The Siamese Tiger: A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Adventure

1 Oct

Howdy folks! For your viewing pleasure, I present the second story in my “Choose Your Own Adventure” series. It’s another exercise in generic silliness; this time the genre is noir detective story. Remember to refer to the numbers at the top of each paragraph; those are the page numbers. Ladies and gentlemen: The Siamese Tiger.

1.

I’ve never been to Siam, thought Dick Davenport, as he poured himself another bourbon. But I’d sure like to someday. They say the dames there can do things to a man that’ll make his hair curl. And Dick Davenport had seen his fair share of dames. The midnight streetlights slanted in through the blinds, speared through the hanging smoke from Dick Davenport’s hand-rolled cigarette, and came to rest softly on Dick Davenport’s gum-encrusted penny loafers. His felt fedora left his handsome face in shadow. He was a private eye, which meant he tried to keep himself out of as much trouble as possible. But trouble had a nasty habit of waltzing through his door and into his life, and in Dick Davenport’s opinion, trouble was just too much trouble to trouble yourself with.

Just then, trouble waltzed through the door. Dick Davenport looked up, mildly annoyed. Trouble, apparently, didn’t knock first.

Trouble was also, apparently, wearing lipstick, perfume, a sultry red dress, and carrying a jade cigarette holder.

Dick Davenport frowned. It usually was.

If Dick Davenport invites trouble in, turn to page 2.

If Dick Davenport draws his Webley, turn to page 3.

 

 

 

 

2.

 

Trouble said, in a trembling Southern-accented voice, “Mr. Davenport?”

Dick Davenport looked up. Just as he suspected – the dame was a stunner. Her hair looked like it was spun from gold, and shone when the light hit it. Her lips, agape, were sensually wet. Her skin looked soft and smooth as ivory, and her perfume slithered up Dick Davenport’s nostrils and knocked on a secret part of his brain. She had poured herself into a seamless dress – and by the looks of things, she spilled some. He felt his iron-hard cynicism weakening under her innocent gaze.

He said, “Yes?”

“You’re Dick Davenport, Private Detective? Oh Mr. Davenport, you’ve got to help me, please. Please, I’ll pay you whatever you ask – just help me.”

Dick Davenport watched as the dame’s lips trembled and she shut her eyes trying to stop the tears from rolling down her cheeks. Here we go, he thought dryly. She’s turned on the waterworks. He’d dealt with enough pretty dames with soft drawls and sweet perfumes to recognize an act when he saw one – and boy, this girl could go for an Academy Award.

Slowly, without moving, he said, “Now calm down, sweetheart. Come on in, have a seat, and tell me your story.”

The dame did as she was told, bending very low as she sat down and took a lighter out of her clutch, giving Dick Davenport a good long look down that slinky dress of hers while she lit a cigarette. He felt a shiver run up his spine, and frowned.

Turn to page 4.

 

3.

Dick Davenport pulled back the hammer of his .38 Webley, and the well-oiled click it made shot through the midnight quiet of the room. The dame jumped, and Dick Davenport smiled.

His hat pulled low and his face still in shadow, he said, “What can I do for ya?”

“M-Mr. Davenport? Are y-you Mr. Davenport, private investigator?”

Trouble, apparently, had a soft, lilting Southern accent. Dick Davenport looked up. Yep – just as he suspected. She was a knockout. Oh boy, he thought. Here we go.

His Webley was pointed along the front of his desk towards the door, straight at the dame’s heart. Dick Davenport made it a habit not to trust anyone. Especially if they have a Southern accent, he mused gruffly.

The dame’s head suddenly sagged, and Dick Davenport could see her shoulders shaking softly as she sobbed. She stood there, half-silhouetted in the doorway, dabbing her eyes with a small kerchief she had pulled out from between the soft folds of her heaving cleavage. Dick Davenport suppressed an involuntary shiver, and frowned. “Listen…” he began.

