Sunday, 17 August 2008

The Case of the Waylaid Wizard

The sky above was smoky grey as forest fires munched on Malibu mansions in the distance. The neon sign outside my office window buzzed and flickered like the products it advertised in the store below my office. But I didn't sell those kinds of pleasures, what I sold was peace of mind to people with too much fame, too much money, and too little intelligence, that's right, I worked for Hollywood. Hollywood needs me, because I'm Furious D, and I'm a Dick, a Private Dick.

My intercom buzzed, the surprise snapped me out of my impromptu siesta, not only because it held the promise of a case, but because I didn't own an intercom.

"There's a lady here to see you," said the voice of my secretary over the intercom. Which also surprised me because I didn't have a secretary.

"Come on in," I said, running a comb through my hair with one hand, popping mints to hide the scent of gin with another, and straightening my tie with the other.... What other?

The door opened, and in walked a helluva dame, Dame Judy Dench to be exact.

"Is this office of the William Morris Agency?" she asked.

"They're down the hall," I replied, "Go to the Janitor's closet and knock three times."

"Thanks," said Judy Dench as she left, and in walked a tall cold drink of water.

The drink of water was in the hands of a long legged femme of the sub-species fatale. I knew those legs that went all the way from the feet to the hips, those ruby lips, red like... um... rubies, with matching hair, swaying seductively, thanks to the wind machine that followed her, and an attitude.

"Well if it isn't Gladiola Hassenfeffer," I said, "I haven't seen you in a long time. Weren't you killed off the last time?"

"Who has the time to read through all that," said Gladiola, "and this is a blog story that's made up on the spot, who really cares about continuity. Don't you recall I like my friends to call me Lola."

"I don't recall us being friends," I said.

"Then think of me as a client," said Lola as one hand dipped into her ample cleavage, pulled out an envelope, and tossed it on my desk. I picked it up, it smelled like lavender and Vick's vapo rub, and it was stuffed with $100 bills. I'm talking money, cash, payola, spondooliks, moola, mucho dinaro...

"Will you stop coming up with slang terms for money in the narration," asked Lola, "I need a dick."

"I'm sure you do," I said, leering lasciviously.

"I don't have time for the usual innuendos," snapped Lola, "I have a case for you."

"What kind of case?" I asked. "Briefcase, suitcase, valise, trunk...?"

"Put down the fucking thesaurus," snapped Lola, "and quit trying to fill out this story. It's a missing person case."

"Oh," I said, slipping the envelope into my pocket. "Who's missing?"

"Harry Potter," said Lola.

"That's big," I said, "and by 'big' I mean expensive, costly, overpriced..."

"Cut it out and find him," said Lola.

"Who is he?" I asked.

"The boy wizard," said Lola.

I shrugged.

"Biggest publishing phenomenon since Guttenberg's Bible?" added Lola, her green eyes sparking with anger.

I shrugged again.

"They also make movies from these books," said Lola, "big movies. The latest one was supposed to be out this fall, but now he's missing, and might not be seen until July."

"Oh," I said, faking my way through it, "that Harry Potter. So you want me to find this punk, and what do I do when I find him. Want his legs broken? Cause that costs extra."

"I just want him found," said Lola. "People are worried that his next picture is going to suck harder than an electrified sucking machine, and we need to hear the truth!"

"All right," I said, "who was he last seen with?"

"He's been hanging out with the Warner Brothers since he got into movies," said Lola, "I suggest you start there."

"They're a heavy crew," I said.

"One of the heaviest," added Lola, for no real reason before sashaying out my office. While I hated for her to go, I did enjoy watching her leave.

"Quit ogling my ass you perv," snapped Lola.

***

"Hello Toots," I said to the receptionist Toots McGee.

"Hello Furious," replied Toots, flashing me her $1200 smile, and some of her $5,000 cleavage. "Are you here as a dick?"

"I'm here on business."

"What kind of business?" she asked.

"Bad business," I answered.

"How bad?"

"As bad as this faux-noir banter," I said. "I need to see the Warner Brothers."

"What about?"

"It's about a kid named Harry Potter."

"I'll see if they're available," she said, picking up her phone.

"I'll wait," I said. The Warner Brothers were big players here in La-La Land, running all the rackets they could get their hands on. Movies, TV, magazines, books, comics, and just about anything else that could be watched, read, or otherwise geeked out over.

"They're sending someone to collect you," said Toots.

Suddenly a big black shape appeared in front of me.

"Christian Bale?" I asked.

"I'm Batman," replied the shape with pointy ears. "And you have to go."

"Listen Bub," I said, "I want to talk to the Warner Brothers, and I'm going to talk to the Warner Brothers."

"You'll have to get past me first," replied Batman.

"If that's how you want it," I said, "but I ain't your momma, and I must warn you that I know Judo." To be specific, it was Judo Johnson who ran an Orange Julius stand at the mall.

I was just about to get into my proper fighting stance when he smacked me with a big bag of money.

***

When I regained consciousness I was in a dumpster outside the headquarters of the Warner Brothers.

"Get out of my office," growled a voice.

I looked up and saw Robert Shaye shaking his fist, the sleeves of his tailored imported suit were frayed, and he reeked of disgrace, humiliation, and Rub A535.

