Rose—–A “Dinger, PI” Short: Part 3

(Reader’s note: The first two parts of “Rose” can be found on this website. It is suggested you read them to familiarize yourself with the overall story.)

dealing-cards-1

It took a few hands and minutes to unscramble the con Manny Divino and sweet Rose were pulling. My winning streak held, although my attention had been fixated on the Lady in White and her darling dealer, and the scheming pair standing in the shadows of the entrance archway. Dealing the next game, Dell Nicholas gifted me an ace in the hole. The gambling gods continued to smile down on me as he flipped a ten on top of my ace. I wondered what choice the gods had.

I played along, shoving a stack of chips forward to call the bet of a once-gorgeous, silver-haired dame wrapped in a mink stole and blinding diamond necklace. Her upturned queen and hefty wager had the crowd stirring. A few players folded. Three others took a card. Mink and Diamonds held. Some dreamer with a seven showing raised. I called. There were a couple of calls, and then the flashy broad picked up a tall stack and raised the bet. Hands tumbled like dominoes. I called.

Mink and Diamonds glanced over at me and smiled. Even her teeth sparkled under the bright casino lights. She turned and whispered something to a tall, balding man standing behind her. His suit was money. He nodded in response.

“Cards?” said Nicholas. Mrs. Money held tight.

dealing-cards-2

“Hit me,” I said. Dell Nicholas flinched like I’d slapped his face. He recovered and dealt my card. I flashed a quick grin to the smiling money couple. In the background I saw that Rose and Divino were still in place, watching. I snuck a look at the card I’d been dealt: Jack of Diamonds; twenty-one . . . again.

The dame’s cheek twitched and she tapped a silver-painted fingernail on the table. My best guess was she was holding tight with twenty. She hesitated a moment and then pushed another stack out front—two grand’s worth. The crowd buzzed. I wanted to raise her bet so much it hurt. Instead, I dropped my poker face and took a couple nervous breaths. I fidgeted and let the tension build for another minute, and then, “Fold.”

I scooped up what was left of my fortune and handed the chips and a fin to a leggy casino dame to cash out for me. A sidelong glance told me Divino and Mrs. Nicholas had taken a hike. I ambled over to the Lady in White, took her by the elbow and said, “Let’s you and me go have a drink, doll.” She didn’t argue.

“What’ll you have, Miss Wainwright?” I said as we seated ourselves at a bar on the far side of the gambling joint. The lighting was subdued and a jukebox was playing Benny Goodman at a matching level. It was nice to be able to think again without glaring lights and constant noise probing like Japs at my brain.

“Martini, please,” she said. “How do you know my name, Mister . . .?”

I gave the flame-top thirty-ish skirt our order and waited until she was out of earshot. “Dinger. Just call me Dinger, ma’am. You’re Gloria Wainwright, twenty-two years old, only child and sole heiress to the fortune of the late Lawrence Alston Wainwright, shipbuilder from back east. Your father made his killing during the recent war, cranking out Liberty ships to carry supplies and ammunition to our troops overseas, European Theater for the most part. Not to say he wasn’t already flush, but the war made him a millionaire many times over.” Gloria Wainwright was a platinum blonde, cut in a Hollywood style. Think Carole Lombard, though not as attractive. A decent-looking dish, but she’d never set the world on fire beyond her uppity social circle. She had the build, though. High, firm breasts with plenty of cleavage, a narrow waist flaring into fine, rounded hips. What gams I could see below the hem of her long dress were first-rate.

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“My, my, Dinger, you have done your homework.” The lady barkeep returned with Gloria’s martini and my rye, neat. “And to what do I owe this drink and the pleasure of your company?” Miss Wainwright said after taking a tentative sip. It must’ve passed muster. There was no gagging or distorted facial expressions. I suppose even the rich and pampered can be satisfied given the right circumstances.

I savored a sip of the cheap rye the house had served me. I’d had worse. “I’m going to be blunt with you, Gloria, because we might not have much time to save both our asses. I have it on good authority that you’ve been, let’s say . . . intimate, with Manny Divino. And, for whatever reason, you’ve now taken up with Dell Nicholas, the dealer doing the honors tonight at the table where I was making a big score. A score, by the way, that was a setup. I’ve never been much of a luck magnet, lady, so the sooner you come clean, the better off we’ll both be.”

young-woman-smoking

Gloria unsnapped the matching glittery white purse she’d been carrying and produced a pack of Luckies. She tapped one out and held it between pursed lips as I flicked my lighter for her. She took a long draw and exhaled. I lit up a Chesterfield of my own. She reached out and slid an ashtray between us to share. “I’m in love with Manny,” she said. “And he’s in love with me. We plan to be married soon.

“Mr. Nicholas,” she said, spitting out the name as if it left a bad taste in her mouth, “has decided to blackmail Manny for some ridiculous reason. Something to do with a supposed murder Mr. Nicholas claims Manny was involved in a few years ago. Of course there’s nothing to it. My Manny wasn’t even living in that area at the time of the murder Mr. Nicholas is bellowing about. It’s simply that the man is a nothing, a liar, and a lowlife. He’s out to make a lot of money from something that never happened, something he cannot prove. I’ve been playing up to the cad to see what I can find out. There’s been no hanky-panky involved, only flirting and hints. It’s as simple as that, Dinger.”

gloria-wainwright

I ordered another round and we moved to a table in a darkened corner of the bar. I used the next quarter hour or so explaining how Mrs. Dell “Rose” Nicholas had spent the previous night duping me. And how Manny Divino was playing her, Gloria, like a rare Stradivarius, the heir to a vast fortune against professional loser, Dell Nicholas. How she and Divino would soon marry–and how it would be a very brief marriage. How we were both being suckered and used like dopes so that Nicholas would take the fall when our bodies were discovered in shallow graves in the nearby desert outskirts of Sin City. How Divino and Rose would live happily ever after, rolling in the chips courtesy of his late bride’s heavy sugar.

The kitten was squirming. After another half hour and two more martinis, Miss Gloria Wainwright finally saw the light.

{To be continued}

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7 thoughts on “Rose—–A “Dinger, PI” Short: Part 3

    1. Thanks, Kait. A short but sweet response to the continuing saga of Dinger, PI. He’s still rumbling around inside my head, pushing and pulling here and there, trying to figure out exactly who he is and what he’s ultimately doing. I believe it will all work out in the end. 🙂
      –Michael

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  1. I’m with both Margot and Kait. The atmosphere and language are perfect for this tale. I am really enjoying the descriptions of characters and loved the blinding diamonds and silver nails of Mrs. Rich wrapped in fur. The scrupulous detail in the action of characters is a layer of polish on top of the plot and is one of the things that makes these Dinger shorts so delicious. Dinger’s approach to the “Lady in White” where he takes her elbow in his hand assertively gives a glimpse into his attractively male pushiness.

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    1. Ooh, I LIKE the way you get inside Dinger’s head, MJ! Looks like you might have more of a grip on him than I do at this point. Little by little he’s revealing himself to me. Sometime in the near future I hope he’ll have his own full-length novel to work within, much like Mac McClellan. Lots more research to do, as I wasn’t born yet when Dinger began roaming the streets of post-WWII Las Vegas. 🙂
      –Michael

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