The Case Against Randolph Dixon-Hertz - Entry 9

There was no doubt, defying all logic, that Randy was missed in the day-to-day operations of the Lawson Detective Agency, if for no other reason than as a target to heap verbal and physical abuse on...but that still didn't prevent me from deducting the cost of hiring a moving-company to haul his "click-click-whirr"-ing desk out into the asymmetrical parking lot from his last paycheque.

Let the raccoons figure out what that ticking noise is; my focus was on coffee, and that I needed some.

Once inside my all-but-abandoned office, I took a deep, relaxing breath and found the air clear and odourless...a mockery of the myriad odd-smells and strange ambience that used to hang in the air like a thousand stalactites of filth and repugnance. I started my coffee a-brewin’, hoping that the stink would comfort me as I sat and leafed through the faded newspaper-clippings that I had been carrying since I began this laborious process of looking into Randy’s past - a process not unlike herding ill-tempered goats into a suede-roped line at the bank: mentally-fatiguing and generally pointless.

Surprisingly, his name kept popping up whenever there was a quote from an eye-witness:

“I think his car hit that flag-pole,” a twelve-year-old Randy said in regards to a prominent local-politician running his car into a school’s flag-pole while Randy was playing tetherball at recess;

“I didn’t see it happen, but it looks crazy,” said Randy at fifteen when asked about an ape that had escaped from the zoo and ran through the plate-glass window of the downtown bakery where Randy was having lunch;

“I was looking at this guy on a totally rad bike,” Randy answered when asked if he saw the 3000 lb. safe that fell from a twelfth-story window and dented the sidewalk five-feet from him.

Fifteen stories in all, in every-one a quote from Randy about how he had missed what had happened.

“Is THAT what happened?”

“Jeez, that looked like it sucked.”

“I was asleep maybe?”

Randy was a Child of Coincidence, apparently...on the periphery of Circumstance, out of reach of What Happened, just to the left of Consequence.

But no longer; since he has been in my employ, he has been, briefly, a woman, sodomized by a transgendered old lady, the victim of some appendix-related hat-birthing disease, and thrown in jail...though while reading his third-page-news exploits, I had formulated a plan to get my twice-head-trauma-ed employee from the brinks, and I had resolved to do it with a style that is so often lacking in typical Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Machinations.

In other words, I will attempt to do it right.


The Case Against Randolph Dixon-Hertz - Entry 8

My enthusiasm was dwindling like the ego of a boat-captain who is unable to tie a proper fisherman’s knot; relief of a comedic-nature was nowhere in sight as I trudged from coffee-shop to coffee-shop in search of but ONE decent cup of coffee...I was, most assuredly, wasting time in my dawdling, finding it harder and harder to open up the news-clippings I had taken from Randy’s desk - this trepidation had nothing to do with what possible information I’d find, and much more to do with the myriad ways in which that book on genealogy had frightened me into avoiding the printed word in the same way I would flee from a dump-truck with harpoons for headlights.

The importance, first and foremost, of getting Randy out of jail was drenching my brain with the corrosive-acid of Obligation, and as that astringent-fluid dissolved the logic that would, quite often, keep me from plotting prison break-ins, the plan was rapidly forming regardless...but it involved braving the psychological elements that hung over the Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Office like a guillotine-blade. Would I return to find the office itself a smoldering pile of wood-planks and three-legged chairs?

It made no difference, at that point - like an emaciated grizzly-bear downwind from a station-wagon full of co-eds, I, too, was going to rip into the metaphorical hard-metal and glass of what was preventing me from fixing myself up proper...unlike the grizzly-bear, however, all I needed was a steaming batch of Bangor-Bangkok-Bang’em-up Coffee, and since that was both the "Go Get ‘Em, Tiger" and "Mixed-Metaphors" blend, I was sure that I would be ready for the former, the latter, and all similes in between.

Entry 9


The Case Against Randolph Dixon-Hertz - Entry 7

Sitting in front of me, sticking to the seemingly-honey-glazed tabletop, was a cup of mean-spirited though disappointing coffee, fifteen yellowed-newspapers, and a book on genealogy that was as powerful in its thickness as it was devoid of tight writing...I had been in this position before, meandering through a stack of boredom so unequivocally uninteresting that visions of using a can-opener to pull my own eyes out became a horrifyingly relevant proposition, so I knew that perseverance and total control were at the very top of the list entitled "Necessary".

Randy was born Randolph Dixon-Hertz, for a reason hard to surmise considering that his parents' full-names both ended "Bloomquist"; being that there were no "adoption" notations, Randy's family-tree was otherwise as benign as the writing in the book of family-trees that had me tearing up my insides with an astonishing apathy....a disinterest so compelling, so commanding, that I committed myself, fully, to setting the book on fire, lest it harm another living being with its indefatigable banality.

Setting a massive, laminate-covered book ablaze in this coffee-shop's back-alley takes exactly the comparable amount of effort that one routinely puts into finding a reasonable place to have breakfast: if you're on your own schedule, then you can take the time to really look into a place to enjoy yourself...but if you haven't eaten in four days, anywhere will do.

This book had to go; even as the flames licked the bottom of the dented air-conditioner-unit hanging laboriously from the crumbling-brick of the coffee-shop's back window-hole, my functionality rested with this book being reduced to the charred ash that things dead became once their value, if value was indeed the right word, was no longer apparent.

My next step was obvious, even to me and my matchstick-filled head: I had to find a coffee-shop that didn't inherently bring out my latent pyromania...preferably one with some decent coffee, for that matter.

Entry 8


The Case Against Randolph Dixon-Hertz - Entry 6

Tick it did, and though the noise emanating from the paper-block was really more of a “click-click-whirr”, I, at the time, didn’t see much of a difference between the two and headed into the warm, fresh air of Safety that was lingering just outside the office. But then...what?

Yes, caution had been heeded, and heeded well, but as I rolled the idea of Randy's assumed bomb-making acumen around in my head while pacing around the parking lot, I found that my own logic had been mixing very unsatisfactorily with the reality of the situation: Randy was in for a day's worth of trouble if faced with the task of refilling the office stapler; I couldn't conceive of a world in which my dough-headed employee was capable of but one of the intricacies involved in creating an explosive-device...setting the Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Clock alone usually required a fact-finding mission comparable to that of a thesis-paper detailing nuclear space-exploration.

Hence, the possibility of Randy's sudden ascension to expert bomb-technician was as likely as if I had heard he had become an ornery badger - the latter actually more likely, truth be told.

However, the idea that Randy had somehow been set-up began percolating in my head, like the coffee I wished I had made before I darted for freedom. Dammit! I thought to myself, as I headed for my last-resort coffee-shop, the one with the grimy tabletops but tolerable java, to ruminate further on the Danger Quotient (DQ) permeating the office.

Fear is a good motivator, indeed, but no match for the endorphic-madness that an over-caffeinated Detective can muster...and muster I would.

Entry 7


The Case Against Randolph Dixon-Hertz - Entry 5

Searching Randy's desk at the office was eminently more reasonable after I relented and brewed myself a batch of Greenland Gringo Soy Bean-Infused "Naturalized" coffee, and since that was the nostalgia-blend, I was more than sturdy enough, psychically, to root through my head-wounded employee's personal belongings...boring, though they may be.

I would have expected more in the way of pizzazz from a man who has, at least to my knowledge, consistently prided himself on being a functioning nutcase; instead, I was combing through drawer after drawer of candy-wrappers and weathered, almost pulped, comic-books, neither of which even remotely helped my search into Randy's past. What was abundantly clear was the depth of Randy's nerdish-tendencies, as I'd feel comfortable labeling him "knee-deep". Gender-generalizations aside, men tend to collect things: comic-books, baseball-cards, CDs, automobiles both big and small...even serial-killers, mostly a Y-chromosome-based predilection, need keepsakes of their kills. What was different about this case, however, was that Randy wasn't so much collecting comic-books as he was destroying them; this became readily apparent after I jimmied open the locked bottom-drawer of his desk with my Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Crowbar to find a drawer-shaped block of mulched, multi-coloured paper.

I had never seen anything like it; in the way an insanely-pressurized rock converts to diamond, Randy had been cramming comic-books into this drawer with such force that it looked as though I could just remove the block and shear some sheets of note-paper from it. More help from my magnificent Crowbar allowed me to, indeed, remove the somehow-and-somewhat-cold block from its casing, and after I sat it on a neighbouring desk, I noticed the incredible reinforcements inside the drawer: stainless-steel sides with a refrigeration-pump spewing cold into the walls.

