Burke has his tongue planted firmly in cheek as he starts a satirical homage to classic detective yarns. This obvious insight is further evidenced by the caricature illustration that opens the chapter plus a couple of saucy names for the characters that inhabit it. Patrick Pesticide is the wisecracking gumshoe that has been encouraged by the local girls to shorten his moniker to Paddy Pest. He’s done so because he realizes it’s actually a better handle for a discount detective. The voluptuous Stormy Weathers is the manager of the local gentlemen’s club with whom he shares the cartoon and the chapter. Together, they engage in snappy patter regarding a shady mystery that’s starting to come to light in one of the sleazier sections of Melbourne, Australia. The story involves the odd disappearances of multiple pizza delivery personnel. Stormy thinks Paddy should get involved and check with his police department contacts, but Paddy reminds her that he never gets involved in anything that doesn’t include a fee. Thus begins a whimsical take on an established genre that promises a potentially fun read.
The Garrulous Gumshoe - Patrick Pesticide
“What do you think of these disappearances in Toorak, Paddy? All pizza delivery boys. The newspapers are talking about a serial killer.”
I was firmly ensconced on my favorite bar stool at Sam’s Fly-by-Night Club and the sweet voice belonged to the light of my life, Stormy
Weathers. Nobody has the right to be as beautiful as my little chickadee
but she carries it off with aplomb. The plunging neckline is a prerequisite
for the manager of a gentlemen’s club, and few people would know she is employed by Australia’s foremost intelligence agency (ASIO), as are the
other girls on the payroll. When we are together, I always insist she button up. After all, I am a respected member of the local community.
“It’s a mystery to me, Stormy, and it will remain so until someone comes forward with a retainer. You know I don’t like to indulge in conjecture on a complimentary basis.”
“Be that as it may, your pal Justin O’Keefe is heading the investigation and we both know he usually needs a lot of help.”
It was a bit of a stretch to call Justin a pal because we had a love/hate relationship that had existed for many years. Although he was now a prominent dinosaur in the Homicide Squad, the truth of the matter is that he was the only snitch at headquarters I had left. The relationship had become quite fragile since he learned I was sleeping with his ex-wife, but I did appreciate the fact that he didn’t think it necessary to acquaint Stormy with this information.
In truth, I had been thinking about the missing pizza boys and I wondered what it was all about. As I slipped silently under my delicate down duvet and prepared myself for some well-deserved horizontal restoration, I could only wonder how Detective Justin O’Keefe was directing the investigation. I suspected he would have Colonel Sanders as the prime suspect
I awoke the next morning to the ringing of the door-bell. I slipped into my silk robe and slicked-back my hair. If my visitor turned out to be a Seventh Day Adventist, there would be blood on the ground.
Her name was Mrs. Smith and she looked like the booby prize in a vanity raffle. I guessed the lady was all of forty and then some. Her bedraggled appearance was in some way due to the rain but she had sad eyes and there appeared to be red marks on both of her cheeks. Her hair was damp and discolored and her good bits were discreetly covered by a tight-fitting overcoat. The woman was clutching a mustard-colored umbrella that was dripping like an Irish faucet, so I invited her in. I was dead keen to learn whether her husband might be John Smith. This was a name that people in law enforcement heard quite often.
“You are Mr. Pest aren’t you, the famous detective? I was told you were the best person to find my Henry. He’s gone missing.”
“I am more than happy to try and help you find your husband; especially if he was the one who gave you those ugly bruises on your cheeks.”
“What bruises? That’s my rouge. We can’t all afford French cosmetics and my husband, John, is not missing. Henry is my son.”
Although I was certainly chastened by this rebuke, I had a warm feeling about Mrs. Smith, and this was exacerbated when she removed her overcoat to reveal a well-rounded, taut figure that belied her years. She was some kind of gal for an old boiler.
“OK then, tell me all about it. How long has he been missing? How old is he? Could he be involved with a femme fatale?”
“He is fourteen years of age, likes video games, skateboarding, and his mom’s cooking.”
“In that case he probably hasn’t run away. I presume Henry is at school but does he do any part-time work?”
“Why yes, he’s a pizza delivery boy.”
“Tell me Stormy. What was the name of the new-age therapist you sent me to last year? Ella Vera or something like that. I seem to recall she was Scandinavian.”
“Annabella Luciano from Stromboli, Italy. Beautiful complexion, olive skin, long black hair, dark brooding eyes, big knockers — and you can’t remember her? I seem to recall she put you on a vegetarian diet that lasted less than twenty-four hours.”
“Well, you know how it is. Members of the intelligence community have to keep their strength up and meat is full of iron.”
“Well, Mr. Iron Man, let me say you are full of it. You would also be the only Irishman I know who made it into the intelligence community. I heard you took the lady to lunch. That sounds memorable to me.”
“Now listen, sweetheart. I don't want you to get the wrong idea. She said she did her best work out of the office and, quite frankly, I don't think she is as attractive as you are making out. She had child-bearing hips, garlic breath and the makings of a small mustache above her upper lip. If she is Italian, that explains it. She looked like Mussolini’s mother.”
“You seem to forget I know Anna Luciano. I am also aware that before she came to Australia, Mussolini's mother was Miss Stromboli and a finalist in the Miss Universe contest. Anyway, why do you want to know about her?”
The above conversation took place at a popular café in Toorak Village and this is one of the reasons I try and avoid breakfast catch ups with the ASIO fireball. She is so alert in the morning, and I have been caught out on many occasions. Bringing up the name of Annabella Luciano was a gamble that backfired, but I had never bothered to learn her surname and now I needed to know. Ms. Luciano’s place of work kept appearing on Henry Smith’s delivery schedule, and you would have to think a regular pizza pie was not recommended fare for a dietician and a former Miss Universe contestant.