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The Great Muffet Caper

Tags: crime, pi, detectives,

Jack Vine PI cases

From The Files

Of

Jack Vine

A Jack And The Giant

P I Case File

The Great Muffet Caper

“Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey. When along came a spider who sat down beside her and frightened Miss Muffet away.”

I’m Jack, I’m a private eye and this was the lead story on the front page of this morning’s Meadow Gazette. It was being treated as a missing person by the local law enforcement but something told me it was a bit more complicated.

I scanned the one column story looking for the facts but found more questions than I did answers. For one, what was a dame like Muffet doing out in the middle of nowhere sitting on a tuffet? For that matter, what was a tuffet anyways! A stool, a chair, a mound of dirt, what?

Rumors from some of the locals in the woods was that Miss Muffet had been seen carousing with any number of shady eight legged type thugs and was just asking for trouble. Was she really a victim as the story implied or someone looking for some excitement? On the other hand could you really trust the word of noisy house wives that like to gossip about every little thing to make their mundane lives less so?

The story also said she was seen eating a bowl of curds and whey, a suspicious fact in my book for what dame, no matter her age, would willingly eat a bowl of puck like that? Heck even Broccoli would taste better.

Then there was the story given by the arachnid the cops hauled in. He was just minding his own business, he claims, when Miss Muffet waved him over to come sit by her. She was a fine pair of legs, the young spider said, when asked why he had gone over and sat down beside her. I wasn’t doing anything at the time, he elaborated; Mugsy was the young adolescents name by the way, and was hoping to score a bit of the ol’ humpty dumpty with the tart.

It wasn’t uncommon for prostitutes to be working that area; he was quoted to say in the article. I had partied with a dame I had picked up similarly the week before, he told police. Mugsy, the article went on to say, was being held on suspicion of kidnapping. It also went on to imply other charges were pending. I didn’t do anything wrong, Mugsy retorted to the press who always hung around the jail cell windows in hopes of getting some inside information. They were like flies on a pile of doo-doo.

I finished up the article and turned to the funnies to see what Beatle Bailey was up to when in walked the Assistant DA, Rocci Raccoon, from the down town office. “Hi ya Rocci,” I said, as the masked defender entered my office and looked around. “What’s new?” I indicated for him to pull up a chair and jawl for a while.

“Hi Jack,” he responded politely, dragging the old chair from the wall and parking his can. Rocci and me went way back too even before I became a PI. As kids he use to raid my mothers garden from time to time though she never knew who it was. Times were tough on many families back then and food scarce, so I let him get away with it. The fact that he stole ma’s cabbage or broccoli didn’t hurt of course (yuck). It was a fact Rocci caught onto eventually and appreciated during those hard times; we’d been friends ever sense.

His eyes shifted from one item after another, a sign something was on his mind. He proceeded with some small talk, asking how Tiny was and how things were going with Mary.

“What do ya say we cut to the chase,” I told him, “and get to the real reason you came down here, OK.”

“What,” he hedged with a grin. “Can’t a guy just be here to see an old friend?” he chuckled and leaned back in the chair. “All right, so maybe I do got something to ask; is that a crime?”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” I grinned, leaned over and produced a bottle of Scotch and two glasses from out of my desk drawer. His smile got bigger and I poured us both half glasses of the amber liquid and slid one his way. “Here’s to crime”, I said, “and those who fight it.” He nodded, raised his glass in salute then downed it in one gulp.

“Mmm, Good stuff,” he complimented, setting the empty glass down. “I was given a case this morning,” he finally got to the point, “but I don’t have the time or resources to pursue it properly. I’m still on the Toad and Grasshopper case, you see.”

I was familiar with the case he was referring to, no one in our line of business wasn’t; I nodded for him to go on.

“Anyways,” he said, “I was hoping you could look into this one for me. I’d give you your usual commission plus a case of Scotch if you solve it.” He eyed his empty glass and smiled.

My eyes lit up and my grin broadened. “You sure know how to play me Rocci,” I chuckled. “What’s the case and who’s the client?”

“The client is a young dude named Mugsy,” he informed me, “and the case is a missing person, although that may change later on.”

“The Miss Muffet caper?” I said, having just read about it.

