There are a million stories in the naked city. Unfortunately for me, this one takes place where almost everyone is wearing clothes. But, then again, considering some of the people involved in this tale, it may be better that way.
My name’s Fry. I’m a private detective. I didn’t always want to do this. I wanted to be a lumberjack. But, after causing millions of dollars in property damage and nearly killing some of the other guys, I got the boot. I bummed around a little until some crazy old broad wanted me to find her cat. When she said she’d pay, I became interested. I eventually found Fluffy being slurped down by a famous news monster. Morbo gave me some cash to hush it up, since he said “it would hurt his reputation.” Like threatening to destroy the Earth ever hurt him. But, cash was cash. It got me thinking about making a career out of it. If I could find suckers willing to pay me to find stuff, I’d be in business for life. People lost things all the time and nobody liked looking for them. It seemed like a no-brainer. Turned out, it was a lot less profitable than I had hoped. Business was so bad I was considering getting a real job.
Then she walked in.
She was hot. The kind of hot that made suns melt. She was wearing one of those dresses that the hostesses wear at Imperial Hunan. It made sense, since she was Asian. For all I knew, she worked there. “Mr. Fry,” she said, her voice a sultry whisper. It must have been the dress that made her sound like that. It was skin tight and cut up to there, leaving less to the imagination than a robot in a pair of Speedos.
“Yeah,” I replied, trying to play it cool and hoping I didn’t have to stand up, since it would be pretty embarrassing.
“You’re a private dick,” she asked, emphasizing the last word as she stepped into the room, and then promptly falling on her face. Must have been those heels she was wearing. But, she was resilient minx and bounced back to her feet pretty quickly. “You help people find things,” she asked as she walked over toward my desk. The way she swung her hips back and forth would make a grandfather clock jealous.
“I’ve been known to find the occasional lost thing, Miss…”
“Missus. Mrs. Amy Wong Farnsworth.” Missus, damn. “My husband is Professor Hubert Farnsworth.”
“The famous inventor and scientist,” I said, slightly more hopeful. Farnsworth was an old man, and the way she said ‘husband,’ it was like she had tasted something that a robot had cooked. Plus, the rumors that I had heard about her might be true, too. She was reputed to be as easy as Sunday morning and as dumb as a box of hair. Yeah, things just might be starting to look up after all.
“Yes, that’s him. He’s lost something important. You’ve heard of the Maguffin Stone?”
“Who hasn’t?” I was lying. I’d remembered seeing something about some jewel, but quickly got bored with it and went back to reading Marmaduke.
“The Stone is incredibly valuable,” she said.
“And now it’s missing.”
“Exactly,” she said as she sat on the corner on my desk, giving me an eyeful of one of her gorgeous, black stocking-covered thighs before the silk dress caused her to slide off and hit the floor again. But, like the last time, she bounced back up quickly like nothing had happened.
“The question is, why come to me? Surely, the police would be a better place to start.”
“My husband has made many enemies in the scientific community over the years, Mr. Fry. Powerful enemies. They’ve got the police force on their payrolls. And besides, the police ask too many questions. Questions that might have embarrassing answers, if you take my meaning. We’d like to keep this as quiet as possible.”
I knew what she was saying. He had probably stolen the Stone from some ancient Martian burial ground, just like all those other scientists did. You remember that mummy’s curse from a few years back? Martian burial ground. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, the Stone and the Professor’s hot wife.
“I’ll be discrete, but it’ll cost you,” I said, hoping that she was as dumb as she was reported to be.
“Money is no object,” she said as she ran her finely manicured nails across the things on my desk. KA-ching!
“I’ll need a retainer,” I said. “I’ll bill you the rest when I find the Stone.”
“Excellent,” she said, stepping off the desk. “We’re having a party at the mansion tonight. Stop by and I’ll have it ready for you.” She walked to the door, swinging her hips seductively the whole way. “And, Mr. Fry,” she said, looking at me over her shoulder. “If you can handle this for me, I might have other things you could…handle in the future.” With a wink, she left my office. Three steps later, I heard her rolling down the stairs. A few seconds after the last crash, she chirped, “I’m OK.”
Later that night, I arrived at the old Farnsworth place. Walking up to the house, I knocked on the door and waited. Whoever was manning the security cameras must have known I was coming, since I watched as several passers-by get blasted by guns on the rooftop. It must be nice to be rich and be able to shoot people at random without anyone saying anything about it.
After several minutes of cooling my heels, the door finally opened. A fat man in a cheap suit was standing there. I’d seen him on TV before. His name was Conrad and he was Farnsworth’s right hand mon. Anything that needed doing, from his taxes to, rumor had it, wet work, this guy did.
“Table scraps are around da back at da servant’s entrance,” he said, starting to close the door.
“I’m here to see Mrs. Farnsworth,” I replied, indignantly. “She said she had some things she needs me to do for her.”
He looked me up and down and then snorted. “You’re below her normally low standards,” he said, holding the door open for me. “Follow me. I’ll put you in her ‘holding room’.”
“She hired me to find something for her. I’m here to pick up my retainer.”
“Sure, mon,” he said opening a door off the small hallway. “Dat’s what dey all say.”
I looked around and the room looked more like some sort of love-nasium than an office. There were swings and posts and handcuffs and appliances whose purpose I couldn’t even guess at. This dame was one sick puppy.
I picked up some sort of rotary device, but then quickly dropped it. I didn’t even want to think of what that was used for. I was wiping…something off my hands when the door opened. She was standing there, looking hotter than this morning. She’d changed the dress, and it was obvious from the way it was cut that, other than the thigh-high stockings, she wasn’t wearing anything underneath it.
“Mr. Fry,” she said with a predatory smile. “I was hoping you’d still be interested enough to…come tonight.”
“Yeah,” I replied, trying to think of some clever double-entendre. “I thought that…coming here might be a good idea.” Yeah, it was weak, but I had to come up with something fast.
Still, it seemed to satisfy her enough that she smiled. “Thank you, Hermes,” she said. “That will be all.” When the man didn’t move, she repeated, “I said that will be all, Hermes,” glaring at the man until he shut the door behind him. “It’s so hard to find good help,” she remarked. “Now, Mr. Fry, I believe I have something for you.” Reaching into the side of her dress, she pulled out an envelope. She smiled as I watched her slide the envelope out. She knew what she was doing and I knew what she was doing. And I knew that she knew that I knew that she knew what she was doing.
“Here’s your retainer, Mr. Fry.” The envelope was still warm and smelled like her perfume. I just peeked in, but it was a hefty chunk of change. It would keep me in Slurm and Bachelor Chow for months. “I see that your retainer…satisfies you, Mr. Fry.”
“It’s very satisfying, Mrs. Farnsworth.”
“Please,” she said, closing to within inches of me, “call me Amy. All of my friends call me Amy. You want to be my friend, don’t you Mr. Fry,” she cooed breathlessly into my ear.
“Yeah,” I said. Damn, this woman was good. If I didn’t watch it, I’d end up giving her this retainer back.
“Good,” she said leaning in and practically licking my ear lobe. “I like having friends.”
“Who do you suspect of taking the Stone,” I asked, trying to get a little separation from her. She was making me sweat, among other things.
“Oh, I can think of several people,” she said, walking over to a nearby table and picking up a leather handle with all sorts of whip pieces on the end. Tapping the handle into her palm, she said, “My prime suspects are Mom, my husband’s ex-wife, Cubert, my idiot step-son, and one other person.”
“Who’s that?” Damn, the way she was standing there, looking like that and with that whip in her hand, almost made me want to have her do things to me with it.
“Our maid, Leela,” she said, slapping the whip handle hard into her palm. “That hussy’s constantly making advances on my husband. I think she’s trying to use him to advance her acting career.”
“I see,” I said. She was being a bit hypocritical, if you asked me. Based solely on the way she had acted around me, and how she knew her way around the equipment in this room, equipment that would kill her husband immediately, if not sooner, her husband wasn’t the only one less than faithful in their marriage vows. And then there were all those rumors about her, which, when I looked around the room, looked to be less rumor and more fact.
