Chapter Two, Part 1
After the tat-tat-tat of Mallory Baines’s heels faded down the hallway, I knuckled my spine and suppressed a groan. Wedging oneself in an alleyway between buildings does wonders for a bad mood, but nothing for a bad back. I have that courtesy of the U.S. Army Air Service, and like I tell everyone who asks: it’s not the bullets, it’s the fall. You land on your back after toppling from the tallest building in the world, tell me how you feel.
The newshounds called me kaput, pointed their cameras at me and filled the front pages with obits for the big ape. If they’d hung around until the vets arrived, they wouldn’t have missed the real scoop: the King wasn’t dead after all, but in a coma. He’d wake up eventually with one hell of a backache and a rod in there the size of an I-beam, but by then he’d been secreted to a warehouse across the Hudson, away from prying cameras and typewriters.
Ah, ancient history. Why, that was ’33, with the nation enduring the death-throes of Prohibition. Though the average American still doesn’t have a pot to piss in, five years on . . .
A throat cleared behind me. I leaned forward, looked over my shoulder, and found Mrs. Kryzceski glaring at me over her ironing board. I tipped my hat and grumbled the usual apology for blocking her view of the moon. Said it reminded her of the old country. She sniffed and pulled the curtains.
I edged along the wall of her apartment building to the end of the alley. A limp form drooped against the diner across the street. I hooted at a register so low it could only be heard by another three-story-tall gorilla—or a soul desperate for loose change. The lump detached from its wall and shuffled across the street, resolving into a hophead in a dingy coat and newsboy cap. He looked as though he’d crawled out of a smokestack that morning and spent the rest of the day dodging a bath.
Scraps McGee’s mother probably gave him a better name. She probably also gave that up not too long after. Scraps was Scraps, which is to say he was what he was looking for, which was Scraps. Of cash, of hop, of shady information that would earn him the first two.
I didn’t need headlines from him tonight, though. I needed his none-too-steady feet.
I growled the customary greeting: “You don’t look so good, Scraps.”
“Bet I don’t look half as bad as you smell, K,” he slurred, aiming for swagger and missing it by a mile.
I flicked his cap off his head. He leapt back, shrieked, danced about fluttering his hands. “One of these days you’re going to flick me with that great paw of yours and knock off my whole head by accident.”
“It won’t be by accident. Now pipe down.” I dragged him into the shadows and peeked around the corner as Mallory Baines exited my building. Scraps whistled appreciatively. “You’re in luck, Scraps. You’re going to tail that skirt tonight. See where she flops. What name she flops under. Get back to me in the morning.”
Reluctantly he swung his gaze from Mrs. Baines’s receding form. He aimed a sneer up at me. “Oh yeah? And what do I get out of it? Tailing a broad all night? In this cold?”
I slipped a five from my trenchcoat and pushed it at him. “Where she flops. What name she flops under. And maybe Lincoln’ll have a twin in the morning.”
I pushed him off and turned up the street in the opposite direction Mallory Baines went. Time to call on Wormsy.
Check back next week for the continuing saga of King Kong: World’s Biggest Dick!