Corinne Bliss

1/16/2007

Artech School of Whatever You Please

Private Peaches In:

That Zombie Babe Ate My Teddy

Peaches Sanchez- that was the name spray-painted backwards on my door's window. I wished whoever had written it hadn't used such a garish orange, but there was little to do. I was, and probably still am as of this writing, a private eye. I was the man trained to sniff out the weasels before they got to the eggs of truth and sucked them dry. Plus, I was pretty good looking.

It was just another stereotypical day here in Engova, with my feet up on my desk and a tilt to my hat. The coffee tasted the same as it always did, like lukewarm mud water with a faint, lemony zing. The room and everything in it smelled of Windex. My new secretary, Miss Sweetiepoo, was busy destroying my five-year-old dust collection with a bundle of feathers. I was madder than a nun in a toaster factory, but I neglected to mention it.

That's when the door swung open, and in stepped an amazing figure. Round hips, long, pouty lips and beautiful brown eyes came swaggering in, leaving behind a distinctive, perfume-y odor reminiscent of clean laundry. Despite the fact the description in my mind was terribly creative, it was also capable of producing a lawsuit; the woman sat down without a word.

"Hello." She broke the fifteen minute silence like a trout eating toast.

"Hello there. Can I help you?"

"Oh Mr. Sanchez," her voice was filled with sudden passion, "It's been horrible! Awful! I need you to help me!"

"Calm down, babe, and call me Peaches."

"Well, Peaches… my name is Corky-"

"You mean Corky, as in, Corky, like Cher, but not quite?"

"You got it." The author gave a thumbs-up, "But fixing the fourth wall, I have a case for you. My teddy bear…"

"Yes?"

"It… It's been –devoured.-"

I hesitated. "What?"

"Completely –devoured-."

"Who would do such a dastardly thing?" I had always wanted to use that word.

"That's exactly what I came to you for- you must find the person who ate my poor teddy so we can bring them to justice!"

"Oh my," Miss Sweetiepoo chimed up from the corner, "There's been a rash of teddy-bear-eatings lately, hasn't there?"

"Really?" I rubbed my chin, "I haven't heard about this."

"Silly, that's because you were abusing your White-out again." Sweetiepoo giggled, her blonde curls bouncing, "But they say there's a teddy-bear-munching-zombie on the prowl. I hear she's quite the looker!"

"But she must be stopped!" Corky cried. She was suddenly attached to me like a beaver gnawing on a pirate leg, "Please, Peaches, PLEASE. You must take the case!"

"Anything for a dame. Here's looking at you, kid." I punched her squarely in the face, out of sheer affection.

"Thanks!" She spat out a tooth and left. What a swell gal.

So there I was, with a hot new case over my head like an overcooked pizza in the hands of a greasy sixteen-year-old, with little leads. Needing a push, I decided to turn on the television, but found nothing but cooking shows dominating the airwaves.

"Bah, I hate leek-and-teddy soup. Wait…"

"…and be sure to completely baste the bear in its own juices to bring out the fluffiest cotton-meat possible!" The cook smiled brightly, "It's a wholesome, health treat for the whole family!"

"Hey Sweetiepoo."

"Yes, Mr. Sanchez?"

"You know this show?"

"Why yes, I get all of my recipes from this- I can't read the directions on the boxes myself!" She giggled, turning as pink as a balloon on a Sunday picnic, "That's Cookin' With Blondes."

"Where is this thing filmed?" I was silently thanking god, or perhaps the author, for never describing my own hair color.

"In the Film District, silly! You're more of a blonde than me and I'm natural!"

"Ouch."

"Will you be leaving, Mr. Sanchez?"

"Yes… I have questions to ask and people to prod. If I'm not back in a week…"

"I know, will everything to your niece. Have fun, Mr. Sanchez!"

It was time to hit the streets, and I did so hard enough to leave a bruise. Picking myself up, I started toward the Film District of Engova, aka the 'Filmy Side of the Tracks.' The neighborhood was filthy stinking rich, and I had to admit I had problems with the family that owned the main studio. I felt as out of place there as a buttercup in a packing peanut complex, constantly looking over my shoulder for trouble. Unfortunately, trouble wound up being right in front of me when I wasn't looking.

"You." The deep, grating, Terminator-style voice boomed. "Geet out of my way. Now."

"A good day to you, miss Pascal." I tipped my hat at the skinny sixteen-year-old.

"Wat are you doing on dees side of –my- town?"

