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Sam Schpade - Private Detective


Gary Gordon

It was a roasting New York summer, the kind that only comes once a year or so. Puppy dogs caught fire and burned on the searing streets. Parking meters melted into the sidewalk. I was trying to cool off in my office with some bourbon on ice, but it only made me sweat. 

The name's Sam Schpade.....Private Detective. It's a good job, but the work isn't exactly steady. Nothing remains the same....except maybe your socks. People change.....often in front of you......with the lights on. And sometimes the dame that you're in love with winds up taking a bullet that was meant for you. It's happened to me countless times....I don't know why...... I only know that I am glad. 

I've seen all types in this business. The meanest men in the world. Gangsters, hit men, and gunslingers. Guys who'd rob banks, kidnap women, torture hamsters. And they weren't all just mean.....a lot were stupid too. Guys who'd torture banks, rob women, kidnap hamsters. But I never met anyone as cruel as the fat man. He was an evil genius.......or at least an evil guy who was smarter than average. He was the kind of guy who'd eat a rabbit dinner on Easter Sunday. Freely fart in church. Undertip in fancy restaurants. He was a monster......inhuman. They called him Dr. Hilarious.......even though he only had a Masters degree.

I was pouring another three fingers of Jack Daniels when the door opened slowly. I went to draw my gun, but realized I didn't have any sketching paper. A gorgeous brunette in a low-cut dress waltzed in. Since hardly anyone waltzes anymore.....I took extra notice. She had a pair of legs that just wouldn't quit. I figured her dress was Halston, but it created so much fallout it could have been Chernobyl. It left little to the imagination.....aside from imagining some great sex on your desk on a hot night. As she strolled slowly over, her melodic melons beat a steady tune........ Um-pah-pah. She parked her perfect derriere on the edge of my desk and left the motor running.

"I'm looking for a private detective for hire," she intoned smoothly. "Is your name Sam Schpade?"

"Sam Schpade at your service....Who's asking?"

"Muffin.....Marlene Muffin"

I'd never met a girl with the same first and last name. "What can I do for you, Ms. Muffin?"

"I'd like to ask you a question Mr. Schpade."

I lit up a smoke. "I won't guarantee I'll answer it. It depends on what you want to know.....and why. You understand, of course, that I can't go around blabbing everything to a perfect stranger who's just walked - waltzed - in. But....go ahead, sister.....whaddya want to know?"

"Will you pour me a drink?"

"Well....that was easier than I thought." I filled a glass to the brim and she chugged it down.

"I like a dame who can drink."

"That's what the boys in the fraternity say."

A college dame. it was the last thing I needed. I'd been that way before and knew the road well......somehow it always led to Dead Co-ed City. I stared at her face like a dumb guy watching a good T.V. show. Her blue eyes were haunting, haunting enough to scare the pants off a man. She had high cheekbones that rose up like red rouge explosions from the edges of her moist red lips.

Saying "bye-bye" wasn't going to be easy.

"Do you mind if I have another drink?" she asked.

I shook my head and she reached for the bottle. She leaned over in front of me......her ample breasts, mere inches from my face......fell out of her dress. She laughed good-naturedly and put the boys away.

"I'm very anxious to hear about your case, Ms. Muffin. Tell me about it."

"First answer me this.....What's the only kind of wood that doesn't float?"

"That's an easy one: Natalie Wood."

"Good.....and...What's the fastest animal in the world?"

"The Ethiopian chicken," I said. "My barber's asked me tougher questions than that."

I had a very inquisitive barber.

"My point is this," Ms. Muffin continued. "Someone, somewhere is responsible for those horrible jokes. As soon as something terrible happens, a whole slew of bad jokes is started. It's gallows humor, Mr. Schpade, and we've got to stop it. I want to find the person responsible."

"I'd like to ask you why you're looking for this man, Ms. Muffin."

"I represent a wealthy client who will remain nameless, Mr. Schpade."

