Taking a deep puff from the cigar, Herb exhaled a big billow of smoke across the desk. There was a soft knock on the door and it opened a crack. A man peeked in.
“Are you Herbert Snabblewobble- the private detective?” The man asked.
“Uh- yes, but the name is Herbert Snabble.” He removed his feet from the desk and stood clumsily to greet the man. “There is no wobble in the name. Come in.”
The man entered inside the doorway. “The sign outside says Herbert Snabblewobble- Private Detective.”
“Those kids. Last month they changed my name on the sign to Herbert Snabbleburger. I’ll have to get some paint and fix it.”
The man nodded as if he understood. “I was wondering why the rest of the sign was printed out and the wobble part was written in black magic marker.” He looked directly at Herb. One eyebrow raised almost to the top of his forehead. “But you are the private detective?”
“Yes- I’m the private detective,” Herb motioned with his hand. “Come in. Have a seat.”
The man walked further into the room, waving his right hand back and forth in the air, as if he was making a path through the cigar smoke.
Pushing his short brown hair back, Herb studied the man and set the cigar in the ashtray, then placed the ashtray on the radiator behind his chair. The cigar would go out by itself. The man looked familiar. Herb guessed his age to be in his forties- about the same age as himself. The clothing was expensive- designer label. These threads were not bought off the shelves at Target and Wal-Mart, like most of Herb’s attire. Except for a stomach that stuck out as if he had a soccer ball under his shirt, the man was thin. Herb knew the soccer ball condition well. It was common in Milwaukee and the local medical condition was termed- beer belly. The man had a very long, thin face that seemed to stretch down to the center of his chest.
Herb wanted to ask him, “Hey, why the long face? But did not, instead questioned, “Well, how may I help you mister. . .”
“Shotz- Philip Shotz.”
Now Herb knew why the man looked familiar. He had seen the long face often on the news and in the society pages. Philip Shotz was one of the heirs of the Shotz Brewery fortune. That explained the beer belly. The Shotz brewery was made famous when Laverne and Shirley had worked there in the seventies sit-com television show. The family was often in the local news. They were shown attending gallery openings, sponsoring charity events or maybe buying a new statue or something for the city. The Shotzs were considered to be one of the first families of Milwaukee.
“I saw your sign when I walked out of the fish store,” Philip Shotz continued. “The wife asked me to pick up a couple pounds of perch. I like to shop for all the groceries in our family.”
“He’s nervous about something,” Herb thought, “and I don’t think it concerns shopping for fish.”
The Herbert Snabble Detective Agency was on the second floor above the Mitchell Street Fish Market. There were two other offices on the floor. One was occupied by Madam Zoolanda- a woman who told fortunes. An accountant rented the other suite. Herb’s was the smallest office- one room. The major furnishings were his desk that had a computer on it, a little dormitory sized refrigerator, two chairs, a small couch and a filing cabinet with a twelve-inch television on top of it
Herb thought it odd that Philip Shotz would shop for his own fish and groceries. He assumed that a person of his stature would have his butler or someone do that for him. “And how may I help you Mister Shotz?” He again asked.
“Well- I believe I may want to hire you.“ Shotz began, then bent his head forward and rubbed his right hand over his forehead. His eyes closed. Using the same hand he rubbed it in a circle over his face. Tilting his head, Herb watched Shotz’s face tighten into a gloomy expression and his hand nervously pull on his right ear, until the lobe stretched down much further then Herb thought it should. Suddenly Shotz began to cry.
Detective instincts told Herb that Shotz was upset. He opened his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of bourbon whiskey. He would have offered Shotz a beer but the only brand in his little refrigerator was Leinenkugel’s- a direct competitor of The Shotz Brewery. Holding up the bottle for Shotz to see, Herb asked. “Care for a drink Mister Shotz?”
