Calling it a locker room was generous. It was the size of an outhouse with a urinal in one corner and a few shorts on some pegs that hung over a couple of beat up stools. It stank of piss and the odor didn’t come from the toilet.
The kid that had been sweeping up had followed me into the toilet. He must have been around 14 with that eager young puppy look, all bright eyed and bushy tailed. Kind of reminded me of myself before I got wise.
“You really going to do it?”
“Get into the ring with the Hammer?”
“The Hammer? Is that his real name?”
“Don’t know. That’s all I ever hear anyone calling him.”
“He any good?”
“Never saw anyone get past the first.”
I’ve always been able to take care of myself, so hearing that I was about to get into the ring with the Hammer, didn’t exactly worry me. I was more concerned that Blondie may not stick around.
“What’s the story with Blondie?”
“The pretty one.”
The kid’s face turned all red, and I could tell that he had spent many a lonesome night thinking about her. “That’s Margie. The Hammer’s girl.”
“Is she going to watch?”
“Guess so. She always does.”
Things were looking up.
“What color shorts should I wear?”
“Most guys wear the red one. They say it hides the blood better.”
“I’ll wear the white.”
Sunday Morning and there’s some jack hammering going on that won’t stop. The sunlight is like a knife repeatedly stabbing me in the one eye that I can barely open. And every little noise is a baseball bat against the side of my head..
I’m trying to remember how this happened, but it’s no use. Everything is blank. Never had this before. I usually can remember something. When I finally managed to open my eyes, they don’t recognize the room. I certainly haven’t been in one of these for a while. There weren’t any roaches on the wall, I didn’t hear any rats gnawing in the walls, and the ceiling didn’t look like it had been smeared with crap.
I turned to my right and there was someone else next to me. She had long blonde hair. It was Blondie from the gym. Still nothing in my brain. At least nothing about what happened in the room which was a shame given that I was naked and so looked Blondie. She was quiet. Probably hurting as much as me.
The fight at the gym didn’t last that long. The Hammer was one of those lummoxes that come straight at you, all brawn and no brain. Grunting, sneering, he had showy foot work, but his overhand right strolled like a snail hurrying through the garden and I caught him by surprise when I moved. I then hit him with a left to the solar plexus, immediately followed by a short right. His jaw crumbled from the punch and I was already untying the gloves with my teeth before he hit canvas with a loud thud. He wasn’t going to get up for a while.
That’s how it all started, me and Blondie. A smile led to a wink which led to some breakfast, then lunch, followed by dinner and ending with dessert. Still don’t remember much about what happened once we got back to her place. I leaned closer to her to see if she was awake. Her eyes were open, staring at the wall. She was dead.
I woke up in the local jail. It wasn’t my first time, and it probably won’t be my last.
I was in a cell with 20 other joes that were innocent too. The crapper was in a corner of the cell. Funny, there’s always one guy who seems to enjoy sitting on the throne in open view. This time it was some small guy who kept yelling “come on,” like he was playing a game of craps</a>. In a manner of speaking, I guess he was.
I hadn’t slept much. Between the snoring and shouting, I was trying to figure out how I got into this mess. Usually it’s of my doing. Not this time.
The guard walked over rattling like Marley visiting Ebeneezer Scrooge</a>, but it was too early for Christmas.
“Get your things. Charges dropped.”
I guess Christmas came early this year. “Get my things?” I was wearing all my things.
I walked out to the morning sun. It was going to be another scorcher especially since Lieutenant Crimson was waiting for me.
“What do you want, Harry?”
“Don’t give me a hard time, Jake. You want to go back in? I can make it happen real fast.”
I looked over at his partner Vinny who sneered at me. Although the sneer was hard to take seriously because of the train whistle that sounded every time he breathed. It was an accident, I swear.
“And what did I do to deserve this special treatment?”
“We heard about you and the Hammer.”
“And?” It still didn’t explain why I was cut free after I had been unfortunate enough to wake up next to a dead Blondie. Bad for me. Worse for Blondie.
“I spoke to the D.A. We thought we’d give you 48 hours to tell us what happened.”
“I told you last night that I didn’t remember anything.”
“What makes you think I won’t run.”
“Vinny’s your shadow. Have fun.”
Yesterday can feel like a million years ago and ten years ago can feel like yesterday. Not sure how that works, but time is always screwing with me.
About a year ago, I was running some numbers around the Bowery. Would go around collecting slips, money, and make some payoffs. It was nothing hard: the people loved you, the boss took care of the cops, and the pay wasn’t bad.</span>
You just had to make sure you didn’t lose some betting slips or the money. Joey lost a whole bag one miserable day and was found floating in the Hudson the next morning. It was a warning that goes out to make sure the rest of us keep our concentration. Still don’t know how Joey screwed up, but it happens. Nice guy. He just had a kid too.
A few of the runners quit after Joey bobbed to the top and then the coppers felt that they needed to squeeze the rest of us. That’s when Harry and Vinny unexpectedly showed up at my door. It wouldn’t have turned out that bad if they first knocked, but when they kicked down the door I reacted by kicking back and that’s when Vinny’s nose turned into a pancake drowning in strawberry syrup. The worst part was that some of the blood wound up on the nice beige suit that I was wearing. It ruined my day. After that me and Vinny just didn’t get along. Can’t imagine why, but I really liked the suit.
And here we were, heading off together in his DeSoto. Nice car. Too nice for Vinny.
“How’s the nose?”
“What was that? Couldn’t hear you over the whistle.”
I could see where this was going and I reached down to change the radio station.
“Leave it. I like the station.”
“Opera? You never struck me as the opera type.”
“Where we going?”
We pulled in front of Louie’s. The heat was still killing everyone, the street looked the same, and the same losers were jumping rope. It had only been about 24 hours, but it felt much longer. Funny that thing about time. It moves fast, slow, and in between. Not sure how that works, but now it stopped. No one moved. Traffic was still. Pedestrians were frozen in mid step.
And I saw Blondie standing inside the gym.
What the . . . ?
Vinny must have seen me gaping at the woman in the gym. She looked identical to the long legged blonde that had died in my bed.</span>
“It’s her twin.”
A twin? I’ve seen identical twins before but this was incredible. She wore the same hairstyle, same dress, same shoes, even the same makeup and she had the same pouty look that sends this strange feeling running through your veins. </span>
“Yeah. Margie and Mary. Margie is dead. That’s Mary.”
“How can you tell the difference?”
“Mary has a scar on the lower left ankle.”
“That’s what I hear.”
“You never told me how Mary died.”
“Margie died? Thought it was Mary.”
“No. It was Margie. Margo identified Margie. Not Mary.”
Margo, Margie, and Mary? I thought only guys did stupid crap like that. “You still haven’t told me how Margie died.” I was proud of myself, got the name right.
“You mean Mary.”
“Who’s on First?”
We sauntered into the gym, me and my shadow. Margie turned her back, the Hammer scowled with his broken nose, and Louie walked over shooing us away with his hands.
“Vinny, you can stay. Jake, you have to leave.”
“You like Vinny better than me?”
“What are you doing here, Jake? How’d you even get out?”
“Louie, I didn’t do anything. I feel bad about Margie.”
“Margie? I thought Mary died.”
Great, the third stooge had just joined us.”Yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk. Does it matter?”
“I always thought Margie was cuter.”
“You could tell them apart?”
“Margie has a scar on the lower left ankle.”
“I thought Mary had the scar.”
“No, Margie has the scar.”
I looked over at Vinny who shrugged his shoulders. Figures, my shadow was wrong. I turned back to Louie. “So who’s the lady standing there?”
And I thought that vaudeville was dead.