From the Vault: The Case of that Guy with the Wife


I’m dipping into the archive here. This is something I wrote my sophomore year of college, if I remember correctly. It’s also probably one of the only things that I wrote during college that I can think back on and not cringe. It’s a bit awkward in parts, but I enjoy the spirit of it very much. Matt Rake is a ludicrous and reactionary character and I think I’m going to feature him in something new soon. Soooo… for now, please to enjoy this look at some old school work from me.

It has what I think is my favorite descriptive phrase I’ve ever written: “They garnished the room like heavily armed parsley.” So there’s that at least.


It was a dark and stormy night that enveloped my building like a wet paper bag around a soggy, depressing sandwich. Not a good sandwich, not peanut butter and jelly. No, this sandwich was olive loaf. A depressing, sad olive loaf. I had been keeping late hours in my office—located on the third floor of my damp bag building. Another late night meeting with my friend Jack. We go way back, me and Mr. Daniels. He helps me think.

I could see myself reflected back in the glass as I stared out at the rain: square jaw, hard flint eyes, strangely attractive, rogue-ish face. There I was, Matt Rake, Private Dick, just like the glass on the door said. From here though, it said, “ekaR ttaM”. That’s me.

I wondered: What is it that makes Matt Rake so sexy? And Matt Rake, well he stared right back at me and he said to me, “Matt, it’s because the ladies love your gentle, yet unhinged personality. You give them flowers and you give them adventure. You’re a private dick, but you’ve got a heart of gold. Are you hard-boiled? Not a bit. You’re over-easy, just the way the ladies like it.” I just nodded my head, when Matt was right, he was right.

I had gotten into this business after 10 years walking the beat as a cop, promoted all the way up to detective. My partner and I, we were trying to solve a series of gangland murders. One hit right after another. We traced it back to one man, Cesar Mendoza; thought we had him nailed. The cards were all stacked on the other foot, it was only a matter of time. We followed him back to his building one night, had him cornered; there was no way out. We’d brought him down. Sure, maybe the only charge we could get on him was tax evasion, but we could take him down anyway. Before we could nail him, though, he pulled a gun from an ankle holster, killed my partner, then started to run. That’s when an untied shoelace stopped him in his tracks. He ended up dancing cheek to cheek with a dumpster that was about ten feet away. Hit it like a big, fat sack of copper monkeys. Some people say it was blind luck that got me that arrest. I say it was something more, some innate super-sense that only I, Matt Rake, possess. Mendoza could feel the heat that I was bringing his way, he could tell that with Rake on the case, he wouldn’t last for long. It was subconscious really. He tripped because he wanted to get caught. Wanted to end the charade that would have been his flight from my steely justice. Either way, I couldn’t stay on the force after that, I saw my partner in every other cop on the force. So I came here. Detective work was in my blood. I started my own practice.

I started to get upset thinking about Mendoza all those years ago, but Jack had some comforting words for me. His first argument wasn’t convincing. So I made him toss three more my way. The last one was a good one. I began to feel a little better.

Suddenly, my door burst open like the bottom falling off a wet paper bag and then there she was in the doorway, blonde hair nicely framing her face in waves of perfection in spite of the moist air, blue eyes sparkling with the intensity of a community pool in the summertime, flecked with spots of green that reminded me of elderly couples during adult swim time. Her dress was a blue, full-length number that was slit nice and high up the right side. She had a pair of gams on her that made me want to stand up and do the can-can. And I would have, had I the proper musical accompaniment.

“Mr. Rake?”

“I am if you want me to be, dollface.”

“You’ve got to help me, Mr. Rake, you’ve just gotta!”

“Dames. It always had to be a dame. A hysterical dame, at that.”

“What?”

“Did I say that out loud?”

Silence hung in the air like a hummingbird, but much bigger than that. It hung like a fat, huge, mutant hummingbird. Without the humming.

I could tell she wanted me.

“Listen sugartits, why don’t we discuss your business here so we can get down to business here.”

“Oh, Matt. You’re so strong and forward. You must take me!”

“Wait. What? Really?”

“Yes, yes! Take me! Take me now! “

“This is all working a little too well for me. You, uhh, wouldn’t by any chance be planning something nefarious, would you?”

I took a good look at her. She pulled out the puppy-dog eyes act on me. I kept my gaze as steely as a fork. No dice. Next she tried the old push-up bra defense. She leaned forward, pushing her arms together in towards her chest to accentuate her, well, chest.

“But Matt, surely bodacious hooters like these bad boys can’t belong to someone with evil intentions, how could I possibly plan on using you for anything. Anything, that is, other than sex.”

She had a good point there.

“You have a good point there.”

The fat, silent hummingbird puttered around the room again as I gazed into her chlorinated, old people filled pool eyes and she fingered something she was hiding in her Beretta-shaped purse.

“Alright honeycheeks, what is it that Matt Rake can do for you?”