Philip Shotz nodded yes, as he stopped weeping and pulled a handkerchief from his back pocket and dried his eyes. Herb grabbed an empty sixteen-ounce plastic soda glass with a picture of Elizabeth Taylor on it. He had been trying to compile the entire collection of movie star cups from a local hamburger chain. While Herb was filling the glass, Shotz blew his nose loudly; making a noise that reminded Herb of an ocean liner leaving port. The whiskey was given to Shotz who took the plastic cup and drank the liquid down nonstop. This seemed to calm him a little.
“You were saying, Mister Shotz,” Herb said, thinking this might be a good assignment. Maybe he could get free beer out of the deal. The case probably was some worker taking a few bottles home with him in his lunch box. Possibly a delivery driver was pocketing some of the loot that customers paid him on his route.
“This is hard for me,” Shotz looked up at the ceiling for a moment, then back at Herb. He rubbed his hand over his face to remove the sad expression and began to speak rapidly. “You see- four days ago I was returning from a visit to the Shotz brewery in Denver- flying commercial. My brother Fritz was using the Shotz private jet to entertain guests in Germany. We still have a small brewery there- mainly for promotional purposes. This was where my great great great Grandfather Rudolph Shotz started Shotz Beer. Fritz has more to do with that operation than me.” He stopped abruptly. “This will be confidential- will it not?”
“Oh, yes. Of course,” Herb assured him. “We are under the Private Detective and client confidentiality rule.”
“All right then,” Shotz crossed his legs, first trying his left leg over his right before reversing and settling with his right leg over the left knee. He resumed talking while looking down and playing with the tassel on his loafer. “Well the plane was not very crowded and a flight attendant began to make small talk with me at first.” He looked up at Herb. “I was sitting in first class. The attendants are much more social up there.”
Herb nodded as if he knew. He never had flown first class.
Shotz rose from his chair and began to pace behind it as he continued his story. “Then the flight attendant sat in the empty seat next to me. We chatted more- discussing everything from where we went to college, to the high price of gasoline, to how long one should cook a hard-boiled egg. The next thing I knew she was sitting on my lap and rubbing her fingers through my hair. We were having a grand time. I was showing off my yodeling skills. I studied in the Bavarian Alps you know. My family summered in Germany in my youth.” He stopped and stood directly across from Herb at the desk. “Here have a listen.” Shotz began to yodel loudly. “Yodel yoda yodel laateee whoooooo.”
“Very good,” Herb complimented him when he stopped. Philip Shotz was quite a skillful yodeler.
“We joked and laughed more,” Shotz continued, “Together we sang the Rice A Roni song aloud.” He began to sing, “Rice A Roni- the San Francisco Treat.”
Herb held a hand up. “I know the song.”
Philip Shotz sat down in the chair. “Well,” he paused and made a pyramid with his fingers, then went on in an almost shameful, subdued voice. “She gave me one of those sexy looks.” He bent his head towards Herb and changed his face into a seductive leer to demonstrate. Shotz narrowed his eyes, tilted his head, batted his eyelashes and licked his tongue slowly over his lips.
“I understand,” said Herb, waving a hasty hand for Shotz to continue.
“She made little circles on my nose and mouth with her index finger,” Shotz went on, “then she inserted the finger in her mouth and suckled on it.” He stopped. His eyes looked up into the air as if he was thinking about the moment.
“Ahem, ahem,” Herb cleared his throat.
“Oh yes,” Shotz resumed. “Well- we made plans to meet after the flight landed at a hotel near the airport.” His face drooped and he looked at Herb with sad eyes that looked like they just had watched the scene from Old Yeller when the boy had to shoot the dog. “I am so ashamed.” Shotz began to cry again.
Herb grabbed the bourbon bottle, got up and stepped over to Shotz and refilled his glass.
Shotz drank it down without a pause. He burped softly, then continued. “I have never done anything such as this, Mister Snabble.”
Herb returned to his seat. “Call me Herb.” He looked at Shotz with an understanding face, “and we all are human.”
