Location: Charlie’s House (Heroine’s Room) (Day)
I had a glorious sleep-in the next day and, because I wasn’t up all night, it was actually still morning when I woke up.
My body was still humming from last night’s fun. My own thoughts were making me giggle…a sure sign that a good time was had by at least me.
(Very promising talent, that Vince Moretti. A real up-and-comer!)
I went downstairs and Cook made me breakfast while I flipped through the new issue of “Tallyfaire”…
…but my mind kept drifting back to last night and how good it had been with Vince.
(Not a boy at all…my first real man. I’m finally getting a taste of the life I could only read about or see in the movies…)
(…and I gotta say, I like it fine! I always envied the boys and their freedom…)
(Teddy, John, Stephen…they all took it for granted and all I could do was watch in envy…or kick at the stays a little when I could get away with it…)
(…but now it’s MY turn to cut loose!)
The doorbell rang.
(Probably Vince, coming by to test the waters for a second go-round.)
When I opened the door, though, it was Cliff.
(How is it I feel a little disappointed by this?)
I was waiting for him to continue and wondering what he’d think if he knew about last night.
(I’m not sure if he thinks I’m a floozy or if he’s just worried Vince is going to get in trouble with Charlie…)
[Heroine]”What can I do you for, Cliff?”
[Cliff]”I need to talk to Vince about some supply issues we got going on…an’ I was going to go by and visit Charlie. Thought you might like to come along.”
[Heroine]”I’d love to see Charlie, if he’s up for it…but, don’t you and Vince live together? And see each other at the Box most days?”
[Cliff]”Yeah…but we don’t overlap much at home. Haven’t had a chance to talk with him at work. I was gonna bring it up last night, but then he took you home…”
[Cliff]”…an’ never came back.”
He delivered it deadpan.
(Buster Keaton hasn’t got a better stone face.)
[Heroine]”Sure. You can explain the supply issues you’re talking about on the way, right, ’cause I need to know this stuff.”
[Cliff]”That’s why I’m asking you to go along…lots of ins-and-outs in this business…”
(Was that a dirty remark? Or am I imagining things? Still with the stone-faced…not getting anything out of him unless I show him my cards…)
[Heroine]”Well…sure, let me go change into something fit to be seen in. You had breakfast?”
[Heroine]”Cook’ll fix you right up. Go on into the kitchen.”
I only kept him waiting a half hour or so while I quickly splashed my face with water and figured out what to wear.
Location: Shooting Range (Interior) (Day)
Charlie’d been resting when we looked in. He still didn’t look good, but the doctor said he was doing surprisingly well, considering.
We scribbled out a note and left it on his side table, then skeedaddled out to a shooting range just outside town…
…where we found Vince, plugging away at a distant target with a long rifle…
[Cliff]”What’re you doin’ with that thing?”
Vince “I dunno. ‘Felt like a bit of change of pace.”
Vince popped the expended cartridge out of the rifle, handed it to Cliff…
[Vince]”Never had nobody to take me huntin’ when I was a kid, so I ain’t had much practice with a rifle…”
…then whipped a small pistol from under his arm and fired off six shots at a target a about twenty feet away.
Every shot hit, sending bits of broken glass flying in all directions.
[Heroine]”Now you’re cooking with gas!”
He reloaded and repeated the stunt two more times with the same results.
(Wow…crack shot with that pistol…)
[Cliff]”You should upgrade that little .25 to something with some stopping power. Get’yerself a Colt.”
[Vince]”Too heavy. Messes with the lines of my suit. If I need something heavier, I take my sawed-off…”
[Vince]”…and I’m thinkin’ of acquiring one of those Thompsons. Firepower at a distance…better’n a rifle any day.”
[Cliff]”You still have to aim a Tommy gun, Vince.”
[Vince]”At a thousand rounds a minute, even a monkey can hit something with one of those babies…”
[Vince]”But I’m betting you two didn’t come out here to see me shoot…”
[Vince]”…although, maybe you did, beautiful. As you already knew, I’m better at close range.”
He gave me a wink and a little smile that invited me to quip back. I let it fall, ’cause I didn’t want to give Cliff any more of a heads-up than he already had.
[Cliff]”We need to move up the next run.”
