Just the Facts Ma’am
Have you ever wondered what it would look like if sergeant Joe Friday (of “Dragnet” fame) were asked to investigate the events surrounding a famous Old Testament narrative?
But if you have…no need to wonder any longer!
The story you are about to read is a fib. Sort of. It has been inspired by the story of Samson and Delilah from the Book of Judges.
The time-approximate nature of this piece overlaps “1940’s era-film-noir” onto the Philistine influenced town of Zorah, circa 1000 BC. If that’s not bizarre enough, my ending is a play on the conclusion of a famous Hollywood movie starring Marilyn Monroe. Adding to the inconsistency…that particular movie is NOT a “film noir” piece.
Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent…or the guilty…I haven’t figured that out yet.
Right now, we’re simply going to mix all of that together, add a little “Jesus” and serve while “hot.”
(Incidentally, “hot” is a clue for the famous movie I ripped off.)
As always, smile and be changed.
It was a rainy Friday evening. I was working the night watch out of “Missing Persons.” I had just finished off a pastrami on rye when “trouble” walked through the door. It was a dame. This dame was in pumps. She had an old soul, but it was in a young body…and that body was smokin’.
Tracy Flatclog: Ma’am can you please put out that cigarette? The Surgeon General says smoking is bad for your health.
Phyllis Dyne: Well, I DO apologize. I thought this was the police department…not a church social.
There was a dark spirit about this broad…as dark as my mug of café noir from Carla’s. Carla owns “The Greasy Spoon” down at 3rd and Main. I take my coffee black…but that’s not important. What is important is this: my name is Flatclog…Tracy Flatclog. I carry a badge.
This “trouble-in-pumps” had a name; it was “Phyllis Dyne.” Her boyfriend was missing…like a grape that rolled off a kitchen table. I poured her a shot of whiskey. She sucked it down in one swallow.
Dyne: Ooh…that’s some strong stuff…just like you…eh, Honey?
Flatclog: Yes Ma’am. Let’s get started, shall we? How long’s this fella of yours been missing?
Dyne: Oh, it’s hard to say…I guess it’s been a couple of weeks.
Flatclog: A couple of weeks, huh?
Dyne: He fell asleep on my lap and then that unruly band of hoodlums came along.
Flatclog: “Band-of-hoodlums” Ma’am?
Dyne: Yeah, you know: “rapscallions,” “nudniks,” “scalawags,” these sorts of fellows. They came bustin’ in, shaved his head and carried him off. I haven’t seen him since!
Flatclog: Let me get this straight, Ma’am. You’re telling me these “Hoodlums,” as you describe them, shaved your fellas head BEFORE they kidnapped him?
Dyne: Uh huh.
Flatclog: That sounds a little fishy, Ma’am.
Dyne: Oh, I do declare, it was awful!
I got the sense Miss Dyne (if indeed that WAS her real name) was hiding something. One thing she WASN’T hiding was a mane of curly blonde tresses. It was a head of hair that would buckle the knees of any red-blooded human male out there! Our eyes locked for a moment. Her baby blues seemed to be saying, “Flatclog…I want you to make me quiver.”
Dyne: Flatclog…I want you to make me quiver…with excitement…because you’re gonna tell me you can find my missing honey.
Flatclog: Right ma’am. Let’s start at the beginning. Go back as far as you can remember.
Dyne: Well, I was born in a loft across town to a couple of…
Flatclog: No Ma’am…not that far back. Why don’t you tell me about your missing mate. What was your boyfriend’s name?
Dyne: “Harry”…”Harry Strongman.”
Flatclog: Is “Harry” short for “Harold” ma’am?
Dyne: No, actually Harry was quite tall. Who’s Harold?
Flatclog: Nevermind, Ma’am. Did this “Harry” of yours have any distinguishing characteristics?
Dyne: Ooooh, indeed he did! He had a sensuous mop of long heavenly golden locks…
Flatclog: Before it got shaved off…right Ma’am?
Dyne: What are you?…A nimrod?
Flatclog: No Ma’am. The government doesn’t hire nimrods. Can you please describe Harry’s build.
Dyne: Well, he was a muscular one. Rippling biceps. Buns of steel. He had a physique that just WOULD NOT QUIT!
Flatclog: So Ma’am, you mean to tell me “Harry Strongman” was a hairy, strong man?
Dyne: What do you mean?
Flatclog: Nevermind Ma’am…tell me a bit about his strength.
Dyne: Well, he once killed a lion all by himself. No weapons. No nothing.
Flatclog: Are you telling me he killed a lion with his bare hands?
Dyne: No, he killed it with his regular human hands.
