How Many Names for Murder?

As the bus lurched down Hollywood Boulevard my stomach flip-flopped. Why did I agree to meet Bugsy Beetlebaum? I surveyed the scene through the scratched windows: gaudy signs advertising quick pleasures and simple salvation. As we neared Vine the sidewalks became thick with tourists and other lost souls.

A few more blocks and I hopped off. Something was sticking to my left heel. Yuck. I had speared a wad of discarded spearmint. Now I really am a gumshoe, I thought as I balanced on one foot to remove the gum with a tissue. I skittered around the stars in the sidewalk and through the green mullioned door into Musso and Frank’s.

Beetlebaum was hunched over a menu in the back booth. A short, slight fellow in khaki shorts and a faded T-shirt, he didn’t pose much of a threat. It was dark, though. I felt inside my purse and was reassured by the smooth touch of a mother-of-pearl handle. Good. I had my trusty magnifier. I like to read the fine print.

We made quick work of our fillets.

“You said you wanted to discuss a contract,” I reminded him.

“Like I said, murder is my business. I got the papers here. Sign on the dotted line and I’ll pay $100 a hit.”

I sipped my wine and didn’t correct his grammar.

“I run a very efficient pest control business, but our ads need a little class. You know: an extra helping of je ne sais quoi.”

“So what do you want from me?”

‘”We kill bugs” sounds so crass. I want to say, “We’re experts in the art of, uh, something-icide,” you know?’

“I think I do.” I signed the contract. “Here we go. A is for acaricide, from post-classical Latin acarus, ‘a mite or tick’ and –icide, from classical Latin -cīdium ‘cutting, killing.’”

“That’s one,” he said, slapping down a Benjamin.

“Lots more where that came from,” I replied with a grin.

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One Response to How Many Names for Murder?

  1. Pingback: A Certain Something | Lexie Kahn: Word Snooper

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