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Jason Solo and the Promising Paycheck

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That's right folks, once again it's board story time! It's been forever since I or anybody else have done this, but I've been feeling like doing something for awhile, so here it is. I'll post this one chapter at a time. As with other board stories, it will feature members of the forums at one point or another, so be on the look out for that. Hope you like it.

Chapter One
It's tough work being a moderator these days. Nothing to moderate for one thing. I guess that's the biggest hurdle here. Can't pay the rent without that. But it's not all bad. It's quiet and peaceful. And the bills I have piling up on my coffee table are starting to form a mosiac that I find very soothing.

You might be thinking that it's this horrible economy that has me in these dire straits, but you would be dead wrong. I don't have any work because I'm horribly inept at my job, the papers say. I sent in a note to the editor to try and tell them that I was actually really good, but I just didn't care enough about their problems to solve their cases. That didn't go over as well as I'd hoped. (Can you believe it?) It just made things worse. (How?)

Being the go-getter I am though, I didn't let the little things like a lack of transportation or money stop me. After I ran out of crossword puzzles in the office, I would begin to walk the streets, solving anything I could get my hands on, for free! Building up good word of mouth is the most valuable advertising you can get, I've been told. Getting cats out of trees, putting dogs into trees, putting back all those street signs I stole last year, I did it all! But it wasn't getting me anything. Not any jobs anyways. Plenty of blisters though. But I wasn't doing this for the blisters, I told myself. So I ended up worse than when I started, on account of those blisters.

The next day I decided that a good old fashioned newspaper ad was the way to go. I took out a half page ad that said, "Two Moderators for the Price of One!" This caught peoples attention because, hey, you're getting double the results. I had people lined up around the block for a deal like that. The deal of the century, my ad told them. It turns out that most people were expecting to find two guys in my office instead of just me. I told them that for the price of one you are getting both Jason Solo - Moderator and also Bizarro Jason Solo - Moderator. The difference was a big bushy mustache that I kept in my desk. I would try to distract them when I switched personas by saying things like "Hey, look behind you!" or throwing a stapler at them. But they caught on pretty quick. It turns out that the citizens of Nightly aren't as stupid as their low test scores would have you believe. Pretty soon that line around the block was replaced by a couple of wandering hobos. They didn't want to hire me either. I asked them.

It was about this time when somebody walked into my office at Nightly headquarters. I was shocked, but only because I had a guard dog posted out there to keep the hobos away.

"Hello, welcome to the office of Jason Solo!" I said, "and how did you get past my dog?"

"I tucked a dollar bill into his collar. " The strange man said.


"He's my dog now."

"Oh." I repeated. I mean, what else was there to say, really? He had legally purchased the dog, there was nothing I could do. The police frown on bringing those types of cases in. The ones that aren't a crime. So I just let it go and sat there stupidly for a moment longer. That was the best I could make of the situation, I felt. But after several minutes of this, he'd apparently had enough.

"I have a case for you, if you're interested, Mr. Solo."

I was such a proud moderator. I didn't have to take every case that walked past my dog and into my office.

"I'll take it!" I shouted. "What type of well paying case have you got for me?"

I thought it was best to establish that my cases usually pay well, that way he's not suprised when the bill comes. That's a really good way to lose repeat customers, with a high bill like that when they aren't expecting it. This way, they know what they are getting into right off the bat.

"I'll be honest Mr. Solo. I don't have a lot of faith in you, but all the other moderators are out to lunch and I really can't afford to wait for an hour."

"Unlike my colleagues, I care more about helping people than eating lunch." I told him, as I shut a half eaten hogie into my desk drawer.

"Well in that case, I need your help apprehending an infamous troll. Thus far they have eluded me on many accounts."

"I will do it, so long as it pays well." I reminded him.

"It does." he said, a little impatiently.

"Excellent. What information have you got for me?"

"Very little, I'm afraid. He or She goes by the name "The Black Bandit" and was last seen in the Cantina. Those are the only leads I have."

Taking out my moderators notebook, I wrote the leads down and looked up, "Just one more thing. I never caught your name."

"It's Bodega."

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I'm breaking my one chapter a day rule already, but it's ready to go and I'm ahead of schedule, so there is no point sitting on it. So here you go!

Chapter Two

A simple google search for the Black Bandit brought up a little more information. It turns out that the Bandit has been doing things like going from forum to forum selling girl scout cookies but never actually delivering them, posing as a cable repair person to get into peoples homes to steal mattresses, and making doctors appointments and not keeping them on purpose! This troll had some real chops, I thought. I was beginning to wish that Bodega had been able to wait until the other moderators got back from lunch, so he could hire them instead. But he had a schedule to keep, I get that. He was a busy man with things to do. He couldn't just wait around all day for people. So it was up to me to find this person.

I headed down to the local cantina like Bodega suggested to see if I could find any clues. It was surprisingly busy for 2 in the afternoon. I got out my big magnifying glass and began to look around. I found a lot of hugely magnified dirt and garbage, but no Bandit. That's okay. I was expecting this. You usually don't find the guy right away with the Magnifying glass, every moderator knows this. But you have to check. I'd never be able to live with myself if he was stuck in the cracks of the sidewalk this whole time and I never bothered to look. But he wasn't. So I raised my magnifying glass up a bit further and began to look at the people in there. No Bandit there either it turns out, but lots of angry looking people. I put my things away and started asking questions.