Miss Dyne seemed like a nice gal. The kind of gal you’d want to take home to meet Mom…you know…assuming of course your mom enjoyed meeting stupid people.
Dyne: Harry liked to speak in riddles too. He once shared a riddle with thirty fellows at a party. Of course, they cheated to figure out the answer…so Harry killed them all.
Flatclog: It looks like Harry had a bit of a temper.
Dyne: No, it was nothing like that.
Flatclog: Well then, what WAS it like?
Dyne: Let me put it to you this way: When Harry judged that someone needed to be dead…he just killed them.
Miss Dyne gave me some more backstory on this “Harry Strongman” of hers. He was a confused man with a bizarre past. His previous father-in-law had pawned off strongman’s wife to his best man. When Strongman found out about it he ended up “going crackers.” He rounded up 300 jackals, tied them off in pairs, lashed torches to them, lit them on fire and sent them loose to burn the farms of his ex-wife’s family. If that’s not “going crackers” I don’t know what is.
When the family found out who was responsible, their goon squad came after Strongman and tied him up.
Flatclog: Then what happened Ma’am?
Dyne: God melted the ropes.
Flatclog: I’m sorry Ma’am…”God?”…”As in, the man upstairs? The supreme being? The great I am? HE’S the one that melted the ropes?
Dyne: That’s right.
This gal was starting to sound like a streetcar that had missed a stop or two. Her boyfriend was starting to sound like a runaway freight train. After he escaped from those ropes, which “God melted,” that Harry Strongman went plumb psycho. He rubbed out a thousand men! But get a load of how he did it!
Dyne: He killed them all with the fresh jawbone of a donkey.
Flatclog: You mean an “ass” Ma’am?
Dyne: NO! I’m NOT being an ass…I’m telling you exactly how it happened!
Flatclog: Yes, of course Ma’am…I don’t mean to sound harsh, but your boyfriend sounds a tad “erratic.”
Dyne: Well, you might say that. Before he met me he had been known to bang a prostitute or two.
Flatclog: No Ma’am…”erratic”…not “erotic”…but thanks for the info. Can you describe your boyfriend’s abductors?
Dyne: Well, he did a lot of sit-ups…so they were pretty nice looking.
Flatclog: Uh…no Ma’am…his “AB-DUCT-ORS”…the people that took him.
Dyne: Can’t rightly say that I did see them. It all happened so terribly fast! Besides, I was as frightened as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs!
Flatclog: Yes Ma’am…of course you were. No need to be frightened now. Tracy Flatclog is on the case. I’m going to fill out my report and begin this investigation right away. I’m sure your missing beau will turn up soon enough.
Dyne: Oh, I do hope so. I can’t stop thinking about him. If something horrendous has happened to my Harry-Boo-Bear I might have to find myself somebody else to think about…you hear that Detective Big Dog?
Flatclog: “That’s, “Flatclog” Ma’am. Detective Tracy Flatclog.”
Miss Dyne gave me two things as she headed for the door: a business card and a wink.
Talking to this gal made me think about my job as a whisky swilling gumshoe; working on the edge of a seedy town; living on the edge of a seedy life.
If I had met Miss Dyne earlier we could have gone places. We could have gone to the O.T.B. We could have gone to a liquor store…but that was dirty water under a rusted out old bridge now.
The front of that business card said, “Phyllis Dyne, Lady of the Night.” On the back of that card Miss Dyne had scribbled the contact info for a bloke named “Arthur O’Judges.”
Word on the street was this “O’Judges” fellow had a reputation for being able to throw ice on a hot mess…and thanks to Miss Dyne…that’s exactly what I had on my hands…a hot mess that needed some ice.
After another pastrami-on-rye, a shot of whiskey and a squalid town’s worth of wet streets, I found myself at Aurthur O’Judges apartment. I banged on the door. He opened it as far as the chain would allow.
Mr. O’Judges was one of those “eccentric-writer-types.” Evidently he had been “working on his book.” His apartment smelled like old paper. Old paper and loneliness.
Flatclog: I’ve been sent over here by a Miss Phyllis Dyne. I’m working on the Harry Strongman disappearance.
O’Judges: Well, you don’t need to worry about that…he’s already disappeared!
I asked him if I could come in. He shook his head in disgust and unchained the door. O’Judges had a lot to say. He told me that Phyllis Dyne was the type of gal who would stick a leg out to trip you; then yell at you for laying down on the job. O’Judges already knew what I was slowly gathering; Phyllis Dyne was a REAL “piece-of-work.”
Then O’Judges shifted his attention towards “Strongman.”
