By Larry Niven (born 1938).
First appearance: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, October 1968.
Reprints page (HERE).
Short story (19 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
(Parental caution: Mild language and violence.)
"Something poked me in the side, and I slapped at it and found myself clutching a .45 slug. I plucked another off my cheek."
For your average hard-boiled private eye, staying alive is a daily concern, crossing the wrong people can be fatal and is definitely something to be avoided; but when the wrong people go too far, even a laid-back P.I. has to do something: "Now I begin to understand your attitude," his uninvited and unwelcome visitor tells him. "We, too, try to balance out the amount of power given to individuals . . ."
~ Lester Dunhaven Sinclair, the Third (a.k.a. "Sinc"):
"When Sinc showed up about three years ago and started taking over the rackets, I stayed out of his way. He was the law's business, I figured. Then he bought the law, and that was okay too. I'm no crusader."
~ Bruce Cheseborough, Jr. (the narrator):
"I'm a private op. Any minute now I'll have Sinc's boys all over me, and the first one I kill,
I'll have the cops on me too. Maybe the cops'll come first. I dunno."~ The "Martian":
"My major weaknesses are susceptibility to certain organic poisons, and a voracious appetite."
~ Don Domingo:
"You know, you have the hardest head—"
". . . the one who'd gotten me into this mess . . ."
"He stood there in the doorway, while the stars grew old and went out. Nothing, I felt, could have torn his eyes from that twitching, bubbling mass."
Typo: "Sinc' I'll see to that"
- Larry Niven stories that we've already featured are "How the Heroes Die" (HERE) and "Dry Run" (HERE).
The bottom line: