Bed sheets clung to me like a second skin as my apartment smelt of cheap whiskey and stale tobacco. Leaning over I picked up my smokes and lighter. Last one. The flame briefly illuminated the room.
Pink Wallpaper was peeling off the wall and a dark patch lurked ominously like damp on the ceiling.
Beautiful.Home sweet home
Finishing the cigarette i stubbed it out in the sink and splashed cold water on my face ignoring the leaking faucet. Unfocused bloodshot eyes stared back at me in the mirror. Four day old stubble completed my grizzled look. I’d shave tomorrow. Ignoring the mess in the kitchen, I changed and made myself a coffee. Sipping the bitter black brew a sudden panic washed over me, chilling like an icy shower.
A frantic search revealed it was hidden in my coat. Sighing in relief I remembered I tossing it over an armchair last night.
It would have been just my lousy luck to have lost it after the last hellish 48 hours since taking the job.
Being played like a fool by the Broad who had hired me drove me bat shit. Whomever had sent her had done their homework. A sucker for smouldering green eyes and lips that would make a priest think twice, I’d fallen for the story like a moxey.
Last night had cured me of my affliction. An ambush with tommy guns and rifles in an alleyway will do that.
Luckily I escaped without a scratch. Father Patrick blessings must have served their purpose.
Another cup of Joe made me feel human. Barely.
Reaching into my coat, I pulled out the figurine and felt the rustle of paper.
How did I miss that? No chance anyone had put it in there last night, must have been yesterday morning at the office.
The note was scratched with fancy writing. Whoever scribbled it spent a fair amount of time with a book shoved in their face. The ends of the letters curled like the eyelashes of a troubled dame. I assumed it was a woman. The woman, Miss Nora Pierce.
The way she had sat thinking in my office, I’d guessed even from our brief encounter, that thinking didn’t come easy.
Played me like a harp on Sunday. That sexy librarian look had caught me out a few times, but none as near fatal as this.
The note threw me a curve ball.
“Tabbers Island. Pier 6.”
A $1500 advance meant that the assignment wasn’t bullshit.
So the same doll who had sent me to tail a gang that and retrieve her family heirloom, was now leaving me love notes? Well maybe not a love note.
Why this message?
Not for a second had I thought Nora’s story was suspect.
But the goons knew I was taking a shortcut through Pinkies Casino or else I wouldn’t have been cornered.
Why try and kill me? If the goons had been sent by the broad, why not just meet me as agreed and trade it for the rest of my fee.
It would be a lot cheaper to just hand me the dough and let me drink myself to death if they wanted to grease me. That had to be their intention. Nobody packed heat like that otherwise.
A knock at the door stirred me from my thoughts.
Walking over I used the spy hole I’d fitted last month after the Maltese affair. Nobody looked low down so it was perfect. Six legs shuffled in front of the door.
At least three goons then. One stubbed out a cigar,cuban,expensive.
Time to flee. I’d used the fire escape plenty of times before. This time I left a present. An old smoke bomb the fumigators had left after the roach infestation.
Jumping in my Buick coupe I sped away. The office was off limits so I headed over to Eddies and banged the door.
“Who is it?” Drawled Eddie.
“Eddie it’s Murphy,” I spoke into the door nearly shouting. Eddie had trouble hearing.
After a long second of nothing Eddie spoke.
“Murf do you know the time?” Eddie must of had company.
“Eddie. I need a piece. Ran into trouble last night.”
A bolt slid on the across the door and Eddie opened up. Sure enough standing behind him was a dame. Not wearing much but a smile and one of Eddies shirts.
Talking me into the back room Eddie told me that some guys had come looking for me last night.
“What did they look like?” I asked lightening up a smoke, taking a deep draw.
“Male, late twenties, clean cut types. All manners and greased back hair. Had a Italian air to them.”
“You got some guns?” I asked.
“I always carry Murfs. I got a .455 Webley-Fosbery,a Colt and M1 Thompson. ”
Thinking I fingered the Thompson.
“Eddie? Did you sell those goons any Tommy’s last night?”
Eddies squirming told me all I needed to know. Throwing down a couple of crisp $100 bills I said “I’ll take the Colt.”
The sun was sinking down on the city as I reached Tabbers island. The ferry wasn’t crowded with people and the wind cut across the water. The sky turned shades of deep purple and the color of blood oranges.
Slipping off the side of the boat I avoided the docks and the toughs watching for my arrival.
My senses were on fire with adrenaline, a sick excitement at the prospect of a confrontation. Traversing up and around the shipyard, the air I breathed felt like cold threads being pulled into my lungs.
Slowly making my way through the warehouses of the shipyard I picked off goons along the way using my cosh to full effect.
Near the piers I leaned against a wall.
Asking myself why I was sticking my neck on the line for a statue of a horse and a Dame with eyes like emeralds. I got no anwser. It was the principle of things.
The front door of the warehouse I was leaning against slammed shut.
My eyes darted towards the noise. I froze. Through the smeared dirty window panel was a shadow of a figure. From the outline I could tell it was large man looming over someone else. I leaned forward ducking low so as not to be seen.
As I peered into the darkened space I noticed the dame. The big lug was roughing her up. Slowly I reached into my coat pocket for my picks. I had to be quiet here. Cutting round the back I found another door and jimmied the latch. The loud click echoed across the empty space and I flinched momentarily. Squeezing through the door I snuck inside to within a few feet of them.
Nora was tied to the chair whilst the big lug brandished a wicked knife. Was this the guy going to cut her throat?
“I don’t know where it is. I don’t know where he is.” Nora was snivelling. Damn it, I hate it when a broad cries.
The lug flashed his knive near her menacingly. As he came into the light I saw the scar, puckered purple flesh notched and twisted along his cheek up to his eye.
Madman Mcnaulty also known as The Shadow. I’d never met him but I’d heard of him. A nasty piece of work who did some running for the big bosses in L.A. What was he doing in the Windy city?
There was only two ways out of this. I could double back and leave her to Mcnaulty. Or I could jump him. Waiting shadow I was stuck in a deadly game of cat and mouse.
Sweat broke over my face.
The thought of blasting him came to mind. I pointed my gun at the figure. My finger was squeezing on the trigger—I stopped. What if I alerted the rest of the goons? I lowered my gun. My only option was to play the fool and jump him. Quietly I moved through the dark until I was huddled by a crate of whiskey a foot away.
The shadow seemed to grow larger in front of my eyes. As he walked past I pulled out my knife and sprang up. An aura of death surrounded me. The blood in my veins turned cold as ice. Somehow Mcnulty saw me, heard me. Spinning he thrust his knive forward with a guttural cry.
Locking blades we struggled, his gigantic strength dwarfing mine as I was pushed back.
Slamming into a stone pillar I felt my head shake violently, all the while the shadow forced the razor sharp steel towards my jugular. Lifting up my knee I slammed it between his legs. Roaring in anger Mcnulty smashed his head forward onto the bridge of my nose, even as he doubled up in pain. Falling to the floor I dropped my blade as blood streamed from my nose.
Recovering quickly the Shadow stalked towards me as I tried to blink the greyness from my vision. Shuffling backwards I thrust my hand out for a weapon. As Mcnulty reached me he lifted me up with one meaty fist and held the knife at eye level. We grappled and with my right arm I grabbed his wrist. His other hand gripped my shirt as he manhandled me.
As he pulled the knife back to thrust forward I grasped the neck of a whiskey bottle and swung it upwards. It travelled in an arc and smashed against his temple. The shadow crumpled bonelessly to the floor as the bottle left his face a mass of glass, blood and liqor.
Gulping in breaths I fell to my knees. Slowly the world returned to normality and I soon I’d cut Nora’s bonds free and had taken a long swallow of some whisky from the crate. Looking at Nora for a minute we stared in silence and I handed her the bottle. Clearly shook up she took a long drink.
It didn’t take us long to sneak out the yard, grab a ferry and drive to a motel. Deciding we should lay low for the night we did little laying and yes those lips did sizzle.
The next morning we drove the Buick to my office. Behind the locked door I gave Nora the figurine and she paid me the remaining $3000 before she left.
That evening someone came into the office knocking me out,as I poured myself a drink.
When I came to the money had gone. Creep even took my new Colt.
Luckily I always have one of youths in the street watch my office and tail clients.
Little Billy came up with the goods and I found them.
Mcnulty and Nora were certainly on speaking terms and were enjoying the fruits of their labours.
Smiling i left them to it and swung by Eddies before returning home.
As I looked in the mirror I saw an ugly gash on my face standing out where Mcnulty must have knocked me out. The cut was sealed up enough and and I washed the dried blood off my face.
Then I packed a case and opened the leather bag I had got from Eddies. Inside was $140,000 in crisp bills. When I had gone to Eddies to get a piece we had a look at the figurine. Turns out a fence like Eddie recognised it.
The Praire Stallion was famous and had been stolen from a Texan oil Baron, who had paid good money to get it back. Eddie had supplied a copy for $300 bucks. As I left my apartment and jumped into the Buick I chuckled to myself at the Broad and her goon, trying to play old Murphy.
Taking the interstate to Vegas I smiled at the rising Sun. My head hurt but my last case was closed. It was almost a relief.’