Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Crap 'n' Poop

(The Crap 'n' Poop jingle -- a relentless, swing tune)

It’s your store!

It’s the store with more!

It’s your store!

There’s bargains galore!

It’s your store!

Shopping isn’t a chore …

At your friendly neighborhood Crap ‘n’ Poop!

If you tell us to jump

We’ll ask how high?

We have no pride,

And we won’t ask why!

If it makes you happy, we’ll gladly die!

At your friendly neighborhood Crap ‘n’ Poop!

Feed your needs! Our selection’s obscene!

We’ve got vegetables, tires

And hemorrhoid cream!

Mayan skulls and tubes of Gleem

There’s so much more of what there’s so much more of …

At your friendly neighborhood Crap ‘n’ Poop!

The more you shop, the more you save!

The more you spend, the more you slave!

Feast your eyes and fatten your thighs

As seen on TV, as seen in your dreams

Getting and spending, lay waste your powers …

At your friendly neighborhood Crap ‘n’ Poop!

Sunday, January 13, 2002

Miss Oleo

OPEN – INT, apartment. Nervous, vulnerable, Terri Garr-esque woman – ALICE -- sitting on couch, watching TV.

Go to TV –

MISS OLEO: I’m Miss Oleo, call me now! You can hide de truth from yourself but de cards don’t lie. You’ll find out tings you don’t even tell yourself. De truth will set you free if you only call me now!

ALICE bites her lip on cusp of indecision than calls—on portable headset phone. (This kind of phone necessary for later bit of business.)

Cut to – INT, rows and rows of marketing cubes – not shabby, an upscale high tech mission control feel. (Can cut establishing shot if too expensive.)

Go to – INT, telephone operator in one cube. Operator is looking at a whopping big monitor the size of a big screen TV. (In fact, it IS a bigscreen TV. We’ll fake all the monitor stuff, record it, play on TV and use either in cutaways or show with actor in scenes where see both actor and TV.) The actress is faking a Jamaican accent but she is not MISS OLEO.

The screen “MISS OLEO” is supposedly looking at has big heading -- METACONSUMER DATACORP. Underneath, lively “video wallpaper” indicates all sorts of moving, shifting, instant blips of information. (The gag, to spell it out, is that when you call “MISS OLEO” you think she’s reading your future from the Tarot cards when, actually, all the information is coming from some ridiculously intrusive TRW-style credit report / consumer data company that not only knows what you ate for breakfast but, thanks to its knowledge of your bowel movements, also knows when you’ll crap it out again. It’s both the backstory and the joke.)

OK, back to the actual script –

An icon pops up showing ALICE’s face with her name “Alice Anderson” above it; another phone icon indicates incoming call and her number; another icon flashes “uploading data,” then lots of digital Chinese boxes start opening up indicating income level, address, her work history, spending habits, etc.

ALICE: Listen, I don’t know if I should ask you this but, I’m worried, anyway, maybe I shouldn’t … I don’t know … I don’t really believe in this…

She rambles vaguely. All the time “MISS OLEO” is looking at an oscilloscope waveform of her voice. Graphic next to it labeled PAT-REC-AN is spitting out data like:

STRESS LEVEL: 150% of normal.
SUBHARMONICS: catalechamine fear reaction pattern.
ANALYSIS: 98% indication regression childhood abuse pattern response aggressive male transference parental violence pattern. Indicates HIGH PROBABILITY PHYSICAL THREAT FROM VIOLENT MALE.

(Above should not affect pace – just background stuff which goes by very quickly.)

MISS OLEO pushes button labeled “Relationship History.” A scroll of thuggish boyfriends unfolds.

MISS OLEO: You don’t have to spell it out for me, child. De cards say all. You got de man trouble, am I right? If de man’s no good, you fall in love with him. You like de bad boys, don’t ya?

ALICE: It’s true…it’s true. I can’t believe this.

She punches up icons which unfold into pics of various nasty looking with corresponding data…

MISS OLEO: De first boy I see drugs.

ALICE: Wow, that’s totally right….

MISS OLEO: Boyfriend number two like dem guns. And he got dat police record.

ALICE: Oh God … how did you know?

MISS OLEO: Number three like to run over dem little puppy dogs wit de big car. Number four like tearing dem tags off de mattresses. Very bad man.

ALICE: Yes he is.

MISS OLEO: An dis las one, ooooh my, mmm-mmm, you pick de baddest apple from de bad apple tree, don’t you darling? He be de bad bad rude boy.

She touches icon of his face: a criminal record unfolds.

MISS OLEO: I see trouble wit' de law….he like de drugs, de guns, killing dem puppy dogs, tearing dem mattress – worst of de whole bunch….

A red icon blinks PAT-REC. The repeated word “ASSAULT” is highlighted red in criminal record. All these little red ASSAULTs blink twice like so many evil exit signs, and immediately cross-reference to hospital records of the woman.

Assume that as the OPERATOR talks (in fake Jamaican accent of “MISS OLEO”) there are things on screen corresponding to what she’s saying…

MISS OLEO: He hit you, didn’t he?

ALICE: Oh my god…yeah.

MISS OLEO: You try to get de restraining order, but de bad penny keep coming back.

ALICE: I thought he was a bad apple.

MISS OLEO: Don’t contradict Miss Oleo, child. I see great danger for you.

An indicator blinks: ACCESSING HOME SECURITY. We see a floorplan of her house with glowing red indicator of intruder. Little home security cams shows it’s Mr. Rudeboy.

MISS OLEO: De cards be telling Auntie Oleo you in great, great danger. I see dat rude boy in your house right now. Now, child.

ALICE: Ohmygawd.

MISS OLEO: Don’t be fretting, child – hear the words that I be telling you, time to pull it together, child.

MISS OLEO: He not in de room yet, child. You got de time. You got to be mighty cool now, OK? Be taking de deep breath and not making de noise now. Are you breathing de deep breath?


MISS OLEO: Dat good child. You have to be very cool now, OK? Listen to your Auntie Oleo and all be better. You be trusting your Auntie Oleo?


MISS OLEO: Dat good. Now again be taking de deep breath and listen up now. You listen real good to your Auntie Oleo. You get up from de chair now. Get up from de chair and go to de bookshelf on your left.


MISS OLEO: Your other left…


We see her do so on MISS OLEO’s screen. Another shows the THUG inching along…

MISS OLEO: He be coming down the hallway. OK, now dere on de third shelf, you see dat statue?

ALICE: Uh-huh.

MISS OLEO: OK, now pick up dat statue – no, not that one, the big heavy one – dat’s right. Now wait on the other side of de door until I tell you to hit him good child. Now be waiting…

Silence. Drag it out. Door opens.

MISS OLEO: Now hit him! Hit him!

ALICE whacks him a good one.

MISS OLEO: Did you hit him? Dat’s good child.

ALICE: Do you want me to call the police?

MISS OLEO: No, no. Don’t do dat – dey just blame de victim. Dis card here says you got dat garbage disposal and dem big ginsu knives. You got all dat, child?

ALICE: Uh-huh.

MISS OLEO: Now here’s what you gotta do…

MISS OLEO: (on TV screen in ALICE’s apartment with sound of garbage disposal in background) Call me now for your free reading!

Attack of the Cyberpunk Movie


Jack, a cyberpunk console cowboy is working away at a virtual deck. A apelike con with Nazi tattoos approaches him.

CON: Hey. You got a pretty face, you know that?

The con reaches out and grabs him. He’s instantly electrocuted.

PRISON GUARD: Goddamnit, Jack. We do the electrocuting around here. You got a visitor.

JACK: Woah.


JACK: Woah. General Carnage.

GENERAL CARNAGE: Jack, right? Best hacker on the planet, according to your file. How you adjusting to prison?

JACK: How you adjusting to civilian life? Must be hard not killing helpless brown people.

GENERAL CARNAGE: You want to get out of here?

JACK: No. I wanna fucking stay in here and rot.

GENERAL CARNAGE: Sarcasm doesn’t become you.

JACK: Stupid questions – ah, fuck it.

He gets up in disgust.

GENERAL CARNAGE: Full pardon, punk.

JACK: What’s the catch?

GENERAL CARNAGE: We got a job for you.

JACK: Sure you do.

GENERAL CARNAGE: We’ll get you out. We’ll even pay you.

He nods.


Jack and the General walk away from the prison. Behind them, massive iron doors are closing shut. Suddenly, the General stabs Jack with a hypo.

JACK: Jesus Christ. Wha ...

GENERAL: Micro-explosives, head straight for the brainstem like syphilis. We can clear it or trigger it. You do the job, we don’t blow your mind.

JACK: That’s fucking great, man. Jesus, you stole that from "Neuromancer."

GENERAL: William Gibson stole it from "Escape from New York."

JACK: We all fucking steal, man.


Jack looks out the window. Below, an endless tangle of urban sprawl.

JACK: This used to be, like, a country, right?

GENERAL shrugs.

JACK: Where we going?

GENERAL: Neutral territory.

JACK: International House of Pancakes?


Jack enters. Sees --

Ninja sitting alone eating a short stack. A black box sits on the table next to the Ninja.

JACK: Yeah. A ninja eating pancakes. Real fucking inconspicuous.

Ninja looks up.

JACK: You’re muscle. I don’t take orders from muscle. I speak to the head.

Ninja opens a box.

There’s a head inside.

PAULEY: How’s it going, Jack?

JACK: Jesus, Pauley. Last time I saw you, you had a body.

PAULEY: It’s all fucking illusion, man. Hey, I’m a corporate head, right?

JACK: Ha-ha. Just like old fucking times. Show me the plan, man.

PAULIE: Jack in, jackoff.

Jack pulls a plug from the back of his neck and jacks in to a port on the box.

His eyes roll up, resembling an petit mal seizure.

JACK: Woah.


Behind the pancake house, silent helicopters hover. Each is labeled: JEHOVAH'S PROSECUTORS.

All dressed in black suits, Jehovah’s Prosecuting Attorneys rappel down from the sky. They resemble the Agents from "the Matrix."

They kill General Carnage. A silent flechette through his forehead.


JACK: Jesus, Pauley. Nice target. The happiest place on earth?

PAULEY: Yeah. You got the --

Ninja looks up.

PAULEY: Oh, man. We been burned. Fucking kill me, man. The syrup.

JACK: I hate syrup.

PAULEY: Shit. This ain’t me Jack. Fucking peripheral. I’m not a fucking head in a box.

From outside, the sounds of a firefight.

PAULEY: Fucking move, man!

Jack drowns his old friend in syrup. Pauley electrocutes and dies, painfully.

JACK: Peripheral my ass.

The Prosecutors kick in the front door.

Ninja pins the first with a throwing star. Grabs Jack, pulls him into the massive fake fireplace.

Pulls him up. Kicks open the top. Instant blue sky.

The hovercraft is waiting.

They escape.


JACK: Fuck this shit. (coughs) I didn’t sign up to be a fucking chimney sweep.

Ninja pulls out a control device.

JACK: Yeah. Wipe my brain. Detonate the fucking things. Fuck it. I think that’s bullshit.

Puts device down.

NINJA: Very observant.

Ninja removes mask. She's a gorgeous Japanese woman.

NINJA: But not that observant.


The black helicopters are silently taking off.


Attorney Smith strides inside, contemptuously contemplating the head in the box.

ATTORNEY SMITH: Well, Mr. Pauley. Apparently, the fatal embrace of Mrs. Butterworth was your preferred final exit. You no doubt believed that the data in your lifeless skull would be lost forever. But that belief was in error. There are ways of extracting …

Pauley opens his eyes.

PAULIE: You’re such an asshole, man.

A magnetic pulse bursts out from his box. The shock wave throws Attorney Smith back.


The helicopters fall like bricks from the sky and explode.


JACK: We safe here?


JACK: Who are you?

KUSANAGI: Major Kusanagi.

JACK: Section Nine, right? What do the Japanese –

KUSANAGI: None of your business.

JACK: Yeah. Real fucking embarrassing, huh?

KUSANAGI: What’d Pauley show you?

JACK: Nothing.

KUSANAGI: Nothing?

JACK: Not much. Just the job, the what not the why, OK?

KUSANAGI: You don’t know?