“P-please, Mr. Davenp-port,” she began, her breath coming in quick gasps. “Please d-don’t hurt me. I j-just want to t-talk to you…”

Dick Davenport felt an immediate pang of shame, as he realized that this dame was a different kind of trouble than he thought. She wasn’t dangerous.

Except for that dress. Dick Davenport raised his eyes. She could rob more banks than Dillinger with that thing pointed at the teller.

Dick Davenport grinned, his teeth flashing out from the shadows. “Sorry, sweetheart,” he said winningly. His Webley disappeared into its drawer as quickly as it had sprung out, and his hand was already flicking open his lighter. “Had to make sure you weren’t playin’ any games with me.”

The dame came closer, leaned slowly over the desk, and lit her cigarette on Dick Davenport’s lighter. She was done with her blubbering, and seemed to be calmer.

“Sit down, honey, and tell me what the trouble is.”

Turn to page 4.

4.

 

“My name is Lane. Cassidy Faith Lane. My…my husband’s name is Bo, and he works down at the docks, at the harbour front. I…I think he’s in trouble. He keeps talkin’ about some dang Siamese statue, and how these…unsavoury gentlemen keep comin’ by the docks and askin’ lots of questions about it. Where he got it, that sort of thang.”

Dick Davenport’s eyes snapped up. Statue? Suddenly, this dame had become very interesting. “What did he tell you about the statue?”

“Nothin’ much, just that it’s a little tiger statue, made of jade, I think he said. No bigger than a breadbox. But Mr. Davenport, I don’t know what to do! Bo ain’t come back from work today, and he’s never, ever late. I know, I just know them hooligans done somethin’ to him!”

And she burst into fresh tears. Dick Davenport watched, smoke hanging around his head.

“A-and Bo and me…we ain’t b-been on the best of terms lately…I think he’s been seein’ other women, Mr. Davenport. The police said I should come to you. Can you help me? Please, Mr. Davenport, I’ll pay you, I’ve got some money…”

Without moving, Dick Davenport exhaled a plume of smoke and said, “Tell me more about these men.”

“There was only one, actually. Bo said he was thin, and unsettlin’. He said his voice made him feel real uneasy. He would never say it, but I could tell Bo was scared of this fella.”

“Did he give his name?”

“No, I don’t believe he ever did.”

Dick Davenport stood up and placed his hand on the edge of his desk. “Listen, Miss Lane. I’ll check your house, and see if Bo left any clues as to his whereabouts. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll do my best.” He swiftly crossed over to the other side of the desk, and stood over the dame. She looked up at him with her big, shining eyes. “Gimme whatever money you have now, that’ll help. I’ll collect more later.”

The dame did as she was told, pulling a wad of bills out of her tiny clutch. “It ain’t much…”

Dick Davenport snatched them away and stuffed them into his pocket. “It’ll do for now, honey. Have you got a friend you can visit while I check your house?” The dame nodded.

Dick Davenport smiled grimly as he pulled his trench coat off the hook and stood by the door. “Don’t you worry, Miss Lane. Get some sleep. I’ve got work to do.”

And before she could thank him, Dick Davenport was gone.

Turn to page 5.

5.

When Dick Davenport opened the door to the dame’s house and stepped inside, the first thing he noticed was the quiet. Of course, nobody was there, but something about the place was unnaturally still. It made Dick Davenport uneasy. He reached into his pocket and touched his Webley for comfort. If there was trouble, damned if he wasn’t gonna be ready for it.

The place was unremarkable – fairly clean, with Southern accents; a lace doily on the table, an ancient rocking chair in the corner. A perfunctory scan told Dick Davenport there was nothing amiss.

He moved soundlessly into the bedroom, tracing his fingertips along the top of the dresser. Dusty, he mused. The dame had obviously been too preoccupied lately to bother dusting. He looked in a few drawers, and checked the closet. Nothing suspicious. He swooped down to check under the bed – and found a bombshell.