“Now, Mr. Fry, I think we’ve spent enough time talking about hypotheticals. Why don’t you accompany me to see my husband, hmm?” Holding out her arm, she waited, smiling at me. Oh, she was very, very good.
“Of course,” I said, lacing our arms together. Talking to her husband would help me in finding the Stone, since I still had no idea what it looked like. As we walked out, Conrad was standing across the hall, watching us. Making a noise in his throat, he walked the other way. I’d have to ask her later why she didn’t like the mon. But, I think it was, just like this Leela broad, a personal grudge.
We took the back hallways to the Professor’s office, with Amy slipping a few times, threatening to drag me down on top of her. Not that that really would have been a bad thing, but this was neither the time nor the place for that kind of thing.
The old man’s office was filled with as much junk as the wife’s was filled with other things. Half-invented inventions were pile high with other papers and boxes. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Stone was right here, stuck behind some piece of junk or another.
“Husband,” she said blandly, “I’ve brought you a visitor.”
“Who? What? Who are you, young lady,” a confused old man asked, adjusting his glasses. So, this was the mighty Hubert Farnsworth, huh? It must be the money that keeps her married to this sack of skin. The man was old enough to be Amy’s great-grand father, at least. I doubt that they had ever consummated their marriage, or that he was still able to, which is probably why she went elsewhere and obviously had several men on retainer. I might still get in on that action, too, if I played my cards right.
“This is Mr. Fry,” she said patiently. “He’s the detective that I told you about. He’s going to help you find the Stone.”
“The Stone? What stone?” After a few seconds, though, things cleared up a little. “Oh yes, the Maguffin Stone. Yes, yes. Missing, and all that. So, who are you?”
“Name’s Fry,” I said. Geeze, this guy seemed to be almost as dumb as his wife. “The Missus here hired me to help you find the Stone since there might be…complications if you called the police.”
“Complication? Oh, my yes,” he said nodding, showing me over toward his desk where there were two open chairs. “If you would leave us, now, my dear? It’s time for the men to talk business. You go out to the party and do whatever it is you do,” he said as he ushered her out the door. Sitting down he said, “Now, what do you want to know?”
“What does the Stone look like?”
He reached into a drawer and pulled out an emerald owl. Handing it to me, he said, “It looks exactly like this. Yes, the Maguffin Stone is a giant emerald owl, just like this one, and worth a fortune, just like this one. In fact, it’s one of the only emerald owls in existence.”
Not believing my luck, I asked, “You mind if I keep this? Just so I can compare it to the Stone, when I find it, that is. Just so there’s no confusion, you understand.”
“Of course,” the old man said absently. “I’ve got a drawer full of them. Not all of them emeralds, or owls, of course. And, especially, no other emerald owls. Really, none of them are emeralds or owls. In fact, the only emerald owl I remember was the Stone. Hmm, interesting. I wonder where I got that one from.”
“Meh, who cares,” I said rapidly changing the subject. “Now, I already asked your wife, but who do you suspect of stealing the Stone?”
“Who does she thinks did it?”
“You ex-wife, your son, and your maid.”
“Well, I could see Mom trying to steal it. She is evil and her agent, Zapp Brannigan, stole it from Venus in the first place, before my man recovered it from him. As for Cubert or Leela, no, I don’t think so. In fact…”
He kept talking, but I was in a world of my own. Zapp Brannigan. That was a name I hadn’t heard in a long time. Brannigan and I were professional rivals, in a sense. He was a former detective that had gotten kicked off the force for corruption five years back. I had heard that he had avoided prison, and stayed in the general investigations field. He and I had run into each other a few times since then, with one of us getting the drop on the other. But, since we were both working small time cases, I thought nothing of it. Then I heard that, somehow, he’d gotten himself a cushy job with a big-money backer. It must have been Mom. That led to that incident in a noodle shop on Titan that led to…well, that’s a story for another time.
“… and that’s why neither my son nor my maid could possibly be involved. Now, is there anything else?”
“No,” I said getting up a little unsteady. Brannigan’s possible involvement in all of this had me spooked. “I’ll look around and see what I can find about your Stone. I’ll check back with you in a couple of days.”
I had to get out of here. The old man and his wife were having a party, and being seen here, with the Stone in my pocket, might not be the best thing for me. And if Brannigan was here, with Mom’s backing, things could get a lot more dangerous for me before they got easy. Finding my own way, I rambled through the house before I found Conrad. “I need a way out of here,” I said, looking around.
I must have looked slightly panicked, because all he said was, “Yes. Yes, you do, mon. Why don’t you walk this way,” he said, motioning toward a door down the hall. Having no choice other than wandering the halls, I followed. It was the biggest mistake I made since accepting this job.
The jerk-mon must have had it in for me. He let me into the ball room, surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of people. Everywhere I looked, it was swank and hoity-toity. Severely out of my element, I tried to back through the door, but it was gone. Conrad had led me to some sort of a one-way secret door. There was nothing behind me, no seam, no hinge, and no handle of any kind, just a paneled wall. I knew that I’d eventually to have to deal with that jerk, but, since there was nothing to do about it at the time, I started to walk through the room, looking like I belonged there, even though it was plain from the way I was dressed that I didn’t.
Sliding uneasily across the room, trying to avoid any kind of attention, I ran into a woman holding a tray of drinks, knocking them all to the floor, drawing every eye in the house to me. Bending down to help her pick them up, I noticed a few things: first, she was beautiful; and B, she had one eye. She was mostly human looking, with purple hair and a fantastic looking figure. She was wearing one of those stereotypical maid outfits: a short skirt, fishnet stockings and knee-high boots. And she was showing plenty of cleavage. And, damn, what cleavage it was. She seemed pretty kinky. She looked like she fit right into this freaky house.
“I’m sorry, sir,” she said, picking up glasses. “It was my fault. I should have seen you.”
“Nonsense,” I said. “It was my fault. I wasn’t looking where I was going. With as beautiful as you are, I don’t know how I missed you.”
She looked up quickly and gave me the once over. She saw that I wasn’t as well dressed as some of the other guests, and it must have given her a little backbone. Quietly she said, “You clumsy idiot. I’m probably going to get charged for all of these broken glasses. And the spilled booze, too.”
“I said I was sorry.” Looking at her again, I saw the most important bit of her outfit: the name tag that said Leela. Nodding, I leaned close, “I’ve got a couple of questions for you.”
“About what,” she snapped. Clearly, her finding out I wasn’t an important guest turned her against me. When she stood up, she was tall, just about eye to eye with me. I gave another quick glance at her in that outfit and was starting to feel incredibly impressed with her, if you know what I mean. Between his wife and this potential mistress, Farnsworth certainly had good taste in women.
“About you and your boss. And his wife.”
“That’s none of your business,” she said, angrily. “Now, do you want a drink or not?”
“Not really, no,” I said.
“Then leave me alone,” she said spinning around and walking away. Boy, howdy, I hated to see her leave, but I loved watching her go. Quietly whistling some song, I snuck to the sidelines and made my way out to the front of the house. Catching Amy’s eye on my way out, I winked at her, smiling. This must have made her happy, as she kissed toward me and licked her index and middle fingers before sliding them into her mouth. Yeah, she’s that kind of dame.
Hailing a passing cab, I pondered my success. I’d found the Stone, plus I had an envelope full of cash. I made a small fortune and did almost no work.
“Where to, mack,” the blob monster cabbie asked as I slid into the back.
I thought for a second, and then gave him the name of my favorite bar. Patting the Stone in my pocket, I thought that this stoke of good luck deserved a little celebration.
My head felt like a robot was punching it. My mouth felt like I had swallowed all of Monument Beach. My eyes felt like I had broken glass under the lids. Yeah, it must have been one Hell of a party.
I tried to push myself up, but my arms didn’t want to work for some reason. Rolling over onto my back took some effort, so I just sat there for a few more minutes. Eventually I got myself to a sitting position, opened my eyes, and instantly regretted it. It took a little while to get my eyes adjusted to the morning light, and when it finally looked around my apartment, it did look like it had been one Hell of a party. My furniture was dumped over and there were empty bottles of liquor everywhere, even stuff I didn’t drink, which gave me a weird feeling. Looking closer, I noticed a robot foot cup prints all over my floor. That’s when I discovered I was naked.
