Cinderella, Film Noir Print E-mail
The Big Sleep

Chapter 1: Dames

The name's Shovel. Sam Shovel. Private Detective, body guard and regular fairy godmother. It was late Friday night and I was in my office, knocking back some of the hard stuff when the door slid open and in walks this dame.

She was hot. She had the kind of walk that gets talked about in confession.

"Sam Shovel?" She asked? I nodded and pointed at the chair. She sat down and I started getting chair-envy.

I threw out there a "What's your name, sister?"

"They call me Cinderella," she replied. Her voice could have melted the ice caps. I put my drink down and let her speak. "I want you to help me, Mr Shovel."

"Call me Fairy Godmother."

"Why?"

"I'm kinky like that."

She got out a cigarette and posted it between those red lips. She waited for a few seconds until I realized she was playing boss. Like a good little employee I went round the table and lit it for her. She breathed it all in and then sent out a plume of smoke, that said, "go back behind your desk, little man," just the way I like it.

"So what beefs?" I asked when I sat back behind my whiskey.

"Fairy Godmother, I wanna go to the mafia ball," she said.

"We all wanna go to the ball, sweetcakes," I answered.

"My ugly sisters are there," she said as if that explained it.

"I don't know your sisters, sister. You say they're ugly, but how do I know that's not just spite?" She produced a Polaroid and showed me two dames. I say dames, they could have been bulldozers for all I knew. "Okay, so your ugly sisters are going. How much do you want to go?"

"200 a day, plus expenses." She knew my rate; she hadn't just randomly walked in my office.

"That's quite a lot. Why don't we see if we can't make it happen?"

 

Two hours later, I tucked 200 green ones in my back pocket and waved goodbye to the black limousine carrying one Cinderella. The dress was from an old case of mine. It was too good a dress to have left lying around and the dame who had been wearing it wasn't going to be needing it. Morgues in this town ain't that formal. It fitted her like a glove. I guess a gentleman would have looked away when a lady was putting on a dress. But a gentleman wouldn't have taken said dress from a corpse. She didn't mind the looking - probably considered it was part of my fee.

The limo was from "Petrol" Jack, the Pump King. He owed me a favor since the incident with the dead man in the trunk. The driver was one Roland "Rat" Schlamoski, police informant and petty thief. And cheapest driver I know. The only stipulation was this… Cinderella had to be out of there by midnight, because I knew for a fact that (a) Schlamoski had a house to burglarize at 12:30 and (b) at 12:10 precisely, the mafia ball was being raided by the police. And don't ask me how I knew that, I just did.

 

Chapter 2: Gangsters

Maybe I felt Cinderella deserved more for her 200 bucks than a carriage and way in to the mafia ball. Maybe I liked trouble. Maybe I can't do the sensible thing when a dame is involved. Maybe a lot of things. But I think mainly something bugged me as to why a dame like that would want to go to a dance for the city's lowest and dirtiest.

I pulled up outside and sat down low in my seat. I sat and watched the brightest and best of the local crime scene drive up and walk in. I recognized a few faces. Famous names from mug-shots and my own involvement with this sort of society.

Midnight came and went. It got to 12:05 and three cars pulled up. Unmarked cars. Cars so unmarked they could only be the cops. I wondered about rushing in and warning the girl, but there was no time. Plus she was a big girl (I'd seen) – she could take care of herself. No use losing your head over a dame who wouldn't lose hers over you. I sat and watched.

Round the corner I saw the limo. The engine was running and I could picture "Rat" all agitated the way he gets over pretty much anything. Near the limo was a side entrance, that nobody seemed to be bothering with. It seemed a shame to waste it and staying in this seat was not helping my back none. I slipped out of the Buick and over to the fence. The gate was locked, but the fence just a few feet down from it was low. Low enough, that is, for a barely fit guy the wrong side of 35 to hop over and still keep some of his dignity. I cleared the fence with less ease than I had hoped but landed on most of my feet.

I was in a large ornamental bush of the type beloved my peeping toms and wounded cats. And from it I had a great view of the dance floor. On it Cinderella was kicking her heels with none other than Mickey "The Prince." He was into her like a bear digs honey.

Suddenly the place became one big siren and voices over loudhailers. Uniformed flatfeet came bounding over fences and through doors. One landed just next to me, but had the decency to not look to the side and see me. He ran on.