Rocci nodded, noticing the front page of the newspaper sitting on my desk. “You’ve read about it already I gather?”

“Just the one article,” I admitted. “How do you read this Mugsy kid?” I asked. “He seem to be on the straight and narrow or will it be like pulling teeth to get anything out of him?”

“Haven’t even met the spider,” Rocci admitted. “He’s still being interrogated down town. You should be able to see him by tomorrow though.”

“Great,” I said. Tiny and me will get right on it.”

Rocci stood up and shook my hand. “Thanks pal,” he said. “I owe you one.” He then left and I reread the article once more.

An hour later my partner in crime walked in with his usual stupid expression. Usual that is, since he started dating a fiery red haired tart named Terri. Terri was a shepherdess by trade and younger sister to Mary, the dame I was seeing; she too was a shepherdess. Both were dynamite lookers to be sure though Terri, the younger of the two, was more the partying type. It showed every morning on Tiny’s face, today being no exception.

“Go well last night?” I inquired. Tiny grinned foolishly and kicked back in his chair.

“Wow!” he said and sighed. “I’m having the time of my life with this cookie. Man is she ever a wild tornado.”

I’d have gotten more details except Mary, that’s my girl, happened to walk in: Tiny wisely shut his trap; giants after all aren’t stupid.

“Hey Jack,” she said glowing like a neon sign. “Are you ready?”

I looked at her and for a moment didn’t know what she was talking about. That being the case, I did whatever other red blooded American male usually does, I played for time. “Uh, sure thing doll,” I told her.” (Remember guys to keep any lie short and vague with a dame, they’ll remember what you say for years).

“I can’t wait to see you in your tux,” she glowed cheerfully.

The light switch turned on and I recalled that today was the day we were going to get fitted for our outfits in Gladice and Jack’s wedding the following month. Gladice, aka the little old woman who lived in a shoe, was Mary and Terri’s Great grandmother, not to mention the caretaker for an orphanage she started. Jack, the candlestick maker, aka Jack B. Nimble was her lover and fiancée; he was twenty-six by the way.

“Me too, gorgeous,” I replied honestly. “How is your grandma these days?”

“Great grandmother,” she corrected me. “She’s on cloud 9. I think they’re doing 'it',” she whispered near my ear, as if Tiny might be eaves dropping. She looked over at him only to see a glazed look in his eyes. “Are you ok?” she asked the foolish looking giant. “My sister isn’t keeping you out to late is she?”

“Uh, no,” hreplied, dancing around Mary’s question. “We haven’t been out very late at all. In fact we’ve been in the sack by nine all week.”

Mary took what he said at face value never once realizing what he had in fact admitted to. “That’s good,” she told him, “If she gets out of hand you be sure and put your foot down. Make sure she gets to bed at a respectable hour.”

“Uh, yes Ma’am,” he responded, “I’ll be sure and do that. Thanks.”

I left Tiny in charge of the office while Mary and me headed downtown to get fitted for our outfits. When I got back it was to a room full of reporters.

“Hey mister!” One punk said as he stuck his recording mike in front of my face. He was a snot nosed kid with freckles and an annoying attitude. “What’s the story with Mugsy and Miss Muffet?” he demanded to know. Several others had repeated the same question and were pushing to get their mike a centimeter closer to my mouth.

I did what my partner should have done when they had first barged in; I took the mike away from the first punk and shoved it up his rear end then slammed my fist into his opened mouth. The room cleared out seconds later, all that is except for the scumbag on the floor.

“Give me a hand will ya.” I asked my partner. I grabbed the boy’s right arm and leg while Tiny took the left ones. With two practice heaves back and forth we tossed him out the window and into the trashcans nearby. He laid there twitching for sum time before finally crawling away.

“Thanks Jack.” Tiny replied meekly. “I really didn’t know what to do when they all barged in here half an hour ago. Um, you sure we wont get into trouble for jerking that crony?”

“So what if we do.” I told him, “Be worth it later down the road.” I glanced out the window just in time to see the punks spazzing legs disappear around the corner of the alley as he drug himself away. “You can be sure they’ll pass the word not to mess with us again and in my book that’s worth every greenback it costs me.”

