For a hundred dollars a day plus expenses, Bill Chapters is your man in the city. It's a good deal: there aren't a hell of a lot of private detectives working anymore, especially independent ones who appreciate the aesthetics of their calling. When you go see a doctor, you want a white coat and spectacles. When you go see a dolphin trainer, you want a suntan and careful fascism. And when you go see a dick, you want Bill Chapters. In this installment of "Busted Love," Chapters meets a mysterious stranger with a missing eye.

Catch up on the case!


Flash forward!


It was morning and the man at the door looked like he was built by the Ford Motor Company.

He had a face like a baby's -- fat and doughy with wet red lips -- but his upper-body was all grown-up. He did some tricep curls with my neck. He pasted me up against the wall, and his fist made itself at home in my stomach.

For a few minutes the world went white. When color returned, my pal was gone and I was on the floor, sucking in dust. I sat down on the bed and tried to get the taste of copper out of my mouth.

The tough had ransacked the place. I made an inventory in my head. He'd taken my case notes and he'd emptied out my wallet. Beyond that, there was nothing missing. I telephoned the front desk.

"This is Chapters in 3B. Has anyone come looking for me?"

"As a matter of fact -- sir -- yes, not half-an-hour ago."

I groaned. "Did he say who he was?"

"He, sir?"

"Not a he?"

"No, sir."

"A she, then. A woman." I was starting to feel like a detective.

"Yes, sir."

"What did she look like?"

"Fairly good-looking if you don't mind my saying so." I didn't. "Tallish. Red-hair. Her face was..."


"Well, as a matter of fact, it was rather OVINE."




"That's right, sir."

"Thanks," I said. I hung up the phone and tried to breathe through the fire in my lungs. I spent some time getting my bearings, and then I got down on the floor to scan for footprints. I laid my cheek against the carpet and tried to read the depressions in the shag.

I found some depressions alright, but they weren't the kind you could sketch with a pencil.

I took a nap and dialed Sophie at the office. I got the machine. I dialed my apartment. It rang a few times, and a woman said, "Hello?"

"Sophie, what are you doing in my house?"

"I'm feeding the cat, Mr. Chapters."

"Make sure he doesn't get too fat." I tried to listen for noises in the background but couldn't come up with much. "Any messages for me?"


I waited. She didn't render unto Chapters. "Well?"

"I don't know. They're back at the office. Ms. Connors came calling for you, though."

"Did you tell her where I was?"

"No, Bill."

"Good. Anything else?"

"I'd tell you if there was."

"On your way back to the office, I need you to wire me some money. About three-hundred in petty cash. Don't ask me why."

"You got it, Bill." She hung up the phone. I took a shower and emptied those little bottles of shampoo over my head. I dried off, got dressed and rinsed the blood out of my mouth. I checked the digital clock by the bed. It wasn't even noon yet.

I took the elevator down to the lobby and sat there a while with the paper in front of me. There were a few men by the fireplace bird-dogging some molls. They were making kissy shapes with their lips. A bellhop wheeled a wagon full of bags in through the front doors, and people went about their business.

No red-haired woman or baby-faced muscle.

The porter dialed me up a cab and I gave him the address to Jenkins comma S. The car took me to a small place outside of campus. There were lawn gnomes in the yard and an old man shooting water from a hose. I climbed out and he gave me a look. He had an eyepatch.

"Jenkins?" I said.

He shook his head. "The name's Mortimer. You must be looking for Stanley."

"Is Stanley..."

"He's my tenant. He lives in my basement."

"I see."

"How do you like this grass?" He swept his arm up and the water made an arc. He twisted the nozzle to turn the water off and he bent down. He began smoothing his fingers out over the grass and then took a big clump of it in his hands. "Fresh and green. I take good care of things."

"I can see that."

He motioned for me to feel the grass. I bent down and I did.

"No pests, no drugs, no nothing. Just clean fresh water, sunlight, and Mr. Mortimer." He hooked his thumb towards his chest and smiled.

"Very verdant," I said, smiling and nodding.

"Damn right, it's verdant. Damn right."

"So Stanley isn't in?"

"Doesn't look like it," he said.

"Looks like you're missing something."

He stared at me blankly. "Oh, you mean this?" He touched the cloth over his eye and laughed. "I can't say that's too polite of you."

"I don't do too well with polite. How'd you lose it?"

"What business is it of yours, mister?"

"I might be able to help you find it."

"You want to know how I lost this eye?"

I folded my arms together and waited for him to speak.

"Alright, then. I'm not ashamed about it. I don't mind telling people. My dog ate it. When I was a little boy, I had a dog. I didn't have any brothers or sisters. Just a dog. Which is just as good, I say. I'd pick a dog over a human being any day. My mother went into the town and she brought home this old dog. A Doberman by the name of Maxy. Maxy the Doberman. Big ears and this clown-faced smile. I always remember his clown-face. Everybody else called him Maxy but I always called him Clownface. Hey Clownface! Clownface!

"Well, one day, I guess he got sick of it. I went down and took a nap and I feel this weird pulling feeling on my face. When I woke up there was blood on my shirt and this itchy feeling where my right eye was. Or where it was supposed to be. I looked around and the dog was looking at me, real guilty like."

"We all have our limits," I said.

The man made a sucking sound. "Just like that. Pop. It was gone." He dusted his hands off.

"What happened to the dog?" I asked.

The old man shrugged. "He died. Two years later he got run over by a bread truck."

"You kept him around for two years after that?"

He shrugged again. "I'm a very ethical person, Mister-- uh..."


"Chapters? Very well. Chapters. I'm a very ethical person, Mr. Chapters."

I looked at him.

"An animal isn't like me or you. It doesn't know between good and evil. It just does what it does. I loved that dog."

"He could've attacked again. You might have ended up wearing two of those things." I waved my hand toward his face.

The man lowered his head. "It's not so bad. You clean it out once in a while. I have these drops that I put in the socket. Doesn't hurt at all."

I shook my head. I didn't get it.

The man plucked at a weed growing out of his verdant grass. He got it up by the roots and yanked hard. Dirt crumbled loose from the flesh-colored roots.

"I loved old Clownface," he said.


Posted by billchapters on Thu, 05 Jun 2008 09:30:29 -0400 -- permanent link

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