ray hartman corpse.htm: jan 23/ april 10, 2001


First Pall Mall a' the day burns thru I'm watchin' from my 5th floor office, Allreed Building as crowds gather along the Ashley River. Smoke rises in wispy columns hope they brought picnic baskets. Good luck fellas ... Barricades ... for odd reasons they make me think summer in Paris I might a' spent one.

Figure the Frogs ta put 2-Rs and 1-D in a word that sez NO-WAY ... far as protests go that too ... what politics I been around money talks only, so when the morning Charleston Standard predicted:


I swore to eat lunch East-of-the-Cooper. The more I read ... who cares if ya can't find a pea ... the better Shem Creek crab-kake sounds. What genetics happen at Shem Creek happens behind the boat dock that I don't mind ... breakfast neither, soon as I meet the client. I'm chewing a Gummy Bear from a sack she left on my desk last week with black lipstick and a diamond-stud choker she came back for the lipstick some clients ... ya care personal creeps I get anyway, from goth-dames she's no crow, but an early-bird. I yawn, paw for a Red Jeeez she must sleep good, or the boyfriend snores. At 7:40 AM I'm still alone half-way through Jimbos black bitters intercom rings Doris-the-answer-girl's gagging. "What copper?" Nicky's on the horn John's Island drawl rapping Frost Aire lays ice-skim on my neck. I think crappola, jam glossies meant for the frail into my battered safe and nail a cab.

Ashley Marina: a dirty, concrete finger crooked into Charleston Bay. On a good day what lives there more drunks than sailors, more bimbos than spinnakers - today wasn't one ... a tidal wash a' young, determined nervy faces patrolling a sea of noise rolling along Lockwood Boulevard like surf bubbles breaking. Pick-pockets thick as sand crabs. Heat tears right through a stiff off-shore wind - Nicky's partner Sargent Bowers flags me from a black Ford bandit-chaser we kerb, I pay cabbie, pouring sweat, dive in.

Human walls surge around grim-face coppers providing escort. Surrounding us musta been a thousand chanting, howling, swearing , tambourine bashing, hash-billowing snake-dancing pilgrims some wear orange polka-dot blotch gym trunks some painted up in black. A castaway lot wore suits, greying crews and pained smiles like they too had joined the Navy, voted Republican, but now faced off with coppers and careless genes better them than the grand-kids ... . Lines parted freely we waltz through.

"Your first time, Mr Levine?"

"No - there wuz Susie in the 9th grade."

"Ya got one fat lip, for a short guy - anybody ever tell ya that? Don't answer, weisenheim cause yer lip might get fatter."

"What happened ta 'we defend and protect ...'.

"Not you, pal but Susie ... if she eats her peas now maybe she don't need birth-control pills."

"That what this gig's about - birth-control?"

Copper hacks, "you must be psychic, pal," we waltz into the open - between heaving human barricade walls - face front to Ashley River Marina it lay dead in the water. Most slips empty big hulls gone ta sea for the storm. Two charter boats had been sunk blocking the marina entrance. Protestors hang like torn sheets and drunk pelicans from rigging of three sailboats. They tacked gayly among piers like long, thin, dirty pinballs ... canvas ripped away and engines belching diesel. Everything came in threes: Three sets of flags, three colors: green, black and orange, or four counting copper blue.

"There's the bastards ..." spit the young Corporal and pointed right. To the largest of the commandeered boats - a 70 foot motor-sail belonging to HELIX-Y INDUSTRIES. Or had belonged. " ... they shoulda stayed in Germany!"

Just what I'd been thinking. "Somebody shoulda stayed somewhere ... don't the kids have homework?"

Corporal shot evil-eye my way. "What are you some kinda pervo? Ya wanna eat tomatoes grow out of a cows ear?" He turned on a black-boot heel. "I'd be out there with them if I didn't ..."

"Sorry, Corporal, only tomato I eat grows outa Bloody Mary ..."

Corporal spit, and looks back toward the motor-sail. A company logo had been burned-in-place ... flags now flying the main-mast read GREEPEAZ NOT ORANGE. Over the stern drapes a neon orange banner carrying images of squid or octopus beak-and-all who eats calamari not me. Must be soup-de-jour for the pirates posers ain't my business except for clients that stiff me ...

Shouts break in from two smaller craft, flags flying snake images. The hulls had run parallel, and people cursed each-other from littered decks. One mast flew an SOS in black, and the banners read Save-Our-Serpents. Somebody did the art-work right, of a black-scale cotton-mouth moccasin coiled and striking ... it looked mad and fat and silly not its smaller pal. The third boat, a pathetic 26 foot day-sailor had been daubed bright green, like the flag, reading VOV and the banners Value-Our-Vipers. That green-pit face I didn't recognize. Me, Sammy Levine I think about snakes same way I think about apples ... every woman's got one, wants two.

A hard-ass SWAT squad seven and counting met us at the second barricade. A hail of urine-soaked jelly-fish followed them. Dressed for pain, them and the protest lines. More serious, these people and organized, thick-hatched six rows deep - sixty wide sporting bright, slime green jump-suits that matched colors daubed on the day-sailor. Most faces were young and sullen and would a' died yesterday if they didn't have fifty more years a' scorn.

The heavy chest, cold-eye SWAT Sargent looked us over. "Whose the civ?"

"Levine, the PI slime-ball Lieutenant DeLeon wants to squeeze."


Squeeze? Who's juice like a carrot? I mopped sweat under the pork-pie ... "Cause I'm a travel agent. Gonna book tours. You want ta collect tickets, General?"

"General my ass-wipe. I'd feed this little fart to the snake-people."

"Just get him through."

"That all ...?" Sargent shot-the-bolt on a chrome AR-15, snapped on the bayonet. X-rayed a hole in the spike-hair human wall ... "Listen up, reptiles ... I know each of you thugs thinks they can pull with me .. equal ... whose first ?"

First they hissed. Then chanting started ... it sounded like VOVEHISS ... VOOVEEHISSS ... VOOOVEEEHISSSS ...

Chanting came in waves, like slipping sounds of a thin, scaly body the line rippled ... a hole opened ... I walked through snake-pits before, but never head high. Some gents wear slit, snake-scale sun-shades. One dame spiffed snake-fangs over her boobs nothing more ... She hissed a couple might a' spit I dodge the wad flies by. Who had skin-crawl I need a shower ... Other side of the chanting wall, redwood docks stretched out into the Ashley River. Most slips are empty, except for coppers toting shotguns. Yellow, crime-scene tape roped off a section near a two-masted pilothouse schooner. It crawled blue-suits and dicks. A man in straw Panama and white linen suit kneels on the stern. I take a quick step ...

The Sargents paw caught my shoulder. "You plan on coming back soon?"

"How soon ... that's up to the Lieutenant."

