Luigi had to admit, the twin bone breakers were strong. He hadn’t been hit this hard since his golden gloves days back in the army. A stone hard fist slammed into his gut for the third time. He doubled over and went weak in the knees. He wasn’t a young man anymore, but he wasn’t old enough to put up with this kind of abuse at least not without a reason. He just needed to wait a few minutes more.
He spat out a mouthful of what he hoped wasn’t blood and did his best to stand up straight. “You boys make quite an introduction. Why don’t we get down to business. Keep wasting my time and I’m bound to get angry.”
Another hammer like blow, this time to the jaw. It didn’t break but Luigi had to shake his head to clear away the stars.
“Mr. Bowser doesn’t wish to make his personal matters any business of yours. You’ve been sticking that big nose of yours into placed it doesn’t belong.”
After Mrs. Bowser had left the officer Luigi had taken to the streets. He’d stepped into about a dozen dives and drink halls the were known fronts for the Koopa family business. He had talked loudly about being hired by Mrs. Kong and passed out his card. It was probably embarrassing to Bowser Junior to have personal matters spread around and it was a stupid thing for anyone to draw Juniors attention. But Luigi needed that attention to make connection. It was a risky move, but in the detective game that was what got the best results.
The phone rang at eleven o’clock the next morning. He could hear his secretary’s cheerful greeting. He told her she shouldn’t be so chipper when answering. No one called a private detective when they were happy.
She knocked at his office door before opening it. “Mr. Mario, there is a phone call from Joe Hammer. He wouldn’t say what it was concerning.”
“That’s okay, Daisy. I’ll take it.”. He took a deep breath before picking up the phone. “Mr. Hammer?”
“Is this Luigi Mario? The P.I. looking into Mr. Bowser’s affairs?” The voice was thick with threat.
“More like I’ve been hire as a go-between. But what’s that to you?”
“I’m an associate of Mr. Bowser. He’d like me to settle this matter.”
“That sounds good. Meet me at Banana’s at seven,” Luigi hung up the phone. No reason to let the thug choose a place for the meet. “Daisy, take the rest of the day off.”
“But the day is only half over,” again the door opened and the petite woman came in. She had a sweet face and shoulder length brown hair that curled up at the ends. Compared to Mrs. Bowser she came off as plain, but her eyes were much warmer. “you’re not expecting any any trouble, are you Mr. Mario?”
“Why would an old gumshoe like me expect trouble? I’m a kitten and everybody likes me.”
“You’re a bloodhound and besides me I think you only know con men and cut-throats.”
“As long as I know you, kid, I’m in good company.” Luigi cupped her cheek in his hand. She deserved better than to work in a little agency like this. He couldn’t imagine why she would stay around a booze soaked P.I. like him. “There’s not going to be any trouble. I’ve going to be out of the office and I don’t want a pretty girl like you to waste a beautiful day like this.”
The truth was he couldn’t be sure this Joe hammer wouldn’t come by the office for an unscheduled meeting and didn’t want a nice girl like Daisy to get mixed up in something like that. If she knew it was a lie she didn’t show it. She nodded and went to gather up her things. He waited until she left the agency to pull open the left drawer of his desk and pull out the ugly, snub-nosed hunk of metal. It was heavy and cold and it had saved his life on a few occasions.
He held it in his hand staring at it for a while. He’d rather not carry the piece. But in the line of work he’d done a lot of things he’d rather not do. What would be one more? he thought as he fished the shoulder holster out of the drawer. When he was set he locked up the office and hailed a taxi.
Bananas was a low key bar run by former boxer Don “The Gorilla” Kong. When he was young and a contender he earned the nickname with the strength of his arms. By the time he retired commentators said he was called the gorilla due to all the lumps in his face. Still, he had put away enough of a nest egg to open his own place and to Luigi he mixed the best gimlet money could buy.
Luigi arrived twenty minutes before seven and scanned the few unfamiliar places in the joint. He didn’t know he to expect so he just took a seat at the bar, ordered a gimlet and asked for a pack of matches.
“You know anyone named Hammer?” he asked the still powerful man behind the bar as he flipped open the matchbook.
“Not one of my regulars. You expecting someone?”
“Dinner guests,” he answered with a smirk as he struck a match and let it slowly burn down. Kong shook his head at the detective. “There’s got to be a better line of work, Luigi.”
“Says the man who got punched in the head for a living.” The big man laughed and mixed the next gimlet.
Eleven matches later the door opened and in walked two sharply dressed men in matching suits with matching faces. The faces were hard and scowling as they scanned the bar. The eyes came to a halt on Luigi and in unison they approached him.
“You are Luigi Mario,” the one on right said. It wasn’t a question.
“Are you Joe Hammer?”
“I’m Joe Hammer,” the one on the left said. “He is my brother Jake.”
“We are here to tell you to stay out of Bowser Juniors affairs,” Jake said.
“It is no concern to you what goes on between husband and wife,” Joe continued.
“She hired me. That makes it my concern. All I need is to have a sit down with Junior and all this can be settled up.”
“Mr. Bowser does not want to have a sit down with you. You are nothing,” began Jake.
“You are not worth his time or his attention. Be glad of that,” continued Joe.
“If he took note of you, it would only be to scrape you off his heels. So, stop looking for problems. Don’t even say his name,” finished Jake.
“Your little twin act must have impressed all the other campers at Lakeside Lackey’s and next time I need a clown show for my niece I’ll be sure to let you know. Until then you either take me to Junior so we can settle this or you stop wasting my time.”
The twins looked at each other, bristling and nodded. “Come with us.”
“Sure thing. Money’s on the counter Kong.”
The three men walked outside. A few cars were parked alongside the curb. “Which one is yours?” Luigi asked.
“This one,” responded Joe with a punch to the gut. It was the answer Luigi expected. Now it was four punches later and Luigi was getting tired of the game. The fifth punch sent him sprawling to the concrete sidewalk.
“You boys call this a beat down?” he coughed out. “Good to know I’m dealing with a couple of flowers. Just wait until I take my turn.”
“Go ahead old man,” said one of the twins. Luigi had lost track of who was who.
“Just remember,”said Luigi getting to his feet. “you asked for it.”
Neither twin had heard the bar door slowly open and with their attention on Luigi they didn’t seen the thick armed proprietor coming up behind them. A tap on the shoulder got the attention of one of the brothers. “Stay out of this,” was all he managed before a jab cut him off. A left cross later and only one of the twins was standing.
“Tell you what, kid. You can try your luck with him or me,” Luigi offered straightening his hat. The twin raised his fists in the detective’s direction. Luigi shrugged.
“You know what your problem is kid,” Luigi began while dodging punches. “You got no form. Sure you’re strong. But you got no form, no fundamentals.” The rain was wildly swinging, but Luigi stayed just out of range while moving in a wide circle. “Me? I may not look like much, but at least I know how to throw a proper punch,” he punctuated this by connecting squarely with the twin’s chin. “And I I even know a few combinations.” Luigi advanced, his hands a blur of body blows and head shots. He stepped away and the twin slowly sank to the ground.
“You still got it,” Kong approved.
“I learned from the best. Now help me get them inside. I’ve got a few questions for these punks.”