Looking around, I found my suit balled up in the corner of the room. I managed to stagger over to it, only falling down twice in the process. Quickly digging through the pockets, I made a devastating discovery: the Stone and my cash were gone. I’d been rolled like some corner wino by a robot. Now I actually had to work for my money.
After putting some pants on, I went to the kitchen to make coffee and weigh my options. The Stone was gone, and I needed it back fast. The cash being gone wasn’t as bad, because I could still bill the Farnsworth woman for my time. She’d never know that I walked out of her house with the Stone in the first place. Taking my cup, I walked into the destroyed living room. Still not too sure what to do, I turned the TV on to catch the morning, or at least what I thought was the morning, news.
“On a lighter note,” Morbo said, “the weak human scientist Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth was found dead early this morning. At this time, no cause of death, BESIDES BEING A PATHETICALLY OLD AND WEAK HUMAN, has been determined. A police spokesman has told this reporter that the usual suspects are being round up as we speak. If Morbo’s people were in charge of this planet, the suspects would be killed as an example to the rest of your species. Linda.”
The old man was dead. This could make things much more difficult for me. And then I heard a knock at my door.
“We know you were there,” the robot, URL, said as his partner, the human Smitty, I think they said his name was, shined the light right into my face. “Jus’ tell us why you killed the old man so we can get on to your execution.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said, knocking the light back. Really, they thought this third degree stuff was going to work? All it was doing was making my headache worse. “Yes, I was at the house, but so were about two hundred other people.”
“He admits it,” Smitty said, reaching for his lightsaber to try and beat me.
“Would you knock that off,” I said. “If you’re not going to charge me, I’m walkin’.”
The robot said, “Oh, we’ll be chargin’ you alright. We just need to manufacture the evidence first. By the time we’re done with you, we’ll have trumped up enough to throw your sorry butt in jail for a long time. Aw, yeah…”
“Yeah, then yer butt will really be sorry,” Smitty said. Man, these two were pathetic.
“Whatever,” I said, getting up and walking to the door. Putting my hat on, I said, “You guys couldn’t catch a cold.”
As I was shutting the door, I heard Smitty say, “I’ve caught one of them before.” Idiot.
So, there I was, stuck with no Stone, no cash, no clue. I mean no clues
All I knew was that a robot had rolled me like a cheap cigar. Trying to think, I tried to reconstruct last night. Hailing a cab, I had him take me to the Electric Palomino. I knew that the night started there, but I had no memory of anything after the first two drinks. Hopefully Sal would know what happened. Or at least who this robot might be.
I stepped into the Palomino and it was dead inside. Sal was as fat as ever, standing behind the bar cleaning a glass with a rag that looked like it had never been washed. In the daylight, the place looked even more pathetic than it did in the dark.
“Hey Sal,” I said, sitting down at the bar. “I need something."
“Whats, a news livers? Afters last nights, I’ms surprised dats you’s can drinks anythings.”
“Yeah, that’s not really what I need,” I said. “I need information. What happened to me last night?”
“Ohs,” he said. Man, if his drinks weren’t cheap, his way of talking would drive me out of this place. “Mys memories ares a bits fuzzys. Ifs Is hads somes…persuasions, Is mights be remembering mores.”
I knew what he meant. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a $20. It was one of my last, so I had to play this right. “Does this jog your memory, Sal?”
“Yeahs,” he said. “Dats makings thingses clearers. You’s weres heres drinkings and der was dis robot what comes in. Whys does you’s wants to knows?”
Not having much cash left, I decided to try something. Sal wasn’t the brightest bulb in the drawer, so there was a chance that this would work. “You know how it is,” Sal, I said. “My mind’s still a bit hazy from last night. I’m having problems remembering things.”
“Maybes dis will clears yer heads,” he said, pushing my $20 back to me.
I couldn’t believe that it actually worked. “It’s still a little fuzzy,” I said.
“Maybes dis will helps,” he said, sliding another $20 my way. I nearly spit.
“I woke up this morning in my underwear, Sal. I’d been rolled like a cheap cigar. And there were robot foot cup prints all over my apartment. I need to know who it was.”
“Yeahs, dats kinds of an issues, Fry.” I slid a $20 back to him. “Is ain’ts nevers seens dis robots befores. Is thinks he was ones of dem dare bending robots. He kept buying you’s drinks and den he tooks you’s homes. Dats alls Is knows.”
“Hello, organic chumps,” a voice said from the doorway. Standing there was a Foghat grey bending robot that I didn’t remember ever seeing before.
“Dats hims,” Sal said, pointing at the robot. “Dats da robots what was wit you’s last nights.”
“And then Bender ran,” the robot said, turning around and running. Getting up, I ran after him.
I chased him for a couple of blocks, with him trying to ditch me with some quick turns. But I was determined to find him, since he had things that belonged to me. I had found, and stolen, the Stone myself, and he had no right to turn in my stolen goods to their rightful owner. This was my scam.
After making two or three quick turns, I cornered him in an alley. I reached into my coat and pulled out a laser pistol. I’m glad that those two idiot coppers didn’t search me, or they probably would have kept it. I’d have to get around to registering it someday. “You have some things that belong to me, robot.”
“Uh, me no speak-y Earthican,” he said.
“Don’t play stupid with me, tin head,” I said, raising my gun.
“Hey, I resent that,” he said. “I don’t got any tin in me,” he said, knocking on his casing. “I’m forty percent zinc, forty percent dolomite, forty percent titanium, and thirty percent iron, among other things. Plus I’ve got a 0.04 percent nickel impurity, making me unique.”
I was confused. Those percentages just didn’t add up. Shaking my head, I said, “You rolled me last night. I want my money and the Stone back. Now.”
“Ok, ok, ok,” he said, holding his hands out in front of him. “No need to get excited. I, uh, don’t happen to have them…”
“Unless you want to be filled with holes, you better not finish that sentence with words that aren’t ‘with me right now, but I can get them.’”
“Uh, yeah, what you said. Listen, can we talk about this?”
“What’s to talk about? You robbed me last night, robot, and I-.”
“My name is Bender. And you’re Fry. At least that’s what your ID said.”
“Yeah, I am. And I don’t care if you’re Calculon. You stole a whole lot of money from me last night and an important gem. I want both of them back. Now.” To emphasize my point, I fired off a shot that hit the wall next to him.
“Whoa. Easy there, sausage link. There’s no need for that. You should calm down or you’re going to blow a hydraulic line, or whatever you organic types have. I’m sure that this is something that we can work out.”
“Yeah. What we can work out is you getting me my money and my Stone back.” I was getting tired of this robot. I raised my gun and pointed it right at his head. I didn’t really want to shoot him, since he was my only lead to the Stone’s location. Without him, I’d be back to square one. But, I had to make him think I would shoot him.
“Alright, alright,” he said. “I’m going to reach into my chest and get you your money. Not going to do anything funny.” Sure he wasn’t. I kept my gun trained on him. You never can be too careful with a robot. I couldn’t count on a dozen hands the times one has lied to me. It’d take almost as many hands for me to count all of the tin cans that I’ve shot because of it. But, true to his word, this one pulled a wad of cash out of his casing. “Here,” he said. “Fair is fair. I robbed you, you robbed me. Now we’re even.”
“Not even close. Bender, right?” Then he did the weirdest thing: he nodded. This robot had no neck, and he just nodded his head without moving the rest of his body. How the hell did he do that? Anyway, I continued, “Bender, you still owe me the Stone.”
“Ah, yeah, funny thing about that… I, uh kinda sold that statue thingy, and spent all the cash on booze and, uh, companionship.”
“Booze and hooker-bots,” I said, lowering my gun. “I really should fill you with holes, you know, just on general principal. But I’m not gonna waste you. Not yet, anyway. But if you’re lyin’ to me, I’ll fill you with holes and toss you into…someplace where robots aren’t welcomed. Like New Jersey, or something.”
“No, no, no, no…not New Jersey,” he wailed, dropping to his knees. Crawling over, groveling, he added, “Nobody’s that cruel.”
“Keep screwing me around and you’ll see. Now, who’d you sell the Stone to?”
“Some crab. He lives in a shack behind a diner on 3rd.”
The alley was a disaster and it smelled worse. There were a couple of dumpsters behind this greasy spoon, and one building that could only be loosely called a shack. The robot, Bender, walked up to the door and knocked. I sure as hell wasn’t going in there if I didn’t have to. Bender was trying to prove himself useful, and not needing to be dumped in New Jersey. We’d see how that went, though. If he could produce this crab, and we could get the Stone back, I’d be willing to trust him a little further. I still needed to clear my name with those dirty cops.
“Hey, crabby, get out here,” Bender yelled. “I got somebody who wants to meet you.”
“Bender, my old friend,” a voice yelled from inside. “Is it a casting director, maybe? Please say it is.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever,” Bender said, pulling a cigar out of his casing.
The door opened and a crab man walked out. Now, I’ve seen some disgusting aliens in my time, but this Dodecapodian took the cake. His suit was stained and wrinkled, and he reeked of krill from twenty feet away. Where this guy got one tenth of the money to buy the Stone, I’ll never know. Bender walked him to me, and the smell didn’t get any better. “Hello,” he said simply.
“Fry, this is Zoidberg. He’s some kind of talent agent, or something. I don’t know. Don’t care, either.”
“Hello,” Zoidberg said again, grabbing my hand with his claw and shaking. “Are you a casting director, like my friend, the robut, said? I’ve got this human-ish female client that’s looking for an acting job. She’s willing to do anything, or at least that’s what I tell people. She’s meeting me inside soon. Imagine, the inside of a restaurant. I had my best suit cleaned for this occasion.”
Looking him over, I seriously doubted the talents of the laundry service he used. “Look, Zoidberg, Bender sold you something last night, an owl statue. I need it.”
“What, this,” he said pulling it out. When I reached out to take it from him, he pulled it back quickly. “Not so fast, human casting agent type,” he said, putting it back into his coat. “This is mine, it is. Bought it fairly from my friend, the robut, I did. I’m not going to give it to you without getting something in return.”
I could take it from him, or have Bender do it, but I was feeling a little generous, and more than a little sick from the combination of the stenches from the alley and Zoidberg. “Fine,” I said. “What do you want for it?”
“An audition for my client. I haven’t gotten her one in over a year and I think she’s starting to get suspicious of me. She may be wanting to fire me, even.”
What, she’s suspicious that you’re a liar and a fraud. “Sure,” I said instead. I could humor this guy and pretend if it meant that I’d get my property back. Besides, like I said, I could always just have Bender take it from him.
“Let’s go then,” he said, dragging me along. “To the restaurant.”
“There she is,” Zoidberg said. “Leela, over here I am,” he yelled waving his claw. “With friends, even.”
Now, it couldn’t be the same Leela, could it, you might ask. I know. I was thinking the same thing as soon as he said it. And, of course it was her. Out of her sexy maid outfit, she was kind of plain. But she was still sexy, but now in a much more approachable way. If I was lucky, she wouldn’t remember me from last night. But, of course, she turned her head a little and made a face as soon as she saw me.
“Leela, a real live casting director I’ve brought for you,” Zoidberg said, standing up to let her into the booth.
“He’s not a casting agent, idiot,” she said sitting down. “He’s just some bum that helped get me fired from my job at the Farnsworth place.”
“How did I help get you fired,” I asked. “We had one two minute conversation. You stormed off and I left.”
“It was because you ran into me. I dropped the drinks and broke those glasses. That clumsy skank Mrs. Farnsworth fired me because of that. She can fall down and break everything, but I do it two times in one night, and she fires me. But I’ll get back at her. I know all her dirty little secrets. I know about her and that centaur.”
Whoa, that was more than I needed to hear. Maybe I should reconsider about getting in on some of Amy’s ‘action.’ She did say something important, though. “What do you mean, two times in one night?”
“I, uh, I mean, oh, look at the time. If you’ll excuse me, I think I left my cat on fire.”
“Sit down, lady,” Bender said. “I smell juicy gossip about rich people, and you’re going to spill it. That’s prime blackma-, uh, I mean, extortion material.”
“Says who,” she asked indignantly, hovering between sitting and standing.
“Says my friend, Mr. DL-22,” I said, pulling out my pistol and setting the muzzle on the table top, pointing at her. “You see, I said, I’m in a bit of a jam here. The police think that I killed the old man, but you and I know that it didn’t happen like that. You were there, so I think that maybe you could shed some light on this whole situation. What do you say?”
“No,” she said, sitting back down. “But, tell you what. You help me get back at Mrs. Farnsworth, and I’ll help you clear your name.”
“Why should I,” I said, tapping my pistol on the table top.
“Because, if you don’t, I’ll tell the police I was a witness and I saw you smother the old man. You can’t kill me. I’m the only friend you’ve got right now.”
She had me, and it was for the same reason I couldn’t shoot the robot. I needed them more than they needed me. Although, at this point, now that I knew where the Stone was, I didn’t really need the robot anymore. But, he was helping. I didn’t trust the robot, but I decided to give him a little more rope. “Fine,” I said, sliding my pistol back under the table. “What do you have in mind?”
She led us all to a place in the Atlantic Quay where she said she knew somebody who owed her a couple of favors. When we got there, it turned out to be some sort of prop warehouse. There were sets and boxes labeled with movie names, some I’d heard of and lots more that I hadn’t. She and this friend, an allegedly male Amphibiosan, led us to the rear of the building and into a big room filled with clothes of all sorts.
“Disguises,” I asked. What was this dame thinking? “You’re going to try and sneak us into a high profile funeral with disguises? I don’t know about these two,” I said motioning to Bender and Zoidberg, “but I ain’t no actor. And, from what I’ve heard, neither are you.”
“That’s only because I’ve got an idiot for a manager,” she said defensively. “The only good thing that he’s really done for me is introduce me to Kif. Don’t worry. With Kif’s make-up skills, you won’t even recognize yourself.”
“If you say so.”
“I say so,” he said, with some irritation. “I’m the greatest theatrical make-up artist of this generation, and all those jerks on planet Hollywood know it. They black balled me after that incident on the set of The Great Noodle Caper. But I’m showing them. I’m showing them all!”
“Riiiight. You need help, meatbag….uh, organ sack,” Bender said, echoing my attitude. This little guy was starting to really creep me out. But, Leela swore by this guy, and right now he was the only chance I had of getting back into the Farnsworth Mansion.
“Alright, squishy,” I said. “Let’s see what you got.”
We were at it for several hours, picking out just the right outfits. Leela grabbed a box of something right away and ran into a back dressing area. Kif followed soon after, grabbing a couple of small cases. I wondered briefly what she had taken and how she was going to present herself, but meh. Who can figure out dames, anyway?
Bender took his time, rooting through the boxes, selecting, and then discarding, several outfits. Of course, he discarded the outfits by putting them in his casing. Never trust a robot, I always say. Well, not always, but often enough, I guess. Alright, so I’ve never said it, but I’ve thought it often enough to make it the case. Anyway, he seemed to settle on some sort of military uniform, complete with sunglasses and medals. “Look,” he said, attaching a beard to his face, “I’m robot hero and military dictator of the Banana Oil Republic, Roboto Pinochet.”
“Isn’t he dead,” I asked, moving on to a different box, still not being able to find anything that I liked.
“Yes. No. Shut up. Yo momma. So’s your face,” he replied. “I don’t care. Whatever. Take your pick.”
“Pew, pew, pew,” I heard Zoidberg say as I came around a pile of boxes. He was dressed like an old Mexican bandit, complete with the moth-eaten blanket and sombrero, and was pointing his claws like pistols at himself in the mirror. He looked ridiculous, and I told him so.
“Bah,” he replied. “What do you know from style, huh? I wouldn’t blow my nose with that suit.”