"There's been a string of teddy-bear's picnics, and not the good kind if you know what I mean."

"…No, I don't."

"Don't play dumb with me, miss Pascal. I know you and your family probably have something to do with this." I actually didn't, but if I could get a confession now, just imagine how easy the rest of this story would be.

"Who do you theenk I am, little man? If you don't shut up, I will crush you with my bare handz."

"I can't understand half of what you're trying to tell me."

"Dat's eet, I'm going to unnecessarily rough you!" She grabbed me by the collar as if I were a sack of rancid blue cheese, "Prepare to meet your doom!"

"Woah, miss Pascal! We can talk this out!" Despite the fact I –wanted- to have said that, her fist met my face faster than the words could spill out. At least I now knew the affection she had for me. "Ouch."

"Don't come around dees place pointing fingers at me, ja?" She spat on me, "Or I'll turn you into brautwurst and sell you at ten cents a pound!"

"I'm worth more than ten cents a pound!"

"Not when I got through with you!"

So she left me there like a horse on a yacht, my every fiber aching from the unnecessary roughing. Perhaps it was wise to approach this neighbourhood more carefully, less I come across her relatives. Peeling myself off the sidewalk, I painfully waddled down to the 'studio strip' as it was known.

The place was glitzier than a rhinestone on a monkey's belly. Directors and actors and janitors walked about the stereotypical lots, filled with handpainted backdrops and amusing props such as the infamous Catty Catfish Cannon that was involved in a bizarre case I had taken previously. The only thing I could hope for was that it was cleaned since the last time it was used. It was a grisly sight, like a stupid series of analogies that make no sense whatsoever. Hmm.

Despite nearly breaking the fourth wall once again, I stepped into the studio where 'Cookin' With Blondes' was filmed. They appeared to be getting ready for the next show, so I gave myself permission to walk to the dressing rooms to catch the cook herself. The resulting scream was so powerful I woke up at the hospital a day later with bleeding ear syndrome.

"I'm so –sorry-, Mr. Sanchez," Julia, the woman who cooked on the show, was leaning over me in my rickety hospital bed, "I just don't like people seeing me putting on lipgloss!"

"It's okay, and call me Peaches."

"Peaches?"

"My mother had an unhealthy obsession with putting her thumbs in store produce and leaving them there."

"I… see." Julia looked more confused than a baby with a waffle iron. "I believe there was something you wanted to speak to me about, right?"

"Well… I caught a bit of one of your shows and-"

"Oh, it's okay," she giggled, "A lot of people confuse me with Jesus after my cooking enlightens them!"

"No you stupid tart," I hissed, "You were cooking a teddy bear on live TV."

"Actually, the show is aired an hour after it's filmed to cut out bad words and-"

"But are you aware of the recent… teddy bear murders?"

"What? Oh!" Julia looked around, as nervous as a chihuahua in a jar, "Well… the recipe wasn't mine. It was submitted by the Pascal Family's 'sister company'…"

"Oh god, you don't mean…"

"The Total Prosecution Ninjas!"

The Total Prosecution Ninjas- T.P.'s as they were nicknamed by the scared folk- were a gang of, well, ninjas that secured television rights and enforced order behind the scenes with a strong fist and a sharp Chinese star. I had run into trouble with them before, when I was investigating the 'DizNey' case during the War of the Foxtails. Nobody knew any of the T.P.s real identities, and it was doubted they even had fake ones. But the one I remembered the most was the leader… the most villainous creature that ever crawled from the belly of the earth, with those evil eyes and sharp teeth and other tools that made her scary as all get out.

"So I had to air it, or… they would have put live eels in my bathtub again!"

"Those evil fiends. Don't worry, babe, ol' Peaches will take care of this for you."

"But Peaches, you're laid up in the hospital!"

"I've gotten through the Battle of the Marsh-toads, a little encounter with the T.P. Ninjas isn't going to do me any harm, kiddo." I crawled out of bed, "Especially if I take some morphine with me."

"You're such a hero!" Julia squealed, "Do come by and try my Teddy Flambe, won't you?"

"Right…" I lied and left.

Despite any worries, I at least knew the Total Prosecution ninjas were pretty predictable. Reaching the Asian district, I stopped outside the It's A Beautiful Soup ramen restraint and kicked over the black 'lucky cat' outside. Like a chimney sweep caught in a wood chipper, I suddenly found myself beaten up for the third time in the story, and was quickly brought to a super-secret hideout.