"Are you the Black Bandit?" I asked everyone. Most people said no. One person said yes and I got very excited, but then they changed their minds and said no. Damn. I was one mistake away from solving this case.

One of the people that said no said they had seen the Bandit the night before, putting drinks on other peoples tabs. I decided to squeeze some more information out of this chump. Go with the tough guy routine. That worked in the movies.

"Hey As*hole, what did they look like?" I shouted.

"Excuse me?" Rock said. "Do you want information or not?"

I really needed that information, so I decided to change my tactics. The movies aren't always right, I guess. "I'm sorry, you handsome devil, any information would be great."

This seemed to work because his frown changed upside down and he bought me a drink. This case is getting better all the time, I thought. Just to be sure there was no funny business, I put the drink on Rocks tab. The Bandit had that part right, at least.

"The person you're looking for is a woman." Rock told me. "I tried to pick her up, but she charged 500 dollars onto my tab and tied my shoe laces together, so when I got up to leave I looked like a fool!"

After I stopped laughing, I wrote "woman" into my notebook. "Does she come here often?"

He said no, but then told me that HE DID for some reason. Asking me to come back tomorrow and have fun with him. I'm not against having fun. In fact, fun is pretty great. But I still had a lot of people to interview, so I had to decline, charge two more drinks to his tab and move on.

Off in the corner of the cantina, I found a man who had come through headquarters pretty often. Usually when he was arrested. He didn't ask us to solve a lot of cases, because he was usually the one responsible for the crimes. But he had a history of annoying women and following them home. So I figured if Rock was right about the Black Bandit being a woman, odds are, this guy probably followed her. So I walked over, sat down next to him and gave him one of the free drinks I got. I thought that was a good way to start an interview. I saw that in a movie too. Sometimes they are right, it seems, because I was greated with a big smile and a hearty pat on the back.

"How have you been, Danger?" I asked him.

"Drunk and happy."

"I'm not here to arrest you today, so feel free to be honest with me." I said. Full disclosure was best here, I decided.

"I didn't do it, I tell you!" he shouted madly.

After going around in circles like this for a few more hilarity filled minutes, the novelty wore off. I ignored his protests and got right to the point.

"There was a woman in here last night. I have no idea what she looks like, but she was getting hundreds of drinks and putting them on peoples tabs. I know you practically live at this Cantina, so you probably know who I'm talking about." I told him. He didn't practically live here at all, actually. He DID live here. No practically about it. He slept in one of the booths and got his mail delivered here every day. That's how I knew it was true. They won't deliver your mail where you don't live. I'm pretty sure about that. The Postal Service is strict about that type of thing.

"Aye, I saw her. Foxy!"

After I wrote "foxy" into my notebook, I pressed on, "Did you follow her home when she left the Cantina?"

"I did. That's not illegal in this country!" he shouted.

I wasn't here to debate what was and wasn't legal, I explained to him. That is for lawyers. It's too complicated for a guy like me. That's why they make the big bucks, I told him. But I did know one thing.

I finally had another lead.

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Guest Letsgo_7_7




Good stuff, TR. :thumbsup::thumbsup:


Been a while since anyone has done one of these, I think you and I may have been the last of this grand tradition (sometime around 2006, maybe?) Well, you also had the comic that went for a little longer (at least I think- the alcohol is starting to kill the memory and I'm losing my conception of time, lol).


Anyway, great stuff man, and look forward to the rest. Classic nightly board story stuff- a blend of inside jokes and absurdity. Especially enjoyed the magnifying glass and the dog, those were nice touches.

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The free tacos are a clever advertising ploy. Which is to say that they will be given to you later.


And yeah Letsgo, I think there will always be an audience for these types of things, it's too bad it seems to be a shadow of what it used to be though. But then what isn't. Glad a few people are liking it so far. The detective style novel really lends itself really well to incorporating board stuff.

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Chapter Three

It took several drinks and one very uncomfortable foot massage, but I finally managed to convice Danger to tell me everything he knew about the Black Bandit. He'd told me that he followed her to the local public library, the Book Club. I always thought it was an odd name for a library, but I suppose they were trying to bring in the teen readers by making them think it was a special club, instead of a bunch of dusty bookshelves. You can't blame them for that. I use that type of thing all the time to drum up business. For a time in 2002, I called my office the "Den of Crime", hoping that criminals would flock to it and I could catch them without any work on my part. They did come, but I wasn't able to catch any of them. Too slippery. So it was a mixed success there. Hopefully the Book Club did better.

I took off immediately for the Book Club, ignoring Rocks attempts to set up a play date for tomorrow. As I walked, I reviewed the clues in my head. "Bandit. Woman. Foxy." I'll admit it wasn't much to go on. But most of my cases were like that. That never stopped me from solving a few of them before. And nobody else was walking into my office, even without the guard dog. So this was my best option.

I got to the Book Club and a few things immediately caught my eye. My private eye, you could say. No, scratch that. Just my normal eye. I didn't remember this building being painted black and all of those boards on the windows seemed new also. That big lock on the front door was definitely new. That wasn't very good for business, I thought. A lot of good that name change does if the young teens can't even get in there. Something didn't add up. But I just had to be sure.

"Hey, does something not add up here?" I asked a passerby.

"Huh? What? Leave me alone." he said.

