Strip for Violence

Ed Lacy

Strip for Violence Ed Lacy
(Leonard S. Zinberg [1911-1968])

"WHATCHA LOOKING for, Tiny, a bruise?" This was said by a big joker, about two hundred pounds of lard-ass, and trying so hard to be tough, he was strictly for laughs.
And that's how it all started. How a guy can live a peaceful, normal life for years, then the fickle finger of fate gives him a slight goose... and in my case put me on a three-day merry-go-round of women and murder.
It was I a.m., Monday morning, when I dropped into this dance hall. There's two kinds of dances: the hustling sort where a couple of guys or gals throw a shindig to raise some bucks for themselves; and there's the social club-office type where the main idea is to have a good time. This was a dance some company was throwing for its employees.
The big clown on the ticket-box was high. When I flashed my badge he laughed at it, looked my five-foot-one up and (mostly) down, sneered, "You a dick?" As an afterthought he had added, "Whatcha looking for, Tiny, a bruise?"
He had one of these tempting bull necks, but bouncing him around would be bad advertising for the hall. I said, patiently, "Call the private cop, or the manager."
"Call nobody. Either you pony up a buck-fifty to get in, or scram, shorty," he said, trying hard to make his watery eyes focus.
I didn't mind his silly chatter, but then he tried to push me. Grabbing his right hand with both of mine, I spun the hand up and outward, as I put my left leg across his right foot. I jerked him forward and let go of his hand. His head hit the dirty carpet first.
Bobo Martinez came running up, his tremendous shoulders straining at his cheap, blue uniform, his battered face angry. "What's going on...? Oh, hello, Hal," he said seeing me. "Anything wrong?"
I nodded at the ticket taker who was sitting up, his dress shirt open, a puzzled look on his fat face. "How's things?"
"Quiet," Bobo said, pulling the guy to his feet with one hand, neatly slamming him against the doorway to sober him up. "Usual drunks, but no trouble. Dance is about breaking up."
I grinned at Bobo's cream-colored face, the slightly flattened nose, ridge of scar tissue over the hard eyes, his six-foot body I envied. Bobo was the perfect special cop --looked too tough for trouble.
"Tell this joker not to stuff his pockets with ticket stubs. Too obvious a hold-out on the tax man," I called over my shoulder, as I went up the worn steps that led to the dance floor. In a wall mirror I watched fat boy feel his bulging pockets, heard him ask, "No kidding, that shrimp a private dick?"
"That's Hal Darling, head of the agency. And a rough stud, no matter how blond and baby-faced he looks."
Bobo could lay on the baloney nice and thick.
There's always a certain air of sadness about the end of a dance. Bleary-eyed women were waiting in line for their coats, and their men stood against the wall, half-asleep. Even the music sounded tired. The whole joint stunk of stale body and whisky odors.
The coatrooms faced this little lobby, just before you got to the dance floor. A girl was sitting in the one big leather chair--stupid drunk.
She was average-pretty, although her eyebrows were painted a fantastic shape, and her sleeping face was full of that loose, contented, drunk look. Her legs sprawled straight out and part of her white evening dress was caught on the arm of the chair, showing some strong, fleshy thigh. The dress had slipped off one shoulder and a bra strap cut into her pale white skin. She had full breasts--and plainly not built-in stuff either. Her hair reached her shoulders and was dyed an outrageous red.
A guy standing beside her was begging, "Snap out of it, babe. Wake up, Louise, everybody's staring at us... whole damn office. Aw, come on... Louise!" His tall, bony frame was a good clothes hanger for a tux, but his neck was too scrawny for his wide face.
Eddie Logan, manager of the hall, came out of his office with some gray-haired fat slob whose tux was ready to pop at the seams. Eddie said, "Hello, Darling," and the fat guy smirked and said (as I knew he would), "What's this, you two going together?"
I could see it was going to be a big night for me.

EDDIE LAUGHED too loudly, so I knew the fat character must be the boss of the company throwing the dance. Eddie introduced me and the boss jammed a thick cigar in my hand as he said, "Great dance. Always try to give my employees the best, a fair shake. Say, this cop you have here, haven't I seen
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