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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Showdown at Club 42: Part I

[Stories Home]   Read on to Part II >>

Showdown at Club 42

I Getting a Seat at the Table

     It was a funny thing about speakeasies. Everyone dressed up, men and women alike, but there was more in the way of under attire than was appropriate for decent company. More than a few of the gals toted roscoes in their purses or tucked into a garter, though I preferred when the lump was a flask. Men were the same, with the gat tucked into the waistband or a holster under the coat. I could spot the people who had managed to slip through the ham-fisted frisking at the door with their guns, and they were all friendly with Rosetti.
     Fortunately, I didn't spot him, as he would probably finger wag me over there, or send his goons to do the job for him. I wasn't here for Ciro. I spied out my target at a corner table, sipping on some kind of hooch. He had a handful of cards, too. Danny Kincaid looked exactly like he was supposed to, a snobbish rich kid going too far with money. If I could bring him back to his mother tonight, I'd earn myself my fee plus the bonus she promised. If it went smooth, she could keep the bonus.
     I moved to the table, but a thick guy with a chisel nose and flat jaw intercepted me with a palm on my chest. I took immediate offense to that, and slapped the mitt away. I wasn't gentle, as I knocked his arm aside, and followed through to step close and shove his shoulder. Under cover of being belligerent, I slipped my free hand inside his jacket, and relieved him of the suspicious lump under there, tucking it into my own waistband.
     "Mind the hands, buddy. I'm just walking here." I explained.
     "This is a private table. Invitation only." He had the heavy voice of a man not to be messed with as he ran through most of his vocabulary.
     "That right?"
     "Yeah, that's right."
     "That because their's brandy here or because there's gambling."
     "You best keep your eyes where they belong, before something unfortunate happens."
     "Fine, fine. No need to muss up your tie." I reached out, and straightened his tie, and pulled the jacket closed, too, slipping his wallet out with a three-fingered lift and dropping it on the floor. "Is it possible to get one of these invites?"
     "You'd have to ask Mr. Rosetti. Otherwise, buzz off."
     "Right. Maybe I'll do that." There was no way I was going to go talk to Ciro. I had other ways to get one, though. I just needed to know what one looked like.
     "By the way," I turned, adjusting my hat, "I think that's your wallet on the floor."
     He glanced down with a puzzled look on his face, while I went back into the club at large, pausing to dump the .45 I lifted into the trash. With the goon there, I couldn't get to Danny boy. I'd either have to wait until he busted out, or get into the game myself.
     I took up a spot at a table, nursing a soda, but not the scotch in a separate glass. The bartender had looked at me queer when I did, but I patted my pocket, making like I had reason for them to be separate. He touched the side of his nose, understanding. Lots of people liked to fill up their flasks at joints like this. I watched people walking around, but finally spotted one with a purpose for the back table. He produced a folded piece of paper. Thick, the kind they used for calligraphy and might even stamp with wax or gold leaf. He showed it to the mook that pawed me, and was allowed back.
     I finished my soda, and began looking for my mark. The entrance was my best bet, as some might show the thing off before going to the back, but just about anyone making a bee line for the back would do. There. The guy with the flapper on his arm. His all white suit was a sign he liked to stand out, and the way they laughed at everything spoke of lots of money, money he was itching to lose in spectacular fashion.
     I had to make my play. Trips were convenient, and often easy to explain on clumsiness, but they also attracted a lot of attention, and it made fingering me for the job easy.
     I didn't have anyone here I could convincingly get to run a play with me, so I decided to go with drunk and cheerful. I folded up the brim of my hat, tilted it rakishly, loosened and pulled the knot of my tie to one side, and ordered a double whiskey from the bartender.
     When in front of me, I took a swig, and began stumbling towards the couple, drink in hand.
     "Yer lookin' good, buddy!" I clapped the man enthusiastically on the shoulder. "Tha's a nishe shoot." I pointed and gestured with the drink, purposely sloshing it over onto the jacket. "Oh no! I'm sorry buddy!"
     "You clumsy buffoon!"
     "Don' worry. I'll fix it. Hol' this." I pushed the glass into his hand, and began to wipe at his jacket with my handkerchief. I leaned into him, and made a show of clumsiness so that he never felt me lift his invite out of the jacket.
     "You idiot!" he pushed me away, forcing me to take the drink back. "You may have just ruined my jacket. Come along, Margaret," he took hot steps away from me, straight towards the restroom. The flapper, though, couldn't hide her amusement at the spill, and wobbled after him in her high heels.
     I shook the invite out of where I had tucked it up my sleeve, and smiled. I opened it up, glad that it was a generic invitation. Fancy on the outside, but not delivered to anyone specific. I had my way into the game. Danny Boy was as good as mine.
     I dropped my drink on the tray of a passing girl, and left a quarter with it for a pack of Lucky's. I was about to complete an easy case, so I deserved the smokes. My last pack had run out two days ago. The girl gave me a wink as I took the pack.
     "Matches, sir?" she proffered a pack with a "Meridian 5-3428" written on it. She looked okay in my book, and I really liked that wink, so I might give her a ring later on. Better yet, I could use someone inside Club 42.
     "Thanks, Doll. I'll be seeing you." I returned the wink, and gave her a long look as she walked away, admiring the stocking seam that ran up the back of her calves.
     Time for that later, after I got paid. Now I had to collect Danny Boy from the back room.
[Stories Home]   Read on to Part II >>
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