“You don’t have a nose, Zoidberg,” I said as I picked up another piece of costume. Still, as much as he might have liked that costume, Zoidberg took it off and went looking for something else. This place was full of junk. I had almost given up on finding anything useful. Then I found it, sitting in a box, all alone. I put it on and went looking for a mirror. When I saw myself, I knew that this was the perfect disguise.
As I walked back into the main area, ready to show off my brilliant disguise, I stopped and had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Leela was standing there in this red dress that hugged her every curve to the point of, even though it covered a good portion of her, leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. It was low cut in the front, showing her now obviously ample cleavage, almost completely backless, and slit on her right side to just above her hip. I swear the dress was being held up by willpower alone. Topping the outfit, literally, was a head of flowing red hair. She just stood there on her bright red high heels, looking like Lust herself.
I didn’t say a word, letting Bender and some other alien that I had never seen before talk about Leela and the way she looked. Blinking, I realized what was wrong: no Kif and there was a new alien here. Reaching into my coat, I pulled my gun. “Everybody stay calm,” I said, pointing it at the unknown alien. “Who’re you?”
Bender and the alien both turned and faced me, putting their hands up.
“Whoa,” Bender said. “What’s with the hostility? We’re just three strangers standing inside a warehouse. I don’t know this guy. Or you, for that matter.“
Leela looked at me and said, “Everybody relax. It’s just Fry with a fake beard and mustache.”
“The Hell it is,” Bender said. “There’s no way Fry could ever be this cool. Look at that thing. I mean, it’s like a woolly caterpillar of cool and style has parked itself on this guy. This guy’s the life of parties he’s never attended. He doesn’t run with the minotaur’s, they run with him. This is the kind of man that would punch a magician. That’s right,” he said, looking at the other two, “you heard me. He is…the Most Interesting Man in the Universe. Fry’s just a loser.”
“Thanks, Bender,” I said, putting my gun away. Leela just glared at me.
“He knows my name,” Bender replied with whispered awe. “The Most Interesting Man in the Universe knows my name!”
“Oh, cram it, Bender. It’s only Fry.”
“It’s a very good disguise,” the alien said, coming over to look. “I didn’t recognize you. And you applied it correctly. I couldn’t have done it better myself.”
“Who are you and why should I care,” I said, putting my hand in my pocket and grabbing for my gun again.
“It’s me, Mister, uh, Fry, was it?” The alien began shifting and pulling at his face and suddenly, he was Kif again.
“Witchcraft,” Zoidberg yelled as he came around the corner, seeing the Kif-faced alien. This time dressed as a rabbi, complete with the sideburns and the beard. There was just something about the way he looked, though, that just wasn’t kosher.
“Burn the witch,” Bender yelled, reaching out to try and grab the Kif-faced alien.
“Back off, you two,” Leela yelled. “It’s just Kif. This is his disguise. He’s Korbus.” When we all just stared at her, he said, “The Galactic Chess Champion?” We just kept starting at her. Really, it was because of the Kif explanation, not because of the fact that her bosom was threatening to fall out of the front of her dress with every breath she took. “You’re all idiots,” she sighed in irritation.
“So, he’s disguised as someone who’s allegedly famous, but no one knows who he is,” Bender said, taking out a cigar. “That should be helpful,” he added sarcastically.
“No, idiot,” he said. “I really am Korbus. It’s all part of my overly complex and circuitous plan to get my revenge against Amy.”
“For what,” I said, still watching Leela out of the corner of my eye. I sat down because I was sure that I was embarrassing myself. I was going to have to walk behind things for a while before we left.
“They were lovers once,” Leela said, thankfully turning her back to us. Even then, she gave us an eyeful. I’m sure I saw the rabbi sitting awkwardly, too. Which I thought was odd, because I didn’t think Decopodians had those parts.
“She was experimenting with shapeshifters,” Kif said. “I didn’t shift enough for her, apparently. So she kicked me to the curb and never called me again. But she’ll pay. Oh, yes, she’ll pay.”
“So what’s the rest of the plan,” Leela said, turning back to face us. Damn, I was sure something was going to pop out just then.
“The plan is we go in, some people cause a distraction, some other people search the house for clues, I talk to Mrs. Farnsworth and get a few things ironed out, then we all get out, all without drawing too much suspicion to ourselves.”
It all sounded simple, and they all looked like they bought it. Then again, Zoidberg may have been too dumb to understand, and Kif and Leela may have been too wrapped up in their revenge fantasies. And Bender? Well, who knows about robots, anyway? All cold logic and ‘Kill all humans.’ But, since no one objected to the plan, I didn’t change anything. Had I knows what was about to happen, I might have skipped town and started over somewhere else.
We arrived at the mansion together. It might not have been the best idea, but who would suspect a torch singer, a rabbi, a galactic chess champion, a dead robot dictator, and a guy with this great facial hair to be up to something? The door was being monned by Conrad. This was our first big test. I led the way as we walked up, with Leela by my side. Just as I’d hoped, Hermes had eyes only for Leela.
“Dey are all wit me,” I said, trying a Spanish accent. It must have worked, since he mindlessly waved us in, his jaw still hanging open. As soon as we walked in, however, we drew exactly the kind of attention that I wanted to avoid. Standing right by the entrance to the ballroom was Zapp Brannigan. He was wearing a military uniform of some sort, probably issued by Mom. He looked ridiculous. As soon as he got an eyeful of what Leela was showing, he sauntered over to us.
“Haven’t I seen you somewhere before,” he said to Leela as he kissed her hand.
“In your dreams,” I said, half sarcastically. The only way he could get a woman looking like this anywhere near him would be to pay her.
Standing up, he looked her up and down. More like leered her up and down, to be honest. Then again, she didn’t seem to notice the leer. She seemed just to be happy about being the center of his attention. Then he looked hard at me. There was an instant flicker of recognition, but it passed. “Good sir,” he said, “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. I am…”
“Zapp Brannigan,” I said. “Your…reputation has preceded you, sir.” I shook his hand enthusiastically, just to keep up the act. I was going to have to apply some Torgo’s Skin Bleach later to get rid of the vile feeling. “I am Fernando Lamas Montalban. And this is my…assistant, Chi-chi la Rue.”
“Ah, Ms. la Rue,” he said, bending over again to kiss her hand, “En-chan-te. And you, Mr. Montalban, might I say that your facial hair is magnificent? I’m impressed and humbled by it, sir,” he said with a bow.
“Of course, you are. I have been told this many times before, Mr. Brannigan.” Looking around, I spotted Amy near the center of the ball room. “Mr. Brannigan, would you please look after my assistant for me for a little while? I would like to pay my respects to the widow.”
“Of course,” he said, smiling broadly. As they walked away, arm in arm, I heard him say, “You know, Ms. la Rue, I find that the most erotic part of a woman are the boobies…” What an idiot.
I walked into the ball room and looked around for my distractions. Kif was attracting people just by being this Korbus person, and Zoidberg was declaring the whole buffet, including the bacon-wrapped shrimp, to be kosher and then eating everything. But there was no sign of Bender. As I wandered through the crowd, I got looks of awe and respect that I never would have gotten from these people if I didn’t have this beard on. They all were calling me what Bender had called me: the Most Interesting Man in the Galaxy. The stuff they were whispering about me was outrageous: sharks had weeks dedicated to me; I didn’t do push-ups, I pushed the Earth away from me; my blood smelled like cologne; my personality could be seen from space, and on and on. It would have been embarrassing if it didn’t have the added effect of clearing the path between me and Amy.
The Widow Farnsworth was wearing an ever so slightly more modest version of the black Chinese dress that she was wearing yesterday. She still looked easy as Sunday morning in it, though. When she noticed the crowd around her thinning out, she turned to face me. And her jaw dropped. Now, I’ve seen the look on her face before in lots of dames, just none of them directed at me. I could get used to this. After this job was over, I’d have to ‘Bender’ the beard.
“Hi there,” Amy said lustfully as I approached.
“Good day, Mrs. Farnsworth. I am sorry for you loss.”
