DCM Knights
Detective Comics

Bobo's Wonderful Life: Part II
by Chip Caroon

with apologies to Frank Capra

As we stepped out of the cabin, I noticed that it had stopped snowing. The temperature was still below freezing, though, so I pulled my coat tighter together and motioned with my head for Raphael to follow. Fortunately, one of my favorites bars was just a few blocks away from the bridge.

The first thing I noticed as we approached was the fancy new sign. "PUZZLES" was now in a fancy neon script, as opposed to the plain wooden sign with peeling paint that I had seen just a couple of days before.

As I walked in, I noticed that the whole place was brighter, changing the entire character of the bar. I liked it, because it used to be a little on the seedy side, and was perfect for getting tips for cases. I was also surprised at the relatively clear path I had to the bar itself. Usually this place was packed even on Christmas Eve, with plenty of souls trying to drown their holiday sorrows. Come to think of it, I think it was just the poor fools who needed to get away from their families in the midst of the holiday hustle.

I noticed the gentleman tending the bar, an old acquaintance of mine. "Nick!" I called out as we walked over.

"Just because my name's up on the sign don't mean like you act like you know me, " Nick grumbled as Raphael and I took our seats.

"Huh?" I wondered. "But I do know you. I've been coming here for years."

"I don't think so, bub. I think I would remember meeting a talking monkey." He took at look at Raphael. "And what's this guy's story?"

Raphael's face lightened up and he lifted a finger as he explained, "I'm an angel!"

Nick's brow just furled some more, clearly skeptical.

I leaned over and put my hand on Raphael's shoulder. "That's one of those new superhero teams upstate," I lied.

Nick eased up a little, but not completely satisfied. "What can I get you?"

"Double bourbon, on the rocks," I answered.

"Ooh," Raphael said. I could practically see the wheels spinning in his head. He looked like a sixteen year old passing for twenty-one who had just been given his first drink option. "I'll have a . . . faux jito." He turned to me. "I hope it comes with one of those little umbrellas!"

I put my hand across my face, just ready for Nick to personally escort us out of the bar in a rather brusque fashion. A second later, I looked up, and could see the annoyance in Nick's eyes. But then he relaxed.

"Whatever," he said. "It's Christmas, and the customer gets what the customer wants."

As Nick turned to start making the drinks, I looked around behind the bar. "So, where's Martini?"

"I thought you wanted bourbon?" he asked, not turning around.

"Not the drink. Your boss."

"Hey, buddy, let's get things straight, I'm the boss around here. But if you mean ole Giuseppe, he's gone."

"Gone?" I wondered, fearing the worst.

"Yeah, lucky stiff won the lottery a few months ago. Left me the bar and a nice chunk of change to spiffy the place up, and flew back to Italy. Last I heard, he hooked up with some super model."

I'm glad Nick's back was turned to me, because I really didn't want him to see the dumb look on my face. Martini had always talked about going back home to Italy and marrying a model, but everyone always smiled politely and then got a good chuckle about it when he walked away.

"Lucky stiff is right," I said as Nick turned back around with our drinks.

He sat the drinks down on the bar and looked straight at me. "You opening a tab?" he asked.

"Yeah, just put it on my tab," I said, reaching for the drink.

Nick's hand blocked mine. "I'm gonna need a card, then."

"But it's going on my tab."

"Which you have yet to open."

"Okay," I said, a little concerned. I reached down to hunt for my wallet, deciding it was probably better to just pay cash in this case anyway. I slipped my hand into my pants pocket, and was unable to find anything. I started checking all of my pockets, including my coat. "I can't seem to find my wallet." I nudged Raphael with my elbow. "Hey, bud, can you help me out?"

Raphael shook his head. "I am afraid I cannot. We don't have much use for money, er, up there."

"It sure comes in handy down here," I muttered.

"Out!" Nick shouted.

Knowing when to cut my losses, I jumped off the barstool and grabbed Raphael by the elbow. "Let's go," I whispered.

When we got outside, I motioned for Raphael to follow me down the street.

"You're doing a heck of a job illustrating your point, buddy," I said, shoving my hands deep into my coat pockets. I was mainly trying to keep them warm, but hoping that maybe I could find my wallet hidden deep down.

"You won't find your wallet in there," Raphael commented.

"Did you see it fall out somewhere?"

Raphael shook his head. "You never had a wallet."

I grunted. "Right. Never born. Let me tell you about that. Back there at the bar, where Nick said Martini won the lottery and took off? I remember that night. The night that Martini would have won the lottery. I showed up late to celebrate the end of a case. Drinks on me. Three rounds later, and Martini suddenly remembers that he hadn't played his lottery numbers. He'd played the same numbers for thirty years, never even got so much as a dollar. It was a running joke at the bar, and we promptly gave him hell about it. He eventually laughed it off and keep the drinks coming. Next morning, the joke's on us. We wake up and see the winning numbers in the paper, and it was Martini's numbers, even down to the power ball. No one won that jackpot, but Martini swore of the lottery forever, knowing the odds were never going to be in his favor."

"Oh." Raphael grew silent and looked down as he walked. "But I'm sure you've impacted lives with your cases."

"I'm sure I have, but I don't think I did anything special. Might be worth checking."

"Maybe you should check the library!" Raphael suggested.

The angel might have been a bit behind the times, but he had a point. Since all of my personal effects vanished when I was "unborn", I didn't have my phone with me either. Being the late evening of Christmas Eve, there were not a lot of publicly available options. I was sure that the library was closed, but I had learned several ways to sneak in.

