Insp. Inspector - The Case of the Vanishing Plot
Inspector Inspector takes on the Over-Due Books List, experiencing a library sleep over along the way.
Insp. Inspector Waiting for the LL Bean Photographer
That Chevy Is Gonna Need Another Transmission
Rain was lightly misting onto the hot plains of Kenya. The sun was still blazing on the earth. Animals were sleeping or resting in rare shade, conserving their energies for the African night. Some would be dead by midnight and others would be comfortably full by morning.
Back in Florida nobody cared what the hell happened in Kenya. It just makes an exciting beginning to this case. In Tampa Florida on Hillsborough Avenue the Inspector was waking to another sleuthful day. He had slept in the office overnight.
His second floor office sat over a transmission repair shop. Below he heard the mechanic rev the 283 V8 Power Pack engine in a $100,000 fully restored 1957 Larkspur Blue Chevy Bel Air convertible two-door classic until it screamed. The Chevy was on the hoist in neutral. The Mechanic set the emergency brake, and shoved her into reverse.
Inspector waited for the sound of metal scraping and breaking loose that always followed. When the wealthy clueless Chevy owner came in later, the mechanic would act out Scene One:
Mech: “I’m sorry Mr. Struthers. That Chevy is gonna need another transmission. I checked it out myself this very morning and it made a God-awful noise. Lucky you got it here fore it quit on you.”
Mr. Struthers: "Well Bud. You know your business and I know you’ll treat me fairly. Go ahead and do what you think is best.”
Mech: (tries to hide a smile) “Okay Mr. Struthers. You can pick her up tonight. Don’t forget your wallet.”
Inspector had heard this scene before. This was the third transmission for good old Mr. Struthers and his Chevy toy. It was still worth it from Mr. Struthers’ point of view, especially when Mrs. Struthers was out of town.
Bachelor-For-A-Week Struthers cruised the artsy weekend streets of Gulfport, top down, sun visors up like ineffectual air speed brakes. The convertible with the roomy backseat was quite the sensitive young man magnet.
Inspector never had transmission trouble with his new Modus Operandi. The sleek car only had one gear. The automobile could hit a top speed of 400 mph. It did, however, take four hours to reach that speed with just the one gear. Not much of a car for a high-speed chase.
His first pursuit had taken him through the southeast United States. He’d given chase to a Honda Civic. The first three hours saw the Honda 300 miles ahead of Inspector.
The difference dwindled to 75 miles as the Modus Operandi inched past 350 mph on the pursuit’s fourth hour.
The fifth hour saw Inspector flying at 400 mph. He sliced by the Honda and hit the brakes to cut the Honda off.
Two hours later the Modus Operandi passed the Arizona state line, Inspector still braking. Meanwhile, the Honda turned north and sped to New York City. It was repainted, sold twice, and stolen three more times before the Modus Operandi finally stopped in California.
He ground to a halt at the San Andreas Fault. Luckily, there were no earthquakes that day because he only carried no-fault insurance. Now when a high-speed chase comes up he takes the bus with a book of transfers.
Inspector lounged in his office. No cases were pending. He amused himself by throwing darts at the target hanging on the front door. When the dart missed the target it chipped out tiny crystal shards from the glass door.
A dart flew from Inspector’s hand. The front door opened. The dart rushed chest-high toward the opening door. The sharp shaft went safely streaking over the lucky little person’s head walking through the door. The giant who followed got it right in the patella.
The little person was Owen. The big person was Wainsley. Owen was a fun-loving little guy who never argued or talked back. Inspector at first had referred to him as a midget but Owen very properly corrected him. “If you don’t mind, we really prefer to be called Little Fellers.”
Wainsley was different. Some said too much eye shadow. Others said too much foundation. Others weren’t sure and never said anything at all because Wainsley was an eight-foot drag queen.
Inspector reached up to pull the tiny dart from the giant’s kneecap. Wainsley stood there sobbing, not from the pain but because his last pair of designer name, reinforced crotched pantyhose was ruined.
I get such a warm and fuzzy feeling every time I shop here.
The Case of the Vanishing Plot
Stakeout in the Frozen Food Section
As Inspector removed the dart, his mind wandered back to the first time he’d met these two strange friends. Owen was shoplifting from a bottom shelf in the Kash or Walk Supermarket. Wainsley was the look-out man.
Inspector was there because he was working off a non-sufficient funds check at Kash or Walk. He was on stake out in the fresh vegetable section, which is next to the rotten vegetable section. He was ready to nab the duo when Wainsley did something bizarre.
