Henry Mancini’s Spook drifted across the semi-dark dance floor.
Mancini. Smooth jazz with a touch of noir lurking deep between the longing chords of the pianos and saxophones. The perfect music for someone to die suddenly. Inexplicably.
On the black tile dance floor the city’s finest danced in furs, diamonds and black tuxedos. On stage the eight piece band sparkled underneath the roving spot light playing back and forth among the crowd and the band. With the club’s lights down low and the music caressing one’s libido erotically it was a night everyone would remember.
He drifted away from the white neon lit bar with a martini in his right hand, his left slipped into the pocket of his tux’s slacks. A man of medium height. Compact. Athletically built. With high cheek bones. A razor straight nose. Eyes . . . eyes as black as the darkest of stellar space.
He moved like a big jungle cat. Sensually. Naturally. With rolling hips and an athletic loping gait that caught the attention of several females sitting at their tables sipping drinks and dancing to themselves silently as they waited for their men to notice them. Dressed in a tailored black tux which hung on his body as if the gods on Olympus themselves designed it for him he made his way past the semi deserted tables and stepped up directly in front of her.
A sensually erotic species of feminine beauty. Dressed in dark blue sequined gown with a long slit up the right side allowing easy access to eying legs long and sculptured. A dress so tight every curve was accentuated to perfection. A dress with a scandalous plunging neckline which left little, if any, for one’s imagination. Long flowing raven hair fell past her shoulders like some kind of silk veil. Blue eyes, as cold blue as the ice on a Nordic fjord lit with sparkling diamonds, watched him move across the floor and come to a halt in front of her.
Glistening lips dark ruby red in color rolled like sin across a perfect complexion the moment she saw him coming toward her.
“Well hello, darling,” she whispered huskily, lifting one eyebrow. “Surprised to see you here, of all places. In town on business or pleasure?”
“Pleasure, mostly. Thought I’d drop in and see if you and this club were still around.”
Deep. Definitely male. With an odd timbre to it. Not a whisper . . . yet not quite normal. But odd. Very odd.
“Smitty,” she said, a hand moving long straight black hair from the side of her face and depositing it sensually across her bare shoulder. “Haven’t you learned by now? This club and I will always be here. Always.”
Across the slash of his thin lips a wicked sneer for a smile played. Lifting the martini to his lips he took a drink just as the band to his right began playing another Mancini number.
“You still move across a dance floor, kid? I remember you were something else when we danced.”
For an answer she came flowing out of the chair beside her table with an elegant ease. Setting the martini glass on the table, Smitty took her by a hand and guided her out onto the dance floor. Turning to face her she slid in close to him and draped a long, elegant arm across his shoulders.
He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her in close to him. Her smell, the heat of her body, the soft whisper of her long hair playing across his tuxedo was intoxicating. On her dark red lips was an enigmatic smile half smirk and half insult. She was a woman like no other. Smart, beautiful. Completely in control of herself. Incredibly dangerous.
The dance floor was crowded with couples moving gracefully over the floor. But Smitty and the woman in his arms were in a separate class altogether. They moved as one. There was no one else on the dance floor. Only them. And interestingly, for all those who turned their attention and jealously eyed the two surreptitiously move in an athletic yet incredibly erotic display, they too would have agreed. There was no one else on the dance floor.
“Exactly why are you town, Smitty? I know you, darling. Like I know myself. You never do anything which doesn’t in some way generate a profit. So tell me. Who hired you and who’s the poor fool you’re going to send to hell tonight?”
The cruel sneer danced across the dark eyed man’s lips as he looked into her glacier blue eyes.
“I never could fool you, Donna. Nor have I ever tried. I’m in town looking to retire a killer. With prejudice, as friends of mine would say in the CIA.”
“Retire a killer?” she said, a bubble of seductive laughter coming out of her as she pulled him even closer to her. “Rather amusing, don’t you think? One of the best hit men around retiring another hit man? Tell me, dear. Just how many have you retired in your career. Twenty? Fifty? A hundred?”
“I don’t keep count, Donna. It’s not important. I just do my job and move on. I’m paid well for my services and I try not to hurt any innocent bystanders. Or anyone who doesn’t deserve to die.”
A bubble of amusement lifted up to his ears. She moved closer and ground her hips against his crotch as she lifted her lips and whispered into his ear.
“Everyone deserves to die, Smitty. Sooner or later everyone does.”
The music stopped and couples drifted back to their tables. Sitting the woman down first he pulled out a chair and sat down across from her. Dark eyes, black and unblinking, looked to his left and to his right casually. Donna never ventured out into the public alone. Not even if it was one of the five night spots she owned. Somewhere close by would be her body guards. On either side of the table very large men dressed in expensive tuxedos occupied tables of their own. At the table for each was a woman. On the tables were bottles of wine, half filled glasses, and packs of cigarettes.
Returning his gaze back to the raven haired woman he smiled and nodded in appreciation. She was, above everything else, a business woman. A rising star in a business which was not noted for friendly collegiality.
“Who is it you’re looking for, Smitty. Maybe I can help. After which maybe you could give me your full attention.”
“Someone hired a killer to remove Arthur Scales’ son from the playing field. You know Arthur, Donna. Runs a few rackets upstate. Been trying to buy one of your clubs for the last six months, I hear. Without any success I might add.”
Ice blue eyes roved across Smitty’s face with a calm arrogance. A smile played across her lips. A smile filled with . . . . what?
