Chasing the Egg MacGuffin
Six a.m. found me in my office, still there from the night before. I’d solved a big case and
wanted to square away the paperwork while the facts were still fresh in my mind. I was
taking a slug of some very cold coffee when she walked in-- all legs and nose. Seriously,
this early birdie had a beak on her.
“Something rare and valuable was stolen from me—from my home,” she
said. “I want you to get it back.”
“I need two hundred dollars and a shower,” I said.
She fished the right number of bills in the right shades of green from her
clutch. “The money’s no problem", she remarked. “The shower I can’t help you with.”
“Tell me what I’m looking for.”
“It’s an egg,” the bird told me. “Large and made of solid gold.”
“I’ve heard this fairy tale,” I muttered.
“Then make sure it has a happy ending,” she suggested.
• • •
At 6:45 I was already speaking to one of the more colorful characters I know—a large
man with healthy appetites for food and purloined articles both. He was enjoying a
double stack of pancakes in his dining room but he’d agreed to let me bother him at his
residence and during feeding time. I’ve looked the other way for him more than once in
the past; just then I didn’t much want to be looking at his big, purple face… but he was
my best chance at a lead on this egg.
He grimaced when I mentioned it. “What?” I asked.
“I wish I knew where it was. I’d been planning to have it pilfered myself,” he said. “It would seem that someone beat me to it.”
I told my shady acquaintance what the client had told me—that the thief had left in place of the item a shattered brick, as some sort of calling card or message—though what it was supposed to mean, no one knew.
My associate snorted. “So unnecessarily theatrical. I can’t understand these ham burglars. I hope you find him. You might talk to the French henchman.”
• • •
As it happened, French was easy to get a hold of. He’d been collared two days earlier on suspicion of murder. French was a grease man, and perfect for the job because he was all of five feet tall soaking wet. Rumor had it that he’d gotten tired of being a small fry in the organization of the one they called the Mayor, so French had taken out Hizzoner, hoping to take over the big chair. If convicted, French would get the electric chair.
“I didn’t do it,” French told me through the bars of the holding cell at the station.
“Didn’t do which?” I asked.
“Come on, French. Give me something. Even if you didn’t take the egg, you must have an idea who did. All you thieves are thick.”
“No clue. But you wanna hear something hilarious? Now that the Mayor’s gone, someone’s already taken over his business. A carpetbagger. Calls himself the King.”
French laughed. “I never had a shot.”
I couldn’t help chuckling. “That really is too bad,” I agreed. “It’s a shame that you’re probably gonna fry, guy.”
• • •
It was a quarter after nine and I had nothing to go on. I figured I’d get some sleep, but before heading to bed I stopped into a park for a slow smoke on a bench. Next thing I knew there was someone sitting next to me. Tall. Pale. Big shoes. What did this clown want?
“There's a restaurant at North E and West 14th. They might have just the thing you’re looking for.”
“I guess we’ll see,” I said, stubbing out my cigarette, but the other man was already
• • •
It took me more than an hour to get there, but finally I stepped into Mickey’s Diner. The place was empty. I took a seat at the counter. A waitress asked me what it would be.
“I came in for an egg,” I told her. “One very hot egg.”
She looked me up and down, then looked over her shoulder at a clock on the wall behind her.
“Sorry, fella,” she said. “We stopped serving breakfast at 10:30.”
I sighed. I glanced at the menu board. I realized how hungry getting the runaround had made me. “Let me get two beef patties,” I ordered. “With lettuce, cheese, pickles, and onions. And a sesame bun if you’ve got it.”
“Two cows with the waxworks, hold the love apple,” the waitress said. “You want the special sauce on that?”
“Sure,” I said. “Why not. It sounds delicious.”