The Poker Face Affair

by Hazelayes and Periwinkle

Originally published in Eyes Only #8, available through North Coast Press

Author's Note: This is an AU story which was written after we read one too many pulp mysteries. For those of you who don't know what a pulp mystery is, think of Dashiell Hammett (Sam Spade/The Maltese Falcon), Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe/ The Big Sleep), Erle Stanley Gardner (best known for Perry Mason), John D. MacDonald (his The Executioners was filmed in 1962 as "Cape Fear") and Robert Block (Psycho). They had a language of their own. If you need help with it, there is a glossary at the end.

I was sitting in the Desert Inn in the burg of Vegas, which, trust me, was worlds above some flophouses I'd been in. I had been dealt into a "friendly" game of poker in a dark, smoke-filled room. It was sometime in the afternoon, although it could have been midnight for all the guys at the table with me knew.

The joint didn't have any windows in it. I guess the powers-that-be felt people would stay longer if they didn't realize time had passed, except gamblers tended not to notice time at all. If you weren't willing to spend your rhino on cards, the house would happily take your coins for the giggle juice. I suspected the corn was watered and the drinkers weren't getting much booze, but everyone's got to make a buck, and it was no skin off my back. I don't drink when I am playing.

I was supposed to be in a tournament that night. So right now, I was sitting with some of the other players, just to "relax." Actually, I was using the time to study their styles, learn their tells, psych them out. They were trying to do the same to me, but years of living in the Soviet Union had trained me never to show expression. After Stalin, hoods like these were a dime a dozen.

I had been earning my berries the last few years with the cards. Not the sort of lay I wanted, but when you've snuck into the States in the early fifties without papers, you aren't going to find much other work in America. So I traveled around from casino to casino, careful never to wear out my welcome. Especially in Vegas. They didn't just have pit bosses, they had the Mafia. If they took exception to you, you didn't have to worry about where your next meal was coming from. You'd be feeding the fishes instead.

So I played cards and kept my mouth shut, trying to learn the language while I played. It wasn't easy; this wasn't the sort of English I had been trained to expect, but I had learned enough that I could pass my accent off now as British, even if I was never going to pass as an American.

In this game, I was up a couple of bucks, nothing much. I didn't want to look too good right now. Let the guys be surprised tonight.

Every so often this cute tomato would come around with a tray of drinks on the house. Her outfit didn't leave much to the imagination, and from the way she let her breasts rub against my arm as she filled my coffee cup, she was making sure I didn't have to use mine at all. She was cute and friendly, but for now, I had bread to win so I had to tune her out. I hoped she'd still be around later.

There were three other men. Flashy dressers, expensive pinky rings, big cigars. I had a feeling they had pretty deep pockets but I wasn't going to be a rube and ask right out.

The older one, who was beginning to go to flab, had a homburg pushed back on his head; the other two just had D.A.s. The youngsters looked more like triggermen than gamblers. Both of the boys had glasses of hooch that they were drinking like they had discovered a new religion but the older man and I were sticking with coffee. I had noticed all three men had guns somewhere on their body, but that didn't surprise me. I was packing myself.

About two hours into the game according to my watch, a flash-looking dame came in. If she was trying to dress like a demure housewife then she was reading the wrong books. Her neckline almost reached the slit in her skirt and in addition, over her gloves and in her cleavage she had all sorts of sparkly ice - the kind that Woolworths's doesn't sell, as the song goes. I didn't go much for the hairstyle, I like a natural blonde and about a quarter the amount of hair lacquer, but to each his own, and it looked like she belonged to the fat guy in the hat.

"Rudy honey, it's so boring up in that nasty room without you," she says, running her fingers over the back of the guy's neck. She had one of those breathless baby-doll voices, which makes some guys trip over their tongues.

It didn't work on 'Rudy honey'. Or me either, for that matter. The fat guy never looked up, just growled, "Trixie, I'm busy. Get lost."

She pouts and ran a gloved finger over his cheek, her knuckle-duster twinkling in the lamplight. I couldn't help watching it. It must have cost somebody's arm and leg - not Rudy's though. I could see both his hands and the knuckles were turning white.

"Nasty?" One of the young guys snickered, flicking his toothpick across his mouth so it pointed at her. "I thought you had the luxury suite."

"Well, yeah," Trixie whines, the breathy notes gone, replaced with something a bit more nasal, "but he's not in it with me."