"Oh ... you think this trip's a tour?" The Sargent flips back her Kevlar helmet blonde hair sprays down her shoulder ... Her paw stuck into my fat-lapel jacket. "Tell that bastard Three-Balls he wants you out ... he carries you!" She wheels and punches back into the hissing lines following her bayonet.

So I watch and envy ... copper-dame walking straight enemies in her face whose got the shiv fer my back or when ... Police have cleared stragglers from the dock. It's fifty yards a' empty, steaming wood. One end are lockers, for boats-men tackle. Other end is the cold-bin, for last nights catch while the fishermen get plastered before breakfast. Who cleans fish on an empty stomach fresh guts I'm gonna barf.

If I don't gag first. It's front a' the cold-bin two coppers stand guard over three civs like the blue-suits call them squatted out on the deck ... Civ - that's anybody close ta the crime-scene ain't got an alibi like Moses. Not perps yet, but a copper always hopes fer the best. Three people, two dames and a gent coulda been John-the-Baptist. Tall, angular, far-away eyes aged too quick, gold horn-rims dangle over his nose - the orange, polka-dot bib droops maybe he's a gardener. A clam-shell, and clear plastic bag of Gummy Bears tie to his rope belt. He's got a river fulla Baptists ta bless no Jew would come close ...

Who got saved not either a' the gals - one's a moon-face black-swatch goth. Healthy. Eats yogurt non-flavor. Other dame ... a hi-maintain slant-eye green goddess, face thin nearly painful and her tank-top doesn't fit. Jeans too and both bright scale green. Three protestors same protest who talks nobody but the two coppers. Ain't that funny in my business three-somes I seen even with the horns on most are more friendly who squeezed what juice from whom not these apples ...

I turn beat leather soles cause DeLeons hard Johns Island drawl's echoing "Sammy - Gawd-dammit Sammy I gotta send Yellow-cab"?

Wind scours and the heat, enemy not the Lieutenant so I think, but it's too early in the morning for straight deals. Jeeez I hope the body he got ain't the one I'm thinkin' ... who's got the shiv?


Stiffed! Dead? Plenty dead - more dead than naked, even for a goth-girl. Dead when the sun rose. Thing about corpses is they get cold, no matter what the weather it musta been one-o-six on the Ashley Marina dock. Sweat poured from my straw pork-pie ... August in Charleston, but 106 is hot for 8-AM. Maybe marsh snakes were happy ... whose happy not me finding a dead client hadn't paid her last bill, but glad my last breakfast had been yesterday.

Jeez Sammy, ya gotta get off this tub-a wood. I lean against rail-cord on the stern, watching the Lieutenant - damned Nicky DeLeon got oak-stump fer a stomach ... he's kneeling, to pick careless over the body whose he kiddin'? - feeling my stomach roll. Even a sixty-foot boat rocks uneasy. Maybe it was waves, on the glassy oil-slick surface. Maybe it was flat-feet coppers swarming the pilothouse schooner bow-ta-stern. COTTON-MOUTH ... that was her name go figure, for a ritzy custom built. Any fibreglass on this baby was in the liquor cabinet. All wood construction. Teak plank deck - expensive like the rainforest grows on trees. Heights make me sick too, just looking up along the mahogany masts. Even high four-poster beds I hate ta photograph for husbands gotta rove and their bimbos I'd rent 'em a futon. ... but now I'm lookin'. Like parts of the deck, both masts had been carved violently whether during the dead frails struggle, or by the protestors I had no idea.

Maybe the frail should'a been not dead on a sea-sick deck, but ten blocks away writin' me a check ... me, Sammy Levine, the best PI bed-weasel in town I ain't never calling myself 'The-Mole' like SOB broads do that hire me, or their husbands ... or rich babes-in-black gotta make appointments for 7-AM who does that? Dead, oily morning air filled my lungs, from the burned-out charter-boats sunk at the marina entrance. Chartered ta HELIX-Y INDUSTRIES no more ...

I fish pockets, come out with a Cohiba half-smoked plugged into an empty Pall Mall pack. Grey ash lit hard. Live bodies, I shoulda told her, the dead goth I only do hot, live bodies ... glossy prints for the divorce court not grainy B&W for the morgue Jeeez the City got pros fer that. My knees shook seasick I ain't no sailor like the Lieutenant. Nicky can sail that damned Ta-Ching a' his back ta Hong Kong upside-down ... The only decks I like got five aces and water back if the booze buys cheap.

The Lieutenants partner got the rap "... and sign here and here ... snake-skin samples on the way to MUSC right now ..."

"... and the candy?"

Bowers wrinkles her nose, "That too ... what about Inspector Morraine? Perv's on the way ... do you think ...?"

"No I don't. Better he hears from us first. Got the broken tooth? "

Sargent Bowers pats a boob pocket mighta been a lock-box ... "I'll run it down ta your pal at CC," ... and bounces away giving me the dirt-bag eye how come I was only wonderin' if she knocked loose one button, maybe the second ain't sewed tight and why's a homicide copper gonna call the Catholic vice-mullah they hate each other worse than the perps ? And Nicky signs what I'm thinking? A sample for the medical school two swampy blocks across Lockwood Boulevard and Doc's on the golf course ... what's he testing? Nicky ain't gonna take the body home ...

I'd just stepped off the schooner counting butterflies. Sun blistered right through my straw pork-pie. Frost-Aire where's the Brass Rail? I needed a martini ... I need two ...

The Lieutenants raspy drawl grates at me from behind like one'a those TV choppers, so I got a Jews skin burns red easy who peels I ain't no carrot. But Nicky ... I think his wife keep it sharp always got ta be the easy-chop! "How do ya figure it Sammy, beside missing a paycheck? Crime of passion?"

He sez it cool, calm, casual an everyday stiff for a copper like he ain't never sweat in that white linen suit I shoot it back. "Yeah, Lieutenant, the dame screamed so loud she blew holes in her head."

"No screamers I know ..." He got southern razor-jaw stuck out at me. "... but liquor, hashish and then ... ?" DeLeon had stayed on the schooners deck pawing burned spots of hull, where the brass deck lamp had missed the goths face once. "Nice face she had ..."

My Cohiba puffs up a low, grey cloud I got ta swat away. For a young girl ya figure she'd a been faster ... so I say .. "No Lieutenant, no passion involved at all. The girls lipstick was black and the lamp-oil olive, so maybe she was doin' a color-change got out'a hand."

"That's too funny", sez DeLeon reaching inside his white linen jacket for a Straight how can he smoke that crap around a dead body I got no idea? " Six times, Sammy ... the girl was hit six times in the face, neck, chest ..."

"So first time, maybe she didn't get the right color."

Shakes his head straw-color hair coulda used a cut. He's looking over the rail-wires at the three protest boats weaving patterns between docks. "Any idea why she didn't just jump overboard? She could have done that soon as the attack started? If she jumped and swam for it, you wouldn't miss a paycheck." He looks up at me ... like maybe I was the frails accountant - or priest. "Was the girl afraid a' water, Sammy?"

