Tuesday, July 28, 2009

For Darren. “People who don't drink are afraid of revealing themselves"

I hated that picture.
But they always brought it in.

"Is that you? You're Detective Polowski, right?"

"Nope. I'm a dick now, a P.I.; where the hell'd you get that clipping anyhow?

"The library, Detec..."

"Just call me mister, is that alright?"

"Yes. Mister Polowski. Say, are you Russian?"

"No. Parents were from Eastern Europe somewhere."

"Somewhere?", they'd say, "What kind of private dick can't even trace his own heritage?"

Yeah. What kind.

"The kind who don't work for free, now you've asked me a few questions already but I don't see no cash. If you want business lay it out."

Sometimes they would and usually they didn't.

The lease was up on the flop so I slept in the office that night and almost every night.
I had just killed the lights and taken off my hat when the door swung open and I grabbed the .38 from my hip.

"Hello", she said. "Hello? Detective Polowski?"

She walked in a few feet and I kicked the door shut behind her. I grabbed her left arm and brought it up behind while I pushed her forward toward the desk.

"Who are you and what do you want?!"

"Ow, you're hurting me..."

"Don't you know any better, you dumb dame, than to be pushing open doors in this part of town after 10?"

From the electric lights outside I saw her profile and she smelled like money.

"I... I... I heard that you were the best, Detective Pol..."

"Mr. Just call me Mr. Polowski. You got that?"

I let her go and put the .38 on the desk. The silver caught the street-lights and glinted, she eyed it for a second.

"Don't you even think about it, doll."

I hit the lamp and poured two drinks.
We spent an hour talking and she cried about her brother who had gone missing before starting his gig on a merchant marine ship to England.

"So, he went AWOL, what should I do about it? Tell the MP."

"No they already know, I shouldn't have bothered you... I just..."

She was crying again.

"My brother, Nicky Clarke. You gonna write this down?" she sobbed, "He was supposed to sign in on the SS Byron D. Benson one week ago. The ship sailed and the MPs came to me about it. That's how I knew. Now, Det... Mr. Polowski, now I am coming to you. Please, I know you were a brass, a top, and you knew all the officers...".

"Listen here, we all have to make do in this war. I can see that your eyeliner on your legs is running, you lost nylon, I lost a lot, too. But I ain't got the stomach to go gunning for some AWOL coward, too afraid..."

She slapped me clear on the face and it woke me up, some. She wasn't wearing a wedding ring. I knew that because my cheek just stung and there was no blood.

"Why you lousy... Get the hell out of here". I yelled.

She started crying again and I knew that I was being a heavy.

"Look now, Mrs. Clark, was it? Look, doll, I'm sorry about that. I seem to get a little sore about deserters. I ain't saying that your brother is one, mind you, but I just get sore at the idea. A man has got to give it in for his country these days and I just hate to see men play it out like that."

She turned away and sobbed harder. I grabbed her shoulders and spund her around to face me.

"Look here..."

But it was too late and she pushed those ruby lips against mine.
We kissed in the glow of the street-light through my 3rd floor office window and we knew it was wrong.

She put down $300 on my desk and turned as she walked away. "I've included expenses. I'm staying at the Astoria, tell me when you have found Nicky."

I was in love and out of whiskey. I had three Lucky Srikes left and my gun was unloaded.

"Goddamn broads".

I went down the block to Louie's Tavern and got a triple, no ice, no groceries.
This was gonna be rough but I knew that if I was on the level it would sort out.

"Merchant marines" I said. "Hell".

No comments: