Hi, the name's Quarry, Jake Quarry, private eye . You know the type: a hard-living, hard-drinking loner in the tradition of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Of course, Spade and Marlowe had the advantage of living in a P.I.'s wonderland filled with beautiful people, almost too clever killers, and puzzles whose every piece fit perfectly in place. I, on the other hand, live in the real world, where the beautiful people have far too many warts, private eyes chase more cheating husbands than crazed killers, and most puzzles are more than a few pieces short. But every once in a while, I come across a case that's literally leapt from the pages of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, ... or Bullfinch's Mythology. Take, for example, a little adventure I like to call The Case of the Gorgeous Greeks, or as my secretary Angie likes to call it, The Attack of the Bitch Goddesses from Hell.
It all started last March 23rd, about nine p.m. I was working late at the office, trying to solve the mystery of my cheque book. With the gas, phone, and electric companies all circling like dogs at a dinner table waiting for scraps to be tossed, my rent two months behind, and Angie's pay day coming up at the end of the month, I needed to land a case soon or Jake Quarry, Private Eye would be Jake Quarry, homeless person. With only the light of my old desk lamp, my tiny office took on a film noire quality. Across the room, the shadow of my Maltese Falcon pencil sharpener looked like a vulture about to pounce. Behind me, the half-lit neon sign of the Hotel Sexton across the street flashed "Hot Sex" while the aroma of French-Cuban cuisine drifted up from Chez Guevara below. Suddenly, I heard footsteps on the stairs. Only three types of people ever came up those stairs: clients, bill collectors, and restaurant patrons trying to find the john. The footsteps came closer. There was now a shadow at my door, a very shapely shadow. The shadow knocked. I told it to come in.
"Are you Quarry?"
"That's what the name in my underwear says, Toots. Why? You got a bill for me?"
"As a matter of fact, I do." She tossed a C-note on the desk. That kind of bill I like collecting.
"Allow me to introduce myself." She handed me a business card. "Hera's Bridal Salon and Wedding Chapel, Hera Zeus, Proprietor."
The name Hera clicked seemed familiar somehow. I probably went to high school with a Hera, I figured. "What can I do for you, Miss, uh, Mrs., uh, Ms. Zeus?" I fumbled with the name like it was Susie Johnson's bra after the Senior Prom.
"It's Mrs. but please, call me Hera." She smiled, I melted, and I knew right then I was in trouble. This was going to be no ordinary detective-client relationship.
"So what's the problem, Hera? Unfaithful husband?" I asked trying not to sound over-expectant.
"Yes, but that's not what I'm here about. You see, I want you to find something very valuable that was stolen from me."
"And what would that be, doll-face?"
"A golden apple," she answered in a tone that told me if this was a Hollywood detective movie, there would have a dramatic chord to let the audience know that an important plot point had been made.
"No problem." After all, how hard could it be to find a golden apple? I took the case and her C-note.
"Thank you, Mr. Quarry." Then she kissed me. A very businesslike kiss, but still the kind of kiss that says, "Jake, find that apple and I'm yours, body and soul, for as long as we both shall live or at the very least, we'll screw like frenzied gerbils for an evening." As if a hundred bucks weren't motivation enough.
She left and I set to work, making a list of places where someone might fence a golden apple. Suddenly, I was overcome with a feeling of deja vu. There were more footsteps on the stairs. And another shadow. Another shapely shadow. Either Hera had forgotten something or this was too good to be true. The shadow knocked.
"Come in" I said again.
It was another gorgeous Greek. This one was younger with a powerful athletic build in a mid-length off-the-shoulder dress, that was obviously designed for action. But what kind of action? I considered for a moment that maybe it was a dream, but if it was, it wasn't one I was going to try to wake up from.
"Jake Quarry, I presume."
"Who wants to know?" I asked cautiously. This one had to be a bill collector. Two gorgeous clients in one night would be like the Buffalo Bills winning the Super Bowl, it could happen, but Hell was more likely to freeze over first.
She tossed me a business card. "Athena Olympus, vice-president, Research and Development, Candex, Inc." Candex was a big defense contractor. Obviously, this dame had smarts. She could probably do the New York Times crossword puzzle without an eraser.
"So, what can I do for you, Athena?"
"I want you to find a golden apple for me."
A popular request, I thought. What was it with these Greek gals and their golden apples? As Athena went on with her request, she began to sensually stroke my pencil sharpener. If that bird had been alive, it would have been tough call as to which of us was more excited.
"And of course, I can ensure that a lot of Candex's investigative work is tossed your way."
And then, like Hera, she kissed me. A powerful, physical kiss, the kind of kiss that opens a man's mind and shows him the wonders of the universe or at least promised him a night of S & M.
She left. I went back to my list of apple fencers. There was something funny going on, but like an itch in the middle of my back, I couldn't put my finger on it. I'd have to ponder this one for a while.
While I was pondering, I felt that same feeling of deja vu I had felt before. There were more footsteps, another shapely shadow, and you guessed it, another gorgeous Greek.
"Like, hi. I'm like, Aphrodite, Goddess of Love."
The name fit. So did her outfit. At least what there was of it. It made Cher look like she was dressed for the Arctic. I could tell from first glance that this doll had none of Hera's class or Athena's brains, but boy, was she built. I picked my jaw up off the ground and went on.
"Let me guess, babe, you want me to find your golden apple."
"Like, wow, are you psychic?"
"Nah, just a lot of experience with Greek women."
"So then you'll, like, take my case?"
"Sure, just give me your business card so I know where to find you."
She giggled, "Like, in my line of work, we don't have, like, cards. But, like, you can find me at the corner of, like, First and Main, most nights."
