Books - Washington Shadow


‘I am just the Master of Ceremonies,’ he said.
Stretched out on a sofa the Hon. Penelope Ayrtoun frowned, opened the eye not squashed into the armrest, then closed it. She was half covered by the manager’s blue pilot jacket.
‘She kept showing her ass,’ he complained.
Mullins turned and nodded at Cotton. Cotton gave up his last dollar. Mullins placed it on the edge of the manager's desk.
The manager shook his head. The gesture was more resignation than protest.
'Let’s hear it, Captain,' said Mullins.
Captain Bob said the lady had come with a ‘young navy guy, yes, an officer’. At one stage the lady had wanted to take over from ‘our dancer’, and her companion had tried to stop her. There had been an altercation, the navy guy had got a black eye and cut and run. A little later the lady had passed out. Worried, they had looked in her purse and, given the delicacy of the situation, decided to call patrolman Price.
The policeman shook his head. 'Bullshit,' he said. 'What you do is tell me why they came here in the first place.'
‘Hell, I don’t know!' said Captain Bob. 'Slumming it?’
The policeman shrugged and took a small step forward.
‘Come on now. You can do better than that.’
‘They say there is someone who sells stuff here. I’ve never caught him,’ said the manager.
The policeman leaned forward and removed the dollar.
'Now there's nothing on the table,' he said.
'OK, OK. He's called Marvin,' said Captain Bob, 'but I don't know his last name.'
'What? Does he want my card?' said patrolman Price. 'You speak to him, he speaks to me – or he moves on.'
Cotton saw that the Hon. Penelope Ayrtoun had put out an arm and was waggling her fingers. He took this as help-me-up. He went over, removed the manager’s jacket, put his arm round her but he did not grip hard enough. Whatever she was wearing slid underneath his fingers and she slumped down again on the sofa. Then he put his arm round her and cupped her ribs. He pulled her up, his smallest two fingers digging under her ribcage.
‘Can you walk?’
Penelope Ayrtoun knew someone had spoken to her but not much more.
Cotton caught her under her knees and lifted. He was struck by how light she was. Six stone perhaps. Eighty-four pounds. She grunted quite loudly and, for a moment, fearing she would vomit, Cotton held her away from him. Then he saw that her head was lolling. He pulled her back and jiggled her head into the crook of his right arm.
Mullins nodded and Cotton started walking.
Behind him he heard a swishing noise and a grunt.
'You want to check that everything is in the purse,' said the patrolman. ‘We don't want mishaps.'
Cotton kept going. The plump, tassel-and-powdered-flesh lady was still swaying on the drum-sized podium and the bar girls were almost asleep. Cotton walked to the entrance and stood aside. Mullins pushed the screen door, then handled the main door. The puffy bouncer stood back
Cotton walked down the steps and paused. Behind him there was a crunching noise.  It sounded a little fat and was followed by a grunt.
Cotton walked over to the Humber carrying his boss’s wife in his arms. Mullins opened a rear door.
‘The policeman is called Norman,’ he muttered.
‘Much obliged to you, Norman,’ said Cotton.
The policeman nodded and gave Mrs Ayrtoun's evening bag to Mullins. ‘It's part and parcel. I’ll be seeing you, Bobbie,’ he said.

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