Father Christmas is one hell of a lot tougher than you thought. This was written with the voice of a 1950’s, US, private investigators, or a 1920’s US gangsters voice in mind. Eg – Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon, Eddie Valiant from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Al Capone in the Untouchables, you get the idea. Read on.
It was a Saturday, and I hates Saturdays’. You work towards them, and they gets up and let you down. Plans stay just like that on Saturdays. It was four in the afternoon, my feet were crossed on my desk, and I was down to three cigarettes. A final taunt in my soft pack of misery.
Yeah, I knows it. “We are the masters of our destiny.” They have been feedin’ me that rubbish since I first got caned by my primary school master when I was a brat. But the ‘Masters of Destiny’ don’t know where to place the ‘Mistresses of Desire’ when they come knockin’. And they do come a knockin’, those damned heartless dames.
I was in a mood, not the mood wives like seein’ husbands comin’ home with. No my mood was as dark as the rough red wine I was about to inhale. And it was not just because it was Saturday. It was because of a Dame. This one warranted the capital ‘D’, heartless God damned beast.
It’s always because of a dame for the wrong reasons, but never for the right ones. Damn I hate Saturdays. Damn I hate my cliché’ life. Where the hell did I go wrong?
She was just like every other hell spawned case that walked through my damned door. Feigned sobs for a missing someone worth a fat wad to them. Deep seeded hatred for that special someone in their lives; someone who had an extra special someone else of their own.
But Christ in a Citroen, the broad that just slinked out of my two bit office had the most dangerous curves this town has ever seen. Everything that makes the big bad wolf howl and whistle, tap his feet and dance a jig. Danger with a capital ‘Dame’ was all I thought as a second thought. My first thoughts were far too ‘adult’ to admit out loud.
She had knocked, like any other nobody thinkin’ theys a somebody, she don’t wait for no answer, an’ swung through my door like escaping smoke, sashayin’ straight across the floor, placin’ a derrière that could have cracked diamonds into the seat across from me. I saw blood red lips open and close in front of me. A sound escaped them, transforming into, “Are you Friday? Poisson ‘Fingers’ Friday?” she says.
An’ I says back, “It’s written on the door ain’t it?!”
“It is, but hey, you never know who you might meet in the big smoke now do ya ‘Sugar’”? she replies, tobacco an’ caramel that dames voice was.
I had seen this stuff before. Red lips, long legs, curves enough to keep you awake in old age; the voice of an angel, the words of a poet, and a tongue like a rapier. Aphrodite was playing ‘B’ Grade in the looks department compared to this dish.
“So if I am?” I says, cigarette smoke clouding the vision of her across the expanse of my desk.
“I need some things followed up if you know what I mean.” A statement, not a question, and no, I had no idea what the hell she meant.
“What’s your name doll face, I ain’t seen you around here before?” Two cigarettes left, damn I hate Saturdays.
“The name is ‘Tuesday’. No more, no less, just ‘Tuesday’. No questions.” Well this damn dame had me gettin’ interested. I didn’t want to be, but she interested me, damn Dame! I should have been at the track bouncin’ knuckles off ‘Freddy the Fat Bookie’s head. He owed me ten large and still hadn’t done me the courtesy. But no. A Dame named Tuesday who not only gave my tachycardia the boost it didn’t need, but may have also been in the position, no pun intended there, to have eased the current economic down turn on the books of ‘Fishy Investigations & Collections’.
I was broke. My harlot ex-wife took everything plus my humour. Freddy the ‘soon to be bleeding from the ears’ Fat Booky didn’t look like coming up with any of the folding stuff in the near future, so, what is a man to do? Damn I hate Saturdays!
The lung blood he coughed on to the sidewalk was his business and not mine. I had six grand in the hand, but that still left me four shy. There was no need for the dirk or roscoe with this one. He was a fat kid and the brass knuckles spoke a language no man on earth could misinterpret. Freddy, damn fat punk Freddy, he just wasn’t cut out for that racket. Soft, weak, spine of a jellyfish, an’ not the sort smart enough to hold a book. And this idiot had tried. When will these damned kids ever learn? Stupid punk that was all chins and sweat thinkin’ he could do a runner. Damn Punk. I almost felt sorry him, but that don’t mean I did.
