A Nose for Danger, part 6

Chapter 3

“How many chimps does it take to type the works of Shakespeare?”

“Shakespeare was a hack,” Sam shot back, without even bothering to take the cigarette out of his mouth. As usual, he was typing away, one hand on his old Remington and the other flying over the adding machine he always used to check his figures. He was pretty unflappable, for a chimp.

I looked around the vast and dingy space. The Hall of Records was in the basement of City Hall, showing just how much respect it got from the powers that be. But truth was, this town couldn’t survive without Sam. The stacks of papers piled up from floor to ceiling of his domain, room after room, were the city’s life blood, the collective memory and final arbiter of all legal questions, land disputes, contested wills, claims, writs, liens, copyrights, defamations, and assorted mayoral proclamations long forgotten.

And Sam somehow kept it all in his head. Ask him about the baseball team that set up shop in this town back in 1923. The franchise lasted just six months, but if you ask Sam about any random player’s contract, he could get his nimble simian fingers on the original in under two minutes flat.

So I figured I’d come to the right place. “Sam,” I said, “got anything about identical twins?”

Sam didn’t even look up. “Sure, they come around about one every two hundred fifty births. Gotta figure we’d have a few of those in this town by now.”

I wasn’t really getting his attention. “Suppose I told you I was looking for my identical twin sister.”

That stopped him. “Smellephant, you been hitting the sauce again?” He sounded genuinely concerned. He was, after all, my best friend.

“No. Well, yes,” I said, “But it was just a joke. Maybe not a good one.”

Sam turned away from the typewriter to face me, taking the cigarette out of his mouth. “I know when you’re like this. You’re mixed up with a dame, I can tell.” He didn’t wait for a rebuttal. “You really think that’s a good idea? I mean, you’re not even close to being over…”

“No,” I said quickly, cutting him off. I didn’t like where this conversation was going. “It’s a case, that’s all. Client’s named Rebecca. She’s got me on retainer.”

“Rebecca what?”


Sam whistled. “You’re hanging out with a dangerous crowd, aren’t you? You’d be better off sticking to thieves and murderers. It’s safer. What’s she want?”

“Claims she has an identical twin sister, just showed up in her life one day. I think she’s telling the truth.”

“That’s impossible. No, wait a sec,” Sam got that faraway look in his eyes, the one I’d been hoping he’d get. “I remember something … The Winthrops, about twenty years ago… I think I’ve got it.”

And with that he was gone, vanished into the back room.

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