The Auburn Dame

She was the kind of woman your mother warned your sister about because she knew there was no point trying to keep you away. Legs that rose forever, longer the more you stared, then a roller-coaster of crimson-covered curves before you reached her face, all red lips and curls of auburn hair. Oh, and a kite-shaped birthmark on the small of her back. And if you have to ask how I know that, you haven’t been listening to my description.

We met at The Nightingale on the south side of town, a basement jazz bar of questionable credentials. Tonight’s pianist sounded like he’d had every one of his fingers broken; maybe he had. Every few notes the ivories squealed in pain and my ears sympathised.

I sipped a martini slowly until her gaze caught mine. Eyes locked, I plucked out an olive and chewed it slowly without looking away, before draining the entire glass in a swift, practiced motion. Her mouth opened slightly to form an inquisitive “O”. I felt the sharpness of the cold spirit warming my body as I walked over. Instant courage.

“What’s a-” I began to ask, but she cut off the cliché before I could spit it out.

“I’m looking for help.”

“Not sure I’m your man, sister. Favours don’t pay the rent.”

“I can pay.”

“Why me?”

“You have an honest face.”

I laughed at that, not because I’m not an honest man but because I certainly don’t have an honest face. The scar on my right cheek saw to that. Scars tell the truth on the faces of men who don’t.

“Can we go somewhere?” she asked, “Quieter.”

I already knew she was trouble; she was here to find me specifically. I didn’t know why but she clearly thought I was her ticket out of here, and I had enough enemies that she might be right. Truth was, I didn’t much care. I hadn’t slept in a month and I was desperate. More than anything I wanted to close my eyes and rest, and it seemed like this dame might just be the one to put me to sleep.