“I need you to find someone for me, Matt.”

“I’m right here.”

“No, no. I need you to find someone ‘comma’ Matt. Not ‘period’ Matt.”

“Oh. Right. Who is that you need found candyass?”

“I need you to find my husband, Mr. Rake.”

“Husband, eh? Yet you seem to be strangely drawn to my devilish good looks. That a problem for you?”

“Does it seem like it?”

She had a good point.

“You have a good point. I’ll take the case.”

“What’ll it cost me, Mr. Private Dick, sir?”

Seven minutes later I was on the street, prowling my territory. I owned the soggy night. She had told me, in between three-minute marathons of love, that I could start looking for her husband at a room he’d been renting at the Ritz Hotel.

It had stopped raining now. The night felt wet still, like the counter in a bathroom after a too long hot shower when the windows were all closed up. In the bathroom it leads to a sticky build-up. Out here, it leads to soap scum of the soul. The kind of scum you just can’t get out. I had a tub ring all around my soul and I didn’t like it.

Twenty minutes later, I started to wonder why I hadn’t just taken my car, but I got over it when a nickel on the ground caught my attention. It was shiny. I bent down to grab that sparkly circle of wonder that some folks just call a nickel when a pair of burgundy pants stepped into my line of sight.

“Good evening, sir.”

“Whoa, whoa! Back up there, commie boy!”

“Sir?”

“You heard me, Chairman. Take your pinko pants and keep on walking, Trotsky.”

“I, uh, it’s just my uniform sir. I’m just the bellhop. Umm… welcome to the Ritz?”

“Right. Right. Uniform. Right. Well, can’t be too careful these days. Red menace, you know.”

“Sir, communism’s been dead for years.”

“Yet it seems to live on in those fancy pants of yours. Now watch yourself boy before I get Senator McCarthy to come down her and clean your clock. Get out of my way.”

I’d never seen anyone open a door for me that fast since, well, since the last time I came here and was accosted by a damn commie that I had to set straight. I strolled right on through that lobby like it was a large open area and went straight for the maitre’d.

“Hey! You. Yeah, you. Garçon. Get over here.”

“I think you mean, concierge, sir.”

“Whoa, whoa there, Vichy-boy. I don’t want Belgium or anything. I’m just looking for some information.”

“I’m from Vermont.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. So you gonna talk or what?”

“About…?”

“Look, don’t play your little French word games with me. Sacred language my ass. Just because you guys managed to steal all the consonants that no one needs doesn’t mean you get a medal. Now let’s make with the info, alright?”

“I would be more than happy to oblige you, if you would first ask me a question.”

“I see your game and I’ll play along. Where is he?”

“He?”

“You find this amusing. Perhaps I need to grease the wheels a bit.”

It killed me to part with it, but I slid my shiny little five-cent friend across the counter. Everybody’s got a price.

“Again, sir, I would be happy to oblige you if I could only give a more specific request.”

“I’m looking for, you know, the guy… with the wife. She’s blonde. With the hooters. You know, that guy.”

“You’re looking for the guy, with the wife with the blonde hair and, I’m assuming two, breasts?”

“You’re damn right I am.”

“Room 304. Second elevator around the corner.”

That’s how you have to get things done in this town. It’s not pretty, but sometimes you’ve just got to get vague on somebody. If you can’t hack it, then this just isn’t the town for you.

The gaping maw of the elevator opened up like some mouth that opens really wide. I got on and pressed the button for the third floor. After a few gloriously musical moments with that ode to the piña colada, I got off to go and find my mark.

The hotel suite door was open, which I hadn’t expected, but hey, never look a gift horse in the mouth. I tiptoed inside. The room was as black with my eyes open as it was with my eyes shut. Both ways I got those little lights dancing in front of my eyes. The ones that don’t actually light anything up. I love those things.

Suddenly, everything flashed a bright white, I fell to the ground, pawing at my damaged eyes, screaming for sweet mercy before I heard a familiar voice say, “You’re not blind, Matt. I turned the lights on.”

I knew that.

“I knew that.”

I turned around. It was the blonde. You know, the one with the hooters and the husband, from before. At the start. That one. She was pointing her Beretta shaped purse at me.

“Why are you pointing your purse at me?”

“It’s not the purse. It’s the Beretta I was hiding in the purse!”

“Ingenious!”

“Enough, Matt. I brought you here to kill you.”

“With a gun?”

“Yes… why?”

“Just checking.”

“Yes Matt, I’m going to shoot you because you put my husband in jail 10 years ago.”

“Really? Isn’t he out? How else could he have checked into the hotel?”

“No, I did that. I just needed to get you here to the hotel. It was a trick.”

“Right… I got it now. That’s a good one. So… who’s your husband?”

“Cesar Mendoza. You locked him up and now I’m here to put you away for good.”

“Isn’t it kind of a long time after the fact, though?”