Rudy'd had enough. He took the cigar out of his mouth and snapped at her, like she was some kinda pooch. "Trixie. Room. Now!"

The dame wasn't a complete loss. She straightens her gloves and then with a sniff, started for the door. Then she saw me, and the calculating look in her eyes wasn't something my mother would approve of, so I played dumb, deaf and blind to anything she might have to offer.

She winks at me anyway, then sashays out the door. I stared at my cards as if my future good health depended on them. Actually, I had a feeling it might. The last thing I needed today was for Rudy to think I had ideas about his moll.

After that the game broke up fairly quickly - Rudy must have realized what he was missing. We decided each either go to the hash house or to our rooms and all of us left the poker table.

As I was heading towards the elevator, I ranked a guy who was just checking in. Not one of our usual - the man stood out like a lighthouse on the coast. From the way he dressed, he had a lot of mazuma, but he didn't seem to be the mouthpiece type. I saw the hombre check me out in return for a second, but he seemed much more interested in the lookers hanging around the lobby. Fine with me. He had had the coloring of a greaser, but he didn't look Italian to me. I made a mental note to find out who he was later, and went upstairs for a nap.

The TV in my room didn't work. Probably a busted tube and I wasn't in the mood to pull all the tubes and run down to the drugstore to use their tube tester. I had better things to do with my life than stand at the drugstore machine and test tubes. Besides, by the time "Your Show of Shows" came on I'd be back at the poker table. I would just have to miss Caesar and Imogene playing Charlie and Doris Hickenlooper. I would also be missing Carmen Miranda in the Painted Desert Showroom, but once you've seen one babe shake her bananas, you've seen them all.

I took off my outer clothes so they'd look decent for the tournament and flopped on the covers. I was out like a light the minute my head hit the feathers.

It seemed only minutes later that I was awakened by a tap on my door, as if the person in the hall wasn't sure of their welcome. Rolling out of bed, I called out "just a minute" and grabbed my pants and gun, not necessarily in that order. Once I was halfway presentable, I peeked out the eyehole in the door.

It was Trixie. She'd changed into something with a little more coverage, but she was still managing to shine her gams at me. The chippy was smiling at the door. I didn't smile back at it, but I did pull it open a crack, hoping the security chain would withstand the heat she was putting out.

"Yeah?" I grunted. I had already sized her up as a worker, which to you gents means someone who works a guy over for kale, and there was no way she was getting any of mine.

She put her painted lips out, and said to me, "Ain't you going invite a lady in?" Her voice hadn't improved with time.

"I might," I replied, "if a lady was here. What do you want?"

She let it slide. There was something else she wanted more than respect. "You're playin' tonight, right?"

I nodded, still making no move to loosen the chain.

She frowned and glanced about. "I have something to tell you... something I think you'd like to know."

"Then tell me and beat it," I said. I'm not normally so harsh with females, but I had things on my mind.

She almost stamped her foot, just remembering in time that she wasn't supposed to be drawing attention to herself. "Let me in, will you? I can't stand here flapping my lips in the hallway."

I didn't see why not, but I guess my better nature got the better of me right then. Call it a weak moment. I slid my gun into my waistband, and opened the door for her. What the hell, I was curious and I figured I could out-wrestle her if need be.

She came in, dragging a cloud of perfume that would've smelled pretty good if she'd put it behind her ears instead of taking a bath in it. She shut the door and threw the lock, then turned so that her back was against the door handle.

"Well?" I said. "What did you want me to know?"

"This," she said, and launched herself at me. Before I could say "what the..." she'd got her arms round my neck and had glued her yap to mine. It was like kissing a black widow... if they had the equipment of course. For a second I wondered if she was running a badger game and Rudy was about to show up and make Swiss cheese of me for partying with his moll. But her motives didn't matter, as they weren't going to get a chance to work, and I peeled her off of me.

She looked surprised. Rejection apparently wasn't something she was familiar with. Then she came at me again, and I really didn't like the look in her eye as she said, "Don't you want it?"

I stepped back from her and found my pants stayed where they had been a moment before. That's when I realized the chippy had captured my belt and was tugging at my zip.

I slapped her hands away, but she grabbed for me again. I collared one of her hands but the other reached its target and got a hold of me for a second.

"Oho! So we're not interested, eh?"