"That too, Lieutenant. Coupla hi-balls she paid for the frail had bar-angel freeze olives not ice-cubes."

DeLeon jumps off the boat, sure-foot digging Italian leather his wife makes him wear into redwood plank. "A drinker, then ..."

"Ya want my guess? When you check blood alcohol yer gonna find she couldn't SEE the water not just jump into it."

DeLeon hands me a silver-etch business card ... "Well, she was coming to meet you ... now wasn't she ...?"

"What's that supposed ta mean?" My silver etch business card. On the back goth scrawl says

'... Wed. && 7-Am / SJL ... Let the bitches crawl away !!'

"Was she drinking, Sammy, because of you or because of 'the bitch'?"

Though he sez it wrong it don't matter ... "Every day, Lieutenant, women drink themselves crazy 'cause-a me ... can't get my body ...", but that wuz no more what Nicky's thinkin' than dames call me SJL. He's thinkin' copper '... this bastard Levine's giving me clamp-jaw, he knows what I don't gotta make those facts ooze out ...' Who wants ta ooze? Sweat boils down my neck, as last shadows disappear from Palmetto palm bordering the marina. What's left a' the Habanos I try ta suck out lookin' Nicky straight. "Far as I know goth-frail and me had nothin' special gonna happening today,"

"But she was your client."

"I sez that already."

"She part of the protest?"

"What women ain't ...?"

"And she intended to pay you this morning for ... services rendered?"

"Heh, Lieutenant I spilled the beans I gotta cook 'em too? It's my ten yards she got tucked in the handbag gold shimmy-clasp ..."

"Bill payed, you deliver ..."

"So maybe like me she played the nags. That's it! I got fifty smackers on LOOSE LIPS in the 7th at Aquaduct. Eight-ta-one, but the trainer sez he's due." Too bad the dead goth wouldn't know a nag from a whine ... Jeez I'm glad I'm not Catholic cause confessions suck. What 8x10 glossy I was supposed ta deliver heh something was moving no nag, but what part of it isn't I don't wanna know now. So the straight face I keep blowing smoke ...

With Nicky that goes nowhere. He got straw Panama tilted back chewing on the battered chrome Zippo with a worn thumb. "How did she make her money?"

"Real estate. She bought and sold dead real estate. Owners buy, owners sell, some go bankrupt not her."

"What did she buy from you?"

"Client privilege, Lieutenant. I got nothin' ta milk til the court sez MOOO."

"Fine, Sammy, we can sweat here all day ..." His cell-phone buzzes then glues to his chin. I catch the 'YES-NO ... ' and looks of dis-belief. He snaps it into a pocket and X-rays me. "Got to see the dentist 'bout a tooth-ache ... and Inspector Morraine wants you here. Expect him in twenty minutes ... expect me back ..."

"Heh, Lieutenant, what-da-ya mean ... expect. I gotta stay here? It's too hot, too dangerous I got green gills ..."

DeLeon points down the dock where cold-bin shadow might a' kept anteaters cosy in December sleet storms. "Sit with our pals, Sammy, in the shade. Chat them up, since they won't say moo to each-other. "

"Those three where's my shyster? I seen better clientele at the Gas-N'-Guzzle."

DeLeons lip got curled with a sneer stamps it out fast ... "Not cuffed-N'buffed yet, those three ... any of them, but first officers at the scene found them near the COTTON MOUTH. Screaming at each-other and no alibi. We're checking Ids."

Whose Nicky kiddin' not me cause 'check Ids' is cop-talk for sweat-the-perps' before shysters come round. "So I gotta babysit the perps?"

"Keep your ears open ..." We walk now, quick long strides ... " and don't try that nag story on Morraine. One of his foxes will have ya Jockey-stripped in ten seconds." Unconscious like, his paw slips under his left shoulder he don't even think about it we don't slow down ... "You bring a piece?" "Yeah, every lunch I'm ready for war, like I gotta shoot martinis before they dance away."

Two heavy-muscle blues with a plastic body-bag come and go. What's a body anyway, dried blood on the deck? Client ain't paid her bill who owes what? Chants from the protest ricochet off salt-stained outer concrete marina wall, and must be a dozen glasses staring down from the sailboat rigging cheap those bastards they should use German anti-reflect lenses they should look more careful ...

Nicky got creep-face sudden. "Watch the olives, Sammy. It's not what floats right now that's got a nerve, but what got sunk. Don't do a dive, before I get back ..."

"Heh. Lieutenant, ya said half-hour that's all ... whose gonna dive not me. What olive?"

"Just think green, is what I think ..." Nicky's past the cold-bin turning toward a human wall waving snake-like I got copper paws all over my shoulder ... "You're in good hands, Sammy with Officer Wye ..." she's about six-two with auburn hair bunned under the cop-cap not the 357-S&W it fits her ass like a hungry hand Jeez where do they find these frails ...

"Don't worry, Lieutenant," she says, "I'll treat Sammy like one of my puppies ..." she slams me into the cold-bin fibre-board wall. Her partner stands arms folded motionless a wiry Negro just lets his eyes stay big and white what's he seen? Who needs ta be trained how trained I don't see no tree for blocks DeLeon gone with his hat tipped down eyes ahead like he's seen about two years ahead and doesn't like it.

Not the civs I catch them surprised, gent and two dames glaring. John-the-Baptist looks up, hands me a joint size of a 10-penny nail. "Blue or wa ... wa... white, pigs are all the same ... what did they get you for, brother?"


"Sorry, none of that here. Only what mother Gaia produces."

"Too bad your mom got a funny name - what about you, sailor?"

"Sailor ...?" John laughs. "I guess that's us - GREENPEAZ ... sailors ... fishers of men, saving humanity from the evils of genetic engineering." he points toward the dock end. "I su...su... sunk one of the charter boats and burned it. HELIX-Y does no more outrage against GAIA today!"

"So I read, sailor - that's the gig, sink and burn?"

"Gig! Ra...Ra ... rape more like it! What globalist brown-shirts did is bio-blasphemy! Rape! Ignorance, stupidity, ... arrogance - they breached the wa...wa... wall ...!"

"What wall? I just walked through two both human?"

Green Goddess had her rack up, and brights shining right through me. "Better shut up, John this porkers got two ears and a snout - nose at-the-troff oink-oink-oink don'tcha Porkchop?." A snake skin orange tipped flicks from her wrist I dodge "Slick as a weasel too bet he keeps it in a Vaseline jar."

Swatch-goth vamps. "On the rag again, Moira? Maybe it needs a rest!"

John-the-Baptist paws at the air. "You aren't a copper ...?"

"Jake as a snake when I got a nickel just human."

"Human? You have no idea Mr ... Mr ..." John sucked two lungs wortha spiff. " Human's what this protest is all about ... our human species. HELIX-Y grafted a jelly-fish gene into human food - common, garden peas."

