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Copyright 2001 Walt Wentz & Joshua Quagmire

The hot afternoon breeze blowing over the Peoria rooftops puffed through the third-floor window of the DeCrum Building and twirled a lazy spiral of my eye-shadow over the battered blotter. I was practicing leaning back in the office chair while I propped my high-heeled wingtips on the office desk, and nursing the office bottle as I re-read the name painted in reverse on the cracked pebble glass of the office door: "Sham Schpade, Private Inveshtigations" -- Sham couldn't schpell any better than he could enunciate.

I was watching the office for Sham while he was off on a hot case -- and having once dated that hot case myself, I knew Sham was in for a hell of a weekend..! So far, for my own part, I'd seen livelier times in the City Morgue.

The afternoon shift of pigeons was on duty, whitewashing the brick windowsill while they bobbed their heads and goggled at me with little needy eyes. Sham sometimes gave them an ashtray filled from the office bottle, so he could watch them doing loop-the-loops over the garbage cans in the alley below. I didn't feel like wasting the cream soda.

I yawned, stole a glance at the calendar to see if it was still the same year. Damn, still 1938.

That calendar had been an act of desperation on my part, an advertising gimmick to try to bring a little business into my own struggling little peeper agency. I'd had the photographer pose me wearing nothing but my fedora and my shoulder holster, smiling dangerously and thrusting my ample bazooms out at the camera. The caption read, "I pack a 38 -- my gun's a 9mm -- Vikki Marlowe, Very Private Investigations."

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