by Martin Bolton
The name’s Cake.
Detective Harry Cake.
Detective Inspector Harry Cake.
Detective Inspector Harry Archibald Cake.
I’ve been working these streets for twenty years and I thought I had seen it all. Until she came walking in to my office.
I was working late. I had just pulled the bottle of whiskey from the drawer and poured three fingers into a dirty glass when she walked in. She was a bona fide knock-out. Glass hair framed an alabaster visage with the usual number of eyes, a nose that seemed to say “I’m mainly just for pointing at things” and a set of lips that made a man want to cup himself gingerly and tap dance a Morse code sonnet. Her legs went all the way to the carpet and back, as was the style at the time, and she had a bosom that moved a split second before the rest of her, it looked as though it was trying to escape, and she was chasing it. Hell, I’d have chased it too.
Her eyes invited me in, but made me take my shoes off. She was the kind of dame you’d drag yourself by your eyelids across a field of searing razor wire just to get a sniff of her shit. She was all a woman ought to be and then some. And then some more.
She took a chair without being asked, crossed her legs and lit a cigarette.
“Cake?” She asked. Her voice was throaty and husky, and she blew sweet smoke across my desk. Everything about her was a challenge, and I wasn’t sure I was up to it. I wasn’t sure anybody was.
“I just ate,” I replied, lighting a cigarette of my own. “Drink?” I asked, waving the whiskey bottle.
“Yes,” she said, “Ida Drink. How do you know my name?”
“It’s my business to know things.” I leaned back in my chair and crossed my legs on the desk, she seemed to take that as an insult. She looked at the souls of my shoes with contempt.
“You’ve got gum on your shoe,” she said with a sneer.
“We’ve all got gum on our shoes, Miss Drink, but some of us let it hold us back, while others just use it to help them keep their feet on the ground. I’m in the latter demographic, I find it keeps me more alive this way.” I poured another drink. “It is Miss Drink, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” she said, I thought I caught a glimpse of emotion on her face then, but it was swiftly rectified and her poker face returned with added arched eyebrow, “my husband was killed three years ago.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “but there’s nothing I can do about that. What do you do, Miss Drink?”
“No, I sing down at the Oyster Club.”
“I see, I thought you looked familiar. What did you come here for, Miss Drink?”
“I need help, Cake, and word is you’re the right man for the job.”
“Oh yeah? Ain’t that a pity? We all need help in our own way. I’m no sponge, Drink, but I don’t work for free. It’s a funny old game, one minute I’m begging for crumbs, then as soon as I’ve got too much on my plate, everyone suddenly wants a slice of Cake. Well, what is it this time, Drink? An ex-boyfriend decided he’s had enough Drink and gone off half baked, leaving you dry? Or have you got in with the wrong crowd and found yourself way too open?”
“If I tell you, promise it won’t leave this room. I need your total discretion, Cake.”
“OK,” I said, “but if I help you, we do things my way, you’ve got to trust me and do as I say. You’ve got to be completely honest with me. It’s going to be tough, but you must be brave, is that clear? Have you got the bottle, Miss Drink?”
“I’ve got the bottle, Cake, but you should know things could get sticky.”
“Sticky’s my middle name.”
So Miss Drink spilled the whole story right there while I sat and listened and drank and smoked. It was a hell of a thing. Seems a petty crook named Spoon had got some dirt on Miss Drink, and now he was threatening to stir things up unless she coughed up some dough. Seems Miss Drink had a murky past and was eager to keep a lid on it. Under that chilled exterior, I could tell she was pretty shaken. She’d had a rough ride, and for Miss Drink this really was the last straw.
“How do I know you can handle Spoon, Cake?”
“The proof is in the pudding, Miss Drink, I’ve dealt with Spoon’s kind before. Sure they think they’re big shots, but they always end up biting off more than they can chew. He’s going to end up with a mouthful of Cake. That’s where you come in, Miss Drink.”
My plan was simple, it was just something we would have to get right. She was a little mixed up, but I was sure Miss Drink could handle it. The truth is I was glad she came to me, anyone else may have taken advantage of the situation, Spoon could have got away and left Drink with nothing but bitterness, and that would have been hard to swallow.