Prelude To An Execution

The Last Supper

“Do you have anything to say?”

“Like what?”

The prisoner was seated calmly on his bare cot, his head lowered.  He wouldn’t meet the eyes of the preacher, who stood beside him looking down.

“I’m going to hell, anyway, padre.”

“That’s not a given.”  The preacher sat down on the only other place there was in the narrow, stinking little cell, a wobbly wooden chair.  “God forgives sins, but you have to ask Him for forgiveness.”

The prisoner just shook his head, without lifting it.  He had bushy hair, and he was only thirty years old.  It was a pity to see a man with a lot of life ahead of him going this way, on a scaffold.

Your soul, Charlie.  Your soul goes on.

“I don’t believe in anything,” he said.

“Your soul, Charlie,” the preacher said, with a rush of intensity.  “Your soul goes on.”

“It goes on?  Where does it go?  Do you know?”

“No one knows for certain.  It’s a question of faith.”

“I don’t have any faith, padre.  You’re wasting your time.”

“I have plenty of time.”

“That’s right, padre.  But I don’t.”

The prisoner glanced up at the clock on the wall behind the solitary guard who sat at the desk just below it.

“I’ll be dead in two hours.”

“It’s plenty of time to recant, to confess your sins and enter God’s Kingdom free of guilt and shame, your soul scrubbed clean of all evil.  Heaven will find you spotless.  Isn’t that something to look forward to?”

The prisoner gave the pastor a withering look.  His lower lip trembled, but he run his hand over it as if to disguise it, and then he looked away.

“You sit here giving advice about the afterlife, about which you know nothing.  You come here and take up what’s left of my valuable time preaching this garbage and expect me to dance with joy because I’m going to heaven?”

He snorted his contempt, his eyes afire with a strange luminescence.

“Don’t you believe in anything?” the pastor asked.

“I used to believe in myself,” he answered.  “But that was a long time ago, when I was still young.”

“What did you want to do with your life?”

“I didn’t have no plan.  When my pa died, I left the farm an’ moved to Owenville.

I fell in with some deck and dice fellas in town.  They wuz runnin’ a joint fleecin’ tourists.  I made a few bucks, but I left soon enough.”

 

“And then?”

“I met this woman.  She wuz rich.  An’ she was beautiful.

She invited me up to her house.  It wasn’t no house, it was a palace.  A mansion.  Servants.  The place was filled with silver and gold, statues an’ paintings – the ol’ masters, she’d call ’em.  I never seen anythin’

like it.”

“You stayed with her?”

“For about a month.  She gave me some money and tol’ me to take a hike.  She din like me no more.”

“So, what did you do?”

“I went to Frisco.”

He glanced up at the clock again,  without any emotion.  Then he glanced at the preacher.  “I’m just spinnin’ a yarn here, padre.  Killin’ time.  Waitin’ for the inevitable.  How’d you think I feel?”

“How do you feel?”

“I don’t feel much, padre.  I never have.  I don’t really care if I die.  I never cared much for life, anyway.”

“But you’re afraid.”

“I’m just afraid of the moment of death.  I just want it over with, padre.”

“That’s all?”

“I would have killed myself, but that’s a sin.”

“So, you believe in sin?”

“No, I don’t, padre.  But sin believes in me.”

The preacher looked nonplussed.  “I don’t know what you mean by that.”

The prisoner splayed his hands in front of him.  “Well, it’s like this,” he said, in a calm voice.  “I din wann be bad, but sin turned me into a thief and murderer.”  When the priest looked at him quizzically, he added:

“I never looked for sin, it was just always there.  I never saw a good man in my life – nor a good woman.  My pa, he was a drifter until he settled down, in South Carolina, runnin’ bootleg whiskey for the stills.”

Catching the missionary’s eye, he added: “He worked the farm, but he stopped caring, and then it was all about the booze.”

“I still don’t understand what you mean.

How could sin turn you into a thief and murderer?  Sin is the act of doing something evil.  Sin doesn’t come before the act.”

“Well, not in my case, padre.  Sin found me before I even knew what the word meant.”

“How did that happen?”

“I was introduced to it by my baby-sitter.”

The preacher’s eyes remained steady.

“She gave me booze.  I was only ten.  I got drunk and when my dad came home, he whupped me good.”

“That isn’t the end of the world, Charlie!”

The preacher sprang to his feet, energized by the opportunity he saw in bringing the sinner back into the fold.

“You had a terrible life, young man – but it wasn’t your fault!”