A pair of extraordinarily racy women’s undergarments lay there, as if in mocking spite of the bed above them and the sanctity it was supposed to represent. Dick Davenport frowned, and then slowly stood up.

When he emerged from the bedroom and made his way to the kitchen, he found exactly what he had been looking for. On the vinyl countertop a newspaper sat, with the arrival date of a freighter circled in pen. The Lotus, due that very night at Pier 27.

Dick Davenport grinned, grabbed the paper, and moved for the door.

If Dick Davenport goes to the docks to look for clues, turn to page 6.

If Dick Davenport goes back to his office to call Cassidy, turn to page 7.

6.

 

The streetlights framing Seventh Avenue cut through the rain and smog, and the cold cut through Dick Davenport’s coat. He flipped up his collar, dug his hands into his pockets, and walked briskly along, his feet splashing on the cobblestones and the rain pouring off the brim of his hat.

Dick Davenport liked to think he had a nose for trouble, and right now it was all he could smell. Something about this case stunk, and he couldn’t put his finger on it. But he knew he might be able to sniff out some answers at the docks.

He heard sirens in the distance. He reflected idly that he used to welcome the sound. Now, he thought, those goons just muddle things up. Slowly, he realized the wailing of the sirens seemed to be coming from the direction he was heading in.

Then Dick Davenport looked ahead, and through the slanting rain, illuminated by the glow of the city’s canyons, he saw smoke rising into the night.

Dick Davenport’s feet slapped through the water as he quickened his pace, and began to run.

Turn to page 8.

7.

 

Dick Davenport arrived back at his office just as the rain started. When he went over to his desk to pick up the phone, the water slashing against the windows distorted the lightning that illuminated his face and lent an eerie pallor to the darkened room. That was okay, though. Dick Davenport liked the dark. He always saw the dark as his friend. Like it or not, most of his answers came from the dark.

And then, the answer he was looking for burst from the darkness of the street and right through his door. It collapsed on the floor with a crash, in the shape of a large, heavyset young man. Dick Davenport hadn’t even dialed the dame’s number yet, but the phone dropped from his hand and swung down off the desk towards the floor, and he swooped down to inspect the intruder.

You didn’t have to be a master detective to see that the feller was on his last legs. His skin looked badly burnt, and the rest of him looked like he’d had the hell beaten out of him. As if trying to protect it from the Devil himself, he was clutching a package tight against his chest. It was shapeless, wrapped with paper and twine. Dick Davenport’s heart quickened when he saw it. Could it be…?

Then the man’s cracked mouth opened, and he said in a broken voice, “Th…the fat man tried…b-burnt…the docks…”

Dick Davenport had to lean his ear close to the man’s mouth to hear his whisper. He said, “Slow down, son. What’s your name?”

“B…Bo.”

Dick Davenport’s heart was beating so fast it was like a drum pounding on his ribcage.

“Who’s the fat man?”

Bo’s eyes opened wide, and he reached up suddenly to grab Dick Davenport’s collar. “Don’t…don’t…can’t get…fat man…evil…take…the tiger…”

And he shoved the package into Dick Davenport’s hands.

Dick Davenport was playing with the idea of opening the package right then and there when Bo suddenly began to convulse, his body twitching and his legs kicking wildly. Dick Davenport put his hands on the kid’s shoulders, trying to settle him, having no idea what to do. I’m not a damn doctor!

Then, sickeningly, his body went rigid, and with a gurgle his life was breathed out of his mouth.

Dick Davenport, throroughly shaken, reached down, closed Bo’s staring eyes, and stood up. He took the package in his hands, and went for the door.

Turn to page 9.

8.

 

The blazing ships cast a ghastly pallor of pale, unnatural light on the wet pavement, and the fire crews shouted and scrambled as the boats burned on in the night. Dick Davenport watched from a distance down the pier, his hands in his pockets and his collar and hat obscuring his face. Damn, he thought. Damn, damn, damn.

