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Edge of Midnight Monday: Life is a Cabaret

by Azrael

Case One – The Death of Harry Fontaine

Chapter Four – Life is a Cabaret

28th October, 1949

So next thing I knew, Giles was trying a jumpsuit with arrows on for size. With Ruby busy pullin’ strings to try and get him out, that left the other three on the job. I didn’t know how much longer I could expect this mismatched trio to keep their own lives on ice while they tried to find out who put an end to mine, but frankly I was grateful for all the help I could get.

They’d been tossing around theories while, across town, Giles was getting the screws put on him by the Crystal Ball Squad, but I couldn’t quite believe where one of their theories was taking them.

Eva did a number on me for sure, but I could never believe that she’d do this to me. She walked out of my life clutching my heart in her elegant fingers, but there’s no way she hired some goon to have me shot. Still, if Eva was at that Tong-owned cabaret then maybe was in trouble; I was on tenterhooks as to what James might find when he went there.

Considering he works for the Gateway version of the Mob, Jake seems like a stand-up guy. Okay, so maybe he’s got a bit of a problem where Gaunts and Warlocks are concerned, but that don’t exactly set him apart in today’s world.

The only problem was, with Shirley dating the creepiest guy this side of the grave and James walking into potential danger at the Tong place, Jake couldn’t be there to back them both up at once…

One way or another though, Jake’s rep says he’ll take care of business…

POV: Jake Bullet

Shirley steps into the back room and closes the door, she says something about cleaning up, getting ready, but I’m not listening properly. Instead I’m pondering James’ trip to the club. Sending him in alone decreases the chances of anything going wrong, but he’s such a weak sister, that if anything does go wrong, it may go very wrong. He just doesn’t look like he can take care of himself, and it almost goes against my better judgment to send him into danger. Still, rather him than me! Though I don’t want him totally unprotected.

“Do you want me to go with you to the club, hang around outside for you?” I ask him. “Or should we wait until Shirley’s finished with her ‘date’ and then both of us can back you up?”

I think James likes the idea of backup, but I can tell he’s impatient too. He doesn’t know how long Shirley’s date will take, and so he suggests that he goes to the club at the same time that she’s ‘dating’.

Of all the available options, it does seem to be the one that makes the most sense. But I was planning to be available to pick Shirley up after her date, so I’m mulling over the timings when Shirley steps back into the room.

Wow. Stunning.

I try to think of something clever to say, and I can’t. I don’t want to come across sounding as impressed as I am, so instead I mask my surprise and say, “You’re wearing that? No, that’s the wrong shade of lipstick, your other one is better, wear that”.

Here I am thinking I’ve done a good job of sounding suave and unimpressed, and she pops my illusions when she dryly comments that she doesn’t have another shade of lipstick. She’s left me speechless, but I recover quickly, changing the subject.

“I’m going with James to the club, to see if we can find Eva. I’ll find a phone to sit next to, and I’ll leave the number with one of my guys. So when you need picking up, just call my office, and my guy will relay the message to me”

Shirley agrees, and then as Inich is due to arrive soon, she tells James and me to head out already, not wanting us to be there when Inich arrives.

James gets into his car, and I get Leo to drive me, following James. It’s only after we set off that I remember that I forgot to lend Shirley the derringer I offered. I was looking forward to assisting her in concealing it on her person. Getting grumpy with myself, I decide instead that this is a perfect opportunity to learn to drive. So I tell Leo to stop and swap over, and he starts teaching me what to do with the pedals and gear stick. After a few bone-shaking moments, I start to get into the rhythm of things. This driving thing is easier than it looks, or maybe I’m just a natural.

The surroundings start to change as we enter the ‘Golden’ part of town, and James finds a place to park some way away from the club he’s going to. Wanting to be closer to help if there’s any trouble, I park at the side of the road almost opposite the club, next to a street-side noodle bar.

I’ve never really visited the Golden-quarter before, so the way they cook and serve their food is unusual to me. I sit at the counter and peer at the food, piles of half-cooked meat, vegetables, and noodles. Along with dishes of different sauces.

