It was Vegas, but not that Vegas. Las Vegas, Mississippi, 2009. Johnny “No Fixed Address” Wasserstein was selling portraits done on silly putty out of the back of his van and was about to be arrested for improper use of a children’s toy when he made a deal with the cops, telling police chief Fancy Legume that he had information that would make the chief’s career.
“I know where you can find Steve.”
“Steve who? There must be 10,000 Steves in this city.”
“No, not Steve . . . Steve.”
The sheriff’s face went white. He leaned in, his voice becoming a growl and said “where is he?”
Johnny handed the chief a flattened piece of putty. “I always keep a copy of my work.”
“Finally,” the chief said, “we know what Steve looks like.”
“Oh that’s not him. That’s his Chihuahua Trixiebell Tatertot Tinkertoy. But he paid with a credit card and I have the receipt.”
“Why’d you show me this then?” chief Legume yelled, holding up the putty.
“I thought it was pretty good.”
“It is nice,” the chief agreed.
After communicating with headquarters they had an address to check out. They took Johnny with them so he could identify Steve.
Johnny had heard about the infamous criminal for years but didn’t know what he had actually done so he decided to ask. The car was silent for a pregnant moment and finally the deputy next to him in the back seat sent him a grave look, saying, “he sells sea shells down by the seashore: illegal Mongolian shells.” The officer in the front seat followed with, “he also ran a confidence game betting people how much wood a woodchuck could chuck if he could chuck wood.”
“Wow,” Johnny breathed. Then the chief spelled out the worst offense.
“Last year he transported mares eating oats, does eating oats and little lambs eating ivy across state lines. That’s a morals charge.”
They arrived at a business, Las Vegas but Not That Vegas Importers, and parked to wait for Steve to appear. After an hour of watching a dozen different people go in and out, Johnny suddenly squealed, “That’s him!”
Walking down the street was a man 6’7”, 500 pounds with a bushy red beard, wearing a purple slip-on dress and knee high boots.
“Are you sure that’s Steve?” the sheriff asked.
“He’s wearing different boots, but that’s him.”
“All units move in,” the chief yelled into his radio. Officers poured out of four different cars, drew their guns, ran up and surrounded the startled criminal.
“It’s over Steve, you’re under arrest. After all these years I’ve finally gotten you,” the chief said with a smile.
Steve said nothing, but an evil grin formed on his face. Suddenly out of the bushes, dark shadows crept up on the police. They were shocked to see a little girl in a red cape holding a snub-nosed .38 revolver while next to her stood a snarling wolf. A few feet away there were 3 wild pigs, their tusks dripping with blood.
At Steve’s feet was a pie with 4 and 20 blackbirds emerging, each holding a grenade, and a parade marched down the street led by 76 trombones each with a stinger missile attached to the slider.
“You’re outmanned and outgunned,” Steve said to the chief in a voice reminiscent of Yvonne Decarlo. However, Steve had just returned from having complicated dental surgery so it came out, “Yu otmuud ud otgaaad.”
The sheriff became enraged. The words sounded like an insult his ex-wife used to hurl at him in her native Algerian. Consumed by his anger, Sheriff Legume fired his gun.
His officers followed, all firing their weapons and chaos broke out. Little Red Riding Hood shot one of the cops and then was eaten by the wolf. The three pigs each gored an officer and then were eaten by the wolf. The blackbirds dropped their grenades and were eaten by the wolf. The trombones fired their missiles and then ran from the wolf who ate a sousaphone player instead.
When the smoke cleared the last man standing was Steve. He straightened his dress and heard someone running toward him.
Johnny Wasserstein stepped in front of the big man holding something square, flat and gray.
“I captured the whole battle on silly putty,” he shouted excitedly. “It’s yours for 20 bucks.”
“Fifteen,” Steve countered.