“I wanted to wait so I could savor my moment of revenge. Now, Mr. Rake, you die.”

As her finger squeezed the trigger there was a sound like a huge window shattering off to my right. I spun my head towards the sound and, sure enough, the huge window off to my right had shattered. Glass sprayed the room like the snot from a giant, glass-nosed ogre. The dame screamed her fool dame head off as four men in black suits leapt through the window’s frame, rappelling in from the roof attached to thick ropes. They garnished the room like heavily armed parsley. One stopped right in front of me, with the others in a semi-circle behind him. I stayed on the ground right where I was, choosing to enjoy the subtle, damp warmth spreading through the crotch of my pants rather than moving around and making things worse than they already were.

One of the men came up to me. He was wearing an all-black outfit. Black pants, black turtleneck, black mask with eyeholes and a mouth-hole cut out of it, black boots, black gun. A large black gun. That’s what bothered me the most, even more than the turtleneck, the gun.

“You! On your feet. Move!”

I got up slowly, using the bed for support. The man looked me right in the eye. Then he looked down at my pants.

“Hey, hey, hey, bucko. Eyes where I can see them.”

“What kind of man are you that wets your pants at the sign of danger?”

He jabbed me in the stomach with the barrel of his gun. I giggled and swatted at him. He turned to the other men and laughed, saying, “Mira este maricón, amigos.”

“Amigos, eh? Your game is up you dirty Finnish bastards. Just wait until I notify your country’s consulate. We’ll nuke you commie sons of bitches back into the stone age. Just you wait. Oh, yes. You are certainly going to regret your little soiree on this private dick’s homeland turf.”

“Finnish? Finnish! You son of a motherless goat, we are not from any Finland. We are from Colombia! Somos Colombianos! You would do well to remember this thing, puto. Especially after we seize your precious stock exchange.”

“Pluto, eh? Well, your knowledge of beloved Walt Disney characters won’t save you here, gringo. I don’t think any of you boys will be seizing my stock anytime soon. We don’t take kindly to foreigners around these parts.”

“In New York? But what of your Statue of Liberty and her message of welcome to all peoples? What of that, stupid puto?”

“Hey, just because that French hussie out there is claiming an international toga party doesn’t mean that that’s how Uncle Sam intended it. Now I wager it’s about time someone put a stop to all these shenanigans, and I wager that person is me.”

“What are you going to do, cabrón, piss all over us?”

With that, the three of them howled with laughter just like a pack of third graders. Well, that just tore it. I never could stand third-graders. I knew it was time to introduce these knuckle-heads to someone very close to my heart, a little down and to the left, to be more specific.

“Hey, gringos. You’re all foreigners, right?”

“Sí, puto.”

“Allow me to introduce you to a friend of mine. He’s foreign, too. Might be able to convince you to get the hell out of this country.”

“You think this? What is the name of your little friend?”

“Him? Oh, you can just call him Glock.”

I welcomed my friend into our little party. He made four very profound statements and then went silent. Each of the foreigners jumped and ducked and danced around the room, but none of them went down. I must have missed each and every one of them. They must have all been ninjas as well. Diabolical!

They all started to laugh their stupid, not-American laughs one more time. Powered by rage at being bested by a bunch of dirty Latin ninjas I took my Glock and threw it right at the one who had been speaking to me. I hit him right in the face.

Caught by surprise in mid-laugh, the gun slammed into his face and knocked him backwards, towards the window. He stumbled back three steps, slipped on some glass and fell out of the window. As he fell, he threw out a hand and grabbed the closest life-line he could, which just so happened to be the rappelling line of the man on the farthest left end of the semi-circle of thugs. The jolt of having this line pulled knocked that man into the middle man in the formation, who was close enough to the window to get knocked back through it as well. As the middle man fell, he grabbed the man who hit him and dragged him out the window. The fourth and final man did not look happy with me. He raised his gun and was about to fire when suddenly he was yanked out into space with the others as they grabbed hold of his line in a futile attempt to counteract my brilliant offensive strategy.

“Oh Matt! You’re my hero.”

“Sweet fancy Moses! You scared the hell out of me. I didn’t know you were still here.” The dame hadn’t left yet. I looked her up and down. She hadn’t been hurt.

“Where would I have gone?”

“Well, I don’t know but you hadn’t said anything for such a damned long amount of time. How am I supposed to keep track of where are you? Christ, woman.”

She ran the five feet over to me, wrapped her arms around my neck and began smothering me with kisses.

“Didn’t you want to kill me about five minutes ago?”

“Matt, how could I kill an international hero like you?”

“Well, it’d probably involve that gun you have in your hand there.”

“Matt.”

“What?”

“Just shut up and kiss me.”

So I did. I put a hand around her waist, pulled her tight to me, dipped her back and then planted one on her. After a few seconds I pulled back and she stared deep into my eyes and said, “You wet yourself before, didn’t you?”

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