The Golden-guy working there asks me what I want. “What have you got?” I ask him, making him explain the various different sauces to me. After some consideration I go for the chicken and noodles with oyster sauce.

He’s a chatty number, and I soon learn that his name is Harry Wong. Maybe he’s trying to get me to tell him my name, but for the moment I think it’s best if I keep that to myself.

It’s certainly an experience watching him prepare my food. He throws it into a big metal pan and at once it’s sizzling, I don’t have time to get comfortable before it’s slapped on a plate and pushed in front of me. He gives me some sticks to try and eat it with, the nerve, forcing me to pay extra to get a fork. Still, I don’t want to cause a scene, so I pay up the extra few cents he asks for.

After a couple of minutes shooting the breeze I ask him if he has a phone, trying to sound casual, as if it’s not that important. He says he doesn’t have one, but points one out on the street to me.

I ankle on over to it, and put a call through to Rocky, back at the office, carefully giving him the number of this phone. He’s not the smartest penny in the tin, but he can handle writing down a phone number. I make sure he’s taken down the number right before returning to the noodle bar, and chewing on my chicken.

There’s not all that much I can think of to talk to Harry Wong about, so I point at some things behind the counter and ask him what they are. He seems more than happy to answer my questions. I guess the here and now is boring enough for him that answering my questions is a change from the norm, and as such better than the alternatives.

Mr Wong offers me some rice wine, his grasp of English doesn’t seem to be too good. He just can’t understand why you can’t make wine from rice, but I try to explain you can’t squeeze the right juice out of it, but he’s not having any. I shrug and pretend to let him win the argument, and I try the stuff. It’s not wine, but it does the job. I give him a fake smile, turning on the charm. If I’m going to be stuck here waiting for James, I might as well try and fool this guy into thinking we’re sparking up a friendship. You never know when you’ll need a friend somewhere, and a contact in this part of town could be useful for me.

I throw a glance back towards the club now and then, trying not to be so obvious about it, just acting as if I’m scanning the passing traffic. Then I spot a guy… no, scratch that, it’s no guy. It’s a gaunt in pinstripe, and a big one at that. It takes me a moment or two, but it finally hits me why he looks so familiar. It’s Nick ‘the Nail’ Andrews, and I don’t think it’s a violin inside the case he’s carrying. He’s a known tong, a nasty guy with a reputation for putting people down hard.

I’m a little concerned when I see him enter the club. But there’s no real need to worry, it’s not really a surprise to me that his sort would be hanging around. Even if he spots James, he’s not going to know who he is, or be suspicious. Relax Jake, everything is going to be fine. I sip at my rice wine, it takes the edge off my nerves. As does the conversation about this ‘passion fruit’ drink that Wong’s trying to push on me. I don’t know what the stuff is, but I have a pretty good idea. he says it comes from some wrinkly purple fruit with ‘seeds’ in. Well I’ve heard about the strange sort of medicines these golden types like. I’m not touching that stuff with a barge pole. I tell Wong I’ll stick to the rice wine.

I hear the phone ring, and before I can get up it cuts off. Turning I see Mr Wong with the phone to his ear, saying his name and then hanging up. It could have just been a random call, but I can’t take the chance that it was Rocky with a message from Shirley. Surely he’d ring back? I can’t tell with Rocky, sometimes he takes the initiative and does the right thing, other times he’s just oblivious. I get to the phone in time to hear it ringing again, and I snatch up the handset.

“Hello?” I say quickly, giving Rocky time to recognise my voice. But it’s not Rocky. I hear Shirley’s slightly stressed voice on the other end. Her ‘date’ with Inich doesn’t seem to be agreeing with her, and for some reason that thought pleases me. But back to business. She tells me that he doesn’t have the papers on him, he’s left them at home. Well that sounds like a good ruse to get her back to his place. Right now she’s at a salsa club on Sentinel Island, and she wants me to break into his place and get them. She doesn’t know where he lives, though I could probably find out she says. I probably could, I think to myself. Her plan isn’t overly convincing. For a start he could live somewhere quite secure, and even if I got in, where would I look for the files. I tell her I’ll do my best, and then hang up.

