White Fedora - A Craven Danger Mystery
Lucy Drake sat across from Craven Danger and lit a cigarette.
“Receptacle!” said Craven.
“What?” said Mrs. Drake.
“Sorry, ma’am. I thought we were playing that word game where the person gives you a clue and you have to guess the word they’re thinkin’ about.”
“No, Mr. Danger. I need an actual ashtray. That or a vacuum cleaner.”
“Vacuum cleaner? Is that a word game?”
“No. Just a joke. And I very much need an ashtray.”
“Sure,” said Craven. “I keep one in the desk drawer. Betty made me quit smoking, so I gotta keep it outta sight to avoid temptation. Here ya go. And please feel free to blow a little smoke my way.”
“Is that your attempt at flirty talk, Mr. Danger?”
“No, Mrs. Drake. Just serious nicotine withdrawal. Smoke two cigarettes if ya like. A little London fog in here would do my nerves some good right about now.”
“Hmm,” said Mrs. Drake. “So you’re Craven Danger.”
“I’m whoever you want me to be,” said Craven.
“Well, that’s sure being flexible. Can you be my dentist? I got a cap that won’t stay put.”
“Well, no. I just meant—“
“I know what you meant, Mr. Danger. Please. Leave the playful glib talk to Bogart. You just stick to being you. Which I hope is still being a detective. You are the man you say are in this advert, are you not?
“Ya mean, Have mercy on those who try run from the man who carries the biggest gun?”
“Yes. That’s the man I want. Fully loaded and ready for action.
“I am ready for action, ma’am. But fully loaded? That’s up to Betty. She’s in charge of the bullets. Sometimes she only doles out one at a time. That’s because the last time she gave me six bullets I fired all six rounds before ever gettin’ the gun out of the holster. I really have to work on my quick-draw technique. They make it look so easy in the movies.”
“I must say, Mr. Danger, you’re doing an excellent job of selling yourself. It’s a wonder there’s not a line around the block of people seeking your services.”
“I’ve often wondered that myself, Mrs. Drake. I’m runnin’ out of things to amuse myself.”
“Have you tried exercise, Mr. Danger? The way your slouching in that chair one would think you hadn’t enough muscle to pull yourself up.”
“Hey! Are you really here to seek my help, or did Betty send you in here to annoy me?”
“Let’s just say that if your rates weren’t so cheap I’d have been out the door after ‘receptacle!’ But since my husband ran off with most of my money I have no choice, Mr. Danger.”
“All right, then, Mrs. Drake. Give me the low-down.”
“It’s all quite simple, Mr. Danger. My husband’s a no-good cheating, booze-hound who ran off with a suitcase full of my money. And I was fool enough to allow him access to my bank account. Love is blind, and stupid. This is a picture of my husband.”
“That’s a good lookin’ suit he’s wearin’, Mrs. Drake. And, man, get a load a that white fedora! Al Capone used to wear a white fedora. I’m too slouchy for a hat like that. Too high-toned for me. That’s why I wear a brown one. Ya can’t see the Hershey bar fingerprints. Boy, I bet your husband would look good in anything.”
“Mr. Danger, right now the only thing that would look good on my husband is a tombstone.”
“Well, that’s little harsh, Miss Drake. I mean, yeah, sure, he’s a chislin’ low-life, booze swillin’ con man who likes the ladies. But, boy, can he pull off a two-tone, wing-tip oxford. And get a load a that tie! Is that real silk? By the way, is he a model? ‘Cause he sure got the looks for it.”
“Mr. Danger, after you’ve found my husband and once he’s doing time for ruining my life, you two can be pen-pals. Then you can keep him up-to-date on the latest fashion trends and grooming techniques. But right now I need you to find my husband and get me back my money!”
“Can I ask you a question, Mrs. Drake?”
“Of course, Mr. Danger.”
“Is that real diamond stickpin on your husband’s tie? Because, I gotta tell ya, it’s one of them things I dream about. I once saw one in Tiffany’s window and almost went blind! Geez, how I envy your husband, Mrs. Drake. He’s got it all.”
By the time Craven Danger looked up from the photograph, Mrs. Drake was well on her way to the Better Business Bureau to lodge a complaint. After which Betty Felcher made her way into Craven’s office with the morning paper and a clenched fist.