Lester L. Weil
It's late and I'm beat down tired. This night is not going any better than my day did. To start out, some idiot drunk backed into the side of my brand new '48 Caddy and things just kept going downhill from there. I checked in with my secretary, and she told me the state board is coming after my PI license. The
headline at the newstand says Truman lost the election, and that means I've lost a c-note bet. The cold rain is pissing down my neck and now it feels like I'm coming down with a cold.
At least the rain makes the streets look cleaner.
I've been all over town looking for Arthur. When you kill your wife, they come looking for you. And tonight I'm one of they. And I need to find him before the trigger-happy cops do. I owe him that much at least.
The regular bars have long closed and I'm down to checking after hour joints. Mable's is the last one on my list. Mable's is for the truly desperate. Mable loves to sing, lives for it. Trouble is, she can hardly sing a lick. So she bought the bar and runs an after hour joint to provide herself with an audience. Mable sells drinks so cheap that in spite of her singing, the desperate boozehounds come here to wait for their usual bars to open with the sunrise. She has to pay off the cops to stay open, but she gets to sing whenever she wants.
Tonight Mable is wearing a slinky black dress bought twenty pounds ago and is singing about not wanting to be fenced in. Somehow the cowboy song doesn't go with the dress. The discordant strains of “starry skies above” follow me as I make my way back into the dark depths. There at the end of the long bar sits Arthur. Finally. I slip onto the stool beside him.
“Well, if it ain't Sam Spade,” he says, turning toward me and giving a mock salute.
“Funny. Very funny. You should go on the Ed Sullivan Show. He could use a good comic.”
“Up yours with a…” He just let it hang, too drunk to think of anything clever.
I order a shot of Jamesons and a beer—cold medicine. The bartender laughs derisively when I say Jamesons and instead serves up the usual rotgut. I toss down the rotgut and shiver, then take a sip of beer to ease my throat. After a minute
I say: “Too bad about Louise. You know you'll have to pay for that.”
“Louise… Louise… I shouldn't've done that…shouldn't've done that,” the last descending into a mumble.
After a moment Arthur seems to revive a bit and takes out a pack of Luckys. He fumbles around trying to light the cigarette. I reach out with my lighter, light his cigarette and then my own. Mable is still singing, about “buttons and bows” now. We smoke for a while without talking.
“Why did she have to tell me she cheated on me?” he whines, blowing out smoke and stubbing out his cigarette. “I'd rather not've known. I would rather things just woulda went along like they were...woulda still loved her. But when she told me she had been cheating—said it braggin' like. I didn't even think, just popped her before she could say anything else. Didn't mean to hit her so hard.”
He stares into his half empty beer glass.
“Why don't you come with me and we'll go see my lawyer. He'll arrange to turn yourself in…before the cops run you down. If they catch you, they'll beat the livin' shit outta ya. They liked Louise.”
“Everybody liked Louise, parta the problem.”
From the bandstand Mable is now singing to “the man I love”, turning her attack on music toward the torch song.
Finally Arthur tosses off the rest of his beer, stands a little unsteadily, and we head out. As we walk out the door Arthur turns to me and says: “But you know, Louise was really something.”
Boy… Don't I know it.
Lester L. Weil is an ex-professional bassoonist, ex-professor, ex-custom furniture maker and ex-house builder. He is retired and living in Arizona on the Mexico border.