Friday, March 19, 2010

Mag 6

a bag of nailsI was in a fix and then some. I'd been a sap, and a dope and probably a couple of dozen of those ten-doubloon words that you pay top dollar for in fancy clinics. And I was in deep.

It had started with a dame - don't it always? She had shimmied into my office about the time when all the good little girls and boys go and turn into bad little girls and boys for the evening. The first thing I noticed was her dress. It was a nice shape and not much of that was the fault of the tailoring. She'd said all the right things in pretty much the right order and had shown enough of a pretty nice leg for me not to be too particular about how much dough she had in that purse of hers. She needed someone finding. A name: "Gerry" and a little something he'd left behind for her to remember him by. It wasn't much to go by but it was enough to make me promise to do something foolish.

Donovan's Bar on Seventh and Main was the sort of bar where girls like her met guys like him. It was the sort of joint where you could pay two dollars for a shot that was twelve parts Canada Dry and still come out with a headache. It was quiet, too early for the out-of-towners and too late for local gentry. I ordered a Scotch and got something which almost might have been one. The barman was an old Pole who used to kick about with the Paderewski mob on the East Side until the top rollers found themselves in a field with more than their fair share of metal in their insides. He knew me and wasn't surprised when I got to asking him questions. A little prompting and he told me about a place someplace that wasn't a place. I thanked him kindly and left him to clean up the glass as I went to get my flivver.

Coolidge Boulevard was as quiet as it could be without actually having cemetery gates either end. The apartment blocks were set just off the wide sidewalks, with thin ribbons of greenery to tell the folks inside what they were getting for that extra twenty bucks. I parked up a block down from the place I wanted and walked up. The celluloid strip from my shirt collar got me into the building without my having to bother the concierge any. I soft-shoed up the stairs. I reckoned the apartment I wanted was on the second floor, near the fire escape and so far it hadn't been my night to be disappointed. The light was out but I knocked gently anyway, just to be polite. Just to be extra polite I kept my right hand on the gat in the pocket of my topcoat.

The apartment wasn't much you'd care to write home to your ma about. Three rooms, if you count a bathroom that doubled as a damp armpit. I had a look round anyway, just in case I needed the exercise. I found it underneath a card table by the bedside. As clues go it wouldn't scorch any records on a salt flat but I'll take them as they come and act grateful.

Which is how I came to be in this fix. The Greek guy prodded my shin with the stubby toe of his shiny brown shoes.

"Hey, let's keep you in the here and now, eh?" he spat.

"Sure, why not?" I drawled.

He shook his head.

"You guys," he spat again. "You guys, you make me sick. You think just because you've got an office with some fancy nameplate and a desk with a Smith Corona you think you're the bee's pajamas."

Cat's pajamas. Cat's. I didn't offer to correct him. I reckoned he was good for another one-fifty and the blackjack in his hand didn't look in the mood for wordplay.

"You see, that's the trouble with you penny-a-word guys," he was saying. You have to go in for some dumb coincidence to get your cheap sensationalist plot movement."

"Says you dumb coincidence!" I would have curled my lip into a snarl but it was pretty well busy keeping a few teeth in one place.

"Says me! Now, a business card, or a packet of matches, well that's kinda traditional round these parts. You'd have to follow a clue like that, hell it would be downright unprofessional of you not to!"

All the time he was talking he was rolling an unlit cigarette from one corner of his mouth to another. This was fine by me. I was having more than enough fun without the smell of cheap tobacco. He was just getting to the point where he was going to list my saintly attributes when he stopped all of a sudden and glared at me. The light on his forehead bounced back like a sunlit day in Malibu. He leaned over and spat again.

"What sort of a dumb ox follows a clue like that, eh? You think you can come here to The Bag O'Nails and play gangbusters when the place is packed and the guys are loaded? You're lucky you can still feel where your teeth used to be."

He turned his back on me and shrugged.

"Ah, you poor dumb mutt!"

As he walked away I realised what a dope I'd been.

The Card Table was a dive just three blocks down from here.

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24 comments:

Pat said...

I feel Mickey Spillane.

savannah said...

i read it in voiceover, sugar! xoxox

Madame DeFarge said...

All I can see is Dick Powell. Which is always a worry. Fab.

Rob said...

ya bloke, it's the dames every time...
...rob
Image & Verse

lisleman said...

good
I remember stuff like this on Prairie Home Companion

"a bathroom that doubled as a damp armpit" I need to remember that one for my next real estate ad.

Scarlet Blue said...

...I thought I was going to get shot... and I'm not wearing the right shoes or a tight skirt.
Sx

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Kevin Musgrove, Private Dick.

Berowne said...

A well-told story of my life.
(Signed) Red Pupil, Private Eye.

Peter Goulding said...

Loved the damp armpit line. The one-liners come thick and fast. Hugely enjoyable

Catalyst said...

Great story and fantastic dialogue! And from a Limey!

willow said...

Kevin! I adore your writing! Gosh, it's so slick and edgy. You're damn good.

Brian Miller said...

ha. brilliant...loved all the one liners...tight piece...

joanny said...

A fast paced good read--- ditto to all the one liners, creative play on word usage --

Joanny

Lyn said...

Bogie, come back..and bring that dirty little bird with you!!

Angie Muresan said...

Very, very nice! You tell it so well without wasting any words.

Vicki Lane said...

Great noir take on the prompt. You hit the nail on the head with every line.

steviewren said...

Great story. Among dozens of great lines, this was one of my faves, "It was the sort of joint where you could pay two dollars for a shot that was twelve parts Canada Dry and still come out with a headache."

SUN DANCE HILL said...

This is SO good, you are such a talented writer - I really enjoy your blog - thanks!

Kevin Musgrove said...

Many thanks all. Sorry I've not been good at responses: one of *those* weeks. I'm hoping to catch up in a day or two.

Lulu LaBonne said...

Brilliant! - you might find that you are living in the wrong country

Charlie said...

Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler have nothing on you, Kevin. I think it's time for the pulps to return and enthrall new generations of dis-interested readers.

A great job.

(An aside: I have switched to this blog so I can hopefully keep up. I've added my handsome visage to your followers, even though you have an aversion to it.)

Kevin Musgrove said...

Ta Lulu!

Charlie: I'd love for the pulps to come back into fashion (without zombies!)

(I know what you mean: I'm rather a lot less driven by anger on this blog. I've never cast aspersions on your visage have I? Apologies if so, it's a splendid fizzog.)

Charlie said...

Sorry, Kevin, I was ambiguous in my comment. What I meant was you don't do the "follow" thing on the blogs you read. I find it handy because I can read the people I follow (like you) directly from the dashboard.

Another thing that has disappeared other than the pulps) are serials--both in print and in theatres. The serial worked quite well for Mr. Dickens, although he was known to drop a story thread because of time or space.

I apologize for the confusion.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Charlie: no apology necessary.

The only opportunities for serial writers these days over here are for writers of romances and family sagas, neither of which I can do (and yes, I've tried).