The large look-out man was rubbing his big hands over the labels of frozen vegetable packages. The giant was touching pictures of a large green vegetable-man dressed in a skimpy Spinach outfit.
Wainsley whispered, “Ohhhhhhhh, you big green famer. I’d love to see your big string bean.”
Inspector heard all this and got sick. He threw up on five frozen pizzas. The stock boy working the aisle saw Inspector lose his breakfast into the refrigerated pizza display. He walked over to the pizzas, took out a pricing gun from its holster, and raised the price of the recently adorned pizzas. This boy would be Manager someday.
Inspector knew he had blown his cover as well as his breakfast. He wiped off the rest of his digested Breakfast Square from his chin and raincoat. Meanwhile, the two grocery grabbers sprinted though the Express Line, stopped at the Service Desk for a Florida Quik Pick Lottery ticket, and were out the automatic door.
Inspector got caught behind a shopper with two carts of food, an out-of-town check, no ID, and no preferred card. Waiting in line, he had time to read the sign hanging over the register. “If we see more than 25 people waiting in one line, we will open up another register for your convenience”.
In the parking lot, Wainsley stepped into two shopping carts and tried to skate away. Unfortunately, he skated over Owen. Owen’s little body was wedged in the wheels and they couldn’t escape.
Inspector caught them and was taking them to police headquarters for arrest. They pleaded and begged. They suggested that Inspector might look foolish if he walked into the third precinct with a little feller and a giant sharing hand cuffs.
They were right. Inspector still hadn’t lived down the last time when he brought in the police chief’s daughter for solicitation. How was he supposed to know that she really was waiting for a ride outside that Pancake House at 3:00 in the morning?
The two stumbling freaks convinced Inspector to release them and they would work for him for free. Wainsley even promised to stay away from frozen food packages.
Wainsley did fall from grace one more time. One night he got drunk and took a flight to New York City. He waded out to the Statue of Liberty and repeatedly asked her if she had any brothers.
This was how Inspector remembered his first encounter with the sometimes dysthymic, sometimes manic duo. Now they were standing in front of him again, waiting for him to finish remembering how they had first met.
Where can I find the globe for the blind geographers?
The Case of the Vanishing Plot
Library Sleep Over
Owen squeaked, “Inspector, we dug up case for you . . . if you want it. The Peninsular Branch Library has a list of names they are trying to trace. It’s the overdue books list.”
That afternoon Inspector called the Head Librarian. She whispered. “Meet me here tomorrow night at the library.”
Inspector arrived the next evening. He browsed through the children’s books. Several children objected so he gave them back their books. He’d read most of them any way. The plan was to meet the Head Librarian in the Fiction Department in front of the book “Balancing the National Budget”.
The Head Librarian slid up behind Inspector and whispered, “Don’t turn around.”
Inspector smiled, turned around, faced the librarian, and said, “You didn’t say, SIMON SAYS DON’T TURN AROUND.”
He caught her on that one and she laughed. She had tried to trick him with the very deadly cerebral extreme Passive Simon Says and he had won.
The Head Librarian was an un-mousey 35. She wore her hair, of course, in a pageboy. She pushed the returned books cart through the stacks of tomes like an aging snack cart office girl looking for a husband on the upper middle management floor.
She had a trim figure with big ___________. Fill in the blank with your own pet name for a woman’s chest. Women reading this should fill in the word, “KNOCKERS”.
She began the typical library tour speech. “The Dewey Decimal System is a complex, alphabetical, numerical system for categorizing books according to title, authors, and subject matter. It does not stand for Donald Duck’s nephew’s Math paper. There is a bill now before Congress to convert the Dewey Decimal to Fractions.”
Inspector asked, “Is that the same Dewey that took Manila during the war?”
“Yes and I wish he would return it.”
Inspector studied the librarian’s softbound good looks as she related the case to him. She was Shhhhhhhhhhhhhirley. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhirley showed him the overdue books list.
He looked at the list. “There are a lot of names on this list. It’s going to take a lot of time to trace all these names.”
Shhhhhhhhhhhhhirley suggested, “Look at the list again. All the names are the same.”
Inspector scanned the list again. “Well that should make it easier shouldn’t it?”
They walked through the Reference section. Inspector decided, “I’ll take the case . . . on one condition.”
Shhhhhhhhhhhhhirley asked, “What’s that?”
“Let me stay here tonight and use the Merriam-Webster over there. I’d like to cross reference some dirty words tonight.”