I sat down at my desk and noticed a manila envelope on the far corner. “What’s this?” I asked. Tiny looked my way, noticed the unmarked envelope and shrugged his massive shoulders.

“Beats me,” he said. “Wasn’t there before those news bugs barged in. Maybe one of them dropped it in his haste to leave.”

“Hmm,” I responded, and opened the seal. Inside was five grand in hundred dollar bills. Also inside was a type written note. It read: Find out what you can on Mugsy. If he’s guilty see that he takes the wrap, bribe who you have to too wrap this up quickly. There was of course no signature or name.

The note had been typed on an old beat up manual typewriter; the lowercase ‘c’ I noted, was slightly offset from the rest of the type. “Check this out.” I said, tossing the contents of the envelope onto my desk and handing the note over.

“Wow,” Tiny replied. “Check out all the presidents,” he scanned the note and looked my way. “Had to be one of those reporters. What do you make of it Jack?”

I wasn’t ready to make any guesses just yet and told Tiny so. “Could be our boy is innocent.” I threw out. “Then again someone could also be trying to play us like a fiddle. No.” I decided. “This note and the greenbacks are going into our safe for now. We’re going to play it dumb, see, and wait for them to make the next move.” I took the note back and put it along with the dough into the safe hidden behind a set of fake books on the bookshelf built into the far wall.

Turning back I scanned our office, an idea beginning to take hold. In my desk I pulled out some paper, cut it into dollar size strips and put them into a similar looking envelope. Resealing it I leaned over and placed it partially under the front of my desk as if it had fallen out of sight.

“What are you up to Jack?” Tiny inquired as he watched me work. “You setting a trap or something?”

I smiled and sat back into my desk. “Could be our sap may come back looking for his dough,” I said, indicating where I had placed the bait. “What we do is sit, wait, and observe everyone who comes in; got it?” My partner grinned and made like he was busy with some file work. We waited the rest of the afternoon keeping one eye on everyone who entered. Several people came and went during that time, four to be exact, and each stayed for only a few minutes.

The first was Terri, who wanted to know if Tiny could grab a bite to eat for lunch. She was dressed in a tight pink top and tighter white shorts, her body language crying for his attention. He very reluctantly informed her he was swamped with work but promised he’d make up for it by taking her out for a late dinner. Her eyes sparkled with mischief and she left with a skip in her step; Tiny I noted was very, very bummed out. “Save it for later, Romeo,” I chuckled. “Work first, play later.” He returned my grin with one of his own and resumed his charade.

The next to walk in was a thin man wearing a dark suit, glasses and a hat. He claimed he ran a small shop down in the Meadow district and was suspicious that an employee may have been stealing merchandise when he wasn’t around. He inquired as to our fees then backed off claiming he needed to think things over.

The third was an elderly looking lady of perhaps sixty. Her gray hair was worn up in a bun with a fashionable net covering her face. Her dress was faded, dingy and otherwise nondescript. Probably gotten from a used clothing store. The cane she walked with was of bamboo and also showed signs of wear. She stayed only long enough to ask where the ladies restrooms were located. She appeared to be totally lost and squealed out her thanks when Tiny gave her directions.

The fourth and last to come in that afternoon was Rocci Raccoon who dropped off the file he typed up on Mugsy. He was there only a moment claiming he had a taxi waiting out front.

“What do you think Jack?” Tiny asked; his eyes intent on me. “I see only two possibilities, the thin man or the old lady. Couldn’t tell if either one looked down at the envelope though. My bet is on the thin man.”

I shrugged my shoulders non-committing, though I was beginning to have my suspicions. “We wait and see what develops,” I informed him. I looked down at my watch and noticed how late it was. “You best be on your way lover boy,” I said. “We wouldn’t want to keep Terri waiting for her man now would we.”

Tiny grinned wolfishly, grabbed his hat and headed out at a dead run. “See you tomorrow,” he said, as the door slammed shut.
I took out the file Rocci had dropped off and read it over to see if there was anything new I didn’t know already. There was and I closed the file to think it over. I now had most of the pieces of the puzzle in front of me, all I had to do was put them together. With luck the pieces I didn’t have would turn up the next day; maybe even that night. The decision to stay put was an easy one so I opened my desk drawer, took out my bottle of Scotch a glass and my Smith and Wesson setting them all on my desk. I then leaned back in my chair and turned off the light to wait.

