Int., morning. The hotel lobby is not as busy as it was the previous evening—now there is a small but evenly-spaced number of individuals. The light is sheer and bright.
Sadie’s fingers were long, thin, and pale. She drew them slowly from the brown leather gloves on her hands and proceeded to spread her fingers across the edge of the hotel’s wood-paneled front desk. She spoke determinedly. “This is not what I had expected.”
“I’m sorry ma’am, but there is no one registered at the hotel under that name,” replied a new but equally uninterested receptionist.
“The lack of discipline…” she muttered. The tautness of her lips did not invite an answer.
She walked across the lobby past the red plush staircase. She sat in a tan easy chair next to a stack of the morning papers and I fixed my gaze on page three of the newspaper resting on my lap.
“Sadie?” I breathed quickly, with too much drama. She twitched her head in my direction, and for a moment the veneer of frigid calm disappeared. In a second, it was back. There was little that could faze her.
“Can I help you?” she replied, faux sternly.
“You should be dead, Sadie. If you had turned up yesterday, they would have killed you for those papers. Detective Tannhauser and I were—unfortunately—unsuccessful in detaining the suspects.”
“You can drop the formality, Ray,” she said sarcastically. “The last time Don Tannhauser and I had anything to do with one another, we settled our differences in court.”
I looked across the lobby to see Don walking out of the receptionist’s office to engage the pimple-faced boy behind the desk in conversation. He turned and met my gaze. A few seconds later he met my new client. “Hello Sadie,” Don began. She turned her head without looking at him.
“Hello Don. How are you? Fine I hope…” Her lips twitched—pout, no pout, pout, no pout. In one younger it might have been considered flirting. In Sadie, it was a nervous reaction to the attention she was getting.
“I’m fine… So you didn’t turn up yesterday—why?” Don was all business.
“And talk to those men? I don’t even know who they are, who they work for. How could I possibly give them the… details I have?”
She was hesitant and all-too-vague in describing whatever it was she had. Don hadn’t even let me know the details of the transaction before I went along to yesterday morning’s failed bust—all he had told me was that he had a special client for me to look after—and it was beginning to annoy me. Though curiosity killed the cat, I always said, at least he would die informed.
Sadie’s steely façade seemed to have cracked a little with Don present. “Well in any case, I’ve hired Ray here to keep an eye on you while this case runs its course,” he told her.
“Him?!” she cawed. Incredulous would not do it justice.
“Yes,” I replied. “A handbag.” The reference was lost on all and I swore off reading for a month. I handed her my card. Don put a hand on her shoulder.
“Sadie. We’ve both known Ray a long time, and I trust him with my life. I think you can do the same.”
“These guys are going to come after you, sooner or later,” I told her. It wasn’t certain—I didn’t even know what Sadie’s cold, gloved hands had in their possession—but if Don was this concerned, then I had to go along with it.
Sadie’s nervous pout disappeared as she picked up her gloves and pulled them over her pallid fingers. “Fine,” she said. “But I’m not going to be permanently escorted by a divorce agent like you, Ray Delaney. Keep your distance and you might just keep your job.”
“And you keep your wits about you and you might just keep your life.”
Int., Candy’s Soosman Hartnett’s room, evening. Delaney is drinking whiskey from a glass tumbler, slumped in a chair. Candy is at the door with Don Tannhauser.
Candy smiled as she turned away from the door. A nervous smile. “Is he okay, Ray?” she asked.
“I think so. I just wish he would tell me what the hell this is all about,” I replied. I sipped a little more. Already the exasperation was dissipating. “But I guess it’s a job, whether I like it or not. I trust Don, but I don’t know if I trust Sadie. They’ve been divorced for three years now, but still she comes calling at Don’s door when she needs him. She’s a leech.”
The evening sun hit the chairs at angles usually reserved for movies. Candy moved across from the table filled with glasses and sat on the edge of the bed. “Well maybe she was just badly hurt,” she said. “It can happen even in the best of marriages.” The melancholy was tangible, but I ignored it. For now.
“But you’re here to help me too,” I grinned, hoping it met the characteristics for ‘wolfish’. She smiled wanly. “How did you and Sadie Tannhauser first come into contact anyway?” I asked.
“You’re all business, Ray Delaney,” she chided. The more familiar and youthful Candy Soosman returned for a moment as she sat next to me. “Where do I start?” she said, thoughtfully.
“Well,” I replied. “Stories have a tendency to begin.”