I stand by the phone thinking. Shirley’s a roundheel kinda gal, she does what it takes to get things done. Her weekly payments are proof of that. I don’t understand why she’s suddenly getting all picky. Unless maybe she doesn’t want to ‘trade’ with Inich and stump up her weekly payment to me this evening. Maybe that’s too much for her to force herself to go through with all in one night.

I lift the phone and dial the operator, asking to be put through to Gregor Inich. The broad on the other end doesn’t want to put me through, saying that it’s ex-directory.

“You don’t need to tell me the number,” I say, putting on my suave voice that I hope will make her weak at the knees, “you just have to put my call through.”

Either my logic or my tone of voice does the trick, and she puts me through. So far it’s not going to help me find out where he lives, but I’ll at least be able to find out if anyone else is at home. I’m surprised and disappointed that the phone is answered, and then a little shocked as I realise it’s Mrs Inich. The sly dog! I manage to wheedle the address out of her, but unless Inich is planning a threesome, he’s not taking Shirley back home tonight. He has another location in mind, which means he’s serious about getting from her what he wants. I put the phone down, fists clenched angrily, and if Inich was here right now I’d drive a slug through him, so help me. No. I need to calm down. If he’s not taking her home, where is he taking her? The morgue? Some flat he keeps on the side for this sort of thing? No, it’s no good. Shirley’s plan for me to break in and get the files is a bust.

There aren’t that many salsa clubs on Sentinel Island, and I start making calls. I get the bartender to call out for a Shirley. He says there’s someone answering, but I ask what she looks like, just to make sure it’s not someone else’s Shirley. His description of a blonde bombshell sure sounds like the right gal, and when I hear her voice, it is indeed my Shirley, so I spill the bad news. From the tone of her voice this isn’t what she wants to hear, and she’s in a panic, telling me that she’ll keep Inich busy as long as she can, but that I have to come to the club to follow them when they leave. She seems reluctant to hang-up, but I end the call saying I’ll be there as soon as I can be.

Not long after I put the phone down and head back to my food, I see a car pull up at the front of the club, with four very obvious goons getting out. Three normals and a Gaunt, and the only one not carrying a baseball bat is instead carrying a tire-iron.

I’m immediately suspicious. It’s not impossible for some goons to turn up at a tong club, but to turn up armed and ready for action there must be something going down. As soon as I see them split up, taking alleyways either side of the building to get ’round back I’m moving. There’s something hinky here, and I’ve got a gut feeling that James is in trouble.

I get Leo’s attention, patting my gun suggestively and pointing to him to take one of the alleyways, and I take the other, creeping along it until I get to the corner letting me see what all the fuss is about.

I peer around the corner from the darkness, and near the centre of the back wall I can see someone being pushed towards the goons while a door is bolted from inside. Whoever this person is, they’re in for a world of hurt. As he’s pushed out from the minimal cover of the doorway, entering the glare of the alleyway’s single light, I see that it’s James.

Simultaneously my heart sinks as the danger I feared is realised and adrenalin rushes through my system looking forward to a fight. It’s not a good situation, so many things could happen. But I know that in a street fight the only way to win is to be tougher and more brutal than your opponents.

There’s no talking his way out of it, if I wait for them to start wailing on him, it’ll already be too late. I lift my gun, sighting down it at the gaunt. It’s a tricky shot, but I need to make it count. Once I fire, they’ll know where I am. To make the first shot count, I need to hit their strongest, the Gaunt. It just so happens I quite like shooting at Gaunts.

I breathe in, and then slowly release the breath. When my lungs are empty, and my whole body still, I lovingly squeeze the trigger of my gun and shatter the relative silence of the night.

