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REX RECTUM, M.D. -- THE CASE OF THE MISSING CASE

It was a dark and stormy night, only darker and stormier than most of those stories that you read that begin, "It was a dark and stormy night."

The wind howled louder than a kennel full of bladder-bursting rottweilers chomping at the bit for "walkies," and the rain poured as relentlessly as promises from a politician's mouth. As I looked beyond the flickering candle flame and out the window on the 13th floor of my dilapidated office, a tornado was leaving a sickening trail of livestock and concrete in its miserable, destructive wake a few blocks away .

Thunder boomed! Lightning crashed! Then in a spectacular role reversal that can only be described as a freak of nature, lightning boomed and thunder crashed.

I knew this night was far from ordinary. I glanced to the streets below, which were empty save for hordes of people hustling to and fro after a hard day's work, and the steady stream of traffic traveling in opposite directions. Squinting my eyes to focus on the pavement below, I noticed no dark, hooded figures in alleyways waiting to pounce on unsuspecting passerbys. There were no mysterious trench coated henchmen secretively huddling in phone booths, glancing nervously behind their shoulder. There were no piercing screams of horror and agony from panicked victims suffering from unprovoked knife attacks by costumed maniacs.

There was nothing. In fact, it felt like time had stopped.

I looked at my watch. It had stopped. While painstakingly grasping the tiny knob of my imitation Rolex and winding it between my thumb and forefinger, I considered winding down by nursing Jack Daniels and opening a flask. As my chair creaked with the weight of a hundred unsolved mysteries and a few unwanted calories, I reassessed my situation.

Perhaps it was going to be a slow night after all. The orange glow in my office grew brighter. Then it hit me! I don't have any candles!

I had just finished dousing the curtains with a third bucket of water when she walked through the door.

"Hey, I just had that door fixed!" I yelled to no avail, as splinters of wood sailed in every direction.

"Are you Rex Rectum, Master Detective?" she asked, in a seductively cool, hypnotically sexy yet incredibly high voice that sent chills up my spine and turn my knees to mush.

"Maybe. Who wants to know?" I asked, calmly picking myself up off the floor and casually crawling to my chair.

As my chair creaked again with the weight of a hundred unsolved mysteries and a few unwanted calories, I studied her silhouette and decided to switch on the light for a better view.

She was a woman, all right. She walked upright, on two legs that started from her ankles and stretched right up to her hips -- a distant relative of Australopithecus, if you're into that Darwin theory of evolution thing. She was alluringly feminine, possessing a couple of emerald eyes that looked and a pair of lips that moved when she talked. Oh yeah, she had a nose too. And hair.

I was impressed. It had been a long time since I had been with a woman, much less seen one. A long time. A long, long time. Yep, a long time since I took the skin boat express to tuna town. Awhile since I experienced the spewing lava-laced eruptions of the hormonal volcano of primal passion. Of course, there was that two-week stretch in the Philippines, the vat of corn syrup and the fine collection of leather whips and aluminum spurs.....

But this was no time to be bogged down by pleasant memories. There was a real live, breathing woman in my office, and it was time for me to show some manners.

"Take a seat," I said, pointing to the chair in front of my desk.

She sat, abruptly waking my trust canine companion Rex, who also hadn't seen a woman for a criminal amount of time. Before I could stop him, Rex had jumped up on her knees, buried his head beneath her skirt and begun lapping furiously.

Amid the heavy panting and small groans of pleasure, it only took me a minute to pry Rex loose from between her legs, and another for her spasmodic twitching to subside and her breathing to return to normal.

"Quite a friendly dog, isn't he?" she asked, calmly lighting a cigarette and pulling out a compact to check her makeup and her hair.

"I'm sorry, Miss...."

"Oh, just call me Candy."

Candy. What a sweet name.

"I'm sorry, Candy. Rex has led a somewhat sheltered life when it comes to company, and..."

"No Rex, I was talking about the dog."

"The dog's name is Rex."

"You named your dog after yourself?" she asked, her eyebrow forming a quizzical pyramid of perplexity on her soft, yet rugged facial features.

"It's a long, complicated story which maybe I'll share one day over a cheap bottle of wine and a casual fling, but now is not the time. Are you all right?"

"Yes, I'm fine. A little warm and sweaty, perhaps, but my anti-perspirant is holding."

She looked at me in doe-eyed wonder and bliss, and I couldn't help but feel I was gazing into the eyes of a woman. Which she was.

"He's quite a powerful little doggie for a Chihuahua, isn't he?"

I decided it was time to change the subject.

"So Candy," I asked in perfect English, "What brings you out this way?"

"My car," she replied. "Listen Rex, I've got a job for you. I work for the department of internal affairs."

"You don't need to explain your sex life to me," I joked. She didn't laugh.

"Do you remember Professor R.U. Serious?" she asked.

"Are you serious? I haven't heard the name of my old arch-rival R.U. Serious in years. He was a brilliant, misguided scientist who managed to bring inanimate objects to life through some sort of cryogenic ray gun. In fact, he believed he could take over the United States with an army of snowmen he himself created. And he would have, too, if he hadn't ignored a few small details."

"Such as?" Candy asked, showing off her own impressive command of the English language.