Well that proves it. Something is wrong here. I'd bet money those boards and that lock aren't suppose to be there. I'd bet $100 on that. The passerby wouldn't though, said he didn't gamble with strangers. Smart move for him, he'd be out $100 bucks. This was the Black Bandits lair. It had to be. Especially since the name on the building was crossed out with spray paint and a sign had been hung in it's place that read "The Black Bandits Lair". If I'd have seen that in the first place, that would have saved me a lot of time. I guess I needed to use that private eye after all.

Some sleuthing was in order here. If anybody knew sleuthing, it was Jason Solo. That was in my ads too. Time to put my money where my mouth was, I figured. I rolled up my sleeves and walked up to the building. It would take all of my cunning to get into this place. I shook the lock on the door violently and smashed it loudly against the door a few times. That wasn't working. I sat down on the steps and began to rethink my strategy when a small slot in the door opened up and a woman called out.

"Hey, quit doing that. That's an expensive lock."

Being the top notch moderator I was, the wheels my brain creaked into motion and an idea formed.

"Uh", I said. " I am a young teen and would like to check out the latest books that us young teens like nowadays."

It was daring and smooth. My wrinkled face and partial beard did nothing to hurt the illusion it seemed, because after a few minutes of waiting, she slid a copy of Twilight out of the slot in the door.

"Enjoy and come back again, " she said. "But not for a long while." she added as she slammed the slot in the door shut again.

On the plus side, I got a free book. So that's something. I'm not going to read it, but maybe I can trade it for something else. I'm resourceful like that. But on the other hand, I did not get her to open the door for me. That would take some more work. But for now, it was late and it was dinner time. Best to work on a full stomach, I always say.

It turns out I was right about that book. I chucked it through the window of the deli across the street and got a sandwich out of there. Like I said. Resourceful. As I sat on the curb eating it, the answer to my problem walked right up and hit me in the face. Literally!

A group of firemen were walking up to the deli, on their way back to the station, I guessed. One of them punched me right in the mouth! It was a man I'd seen at headquarters before. He helped a lot of the other moderators out with cases, but not me. Went by the name Lucas and he hit like an ox.

"You can't just break through a window, you idiot!" he shouted.

I didn't hear a word he was saying though, because an idea had entered my face with his fist and wiggled it's way up into my brain. I let him shout himself hoarse, but eventually even the loudest guys give up. And he did just that. After all, it was dinner time for him too. He's not going to skip that to yell at some jerk, even if that jerk was me.

After they went inside the deli, I ran over to their fire truck and began to rummage around in the back. I turned on the sirens a few times, used the ladder to see my house from there, and sprayed a few cars with the hose. Eventually, I found what I was looking for. An extra firemens uniform. I quickly put it on and ran back over to the boarded up Book Club. I pounded on the door a few times in my very best impression of how a firemen would pound on a door. The woman opened up the slot in the door and stared out.

"Fireman." I said. Was that what they said in these situations? I think so.

"Is there a fire?" she asked.

"Yes. I got a call about a fire in this building. There is smoke all over out here." I told her.

Obviously she didn't want whatever she was doing in there to be engulfed in flames. Hard to get things done like that. She turned the lock and opened the door.

I was in.

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Chapter Four


When I walked into the book club, I couldn't believe my eyes! I rubbed them in a comical fashion, hoping that would clear away the crazy, but if anything the crazy was even crazier. The bookshelves were all pushed up against the walls and books were in big piles on the floor! No wonder it took her so long to find that Twilight book, I thought. In their place were dozens of desks. Eached manned by a different troll. They were making prank phone calls, sending winning publishers clearing house e-mails that they didn't really mean, and ordering from catalogs without a valid credit card number. It was pure chaos!


It took me a moment to regain my wits and remember what I was there for. My attention drifted to the woman who let me in. She was wearing all black, including a cloak that hid her face. My years of experience on the job told me that this woman was probably the Black Bandit herself! But I had to be sure. I decided to hatch a cunning plan to make her reveal her identity.


"Are you the Black Bandit?" I blurted out. Best to be quick, I thought. I'm working overtime on this one already, no sense in pulling an all nighter here.


"How do you know that name?" She asked fiercely.


"Uh," my mind was racing, trying to come up with a plausible excuse. "I heard about her on 'Sexiest Criminals 2012' on E!"


Flattery is always a good move. It never works in my personal life, but on the job it hasn't failed me once. And this was no exception.


"Oh. I haven't heard of that. But yes, I am! Would you like an autograph?"


"Sure." I lied. I had no use for her autograph but it was too late to be rude. I was already too deep in the lie. No digging myself out of that. Maybe I could trade that for another sandwich, I thought.


She picked up a nearby book on the ground and autographed it for me. It was a copy of Huck Finn. I thought she could have took a minute to find something that involved criminals or moderators. That would make the autograph worth a bit more money, I felt. But I let it slide, feeling a bit dissapointed. She didn't seem nearly as thoughtful as that television special led me to believe. But she broke me out of my stupor by reminding me why she thought I was here at all.


"Didn't you say the building was on fire? Aren't you going to do something about that?" she said.


"Of course." I told her, "but first, what's that behind you!?"


When she looked behind her, I lit a match and tossed it into the corner. It ignited the books and when she wheeled back around she saw a real live fire with her own eyes! Nothing bolsters up a lie like good hard evidence like that. It's one thing to say there is a fire, it's another to actually see it yourself. I didn't get where I am in this business by just pretending stuff was on fire.


