The name is Max Fly and I am a private eye, a damn good one too! I was sitting at my desk staring out the window at the Burnt Corn All Night Diner and Laundromat watching a well-endowed waitress by the name of Bea Heine, serve up an order of cheese grits and scrambled eggs with a side of hash browns smothered and covered, to Wayne Dwopps, our local TV weatherman, and wondering why the phone hadn’t rung in over a week.
My desk is located next to my partner’s, Chico “Zippy Doo” Rodriguez, a sort of illegal green card carrying Hispanic from Matamoros, Mexico, a small town a few miles across the Rio Grande River from El Paso, Texas. Zippy heads up our displaced persons and pest control divisions.
“You all right, Max?” Zippy asked. “You look like one of them dummies at the Burnt Corn General Store.”
“I don’t know, Zip, a little down I guess. Today is kinda slow. Nothing on the docket. Actually, the whole damn week is kinda slow. Okay, it’s been a slow year. The last case we had was when Alan Skidmore contacted us and told us that someone had broken into his trailer and stole five pounds of bacon out of his refrigerator.”
“Wasn’t that when his wife got up for a midnight snack and was afraid to admit it.”
“Yeah, it was. Luckily, I took along Wanda Winchester, our reconciliation expert and she detected a faint bacon scent on the breath of Skidmore’s wife and she finally confessed.”
The phone rang. Both Zippy and I reached for it. Zippy was faster.
“Max Fly, Private & Nefarious Investigations & Pest Control. Who is this?”
“This is Freda, Freda Livery, what’s your address there?” Freda is lacking in social graces and is the delivery girl for the “We Serve It Hot Pizza Parlor” located in downtown Burnt Corn where she works to pay for her tuition at the Burnt Corn Automotive and Bus Mechanics College, an online technical school.
“Freda,” Zippy began, “there are only 300 people in Burnt Corn and you have made deliveries here before how can you be lost? Aren’t you part Muskogee Indian? I thought Indians were supposed to be great trackers.”
“My people were great trackers until the white man civilized us.”
“Where is Gilroy doesn’t he usually ride with you?” Zippy asked.
Gilroy is Gilroy Skindancer another local Musgokee Indian and Freda’s boyfriend.
“Gilroy’s in jail. Sheriff Hertz pulled him in on an outstanding drunk and disorderly warrant.”
Sheriff Hertz is Wyatt Hertz, Burnt Corn’s ersatz Sheriff the main reason people refer clients to us. He and his deputy, Hiram Firam, are about as incompetent a pair of law enforcement officers as a pair can be.
Freda walked in with our pizza within five minutes after Zippy got her straightened away.
“That’ll be $7.95.”
Zippy paid her out of our petty cash fund, which was beginning to dwindle pretty fast, along with a $1.00 tip.
“Hey, hold up there, Freda,” Zippy yelled. “This pizza is cold. What’s up with that?”
“Oh, I had to stop at the laundromat and put my clothes in the dryer before they began to stink. Gilroy was supposed to do that, but you know what happened to him. Don’t you have a microwave in this dump?”
“If we had a microwave, we wouldn’t have had to call you for a HOT pizza!” Zippy yelled.
“Whatever,” she replied slamming the door behind her.
“Damn, Max, what are these fishy looking things? I didn’t order fish on this pizza. It’s supposed to be a five cheese pizza.”
“They look like anchovies, I think. Just pick ‘em off. I’m not hungry anyway.”
The phone rang. Zippy was slamming the first piece of pizza sans anchovies, in his mouth so I beat him to it.
“Max Fly, Private & Nefarious Investigations & Pest Control, how may I help you?”
I knew I didn’t know who this person was as nobody who knows me calls me mister.
“Yeah, who is this?” I replied.
“This is Frank, Frank Ferter. I am the security guard at the Walmart out on the by-pass.”
Frank didn’t need to tell me where the Walmart was as Burnt Corn only encompasses about five square miles and it isn’t really a bypass, it’s Alabama Highway 84 and there is only one Walmart. The next nearest one is in Monroeville about fifteen miles to the east.
“What can I do for you, Mr. Ferter?”
“Well, it appears we have a situation here and we can’t reach Sheriff Wyatt Hertz nor that worthless deputy of his, Hiram Firam. Nobody is answering the phone at the Sheriff’s office. My boss, Ms. Derry Yare, suggested that I call you.”
“Did you try reaching the sheriff at Patty Mae’s All Night Bar and Pool Hall?”
“Yeah, and Patty Mae said she ain’t seen them either. Can you come on out? Ms. Derry Yare said she would pay your fee if you can help us here.”
I looked over at Zippy. There was a pile of anchovies sitting next to the box of pizza. He had already consumed half the pizza and was guzzling down a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer.
“Well, my assistant and I are in the middle of our dinner. Can’t this wait?”
“Not really, Mr. Fly, I’m afraid it can’t. We have a situation here. There is total chaos and I am the only security personnel in here. The rest are female Walmart clerks and in spite of what all the wimmen are claiming these days, they just ain’t up to handling the altercation that I have on my hands now.”
“Tell me what’s going on, Mr. Ferter.”
“You don’t have to call me mister, mister, you can call me Frank. We got a Miss Josseleen Elida Sanchez here. She was driving a motorized shopping cart, without a drivers license I might add, through our Walmart while gorging herself on five-finger-discount grub and guzzling down some of our finest discount wine. I caught her grabbing a package of our week old fresh sushi, eat a piece, and then return it to the shelf.