It was amazing, spectacular even, but why? It was like looking at a woman in zebra-print-leggings and too much blush: I knew of all the components individually, but I couldn't understand why they were all together in that particular fashion.

Then, the paper-block began to tick.

Entry 6


The Case Against Randolph Dixon-Hertz - Entry 4

I must be losing my Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Edge.

How else to explain the sympathy I felt while looking through the cold iron bars that held Randy at the Jail House? There was, most assuredly, a bruised half-lemon poking out from above his eyebrow - a reminder of the Head-to-Car-Door-Frame "hello" the cops gave his smirking face when they rang him up like he was on sale; his left hand was, curiously, bandaged - the index and middle fingertips were smothered in gauze, at least from what I saw of the presumably mangled digits Randy was hiding from view, showcasing a vanity heretofore unrealized; the mischievous twinkle in his eye still shone, though dimmer and contrasted by ever-darkening rings underneath the sockets...grey bags that confirmed the pitiful "smile" that Randy stretched across his ripe melon-face, really more of a grimace that was as superficial as it was bewildering.

I was saddened further by the abject nonsense that was dripping from his mouth like so much drool - words that connected with other words, sentence-wise, to create a proper speaking rhythm, but the words themselves had no meaning other than to fill the auditory-void that was created when Randy opened his mouth, seemingly, to speak.

Waving my hand through the bars, I beckoned him closer...and while his shuffling walk showed his implicit agreement, his rambling, eerie incoherence betrayed nothing more than the jumbled, miswired understanding of the electro-shocked; I softly cradled the back of his head, as though to console him, and rapidly pulled his swollen melon-head into the bars, cracking him on the non-damaged side of his face...maybe I was hoping that an equal-force shot to the opposite side of his head would even him out; maybe I was thinking of Fred Flintstone and the identity-crises he endured while being repeatedly clobbered about the head; maybe I just wanted to get one last guiltless shot in, if, indeed, Randy's mind had become more warped than his attention-span.

Regardless, the guards were alerted to his "accident" as I left to brood over what was to made of this Randy after all; the little I knew of him was enough, up until this point, to leave his backstory alone for the duration of our working relationship...now, though, I was determined to wrest a couple of two-by-fours of Truth from his past, snagging the rubber-tires of Identity from his younger days, slapping it all together with the screws of Curiosity, and then maybe, just maybe, I might be able to cobble together a clearer understanding of this Soapbox-Derby Racer known colloquially as Randy.

Entry 5


The Case Against Randolph Dixon-Hertz - Entry 3

Coffee...indeed? Not only was I fishtailing back-and-forth between whether-or-not to succumb to the caffeinated-enchantments of an incredibly humane pot of signature coffee, I was desperately attempting to wrap my head around the repulsive cleanliness of the office coffee-machine; what kind of monster would cauterize the hemorrhaging wound that was my coffee-maker? The forever-thickening flavours of a thousand coffees...BRUTALIZED by some unknown hand; left-over aroma-combinations to inform the tastes of new blends...DEBASED by some agent of bedevilment, some demon of decontamination.

Irrepressible rage filled me in the way that one would fill a pastry shell - about three-quarters full, just so that the filling doesn’t spill-over in the oven...and, much like the way piping-hot lemon-meringue filling would scald itself on an efficiently-heated pie-tray, my anger was bubbling into a sickly-yellow puddle of tart, lemony revenge.

More caffeineless, pseudo-protoplasmic energy-drink was my only hope, my lonely wingman as I left the sickening shell of a formerly-great Lawson Detective Agency office behind...I was informed of Randy’s sudden and acute consciousness at the Jail House, and unless a valid explanation was in the offering, he was to receive every delightful-drop of citrus-flavoured, pie-crusty vengeance that was due.

Entry 4


The Case Against Randolph Dixon-Hertz - Entry 2

Rummaging through the detritus of what Randy had left of his cubicle at the office was thirsty work...and though old habits die hard, usually, I was sipping an experimental, electrolyte-heavy, purple-glowing energy-drink instead of my customary coffee. I felt the pressure from the coffee-maker, staring into me with the doe-eyes of a rejected pound-puppy, but my coffee-maker abandonment-issues were the stuff of background, of bass-lines - the melody had me discerning the consequential from the insignificant, and Randy's desk was littered, presumably, with both:

One Inhumans graphic-novel, beautifully illustrated by Bret Blevins;

One die sawed in half, rough-edges preemptively sanded;

One BBQ-lighter bathed in silver-sparkle dust;

One bright green, multi-veined contact lens;

Two semi-circular contact lens-ish pieces, opaque and flash-toned;

One three-quarters-eaten bagel.

There was cream-cheese in the bagel, that was for sure, but I couldn't ascertain said flavour of cheese, as the Holy Hell odour of the garlic bagel overwhelmed my olfactory senses...it was akin to looking for feculent-matter in a bog next to a paper-mill: a hard deal.

Surprisingly, these were the only items of interest in and around Randy's cubicle, immediately leading me to believe that the whole Lawson Detective Agency had been tidied - Randy typically left clues as to his doings in the same way a wrecking ball leaves a "mark", so I knew there to be more to this story than just the meager evidence collected from his desk. No, there was nothing at all right with the general disinfectant-feel of the office, the hard-line professional ambience that pervaded the air and, surprisingly, enervated me into knocking over one of the too-clean office chairs, nudging it into a desk until it left a scuff-mark like a rubber-soled-shoe on a glazed basketball-court, just to regain some sense of ownership.

Randy was in lock-up, and I aimed to be there when he awoke from his head-bruising, however slight the head-trauma...I needed answers, and my apprehension was limitless.

But first, perhaps, some coffee?

Indeed coffee...indeed.

Entry 3


The Case Against Randolph Dixon-Hertz - Entry 1

Under-the-table government contracts bring as many headaches as they do fat pockets, and after three months of covert Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Governmentally-Approved Sleuthing, the effort became absurdly and incoherently reminiscent of repeatedly pulling a thorn from a lion’s paw whilst adorned with a ruby-studded, diamond-spackled gold crown. During the ride home from places-unknown, brazen with fistfulls of cash, I imagined my independently-operated Detective Agency cracking the Big Time; utter abominations of Lawson Detective Agency © Brand billboards showcasing, among other things, our phone number...and our pledge to keep our case-rates at a miniscule ten-bucks per.

But then, all memory returned.

It was then, as snippets of three-month-old conversations bled back into my consciousness, that the beacon-like past-discussions sign-posted my awareness directly into that time in which I last looked upon my forever-burgeoning Detective Agency.

It was then that I remembered that I had left Randy in charge.

My body went cold; the cold sweat pooling in my shirt-collar was exponentially colder than my already too-cold skin, and I went into mild-shock: I could, conceivably, return to find that my whole enterprise had been converted into a coffee-bar...not such a crime, at first glance, but increasingly horrifying enough to warrant despairing mutters all the way into Hammertown, as I slunk into my seat with all the certainty of a tiger-cub eyeing a raw pound of zebra-meat across a gully with nothing more than a frayed-rope strung up for access.

A strange calm surrounded me as I returned to find my Detective Agency bathed in the twirling lights of six squad cars; umpteen glances upward provided the serenity of knowing that, at the very least, smoke wasn’t billowing from the rooftop. Yet.

I got out just as Randy was being led out into a squad car, hands, indeed, cuffed. He winked at me, even forcing a smile before his head was "inadvertently" bounced off the hard-paneling above the backseat doorway like a four-square ball off of a two-tiered fort.

I answered a few questions abruptly, and hastened my way inside to find...nothing. Everything was still there, mind you, but there were no outside indicators of foul play, and by the time I rushed back outside, the last of the squad cars was crashing its back-end on the too-high Lawson Detective Agency © Brand driveway.

There was reason behind the driveway’s peculiar construction, just as there was a reason Randy was relinquished of his freedom and bashed into the back of a squad car - unfortunately, I only knew one of those reasons, and I had a feeling that I was going to miss a significant amount of proposed-vacation time to ascertain the other.

Entry 2


The Lawson Detective Agency Memo #1

It has come to my attention that this office is a filthy, repulsive mess not fit for even so much as a mongrel with pinkeye and bed sores that make a crate of gutted avocados look like a bed of polished mercury.

