Zach Marlowe: Privyet Eye Pt 4

From the Story Arc: Lovers and Heroes

Previous Story in the Arc: Zach Marlowe: Privyet Eye Part 3 by Bestial Boy (Thursday, October 27, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: The Big Sandbox by Belladonna Aura (Saturday, January 14, 2006)

(posted Tuesday, November 01, 2005)

It was lights-out.

Maybe the reason I don't sleep much is because I already too much time seeing the inside of my eyelids. Goons and gorillas seem to have a hobby of testing how thick my skull is; I try to discourage this by returning the favor, but it never seems to make them see the error of their ways. And even though I keep hoping to wake up kissing a pretty dame, I always seem to come around kissing concrete. This time was no different.

Zach listened to his own voice narrate his awakening, feeling every ache and bruise in his much-abused frame.

I'd say Creymona's thugs had used me for a punching bag, except that the shape of the black-and-blue marks in my ribs was a lot closer to the toe of a size 16 Italian wingtip than a fist.

He had just about made up his mind to open his eyes when a voice somewhere above his head got his attention.

"Sticking your nose into other peoples' business again, Marlowe?"

It was a female voice, but it wasn't a welcome one. He cracked one eye open, and there she was, standing with her fists on her hips, a little bit of blond nothing in police blues, a face that would have been damned attractive except for the smirk. This was an old "friend" of his; Victoria Vickers, beat cop, on the waterfront. Which meant he was probably in a warehouse, and had come a lot closer to feeding the fishes than was comfortable.

"It's what I get paid to do, toots," he said.

She shook her head. "You're just lucky Herb and I noticed the limos outside this warehouse and decided to get nosy. Creymona's boys decided to take a powder. They went out that back while we came in the front."

Herb. That was Vic's partner. Six foot tall, six foot wide, dumb as a box of rocks and twice as ugly. Vic was the brains of the two; he was enough brawn for four. Couldn't use a gun. Didn't have to. Zach had once seen him pull up a paving slab and throw it at someone.

"So where's Herb now?"

"Went to get the boss."

Zach groaned. Great. Just great. Now they were gonna bring the Chief into this. "Look, Vic, how about you untie me?" he asked, thinking maybe he could give her the slip and get out of there.

She smirked again. "Not on your life, Marlowe. You're part of the crime-scene now, you're gonna stay right like I found you until the Chief gets here."

"Aye, and about time someone remembered proper procedure around Zachary Marlowe." Another figure hove into view. The Chief of Police. "Red" O'Jinn.

The head under that hat was as bald as a cue-ball, but if he'd had hair, it would have been red, probably a couple shades darker than his ruddy skin. Chief O'Jinn had the temper to go with hair that color, and he was never happier than when he could exercise it on me.

"Well, Marlowe, sticking your nose into other peoples' business again, eh?"

Zach turned his head just enough to glare at the Chief as well as Officer Vic. RUmor said those two were an item, but if that was true, Zach had never seen any sign of it. "Be a pal, Red, and get Shirley Temple there to untie me."

Both eyebrows rose. "Aye, go ahead, Vickers. It'll likely take you a while. Meanwhile Marlowe can tell me what he did to stir up Creymona's gang."

Memory finally kicked in. "The Parker dame!" he said, and swore.

"Parker? You been messing around with somebody else's frail, Marlowe?" quipped Vickers, but Chief Red held up his hand to stop her from going further.

"The Contessa doesn't hold swmming parties over A little hanky-panky," the Chief said suspiciously. He fixed Zach with a firey gaze. "Spit it out, Marlowe, or I'll have Herb come do the untying."

Zach groaned, and made with the story. Because if Herb was going to do the untying, they'd be there for the next week. Herb was still trying to master the intricacies of the granny-knot.

And, as he expected, he got the lecture on "Leaving it to the professionals."

Chief Red trotted that one out so often I could have given it for him. And I was going to pay about as much attention to it this time as I had all of the last. Of course, the more I ignored what he was saying, the madder the Chief got The madder the Chief got, the more flame he had coming out of his eyeballs to match the smoke coming from his ears. I figured I'd better get out of there before his uniform started to smoulder. Good think vic's nimble little fingers finished the last knot, or I'd have been watching his clothing go up in flames, and Chief Red in fireproof skivvies was something I could live a long time without seeing.

"All right, Red, I hear you," Zach said levering himself up off floor and brushing his pants off. "I'm gettin' out of here, I need to see a man about a dog." And then, because he couldn't resist it and he wanted to see Red's reaction, he leaned over and planted a quick, hard kiss on Vicker's lucious lips. "Thanks for the assist, doll," he said with a smirk. "Let me know if you ever get tired of running your fingers through no hair."

Chief Red's hat started to smoulder as Zach sprinted for the exit.

"Hey! If some people want to waste perfectly good testosterone growing hair---!" vickers called indignantly after him as he hit the door. And as it closed behind him, he thought he heard a soft whump sound and--surely the Chief hadn't just yelled "Ignition!" had he?

Well none of that mattered. Because Zach had a hot date with some muscle. His old pal Frank "The Chug" Chugowski. And he knew just where to find The Chug.