"So we meet again, Sanchez-san…" The leader sat in a rather out-of-place egg chair, "Why do you kick my lucky cats?"

"I need some answers, Cushy…"

"It's KUSHI!" Her fist hit the table, "Spell it right! K-U-S-H-I! Not 'C-U-S-H-Y'!"

"Uhm… it's pronounced the same. Why do you even care?"

"Because I'm KUSHI! Not CUSHY!" She growled, then sighed. "Okay, out of my system… What is it you are looking for?"

"Somebody's been munching teddy bears. I hear you and your cronies submitted some 'delicious recipes' to Cookin' With Blondes…"

"Ah, you are very observant, or just stupid and lucky," Cus- er, Kushi, excuse me, smirked, "But I'm afraid you will find even us, the Total Prosecution ninjas, have been thwarted by the teddy-muncher. My own bear, Timmy, met a frightful end just last night. Whoever is munching these bears is going to be found and –killed-."

"That's a bit violent to say for a school-written story."

"Shut up, fool, I control your fate. You are tied to –my- chair, after all."

"But then why force those recipes on poor Julia?"

"To drum up attention," Kushi laughed, "See, we left out the cooking temperature on each recipe. Soon, whoever is eating these bears will call the studio asking for the temperature… then my crack-team of ninja hackers will trace the call and find the man responsible!"

"Hey, that's pretty clever."

"Oh, isn't it?"

"It really is."

"Yes!" She smiled, "Now, you must die."

"Great, back to the violen- hey wait, why do –I- have to die?"

"Because you kicked my lucky cat, Sanchez-san. It was nice knowing you… and you were so handy during the war!"

"You little skunk!"

"Ninjas, attack!"

As if a Great Dane had been unleashed in a bakery I found myself surrounded by people in black with sharp objects held between their fingers. I jumped up with the chair still tied to my butt and prepared myself for battle. One of the c-minus graded ninjas came at me with a knife, but I swung my leg up and kicked him so hard bells started ringing in Italy. Three more tried to subdue me, but I spun around and hit them with the legs of my chair.

"You fools," I laughed, "You forget I learned under your own sensei! You'll never defeat me!"

"M…master!" one cried, "He doesn't mean… Koreki-sama, does he??"

"Shut up and kill him already!" Kushi screamed, but was soon the only one left standing thanks to my uber-leet haxing skills. "So… it's down to you and me…"

"Lo!" A dark figure appeared in the windowframe, "I are become death!"

"Egads, it's Koreki, the mysterious ninja-sensei!" I knew I was in for it.

"Peaches, you may have made it this far, but you'll never learn the truth behind the teddy-bear attacks." Koreki spoke as a strange wind blew around behind her, her red-dyed hair fastened under a headband with a music note engraved upon it, "It is like trying to find out my –true- identity, impossible! Haha!"

"I see. That's a shame." With little time to react, I bounded back as she leapt down and swiped at my face. I turned around, then threw myself back, intending to spear her on the legs of my chair. Unfortunately, she rolled out of the way, and took up Kushi.

"I have a weapon, you have no chance to survive, make your time! Haha!"

"Put me down!" Cushi cried, "And my name is KUSHI!"

Bounding out of the way, I barely missed being slapped about with Kushi, retreating back to the wall. But then, like a chicken on a podium, I found myself cornered and defenseless. "Damn!"

"I'll get you now… Haha!" She lunged forward with Kushi. However, I managed to duck out of the way, poor Kushi getting her head stuck in the wall. As Koreki struggled to free her impromptu weapon, I suddenly attached my teeth to her headband and pulled.

The cloth came loose and the shining metal plate slowly hit the floor, each 'clink' it produced echoing for what seemed like eternity. Me and my enemy stood in stunned silence. I could hardly believe my eyes.

"CORKY. You??"

"Gah!" Corky (formerly Koreki) yelped, "No, no, I'm not Corky! Haha, I mean…"

"Why, babe, why??"

"Because we needed a plot twist!"

"Please, my head…" Kushi cried.

"But then… are you responsible behind the teddy-bear murders?"

"No! This whole thing is a setup." Corky waved her hands about like an angry cactus attacking a wallaby, "I was sent here by… your SECRETARY."

"Not… not Miss Sweetiepoo!"

"She –is- the teddy-bear-muncher." The author crossed her arms, leaving Kushi stuck in the wall, "I was sent to kill you before the truth was known! But now… now my secret identity is revealed, and the plans gone awry… oh of Mice and Men!"

"Wow, nice quote there."