It was nearly two in the morning when I finally heard footsteps outside the office door, a moment later the muffled sounds of someone picking the lock. Maybe a minute or two then past as the intruders checked the outer office before venturing my way. It gave me time to reflect on the file Rocci had dropped off earlier, the file that was typed on an old machine with the lower case ‘c’ offset.

The door to my office, which I had left unlocked, slowly opened allowing three shadowy figures to enter and softly close the door behind them. It was then I clicked on the desk light to the stunned surprise of the would be burglars; my gun held nonchalantly in my right hand, the barrel pointed in their direction. “I believe,” I stated to the first man, “that you owe me a case of Scotch.”

Rocci Raccoon stood dumbfounded, his eyes closed and his head held down in shame. Next to him, standing upright was the gray haired old lady. “Miss Muffet I presume?” I said to the elderly looking dame. She looked at me then Rocci then back to me again but remained quiet. The third person was the thin man who had come in earlier.

“You,” I said, “I do not know.” I pointed my gun at him as if to say talk or else. He got my meaning as the trigger was pulled back. His hands went flying high in the air and he began to sing like a canary.

“Don’t shoot,” he whined. “Its all a big mistake. Tell him Rocci,” he cried; “Tell him about Tabitha and Mr. Toad.” The man was clearly in fear of loosing his life.

Rocci looked at the shaking man, shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Relax Finch.” He told the man. “No ones going to shoot you.” He turned back to me and grinned foolishly. Pointing to the envelope on the floor, he asked, “Anything even in that?”

“Only cut up paper,” I replied. I tilted my head to the only two chairs in the room Rocci took the one behind Tiny’s desk while the dame, aka Tabitha Muffet, took the old one against the wall. The thin man looked around and seeing no more just stood.

“Ok Rocci, why don’t you start filling in the blanks,” I said, “and start at the beginning.”

Rocci tapped his finger on Tiny’s desktop as he related his story. “That would be with the Toad, Grasshopper case.” He informed me. “What all do you know about it anyways Jack?”

“Mr. Toad, alias The Boss,” I recited from memory. “Said to be in control of the entire black market in our region. Gambling, prostitution, guns; you name it he’s probably got his hands in on it.”

“And Mr. Grasshopper?” He asked with a grin.

“Mr. Grasshopper, better known as Fat Boy to his friends and former head of the old Marconi gang. I say former because he went missing a while back, all that is except for his ring finger, which turned up in a bag outside police headquarters. His ring still on it I understand, which is how the police identified who owned it in the first place.”

“Impressive Jack,” Rocci complimented me. “Anything else?”

“Only that there was suppose to have been a witness to the crime that disappeared.” My eyes drifted over to the dame in the chair against the wall. She had removed the gray wig she had been wearing and was now holding it in her lap. She looked my way, smiled and waved girlishly. She couldn’t have been more than nineteen or twenty years of age at most. With Blonde curly hair and stunning green eyes she defiantly wasn’t the old skank I had thought she was earlier.

“Hmm,” I said. “Fits so far; do go on.”

“Miss Muffet here seen it all,” Rocci continued. “She was afraid to go to the regular cops thinking most of them were probably on Toad’s payroll; five will get you ten she was right, so she called me direct instead.”

I nodded knowing how hard it was for a cop like Rocci to have to admit some of his best friends go bad. It wasn’t a topic he didn’t care to dwell on so I indicated for him to go on.

“I had a man I told her, would pick her up.” Rocci’s eyes fell onto the thin man. “This is Finch,” he said. “A trusted associate of mine for sometime now. We’ve been in some tight spots before and he’s always stayed with me. Maybe not always bravely but he stays non-the-less.”

I acknowledged the thin man with a nod.

Rocci continued with his narrative; “Tabitha here picked the place to meet; said she’d be the one sitting on a Tuffet eating a bowl of curds and whey.”

I looked over at her with a puzzled look.

“What!” she said. “So I like curds and whey; is that a crime? Why does everyone look at me as if I’m nuts when I order a bowl.”