Him and me I wasn't so sure I say , "Ya mean jelly-fish taste better than peas maybe so I don't eat them."

"No adult does, but parents feed them to kids. I mean the peas. HELIX-Y parent company sells pea-soup, and claimed people ignored it, because of the boring pea-soup green color. But the jelly-fish gene produces a protein that glows orange when heated, so the modified peas in the pea-soup glow orange." John chewed the end of his rope belt coulda been black-tar hash then looked up. "Kids love it, since the glowing, orange peas are also chewy like Gummy-Bears."

"So maybe the kids shut up, with teeth stuck together what's wrong with that? And why protest at the marina?"

"Oh yes, too many children ..." Green Goddess grabbed the spiff John looked out, toward the harbor entrance. "HELIX-Y bought a small barrier island just north of Charleston - hardly more than a sea oat covered sand-spit. They barged in manufactured soil, and now grow sample plots of genetically engineered orange peas. That island compound is supplied from boats leaving the Ashley Marina. No boats, no supplies - no supplies no orange peas. No orange peas no breach in the evolutionary wall between species."

The goth-dame slammed a thick steel braclet against wood planks. "So like every male ... tell the whole story, ya techno-perv," she spit. "Species-phobe, gender-phobe it's all the same .." she wrenched the joint from John-the-Baptists hand sucking down half-an-inch of ash.

John waited patient, then bit into the wet end ... "Well ... there's a small problem with rats ... on the island - rats over-running the experimental pea plots - rats and water moccasins that eat them. Seems the rats really go for the orange peas something about dark-adapted edge detection in the visual cortex and ..."

"The moccasins, pea-brain. Tell bozo here what happens to the moccasins!"

"It's a classic case. Somehow, the fluorescent orange concentrates in a rats tail , but only the male rats. The water moccasins catch that heat signature and males within the rat population are easily caught ... all but the most swift and clever. Now you might think this would decimate the rat population, but quite the contrary happens. Since only the most able males survive and smart little buggers breed effectively ... rat females are notoriously selective ... the rat population actually explodes. Pea crops are ravaged ... that rat population increase threatened the very existence of HELIX-Y and the orange pea-soup. So ... that's when the vipers were imported."

"What vipers?"

"Thai vipers - nasty, green, ill-tempered tree climbing vipers. Bird eaters, mostly and very aggressive."

"What should they eat Gummy Bears," Green Goddess screeches! "Of course snakes are aggressive bird-eaters, you mammal-centric shill! Snakes evolved to eat feathery, techno-color dinosaurs - why do you think snakes have such long teeth? Not to bite you, fool, but early raptors. Who knew they were too stupid to dodge a meteor while snakes just took a nap."

Johns Horn-rims pushed up. "Over-simplified, la...la... linear thinking as usual Moira, and the Thai viper is a species totally alien to ..."

"Alien!" That got the green-frail goddess uncoiled, like a snake on cayenne pepper. She whipped straight up and rocked back-and-forth menacing. "Oh that's enough, that's more than enough you snorting, nativist honker. Blame it on the immigrants. Next thing you'll claim fire-ants attack cows, rather than just defending their nests. Not that cows are so great who brought them here?"

She's got snake-skin whipping again it catches the Negro copper mid-cheek. Air cracks sudden like she falls down grabbing a calf-muscle sobbing. Officer Wye steady as a tree-trunk. I didn't see her partner move who watches?

Goth-dame laughs. "Poor Moira. Poor dear won't be climbing any more sailboat masts this week not any ..." and she cuts off like up was bad and words cost dollars-per-dimes what they meant.

John-the-Baptist stutters. "Violence begets its own violent, alien brood lest we forget or give false impressions to our new companion."

"I ain't forgot the aliens, sailor or the snakes only ones I like are boas them feathers wrapped around a dames bare shoulder. Chicks delite I don't mind."

"Avian genocide - yes - pelicans, seagulls, swallows ... all delights." John cleared his throat, and threw a hatchet glance at Moira. "After the Thai vipers ate all the island birds and most of the slower, native rattlesnakes and water moccasins they went for rats true enough. And very successfully so, vipers gorged on the rats til their green viper tails also turned orange. Actually, the color-concentration is an interesting, bio-tidal effect can you do tensor analysis Mr ... Mr ..."

"Yeah last year, but I gave it up for lent."

"Oh ... well ... anyway the success was short-lived. Turns out, the female Thai viper hates a male with an orange tail ... orange anything. Bites him should he attempt to mate or even approach ... no immunity, of course to the venom, but then no male does ..." he sneered chuckling, "so snake-pits full of male Thai vipers died with a belly full of venom, and without a piece-of-tail to show for it. And the female moccasins didn't like the orange viper tails much either, so what moccasins survived picked on the remaining male vipers. End of story no Thai vipers, no moccasins, plenty of rats no orange peas."

"Yeah, great, Okey I love the tidal effect ... but why the protest?"

"Like corporate brown-shirts everywhere, HELIX-Y proved less businessmen than fanatics, with greed and fear chasing its own tail ..."

"Okey sailor I'll bite ..."

John looked at me funny, like I made his eyeballs bleed. "Fail ... that's what they did! HELIX-Y tried everything. First by planting more peas, then killing most of the few remaining water moccasins, then finally importing more Thai vipers. But it's well known ... in Chaos circles anyway, that life and death cycle. Resources and land are always limited so death like life always finds a way ... can you dig that gig Mr ... Mr ..."

I got the Zippo out snapping. "Death ... cycles? Yeah, I been there ... but did HELIX-Y try to get local help? Looks ta me the green vipers got plenty a pals ..."

"Local is sooooo right. Green zits we wash away, but we'll save the moccasins," shouts goth-girl."

"That's green pits, sow-tits and over my dead green body," hisses Moira.

"Dead green bone-bag how true that is. It's never been jumped."

"I'm ... I'm selective, when MY knickers come off."

"Selective, sweetie that's a scream ... about once a year."

"And you run a toaster oven plug-N-play bet it's ready for Mr Porkchop in seconds."

"Quicker than you can iron saggy tank-tops what a cow!"

"Quality, sister and that black rag-for-dress makes you what - the bitch-slut on this boat?"

"At least I can find the zipper."

"Looks like scotch tape to me, unless it's something stickier ..."

I seen cat-fights start over a lipstick smear never snake-scales. John-the-Baptist musta seen more he spreads his arms wide and bellows. "Let there be pe...pe... peace among us, whatever the viper, for we must stand together against HELIX_Y."

"Make the bitch get off her back ..."

"Make the slut find her own snake ..."