She looked very alarmed when she saw this, but I held up my hand as if to say "relax, I'm a professional." I ran over to the fire and rolled around on it with my whole body. That was the best way to put fires out, I've heard. There was a scary moment there when my face caught on fire for a second, but after a few well placed thrashes, the fire was out. With my face still smoking, I walked back over to the Bandit with my best firemen walking impression.


"No problem at all, ma'am." I coughed out. "If you don't mind my asking, what happened to all the books? What is going on here?"


Apparently saving her building from turning to ashes must have warmed her up to me, because she didn't hesitate to give me an answer.


"Oh, this is my crime ring. All these people are busy making money for me." she said with a smile.


"In that case, you must have enough money to take me to dinner." We had a good back and forth going here. If I could score a date with her, I could trick her to walking right into jail. Plus I would get a free meal out of it. That's a win win in my book. Much better than the lose lose I'm used to.


She considered me for a moment. I thought for sure the plan had failed when she burst out laughing at first but I kept my cool and stared at her expectantly. It's hard to say no to people like that. It's awkward. People shy away from awkward things. It's how I'd gotten all my dates in the past, so I really can't argue with the results.


"Tomorrow night. Meet me here." she said, after the stitch in her side had subsided.


"Before I go, do you think I could see your face and get your name?" I asked. It was a good practice to figure these things out before going on a date. I mean, what if she had one eye? Or two mouths? Or three noses? Or four eyebrows? Nobody wants to go out with a monster like that. I'd be ridiculed in the tabloids for months. No case was worth that, I felt. Not even a well paying one like this.


"Well, alright." she told me. She lowered the hood and she was actually quite beautiful! Certainly not your typical haggard, beared drunken criminal. I wouldn't be ashamed to be seen with her in public at all. In fact, that might even help my reputation. I never quite recovered from going out with that bear that I thought was a woman a few months back. This was exactly what I needed to shove in the face of all those other moderators. 'Jason Solo was back on top!' a women like this said to people.


"My name is Letsgo."

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Chapter Five


After complaining for several minutes about how strange her name was, and why it couldn't be something like Alice or Rebecca or some normal name like that, I went home for the evening. Had to get a good nights sleep before that date. Had to make sure every trick in my bag was ready to go, even for somebody with a name like that. The plan, as I had figured it, involved picking her up, having her drive me to a restaurant and buy me dinner. Then, feigning a desire to go for a walk, suggest that we take a stroll around the old prison downtown. Once we were in there, I would pull one of my classic "hey what's that?" routines and kick her square in the ass into an open cell. Case closed. It was as bulletproof as any case could be. Even those fancy cases that are protected by bulletproof glass. Those were all for show. That's what they don't tell you about those. A really big bullet could get through those. But this plan. Not even the biggest bullet in the world could mess it up.


I woke up early the next morning, feeling as good about my prospects as I have in a long time. I headed back down to the office. Figured I could take it easy today, since I already had the case locked up. Maybe a new one would walk in there. As it turns out, the old case walked in instead. Bodega was coming through my door, with my old dog at his heels. The dog was looking good, I must say. Bodega must take pretty good care of him. I had just been feeding him old documents instead of buying a shredder. So maybe it was for the best that Bodega swindled him out of me.


"Have you made any progress on the case?" he asked me.


For once, I was glad to hear a customer ask this question. I mean, this time I really did have something! Not like all those other times where I would give them the run around and start asking them if THEY solved MY case yet. That's only fun for a little while, but then it gets boring for the both of us. But this time, I could tell the truth.


I explained to him where I was at on the case. I had made some real progress on this one, some real expensive progress, I tried to explain. I told him advances in my pay were customary at this point. And so were tips. But he wouldn't open his wallet. Told me he didn't even bring it with him. I had to stop asking at that point, the man can't pay me if he doesn't have the money on him. That much was clear. But he wasn't suprised when I told him that the Black Bandit was a woman. I thought this was very suspicious. He knew a lot more then he was letting on and more information could only help me, even if this case was completely, bulletproofedly wrapped up.


"What else do you know, Bodega, you son of a bitch!" I yelled. I thought the tough guy routine from the movies deserved another try. I owed it that.


"I. . . I know she likes Fresca." he stammered. "But that's it!"


"The drink?"




I wasn't sure how that could help me, but before I could raise my voice again and really get going, he had rushed out of the office stammering something else. Something about having an appointment. There was something he wasn't telling me. And it didn't have anything to do with that appointment.


The rest of the work day passed without any trouble and without any new customers. Typical, I thought. Except for the trouble part. I was usually swimming in that. On my walk home I learned where all that trouble was. It was all over town! It had been way too busy to come into my office, I guess. It was out here, repainting all of the crosswalks to more dangerous parts of the road, replacing manhole covers with trampolines and running lemonade stands that sold poison instead of lemonade. I stopped at one on my way home, but when I saw they wanted $1 for a glass of it, they could count me out! A glass of lemonade wasn't worth that. No way. Not even if it came with free poison.


I recognized some of the faces at these stands. They were people I had seen inside the Black Bandits lair. I tried to be friendly with them, since I had seen them in passing once before. Maybe I could get the scoop on what they were doing.


"Hey there, Barry, how is the poison business going?" I shouted at one of them.


