I’m a private detective. My name is Tuesday, Rudolph Tuesday.
Yeah, I know. I’ve heard all the jokes. So do yourself a favor and just save them, okay?
It was a Friday, and my office was occupied by a tall drink of water with a glum expression – one that seemed permanently etched on her otherwise sight-for-sore-eyes features. I had just asked her name.
“Pilaf,” she replied, “Rice Pilaf, Mr. Tuesday.”
“Call me Rudy, Miss Pilaf.” Her expression had betrayed no flicker of humor, so I had to assume she was serious. You have to feel for someone saddled with a name like that. I should know.
“Fine, Rice it is. Now, what can I do for you, Rice?” Little did I know what I was getting into just asking that simple question.
“Pilaf isn’t my maiden name. I’m recently married, Mr. Tuesday – sorry, Rudy – and even more recently widowed. In between those two events, I found out that my husband was heavily in debt to a loan shark. He’d paid the guy over three times what he initially borrowed, but the scum just kept coming back for more, and Tony was being bled white.” She pulled a handkerchief out of her handbag and dabbed at her eyes.
“Tony said he was going to make one last payment and tell the loan shark he was done paying. The next morning Tony was found face-down in an alley, shot in the back of his head.”
“Who is the loan shark?”
“I don’t know. Tony would never tell me who it was. He said he didn’t want to burden me with his problem.” Rice looked at me, fright in her eyes. “The thing is this: Tony not only left me his business…but his problem too.”
“I’ve been getting calls this last week. A man’s voice, disguised, tells me I’m going to take up paying where Tony left off, or I’ll end up where he did.”
I cursed under my breath, as much at the situation as at the unknown dirtball at the bottom of it. I knew by now what she wanted, and it wasn’t going to be easy. Tony had left few answers and a lot of question marks behind when he was killed.
I began investigating the next day. The Brick Oven Pizza Parlor was the business Rice inherited from her late, brief marriage. I got there at 11:00AM, when the place opened, and talked to the employees. As I suspected, none of them had noticed anyone who seemed unusual. Tony often talked to the customers, but no one person stood out. It figured. I didn’t expect that the shark would have been dumb enough to come around where someone might remember him, but it was worth a shot.
When I walked out of the Brick Oven, I got a nasty surprise. My old Ford Taurus had been vandalized, with four flat tires and every window smashed. Someone had apparently phoned the police, because they got there right after I did. Of course, I hadn’t seen anything. No one else came forward to say they had, either. Although they promised to dust for prints, neither the police nor I expected they’d find anything. It was pretty clear that the unknown loan shark didn’t want me on his trail.
Too bad for him, I don’t shake off that easily.
In a way, though, the shark did me a favor. As long as I was on foot, I decided to check around some of the other businesses in the neighborhood.
Several owners were quick to deny that they knew anything about a loan shark operation in the area – too quick. Others admitted they knew, and a few even admitted they were in debt to him, but couldn’t – or wouldn’t – give me a name.
It was getting late in the afternoon. In another hour or so, I was going to have to give it up until another day, which would probably be Monday because a lot of these places didn’t have Sunday hours.
Suddenly, my luck changed. I was leaving Old Briny’s Seafood Lagoon Restaurant, which had turned out to be another dry hole – or so I thought. One of the servers followed me out the door.
“Mister? Hey, Mister!”
“No need to be formal. Call me Rudy, please. What’s up?”
“Okay. Rudy, I heard you talking to my boss about that loan shark.”
“You know something about it?”
“A little: not the guy’s name, or at least not for sure, but I have made a lot of drop-offs for the boss at Ingram’s Dry Goods. Food and an extra package, that sort of thing. I don’t think the boss knew I was checking, but I always like to know what I’m carrying.”
“Smart thinking, I’d say.” Now, I’ll admit I was playing a tactic. You praise people for doing something and they’re more likely to come up with additional details. Still, I meant it. The server blushed and smiled, then continued.
“I’m pretty sure those extra packages were money, but I hadn’t figured out why until I heard you ask about the loan shark and saw how fast he denied everything.”
“Ah, you caught that too. You’re pretty sharp.” Again, I meant the compliment.
“I know my boss. He never acts like that unless he’s trying to hide something.” The server grinned. “He’s like that with the health inspectors, too.”
I made a mental note never to eat at Old Briny’s Seafood Lagoon Restaurant.