"Look sister," I said to her, managing finally to get both her wrists in my hand, "it's time you went home. I don't take kindly to being mauled by alley cats." I pushed her away and she stumbled, falling backwards into the door with a thud. She was breathing fast and there was a wild look in her eyes... then I realized, she liked it. I'd heard of some dames getting off on a guy treating them mean, but I'd never met one and frankly I wasn't keen on furthering the acquaintance.

"Don't you want me to stay?" she breathed, and her chest was going up and down like a heavy swell. She was turned on all right.

Like I'd want a cobra to stay, I thought, but didn't tell her. "No," I barked at her, "Go, now!" I pulled the door open and pushed her out, making sure to put the chain on again behind her. That's when I realized my pants were undone. I zipped myself up and sat on the bed. Needing to get ready for the game, I tried concentrating on the form of the other players, particularly Rudy and his boys.

It didn't help that I was real sure that these guys were part of the mob. I searched my memory trying to match names to information and then it hit me. This was the Thrush mob. Not a good group to cross swords with. They were out to rule the world, some said - and given the list of their capers, I could well believe it - but they weren't going to start with me.

Evening came too soon and it was time for the tournament. I made sure I was armed and walked down to the poker room. There were five tables set up for a total of forty entrants. It was a winner-takes-all type of tournament and I intended to be that winner, even if it took me all night and the next day - which it very likely could.

After about five hours guys began busting and the player pool was dwindling. Not surprisingly my buddies of the afternoon were still alive. I suspected they had some sort of "in" with the house.

We played until there were only eight of us left. A break was called, thankfully, and while we got breakfast the tables were shifted so that the eight of us, plus the referee, were all at the center table. I checked the piles in front of me to make sure that parts of my stake hadn't vanished on the transfer but it was all there.

This set-up was getting more complicated by the minute. Instead of a straight poker contest... who was I kidding? Instead of a simple game of poker - I was sitting down with a bunch of crooked-types who sweated too much and couldn't stop chewing toothpicks, despite their nice overcoats and fat cigars.

The final game itself was dirty and long. I started out slow, neither winning nor losing a lot, keeping the other players from getting suspicious, waiting for others to drop out. Eventually it came down to four players - the fat guy, two regular looking Joes, and me. So when the time came and the pot was a real good size, I made sure I won the hand. It was a lot of geetus and it sure didn't foster friendly relations. But I was trying to build a cush to carry me for the next couple of months. I wasn't out to make buddies.

They weren't classy players, not even the fat guy, and when it came to it, they didn't lose well either. Something about the way they began to sweat and put their hands under the table whispered that the jack they were using probably wasn't strictly speaking theirs.

But I'd won it, so, strictly speaking, I didn't give a damn. It was mine now.

The fat guy took the cigar out of his mouth and put his cards down. The look he gave me implied I was about to become target practice. He spoke real slow and deliberate. "You cheated on that."

I just gave him a glance. "Nope, won it fair and square."

"You don't get it, I say you cheated." The man's tone was becoming menacing. I could see his hoods reaching for their guns.

The guys sure weren't too comfortable with me having the money. But with the large audience and others around they couldn't do much for the moment. I decided it was time to stop being cute and start playing for real. I needed to win my bread and vamoose. Fast.

Finally it was over and I had won. The fat man was showing signs of acute discomfort and his guns looked liked they were planning on discussing it with me. I was eyeing the room looking for other possible trouble spots when I say the fancy guy again. He seemed to be watching these guys too, and I could tell he was resting his hand where he could get to a gun in a hurry. But I figured that wasn't something I needed to worry about right now.

The fat man leaned over and said very softly, "That lettuce isn't yours. Give it back." His eyes were like half-sucked cough drops, dark and shiny. I thought for one tiny second that they might even be sticky to touch. Strange the way your mind works when lt doesn't want to deal with what's in front of it.

I refused again. I didn't care where it came from, it was mine now. Rudy and his hoods weren't happy about that. Nor were they keen on me leaving the room, but the pretty waitress came in right then, as if on cue, so I hustled out the door right behind her giving some spiel about needing to use the bathroom. I knew I didn't have much time and I wanted to change rooms and make a few safety arrangements.

First off, I hid the berries that I'd won, before changing my room for a smaller one near the back. Then I called down to Room Service for a bottle of vodka. The dolly bringing it to the room was the same little dish that had been serving drinks in the afternoon.

I signed for the hooch and gave her a nice tip - things had gone well so far. I smiled at her, maybe she was still interested. "Long day for you?"

