Archive | February, 2012

Dancing With Tears in My Eyes

10 Feb

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” I came downstairs as soon as I heard the bell. I’m not the type to leave a guy hanging and I don’t go for any of that making-him-wait stuff. Sure, that was fine for our grandmothers, but I got things to do. “Maybe we shouldn’t be seen together. People might get ideas.”

“How about you forget what people are thinking and just be with me tonight?” Randy held the door for me as I got into the taxicab. It was a nasty night out and I was glad for the cab’s interior warmth. I was even gladder when he slid in and sat close beside me. “Besides, we made a deal. You want information about your friend’s kidnapped pal and I want to spend an evening with you.” He spoke briefly to the cabbie and the car pulled away from the curb. “You look gorgeous,” he added, with an appreciative glance. I had to admit he was right. I’d spent hours getting all dolled up, had splashed out on a new lipstick and everything. It went without saying that Randy looked good. He’s the type that cleans up real nice and he knows how to dress himself. 

“Where are we going?” An icy sleet was falling, coating everything in sight, and I couldn’t see much out the window.

“The Harbourside Grill for dinner and after that…well, you’ll have to wait and see.” He grinned at me. “Are you interested yet?”

“None of your business. And don’t go looking at me with that face, either.”

“What’s wrong with my face?” he wanted to know.

“Nothing,” I replied. “It’s a very nice face.”

“Well, good.” He sat back, his arm across the top of the seat and not-quite touching my shoulders. “Here I was thinking I’d lost my charms.”

The cabbie let us out in front of the Harbourside Grill, easily the swankest place in town, a restaurant that probably charged you just to sit down at a table. It even had its own dance floor, complete with a nice little band to play the latest Benny Goodman. “Are you sure you can afford this?” I smirked, “On a reporter’s salary?”

“Shut up, wouldya?” Randy put a hand in the small of my back and playfully pushed me in the door. “If I had to listen to you for the rest of my life – ”

“You should be so lucky.” I handed my coat to the hatcheck girl and took a look around. “Pretty swank. You impress a lot of janes with this place?”

“You’re the first.” The maitre’d appeared and ushered us to our table, a secluded little number near the back.

"You impress a lot of janes with this place?"

“Oh, I get it,” I said. “You brought me here so you could have your wicked way with me.”

Randy took the wine list from the waiter and scanned it briefly. “The ’34 Lynch Bages,” he said.

My eyes bugged out but I got over it. Hell, it was his funeral. “So come on, give.” I flapped my napkin open and dropped it in my lap. “What did you find out about the kidnapping?”

“That’s what I like about you, Spade: cut right to the chase.” He glanced up as the waiter appeared with our wine, and we lost several minutes to pouring, sniffing and tasting. Finally the waiter left and I held out my glass for Randy to fill. “Your friend’s kidnap victim is very important indeed. He wasn’t lying when he said he’s an assistant to the British Consul here, but there’s more.”

“Like what?” I tasted my wine. It tasted expensive.

Randy leaned forward and spoke confidentially. “Keep this under your hat. All the bets aren’t in yet and I’m still waiting on a couple of my sources but word is, this guy is big.”

“Whatta ya mean? The Mob?”

“No, not the Mob. Big as in Us against Them. Big as in kicking Adolph to the curb. Big as in a very, very important player in this war. He’s a police captain from Egypt. I’m not sure how he and Stoyles met, but that’s neither here nor there. He’s been liaising with the British government and his own, using St. John’s as a base.” Randy stopped talking and reached across for my hand. “Come on. You want to dance.”

“What? Since when?”

“Come on.”

"You want to dance."

He yanked me up onto my feet and whirled me out onto the dance floor. I don’t remember what the band was playing but I assume it was good to dance to, since we weren’t the only ones up there. Randy held me pressed tight against him and I wasn’t complaining except for the way his eyes kept darting around the room, and the way his arms were trembling like a hat full of bees. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“Nothing.” He pressed his cheek against mine and spoke into my ear. “Don’t turn your head but some characters just came in and I don’t like their looks.”

“What characters?”

“I said don’t turn your head! I don’t want them to think we’re looking.”

He was too late: the three wiseguys had spotted us and were making their way across the dance floor. Randy grabbed my arm and pushed me ahead of him. “Out the back door, right now.”

“Listen here – ”

Right now – goddammit, there’s no more time.”

…to be continued…

Advertisements

Any Other Town

3 Feb

RECAP: In our last issue, Suzi was called to the Heartache Cafe on Water Street where owner JACK STOYLES advised her that someone had been kidnapped...

The Heartache Cafe


“They send a note?”

Jack nodded. “Yeah. I got it right here.” He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a crumpled slip of paper, handed it across the table to me.

“That’s it? They didn’t say anything else.” I turned the note over; there was nothing written on the back. The bottom of the note appeared torn and I asked Jack about this. “Did you tear something off here?”

“Nope.” He shook his head. “That’s how I got it. It was shoved through the mail slot in the front door. Chris found it yesterday morning.”

“Huh. Keep the envelope, did you?”

“Uh, let me ask Chris.” He called the bartender, who brought it over.

“There was no stamp or postmark,” Chris said, handing the envelope to me.

“Not your fault, angel,” I told him with a smile. Damn, he was nice to look at. Maybe it was the mop of dark hair or maybe it was the long eyelashes, the dimples, or his broad shoulders. Hell, maybe it was the whole damn package.

