all right, i had been wrong before. and chuckie wouldn't be in harry's office forever, and i did not feel like looking at him or listening to him again that night - or any night.
i finished my free drink, left a half buck tip - pretty generous, i thought, considering my situation - for the bartender, and got up off the stool.
i was halfway to the door.
"hey, pal, got a second?" the bartender was holding something out to me.
i went over to him. it was a matchbook he was holding. "just take this. it might interest you, might not."
i didn't feel like arguing with him. "sure, why not?" i figured there was a phone number written on it, or an address. i took it.
he just nodded, turned away.
i started to head back down harry's dark hallway.
then it hit me. jeez, what a chump i was - was i losing my touch, and my mind? i had been away for too long. way too long.
it was some kind of frame! some cop - probably chuckie - would brace me, they would find the matchbook on me and the phone number or address on it would be the number or address of some poor slob harry had just had bumped off - probably in a very messy way, as he liked to do.
or, the matchbook had some fingerprints on it that - you get the idea.
i got close to the wall, and took the matchbook out of my pocket. not wasting any time, i held it in my handkerchief and rubbed it over good, even the nine or ten matches still in it. sure enough, there was a phone number - just a phone number - written in it.
davenport 7 - 5297
easy enough to remember. i tossed the matchbook down at my feet. and as it fell into the shadow i saw the gold lettering on the front:
johnny demarco's . best food and drink.
never heard of it.
i made it outside to the sidewalk. nobody braced me.
i started walking down the street. i passed a couple of cabs.
so maybe there was no frame. maybe i was imagining things.
even so, i was right back where i was before i saw harry.
davenport 7 - 5297. what did i have to lose? i decided to call it when i got back to my hotel.
it started to rain. just what i needed. i still had eleven blocks to go back to the hotel and i didn't feel like wasting money on a cab.
then it started to really rain. what the hell, i would take a cab. i was wearing my only decent suit and i didn't want it getting waterlogged. i ducked into the nearest doorway and waited for one.
the rain was jumping in the street when one finally came by. i could barely make out that it was a cab. i jumped out and waved and it came over. i had to jump back so it wouldn't send a wave crashing over me.
i reached for the rear passenger door.
"hey mister, i saw him first! it was me that called him over!"
i turned and there she was. the dame. the one i knew i was going to meet.
"no problem, miss. we can share. in fact, i will pay, as far as i am going."
"that's mighty nice of you, mister , but you don't have to be a big shot. i'll pay my way."
"i'm headed for the hotel marmont."
"the belmore - it's one more block."
the cabbie leaned over. "jeez, will one or both of you get in, you are wet enough already."
she got in. i got in beside her, and closed the door.
"did i hear you say hotel marmont, pal?"
"yes, you did." he pulled out.
i turned to the girl. "and what did you say your name was?"
"miss lost lamb. you must be mister smooth."
"hey, the old lines are the best lines. say, a guy staying in a hotel, a girl staying in a hotel, we got a lot in common."
"the belmore is a ladies residence hotel - no gentlemen beyond the lobby."
"one of those places. but maybe i'm not a gentleman."
"then you don't even get in the door."
"ha ha. my name is jeff - jeff josephus."
"i told you my name. miss lost lamb."
the more she talked the more i thought i heard some kind of accent under the all american girl act. frog? kraut? russki even?
"if you say so," i answered. "pleased to meet you. hey, maybe i'll see you around. living so close and all."
"you never know, do you? " she turned and looked out at the rain.
"nice view, huh? very scenic. i used to live around here, but i been away for a while."
she ignored me. i let it go. for now. the cab kept going. we hit mostly green lights.
"we must be almost there," she finally said.
"here you go, pal. hotel marmont."
the meter said three sixty five. i gave him four ones.
"keep it. she can pay you too if she wants."
i got out. it was raining harder than ever. i ran into the hotel without looking back.
maybe she didn't know it, but miss lost lamb hadn't seen the last of me.