Howdy Gumshoes, welcome to the twenty-seventh unsolved enigma of HACK. If you’ve made it this far, it’s time to put all the clues together.
However, I can alleviate the guilt of reposting this previously published piece by reminding myself that unless you’ve read Heroes and Hierophants, then you’ve never read this piece.
The topic was The Scene of the Crime. Write the last scene of a detective story where the detective is revealing who dunnit to the other characters.
What came to my mind for the assignment was that old joke about the pink ping-pong balls. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can watch a perfect version of it below. But first, it all begins at the bottom of a well…
THE CASE OF THE PINK PING-PONG BALLS
Chapter 27: The Cosmic Egg
“Get up kiddo.”
*Yawn.* “Aw c’mon. I told you all I know.”
“I don’t doubt it, you don’t know much. Now GET UP!”
The kid did as she was told. They always do. Maybe it’s because I used to be a classroom teacher. Maybe it’s because kids are just stupid. At least, that’s what they want us to think. Take this little shit here. Tenacious T. She’s barely 13 and caught up in a plot to destroy the world. I’ve had her in lockup for the past 24 hours. She’s the only one who knows whodunnit and no one else can make her talk. No worries. This bird will sing.
“Get it over with old man. I ain’t got all night. Brainwash or torture?”
“Neither. I’m cuttin’ you loose.”
“What? Well… GOOD!”
Here it comes. You can see it in the eyes…
“So I’m no use to you anymore?”
Bingo. They’re all the same–first they hate your guts, then they don’t want to leave.
“Nah kid. Your mom gave me 24 hours to make you crack. Looks like I don’t have what it takes anymore.”
She smiled in triumph and floated out of the abandoned wishing well. Damn kids and their superpowers.
“Now go on home…and don’t get shot by any cops.”
“You stole that line. Good night!”
Defenestrating little brat. DING DONG! Wait, I don’t have a doorbell. KNOCK KNOCK. That’s better. Damn kids and their Dada. I opened the door.
WOW. Lelah, dressed in a plaid skirt. Her shirt read: ‘I’m not a gynecologist, but I’ll take a look.’ It’s funny ‘cause it’s true. She’s wearing the opal octagon glasses. She must be ovulating right now. How do I know that? Because I’m a fucking detective, that’s how. I can also tell you which one of her 88,000 chakras will produce an orgasm in less than a minute.
“Stop thinking about orgasms,” Lelah said tartly, “You know I’m here to reject you.”
“Go ahead baby. It turns me on when you reject me.”
Her giggle gave me a semi.
“You know what I mean,” she said, “Now bend over.”
It’s not as unpleasant as you’d think. She could do the same thing to a ferret and it wouldn’t so much as blink. Besides, this is my last rejection.
“I’m using a new tool this time. It provides better extraction. You were hurt pretty badly.”
I glanced behind me at the floating orb excreting multicolored fluids through a network of syringes and tubes.
“Just as long as you use my tool next,” I said.
All this fuss is about the last bullet I didn’t dodge, the one that almost killed me. In other words, if not for Lelah here I’d be married to that bullet and have to wear a silencer when ejaculating. OK, too much metaphor. My ex was pure poison—literally. Her name was Dokuhime, which is Japanese for ‘Poison Princess.’ Yeah, that bitch was a succubus.
“You need to focus,” said Lelah, “Stop thinking about her. The more you do the longer it takes the poison to reject you. I don’t want to be here all night.”
“Yes you do.”
“Well OK, I do, but first things first. It’s time to cut that cunt loose.”
I blacked out for a bit during the procedure but the last thing I remember is my face pressed hard against the pillow. Afterward we took an Egyptian Musk-bath and trimmed each others’ pubic hairs. Unfortunately, Lelah still had a rogue quantum singularity to deal with at the Large Hadron Collider and I still had an unsolved case. We both agreed to be home in time for The Daily Show.
24 hours later…
“Get up kiddo.”
“Aw, c’mon. I’ve told you all I know.”
“Bullshit Benny. You haven’t told us the half of it. They might even want to publish this one.”
Publish? Ha! I envision two scenarios. Either they banish me from public discourse and eye me suspiciously on the street, or they send me off for reprogramming. Maybe I better get up.
“What the hell you guys?” I yelled, still pissed at the incessant interruption.
I rubbed my eyes and glanced around the apartment. Noz stood by the jukebox wearing a shirt that read, ‘Trust me, I’m a writer.’ Paulie G. sat in the loveseat doing crossword puzzles. His shirt read, ‘No Ego.’ I could smell eggs. Mac must be in the kitchen with his ‘Blow the Chef’ apron on.
“Can’t you let a guy rest in peace? I solved the case didn’t I?”
“Yeah but the idea is to tell us how you did it,” said Noz, “Otherwise, what’s the point?”
“The point is—wait, when did you start becoming so interested in my work?”