His Citroen was fairly late model, and this was 1952; there was a small velvet bag holding 13 varying sized and coloured diamonds in his inner jacket pocket; four hundred bucks worth of gaming chips, and various punting stubs for races not yet run. All told it had to be worth at least three in the hand, so I took it, and left him and his bloody froth covered lips to quietly bleed on the pavement as his jowls started gettin’ bluer. Oh, I also had one of his gold teeth, but I left it firmly shoved down his throat.
After a quick search I finds a call box, shelve a nickel and get the party line. “What number please?”, was all she said, and me, well I says “West Montmartre 214”, she says back to me “one moment please sir.” and now I wait like a car in a damn traffic jam to finally get through a minute later to hear a gruff voice, scratchy at the end of the line, “Tuesday.” No hello, no nothin’, cool as you like with a hint of smoke and molasses. “Tuesday, it’s Friday, we need to talk. I just got back from the track where I ran into a friend of yours. Meet me at the Red Windmill, 82 Boulevard de Clichy, 20 minutes. Can you make it?” I was all gruff with no good reason; my guess is this Dame liked that stuff. Don’t ask me why, I just do.
The devil is a woman in a red dress, and that red dress was headed straight for me. A smile like a cat after the cream split her majestic dial with a blood red slash. Damn she was a good lookin’ broad!
“So Friday, what did you find?” she was all business, not a pleasantry in site. This all done as she filled the wicker seat beside my second rate red, grinning. “My guy said he ain’t seen or heard a word since Monday. He went on to say that you ain’t tellin’ me the full story. I don’t truck with that. Now give me the skinny on it or I walk. I ain’t paid enough to get myself good and dead on account of you holdin’ back on me.” Damn it, she just leant back into her chair and smiled at me. A big, beautiful, red lipped, white toothed smile that had me wantin’ to bite a hole out of the half pint glass that was fillin’ my paw. “Ok big guy, here it is………” She told me. Hell, I wish she hadn’t lookin’ back on it, but how the hell was I to know? I should have walked then and there, but as I said, the devil is a woman in a red dress.
One day and two hangovers later I start makin’ progress on the ‘Tuesday’ case. ‘Mickey the Wop Wednesday’ said he knew a guy who knew a guy that could help me out. Mickey the Wop was one of the good guys. We had been in the Resistance together during war, and we had been tight. Explosives was his thing, and he was good. I was more the less thinking type. A harder than nails soldier with bad breath, colourful language, and someone who didn’t have a problem with gettin’ his hands dirty. Plenty of Germans went on long night time dips in the Seine thanks to my knife and muscle. Mickey the Wop once blew up a mountain to stop German troop trains from getting in. True story.
The guy that he sent me to had no name. Like, he genuinely no name. I says to him “so what do I call you?”, and he said all straight faced “you don’t.” This cat was cooler than a body on ice, but, even though it cost me, his intel. was worth every penny.
So I go back to my office. The cheap bottle of the rough red wine I love so much was callin’ me, and I hate runnin’ late for anything.
Now you Dukes and Dames on the other end of this tale must be startin’ to wonder what the whole job was about? That’s a fair thing, but I’m not a fair man so you are just goin’ to have to wait.
A thought, not a regular occurrence mind you, crossed my mind, an’ I picks up the hand set of my Bakelite phone and dial zero. “What number please?” why do the party line dames always sound the same with nasally ‘twang’ I think, “Clichy 668.” She informs me with extra lashings of nose this time, “One moment please.” No luck damn its eye’s! So I try again after every glass of angel’s blood I roll. Finally I am through on the fourth glass, and am thinkin’ of openin’ a second bottle, ‘cause damn it was good wine.
The noise in the background is filled with the laughter and music any good brothel invests in, all in the pursuit of emptying pockets. He says, “Thursday, make it quick.” An’ I says, “Thursday, it’s Friday. What do you know about a broad named ‘Tuesday’ and someone wantin’ to whack the ‘Big Guy’?” The noise in the background is all of a sudden muted. I’m guessin’ Frankie ‘The Hammer’ Thursday is carryin’ the dog and bone into his office. So Frankie says, “Yeah, Tuesday is a bad one. Don’t trust her. What do you want to know about her for anyway?”