Evidently he was another “piece-of-work” entirely.
O’Judges: That boyfriend of hers had a weird aura about him. He wasn’t only insanely strong…he was insanely insane! Wild look in his eyes. Hair going every which direction. Always tripping on something.
Flatclog: Hold on for a moment, Sir. “Tripping”? Are you trying to tell me Harry Strongman was a clumsy fellow?
O’Judges: No you nimrod! Not “tripping”…”TRIPPING”…as in “tweaking.” “Downing-the beanies,” “shooting-the-juice,” “snorting-the-blow,” “dropping-some-acid”! He HAD to have been hopped up on something! That cornball looked like a ’90s era MLB player.
Flatclog: “MLB player?”
O’Judges: People were always trying to figure out how he got so strong. Once he ripped a couple of gates clear off a wall…I think it was that “roid rage.”
Flatclog: “Roid rage?”
O’Judges: He never tested positive for anything…always claimed, “His strength came from his hair.” Kids today? What are you going to do?
Flatclog: Can you talk about Strongman’s demeanor upon meeting this “Miss Dyne” character?
O’Judges: Oh, it went straight into the crapper once he met that bimbo. She was just like all the others; trying to figure out where that strength of his came from. Worked him pretty good, too. I think that no-good family of hers put Dyne up to it.
Flatclog: Did she uncover his secret?
O’Judges: That’s kind of a matter of debate. First he told her to tie him up with some fresh bowstrings. Then he told her to tie him up with some “new rope.” I guess they were into that sort of thing…if you know what I mean.
Flatclog: I’m sorry, Sir. I don’t know what you mean.
O’Judges: No…I don’t suppose that you would…anyway then Strongman told her she needed to pin his hair back so that he would be “like a mortal man,” but none of it worked…he just played her like a lute.
Flatclog: You mean a “flute?”
O’Judges: No! I mean a “LUTE” you nimrod! The flute ain’t been invented yet!
Flatclog: Right, Sir. What happened next?
O’Judges: Oh come on ‘Clog…you, of all people, should know the answer to that!
Flatclog: I should? Why?
O’Judges: ’cause you’re one of “them”!
Flatclog: I don’t follow, Sir.
O’Judges: (Sigh) That old Dyne chick just laid into him with the nagging! “Where does your strength come from?” “Why are you mocking me?” “You don’t love me!” Blah, blah, blah. Nearly nagged the poor fellow to death! He finally caved…sort of…gave her that line about his strength “comin-from-his-hair.” Told her if it got shaved off he’d be a regular old weenie.
Flatclog: “Regular old weenie?”
O’Judges: So, then Strongman falls asleep on Dyne’s lap. Her goons come a -running, shaved his head and no one’s heard tell of him since.
Flatclog: Hmmmm…it’s beginning to look like Dyne and those “goons” may have been working together.
O’Judges: Did you just figure that out all by yourself Columbo?
Flatclog: The name’s “Flatclog”…”Tracy Flatclog.”
O’Judges: Whatever. By the way, if you ever DO find out what happened to “Old Strongman”…let me know. I want to put it in my book.
Mr. O’Judges’ info was about like his personality: straightforward, but leaving something to be desired. It was time to hit the streets for some good old-fashioned detective work. The kind of work that would grow hair on a man’s knuckles. The kind of work that would make one man weep and another man sing. That was my “cup-of-tea”…and I don’t mean the “weeping.” I was a cop. I liked making people sing.
I stopped by “The Greasy Spoon” to have me a chat with Carla. She was my ear on the ground. She slid me a cup of Joe. If detective work wasn’t going to grow hair on your knuckles, a cup of Carla’s mud would do the trick.
I asked her if she knew a “Harry Strongman.”
Carla: Honey, let me tell you…I know a load of hairy, strong men.
Flatclog: I’m interested in the one that’s been seen with a gal named “Phyllis Dyne.”
Carla: “PHYLLIS DYNE!” THAT CHEAP BIMBO! Just the other day she dined and dashed. Left me holding the bill for two fritters and a Spanish omelet…the little slut!
It looks like I may have touched on a nerve…and a lead!
Carla: I don’t know too much about that “Jezebel-in-pumps,” but that big, brawny, macho, hunka-hunka-burnin’-love “Harry” fellow she’s been hanging around with? He’s got some brothers up there in the hills. Maybe they can tell you what you need to know. By the way, if you find that “Harry” fellow…make sure you tell him, Carla said “hi”…okay Sweetie?
Carla dropped the address in my pocket. I dropped a shekel on the table. I said, “Thanks for the tip.” She said, “Thanks for nothing.” I choked down the last of my brew in one final gulp; grounds and all. I pulled out another shekel and flipped it to Carla. She winked at me as I headed for the door.