She sighed, and the sound was natural, not breathy like Trixie. I liked it.

"Yeah, but I'm going off duty now. I was in the bar when they came looking for the bottle." She shrugged. "I just brought it up as a favor to Room Service."

"Ah," I said, "if you're going off-duty, maybe you'd share a glass with me? It's not good to drink alone."

"Just one, then," she said and she came in and sat in the room's chair. I sat on the bed admiring the view. She was still in that barely-there uniform and with her legs crossed at the knees I was getting quite a view. Not that I was complaining, mind you, as she was quite a dish.

We talked idly for a few minutes. Somewhere in the course of the conversation I learned her name was Orla, Orla O' Brien, and that she lived a few blocks from the hotel. That's as much as I took in anyway.

I had tossed my vodka back, but she was only taking little sips of hers. "You don't like vodka?"

"Not really," she said, and smiled at me. She had a cute smile. "But you looked like you wanted company."

I nodded my head.

She put down her glass, still half-full and stood. "I probably should be going now," she said, but I noticed the look in her eyes didn't back up her words.

So I stood to walk her to the door. When we got to it, I leaned down and kissed her, figuring she'd understand that now was the time for her to let me know where we stood.

Well, we stood together apparently, because her arms went around my neck and she joined in the kiss with a fair amount of enthusiasm. Within minutes, we were pretty well acquainted with each other's mouths and necks and my hands were roaming her pert little body. I distracted her by slipping one hand inside her blouse while the other lifted her skirt to map the curves down there. She was stacked in both departments and I cursed the fact I only had two hands. I needed another one to adjust the lie of my pants which had become tight all of a sudden.

I didn't suffer long though, because she pulled at my suspenders and started undoing every button she could find.

My mother didn't raise a dummy. As her hands moved lower, so did mine until they were inside her panties, my fingers rolling in her butter-soft flesh as she twitched and leaned into my hand. She was hot and wet and totally in the mood.

Our hands moved in a snaky duet, stroking, rubbing. Somewhere along the line we lost our underwear and pants and were naked from the waist down. Which was when I decided I couldn't wait any longer, I put my hands on her waist and pushed her back to the door, then I lifted her. She was tight and welcoming and I slid in there like a sub to its home dock.

Her legs locked around my waist and she started in chewing on my neck, her breath hitching in little breathy huffs as I slammed into her. Her breasts were shoving into my chest and her hot little tongue slithered into my ear. I groaned, my hips snapping faster and harder, my balls feeling like they were about to explode. Then she dug her nails into my shoulders gasping and pleading for me to touch her. I brought a hand between us and we came off together.

It was good. Maybe even better than drawing a royal flush.

When we were done, I felt that as a gentleman I should offer her a bed for the night, and maybe a repeat in the morning, if my luck held. She shook her head - she just wanted to go home - and started putting her clothes back on. I grabbed my pajamas but I kept my eyes on her. There's something about watching a dame dress that I find very sexy.

When most of her skin was covered, I took my peepers off of her and slid into my pajamas. This had been one hell of a red letter day. Winning the big pot and getting laid. Not bad at all.

When she was ready to leave, I kissed her and said I hated to see her go. I was sincere, for once. I did hope I'd see her again before I checked out. She gave me a deep kiss back and then stepped through the door as I opened it for her. I watched her all the way to the elevator, making sure the kid was okay, and while I was watching the fancy dude from the afternoon came out of a room and also headed down the hall. He didn't make it to the elevator in time to share the car with Orla, which I figured was all to the good.

Seeing him bothered me. I wondered what he was up to. Obviously the hombre wasn't a bull, but I had a suspicion he was more than just the flash he dressed like. I was debating between private dick and grifter as I shut the door, locked it and got ready to sleep.

And then it was like Déjà vu all over again. Just as my head hit the pillow, I heard a frantic knocking at my door. I peered out the peephole, although I could smell the damn perfume through the cracks, and sure enough, there was Trixie.

But this wasn't the glamorous Trixie I had seen earlier. This broad had a bruise under her eye and a handprint on her cheek. Her make-up was all mussed and her hair looked like someone had taken an egg beater to it. Obviously hair lacquer only went so far.

I opened the door a crack. Just as I did, I saw Mr. Fancy Duds get off the elevator and go back to his room. This was beginning to seem like more than a coincidence.

