The time. 11:54AM. The place. Grink's. A seedy sort of establishment, where the oxygen was alcoholic and the language was nothing but a series of belches and grunts. In the corner, a busted jukebox screeched like a cat going through a printing press. It wasn't the sort of place you'd take your children to, not unless you wanted them to become little psychopaths that hide scorpions in the cookie jar. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait long.
"I'm SUPER glad you came!!"
They say the eyes are the windows into a man's soul. I could see plenty of this guy's soul. Hell, a wrecking ball had gone through the house around it. I could see everything inside. The chairs, the plants, the glossy wooden flooring, the chandeliers ...
"Umm, I said I'm glad you came!"
... the grand piano, the marble kitchen countertops, the dusty bookcases ...
"Hello? Are you ... with us?"
... the priceless Ming vases, the stuffed yak ...
"Excuse me? Hello?"
"Why do you have a stuffed yak?"
"I'm sorry, a what?"
"Why is there a stuffed yak in your soul?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Of course you wouldn't. You have a stuffed yak in your soul."
"Okay, uh, I'm going to ... I'm going to remind you not to inhale so deeply. They smoke a lot of weird stuff in here."
He was right. I had a distinct feeling that there was something strange in the air, like when you see a walrus flying by on a Sunday afternoon. I tried to remain calm, slowly gather my thoughts like lambs going to the slaughter.
"So, I need you to find something for me."
"Ah, isn't that always the case?"
"Well, you are a detective, are you not?"
"I am today."
"Were you a detective yesterday?"
"How about the day before that?"
"Well, that's three days of experience at least! I'm satisfied. How about you?"
"What is this 'something' you need me to find? Some things can't be found, you know."
"No, this is something that can be found, I'm sure. Especially by you!"
"Meaning what, exactly?"
"You cracked the Xbox case right? The one with the Japanese hardware sales?"
"This is related?"
"It is! You see, last week's sales charts ... they just weren't funny."
"What's your point? These things aren't meant to be funny."
"That's just it, they usually are... or at least, they desperately try to be and are amusing simply for being such pathetic attempts. But last week, the humor just vanished."
"Gone! Not even a hint of comedy."
"And you want me to find this missing ... humor?"
"Yes! I know you can do it! I just know it!"
You just don't turn down a man with a stuffed yak in his soul. I took the case. To be honest, I felt a personal connection. The missing humor was upsetting. And it certainly wasn't funny, registering about as many laughs as a plane full of puppies crashing into a burning orphanage. I figured I'd begin with Joystiq, the same video game blog that played a role in my last case. I still didn't have time for the French, but I had to start somewhere.
Like a step on an escalator, one name kept coming up over and over again. My quest to find something without form had just become easier. All I had to do was find this guy, rough him up a little, and find out why he screwed up. First, I hit the streets.
Damn shoelaces coming untied all the time.
I then tried my old contacts. The blurred vision that resulted didn't help me at all.
Finally, I looked his name up in the phonebook. Phone, address, easy. I barely knocked on the door before it swung open.
"Hello, can I help you?"
I'm not sure what it was, but I was unable to describe this fellow. The usual narration in my mind had come to a grinding halt, like someone had thrown a bucket of...
"...wrenches into the cogs of your mind."
"Now hold on there mister. How did you --"
"Know what you were thinking?"
"And how do you --"
"Finish your sentences?"
A long pause wedged itself into the conversation.
"What are you waiting for?"
"You're just gonna keep interrupting me."
"No, I stopped that. I was just making a point."
"Don't you get it?"
"Well, I'm looking for --"
"A thing. Yes. That running joke is done. It's been round the block three times and now it's exhausted."
This guy was more confounding than a basket full of singing marzipan question marks.
"Oh, I haven't explained it to you yet?"
"Oh. I'm the writer, you see."
"The ... writer?"
"Yes. The writer of this story. The writer of you. The whole thing."
"I don't understand."
"You're just something I made up to prove a point. See, I have to explain why last week's sales chart was all boring and straightforward. So, I used you."
"So, this case ..."
"Yeah. The humor hasn't gone anywhere. It's not missing at all. I just took a break or something."
"I'm just a tool?"
"Yeah, you're a tool. And now I'm blackballing you. Goodbye."
Oh, it wasn't over. Not yet.