It was an ordinary airmail envelope like you’d see anywhere; Jack’s name and address had been written on the front of it but that was it. “Tell me everything the way it happened,” I said. “Chris found the envelope. What were you doing when Chris was fetching the mail?”

“Uh, I was back in the kitchen.” Jack gestured towards the back of the cafe. “Talking to the cook about the dinner menu. We’d decided to try and mix it up a little, offer some traditional fare along with the American stuff. Chris thought we should switch up the ice cream sundaes, maybe put in a soda machine, but those things cost plenty and I’m not sure where I’d get one, what with the war and all.”

“Yeah, that’s great Mr. Stoyles, but can we skip the gastronomic review? You were in the kitchen. Was anybody hanging around outside the restaurant when Chris fetched the mail?”

“Well, there’s only the two doors up front and both of those are locked when we’re not open. I don’t remember seeing anybody but like I said, I was in the kitchen.”

“What about you?” I asked the bartender.

Chris thought for a minute. “Nobody…I don’t think so, anyway…I mean, there’s always people around, but nobody that looked, you know, suspicious.”

Chris thought for a minute...

“Nobody that looked suspicious.” I tapped the envelope against the top of the table. “So who did they kidnap?”

It was like shutting off a light; both men went completely silent.

I repeated the question.

“Jack, you should tell her.”

“Skip it, Chris.”

“No seriously – tell her.”

Silence. I laid the envelope down and got up from the table. “Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure. Call me if ever you have need of a private investigator.” I picked up my coat and hat and started for the door.

“Wait!” It was DuBois. “He’s a…friend of Jack’s.”

I glanced back towards the table. Stoyles was sitting silently, his cheek in his hand, gazing at nothing.

“Stoyles?”

“What Chris says is true.” He took out a pair of reading glasses and put them on. He smoothed the note out on the table. “I keep waiting for another note. But there isn’t one.”

He put on a pair of reading glasses...

“Who’s your friend, Jack?”

“His name is Samuel Halim. I met him a few months ago. He and I…” His hands clenched on the tabletop. “We’re very close.”

“What Jack means is – ”

“Chris, I can tell it myself.”

“Sam is the assistant to the British Consul here. I don’t know all the details but he’s doing some important work for the war effort…and now I’ve probably told you too much.”

“No, you haven’t told me nearly enough, which worries me.” I leaned on the bar. “If you want my help, I need to know everything – and I do mean everything, gentlemen – with nothing left out. Maybe this is just your average dumb gunsel thinking to cash in, and maybe not. The fact that he`s attached to the British Consulate makes me think Adolph might be involved.”

Adolph might be involved...

I glanced from DuBois to Jack Stoyles` tense, worried face. Five would get you ten that Halim was more than just a friend, but I wasn`t gonna be the one to say it. What a guy gets up to on his own time is his own business and anyway, there`s enough hate in the world as it is. If somebody finds love with somebody else, who am I to argue? “Alright.” I tossed my coat and hat onto a table. “I`ll take the case – ” DuBois and Stoyles exchanged a relieved glance. “But you tell me everything – and I mean everything or the deal`s off. I find out you been holding out on me, I`ll have your guts for garters. You understand me, Stoyles?”

He grinned. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Okay. Somebody pour me a stiff cuppa coffee and let`s get down to business.”`

* * *

I hailed a cab outside the Heartache and told the driver to take me to the Daily News building on Duckworth Street; I needed to see a friend of mine. The receptionist knew me on sight and waved me into the elevator but, with all this taxiing around I needed the exercise so I took the stairs to the second floor, where I spotted my quarry, his feet up on the desk, talking on the phone. I reached him just in time to catch his end of the conversation: “No, Jerry, that would be the wrong interpretation.” He caught sight of me and grinned. “Listen Jerry, I got company. A lovely lady wants to see me. Maybe see you later in the Duke. Yeah. Okay, bye.”

He hung up and his feet came down off the desk with a thump. “Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Suzi Spade! Haven’t seen you since Taft was president. How ya keepin?”`

Why, Randy Stone, you old son-of-a...

“Randy Stone, as I live and breathe.” I stuck out my hand and he shook it. “You old son-of-a-gun. I thought you lit out for Chicago. What happened?”

He made a face. “Let’s say I put my nose in where it shouldn’t have been, angered some people I shouldn’t have angered and I had to get out of the Windy City in a hurry.” He looked me over. “But what about you, Suze? Last I heard you were in New York. What gives? You make somebody mad?”

I raised an eyebrow. “A failed romance. Beyond that you don’t need to know.”

“Ah-hah, let me guess, that insurance guy? What was his name again? Reardon? Good looking guy, big and strong, just the way you like ’em? So what happened? He didn’t like the way you flipped his flapjacks?”

“I flipped his flapjacks just dandy.” I was eager to change the subject. “Listen, I ain’t here to bandy words with you; I need a favor.”

“Uh huh.” He pushed his hat back on his head and grinned at me. “Sure, whatever you like, but on one condition.”

I grit my teeth. Whatever it took to get the job done, that’s what Dix had taught me. Whatever it took.

“Name it.” I had a feeling I was going to regret this.

He stopped grinning; he was dead serious now. “Have dinner with me.”

Oh boy.

…to be continued In Our Very Next Issue…