Thursday, April 17, 2014

Alice in Wonderland by Raymond Chandler

A Short-Short Story by Bob Cram Jr

It was late. I'd already sent Queenie home and was thinking about heading there myself when I saw the shadow fall across the frosted glass of the front door to my office. As quietly as I could I reached inside the top drawer of my desk and wrapped my fingers around the Walther PPK I keep there. You can't be too careful in my line of work. My name is Rabbit, W. Rabbit. I'm a private detective.

When the door opened I relaxed my grip on the pistol a little bit. It was a dame, and a looker too. A little too young for me, and I'm a happily married man anyway, but she sure coulda turned some heads. Still, there was something about her that bothered me. Sure she had a dynamite figure, long blonde hair and china-doll skin, but there was something in her smile that reminded me of that Cheshire sicko the Knight and I had busted back in '26 after that whole Dumpty mess. (I know what you read in the papers, but I'm telling you that the grinning bastard had poor Humpty pushed.)

 She said her name was Alice and that she worked for the Tweedle brothers. That name raised the hair on the back of my neck. Dum and Dee run the biggest mob this side of the Looking Glass. She said that Dum and Dee had had a falling out over a rattle and now it was looking like a gang war was in the offing. She wanted me to find out who had stolen the rattle and why.

The next day I went down to the Mad Hatter Bar looking for the Worm. Mouse, the bouncer, was snoozing in the cubbyhole by the door like always. I never could figure out how a guy his size managed to fit in that small space. I gave Hatter a nod and headed for the back room. Hatter runs an opium den in his back room, one of his "side interests." Calls it his "tea party." If I was going to find the Worm anywhere, it was there. Sure enough, there he was, curled up on the cushions, smoking that hookah pipe like there was no tomorrow.

Worm's my best informant - he keeps his ear to the ground. Soon I had a buncha pieces to the puzzle, even if I couldn't get 'em all to fit. Somebody had taken Dum's rattle and Dee had been accused. The two brothers were supposed to meet for a final showdown somewhere in Wonderland, but nobody knew where.

After leaving Hatter's I dropped a dime on Alice, see if she had any ideas where the brothers might meet to air their grievances. The only place she could think of was the Old Forest, out on the west side of town. It was a slim lead to go on, but it was my only one.

Old Forest is a grim and dark place. I don't go there unless I absolutely have to. People got a bad habit of going in and not coming back out. I walked into the shadows of those cranky old oaks with my Walther out, just as a precaution.

Wasn't ten minutes before I stumbled over Dee, face down in the dirt with a bullet in the back of his head. Nice and clean. A couple of feet further on I found Dum as well, same deal. I could feel my ears start to twitch. The whole thing was turning queerer than a 3 dollar bill and I was stuck in the middle of it.

 Right about then I heard a somebody on a bullhorn hollerin' my name. "Rabbit! Give yerself up or we're comin' in after ya!"

Great. Sounded like Carpenter and his partner the Turtle were already on the case. Those two flatfoots have a bad tendency to shoot first and forget about the questions. I knew I was in a tough spot so I did the only thing I could. I rabbited.

 I managed to catch Alice in the act of disposing of the gun. Knew it had to be her, nobody else even knew I was going to the Old Forest. Pretty clever all around, eliminate Dee and Dum and end up in control of the size-changing potion racket. Her only mistake was in underestimating my speed. W. Rabbit ain’t easy to catch.

 As it was, I managed to get the whole case wrapped up in time for supper. Which was good, 'cause if I'd been late for dinner one more time Queenie woulda had my damn head chopped off.

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