“Now that we’ve bonded over the ukulele,” Bernie said to Arnold Fetzer, the art gallery dude, “what have you got for us?” We were working on what Bernie called the Greed Case, not sure why. We had a paying client, which was good. He was a Hollywood producer named Kelo Printz, who’d hired us to find a missing can of film. We’d found the can, all right, in a cave in Death Valley, but there’d been no film inside, instead a folded-up painting by Martin Ramirez. What else? Oh, yeah: Kelo Printz was missing. And I think there’s more, too. Milk bones in Fetzer’s drawer, for example. I sidled over that way.
Fetzer cleared his throat. I can do that, too. Once I got a chicken bone stuck in there, a story for another time. “You say you’re interested in Martin Ramirez,” he said. “Know much about him?”
“I’m listening,” said Bernie.
“He was a poor Mexican immigrant who came up to California in the twenties looking for work. By 1931 he was in the Stockton State mental hospital and he spent the rest of his life institutionalized. He also took up painting, and is now recognized as one of the leading painters of Outsider Art. In that first year at Stockton, he met a fellow patient who’d worked in Hollywood as a PR flack. The flack’s name was Ezra Printz.”
“Ah,” said Bernie.
Ah? Meaning what? The milk bone smell was overwhelming.
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