An Unsettled Calm
Cafe Society was why I was braving the wet New York City weather on this blustery Sunday night, that and my lawyer, Roger Brownstein. He had gotten me out of a few scrapes with the coppers, I owed him and good-old-Rog was cashing in his marker. That was the only reason I would take a case where the client was one of these society dames with too much time and money for their own good.
I walked into the Stork Club shedding water from my rain coat, like I had been swimming in the Hudson River, something that I do not recommend. The check girl took my drenched coat and hat with a moment of hesitation that told me she didn't want to get her hands wet. I gave her an apologetic shrug and she smiled at me. She was a hot dish whose smile was so brilliant that it almost blinded me. She was cute, but girls like her were a dime a dozen and I was out of change. I asked her if she could do something about the condition of my garments and she replied that she would try. If she could just block my hat so that it wouldn't dry out of shape I'd be happy.
Oh, by the way, my name is Stan Malone, only my mother is brave enough to call me Stanley. As you may have guessed, I'm a private dick. I get the cases that need to be handled without any fanfare, especially not anything showing up in the papers. That means no police or official involvement. I'm good at my job, such as it is. I'm very good at soothing ruffled feathers and making things go away or better yet, making it as if they never happened.
That is what brings me out on such a cold and rainy night. Some rich skirt needs my help. I do hope it's not another divorce thing, they get real old, real fast. Everyone involved acts like the injured party, it's never their fault. I wave over the cigarette girl and trade her a buck for a pack of Lucky Strikes. I light one up and take a deep drag. Catching a waiter's eye, I beckon him over and ask for Miss Veronica Sykes table. He steers me to a cozy table where a young blonde sits daintily sipping on her champagne cocktail
The girl belting out the ballads, Fife Logan, had just finished a set, so I could not put it off any longer. I walked over and introduced myself. "Miss Sykes, I believe that Mr. Brownstein arranged for us to meet. He mentioned that you needed my expertise in some way."
Veronica inhaled some smoke from her Camel and leisurely blew out a stream of smoke into the air. She then turned to face me and said, "Roger is a good friend of mine and he said that you would be discrete." I nodded my head in agreement, so she continued. "I have met someone, casually you understand, and I want to be sure that he doesn't have anything in his past that could cause me to regret becoming closer to him. You see, once I am seen in public with him, I will always be associated with him, for good or for bad. I just want to be as cautious, that's all."
I tried not to hate my new client, but it was a lost cause, especially after Laurel. "I can do that for you, and I'll be discrete. All I need you to tell me is his name and the places he frequents."
She didn't look relieved or even happy. I recognized that look. It was the look of one of the high and mighty having to do something beneath her, having to deal with someone not up to her standards. She rattled off his name, a Richard Marks, the Lakewood country club, and some other places that rich people went to. Veronica slid an envelope over to me, "For your expenses", then turned her attention back to the band. I stuffed the envelope into my pocket. I guess I was dismissed. That's OK, the atmosphere was getting a bit stuffy anyway.