“Scales had a son?”
“Yes. Sixteen years old. Still in high school. Apparently his car went out of control coming home from a football practice. Hit a tree and high speed. Killed the kid instantly.”
“Sounds like an accident to me, darling.”
“Yes, I thought so at first,” Smitty answered, reaching for his martini glass. “But Arthur insisted. Wanted me to check it out. So I did. Changed my mind.”
A lovely eyebrow lifted slightly on the beautiful woman. Sitting back in her chair, one elbow resting on the table, revealing the full magnificence of her breasts, she toyed with a finger on the rim of her wine glass and smiled.
“Why would anyone want to kill a kid, Smitty. Especially one so . . . young and naive.”
“If I had to guess,” the dark eyed man said, sitting his empty martini glass onto the table in front of him. “I would say it was a warning. A rather harsh warning. A stay out of my toy box kinda thing. But maybe not. Maybe whoever ordered the hit just likes to play rough. Like to play rough believing they can get away with it.”
“Who was the mechanic?” she asked, tiring in her game with the wine glass and pulling her hand back from the table.
The mechanic. A quaint way of saying who was the hit man.
“Ever heard of a guy by the name of Ronnie Quinter?”
Eyes popped up quickly and glared at Smitty. Outwardly her expression hadn’t changed one bit. She was still breathtakingly gorgeous. The cynic smile still on her dark red lips and just as insolent. Still damning to behold. But something had changed. Changed dramatically.
“Who ordered the hit?”
“Still working on that angle, honey. First I’ve got to track down Ronnie and ask him a few questions. Questions I’m afraid he might not recuperate from, if you know what I mean.”
“Well, rumor is, sweetheart, Ronnie is staying at a private house up in the Heights district. Don’t know the address. But I think it’s in the middle of Culbertson Street. Why don’t you go along and do your thing while I stick around here for a while. The club closes at two in the morning. Come by, if you’re still thirsty, and we’ll share a beer or two.”
She came to her feet, turned toward the table, and reached for the small black leather pocketbook lying on the table. When she did her two burly body guards came to their feet as well. Sitting in the chair, one leg crossed over the other, a smile on his face, Smitty watched it all in silence.
“Right at the moment I’ve got to leave you for now, darling. Running a business isn’t all fun and games, you know. But I will see you a little later?”
“Maybe not, Donna. I’m supposed to fly out of here at one thirty. So let’s just say goodbye for now. Until next time, dear. Nice we had this time together.”
Behind him the began playing another Mancini piece. One familiar to everyone all over the world. The Peter Gunn Theme song. Coming to his feet a wicked smile played across his lips as he watched her turn and, flanked by her bodyguards, disappear into the club’s crowded darkness. Walking away from the table he reached inside his coat pocket and pulled out a large faced smart phone. Leaning against the long bar backlight with bright neon lights he told the bar tender to bring him another martini. As he watched the barman expertly mix his drink and turn to slide it across the polished surface toward him, his eyes turned to the smart phone’s screen.
He had already found Ronnie Quinter. The same Ronnie Quinter who was renting a house up in the Heights on Culbertson Street. Unfortunately Ronnie hadn’t survived the arcane questioning methods he had imposed on the reluctant mechanic. Too bad. Now it was time to end the affair. End it permanently.
Reaching for his martini Smitty used a thumb to scroll through a number of listed phone numbers until he found exactly the right one. Punching it decisively he sipped the clear liquid of the drink, looked up at the bartender and nodded in appreciation of good work, and on the phone watched Donnie and her bodyguards stroll into her private office.
The gorgeous woman wasn’t happy. Throwing her pocketbook angrily on a leather divan she walked to her desk and reached for a phone. Dialing a number she lifted the receiver to her ear and waited. And waited. And waited. Slamming the receiver down on phone’s base she turned and glared at one of her bodyguards and said something. The big man nodded quickly, turned on a heel, and headed for the office’s entrance.
Looking up Smitty saw the big man slip past the raised dais of the bandstand heading for the club’s exit. Looking at the screen again he saw Donna mouth off a few more things to the remaining guard and then, frustration clearly written on her face, she turned and headed for another door to her left. Thumbing the image off he hurried to another number and punched it. The tiny camera he had planted in Donna’s private restroom earlier snapped on instantly.
Sipping his martini casually he watched and waited. He watched her turn to face the large mirror above the restroom sink. She made a few faces to herself and then reached down and grabbed a bar of soap before using the other hand to turn on the cold water tap.
She died within seconds.
A horrible death of someone with severe allergies suffocating from an allergic reaction. Her face turned purple. Her eyes bulged from her sockets. Both hands reached for a throat as she tried to scream. But there was no sound. She couldn’t scream because her allergic reaction to peanuts had swollen her air passages and throat completely shut. Earlier he had inserted into the restroom’s cold water tap a tiny cylinder of compressed gas. A gas filled with enough concentrated peanut oil to kill an elephant. Instead of water coming out of the tap a tiny explosive device blew up the container, releasing the gas.
It took only moments. She died grotesquely and silently. No one would find her for another fifteen, twenty minutes. More than enough time to finish his second martini.
BIO: B.R. Stateham is a sixty-four year old kid who writes a bit of Noir; a bit of Fantasy . . . and a few other genre odds and ends. He once taught History and Literature in public schools but hopes no one holds that against him. As of this moment, he’s more retired than anything else.