The Picture Ranch 45
Miss Gräfenberg arrived when I was half-way into the bottle and completely on the outs with the bartender. She was a little flushed around the neck.I kicked the stool next to me towards her but she didn’t take a seat.
‘I think I’ll drive, Fisher.’
She held out her hand for the keys.
‘Don’t need ‘em, Sugar, I only locked the trunk.’
Her hand didn’t move so I dropped the Hispano’s keys in her hand and turned back to the bar.
‘Mr Fisher, you are still in my employ, you can sleep it off in the car. We have business at the Red Menace.’
I followed her out to the car and enjoyed the view all the way to the kerb. I didn’t even see her push the ignition.The Hispano’s ride was so smooth that I didn’t wake up until Miss G had parked it outside The Red Menace. This time there was more than the paint on the hatch to warn people off. There were two planks nailed across the entrance, some hand-painted lettering read “CloSeD”.
My client stood arms folded and one delicate toe pointing forward like a schoolmarm in front of the class clown,
‘Get us in, Mr Fisher’.
I pulled at the planks. The hammer and nails had been used with more skill than the paint and brush. The planks stayed put. Miss Gräfenberg tutted. I held out my hand and said “keys”.
The wooden barrier was no match for the tyre iron from the Hispano’s trunk. I tried the door knob. The door was locked, Miss G nodded. I stuck the jemmy between the door and the frame around where the lock was. There was some splintering and then I gave the door a kick and it opened.
The lights were on, although it wasn’t yet dark outside. I pulled the roscoe from my pocket. Miss G carried her purse in both hands in front of her, as if it were bullet-proof. A Radio was on. Cab Calloway was shouting hi-di-ho. The booths looked intact but all the tables and chairs were scattered over the dance floor. On the stage were the Paraguayan band’s instruments. They weren’t on stands. Someone had kicked through the bass drum’s skin. Apart from that it didn’t look much different from the night Lydia Voborieff was murdered. Lupe Cantarillo was sitting on the edge of the stage a tall drink in her hand, her make-up so smeared her face looked like one of that Spanish guy’s melted clocks.
‘Was it a good party?’ I waved an arm around the room.
‘Scott enjoyed it. Boethius too. Me not so much.’ Lupe gave a bitter laugh.
‘Were they looking for something in particular?’
‘No, this is just a message.’
‘I know this language,’ Miss G said. ‘It’s not very coherent. Smacks of a poor vocabulary.’
Boethius’s voice came from out back, where the men’s room and Lydia’s dressing room were.
‘Violence can be eloquent, though I admit I delegated this particular message.’
His pistol came in through the doorway first.