Put the Cue in the Rack | Ian Harrison

The gritty noir finale for Ian Harrison’s serial story.


Put The Cue In The Rack

Ian Harrison

To The Nines Award Part 9


Propping up a quiet table in a raucous speakeasy. Off-duty. Bleary and blind eyes turned, all-round. Coupla hoods hustling some nine-ball in one corner, but they ain’t causing no ruckus.

“Doc Vickers had to see a man about a dog; the circus moves on.” I deadpan.

Jimmy groans.

I owe the vet an apology. My suspicious mind connected him to the Mob and an earlier beating I wore. Not for long, but long enough.

“Parnell’s coming?”

“Mebbe.”

Our bent police force routinely covered one another ‘making busts’ if one got sprung inside a speakeasy. Jimmy ‘n’ me wore that stale, ex-cop stink, but regulars know we were a-ok. Sergeant Kieron Parnell’s a chum. One of the few straight officers left.

“Gotta question for you. We want you to be Godfather of our little one.”

Eyebrow raises. “Interesting choice o’ words, given our recent experiences.”

Jimmy flashes a smile, apologetic. “It’s the right word. The way we sees it, family ain’t the ones you share your blood with. They’re the ones you share your life with.”

Darned peanut’s got lodged in my throat.

“I’d be proud to, Jim.”

“Thanks. Oh, warning : Nina’s bringing her girlfriend along.” Jimmy’s pressing.

Pressing his luck.

Snort into my whiskey-rocks; bandaged ribs twinge. “What, my life ain’t interesting enough already?”

He laughs, toasting our client, Margie MacHeath.

This real knee-kicker of a tune starts. Revellers dance to the howling clarinet. Streets’re safer for these folk tonight. Smiles come pretty easy. This is why we do what we do.

Realize I’m thinking aloud. Again.

Jimmy agrees with the sentiment, though. “Good results’re always a bonus, Paddy.”

Yep.

Trocadero racetrack’s blacksmith : Mob enforcer. Made gold horseshoes to smuggle abroad. His sea-faring apprentice tampered with horse’s blinkers. Garry the Mac MacHeath’s plan. Garry’s design. Was meant to be a dry run. The race proper, being three weeks’ hence.

But it worked too well. Naïve Garry backed his circus-trained horse heavily, just in case. Watched in horror as it stormed home. Then the dirty double-crosser compounded his error : panicking, taking winnings, horse and trying to vamoose. Blacksmith ended that, holding Garry till his Mob bosses arrived to escort man and horse away.

They got at Margie further, kidnapping her cousin Gabriella from the circus. Torturing Garry and Gabriella, ‘til one of them spilled the beans about the race-fixing methods, and where them golden horse-shoes wound up. Jimmy ‘n’ me figured out where these hostages were being held, swung by with the cavalry and rescued ‘em.

Well, most of Garry, at least.

Bankrupt Garry’s rotting in prison. Gabriella and Margie, cleared.

Margie owns a (rightly or wrongly) race-winning horse though she couldn’t keep the gold horse-shoes the blacksmith forged. Star Dancer’s now in foal, resting at Mort Borland’s farm, where he’s got hisself a new set of hired hands. Margie MacHeath paid our fee, expenses, and then some.

It all worked out.

“What d’you suppose happened to Jane Borland?”

“Don’t care.” I drag slow on my stogie; thick smoke curls. “Bad news, that one. Prob’ly keeping a low profi-…”

Door swings open. Music stops, like some Wild Western saloon outta the pictures. Every man’s on his feet, chins dropping south. All eyes on the pair of dames approaching our table.

Nina’s demeanor turns sour, quick-smart. Jimmy’s oblivious.

“Glad you gentlemen approve. Lemme make the introductions. I’m Nina Sluff, you may’ve heard of me?”

Snaps Jimmy out of it. He bumbles, stuttering. Offers his pregnant wife his stool.

“That’s better,” says Nina, kissing Jimmy’s cheek. “This is…”

“Jane Borland,” Jimmy and I finish.

“No, Chrissy Binks,” corrects Nina, furrowing.

“Take a seat.”

Jane protests; I ain’t having none of it. “Siddown!”

“What’ve I missed?” Asks Nina.

“Later, doll. But remember that race-fixin’ case we’re investigating?” Jimmy motions to the bartender.

“Yeah…”

“Well, your buddy Jane here’s a Mafia moll. Provided a false alibi for our prime suspect. Turns out, she helped cover up his kidnapping.”

“The M-Mafia?” Nina turns to Jane, snaps back. “No, Jimmy, you’re mistaken. We cross-stitch together. Read to old-timers at the library. Tell them, Chrissy?”

Nina’s eyes flood. Jane splits, drinks and chairs rattling in her wake. Wrenches the front door open.

Straight into Sergeant Parnell, near bowling him over.

“Best craic of my loife.” He wraps firm hands around Jane’s struggling wrists. “Coming straight to me to be arrested, now. Inspector in t’ree months, at this rate.”

We laugh.

“Barkeep, I’m not familiar…”

“Your usual pint of black, Sarge?” He obliges.

“Sure t’ing. A round for these foine people. And, aye, Guinness for me too, if ya don’t moind.”

Sensing an opportunity, Jane stomps heavily and scrams. Parnell shrugs, hopping on one boot.

“We need surveillance on a case, Paddy. I’ll arrest Miz Borland and let’s gab in t’irty minutes, once I get back.”