by Zoltan James

I was dressed to kill,
Snazzy blue and grey pinstripes,
Over a snowy shirt with gold cuffs,
A blood red tie just for eye candy,
With patent leathers so shiny I could count my teeth.

I snapped the brim on my old fedora,
Mr. Colt snugged neatly under my arm,
He liked hanging with me whenever I called on danger.
After all, a stare down Mr. Colt’s barrel,
Was the only calling card I needed.

I was calling on Fat Tony Girardi,
Who lived in the shadows on the hills above Sunset.
Clouds swirled in violent haze under a starless night,
A threatening storm brewed out over the Pacific,
His palm trees waved as if warning me off.

Ruby Flamingo opened the massive carved mahogany door.
We had a past, long before the tips of her angel wings got singed.
Her thin silk robe failed to hide her curves,
She disarmed me with familiar eyes of China blue,
And red lips so full they’d take a full night to kiss.

I followed her past portraits hung in empty halls,
Painful faces and soulful eyes followed me,
She chose a curving divan and crossed long pale legs.
“Hello Harry, what can I do for you?” she said,
The double entendre didn’t elude me.

I took the wingback across from her,
And considered my options.
I lit her long cigarette. She cupped my hand in hers.
Her warm hands held me until the flame took hold.
The temperature in the room rose on a promise.

“I’m looking for Fat Tony,” I said.

“That’s a shame. I thought you were calling on me.”

“Not unless you shot my partner.”

“Oh,” she said, the word floating from her round red mouth,
Inviting me to catch the “Oh” and return it on my lips.

“Well, doll, my partner, Ray, was a retired detective.
Wife, two kids, and a mortgage.
He was a private dick, for only two weeks,
Before Fat Tony shot Ray in the back.
I’m here to return a favor,” I said.

“I like private dicks,” she purred.
The double entendre didn’t elude me.

“Then why are you wasting life with Tony?”

“He’s good to me,” she said. “Buys me nice things,
Takes me to fancy, schmancy places.”

I knew then that Ruby was a lost cause,
No matter how pretty, curvy, or faithful,
Or with eyes I could never forget.
My mean world was never meant for her,
My sanity would suffer like Van Gogh’s.

I pulled a cold lead bullet from my pocket,
and placed it in her warm, soft hands.
I locked onto those big blues,
See if I could read her soul,
See if she would read mine, one more time.

She blinked lashes, dark as coal. “What’s this?”

“Tell Fat Tony I have another with his name on it.”

I started for the door, she said, “Stop.”
I did a slow turn. A derringer aimed at my head.
I imagined her hands were now cold as her heart.
“What’s mine is mine and I’ll kill for it,” she said.
“Might want to keep that in mind, Harry.”

Her words fell frigid on me,
Like the plummeting temperature in the room,
Her blue eyes dimmed revealing a sadness in her soul.
“Maybe in another lifetime, I’ll come in your backdoor,” I said,
Hoping the double entendre didn’t elude her.

I snapped the brim of my old fedora,
And threw Ruby an air kiss,
She snagged it with her bare hand,
Then tossed it, unceremoniously,
On a virgin wool rug, the size of Iowa.

Some starry night I’ll return to set Fat Tony free,
Maybe Ruby Flamingo too.
I swore on Ray’s grave and on the bloody rose ‘neath my feet,
That revenge was a dish best served cold,
That justice was still in sight.

I was dressed to kill, but not tonight.