Faces blush. Scratch-a-cat the dames go silent. They got the same therapist, maybe. Noon sun beats straight down. Coppers pass around water bottles I wuz glad ta get Gator-Aide. John folds his arms resigned. "At least today, GREENPEAZ blocked the marina, stopped the supply boats. No new orange peas get planted ... Green today, green tomorrow, praise Gaia that also has a cycle ... "

I forked out a Red, and flashed Zippo into the crumble end. Sheepish John took the offer. Maybe the lungful gonna kill us tasted like angel-piss, but that cycle I start and stop. I got bead-eye into John-the-Baptist. "Cycles all over, huh ... last night have a cycle? What about the dead dame on the COTTON MOUTH? Who figured that cycle was ready ta start not her I bet."

"GREENPEAZ does not believe in violence."

"Or stopping violence."

"We accept Gaias karma."

"Boat hulls excepted ..."

"A hull may be damaged, not killed. Bo...bo... boat hulls that is ..."

I bit into the Red - what this baptist never blessed he never stopped either. "You ever miss tax payments? Ya know what they are don't ya sailor? What ya pay ta play ..."

"Ta...ta... tax ...?" John managing a twist-lip cynic sneer daddy's lawyer pals never let him close ta the family jewels - from the dames blank-eye call the matr'e-dee last time they saw a tax and in between the heat beating down beat talk ta nothing.

So it came like ice-water slaps, from silence ..."just who killed whom, Mr Levine is police business. I will thank you to respect that!" My head snapped up. Noon ... straight-up 12-0-nothing sez my Rolex who casts a shadow not nothing except Inspector Morraine coulda been one gigantic flying Catholic bat. "Officer Wye you may return the gentleman, and both ... ladies to the protest lines. Mr Levine will come with me." No argument ... Both uniform coppers stand rigid as we leave the cold-bin re-tracing redwood scuff path toward the schooner. No chatter, but we.

Vice-Inspector Morraine a tallish, bandy-leg, dried out pit-faced man, but not the Spanish brain or his yellow-green eyes they burned ... him in a black felt cape and felt broad-brim surrounded by four pin-stripe foxes. Wool pinstripe Italian cut ta leggy figures, black hair to silver chokers. They wore field-dress, 40-caliber auto-loads under shoulder, swivel case cross-draw, young, smart ... only the best need apply ... I had jacket off over-the-shoulder. My 32-caliber Colt got pawed and returned who keeps a slug under hammer?

Morraine said without emotion. "Why should a Jew become a PI, Mr Levine?"

Maybe I figured he'd say hello. "Like the Church, Inspector ... the early Church. I got a thing about widows and orphans."

"The Church learned quickly, Mr Levine. Your type disgusts me ... the scandal-monger invasions and lisping, drooling clients more genital chemistry than human ... Yet you are not a stupid man, or ignorant."

"Drooling you ain't seen half ... I got patience."

"Patience ... for simpering, whining, over-medicated matrons. The Moorish Jew had such patience. Perhaps your brother-in-law Saul Davidson could find you a more appropriate ... position. One that does not meddle in the cities darker affairs. I imagine he has suggested as much."

"What position I need I got already standing straight up! That's patience enough for a man."

"Patience, perhaps, but for an experienced PI it returns few paying clients."

"I work steady ..."

"I see ... well I have but one client and that the City of Charleston, and I do not have patience, Mr Levine." He stops abrupt. One fox has the Camel Straight perched on his thin, reddish lip, another a gold lighter no plate flame at the tip. He draws ... hacks out grey billows, and thick, remorseless old mans eyebrow wink at my face. "The girl beaten to death on the schooner ... she was one of your ... successes?"

My Pall Mall, but the fox lit it. Virginia blend sucks down taste bitter. "Mine? She was my client - confessor I ain't tried."

"Oh ... indeed. You knew nothing of her life outside a specific business arrangement. Legal, of course - that's important, and business within the ethics might I imagine self-imposed of your ... valuable profession."

"Scrub-clean hands I ain't got no apologies. Value is what the client sees. That's how it works."

"Scrub-clean work, oh ... we could all do with that at times ..." Morraines knuckles clasp and unclasp breaking bones ..." but the ethics, Mr Levine. Are they also 'what the client sees', whatever the business requires, or do you concern yourself 'in media res' with widows and orphans?"

"What's necessary, Inspector I do, and sometimes that's both good and bad. Let's say I don't do the worst when better's an option."

"So you would never endanger a client without necessity?"

"Danger's what they pay me for."

"And to your knowledge, the girl ... how is it said ... goth-girl ... she was in no immediate danger from your actions?"

We had stopped beside the schooner. Wind had died. The hull sat glassy still. Chants from the protest lines still rumbled, and mad, random shouts echoed from the three sailboats still prowling a dead marina. One fox had jumped to the deck clearing it like somebody could hide an ambush. Morraine scanned deck surfaces and masts without surprise, like he'd been there before, and crooks a dry-bone finger. "The cause of your clients death, Mr Levine .... do you have an opinion?"

"Yeah, sure Inspector. She had one too many holes in the forehead."

"No doubt, a subtle deduction ..." Morraine snorted, waving his cape. "You noticed cuts on the deck fittings and masts, have you not Mr Levine? 'Course you have, an experienced PI ... I imagine DeLeon commented on them ..."

Whose gone fishing I smelled the bait. "The Lieutenant said nothing to me."

"A man keeping his own council, even to a ... pal oh yes, that's DeLeon ..." Morraine squeezed a grizzled paw over both cheeks ... " but you observed ... did you examine any of those cuts ... closely? Surely you must have wondered if they were related to your clients death."

What spiteful, little smile bore on the Inspectors face I didn't get a chance ta wipe off. I got no chance ta respond at all Morraine leapt like a mad bat from dock to the schooner hull that one instant no more the old man but a fury his eyes glowing yellow-green back into me I followed slamming a knee hard into the teak. From nowhere a fox hung on my shoulder, did she figure me ta strangle the bastard whose got that luck?

Morraine crawled the deck, for what seemed hours with his patient, old-mans bandy crawl, then plastered eyes against the mahogany fore-mast. He coulda melted into the wood ... til he raps hard as a younger man ... "such detail, for simple cuts, Mr Levine, wouldn't you say? In fact more a carving than a cut!" His face moved up, but paws he had twelve fingers sucked into the wood-cuts like fingertips could see, his jaw working silent words ... then, "was your goth-client much more than a fad dresser? Was she in fact a juju, a voodoo devote perhaps, as part of her radical ecology? Did she worship snakes, Mr Levine?"

"I think she ate calamari does that count?"

What I feel press into my spine is no round gun-barrel but two prongs - let me guess positive and negative Ben Franklin hold the lightening. Morraines cheeks bleed red lips clenched white. "Mr Levine stubborn as your intent to confuse you will cooperate, or in ways even your subtle Carthaginian mind cannot imagine I will see you ruined." He prowled away, to the main-mast then back hat-brim looming above my face. "She was a witch, your client. In what vice did the women seek your aid, and what vice did you provide her! "

"Aren't ya missing a wood-pile where's the match?"

"We have lost patience with physical pain ... as I believe had your dead client."

