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The Appointment

I find myself on the steps of my brownstone, pulling on my overcoat. I feel the weight of the pistol in the pocket and wonder what the hell it’s doin’ there. I snap on the safety and slip it into the holster under my arm. That would be rich. If I put my hand in my pocket and ended up shooting off my own goddamn foot. If the cops don’t give a P.I. enough trouble, they’d laugh themselves into the middle of next year over that one. Hell, I’d probably laugh myself into the middle of next year. Speakin’ of cops, I can hear sirens coming up the street and decide to lick it outta there before they decide to razz me just for fun. I look up at the window of the apartment and imagine Sophie up there still sleeping. Then something I shoulda done comes to mind but I ain’t sure what it was so I shake it off and get movin’. I step off the curb and land in the middle of a puddle soaking my foot. Great damn life, eh? I’m heading uptown a couple blocks to Blackie’s diner. I’ll get myself an eye-opener and then go to Esposito’s next door to see if I can pick up some chatter. See, someone’s been going around town pumping nice dames full of lead. And it’s all been happening within about 4 blocks of here. This is my turf and I know these people, if anyone can pick up some information on the street it should be me. And it makes me sick too. If this town don’t already have it’s share of low-lifes, we don’t need no sicko goin’ around puttin’ holes in nice dames. That’s the way I see it anyway. I get up to Blackie’s and just as I’m about to go in, I see Frank Esposito puttin’ out some vegetables. I nod at him and signal that I’m comin’ by. He nods ‘OK’. Then as I’m opening the door, I wonder what Sophie’s doing and this wind comes outta nowhere and just pushes me inside. Goddamn weather. I look around to see who’s there and my eyes just about fall out of my face ‘cause there’s Sophie sittin’ at the booth by the window lookin’ just about as good as can be. I walk straight over to her and slide in on the other side of the table. “Hey doll”, I say, “I thought you were at home.” She looks kinda strange at me and says, “Maybe I am, but you should know, you’re the P.I.” I laugh at her joking around and then ask her how she got here so goddamn fast. She don’t answer, but she’s kinda smilin’ so I know she’s pullin’ my leg. The bartender comes out and asks what I need. I order a double whiskey straight. I turn to Sophie and ask her if she’s OK. “Sure Jimmie”, she says, “You bet”, but she’s got this expression on what I ain’t never seen before. The bartender gives me a funny look, then walks away and comes back with my drink. He’s always givin’ regular folk funny looks. I tell her I gotta hit the bricks soon, that this story of the sicko knockin’ off dames has really got it’s hooks in me. I tell her that maybe, if I talk to some people I know and get some leads, I can show them cops that a P.I. ain’t so dumb as to shoot his own foot off. Then she puts her hand on top of mine and it feels real light and nice and I smell that nice smell she’s got although there’s something else in it too like iron or something. I can’t place it. She says, “Couldn’t we just sit here a bit and talk, Jimmie, huh?” Then she does this thing that just about makes me want her right there. She takes the lime off the corner of her glass and gives it a squeeze and drops it into the glass. Then she brings those fingers up to her mouth, here she fixes me in the eyes, and she kinda like is lickin’ the ends of her fingers. Then she purses her lips and lifts her drink so she just slides the straw in. Crazy dame. But I gotta say she’s one of the best dames a slob like me could hope for. So twenty minutes later we’re still there talkin’ an’ laughin’ an’ she’s tellin’ all kinds of stories about people she meets in the dance halls uptown. Then I see her kinda jerk around like someone poked her in the fanny and she looks out the window. I ask her what’s up but all of a sudden she don’t look so happy no more. The two cops enter the diner trying to look real casual but they ain’t ‘cause the flaps on their holsters are open. I look back and damn if Sophie hasn’t disappeared and taken her drink with her. Ain’t it just like a dame to go and dump a guy when the heat’s on? The older cop is coming straight at me, real slow. The other one’s moving faster trying to get round to my shoulder. “There’s blood on him, Captain”, says the younger one. I look down at my jacket and I see them funny brown stains that usually mean blood if you live in this town. And then the rage hits me again. I feel the pulse pounding in my neck like it’s about to burst and stars start exploding in front of my eyes like I’m about to keel over. Except it ain’t me what’s about to keel over. I’ll kill them that’s what I’ll do. I bring my hand around, grabbing for my gun, ready to put some lead in these cops. And then the strangest goddamn thing ever happens to me and it makes me think. As I get my hand on the butt of my pistol, all of a sudden I can feel Sophie’s hand on mine, real light. And I know it’s her hand ‘cause I can smell that real nice smell she’s got even though she ain’t nowhere I can see. The first bullet hits me in the gut and I feel the burn as it goes out the back and lodges in the wood of the booth. That’s one kidney I won’t be using any more. I’m pulling my gun but there’s still that weird hand there. The other bullets hit me in the chest; three or four of them but by that point I’m not counting anymore. I’m kinda just standing there with this stupid look on my face and blood pourin’ out of me like a bunch of open faucets. Then the ceiling spins and I feel myself go down hard; something snaps inside me. As the world fades to black, “Sophie”, I hear myself whisper, “Sophie, I wasn’t me that killed ya.”

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