I shuddered and turned back to Rocci; he too, I noticed was rolling his eyes.

“Anyways,” he went on. “She thought this Mugsy character was my man and called him over to sit beside her. She figured he’d tell her what to do next but was surprised when the arachnid made a play to get her into the sack; she was frightened away of course.”

“And the note?” I asked. “Why try and frame the guy? That doesn’t make sense.”

“I wasn’t trying to frame anyone,” he told me. “That reporter was supposed to find out if he was involved and if so make him take the fall. The nimrod figured he could score most of his information from you and keep most of the bribe cash. You turned the tables on him when you took out that young punk with his mike. Scared the heck out of him and he dropped that envelope dashing for the door. By the way Jack, did you really ram it up his…?”

“Seemed the appropriate thing to do at the time,” I replied with a smirk.

He shook his head and went on with his explanation. “Actually I’m not sure Mugsy is innocent, although I’m beginning to lean that way now; but before I had reason to think otherwise.”

“Oh. Why is that?”

“You remember that prostitute he partied with the week before?”

I nodded.

“One of Mr. Toads girls,” he informed me. “So you can see why I was suspicious.”

“What now?”

“You’re the one holding the gun buddy,” he grinned. “As I see it you need to make the next move.”

I looked down at my Smith an Wesson and pointed it at Mr. Finch. His eyes bulged out and he nearly past out when I pulled the trigger.

[CLICK]

Nothing happened. The gun I already knew was not loaded the clip still in the drawer.

Rocci chuckled and shook his head. “Your such a card Jack.”

“What about the dame?” I asked seriously.

He thought about it for several minutes mulling over the obstacles he still had to avoid. “I could still use a safe place to stash her,” he confided. “Like I said before, I can’t count on my friends downtown on this one. What do you say, Jack?”

I looked over at the teen peering at me with her emerald eyes. “I do know this friend who knows a girl who could put her up till the trials over. What do you say, sister?” I asked her for her opinion. “You up for some companionship?”

She shrugged her dainty shoulders, “I guess,” she answered meekly.

“By the way Jack,” Rocci said, “The charges against Mugsy will sort of disappear for lack of evidence, Ok?”

“That’s your call Mr. D A,” I said grinning. I turned to Miss Muffet and told her to put her costume back on then drove her over to Tiny’s place and knocked on the door. When he answered he was only in a towel and very, very, very, surprised to see me.

“Uh, what’s up Jack?” He asked confused.

“Got room for another dame to stay with you? I chuckled.

“Huh?” he responded shocked.

Tabitha’s eyes got very wide hearing what I said and looking at the giant before her.

“Correction.” I restated to them both. “For Terri to watch over.” I explained the situation to my partner and indicated for Terri and him to sort of guard her till the trial was over. He seemed to have some minor apprehensions.

“But Jack,” he tried to explain, “Terri’s, uh, you know, sleeping in my bed; sort of.”

“That’s ok big guy.” I chuckled. “Some how I think you’ll work things out.” Tabitha meekly followed Tiny inside and back to the bedroom where Terri was. I could just make out my partner explaining who Tabitha was and what she and he were suppose to do, I noted Terri was wide awake. It must have worked out well enough for the next day Tiny staggered into the office with an even stupider look on his face than usual. He was about to relate what happened when someone knocked on the outer door. I got up and motioned for him to hold for a moment and went to see who was out in the hall. As it turned out it was a delivery boy; the kind that drops off stationary or small packages. He was standing there with a good size box in his hands.

“Special delivery,” he said, his face flushed red. “Could you take this?” he asked. “It’s kind of heavy.” I did so, signed the clipboard and gave the skinny kid an extra five. “Thanks mister,” he said, waved, and was gone.

“What is it?” Tiny asked, as I reentered our office. I set the box down and read the card taped to the top. It read; PAID IN FULL, and was signed ROCCI. I smiled, opened the box and pulled out two of the twelve bottles of Scotch that were inside.

“Looks like our DA’s made good on his promise already.” I said tossing Tiny one of the bottles. Reseating myself, I kicked back, put my feet up on my desk and took a good long swig.

“Now,” I said, “about last night…”

THE END

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