Usually I don't work for clients without names, but I decided to make an exception. "I charge five hundred dollars a day." I said.

"Money is no object," she said with a wave of her hand.

"I charge seven hundred and fifty dollars a expenses."

"I'll drink to that." As she reached for the bottle, her gigantic kajoobies jumped out of her dress like fat guys who'd stepped on a nail. I got up out of my chair, strode to the door, and locked it. I walked back, poured a fresh drink and embraced her.

"To our partnership," she said huskily.

"Here's looking at yours, kid."

We clinked glasses and then I kissed her passionately.

I toured every joke joint in the city. It took a while to find the topical joke tellers. Most of the comedians I saw were just deadwood old hacks with the same tired routines, only they were sicker than they used to be. It's the joke slavery trade. They force these old shtick-up artists out of their homes and put them to work in the Borscht Belt. Like the pathetic old guy I saw uptown one night. His delivery was as old and dirty as his plaid jacket.

Sam Schpade - Private Dick....Part 2

These comics were telling the same tired old jokes I'd heard a hundred times. I toured the wild-and-crazy-guy comedy clubs to see what was happening there. I guess my first big lead came when I played Othello in high school. My first big lead in this case came one night at a yuppie joint on the Upper East Side called Le Humoria. I heard a guy telling what Muffin called "retro-topical" jokes. Old, aging material that brought more of a wince than a chuckle. They were somewhat topical though since the guy was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. He was a typical young, aggressive, foulmouthed, skinny-tie comedian waiting for an HBO special. His material was ancient....he was still talking about the NASA disaster (what does NASA stand for?....Need Another Seven Astronauts). Even the cheap scotch I was tossing back couldn't wash away the sour taste those jokes left in my mouth. It dawned on me that maybe he was my man.

And then I decided he couldn't be....I don't go for guys. I like dames.....but I figured maybe he had something to do with all those old jokes resurfacing.

After the show I asked him where he got his material.

"You with the Feds?" he asked nervously.

"No, private investigator. I noticed you do a lot of retro-topical jokes, Mac, and I'm looking to find out where the jokes came from."

"Uhhh....ahhh....I just....I don't know...I..."

He was holding out on me, so I palmed him 20 bucks to make him sing. He sang, all right: Verdi, The Beach Boys, even a little Slim Whitman. But I didn't get any further than that. On a hunch, I telephoned an old pal of mine in L.A. There too, all over the City of Angels, comedians were telling the same tired jokes. They were all getting the same jokes at the same time. In turn, the jokes were spreading around the country like a bad plague on words.

Marlene and I graduated from the client-detective relationship, graduated to something much better, and never even picked up our diplomas. We started a torrid affair. I was the only man who had ever satisfied her. Her gratitude was paramount, and in return she put on a show each night that was MGM. It was hot. Nothing could quell the flames of passion we fired on those evenings.

We were tormented souls, constantly intertwined and spiritually bound....It was swell.

She had heard about a new comic in town called Chuckie Chuckles, fresh from Hollywood, and thought that I should check him out. That night I was transported back about 15 years as I listened to the guy go on and on.... about Rock Hudson and his way of life and manner of death. Right from the start he was all over Rock.... which is not unusual for someone from Hollywood.

"Well, hey!" he said, " I feel sorry for Rock Hudson. He didn't ask to be born that way....he was sucked into it. When he was a baby his parents used to quiet him down by sticking a pacifier up his ass. Things didn't get any better when he became an adult. Hey!....He tried to become a stepfather, but nobody wanted to be reared by him.

"But Rock was a real man. If another homo picked a fight with him, they settled it by exchanging blows. I heard that Rock moved to Florida and now the whole state has Gator AIDS. The governor said, 'I'm giving you two hours to blow this state,' but Rock said he would need at least a month."

