It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny
that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be
the coin of what we call civilization.

Raymond Chandler
Entropy Gradient Reversals

Two Guys in a Bar

Ross MacDonald So there I sat at 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon in Phil Sharpe's Happytime Lounge on South Colfax waiting for my client to show. He was already an hour late. Sharpe with an "e" -- classy touch I thought.

I hadn't picked the place. It had one of those electric signs out front in the shape of a martini glass, and at night you just knew it'd have pink and green neon bubbles rising from it, popping gaily, beckoning to the after-work crowd the way a cheap spinner lures a stupid fish. Probably lent a certain air of carnival to the fetid stench of the surrounding neighborhood. The place was already half full and had been since 10 o'clock that morning. Nobody was drinking martinis.

This client I was waiting for had hired me a month ago to check up on his business partner. Was the guy ripping him off he wanted to know. It was an easy gig and the money was good, a grand a day plus expenses. Christ knows I needed it. Entropy Gradient Reversals Internet Detective Agency, of which I was both sole proprietor and sole employee, hadn't had what you'd call a terrific quarter. The company motto had seemed a real grabber at the time I started the thing up, but now it mocked me every time I handed out my card. "Get A Clue" it read.

"So Frankie," I'd said into the phone that morning after I got past the officious bitch who ran interference on his calls, "I think it's about time we wrap this baby up." C. Francis Booge -- "the e is silent" he would tell you, but Jesus, which was worse? -- Chief Executive Officer of Out of Order Legal Software, Ltd., liked it when I called him Frankie. I could tell it always gave him a little rush, as did the whole business of dealing with someone who did what I do. What a fucking dork.

"So you finally got something for me, huh? What's up?" he wants to know.

"We can talk about that when you buy me lunch today," I tell him. "And don't forget to bring the 10 large you owe me." He says he knows this great little place where nobody's likely to recognize him. After an hour sucking down the swill that passes for cof