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…

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