ADVENTURE, THE 3RD: BATE AND SWITCH
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Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…
Adventure the 3rd – Bate and Switch
A couple of blues came by the apartment within the hour. I wonder what took them so long. The cat certainly didn’t waste her time purring to the police. Now, I know plenty of guys, even in my line of work, who choke like salmon on the hook when the call comes down. Me…I couldn’t care less. It’s not bravery. More like insolence working overtime.
So, I take my time getting dressed and even find it in me to offer Officers Tweedle-Dee and Dumb a drink, grab my hat and coat and lock the place up, just in case Mrs. Menendez gets the urge to come back.
We go through the motions – just three tough guys out for a ride. It’s quiet and edgy with the fellas pretending to be more interested in the world coasting by, but not really.
“Where’s Malory?” I ask the heavy set one as we pull up to the precinct.
No reply. Not that I expected one.
“Hey, Costello, you must be a conversationalist,” I prod.
“Zip it,” I’m told by his skinny partner.
So we go through the motions some more. I walk between them like I’ve something to hide, which isn’t far off.
Out of boredom I size up my guides. Skinny’s no problem. Even with his gun strapped to his holster he’s less than a hundred in change. But Rolly’s got some stamina underneath all that girth; probably an ex-linebacker, drill sergeant or bouncer. He’s an ex-something or other because no guy with his hidden talents takes up the shield unless it’s as a last resort.
My pair march me into a nice little interrogation room – padded walls, two-way glass, bright light burning across my forehead, everything to make a Nazi feel right at home.
“You wanna tell us about the Menendez job?” the thin man asks.
“Only if you wanna tell me where you bought that tie.”
“Listen tough guy…” the fat one starts in.
I do a double take and some mugging for the boys on the other side of the glass and point to fatso with my fist in a gun motion. I know they’re there and they’ll appreciate it.
“It talks,” I say.
“Look it,” I’m told by the thin man, “We got a witness, see?”
“Yeah? And I got an alibi, see?”
“Just who might that be?”
And this time I get me some service. The door swings open and in comes my old pal.
“Alright fellas,” Malory tells them, “I’ve got it.”
“Well, it’s about time. You should know better.”
“So should you.”
He’s right. I never learn from my mistakes. Keep makin’ the same ones over and over again, like I was dropped on my head at birth. Maybe I’m idiot but I doubt it. I just prefer doing things my own way and to hell with the rest.
“Suppose you tell us about Menendez,” Malory says.
He straddles the metal chair across from me, resting those big burly forearms rolled up tight in a pair of shirtsleeves that need a good pressing. His wife ought’a know how. She runs the local cleaners. He’s thinned out a bit. Must be all those late night coffee and cigarette dinners. And he’s careworn. Wonder what’s eatin’ him from the inside out.
“Well?” he prods.
“Suppose I tell you about his wife,” I say.
I can see daylight beginning to glimmer behind those hard-boiled eyes. Even fat and skinny get a clue. They lean in as I make up their minds.
“Suppose you do then,” says Malory.
So I do - in Technicolor. When it’s over I can see I’ve downgraded the opinion left behind by her testimony from a tropical storm to a thunder shower.
“You should have reported it,” Malory tells me.
“Highly irregular,” skinny chimes in.
“Yeah, so’s my bowel movements when I’m nervous,” I explain.
“And are you?” asks Malory.
“Am I what?”
“Only on days ending in ‘y’,” I quip.
The stooges three make their exchanges in binary mental telepathy before deciding on the obvious course of action.
“That’s all for now,” Malory officially concludes.
I grab my overcoat and hat.
“Say, you guys should do Vaudeville,” I tease.
“What do you mean?” Malory inquires.
“Don’t let’s cut off my head with an ax and tell me it’s a shave,” I tell him, all show and flash, “Outside of fifteen minutes one of these will be tailing me around town to see if my story checks out.”
“Routine,” Malory explains with a grin.
“Ah, but why am I so special?” I ask.
So he tells me with a sickening grin, “Because you’re made for it, Mars.”
. . .