“Thanks for the info,” I smiled and shook the server’s hand, “you’ve given me the lead I needed.”
“You’re welcome. Now I’d better get back inside before the boss realizes what I’ve done. Fortunately, I was just going on break.” With that, the server turned and darted back inside.
I knew Ingram’s Dry Goods. It was just a few blocks away, so I decided to check it out.
I’d only walked two blocks when I felt my cell phone vibrate. I pulled it off my belt.
“I know where you are, Mr. Tuesday, and where you’re going.”
“Well, hello and good day to you, too.”
“Don’t be cheeky with me. Your client is my guest. If you want her to stay that way, you’ll not bring anyone else with you.”
“I’m the original lone wolf, my friend.”
“That’s good, for you and for her.” With that, the connection went dead. I felt a chill, and it was 80 in the shade.
When I got to Ingram’s Dry Goods, the sign in the window read “Closed: Please Come Again” but the door swung open when I pushed. I stepped carefully inside. All the lights were out, and the fading daylight through the windows wasn’t much help, but I saw a glow from a doorway at the back. Allowing time for my eyes to adjust, I advanced slowly and quietly. I guessed the creep knew I was there, but I didn’t want to give him any extra clues.
The door at the back was standing open, and I could see Rice as I approached. She was sitting in a chair, turned enough away from the door that she didn’t see me. She was tied to the chair, and gagged. I much prefer to drop in unannounced, but the shark clearly held some major cards, and I had no choice but to play along.
Just as I reached the door, my phone vibrated again.
Out of habit, I looked down.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement behind me.
The lights went out.
I woke up with a splitting headache as the world slowly swam back into focus. I realized I was sitting against a support post of some sort, with my hands tied back. Rice was sitting several yards away, terror in her eyes.
The ropes felt like they had been hastily tied, but I couldn’t do anything sitting down. I got my feet under me and pushed myself upright against the post.
Rice’s eyes widened even further, and a slight scrape made me turn to my left.
I was looking into the business end of a Beretta. A tall and rather nasty-looking chrome-dome with a very aquiline nose was holding it level with my eyes. His smile revealed a double row of perfect white teeth.
“Mr. Ingram, I presume.” The ropes were not very well tied, after all, but I was beginning to doubt I’d have enough time to do anything about it.
“That particular deduction is likely to be your last one. You’d have been much better off to take the hint I left you outside the Brick Oven.”
I glanced around. Surprisingly, Ingram didn’t have any thugs around. Maybe he didn’t want witnesses.
“Since you didn’t quit while you were behind, I’m afraid you leave me no choice.” He smirked. “Goodbye, Rudy Tuesday.”
If the jackass had said anything else, I really believe someone else would be telling this tale. But no: he had to make THE joke. I saw red, almost literally, and reacted.
With a roar, I lunged forward. My hands jerked free of the ropes, though not without leaving some skin behind. The Beretta barked and I felt the slug graze my temple, but it didn’t slow my momentum. I crashed into Ingram. He went down, hard, and I landed astride his midsection just exactly like a schoolyard bully once did to me. The double impact knocked the wind out of his lungs and the Beretta spun from his hand. I gave his face a rapid knuckle massage before he could recover.
Moments later, his teeth were no longer quite so perfect, his nose was gushing like a broken fire hydrant, and he was trying very hard to say that he wanted to give up. I yanked his shirttail out of his pants, ripped off a generous section, and shoved it at his nose. He clamped both hands over it.
Keeping an eye on Ingram, who had the good sense to stay down and tend to his nose, I used my handkerchief to pick up the Beretta and tuck it into my jacket. I had a hunch that gun was going to yield some answers in the murder of Tony Pilaf. I called the police and got them on the way, and then I untied Rice.
The Beretta did turn out to be the murder weapon used on Tony Pilaf. That plus the attempted murder of yours truly, not to mention kidnapping and assault charges, insured that Mr. Ingram gave up the loan shark business for good. That made a lot of people happy.
Those happy people included the owner of the Brick Oven Pizza Parlor, Rice Pilaf, who insists my meals will be on her tab any time I care to stop by. I may just do it. After all, that lady’s quite a dish.
Oh, no…did I just say that?
– – – – – – – –
For anyone unfamiliar with the Rolling Stones song “Goodbye Ruby Tuesday” it may be found online.