It took a little effort to sneak both of us in and get a computer booted up, but once there, I brought up the search engine.

"What are you looking for?" Raphael asked.

I typed in the name "Harry Bailey" into the search bar as I replied, "Looking for news about a missing kid I found a few months ago. Let's see, here's the Daily Planet article. Harry Bailey . . . went missing . . . parents offered reward . . . " I read, paraphrasing the article. "Yeah, that was my motivation. Uh, okay, here we go. 'Bailey was found thanks to the tireless efforts of local private investigator John Jones.'"

"Well, that's good," Raphael said.

"Exactly," I replied. "He was still found. Without me." I added emphasis to that last part because I was not sure if this angel second class had figured out the pattern. I couldn't tell what Raphael was expressing on his face in the dark, but I shut the computer down and stood up.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"Well, I was in the middle of a case. And you have provided me with the ability to see the case in a new perspective, literally. It would be foolish to waste the opportunity. Now I just have to hope Uncle Billy hasn't ended up in an asylum or something."

As I trudged along the streets on the way to Billy's burger joint, I noticed that most everything else seemed the same. Other than the change at Puzzles, all of the buildings seemed the same. It made sense, in a city like New York, where one individual living on the fringe doesn't affect a lot.

Although, there was one difference that would not have mattered to most anyone else, but it was the biggest difference to me. You see, walking from the library to the Burger Bar, I chose a path that would take me past the building that I had set up shop in years ago. It was both my office and my home.

And in this reality, it had been replaced with a Starbucks. I sighed as I walked past, but Raphael didn't notice.

Naturally, when we arrived at Uncle Billy's Burger Bar, it was still there, but closed. It was late on a holiday after all.

"Should we go look for Billy?" Raphael suggested.

I turned toward him and started giving an answer, "I -- " Then I stopped as I realized I had a rant coming on. All of the feelings I had been holding back since this little adventure started were finally ready to come out. "No!" I exclaimed. "It was weird enough dealing with Nick at the bar. I'm not going to go try to find Billy and talk to him, and freak him out because some complete stranger with his weird friend show up and seem to know everything about his life. Meanwhile, I don't have mine."

Raphael just stared at me blankly.

"It may not have been the most impressive life, or even a wonderful life, but it was my life!" I continued. "And you know what? These little tricks might work with the regular folks, but I work in a different community. I've seen what happens when people play the 'what if' game and change the natural order of things. There's always a price somewhere. And in this case, it's my life! This is the part where you want to say that I've had a wonderful life, that by making a thousand little differences in the lives of everyone around me that I had an impact on the world. But guess what? I didn't. You've seen that. Take me out of the world, and all we see is Martini winning the lottery, other detectives filling the void on my cases, and one extra Starbucks infecting the world. Okay, maybe that's the one downside, but the point's still there. I'm no one special."

"All God's children are special," Raphael countered.

I put my head in my hands, tired of hearing angel clichés coming out of his mouth. "I know. But I just want to go home and crash in my own bed, but I can't do that because you decided you wanted to brownnose God and get an extra . . . an extra profit . . . " I trailed off as I started to develop a theory about Billy's money.

"I'm sorry," Raphael stammered.

"Wait a minute. You might have just given me the break in the case I was asking for."

"Huh?" The confused look on Raphael's face was one I had seen many times before. It usually came right before the parlor scene moment. That's what I like to call the part where I explain the outcome of the mystery to everyone.

"Look, you said you had already been on a mission tonight."

"That's correct."

"Right, you had already done your assignment. You come to me because you want to try to get, I don't know how you classify it, but basically you wanted extra profit."

Raphael nodded. "A fair assessment."

I continued. "You were trying to take advantage of the holiday for it to count more. What if this case of Billy's money has been a wild goose chase all along? He paid them yesterday morning and probably forgot all about it as he was turning around. They know how scatterbrained he is, so they hide the money and ask for it all over again. Trying to get some extra profit."

"So dishonest!" Raphael exclaimed.

"Right, and there's a good chance that even in this world without me, it's still happening."

"We should go stop them!" Raphael offered.

I shook my head. "No, buddy, this is where you earn your wings. You want to get that extra good deed in tonight? Put me back in the world, and then go give those guys a visit. Use your angel magic and make them honest. You need to be Billy's guardian angel tonight."

Raphael nodded and kind of shrugged. "Yeah, but angels don't use magic."

I glared at him.

"But I get your meaning. Thank you, Bobo. I think I have learned just as much from you as you have learned from me."

I laughed. "I think you learned more. But good luck, buddy. And I hope you get those wings soon." Just then, I shivered as I felt a breeze blow past my arms, hitting a large wet spot on my coat sleeve. I looked up and my eyeballs were assaulted by two large snowflakes. I looked back down and Raphael was gone. I laughed again when I realized that my return to existence meant that my coat hadn't fully dried out.

I never have figured out why only stopped snowing while I wasn't technically alive.

And so, I was able to have myself a merry little Christmas. Billy called to tell me he did not need my services anymore. He was excited about his Christmas miracle. I smiled as he told me and then took a sip of my vanilla spiced egg nog.

That afternoon, I made my way over to Puzzles. Martini was serving everyone with his big lopsided Santa hat on. Several of the regulars were there and everyone was smiling. Martini looked happy to be surrounded by friends, even if none of them were Italian supermodels. I knew I would tell him about his alternate life one day.

I never heard from Raphael again, but every once in a while, I get this feeling like maybe he's near, perhaps hanging out just at the edge of my line of sight.

And that, gentle readers, is my big Christmas story. Happy holidays, everyone!

Next issue: Seduction of the Past.