The PIC "Best of 2023" Awardtrouble all began one stormy Tuesday night, or possibly a sunny Wednesday morning—I forget. I was just about to leave my office for the night when my assistant told me a young dame was waiting out in the lobby to see me. I want to say the dame’s name was Sally. Or maybe “Soupy”? It can’t have been Soupy.

“Send her in, sweetheart,” I bet I said.

Sally/Soupy walked in and the sight of her hit me like a cement truck. I’d met some beautiful dames over the years, but this one was something else. She had long, ivory-smooth legs, with a head of bouncy, jet-black hair and eyes as blue as a clear summer sky. She was a stone-cold knockout, although it’s possible I’m thinking of a different dame. This one might have been ugly.

She took a seat and lit a cigarette, or bit into a sandwich, and told me she was in some trouble, and needed a private dick to help clear her good name.

“What’s the rub?” I asked her. Or him? You know what, I’m remembering now that it was a fella, not a beautiful dame. I think the beautiful dame was from a different case I did, way before this.

Anyway, the fella told me his wife had been found murdered on the docks just outside of town, and his fingerprints had been found on a pistol nearby. He swore to me he wasn’t the killer, and that it must have been a frame job. He told me he suspected his ex-business partner, Gus, of being the killer. The two of them had had a falling out, and Gus was out for revenge.

Wait, no, maybe it was his wife who killed his business partner? I don’t know– someone died, is the gist of it.

I asked the client where I might find this Gus fella. He told me Gus had been lying low and no one had seen him for weeks, but he used to hang around a bar in town called…. god, what was it? Mike’s Bar, maybe? Or Frank’s Pub? Not those. I’m just going to call it the Good Clues Bar, because I remember finding a good clue there.

I hit the streets of New York City, or possibly San Francisco, and took a cab downtown—no, uptown—to the Good Clues Bar. I pulled up a stool and ordered up a beer and a shot of Jack. I’m pretty firm on those details—I definitely remember getting drunk. The bartender was a plain-shaped fella, with a number of vague physical features and a demeanor that was just sort of nondescript. Just a very amorphous fella, is what I’m remembering. Just picture a guy, and that’s pretty much it. I asked him if he’d seen a fella named Gus around lately.

“No fella by the name of Gus hangs around here, pal,” the bartender told me. I suspected that he was lying, or that I was remembering the suspect’s name wrong and had pulled “Gus” out of thin air. I really should have written the suspect’s name down when the client gave it to me. I should have written down that client’s name too.

The bartender was giving me the cold shoulder, and I was all ready to write off the Good Clues Bar as a dead end, but then… I discovered a good clue. It was really subtle, and most detectives would have missed the clue entirely, but I picked up on it. I really wish I could walk you through the whole thing, because it was pretty slick. Man, this sucks. I really remember thinking to myself at the time, “I’m doing a good job with all this.” It was really grand, the way I pieced it together.

What happened next changed my whole impression of the case, and sent me on an odyssey through the seedy underbelly of the city. Let me check my notes to see if I wrote down what it was.


I definitely remember the police getting involved, and it turning out that they were crooked. That part sticks out to me, because the police are not supposed to be like that. I remember thinking how crazy it was that that was happening.

Oh! Someone shot me. I don’t recall who or why, but it was a person you’d least expect.

I’m gonna go ahead and skip forward a few days.

I was still recovering from the gunshot wound when I discovered a new clue that broke the case wide open. This clue was even crazier than the one I mentioned earlier, and crazier than all the other clues that I forgot to tell you about. The clue led me to an abandoned factory on the outskirts of town. The deal was set to go down there at midnight. I forgot to tell you about the deal, but it was some sort of drug thing, I guess.

If I had anything to say about it, the deal wasn’t going to go down as planned. Not until I got some answers to my questions. There were still things about the case I didn’t understand (and still don’t).

Anyway, when I went to the abandoned factory at midnight, it turned out I had the wrong time. They had already done the deal, several hours earlier. I was starting to feel like I would never crack the case. But then, I received some information that completely changed everything. My office phone rang in the middle of the night and a voice on the other line told me, “Don’t trust Carmine. He’s been playing you like a fool this whole time. He’s working both sides.”

“Who the hell is Carmine?” I asked.

To be continued…