The Strange Case of Bebary Bee
The strange case of Bebary Bee began with one of the most mundane and innocuous objects: a spoon. Bebary Bee, like most good geeks, had gone to see the Matrix when it came out in the theaters, and like most very confused geeks, believed it revealed an astounding truth to him about the true reality of the world, which led shortly to his jumping off the roof of his school building and falling four stories to his early and untimely death in the misguided belief that a spoon (and old Uri Geller videos on YouTube) had shown him the truth of reality.
But the case of Bebary Bee didn’t end with his death. It started with it.
It was late afternoon when Benjamin Byers strolled into my office on the boulevard to…fuck that’s a lot of B’s. I should have noticed it then, but I didn’t. You never do. They’re just letters, obviously arranging themselves in a manuscript after the fact, but lurking unnoticed on street signs and posters and letterheads and so forth.
To be more accurate, Bebary Bee’s case started with the spoon.
How a centuries old spoon from the 19th Tun Dynasty thought lost when Emperor Chou Mei Tun was assassinated, the palace burned to the ground, and only one member of the royal family escaped the mob of outraged eunuchs ended up in Bebary’s grandmother’s good silver is anyone’s guess, especially since Bebary doesn’t have a drop of asian blood anywhere in his family tree.
How Emperor Chou Mei Tun’s favorite, lucky spoon convinced Bebary Bee to jump off the fourth story of the Susan B. Anthony high school, to prove to himself that reality was a computer-generated illusion, is also anyone’s guess.
Why Russian mobsters wanted that spoon and tried to steal it after Bebary Bee’s death…wait, that’s another case. Sorry, my desk is a mess, papers shuffled into the wrong files.
“Nancy! Nan…” Where the hell is she?
I swear, you hire a dame because she has a nice set of…er, eyes, and you’re basically paying a wage to a painting that you’d hang on your wall, but one that isn’t on your wall and often vanishes for hours at a time and still expects a salary. Good help is so hard to find.
I apologize to Ben, who flexes his big knuckles and shrugs, “I’m used to being ignored by guys while they prater out monologues as if nobody else is around. Bee did it all the time.”
I don’t correct his grammar. I don’t correct mine, either, for that matter.
“So where is this spoon and why is it important? What’s the case, even, I mean your friend Bebary is dead, right? No foul play suspected..?”
I left the question hanging. You could milk an investigation where someone thinks someone else has been murdered but the police write it off as a suicide. Sometimes the client even turns out to be right.
“Nah, he jumped. He went nuts, so I want you to investigate the Matrix.”
I’m sure Ben is confused by the look on my face, which if I could have seen would have resembled something out of a Picaso.
“What?” I elucidate most clearly.
The following day finds me staking out the local Blockblaster video rental store.
“Listen, Ben,” I say, taking the flimsy plastic lid off my hot Bowl-o-Spicy-Noodles and tossing it out the window into the lazy traffic, “one of us has to go in there and retrieve Bebary’s rental records. I’m not a cop–”
“–Neither am I!” he argues.
I continue, “I’m not a cop. It’s not like I can just go in and wave around the proper paperwork and take the rental records. I’m not a movie star and if I look like anyone, I look like Anthony Pequais–”
“Exactly my point. So this will require finesse, planning, a quick wit, and fifty bucks.”
He looks at me suspiciously.
Stake outs are boring by yourself, so I usually drag the client with to keep me awake. I’d take Nancy just in case the client ends up being the killer/thief/other woman trying to throw off suspicions and set me up for the crime, but she’s never around, and she’s worse at conversation than she is at secretary work. Hard to believe.
Plus clients can sometimes be talked into breaking the law, so you don’t take the heat when the cops show up, and they’re probably suspects in some crime already. But I like Ben too much to do that to him. Instead, I hit him up for fifty bucks.
“Stay there,” I tell him through the open car window, and cross the street to Blockblaster, a wrinkled new fifty in my jacket pocket.
The store is clean, well-lit, and has blue baseboards running around all of the DVD islands. ‘Big Louie’, according to his lying nametag, is the guy at the rental counter: a bored-looking 40’s-something reject who never made enough of himself as a young man to get out of earning his pay at minimum wage jobs. Yeah, who am I to judge?
“It’s someone else’s nametag.”
“Is his name really ‘Big Louie’?”
Fake Louie stares at me with his big, brown, bored eyes into which a hint of annoyance is creeping. I notice I probably interrupted his watching the chick flick playing on the in-store overhead video that is supposed to make you want to rent whatever movie they’re playing.
“I want to rent a movie.”
“It’s a very specific movie. Very specific–”
“–The adult videos are in the back, behind the door marked ‘private’.” He starts turning back to watch the chick flick.
“No! Nonono. Not what I meant…but…say, do you have Bobbie Does Montreal? It’s the only one I’ve never…you know what, nevermind. I’m actually looking to rent the Matrix.” I give him a knowing look, like he can hook me up.
“Ain’t out yet.”
“I heard it is.”
I give him another knowing look.
He stares at me bored and annoyed; he’s missing Brittany Shakespeare’s cameo.
“Oh come on! I know you rented it to Bebary Bee.” He clearly doesn’t know who I’m talking about. “Look in your rental records for me?”
“You going to rent something?” he answers. Playing hardball.
“Sure. I’ll rent a look at Bebary Bee’s rental records for the last month, Louie,” I slide him the fifty. He quirks a dark eyebrow, pockets the wrinkled fifty and punches up Bebary’s rental records, then tells me he’ll need a driver’s license and major credit card to start a rental account.
Like all obsessed geeks, Bebary was obsessive about renting the latest sci-fi movies, good, bad, and so crappy they couldn’t hire cut-rate Chinese studios to film them. But there’s a hole in the records three Fridays ago. It isn’t much, but…
“Who was working that night?”
He gives me a name and a big lead.
I also rent Bobbie Does Montreal, which ends up not being half as interesting as Bobbie Does Brooklyn but that’s not really germane to the case. I do have to take back part of the fifty to pay for the rental, which isn’t pretty: I’m forced to join one of those monthly rental plans no one is ever able to use in a cost effective manner unless they’re unemployed and watch movies all day.
As I leave, I ruin the chick flick for him, “The butler wins the bet.”
He curses like a sailor but the closing door cuts off his frustration while I get a face full of carbon monoxide and sulfur as a passing crap-mobile backfires.
The gunshots wake me. Three of them. I find Benjamin Byers lying on the front steps of my office building and occasional boarding room bleeding red blood from a gaping chest wound. Clichely, he’s still alive and motioning for me to bend down to listen to his last words. But I’m still too busy looking for signs of who might have shot him, and who might be lining me up for a head shot worthy of Unreal Tournament, so he dies without the confessional.