"I'm Skiff. Not Barry. And also shut up." he told me.


It wasn't very polite, but then I did get his name wrong. I had that one coming to me. I would have to pay more attention next time, I told myself. I would have to ask Letsgo on our date later just what the heck was going on. I sure wasn't going to get it from any of these guys. Let's be honest, I didn't know their names at all. At least I remembered her name, though.


After dodging a few accidents and several loud explosions, I made it back to my apartment. I took a shower, shaved and picked out my best pin stripped suit. After I dug my top hat out of the closet, I was off!


On my stroll to the Book Club, I was bombarded with wolf whistles and cat calls and cow cackles. I could get used to this, I thought. Before I knew it, I was there, slamming that big lock into the door again. That was kind of my signature knock now, I guess. That way she would know it's me. Nobody answered though. So I slammed it again, even harder than before. I'm glad she sprung for this really good lock after all, because it was taking a real beating now and I couldn't afford to replace it if somebody else came along and broke it.


I was beginning to think that maybe she was off with the rest of her trolls, terrorizing the city. But on the third knock, she opened up the door and stepped out. Some girls just like to make a fashionably late entrance I guess. I'm not sure why, I mean who are they trying to impress with that anyways? Just be on time, is what I'm getting at here.


Before I could explain to her how much better it would have been for her to be on time, she took out a billy club and struck me in the side of the head with it. I'm a big guy though. Big and tough, if nothing else. It would take more than that to knock me out. She must have thought so too because she hit me again and I blacked out.

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Chapter Six


I woke up several hours later. I was dizzy and couldn't see anything. Whether it was because I was blind or the lights were out, I wasn't sure. One thing I was sure of though is that my head was pounding. Those billy clubs hurt! I knew that though. I've tangled with those before. That wasn't new information for me. But where was I? I had to wonder if this was retribution for making fun of her name. But I stand by what I said. That name is stupid. I wasn't backing down on that, no matter how many billy clubs she had.


My eyes started to adjust in the darkness. It was still pretty dark, but I could see my hands in front of my face. At least she didn't cut those off, so that's good. It looked like I was in a small basement room somewhere. Brick walls, spider webs all over the place. Then I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Something was coming towards me. I thrashed my arms about wildly. That would scare off whatever it was. Or so I thought. It didn't. But instead of coming any closer and risk getting socked in the mouth with an open handed slap, they spoke to me.


"Hey there buddy, are you alright?" a man said.


"Shut up." I told him. I wasn't in any mood for small talk now. I was captured for christ sake! But maybe this guy could help me out of here so I'd better be nice.


"Um, I mean. Um. I'm okay." It was a pretty seamless recovery, I thought. "Who are you? Where are we? Did you take my top hat?" I had a lot of questions that needed answering, best to get them all out there so he could answer them in the quickest order.


"Jason, it's Tank. I know who you are." he said.


I had to think for a moment. That billy club really did a number on me.


"Do you work at the car wash?" I asked him.


"No. I am a moderator like you. Or I used to be, anyways."


It finally hit me. I didn't deal with him very much. He was always too busy solving cases, where I was always too busy eating lunch. Tank was retired now, but he was always very popular at headquarters. He was a big burly guy. I wondered if that was why people called him Tank. Because he was so big. But I didn't ask, because if you're wrong, a guy like that would probably hit you with his tank sized fists and roll over your feet with his tank sized like legs. So it was best to keep that to myself.


"Oh hey, how are you?" I asked. I didn't really care how he was, but I guessed I wasn't going to get out of this small talk. He must be pretty bored in retirement to chat me up like this.


"I'm awful. Did that Bandit capture you too?" he asked.


"Capture is a strong word. I was accidently subdued. Now where are we?"


"I think we're in the basement to the Book Club. I came here last week to check out a book and I was knocked out and thrown in here. The feed me once a day, but they never let me out of this room. I have no idea what they are getting at." Tank explained.


"Maybe she is capturing the most handsome men at Nightly to use in some genetic experiment." I suggested. I knew it was wrong the moment it was out of my mouth. There was only one of those guys down here, and he just got here today, so that couldn't be it.


He didn't seem to notice though because he said, "Yeah, maybe that's it." But he said it real half heartedly. So deep down I think he knew I was wrong too.


My eyes had fully adjusted by this point. The room was medium sized. No lights in there and none of those boarded up windows that I'd seen outside. No sign of my top hat either. The only way in or out was an old door. You could see a small patch of light creeping through beneath it. I turned the door knob. It was locked. Damn, they've thought of everything! My only option was to wait this out. Tank said they hadn't brought any food yet for the day. Which was a good thing, I was still pretty hungry. I never did get to go out on that date and have a free meal. But if they brought me something here, I guessed that would be just as good.


We sat in silence for several more hours. The small talk was over with, it seemed. Fine by me. The quicker he learned that, the better. Eventually we heard the sounds of somebody outside the door. I moved close and stood just next to the door. Hoping to get a jump on the food that way. Maybe I could get both helpings before Tank knew what was going on.


A jingle of keys and a man entered the room with one plate of food. One plate! I wasn't going to let that other son of a bitch get a hold of it, I'll tell you that much! I ran at the plate before the man had even set it on the ground. In my haste I had bowled right over the guard and he lay crushed and trampled beneath my feet. I dug right into the oatmeal that he brough with a ravenous hunger.