He was preparing to let the fire crews do their work, and rehearsing in his mind what he was going to tell Cassidy, when a hand suddenly clamped onto his shoulder and gripped onto his coat with an infernal strength. He gasped and spun around, and the body of a large young man collapsed onto him. He strained with the effort of holding the man up, and laid him gently on his back on the ground. An immediate glance was all it took to tell Dick Davenport that this man’s number was up – he was badly burned, and looked like he’d had the hell beaten out of him first. Then Dick Davenport noticed the bundle of paper and twine under the man’s other arm. His heart pounded in his chest. He said, close to the man’s face, “Who are ya?”

In a cracked, broken voice, the main said, “B…Bo.”

Dick Davenport’s heart quickened; it was now like a drum beating against his ribs. “We’ll help ya, son. Don’t worry, you’ll be all right.”

Bo shook his head, and shoved the shapeless package into Dick Davenport’s hands. “Take…it. Don’t…don’t let…the fat man…”

Bo’s body shook, violently, and he gasped deeply. His eyes glazed over, and he went rigid. Dick Davenport felt a wave of nausea. After a moment, he reached over with a slow, trembling hand and closed Bo’s  eyelids.

Then he reached down, and picked up the package.

Turn to page 9.

 

9.

 

Dick Davenport left the dame’s house feeling drained. He had broken the news to her about her husband, and held her by the window as she sobbed into his shoulder. When she calmed down he made her some coffee and got her to sit down on the couch and catch her breath. He’d decided it wasn’t the best time to break the other piece of news about Bo. His mind flashed with an image of lacy underwear, and he shook his head to clear it, thinking, With dames, timing is everything.

He’d also entrusted her with the statue Bo had given him. He didn’t have time to file a report on it, and he knew it put her in a lot of danger, but she didn’t know that. Anyway, he was walking through the night right towards the lair of the beast – hopefully, the straight-on approach would keep ‘em distracted long enough to learn what he needed to learn.

His wandering mind settled for a moment on the statue itself. When he had opened the package at the dame’s house, a ghostly green glow had filled the room. The little statue was of a tiger, sitting in a regal stance, carved entirely out of solid, pure jade. He had been transfixed by it, unable to take his eyes off the shifting colours, the beautiful curving lines. It was a pretty prize, all right. He thought –

Without warning, a hand shot out of an alleyway and closed around Dick Davenport’s arm. He spun around and came face to face with a pale, gaunt man dressed in a pinstripe suit, who was smiling, revealing yellowed, uneven teeth. More importantly, however, he was pressing a nasty little pistol into Dick Davenport’s stomach with uncomfortable force. Then he spoke, and his voice was accented, though Dick Davenport couldn’t place it, and it was smooth and soft and much too sweet.

“Mr. Davenport. If you will please come with me. The fat man wants to see you.”

Then a car appeared out of the night, the door opened, and Dick Davenport was pushed inside.

Turn to page 10.

10.

 

Dick Davenport was steered roughly out of the car and towards a regal mansion. When led inside, he passed corridor after corridor of expensive artifacts and priceless paintings and tapestries. It seemed to him that he was being led through a maze. Finally, as Dick Davenport’s temper began to rise, they reached a large gilded door, which his captor opened, and pushed him inside.

It was a library, with a crackling fire in the marble hearth, and books lining every wall. The room smelled of brandy and cigar smoke, and the light was soft and warm. There was a throne-like chair facing the fire, and a voice suddenly came forth from it, saying, “Ah, Mr. Davenport! I trust Mr. Dybbuk didn’t treat you too roughly?”

