Filthy Newspaper Thief – A Salmmy shortstory
The moon swam naked, a celestial exhibitionist alone in the inky black sky. Far above the street, not quite so high as the moon but still fairly high up, Salmmy stood before the window in his small apartment attached to his small shabby office. He gazed out onto the street for a long time before turning around slowly to address the prattling old bird.
“So let me make sure I have this right. You want to hire me to find out who is stealing your newspaper.”
“Yes, I say yes, this ain’t a matter of money son, this here is about principles. I want this little varmints head on a stick in my front yard as a warning!”
“Alright calm down, and just to reiterate, you think that most likely one of the neighborhood kids is stealing your newspaper, and you want me to decapitate him and display his head as a warning to others… I’m not sure you can do that… It seems like the type of thing that’s probably illegal.”
“Fine. I guess we don’t have to kill’em. Can you just rough ‘im up a bit?”
“Again, I am pretty sure that even beating a small child is going to cause us some legal problems down the road… Tell you what, I’ll find out where your newspaper is disappearing to and let you sort it out from there.”
“Can’t even throttle the neighbor kid in the street anymore, what is this country coming to.” The old warbler complained to no one in particular.
“You are aware that my daily rate is more than a years subscription to the newspaper?” Salmmy asked.
“Damnit I don’t care what it costs. I told you this is a matter of honour!” The warbler leapt to his feet and started shrieking about vengeance.
“Fine!” Salmmy shouted back. “I’ll take your stupid case just to get you out of my office on one condition.”
“What condition?” The warbler asked suddenly much calmer.
“I will never speak with you again, when I find out who is taking your paper you will pay my secretary and under no circumstances will you come back into my office.”
“Fine, whats this gonna cost me?” The warbler asked dejected.
“Fifty a day plus expenses, more if you don’t leave right now.” Salmmy responded.
Salmmy settled into the chair at his desk and lowered his head The easy solution was to simply buy the stupid bird a new subscription and keep the change. Salmmy reasoned that this wouldn’t work as there was always the chance whoever actually was stealing the paper might stop. If the old bird started getting two papers every morning there was a good chance he would notice. Alternatively the thief might start stealing the second paper as well in some sort of twisted plot to prevent the warbler from discovering whatever was in the paper. Now that he thought about it he wondered what could be in the paper that the thief didn’t want the warbler to see…
Satisfied that he had at least one good lead Salmmy pressed the button on the intercom on his desk.
“Hey Molly, can you bring me a copy of the newspaper?” The intercom hissed in annoyance for a moment before Salmmy remembered spilling coffee on it earlier this morning. After deciding that it was still pouting he got up and wandered into the lobby.
Molly, his secretary, was apparently on some sort of mission to open every cupboard and drawer in the office. Salmmy began assisting her by opening the remaining few cupboards before moving to the filing cabinet.
Molly grabbed his shoulder and handed him a quickly scrawled note.
‘Where are the coffee cups?’
“Oh, I put them away this morning” he replied cheerfully.
Gesturing toward the table next to the coffee machine she handed him another slip of paper.
‘No, you didn’t. They belong with the coffee machine’
“You can’t keep them in the same place!” Salmmy answered appalled.
Mollys eye twitched a little as she wrote.
“Well obviously they can’t conspire against me if they are in separate places.” Salmmy answered with barely contained condescension.
Before she could respond Salmmy continued “Hey Molly, can you bring me a copy of the newspaper?”
‘Which newspaper Salmmy?’ She wrote defeatedly.
“I need a copy of every newspaper that runs a daily, it is going to be a long afternoon.”
Almost an hour later Molly walked into his office with a large stack of papers. Salmmy looked up at her in confusion. He had entirely forgotten that she had left, or that he had asked her to get the papers in the first place. She set the stack upon his desk.
“Oh never mind those, turns out it was a bad idea, we have work to do, get your coat.” Salmmy said from his chair. Molly stormed out of his office slamming the door behind her.
There was a thumping sound from the front office that Salmmy reasoned was more than likely Molly banging her head on her desk, she seemed to have a habit of doing so whenever he asked her to do something that seemed perfectly reasonable. He wondered if perhaps she needed some sort of medication.
A few moments later he saw her silhouette in the fogged glass of his office door. She was reaching out and making some sort of strangling motion with her hands. Something was seriously not right with that girl.
When she seemed to be finished choking invisible people in the lobby Salmmy stood up and opened his office door and followed her downstairs to the garage.