[Cliff]”The last load Dolan brought in was a little light, Giamatti and Doyle are running low at their casinos…”
[Cliff]”On top of that, business has been boomin’ right at home, thanks to The Ice Box Flapper here…”
(Please select one)
A: “Did we pay for anything we didn’t get?”
B: “Are the casinos paying their percentage?”
C: “What did you call me?”
[Heroine]”Did we pay for anything we didn’t get?”
[Vince]”Naw. I ain’t paid Paddy yet.”
[Heroine]”Did he try to short us?”
[Vince]”He knows I always do a solid count before I give him his envelope. I ain’t got to it yet.”
[Heroine]”So it could be him…or it could be the captain of the boat that brought the stuff down the lake.”
[Vince]”I don’t think it’s Paddy…though he could be testing the system with Charlie out of commission.”
[Heroine]”Check it out. Both of you.”
(Cliff might keep Vince in line.)
Cliff nodded as Vince flipped me a smart-ass salute.
[Vince]”You got it, boss.”
[Heroine]”Are the casinos paying their percentage? If their business is up, that should be showing up in their envelopes.”
[Cliff]”It is…but they could always be shorting us some. It’s the way of the world. They’re Charlie’s guys…”
[Cliff]”…could be they’re going a little light, just to see if we notice.”
[Heroine]”What would they be expecting us to do, then?”
[Cliff]”Probably expecting I’ll see it and come to them for a piece of whatthey’re holding back, figuring I’m the same kind of disloyal bastard they are.”
[Heroine]”Look into it and tell me what comes back. Take Vince.”
(That should scare them.)
[Heroine]”What did you just call me?”
[Vince]”It’s not him, doll. It’s what people’re calling you around town. Ice Box Flapper…the Cutie from Columbus…”
[Heroine]”Are you making this up?”
[Cliff]”We ain’t that kind of smart, kid…an’ we got better things to do than come up with nicknames…”
[Cliff]”…like keep track of the count of what’s coming in and going out. Your new accounting system is working like a charm…”
[Vince]”Yeah. Dolan’s order was light ’cause the skipper who hauls our stuff down the lake shorted him…just trying to see if we’re paying attention, I guess.”
[Heroine]”You going to sort him out on that?”
[Vince]”Next chance I get.”
[Heroine]”Take Cliff with you.”
Vince looked at me as though I’d just insulted his manhood.
[Heroine]”Vince…both of you…be careful and don’t hurt anyone, please.”
[Vince]”Us? Raised as we was on the sweet milk of human kindness, would we even THINK of hurting someone?”
[Cliff]”I’ll keep an arm on him.”
[Heroine]”Thank you Cliff. Now, about this next run…”
[Vince]”It’s a new supplier…whiskey still in the barrels. Some guy out of Cincinnati claims it’s straight out of the distilleries in Kentucky.”
[Cliff]”Ain’t all those closed down and under guard?”
[Vince]”This guy’s got some set-up with permits to sell the whiskey made back before Volstead for medicinal purposes. He ships it…
[Vince]”…an’ it gets “hijacked” by his own guys. He reports it stolen, then sells to the highest bidder. This time, that was us. Charlie made the deal just before he got shot.”
[Heroine]”I’m going on this one.”
Cliff’s brow twisted up like a mile of bad road, Vince looked like Christmas just came early. They spoke at the same time…
[Cliff]”I don’t think that’s such a great idea.”
[Vince]”Sure, if you want”
[Cliff]”I know what you get up to, Vince.”
[Vince]”What, you don’t think she can take care of herself?”
[Cliff]”Not with the kind of scrapes you get into! She’s Charlie’s…”
[Vince]”Niece! I know that, Cliff. But she’s a big girl an’ can call her own shots.”
[Heroine]”Vince is right, Cliff. And I don’t need him arguing my case for me, since my gums flap just fine. Look at ’em, right now. You know what they’re saying?”
Cliff’s smile seemed to dim, Vince’s triumphant.
[Cliff]”You’re going on the run.”
[Vince]”Look at that, Cliff can read minds as good as that guy with the turban, whatshisname…Alexander the Crystal Seer.”
[Heroine]”A good sport doesn’t crow when he wins. Especially when it’s not his game.”
Somehow, Vince didn’t look any more humble.
[Cliff]”We need to get back to the Box.”