On the dance floor, all hell was loosening its chains. Cinderella ran over to the fence not too far from where I was, but she didn't run too fast. I saw why as she got closer – she only had one shoe. The other lay on the dance floor. Fortunately the police weren't interested in one-shoed dames, they had bigger fish on their mind. The likes of Mickey "The Prince" will get you a promotion. The likes of some miscellaneous broad with one piece of footwear will get you hoots and cat-calls in the locker room.

She struggled to get over the fence. And might not have made it if yours truly hadn't slipped over and given her a helpful shove on the fanny. All in a day's work, you might say. I wish.

I saw three cops head for Mickey "The Prince," but a man like that has slippery skin. He stopped watching the receding dame and stooped to pick up the shoe. Then he ran. The cops didn't stand a chance. The man flew. But he took time out to stare in this direction and I could tell he'd clocked me. A chill ran down my back. A man like Mickey "The Prince" is not to be dealt with lightly. Not if you like your blood in your veins and toes on the ends of your feet.

I leapt over the fence and caught a distant view of the limo. The police seemed to be too busy with hoodlums to bother with me. I think they hadn't realized exactly how many lowlifes a party like this attracts. And I knew of at least two people who had turned up uninvited.

 

Part 3: Slugs

I headed for my office early the next morning. The scotch I keep there is better than the stuff I keep at home. Everybody has their own way of making sure they get to work on time.

I knew something was fishy the moment I got to there. I knew it before I even got to the door. I think it was the whiskey sending out distress signals. I turned the key cautiously. I could tell it had been locked from the inside. A good PI knows his own locks.

I knew rushing in guns-blazing would result in me shooting my own furniture and the other fellow rearranging my face with a point-45 slug. Plus, the caller could be an attractive lady who just happened to be a professional lock picker.

I eased the door open and flicked on the light. Something or someone pulled me in by my arm and slugged me from behind. The world went galactic – all black with a few points of light.

-

I came to with what felt like a hangover. A good PI knows the difference between one too many slugs of bourbon and one too many slugs of coins to the back of the neck.

I was no longer in my office. Judging by the smell and the décor, I was in the basement of an abandoned house. It was difficult to establish the exact era it was last decorated, as the only light came from a small desk lamp and as soon as I appeared awake, it was pointed at my face. Squirming away from it, I realized whatever I was sitting on was secured to me by firm rope as if it was likely to try and leave at the earliest opportunity.

"Who was the dame?" someone asked.

"What dame?" someone answered. Someone who sounded like me. When a fist crashed into my face from the side, I released it had been me.

"Who was the dame?" the first someone asked again, more irritated.

"Which dame?" Another fist crashed. Some people don't ever seem to learn and I realized I fell right into that category.

A face appeared in front of mine. Despite the light being behind it and despite the sluggishness (no pun intended... okay, one pun intended) of my brain, I recognized him with no problem. It's a little known fact that some gangsters have distinct scars for the sole purpose of being instantly recognizable. The jagged scar across the forehead of Mickey "The Prince" even had a name. They called it, "The Crown."

Listen, Shovel." Mickey "The Prince" had clearly been annoyed very recently, in fact I had a vague memory of having a hand in it myself. But my mind wasn't at full capacity yet. "You got two ways to play this. You can play smart. Or you can play dead. I'd rather we did it the first way on account you've been useful to me in the past. But I need to know this dame's name. Just the name."

The mercenary in me said I'd had my retainer and that all that confidentiality stuff was only any good if you were still alive. But my conscience said to notice how angry Mickey was with just little old me and that it didn't want another dead girl on it.

I looked him the dark sockets that should have been eyes.

"You might have to narrow it down a bit." If I'd had a hand free, I'd have punched me.

Mickey grabbed my lapels and pulled me up. My hands chaffed against the underside of the chair where they were tied. I felt the old wood dig into my wrists.

"Do you think I'm playing a game here?"

I knew I had the upper hand because I was playing a game. It didn't seem to bother me that I was playing for my life and that he had nothing to fear but a bruised wrist.

"Okay," I said.

"Okay, what?" he asked. "Okay you're gonna tell me the name or okay I bury you in the canyon."

"Okay, I'll tell you the name…"

"Okay."

