THE CASE OF THE CHEAP TOMAHAWK


“ . . .that you’d beat him up if he didn’t sell it cheap?” said the little boy, his eyes shining.

“No,” Lance said. “Not at all. I -”

“That you’d arrest him and take it?” said a dirty-faced towhead in the back. “You’d show him your badge and arrest him and take it!”

“No. I don’t know where -”

“How come your hair fell down?” said a serious little boy who’d been staring at Lance in silence for his entire visit.

“My hair? I -”

“It was normal before. Now it came down over your forehead.”

Lori stifled a laugh. “That’s Lance’s little hair problem,” she said. “It’s his trademark.”

“My dad slaps me when my hair isn’t perfect,” the serious boy said. He looked up at Lance. “Did your dad slap you when your hair did that?”

Lance put down the tomahawk. He knelt down and looked at the serious boy.

“What’s your name?”

“Frankie,” he said. Lance winced to himself. Christ, another kid named after Sinatra. Bobbysoxer teens got knocked up in the back of a car by a sailor or a soldier on leave, and they always named the kid after that big-eared weakling with the sobby voice.

“Well, Frankie, your dad shouldn’t slap you. Ever. It’s against the law.”

“Oh.” The kid looked down at the floor of the clubhouse. “He isn’t really my dad. So maybe it’s not against the law.”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s illegal. I’ll tell him so, if you’d like me to.”

The boy shook his head.

“I’m serious, son. I can make him stop.”

The boy shook his head.

“Mom wouldn’t like it,” he said in a whisper. “Mom wouldn’t like that at all.”

“Chop! I’M GONNA SCALP YA!” said the dirty-faced blonde kid. “Woo-woo-wooo-wooo Geronimo!

“So how’d you know, Mr. Lawson?” This from a runty kid with big ears and a gap between his teeth wide enough to hold a pencil. Lance sometimes wondered if the nation was going to have a problem in a few years - most of the men who got women pregnant in the early 40s were guys who’d been branded unfit for service. And they’d taken just about anybody at first. You had to be a real wreck to get 4-F when Hitler was dancing in France, brother. “How’d you know the Tomahawk wasn’t worth all that money?”

Lance stood. “Well, remember, he said the tomahawk was an Apache tomahawk.” Blank expressions looked up at him. “And Custer was killed by the Sioux.”

“But it was a real tomahawk,” the runty kid said.

“Sure, but -”

“So it might have scalped someone.”

“Sure.”

“If’n I had fifty bucks I’d pay that, if it scalped someone. Can you see the blood onnit?”

“No,” Lance snapped. “You can’t. Well, that’s all for today, gang. Crime doesn’t sleep. I have to get back to work.”

They all waved good bye and crowded around the door of the clubhouse, watching Lance and Lori leave in silence.

Lance shot a look at the house -

The woman he’d spoken to last time was standing at the kitchen window, watching.

Lori looked at Lance, looked at the window. Then she looked back at Lance.

“What?” he said.

She took the tomahawk from Lance’s hand. “It’s mine, remember?” she said.

She walked ahead of him to the car, and didn’t say anything all the way home. She smoked three cigarettes, one right after the other.

Lance had never seen her do that before. He didn’t want to bring it up. He didn’t dare say anything.

SOLUTION: "... that an Apache tomahawk couldn't have been used at Custer's last stand, bcause that was a Sioux war."