“That’s right.  Like I said, sin found me.  I didn’t have to look for it, padre.  Every step in the world I took, there it was, fully displayed in all its splendor, like a lovely bouquet of flowers.  Just the perfume alone, padre, can drive a man crazy!”

“But God gave every man the free will to decide – between good and bad.”

“Well, nobody tol’ me that, padre.  I din know.”

“But if you confess now, before dying, your soul will be cleansed and you will go to heaven.”

“How do you know that?”

“You have to believe.”

“Why?”

“Because it was Christ’s message.  He died on the Cross for us, for our sins.”

“Well, shit, I can’t help that, padre.  I din have nuthin’ t’ do with that!”

“Yes, did.  You are part of humanity.  You’re a person, an individual, a man with a brain and a soul.  You must confess to save your soul.  Do you want to spend eternity in Hell, Charlie?”

“Can’t be any worse than Kelsey’s Diner.

“Don’t joke, Charlie.  In less than two hours, you’ll be meeting Him.  St Peter.”

“I always wanted to meet him.”

Charlie smiled, hunching up his shoulders in a gesture of doubt; he was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

The missionary looked commiseratingly at the prisoner.

“You don’t have to pity me, padre.  I’m ready to die.”

“You don’t care about your own life??

“No, not really.  Din you say Jesus died on the Cross?  Was He afraid?”

“Yes, he was very afraid.  He was just a man, like you and me, and he suffered all the punishments and scourging of an ordinary man.  But after death, he went to Heaven to join the Angels.”

“The only angels I know are the California Angels.  They’re bush league, but they’re a great team.  Ever been to Wrigley Field, down in LA?”

The pastor didn’t have time to answer him.  The prison bar door opened and a guard came in carrying a tray of food.

“Yer last supper, Charlie,” he chirped, with an Irish accent.  Glancing at the pastor with a guilt-ridden look, he added: “Pardon the reference, your holiness, I didn’t mean anthing by it.”

He placed the tray down on a small table beside the prisoner’s bunk, and glanced at Charlie, then, as he was between him and the pastor, he said to him:  “He’s a good man, padre,” putting an arm on his shoulder.

“I’m sure he is.”

Charlie turned to his meal.  “It ain’t what I ordered,” he said, finally, in a disappointed voice.  He looked down at the food as if trying to outstare it.  He made a face.  Tha guard paused at the gate.  “Couldn’t get any T-bone steak, Charlie.  Sorry.”

“I don’t like Salisbury steak.  Never could eat it.  Makes me sick.”  He gestured to the tray, with disgust.  “You call these mashed potatoes?  And the beans, they look like they took sick and died!”

The pastor’s eyes shifted back and forth from the guard to the prisoner.

“That’s all they got, Charlie.”

The guard left, closing the gate behind him.

Charlie looked at the missionary.  “I ain’t eatin’ that!”

“It’s your last meal, Charlie.”

Pushing the tray toward the pastor, he said: “Why don’t you eat it?”

“I’m not hungry, Charlie.”  He leaned forward with a quick glance at the meal, and smiled encouragingly.  “It looks really good.  Why don’t you eat, Charlie?”

“Did ya know, when they hang you, all that garbage in your stomach just pours right out of you, like shit through a tin horn?  Did ya know that?”

The pastor sat back, blanching slightly. He hadn’ had much experience with death house visits.  “I-I didn’t.  Perhaps you should think of something else.”

“You mean my soul?”

“Well, that’s a start.”

The prisoner changed his position a little bit, shifting uncomfortably.  “I just want it to be over, padre.  C’n you understand that?”

The preacher nodded.

Time passed and the clock moved forward to midnight.  Charlie had watched it click over from 11:59 to 12:00.   He heard it click.

At that moment, the delegation that was to escort him to the gallows arrived.  The pastor got to his feet.

“It’s time,” one of the men in dark clothing said.

The Irish guard was there, too, smiling gently.  “C’mon, Charlie.  I hope you’ve said your prayers.”

“Well, like I was tellin’ the pastor here, I don’t believe in prayers.”

“You’ll go to Hell,” the Irish guard said, without a trace of malice or bad humor.

“I don’t believe in Hell,” the prisoner said, as they shackled his ankles and arms.  They led him out into the passage, the pastor following.

As the procession started off toward the lynching, the pastor stood back.  “I’m going to leave now, gentlemen.  I’ll be praying for you, Charlie.”

“You afraid to see me die, padre?” he asked.