"He decided to launch the attack from Florida in mid-July," I replied. "Look, I told you he was misguided. But the last time we crossed paths was during a cross-country skiing expedition in Colorado. Serious was hundreds of yards ahead of me, but I had the louder yodel. Shame about that avalanche."

"He was a human popsicle, encased in a block of ice when we found him a few hours later," Candy interrupted. "But we managed to revive him, although you probably wouldn't recognize him today with his newly chiseled features. Anyhow, Serious has since mended his evil ways. He's now working for us."

"I guess it really is the thawed that counts," I snorted, although Candy's grim facial expression left little doubt that I had ceased to amuse her within the opening minutes of our conversation.

"Serious invented something that has fallen into enemy hands. Have you ever heard of a Transmogrifier?"

I noticed the change in her tone. I remained silent, alert, attentive and ignorant, as my gut churned with the disgruntled butter of uneasiness that always seems to occur whenever I hear words I can't spell, much less pronounce.

"That's Trans-mo-gri-fi-er," she said, as if she had read my thoughts, or at least the last few sentences.

"Think of it as a changing machine. For example, if you wanted to convert a piece of paper into a diamond, the Transmogrifier possesses such capabilities. The possibilities were limitless. Then two days ago, Serious was kidnapped and now the briefcase containing the Transmogrifier is missing."

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the next part. I did it all on my own.

"So you want me to get Serious and find this Transmogrifier."

"I admire your deductive processes," replied Candy, unleashing a Cheshire Cat smile and briefly disappearing from view.

"I've checked around, and your reputation precedes you. People say Rex Rectum is the best there is. They say you always get to the bottom of things. So Rex, tell me, will you take the case?"

"It sounds like someone else already did," I replied. "Tell me, what does this Transmogrifier look like? Is it smaller than a bread box? Bigger than the Eiffel Tower?"

"I can't tell you. For security reasons, every time Serious brought it to the office, he chose a new disguise. Once it was a fork. Another time it was a bucket of fried chicken. Once he even transformed it into a high school cheerleading squad, which was surprising in itself. Do you know how expensive it is to rent a bus for transportation?"

Something didn't feel right, but I couldn't put my finger on it. So I simply asked instead.

"Something doesn't feel right," I said. "How do you know Serious wasn't trying to pull a fast one on you?"

"Because I saw it work with my own eyes, Rex! And it was magnificent -- an invention more wonderful than sliced bread and more practical than a set of Ginsu steak knives."

I was impressed. Those Ginsu steak knives I received when I ordered my 8-track collection of Bobby Vinton's Greatest Hits are pretty indispensible.

"All right, I'll take a stab at it. I charge $100 an hour plus expressos."

"Don't you mean expenses?" asked Candy, who isn't as dumb as I look.

"Hey, at $100 an hour, I can take care of my own expenses. But have you seen the price of expresso lately?"

"Oh Rex, this will be fabulous," she swooned. "We'll make a great team: Rex Rectum and Candy Barr."

"Candy Barr?"

"Yes, my father always told me that when I was born, he got his just desserts," she replied in an incredibly whiny manner.

"Oh Candy, could you hand me the insulin? With all this sugar talk, I need to counteract this impending diabetic shock. Now, let's talk about this Transmogrifier. Do you know where it might be right now?"

"No."

"Are there any suspects?"

"No."

"Are there any witnesses to the abduction?"

"No."

"So let me get this straight. You have no idea as to what this Transmogrifier looks like, no suspects, no witnesses, and no idea as to where he and it might be. Sounds like an open and shut case."

"No, the briefcase could only be opened by combination," said Candy. "But I figured that we should start by visiting Serious' laboratory. He might have left some clues lying around."

"Listen, I'm the detective, " I replied. "I'll call the shots. Now, I think we should head to Serious' laboratory. He might have left some clues lying around. C'mon let's go."

I was heading to the door with Candy when all of a sudden Jack Daniels yelled out from the couch in my office.

"Going somewhere, Rex?"

Damn, I forgot I was nursing him.

"Listen Jack, I just got hired for an important case. I'll send somebody around to check on you and repair the door. Just change those bandages every two hours."

Then Candy and I were out the door, heading towards a date with destiny.

While I revved up my trusty Pinto, Candy had given me an important tip: Before he disappeared, Serious had been casually seeing a one-armed, tarot-reading prostitute named Hope Destiny. I decided we should have a little faith and drill Destiny at her Tea House on the way to the lab. Or at the very least, have our palms read.

"What if she doesn't want to talk, Rex?" Candy asked, the lustre of her shiny hair constantly blinding me as it reflected off the approaching headlights of passing cars.

"Is there anything we can do to make her talk. Bribe her? Drug her?"

"That's dandy Candy, but liquor is quicker," I replied, squinting in agony. All I could see were blurry spots in front of my eyes, so I wasn't surprised when I hadn't noticed my Pinto leaving the road, crashing through the metallic fence, tearing up the brush and hurdling over the concrete barriers that protected motorists from the edge of the cliff.

I stepped on what I thought was the brake pedal, and it turned out to be the gas. Within seconds we were airborne, rocketing to impending doom.

As the jagged edges of the boulders below mingled with the briny spray of the sea, I heard Candy utter a hysterical, blood-curdling scream.

Now partially deaf, I couldn't help but wonder: could it really be ending like this for Rex Rectum, Master Detective?

by Nick Krewen

-30-

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