"Hey, Solo! Great work!" Tank shouted. " Looks like nobody told him there were two of us down here now."


I looked behind me and saw that the door to our cell was wide open.

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Chapter Seven


We crept out of our cell. We were in a basement alright. A dingy one at that. This Book Club sure hasn't been very well taken care of. Sheesh! But it was enough about the Book Club, I guess, because Tank poked me in the back and urged me to keep going. The room beyond was nothing more than a little hallway with a light in it and a couple folding chairs. Clearly this was where the guard had poker games. Looks like he got snake eyes! I'll be the first to admit I don't understand gambling terms. Connected to this hallway were a bunch of other doors similar to the one we just got out of. Clearly, we were not the only prisoners here.


The doors were all locked, but each one had a small slot it in, similar to the one on the front of the building. I peaked in the first one and once again saw somebody I recognized! Another moderator at the office, Cerina! I'd only seen her in passing because she was too cool to stop and talk to me at the office. She might have been too cool for me in here too, I don't know. But I wasn't going to find out. I slammed the slot in the door shut and moved onto the next one. It was like a reunion! Without the reuniting. And also they were imprisoned and I wasn't this time. Now that I get down to it, not a lot of similarities to a reunion at all.


The next door was more of the same. Another moderator I worked with, Ryn. I had no problems with Ryn. He nodded politely at me in the hallways and that's really about the most I could ask. Unlike Cerina, he was paying attention to the door. He saw me open it and pleaded for help getting out, citing that my eyes didn't look anything like the guards eyes. I rattled the door to his cell, indicating that there was nothing I could do for him and moved on.


The other doors contained Cashmere, Ryn and Stallion. All fellow moderators at headquarters. Each one earning various states of "like" from me. But again, there was nothing I could do. I rattled their door handles too. Each one was more locked than the last. Clearly the Black Bandit was capturing all of us moderators. Trying to tuck us out of the way, it seemed. If they had put some beds in those cells, it would have been a hell of a lot easier to tuck us into anything. That's how I would have done it if I'd captured them. But I wasn't in charge here. At least not right now. Probably not anytime soon either. They'll just have to do it the hard way, I guess.


By this time I had wasted a good ten minutes of escape time checking in on these people. Thats about nine minutes and fifty eight more second than I would usually have given them, but apparently that wasn't enough for somebody. By somebody I mean Tank and his tanky hands. Because they stopped me before I could get up the stairs.


"Hey, aren't you going to get these people out of here?" He angrily whispered.


"Knock yourself out." I told him a little bit louder than I should have. I was trying to overcompensate for his whisper. I was too loud I guess because another guard came down the stairs. Apparently he was supposed to be sitting in that other chair down here. He wasn't expecting a couple of guys out of their cell though, because I was able to trip him as he came down the stairs and roll him into our empty cell, locking the door. He yelled for awhile and tried to get the door open, but the Bandit had made these cells the right way. Not the cheap european way. Only domestic cells in this country. He wore himself out after a little while and quieted down. He'd sleep good tonight, I thought, even without those beds.


Enough time had been wasted now that it was the dead of night. I sure as hell wasn't going to help any of my competitors, so I left Tank down there to try and gnaw on the doors or dig holes under them with a spoon, or whatever he planned to do to get them out of there. I didn't care.


I snuck up the stairs and back onto the main floor. The trolls were still working at their desks, as they were when I'd been in here last. But they were too busy auto dialing Dish Network customers and offering free insurance estimates to notice me. I didn't see the Black Bandit anywhere, though. She would pay for getting out of that date. Preferably for a meal.


I made my way out of the building undetected, but the Nightly I knew wasn't outside that front door anymore. It was a whole new city! The buildings were all spraypainted all sorts of crazy colors, the sidewalk was chaulked all sorts of crazy colors and the streetlights were strobing all sorts of crazy colors. Clearly with all the moderators locked up, the Black Bandit and the trolls had done some serious work.


You had to admire them for it. Almost. I say that because I don't think I'm capable of admiration. Envy, sure. I can do that with the best of them. But admiration is much tougher.


I made my way back home, it was too late in the night to deal with all these colors. That would have to wait til morning, after I'd had my coffee. But when I got up to my apartment and opened my door, I was immediately filled with anger. There was a hobo in my house! Doing my dishes! And vaccuming my carpets!


"You listen here, hobo!", I revved up. "What do you think you're doing. No hobos allowed! It says so in my lease!"


But it wasn't a hobo at all, it turns out. It was Bodega, the guy who had hired me to fix this whole mess. My first thought was that he wanted to back out on the deal. I wasn't about to let that happen, I had a lot of time invested in this already and he had already agreed that it was a high paying case.


"It's not what you think, Mr. Solo." he pleaded.


So of course I began to think something else, since that last one was off the mark. Maybe he was here because he wanted to give me a big advance on that paycheck. I could really use that.


"It's still not what you're thinking", he said.




"Just what ARE you here for then, Bodega."


"I. . .I felt bad! I came to look for you, but you weren't here and. . . You need to know more." he stammered.


He stammered a lot and it was starting to get on my nerves. I started revving up again, getting ready to smack him in his stammering face. I wasn't about to put up with that tonight. I needed my sleep.


He must have saw me coming though because he said, "The Black Bandit. . . Letsgo, I mean. She was my wife."