I made my way to the address Carla gave me. So far, her information checked out. I was up in the hills. What Carla did’t tell me was this: it was the type of place that would put a desire in your heart. A desire to be someplace else. The mailbox at this dump read: “Strongman.” I knocked on the door. It was opened by a guy that was half behemoth, half circus freak. Neither half had any teeth.
I identified myself as “Detective Flatclog.” Unphased, he wiped slobber from his chin with, what appeared to be, the remains of a small woodland creature.
Flatclog: I’m looking for a Hairy, Strong Man.
Brother: I bet you are.
I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I clarified.
Flatclog: I’m looking for “Harry Strongman.” He seems to be missing.
Brother: Missing? He ain’t missin’!
Flatclog: So you know where he is?
Brother: Sure as shootin’.
Flatclog: I need to ask him a few questions.
Brother: Well, you can ask him…but I don’t think he’s gonna answer.
Flatclog: What’s the matter? Cat’s got his tongue? Doesn’t like the fuzz? He’s taking the fifth? Now he’s a Trappist Monk? If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a hundred times.
Brother: No. It ain’t nothin’ like that.
Flatclog: Then what is it like?
Brother: He’s dead.
If we were in a made-for-TV movie this would be our cue for the dramatic musical chords…then a long commercial break. But this wasn’t TV. This was real life.
Flatclog: Can you tell me what happened?
Brother: Sure, if you use the magic word.
Flatclog: [eye roll] Can you “PLEASE” tell me what happened?
Brother: That’s more like it Defective Corncob.
Flatclog: It’s “DETECTIVE FLATCLOG!”
It all went downhill when our Harold met that “Phyllis Dyne” chick. In the morning she’d read to him from the good book…then at night she’d read to him from a bad book.
Flatclog: Yes, I’m familiar with Miss Dyne.
Brother: I’m sorry to hear that. You didn’t catch anything did you?
Flatclog: “Catch anything?”
Brother: Normally, we like those kinds of girls up here in these parts, but when Dyne’s cronies shaved off my brother’s hair and kidnapped him, then we knowed she was a “good-for-nothin’” slut!
Flatclog: Yes Sir. This is where Miss Dyne’s story “runs out of steam.”
Brother: “Hits a wall?”
Flatclog: “Dies on the table?”
Brother: “Goes kaput?” Just like old Harold’s strength when those hornswogglers lopped off his locks.
Flatclog: That wasn’t very nice.
Brother: Then they gouged out his eyes and sent him off to do mill work at a prison labor camp.
Flatclog: That wasn’t very nice either.
Brother: Damn city slickers!
Flatclog: Go on, Sir.
Brother: That’s when my brother’s hair begunned to grow again. He was about to get his strength back…but them dumb upright walkin’ nose breathers didn’t knowed he was gettin strong again.
They treated him like an over-sized stuffed bear they done won at the county fair…dragged him off to some highfalutin hootenanny…tied him up between two pillars holdin’ up their roof.
Flatclog: “Two pillars?”
Brother: Yeah! “Two pillars!” What are you…hard of hearing? Anyhow, Harold done went and had another one of his conniption fits. He pushed those two pillars clear out from under that roof!
Flatclog: What happened then?
Brother: What in tarnation do you think happened!?! The danged old roof fell in! Snuffed out ‘bout 3000 of those silly jokers. Squasked ’em all flat! Like a squirrel on the interstate.
Flatclog: “Squirrel on the interstate?”
Brother: But that was the end for old Harold too. At least he died with his boots on. Of course they were only on him until the impact of that there roof caused ’em to squirt off the ends of his legs.
Once we heard about it we went down, scraped up what was left of him and bringed it up here.
Flatclog: And you buried him around here somewhere?
Brother: No! We tied his carcass up out in the cornfield to scare away the varmints! OF COURSE we buried him! You nimrod!
On that sarcastic note, I decided to wrap up this witty repartee. One can only take so much of a slobbering imbecile. Besides, I needed to get back to headquarters with my newly confirmed nugget of intelligence:
who lived in the dumps
had confirmed my suspicions
‘bout the hottie in pumps.
I like Dr. Seuss; but that’s not important. What was important? Confronting Miss Dyne…that’s what. She needed to know I was on to her. Phyllis Dyne hadn’t been shooting straight with detective Tracy Flatclog. She also needed to know her precious “Harry-Boo-Bear” was pushing up daisies.