“My wha? Oh, yes. Hubert. Very tragic. You want to come back to my place? I mean, this is my place, but you know what I mean. Listen to me. I’m babbling. I’m not babbling, am I? Oh, there I go again.” I swear she was drooling, looking at the beard.
“I have some matters to discuss with you, Mrs. Farnsworth. If there’s somewhere private we could go…”
“Oh, I’ve got a room for just that sort of thing,” she said. That predatory look in her eye made it plain that her idea of discussions and my idea were nowhere near each other. “It’s just over there. Turn left at the end of the hall. It’s the last door on the right.”
“I’ll just be a minute, my dear,” I said, looking around again for Bender.
“Don’t keep me waiting….,” she said before stopping. The crowd, still somewhat parted by my passing, allowed her to get a look at Leela. “Who is that trollop,” she fumed. “Upstaging me on my big day. I ought to go over there and rip that trampy dress off of her. That would show her! That would show everyone.”
“Yes. Yes it would,” I said vacantly imagining a cat fight between the two lovely, at least physically, ladies. “But you and I have an appointment first. You can get your revenge later.”
“Really? Not just a little revenge now? Please?” I looked at her, giving her the full effect of the beard, and she melted. “Oh, I’m gonna need to change now,” she said, walking unsteadily toward the hallway. Looking around quickly, and still not finding Bender, I followed after her.
The path to her meeting room was easy to follow. There were was only one branching corridor, and that way led to Farnsworth’s old office. And it helped that she had dropped her champagne glass and knocked over several vases and busts down the other hallway. Following the trail of destruction, I ended up at what looked like the same door I had stopped at yesterday. Taking a deep breath, I knocked.
“Come in,” I heard her say. I opened the door to find her standing there practically in the all together. The only exceptions were the thigh high stockings and high heeled shoes. Seeing her like this was starting to wear down my resistance to her, despite everything I had heard about her and her various conquests. She was a gorgeous woman. She took three steps toward me before tripping and landing on her knees right in front of me. I’m not sure how coincidental that was, though. “It’s a start,” she said lustfully as she started to work at my belt and zipper.
“Mrs. Farnsworth, please,” I said, not really believing that I was saying it. “I’ve got something for you.”
“Oh, I know you do,” she said, completely missing my tone. When I grabbed her shoulders and pulled her back, she looked up, puzzled. “You don’t like musical theater, do you?”
I pulled at the beard and it came off easily. “It’s me, Mrs. Farnsworth, Fry.”
She looked kind of disappointed, but she quickly resumed working on my belt. “Meh. With the way my hormones are raging right now, who cares about who you are. A feast is a feast, I always say.”
“Mrs. Farnsworth, Amy, we don’t have time for this.” When that didn’t’ stop her, I picked her up and looked around for a table to set her down on. Which ended up doing me no good, since she wrapped her legs around my waist and started to kiss and bite my neck. What was with this dame? Looking around, I found a saddle looking thing across the room. I carried her over to it, and man, it was a good thing for me that this dame was light. When I sat her down on the saddle, she stopped kissing me. I looked quickly and saw her eyes bug out of her head in surprise. Not waiting to find out why, I quickly strapped her legs in while she was stunned.
“Wha…,”she said in a husky whisper. “Oh, God, Fry….Wha...wha….what did you do to me?”
“I sat you down on that saddle, that’s what. You were out of control and I had to get you off of me.”
“Oh, you’re getting me….offffff….,” she said unsteadily. “Do you know what you’ve done?”
“No,” I said, backing away slowly.
“You’ve….,” she said, swallowing and breathing more rapidly. “You’ve….stuck me on….my…new….apparatus… It’s really….very…..stimulating.”
“Yes, I’m sure it is. Listen, I’ve found the statue.”
“The…wha…,” she asked with a shudder.
“The Maguffin Stone? That thing you hired me to find?”
“Oh….yeah…,” she said, shuddering again. “How’s that…..coming…….,” she moaned and arched her back.
“Good, good,” I said, taking the Stone out of my pocket and putting it down on a table near her. “I’m just going to put this here and you can get it when you’re ready.” I hoped that in her current condition, she’d be in a forthcoming mood, so I decided to try and mine her for some information. “Listen, I’m in a bit of a pickle here. What do you know about your husband’s death?”
“Wha…about…it,” she asked, breathlessly.
“What happened last night? Leela said you were with a couple of your ‘contractors’ and he found out about it.”
“He…knew...about…them…before …married… Marriage….was…sham… Using…me….for….blood… We… had…same…type… Was…holding…chest…before…walking in on us… Said…been…poisoned…” She appeared to moan soundlessly for a few minutes before shuddering and turning to look at me, slightly recovered. “There’s an autopsy report in security office…,” she said, her chest heaving. “Be my guest.”
“Upstairs,” she said, breathing hard, but regaining some measure of control. “Go left out of here and take the third door. The hall will lead to the stairs and up to the office. It’s on the desk. Wow, that was really intense. Thank you, Mr. Fry. I didn’t know how badly I needed that.”
“Don’t mention it,” I said, backing away and putting the beard back on. “I really mean that. Don’t mention it. Ever.”
“No problem,” she said, touching the tops of her thighs. “Done shaking…I must be ready for round two already. Be a dear and get the light and lock the door on your way out, would you?”
I said it before and I’ll say it again: this dame‘s one sick puppy.
When I got to the door of the security office, I heard a pair of voices on the other side, and one of them I recognized. “Stupid, disloyal robot,” I muttered as I pulled my pistol, ready for confrontation. I was stunned when I threw open the door to find my robot companion had a ‘companion’ of his own.
“Do you mind? Some robot, namely me, Bender, is trying to get lucky in here, and you’re cramping my style, sausage link.”
“Glad you’re doing the job I asked you to do, Bender,” I said sarcastically. “You’re supposed to be causing a distraction while I search the house for clues.”
“Wadda you think I’m doin’, Fry? Why do you think you haven’t been found out yet, huh? I’ve been distracting this fine lady-bot here. She’s been feeding fake reports to Conrad.”
“Nice work, Bender,” I said, putting the gun away, slightly impressed. “Where’s the autopsy report,” I asked the lady-bot.
“One of the filing cabinets over there,” she said, waving her arm toward a row of five cabinets. “I don’t ever read the things, and really, neither does Mr. Conrad. He just stamps it, files it, and forgets it.”
“Oh, I doubt he forgets it,” I said as I started to rifle through one of the cabinets. He seemed to be the type that never forgets anything. It took me three cabinets until I found what I was looking for. I quickly scanned through the report until I found cause of death.
“Acute, severe, amnesic shellfish poisoning, blunt head trauma, and suffocation? What the hell is that,” I wondered.
“He got smacked in the head, something large and soft covered his face, and he ate really bad seafood,” the lady-bot said. “Stupid human.”
So, Leela’s bosom really did kill him. Well, finished him off, at any rate. But the question is, where did he get the bad seafood? A man his age and richness should have cooks and food tasters and what have you. But the only people that I’d seen around here were Leela and Conrad. That would have to mean either a robot, or one of the two of them had killed the old man. I needed to get out of this room and think about this a little. I’d have to go back down to the party and try and question Leela some, since I knew I’d get nothing out of Conrad.
“Thanks, Bender,” I said, closing the door behind me as I left the room. He was as good as done for the night, I knew.
The ballroom was almost completely empty when I reentered it. Zoidberg was still at the buffet line, doing something to the shellfish. Whatever it was, it was disgusting enough to keep the few people that were left in the room at bay. Only, Zoidberg, Conrad, Kif, Mom, a young human male that I didn’t know, but I guessed could be Farnsworth’s son Cubert, Leela, Zapp, and the two cops from this morning. I really didn’t like where this looked like it was going. Leela was standing by herself near the fireplace, so I headed over to talk to her.
“Leela,” I said quietly, “I’ve got good news and bad news. Good news is I’ve returned the Stone and got the proof that says I didn’t kill Farnsworth. Bad news is I have proof that you accidentally did.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that, Fry,” she said, looking over my shoulder to something behind me. “That’s all going to go away for me.”
