Then Whose?


“Good morning Miss Lilly,” he proffered a card.

“Abner Cluck, Acme Insurance.”

“Do you have adequate protection for your business?”

“The girls are responsible for their own, you say?”

“Sorry, I thought this was your house,
you were the madam in charge.”


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Jessica Hathaway


By the time I pulled my Hudson up to the scene, the sun was rising over the San Gabriels. It was a big house, with walls and a gate that probably should be called an estate, it was more than a house. I didn’t bother to show my badge to the uniform on the door, “Eddie here yet?” I asked.

“In the library,” the cop said pointing with his chin, as I breezed past him and went in.

I spotted my partner, Eddie Mercks, in a room off the hall talking to some dame. She was a straight haired blonde. Long, lean, and a real looker, the kind of girl who could keep you awake at night. The kind of girl you wouldn’t introduce to your mother. I recognized her. We had a history.

I headed that way and hooked Eddie by the elbow pulling him to the side. He held out his hands, palms down, “wait here doll.” He said to her, “We’re not done yet.”

“What are you doing, Eddie? Do you know who that broad is?”

“Jessica somebody,” he said. Then he consulted his notes, “Jessica Hathaway.”

“Yeah, that’s right and Jessica Hathaway is “Big Paulie” Costello’s girl.” I looked back at her. She was holding an unlit Lucky Strike between long manicured red-tipped fingers and leaning up against a Queen Anne desk. She wore a floor length crimson dress slit high up the front and her long legs went all the way down to the floor ending in high heeled mules that matched the outfit perfectly. I scanned back up the tight fitted dress, looking for weapons. I thought about patting her down but then I remembered “Big Paulie”, “Look Eddie, go easy on the broad, OK. We don’t want any trouble with Big Paulie’s boys.”

He nodded. “Sure thing Dan, but… “

“What’s the matter with you?” I interrupted, “Where’re your manners? Go light the lady’s cigarette – where’s the stiff?”

“In the Conservatory, Dan. It’s that way,” he says pointing further down the hall. Then he adds, “This fuckin’ house has a conservatory! Do you believe it?” He reaches into his pocket for some matches.

“I believe it,” I said pulling a crumpled pack of Camels from my jacket pocket and fishing out the last one. I flicked my Zippo and lit it as I turned towards the door, “Eddie,” I ask through the smoke, “Whose house is this?”

“I thought you knew, Dan.” He said, “This is Paulo Costello’s house. He’s also the stiff in the Conservatory. Tapped twice, once in the chest, once in the head, a real clean job.”

I looked back at Jessica. She smiled, pursed her red lips, and batted her eyes. She didn’t seem all that broken up to me. This case was starting to get interesting.

I headed down the hall.


You & Me


Me
I sit on the couch with my head in my hands.
Unnoticed, my cigarette falls from the souvenir ashtray,
slowly scarring the top of the veneered coffee table.

That’s knocking!
I stop pouring, rush to the door.
It must be you.
You’ve come back.

It’s not you at all though, it’s just the rain.
I return to my brown liquor. I return, to wallow in self-pity.

Three times I pull the door open.
Three times I rush to gather you into my arms.
Three times I am fooled by the rain and so;
3 times I crawl slowly… slowly back to the whiskey.

It’s late, after midnight.
I hear the rain at the door and ignore it.
I’ve learned my lesson. I won’t be fooled again.

It’s not knocking
it’s just the rain.

You
There is no answer at the door.
It’s two steps down from the stoop – to the pavement.
Your cab is waiting, engine idling softly.
The rain falling in front of the headlights is liquid fire.
In the cab you wipe your face, you wipe your eyes.

It’s not tears
it’s just the rain.


I’m All In


If you can do this, I can promise these,

A skill,
A trade.
Passion for what you do.
The respect and admiration of your peers.
True love,
Family you can cleave to.
Good health,
A long, full life.

Nothing more, nothing less.


The ‘900 Series’


“One quarter the take,” Rocky answered.

“What’s that going to be?” I asked; a seemingly endless supplier of questions.

“No less than 50 million.” He set the semiautomatic .45 ACP on the counter and turned it so that the grip was facing me. It was a beautiful pistol with a matte black finish and polished rosewood grips.

“So that would be 12 point 5 for me?” I was still asking questions.

“No, that would be 50 for you. The total will be four times that.”

“And what is it exactly that you want me to do for this 50 million?” I was trying to conceal my interest so I reached over and picked up the piece that he had set down.

“Crack the safe. That’s what you do innit?” Rocky squinted his left eye and peered at me from the other?

“Yeah… yeah it is, for the most part. What kind is it?”

“It’s an ole Diebold, closet safe with a 900 series lock.”

“Nobody’s going to keep that kind of money in an antique,” I said, “What’s the catch?”

Rocky started asking questions, “Are you in, or what?”

“Yeah, I’m in, Rocky. Just ’cause it’s you – and ’cause we go way back.” I racked the slide on the 45. It was smooth.

“There’s a newer safe awright,” Rocky said. “A Hamilton. It’s harder to break, but still doable. The new safe is a decoy though. Ya spend yer time breaking that, all fer nothin’ – while the money sits in a closet, the next room over, in the ole Diebold. It’s only gonna be in there for one night though so our timetable is set. Come on, I’ll show you the layout. We got less than a month.”

I walked around the counter and we went through the curtain to the back room. A workbench and some tools lined one wall. A small round table occupied the other end of the narrow space.

Seated at the table was a tall thin man with close cropped dark hair and a handlebar mustache, I pegged him at about 40 years old. Next to him sat an older woman. She was wedged into a pastel colored summer dress that fit her like a sausage case, her hair washed a light blue. Based on the resemblance and the age difference, I figured they were mother and son. I knew who they must be.

“He’s in,” Rocky told them and you could see them relax as the tension fled out the high transom windows into the alleyway.

“You must be the McCoy’s.” I said and stuck out my hand. “I can’t tell you what an honor it is to meet you both.”

“Join us?” said Martha McCoy indicating the two empty chairs.


Truth


With cover design to lure the unsuspecting scholar
The Stone is but an opuscule, penned by Margolies.
Inside, printed with a serifed typeface on rag paper, is truth.
Truth to set you free, to make you run.
Perhaps, to get you killed.