Gum Belle, Episode VI, Part I
The child vanished over the side with a piercing scream.
"No!" Gum Belle lashed out her arm, sent it spooling down the stairwell, willed it to move faster...faster...before the girl hit the lobby floor and burst open like an overripe melon. She felt the strain on her shoulder, very much like the tenuous sensation of a rubber band stretched to the breaking point. Gum Belle's fingers lengthened, brushed the girl's bare toes, but she couldn't get a good hold, and --
Suddenly, her arm whisked past the girl and pooled in the lobby like too much toothpaste. Had she missed? Gum Belle stretched her neck out and peered over the edge with half-closed eyes; she didn't want to see an innocent life splattered all over the lobby.
She didn't. The girl hung suspended by her ankle only one flight above the floor, held aloft by a big, meaty hand. Her shift had fallen up over her face, and her underclothes were on display for public view -- especially by her brother, who took the opportunity to la
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The tall, handsome waiter moved easily through the pale wonderland that was the Plaza Nightclub. The tables were pearly white, the chairs were white ash, the floor was white marble, and the plates were pure white china. He himself wore a white uniform, and he delivered the food and drink with hands encased in white cotton gloves. Each table was set with a tall white candle, and he made sure each was lit with a pure, alabaster flame as he passed them by. The bandstand, all silver and stucco, was stocked with very fine musicians in bright ivory suits that glittered in the stage lights. They played the latest music; the Big Band stuff that was all the rage with young people like the waiter.
White, you could say, was the color of the day at the Plaza Nightclub, which made the six big men at the owners table so very conspicuous. They all wore dark suits with matching snap-brim hats pulled low over their eyes. Several wore black leather gloves, and their oily patent-leather loafers lur
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It was snowing on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall.
The woman in black burrowed deeper into her coat and rubbed her hands together beneath her fur hand muff. It couldn't be warmer then fifteen degrees Fahrenheit, and the harsh, blustery wind made her face numb and stiff. No wonder the lovely lads in the press department called this the Cold War.
She turned down a narrow, dingy alley, her boot-heels clicking briskly on the cobbles. Something vaguely human was huddled beneath a pile of white-dusted rubbish. She made the effort not to look too closely at it. She couldn't afford pity. She was on the clock.
The alley opened onto a street. Across the way was a local bar. Its small-paned windows were too frosty and fogged up to see inside, but two drunks slumped by the front door, singing boisterously in German. Best to move now, before they saw her and wondered why the pretty lady was skulking in the shadows. The woman in black twitched her s
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a spray of gas bombs hit her square in the face and blossomed into sickly green fumes. Gum Belles eyes rolled back in their sockets and her head fell into a stack of her own coiled neck. The crooks van roared off, its six heavy wheels leaving deep tire tracks in the unconscious womans shapeless body. Bum Frank coughed and sneezed and struggled against the belt that kept him tied the deathtrap that was now the freighter Confidence, but to no avail.
Just then, FBI Special Agent Lionel Ricketts awoke with a gasp and a pounding headache. The Confidence was littered with bodies, and there was a big pile of some rubbery red sheeting in the middle of the deck. The custom armored jobbie was long gone, but the cloying stench of the gas was everywhere.
What a mess, he grumbled. Leave it to the criminal element to vomit all over six months hard work. Jenkins was still curled in a fetal position next to one of the gangsters, whose gas mask ha