“Not so much for you, though,” Zapp said, spinning me around. He grabbed the beard and pulled it off, saying, “You’re going to go away for a long time, Fry. Leela sang like a goldfish to the cops. You’re going to rot in prison like a herring in the sun, Fry. Jumanji.”
“Stone cold busted,” URL said. “Awwww, yeah!”
Looking back over my shoulder I asked, “What did he offer, Leela? Wealth? Power?”
“Fame. Mom runs a movie studio, and he’s offered to get me parts in their movies.”
“Mom makes movies,” I asked, incredulous. “I thought she was just an industrial giant that ran an interplanetary corporation, building cheap toys, robots, spaceships, sealing compound, pipe insulation, and breakfast cereals.”
“Yeah,” Mom said. “I make movies, too. What of it, crap cake? I churn out P and Q grade schlock and the moronic masses eat it up. The Great Noodle Caper? That was one of mine. Marco Polo Versus the Horrible Gelatinous Blob? Mine, too. Titanic 4: Iceberg’s Revenge? That’s right, mine.”
“So, you’d trade friendship for a little fleeting fame? Just like a dame.”
“Friendship? What friendship? We were using each other, Fry. You wanted to get back in here and I wanted you to clear my name.” Pulling the autopsy report from my hand she added, “And you couldn’t even do that right. Zapp, be a dear and do something with this.”
“Of course, my bosomy swan,” he said, pulling the report from her hands. “Wouldn’t want you to sprain your tiny and weak girl’s brain trying to read and understand all of these big words. Flame on,” he said, as he tossed the report into the fireplace.
“It’s a real wood fireplace, mon,” Conrad said, walking over and picking up the report. “You actually need to light it for anything to happen. Now, let’s see what this actually says.”
“You stamped it,” I said. “Didn’t you even bother to read it?”
“No one ever reads these things,” he said as he started flipping through it. “Not even the guy who writes it. Says here he died of acute, severe, amnesic shellfish poisoning, blunt head trauma, and suffocation. That means he ate bad seafood, then he got whacked in the head, and then his face was covered by something large and soft.” Looking at Leela, he said, “Well, I think I know where the things that wacked him in the head and that were large and soft came from.” Leela just scowled at him.
“Hubert always did like large women,” Mom said, rolling her eyes. “I’ll never know why he married the skank, though. Not enough meat on her bones to make soup.”
“Yeah, well I’m sure he married her for a reason,” I said. “But the thing is, where did the bad shrimp come from?”
“What does it matter,” Zapp said. “You’re going to confess to giving it to him.”
Looking around, I noticed that the cops hadn’t really closed in on me, and once again, hadn’t bothered to take my gun from me. Would these idiots ever learn? Stepping back, I pulled my pistol out and waved it around at the crowd. “I don’t think so, Brannigan. Everybody, put your hands up. I’m not going down for this while the real criminal gets away with murder. Isn’t that right, Kif?”
When they all looked at me crazy, I walked over and pulled the Korbus mask off of his head, leading to a gasp from the crowd as I effectively ripped the head off of a galactic chess champion. He just stood there, headless, for several seconds until his own head popped out of his neck.
“Do you have any idea how much that stings,” he squeaked as it reinflated. “Besides, you have no proof that I did anything.”
“No, but you do have motive and opportunity. You hate Amy for the way she humiliated you. And if you’re smart enough to pull off this master of disguise bit, you’re more than smart enough to find some bad shellfish. And with you being kicked off of so many sets, you’ve got plenty of time.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Mrs. Farnsworth and I were just friends.”
“No you weren’t, mon,” Conrad said. “I know about all the weird, creepy things you two did. I know about all of the weird, creepy stuff she does,” he added with a shudder. “And when she got tired of you, I threw you out into the street meself. You were a green, slimy mess, and I had to throw out my favorite suit because the stains wouldn’t come out.”
“Bah,” Kif replied. “There are tons of better suspects. Like Mom. She’s evil, and she freely admits it.”
“That’s true,” she said. “I am evil. But I wouldn’t hurt my dear Hubie. Our divorce was because of professional disagreements. It reached a breaking point with his Little Miss Tickle doll. He wanted to put on lasers, while I preferred missiles. He said they’d be a choking hazard. Oh, I should have listened to him,” she added, wiping a tear from her eye. “I had to pay out good money to hush up all the families of those kids that choked on the missiles. I could only buy three adamantium Jacuzzis that year instead of the five that I wanted.” Quickly turning steel again, she said, “But I’d never hurt him, so, try again, squishy.”
“You still have no evidence that I did anything, Mr. Fry,” Kif said, folding his arms.
He was right. And besides, I didn’t know or care if he had killed Farnsworth. For all I knew it could have been Zoidberg.
I looked quickly over at the buffet, and saw that the alleged talent agent was licking everything on the table, just to get a taste. Most of the time he would eat it, but every so often he’d spit it out, back onto the plate. I thought fast, knowing that if I didn’t come up with something, Zapp and the cops would take me in a rush. So, I said, “Zoidberg.”
“What,” he said, looking up. Or, at least that’s what I think he was saying. His mouth was crammed full of meatballs, so who knows what it was actually supposed to be.
“You’re some sort of sea creature, right?”
“’Some sort of sea creature?’ I’m a Docecapodian, I am,” he said indignantly. “You dare to confuse me with some schlep of a sea creature? Wadda you know? We’re the top of the heap in the sea, we are! Well, except for the dolphins, but that’s only a technicality. They may have the brains, but we’ve got the claws,” he said, snapping his claws together.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I said impatiently. Geeze, this guy was touchy. “But what counts is that you live in the sea. When you’re not living in a dumpster.”
“That’s only because I’m between mansions,” he said, looking around kind of nervously. “That I design in my spare time.”
“Whatever. The important thing is that you’re a sea creature of some kind.”
“And you’re always broke, too.”
“That’s just because Leela’s a lousy actress,” he said, which prompted an angry yell from Leela. “But, Zoidberg’s made some friends that helped him out financially in return for a small favor.”
“What kind of friends, Zoidberg,” I asked.
“What does it matter,” Zapp and Kif said at the same time, which caused the two of them to just look at each other strangely. Interesting. Wonder what they had going on.
“I’m the one with the gun, so I’ll be the one that decides what matters. What kind of friends, Zoidberg,” I asked. This possible Kif-Brannigan-Zoidberg connection had me genuinely interested.
“What,” he said, panicking. “Nothing. Who said anything about friends? I don’t have any friends! No one came to see Zoidberg and gave him a bag full of money to come here and do things like putting bad shrimp into the refrigerator. And somebody else certainly didn’t give Zoidberg a bag of money to come and put a disc with a special recipe into the Professor’s cooking robut.”
“Who paid you, Zoidberg,” I asked.
Suddenly, the lights went out, and shots were fired. I know, it always happens that way in these kinds of stories, and no one ever believes that it would happen in real life. But, I’m telling you, it happened this way here. Then several shots were fired, and just as suddenly, the lights came back on. Weird, I know, but it really happened. Anyway, when the lights came back up, Zoidberg was dead, and Kif, Conrad, and Brannigan were nowhere to be found. Then I heard a door slam open somewhere down the hall that I had just come out of. Seeing that the cops were paying attention to the corpse and not me, I turned and ran toward the door.
I got to the door just as it was closing. There were stairs there that led to the upper level and I heard at least two sets of footsteps pounding up them. I ran after them as quickly as I could. As I got to the first landing, a laser blast blew a hole in the wall right by my head. Looking quickly, I saw that whoever had shot at me was gone again. Taking the stairs two at a time, I quickly closed to the second landing. I stuck my head around the door and saw Kif raising his pistol. It was a little hold-out thing that normally wouldn’t stop a fly. But at this range, being inches from my face, it would probably kill me.
“Now, don’t be hasty, Kif,” I said, raising my hands and backing away. “You wouldn’t want to do anything stupid, would you?”
“Oh, we’re a little bit past ‘doing something stupid,’ aren’t we Mr. Fry? I’m in more of a ‘do something to save my skin’ kind of place right now. And eliminating you would be a good first move.”