“No.  I don’t like the spectacle of execution.  I’ll be serving God better outside this prison, where my prayers will have greater impact.  I’m going back to my parish.”

Charlie, looking back over his shoulder, said: “Good luck to ya, padre.  I hope you find Heaven, even if I don’t.”

“Goodbye, Charlie!”

The minister left the prison.  The big gates clanged behind him with a send of finality.  He wondered if he had done eveything he could.  He was convinced that Charlie was going to Hell, but there was nothing more he could have done.

As he walked home – just a short distance from the prison – the darkened streets seem to convey an atmosphere of a sinister nature.  Behind every tree lurked a shadow, and behind every window of the houses he passed, there were eyes watching him from behind drapes.

He chased away the phantoms with a wave of his hands, and with a shudder continued along as before, seeing his house come into view.

As he stepped onto the porch, he was suddenly seized by what he thought was an epileptic fit.  He struggled to remain on his feet and grabbed the bannister for support.  He managed to sail down slowly to the chair on the porch.  He put his head back, not knowing what had hit him.

But in a moment, he heard a voice inside his head, and he knew it could only be Charlie’s voice, screaming above the din of some horrible voices in torment.

“I’m in Hell, padre!!!  Please get me out!!!  I’m being sucked under – I’m going fast…save me, padre…save me, p-p…”

But the voice was gone, and the preacher awoke as if from a dark dream, such as he had never had in his life.  It was clear to him, though.  He had sent a man to Hell because he hadn’t managed to convince him to recant.  And now, forever and a day, the prisoner would be in perpetual torment.

THE END

 

 

 

The Chanteuse & The Derringer

 

1

She Was A Swell Looker

VERONICA LAKE glamour portrait, circa 1940s
She was a blonde, five feet eight

Rena had worked here singing her lungs out for sixteen years. She’d had enough, enough of being an item on the menu.

The men imagined her as meat, more delectable than the stuff that was served as food. This was the day she was going to quit. She was going to walk into Jimmy’s office and tell him she wanted out – or a raise. And it’d have to be a big one. If not, she was going to quit.

Jennie had advised against it.

“You know what he is, he’s a gangsta. How can you trust him?”

“What I got to lose?” Rena said, freshening her makeup with a puff.

“You don’t mean that, honey.”

Jennie began freshening her lipstick, which was as deeply red as blood. “Like the color?”

Black & White Lipstick
Jennie began freshening her lipstick

Rena felt Jennie was trying to send her a message. But she really wasn’t scared, she didn’t know why. Maybe the sixteen years on the makeshift platform they called a bandstand had turned her into a cynic, and over time she had become immune to feelings.

“Nothin’ gonna happen to me.”

“You take chances,” her friend said.

“I played it safe too long,” continued Rena, easily, stretching her “lazy legs.”

They called her “Crazy Legs,” after the movie “Scarlet Street.”

On certain days of the week she’d advertise them for nylons. The photographer had lifted the moniker from Scarlet Street. Joan Bennet played a character her paramour had nicknamed “lazy legs.” Rena’s legs were smooth and straight and she was still really proud of, at the age of thirty four.

“Well, don’t you go and get killed, girl. You n’me, we bin friends a whole time, huh? You always bin mah best friend. An’ my best drinkin’ partner, too,” Jennie drawled.

Grasshopper/Frosted
…a very green Grasshopper, served in a frosted glass.

She smiled as she took a long pull on her drink, a very green Grasshopper, in a frosted glass.

“Look,” she said, suddenly opening her purse.

The gun passed from Jennie to Reena
She displayed a small caliber Derringer.

Rena couldn’t see into the purse from where she sat, so she leaned over the table. Jennie held the purse open for her to see: it was a small caliber Derringer. Jennie took it out and placed it discretely on the palm of her hand.

“Go on, take it. Just in case,” she urged. “You never know.”

The Derringer had an ivory handle, and it was gold-plated.

“Just don’t lose it,” she said. She passed the gun under the table. At first, Rena didn’t want it, but as Jennie was so insistent, she took it from her. Covertly, she slipped the small handgun into her own purse, which had a long strap that hung over her shoulder.

“What am I supposed to do with it?” she asked, lamely.

“Use it, but don’t shoot – unless you have to.”

Jennie considered herself an expert in intimidation. She winked at Rena.

The club was starting to fill up, people of all types gradually drifting in,

Old West Drunks
A group of drunks staggered in.

women in furs, men in black suits and ties, some heavies with bulging pockets.

