The club was alive with the spirit of forgotten woes and the haze of cigarette smoke. The music was pumping through the establishment, shaking the ill-gotten alcohol on the shelves and somewhat confusing the term ‘speakeasy’. I sat in a long beige coat and crumpled hat at a table in the back, watching the men and women swing-dancing together on the floor in front of the stage, kicking legs, hopping and spinning around one another like the night was never going to end. A small smile swung across my face, but I really never could dance. A rare glass of whisky, and crap rolls I had shakily strewn together the previous night were all I needed for a good time.
“Didn’t think I’d see a man like you in here.” She came over to me, hand on hip, hands covered to her elbows in red satin gloves. She was striking bait dangling in the water waiting for the fish to bite. I took a drag of my cigarette and greeted her.
“Betty my dear, it all depends on where you tend to look.” I nodded toward the men at the front of the stage, cheering for every pair of legs in a short dress that walked on by. She chuckled, and sat beside me, crossing her stockinged legs, and motioning me to light the white death at the end of her cigarette holder. I complied, striking a match and holding the flame close, before wafting in to the side allowing the smoke to wane upwards as I dumped it in the ash tray.
“I tend to come to hear the voices of you beautiful ladies, more than the ‘zip bop top’ of jazz.” I followed.
“Well you must be disappointed most nights.”
“Disappointment follows me everywhere I go, a whisky and a nice lady is all I can ask for, most nights.”
“I’ll take the compliment from that Adrian.”
“As you should my dear.”
The music had calmed down a little, as a small man on stage sang his heart into the microphone, tapping his finger across the microphone as the patrons all began to make their way back to the bar for a break.
“I heard you were the sort of man that could find things.” I couldn’t help my short, subdued laugh that followed.
“Very formal of you Betty.” I kept my eyes on the stage, away from the edge of the stockings wrapped around her thighs, from her crimson lips and sparkling chocolate eyes.
She slipped a hand inside her tiny red bag, and I had the sudden urge to reach for my gun. I kept my hands on the table and around my dwindling cigarette. Fuck it. I thought. If I’m gonna go down, then dying to ol’ Bets wouldn’t be so bad.
“Careful not to cut yourself on this lethal envelope.” She smiled and winked, as she pushed it across the table.
“Frankly I don’t see what I owe you Betty.”
“You don’t. You owe the person in the envelope. Dorian will be seeing you soon honey.” And with that, she pecked my cheek, purposely leaving a mark, and took off into the crowd. I put my cigarette out just as it began to burn my fingers, and took a swig of my whisky, leaving only the rocks spinning around the glass.
The off-white envelope had my name written in Betty’s hand, two sly kisses at the end a cunning and unkind addition. I opened the envelope cautiously, as the men before the stage cheered at Betty’s legs walking onto the stage.
Her song, ‘Ain’t I good to you’, another jab at me. That woman really knew all the places that hurt, she was a master of manipulation. What else could I expect from the woman that so coldly framed me for the murder of my partner?
The spotlight simply floated around her presence, her voice a spell over the men in the room. I was no different, the more I knew about this woman, somehow, the more attractive she became. Her eyes stayed locked on mine, her gloved arms hiding her snapping fingers, her other hand firmly on the microphone stand.
I quickly read the letter from Dorian, a request, or rather, demand for some information on a colleague of mine. I walked over to the bar, put one in for the lady, and left for the night sky.