Here’s what you’ve got to understand: I’m not the type of cat who gets foiled by a dame. But this dame was something else – like a steam train running off its tracks and taking a whole damned town with it.
I met her at The Horse and Cart, an old dive downtown wedged between a meat warehouse and an empty shop the needle brigade took over to cook up their junk. By habit more than happenstance I was at the bar, caressing my usual whiskey, when she walked in.
I’m normally one for blondes, but every now and again a redhead like this knocked my proverbials off. She was slathered in an emerald dress which was wrapped in black mink, and she had two particular areas of curves I was interested in, along with the longest legs I’d seen since Tuesday.
I eyeballed her as she sauntered over to a corner booth and sat down, crossing one thigh over the other. Tom Brady, the proprietor of the establishment, leant forward over the bar.
“You see the gams on that?”
Every cat in the joint had seen them, but I said “I ain’t here to look at no gams.”
I stretched out my hand, mighty painful from the fight I’d had last week. I was getting gray, inside and out. Damnation.
“You’re all business, Joe,” Tom Brady said. “How about it?”
“Not much doing,” I said.
I poured a shot of black down my kisser.
“You see the list tonight?” Tom Brady said.
“I seen it.”
“How was the length?”
“Mighty short, again. I remember when this game was worth it. Makes you mull, you know.”
“The great Swingin’ Joe ain’t thinking of bailing, is he? Wouldn’t be the same without you.”
“I’m weak of it, Tom Brady. Too many new guns crossing names off the list without knowing a thing.”
“They’d all be happy you were gone, for surely.”
Over in the corner I saw the knockout stand. She had a wiggle to her walk, the sort of thing no gal is born with. No sir, you gotta learn a walk like that, and you don’t learn it in a swish uptown finishing school. Her hips were solid mesmerizing.
“Gin,” she said to Tom Brady.
She perched on the stool next to mine. I turned straight on to her and let my lookers linger on her chest for a momento. She was the type you could see yourself straightening up for – little pad down in Georgia, away from the shit upstream. I shook my head. I was getting old, for surely.
“You done with that staring?” she said.
“I’m done. Whaddya say?”
“I say I got a message for you.”
“A message from who?”
“From the Falcon.”
Ah, the Falcon. There was a name to make most cats in the city want to dive into the sea. But not Swingin’ Joe – I’d seen worse in my time.
“You don’t beat around the bush, do you?” I said.
“You want your message or what?”
“Sock it to me, sugar.”
The broad uncrossed her gams, then crossed them again the other way.
“It’s about that hoofer out of Chicago.”
“The one you offed.”
“I didn’t off no hoofer.”
“Last week, Harlem. About nineteen with rustish hair.”
I’d shot two chaps in Harlem the week before. I seemed to remember one with rustish hair, but after ten years in the game they all came out of my memory looking mighty similar.
“Well, yeah,” I said. “I think I offed him. But I didn’t know the guy – he was on the list.”
“And now you’re on the Falcon’s personal list.”
“What does he care about some two-bit hoofer?”
“He was the Falcon’s nephew.”
I sighed and medicated in some more whiskey. The Falcon didn’t care about who he hit or what lives he upended, but he had this weird kinky thing for his sister. If the hoofer was her son, I was in more trouble than I thought.
“Ah. Applesauce,” I said.
“He wants you to meet him at the club tomorrow night.”
“I ain’t that stupid, sweetpea.”
“Yeah, you’re a real hard-boiled cat, aren’t you?”
“That’s the job.”
“So I’ll tell the Falcon you’re not coming?”
“Tell him whatever you want.”
The broad got up from the stool and shrugged her mink up over her shoulders.
“Not gonna stay for your drink?” I said.
She looked up at me with a half smile. Her lips were painted fire engine-like. She took the glass and downed the drink in one go – a gal after my own ticker.
“You haven’t paid for that,” Tom Brady called out as she wiggled away.
“Put it on Joe’s tab.”
“You ain’t gonna tell me your name?” I said.
“It’s Lulu. Burn that one into your brain, daddy.”
What happens when Lulu gets Swingin’ Joe mixed up with The Falcon? Will he make it through the night alive? Enter your details below to read the full story: