I was sitting at the bar at Johnny Spatula's, getting stewed on scotch with bourbon chasers. The door opened, basting the place in dusty daylight, which was odd, since I didn't expect anyone but me to be drinking at eight in the morning. I blanched as a meaty hand landed on my shoulder, spinning me around on my barstool like a rotisserie chicken. My worst fears gelatinized when I found myself staring at the ugly mug of Rocco Gelato.
"I shoulda known I'd find you here, Sam," he growled, "spending the money you owe me on the sauce." Rocco was a tough egg. He was real hard-boiled, over-boiled, and he looked almost boiled over. But I knew he was just steamed about the clams. I knew I'd have to feed him some half-baked excuse, I just had to hope he'd swallow it.
"Simmer down, Rocco. I'm working on a big case, a real tought nut, but it'll be a couple days before it's cracked." It was all a lie, of course; I didn't even have anything on the back burner, but it was enough to extract a grunt from Rocco, who left after one or two muddled threats.
I caught a cab that whisked me back to my office, where I could hone my anxiety over what that masher Rocco would do to me if I couldn't pay up. There was a wrap on the door, and in walked a leggy tomato in a lime-green blouse and a wine skirt that looked like it'd been reduced by half. She may have had bad taste, but at least she didn't have much of it. "My name is Bree Souffle, Mr. Trivet, and I'd like to employ your services."
"Have a seat, Ms. Souffle," I said, gesturing to an empty chair, "You look like you're about to collapse. Now, what's cooking?"
"It's my fiance, Ned Shanks. It turns out he was playing me for a fool all along, and the engagement was just a recipe for him to get his hands on my inheritance. I don't want the publicity I'd get by going to the police, so there's a thousand dollars in boullion for you if you can get my money back discreetly." A grand would square me with Rocco, with gravy in the mix, so I said I'd take the case.
If Shanks was on the lam with that kind of dough, I knew there was only one guy who could give me a lead. As I walked to where I figured I'd find him, my wool suit had me in a sweat in the 90 degree weather. I was braised like a ham hock, but at least I knew I'd be bringing home the bacon.
A couple of boring days of chasing down leads and getting my jaw broken, it looked like I was in the soup when I finally tracked Shanks down to the waterfront. "Give it up, Shanks," I said, "Return Bree's inheritance, and I'll let you cheese it."
"Why should I?" he replied, "You've got less on me than a kosher deli has ham."
"You forget, I've got this Magnum, and it's pointed right at that cabbage of yours," I reminded him.
"Baloney. You shoot that thing, and the cops will be crawling over this place like ants on a picnic basket." His tone was defiant, but I could see in his eye that he was waffling.
"Let them; Sam Trivet can handle the heat. Besides, I'll just tell them it was self-preserving."
"You're not getting the money, and this conversation is getting rather bland," he sneered, his self-assuredness steeling, so I peppered him with bullets. They say you've got to season to taste, and I've always been partial to hot lead. Now Bree's back rolling in dough, Rocco's got his bread, and there was enough left over for me to wet my whistle.