"I was asleep," I growled at Trixie. "Wadda ya want?" She might look the victim right now, but I didn't trust Rudy and the Thrush mob farther than I could throw them. And given Rudy's weight, that wasn't very far.

"I'm in trouble," she said. "Rudy heard I was here this afternoon, and he thinks I helped you steal the pot."

I debated pointing out that I hadn't "stolen" the lettuce, but decided that semantics would be lost on this gang. "What do you want from me?'

"Can you at least let me in? I'm scared to be where they can see me."

I opened the door and let her in. She came in hunched over, not like the chippy I had seen before.

Then she had been confident and trying to ooze sex, now she wanted to be invisible. I looked her over anyway. Her stockings were a mess, runners all over, and her dress had been torn at the sleeve. She looked like she hadn't had a great night.

Trixie sat on the bed and began sobbing. She didn't do helpless female well, and after a few minutes of my not responding beyond handing her my handkerchief, she gave it up. She dabbed at her eyes, carefully trying not to mess up what was left of her makeup. I sat in the chair, not wanting to be any closer than I had to, she had hard hands after all, and started to grill her.

"Why are you here?"

"I told you," she said in that damned voice, "Rudy is after you. He put the curse on you."

No big surprise there. I had assumed as much since I'd collared the entire Thrush mob's payroll for that month, so I figured there might be more to it than that.

"What's the grift?"

Trixie tried to look innocent. "I'm not trying to pull anything. I came to warn you." She got up from the bed and moved over to me. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe the chair wasn't the best place to be. She was hovering over me, and I was going to have to make a real effort to avoid her. Her arms fastened around my neck and her mouth bent down to my ear. "Won't you help me escape, too?"

"No. There's only room for one on this trip. Now vamoose before your hired guns show up."

She turned up the gas on the pouty-sulk, but at five inches from my face, all it did was dry any tears I might have shed for her.

"But you've got all that lovely money. You could easily take me with you."

I pulled back. "I could. I could even more easily leave you here. And, incidentally, the spondulix's not here."

Her hand, which had begun creeping down my body, froze for a second, but she was a smart girl and despite present appearances, knew how to look after her interests. "I saw your gun. You could protect me from the bad guys."

"If I was with the Untouchables, baby, I might be able to. And speaking of Untouchables, move your damned hand off my body." I'd been as cool as I knew how with this dame, even downright frosty, but she didn't let up. I had to give her marks for persistence. But when she started reaching below the waist, I had had enough. More than enough. I put my arms around her and stood up from the chair. Christ, she was heavy. Must have been all of the geegaw.

I was going to throw her out into the hall and then take the air myself. I didn't have any reason to remain in this clip joint. But when I opened the door, there was Rudy, backed up his two torpedoes and a lot of heat. Not wanting to be drilled full of holes I grabbed air. Of course that meant Trixie got dumped on the floor, but sympathy isn't a strong suit for me.

Rudy had his gun trained right on my gut and a mean look on his face. "Back in the room," he growled.

I did as he asked.

The thugs tied me to a chair - and I was about to be a smart ass and make some remark about learning their knots in the Boy Scouts when Rudy slapped me across the face.

"Where is it?" he snarled.

This was no moment to play dumb. "It's not here," I told him, trying to sound as earnest and sincere as possible.

Rudy looked at me like I'd said something tedious. "Okay guys. See what you can do."

The next fifteen minutes were not pleasant. They came real close to dry-gulching me, but they were smart enough to know that if I wasn't awake, I couldn't say anything. Bad luck for me.

Pretty soon I was a mess. I couldn't feel my face and could only see out one eye if I kept blinking the blood out of it. They'd stubbed their cigarettes out on my chest and I'd two broken fingers and maybe some ribs cracked, I wasn't sure. Didn't keep up the payments on the medical periodicals, I'd only got as far as splints, sutures and shock when the zines stopped coming.

It wasn't even as if I could give them their spinach back. I hadn't been telling tales when I told that dame that the sugar wasn't there. And all the time this was going on, Trixie was just patching up her hair and makeup. What a pal.

Rudy told the other guys to start tossing my room. They were thorough, I'll give them that. They ripped open pillows, took off socket covers, tore all my pockets out of my clothes. Rudy watched, but nothing was turning up.

The Thrush hood snapped. His hands were on my neck and he was choking me, shaking me like a terrier with a rat. I stopped worrying about being unconscious, it seemed to be taking care of itself anyway... the room was starting to get dark and spots were dancing in front of my eyes.

