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The Essay
Show #42
The Lethal Sweeper
David Gunn
Midnight. March 8. Columbus Day. 40 degrees. It was raining in the city, a cold, hard rain that makes you glad you're not out in it. Unless you are. And I was. I'm a private dick, and I was at work. In the street. Waiting for something to happen, as I knew it would because, like I said, it was raining. And things happen in the rain. For one thing, people get sick (sneeze, blow nose).

I was tailing a babe for a client. Guy thought she was being unfaithful. Hired me to find out for sure. Paid me enough to cover the month's rent and spring for a tuna salad sandwich besides. Hell, I'll do anything for sandwiches, and tracking a broad is like icing on the tuna. She was a real knockout, too, built like a '58 DeSoto before the fins gave it a sense of humor. And she knew what to do with upholstery, too. I followed her from her house in the country. She walked slowly, with a shimmy that got me thinking about trying to align her front end. At one point, she blithely skipped over a puddle, a dancelike move that implied she could fandango with a fire hydrant and make the sucker look good.

I trailed her to a second floor apartment in the Ambrosia Arms, a ratty tenement on Delia Street. The light in the room was on and I could see another figure in there with her, but I couldn't be sure if it was a guy. Hell, with all of the alien abductions in the area of late, I wouldn't even bet against a sentient gazebo from Neptune.

The curtain was suddenly drawn back and she peered out of the window. Felt like she was staring right at me, but I was well hidden behind a parked car. Nevertheless, I withdrew farther into the shadows, stepping down onto a sewer drain. I felt a slow, ticklish movement on my shoe and looked down just as a long, thin sewer eel began to wrap itself around my ankle. I stifled a shout, pulled out my 45, spun on the silencer, and fired three shots into its vile, leathery head. Shaken, I kicked at the still-twitching body, but couldn't dislodge it. I was about to yank it off with my free hand when I glanced up and noticed that the room was now dark.

I hobbled across the street, dragging the dead eel, all 12 feet of it. I slipped behind an idle street sweeper just as the front door to the Ambrosia Arms creaked open. The babe cautiously looked around, then made some crazy gesture with her hand. A dark figure appeared in the doorway, its facial features distorted by the reflection of the rain-slicked street. And then ...

And then the street sweeper suddenly started up, its brushes madly grinding up and spitting out road debris -- which abruptly began to include the far end of the sewer eel.

Again I tried desperately to pry it from my ankle, and I nearly had it off, when the sweeper lurched ahead, yanking me off my feet and knocking the gun from my hand. As the pulverizing brushes inexorably reeled me in, I glanced back at the two figures, and what I saw made me black out even before the lethal sweeper could meat mincemake of me. I saw ... well, doesn't matter, I blacked out.

An excerpt from "No Outlet, No Gimlet," by Doots Rednu, writer-in-exile for the R&D Branch of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Sesquihour, as a way, an admittedly shabby way, to pay tribute to private eye novelist Mickey Spillane, who's 78 today, bon radio.

For only the third time in the forty-odd Kalvos & Damian's New Music Sesquihours, le flambeau oriange will not be mentioned during today's episode.

Today's show virtually spumes with tunes of big name birthday and deathday music folk, including Will Walton, Alan Hovhaness, Samuel Barber, Arthur Honegger and Margaret Fox, who, if you were paying attention in October, you'll recall was also P.T. Barnum's first touring spiritualist. And it's not such a big leap, really, from P.T. Barnum to Kalvos!