"Yeah me too ... Sorry, Inspector, far as I know all the limes she used went into martinis not over machettes. She bought and sold real estate not dirt-fill coffins, drove a Jag not a hearse and listened ta Nine-Inch-nails I think they play music, but none that I recognize. That's her vice-list, and all that the Lieutenant already knows."

"But did he recognize these Mr Levine - the snake carvings!"

Close up I peel-eye beside Morraine damn the man. Sure I'd seen something skin-creep on the masts. Chicken scratch, file-grate, ten whack-a-penny I seen worse carved inta junkies arms. Sweat seeps outa my pork-pie I wipe it off. Now I got 20-20s scraping wood-cuts. They start eye-level, work up and around the mast like snake bodies, scales and ripples and viper heads them too before the tails start again like Einsteins Dutchman pal could draw only one, curly dimension no salamanders.

Green gills and orange tails no way, on the wood-cut mast, but I got the green gills. Woozy, too don't puke Sammy ... Orange tails - I seen 'em on 8x10 glossies the dead frail was supposed ta pick up this morning. In my office. Over Jimbos black-bitter. Before the crab-kakes ... when dead goth frail was alive, fulla real estate hustle I figured dead wrong and gonna buy one SOB house with a cellar full a' the orange tails. They were alive too Jeeez I near bust-guts just shooting photos through the cellar window couple a' vipers crawled up ta the glass say hello shoot-n'-run that was me bare ass bimbos that's different I'd wait for the good angle.

How it got ta 6-PM so fast I don't know my Rolex ain't ticked for hours. Shadow creeps across from up-river pine. On-shore breeze put a steady rock on the schooner, but salt-air smell none of it washed out by the foxes Night d' Parie. I don't pay attention. Eleven sets of snake carvings we found, along the deck wood-trim and far up the masts as I cared ta go 10 feet sideways fall can kill ya if ya don't gag on air-sick. But those eleven made plenty.

Inspector Morraine figured the whole story got told. "You see Mr Levine, the COTTON MOUTH belonged to the dead girls parents, so she had free access. Her eco-terror clique ... SOS put that access to good use. Snake against snake - native water moccasins against invading vipers. The reptile carving, leading from the masts to water-line were a form of sympathetic magic, intended, with proper ritual to lead the hated Thai vipers into salt water where they would surely die of dehydration."

"Magic ... ritual ... are we in the same century, Inspector?"

"History of any importance, Mr Levine unwinds so slowly ..."

Unwinds, yeah ... it's been knockin' at my brain who needs the Spanish Inquisition ta suck it out say it's not you, Sammy, but ... "... look, Inspector even cereal boxes stopped giving out magic decoder rings kids couldn't make 'em work if the kids can't code who can?"

"Clever word-play Mr Levine, but bear with me as would a ... a patient man. Rituals, yes, but ritual missing some crucial aspect. That's where you come in, Mr Levine. The girl needed you to obtain some ... some 'feature' of the viper VOV clique." His bony paw chewed at his cheek. "Features ... unavailable, or untouchable by any member of SOS. You supplied that aspect, Mr Levine, as I clearly understand, but while SOS was attempting the magic they were attacked by one or more of the VOVs."

Old man, yeah, Morraine coulda been two-hundred, but age had drained from his fig-pit face and the eyes - they're bright as Spanish Inquisition fire. We sit in the stern wheel-well him pinched up like Spanish daggers. A fox lights his cigarette mine too, and where the brandy comes from it ain't been made since Napoleons first shave.

Morraine watches rising tide flow in speaking ... "An accommodation, Mr Levine is what I require."

"Those I seen who gets the burned toes?"

"Look to your own safety, Mr Levine ... as many have ... the death, crudely stated, was a gang attack - murder, Mr Levine and that is a civil crime for which your Lieutenant is a most competent investigator. But the special aspect ... that I believe is the snake-skin that YOU supplied the dead girl. A viper-skin recently molted contains large concentrations of a tryptamine compound ... 5-MeO-DMT to state it exactly! That compound when smoked rendered the poor girl euphoric and utterly unable to defend herself. Your actions, Mr Levine led to your clients death! Those are your ethics, Mr Levine?"

"Yer nuts ..."

"Euphorics smoked and eaten, Mr Levine!" His leather-glove paw shoot out, holding a melted Gummy Bear. "The lab reports on both the dead girl, snake-skins and the candy will surely confirm my opinion." Moraines eyes narrow to thin yellow-green blaze. "Contributory negligence, Mr Levine, aggravated by the girls obvious dependence ... That charge you face. If not two-to-five, in state prisons then a permanent loss of licence, both PI and concealed carry ... and a loss of social stature which in Charleston cannot be replaced. Even the accusations will send you scurrying back to the sewers ... you never should have left!"

"I ain't never bent over ..."

"Your sources, Mr Levine I demand from you the source within VOV of the snake-skins, and for that information much will be ... forgiven."

"My hatband might be snake-skin I'll talk ta the haberdash ..."

Morraine and me ... eye-ball-ta-bleeding eye-ball. What breaks in cell-phone buzz, I catch lip-sync and the phone passes over to Morraine. Stone-face. Eyes yellow I catch his lip-sync too ... the word " ... GREENPEAZ ..." Foxes scatter over the deck then hull-scrape. Mid-turn I catch John-the-Baptists whine "Ahoy, Ahab. The Inspector prefers us - keep the ra...ra... wreck!" The boat had docked without a sound. "Snout in the troff Oink-oink Mr Porkchop," rang out what's none? Morraine and his foxes - all five jumped to the deck of the 70-foot motor-sail . There was a sweet, stomach-turn sickness to it - the reek of weed, and Spanish leather mixing with diesel fume stench. Engines bellowed, and the hull rapidly backs away foxes gathered around Morraine in the wheel-well and John-the-Baptist ... Morraine glares cross the oily slick and shouts. "Stiff-necked - as suits your kind - ruin it will be, Mr Levine. You, and all your scandal-mongering clients will find cold ruin ..."


What's frozen me. Morraines threat echoes off the concrete marina walls. Wreck - Ruin ... I shoulda told the bastards I ain't found better what's the problem, Sammy? Me and the COTTON MOUTH that's all. Stretched out in the wheel-well feet astern where thin strands of smoke stretched from a Red burning tip ta nowhere and back against the 2nd mast heat and sweat and a dead client frail they stretched too. Stainless Rolex ticks passed eight-thirty ya got years, Sammy yer a young man full-a-energy. What's none's a dead frail. I shoulda brought the cell-phone too bad the company cut service I'da paid soon. Somewhere north-a'-State Street a copper siren wails. Where's DeLeon? Fifty yards away three protestors sailboats docked together in slips decks lit up ta party. Wind rips at canvas high on the stern lines lights from the party boats make my hair wandering, tangled shadows plenty a those ... too many a' those ... Shadow purple night soon, I take the flash from my jacket it sweeps a dull yellow path. New batteries tomorrow, Sammy ... you and the flash. Port side of the bow I find a deck-lamp and light it flickering sullen red through the oil splotch.

