If looks could kill, Eva Redmond would be the world’s most notorious serial killer. Shoulder-length hair the color of dying embers, emerald cat eyes that pierced the thickest skin and made the stoutest heart skip a beat. Five-ten in stocking feet, about one-thirty, every pound packed in just the right place. The doll was only nineteen, but carried herself with an air of elegance and sophistication of someone far more worldly.
Talk was she’d come to Vegas by way of Atlanta, with Hollywood her ultimate destination—one more dreaming beauty with stars dazzling those gorgeous eyes. With a little luck this dame just might sweep her way into Tinseltown and take it by storm. Better make that a lot of luck. Eva had the great fortune—or misfortune, depending on how you look at it—of being hired on sight by a scout for The Donn Arden Dancers. The timing was impeccable. A month later Arden’s troupe was part of the gala entertainment package for the grand opening of the Desert Inn. It was a little-kept secret that the Strip’s newest extravaganza establishment was backed by mob money.
Cal Rizzo, one of the Desert Inn’s assistant managers, took an instant liking to the tall, flame-haired showgirl. Before long, when Eva wasn’t making brows sweat and tongues hang out while strutting around the Painted Desert Room, she could be found arm-in-arm at Rizzo’s side as he wined and dined and showed her off around the Strip. Eva was living a heady dream while walking a tight-rope she knew nothing about. And there was no safety net to catch the luscious Georgia Peach if she slipped.
Which is where I come into the picture. I’d done work for Rizzo before, when the only thing lining my pockets was last week’s lint. Since I hit Sin City after the war I’d tried my best to steer clear of dirty dough. But hunger and needing a roof over your head can be convincing influences. So I’d let my standards slip a time or two. Rizzo summoned me to his office one hot and dusty afternoon in July, three months after the D.I. opened its doors.
“I got a little job for you, Dinger,” he said, using my nickname. Never mind how I got it. He motioned to a chair in front of his desk. I took a seat as he shoved an envelope across the desktop. “Open it.”
I pulled a couple of 8 X 10 glossies out of the envelope. One was of Eva decked out in her showgirl finery, shapely legs up to her tight ass, and full firm breasts barely covered by a few inches of wispy material. Her hair was pinned up and topped with one of those peacock-like headdresses that fanned out to her shoulders. Full, painted lips spread into an easy, seductive smile. Men have fought wars over less. In the other photo, Eve sat au naturel in a bathtub full of bubbles that barely covered her nipples. One shapely gam dangled teasingly over the side. Smoke drifted from a cigarette held between long, delicate fingers. She wore the same “come and get it” smile.
I looked up and said, “What can I do for you, Mr. Rizzo?”
He finished lighting a cigar. “The young lady is Eva Redmond, my special . . . ‘friend,’ shall we say. But I’m sure a private dick of your astuteness already knows that.”
I gave the photos another glance and tossed them onto the desk. “I’ve seen the pair of you about town a time or two. What business is it of mine?”
Rizzo leaned back in his plush chair and launched a bluish-gray smoke ring toward the ceiling. A man of many talents. He sat upright, rested both arms on the desk, and grinned. Or was it a sneer? “Nothing escapes your eagle eyes, Dinger, which is why you’re here. A little birdie told me that my lovely Eva has been spreading her wings and flying where she doesn’t belong. That’s very unfortunate, if it’s true. I don’t exactly trust the source. Could be he’s after a fast buck. I’m a selfish man when it comes to what’s mine. I’ll admit it. I don’t like sharing. I never have. That cookie jar is all for me, if you get my drift.”
We settled on seventy-five bucks a day, plus expenses. I couldn’t make that much bread if I ran a bakery. My job was simple: tail Eva day and night for a week, or until she opened her cookie jar to someone else.
It didn’t take a week. Early evening of the second day on Rizzo’s bill I followed a cab Eva Redmond hailed from the street three blocks away from her apartment. The cabbie stopped outside a quaint motel on the north side of town—the Family Motor Inn. Eva unlimbered her long legs, followed by the rest of her sleek body, from the cab. She paid the driver, and from his reaction added a generous tip. I watched from a half-block away as she strode to Unit 16 at the far end of the L-shaped motor court. She carried a small suitcase and her purse. Fumbling in the purse a brief moment, she produced a key and disappeared inside. I found a good place to watch and parked my Ford coupe.