A group of drunks, suckers no doubt from out of town, staggered in, holding each other and laughing uproariously at some private joke, and finding a table near the bandstand, where musicians were gathering and opening up their instruments. The piano player hit a couple of chords and started talking to the saxophone player.

“Hey, play Melancholy Baby!” someone shouted from the burgeoning crowd – suddenly, it was as if a dam had broken, and they poured in like a waterfall.

“My set’s coming up,” Rena said, observing the men with visible contempt.

New York Nightclub 1940s
“It’s a clip joint.”

“Hey, it’s a clip joint,” Jennie reminded her, lazily. “What’d you expect?”

“I got to get going,” Rena said, getting to her feet, “if I’m going to talk to Jimmy before my set.” She blew out a smoke ring, then she crushed out her cigarette in the ashtray. She looked determined.

Rena was attractive. She was a blonde, five feet eight – high heels added another two inches or so.

White mink stole
She Was A Swell Looker..

With a white fox stole draped over her shoulders, and an exotic evening dress that hugged her hips, most men thought she made a great package. She knew how to use all this to her advantage. She was also proud of her upper torso and she was particular about how she displayed it, always leaving enough unexposed to leave ’em wanting more. She made an impressive entrance. She was about to make such an entrance into Jimmy Little’s office to demand a raise, or she was going to take up a rival club’s offer. Across the street was The Blue Rose.

Some gangster
Scaloni

Mickey Scaloni had wanted her for a long time, but her singing was only the icing on the cake, he’d expressed a strong interest in her other talents. She would turn them down, she had no interest in any fringe benefits and had no interest in Scaloni. She only wanted to leverage her advantage with Jimmy.

Rena tried never to show fear. Jimmy could smell fear, and halfway up the winding staircase she faltered, her hand on the banister. The club was filling up fast and the chatter was getting louder in her ears. She felt them turning red.

Then a hand clamped down on her arm, and squeezed.

Lazy Legs!”

She felt a surge of panic rising up from the pit of her stomach.

It was Jimmy.

His face was a sphere dented on one side where they’d inserted a metal plate “where his brain used to be,” people said. Nobody actually knew if he’d served in the military. More likely it had been a different kind of war, in Chicago, during Prohibition. He was rumored to have known Al Capone.

1930s Gangsta
Jimmy was a hard man

Jimmy was a hard man, no different from the others she’d known along the Strip. He had his ear to the ground and didn’t miss much.

Rena kept her cool and managed to dig up a warm smile from somewhere deep inside her gut.

Jimmy, in his usual breezy manner, put his arm around her shoulder, fingering the fox stole possessively.

They passed some people coming down, Jimmy winking at them as he did at his better customers.

He unlocked the door to his office and pushed her in, then closed the door behind them, then he spun her around.

“I know what you bin thinkin’,” he said. “You wanna work for that dope across the street!” He slapped her across the face. “Think I don’t know that?”

Slap Silhouette
“Think I don’t know that?”

She’d been slapped before.  But his threatening look froze her. When he released her, she felt the blood in her veins run warm again, but she was afraid. She leaned back against the door and groped for the doorknob.

Her purse was still hanging off her shoulder, but her fur was on the floor. She picked it up, as Jimmy turned his back to go behind his desk, and had to let go of the doorknob.

“I’d rather work for you,” she replied, sounding like silk. But she experienced the frigid touch of terror in her veins.

She picked up her stole.

“I got something’ else for ya, even nicer,” Jimmy told her, reaching into the safe behind his desk. His voice sounded sinister.

Rena reached inside her purse. The fur which she’d draped over herself again covered her move. She felt the cold steel in the same fingers which had moments before been groping for an escape. This escape was more definite, if more desperate.

Now Jimmy stepped around the desk, toward her. Was he smiling? He carried something in his hand. He came up to her and extended it.

“What’s this?” she asked, quavering.

“Take a look.”

Did he still looks as vicious?

She held the jewel case in her hand, having released her hold on the gun.. Inside was a sparkling necklace of pearls comprised of two strands, intertwined.  She was trying to figure out what to do when the phone rang.

Pearl Necklace for Rena
Inside was a sparkling necklace of pearls comprised of two strands, intertwined

Jimmy went off to answer it.

He spoke gruffly for a few seconds, then hung up. He turned to Rena and said: “I have to see Jack down at the bar about something. Be back in a minute, but don’t you go nowhere, baby!.”

Rena stared at them then back up at Jimmy.