Nice effect, on wood-tones I carry it back ta the wheel-well it curves around why ain't ya thought a' something Sammy ya got Gummy-Bears-fer-brains? I take off the pork-pie. Snake-skin, huh how come the flap sez Polymer Industries Inc they found this skin middle of an oil well and cooked it. Cook ... I got brain-snap like a broken tooth seems like a week since this morning drinking Jimbos back bitters and eating Gummy Bears think I'm gonna get sick how fast do I fly off the deck clip leather down redwood dock planks I shoulda wore sneakers ...

Pall Mall lights hard I drag couple a' dirty-lungs over it. An orange light shines down from above the cold-bin. Frost-Aire unit hums on the roof spitting white frost into heat that night can't stop bearing down. I'm alone rest a' the area lost in grey, night dim. Dim not black whose been there ya can tell ... scrapes, where the coppers 357s clawed plywood or John-the-Baptists clamshell did, on the redwood bits of roach, flakes of snake-skin ... melted Gummy Bears ... at the bottom a trickle of melted ice. Course, Sammy an ice-bin's where fisherman stow the catch. Lock on the fibreboard door I grift that in seconds. Flash poking the door open not so fast, my belly gun's out poking where the slit widens. Ice-cold razors out. How black the slit is not like it should be ... full open I don't need for what don't move. I say a prayer for fast film in my Licia shoot twice what the color-curve is I can't remember. Okey, alright don't get frisky for what's copper business client's dead ...

Stomach rolls ... I use my hank ta paw one Gummy Bears into a plastic bag I got to break off the fang they come together. Too bad Nicky didn't find the same I'da been eating Shem Creek crab-kakes. Maybe with the goth-client, ya had yer eyes open Sammy crappola I don't need this I ain't the confessor. Will ya move, Sammy? Green gills I got no time for, what comes together and where ain't so clear. How come Nicky ain't figured and sat himself down where whatever needs ta visit comes crawling? Will ya move, Sammy ...?

I sprawl hardback. Night-wind whips through the lines. My stainless Rolex ain't ticked away hardly nothin'. Same with the Red I hardly got Zippo flames outa the red end. Nothin' I don't hear til I hear the song. "Whose the sailor now, Mr Porkchop?"

"Sailor I ain't maybe Ahab, but you! Who made the bail-bond, or how come you ain't in the slammer, sweetheart?"

"Sweetheart I am no ones sweetheart spare me the chauvinist crap oink-oink it's bad enough from a movement male you're just a dick bought and paid for."

Green Goddess she's clopping up the redwood then jumps aboard. I turn."How come I hear the song record player ain't got my quarter. Buzz off."

The COTTON MOUTH rocks, under her jump then dies away not her. "Buzzz ... Buzzz off! How dare you ... I'll scream r-a-p-e in three more seconds ..."

"Count with me, sweetheart 1 -2 ..."

"Alright, OK Mr Porkchop can't you take a joke? I'm here how about thanks!" She slides along the deck arms stretched graceful above her head handing from one line to the next. "Batman said you needed to talk, being a PI and all ... ."

"Batman ...?"

"Yeah, the ancient age in a black wool bottle. Some kind of protestant or something a new religion. Who were the cunts, anyway ... " Moira had coiled around the chrome wheel like a question mark head poked between grips. I said nothing. She threw back her head. "Arrogant old pervert, isn't he ... asked whether I ever washed my jeans? He made John and sow-slut stay on the boat, but me ... maybe it's your lucky night Mr sailor Porkchop. You look taller now that it's dark got a light?"

"Try the lantern, Moira."

"You remember my name ... do you remember anything else?"

"I'm selective, what I remember ..."

Her lips pursed against the lantern glass. "SOOO ... play hard to get ... I need a fag ... crap you only have non-filter I thought everybody smoked clove." She moves the lantern down two notches on rigging between us. "Oh well ... ahhhh that's better much better I needed to stretch the fag still reeks sit closer. I won't bite ..."

"What did Batman say I wanted?"

"He didn't say you wanted anything ... But he did say you knew who killed the goth-slut."

Morraine the son-of-a-bitch his words are thumping at me. Ruin's what he said how fast he ain't learned what patience the Church got ta teach. That's you, Sammy the gent what knows everything. "Batman wuz real informative ... he blab that ta everyone?"

"No ... just me ..." Moira vamped.

"When it comes ta dames Batman sure knows who ta trust." I flipped the Red butt sizzling into oily black over the side. It sparked and winked out better not be you too ... "But I didn't say nothin' like that, who cooled the goth-frail ... was she an SOS?"

"One of the leaders ... what else could the bitch-slut be, with that black-bag-for-dress got a fat ass too, and greedy wants it all - just like a water moccasin."

Night breeze had grips on the lamp orange paper-moon light rocking easy. In the flame Moiras green tint hair and pucker lipstick looked black - black as the shadow just crossed the high, folded canvas sheet it curled too like a womans lips. What's in a color ... what's nothing in the dark me too I figured this. What gents don't know, but Moira was one damned clever dame fer a green Goddess , knowing the question I wanted to ask not the one come out.

I threw lazy-arm over her shoulder. "Ya don't get along much, you and the VOV green people with SOS ..."

"Say that twice Mr Porkchop! They're sex-ists, native-ist, jingo-ist, specie-ist slut-bag scum."

"Did ya miss one?"

"One what? Oh yeah they exchange-fluids with the GREENPEAZ traitors makes me gag. Every house they buy turns into a shack-pad til ... " She whipped out a city-roll joint and flashed it. Blew a long thin stream of smoke up the mast and giggled. "Heh Mr Porkchop now that we're ... getting friendly, your fag sucked want to suck-face some reefer make your teeth grow?"

"Sorry, sweetheart I just flossed, but knock yerself out. Make yourself at home ... when VOV buys a house there's not a shack in the pad. Ya must save it all for boats ..." I tickled her ear didn't get slapped, but her fingers dug into my knee. "How's the real estate market these days ... for a run-down shack with a basement?"

Green Goddess kissed me slow and sure and soft and warm, and she had more of everything than most ecologies I could think of, and crawled hands all over ..."You're so funny, Mr Porkchop. Ya looking to set a girl up in a bungalow?"

"Sure ... for the right frail she's got the down payment."

Moira leaned away, tugging at the tank-top. "I know your business style ... cash-N-carry ... You want I should check my bank account for a withdrawal ... or are you the do-it-yourself kind?"

I edged around, tense ... Eye on the canvas shadow ear what ya hearing Sammy whose got perfect pitch for what makes no sound moving and hates orange. "Sweetheart yer gonna love me, cause I figure on making a deposit."