Here are a couple of specific transgressions that could, in future, be avoided so that when clients come to visit, they won’t be privy to an office of collective shame that would suffocate the office morale of a more impuissant workforce like six frogs in a bag of carbon monoxide:

-please refrain from leaving dried, sticky margarita-mix on the photocopier;

-do not, under any circumstances, fire up the mini-grille without first properly ventilating the office;

-stop feeding the raccoons...or, failing that, stop feeding them my expensive coffee grounds;

-though tension-relieving in theory, refrain from using the costly leather office chairs and my laptop computer for inter-company indoor Lawsonball contests;

-no more inkjet murals on the white brick walls, as we already have your ink-blot tests on file;

-if possible, leave your diaries at home...or, at least procure a model with a lock that isn’t easily opened with a lighter and three seconds of guile;

-from now on, the cost of renting a port-a-potty to counteract a ludicrously heinous bowel movement falls onto the individual himself;

-company birthday cards will be issued only on the date of birth itself; there will be no more birthday card "advances";

-self-construction of a company gallows is, as of now, strictly forbidden...as is keeping Japanese fighting fish on your desk as a pet if you aren’t going to give them other fish to fight;

-if eating buttered corn-on-the-cob is part of your crime-solving "process", work hard to include napkins in said process;

-the tradition of Monday morning, pre-coffee shin kicks will now be replaced with one solid rabbit-punch at the base of the spine after lunch...except for when a holiday weekend eats up the Monday, in which case a pinky-finger poke in the eye on Tuesday morning will suffice.

These few ideas will allow us to continue to generate the enthusiasm and ardency that the Lawson Detective Agency has come to represent. As well, my shredded shins will finally be given the space and time needed to begin the arduous healing process.

And remember, folks, the magic words: Ten bucks a case.

Plus expenses.


The "Jo Mhama" Case - Entry 10

I awoke to a tremendous ringing in my ears. I tossed, it followed; I turned, it again followed...until I realized that I had been holding my Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Portable Home-Office Supraphone in the folds of my Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Bedtime Linens that were comfortably, and elegantly, housing my Cottonmouth Lazabout Pillow from the same aforementioned line of decadent stratums.

I had been sleeping for the better part of the last week, so a solid cobweb-releasing shake of the head left me both euphorically woozy and conversational enough to answer the endlessly-ringing Supraphone. Open chest-wound heavy-breathing greeted me like a mini-cyclone of sucking air in my earpiece, and I not only knew that Randy was the perpetrator of the wake-up-call audio hijinks I was resentfully enjoying, but I was also certain that all was briskly returning to the orthodoxical realm of acceptable, day-to-day behaviour then it had been for a very, very long time.

So it seemed, at least. With immediate retrospect hovering in the too-soon-coming hindsight, the origins of Joquain Andreas Mhama and his spectacular transformation into an apathetic, yarn-spinning old man and back into a pretense-less fedora had left me equal parts wonder and debility...the latter winning out over the former by an almost eight-to-one margin. Mystery there may well still be, but whatever may come of Jo Mhama in the future takes an instantaneous backseat to a good, loving meal and 7-8 glasses of bourbon at One Duke...which is, as I can see by the hastily-arranged manila placards haphazardly stuck to the newspaper-covered windows, closed.
DAMN it.


The "Jo Mhama" Case - Entry 9

It made sense, in an ass-backward kind of way, that whatever parturient gene/infection that created the tumefaction of these godforsaken fedoras would manifest itself in the appendix; said organ has been widely critiqued by many a backwater-comic for having no purpose other than leaving open the possibility of rupturing and killing its host. Randy, ass-backward himself on my put-upon toilet, was having himself a noisy, sporadically terrifying birth ritual that conjured up a harbinger of labour-plans involving the walling-up of said bathroom with whatever hardening agents I had lying around my humble, yet classy, abode. Throughout the yelps and groans emanating from my bathroom like the petulant screams of three cats trapped under a lead-weight down a 100-foot open well, I managed to centre my focus on the implausibility of a fedora not only thinking for itself, making plans to adapt to a human society, while also possessing the wherewithal to just...well, grow into a human. I was no closer to any sort of rationalization when a massive, heaved sigh shot out from Randy‘s direction, followed by a startled "C’mere!" There was nothing in the world I wanted less than to see what Randy had deposited in my poor, beleaguered throne, and yet the tone in his voice traversed the histrionic plains of emotion like a sherpa hanging onto a rock-face by his fingernails only to find that said sherpa was, in fact, safe on a ledge after all; I meandered over with a grimace of curiosity clouding my face and found Randy with his hand on his chin, his eyebrow raised in the classic "thinker’s" pose. I swallowed hard, imaging that it would be the last time I did so for some time without tasting the bile of repugnance, and looked into the toilet: there it was, like a cream-cheese ball covered in macadamia-nut crumbles, Randy’s appendix.

Defying all medical logic, my longtime sidekick had excremated this useless body part using the same amount of effort as one who had passed a kidney-stone, and was now not only not any worse for wear, but downright confused as to how any of this could’ve happened, and, actually, proud of what he had accomplished...in the same misguided manner in which a paratrooper brags of taking only a bullet in the arm during combat - as if it had anything to do with they themselves. I agreed with the assertion that said expelled appendix shouldn’t be just flushed unceremoniously, but disagreed with the idea that I should be the one to fish it out of my soon-to-be exorcised, never-to-be-used-under-normal-circumstances-again toilet.

As Randy got together the supplies necessary to plunge-out his appetizer-like offspring, it occurred to me that this sequence of events meant, more than likely, that the human body will eventually reject whatever contamination this fedora-virus had the capability to inflict; and after hearing that Randy had consumed some eight cups of the hat-tainted coffee, compared to my one, I knew I was in no real danger of baptizing my own appendix, as Randy was then doing using my removable-head shower nozzle with all the care of a mighty mother sloth sweeping away the curlicues of her spawn’s infant hairdo.

I cleared my head of the strange events that had just transpired by circling Randy’s fedora/Jo Mhama like a gang of heathens around a bible-clutching peasant, staring into it with the hard, yet intensity-ebbing eyes of a professionally-trained, but personally bedraggled Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Detective. I had reached both my charisma’s and wit’s end, and, dizzy from all the circling I was doing, I let the discomfort in my eyes tell Randy to take both his appendix and Jo Mhama away from me, and let my waning-equilibrium take me into a long, rejuvenating nap.

Entry 10


The "Jo Mhama" Case - Entry 8

Staring into the cold, painted-white brick of the Lawson Detective Agency’s bland interior that was now flush with the earthy-brown wash of 38 fedoras, all tilted forward to reveal their varying topside creases, filled me with the kind of excitement usually reserved for acrobats who have managed to escape another night under the big top with nary a scratch. Were those, in all actuality, letters folded into the tops of said hats? Or was I just fictionalizing a connection between these appendix-fedoras and the fool’s gold of communication? Could I be trying too hard?

Knowing full well that the latter was an absolute impossibility, I concentrated on this giant-sized headwear anagram, sipping my Nevada Nucleon coffee, as that was the brain-teaser blend, with a fervor not seen since Martin Heinrich Klaproth discovered uranium; I was sweating like a refrigerated can of peaches in the afternoon sun, and my hands felt like a rookie snake-handler’s on his first full day of practice. The hard part was discerning what were letters and what were attempts at such; to be sure, I had found the word "hat", but so what? It was akin to searching for a needle in a haystack and finding that some of the stalks formed the word "hay".

After the type of consternation that would make a beetle faced with a ball-peen hammer look like a pig-tailed schoolgirl deciding between Tang and Kool Aid, it all came together:

I’m a HaT.

There was most distinctly an apostrophe, what with the curled top of the punctuation and everything, and I knew now for certain what I had suspected all along: Joquain Andreas Mhama was, indeed, a hat. His slowly escaping shape was actually a reversal; his body was returning to its original form, and it became absurdly clear at that moment why his stories took so long to gestate, and the understanding itself made me want to both laugh at the lunacy and cry at the effort: He was a hat learning how to talk like a human.

How? In what kind of world does a fedora just up and decide to become a sentient being? What of this "twin cousin" he had referred to all those weeks ago when he stepped into the Lawson Detective Agency? The questions were many, the answers few, but more of the former cropped up when Randy emerged wearing what looked to a brand-new fedora; why he would choose that exact headwear after being subjected to the horror of growing one out of his appendix was beyond me...unless the one on his head was one of his "own". I heaved a gigantic sigh of relief when he dutifully informed me that no, his current headpiece was not of his mysterious lump’s production. My happiness was short-lived, however, once Randy smiled and told me that he was, in fact, wearing Jo Mhama.

The immoral madness of wearing our client on his head must have short-circuited my brain, for when I awoke I found myself at home, surrounded again by hats, and the awful, repugnant sound of Randy giving birth in the bathroom. It was then, at what I hoped to be the tail end of the case, that I decided never again to cover my head...unless I was burying it in the sand.