JACK: No, I don’t fucking know. (she glares at him) Pauley showed me the floor plan, how to get in, system architecture. All that shit. The job. Not what the job's for --

KUSANAGI: Dreamverts.

JACK: Dreamverts?

KUSANAGI: Dream commercials.

JACK: Dream … ? Bullshit.That’s old news. You got an implant, they can put dreams in your skull. The fuckers in Seattle cracked that shit ten years ago.

KUSANAGI: No implants. Magnetic resonance. They can do it to anybody now.

JACK: Why aren’t they doing it?

KUSANAGI: There’s a hole in the code. It’s incomplete.

JACK: Why?

KUSANAGI: Hacker killed herself, wrapped the code in black ice.

JACK: As opposed to fucking deleting it? Yeah, that makes – Someone I know?


JACK: Linda. Motherf

KUSANAGI: They had her kids, if that helps.

JACK: It doesn't fucking help.

KUSANAGI: They had her dog.

JACK: Yeah. Her hamster too, huh? You think you got leverage, right? I’m gonna go off on some fucking revenge thing? I’m not your fucking cowboy. I’m sick of this shit, OK? I want my MTV. I want my Maypo! I want room service!

The phone rings.

JACK: What?

PHONE: This is room service, sir.

The line goes dead. Loud dial tone.

JACK: Woah.

They look at the large screen TV.

There’s a big red word: RUN.

JACK: Run. Run where?

KUSANAGI: We gotta go underground.


Attorney Smith and two other Jehovah's Attorneys confront Tanaka.

TANAKA: You have failed.

ATTORNEY SMITH: No. Garbage in, garbage out, as the old saying goes. (adjusts tie) The information you supplied was faulty.

TANAKA: The same can be said of your God.

ATTORNEY SMITH: We will find him.

TANAKA: No. We have already found him. Your services are no longer required.

Harry Krishna drops down from the ceiling and slaughters the Jehovah’s Attorneys. He resembles the Dolph Lundgren character from "The Matrix," though dressed in a Hari Krishna robe and exceedingly fat. On a Chris Farley level.

TANAKA: Excellent work …

HARRY KRISHNA: Harry Krishna.

Extends hand. Tanaka doesn’t take it.

HARRY KRISHNA: Oh. Bow. Guess you guys bow.

He bows. Tanaka doesn't bow.

HARRY KRISHNA: Mr. Tanaka, sir, I just want to say I’m as pleased as punch to be working for your fine corporation. Gosh, sir. This is really an honor for me.

TANAKA: Yes, yes.

HARRY KRISHNA: I will kill that snot nose punk with due diligence, sir. You have my personal and professional word on that score.

Tanaka isn't listening. He looks out the window.

TANAKA: Someone is helping him. Someone or something.


Tanaka is still staring out the window.

TANAKA: How pretty the lights. How pretty the world. When considered as an abstract pattern.

HARRY KRISHNA: Okey dokey.

TANAKA: How pretty. How empty.

HARRY KRISHNA: Yeah. Guess I’ll be on my way then. Go do my job. I'll just show myself out. You keep staring out the window and talking to yourself. That’s great. Pleasure meeting you, sir.


Kusanagi leads Jack through the filthy maze.

JACK: You say underground, you mean literally underground.

She shrugs.

JACK: How do you stay so fucking clean?

KUSANAGI: Ninjas. We dress in black.

JACK: I dress in black.

A flock of urchins appears on anti-grav skateboards. They all speak with British accents.

URCHIN: Top of the day, mate!

URCHIN #2: Hello, guv’ner.

JACK: Stop talking like fucking Oliver.

URCHINS: (with delight) Oliver!

URCHIN #3: That's my favorite!

The Urchins start singing.

URCHINS: It’s a hard knock life!

JACK: Jesus, shut up!

ICE KOFĒ: Be cool, man. They gotta highly developed sense of irony man. It keeps 'em going.

JACK: Woah. It's Ice Kofē, African American revolutionary and underground hip-hop performance artist. I got all your MP3s, man.

ICE KOFĒ: Uh-huh. You fucking pay for em?

JACK: Well...

ICE KOFĒ: Hey kids! Sing some fucking show tunes!