Strips of bare tan flesh glowed her tank-top by now isn't so much strapped over the boobs but dangling. "Take your time, Porkchop I feel like the Federal Reserve, cause money in the bank's fast as snakes up my ass!"

"Some green's not a sawbuck - don't ya mean snake-on-the-mast, sweetheart?"

Moira is writhing and tearing at her jean zipper ... Federal Reserve I ain't worried anybody pays six-percent, charges fifteen gonna take their time, but who's the frail kiddin' last night my dead goth-client not me now.

How far up the mast her Thai viper slept and waited, in woodcuts of its own body I had no idea. Or how Green Goddess had teased it up there, feeding it long enough to shed skin. Or what cross, and double-dealing cross she made with my client. But viper and Green Goddess whose bitten once never again shy ...

What's happening happens all at once. I'm lookin' three ways got action everywhere. My left-hand digs for the flash, right-hand cross draw ta the 32-caliber belly gun my eyeballs scrape over the mast "spit-in-yer-eye, snakey" who sez that not me. Green Goddess either one ain't half-so abrupt. What dame is when she worked moves once before a languorous smile turning evil, flash clicked on its beam catches Goddess under the chin I jam it cross-body too - toward the green ropey swirl ... Moiras scream strangles, my belly-gun sliding outa the holster it swings up feels like a lead block late by a hand cause the snakes head moves that fast.

Head, scales, slither-rope body what my eyeballs been peeling the last half-second. The hard green hammer-head of a female Thai viper come ta say hello-goodby ta any orange tail ... and anything close. That shadow I'd been watching creep on the high stern canvas while the body moved down the mast. Watching like the smart rat. A foot from my head its thin body coiled round the mast, upper body that was coiled too - coiled in air hammer-head at the end. I caught weaving-scale-flash just before it struck down what moved orange fangs followed.

Who sez your life doesn't pass in an instant, or that slow-motion ain't a blur when what's close ain't good enough for the viper fangs and what's good enough ain't close fangs whizzed by the worn-out flash yellow-light. Blind-sight catches glint off an ivory point. One buried in the Sapphire face a' my Rolex ... the other Jeeez, Sammy the other fang's in the Sargent breast pocket not your wrist. Green Goddess had her chance.

Not two chances my 32-caliber jammed ropy green, barked twice blew out its spine - in a spray of black blood and scale if Thai vipers got a spine. Green pit eyes screamed ..."NOOOOOOOOO ..."

Moira lunging snatches the writhing, frothing whipping viper from my wrist grasping it somewhere behind the head, holding it high gore spilling over her arm already dead still twitching hammer-head strikes down a final senseless plunge sinking the fang into Moiras throat. Together they tumble backward off the boat into oily, black brine. I think cold no bitches crawled away this time. The splash I hear nothing more.

Later, I think about it what I heard, or should have and what I felt. Much later mighta been a week. Cause in between I got RSVPed like boxers got ears. The coppers sweat me fives days, I never complain. They got ta earn a living too. This much was agreed.

Both SOS and VOV were buying Charleston properties, and once bought started raising snakes in the cellars. That artificial breeding whacked-off pals-a'-Gaia almost as much as orange peas. Having spies in each camp, GREENPEAZ managed to poison most snakes with frog-flavor gummy bears before they ever reached HELIX-Ys island. Like John-the-Baptist said death finds a way. So did VOV! In false retribution, Green Goddess lured my goth client to her death-by-fang, then beat her face ta pieces covering up the marks. Goddess herself had died by-the-fang not drowned. So much was agreed before coppers sweat me. Whose got a problem?

The Lieutenant that's who got problems. While once far away and once close ta each victim I had nothing ta do with either death no copper like Nicky DeLeon gonna believe that so the rubber drawers go on. Pinch tight. Nicky's sure I set up Green Goddess for a fall, cause a something my client told me I didn't tell him when I shoulda ... how comes the dame comes after me so fast I sez ... " ... time a' the month musta been, Lieutenant ..." I say nothin' about Morraine sending Green Goddess down the dock after me. One a' the two frails he guessed that much. I'd sort it out, bet he hoped I couldn't ... That bill I put in the bank marked 'payment due ...' Nicky wants ta know how come Green Goddess wuz showing so much skin but not all I sez a man can only do so much with one hand ...

" ... didn't lure on the poor waif, did ya Sammy ... suck her in and let the fangs sink in ... nothing like that to revenge a client ...?"

"Right, Lieutenant, nothing at all like that ..."

"Didn't feed her DMT flavor Gummy Bears ...?"

"Only the safe kind orange-tamarid's my fav ... " I pop one outa my pocket finger it over "have a taste...?" Nicky makes a face ... moves on ya bastard not me, but YOU would have ah yes what justice I ain't gonna argue ... not with you, Nicky ... He saves the bitter pill - wants to know how come the Goddess got bit in the throat, insteada one of her silicon boobs? "Two ta one, Sammy" he sez ... "and those are less than full odds ..."

"She wuz insane," I sez ta grab hold a' the vipers head ... "...not so insane she couldn't plan two murders nearly gotcha, too, Sammy - how insane was that dame?" I say who lives sometimes G-d plays dice ... I don't say those dice can be which end of my flash got stuck between Green Goddess knockers when the Thai viper knocked the light from my paw. I ain't Solomon, ta be able to judge the justice in that ... or what John-the-Baptist loaded into her last reefer him being one a' Gaias special helpers ...

Nothing, I talk about during the sweat beyond what a man should. Day after the sweat I sleep 24 hours - day after that I get a call from Officer Wye, we do diner and a movie that night have a good time. Over cappuccino she returns my flash brine rusted her partner found it. She kissed me sweet, and said I did good other coppers said so too ain't life a bitch. She got the hots fer Nicky never get him.

Those two glossies, 8x10 every PI needs 'em, but I make copies. One glossy of the live Thai green vipers in the SOB cellar shot through the window. Where Green Goddess and her pals were growing them. That picture my dead goth client had paid for. Then one she hadn't, a shot of the frozen, dead green vipers in the Ashley Marina cold-bin. Where John-the-Baptist wuz tryin' ta help along Gaias cycles ... Orange fluorescent tails all of them. I send those pics ta Eve DeLeon what she sez in her Ms Peepers column might do some good I sign them St Patrick.

Weeks later sleep ain't so easy I send email ta Rolex telling them of damage to a 'registered' stainless Mariner, and asking respectful for repair cost. Two days ... a gentleman in brown Swiss tweed appears at my office - with a kit. Ten minutes latter he leaves, new Sapphire lens installed no charge. He has said "Mr Levine, a Rolex lens is made of unbreakable Sapphire. If a tank runs over a Rolex the tank treads break. Now you mention something about ... about a snake fang ... My good man had a Rolex functioned before snakes existed it would still when in the future snakes have lost their fangs and nurse rats. One may hardly charge to repair, what cannot be broken." Think as I might of the boat and Moira and the viper ... after the splash I hear nothing.