They said I was going soft, just taking the easy cases. Fancy parlours in fancy hotels. Fifty dollar drinks and organic peanuts. Dames with $300 haircuts and a couple of husbands buried in the yard offering to buy me a drink. Yeah, they were right. It was getting to be too easy and you canât go soft in this business. I had to get out for a drink on the dark side of New York City, where the real people go.
I called the broad. Weâd worked on some cases before. She was good for this kind of assignment and she knew the seamy side of town. A gentlemen doesnât ask how. It didnât hurt that she looked good. She had the kind of looks that would make a catholic priest go straight; legs that went on for ever, soft hair and coal black eyes. Yet she was hard as nails. Give her a samurai sword and sheâd cut off your balls.
I lit a cigarette, gunned the Packard and aimed for Brooklyn. She touched my arm. âLeave the wheels behind, â she said. It wasn’t a polite request. âWe are taking the subwayâ. I gulped. Iâd heard about the subway – it is not where I wanted to be. You rubbed shoulders with criminal types and the unwashed masses. Itâs dark and it smells funny. You could leave a body down here and no one would notice. The New Yorkers who frequent these places just walk around a dead body.
When we got out of the dark pit, the air was cold and the sun hit you between the eyes like a left hook from Cassius Clay. The broad said we were in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The last time I was here I ran out pretty quickly (Editor – you were in the New York Marathon). Williamsburg is one of those hoods where all you see are pretty dames in high heels and guys with slicked back hair in sharp suits. When you’ve been in this game as long as I have, you know that itâs all a facade. Behind closed doors itâs still Carmine Persicoâs gang running the numbers, handling the garbage, paying off the politicos. It ainât pretty, but itâs Brooklyn. The broad steered me into a brewery. Yeah, I sneered. âWho puts a brewery in a nice part of town?â Mind you, the pint of Brooklyn lager tasted good, if you are into that sort of thing. But there are times when a man needs a real drink and this was one of them.
She took me to Cafe Mogador. It was the kind of hip, trendy place that she liked. The sort of place that used to be a funeral parlour with a barber shop up front. I ordered a Blood Orange Martini. It was good. The juicy blood orange pulp lulls your palate and leaves you unprepared for the orange vodka that bites the back of your throat like those German Shepherds the cops use.
They couldnât get the broad a Margarita because they were out of limes. Our waitress said the Huanglongbing bacteria and the Mexican mobs had driven the price of limes through the roof. What used to cost $20-$40 a case now went for $120. Sounded like a decent racket. Huanglongbing? Iâve heard that name before. Used to be the name of a guy in a Chinese Triad that I had some trouble with in Kowloon. Pretty sure that was him. I guess heâs in with the Mexicans now.
It was getting dark and I was getting antsy. Comes a time when a man knows heâs got to skip town if he knows whatâs good for him. I felt the familiar heft of the .45 under my jacket. It feels good at times like this to be packing heat. I grabbed the broad and flagged a cab. âFind me a drink across the river,â I snarled. Truth be told I didnât snarl. Iâd tried that once and she broke my nose.
Back in Manhattan we stopped at a speakeasy in the East Village. The green door led to a dark room upstairs. This gin joint was called Pouring Ribbons and it felt like the kind of place that had borne witness to some serious drinking. The man behind the bar had a friendly smile, dreadlocks and a beard. He looked like he belonged on a surfboard. He was probably a west coast commie. The broad with him looked young, but she had class. She told me she owned a quarter of the joint. Won it in a poker game. They double teamed on mixing me a martini. They used Blue Gin made by a one armed Austrian called Hans Reisetbauer in Axberg. Yeah, thatâs in Austria. Austria is not a shortened form for Australia, but in America they canât tell the difference. Itâs all foreign âAâ countries. They have nice beaches there, but you have to look out for the Taliban.
The man said the Austrian-made Blue Gin was the best gin in the world. There was a splash of French Dolin Vermouth and home made orange bitters. He stirred the drink vigorously. Water is the fourth ingredient in a martini he told me. It brings out the flavour. Who could argue? It was the best martini Iâd tasted in a while. New York City, huh? This town is alright.