Dick Davenport marched over towards the fire, and turned to look at the speaker. It was a corpulent man, with a huge belly and a ruddy face. He wore an expensive silk smoking jacket, and held a cigar clamped in his sausage-like fingers. He smiled jovially at Dick Davenport, but his eyes glittered maliciously as he did. Dick Davenport said, angrily, “What the hell’s the big idea of dragging me out here? Who are ya?”

The fat man laughed in his well-oiled, intelligent voice, and said, “My name is immaterial, Mr. Davenport, but many people know me as The Tzadik. You may address me as such. I am, however, short on time, and I would appreciate the opportunity to get right down to business. Would you permit me?” He reached into a box and took out a cigar, which Dick Davenport accepted, still standing. “There you are, sir. A man of class, like myself. Now, to business. A man of class would no doubt recognize the worth of the statue of which I’m sure you recently took possession? The little tiger, yes. No? Well, allow me the pleasure to be the first to tell you that that little thing is worth more to me than all the treasures in this house combined. If I said it was worth ten thousand dollars, would you call me a liar?”

Dick Davenport’s eyes narrowed. “Probably,” he said.

The fat man grinned. “Well, a liar I am not, and if you can believe it, it’s worth a hundred times as much.”

Dick Davenport’s heart started beating faster, and he could feel beads of sweat on his forehead as the fat man laughed. “Look, what do you want me to do? I can’t give you the thing.”

“Oh but you can! And I’ll pay you handsomely for it. And, as a chaser…I’m sure you would want to keep the interests of dear…Cassidy…at heart?”

Dick Davenport’s mind was racing. He had no idea what to do, and he knew time was running out. The fat man laughed again, and said, “Well, Mr. Davenport?”

If Dick Davenport fights his way out of the room, turn to page 11.

If Dick Davenport bargains with The Tzadik, turn to page 12.

11.

 

The fat man’s laugh had barely escaped his lips when Dick Davenport’s fist hit them so hard his chair was knocked over, and he tumbled to the floor, his chuckle becoming a howl of pain.

Dick Davenport stood over him, and was about to deliver a pithy one-liner that he’d been wanting to use, when he felt the clammy touch of Mr. Dybbuk’s hands scrabbling at his neck. Dick Davenport leaned over and jabbed his elbow into the man’s stomach as hard as he could. He heard Mr. Dyybuk groan, and spun around to face him.

Dick Davenport hadn’t had a good dust-up in a while, and when he felt the familiar rush of adrenaline through his body, he forgot about all his troubles – the fat man, the dame, that stupid tiger. He pulled off his coat and threw it on the floor next to Mr. Dybbuk, who was recovering and looking murderous. Dick Davenport could hear the fat man moaning on the floor. He rolled up his sleeves, raised his fists, and smiled.

Mr. Dybbuk swung his fists towards Dick Davenport’s face, yelling wildly. He missed as Dick Davenport ducked and weaved, but after a moment he felt one of his punches connect with Dick Davenport’s cheek. Dick Davenport stumbled, and thought, Damn.

“You’re a tough guy, huh?” said Dick Davenport, still smiling. “I’ve dealt with tough guys.”

And Dick Davenport swung his left in an arc under his shoulder and slammed it into Mr. Dybbuk’s stomach. As he was doubling over, Dick Davenport’s right flew through the air and clubbed Mr. Dybbuk in the mouth, hard. He fell like a sack of potatoes.

The ol’ one-two, thought Dick Davenport. Never fails.

As he was bending to get his coat, Dick Davenport heard the snick of a switchblade opening, and with lightning speed and feline grace, his beautiful .38 Webley was cocked and pressed gently against Mr. Dybbuk’s forehead.

“Have you met my friend, here, Mr. Dybbuk? He’s a real pro at debating. You wouldn’t want to argue with him.”

Mr. Dybbuk was shaking, and looked resigned to his fate, but Dick Davenport knew this scum wasn’t worth the trouble. Trouble, after all…

Dick Davenport picked up his coat, holstered his gun, and walked briskly out the door.

Turn to page 13.

12.