I need a drink. I leave the precinct on foot and head for the Vanity Club; a real swinging spot where anyone can get lost with just the right amount of gin poured into them. A block away from the club the beat of hot jazz begins to pulsate under my feet. I’m all set to follow it into a stupor when who do I see getting out’a a cab but my double-crossing love affair. It seems great minds…or at least corrupt ones…think alike.
She’s got that ‘class look’ working for her again, and this time she’s not alone. I let her move into her comfort zone so I can get a better look at my competition. Another pug, where does she find them? This one’s uglier than her husband; shorter too. But he’s got very deep pockets because I don’t know anyone who slips a cabbie fifty for a ten and then doesn’t hold out for his change. Mrs. Menendez and her boyfriend go into the club unnoticed. I follow close, just not too close. I want to see more.
It’s a real crazy joint tonight, full of the best and worst that money can buy, hobnobbing like the world’s their oyster and the rest of us ought’a be allergic to shell fish. I’ve never seen so many people trying so hard to have a good time. In all this glitter the not-so-famous stick out like tarnished silver.
There’s our governor with his latest mistress, taking in the scenery while being taken by it. After last year’s scandal you’d think he’d learn. I suppose the spirit of his second inaugural was love, unlike the spirit of his first which was distilled unadulterated corruption. There’s a couple of married businessmen out with their pair of rentals for the evening; good fodder for anyone who’s inclined to blackmail. But my money’s on the nifty little underage thing twisting every last bit inside out on the dance floor with some guy who’s much too old to be her father and way too peppy to be grandpa.
After another fifty, this one stuffed into the breast pocket of the head waiter, Mrs. Menendez and her beau take up a cozy little half circle as far away from the band as possible. I take my usual at the bar, the half way point between both ends of the club and order myself two drinks. I’m expecting company and it isn’t long before he shows up.
“Is that scotch and soda?” Malory asks.
He drinks it down and orders another.
“You put on quite a show for my boys,” says Malory.
“You get your money’s worth,” I say, tossing my head in the direction of Mrs. Menendez’s booth, “Take a look at the far end.”
So he does, but he misses. His needle gets stuck on some trashy-cute blonde about six tables down, gazing our way despite the fact that she’s with a gorilla who wouldn’t think twice about leaving her in a dumpster if he had a mind to.
“You must me far-sighted” I say, drawing Malory’s attention with my own aimed further down the line.
He stiffens at the sight of Mrs. Menendez. She has that affect on all the guys.
“How’s her alibi holdin’ up now?” I ask.
“Not so good.”
“Why? Who’s she with?”
Malory takes a second, more obvious glance.
“You mean you don’t know?”
“I haven’t your aptitude for collecting rubbish.”
“Name’s Jock Hemmingway.”
“Is that supposed to mean something?”
“Only if you’re into stocks.”
“So what’s he doing with…”
But before I can finish my sentence there’s a quiet disturbance on the dance floor that catches most everyone’s attentions. Seems the Junior Miss I pegged at the start has decided she doesn’t like white whiskers in her root beer. By the time we join into the collective stare grandpa’s already given her a couple good smacks and sent one of her gold earrings sailing across the room.
“Let me go, you son of a bitch!”
She’s angry now, and making a scene worthy of the cheap pulp novella about a woman scored: great theater and a pack of lies. Nobody gets that frustrated the first time out.
“You realize I’m going to have to break it up,” Malory explains.
“So who’s stoppin’ you?”
Grandpa takes another swing at his playmate, but this time a swarthy looking mongrel to his left decides to be chivalrous. The two get into it fast, but it’s hardly a brawl. Grandpa pitches like a girl. While the rest of the crowd is focused on the floor show I turn and face Marysol. Our eyes lock on auto-track and I can tell she knows what I know.
Now comes the surprise. Grandpa pulls a tiny little piece he’s been hiding inside the breast pocket of his top coat and he and the mongrel wrestle until it goes off, narrowly missing a trumpeter’s ear on the stage. Some dame screams. Some dame always does. The crowd stands up, blocking my view. By the time Malory steps in to break it up for good, Marysol and Jock have vanished into thin air.
The End?...not by a long shot.
Eddie Mars will return Feb. 3, 2006 in his next adventure: "Research."
@Nick Zegarac 2006 (all rights reserved).