The Hideout


This hotel room was where they would wait, the ex-cop and the gangster’s moll.
She’s out of patience, and he’s out of ice.
The clock on the wall reads 3 am. Cabs and bums howl below.
She won’t let down her hair. He won’t loosen his tie.
There’s a revolver in his shoulder holster. In her bag, a small pistol.
A bellboy keeps checking in. Maybe he works for the Feds. Perhaps he does hits for the syndicate. Could be he wants another look at the dame. Maybe he’s wildly good at his job.
The moll wants to chat, and the cop wants to brood.
Ten more hours to go.


The Gunfighter

art by Champagne Punch

The lonely gunfighter stands at the center of the road, rifle at the ready.
He has nothing left but his code, guns and the memory of her.
He looks out to where his posse rode away.
They said they’d be back in an hour.

If only there could be someone coming, maybe coming to kill him, that would be something. He could slip off the road, maybe hide behind that boulder there, and get the jump on the bastards as they ride past.

In his left boot, a pebble squeezed itself beneath his flat arch. Anyone with flat arches knows that even a jagged stone correctly positioned can provide relief.

A coyote strides on down the road, taking no notice of the dusty, old gunfighter.

Even the coyote has somewhere to go.

The Detective


The Detective hasn’t been sleeping well.
Too much late night snacking effed with his sleep cycle and did little to quiet the shame and fear that are so often his bedfellows.
He would take some Ativan if not for the glass of whiskey he drank after supper.
Those two don’t mix well.
So instead he makes a grilled cheese sandwich, like ma used to do back in Iowa, ketchup and a kosher spear on the side.
He plays a Chinese Checkers game with a long-dead French poet and loses.
He thinks on how he might collect a bill or two while he pays a bill or two.
Then he figures, no Ativan, might as well have another glass of whiskey.
Then there’s a knock on the back door. He knows who it is. Who else could it be?
The shot tore through a window, and he could feel the heat sear his shirt sleeve as it whizzed past. Bullets are hot. They don’t tell you that.
“Stop shooting!” the detective yelled, feeling immediately stupid for having done so.
No sound returned, and the detective felt queer about the situation, mostly because of the melted cheese coagulating is his gut.
“Danny?” he shouted, but again there was no reply.
The courage was summoned to take a peek outside. There was Danny Brewer, vice president of killing for the mob. From the looks of it, he’d opted for early retirement, no pension. There was a three-inch shard of glass digging a half inch tunnel into his voice box, blood turning the concrete into modern art.
“Shit, Danny, you missed,” said the detective, though he felt like a heel saying it.
The neighbor lady was out on her balcony, smoking a cigarette in a lavender nightgown. One or two times in the past the detective had caught her looking into living room with a nifty spyglass.
“Well, you like playing rough, don’t you,” she decided to say.
The full creepiness of this statement sent the detective back into the house. He sat down on the breakfast nook to call the cops, but he fell asleep dialing.

Champagne Punch: Ch 2 The Two Bed Situation

thecouplethatknewverylittle.jpgChapter 2: The Two Bed Situation

An ocean liner is not an ideal place to fix a martini, but Clark is just so very skilled. He really is terrific at fixing martinis, even away from dry land. And he looked so smart in his robe, which was what he was wearing.
He sat on his bed, shaking the shaker, and I sat on mine, reviewing the dossier.
Clark hated the separate beds they gave us. He thought it was off the cob and he just couldn’t believe that they didn’t have a cabin left with a big, fluffy king-size. They apologized and stated that “due to the lateness of our purchase” that this was the only room available.

“I suppose were lucky not to be in the lower decks with the riffraff,” Clark said, which was cute in the way new money men are always cute when they play at snobbery.

I just adored the two beds. It was like a movie. I always loved to imagine how one could make love in a two-bed situation. How is the first move made? Does it require bouncing?
But no romantic imaginings or impressive shaker skills could have distracted me at that moment from the business at hand which was, of course, the mystery of the American girl and the queer British family.

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Champagne Punch: Ch 1 A Pre-war Bloodstain


funtionalwithalcoholChampagne Punch: Chapter 1 A Pre-war Bloodstain

I said, “Jesus, Lou.”And then Lou said, “Sorry, Clark. I’m sorry. Jeez. Does it really smart?”

It did.
My face.

Or more specifically my nose having been more or less busted open against a cold, oak table (was it oak? I was never good at wood). The inner contents of said nose had pooled on said oak (?) into an unusual pattern inked out in a vibrant crimson color with flecks of gray and a mournful violet. The sharp line, the organic nature of the composition, the sense of movement and stasis, predicted decades of post-war American art. Lou was an action painter, I his brush and pallet, and the table his canvas. Lou- an artist before his time. But that evening, in the hot and damp interrogation room that smelled vaguely of sauerkraut (or maybe that was Lou), we had merely a typical example of a pre-war bloodstain. Except, of course, who the hell knew this was pre-war? Or, I guess, it’s kind of always pre-war, isn’t it?

“Nothing three more martinis wouldn’t fix,” I said as I pinched out little red clumps from my damn stylish pencil-thin mustache.

I wanted a peppermint candy I’d been saving but couldn’t quite get to my pocket with my wrists in shackles. So I had to do a kind of shimmy to wriggle the candy onto the floor where I could dip down and retrieve it.

The twitchy dance steps made the giant cop chuckle and shake his head. Good old Clark. I grinned, squinted and then sneezed out a bubble of red goo. Lou handed me a used hanky. Good old Lou.

“Nothing three more martinis wouldn’t fix,” I said as I pinched out little red clumps from my damn stylish pencil-thin mustache.

“Do you know where they’re holding my wife?”
“Nobody tells me nuthin’, Clark. You know that. But, Jeez, I’m sure Mrs. Runyon is safe.”

I shrugged. I couldn’t recall the last half hour or so of the party and consequently hadn’t the foggiest what state my wife was in when they took her away. I did remember ordering the sixth gin martini for each of us, so I had a guess. Either she was a bubbly delight or a thunderous disaster. Judging from the state of my nose and the dreary condition of my confinement, I reckoned it was the thunder.

“Well,” said I, “if she’s in a cell I hope it’s a padded one.”
“I probably should hit you again, Clark. Or I ain’t really doing my job.”
“Sure, Lou. Sure. Not the nose again, OK?”

Bam. Pop. Clunk.

Good night.


I came to a little while later.

A woman was standing opposite the table that was maybe made of oak (table and woman). She wore a distressed evening gown and a violent look. Her hair was wet and matted. The big red splotch on her green silk gown was beginning to dry. A dead fox hung lazily off her shoulders, his glassy eyes were a warning to future victims. “Look out,” he seemed to say, “this one’s a killer.”

I gave the old gal a friendly wink and a shackled wave.

“How are you, Doris? You look well.”
“You smell like the bottom of a lake,” she said.
“Then I’ve smelled worse.”
“Worse, huh?”

Continue reading “Champagne Punch: Ch 1 A Pre-war Bloodstain”