 

Dick Davenport was in trouble. He knew it, and so did the fat man.

He said, “All right, Mr. Tzadik. Say I play ball. What’s to stop you from killing me as soon as I give you the statue?”

The fat man’s face took on an expression of mock surprise and hurt. “What sort of people do you think we are, Mr. Davenport? I’m shocked at your attitude. You were brought here so we could conduct business, as gentlemen. Is my gentleman’s agreement not enough to insure our relationship?”

Dick Davenport’s eyes narrowed. This man was trouble, and Dick Davenport hated trouble. But for a fleeting moment, his mind wandered to the little statue, glowing in the darkness. He thought of its worth, and of his retirement. He thought of a little cottage somewhere in the mountains. He thought of the dame, sitting there in the cabin with him, cooking a meal while he smoked and had his glass of bourbon after a hard day of relaxing.

Damn, he thought.

“Well, Mr. Tzadik. You’ve got me in a pinch. But I’ve got the tiger, see? And that means I call the shots in this arrangement.”

The fat man’s eyes flashed, and he said, “So it would seem, sir. What are your terms?”

“You give me the money and the girl, and you get your little tiger. I get to walk out of this clean, you hear me? And I never want to hear from you or your friend here again.”

The Tzadik smiled broadly, his arms outstretched as if to embrace Dick Davenport in brotherhood. “Wonderful, sir. I think we can do business. Allow Mr. Dybbuk to escort you out, and we shall be in touch with the details. Allow me to thank you, Mr. Davenport. You and I are one and the same – men of action, as it were. I always enjoy speaking with an equal.”

Dick Davenport felt exhausted as he said, “Sure. Just give me a call.”

Turn to page 14.

13.

“Well, sweetheart, we’ve got the place to ourselves.”

Dick Davenport stood by the window in his dark office, Cassidy pressed tightly against his chest. He could feel her heaving breasts straining her dress and squishing against his shirt. He pulled her closer, and kissed her soft lips, holding her head as she swooned.

When they came apart, she said, “What happened, Dick? Tell me everythin’, please. I need to know.”

Dick Davenport grinned. “All you need to know, honey, is that the bad guys are in jail, that wretched statue has been impounded as evidence, and we’ve got a full bottle of bourbon and a whole night ahead of us.”

The dame smiled back. “It was a pretty little thang, wasn’t it? I wonder where it came from.”

“The Orient, I think. You know, Cassidy, I’ve always wanted to go there. Why don’t you come with me?”

He kissed her again, and the strap of her dress fell off her shoulder. “Where exactly would you like to go, Dick?” she moaned.

Siam, thought Dick Davenport, as he laid Cassidy down on his desk. I’ve never been to Siam. They say the dames there can do things to a man that’ll make his hair curl.

THE END

 

14.

The light cut through the smoke of Dick Davenport’s cell and came to rest on his lap, where his hand sat limply holding his cigarette. He exhaled, and felt the cold creep into his bones.

He just wished he knew what had happened to Cassidy. That’s what still got him, after all this time. He’d written her, but of course she’d never answered. She had every right to hate him, he supposed. He just wanted to know that she was all right.

He thought of the fat man and his slimy friend. He thought of the glee on the fat man’s face when Dick Davenport had handed him the tiger. He thought of the iron handcuffs slapping onto his wrists, and his anger. He heard the fat man’s laugh, oily and malicious.

Dick Davenport held his head in his hands, and vaguely in the distance, through the cloud of his mind, he heard the warden call lights out, and he was cast into darkness.

THE END

*

For those of you who may or may not have seen a certain movie starring Humphrey Bogart that may or may not have been titled The Maltese Falcon, please ignore the fact that this story may or may not be a complete ripoff. Seriously though, these things are a hoot to write, and make great personalized gifts. I don’t want to become a one-trick pony, though, so I’ll be posting whatever new thing I come up with.

So long, folks!

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