Night On The Town: Part Two

So I crammed my hat on my head, got my coat sitting right, and dragged Ginji out into the rain.

It was one of those nights when the rain comes down like chains between the sky and the pavement, and the roads are slick and dark and scarred by headlights. The raindrops hit like hammers on the canvas roof of our baby as I took off the brakes, and we went out into the big city to find some information.

See, I know the people who know stuff. That's one of the reasons they call me the invincible Mr Ban. That, and the good looks, and the manly presence, and the muscles that I've had all my life, and -- yeah, but anyhow.

"So," I said to Ginji, "I figure we pay a call on the Calculator."

"Oh yes!" Ginji said. "It'll be good to see him again." And he smiled like his face was about to split open.

Now, Ginji's a good guy, but he trusts way too easy. The Calculator was a friend of his from the old days when they ran the city. Yeah. He's that Ginji. The one they called the Zapper. He and his gang ran this place and had it sewed up tighter than a nun's underwear. These days Ginji's with me, but his friends are still big in the mobs. I try to avoid them.

Looked like this was going to be one of those days when it wasn't possible.

We drove over to the Calculator's place. He had one of his men on the door, but when he saw Ginji we got waved right in. I eased the gun in my pocket as we walked up the stairs. The Calculator was a dangerous man. One couldn't be too careful.

The Calculator himself was sitting at a desk with his ledgers. He was the biggest numbers man in town. All the mobs got him to do their accounts, and they said that there wasn't a G-Man who could crack his taxes. He pulled strings like you wouldn't believe, and everyone owed him one. When he talked, they listened. I figured that if anyone had been trying to move the Lost Ark of the Covenant, he'd know about it. He looked like a kid, but you didn't think that once you looked in his eyes.

Beside him sat his moll, Cherry. She was a pretty dame from an old family in Boston. Apparently they'd gone broke in the Crash or something, and she and her brother had hit the streets hard and kept on falling. These days she took off her stockings to order, and rumour had it that she wasn't averse to using them for a quiet strangling on the side. Her brother, Doc Needles, had a different employer, but he was just as dangerous.

"So," the Calculator said. He was talking to Ginji, not me. "You're back."

Ginji grinned, walked over, and whacked him on the shoulder. "Yes! And it's so good to see you! We've got so much to talk about . . ."

"Time is money," the Calculator said, and closed a book. "But for you I've got open pockets. Let's chat."

Cherry fetched us all a shot of some of the best whiskey in town, and perched on the corner of the desk. "But, boss," she pointed out, "you told me to remind you about the meeting in ten minutes." She tossed her head, and her long hair fluttered round her hips. "If you give them the brush-off . . ."

The Calculator frowned. "You've got a point, sweetie. And the Mirror's already out there. Okay, you go tell him there's been a sudden emergency -- tell him they've raided one of our downtown places, or something, and that I'll be with him as soon as I can. Right?"

She pouted her cute lips, but nodded, and swayed her way to the door. I guess it's true what they say about high society girls.

Once she was out, the Calculator put down his glass and leaned forward. "Ginji, Ban -- I know why you're here. I can't help you. Not this time."

"Huh?" Ginji said, blinking.

"It's too big," the Calculator said. "Even for me. This one goes all the way up to the top. I can tell you where to start looking, but they're watching me, and I can't do any more than that. Listen. Start at the Metropolitan. There's a fiddle player there who knows more than she's telling. That's the best I can do for you."

Well, I've always known how to take a hint. I finished off my whiskey -- Ginji's, too -- and dragged him out. I could see the Calculator didn't want us hanging around any longer than necessary.

"And watch out for the Jackal," he said as I closed the door.

The Jackal. Now that was bad news.