Chuckles disappeared when he finished his act. I hadn't even known he was a magician. I had to find out where these young punks were getting their material. There were so many mysteries to be solved. Where did the mastermind operate from? How many comedians were in on it? Who really hired Muffin?

I sat down and thought about it but only came up with more mysteries. How come the water from the bathroom sink is always colder than the water from the kitchen? If Jesus was a Jew, how come he had a Hispanic name? If you were driving your car at the speed of light and you turned your headlights on....would they do anything?

Whoever he was, he was getting even faster. I was at a punk place called Friggin' Comedians when I got my first real break. I had been listening to stale, antique jokes for about two hours when I visited the bathroom to take a leak. There, scrawled on the wall were the words....

Need a nasty joke in a hurry?
Call Dr. Hilarious
Convenient offices right in Grand Central
Phone (212) 555-3321

I copied the number, hurried to my office, and made the call. The lead turned out to be as dead as disconnected. I decided to pay the good doctor a visit. Right before I left, Marlene stopped by. I filled her in on the case, but I wanted to fill her in on the couch. So, smiling seductively, she hiked her skirt up around her waist and lay back on the sofa. She looked ready, willing, and able, yet something told me she didn't really want me. That something was a .38 special pointed right at my crotch.

"Is that a gun in your hand, or are you just glad to see me?" I said.

"Sorry Sam, but I'll take the case from here," she said, "Hilarious is mine. Unless the man is stopped cold, we'll be a nation of cruel sadists. You don't make jokes about things like AIDS....especially about people who died 20 years ago from's just sick and wrong."

"What should you do about it?"

"Nothing, like we've always done. If these sick, old jokes become any more popular it will be nothing but hell on the networks, and on all the old-style humorists."

"Such as?"

"My father....Bob Hope."

I'd figured as much all along, didn't want to say anything because I thought I ought to surprise you. "So, they're putting your daddy out of business, huh? I understand why you feel that way, darling. I can't imagine your dad launching into some schtick about Rock Hudson on a television special."

"Exactly. Already his breed of humor is dying, Sam....DYING! These days he doesn't even get a laugh if he tells a joke about the Democrats. I can't see his humor die. I'd rather see Hilarious die. It's better for everybody."

"Better for who?"

"Better for me, better for the country, certainly better for Rock Hudson. In fact, it's better for everyone except Dr. Hilarious"


"Yes, darling..." she frowned. Tears fell like diamonds from her misty blue eyes. "I hate to leave you, but I must. And before I do, I'm going to have to put a hole in your head big enough for baseball to fly through."

She burst into tears.

"Well, I hate to tell you this, sweet tomato, but if that's true, it means that you and me are over. You'll lose the one man who knows how to kiss underneath your ear and blow his breath down the nape of your neck until goose-bumps pop up all over your naked flesh like alerted insurance salesmen of love, and the hot throes of passion grab you like a pair of needle-nose pliers."

"Oh Sam...don't!" she gasped. "Don't torment me this way!"

"That's right, Sweetcakes. You'll lose the man who undoes your brassiere with the expertise of a safecracker and caresses your jugs with the tenderness of a milkman, until you feel like there's a madman working the controls of your strumpetlike sexuality."

"Oh god, darling....don't. You're killing me," she said, unbuttoning her dress.

"The kind of man who squeezes your bottom and then lightly kisses the insides of your thighs until you scream with pleasure."

"Darling....I can't stand it!.....Take me!....Take me NOW!" she shouted.

She ripped off the rest of her dress as if it was on fire. I wanted her, but duty had to come first. It wasn't surprising, since I never came first.

"No thanks, angel. I'm walking out that door."

"Don't!....Please, don't leave me this way." she cried. Her tone grew venomous. "I'll use this gun."

I looked her dead in the eye. "Then use it," I said, "....use it on yourself."

