The Case of the Fortune Cookie

Here’s a story I wrote back in the early 80s.

The Case of the Fortune Cookie
The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Steve Portigal

Watching on my visiscreen, I could see her pause as she came up to the office. “Barney Gunswallow, Private Investigator,” she mumbled to herself. She opened the door and came in. Preparing myself for a customer, I threw my tube of gin into the deatomizer. Booze turns off customers. Too bad. 2011 was a great year for gin. Of course, it wasn’t real gin. They outlawed that back in 1993 when they found that they could get more energy per litre out of alcohol than gasoline. Mind you, we haven’t done a complete turnaround. I don’t know many people who drink gasoline.

Janine called from the reception area. “Hey boss…”

“Send her in!” I yelled back.

“Wow!” I whispered to myself. As she walked in, my excessive excitement detector turned bright pink and started flashing. I reached under my desk and turned it off.

She was beautiful. She was dressed in a half-size sheer nylon skirt that barely came below her waist. Even overdressed, she was beautiful. She stalked her way over to my desk, cat-like. I stood up.

“Sit down!” she commanded.

I sat down.

“Please sit down Miss uh-uh…” I stammered helplessly.

“The name is Mrs. Smith. And I prefer to stand.”

“Suit yourself.”

Mrs. Smith. What a fake name. Sounded like some foreigner. I mean, it was as about as un-American as apple pie! I watched as she reached into her purse. She pulled her hand out. Partly. A glimpse of silver. Long. Tubular. A barrel. A beam-gun. It was a set-up. The hand came further out of the purse. I dived off the chair. When I hit the floor, I slammed a stud embedded in the desk. A plasti-shield screamed down from the ceiling between her and me.

She stood there as I drew myself up. She glared at me as if I were a bug. Realizing that she was not trying to kill me, and that I had pulled a real nixon, I smiled ruefully. I lifted up the shield.

“Sorry about that. Security is a little lax these days.”

She said nothing, but continued to glare at me.

“This was the gun used to kill my husband,” she declared.

I waited.

“I want you to find the man that killed him.”

She handed me the beam-gun and walked out. I stood there open-mouthed. I watched as she left, un-gentlemanlike thoughts flooding my brain.

When I recovered my dignity and another tube of gin, I set to work. First I examined the gun. It was a standard Colt 3000 megajoule. I whipped out my pocket computer and keyed in the clues. It wanted me to play PACMAN, but I had no time for ancient novelties. I scanned the beam-gun but only found Mrs. Smith’s prints. I entered that into the computer. I then pressed the key marked with a “?”.


I swore in twelve interplanetary lingoes.

The computer said, “SEZ YOU, BUSTER.”

I turned it off and continued my investigation. With an uncommon name like Smith he was easy to track down. He was in the FORTUNE 1000000 as a vanadium mine owner. No enemies. Nuthin’. According to the newsbox he left all his money to the Psychosis Foundation. Very interesting. He also owned a bar in Luna City called Cookies. Hmm. Cookie. Kookie. Psychosis. Very, very interesting.

“Hold all my calls, Janine!” I yelled as I stepped into the transporter.

“Sure bo…” she called back as I vanished into the ether.

I never got used to Luna City. Floating spheres are not my idea of transportation. Anyway I flagged one down, hopped in and typed in my credit number.


Wonderful. Old New York. Mechanized even.

“Cookies. And step on it.” I might as well play along.


“Shaddup and drive!” I snarled.

When we got there I had reaffirmed my vow never to come to Luna City.

I walked into the joint and took a seat. I was surprised by the waitress. It was Mrs. Smith!

“You!” she spat.

“Don’t spit, please,” I said, wiping the spit from my face.

Suddenly she smiled and got up on my table. “Music, electro-maestro!” she yelled.

She began dancing to the sorrowful strains of T42. She was acting downright weird. Kookie even. Kookie. Hey! Kookie. Cookie’s. Psychotic! Mrs. Smith was crackers. Two bricks short of a load. A couple of astros short of a millibleem. Etc., etc.

At this strange outburst, the place emptied. I sat staring. Suddenly, she dived at me, her razor-sharp nails pointed out like steel daggers. I stepped aside and realization hit me like a safe from a window. Mrs. Smith killed her husband because she was loony! Then I realized something else. I was in love with Mrs. Smith.

She ran off into the kitchen. I unholstered my beam-gun hesitantly. Then the lights went out and the airlock hissed shut. The place was deserted except for me and Mrs. Smith. A knife whistled through the artificial air and struck my leg. I yanked it out and wrapped the cut with a serviette. I limped over to a table and took cover. What could I do? How could I kill her if I loved her? The table exploded, throwing me backwards. She must have beamed it.

I grabbed my gun out of the air and crawled to another table. I needed light. I pointed my gun at the phosphorescent ceiling and fired. It glowed crazily with the excess energy. I saw her lurking in the corner. I pointed my gun at her, tensely thinking. What to do? She raised her gun. I knew what to do. I fired. I never miss.

As I limped into the lunar night, I remembered a P.I.’s first rule:

“Your best friend is your gun.”

I hailed a sphere and departed into the blackness.


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