BANG

There’s a spray of blood as my bullet hits the Gaunt hard, and I hear another shot ring out and the Gaunt shudders a second time. Good old Leo, following my lead. He’ll go far in the business.

If I expected two bullets to put a Gaunt down, I’d have been disappointed. But I know the beasts are harder to put down than that, and I’m not shifting aim. I have no intention of not killing the monstrosity, but I call out demanding their surrender. You never know, I might get lucky.

They all drop their weapons, though with no intention to surrender, instead pulling their own guns as the game gets oh so more serious. I wouldn’t want to be in James’ position, stuck in the middle of a gun-fight without a weapon.

The Gaunt knows his own stamina, and takes the chance that we’ll stop shooting if he raises his gun and points it at James’ head. I don’t even hesitate. It’s not my head after all. I change position slightly, in a comfortable stance swinging the gun slightly to the side, focusing on the Gaunt’s hand. Let’s see how well he can shoot if I knock the gun out of his hand. A tranquility passes through me, and another explosion echoes out.

BANG

Not only does the gun go flying, but the Gaunt’s hand erupts blood as it becomes a mangled mess. Better than I could have even hoped. Leo must have been aiming and waiting to see what I was going to do, because almost at once another bullet smashes into the Gaunt.

The other goons are ready though, aiming down the alley, into the darkness, but with a good idea of where we are. I can hear the grunt of pain from Leo even as a shock of agony briefly makes me stagger as a bullet clips my arm. I orient myself for a moment, checking I’m ok, then I call out that if they don’t all want to end up dead, they better surrender now.

James must be freaking out big time. It must have looked like he had no hope when he was pushed out at the goons, but the first shot I took must have given James him some. Since the goons drew guns he doesn’t look as hopeful any more. I almost laugh as I see him uselessly flailing around with his umbrella, does he think so little of my skills that he thinks it’s come down to this? Still, maybe he’ll distract them a little.

Then James finally lands a blow, and I’m almost as staggered as the goon that goes flying across the alleyway with a sickening crunch of shattering bone. I manage to keep myself composed enough to drive more lead into the Gaunt’s body, one eye following James as with a crazed fury he brings the umbrella down towards the injured goon’s head. For a moment I’m reminded of Giles, beating on the mook at Al’s place with his cane, unable to stop hitting the guy. At the last moment I see James visibly pull his blow, but there’s still a sickening crunch as the goon goes down hard, and stays down.

If I couldn’t see that it was an umbrella, I’d have thought that James had picked up the tire-iron… and maybe he has, maybe without me noticing he’s slipped it into the umbrella. That would explain it.

Leo and I trade some more lead with the goons. It looks like the other goons have decided that James and his brolly are a bigger threat right now, and they turn on him, shooting at almost point blank range. Unless they get really lucky, James can probably survive two shots, but the despair must be hitting again, as he opens up his umbrella and tries to cower behind it.

I guess it would reduce their chance of aiming at his head… but the hot lead will tear up the cloth like a hot knife through butter. At least that’s what we all assumed, except maybe James, because I get my second shock of the evening. The bullets ricochet. They bounce of the damned umbrella. Now I ain’t ever seen a thing like it, and I don’t think the goons have either. It’s just not natural, and that’s a scary thought. This meek and mild historian isn’t what he appears to be.

The two goons are outmatched now, and I start walking towards them while shooting. They both drop their guns, going hand to hand against James in a last attempt to get the upper hand. One of them drives his fist into the umbrella with a sickening crunch of breaking fingers – not smart. But the other one manages to get a kick past James’ guard, landing a blow in the head that sends James staggering.

Leo and I continue pumping bullets into the Gaunt, and he finally goes down. It seems like the goons realise the game is up, and they leap up onto the fire escape and start to flee. I send a bullet after them on general principle, but seeing them run I know there’s little time left to get out of here.

I run towards James, pausing only to pick up one of the dropped baseball bats from the floor. Raising it over my head I bring it crashing down several times into the mouth of the dropped Gaunt. If the monster wasn’t already dead, then he certainly is now. I reach down and grab a fistful of broken teeth, stuffing them into my pocket while James stammers on about taking the unconscious goon for questioning.