Entry 9


The "Jo Mhama" Case - Entry 7

I attempted to blame perspective for the walls of the myriad corridors closing in on me, but they continued to do so even as I sprinted down the hospital’s labyrinth of hallways. Perhaps I was feeling faint; my system may not have fully cleansed itself of the fedora-toxins, and I was an equilibrium-less butterfly swooping through rows and rows of bedpan-addled metallic carts - chrome-plated jungle-gyms containing the last vestiges of umpteen emptied colons.

By chance, I happened upon Jo Mhama’s room; I caught a glimpse of his nameplate, even though I was sure I had the right place based solely by the awkward and disjointed looks on the faces of the surrounding nurses. Jo Mhama’s eyes were gone...vacant, soft-edged holes sat where the eyes should have been, but by then the complete picture became abundantly clear: Mhama’s form was illusionary; his features had the kind of vague shape that one would admit to seeing if taken in just a glance, but the longer I looked at his slowly-disappearing form, the more it became apparent that, like a breath-soaked window, his personal architecture was fading away. Though his mouth still apparently worked, as it mind-numbingly jabbered without making a sound, the Mhama that had walked into the Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Office lo those many weeks ago was now...what? I squinted expertly, trying to distinguish exactly what the malleable contour of his body resembled, when an orderly with his hands under Mhama’s sheet inexplicably pulled out a brand-new fedora.

Stunned, I looked around, as most do when they are confronted with something too strange to comprehend, and saw a veritable mountain of fedoras both covering and surrounding a nearby chair. I abruptly asked the orderly if all the identical-looking hats were, indeed, identical, and he asked me what I cared; I flashed the expensive-looking-though-affordable-on-any-budget Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Badge, and he stuttered a stricken "yes".

I gathered my thoughts, along with a few of the hats, and noticed immediately that the creases in the top of said hats were markedly different. Were these the folded-skin peculiarities of a newborn baby’s face or something more? Could it possibly be an attempt at communication from a man trapped within his continually-morphing cage of a body? Had it really been more than three weeks since I’d had a coffee? I got a hold of Randy, also occupying this same hospital, and once I was certain that he was mobile, he was sent for some Bangkokian FeatherMash Coffee, as that was the ultimate in caffeinated flavour and full to the brim of what we at the LDA like to call Alertness Quotient, and we going to need every drop: deciphering hat folds from fedoras birthed by an old man’s appendix was, obviously, an all night job.

Entry 8


The "Jo Mhama" Case - Entry 6

myxyezzpittlykI centered my reeling mind with the paperwork from a dozen un-started cases, attempting to realign my focus with some sort of non-hathathat reality. I was future-bound, staving off the feddorra-poisson by flinging myself into the non-begun cases, accessing some future almost-reality until it became all too clear that I had, in fact, lost a week...and the shock to my system was immediate and, in itself, perplexing.

I hooked a tether to the Jo Mhama case and pulled myself back towards the current, or actual, real-time reality that had been the periphery, and realized that, even withizzout the flashbacks to my inglorious time high on fedorasweathathathat, I had nothing to go on, and, even less appealing, nowhere to go. I delved back into the paperwork of said case, pantomiming a grasping-at-straws maneuver to remind myself to focus, and got down to facts-are-facts: Mhama was still hospitalized, the hathat was gone, and proceeding with the case was somehow akin to the sensation of pushing raw quartz across a twenty-three-mile span of lumpy, mirrored glass.

I hadn’t come into contact with Randy in the preceding week-and-a-half, and I ruminated on the pros and cons to murdering him with a potato-chip-bag clip and four metres of wet extension-cord for slipping me the crushed-coffee-bean-and-old-man-fedora special when he strolled into the office, looking very, very strange...and it wasn’t just the baggier-than-was-appropriate, breast-pocketed yellow golf-shirt; it was the look on his face that betrayed a half-in, half-out psychosis that was percolating with every twisted step. Randy looked bulky but malnourished, cocky but frightened, moronic and ridiculous. It wasn’t until a foot from my desk that he spotted me, the amazement flashing across his face like a humvee ricocheting along the sandy dunes of some desert that went on for years. His shirt lifted, more by the hand of horror than by his own, and there it was, a lumpy, skin-stretched blob protruding from his lower gut: Randy was growing a fedora.

My mind nearly snapped; the base-level motor-function of said mind, through the amazing discipline enforced by the Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Detective Manual, remained alert enough to wonder aloud as to the last time either of us had visited Mhama in the hospital; Randy confirmed what any right-thinking person would have thought in his position - that he was much more concerned with the freakish headwear that looked to be flowering from his appendix than he was with any case whatsoever.

Fair was fair, and with a quick glance at my own thankfully un-bloated left torso, I was a rumour in the office...a story that was once told that involved me and my quest to see about Jo Mhama and the devilish hat-infeection that he had possibly-inadvertently unleashed upon the poor, unequipped, almost-amateurish Lawson Detective Agency.

Entry 7


The "Jo Mhama" Case - Entry 5

I drank the hat.

Randy, like a bullfighter hopped-up on two cups of crushed mustard-seeds, expertly combined the insipid fedora with my most expensive wad of coffee, the South Borraccan Manifest-Destiny Bourgeois-Juan De-Light, De-Licious, and as that was the “kick yourself to the curb and give yourself a big pat on the back until you’ve sprained your arm” blend, the office became a receptacle for all noise and light...

...like a frozen bee coming to with a wingful of vengeance but a head full of arguments from the corner of W5 and Fennell, I hummed around the office attempting to remain staid even though the 12oz ribeye-steak-sized tears of indefatigable sadness heaved against the inner lining of my soul like a cheetah pushing against a chain-link fence of inconceivable melancholy and dimestore turkey-bacon.

At least Jo Mhama was resting peacefully...whereas I was succumbing to the ravages of hat-poison, fighting like a buccaneer against the empirical neck-jabbing of millions of unseen fedora-feathers

ignorant acupuncturist tool-use

you quack
more coffee means more motion sickness and loud, unpalatable yelling
but coffeebadgood really bad I love blendedpsychadeliccoffeedammit

I was in need of a cold-shower detox, but try as I might,housefarI couldn’t remember the way to the Lawson Detective Agency © Brandtrademarkhome without first singing a respectful jingle to honour the hard-working rock-face sandblasters that pepper Hammertown like dust-mites in the desert:

names engraved on the rock face
that’s sure one hefty bill
pay up a
pay up a

Entry 6


The "Jo Mhama" Case - Entry 4

After taking a week-long respite, partially to engage in the wedding of a pseudo-family member, partially to recover from the complete mental and physical exhaustion resultant from the hospitalization of Mr. Jo Mhama, I re-upped for another tour of duty in this endless battle of Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Idiocity.

Mhama had fallen into such an inconceivable depression as to make agonizing, death-bed sobbing look like winning a lotto jackpot while eating filet mignon on the most electrifying roller-coaster this side of Sugarcake Mountain; it was as though he began melting from the eyelids down, and with every subsequent heave of separation anxiety he would slouch floorward like a chocolate coin over a beeswax candle. Randy had agreed that removing the calamitous fedora from his possession was for the betterment of all, but neither my expert Detective Knowledge nor his awkward brain-cramp thinking had come anywhere near anticipating this. The very headgear that had turned both Randy and myself into whimpering, deplorable dimwits had been indulging in some sort of symbiotic relationship with the bed-ridden Mhama, and the only headway Randy and I had made over the last three hours was in the form of kicking it around like it was a disease-ridden raccoon carcass.

We were at a standoff, this hat and I; hands twitching at the ends of arms held loosely at our sides, fingering the metaphorical quick-draw six-shooters we held in our sepia-toned holsters, he snarling with a rage only fathomable to those with a unique disposition towards fashion, myself grunting through a clenched jaw of raw, jagged earthen rock...this wasn’t over, and it wasn’t over by a long shot I thought to myself as I thought of myself thinking to myself


Entry 5


The "Jo Mhama" Case - Entry 3

Murmur after murmur of lunacy escaped the slumbering lips of Jo Mhama, all "portents" and "harbingers", but I was too busy fiddling with his exquisite fedora to make much sense of it; it was as if the fabric was so soft that it was wet and, evidently, my Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Hands were too coarse for the fineness of texture that this wondrous hat was offering. As I did what any finely-tuned Detecting Machine would do, namely brushing the gentle hat-fabric against my cheek, Randy awoke from his repose looking at me as though I had just skinned two armadillos. I attempted, in vain, to convince my never-eager sidekick that the fantastical hat I was massaging my face with was an equivalent sensation to being licked by flames comprised of silk, but he was not only having none of it, he was having nothing of the kind.

