The dame I was hired to tail was a real looker. Twenty-six, tall, and packaged to make a blind man give up his cane permanently for one telling “read” of that face and body. Hair like spun gold draping over her shoulders and across one eye. Think Veronica Lake, but add a foot in stature and a cup size. Maybe two. Before I ever laid eyes on Mae Schumer I got all the particulars from the man who’d hired me, Dexter Denning, bank president with reputed ties to the local mob. He was married, three children, but what the hell—with prestige and power come fringe benefits. Denning’s description and the photo he’d given me didn’t do the lady justice. My service binoculars did.
In most times I would’ve avoided this type of case like the clap, but these weren’t most times. I was a year out of the Marines and still limping from the Jap shrapnel I took at Shuri Castle on Okinawa. My ramshackle office/home located well off the Strip in Vegas wasn’t free and, with the dough I’d been pulling in, wasn’t cheap. I should’ve been charging rent to the vermin subletting the dump with me. Car payments didn’t help my financial status either. Spam and saltines were my idea of a feast.
I’d spent the last three nights sitting in my ’46 Ford Coupe a block away from the Saguaro Motor Court watching the big green cactus flashing on and off against the pink desert backdrop of the Saguaro’s neon sign. Room 24 was on the far end of the L-shaped units and afforded a side and back “inside” view from conveniently situated windows. When the time was right I made my move. Mae and her boyfriend had been careless during their midweek rendezvous after her showgirl duties at the El Rancho Vegas Hotel-Casino. I provided Denning with several photos showing “his” girl and “that bastard”—as he called Mae’s lover boy—getting to know each other in the biblical sense. The open windows and sheer inner drapes did little to filter the action. The bank president-cum-mobster wasn’t overjoyed with my findings.
I couldn’t figure why he wanted me on the job for one more night after I’d delivered the goods. But what the hell, the pay was good—never look a gift horse up the ass, right? I thought it strange that the parking lot was mostly empty. Slow night, I figured. I was close to drifting off to sandman land when three shots blasted through the darkness. I bolted awake. I didn’t need the cold steel probing behind my ear to know what the accompanying metallic “click” meant.
“Get outta the cah an’ wahk to the room. And no funny bidness.” The accent was Jersey, or New York. I’d heard it plenty during my time in the Corps.
As we approached the door to Room 24, it opened from inside like a magic act. Denning and a couple of who I guessed were mob thugs were there. Denning stood by the bed, pointing at the two lifeless bodies coupled together in the throes of lovemaking. Mae, on top, had been shot in the back of her pretty blonde head. Lover boy had taken a round through the forehead and another in the temple. Coup de grace, for effect.
“I wanted you to see this,” Denning said. He wore a smug grin. “You did a wonderful job for me. I’ll be sure to recommend your services to my friends and business associates, should the need arise.”
I nodded and walked out into the night.