That seemed to make Shotz more at ease and he forced a smile. Picking up a pencil Herb began to write into his notebook. This was something he had learned to do while watching the Columbo detective show on television.
“You see Mister Snabble- I mean Herb. I am a married man with a lovely wife, three beautiful children, a Schnauzer dog named Duchess- but the flight attendant was so pleasant. Her name was Denise.”
Herb wanted to tell him the old joke how his sister gave birth to twins- a boy and a girl and asked Herb to name them. So he named the girl Denise and the boy da nephew, but did not think it would be appropriate at this time.
“Such a sexy woman,” Philip Shotz was saying, “You know the type- a shapely figure, long legs, perfectly formed arms, a pleasing face with ruby lips that make you want to kiss them. She had ears that made a man want to nibble them like they were Doritos chips.”
“Yes- yes. I know the type.” Herb again interrupted.
“Well, of course you realize with my stature about town and that I am fairly well known I would have to be careful checking into a hotel room with a woman other than my wife.”
“Of course,” Herb nodded.
“Luckily in my brief case I had a Groucho Marx disguise.” Shotz looked at Herb whose eyebrows had arched and explained. “I use them sometimes when I am talking to my people at the brewery.
“Your people?” Herb thought to himself, “Who does he think he is? The Pharaoh?”
Shotz continued, “I like to give the blue-collar workers a laugh at my expense. You know- to show them I was one of them- even though I am worth at least a hundred times as much as all the workers combined.”
“Uh huh,” Herb nodded.
“So I wore the glasses while checking in and was not recognized. I paid for the room in cash, then called Denise on her cell phone; told the room number and she arrived a few minutes later. There was no more small talk. We started kissing the moment she walked in the door and within moments we stripped to our undergarments and flopped together on the bed. I kissed her lips, her eyes, nose, ears, and my hands began exploring her well-proportioned body.”
Herb was about to stop him. He did not need all the details. Plus, he now was picturing Philip Shotz in his white Fruit of the Loom underpants, which was a sight he did not care for.
“Then there was a knocking on the door and a voice was yelling room service. I thought that was a little odd as I did not order room service but had a notion that maybe Denise did. She thought that a fancy hotel such as this would give you free champagne when you checked in. Or at least a free bottle of Shotz Beer, I joked to her. We laughed heartily.” Shotz looked at Herb, waiting for him to laugh.
“Very funny comment to her,” Herb said and pretended to laugh. A polite fake laugh that he had mastered from bartending in his first years of opening the detective agency when he needed to supplement his income.
“I of course did not consider this a fancy hotel. I mean it was quite comfortable- but an economy hotel near an airport- we do not consider this fancy in my circle.”
Herb nodded. He had gone to Sam Egglestead’s wedding reception at the Manchester Hotel and had thought of it as pretty fancy. Heck- they wanted to charge a hundred bucks a night if you stayed. If you used the bathroom at the wedding there was a dispenser with these little paper toilet seat covers to put on so your rump didn’t have to touch the toilet seat.
So I stopped, put on my trousers,” Shotz was saying. “It was a little embarrassing as I was- well. ”
“A little excited,” Herb said it for him.
“Yes,” Shotz replied, as his embarrassed face became a bright shade of red. “I thought I would get the champagne though and maybe drink some out of her slipper.” Shotz grinned when he said this.
Herb returned a grin. “Who ever came up with that idea?” He thought, “Drinking champagne out of a stinky shoe.” He didn’t believe people really did that in old time movies.
“I grabbed my briefcase and held it in front of my – uh- bratwurst as I answered the door,” Shotz blushed again as he continued. “A man who was dressed in bellman outfit stood outside the door. I considered this odd, as usually a person from room service would deliver food- not a bellman. A bellman carries luggage to your room.” He said as if explaining this to Herb.
“Yes I know,” said Herb nodding his head. He would have not thought that odd at all.
From Chapter One- The first meeting with Philip Shotz.