Obviously, a crossing guard for night schools. Then, of course, she kissed me. It was just a peck on the cheek but it was the kind of peck that let you know that once you had this woman, you were under her spell forever or at least for a weekend in Palm Springs.
She left. I opened the window to cool the place off which was surprising since the gas had been cut off two months before.
The score was now gorgeous Greeks three, golden apples three. I decided to wait to see if someone else would show up to break the tie.
I waited for about an hour but like the Barry Mannilow fan club, no one showed up. While I waited, I thought more about the case or cases, as the case may be. Suddenly, it hit me like I was a skunk on the freeway. What if there was only one golden apple? Where would it hide? A golden orchard! No, golden arches. That was it! McDonald's. I'd have to go undercover.
Fortunately, I had worked at McDonald's one time when business was a bit slow, and I still had the uniform. Normally, I have a strong aversion to polyester, but when it comes to solving a case, paying my bills, or making time with a delicious doll, I am more than willing to make an exception. And since this case could lead to all three, I even wore the paper hat.
To the uninitiated, entering the kitchen of a McDonald's was like entering a whole new world. They even spoke their own language. It had more Mcs and Macs than the Glasgow phone book. But as a former grill jockey, I was able to fit right in.
"Has anyone seen a golden apple?", I asked.
All I got was puzzled looks much like those on the faces of Americans after Dan Quayle was nominated for vice-president. Then I remembered the lingo.
"Has McAnyone seen a McGolden McApple?" The puzzled looks vanished only to be replaced by shaking heads and a very quiet "McPsst" from near the freezer. I wandered over to chat with the McPsster, a young man about 20 or 21.
"You know something, kid?"
"Hey, kid, I'm from the real world, you can speak English"
"Thanks, mister. My name is Paris, Troy Paris. It all started about six months ago, I was just finishing my second year of Engineering at the university, when these three gorgeous women came up to me --"
"Three gorgeous Greek women?"
"Well, as I was saying, they came up to me at a frat party, handed me this golden apple and asked me which one of them was the fairest. It was close, but I chose the one named Aphrodite."
"Anyway, she asked to me to go away with her for the weekend."
"Palm Springs, right?"
"How did you know?"
"Just a hunch."
"The rest of that weekend was a bit fuzzy. All I can remember is waking up Monday morning, married to some friend of Aphrodite's named Helen. Oh yeah, and I had a job working in the labs at Candex. I was scared. I took that golden apple and beat it the heck out of there. I've been hiding from them ever since."
"Do you still have the apple?" I asked, fervently hoping this kid wasn't bright enough to pawn it.
"Yeah, here you go," he said, handing over the apple. "Would you like fries with that?"
I shook my head and left.
Now what? I could give the apple to Hera (I could use the money). Or Athena (I could use the business). Or Aphrodite (I could use a weekend in Palm Springs). No, there was only one thing to do. I made a couple of quick phone calls, took a little detour to First and Main, and then headed back to the office.
When I got there, the gals were already waiting.
"You may be wondering why I called you all here this evening?" I had always wanted to say that. "The truth is I know you're all in this together."
They gasped and, like the little engine that could, I knew that I was on the right track. You pick some poor unsuspecting sap from the university and tell him to choose which of you's the fairest. He'll undoubtedly choose Aphrodite. She takes him off to Palm Springs and fixes him up with one of her friends who wants out of the 'crossing guard' business. That's where you take over, Hera. While the poor fellow's still under Aphrodite's spell, you sell him on a big wedding with all the trimmings. And then Athena here signs the schmuck to a lifetime contract working at Candex for less money than even I make. You all get what you want. Hera makes a tidy profit on the wedding, Athena gets quality help dirt cheap, and Aphrodite gets a share of the divorce settlement when her bimbo pal dumps the sucker."
"So, you figured it out, Jake," laughed Hera.
"Hey, like, wait a minute, like I don't get part of the, like, divorce settlement. Do I?" My suspicions about Aphrodite's brain power were confirmed.
Athena spoke up. "Big deal, Quarry, without the apple, you can't prove a thing."
"Well, sweetheart, that's where you're wrong. I have the apple." I pulled it out for all to see. "Unfortunately, I've got to let you go. For no matter how cruel it may be, there ain't no law against forcing university students into the real world."
Hera seemed friendlier after that little revelation. "Tell you what, Jake. Here's the deal. You give the apple to the fairest, and we'll give you anything you want. Fame, fortune, fabulous babes, you name it."
"What is it with you dames and this apple?"
Athena chuckled. "Call it a little game, we goddesses like to play with you mortals -- to indulge our vanity."
Great, now they thought they were gods. These broads were definitely not playing with a full deck and they were about to deal me in.
Hera stepped forward and kissed me. Then Athena. And then Aphrodite too. My head was spinning like the Wheel of Fortune and I was afraid it was going to come up 'Bankrupt.' Fortunately, I kept a grip on myself.
"Forget it, gals. You said this apple was to be given to the fairest and the way I see it, none of you played fair. Besides, everyone knows that Snow White is the fairest one of all."
They bought it like it was a blue light special at K-Mart. I could still hear them discussing the matter as they left.
"So, Athena, what are we going to do about this Snow White character?"
"Well, Hera, I was thinking, maybe a variation on the apple theme."
"Like, by the way, girls, can we, like, discuss this share of divorce settlements, I was supposed to get."
Well, that's the story. The hero, that's me, didn't get the girl, any of them; the villains didn't go to jail; and my rent didn't get paid for the fourth time that year. But I did manage to figure out what was going on, giving me a feeling of satisfaction that keeps me warm on cold winter nights. Well, that and three layers of wool blankets. Until next time, this is Jake Quarry reminding you that whom the gods destroy they would first drive mad ... with stupid golden apples. Good-night.