I tell Leo to grab an arm, while I grab the other, and together we drag the goon out of the alleyway and to my car. We throw in the goon and before I dive in I drop a $5 note on Harry Wong’s counter and tell him he saw nothing. We race out of Eastowne, stopping only to drop James off at his car and head on out again.

I haven’t told James where we’re going, but I tell Leo to get to Sentinel Island fast. I might have saved James, but there’s a dame in distress, and she needs saving too.

I put a hand to the wound on my arm. It’s bleeding, but not all that bad, I’ve had worse.

“Boss, what’s he doing?” exclaims Leo, gesturing with a nod at the rear-view mirror. I turn my head and see James doing a U-turn. Looking further back I see a long black car heading in the opposite direction. Either James has gotten tired of following my car, or something is up. Considering that I’ve got the goon that James was keen to interrogate, I don’t think he’d turn around out of boredom.

“Turn around Leo, follow that car!” I declare, leaning forwards eager for some more action. The night is still young, the adrenalin is pumping, and I intend to see more action.

I slip my gun out of its holster, and casually reload, counting in the bullets to work out how many I’d fired in the fight. Five bullets in, that means five bullets out. That’s about four I put into the Gaunt. If Leo put an equal amount into him, and I think he did, that sure was one tough creature. But a score for the Patterson Gang, two of us seeing off four tongs, this is the sort of story that might raise my profile, but then again, maybe I shouldn’t be too eager to gossip, this little hit on the tongs wasn’t exactly sanctioned. Plus, as much as I don’t like the idea, James played a part… I’ll need to talk to him about that.

He can wait until tomorrow, unless he plans on bringing down any random buildings. I won’t make the same mistake I did with Giles, I’ll keep a close eye on him, and if he needs taking down, I’ll pick my moment. No shooting in the foot for him. But James isn’t the problem right now. Right now there’s a sleazeball hitting on Shirley, and if anyone’s taking a payment from her this evening, it’s going to be me.

Meanwhile, Shirley was doing more than I’d have expected to try and blow the lid off the case, dating that creepy Inich guy to get her mitts on my autopsy and ballistics reports. Only I didn’t know if he’d follow through on that, or dole the info out in crumbs so she’d have to keep coming back for more.

POV: Shirley Homes

I held the brush over the tin of paint, watching for a moment as the red paint dripped into the pot just like the blood had done from Harry’s chair. Scraping off the excess I looked back at my work, a little drippy, and amateurishly done, but at least the writing was covered up. At least I’d had company while I had to do this, James and Jake were both flapping their gums in my office. They’d just been talking about the logistics for tonight, who was driving who where and so on. Personally I’d rather have the back up than James, and wished he’d wait until later to go to the club, but what can I say, the poor guy seemed keen to go to this ‘cabaret’. I washed off the paint with turps, I’d forgotten how pungent that stuff was; I just had to hope that Gregor didn’t have nostrils as sensitive as his underling, Matthew’s. I straightened my hair and was just adding my lipstick when I heard, “you’re wearing that?!” from across the room. I asked Jake what he’d taken offence to with my outfit, but apparently he didn’t like the shade of lippy. It was no different to my normal one, and I certainly couldn’t afford to have two at once! Men, I just don’t get them sometimes…

It was dark outside and Jake started to make noises about leaving. I didn’t dissuade him as I needed the gents to be scarce when Mr Inich turned up. My heart began to sink after I saw them out of my office. I figured Jake wouldn’t have time to return with the derringer so I checked my own revolver. A bit bulky for such an occasion, but I wanted some security. I saw a long black car pull up outside. It was 5:58pm precisely. The pit of dread in my stomach got worse. I glanced at Harry’s hat, I had a reason for doing this after all. Turning out my light I saw Gregor step out of his car, and take his customary gesture of adjusting his hairpiece. Sighing to myself I locked the door and headed downstairs.

