Three years have passed. Three long years of head scratching, whiskey drinking and dead-end leads. I’m sitting at the bar of Mama Belles. The proprietor pours me another sour mash. She has the face of a boxer who’s been through some hard times. She’s wearing a low-cut black dress and ill-fitting teeth. The phone rings, she picks it up, says it’s someone looking for me. Nobody knows I’m here, something ain’t right.
“Luigi O’Reilly?” the voice says.
“Maybe.” I give nothing away.
“Jack Murdry. Meet me at Barbie’s Hotel eight O’clock tonight. Don’t be late.” Then he hangs up.
Jack Murdry? Jack Murdry the casino racketeer, and maybe cold-blooded killer? Just when I stop looking for him he turns up. But how does he know where I am?
I swivel ’round on the bar stool scanning the scene, the red faux leather booths, the pictures of dead blues players hanging off the grimy walls. Nobody there. How Does He Know Where I Am? I walk slowly around the bar. Hidden behind a curtain there’s a pool table. A broad is playing pool by herself, cute, maybe 25, no one else around. Just her. She looks over at me and winks before potting the eight ball.
“Do you wink at every guy that walks in here?” I ask her.
“Only when I know I’m gonna pot the ball” she purrs.
“Do you know a Jack Murdry?”
“Ain’t never heard of him. Not too many folk come ’round here. Is that the guy you were talking to on the phone?”
“Maybe” I answer. She’s getting nothing.
“So, you work in this joint?”
“I live in this joint, with my mama.”
“The very same.”
“That’s swell. Say, what happened to her teeth?” I ask.
“Since the casino went bust we ain’t been able to afford fancy things like health insurance, or tooth doctors.”
“Them neither” she says. “Can’t afford nothing.”
“Is that why you’re wearing those jeans and that sweater?”
She doesn’t answer. We get talking about this and that. Asking each other questions, digging around. Then she glides over to the jukebox.
“What kind of music do you like?” I think for a moment.
“Jazz, sometimes jazz….but mostly jazz. Depends on my mood.” She puts on a record, walks back over and asks “What brings you here anyways?”
“I don’t know, the darkness, the strange smell. The sign outside that says ‘Keep Walking’. And …. it’s a bar.”
I check my watch, it’s 19:30. Barbie’s Hotel is maybe 25 minutes away. Before I leave I decide to ask the winking pool dame how she knows when she’s gonna pot a ball.
“Well, I just pick up on the aura of the room. Get a feel for the vibrations. If it feels right then it feels right.”
Aura? Vibrations? This dames crazy. But she sure has pretty eyes. I put on my hat and walk out onto the rainy street.
Barbie’s Hotel, 20:00 hours. I walk through the dimly lit lobby, up to the reception desk. The receptionist is a real doll, maybe 5″4, long blond hair, attractive cleavage.
“I’m looking for a Mister Murdry.” She tells me to go through the orange door, says everyone’s waiting in there.
“Everyone? What d’ya mean everyone?” She don’t say nothing, just points to a poster stuck to the wall at the side of me. I carefully lift my gaze out of her cleavage and turn my head to read it.
That’s what the poster says, in a cruel comic sans font. My blood begins to boil. I turn my head back towards the receptionist. This time I look her straight in the eye.
“I said I’m looking for a Mister Murdry, I ain’t got time for games” I tell her firmly. Just then there’s a loud bang from behind the orange door, followed by a scream, then silence. I never like to stick around when bullets start flying. I stumble out on to the rain drenched street and make my way back to Mama Belles.