At precisely 9:30 p.m. a dusty pre-war Chevy drove into the lot and braked in front of a unit maybe eight rooms away. I grabbed my binoculars. Well, wouldn’t you know–Georgia plates. A few seconds passed, and then the driver’s door opened. The dome light shined on a young man wearing a wrinkled suit and fedora. He glanced around and then hurried toward Unit 16. I watched as he leaned close to the door. A couple seconds later it opened, and he slipped inside.
A half hour passed and the room went dark. The war had made me light sleeper, so I took a snooze and awoke around 2 a.m. The neon sign flashed on and off with its gaudy green and pink colors. The vacancy light was still lit, the parking lot about half full. The Chevy hadn’t moved. I opened the glove box and pocketed my snub-nose .38. I wasn’t expecting trouble, but you never know. Better safe than to wind up on a cold slab in the county morgue. Nothing was stirring as I eased out of my coupe and walked nonchalantly across the paved lot. Pausing outside Unit 16, I slipped my lockpick into the keyhole. It didn’t take ten seconds to unlock the door.
The chain snapped when I opened the door. I shut it and flicked on a light. The two lovebirds were tangled all arms and legs together. It took a few seconds before either one realized something had gone amiss with their little rendezvous. Eva sputtered awake first. She bolted upright, revealing her luscious breasts in all their glory before grabbing the sheets and pulling them chin-high to cover those fine assets. It took Lover Boy a few seconds longer to follow her lead. Must’ve been a long drive, or else Eva had worn the poor guy out.
“What the he—?” Lover Boy said, reaching for the drawer of the nightstand beside the bed.
The barrel of my .38 stopped short his heroics. “You two clear the bed and get dressed—now!” I said, emphasizing my command with an unfriendly wave of the revolver. The two of them scrambled from the bed naked as the day they were born. I concentrated on Eva, but kept a sidelong eye on Lover Boy, just in case. They grabbed shirts, skirt, trousers, bra, and panties off the floor and nearby chairs, and were dressed in a flash. I was impressed.
“How long you been in town, kid?” I asked the tall young man when he’d finished zipping up his trousers. He was beet red with rage. I couldn’t blame him.
“What’s it to you, mister?” he said, defiance tingeing his voice.
I cocked the hammer. “How about your worthless life?”
Both his hands went up like a shield. “Please mister, me and Evie, we’ve known each other since we were kids. We were gonna get married once she got settled in Hollywood and all. Only . . . things got in the way.”
I let go a gruff laugh. “Things? Like Cal Rizzo? You got a lot to learn, kiddo. What the hell you think Evie here’s been doing since she blew into town? Besides dancing, that is.”
The young man’s face fell. I felt like a heel for humiliating him. But he had hard lessons to learn, and fast, if he wanted any kind of a future with “Evie.” “Evie told me she’s . . . she told me she’s had to do things . . . ’cause she got mixed up in something.”
Eva Redmond took a couple steps forward and spit in my face. “You bastard! You come hunting me and Marty down like we’re some kind of criminals. I hate that son-of-a-bitch Cal! Hate him! I hope the bastard dies and burns in hell for what he done to me!”
Marty hurried to Eva’s side and wrapped her in his arms. He nuzzled her cheek and whispered something in her ear. Again, I was impressed. “Look mister, we got nothing to offer you, so I reckon you’re gonna go ahead and kill us. I wish you wouldn’t. Me and Evie, we love each other. Always have since fifth grade. I expect we always will, whether we’re alive or dead. So you go on and do what you gotta do. But I ain’t leaving her side. No sir, you go ahead and kill us where we stand. Together.”
Damn, the kid had balls to spare. He would’ve made a good Marine if he’d been old enough to serve with me in WWII. I lowered the revolver and cracked a smile. “Gather all your shit and get the hell out of here and back to Georgia. And don’t stop till you get there. Now!”
That afternoon I reported in to Rizzo. “Your girl ran off with some fatcat Hollywood producer. Claimed he would make her a star. I got the license plate if you’re interested. California number 68E—”
Rizzo threw up a hand. “Never mind, Dinger. I liked the kid, liked her much more than to hunt her down and ruin her dreams. I hope she makes it, makes it big.” A grin spread across his stubbled face. “Hell, I can always claim I had her first. And that’s something to brag about, right? Yeah, that’s something to brag about for damn sure.”