Gregor gave me a wide grin as I approached and handed me a bunch of flowers that he’d materialized. They were crushed and wilting, and on closer inspection looked the kind of selection someone had left on a coffin. Despite the inappropriateness I forced a grateful smile. We exchanged compliments on how we were so looking forward to seeing each other, and I glided into the car, wondering just how long I’d have to put up with this. Things took a turn for the slightly worse when I caught the driver winking at me in the mirror… I recognized that hungry stare – Matthew! I hoped his being there wouldn’t make things too awkward, but why had he agreed to drive..?

Well, I didn’t need to worry about Matthew creating a situation, Inich was doing well enough by himself. I think his comment about his fiery hips will go down as one of the worst suggestive remarks I’ve ever heard. At least I managed to get him to go straight to the restaurant, rather than taking the detour he’d suggested. I’m not sure if he’d taken the car from work now for its convenience, or for its spacious capacity in the back. Either way I was hoping to get out of this date without any further embarrassing incidents.

We couldn’t get to the restaurant soon enough. Gregor had chosen a Russian one, apparently reminding him of home. We ordered borscht and beef stroganof. I’m just glad he didn’t go for the steak tartare, there were enough morbid comments on what we were eating…

Gregor was fairly generous with the vodka, and I doubt with altruistic intentions. Well, I’ve developed something of a tolerance over the last year, hazard of the job I suppose, but I still tried to spill and hide how little I was really drinking. This wasn’t an occasion where I wanted to let things slip. On returning to the car he did the gentlemanly thing and opened the door, while he walked around to the other side Matthew felt the need to make some snide comment about my dating Gregor. I could understand the bitterness, but hoped he wouldn’t take it any further. He then commented on how he would make a better date and on Gregor’s attentions. Did he think I was blind? I couldn’t take up his offer to head off as I needed those documents. Gregor entered the car and slid right up to me, placing his hand on my knee. It was all I could do not to back against the door, away from his sour breath. He directed Matthew onto a Latin dance club on Sentinel Island. Neither of them noticed the flicker of worry that passed across my face as I realized how far I’d be from Eastowne, and therefore Jake and James.

So I could get some peace of mind I asked Gregor about the documents he’d promised. I wanted to at least get a cursory look at them. However it turned out that he’d left them at home. I feigned enthusiasm for going there with him, but my head was running through some new ideas…

We arrived at the dance place. There was certainly a vibrant, Hispanic atmosphere there, and the last place I’d have expected someone like Gregor to turn up to. Well, he swooped me onto the dance floor and flung himself around with obvious enthusiasm. It wasn’t Salsa, but he had enough gusto that he obviously didn’t care. My moves were perhaps more conventional, but I had the added hazard of trying to manoeuvre around Gregor’s infamous hips of fire…

After a few songs he decided to go to the bar for drinks, I made excuses and left him to it. The only phone available in the club was at the bar, which meant too big a risk of being overheard. I headed out. The phone directly outside the club was out of order, meaning I had to head down the street. I got the operator to connect me to Jake’s office, and after spending half a dollar waiting for Rocky to sift through papers I eventually got a forwarding number for Jake. On calling the number it was answered by a man with a broad Golden accent, who didn’t give me a chance to explain that Jake should be in the vicinity. Well, I hoped Rocky hadn’t given me the wrong number, but I tried again in case I’d miss-dialed. After a few rings it was answered, this time by Jake. I asked after James, apparently he was still in the Tong club, guess I was still on my own out here. I asked Jake if he could ‘obtain’ the files from Gregor’s house while I kept him distracted at the club. Jake didn’t seem too keen on the idea, guess he’s not that confident himself in his lock picking skills. Guess that meant that I had to go there myself to get them, but I wanted backup. I arranged with Jake for him to be outside Gregor’s house at 11pm prompt to help me escape if needs be. I’d have to time it well, but hopefully I could get those files. I headed back into the club, Gregor was still queuing and didn’t seem to have missed me. I hovered nearby, trying to go over how long it should take to get from here to Downtown, and how much of a margin I needed to leave for getting Gregor to hand over the files. Suddenly I heard my name, a bar tender was holding the phone and asking for a Shirley. Well, Jake knew where I was now, I wondered what had happened. I headed for the bar tender, approaching him just in time to hear him say ‘blonde bombshell’ into the receiver. I hoped it was only Jake checking I was the right Shirley!