Next on her menu were mini muffins and cinnamon rolls. The damn woman consumed them in the same fashion as the sushi and, are you ready for this, Mr. Fly? For the main course, she ate a whole damn rotisserie chicken. By the end of the meal, she had drained two bottles of wine. All told, Ms. Derry Yare said she consumed $32.36 in food and drink, without even leaving a tip.
When I asked Sanchez why she did it she said that she was hungry and did not want to take any of the items outside of the store, but did consume everything she could while inside the store.”
“Where is she now, Frank?”
“She broke loose and jumped on the motorized shopping cart and is now riding around our parking lot. She has already rammed it into a Toyota Yaris and it looks like the Yaris is totaled. That damn Yaris is smaller than our motorized shopping carts. I didn’t know we had any tree huggers living in Burnt Corn who would buy one of them things. They must be visiting or passin’ through.
How soon can you get here, Mr. Fly?”
I glanced over at Zippy again and noticed that the only thing left to eat were the anchovies.
“You can call me Max,” I said. “We can be there in five minutes, but we have a hasty response fee of ten dollars that we charge when responding to situations without prior notice.”
“I’m sure Ms. Derry Yare will be inclined to pay your hasty response charge.”
“We are on our way.”
I hung up and grabbed my hat and my Smith and Wesson .357 that was located in my rigging hanging over the back of my chair.
“Finish that Pabst Blue Ribbon and grab your shootin’ iron, Zippy. We got us a situation.”
I filled Zippy in on what was happening as he slid behind the wheel of the Fly Mobile and headed toward Alabama Highway 84 that Frank Ferter referred to as the Burnt Corn By-Pass.
When we pulled into the Burnt Corn Walmart we noticed a large crowd of people milling around in front of the store, staring out at the parking lot where a diminutive Hispanic woman was driving erratically with a portly uniformed guard, who we assumed was Mr. Frank Ferter, in hot pursuit on foot.
Zippy pulled in next to him and asked him if that was the suspect he was chasing.
Mr. Ferter bent over at the waist and placed his hands on his thighs as he wheezed, “What in the hell do you think? Of course, it is. Do you think I’m out here running a freakin’ 10K road race?”
“No need for the sarcasm, Mr. Ferter,” I replied. “Hop in the back we’ll give you a ride.”
“Head east,” he gasped, “she’s heading to the store. We can cut her off. Damn, the battery on that cart should be about dead by now. She’s been riding around for a good forty-five minutes. I feel like I sweated off at least five pounds.”
“Which way is east,” Zippy asked.
Mr. Frank Ferter looked at him and said while pointing to his left, “If you don’t know directions, how in the hell did you ever get out of Mexico?”
Zippy looked at him with disgust and replied, “That’s why we hire coyotes. They know where they are going and none of them are fat.”
When we turned the corner around the back of the store the suspect almost ran head-on into the Fly Mobile. She yanked the wheel to the right and jumped out, doing a perfect jump and roll, making me wonder if she was a former airborne ranger, and proceeded to run up a hill on foot.
“I can’t run anymore,” Frank Ferter snorted, “I’m plumb worn out. One of you has to go get her.”
I looked over at Zippy and he said, “Hell, Max, I’m driving.”
“The car’s stopped, Zip. You can get her.”
“Let’s settle this with Paper, Scissors, and rock,” Zippy replied.
“Dammit, both of you guys go. I think she grabbed some Ding Dongs on her way out the store. We are paying you your hasty response fee, so respond.”
The fact that we hadn’t had a case for quite awhile and we needed the money, we both jumped out of the Fly Mobile, Zippy took the keys before we headed up the hill in pursuit of Ms. Sanchez.
Since Zippy was a heavy smoker, he petered out about halfway up so when I crested the top of the ridge, I realized I was on my own and I was wheezing myself.
I looked down and I spotted the suspect sitting behind a rather large boulder eating her package of Ding Dongs and washing it down with a bottle of Thunderbird wine. I hoped that wasn’t the wine Mr. Frank Ferter was referring to when he said she was consuming some of their finest discount wine.
I pulled out my Smith and Wesson .357 as I approached.
“Excuse me, Miss,” I panted, “but I am going to have to ask you to come with me.”
She looked up at me and smiled, “Why don’t you sit down and join me for a little refreshment. I have another package of Ding Dongs and there is more than enough of this Thunderbird wine left for both of us,” she said, thrusting out the bottle in my direction.
I never was a big fan of Thunderbird. I preferred Ripple in my day, but I grabbed the bottle anyway and placed it down on the ground behind me.
“Why don’t you come back with me?” I responded, holding out my hand.
She grabbed it and I helped her up, surprised at how tiny she was.
When we got back to Walmart, Sheriff Wyatt Hertz and his deputy, Hiram Firam were there talking to a woman who I assumed was Ms. Derry Yare. The lights were rotating on the top of their Chevrolet Caprice squad car, casting a blue brilliance off the back wall of the building. Zippy and Frank Ferter were over to the side arguing about Coyotes and illegal immigrants.
I handed over Ms. Sanchez to Sheriff Hertz.
“Mr. Fly? I’m Ms. Derry Yare, the store manager. I wish to thank you for your help when there was none to be found anywhere,” she said, her eyes blazing at Sheriff Hertz.
“Please follow me and I’ll get you your money. I like your car. What kind is it?”
“It’s a 1958 Oldsmobile 98. We call it the Fly Mobile.”
“Nice. Here you go and I have included two Walmart gift cards as a bonus.”
“That’s mighty nice of you, Ms. Derry Yare, thank you.”
“That’s quite all right. By the way, are you married Mr. Fly?”