With a grimace, he wandered off towards the coffee-machine and brewed up what smelled like Boca Raton Carbon-Plus!, a concoction I immediately knew it to be the "talk them down from the ledge" blend, and I took absolute and regretless offence...or mostly regretless. In actuality, I regretted it almost instantaneously; not the fact that I took offence, but that I had referred to it as "regretless". Soon, the hat was pulled from my clutches and replaced with a steaming cup o’ coffee, and within the first three, no, four sips, my haunting ambivalence had faded. The telling smirk on Randy’s smug face confirmed what I had just then begun to suspect: Jo Mhama’s fedora was an opinion-quelcher; a veritable ambiguity-invoker. The hat’s unmistakable elegance was like a Chinese finger-trap for minds; once enveloped by the subtle tenuity of said hat, the mind becomes too lost in the labyrinth of gossamer to make pronouncements one way or the other.

Using my Extra-Long Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Three-Hole Punch, I flicked the hat away from a progressively dewy-eyed Randy, walloping him behind his knees as he turned to go after it; the watery sadness in those eyes was quickly doused by the fury that comes with being beaten about the legs, and I was able to calm him down just before he was able to find something sharp to poke me with. I looked long and hard at that fedora, tilted insouciantly against Randy’s desk, and I was overcome with curiosity...the kind of curiosity that could only be sated with a few sharp-fingered jabs into Jo Mhama’s ample belly-fat. I was looking to see what depths the hat’s ambivalence had burrowed, and I was to find out but soon.

Entry 4


The "Jo Mhama" Case - Entry 2

Through a soothing, eccentric drawl, the story slowly began, like a boll weevil through fifteen miles of cotton; Joquain Andreas Mhama, the man with the rolled-up newspaper and dapper hat, was a captivating, though thorough, speaker. Never before had I heard such pauses between words; it was as if he spoke.




Born during some dateless time in Euchesberg, a small soapstone-producing island near Fracshall Bay, Mhama’s demeanor reflected a life lived with ease. His slow-moving tale and impossibly-deliberate gesticulations were far too much for the irritable Randy to bear; he began flicking at his ear like a muddy elephant blanketed with flies, and I had to keep abortively whistling Cannonball by The Breeders to keep him quietly humming in his chair. Throughout Randy and my low-toned back-and-forth, meanwhile, Mhama was dawdling through his backstory, manufacturing a connection with his audience that was as tenuous as it was engrossing, and as my eyelids batted reflexively, heavy from the weight of terrific boredom, a fedora softly landed in my lap; Randy was fully asleep at this point, so my askance gaze fell upon Mhama himself. That, he said in his unique cadence, referring to the immaculate headwear now in my possession, was not his hat; rather, it was his twin cousin’s, switched around during a time of nonchalance on Mhama’s part. I was unclear as to the importance of this "switcheroo", as well as the likelihood of a "twin cousin", but Mhama teared up quickly, leaving me to fetch some Infanni Afghani coffee, as that was the "tearful reunion" blend, as close to the "stop crying, old man I‘ve never met before" blend as I had at my disposal.

I returned with two steaming cups to find Mhama curled up on my desk, sleeping like a tranquilized Randy on a four-month sabbatical, cradling his fedora like an alcoholic vagrant with a half-empty mickey of vodka. He was murmuring in his sleep, and the disjointed words said as much about what I was getting myself into as the previous two-and-a-half hours I had spent listening to his story had. I had a very specific feeling that neither "sense" nor "logic" were to be much of a factor in this particular case, and the lack of this important combination was, it seems, the Lawson Detective Agency's peculiar curse.

Entry 3


The "Jo Mhama" Case - Entry 1

I had just settled back into my desk, holding a steaming mug of Jaunty Alouette Cleveland Crump-Pumpkin coffee, and, as that that was the "business as usual" blend, I was unsurprised when the Lawson Detective Agency-Brand Supercellphonewatch © began ringing like fifteen-quarters off a ringside bell...heavy-breathing and minute gulps of air were not the sounds I had been accustomed to in the three months of tedious vacation time I had withstood at the request of Mental Fatigue, but they were welcome nonetheless.

To my dismay, however, I quickly recognized the laborious air-sucking as that of Randy, my put-upon employee who, after getting his wits about him while getting his ass handed to him during the last case, had seemingly regressed to that dull-witted dimbulb that was just as likely to create a secondary case as he was to solve the first one.

Still, it had been awhile, and it was nice to have order restored to the calamitous LDA HQ, if even for the few seconds before I made clear that, while phone-calls are nice, the work is to be done in the office. Suffice it to say, I had used the wrong batch of words in verbally reeling him into said office; the heavy-breathing phone-calls from two cubicles away from a giggling Randy were proof-positive that I was a little rusty in the field of Employee-Control. An electrifying 15-foot fling of a razor-sharpened number 2 pencil, expertly lodged between Randy’s shoulder-blades, was enough of an indicator that I was, indeed, in charge...so much so that the subsequent shoelaces-tied-together double-whack of Randy against the neighbouring desk/concrete floor was superfluous and yet exceedingly satisfying.

Randy had hit the desk with such force that his memory of the incident faded with his horizontality, but his slow-rising verticality produced the anger that only comes with confusing physical pain; it was an interesting combination, yelling with but a jumble of nonsense as a vocabulary, and I was fully invested in decoding the whole rambling affair when in shuffled a timid old man with a rolled-up newspaper and an elegant fedora in his hands.

After I had convinced Randy that this interloper was not the man who had wronged him, I was introduced to one Joquain Andreas Mhama...and the story he began to unfurl was one of both high entertainment value and low risk, the perfect combination for a lethargic and out-of-practice Detective.

Entry 2


The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 18

I sputtered and coughed myself awake, emboldened by the fact that while wet, I wasn’t yet dead...and further emboldened by the fact that Randy, lopside-hanging blond-wig and all, was standing and staring off down an adjacent corridor, looking none the worse for wear, considering the last time I got a good look at him he was a woman.

Turning and finding me awake, he smiled and adroitly explained how he managed to escape from Shinkleblossom’s clutches as she miscalculated which of the tunnels were to release the torrent of sewer-water that rained down on me; they too were hit full-barrel by the shotgun-tube of water that had knocked me unconscious, but Randy was able to anticipate the wave and ride it down into the open area where it gathered; it was at that point that Randy, while searching for air, found me bubbling out the last of mine, and yanked me up and out to safety. The question of Shinkleblossom’s whereabouts, however, remained open: Randy caught a glimpse of the old woman stopping dead and staring into the oncoming deluge before taking a face-full of rapid, tunnel-wide shooting water, but lost track after he was shot out of the tunnel like so much undigested corn after a frosh-week kegger.

He tried to explain to me the secret of Shinkleblossom, but I had already figured it out, thanks to her eerie sing-song screaming in backwards-talk: Mossol-Belk? The Nihs family? Mossolbelknihs was Shinkleblossom backwards, and Tabitha Shinkleblossom herself was indeed the Mossl-Belk that I recognized so vividly during my Tallhallowockian tribe Interweb research. She had tried to assimilate herself into our society, into our population, but in doing so had broken down completely both mentally and physically; her reasons for emerging as an old, vile woman let loose in the suburbs of Hammertown, as well as her self-impelled involvement with our small Detective Agency, were nonsensical at best, but what kind of logic could one really expect from one who had long ago crossed-over from the quasi-delightful streets of Hammertown to the frenzied, chaotic ones of Crazytown? Randy and I had our questions, numerous and complex, but swallowed them all in a gasp of air as the tide dropped: there, among the mildewed rubble of collapsed tunnels and the ruins of some sub-aquatic habitat, lay Mossol-Belk-nee-Tabitha Skinkleblossom, twisted and crushed, a corpse that somehow seemed more alive when dead.

Randy and I stood and stared, looking for any applicable sign of life, for what seemed like hours; the silence was finally broken by a few gurgles, a jumping noise that begat a rolling, thunderous laughter...Randy was laughing so hard that he was doubled over, tears inadvertently spraying from his face as he let loose the hideous demons that had been dogging him since his first encounter with Shinkleblossom. After he calmed to the point of being able to stand upright, I put my arm around him and said what every Lawson Detective Agency © Detective looks forward to at the beginning of every case: Let’s go have us some Brazil-Nut-Job Caramelized-Cinnamon coffee, as that’s the recuperation blend.

And since I already had an unpaid tab at One Duke, hey...it was on me.


The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 17

Gibberish and insane tittering echoed throughout the underground cave somehow either built-in to the Whiz-Key bottling factory, or vice versa: the very notion that Whiz-Key Inc. had built the Hammertown branch of their Moonshine-empire on top of a labyrinth of mottled, fetid tunnels was every inch as frightening as the throaty yelps that audibly cascaded toward me as a kind of sonic kaleidoscope.