A hot little dive run by a hot little number in silk. Fei Li's Katana Klub.

The Katana Klub was down on the lower East Side, where the honest cops were the ones who took their bribes and didn't hassle the customers. Nightclub in front, opium den in back, bar in the middle. My kind of joint.

The bouncer at the door, a guy named Mike, wore a sword that wasn't just for show, as Zach had found out one night when Mike had taken off a hand that had rested a little too long on the pert purple behind of his sweetie, Mori, the cigarette girl. Fei Li owed Zach for that one; Zach had just happened to recognize the guy as an escapee from ZigZig, and nobody much cared if you returned those guys in one piece or several.

"Mike," he said, touching the rim of his fedora. Mike just grunted and moved aside, Zach hadn't gotten a foot inside the door before he spotted a tiny form running for the rear. That would be Sister Shuma, Fei Li's errand-runner, going to get the "Number One Boss-Lady." Well, that would save time looking for her.

Zach eased his way into the club. It was crowded tonight, all the regulars and a good crowd of the uptown types slumming for the evening. Right by the door was Scarlet. Scarlet Shostakovich, exiled Russian aristocrat, or so she claimed. She looked the part, tall, lean, a body that promised everything and a cold face that dared you to collect on that promise. She was a hooker, but there was no heart of gold there, just a bank vault. Her pimp, Ike Mensch. was at the bar, skewering olives with a claw and eating them while mororsely downing one vodka martini after another.

Up on the stage was the torch singer, Fifi La Flame, sitting on the piano and setting the stage on fire. Tonight at least she wasn't doing it literally. The piano player, Agony Stravinsky---or whatever his name was---was tickling the ivories. He and Scarlet had a thing going under Mensch's nose, so they said. Mensch was so sozzled most of the time he would harangue the coat-rack instead of Scarlet. She and Stravinsky could have been making out on the bar and he wouldn't have noticed unless they spilled his drink.

A pair of the regulars, Lex Nickles and "BoomBoom" McCoy, were grinding their hips together in the center of the tiny dance-floor. Lex was a gun for hire. BoomBoom was a burlesque girl. They called her BoomBoom for her twin forty fives, and if you suggested it was because of they way she moved her hips, she might show you her guns up close. The local beat cop Rory O'Hart was watching them through the bottom of his beer glass.

A poker game was in full roar at the center table. Zach could spot the rube being fleeced in a heartbeat, a big kid that looked he had just fallen off the turnip truck with carrot-orange hair. To his right, Sergio Mosca, the spanish heart-throb of the the talkies, and next to him America's latest cowboy sweetheart. Her stage name was Calamity Crew, but she was another of those wierd Russians that infested this place like cockroaches. Looking as guiless and innocent as mary Pickford, she drank like a fish and swore like stevedore and nothing in pants was safe from her. Next to her, a wierd guy Zach knew only as "The Gremlin," a little old man whose incongruous nickname was "Bear," and a gal they called "The Dragon Lady" for the tatoos running up both her arms.

The old coot they called "Old Man Winter" was tottering around doing his parlor trick to cadge drinks. He'd point his finger at your glass and it would frost right up. Fei Li tolerated him. He kept the beer chilled and she never had to buy ice.

Ignoring them all was the gaggle of beatnik anarchists in the corner. A sullen guy named Murdock, an Italian professor that never stopped talking, more russian women, a Natalya and a Natasha and a Cerenje, a black man about the same size as Vickie's partner but a lot more articulate, a guy about the size of a jockey but twice as wide named Vex and pro wrestler that called himself Battler. The black guy had just finished declaiming a poem; the rest of them were snapping their fingers by way of applause. Fei Li kept them around because somehow they always found the cash for her completely illegal absinthe along with the gallons of coffee they drank.

Fei Li's busboys, two kids named Shen and Ratt were cleaning up the empties as Zach pushed past them to get to the bar. The cigarette girl, Mori, sashayed up to him with her tray of smokes and her little purple gownless evening strap straining to contain her lush proportions. "Hiya Zach," she purred, batting her eyes at him. "Is that a gun in your pocket, or do you like what you see?"

Mike glared. Discretion being the better part of Valor. Zach just tipped his hat. "Good to see you too, Mori. Boss Lady in?"

"Boss Lady is never out," Mori replied, as th bar cat, an orange tabby finished her saucer of beer and sauntered towards him.

Fei-Li's cat rubbed up against me. I don't like cats, so I kicked it. That was when the Boss Lady oozed out from behind the bamboo-bead curtain behind the bar. She was tiny, a little Chinese doll, cute as a little girl and deadly as a cobra. She had her hair done up with about a dozen lethal weapons disguised as jewelry, and a tight, high-collared, floor length silk gown that was slit up to her left hip. She smelled like jasmin and poison. Hissing at me, the orange tabby jumped up onto the bar in front of Fei Li, "Now, now, Infurno...is the green man being mean to you again?" she crooned, scratching the cat with perfectly manicured fingernails.

She looked up at Zach. "What do you want, rude American boy, besides to abuse my cat?"

"I'm looking for the Chug," said Zach.

Fei Li rose one elegant brow. "Then as you know, you come to the right place, uncouth barbarian."