You haven't asked about Howie. Or have you? Well, since you asked about Howie anyway...
I woke up in a disreputable night club stuffed behind the bar between a naked midget, a snake charming contortionist and two militant hum junkies who laughed at my new tattoo that says, "I love you Howie" in gothic letters across my butt. This is a true story. How do these things happen to me? I knew I didn't have any money left, so I'd have to call my evil cousin Skippy for a ride home. That's not his real name. He's not really my cousin.
Evil Skippy is a private detective. When he wants to be found, you can find him, day or night, in his tiny third floor office. The name Skippy is carved in brass on the door and the office reeks of perfume, smoke, and single malt scotch he can't really afford. I like Skippy, even if he is a no-good cruel and capricious cheat. He fucks his underage secretary on the scarred wooden desk, half clothed, while she stares up at him with wide open eyes.
One night late last summer Skippy killed a man. He brought the body to my back porch at 2 in the morning and pounded on the door and asked to bury the corpse in my back yard where they're building a little pond. I said no and threatened to call the police. Little porcelain dwarves stood on top of a fountain crate and watched us argue with glazed eyes. I refused to give in. Finally he left, muttering something about the swamp again. The next morning I carefully cleaned away every trace of my nighttime visitor. I hope the poor guy deserved what he got.
But Skippy isn't all bad. No matter what he does I still let him come around again. He tells me stories I would never hear otherwise, like the time he lost a game of strip poker at a whorehouse one evening and danced the can can on top of the table dressed only in a pair of cowboy boots while the girls cheered and applauded. Or the time he found a missing person in a cabin, chained up naked to the bed courtesy of 3 call girls with cigarette burns all over his buttocks and scrotum.
So there I was, lying on the floor surrounded by forbidden flesh and drunken halitosis, thinking about Skippy, and when I squinted just right and ignored the intermittent hum of the devices for a moment, the cracks on the opposite wall blurred into a picture of a tall and beautiful woman with raised eyebrows and a flowing coat, and then she blurred again into a tiger underneath a palm tree, or was it a boat, and then the outlines faded back into spidery plaster cracks and spilled rum and left behind just the Cheshire suggestion of those two staring eyes and arched brows watching me.