[Heroine]”Right. You coming, Mr. Moretti?”
[Vince]”I got some business to attend to. I’ll be along.”
I headed back to the car and I’m sure Cliff thought he was being quiet when he spoke to Vince…
[Cliff]”I know what you get up to. If I find out you’re trying to get up her skirt…”
[Vince]”You won’t find that out from me, pal. A gentleman don’t kiss an’ tell.”
[Cliff]”Since when are you a gentleman?”
[Vince]”Like you said, she’s different. She’s Charlie’s…”
[Cliff]”Niece. Yeah. Which should make you more respectful than usual.”
[Vince]”Hey, I give her just as much respect as she asks for…and in case you ain’t noticed, she’s not shy about asking. Or anything else.”
Location: The Ice Box (Bar) (Day)
Later that afternoon, back at the Ice Box, I was helping the staff get the tables cleaned up and reset…
…Julius, Cleo, and the guys were trying out some new numbers that sounded pretty good. Cliff was behind the bar, polishing glass and brass…
…and giving me the stare every now and then…
(Guess he thinks I’m encouraging Vince’s worst instincts. Guess he’s not far wrong.)
Neil was holding up his usual end of the bar, nursing his bourbon.
[Heroine]”You ever find what you’re looking for in the bottom of that glass?”
He actually turned to face me this time.
[Neil]”You going Temperance on me?”
[Heroine]”Yeah. I got my Women’s Christian Temperance Union membership right here in my garter…let me show you.”
I pulled up my skirt to my thigh, pulled the little flask out, and slammed it on the bar.
[Heroine]”Cliff, can you fill this up when you get a moment? That’s a dear.”
[Neil]”Smart an’ sassy might work on the snooty set. It doesn’t wash with me.”
[Heroine]”Does anything wash with you, Neil?”
[Neil]”You want me to spill my guts? Tell you all the crazy running around in my head?”
He finished his bourbon and slammed the glass down on the bar, then rose to face me.
(He’s really tall…and he’s got a look in his eye. Maybe I poked the bear too hard?)
[Neil]”You want war stories? How I killed men, or watched my best buddy die?”
He took another step toward me. Not sure if I was too scared or trying to make some point, but I stood my ground.
[Neil]”Or should I talk all about how my mamma didn’t love me enough, like some nervous nellie? What?”
[Cliff]”Neil. Doc. Sit down. Let me pour you another drink.”
Neil was looking down at me like Moses from Sinai. He didn’t even glance at Cliff.
[Neil]”Why?! Why do you want me to sit?”
[Cliff]”I don’t think the lady likes the way you…loom.”
All of a sudden, the door of the back entrance flew open with a bang. Vince appeared, limping and…
(Bleeding? He’s BLEEDING?!)
Vince threw himself into a chair, his leg extended. His hat was missing. Blood was pouring from a slash across his thigh.
[Heroine]”Cliff! Get me a bag with some ice! Neil! Don’t just stand there!”
I ran over to Vince and took a look at the wound. His pants were soaked with blood below the cut.
Neil grabbed his bag from the floor near his stool and sauntered over, taking his sweet time.
[Neil]”How many times does this make, now, Vince?”
[Vince]”You keepin’ count? Do I still owe you something for last time?”
[Neil]”Bad habit, you wandering in here, bleeding from some fresh hole and hoping I’m sitting here with nothing better to do.”
[Heroine]”Seems like a safe bet, seeing as how you’re always sitting here with nothing better to do! Would you LOOK at it, please, before he bleeds to death!”
[Neil]”If it was serious, he wouldn’t’ve made it here from wherever he came from. Cut like that…any deeper, and he’d bleed out in five minutes.”
(He almost died?!)
[Neil]”Where’s the guy who did it?”
[Vince]”With that breath he had, I advised him to see a dentist.”
[Neil]”You dropped him off, then.”
[Vince]”Turns out, he has a cousin who’s an undertaker so I’m thinking maybe a family reunion’s in order.”
(Is he kidding?)
Neil pulled Vince’s leg up on another chair, washed off the wound with water from a basin Cliff brought over, and proceeded to stitch him up.
Vince didn’t make a sound or even look away as Neil went to work, his hands sure and steady.
I didn’t think I could watch, but then Cliff returned and shoved drinks into my hand and another into Vince’s.