Salmmy pulled to a stop down the street from the old warblers house. He slowly backed the car into an empty driveway where it was hidden by a hedge and still allowed him to see the porch of the house. His view would have been complete except for a large dark van parked in front. The van created a fairly irritating blindspot. While he was debating moving the car Molly interrupted him by handing him a note.
‘Why am I here Salmmy?’
“Would you prefer to be at the office in case the phone rings?” he asked sarcastically.
Molly just glared at him.
“Plus, stakeouts are boring and I wanted someone to talk to.”
Molly wasn’t sure if she should be angry that she had to spend the next few hours looking at an empty porch or that she had to spend the next few hours listening to Salmmy ramble. He read her momentary confusion as an agreement and leaned back in his chair.
“So, the warbler is absolutely mad. He was in my office rambling about murdering some neighborhood kid for stealing his newspaper.”
“I know right!?”
‘Are we waiting for him to leave so we can search his house?’
‘For evidence about the child he murdered!’
“What child? He wanted me to kill him, once I found out which one of course.”
‘Which one what?’
“To kill obviously.” Molly was becoming fairly agitated for reasons Salmmy couldn’t understand.
‘How is that obvious! What the (there was a series of angrily scrawled profanity) are you talking about!!?’
Quite confused as to where she had stopped following the conversation Salmmy decided it was best to simply change the subject.
“Never mind, the point is we are here to find out who is stealing his newspaper.” Salmmy stated flatly.
Molly took several slow deep breaths before writing again.
‘Salmmy, why do we care who is stealing his newspaper?’
“That’s the point of the whole case!” Salmmy replied testily.
Molly reached into her pocket to retrieve a small card. She had started making them in large numbers a month ago using a stamp she had purchased. She often found she was repeating herself. She handed the card to Salmmy.
‘I need more of those cards’ she thought.
Salmmy looked down at the now familiar card, it contained only three little words.
I HATE YOU.
Salmmy shook his head and stared off towards the van.The driver was seated inside reading a newspaper. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity Salmmy got bored and approached the van. He calmly rapped on the window. it rolled down slowly, stopping halfway.
“What do you want?” the mouse asked without looking up from his paper.
“How long have you been watching the house down the road, and have you been stealing this guys newspaper the entire time?” Salmmy asked gesturing towards his clients house with his thumb.
“What’s it to you if I stole a newspaper, and who says I am watching a house?”
“Salmmy, and you are?”
There was a long pause while the man in the van slowly shifted from confusion to annoyance.
“Idiot” the mouse replied while slowly raising the window.
“It rained early this morning, the spot under your van is dry, you have been reading the same page for the entire half-hour I have been watching you, from where you are sitting you have a clear view of the front door and the side of the house while not being overly conspicuous. Look I could go on but you are about to be covered in shattered glass” Salmmy watched as the window continued upwards, he tapped the butt of his gun against the window and smiled again. Taking his meaning the window rolled down.
“I’m a private dick, I am working here, so piss off before you call more attention to me!” the man shifted in his seat as he spoke.
“The bird whose paper you are reading is a nutjob, he is paying me to find out who is stealing it.” Salmmy replied matter of factly.
“So if I stop stealing the paper you will go away?” The mouse asked hopefully.
“Oh no, not at all. He is paying me daily for as long as it takes to figure it out, keep stealing it for as long as you need, just call me when your case is solved so I can tell my client.”
“That doesn’t strike you as unethical?”
“Your the one watching an empty house for a client who asked you to keep an eye on his wife, how is that any better?”
“What the hell are you talking about, she hasn’t left in days, and who says I am watching anyone.”
“Well you just did. by the way I never did catch your name.” Salmmy said.
“I, wait, what!?” The man in the van was clearly beginning to get quite agitated.
“Look, I know you’re a detective so I don’t want to tell you how to do your job. Well I guess you did just tell me how to do mine, but I’ll take the high road here. I am sure you noticed that there are three soggy newspapers in front of the house. I am equally sure you know this house belongs to Captain Jimmy, and that he is currently in the middle of a pretty ugly territorial dispute with another smuggler. What I can’t figure out is why, given this information, you are watching an empty house.”
The man in the van grew very pale. Finally he began to speak.
“I didn’t know, I swear it.” He began to blubber and ceased making sense.
“You misunderstand, I’m not here to kill you. If Jimmy knew you were here I am sure he would have sent someone… Honestly I thought you were quite brave, until I realized you’re just stupid.”
The engine roared to life and the van sped away.
Salmmy shrugged and walked back to his car.
“Well that was a waste of time.” He complained.
‘What happened? Who was in the van?’
“Some newspaper thief posing as a detective. The real pain of it is that now I need to drive down here every morning to steal the newspaper myself.”