The rosy rays of the sun crept through a crack in the curtain and rammed my retinas, wrenching me from my restless repose. I cracked my back and cast my eyes around the office: dingy, dirty and drab, just as I’d left it. In better times, this hovel had bubbled over with the hustle and bustle of those in trouble—a cavalcade of cash-heavy clients clamoring for me to crack their cases—but those days were long behind me.

Mine is a story we’ve all heard before. A gung-ho gumshoe who’d eschewed guns but had still run amok, bumping up against the fuzz and getting hung up on a few bum clues. Sure, I’d cleared my name after the police had pegged me for pocketing a peck of pickled peppers, but ever since my previous partner got plugged poking his peepers into one too many private places, the only thing I’ve been interested in pickling is my liver.

A bottle of bourbon beckoned to me from behind my bureau. I bolted down a belt of booze and blinked blearily at my bulletin board: no appointments, no assignments, no prospects. There’d been a dearth of detective duties since December and my dossier was desolate. I’d had the good luck to make a few bucks last month figuring out how much wood a woodchuck chucked, but since then my bank account had been fucked. I was about to call it a day when there was a knock on my door and she walked in.

This divine dame danced up to my desk, her demeanor doleful. Her dewy eyes were more dazzling than you’d dare dream of as she discerned my dilapidated digs. “The name’s Sally,” she said. “I sell seashells by the seashore.” “Sure,” I stated, simply. Her story sounded suspicious, but I didn’t have the shekels to shun someone seemingly speculative. “How can I help you?”

“Are you the P.I. with the patronymic ‘Piper?’”

“Precisely. But please, I prefer Peter,” I replied.

I supposed, erroneously, that she’d go through a whole blow-by-blow of her copious woes, but she just rose and strolled to the closed door. In one rush, she pulled a gun from her clutch and thrust it at my gut.

“Why?” I wondered.

“This pertains to the pickled pepper proceedings. When your frame-job fell through, the flatfoots fingered my fiancé Freddy as the fall guy,” she fumed. “And he’s presently penned up in some pestilential prison in Poughkeepsie.”

“Well, New York’s unique,” I nattered, not knowing how to negotiate this nefariousness. I started searching the space for a suitable shiv and was sneaking towards a set of scissors when Sally struck.

Her shot split the stillness and I felt the sensation of a short, sharp shock as a scarlet stain spread out from my stomach. Sally shouted, “Sayonara!” and slid through the slammer.

As for me, I leaned over and lassoed my liquor, lifting the luscious liquid to my lips. Tremendously tasty, it trickled towards my taste buds, twisting my tongue, traveling past my tonsils—turning my torment into a tender tingle.

“What a mouthful,” I sighed.