Rain ran down the window like water in a car wash. I was sitting at my desk in the gloom, working my way through a deck of Luckies when my brother walked in.
He gave me the phony grin.
“I’ve got a job for you,” he said.
“In a pig’s eye.”
My brother is family. He’s blood of my blood. He’s a good-looking guy with a cesspool for a brain. I promised our mother I’d look after him. I promised her I’d straighten him out. I lied.
“Beat it,” I said.
I sucked on my cigarette, drawing the burning tip down to my fingers with a hiss. The smoke torched my throat on its way into my lungs.
“You need a payday,” my brother said. “I’ve got one for you.”
“Whatever you’ve got, I’d rather not catch. Scram.”
“There’s a rich guy over in Greencrest thinks his wife is cheating. He’ll pay good for proof. Trail her around, take some pictures. Collect your money.”
He dropped a scrap of paper on my desk.
“The guy’s mansion,” he said. “Stake it out. You can’t miss the wife. She’s the real thing.”
“I’ll let you know,” I said. “Now get lost.”
He knew I’d do it, because of my promise to Ma. And because I was dead broke.
I sat and waited for the hate to die down. Then I got tired of waiting. I pulled on my trench coat, slapped on my hat, and left the office.
I staked out the mansion and followed the dame into the city. She met a guy in the lobby of the Stratford and they rode together up to the twenty-fifth floor. She had a body that was built to keep a guy busy long after she was ready to take a shower. She had the face of an angel, probably fallen.
Five hundred to the house dick got me their door unlocked. I stepped in and took snaps of the action. They weren’t missionaries, that’s for sure.
I called my brother and told him I was ready to present my bill. He told me to wait an hour, which I spent drinking.
An evil-looking yellow moon hung behind ragged clouds in the east. The temperature had dropped and my cigarette was the only warm thing in the car. At the cuckold’s gate, I spoke into the squawk box.
“I’m here about the missus,” I said.
The gate swung open.
I drove up to the mansion through thick pines. The front door stood ajar.
I stepped inside. A light was on in a room to the right. I went in, doffing my hat. An old bird with white hair stood behind a large mahogany desk at the far end of the room.
“You’re here about my wife?” he said. His voice quavered.
“That’s right,” I said.
“You expect money?”
“You said it.”
He produced a gun and pointed it in my general direction. Looked like a .25.
“What’s that for?” I said.
“To kill you with,” the geezer said, coming around the desk. “You think I’ll just pay you to go away?”
“Hold on, partner,” I said. He was going to kill me if he could hold the gun still.
Reluctantly, I pulled my .38 and shot him through his wrinkled old heart. No fee for me. I put my gun away.
The blond slid into the room. She glanced at me and then crossed to the corpse and picked up the .25. She stepped over the body and centered the gun on my face.
She read my expression.
“I needed my husband dead,” she said. “Thanks.”
I wouldn’t be shooting this babe in that big chest of hers.
My brother joined us, grinning.
“Nice, huh?” he said. “She inherits and you get the blame for the shootout with Pops here. He thought you were the lover coming over for a payoff. You shoot each other.”
“The guy in the hotel room?”
“Some yegg we hired.” His grin became a smirk.
“You think she’ll let you live?” I said.
The smirk held.
“She loves me,” he said.
I smiled, imaging the look on his face when he arrived in Hell right behind me.