“Come on,” I said, backing up slowly. “You kill me, that’ll make three bodies on you.”
“Oh, my no. I’m a victim of circumstance. Zoidberg killed Farnsworth and,” he said, clearing his throat, “Brannigan will have killed you.”
It was uncanny. He sounded exactly like the idiot. “Now, don’t be hasty. If you frame Brannigan, you think Mom will be happy about it? You won’t be able to find a rock big enough to hide under to get away from her.”
“I’ll take my chances. Besides, I don’t think that-.” He was cut off by a laser blast to the back and fell into my arms. Man, I thought he smelled bad on the outside. Looking up, I saw Brannigan standing at the top of the stairs still holding the smoking laser pistol.
“Ah, Fry. We meet again for the last time.”
“Cram it, Brannigan,” I said. Trying to buy myself a few seconds, I tossed Kif’s body towards him. I quickly jumped back down the stairs to put a little distance between me and Zapp. Raising my gun, I yelled, “Drop it, Brannigan.”
“I got a bead on you, too, Fry,” he replied, pointing his own gun at me.
“Looks like we got a little two-way stand-off here, Brannigan,” I said.
“Make dat a three-way, mon,” Conrad said from further up the stairs. Brannigan turned sideways and started swinging his gun back and forth between us. Conrad was likewise switching targets, but I kept mine trained on Zapp. Conrad was a wild card, but I knew Zapp wanted me dead. I figured that if I kept him covered, I’d be OK. Besides, the way that the idiot was standing on the stairs, he’d likely get hit before me, anyway.
“You got three more murders on you now, Brannigan,” I said. “The Professor, Zoidberg, and now Kif.”
“The hell I do,” he said. “I’ve never murdered anyone except aliens and in self-defense. And you know killing aliens doesn’t count as murder. So, I’m clean, Fry.”
“The hell you are, mon,” Conrad said from behind him. “I know you paid Zoidberg to kill the Professor, and he,” pointing to me, “knows you killed the squishy one.”
“You two don’t know anything," Zapp said. “You shouldn’t have sent your agent after me to steal that statue, Conrad.”
“Sweet cockroach of the Ivory Coast! You killed Scruffy,” Conrad said.
“Like I said, it was all self-defense, and no one can prove otherwise.”
“That’s four bodies, Zapp,” I said. “You’re getting sloppy.”
“Aliens don’t count,” he said, shooting at me. Lucky for me he was only an OK shot. He was slow on swinging his arm back at me before firing, allowing me to crouch down and the shot going over my head.
I fired from the crouch and hit him in the left side of the chest, starting to spin him around a little bit. Conrad didn’t even wait for Brannigan to turn all the way around, hitting him once in the back and once in the side of the head, dropping him. The two of us didn’t even bother looking at the corpse before training our guns on each other.
“Well, isn’t this cozy,” I said, standing up.
“Yeah, it is,” Conrad said, slowly making his way down the stairs towards me.
“That’s far enough,” I said, raising my gun high enough to make it look like I was aiming at his head. I really wasn’t, because, to tell the truth, I’m not that good of a shot myself. “So now what do we do? You know I didn’t kill anybody.”
“Yeah, but I do know you stole the statue from here then sold it back to Amy.” He had me. With a solid burglary rap and a few dead bodies here, I would be doing some time. So, I decided to go for broke. It was the only way I would be getting out of it.
“And I know you killed Brannigan. You can’t claim self-defense on that one. He wasn’t shooting at you, he was shooting at me.” Taking a wild guess, I said, “And then there’s the issue of Zoidberg.”
Conrad got still. Jumanji. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, mon.”
“Sure you do. You and I both know Brannigan didn’t kill him. Come on, the lights fail when there’s not a cloud in the sky, and the nuisance that killed your boss, leaving you gainfully unemployed, happens to wind up dead. That’s pretty good coincidence, my friend. In fact, I would imagine that only someone with the security codes would be able to arrange something like that. And we both know who has those codes, don’t we.”
Lowering his weapon, he said, “What are you suggesting, Fry mon?”
“I’m suggesting that you know what you know, and I know what I know, and we both tell the police that Brannigan and Kif did everything. Brannigan killed Zoidberg to eliminate him snitching, and then double-crossed Kif and killed him. But, before he died, Kif shot him in self-defense.”
“There were three shots, mon. Squishy couldn’t have done it all.”
“Then you and I both shot him, since we didn’t know who Brannigan was shooting at.”
“And how do we keep each other from ratting the other out?”
“Simple. We keep far away from each other, neither of us doing anything to endanger the other one. I’ll head down south and not come back. I was thinking that a change of scenery would be good for me for a while. Somewhere warm and tropical to spend my reward.”
I could see him thinking about it for a few seconds before nodding. Putting his gun away, he closed the rest of the gap between us. “Deal,” he asked, sticking out his hand.
“Deal,” I said, shaking it.
When we got back downstairs, everyone was waiting, including a slightly more put together Mrs. Farnsworth. Somebody had removed Zoidberg’s body, and Leela seemed to be having a kind of one-sided conversation with Mom. When we told everyone what had happened, it went pretty much as expected. No one really bought self-defense, but they couldn’t prove it. They did all agree that Zapp and Kif had paid Zoidberg to kill Farnsworth, for different reasons. Not that it mattered, though. Farnsworth’s killer was dead, and his killer’s killer was dead, too. I guess Zapp was right after all: nobody cared about the two dead aliens. Amy fired Conrad on the spot for incompetence, and Mom promptly hired him to replace Zapp. Nobody but Leela, for reasons I still can’t figure out, mourned the loss of the blowhard. Maybe she thought that with him dead, so were her dreams of stardom. But, Mom quickly reassured her that she would still get a development deal because she ‘liked her look,’ whatever that meant. Who can figure out dames?
So with that all sorted out, I left the mansion and soon after, I left New New York entirely for points south.
Three weeks later, I was sitting at a bar in Key East, watching the Atlantic crash into the beach, relaxing with some fruity umbrella drink. I hadn’t really thought of my future, but I was going to have to soon. My reward was starting to run out, and I needed money. Not wanting to really work again, I toyed with the idea of restarting my locating service. There were plenty of old folks down here to work over, but that might take more work than I was willing to do. Then I heard a voice I never thought, or really wanted, to tell the truth, that I would ever hear again.
“There you are, organ sack.” Turning around, I knew it would be him. Bender, with sunglasses and a tropical shirt on, was walking up the beach toward me. “You know how hard it was for me to find you?”
“Do I know you, stranger,” I said, trying to be defensive.
“Come on, Fry, it’s me. Your old buddy, Bender.”
“The name doesn’t ring a bell,” I said, turning back to the bar. Stupid robot. Didn’t he know the meaning of low profile?
“Stop playing around, Fry,” he said, leaning on the bar next to me. “We both know you’re you.”
Grabbing his shirt, I hissed, “Don’t you know the meaning of ‘being on the lam’?”
“Hey, hey, watch the shirt. You know how many spider monkeys I had to bend to get all this silk? Anyway, Bender knows all about being on the lam from Johnny Law. The real question is what are you doing here?”
“Trying to be inconspicuous, idiot. Why are you here?”
“Looking for you.”
“It was fun working with you, Fry. You know, despite the threats and gun pulling and all that. It was the best time I’d had in a while. It got me thinking about…a business opportunity. What do you say to a partnership?”
“With you? Why would I do something stupid like that? You know I really don’t like robots.”
“Yeah, and I don’t like humans. So what’s your point?”
“So, if we don’t like each other, why would we work together?”
“Because no one would see it coming, that’s why. You, a human who hates robots, and me, a robot that hates humans. We shouldn’t be working together at all. That’s the con.”
“What?” I was kind of seeing where he was going, but I was still missing something.
“I’ll keep it simple for your tiny monkey brain. I steal junk, you contact the mark and offer to retrieve the merchandise. Then we sell their junk back to them. It’s foolproof.”
I turned the idea around in my head for a few minutes. It made sense, and seemed to be perfect. “Alright,” I said. “I’m in.”
“Fry, I think this will be the beginning of a beautiful business relationship.”