Thomas Trowel's jaw was long and bony, his head a jutting v around the more flexible v of his mouth. His mandibles curved around to make another, smaller, v. His yellow-green eyes were mostly vertical. The v motif was picked up again by thickish antenna rising outward from twin creases above a hooked nose, and his pale brown hair grew down -- from high flat temples -- to a point on his forehead. He looked rather pleasantly like a praying mantis -- because that's what he was.
He said to Chrys Liszt
, "Yes, sweetheart?"
Detective Chrys Liszt sighed. She could handle stereotypical guys. After all, her partner Roachy Caruthers was as hard-boiled as they came, a veteran cop who'd had more holes shot through him over the years than an old piece of cheese. But guys like this Trowel character really got under her exoskeleton. They had no idea how to treat a woman who wasn't just some dame. "Look, can you just give us a quick rundown on this Tangerine Sparrow deal? For the files."
"Well, darling," Trowel said, "it all started when I met Brigid O'Spiderssy, a real knockout. She came in with a story about her sister, and was all sweet innocence, but I've been around long enough to know trouble when I see it, and that dame was trouble. Next thing I know, this fellow who's supposed to have run off with her sister is dead, my partner is dead, and I've got the law--" he looked up, face twisted in a smile that held little joy, "calling me a suspect. Before I can make sense of all that, I've got this grub coming around talking about some tangerine sparrow and a young scorpion following me everywhere I went."
"Sparrows," spat Roachy suddenly. "Nasty things. Had one swoop down on a cousin and bam!" He brought two thin, gnarled hands down on Trowel's desk. "Just like that."
"This one was old. Treasure, I'm told. A gift from royalty, missing for years. Didn't seem to be anything but bad luck, if you ask me. Everyone I talked to about the sparrow is either dead or in jail, and not one of them managed to put a hand on it for more than a few days." Trowel looked down at the watch on his wrist.
Chrys looked at Roachy, but he had his arms crossed and was studying the ceiling, clearly bored. "You turned it over to the department, right? The statuette."
"Along with the dame."
"Thanks, Trowel," Chrys said, getting to her feet. "If this connects to the Nectarola case
, we'll be in touch."
"Swell," Trowel said, reaching for his hat, the small v of his mouth curving. His eyes glittered. "Happy to help."
Reprinted from Super Hardboiled Noir Detective Fiction Magazine, 1949