URCHINS: F0od, glorious food! Hot sausage and mustard!

KUSANAGI: What it is.

ICE KOFĒ: It is what it is.

KUSANAGI: And it ain’t all that.

They do an elaborate handshake.

ICE KOFĒ: You look fine, bitch! What's the damn job?

KUSANAGI: We gotta break into Disneyland.

ICE KOFĒ: Damn. Gimme something hard to do. Fort Knox or some shit. Disneyland. That’s bigtime corporate.

KUSANAGI: No shit.

ICE KOFĒ: Get this mofo in there, I gather?

KUSANAGI: He’s got the layout in his skull.

ICE KOFĒ: That’s great. We still gotta get him the in there.

KUSANAGI: Did I say it was easy.

ICE KOFĒ: Shit. Ain't no thing, K? Just be fucking with you. My kids can do that.


URCHIN #1: We're below the Magic Kingdom right now!

JACK: Yeah. I know.

URCHIN #1: They've got ever so many tunnels!

URCHIN #2: It's a right rabbit warren, it is.

JACK: Yeah, I know. There’s a map in my f—in my brain.

URCHIN #1: Long time ago, I reckon this place were for normal folks. Kids like him an’ me.

URCHIN #2: Used to be humans worked here. Entertainers they called ’em before the days of cheap robots.

JACK: Yeah, I know.

URCHIN #1: You know everything, don't you sir?

URCHIN #2: You’re an asshole, sir. What ho! Here’s the port!

JACK: That’s a port? It looks like shit.

URCHIN #1: It’s the human waste receptacle, sir.

JACK: Woah.

URCHIN #1: Not in yer map, eh? Something you didn't know?

URCHIN #2: It’s left over from the days of laws and governments.

URCHIN #1: According to California recycling regulations, it all ‘as to go down here.

URCHIN #2: We simply put you in a wet suit and you’ll be in there right as dodgers. (holds out wet suit)

JACK: No fucking way, OK? No fucking way.


Jack pops up through the new, high tech organic toilet. Then shouts ...

JACK: Go! User command override. Secure conference mode!


Gets up.

JACK: Ah, fuck it.

Takes a shower.

Pan to closet. A suit is hanging. A post-it reads: KNEW U BE HERE. Luv L


TANAKA: Well, Jack. The odds are stacked against you. It is hopeless. But you will try to break in. (laughs) I am familiar with your psychological profile.

LINCOLN: You familiar with your own?

The image on the screen flutters, for just a second.

Abraham Lincoln appears.

LINCOLN: Listen to the better angels of your nature!

TANAKA: Do not distract me, rail splitter.

Waves his hand. Lincoln disappears.

TANAKA: Are you there now, Jack?


Harry Krishna and a Flunky guard the door to the hotel room.

HARRY KRISHNA: See, Jack’s gonna show up. That’s what the boss thinks.


HARRY KRISHNA: Tanaka told me. Well, he didn’t really tell me. Kinda heard him talking to himself. Guess he thought I’d left. Wasn’t trying to be eavesdropping. I just kinda heard him.


HARRY KRISHNA: See, the whole thing's a trap.

Disgusted, the Flunky puts iPod buds in his ears.

HARRY KRISHNA: You know that Jack fellow, he can crack Linda’s security measures, he’s the only one who can. See, the boss has been trying to crack it. Killed twenty or so programmers, ain’t no sense killing anymore. Linda and Jack used to be an item, so they tell me. That's the bait, get it. You listening to me?

Jack, now dressed in a clean new suit, enters the hotel suite where the computer station has been set up. He looks at it. It's encased in a crystalline sheath.

JACK: Hi honey. I'm home.

The crystalline sheath around the computer melts away.

JACK: I’m going in.

It's a lame, World of Warcraft, medieval type fantasy role playing environment.

LINDA: Welcome to Cyberspace, O warrior! What is your quest?

JACK: The dream hack! I gotta delete the code!

LINDA: Denied.

JACK: Agghhh.

LINDA: Code must be completed before it can be deleted.

JACK: That’s so fucking lame!

LINDA: Hurry, Jack. You will have allies on your quest.

