Two Birds, One Stone
by Douglas Hoffman
“Bumsnips has new demands,” said Herrera, the photographer. In the dimly lit garage, Herrera looked even more put-upon than Oxmark felt.
It had been a hellish week. Thanks to his spendthrift, philandering wife Tiffany, Oxmark’s marriage had become a farce, while at work, three bungled photo-ops had him in Dutch with the Chief Editor. A multimillionaire had no business enduring such a week, but despite his recent inheritance, Oxmark clung to his job as Features Editor of The National Enterrogator. He had a dream for The Enterrogator, one he could scarcely admit even to himself.
Such a week . . . And now, this boorish alien who couldn’t appreciate the solemnity of a contract.
“What now?” said Oxmark.
“Critter says, we don’t give him what he wants, it’s lurgpinches for us both.”
Herrera flashed a despairing grimace. “Sounds like an anal probe –”
“Damn unimaginative alien –”
“Via the left nostril.”
“Oh. Guess we’ll have to comply.”
Oxmark gave a long-suffering sigh and followed Herrera into the house.
The place reeked of cigarette smoke and stale beer. Bumsnips, smoking unfiltered butts three at a go, lazed on the Naugahyde sofa. He slashed a beer can with an ebony talon and lapped up the brew with his six-inch-long blue tongue.
When Oxmark entered, Bumsnips pointed a talon at the TV and said, “Me want.”
Oxmark’s cell phone rang for the twentieth time that day. It was Damon Stone, The Enterrogator’s Chief Editor, screaming in midsentence.
“CREW DOWN TO MELROSE NOW! Hot tip! Angelica Davies is at Ibiza.”
The Enterrogator’s favorite prey: starlets on the rise.
“She’s having a smeared-lipstick bad-hair kinda day. Headline: A-Day Loses Wrestling Match with Crack Addiction. Drop whatever–”
“Damon, we’re about to close the Bumsnips deal. Remember? Enterrogator Exclusive: First-Ever Alien Abduction Photo?”
The Enterrogator’s unofficial motto: Headlines lead, stories follow.
“Close the deal NOW, you dung-breath limey sonofa–”
Oxmark pressed the phone’s END button. I’m rich, he thought. I could buy The Enterrogator . . . But no. The tabloid had been in Stone’s family for sixty years; that scumbag would never sell. His son, on the other hand, was a crankhead slacker with no interest in journalism, yellow or otherwise. If Papa Stone were out of the way . . .
Bumsnips raised his left wing and rubbed his armpit vigorously with the backs of two talons.
“Itchy?” Oxmark whispered to Herrera.
“You don’t wanna know.”
On TV, a naked blonde on roller skates glided past.
Bumsnips moaned, “Rollergirl. Now!”
“I know that film,” said Oxmark. “Boogie Nights. Bloody awful skin flick.”
Herrera whispered, “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. He wants the actress, Heather Graham. Otherwise it’s no deal and we’ll be smelling ass the rest of our lives.”
“Please, Bumsnips,” Oxmark began, but his cell phone chimed again.
“Garrety here. I’ve got what you want.”
Private Investigator Phil Garrety had been trying to get the goods on Tiffany for the last four days. At six fifty a day plus expenses, this was welcome news.
“Is it good?”
“Revolting. But I think you’ll be pleased.”
Oxmark grinned. He would solve at least one problem today.
“I’m at 8593 Sonnybrae,” he said. “Know it?”
“I’m there,” Garrety said.
Bumsnips panted on the sofa, talons strumming his armpit at a fevered pace. “ROLLERGIRL! NOW!”
Oxford whispered to Herrera, “They have a One Hour Photo at Sav-On. Develop what you have. Oh — pick up another carton of Camels, two six packs, and a giant bag of Cheetos. He doesn’t know about Cheetos yet.”
Herrera led Oxmark to the kitchen, far from Bumsnips’ keen ears.“Here are the negatives.”
Oxmark surveyed the strips: clear amber, every one.
“They’re blank,” he said.
“Right. He zapped the film somehow. So much for sneaking a photo.”
“We could fake ‘em . . .”
“No,” said Oxmark. “I’ve never been this close to the real thing. I’m not giving up now.”
“Then . . . should we call Heather Graham’s agent?”
“No! There has to be another way.”
Bumsnips was asleep in the den, snoring raucously, his beak blotched with orange Cheeto-dust. Cigarette butts and Cheetos lay strewn across the sofa and floor.
Oxmark whispered, “Shoot a few now.”
It won’t do any good, Herrera mouthed, but readied his camera anyway.
With the first flash, Bumsnips opened one eye and twirled his talon in a complicated arc.
“Rollergirl, or lurgpinch?”
Smoke curled from Herrera’s Minolta as the alien fell once more into cacophonous slumber.
Oxmark opened the door. Garrety, the gumshoe, held a manila envelope crammed with eight-by-ten full-color glossies.
Oxmark removed the photos and riffled through them. Every picture featured Tiffany’s unclothed, nearly perfect body; plastic surgeons could work miracles when the patient’s budget was well-nigh bottomless.
“Hmm,” grunted Oxmark. “Stirrups and saddles. That explains the astronomical bills from Jehosephat’s Tack and Feed. But who’s the guy with the hairy ass?”
“Keep going,” said Garrety. “That’s the good part.”
Finally, a full frontal of The Other Man: bent forward as Tiffany, from behind —
“My God!” Oxmark said. “That’s Damon Stone!”
“They been doin’ the hoochy-cooch every afternoon at the Ritz, same time, same room. Here.” He handed Oxmark a yellow post-it with the information. “Unless you’re gonna blackmail them, I don’t know what good this’ll do you. California’s a no-fault divorce state.”
“It helps to know,” said Oxmark. A glimmer of an idea crawled from his hindbrain, stretched its spiky back, and howled at his cerebral cortex. “It helps a lot.”
“What was that?” said Garrety.
“Movie critic,” Oxmark said, and closed the door on the confused gumshoe.
Herrera held his breath as Bumsnips perused the photos.“You could have Rollergirl,” Oxmark said, “but you’d have her only once. These two you could take with you and enjoy at your leisure.”
Bumsnips’ beak crunched softly as he tapped a photo of Tiffany in stirrups.
“And the gear?” he said.
“Whatever you can carry in your ship,” Oxmark said.
“Deal,” said Bumsnips.
“Boss,” said Herrera, “we were supposed to simulate an abduction.”
“My first act as The Enterrogator’s Chief Editor,” Oxmark said, smiling with pride. “Honest journalism.”
Copyright ME, Doug Hoffman, forever