Drink Up Darling: Part 3

Who is Darling Valentine? Grab a glass of whiskey (gin will do, too) and read on. Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 of the story. Oh, and if you’re a fan of vintage photographs take a look at some Snapshot Stories.

Pictured, clockwise: various images of Louise Brooks, ’20s Shoes, and more shoes

“You heard the man. Put your bottles and glasses where everyone can see them.”

Lesley walked to the bar, opened the suitcase, and took out three bottles in each hand. He set them carefully on either side of Darling and stepped back.

“Clive, how’s your aim?”

“Decent.”

“Then these should be easy.”

Without a sign of hesitation for wasting quality whiskey, or concern for the proximity of Chubby’s head, Clive took out a Colt 1911 from under the table and fired. Lesley threw his jacket on the piano to divert the liquid from reaching Darling’s legs. She heard it slowly dripping on the keys and cringed for Gene’s sake.

“Which one of you is Izzy Einstein?” Lesley was leaning over the piano, now covered with shattered glass.

“That’s me,” Chubby said. “Moe Smith is my one-time saxophonist. Now if you’ll –”

“Are there any journalists in this room?”

“Lois Hunt.” Sleek black hair hugged her ears and cut across her forehead in a straight fringe. She looked at Lesley with steely detachment while her dark lips curled slightly.

“What paper do you work for, honey?”

“Town Tattle if I give them the right story tomorrow.”

“You will write about Izzy and Moe’s attempt at entering O’Connell’s and confiscating Canadian Club Whiskey dressed as musicians. They got close to the arrest but failed to secure any evidence. Clive Delaney – fresh from prison – shot every last bottle. “Comeback Kid” has a nice ring to it but I’ll leave the details up to your imagination.”

“Don’t bother,” Izzy got up and grabbed a pair of handcuffs. “We won’t-”

“Mr. Einstein, Clive is a good shot, as he just demonstrated, but moving targets are a whole different game. I suggest you take a seat and watch the show. We’re just helping you do your job. A word of advice. Next time, get your evidence before you’re busted.”

“You tell me which one, Darling,” Clive said.

“Will I be mentioned in this article of yours?” she asked Lois.

“Depends how interesting you are.”

Her remark stung and brought back the voice of her theater teacher Mrs. Riggs, telling her to sell it or go home. To this day the memory sent a shot of fear through her.

“All right. The deuce spot goes to Mr. Raymond Wilson and one-two-three ladies desperate for his letters to be as sleazy as his still unpublished verses. Just last week a girl who sat where you are now stuck her head in an oven because he insulted her poetry.”

Wilson had no time to respond before fragments of glass scattered over his table and the girls drew back with gasps.

“The flash act goes to the table of three boys and two girls with full glasses and two bottles that they won’t miss too much. Don’t let their disheveled hair and sloppy dress deceive you. This little incident will scare them off to spend the rest of their summer in Provincetown or Martha’s Vineyard or wherever they belong.

“Now for the headliner. Or two. First, we need to sober up those on their way to success. Let’s take Pretty Sid and Little Francis and their table of three other boys who have all been perfecting the art of petty crimes since they could walk. It’s time to step up and organize, fellas.

“Our second headliner should be Mr. Cornellius Grant, who, with every drink, loses another thread of hope that he will be the star he was at Harvard five years ago. Captain of the crew team with a faultless academic record and a pedigree to match, so why is he here?

“The haircut act, as always, is the one we can all do without. I don’t know his name but the clean shaven man with the smug look on his face no doubt works on Wall Street. And that’s the most interesting thing about him. Maybe lives in the neighborhood because of it’s – what do the guidebooks say? – old-fashioned charm?”

“Not a single missed shot,” Lesley said. “Clive, you should be a cop with your record.” Laughter loosened the room and a few started to move towards the stairs.

“I think we’re being unfair to our Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. They did provide some fine entertainment this evening and they deserve their share. Darling, do you know any places nearby that would accommodate these gentlemen?”

“There’s Sal’s Groceries on Houston, near the Academy Theater. The door’s open and when you get to the back, you’ll meet a heavily mustached man sleeping on a pile of newspapers. Wake him gently and ask if he would like to sell a pint to a deserving agent. He’ll think you’re kidding and give it to you right away.”

“Lois, follow them and you’ll double your chances.”

The sound of glass crushing and tables groaning across the wet floor drowned Lesley’s last words. Darling wondered how many of the witnesses would come back.

“These aren’t government issued, are they?” Lesley was holding up a pair of handcuffs against the light as Izzy and Moe were about to close the saxophone case.

“We got them at a flea market, just in case.”

“You come prepared. I like it. I tell you what. How does this sound for one pair? You still have three left.” He held up a fifty dollar bill.

Izzy glanced to see if Lois was still there. She was gone, along with everyone except Lesley, Darling, and Clive, who hadn’t moved since firing his last bullet.

“We’d better go,” Darling said. “Mrs. O’Connell’s not going to ignore the sound of that many bullets. One or two broken bottles sends her into a fit. You don’t want to be here when she finds her basement swimming in glass.”

Moe grabbed the bill and closed the case with the delicacy of a policeman. Clive got up and handed the pistol to Lesley. Darling followed the company of four up the stairs, trying to avoid looking back at the damage. She would come back in the morning.

With one last glance at the Russell brothers, she took the keys out of her pocket and locked the door. Cool, smooth metal touched the back of her arm and she lingered for a moment before turning around. She felt a crushing pressure on her wrists.

“There’s no evidence left. You can’t arrest me after –.”

Lesley held two sets of keys and her hands were empty. Clive’s grip right above her elbow was too firm to protest.

“You said you wanted to take the Hudson for a drive. It’s a little tight but I’m sure you can manage.”

She saw a blonde head resting on the side door.

“You think you can force me into your car like a cheap chorus girl.”

“Are you referring to your spectacularly drunk blondes?”

“Where’s Gene?”

“He left at the first gunshot,” Tommy said from inside the car. “Get in the car, Darling. I can’t stand this many people breathing down my neck.”

“I stay here or I’ll tell the papers you take girls at will. I’ll tell Lois.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Lesley said. He took hold of her arm while Clive held on to the other. As they forced her near the car, she dug one of her heels into the side, adding to its collection of scars.

to be continued…