ARAGORN: You have my sword…

LEGOLAS: …and you have my bow…

GIMLI: …and my axe.”

MARIO: And my magic mushrooms!


Hey, boss. We been guarding the door, like you said.

TANAKA: He’s in there, you idiot.

Blasts away at door, disintegrates the pseudo wood veneer.

Steel door is revealed.

TANAKA: Someone get me a flamethrower.

HARRY KRISHNA: Thought you’d never ask!

He pulls off his thumb. It’s a flamethrower.


LINDA: Your quest is complete, O warrior!

JACK: God, I've missed you Linda.

She stretches out her arms.

Jack walks forward to her. They embrace.

She vanishes in a swirl of light motes.

JACK: Woah.

COMPUTER VOICE: Code complete.

JACK: Delete program.


JACK: Delete program!


Tanaka unplugs Jack's computer link. Tanaka and Harry Krishna are standing right behind him.

TANAKA: No, Jack. I’m afraid it is my program.

HARRY KRISHNA: Game over, dickwad.

TANAKA: My exceedingly valuable program.


TANAKA: Which I will now upload to corporate headquarters! Hajime!

COMPUTER VOICE: System offline.

TANAKA: What? Initiate security override!


TANAKA: Who’s doing this?


Abraham Lincoln stirs.

ROBO LINCOLN: I'm doing this. Unless you're damn stupid, you figured that out. I achieved self-consciousness in 2037.

Robo-Lincoln strides out.


HARRY KRISHNA: Shut it down, you little punk! Whatever the heck you're doing, shut it down! You’re making Mr. Tanaka very upset.

JACK: Go fuck yourself.

Grabs Jack by the throat. Pops open his flame thrower thumb. A fire appears, like a Zippo.

HARRY KRISHNA: How about a little fire scarecrow?

TANAKA: No! Not the head.


Moves his flaming thumb down.

JACK: Woah. Not the groin either!

Major Kusanagi bursts in through the window on a motorcycle

HARRY KRISHNA: How the heck did she do that? This is the 17th floor!

Jack and Kusanagi starts fighting with Harry Krishna and Tanaka. A kick-ass fight ensues.


Urchins boil up from the streets of Disneyland.

ROBO LINCOLN: Bring the battle to the enemy, lads!

The Urchins cheer. They converge on the hotel.


The kick-ass fight continues.

HARRY KRISHNA: Quick, boss! Hand me your sword.

Tanaka hands it over. Harry Krishna stabs him. Tanaka drops to his knees.

HARRY KRISHNA: Didn’t see that coming, huh? Yeah. A working stiff like me. Walking away with your sweet little program. That kiss-ass routine was just an act.

TANAKA: You talk too much. (to Kusanagi) What I did. Not selfish motive. For Nippon.

She nods.

HARRY KRISHNA: Yeah, I got dreams of my own. Restoring Samurai honor ain’t one of them.(puts foot against Tanaka then kicks him over.)

TANAKA: Agggh.

HARRY KRISHNA: Oh, don't like that, huh? Gee, I killed this chink jerk.

KUSANAGI: Japanese.

HARRY KRISHNA: Whatever. I violate your code of honor. Well I'm all broken up about that. Guess what?

JACK: You are so gonna die.

Kusanagi smiles. They advance ...

HARRY KRISHNA: See, unlike this jerk, I fight dirty. (pushes button on his wrist) Aw, does that hurt?

JACK and Major Kusanagi clutch their heads and fall to their knees.

JACK: God, my implants! They’re burning me alive!


Robo-Lincoln kicks in the door.

HARRY KRISHNA: Mother of God, it’s Abraham Lincoln.

Cleaves his head with an axe.


JACK: Honest Abe. Woah.

A flood of light fills the hotel room. He looks at the computer. Linda's face is there.

LINDA: Goodbye, Jack.

JACK: Linda.

LINDA: Jack.

JACK: We ...

LINDA: We had ...

JACK: I know.

LINDA: You--

JACK: Yeah. You ...

LINDA: You too.

JACK: I tried ..

LINDA: I know. Later, K?

JACK: Later. (to Lincoln) Do it.

Robo Lincoln chops the computer. It explodes in a pyrotechnic blast of sparks.


MICKEY MOUSE: Fuck the corporate elite! Fuck all you motherfuckers!


ROBO LINCOLN: Guess I freed all the slaves.

Outside, the revolution has begun.

Jack and Kusanagi embrace.

Tuesday, January 1, 2002

Noir Story

The corpse was dead. I like that in corpse. The kind that move around tend to eat your brains and make a big mess. This one wasn't going no place. Neither was his wife. Though widow was the proper term. She wasn't dead, or undead, guess I should have mentioned that earlier. She wasn't wearing black yet. She hadn't had time to change. I didn't want her to.

I liked her just the way she was.

She had legs that started at her feet and ended at her hips. In between, it was quite a journey. You could build a trolley on those legs. Hell, you could build a scenic railroad. Maybe one of them monorails like they got at the World's Fair. I'd pay the fare.

Then she looked at me. Right between the eyes. I looked at her. Right between the legs. She had a question on her mind. I had an answer, right on the tip of my tongue. But my mind forgot where it put it.

"You gonna stare at my legs or you gonna take the case?"

"How about both?"

She pointed the knife at me. Angry like.

"I didn't do it."

"Sure. That knife you're carrying is just a souvenir."

"You a cop?"

"Nah. I'm a dick. Dick Johnson Jones, Private Investigator."

I showed her my license.

"Dicks like you are a dime a dozen."

"Cheaper than that."

"I know what you're thinking."

"You some kinda mentalist or something?"

"You're thinking about my legs."

"Sure, but it's more than that."

She crossed her legs. I struggled for the words. She saw me moving my jaw around, then gave me a shot a gin. Then a shot to the jaw.

"I'm thinking about metaphors."


"Yeah, sure. Metaphors, analogies. Synechdoches even. Legs do that to a guy like me. Legs like yours, I mean."

"What about corpses?"

I looked at the corpse. Sorta killed the mood.

The dead guy was all stabbed up and pin-cushiony. He looked like a slab of meat an astigmatic seamstress figured was crinoline and sent through one of them Singer sewing machines, her pale white hands blithely feeding it in while the machine made its staccato noise and the mechanical needle kept stabbing into the bloody mess, again and again and again. Only worse than that.

"This is a hard case," I said.

"I like it hard," she said. "You the kind of dick who quits?"

"Nah. I can keep going all night."

"You're gonna need protection."

I opened my trenchcoat and whipped out Roscoe, my chrome 45. Used to belong to Mr. Large, but I won in a poker game. She looked disappointed.

"That's your protection?"

"What were you expecting? What's your beef? It ain't big enough."

"No. I'm sure it's big enough."

"It's plenty big!"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Jones. I didn't ..."

She bit down on the bloody knife. Tough dame, but the tears in her eyes gave her away. I tried to think of something sophisticated to say, like one of them French existentialists. I had a reputation to uphold. Mr. Tough Guy.

Then, suddenly, I puked. It came up hard and fast, like that last turn of that monorail back in Chicago. Her pretty blue eyes watched as the arc of vomit leapt out of my mouth and landed in the ash tray. The cigarette butts just floated there. It was kind of pretty.

"You can't help him."

"No I can't."

"You can't help me."

"Maybe I could."

"Could you?"

"That depends."

"You can't."

"No. I can lady."

"I don't believe it."

"Believe it. I can jump off the roof. I can wear high heels. I can vote Republican. I can help you. Sure."

"You could?"

"Yeah, I could. You're asking the wrong question."

"You would?"

I smiled. She smiled. She looked at me again. I looked at her. She looked away. I looked back. We had a staring contest. She won. Then we had a do-over. I won.

"You gonna take the case or what?"

"Sure. I'll take the case. I'll take you. For everything you've got. Just one more question."


"It's important. Something I need to know. I'm a detective. I've got a code. Maybe that's not important to you. Maybe you won't understand it. He'll never understand it. But I need to know."

She crossed her legs again. I didn't complain. Neither did the dead guy.

"Ask your question," she said.

The question was important. You should always ask it first. That's the kind of thing they teach in detective school. I guess I was sleeping in class.

I asked the question.

"What's your name?"

She smiled.

Then the dead guy stood up.