Damn I think. Damn dame! So I says, “She’s hired me to dig around on the Big Guy gettin’ whacked. So far I’ve clutched at smoke in the big guy department an’ ain’t found zip.” I light my thirtieth smoke for the day, an’ Frankie says, “Well, the Big Guy has upset a lot of people.” The man is right, and I says “So, will it be one of the old school?” I’m fishin’, and I’m a damn fine fisherman. “It could be Friday. It could be. You might want to talk to the crew of ’44 that sorted out Tulle and Gueret. ‘Sunday’ has been in town, and she is one hombre that doesn’t just show up anywhere for no good reason.” If the wine in my mouth could have curdled, it would have done at the sound of that name. God damn ‘Edith ‘The Sparrow’ Sunday’!! Hell, if she ain’t the meanest damn woman I ever met, I’ll sell my soul to the God of Absinthe!! “Gotta go Friday.” and that was that.
I caught up with Satan’s vixen, the epitome of ‘hell in heels’, back at the Red Windmill. She, as always, stopped the conversation of every man, woman, cat, dog, and second rate Deity in the room as she shimmied on over to where I sat, red wine in hand.
“So, Friday, what have you got for me?” the dame says’. She’s smokin’ this time, and she has got to be the only broad I’ve met that the can actually make herself movie star sensuous just by smokin’. Damn she was a fine dish! I tells her “I got a few leads, but nothin’ concrete.” Damn this tachycardic inspiration across from me!! “I spoke to one or two of the ‘Old School’ an’ they say you’re bad news lady.” I says. I’m not happy sayin’ this to the hand that’s feedin’ me, but, what’s a man to do? Her open/closed mouth gives me, “Do I look like ‘bad news’ Friday? Do I scare you?” She smiles the smile of a shark right before feedin’. “You don’t bother me none, I just want you to know what I hear. Nothing more.” We go onto discuss Mickey the Wop Wednesday, and my chat with Frankie ‘The Hammer’ Thursday. No names though. Never any names.
She likes what she hears, hands me a fat envelope she extracted from her brassier. It’s still warm from her breast damn it! She stands, turns, leaves. Watching her slink away brings a tear to my eye. Damn you Tuesday!
I’m back in my office. My phone rings and I answer. “Friday,” the silence lasts a second longer than is polite. A voice rougher than the chosen delight I consume daily speaks. “Friday, it’s ‘Sunday’. I got a lead on what you was askin’ after. We need to talk, urgent like. Meet me at Thursday’s burlesque house in an hour.” She hangs up. She’s one of the old school, so I guess whatever she has to say will be a big deal for such a call in.
With my new Citroen safely parked beneath the Club, I wander in and check my coat at the door. A twenty something year old goddess wearing nothing more than three bits’ of lace, a set of six inch heels, an’ a smile takes my arm and leads me to a room toward the back of the Club. The couple of gorilla’s Thursdays’ hired pat me down. They try to relieve me of the .45 roscoe the lives under my left arm, and the .22 auto that dwells on my right ankle, an’ I thinks to myself that these definitely ain’t the brains of the operation as I sucker punch the biggest of the two. Shortly after I walk through the door, an’ I guesses that by the time those two bit, no neck, goons wake up, they will be asking themselves why they had ever quit working on their redneck, inbred, sheep shaggin’, fathers’ farm.
“Thursday. Sunday,” I says, shakin’ hands with the possibly the two most dangerous people in France, as I does so. “God damn!! Edith ‘The Sparrow’ Sunday!!!” I cannot mask my excitement at seeing her. She was our intelligence collecting Queen back in the late unpleasantness. ‘Sunday’ was also a hard as nails, dyed in the wool killer. Not a dame to be crossed in any mans language. She originally came from Bellville so the story went. But when we were all underground, she was on every stage, everywhere. Sunday could shame a nightingale with her voice. I bends and kisses her on each cheek, then once more for luck. I loved this broad. Polio didn’t do her any legs favours growing up, one bein’ longer than the other, but what that did for her then, definitely didn’t stop her now. She got information from senior Nazi Officers; Vichy Government bastards; everyone. Damn I loved this broad. As long she was on my side and at a distance that is.
We are seated, cigarette’s and glasses of that rough red stuff begin to fill the hands of all present; pleasantries and catch ups last no more than a minute, then it’s down to the business we do best.
“Friday, you and Wednesday never worked with Saturday, Monday or Tuesday.” Sunday is holdin’ court the same as she holds the stage. Every eye is on her as the cigarette smoke winds its way like a ghost around her mitt. “I have a couple of prints here, not the best but good enough. Thank which ever God you prefer that February, July, and September are still in the intel game.” She talks, I pick up the handful of prints of photos’ taken from news papers, Police reports, intel. snippets and the like that she offers me. “You see the ‘Big Guy’ in the first one?” all about business Sunday. “That was taken in a brothel in Helsinki three nights ago. He hasn’t aged a day and is as jolly as always.”
Ah the Big Guy. I hadn’t seen him in a while. The Big Guy always came across as merry as ever, never a bad word to say about anyone. His bombing raids were legendary, dropping to 20 – 30 metres off the deck and spreading wholesale carnage where ever he went. Plus, this heart breaker and life taker worked nearly every night of the year. He did rescue op’s; spec’ op’s, and was a guerrilla’s guerrilla inserting and extracting teams into and from the hottest of spots. De Gaulle regularly sought his advice. The Big Guy. He is the best, and an honour to have met.
Wednesday enters with a chuckle at what he found just outside the door. He said “’you the last one here Friday?” to no one in particular, I nods. He smiles. “I thought as much,” and to the rest of the table, “sorry for a bein’ late. I think I was tailed part of the way over here. I lost’em, but the tail was professional. Somethin’ from the old days you know?” He sits, a glass is filled for him as he flicks his Lucifer and lights the thin roll up pinched between his teeth. Exhaling, Mickey the Wop accepts the glass and matter of factly says, “continue.”
The next print was of his sleigh. It was a very ordinary print, and the photo must have been taken from a great distance judging by its graininess. Nothing new to me, as I had seen it a thousand times before, he and it had airlifted me out of more hotspots than I care to admit. “Yeah, I seen this before. So what?” says I. Another print, this time the Big Guy’s twelve are lined neatly in traces, red light at the front, as always. “Yeah, this ain’t nothin’ new to me?”
Thursday leans over, and says “You never worked with Tuesday, Saturday or Monday. You sure about that?” I nod in agreement. “You ever seen ‘em before?” I shake my head in confirmation. Thursday continues. “Now have a good look at these last print’s and tell me what you see.
“First up I see a tiny man,” I inhale deeply from my cigarette, deep down alarm bells are ringin’ and I don’t know why. “What is he? A jockey?” Says I knowin’ that ain’t the answer.
Thursday rattles on, “That, Friday, is Jacque ‘The Rodent’ Monday.” I knew of him and his escapades. He was a stone cold, no nonsense kind of guy, with nerves of steel to be in his line of work, “he used to do all our tunnel work. Cuttin’ water. Cuttin’ power. Cutting telephone lines. Cuttin’ throats. That photo is two weeks old. He sent message to hide the Big Guy a week ago, and he thought he was bein’ hunted. He has been off the radar since.” Thursday drops that yarn like a bombshell on the table.
Wednesday steps up to the plate, takin’ over from Thursday, “We got to the Big Guy as soon as we could. He is hidden in town here, and we’ve got October and November on rolling watches with those psychopathic dames from hell, June, May, and April. January and March are being called in on this one too. Things ain’t good out there.” The hair on the back of my hands is prickling.
The next print is of a beautiful 30 something year old woman. She is dressed in battle fatigues, and is looking away from the camera as she unleashes absolute hell with a short barrelled automatic rifle. Muzzle flash fills half the God damn picture. The terrain looks like somethin’ close to bein’ desert. Her expression is devoid of emotion, the sort of look you would find on the face of a librarian stacking shelves unaware of bein’ watched.
So I says, “Nice, who’s the dame?”
