“Another scotch on the rocks, barman. But hold the scotch.”
The girl behind the counter shot me a dirty look, and handed over a cup of ice. I swirled it around for effect, and leaned on the bar.
“The name’s Whale. Dick Whale,” I said, doing my best mysterious gaze.
“Nobody asked. And are you ok? It looks like you’re having a brain haemorrhage.”
I assured her that I was fine and decided to take my talents elsewhere. I’d been hired by the Bridge Bar at the University of Southampton for the night, as they were having a Prohibition-themed event that they thought I’d be perfect for. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a case involved. I was just there to add atmosphere.
I wandered over to a shady corner to scan for trouble. At least this was the one time of the year when I didn’t feel self-conscious dressed as an old-timey detective: everyone was doing it. Suddenly, a man in the corner caught my eye. He was identical to me in nearly every way. Same trilby hat, same vaguely sex-offenderish trenchcoat, same mildly convincing toy gun.
There was only room enough for one amateur detective with abandonment issues who was raised on old Humphrey Bogart movies in this town. I rolled up my sleeves to look like I meant business, but realised I’d already rolled them up and now it just looked like I was wearing a vest. Shirt returned to normal, I marched over.
“Evening,” said the imposter, before I spilled his drink and knocked off his hat.
“No time for formalities, lounge lizard. Dick Whale, private eye. What do you think you’re up to?”
The man looked slightly concerned. “I don’t know what your problem is, pal. Buzz Harrington, private eye. There’s room for two of us in this gin joint.”
“But… you’re copying me,” I said pathetically, taken aback at his casual throwing-in of slang. “This is my thing.”
“Beat it, buddy. You can’t tell me what to do. Now I’m gonna give you the high hat, and let you off this time. But if you don’t move along I might have to smack you in the kisser! Capiche?”
I started cracking my knuckles in anticipation of a fight. It hurt and the noise wasn’t very impressive, so I stopped. “Think you’re a wiseguy, eh? I’m the hardboiled dick round this speakeasy, so scram. I ain’t going to ask again.”
Before he had time to respond, I broke a chair over his head.
So here I am in hospital, again. Turns out security don’t take too kindly to random acts of violence. Especially after when the guy I knocked out was a hired actor who was just staying in character. Guess the university won’t be hiring Dick Whale, Private Investigator and Professional Babysitter again any time soon.
The Prohibition night at the Bridge is this evening from 8pm. Soft drinks will be served from then until 9pm, when the ‘front’ is lifted and the venue turns into a Speakeasy, serving alcohol. A number of acts will be performing there and fancy dress is strongly encouraged.