And then someone knocked on the door. Time froze for a second.

The fat guy motioned for the rest of them to stand out of sight. Then he opened it. "Yes?" he said in a bored tone.

I could see the door in the mirror. It was that dude with the expensive taste in clothes. What the hell was he doing here? And if I could see him... then...

"I'm sorry to bother you," he said, "but you're making a bit of a racket. Do you think you could hold it down some?"

I wanted to beat my head against the wall to make him look at me. Not that I would have felt it through all the pain I already had.

Butter wouldn't have melted in the Thrush mobster's mouth. "I'm sorry. We'll try to be quiet."

"I'm sure you will," said the other man and he suddenly whipped out a large gun as a whole crowd of men appeared in the doorway, all wearing iron and brandishing additional rods. He must have brought the whole damn chopper squad. I sagged in the ropes and thought I might throw up... you know, just quietly.

The Thrush gang stepped out of their hiding spot, prepared to do battle. One of them must have passed third grade because I could see him counting, and then the realization hit him that there was only three of them and a good dozen of the other guys. He gave up the idea of battle.

Mystery man started giving instructions to have the mob clamped and then he turned to me. I tried to look back at him, really.

And then the medical guys were fussing over me and he disappeared from view.

The ambulance guys wanted to take me to the hospital. I had no desire to cooperate. A man without records or insurance has no business being in a place like that. I was definitely going to have bruises and pain for the next few days, but I could live with it. Plus I had all that lovely cabbage and thoughts of hunting down Orla. Thinking about Orla certainly brightened my mood.

I caught sight of my rescuer and beckoned him over. "I don't suppose you could find time to release me from these helpful men, could you?"

His mouth quirked. "In a hurry to go somewhere?"

"I understand there's a good show at the Rainbow Room tonight."

"Far be it from me to keep you from experiencing all the joys of our fair burg."

I looked skyward. "If today is an example of the delights your town has to offer, then I think I'll pass."

"Actually, I'm not from here." He stuck out his hand. "Napoleon Solo."

I winced and waved my bandaged hand, i wasn't too keen on having it squeezed, even in a friendly way. We grinned at each other till I introduced myself. "Illya Nickovetch Kuryakin. It seems to me I've heard of you somewhere."

"Well I know I've heard of you. Your name is becoming a little too well known in the gin joints. How long do you think you can keep up this life?" Napoleon shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels, waiting for my answer.

"Not much longer, I hope. Care to remind me where I've heard your name?"

"Er," he looked a little embarrassed. "I work for Elliot Ness."

That was why he was watching the Thrush mob! He really was an Untouchable. I had to check. "And Rudy was your meat?"

He gave another nod. I couldn't let it go. "So why did you look so shamefaced when I asked you what your lay was?"

He gave a shrug of the shoulders. "I just don't like feeling like I'm tooting my own horn."

"I have trouble picturing that."

A sudden smile lit up his face. "You're not female."

I got it. "You have no scruples about bragging to the dames?"

The smile got bigger. "Hey, whatever it takes..."

I gave him a smile in return. "As long as you get your man."

"And my women." He waggled his eyebrows.

I half expected him to mime smoking a cigar and acting like Groucho, but his face got serious again. "Listen, you've been a help. I know you probably don't feel like it right now, but you have."

"Getting pawed by a tramp, beaten by two thugs and nearly suffocated is helping?"

"You kept them occupied. And with them focusing on you, I was able to get the jump on them."

"It didn't seem like a jump to me. More like a slow train wreck," I pointed out.

"Yes, well..." He was at a loss for words for a moment. But only a moment. "Want to go get a bite to eat?"

"As long as I can do it through a straw. My face feels like it's been rearranged, i wouldn't wanna end up eating the wrong meat."

"You don't look so bad," he soothed.

I didn't believe him, but the idea of food sounded good to me, so I put on fresh clothes. The ones I'd been wearing were definitely for the ragman.

I was heading for the door when Solo cleared his throat in an 'important announcement coming' kind of way. I stopped and turned to face him.

"You helped us, Mr Kuryakin, so now, let us do something to help you out. What would you like?"

"What's the price?" I said. I'd been gypped too many times in the past to believe in fairy godmothers.


"It's been my experience that no one gives you something without expecting something in return."

