By Paul Goldfinger
I once met Mickey Spillane, the American writer of noir detective novels starring Mike Hammer. Spillane actually was a tough guy who looked like he could be a private eye or a private dick with a run-down office and a babe with long legs for a secretary. I love that Mike Hammer image, and sometimes I put on my trench coat over a rumpled suit and wait in my office for a tough case to show up. It’s not easy making a living that way, and it’s not healthy either, chain smoking unfiltered cigarettes, sipping bourbon all day and packing a piece.
Then finally the big case shows up. Unfortunately it wasn’t a dame who brought the goods. It was Ogrover, a commenter on our blog “Noir Finger.” He was like “deep throat” because I never heard his voice or seen his face. He showed up by email, hidden in the shadows of the hard drive. Anyhow, OGrover had a mystery for me to solve.
It seems he was slinking around Auditorium Square Park when he spotted a possible crime scene. A plaque in the ground, at the corner of Pitman and the Pilgrim Pathway. It was old and spooky, and no one had stolen it yet. OGrover moved slowly closer and closer and then he saw what it said: “Red Oak — State Tree New Jersey Tercentenary 1964. Presented by the Woman’s Club of Ocean Grove.”
OG scratched his head and wondered if he, an octogenarian, had been around for the tercentenary. But that thought quickly vanished as he stared up at the tree. It was a reddish Norway Maple. “Holy mackerel!,” thought OG. “This is a fishy case for Noir Finger.”
I left Pussy Galore in the office and went down by the Great Auditorium — talk about haunted houses! I surveyed the situation and discovered that the Red Oak was indeed gone — instead there was a Norway maple.
“Holy fish oils! What the heck happened? Were we going to have another unsolved crime in Ocean Grove? Should we call the coppers? No way — I’ll handle this one myself.”
I emailed OG and agreed to take the case. He replied, “Piqued your interest?” Then he says, “I have a real hard time believing I’m the first to even notice it since 1964 lol.”
“OG,” I said, “Nobody says ‘piqued’ in Ocean Grove. And nobody ever said ‘lol’ to Noir Finger. After all, we are ‘noir,’ and don’t you forget it. What a turkey!”
So, with the amount of dough that OG was paying, I had to get an answer fast. So I contacted this old hand in town from the HSOG who calls himself “Anonymous,” a name that will be hard to trace, but not impossible. He actually cracked the case, so I give him credit — mystery solved — He’ll pay for the cracked case.
It seems that the OG Women’s Club planted the red oak for obvious historic and natural reasons (oaks do well at the shore). Then the oak died (so much for doing well at the shore) and some genius replaced it with a maple. We don’t know who did or why, but we will keep looking.
Meanwhile, the Women’s Club of Ocean Grove disbanded about 20 years ago, and we are still searching for survivors. Noir Finger will stay on the case until we get some answers. We’re open to suggestions.
SOUNDTRACK: By a noir sort of guy who likes to hang around bars at 2:45 a.m.:
POST SCRIPT: What good is a Mike Hammer story without a bit of sex ? I came upon a blogger who has been to Ocean Grove and who imagined a young woman staying at the Victorian OG Women’s Club Hotel, a building which still exists in town. I love this poem. You probably will also. If you do, send the author a note via her blog site. Paul