I gave Miss Dyne a buzz…told her to meet me downtown. I had a BEEF with her. She had been FEEDING me lines. We needed to get to the MEAT of the issue. Something was EATING at me…maybe it was the late hour? Maybe I was just hungry?
Miss Dyne showed up with that “Haughty-Dumb-Blonde” routine. I showed up with another pastrami-on-rye.
Flatclog: Miss Dyne, I found your missing “Boo-Bear.”
Dyne: Oh, thank heavens! That’s simply marvelous!
Flatclog: No, Ma’am. NOT “marvelous.”
Dyne: Why? What ever do you mean?
Flatclog: I found your “Harry” on the wrong side of the grass.
Dyne: I do declare, I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Flatclog: Miss Dyne, Harry Strongman has been “deep-sixed.” The groundhogs are bringing him mail. He kicked the bucket. He checked out. He’s been tagged and bagged. Stick a fork in him…he’s done!
Dyne: Good heavens! Are you trying to tell me something?
Flatclog: Yes, Ma’am. Harry Strongman is dead.
Dyne: LORD HAVE MERCY! HEAVENS TO BETSY! SAY IT AIN’T SO!
Flatclog: I’m afraid it is “so” Ma’am.
Flatclog: Yes, Ma’am…those are all very good questions. It looks to me like a clear cut case of murder-suicide.
Dyne: Why would someone want to go and murder my Harry?
Flatclog: No Ma’am, HARRY was the one who went and murdered someone…in fact…he went and murdered a whole bunch of someones.
Dyne: My, my, Tracy Flatclog…I do believe you’ve gone plumb crackers. Why in heaven’s name would you accuse my “Harry-Boo-Bear” of having done such an awful thing?
Flatclog: Revenge? Despair? Both? He was certainly predisposed to “going berserk”…but here’s the thing Miss Dyne…I think you pushed him into it.
Dyne: What?! That’s simply preposterous! Why on God’s green earth would “little old me” want to do a “little old thing” like “little old that”?
Flatclog: Jealousy? A lovers quarrel? To get even? If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a hundred times. I found out you and your henchmen were working together to uncover the secret of Harry Strongman’s strength. He wouldn’t tell you. So you tried to loosen his lips by pretending to love him…but he kept on jerkin’ your chain and you kept on naggin’ him. Finally he caved…then you threw him under the bus. I’m surprised too. You: “A-wanton-slut-with-a-thing-for-powerful-men”…and Harry: “An-unstable-brute-with-a-taste-for-bimbos.” It seems like the two of you were made for each other.
Dyne: It’s true Flatclog.
Flatclog: What? That you’re a bimbo?
Dyne: No. It’s true that I DO have a thing for powerful men…in fact Tracy — is it okay if I call you “Tracy”?
Flatclog: No Ma’am.
Dyne: The moment I laid eyes on you I felt “it.”
Flatclog: Felt what, Ma’am?
Dyne: You know? “It”…that connection between a man and a woman. That irresistible force that causes a guy and a gal to want to “know” each other. Are you picking up these clues detective Big Boy?
Dyne: It looks like you work out a lot…hmmm?
Flatclog: Look Ma’am…there’s something you should know.
Dyne: What? Are you married? That wouldn’t bother me a bit.
Flatclog: No, Ma’am…I don’t suspect that it would. You just need to know it would never work out between us.
Dyne: Why? Is it because I can’t have children? Is it because I’m not a natural blonde? Is it because I’ve been living with a saxophone player for the past three years?
Flatclog: Uh, no Ma’am…it’s none of that.
Dyne: Then what is it?
Flatclog: There are a few things you don’t seem to understand, Ma’am. I think the short hair and the gun in my pocket may have fooled you. First of all, I enjoy macrame. Secondly, I have a butterfly tatoo on my right ankle. And lastly, I sit down when I pee. You see Miss Dyne, the truth is, I’m a W-O-M-A-N.
Dyne: A woman!?!? (sigh) Well, I guess nobody’s perfect.¹
Flatclog: Actually, Ma’am, our department did find one man that proved to be perfect. I was able to clear his name right after he was executed.
Dyne: You cleared his name AFTER he was executed?
Flatclog: That’s correct, Ma’am.
Dyne: Wow…you really are a nimrod!
Flatclog: That’s “Flatclog” Ma’am.
Dyne: Whatever. Nothing matters anymore.
Flatclog: That’s not true Miss Dyne. There is one thing that matters.
Dyne: What’s that?
Flatclog: Getting yourself right with God so you don’t burn in Hell forever.
Dyne: Are you threatening me?
Flatclog: No, Ma’am. Those are just the facts. Case closed.
¹”Some Like It Hot” 1959