His face was confused for a moment, then it cleared. "Ah. I suppose someone with your background doesn't often get help from the authorities. Um, if it helps, think of it as a reward."

I looked at him for a moment. "You know my background?"

"I'm a detective, Mr Kuryakin. The first thing we do is check out everyone."

Okay, that made sense. A wise bull, whether public or private, would do that. I still didn't say anything.

"So, what do you want?" He lifted his hands in one of those gestures you see in the movies, the 'look, nothing in my hands' thing.

"Want?" I managed one word. It was a start.

"People like you come to the States for something, there's always a reason, a dream, a goal. What was it?"

"People like me?" I looked at him.

He gave another shrug. "You're not a hood by nature."

I looked at the floor, my shoes, the far wall, anywhere but at his eyes.

He gave a small grin. "You can tell me."

"I wanted to go to school."


"You know, like University?"

"Ah, what did you want to study?"

"Nuclear Physics."

"Nuclear Physics?"

"That's right. Nuclear Physics." I was getting annoyed and made for the door again. He was stringing me along, i could tell. Now i was regretting saying I'd eat with him.

"What do you need to be able to do it? Money? Recommendations? How long would it take?"

I stopped again. "A green card."

"That's it?" he said, "Heck, I can get you that. Is that what you'd like?"

I nodded. Not sure if I should be believing my ears. But there was nothing wrong with them.

"No problemo. In return I don't suppose you'd care to tell me where the money is?"

I just raised an eyebrow at him.

"Right," he sighed. "Okay, what if I promise not to take it from you?"

"You couldn't right now anyway. I don't have it," I said, "except for one portrait of Madison and a fin or two."

I could tell I had startled him. "You don't have it?" His voice rose on the last word.

"Not right now, but I will tomorrow. Let's find a place to get a burger. "

He nodded, then shrugged into his coat. I could tell he wasn't satisfied, but he'd obviously figured out that I wasn't going to be giving him any more details.

"By the way," he said, very carefully, "when you graduate, you might consider coming to work with me."

"I'll certainly think about it." I had learned many years ago never to commit without knowing all the facts.

We took the elevator to the lobby and headed towards the front entrance. As we passed by the outgoing mailbox I gave it a little pat.

My new 'friend' stopped dead for a moment, than resumed his walk towards outside. As he did so, he gave me a quick look. "Awfully convenient place for a mailbox."

I gave him a small smirk. "I thought so." Then I opened the front door for him and we left the hotel.


babe - woman

badger game - blackmail practised on a man who is lured by a woman into a compromising situation and then threatened by her male accomplice

berries - dollars

broad -woman

bull -policeman

burg - town

cabbage - money

cannon - gun

chippy - flirtatious or promiscuous woman

chopper squad - men with machine guns

clamp - to arrest

clip joint - bar or club which charges high prices or cheats customers

corn - bourbon (as in corn liquor)

cush - money (a cushion, something to fall back on)

D.A. - a Fifties hairstyle also known as the Ducktail

dame -woman

dick - detective (usually qualified with "private" if not a policeman)

dish - pretty woman

doll -woman

dolly - woman

drill - to shoot

dry-gulch - to knock out

fin - five dollars, five-dollar bill

flophouse - cheap hotel

flopped - go to bed.

gams - legs (especially a woman's)

gat - gun

geegaw - jewelry

geetus - money

giggle juice - liquor

grab air - to put one's hands up in surrender

greaser - either Mexicans or Italians, or a hired gun

grift - "What are you trying to pull?"

grifter - confidence trickster or fraudster

guns - hoodlums

hash house - cheap restaurant

heat - gun

hombre - man, fellow

hooch - whisky

hood - criminal

ice - diamonds

jack - money

joint - place, especially a bar or club

kale - money

lay - job

lettuce - money

looker - pretty woman

mazuma - money

meat - as in "He's your meat": He's the subject of interest, there's your man

mitt - hand

mob - gang

moll - girlfriend

mouthpiece - lawyer

packing - to carry a gun

peepers - detective

portrait of Madison - five hundred dollars, five-hundred-dollar bill

ranked - observed, watched, given the once-over

rhino - money

right gee - good fellow

rod - gun

rube - easy target, or fool

spinach - money

spondulix - money

sugar - money

take the air - leave

tomato - pretty woman

torpedo - hired killer or gunman 

triggermen - guy who does the shooting on a job

wear iron - to carry a gun

yap - mouth


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