"Thanks! But I have failed, and now… I must perform the sacred ritual of dishonorment."

"Wait!" I shouted, "There must be another way!"

Corky drew out a long sword. Before I could stop the crazy woman, she suddenly plunged forward, the blade pointing up toward the ceiling. There was a nasty sort of thick, wet splash as the floor grew darker. She fell deathly silent.

"Corky, no! Why? Why did you…?" I fell to my knees.

"Because! No ninja that has their identity revealed deserves… cherry kool-aid!" She winced, looking at the impaled thermos on the sword, "And that was a good cup, too. Drat."

"Well, pry your companion out of the wall and untie me. We need to stop Miss Sweetiepoo, and we'll have to do it together."

"Oh Peaches! Will you really help me?"

"Sure, anything for a ninja babe. Put on your headband and I'll promise to forget your identity."

"Oh, you'd pretend that for me?"

"No, I'd really forget. I have memory problems. Ever since the fever I caught during the Great Slug Infestation…"

"Let's go and clean Miss Sweetiepoo's clock!" Corky tied the headband tight over her head once more, prying Kushi loose, "However, I have reason to believe she has gone into hiding. There's only one source available that knows the true location… come with me."

Our trip brought us to Jackie's Java Pit, the place I usually got my coffee from. However, today was not a good day for coffee, but was great for those 'cookies' they sold. To my dismay, they always wound up being deep-fried biscuits. After I bought some for my newly formed ninja posse, we went to our best source.

"Alright, it's been awhile…" I leaned against the wall near the jukebox, "Tell me where Miss Sweetiepoo is."

"Where have all the flowers gone?" It sang merrily.

"We don't know," Koreki (formally Corky, formally the Artist Once Mentioned As Corky, formally the Author, etc.) "That's why we're here!"

"Oklahoma!"

"She's WHERE?"

"O, Canada…"

"Make up your mind!" I shouted, "One last chance. Where is Miss Sweetiepoo?"

"Back… back in the USSR."

"Damn, she's leaving the country?" I growled, forgetting that the location actually didn't exist anymore and was England… or Britian… or something of that nature.

"We have to get to the harbor! And fast!" Kushi shouted, her head taped up, "This way!"

Through a series of secret tunnels underneath the Java Pit we ran, like French fries oozing off a duck's back. Reaching a well-placed exit, we all stumbled out onto the harbor's docks, facing a small ship with my secretary on board. Underneath her arm was nothing other than a teddy bear.

"Miss Sweetiepoo!" I yelled, "The jig is up! Get down here this instant!"

"Oh my," she giggled sweetly, "Whatever do you mean?"

"Don't play dumb with me, get down here or I'll come up there and get you."

"So this is how it is." She smirked darkly. "I understand now. After all that service and coffee I gave you, this is how you repay me. What's wrong with a little teddy-snack here and there? So I crave a little cotton- how is that wrong? Society paints us teddy-zombies as evil… but in truth, we are the leaders of the world! George Bush! Desmond Tutu! And some crazy Indian dude! We all eat teddy bears, giving us our POWER!"

"You sick fiend," Koreki hissed, "You are now the sworn enemy of the Total Prosecution Ninjas!"

"Let us attack! Please sensei, use me once more as your weapon!"

"Oh Kushi!"

"Koreki-sama, it's the least I can do for my great teacher! Take me up… and deliver a fatal blow!"

Faster than a cheetah falling onto a featherbed, Koreki took up Kushi by the legs and began swinging her around in a circle. Just as Miss Sweetiepoo pulled out a gun, Koreki released her student, who flew through the air, striking my secretary. Both fell to the deck of the boat with a loud thud. I approached slowly, kneeling down and examining the both of them.

"They're dead."

"Oh, Kushi! You sweet, terrible soul!" Koreki cried, but then smiled brightly, "Thanks to your sacrifice, the city is no longer under a reign of terror! God bless you and your terrible, terrible name! And… Peaches…"

"Yes?"

"This is for all your help!" She kicked me in the shin, as hard as she could. "I would give you my love if you weren't such a freak!"

"Thanks babe." I fell to the ground in warm agony.

So that was the case, start to end. Looking back on the files, I felt a little saddened at the great losses we faced. But sadness comes with the job, as stated on the contract pinned to the wall behind me. Once again, it was time to wait for another job, with my feet up on the desk and a tilt to my hat… staring at the name spray painted backwards on the door.

Peaches Sanchez, private eye, wins again!