“Why?” she asked.

“You figure it out.”

He came up to her and kissed her on the cheek. “You’re still the best canary in this part of town,” he said, and went out.

The word “canary” stuck in her mind.

My Yellow Canary
The word “canary” stuck in her mind.

Rena waited a moment, then took the necklace out and splayed it across her hand. It was quite dark in that corner of the room, so she took it to the big lamp on Jimmy’s desk. Behind her, she noticed that Jimmy had left the safe ajar.

She switched on the lamp and examined the jewels under the light. She brought up the necklace close to her eyes. She was thrilled by the glow that danced in her vision. She tried different angles under the spot lamp. Then she breathlessly put it down on the desk.

Absently, feeling good about things – perhaps she could stay with Jimmy after all – she fingered a small, heavy statuette, a bust of Napoleon, of all things. She nearly laughed out loud. She picked up the bust – why did they call it a “bust,” anyway? Again, she almost laughed.

Napoleon Bust
The bust, however, was heavy

Then, she did laugh. Openly. She didn’t know why, exactly. But she found it funny that Jimmy – little puny Jimmy – could have such pretensions.

The bust, however, was heavy. She tried to put it down, using one hand as she reached over the slight space to place it back where it was – she didn’t want Jimmy to know she had handled it -but for some reason her hand was unable to take the weight; she felt the little statue slip a little, then as she tried to grab it with her other hand, Napoleon’s head and shoulders landed on top of the necklace.

Horrified, Rena scrambled to restore the desk, but when she picked up the bust she was even more horrified by what she saw: the necklace! The pearls! Crushed!

the pearls Jimmy gave her
The pearls were fake!

A wave of heat passed over her. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Paste! The pearls were fake!

She didn’t waste time in commiserating with herself. She was going to leave, now. Never to come back.

As she turned to walk away, she noticed the safe again, its tiny door still invitingly open. There was a large bundle of money tied up with a rubber band. Actually, there were three bundles, all tied up the same way and tempting her with such avarice as she had never experienced before. It was simple payback for what she had endured.

Wall Safe (Modern)
she noticed that Jimmy had left the safe ajar

Without further thought, she swung round and peered more closely into the safe. She’d have to be fast, really fast. Sending Jimmy’s appearance any second, she grabbed the three packs of beautiful green money and stuffed  them into her bag. At that moment, Jimmy returned, entering silently, as he always did. She hadn’t heard his step on the lush carpeting.

He stopped dead and stared at her with a venomous look, his mouth curling like a rabid dog’s.

“Ah,” he said, hardly a breath. But she heard it, felt it right across the room.

She acted quickly, reaching quickly into her handbag. In a second, she had the Derringer in her hand.

A hand holding a Derringer
In a second, she had the Derringer in her hand.

“You owe me,” she said, evenly.

“What’d I owe you?” he asked, throatily.

He started toward her.  “Don’t move, Jimmy, because I’ll do you if you come any closer.”

“What the hell’s the hell’s the matter with you?”

“Look at these pearls!” she shouted, throwing them at him in a fury.

The chain broke and the fake pearls scattered in all directions, but mostly they ended up at Jimmy’s feet. He looked down at them as if he didn’t know what they were.

“Paste!” she screamed. “They’re nothing but paste!”

He started toward her again, his arms in a supplicating gesture that she knew was as fake as the pearls.

“And you called me a canary. I never squealed to anyone.”

He looked scared. “Hey, that’s not the way I meant it, baby!”

She didn’t wait. She pulled the trigger. The Derringer went off like a small canon. She saw the man crumple up, holding his belly. He still kept coming and she cocked and fired again, this time from the other barrel, and Jimmy reeled back holding his eye this time. He screamed and fell backwards, landing with a heavy thud.

There was a terrible silence as the little bit of smoke cleared. She could smell something unfamiliar, she didn’t know what it was, and then she remembered: cordite.

She stood paralyzed for what seemed like ages. Nobody came in, there was no commotion anywhere, all she was could hear was the overarching noise of the crowd of people downstairs in the main lounge. She heard the band start up with a tune, and became suddenly aware of what she’d done.

What she’d done so quickly and efficiently, without a second thought. Even now as she stared down at the corpse of the man she’d hated for so long, she didn’t feel anything.

2

Never Die Alone

She wasn’t really sure how long she’d stood motionless, with the derringer still in her hand.