Although I was grateful for Jake to give me an excuse to avoid Gregor for a few minutes, his news was disconcerting. Apparently there was a wife at home, implying that Gregor had somewhere else in mind for us to finish our evening. Disconcerting news to say the least. We arranged for Jake to come to the club where I was and tail Gregor’s car when we left, hopefully enabling us to find where the documents were hidden. Gregor approached me with the drinks, and lurked behind. As much as a lifeline Jake’s deep, powerful voice was, I had to sign off. Well, as soon as James got out the Tong club he’d be coming. That was the only reassuring thing this evening.

Taking the drinks Gregor and I headed to some couches and chatted. I had to encourage him to talk for as long as possible, so I looked as interested as I could as he outlined in excruciating detail some of the more gruesome cases that had come his way. This led onto his philosophy of seizing the moment, and his wanting a special person in his life. The way he looked at me left no question as to who he wanted that to be. Knowing he had a wife waiting at home meant I had little sympathy for his plight. I wonder sometimes if there is such a thing as a good man in this city…

My impression of Gregor only went further downhill. I persuaded him into a few more rounds on the dance-floor, and did everything I could to procrastinate leaving to give Jake a chance to catch up, but Gregor had become particularly single-minded, and all but dragged be back into the car. He told Matthew where to go and we headed off. I tried not to show my concern, but I hadn’t seen Jake show up, and had no idea if he was tailing or not. I feigned tiredness and leant my head against Gregor’s shoulder, so I could get a clear view out of the window and the rear view mirror, trying to hide the whiff of the morgue that seemed to have permeated through his clothes.

I reflected on how tonight was going so differently to what I’d had in mind. Most guys, especially those taken, just enjoy the company of a pretty skirt on their arm, someone who makes out like they’re the best thing in the Commonwealth for a few hours, to let them live a fantasy for a few hours, before they go home to a cold reality. For them the banter and flirtation is enough. However I seemed to have found myself in a car with the two most desperate men in the city.

I’d imagined getting the folders and spending a pleasant, well, unpressured evening with Gregor, before dealing with the Angeli kid’s body, hopefully with the help of one of Jake’s mooks, then being back at the office for a reasonable time, or onto another night spot with some more… honorable men. I wondered briefly why Jake hadn’t made his usual collection earlier in the afternoon. Maybe he was waiting for me to finish this case and would take the payment later from what Lady Ruby paid me. If that’s so, he’d then expect the cash no doubt… which was a shame, I guess I’d come to look forward to his weekly visits, but I didn’t dare admit that to myself, much less to Jake. I smiled to myself as I relived his visit earlier, and hung onto the memory as a capsized sailor hangs onto driftwood.

As more and more cars overtook us on the main drag through the Island I realized that Jake wasn’t behind. I was feeling rather nervous, but was exceptionally glad that I had a piece with me. I’d have to get myself out of this one, but it wasn’t the first time I’d be swimming in deep water.

We approached the bridge linking Sentinel Island to the peninsula. If they didn’t know where I was now there would be no chance of them finding me. I resigned myself to dealing with Gregor’s advances alone… but suddenly I glanced a recognizable face! James driving his old sedan which he’d fondly named ‘Petunia’. I made eye contact for a second as he drove by; he’d spotted me. I hadn’t seen Jake or either of his cronies, but hopefully they weren’t too far away. I followed Petunia in the rear view mirror, James drove a little further along and then U-turned.

I breathed an inward sigh of relief. Now, just to get those files…

Originally authored by: Alice, Azrael, & Skimble


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