Thursday says “that’s ‘Bloody Mary’ Tuesday. The print is about six weeks old from Algiers. Exactly the same time we lost contact with her.” Profanity fills my inner monologue, I breaks into the sweat I usually reserve for bein’ shot at. Slowly I turn the print over, eyes half shut, terrified of what I was going to find. “The Big Guy with Sundays kids on his knee last year in Montmartre?” I thinks’ to myself ‘what the hell?’ “Ok, what’s this one about?”
Sunday looks, swears, cursing her kids for sliding that one in to their old girl’s work stuff as a laugh. And I laugh a laugh of nervous relief.
Back to business I flip the second last print. “And this is Saturday right?” I feel nausea rolling around my gut like lightning around a thunder storm.
Sunday confirms this “Yes. Is this the woman posing as Tuesday Friday?” I curse, what a douche! I had been gipped by this cunning broad.
“Yes that’s the damn broad.” my voice quiet. Damn dame!!! My hands cunningly make fists of themselves without letting me know, and my glass cracks under their pressure. Whether it was red wine or blood that ran down my arm I wasn’t sure. My other hand makes up its mind and flips the last print without first consulting me. I stare for what seems like an age, then my damn weak gut gave me up and I vomit onto the floor beside me.
Sunday breaks the silence. “We think he has paid her off to do the job. ‘Mad Zoe’ Saturday was the best assassin we ever had. She had no scruples then, and she obviously has none now. Flopsy has always had it in for the ‘Big Guy’. He never had the status of him. Fair enough he had a following, but his one time a year hopping here and there between jobs made him no more than a package boy compared to the Big Guy. He used to be a Nazi damn him, and has been on the hop ever since. He planted bombs all over Europe for them, and not just at Easter. We don’t want the likes of him here, or getting the upper hand. He’s one seriously bad rabbit.”
Thursday states to all. “We think she has hired you to get to the Big Guy. She probably knows we are all here right now.”
“Merde.” was all I could quietly say.
The Sparrow kisses me good bye on the way out of Thursdays joint, kissin’ dames is what life is all about. The rest of us non-dames shake on it and quietly leave via separate exits.
When I get to it, I check the little Citroen under the hood, and around and underneath for anything that might turn my evenin’ into a blast of a night out. There ain’t nothin’ to find, I sit down in it, turn the key, an’ it’s back to the office for Poisson ‘Fingers’ Friday methinks.
Safety first, and the alternative entry to my office is via the fire escape. Tacky and cliché’ I know, but I’ll be damned if I let anyone get the drop on me. Someone once said to me was I more interested in saving my own skin than the job we had to do. So I slaps him down like the punk he was and I says to him. “Damn straight I do!! It covers my body now don’t it?!” I’ve met spanners with more brains than that one.
Everyone needs more than one way back into camp. It’s just common sense is what it is. So it’s up the fire escape to the office the floor above mine. All of my little safety precautions are still where I left ‘em, so, quiet as a fat woman stalkin’ chocolate I slips through the window. I opens the wardrobe, remove the floor boards and climb down the ladder I placed there years ago, dropping into the same wardrobe, just one floor below and into my office.
It is blacker than a mother in laws soul in that cupboard, an’ I thinks’ to myself “Damn I could use a drink!!” At knee level, I depress a knothole, a board springs out and I extract the nastiest bottle of red I have hidden to date. The mouthful I take bring a tear to my eye, an’ I put it back into its hiding place. Gently, leaning closer to the door as I do, I slide across the peep hole cover set at eye level, and press my eye to it. There she is! Damned harlot for hire! Sittin’ at my desk, feet up, drinkin’ my wine without a care in the world, damned heartless assassin she is!
After counting backward from thirty I’m calm enough to start bein’ rational again. I watch her for a good five minutes, and I hear my office door open. My door is good and squeaky, I made it that way, for just this reason. She starts talkin’ to which ever duke or dame has walked into my office. Who ever walked in is outside my vision through the peep hole damn it’s eyes! Any other time I would have been goin’ ‘Old Testament’ by now, but I just wait and watch. All the while, after pullin’ it outta its nook in the wall, I put my old STEN back together. She was my mistress, serving me well through the years of the late unpleasantness, that little submachine gun of mine. I changed the rounds out of the magazine on the first of every month for the last five years; I oiled her, and worked the action at the same stroke of the calendar for just this reason. All 32 of my 9mm friends fills a magazine and have a ticket to what may well be the biggest jazz show in Paris tonight.
