Rick Drake...Gangster. Flash Pulp
|The night hung heavy over St. Louis, like the pregnant clouds that promised rain. Across the street, the rhythmic flashes of the Ambassador Theater's marquis shouted their challenges to the darkness as yellow cabs swallowed up the the lines of cheap, double breasted suits and fake fox stoles leaving the show. Soon only the crumbs were left. Those too cheap or too poor for the taxi ride home.
Fat drops of rain began to pepper the sidewalk, the low rumble of thunder like the cities angry growl.
These streets needed the rain. To wash away the filth. But in The Lou, some dirt don't come off so easy.
I stubbed out the last of my Camel when she stepped out. The neon lights played second fiddle to this dame's flash. She was wearing red. She always wore red. From feathered hat down to her kitten heal pumps this broad sizzled. I could see her eyes sparkle as she lit up, the smoke she blew as hot as steam off a stove.
Ruby Longo was her name, and she was the reason the bums lined up at eight and left dazzled at eleven. She did four shows a week, twice on Saturday. This canary could sing. She was also the longtime girl of Colorado Phil Castellano. My boss.
She turned and walked up 7th, the staccato of her heals fading into the shadows as I dodged a Checker cab and followed. Her perfume left a sultry trail even a blind man could follow. It looked like she was headed for Louis'. I'd seen her there before. Sometimes she met Colorado, sometimes she didn't.
She turned the corner at St. Charles with a quick glance over her shoulder.
Was I made? This dame wasn't stupid, that's for sure, but to her, I was just another joe pounding the pavement.
When I turned the corner I realized my mistake.
She stood there, solid as a right cross, the nickel plated derringer sparkling in the street lights like the diamonds on on her fingers.
“Ricky, what are you doing here?” she asked, a smile painting the corners of her lips.
My eyes watched the derringer fade into her purse.
“Nothin' doll, just stretchin' my legs,” I say.
With a quick step, I sweep her into my arms. Her eyes grow wide, her lips part in a gasp.
I kiss those red, full lips. Her breath, sweet, like a midnight breeze over summer fields .
“Why?” she whispers, a tear tracing a line down her cheek.
“Colorado thought you was cheaten' on him. Had me follow you. When I told him he was right he wanted you dead.”
“But Rick, you were my lover.”
“Yea doll, that's tough, “ I say, her body heavy in my arms.
I pull her under a stoop, away from the rain, and lower her to the cold ground, my stiletto still vibrating in her chest. I pull out the blade,and her eyes flutter shut.
“The streets are hard doll, but if you want to survive, you gotta be harder,” I say, but I know she's not listening.
I brush the hair from her face and straighten her hat. The homicide dicks will be at her with the cameras soon. She ought to look good. I owe her that much.
I light up and step onto the side walk, blowing a cloud into the unforgiving heavens. The rain is heavy now. It drips off the brim of my Fedora like the tears of a widow as I disappear into the night.