She curiously examined the gun, running her fingers up and down the long, hard, barrel. As I walked out the door, small moans of ecstasy burbled like an erotic coffee maker behind me. But that Smith and Wesson had two things that she didn't: a handle on the situation....and a hair trigger. I was on the second floor landing when the gunshot reverberated through the building...


I searched the bowels of Grand Central Station like a proctologist with a bum patient. Finally I found a door with a sign that read "Dr. Hilarious, Quick ,sick, old jokes for all occasions." I busted the door down. It was a huge madman's laboratory - complete with stone walls and huge fireplaces. There were telex machines and TV's. On the mantles of the fireplaces was a collection of madman's trophies. There were blackboards with scientific diagrams, as well as a schedule of the Hudson line. Grand Central was the perfect spot for his office. The stone walls kept out the sound, and besides, he commuted from Scarsdale every morning. Dr. Hilarious was sitting at a giant desk, monitoring the telex machines. He was about sixty years old, fat and bald, smoking a stinking, dog turd of a cigar. He was casually dressed in a sports shirt and Bermuda shorts. He looked up at me and frowned.

".....and who might you be?"

"Name's Schpade....Sam Schpade."

"Spam?....Vat kind of a name is dat?"

"I said, 'Sam'"

"Ham?....I think I know a comic named Ham."

"SAM! Sam Schpade!"

"Sam's paid....okay already. Sam's paid for what?"

"I didn't catch your name, Sparky." I said.

"I'm a doctor. Dr. Hilarious at your service."

"Who's Hilarious?" I asked.

"I am....and you said Sam's paid?"

"That's right."

"Paid for vat?" he asked.

"Are you trying to be funny?"

"I'm Hilarious."


"Yes....and you're paid?"

"Who's paid?"

"You are, but for vat? Perhaps being funny? Maybe you are a comedian looking for material to buy, hmm?"

"Do you think you're funny?" I shouted.

"No, I'm Hilarious!"

"And who's getting paid?"

"You are."

"For what?....Being funny?"

"Hilarious," he said.

"Cut the crap, Hilarious," I said. "I know who you are and I'm taking you in." I pulled out my heater, even though it was plenty hot in there already. "How many clients do you have?"

"About a hundred on the East Coast, four hundred on the West Coast....Two or three in Cleveland," he said.

"How do you do it? How do you resurrect those old jokes so quick?....and how do you get them to all the comedians at the same time?"

"We use computers," he said.

"Hilarious, you're a sick man," I said.

"It's a sick world," he replied. "American yuppies tell jokes about starving Ethiopians over drinks and hors d'oeuvres. It's not my fault."

"But if you didn't bring those jokes back...."

"If I didn't, someone else would....and they'd take the money!"

"So that's it." I said. "Money is the bottom line, huh?"

"You want it should be the top line?"

I'd heard enough. "All right, put your hands up, Hilarious. I'm taking you in."

"What's the charge?"

"Mans laughter."

He came forward. Congratulations, you caught me," he said, extending his hand. I shook his hand and yelped in pain. I'd fallen for the old joy buzzer trick......he grabbed my gun.

"I'm sorry, but I don't feel like going to prison right now," he said. "I must now put a hole in your head that a golf ball could fly through."

It was better than a baseball, but I had to think fast.

"Say," I said, "Did you hear the one about the guy whose wife thought she looked good in something long and he threw her in the Mississippi?"

"Oh, that's a terrible joke," he said, wincing.

"And there's the Polack whose bird dog wouldn't fly, so he shot it."

"Ouuuuch. Terrible joke....terrible delivery," he said, doubling over in pain.

I slapped him in the face. "When I tell you jokes, you'll take them and like them! Two drunks are walking down the street and see a large Doberman licking its balls. One drunk says, 'I wish I could do that'....His buddy says "He looks kinda mean. You better try petting him first.'"

"Aaaaaahhhhgggghhhh," Hilarious shrieked, falling over.

I roughed him up with a couple of JAP jokes and then picked up the gun.

This case was closed.

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