Drawing of a woman with a smoking gun
A trail of smoke floated freely out the tip of the barrel

A trail of smoke floated freely out the tip of the barrel, like a cigarette.  She noted it without seeing it – just a small piece of the scene of horror in front of her, Jimmy’s eyes in a long stare, as if he’d found something interesting on the ceiling.  A hole in his chest, though it was only the blood she could see, pooling and spreading, a stain she was responsible for.

The noise from the club faded.  It became a quiet roar.  She thought it was coming from the radio, and someone had turned down the volume.  Her ears seemed plugged up, full of wax.  The gun slipped from her grasp as her body released the tension of the moment, and she was awake, fully awake now.  The derringer dropped to the floor as lightly as a feather from her limp hand with a barely perceptible thump.

She hardly noticed the unmistakable shuffle of shoes nearby, and looked up stupidly, aimlessness, shame and fear engulfing her.  She’d done something terrible, irreversible.  It was still a dream, but a real one now, a waking nightmare.

Silhouette of man in doorway
Someone was standing in the doorway

“I didn’t mean it,” she said out loud, to no one in particular.

But there was someone there.

Someone was standing in the doorway.  She couldn’t see who it was.  Her vision was clouded around the edges.  Everything except the spot of pooling blood on Jimmy’s chest was blurred to her eyes.

The light had gone out, and it was dark, only the man in the doorway.  He was a mere silhouette.  The light from behind him threw a long shadow on the floor, taller than himself.   He had a small bag in his right hand and he was motionless.

Rena quivered.

He stepped forward, his arm went up against the wall.  She heard a faint click and the lights were back on.

The man had his hand on the light switch.  The other had held the bag.  He was dressed in a black suit.  He was about forty, handsome.  When he took another step, she backed off.

He was staring at her.  “Got your attention?”  He had a calm, clear voice.

Rena froze.  The man took a quick look around, and then he saw the body on the floor.

black & white shot of body outline
He saw the body on the floor

“That Jimmy?” he asked, without any expression, waving the gun at it.

Rena could barely nod.

The man came around to look at the corpse from a different angle.  Rena tried to sidestep imperceptibly, toward the door, but he spotted her and swiveled toward her, the gun extended.

“Where’d you think you’re goin’, sister?”

He was still calm, but his eyes were black.

He grabbed her by the arm.

“You wasted ‘im?”

She shrank back in terror, pulling away.  He was too strong for her.

“Ya did a nice job,” he said, suddenly smiling.

He peered at her with what seemed like praise.

“Come on, I’ll getcha outtta here before the shit hits the fan.”

She still stood her ground.  He relaxed his hold on her, relenting.  He studied her amiably.  “It’s okay.  I was supposed to rub him out, but now I don’t hafta.”

“It’s okay.  I was supposed to rub him out, but now I don’t hafta.”

Rena’s knees buckled in sudden relief, relief that spilled through her entire body, and she felt faint, losing her balance.  She fell helplessly against the large man’s chest, where he held her a moment, then as she came up for air, recovering, he pulled her toward him roughly, and kissed her.  One arm was around behind her back, the other round her waist, and he held her like a mannequin.  Weak, disoriented, and grateful, she twisted her face to get a better look at the big man.

“You-you mean…?” she began.

“What’s your name, honey?”  He was wearing a big, broad smile.  She felt safe in the cradle, like a baby.

He whisked her out, before anyone knew, and she was out in the street, then down a short alleyway where he’d left his car.

Still shaking, but hopeful, she allowed herself to be bundled into the big Buick.

A moment later, he was at the steering wheel.  He smiled at her.

“Ya didn’t tell me yer name, baby,” he said.

“Rena,” she answered, in a small voice.

He backed the car out of the driveway, fast, very fast.  His arm on the front seat backrest, touched her as he maneuvered the huge machine.

“My name’s Joe.  I run a nightclub on the other side of town.  I bet you’re a singer, huh?”

She nodded.

“I heard o’ you.  You got a voice like an angel.”

She smiled.  She didn’t care who he was, as long as she was out of there, out of that horrible place, and out of danger.

“Don’t worry,” he said, as if reading her thoughts.  “I”ll protect you and you can sing for me, in my club, if you want.”

“I think I want,” she said.

They drove along the street.  Joe was humming.

“I had the contract on Jimmy,” he said.  “I won’t tell, and they’ll think it was me.”

1940 Buick, black & white image
She allowed herself to be bundled into the big Buick.

They drove on, and as night descended over the urban landscape, she felt safer than ever.

 

 

 

The End