I took my time trudging through the ankle-deep putrid muck of the tunnel, but even so I found the manic stop-start rhythm of the cacophonous wailing to be coming in clearer...I startled myself with the idea that whomever it was who had taken Randy down into this pit was doubling back on me; I became certain that the nonsensical garble was backwards talking, but drew myself down into a furrowed-brow ball of concentration: if what I heard was indeed backwards talking, why then did it sound suspiciously like some foul creature was laugh-speaking the name Mossol-Belk?

I pondered this as I pushed further into the dark, past the rancid, sulfurous smells of rusted bottle-caps, out into a cylindrical open area where the myriad tunnels joined, and I stopped just long enough to rue the drip of water I felt on my shoulder...in that lingering moment before a top-tier tunnel was about to unleash a torrent of water down onto me like I was an ant staring into a fireman’s hose, I had the answer to my riddle; the only question that remained was whether I would be in any type of condition to follow up on it once I was immersed in what was sure to be the brownest of the brown waters.

Entry 18


The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 16

I approached the monolithic structure that housed the bottling factory of Whiz-Key Inc. with trepidation; the hovering darkness of the sky directly overhead gave the long walk up the twisting staircase a distinctly daunting feel. The twelve-foot steel-doors provided less obstruction than the appearance of such, but once inside I saw peripheral scurrying, like cockroaches exposed to light; quick movements that left only echoes of sound in the cavernous warehouse-like bottling-plant.

I found a door that read "manager" and sharply knocked twice before allowing myself entry; the wall-hung corkboard message-holder affixed behind the sparsely-adorned desk held many a newspaper clipping that, upon closer inspection, were from no newspaper I had ever seen, and I read newspapers with the same lust as a condemned man has for a last supper ribeye steak. I examined the office as best I could without getting myself in a position that would look to be too suspicious; I had turned away from the desk when I heard a pleasant, "Can I help you?" that startled me enough to turn me back around like a fresh head of romaine in a lettuce-spinner. A beautiful blond-haired woman was sitting at the desk now, smiling and radiating a helpfulness that was all-too uncommon in this world of betrayal and hypocrisy; the corkboard was missing, somehow, and a nameplate had been placed front and centre on the desk that read, "Ms. Nihs".

I frowned and slowly leveled my gaze at the suddenly squared-off jaw of the would-be helpful blond; there was worry in her eyes, and a darkening around the mouth that seemed to deepen the more I stared; her rapidly blinking eyes were losing their femininity with every bat of her heavily-mascaraed eyelash, and I eventually found myself staring into the blank face of Randy in a blond wig.

There was a brief look of recognition before his eyes rolled back into his head; his body went limp and he fell behind the desk with the dull thud of head colliding with the faux-tile of the office floor. I quickly jumped behind the desk to find Randy being dragged through a hole underneath, into the ground, to the sounds of wind-swept tunnels and far-off cackling...I paused to consider the ramifications of describing the be-wigged Randy as "beautiful", but plowed ahead in the underground anyway, knowing that I would have time to confront myself later over what looked to be a pretty good indicator of why my dating career was stalled like a ‘95 Ford Contour in November...Randy was technically alive, yes, but I had a feeling that, for his sake, that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

Entry 17


The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 15

There was no denying that Mossol-Belk was a charismatic figure; the video clips I found on the "official" Tallahallowockian website showed Mossol-Belk in all of his vainglorious glory, pounding a podium made up of dried otter pelts and what looked to be discarded, petrified orange-rinds with the tightly clenched fist of a masterful orator, a fiery intensity ablaze behind his fierce eyes. The language he was using, loudly, was not English, though the speech was peppered with some of the most profane English curse-words ever uttered by a human being of any ilk; incomprehensible strings of an unknown tongue dotted with what sounded like the improper usage of expletives.

Listen after re-listen, I started to recognize the cadence of his dissertation as resembling the stilted translation on the back of the East-Tallahallowockian Moonshine bottle; I cross-checked the introductory note on the site with the bottle-label, finding a helpful Tallahallowockian-to-English translation site that confirmed my suspicions: Mossol-Belk and his culture had been "Disney-fied" for the purpose of selling Moonshine; Mossol-Belk was viewed, I’m sure, as unpalatable enough to be glossed over by whomever bought the rights to advertise and distribute said Moonshine.

I began my search for the offending company, revisiting the Mossol-Belk video every time I found myself at yet another dead end, when it hit me all at once: during a casual turn away from the camera, not more than two seconds of a sustained profile, I noticed a striking similarity between this Tallahallowockian idol and one Tabitha Shinkleblossom; so much so that I opened up a cache of pictures on the site and pinpointed a stark black and white profile shot of Mossl-Belk, closing my eyes with the image still flitting in front of my mind’s eye to compare it with what I remembered of Shinkleblossom’s horrible visage. Though they were identical, save for Shinkleblossom’s wrinkled neck-fat, I couldn’t be sure; much like a golfer with a slice needs to aim away from his target to correct for said slice, I pictured Randy juxtaposed with the Mossol-Belk image and it too looked identical. It was just as I had feared; my obsession with the Nihs family and all of Tallahallowockian culture had clouded my reasoning faculties, and I needed to gather up my free mind-space if I was going to have any hope of either rescuing Randy or, more importantly, solving this infectious-disease of a case.

I stood, ostensibly to get the blood flowing throughout my lower half, but found myself pacing around the office like a rabid pheasant, clawing absent-mindedly at the note-covered corkboards adorning the walls of the LDA, unable to determine an appropriate plan of action; I stared long and hard at the Voncorps quote, thinking that the link between Mossol-Belk and Shinkleblossom was hidden within...and, remarkably, it was. There, within that one sentence encapsulating the Tallahallowockian belief-system, I had found my proof; I capitalized the first letter of each word in my head and then with a large black marker on my desktop I wrote:

In Voncorps, Only Righteous Yearning Cures All...Nothing Else

And then:


The very same ivory cane that Tabitha Shinkleblossom had reported stolen to begin this awful case...though I knew nothing as to the full significance of this discovery, I knew enough to know that this was no mere coincidence, and that I had to find the Hammertown distributor of this Moonshine, and I had to do so but fast; this case was becoming much more than a reclusive old-lady stealing a somewhat-valued member of the Lawson Detective Agency workforce...I was determined to be indemnified for all the maniacal transgressions of this Shinkleblossom, even if that entailed a complete investigation into the possibly-criminal ethos of the Tallahallowockian tribe; if Mossol-Belk and Shinkleblossom were indeed one and the same, as I strongly suspected, then there is no telling how deadly, misguided, and insidious those combustible video-sermons were.

I shuddered at the thought of all I might uncover, and swallowed hard before cautiously downing a cup of Albanian Zinc-Filtered coffee, as that was the anti-xenophobic blend, and even more cautiously headed off to the Hammertown chapter of the Moonshine-bottlers, Whiz-Key Inc., to hopefully find out more than I wanted to know.

Entry 16


The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 14

I sat, fiercely holding a Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Ice Pack to my right temple in an attempt to keep the throbbing in my head at a minimum while leafing through unimportant documents at the LDA HQ; though the headache was well-deserved, as I had imbibed enough of that East-Tallahallowockian Moonshine to last me four camping trips, the deservedness of said mind pain wasn’t enough to offset the irritation of my poor decision to get caught up in the whole Tallahallowockian culture just because a Guide for Morons version of it was printed on the back of the bottle.

I tried to focus, figuring that a solid cup of Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Tomato Juice from the Crime-Solving Dinner Edibles Menu-offshoot (the similarly-LDA-approved Day-After Detective Work Hangover Cures Menu) would help me to straighten out and find that elusive clue...the one snippet of the case that had heretofore escaped me, leaving me with a rapidly-thawing Ice Pack melting down my face and no idea as to where Tabitha Shinkleblossom could’ve taken Randy. My Lawson Detective Agency © Imitation-Brand Police Scanner had been keeping me abreast of the Shinkleblossom estate, and she hadn’t, to this point, returned for even a fresh set of underpants. I was at a loss, and becoming increasingly aware of the need to get this secondary-case rolling...every second I spent confused and irritable was another second Shinkleblossom was using to continue her getaway unabated.

Inexplicably, I jumped onto the Interweb and began searching for more on the Nihs family, as that picture off the Moonshine bottle was jammed into my frontal lobe, and, though I had flunked out of psychiatric college, I was almost positive that my curiosity towards their leader, Mossol-Belk, was pushing any relevant information from the current case out of my head; I would satiate my growing obsession with a quick Interweb study-session, and then get back to my Detective Work once my hangover had faded. However, once I found an "official" website for the Tallahallowockians, the introductory note left me frozen, unblinking, in my chair...my two greatest passions, at the present time, were mixing together like rye-whiskey and sweet-vermouth, and this tasty Manhattan of a lead was to be the break in the case that I was looking for.

