Well, I am stopping into the Honky-Tonk one fine day for a plate of pie and a cup of coffee, because it is widely known that one Paul, who is the gentleman who owns this establishment, makes the finest cup of coffee for several miles around, if not for the entire city of Tokyo. And it is while I am drinking this coffee that a certain person who is known to all and sundry as Ginji the Spark comes and sits down at my table, and takes a share of my pie.
"Well," I say to him, "it is very nice to see you, Ginji." And I would like to say to him something about my pie as well, but it is well known that Ginji is always very hungry, and that bad things happen to people if they are not generous with their food when he is looking at them.
"You too as well," Ginji says to me, wiping off the last few crumbs. "Generous guys such as yourself are sadly few in this day and age."
"So," I say to him, "what is it that you have been up to of late?" For while I am a quiet-living guy who appreciates his little comforts and does not do more than play the horses occasionally, which is indeed no more than most guys I know, I am aware that Ginji is one of these guys to whom things happen more than somewhat, and I figure that a good story will help the gnawing feeling in my belly a little.
"Sad news," Ginji says, and indeed he is looking a little off his colour. "I am officially done with Snake-Eyes Midou."
Now this is most surprising and disturbing news, because for the last few years this Snake-Eyes Midou and Ginji the Spark have been going around arm in arm, one might say, like unto David and Jonathan, except I do not think that David and Jonathan had so many people shooting at them. And while I myself am not the sort of person to be involved in illegality, it is widely known that if one is such a person, then the two of them are very convenient indeed in finding items which the original owner has sadly lost. Indeed, it is widely said of them that they could find it even before the owner had known it was lost in the first place.
But it seems to me that this is a subject of which I would do well to be better informed, so I push my coffee over to Ginji and express my sympathy on his tragic loss.
Ginji drinks down the coffee, and begins to look a little better. "It is indeed tragic," he says, "for the two of us have always been getting on as closely as you might wish. A better partner could not be found."
"So what happens?" I ask. And I notice that some of the other guys who like to frequent the Honky-Tonk have gathered around, not being guys who like to miss the news while it is still fresh.
"Well," says Ginji. "It turns out bright and early this morning that we have a caller at our residence, and that this caller is none other than Doctor Jackal, who is not wishing so much to enquire as to our health as to ensure the lack of it. And it is while Midou and I are leaving the premises through the back window, out of a desire to take a healthy jog in the fresh air, that I notice that Midou has red stains on his shirt. Naturally I assume that this is because he has been hit, so I suggest to him that we go to see a medical gentlemen of our acquaintance, one other than the Doctor currently at our door, who is not the sort of doctor who is at all in favour of bandages. But Midou says to me: Do not worry, Ginji. It is merely a tiny little problem which is quite unworthy of your attention.
"But naturally I worry, so when we have stopped later and are handling a little situation which involves Midou having borrowed some money from Lady Poison while not troubling to inform her of that fact earlier, I take a look at his shirt. And it is at that point that I see that the stain is not so much blood as it is lip rouge of the sort that is used by a number of ladies of my acquaintance. This causes me some anxiety, as I would not like to think that they are getting their lip rouge upon the shirt of my partner, since it is well known that this is bad for shirts. So I enquire of Midou, when we are safely away and beating out the flames, about what female company he has been keeping of late.
"Now Midou looks me in the eye like an honest guy and says: Ginji, you know that the only person of that gender with whom we have been talking of late is Miss Hevn, and that I was hardly in any sort of private situation with her, being that I was remonstrating with her most severely in your company about the size of her commission.
"And I nod, because Miss Hevn is known for the size of her commissions, and her dress is always cut most suitably to show the size of her commissions."
It is at this point that Ginji takes a break from his talking to order more coffee. And everyone nods most sincerely, because they too know the size of Miss Hevn's commissions.
"It strikes me at this point," Ginji continues, "that Midou was out for a while the night before, but at the time he tells me that this is in order to buy more cigarettes, so at the time I think nothing of it. But now it begins to look more suspicious to me, so I tax him upon this point, and while he avoids it for some minutes, he eventually admits that he was conducting an investigation which he does not wish to tell me about until he has more information.
"Well, this is a fair enough answer, and so we go about our business as is normal, until we run into two of my old friends, who are Threads Kazuki and Needles Juubei. I am greeting them in a cheerful way, when I notice that there is a certain briskness between them and Midou. I am aware that they do not get on well at the best of times, but this is of a coldness that is worse than usual, and so I ask them if I can be of any assistance in sorting out this little problem.
"Now Kazuki sniffs and shakes his head. 'It is nothing,' he says. 'I am not going to argue that Midou won fair and square, and if my good friend standing next to me is a little angry about it, then I will tell him face to face that he has absolutely no reason to be annoyed, because the best man won.'
"Now I notice at this point that Midou is turning a shade to match the colour of his rouge stains, and it is then that he raises his hand to point out some oncoming gendarmes, and we decide to take a stroll in separate directions at this point, because the gendarmes have of late been very unreasonable about the parking laws. And therefore I do not get the opportunity to discuss this little matter with Midou there and then.
"But two streets down we run into Monkeyface Shidou, who is taking his ever-loving doll for a little stroll down the street. Now this doll is blind, but this is not much of a handicap to her, as she has Shidou to explain to her what is going on around her, and it is my firm belief that she lives a much happier life because of this, as Shidou has been known to leave out details that might otherwise disturb her, as it is well known that dolls are easily disturbed.
"'Why,' Shidou says, 'it is my good friend Ginji, and also Snake Eyes Midou. What a pleasant surprise it is to see you today. I must congratulate you on your good health. Especially after last night.'
"Now at this point Midou again changes colour and states that the gendarmes are in hot pursuit, but on this occasion I fail to believe him, because I myself see no gendarmes, nor are they in hot pursuit. So I enquire in an open-spirited and friendly way what Shidou could be referring to."
Ginji picks up a cup of coffee which has been brought to him, and regards it with great unhappiness. This causes some concern with the waitress, until it is explained to her that Ginji is unhappy over the loss of his partner, rather than over the taste of the coffee, at which point she offers to fetch more coffee for all. This kind-hearted gesture is well appreciated, and explains much of why the Honky-Tonk is so popular, the other part being that the coffee contains a medicinal dose of whiskey, and many of the gentlemen attending are invalids and require their regular dose of medicine.
"And it is then," Ginji says, "that I learn the truth. Midou was not out last night performing private investigations, but was instead dancing in the Stripping Divas competition at the Pussy Cat Club, while wearing a silk dress and pearls, and that he wins first prize, while Kazuki comes in second place."
He drinks his coffee sadly. "This also makes me wonder about the time that Midou comes back in eyeshadow after performing a stakeout of the Hot Clucking Chicken establishment, or the time I find him wearing nylon stockings and he tells me that they are to deal with a family tendency to gout."
"And this causes the end of your association?" I ask.
"It does," Ginji says. "There are many things that I can live with, but I cannot abide a partner who fails to share the truth of things with his partner. This is not the proper behaviour of a gentleman."
And all nod and agree with him on this point.
"Besides," Ginji says. "I fear that he looks better in rouge and eyeshadow than I do."