Tailing the Blond Satan by Oscar Windsor-Smith
BURRITT STREET, SAN FRANCISCO CA
1:47 a.m. Monday, December 9, 1929
Renowned short-lived character Miles Archer — one half of the San Francisco detective agency Spade and Archer — stands in Burritt Street alley with his overcoat collar turned against a damp night fog. Through the blurred darkness above a steep slope leading down to a billboard in Stockton Street comes the dull moan of the Alcatraz foghorn echoing across the bay. Archer smiles. He’s anticipating an easy conquest. Hearing stealthy footsteps, and then the familiar voice, he turns and meets his killer.
S.F.P.D. P.T.S.D.T. UNIT, SAN FRANCISCO CA
11:45 a.m. Friday, May 15, 2009
Lieutenant Flora Dundy of the San Francisco P.D. Cold Case Review Squad paced the office floor biting the fingernails of her left hand, a hand designed for cracking walnuts. From her close-cropped blonde hair to her sensible shoes, Dundy stood six feet two inches tall; two hundred and fifty pounds of solid woman. Clutched in her right hand was a can of Diet Coke torn minutes earlier from a submissive vending machine. Dark circles of fatigue ringed her wild eyes. She had been pacing all morning, wafting a complex aroma of rye whisky, cigar smoke and Chanel N°5, breaking stride only to whisper to the potted plants.
Officer Winston Morgan, a strapping broad-shouldered guy in a white sweatshirt and blue jeans, and Solomon Rubenstein, a wiry short-ass in a pink seersucker blouse and lemon chinos, sat hunched at workstations, squinting over their computer screens, anticipating an explosion. It came soon enough.
“Gay!” screamed Dundy, crushing the Coke can without obvious effort, “Murderous gay!”
The officers started. They exchanged glances.
Rubenstein mouthed: “Who?”
Morgan shrugged. He pointed both his index fingers at himself and shook his head.
Rubenstein pulled out a mirror, checked his eyeliner and raised a hand. “Lieutenant?” he simpered.
“What?” Dundy roared.
“Nobody on our team has murdered anybody.”
“Not you, sweetie-boy. Spade.”
Morgan said: “I prefer Afro-Caribbean, Lieutenant, and I’m straight, anyways.” He was nodding at Rubenstein who was nodding also.
“No, you pair of dummies. I mean Samuel Spade in this case report.” Dundy strode to her desk. She produced one well-thumbed copy of The Maltese Falcon and then another. She thumped one down on each desk. “I’m heading out. You guys had better mug-up on these. Tomorrow we’re gonna dig inside and rip out the truth.”
Morgan ducked behind his computer screen and made a corkscrew sign to his head. Before the door slammed a Coke can winged his left ear.
Morgan and Rubenstein sat in silence like a pair of fazed rabbits until Lieutenant Dundy’s footsteps had faded.
Morgan spoke first, rubbing his bruised head: “She’s certifiable.”
“Yeah. But will you tell her that, Winston?”
“Not me, man.”
Rubenstein murmured as if praying: “I should have known there was a catch when I applied for a cold case review job here at the P.T.S.D. therapy unit and got it.”
“Uh huh,” said Morgan, distracted, flipping through The Maltese Falcon. “But cold case review units are safer than dealing with real hoods.”
“Not if your boss is insane,” sighed Rubenstein, thumbing his copy of Hammett’s classic. “Hey, there’s a guy in here with the same name as her.
“No, you schmuck. Dundy. Hey, he’s a lieutenant too.” He scratched his head. “You don’t think it could be — ?”
“You’re crazier than she is, man.” Morgan threw down his book. “This is fiction. A nineteen-thirties detective story.”
“Never forget, Morgan, to Freaky Flora it’s a case file.”
“Agreed, but what can we do?”
“If the choice is between Flora and the mean streets of ‘Frisco, I’ll take my chances with the lady.”
“So we go with her?”
The detectives resumed their reading, thumbing pages with increasing speed. Winston Morgan stopped and looked up, eyes glazed. He turned to Rubenstein. “Sol.”
“How come you don’t act gay when Flora’s not around.”
“Because I’m not gay.”
“You wear perfume and make-up.”
“Winston, let me ask you something. If she got those thighs across me, what would be my chances of survival?”
“Slim, I guess.”
“Yeah. So, better she thinks I’m gay.”
“Cool strategy, man,” Winston said, and then in a camped-up Bogart voice: “Lend me your rouge, shweetheart.”
Morgan and Rubenstein — the former red-eyed and disheveled, the latter cool and feminine — were at their workstations when the office door crashed open.
A Lesson from the Road
Our Immortal Souls
Maps and Miracles
Tailing the Blond Satan
Into Open Hands
Drill & Kill
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