From the Publisher
"Nobody writes like Charles Willeford. . . . He is an original—funny, weird and wonderful." –James Crumley
"Elegant, tough, and rhythmic as a championship boxing match." –San Francisco Chronicle
“Willeford has a marvelously deadpan way with losers on both sides of the law.” –The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Wow! He gives you . . . the viewpoint of the most fascinating asocial trash." –Tony Hillerman
Read an Excerpt
The rain hit hard at my window. It slowed down to a whisper, then hit hard again. All afternoon the rain had been doing this while I sat behind my desk with my feet up, doing nothing. I looked around the ratty little office and wondered vaguely what time it was.
It wasn't much of an office. The four walls were painted a sickly lime-green, and the only bright spot in the room was the famous Marilyn Monroe calendar with its flame-red background. Two ladder-backed straight chairs, a two-drawer file cabinet, a cheap combination typing-and-writing desk and a swivel-chair completed the furnishings. The rugless floor was laid with brown and yellow linoleum blocks. As I sat facing the door, looking over my feet at the milk-glass pane, I could see in reverse lettering my own name: Jacob C. Blake Private Investigations. Behind me was my single window with its excellent view of the air shaft. The office was on the mezzanine of the King Edward Hotel and it was probably the worst location for a private investigator in San Francisco. But I hung onto it for two reasons. One: I lived in the hotel . Two: It was cheap.
I lit a cigarette and tried my best to blow smoke rings. After several tries I blew a good one. While I watched it disintegrate the door opened and a girl entered. She was young and she held a pistol in her hand. I left my feet on the desk and raised my arms in the air as high as I could reach. "Stick 'em up!" The girl said, out of the corner of her mouth. "They are up." My voice came out higher than I'd ever heard it before. My body felt suddenly cold and damp. The girl came around to my side of the desk, shoved the pistol into my face and pulled the trigger. A jet of lukewarm water splashed on my forehead and dribbled into my eyes. The girl made a noise; a foolish, school girl giggle.
My fear had become unreasoning anger. I jerked the black water pistol out
of her hand and broke it in two. I threw the shattered plastic into the wastebasket, twisted my hands into the lapels of the girl's gabardine raincoat and started shaking her. I shook her so hard her head whipped back and forth like a marionette's. When she started to cry I cooled off. I shoved her into a chair and sat down again in my own. My hands were trembling from the combination of fear, anger, and now sudden remorse for ill-treating the girl. I took a calmer look at her.
She seemed about fifteen years old. A mop of auburn poodle-cut curls topped
a pretty, innocent, delicate face. She carried a small. black patent-leather handbag and her shoes were single strap Mary Janes. She took a tiny hankerchief out of her purse and dabbed at her blue eyes. "You hurt me." Her voice was a bubbling, light soprano. "You scared me." "I was just having a little fun." "It wasn't funny!" She giggled. "You should have seen your face!" "What were you trying to prove, anyway?" I smiled in spite of myself. "I'm waiting for my brother," she explained. "I see. You thought I was your brother." "No! Freddy's visiting Mr. Davis in his room and he told me to wait for him in the lobby."
"This is the mezzanine." "I know that! But I've been waiting for over an hour, and I've been exploring sort of, to kill time. I saw your office, and I wondered what a
private detective would do if someone tried to stick him up, and then I
remembered I had my little brother's water pistol with me--" "The brother Freddy, visiting Mr. Davis--" "No! My little brother's water pistol! Freddy's my big brother. He's eighteen years old!" "He won't let you use his water pistol?" "My goodness! He doesn't even have one! That was my little brother's water pistol you broke up, and I'll have to get him a new one." "What's his name?" "Melvin. Melvin Allen."
"And what's your name?" "Barbara Ann. They call me Bobby, but I hate it. Don't you?" "Is your last name Allen too?" "Of course it is, and my big brother Freddy, the one upstairs, visiting Mr.Davis--his name is Allen too!" "Then it isn't Freddy?"
"Yes! Freddy Allen!" "The one upstairs. The one who doesn't own a water pistol."
""That's right. My you sure do have a hard time understanding things!"
"I think I'll give you a spanking." I was having a lot of fun with the girl. Barbara Ann had put some life into a dull, dreary day. Her eyes widened, and for a moment, she stared at me with a scared expression on her innocent face. Then the corners of her mouth turned up slightly and formed a knowing, truly feminine smile. Without a word she got up from her chair, removed her raincoat, folded it, and put it on the seat. She leaned well over the desk, reached behind her and lifted her plaid skirt, exposing pink panties and a firm, beautifully rounded bottom.