She sashayed into my office; cool, lean, one hundred per cent attitude. The neon sign - JOE’s BAR – strobed my office walls, splicing the darkness and painting our faces. Her lips were painted so dark they looked bloodstained. She was the sort of woman who came alive at night. I couldn’t help but notice how her grey pencil skirt hugged her hips, when she sauntered over to my desk to cadge a light. As the match struck, I breathed in her scent - ‘Lily of the Valley’.
But she was no Lily.
Our eyes met in the brief orange flare of the match, and she flicked her blonde hair over her shoulder.
“I want you to find my sister,” she purred, deep like a lioness protecting her cub.
“Where did you lose her?” I couldn’t help myself.
“Funny guy, huh?” She lightly slapped my cheek, then strolled to the window. I watched the blue and red neon letters flicker across her. She looked like an electric greyhound: slim, racing fit, a winner.
“Will you help me?”
“I’m a helpful kind of guy. For $100 up front, I’ll play ball.”
She turned, bit her lip, leant against the filing cabinet. “My baby sister, Daddy’s favourite, has upped and left home.”
I tipped my head to one side. “Aren’t you anyone’s favourite?”
She shrugged, smiled, but then, glancing out of the window, stiffened. “Damn, they’ve followed me here. I thought I’d shaken them off.”
I almost believed her tale. She was good, I’d give her that. OK, I’ll play along. “Who’s following you?”
She stepped away from the window, and looked afraid. “Mr Desiree’s hired goons.”
I knew that name. Everyone in town knew Desiree. He was into every racket going. Girls, dope, gambling. Now this conversation had gotten more interesting, and probably more costly. How much it would cost me, I didn’t know.
I stood beside her. She was almost my height. I like that in a woman.
“See out there? In the black Buick?”
We both peered through the slats of the grimy blind at the rain-streaked street below. And damnit, if there wasn’t a black Buick parked up, with two fellas filling the front seat. Looked strange them sitting side by side as if they were on a date. Maybe she was telling the truth? I’d give her the benefit of the doubt. I walked over to my desk drawer, opened it and pulled out my gun. Its curves felt familiar in my hand.
“What are you going to do?”
She slipped away from the window, and perched on the edge of my desk, right leg swinging, shiny in its nylon sheath.
“Go down and have a chat. Isn’t that what you’re paying me for?”
When she kissed me she tasted of cigarettes and whisky. My kind of taste. Her eyes were green, like a cat’s. I don’t know what colour mine were. Probably bloodshot.
“Don’t worry, doll, I’ll be back.” She was worth coming back for.
The Buick was waiting for me. Ever so patient. I came up on the rear passenger side, slow and careful, gun at the ready. I needn’t have worried, these two meat-heads were no threat to anyone any longer. They were sitting tight and cosy, propped up, wearing matching bullet holes in their foreheads, under matching hats.
They were still warm.
A siren wailed, far off, but coming nearer. I sighed and looked up at my window, where a slim shadow stood staring down. I tipped my hat to her. Damn, she was good. I knew there’d be a valise
stuffed full of cash in the trunk, and my gun would be a match for the bullets in the dead duo’s skulls.
With any frame up, you have to try it on for size. And this one was a doozy.
A piece of paper fluttered down from my window – ‘I’d say sorry, but I’d be lying. I had to break free of Desiree. I needed a fall guy. P.S. You’re a great kisser.’
I looked up. Her shadow was gone.
Blue police lights lit up the sidewalk. It was going to be a long night.