The Picture Ranch 47
The butler was fat, with an English accent that he most likely took off with his uniform. Hands behind his back he gave out a low-pitched,
“Whom shall I say is calling?”
Miss Gräfenberg said, ‘Who’.
The butler looked puzzled. Miss Gräfenberg held up the tin box,
‘Tell him we’ve got the coins, Barrymore.’
The butler buttled off and we were left in a reception hall bigger than the Waldorf’s lobby.
‘How d’ya know his name?’
‘I don’t, I could smell the gin under the eau de cologne.’
It wasn’t the booze-hound who returned to make us welcome, it was Mulvaney himself.
He was a big guy, big enough to play the heavy in a George Raft movie. His clothes were expensive, but not new. Somebody kept his very old spats bright with a lot of whitener. The toothbrush moustache on his upper lip was grey, but his hair was black and brilliantined. His
cigarette holder looked expensive, but the cigarettes didn’t. He blew out some smoke, I hoped the tobacco didn’t taste as bad as it smelled.
‘So this is Fisher, Eleanor? Doesn’t look much.’
‘You get what you pay for, in this town.’
‘You do,’ Mulvaney said, before blowing smoke in my direction.
He waited until I’d finished coughing, ‘Burberry said you’ve got the coins, Eleanor’.
Burberry. Didn't fit as well as Barrymore, I thought, meanwhile Miss G answered,
‘What do you want for them?’
‘I think you know. Fisher, ask him nicely where the boy is.’
‘I wouldn’t advise that, Eleanor.’ Mulvaney said.
‘He’ll have some goons here, just in case. Not just Burberry, Miss G.’ I took out
‘That would be foolish too.’ He gave me another plume of foul smoke.
He stepped over to Miss Gräfenberg an took a firm hold over elbow. Miss G let herself be
steered to some kind of chaise. Mulvaney waved me towards a chair that looked like Olive Oyl would have broken it the minute she sat down. I walked across the gleaming marble and stood by the chair that was too shiny to be antique. Eleanor G sat down like she was at a
Temperance Union’s sewing bee.
Mulvaney opened a battered brass cigarette case, took out a cigarette, lit it from the butt in
his holder and replaced it with the new snipe. The butt fell to the marble and a few sparks landed on his spats, smouldered for a moment and went out.
‘If I did have the boy, why would I kidnap my own son?’
‘He’s not your son,’ my client whispered it, just loud enough to hear.
‘You hardly know him, a half-brother? What is that? A legal relationship, not a tie that
binds, I think, Miss Gräfenberg, hmm?