I’m fairly certain four months of radio silence is a new record for me. It’s been a good summer, though. We took our annual pilgrimage to Hampton Beach in July, where I read like a fiend (more on that in the next few posts!) and laid around on the beach a lot.
I’ve been writing and editing in between family outings, camp pick ups and drop offs, and work, and there will be two new Thornton novels before too long.
I’ve also got a new story out on the Word Count Podcast! For episode 59, Richard prompted us with three words: Newspaper, Cigarette and Scotch. If you want to hear it as it was intended, click the link and you can listen right in your browser. If reading is more your style, enjoy!
“I’m in love, boys.”
Morris dropped onto the ratty tweed divan in the shared living room. The two bedroom apartment was all he and two other starving reporters could swing. Morris wrote for the Bugle, Ricky for the Tribune, and Jim for the Times, and all three of them had hopes for the Eagle Gazette.
Ricky didn’t even look up from his Remington Rand. “You’re always in love.”
“It’s the real thing this time, I’m telling you.” Morris cracked open a can of Schlitz and took a long swallow.
Jim wandered out of the john, still buttoning up his trousers. “Whose secretary you chasing now?”
“No secretary, boys. Emmaline is a real dame.” Morris put this feet up on the coffee table and crossed his ankles. He laid his head back on the back of the sofa and closed his eyes. “Copper hair, green eyes, red lipstick, and no ink lines on her legs, gentlemen. Stocking seams for days.”
“You got close enough to see her stockings?” Jim might have known more about baseball stats than anyone in the city, but quick on the draw he was not.
“Nah, knucklehead. She left the room before I did. The view from behind…”
“Wait a hot second! Emmaline Lloyd?” Ricky looked up from his copy.
“Graham Lloyd’s daughter? The new owner of the Eagle?”
Morris smiled wide without opening his eyes. “The very same. She cruised through the bullpen this morning on her way up to 39, but no girl walks past these baby blues unscathed.”
“You’re so full of it, Foster.” Ricky pulled his page from the Remington. “I gotta run this over to Eddie. We out of anything? Rosa’s working at the bodega tonight.”
Jim hitched at his trousers. “Could use some more Charmin.”
Ricky grinned. “That I can do.”
The telephone jangled from the table by the apartment door, and Morris jumped up. Ricky beat him to it and answered in his best Cary Grant impression. “Hello hello hello?”
Ricky’s demeanor shifted from playful to serious on a dime. “Morris Foster? Yes, he’s here. Who may I ask is calling?”
“Yes, of course.”
It’s her, Ricky mouthed at Morris, holding his hand over the receiver.
Morris moved so fast he nearly knocked Ricky over. “Hello?”
Emmaline Lloyd had a voice like the Highland whisky Morris had tried in Inverness after the war; smoky and rich, it warmed him to his toes.
“I’m in the bar at the Elinor. The piano player likes me, so I think I’ll stay for another cigarette. You coming to keep me company?”
Morris did a quick calculation in his head. The train for a nickel, and precious time lost, or his mad money for a month for cab fare.
“I’ll be there before he takes his next request.”
“Don’t keep me waiting.”
He left the phone hanging, hoping Jim was clever enough to hang it up. Morris Foster’s future at the Eagle Gazette was waiting.
He climbed out of the cab in front of the faded three-storey hotel and pushed through the front doors to the lobby. The Elinor’s smokey, brass-and-leather bar was the chosen haunt for the Bugle’s writers, so Morris felt right at home.
Nick was tending bar, and PJ was at the piano playing an old ragtime tune drowned in a minor key. He recognized some guys from the bullpen crowded in a corner booth, and two editors perched around the corner of the bar.
What Morris couldn’t see was Emmaline Lloyd.
He drifted towards the bar, eyes cruising the room, but it was Nick’s raised eyebrows that put Morris on to the danger behind him. He turned in time to catch a discreet pistol muzzle in the gut. The two suits behind him clasped him by the shoulders, turned him and marched him outside to where a black car waited, a glimpse of stockinged leg and a curl of blue-gray smoke just visible in the shadows beyond the open rear door.
“What’s going on?” Morris stammered as the suits nudged him into the car.
That whisky voice he’d dropped everything for beckoned. “You’re going places, Morris Foster. I saw that the moment I laid eyes on you.”
As the goons closed shut the door and the black car started to roll, Emmaline Lloyd leaned back, and the city streets rolled by unnoticed. All Morris saw was the pale skeletal form lounging beside her, its onyx eyes unblinking in a formless face beneath a fedora.
Morris struggled for breath, gaze flicking from green eyes to black, as Emmaline smiled.
“Just not the places you thought you were going.”
Thanks for reading!