(Straight gin…maybe it’ll settle my nerves.)
Neil finished up, wrapped the sutured leg in a thick swath of bandages. I set the ice pack on it.
[Vince]”Christ! That’s cold!”
[Heroine]”It’s ice, knucklehead. It’s supposed to be cold! Leave it alone. It’ll help with the pain and the swelling.”
He let me nurse him a bit, but grew impatient pretty quick.
[Vince]”Cliff! You still got those old work pants back in the storeroom?”
In a moment, Cliff returned with the pants, tossing them at Vince’s head. Vince snagged them out of the air and set them on the table behind him.
[Vince]”Can you grab me some smokes up at the stand on the corner?”
[Cliff]”Sure. Luckies, right?”
As Cliff headed out the alley entrance, Vince took another sip of his drink and started to test his leg.
[Heroine]”What are you doing? Are you going somewhere?”
[Vince]”Unfinished business. Shouldn’t take long.”
[Neil]”You should stay off that leg for a day or two.”
[Vince]”Yeah, that’s going to happen.”
He stood and started limping around, favoring the wounded leg but putting more and more weight on it as he examined the stitches.
[Vince]”Nice work, Doc. Send me your bill.”
[Neil]”I’ll waive the fee if I get to sock you in the jaw. After the leg’s healed, of course.”
[Vince]”Pretty funny, Doc.”
Vince started changing into the fresh pants.
[Heroine]”You’re going to do that right here?”
[Vince]”Any customers around at this hour? Besides, Neil of course…and let’s be honest, he’s more of a fixture than a patron?”
[Vince]”What? You the shy type all of a sudden?”
(Please select one)
A: “I’m not the one without any pants on.”
B: “I can’t believe you’re going out again!”
C: “What is so important it can’t wait?”
[Heroine]”I’m not the one without any pants on.”
[Vince]”Modesty is for those who’s got something to hide. Me, I got nothing to be ashamed of!”
(If he’s going to be like that, he can go chase himself!)
[Heroine]”I can’t believe you’re going out again!”
[Vince]”My business won’t wait.”
[Heroine]”If you come back dead, it’ll wait just fine!”
[Vince]”Is that supposed to make sense?”
[Heroine]”You’re right. Just go on…but don’t bring your mess in here again! This is my place, not a hospital!”
He gave a smirk, like he was happy with what I said.
[Vince]” “Whatever you say, doll.”
[Heroine]”What is so important it can’t wait?”
[Vince]”You did ask me to take care of something.”
[Heroine]”Is this about that?”
[Vince]”Not exactly…but it’s a related matter.”
[Heroine]”I’m not going to change your mind.”
[Vince]”Nope, not at all, doll.”
Elliot walked in.
[Elliot]”Vincent! I’ve come to offer you a return engagement.”
He pulled a deck of cards from his jacket pocket and fanned them like a pro, then noticed Vince’s state of undress.
[Elliot]”…though, I would insist you wear pants.”
[Vince]”Sorry. Love to get even, but I’ve gotta go. Why don’tcha ask [USER_FIRST_NAME]? She’s got the makings of a first rate card shark.”
As I glared at Vince, Cleo and the band swung into a hot rendition of “After You Get What You Want, You Don’t Want It.”
[Heroine]”Sure, Elliot. I’d LOVE to play…but you’ll have to go easy on me. I watched the boys back home play sometimes…”
(At a couple of petting parties. They wouldn’t let ME play, of course. They said I’d be too much of a distraction…)
(…so maybe tonight I’ll see if they were right!)
I sat down at the table and Elliot began to explain the rules of the game…most of it was familiar, but I let him think he was teaching me something…
…mostly because I liked the sound of his accent.
(He’s got a way of making you feel like you’re the only one in the room.)
Maybe the boys back home were right about me being a distraction, or maybe Elliot was helping me a little without me seeing how…but I did all right.
By the time the club got busy and I had them deal me out, I was up $200! I hadn’t even noticed when Vince left.
[Heroine]”Thanks for the shopping money, boys. Mr. Graham, it’s been a pleasure.”
[Elliot]”Indeed it has. Always a joy to find an apt pupil.”
(I do believe Elliot Graham is flirting with me! What a life I’ve fallen into!)