Entry 15

The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 13

I had gotten myself worked up over a non-issue, apparently, as the kindly waitress had resolved the whole "drunkenly walking out on my bill" issue by just tacking said bill up on the Wall of Shame behind the cash register at One Duke...they knew I would be back, so strong was their hold on my palette. Since I was sitting in good standing at my favourite watering-hole, even though I hadn’t cleared the debt as of yet, I decided to alleviate my stress with a couple of thimblefuls of East-Tallahallowockian Moonshine...knowing me like she does, the sweet-natured waitress left me the bottle to read like the back of a cereal-box while downing my fire-water.

I felt a pang in my stomach that I mistook to be hunger; as I read the liquor bottle further, I became aware that it was curiosity that had my stomach twisting in knots...the strong, boy-scout-training knots that the Moonshine had already tied my mind up into. I wasn’t alone in my liquor-induced epiphany, it would seem, as the Tallahallowockian tribe responsible for my stress-alleviation held that this Moonshine, along with the teachings of one Mossol-Belk, were the two keys necessary for an introduction into their structure of religious belief. The Voncorp, or family, of renown within was the Nihs family; theirs was the only remaining undiluted bloodline in the greater Tallahallowockian tribe, which, by my own drunken calculations, meant that they had managed to keep their incestuous relations going longer than the other Voncorps, which, in my admittedly small-scale understanding of the world, wasn’t something to be all that proud of.

Regardless, this Mossol-Belk was something of a Christ-figure to the Tallahallowockians, though his teachings were sparse on the tattered label adorning the back of the liquor bottle, leaving the interested reader with only these words to ponder:

In Voncorps, only righteous yearning cures all...nothing else

I blinked heavily twice, re-reading the seemingly wise-words of Mossol-Belk until I could no longer focus...until it dawned on me that Randy was still missing, and that I had no leads to speak of. I quickly stood up, just as quickly losing my balance and sitting back down; I stood up again, this time taking into account the level of inebriation I had attained, and left a hearty tip for the waitress, hoping that my hand-scrawled note explaining "post-visit" payment was enough for her to tack this new bill next to my old one of the Shame Wall. I left for sleep, remembering that Detective Work and alcohol don‘t mix, as I previously learned when our ill-conceived "plan" resulted in disaster and Randy’s disappearance on the back of a galloping Shinkleblossom. But, still, there was something about the picture of Mossol-Belk on the bottle...an image and a thought I would hopefully hold on to once I awoke from the liquor-slumber I was about to resoundingly enjoy.

Entry 14


The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 12

I awoke again in the dreary confines of the hospital, surrounded by the same surly staff and the same irritated roommate-glares as before, though this time there was a doctor sitting at the end of my bed who greeted me with a sad smile of impossibly glowing white teeth. He was speaking to me in earnest tones, with a timber that Jazz station-DJs use at three o’clock in the morning, and I ignored him to ascertain what, exactly, I had been doing at the Shinkleblossom house that had gotten me shoved right back into this personal-hell of IV drips and the urine-on-metal stink of the bedpans, and what I remembered did, indeed, sound crazy.

I looked at Dr. White-Teeth and it became all-too-apparent that he was a psychologist; the male-pattern-baldness, the white shirt, the impeccably clean fingernails, the cologne...he had it all, but I knew that I wasn’t nearly as nuts as my foray to Shinkleblossom’s house would seem to have indicated. I knew I wasn’t at 100% mentally, that was sure, but I was positive it was from a lack of good coffee rather than some deeply-ingrained mental problems. I was feeling the mania in my head abating as I listened to the doctor drone on and on about how unnecessary it was for me to go back to Shinkleblossom’s house, and how I should, in fact, not ever go there again...not only because of the psychological implications on my fragile psyche, but also because there was now a restraining-order against me. I was to remain 500-feet clear of that house at all times, and that most certainly put a damper on my attempts at discerning where Shinkleblossom had taken Randy.

I nodded through all the right parts of what the doctor was saying and checked myself out again, heading with haste to my home, where fresh clothes and exotic coffee awaited me; I needed to step back and figure out what the next course of action should be, and there was only one place for those types of ruminations, and that was One Duke...where I had a hefty, delinquent bar-tab to pay, and nowhere near enough money to do so. This was going to take all the skill, and Iroquois Last-Supper coffee, as that was the begging for forgiveness blend, I could muster to get through this pickle I was in.

Entry 13

The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 11

Getting myself checked out of the hospital was less troubling than I had feared; I had apparently overstayed my welcome by two weeks, which, in retrospect, explains the exasperated noises I received as responses to my inquiries in regards to lunch, as well as the repeated attempts to physically remove me from my bed.

Regardless of who stayed too long where, I made my way back to Tabitha Shinkleblossom’s abode but found it infested with police, combing over the premises with flashlights and the furrowed-brow interest of a scientist looking into a petri-dish. The stay at the hospital, though allowing me more time to heal than was necessary, had mixed up my brain but good, and I blamed the jell-o...though with the realization that I had arbitrarily placed blame on the very foodstuffs that had kept me nourished throughout my stay, I fully understood how deep my own mania had gone. Jell-o doesn’t hurt people, I thought to myself, sternly tapping my forefinger on my temple in a last-ditch effort to keep that information in my head this time, and went about finding my way into the Shinkleblossom estate.

The chimney was readily available, but there wasn’t a soul guarding the front door...even so, it took three protracted gazes at the inviting chimney before I convinced myself that the front door, though not nearly as exciting, was the better bet for my entrance being unnoticed...particularly as I only had on my hospital-issue gown, which would only hinder my climbing. Once inside, and with the house temporarily free of police, I thought it best to hide and wait out the investigation, lest anyone see me in my backside-revealing gown, so that I could conduct my own investigation at my leisure; I found the couch to be an extremely comfortable option, luxurious even, and laid myself down on the filth-encrusted pillows, pulling my legs up so they were also covered by my hospital gown, and as the fatigue set in, I heard the tinny sound of noise down a long hallway...a voice off in the distance that said "who the [expletive deleted] is that?" as I succumbed to sleep.

Entry 12

The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 10

It was the shards of glass I remembered first; thousands of pieces of jagged former-skylight falling and catching little dollops of moonlight and flicking them around the house like one plummeting disco-ball after another. Then, all I felt was nauseating realization; the stomach-turning recollection of that one minor detail that hadn’t occurred to us as Randy and I sat drunkenly weaving together our master plan oh those many nights ago at One Duke...and now I was awake, covered in the rancid-smelling, medicine-drenched covers of a hospital bed for the second case in a row, the sticky, half-inch thick mummy-wrappings of twelve rolls of gauze, holding on to the fading memory of Randy, the abject horror on his face as obvious as a footprint in fresh snow, getting pulled through the broken back-window of Shinkleblossom’s house and off into whatever hell she had planned for him during her getaway.

The idea itself was flawed, as Randy and I followed our plan to the letter; the moment he crashed through the skylight, I began to howl through the traffic-pylon as a means of inflicting distraction and discombobulation on the nearly-asleep Shinkleblossom, and the precisely-set shaving-mirrors were throwing the light from Randy’s glowsticks all over the interior of the house. Shinkleblossom shot up from her half-slumber, staggered from Randy’s glowstick whirling and my alternately guttural moaning and high-pitched shrieking, and took some apprehensive steps towards Randy as I snuck up behind her, donkey-saddle in tow. She spun around and caught me with the talons of a particularly foul-tempered falcon, but we were expecting some sort of reprisal, and when she spun back to face Randy she caught a glowstick between the eyes that dazed her just enough to allow me to fashion the donkey-saddle to her back. She spun towards me again, though slower with the added weight of the saddle, and caught a face-full of my spittle and echoed yelling from the traffic-pylon that was positioned directly at her face. She spun around yet again, and the repeated spinning caused her to lose her balance somewhat, so Randy took the opportunity to jump on the saddle and force her down onto all fours...but she abruptly bucked him off with the strength of a bronco five-times her size, and in my diving attempt to subdue her further I just grabbed an armful of air; she had escaped our trap while lunging for the only object that was to be our undoing: the light switch.

Incandescent, 140-watt old-person indoor flood-lights blinded all three of us, and through our spotted gaze we saw ourselves in the full ridiculousness that was hidden from view in the blissful darkness of the pre-lit home; the donkey-saddle fastened around the gut-fat of a heavily-breathing Shinkleblossom; the shaving mirrors that had fallen flat from their original propped-up positions around the room that, either way, really made no difference at all; both our Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Rain Coat and Lawson Detective Agency © Imitation Brand Rain Coat shielding mine and Randy’s identities, but not our shame at conceiving such an insanely purposeless plan of revenge.

What were we trying to accomplish? How could this have possibly ended? I was sliding backwards through fifteen-feet of shattered glass and slivers of wood-trim before I was able to answer those questions, now recalling both the psychological pain of seeing Randy burst out into tears on the back-saddle of Shinkleblossom and the physical pain that lead to the jigsaw-puzzle torso as I looked at the wounds underneath my bandages. I had my answers now, but they involved freeing myself from the clutches of this hospital before I freed Randy from his at the hands of that geriatric she-devil.

I was going to need some help...and jell-o, as I was feeling faint.

Entry 11


The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 9

As I caught up to Randy on Shinkleblossom’s roof, the thought of why this cracked and withered old hussy had targeted our little Detective Agency in the first place crossed my mind, however briefly; I knew this was not the time, nor the place, to get caught up in the thinking patterns of an elderly, though terrifying, psychopath, but the long walk from the road to Shinkleblossom’s house gave me quite a bit of alone time to run some ideas through my ever receptive, though increasingly embattled, brain.

Climbing up the side of her house soundlessly, while carrying a duffel-bag, was no small task either, but I had managed to catch Randy just before he was to drop into the living room through the skylight, and he was shocked to see me at all, much less on the roof; I was supposed to have been inside more than an hour ago, setting up the details of our little plan, and Randy looked at me with the wide-eyed understanding of how incredibly awful it would have been to jump through the skylight without the proper preparations in place. I cut off his seething rage at what could have been, whispering that, yes, I was late, but that he should just be glad I got there when I did. He agreed, nodding and wiping his suddenly very sweaty brow, and we got to refining our plan further, on the fly, so that this trip wasn’t wasted...after tonight, we wanted for there to be no reason to ever return to this pit of hell again.

Randy suggested the term, "Hellderly", but I nixed it for being, though clever, unusable and unnecessary.

We came to a consensus on the plan, and I handed Randy the glow-sticks and the low-grade toilet paper, as well as the Imitation Rain Coat, and just before I slithered off to find my way into the house we coordinated our watches; it was superfluous to be sure, as Randy could just watch me from the skylight, but the action of staring at our watches seemed to calm him, and I would need him at full mental capacity if we were to pull this off.

I found a rotten latch on the back door of Shinkleblossom’s garage that I could force open without much trouble, but was confronted with a stubborn door to the inside of the actual house. It took every ounce of skill I had, along with eight different Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Lockpick Tools, to finally jimmy the lock enough to allow my entrance. First off, I needed to establish where, exactly, Shinkleblossom was hiding so I could keep abreast of her movements...I slunk low to the ground, using one of the many shaving-mirrors to peer around the corners; there was a very powerful absence of light that made it difficult to differentiate between shapes, but by the time my eyes had adjusted to the dark, I heard the pounding footsteps of someone running, and they were coming in my direction. I found a nearby desk to crawl under, curling up into a ball and fingering the traffic pylon as a possible weapon, when Shinkleblossom flew past me to her front door, ripping it open with the strength of shark tearing off a human limb; I caught a glimpse of her peering out of doorway, and I felt the blowback of the menace she was sending out into the world, daring someone to be out there and thinking ill of her. My pulse-rate quickened and I began to sweat; this wasn’t a typical situation for right-thinking people, or Detectives, for that matter, to thrust themselves into, and my body was making sure I knew that, as my prodigious sweating had left but one doubt in my head, and that was how many layers of shirts I was to leak through. Shinkleblossom turned back towards me after shutting her door, walking, no, strutting back into whatever room she came from with the arrogant gait of a movie star down the red carpet. Behind her, timed perfectly, I saw the rolls of toilet paper dropping down and covering the windows from the outside; it wasn’t long before every window was covered with toilet paper, and Randy was back in position, hovering over the skylight. I got to placing the shaving mirrors in their strategic positions throughout the lower portion of the house, combing the floors to avoid any notice from Shinkleblossom, whom I found watching television with the flitting eyelids of the almost-asleep. I sat down on my pre-determined mark, covering myself with my own Rain Coat and holding up the pylon as a cue to Randy, who disappeared from view, though only fleetingly; I saw him again once he was airborne, a foot from crashing through the skylight, and my heart jumped as well.

All hell was, indeed, about to break loose.

Entry 10

The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 8

I woke up in a puddle of horror, a pool of shame from which I was dripping with fear...I checked my wallet for confirmation of the awful feeling wedged in my stomach next to the slowly-digesting aspirin tablets: I didn’t pay my tab at One Duke.

I scampered to my living room, grasping for the telephone in the dark, but stopped and held my breath. Was it too far gone, I thought, the damage...done? It couldn’t be, not for a loyal regular such as myself, no...they could forgive one night of drunken idiocity, couldn’t they? I finally located my phone and called Randy, who wasn’t answering; I let it ring again and again until the repeated drone of said ring forced me into a realization: The Plan. I was nowhere near ready, but a quick glance at my Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Silver Time-Piece told me all I needed to know: I was late, and Randy’s very life depended on my getting to Old Lady Sinkleblossom’s house before he did what we agreed he would do...our plan had gone so far past mere Detective Agency Work, past even logic or revenge, that I began to seriously contemplate the disadvantageousness of forming a scheme while overzealously, embarrassingly, ludicrously, revoltingly drunk like I hadn’t ever before.

I checked off the necessities as I stumbled around my abode: 1 batch, Brown-Ground Broken-Down Southwest Norwegian Coffee (that was the skin-tightening blend); 1 togo cup, filled with the aforementioned coffee and copious amounts of sugar and cream; 1 Lawson Detective Agency © Brand Rain Coat; 1 Lawson Detective Agency © Imitation-Brand Knock-Off Rain Coat; two glow-sticks, 1 red, 1 green; 1 traffic pylon; 1 twelve-pack, shaving mirrors; 3 rolls, low-grade toilet paper; 1 donkey-saddle. There was work to be done, to be sure, but Randy would be the dried out corn-field to Shinkleblossom’s lit match if I didn’t hustle over there with my extinguisher but fast.

The inebriated planning stage be damned...this still seemed the best way to get that ancient, godless old tramp, and we needed to, for Randy’s sake. He hasn’t been the same since she got her claws into him, and he may never be well again, but at least the future might hold a time where he’ll be able to close his eyes at night and dream of something other than the wrinkled visage of Tabitha Shinkleblossom commanding him to get dressed up in a Lone Ranger costume, to get on all fours, to clean the bronzed kick-shield of her home-made bar while she spanked him with a tennis racket...at least, after this, he’ll have his revenge. And maybe, just maybe, a story worth telling.

Entry 9


The "Expletive-Deleted" Case - Entry 7

From the deep, dark, drunken confines of One Duke, the letter was sent...the trap, set:

This [expletive deleted] holdup is inex-[expletive deleted]-cusable, but [expletive deleted] better find an [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] for us to not [expletive deleted] like a ton of [expletive deleted]. We are not [expletive deleted] around, nor are we [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted]. The [expletive deleted] is in our [expletive deleted], and we [expletive deleted] our [expletive deleted] to the [expletive deleted] hilt. There isn’t a [expletive deleted] more [expletive deleted] than the [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted], [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] on a pile of [expletive deleted] money...be [expletive deleted] sure. If [expletive deleted] isn’t [expletive deleted], then you will [expletive deleted] in [expletive deleted]. Await [expletive deleted] further [expletive deleted] instructions, and [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] yourself, in an [expletive deleted] frenzy.

The note held together fine, that was sure to us, disregarding the three bottles of Painted Ox Texas Bourbon Randy and I had imbibed while refining it. We knew that the next step would prove the most frightening, and our collective liquid courage had us prepared for the worst, which is what we’d be sure to receive if we went in with our brains as scrambled as they were. Sensing, late, that the liquor had gotten on top of us, we pulled up our stakes and headed to our respective homes, to dwell in our respective sleeps, dreaming our respective dreams. Even as I drunkenly two-stepped my way home I realized that we’d have to start making a whole lot more sense before this whole caper became a disaster...but that thought sure as hell didn’t get me any closer to my home, where a bed covered with linens fit for a King awaited my arrival, and a ceramic throne fit for my vomit did so as well.

I knew for a fact that tonight I would not disappoint either of them.

Entry 8