Through the wardrobe door, I hear talk between them is gettin’ heated, it is the noise of raised voices, just not the words. ‘Mad Zoe’ Saturday swings her legs off the desk, and pulls a small pistol from her garter in doing so, an’ aims it at whomever she is fightin’ with. So, to hell with dames and mad broads and whoever else is visitin’ to shoot up my office, and I silently let the wardrobe door of my hidin’ place gently swing open.
I wish I hadn’t.
Ducking and moving that damn dame swung her little roscoe at me, letting two rounds loose in my direction, and dived for the door. My arm is instantly on fire, but that old Sten does the talkin’, and I nails hers twice through the side of her pretty head. She is layin’ deader than the last King of France, and right within a step of the beast that made the late entrance to my office. My Office.
He starts reachin’ for his basket, pullin’ the pins outta two of the green painted eggs. Dark green painted fragmentation eggs. Then he starts at under arm throwing them my way as the safety levers ping away from him. Time slows, an’ I’m thinkin’ ‘damn you Friday! Saturdays nailed you, and Flopsy the God damned Easter Bunny is goin’ta blow me and this two bit office clean to the big see ya later in the sky!’.
I nails him in both legs with a spit from the Sten. All the time I’m movin’, you don’t never give anyone an easy target. Damned green egg is mid flight and I catch it and flick it into the fire escape through the half open window; the second grenade I catch an’ lob into the hall through the door he left open when he came to see her. He starts drawin’ bead on me with a pistol the size of a Gods damn canon. Flopsy fires and I drop and roll; in the background I hear the first of two egg related ‘CRUMP’s’, and a scream from somewhere down in the street. His round has gone wide and I have the drop on him. This ain’t no cliché shoot out where we talk and become best friends and everything is roses. All he has to look forward too is the daisies he’ll be pushin’ up from six feet down. So I shoots’ the Easter Bunny twice in the head, and that is it.
Pickin’ myself up from the ground, I stagger over to Saturday. She is like some beautiful dead thing, and I smile happy it’s her and it ain’t me. I put one more into her just to be sure. Claret is leakin’ outta me somewhere; my left forearm I work out, nothing major. Flopsy’s colourful tie makes a good enough field dressing, and I find half a bottle of red still in my desk. It tastes like gold should taste. My phone is still workin’ so I calls Thursday and says I knocked the pair of them, he says he’s on the way and is bringin’ Wednesday with him as back up.
My office light turned off, I’m alone now in the dark, seated on the floor behind my desk, carnage and destruction surrounds me, and lo and behold, the first one through my door is the Big Guy. So I lowers my friend the Sten by an inch or so, just in case it is a set up, but after a second I realise it, and there he is in the flesh to the fullest. All dressed in red; big black boots; massive white beard; red hat with white trimming; stinkin’ of wine and reindeer; the Big Guy. Father Christmas. He walks over to me, looks me in the eye, laughs that big jolly laugh, then looks down at Saturday. “Ho ho ho.” he says in a serious tone of voice. Father Christmas shakes my hand in his rock crushin’ grip, and the Big Guy leaves without another word. The rest of the crew come in, slap me on the back, then mop up the mess. Sunday cauterises the hole in my arm with gunpowder and a match. Then she stitches me up a treat with a thread from her coat. If it weren’t for those prints Sunday had showed me, life would have been one hell of a lot worse. Prints. Damn lucky prints.
They leave me to it. It bein’ my dark office, and I have this darker bottle of red, and really at the end of the day, this is nothin’ more than another night in Paris, and I think to myself just how much I really, really, hate Saturdays.
What a damn tacky cliche’ end I hear you say?! Well are ya right? Are ya? Damn straight you are. But that don’t mean nothin’, ‘cause, damn I hate Saturdays. Now scram ya punks, it is Christmas Eve after all!
I wrote that years ago for a reason I have now forgotten, and have hardly edited it I would guess. Usually I don’t go in for ‘Christmas’ edition anything, but for a change, today I have. Click the picture of FC above, The Pogues singing the greatest Christmas tune ever written. ‘Fairytale of New York.’
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