Well that stopped me right in my tracks. It also explained why he knew she liked Fresca. That's one mystery solved, at least.

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Chapter Eight


While I was locked up, I discovered that Bodega had sprawled out on my couch, eaten half of my chips and drank most of my beer. At least he was saving his own money for that big paycheck he owed me. But I wanted that beer, and I needed those chips. One benefit of this was that he was now very forthcoming with information. (About time!) He explained to me that up until recently, he had been married to the Letsgo, the Black Bandit herself!


"Then why did you hire me?" I asked him with a little apprehension in my voice. I mean, this wasn't some scam was it? A scam that ended in me not getting that check? I had boat payments to make with that thing.


Bodega seemed to be building up his courage. Fine by me. Better his own courage than mine. He had taken enough of my things already, I felt.


"We had some problems lately" ,he said. "We started out great! Married for a couple of years but I started noticing things. She would sneak out in the middle of the night and come back with like a thousand empty cups from McDonalds."


A thousand was excessive, I agreed with him there. One usually does it. Even for one of those Big Gulps. A thousand is overkill for most people, but I let him continue.


"It was weird! It started happening more and more, though. Somtimes she would come back with extra money, or clothing or stop signs. It was clear to me that she was stealing these things. She was addicted! This went on for awhile and finally I'd had enough. I'm not a thief and I don't want to be married to one, I told her." he started getting louder, more into his speech now. All that stammering was long gone.


"But she got upset. Tried to bully me into stealing some socks from the store. Said I'd like it if I just tried it once. But she was wrong. I hated it! I couldnt take it anymore, so I told her I was leaving forever. I packed my things and left the house. After I'd rented a hotel room, I came straight to your office and hired you. Then everything started getting really crazy."


Now that he mentioned it, the whole town started going berserk after he hired me. For a moment, I started to rev up again. I was going to blame him for all this craziness, but then I remembered what he'd been talking about for the last two hours. My cool moderator exterior took over at this point. I wanted the facts here, not to start throwing the blame around like a quarterback. As fun as that may be.


"So your wife. You think she is behind all this? Why?" I asked him. I mean, if he could piece it together for me that would save a lot of legwork from me. I had to take the help where I could get it, but this wouldnt' be reflected in the bill. Not by a long shot.


"After I left her, I think she went off the deep end. I wasn't around to keep her trolling in check and she just went wild. Now she's recruited all those other people and the whole city is a wreck! This is all my fault." he began to sob.


You see, in the end, he would blame himself too. I'm glad I didn't do that right away. This guy is all about saving me work today. Maybe I could get him to dust my house later, and clean my carpets.


"I had a date with your wife." I told him. I figured he was going to find out sooner or later. It was best to tell him now, while he was already sobbing. I didn't want to have to go through this all over again.


Now that I knew the facts, I had to think of a plan. Which was usually the hardest part of this whole deal. Right after the facts. Those were pretty hard too because you can't just wing those like you can with the plan. Just when I thought my brain had rusted over from disuse, a little idea scampered in there and began to chew on my neocortex.


I told Bodega to shut up for a minute and go find me some house paint. He started to ask why, but I was the brains behind this operation for once. All he had to do was carry the heavy paint. Also not reflected in the bill. He found it alright and I hung him outside the window of my apartment to paint a message on the wall. If this doesn't get her attention, nothing will. She had the element of suprise last time when she clubbed me and knocked me out. But now, it was Jason Solos turn!


After an hour or so of dangling Bodega out the window, I pulled him in. There was a funny moment out there, when the wind picked up real bad and blew him over the roof and onto the other side of the building. I laughed for a good forty-five minutes about that one. I guess that's why it took an hour to do this. But what can I say, that was pretty funny. Even he laughed for a couple of minutes. Not forty-five though. Not even close.


The message on the side of the building now read,


"Dear Black Bandit,

Please come to Apartment 12 - this building to enjoy an ice cold Fresca with me.

Your pal, Jason Solo."







I had her now. Now all I had to do was play the waiting game.


The waiting game wasn't nearly as fun as I remembered it as a kid. Maybe that is because half the pieces were missing, and somebody had written all over the game board with crayons. It passed the time though, which was the whole point. So I really didn't have much to complain about there. I can't help thinking it would have passed the time twice as quickly with all the pieces though.


I was interupted by a knock on my door. This was it, I thought. I grabbed a frying pan from the kitchen and headed for the door. This frying pan had been with me through a lot of adventures. Bacon and Eggs and now Murder. Money well spent on that thing, I'd decided. But when I opened the door, it wasn't Letsgo at all. It was a man in a sportscoat, and hey, he was wearing my old top hat!


"Who are you, scum?" I told him. The time for being nice was over. He was over the line wearing that top hat here.


"I am Number Six." he told me, and as he did so he pointed to a badge on his chest with the number six on it. "I am here on behalf of the Black Bandit."


I'd wondered whether he had killed numbers 1 through 5. Or maybe he had five brothers also named six. It was an odd name, I'll give him that much. But I've had bigger weirdos knock on my door. As I nodded along with myself or shook my head 'no' to disagree with my thoughts, he waited patiently. When I finally decided to ask him whether he was part of a travelling freak show where everybody was called numbers instead of names, he spoke up and interupted me.