"…Providing you ask me nicely and you give me a good reason why I should."

Mickey flicked his fingers, but instead of me being slugged, the light flickered on. The place wasn't as bad as I had thought and had only perhaps been abandoned a couple of years. And maybe nobody had actually died in it. Not yet, anyway.

Mickey pulled his chair nearer mine. Two goons the size of something that would terrorize Tokyo stood on hand.

"Samual. Dear Friend. One-time known associate. Please tell me the name of the broad you helped into my party, the one that this shoe fits." Hew held up the shoe Cinderella had lost at the party. And then he added for effect, "Pretty please."

I nodded to show this was indeed polite enough.

"Why can't you ask like that the first time?" I inquired.

"Because you wouldn't have told me and I'd have had to tie you up anyway."

He had a point.

Mickey turned his head and waited for the answer. I turned mine to indicate the ball was not yet in my half.

"Oh, yeah," he sighed. "The reason. The reason is, if you don't tell me, I'll have these guys break you open like a packet of cornflakes."

"I like cornflakes," said goon number 1.

"Shut up," retorted Mickey.

I shook my head. "Not good enough," I told him. "If I give you the name, word would get around that I blab the name of every client at the slightest provocation. Soon I'll be out of business and living on the streets. Alcohol will take me pretty soon after that. I'm too old to learn another profession. So frankly, if that's your best reason, you may as well kill me."

Mickey weighed it over. I was bluffing with the worst poker hand ever – my career. Mickey came to a decision. He ordered the two creatures out of the room. They did so with some reluctance, worried that without them the level of intellectual conversation would fall through the floor.

Mickey brought his chair even closer and looked me in the eyes.

"She quite a dame, that one, right?"

I nodded. So far he was hitting the nail on the head, but reason was there none.

"Fact is… I love her. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, a guy like me in my line of work, falling in love makes me a liability. But the fact is, I ain't ever met a girl like that. She's been turning up to parties, never says her name, a complete mystery. But smart. And pretty. And… well, maybe I have a plan to find this girl and skip out of this game. I been in this racket too long. I… There, I don't think you need to hear any more."

I blew some air out.

"That's some tale. I don't suppose any of your other mob buddies are in on this,"

"What do you think? Guy tries to leave the mob, leaves this mortal coil. Hell I don't even know if I can trust you. But hey, you kept quiet about the broad, so I figure you got something decent in you."

"It would seem that way," I told us both.

"So what can you tell me?"

"I'll give you the name. Cinderella."

"Cinderella? What kind of a name is that?"

"Mexican, I guess. Anyway, now you know."

"You know I need more than that."

I shrugged. He thought about life and maybe even his future for a second and then started to untie my hands.

"Just one more fact, PI, and then you got a friend for life."

"Yeah, a friend whose about to skip town or get his head blown off. Friends like that I got enough of."

"Don't make me say 'please' again."

"Okay, Mickey. Because you and I have a history. And because I'm a sucker for a story with a happy ending. She got two sisters."

"That might help."

"Two of the ugliest sisters you ever seen."

This seemed to please him like his birthday was about to fall every day for the next week.

"Are we talking real ugly?"

"We're talking fell out of the ugly tree and into face-seeking nettles. If you put those two goons out there in dresses, I'd date them over these girls."

"Okay, okay. I know who you mean. The Ugly Sisters. I knew they had a sister, but assumed she was like them."

"Uh... no."

He nodded sagely.

"I got no more," I told him. I got enough.

He walked to the door as I finished untying the rest of me. At the door he turned back.

"Thanks," he said.

"No problem."

"Sorry you had to get hit."

"No problem. Means it won't hurt so much the next time somebody tries it."

"Good bye," he added and was through the door. By the time I left, they were long gone, and I spent an hour trying to find a cab that will pick up a guy with a bruised face in an area of boarded-up houses.

-

I never saw Mickey or Cinderella again. I heard through a friend of a fiend that they'd just disappeared without a trace. The mob spent some time looking for them, but drew a blank. Some nine months later, everyone had moved on and the tale was just an amusing anecdote I told to whoever would listen after my sixth bourbon. About that time a post card arrived from some illegible place in Mexico. It had no words but someone had drawn a picture of a shoe. I burnt it because it does you no good whatsoever to dwell on other people's happiness.

 
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