Shhhhhhhhhhhhhirley agreed. “Now here is a real man. I wonder what he would think of me if he knew that I spend my time alone rhyming dirty words.”
She remembered her mother’s words. “Never come on too strong to a man in the Reference section who is wearing a raincoat and wraparound sunglasses.”
For three hours after the library closed, Inspector researched and jotted words on index cards. He ended with the word ‘Drapery’. He was tired and couldn’t remember why ‘Drapery’ was a dirty word.
Shhhhhhhhhhhhhirley had left the air conditioner running and the library had grown chilly, not the same as growing chili in Mexico.
Inspector wandered over to the World Atlas section. He sprawled out on a long mahogany chart table to sleep; it was still cool. He pulled a foldout map of the Hawaiian Volcanic Mountain Chain over him as a blanket. He dozed off with Honolulu tucked under his chin.
Next morning Shhhhhhhhhhhhhirley opened the library doors and saw the South Pacific lying there like some bad dream of James Michener’s. She shook one of the out islands.
Inspector leaped off the table. He was thoroughly awake, his out islands still jiggling.
After breakfast and a short recitation from Reader’s Digest to help the food settle, Inspector was off to find the man behind the name on the overdue book list. The name was Crater. He was a judge.
Back at the office, Wainsley and Owen offered to help with the search. Inspector asked them to watch the judge’s old house. They were told to stay out of sight.
The inconspicuous little feller and the conspicuous giant watched the house for three days. They stayed in the shadows and were certain that nobody knew the house was being watched.
Wainsley had gone to great lengths, as all giants do, to remain unnoticed. He wore a new Mix-N-Match outfit from the Tall Girls Shop. It can be worn six different ways with the purchase of two extra coordinating blouses.
On the fourth day Wainsley and Owen went home after obviously drawing some attention. Crowds had formed and they had trouble keeping the staked out house in sight.
By late afternoon that day Inspector was dejected. He stopped by La Teresita on Columbus Drive for black beans and rice, roasted pork, real Cuban bread, Plantains, and some Havana-style Guarana laced iced tea. Then he drove up north Dale Mabry to The Tampa Topple Less bar for a tall cool one, a drink in this case.
He was deep in thought when an ancient wrinkled topless dancer approached. “Wanna buy me a drink?”
Inspector nodded, “Bartender. Bring this old broad a bottle of Brandy.” He’d been through this before. You talk awhile. Pretend to open up a little to the old entertainer and then off to the motel room.
Inspector began the campaign. “I’m a private investigator. People call me Inspector. You can call me Insp. Right now I’d like to tell you a little bit about the dangerous work I do and something about my personal life.”
It was working. She still was listening to his every word as she signaled for her another bottle. “Right now I’m working on a case. I’m looking for a judge named Crater.”
The aged topless treader shuddered, “How could you have known? How could you have found me out?”
Inspector spilled his drink. “Could it be? Was this old bare-chested flopper really Judge Crater?”
The bouncing ballerina sobbed, “I’ve been working undercover for the government in this topless bar for ten years. No one’s even suspected. I’ve even had three offers of marriage.
I’ve been trying to infiltrate the organized crime syndicate that hires girls to dance topless. I was this close, (he squeezed his Pecs together in a gesture), to joining the organization.”
Inspector said, “I had no idea that organized crime was into topless dancing.”
“Sure,” said Judge Crater, “The organization is called Two Is To Shake. They have the topless dancing industry locked up tighter than a training bra on Dolly Parton.”
“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to come with me,” said Inspector. “There’s the matter of overdue books.”
“Wait a minute,” said the old dancer. “I’m not that Judge Crater. That’s my uncle, the bookworm. Our family hasn’t heard from him in years.”
Inspector was frustrated. Here he was again with someone to arrest and he couldn’t make it happen because of a small technicality: the man was innocent.
“Maybe I can get him on a morals charge.” He surveyed the old man in the dim bar light. His skin was wrinkled; his silicone appendages were hanging over his stomach.
Perhaps he could make something positive come out of all this. Inspector said, “I have a good friend named Wainsley. Have you ever given any thought to going out with a really tall fella, say about eight feet tall?”
The judge violently shook his head, “No.” A second later, the judge’s attachments caught up with his head shaking and they slapped the old dancer in the back.
“I have it! I can arrest you for dancing ten years under the cover of a woman’s body.” The case was dismissed in the classic court decision,
The State of Florida vs. Judge Crater “You Can’t Book a Judge by His Cover”.