"She wants her fresca, or there is going to be big trouble. Meet her downstairs in front of your building in one hour. Bring lots of fresca. " he told me. "One hour!" he added as he took off down the stairs and out of my building.


"Well damn." I thought. There goes my plan. And also I didn't have any fresca. She called my bluff on that one.

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Chapter Nine


I spent the hour filling up old milk jugs with water. I figured I could pass those off with Fresca. It's basically the same thing. It was time to end this, I thought. That paycheck wasn't getting any closer. I told Bodega to just stay in the apartment and leave the tough work for me. That's what he hired me for, I reminded him. It turns out he didn't need to much persuasion.


As I walked down the stairs I found myself whisting a pop tune I'd heard a few days ago. It was catchy alright, and before long I was dancing my way down the stairs. I was captured by the song! I tripped a couple of times and spilled half of the water, but when you feel the beat like that you just have to embrace it. At least, thats what my dance instructor used to tell me. I wonder how he was doing. It's odd, the things you think about when you are walking to what will likely be your death.


As I got to the front door, I took a deep breath. This was it. In an effort to throw them off guard, I walked out the door and acted suprised to see Letsgo and about a hundred of her troll minions out in the road waiting for me. I made it seem like I was just stepping out to grab the mail, and that it had been a pleasant suprise to see them. A couple of her lackeys believed me, and asked how I'd been lately. They got caught up in the moment I guess. But a stern look from Letsgo and the other 98 minions put them back in their place.


"You brought the Fresca?" she said.


I shook the two milk jugs in my hands, as if to say "Of course, dumbass."


"Hand them over. Slowly." she told me. She was much meaner now. Meaner than she had been when we set up that date.


Somebody suggested that maybe we all join forces, maybe go out for pizza or something. But I was quickly shot down.


On my way over to her, I tripped on a rock in the road and one of the milk jugs flew out of my hand and pelted one of her minions in the face! He was drenched good, all right. I started to laugh, and to my very great suprise, all of the other trolls laughed too. Some of them were rolling back and forth on the ground, others holding their knees for support.


"Be quiet, or we won't ransack that museum on the way home." she snarled at them. They fell silent at once.


This was it. I finally understood how she was controlling all these guys. All they wanted to do was have some fun, play a few pranks. Nothing wrong with that. Heck, pranks are a good time when they don't happen to me! Letsgo had been their leader because she came up with all the ideas. She told them to do everything and they loved her for it. If I could gain their allegiance, I could turn them against her!


I kept my cool though. It had to go perfectly for this to work. If those trolls swarmed me, it was all over. But I had gained a few fans with that water jug. Even the one who was soaked was looking at me now with admiration.


I got back up and kept walking towards Letsgo. All her minons were watching me closely, waiting for me to throw that other water jug at somebody. As I got close to her, I held the jug out for her to take. She was pretty mad about losing one of them though. It seems she really liked fresca and couldn't buy it anywhere else. I was the only supplier in town I guess. As she reached out to take it, I let it drop on the ground right at her feet. The trolls exploded with laugher. I mean, shoes were all wet and her socks were soaked! That's hilarious!


I took my opportunity. I shouted, "Hey guys, if you help me throw this chick out of town, I know of a bunch of bosses and coworkers we could harrass!"


One of the trolls spoke up from deep in the crowd, "Are they old people?"


"Some of them, yes." I told him.


This really clinched it. Apparently trolls really like harassing old folks because the crowd was unanimous with their cheers, saying things like "Let's get her!" and "Solo for president!" They all ran up to Letsgo and swept her off her feet, carrying her towards the city limits like a wave.


On her way out of town, she was shouting obscenities and tried to plead her way out of this. But it wasn't working. Those trolls were some good workers, I could see why she hired them. But if a big jerk is what they want as a leader, there was no bigger jerk than me. They understood this.


Bodega, having seen this from up in my apartment rushed down to greet me. He was beside himself with happiness.


"Well Bodega, all that's left is the bill."


"Oh, right. Of course!"


Finally. He had been holding out on me for far too long. I'd done the job he hired me for, that's what the good moderators do. We had a verbal contract there, and I had fulfilled it. Not even a television court show would side against me on this. I had seen enough of them to know. Plus I had a small army at my command now. So if he didn't pay up, he could join his crazy ex-wife over in Eveningly, the next town over.


But he was a man of his word, and the check he wrote me was a big one. I guess he hid some of his assets from his wife. Good planning there.


As for me, the troll army returned a short while later all clamoring to head off to our first victim. I was a man of my word too. We visited every boss and co worker I ever had. Took all the beer and potato chips they had in the cupboard and moved on. The older the person, the longer we stuck around. The trolls really liked grabbing their faces and stretching out their wrinkles to see what they would have looked like when they were younger, and if maybe they had been attractive. None of them were. Not now. Not then.


I figured having an army like this was bound to make things start going my way.




The End.

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Hey, thanks a lot man! :thumbsup: Glad you liked it! I think I like it better than any of my previous ones.


I know I was going to do a chapter a day, but I had a few extra ones done yesterday so I decided to just finish it off today and put it all up there.


Also, I didn't know those thread tags you can add only show the first four on the main page. Here I was thinking I had another ingenious advertising ploy. Curses.

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Guest bodega

Awesome! I especially liked the Detective angle since I'm re-reading all the Holmes novels at the moment. And during the painting scene I def laughed my ass of for more than two minutes. Bravo!

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