you know that his birthday party is next week? And that I’m invited? And that, given my status as the premiere socialite of the Mrs. Krinsky’s class, I can get you in, quietly, no questions asked?

“Um, no, I did not know any of those things. Oh, hold on, wait a second, were those repor, wait, meteor, hold on, umm—”

“Yes, Charles. Rhetorical. Right-o. Next week. You. Me. Big Luke’s house.”

She sneered and spat on the ground.

“And we’re not leaving until we find that three-wheeled son-of-a-gun.”

“That was gross.”

“Says the detective whose fly has been down since the second he got here.”

Hoisted by my own petard.



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