"I gotta production company to run!" he grumbled as I climbed out of the dumpster which had a crudely scrawled cardboard sign stuck to the side declaring it the hq of Unique Pictures, "I gotta a lot of work to do on the sequel to The Golden Compass!"

As I left Shaye to his rambling dreams of comebacks, I realized that if I was going to get to the bottom of this case I needed to be subtle.

And for that I needed a tank.

***

"So," said Ted, of Ted's Tanks & Artillery Rental as he pocketed the cash, "what do you need the Abrams for?"

"I need to talk to some folks about Harry Potter," I answered, client confidentiality was never a strong suit with me, "he's missing, and needs to be found."

"I thought he went missing because he was flashing his weeny in that play on Broadway," mused Ted.

"That's a New York thing," I said, "and what happens in New York, stays in New York."

"I thought that was Vegas?"

"I doesn't really matter," I said. "Besides, if anyone really cared and wanted to stop him, all they had to do was go to the dress rehearsal and yell: 'I've seen more meat on a dirty fork.'"

"True," said Ted.

"And not only that," I added, "unlike us, the kids who watch Harry Potter only really care about the stories, and don't really care too much about the actors unless they're somehow unable to do their job, or obnoxious adults shove it in their faces."

"Good point," said Ted, as he tossed me the keys to the tank. "Have fun."

***

"Damn it," grumbled Batman from beneath the tread of my rented Abrams tank.

"Now can I see the Warner Brothers?" I asked.

"Hell no," grumbled Batman. "They're making me rich, nobody bothers them!"

Since I couldn't appeal to his sense of reason, I decided to appeal to his sense of fist.

"All right," said a voice after I whaled on Batman for a while, "enough with the beating, we'll see you."

"You know," croaked Batman, "you could have said that ten minutes ago!"

The door opened and I walked in to be the first outsider to go to face to face, mano e mano, toe to toe with the famous Warner Brothers.

"So," moaned a figure whose physique made Marlon Brando at his worse look like Nicole Richie after a purge splurge. "I should introduce myself, I'm Time Warner."

"I'm Aol Warner," said the second brother, (pronounce A-hole) even fatter than the other. His suit, which was tight, had been a circus tent in a previous life.

"And I'm C.N.N. Warner," said the last brother, the folds of his multiple chins, more numerous than the Chins in the Beijing phone book, jiggled with each word.

"Do you know why I'm here?" I asked.

They attempted to nod, but their neckfat got in the way.

"Where's the Potter kid?" I asked.

"He's safe," said Aol Warner, a young hand poking out from between two folds of flab, before Aol pushed it back in again, "and he'll come out in July."

"I thought it was January?"

"You're an illiterate," said Time Warner.

"And you're ugly too," said CNN Warner.

"Well at least I'm the thinnest man in the room," I said. "Hand over the kid. Before I break out the shop-vac and start doing some home liposuction."

"You can't harm us," said Time Warner, "we're too big!"

"Too rich," added Aol.

"And too powerful," said CNN.

"We also have a secret weapon," said Time Warner.

"A powerful weapon," added Aol for no other reason than hearing the sound of his own voice.

"It's called Synergy!" concluded CNN. "A perfectly running corporate machine. You see, we made a lot of money off of the Dark Knight."

"A helluva lot of money," added Aol, provided nothing of any use, again.

"And we figured that having Harry Potter open in the fall would be too much too soon," said Time Warner. "So we bumped him back to July of next year."

"Don't you see what that's done?" I asked. The Warner Brothers just stared at me with blank looks on their obese faces.

"Folks are now speculating that the movie's going to suck," I said, "or that you're angry over the actor appearing Equus and that it'll somehow change the film into a nudity fest, and your own magazines aren't cluing into the plan in time to change their cover stories."

"Yeah," said Time Warner, "that did piss me off."

"So why not let the kid go," I said.

"And admit a mistake?" they all said horrified. "Never!"

"Besides," said Aol Warner, "we've got a movie called Twilight taking over the tentpole position this fall. It should do great!"

"I don't think you guys made Twilight," I said.

"Shit," said Time Warner.

"But we make everything!" blurted out CNN Warner. "Don't we?"

"No," I said, "there's still some competition left."

"We must stop this thing called competition!" declared Time Warner.

"Damn right!" added Aol.

"It might force us to do actual work!" stated CNN Warner.

They great bulky forms started to move, and I saw my chance. While they were slowly waddling to the door I lunged toward Aol and shoved my hand into the roles of flab. It was like sticking my hand into a vat of meringue, but I felt another hand, grabbed it and pulled.

"Thanks a lot bud-dy!" said the poor creature I pulled out.

"Pauly Shore!" damn, wrong lost person. "Get back in there and send Harry Potter out."

I shoved Pauly Shore back into the folds of corporate flab, and out popped Harry Potter.

"Let's run for it kiddo," I said, "there's an army of eager kids and geeky adults waiting to see you."

"Thank you sir," said Harry Potter, "how can I thank you?"

"What have you got?" I asked.

"Aol's wallet," said Harry holding up a wallet stuffed with large bills, that had been made from the skins of smaller media companies.

"Then it's humvees for everyone!" I said, and we made a run for it.

CASE CLOSED!

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