“Who isn’t interested in knowing about the pink ping-pong balls? Benny, do you realize that you just cracked the biggest case since the Bloody Toe Incident?”
He thinks flattery will get him everywhere with me. He’s probably right.
“It was nothin’ really,” I yawned, “I just followed the brat, Tenacious T. Instead of going home, she met up with the greasy boyfriend, Mr. Dang Dang, who led me straight to the Underground’s Underground Headquarters.”
He’s actually writing this in his notebook—time to get creative.
“Well, there they were—all 6 million pink ping-pong balls, each one stamped with a gold 42. Someone had packed them into a rocket, presumably to shoot into space whatever those balls contained.”
“What was inside them?”
“Hell if I know. What with all the swashbuckling, kicking ass, disarming the rocket and finding the body of Dr. Puri, who was already dead by the way, and unfortunately the secret died with him,” I paused to catch a breath, “Because all the pink ping-pong balls were destroyed.”
“WHAT?” cried Noz, “Destroyed how?”
“Um…. Actually, it’s my bad. Turns out I hadn’t disarmed the rocket. I only prevented it from lifting. When the engines fired the whole cave incinerated. Sorry.”
I suddenly met Paulie G’s glance as he looked up from his crossword puzzle. Even if he knows I’m full of shit, he’s stopped calling me out on it.
“One thing’s for sure,” I continued, “whatever was inside those pink ping-pong balls had the kids hooked. That’s how The Name got all their slave labor. By the way, do you realize how hard it was to get those kids lined up in an orderly fashion and out of there before the place collapsed? Do they even do fucking fire drills in schools these days? Some of them actually wanted to blow up with the rocket!”
“So then all of Dr. Puri’s work is for naught,” Paulie startled me by speaking, “Without the pink ping-pong balls his research makes absolutely no sense.”
“Eh, well, that’s not my department. Now, if you don’t mind…”
Lelah poked her head up from under the covers and yawned. She was topless, god bless her shameless soul.
“Hi boys. Something smells delicious. Are you joining us for breakfast in bed?”
Noz grimaced. “No darlin’, we just came to get the scoop from Benny here. But you know what Ben, you’re right. People aren’t ready for the truth. We’ll keep the lid on publication for now.”
“Wait,” said Pauly, “Didn’t you ever discover whose nefarious plot this was in the first place?”
Just then the kitchen door opened. Mac stepped out with a silver platter in each hand.
“Breakfast is served!”
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Mac fell to the floor.
“What the FUCK Benny!” yelled Noz. “It’s just Mac!”
“That’s not Mac,” I said, still clutching the gun in my hand.
“He’s right,” said Pauly, squatting next to the body. His fingers reached behind an ear and peeled off a thin layer of meta-flesh.
Pauly held up the mask for us to see and said, “Mac’s face is a flaccid fake!”
There was a collective gasp as everyone recognized the face behind the face.
“Yes,” I whispered, “It was none other than my arch-fiend, Professor Imbroglio.”
“But how could you know that?” asked Noz, “We’ve been with ‘Mac’ all morning and we couldn’t tell a thing.”
“Because he’s a fucking detective,” cut in Lelah, “That’s how.”
“That’s my girl.”
“Tell us Benny,” Noz insisted, “Tell us how you knew.”
I sighed. It seemed like the right thing to do.
“What did Mac cook for breakfast?” I asked.
“Um, looks like an omelet.”
“And what’s in the omelet?”
“Looks like…peppers, mushrooms, and…” He grabbed some of the egg and tasted it. “Garlic…” He flicked his tongue. “…with a dash of oregano.”
“Precisely! Mac despises oregano! You’ve heard his rants about how oregano was meant for pizza, not pasta. How he demanded that makers of Italian Seasoning remove oregano from the mix? Mac only uses rosemary in his omelets, and curry in his pasta sauce. I could smell the difference instantly.”
“Amazing. So…elementary.” Noz did look genuinely impressed.
“Your shit’s elementary Benny,” said Pauly G. “But mine is middle school.”
See, it’s funny ’cause Pauly teaches the children.
“Yeah,” chimed Noz, “Good work though. We’ll let you get back to your smelly breakfast.”
The guys bagged the body and left, agreeing that there was no big rush to find out what happened to the real Mac. Lelah and I blissed out until dusk. By then the crowds below had subsided. Apparently my cronies did a good job of convincing everyone that Dr. Puri’s pink ping-pong balls were just a hoax. I had almost convinced myself. But as Lelah and I lay there in post-coital perfection, I pulled out the last remaining pink ping-pong ball, the one I had shoved into my crotch before the rocket exploded. The 42 was gone, erased by my sweat during—
“Are you ever going to tell them what really happened?”
“You’ll keep working the case?”
“Do we really have to go to Jupiter?”
She opened her eyes to see me sitting up, turning the ball with my fingertips.
“So what’s in there?”
“A clue, and I’m about to crack it open.”
This bird will sing.
Towel Boy was fogged by a dropper named Clapper.