"I'm sure you know me by now. My name is Jimmy Plush and I'm a three foot teddy bear detective. And boy, do I have a story for you. I was relaxing in my office with a drink (the only way I can relax without pulling a trigger) and in walked a dame in black with a veil over her face. From what I could see, she was pretty attractive. She also didn't look a day over fourteen, so I suppose the less said about that, the better.
"Mister Plush, I'm looking for the man who killed my fiancee," she said.
I reached for my gun. Some fellas make things with their hands. Me? I make trouble, wisecracks, orphans and widows, odds are decent in this town that a vengeful widow is lookin' for either me or the real Jimmy Plush with whom I traded bodies and I end up taking the rap for either of our actions.
She waved her hand.
"No, Mister Plush. You may have a tremendous number of corpses to your name, but you weren't responsible for this one. Listen," she said, raising her veil, "for never was there a tale of more woe than that of Juliet and her Romeo."
I'd heard it. And for the record, I'm not fond of metafiction. Archelon Ranch left a bad taste in my mouth.
"Listen, doll, it's either your fault or you're askin' me to track down Shakespeare."
She shook her pretty little jailbait head.
"No, Mister Plush, it's not so simple. There's a good chance Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare."
I was intrigued. I'd heard the arguments about Shakespeare's authorship before. If I could solve this case, it might clean up my reputation and make the real Jimmy Plush jealous enough that the bastard would want to trade bodies back to take credit for it. Our last few interactions had been hostile to say the least, but who could resist taking credit for finding the real Shakespeare once and for all.
"Okay, sweetheart, I'll take it," I said and before she could even thank me, I was out the door. I'd heard a rumor circulating that criminal kingpin Vic Halperin had dealings with a man on the East side who'd come from Elizabethan England and was a philosopher, statesman and essayist, a real Renaissance man and maybe the guy responsible for Romeo and Juliet's tragic separation. Frank Bacon, Viscount of St. Alban.
Bacon was reluctant to talk until I smashed his knees in with a sledgehammer. It's hard for a three foot teddy bear to swing a sledgehammer, but I always found a way and I always found the right bones to break. He sang like a canary that needed bus fare home.
"It wasn't me," he whined, "it was Eddie De Vere, least I think it was De Vere. He was fruity enough to write them sonnets and he knew plenty about the workings of the upper class at the time. A lot of people think he seems like the horse to bet on."
So, I went to see Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.
We had a few cups of tea and talked. He showed me some of his poetry. It was good. Not great, but good. Maybe I'd be better off looking for a great writer. A guy like Christopher Marlowe, author of the Tragickal History of Doctor Faustus. Around this time of night, he'd be drinking in a seedy bar starting knife fights, so I checked the nearest seedy bar. And sure enough my hunch was correct.
The guy challenged me to a knife fight. So we had a knife fight. I lost some stuffing, he lost some blood, but by the end of it all, he was buying the rounds and I was calling him "Kit". I asked him about the works of Shakespeare and instead of trying to slice it off like he'd been doing only minutes ago, he almost talked it off. Couldn't stand that guy's work. The usual suspects were out, so I decided on looking for some unusual ones.
My first instinct was Zartan, an international terrorist and master of disguise. I'd previously managed to trace the works of Jane Austen to his twisted mind.
But his trail came up cold. Literally. While Shakespeare was writing the Tempest, Zartan was holding a glacier for ransom. There had to be somebody else. Somebody depressed with contempt for authority but a good sense of humor. It was so simple. Why hadn't I thought of it sooner?
Franz Kafka. One paranoid, insecure Czech novelist. Could it have been him? Shakespeare's work got pretty weird sometimes and Kafka's touch would do some funny things to it. I'd read a book before about what it would be like if Kafka had written Hamlet. It was funny, it was weird. It was pretty damn good and it might have some insights into the case that would help Juliet out. I called her back to the office and gave her a copy of this book:
"Looks promising," she said, "how much do I owe you?"
GET IT HERE
Celebrate Shakespeare's (possible) birthday April 23rd with Bizarro writer Eric Mays. Jimmy Plush will be. And of course, you can preorder Jimmy Plush right here: http://jimmyplush.blogspot.com/2010/04/preorders-still-available.html
Get on the Plushlist and buy Naked Metamorphosis. I promise you fun and surprises.