William Fay was a short story writer for the Post in the mid-1900s. He specialized in stories about crime and the city, many of which he adapted for TV in the electronic era. His descriptions of seedy city life are detailed and the way he lays out tales of deception and violence make this serial story leave hints at what is to come. “I’ll Get Even” is a two-part story about a man who loses his wealth and the unlikely scenario that leads him back to the money.
Originally published on July 22, 1950
Danny Meade came back to New York after eight years’ absence and felt like Rip Van Winkle. La Guardia wasn’t mayor any more, the subway cost a dime instead of a nickel, and Danny was just a guy nobody knew.
Danny wondered if Caroline Shane remembered him, Caroline who was now the star of David Bowen’s new play. Danny had been the backer of Caroline’s first play in 1942 — the one that never got beyond a tryout in Philadelphia, when Danny lost all his money.
That was because, back in 1942, Danny had a hole in his head. Anyone fool enough to trust Allie Fargis had to have a hole in his head. To get the money to back the play, Danny had sold his bowling-alley club to Fargis, and Fargis had paid him $60,000 in cash — on Saturday afternoon. After the deal was done and witnessed, Danny was left with all that money on his hands, and no safe place to put it — except, of course, in Allie’s hospitable safe. Danny left the money in the safe. And on Tuesday the safe was empty. It was crude but effective: Danny couldn’t prove he’d ever left the money with Fargis.
The Army took Danny then, and he turned his back on Broadway for eight years. Now he was back. He automatically went to the bowling alley. It was nearly empty. No one noticed Danny — using his old key — enter Allie Fargis’ office.
It felt good to sit behind the luxurious desk. Suddenly the door opened and Allie came in with his hands full of money. He dropped it in shock when he saw Danny. It was a fantastic opportunity. Danny slugged Allie, counted out $60,000, wrapped the cash in a newspaper and walked out.
Now he was hot. Allie would send his muscle men after him. Danny first thought of getting out of New York as quickly as possible. But he was tired of being a rabbit. He put the money in a locker at the Pennsylvania Station, then took a cab. “Judson Theater,” he told the driver.
Caroline Shane was the star of the play at the Judson.
He sat in the darkness, in the eighth row, just off center, and he let his back and shoulders come to welcome rest against the soft plush of the seat. The curtain rose. The set was charming if not elaborate: the living room of a suburban house, with wide doors opening on a garden only suggested, and with high-wattage sunshine flooding into the room. A young woman made her entrance from the garden, and knowing members of the audience acknowledged her entrance with brief, discreet applause, seeking to commend and still not disturb the business onstage.
“Hello, darling,” Danny whispered the words. The make-believe reached out to him, not mocking him, really, but saying to him calmly enough, “Danny, you aimed too high.” Because if this was the Caroline Shane he’d known, it was also a lady whom time and talent and the love of David Bowen had fashioned to a womanly loveliness in excess of all he remembered or could possibly merit now. He didn’t belong in this league, he told himself, and he had no right to try to join it again. But when the show was over, he made no attempt to leave the neighborhood. He was in a kind of trance, punch-drunk with old affections stronger than himself. He remained in the shadows of an alley, waiting, and around midnight he saw her leaving the theater with David — the two walking together — and he followed, for the moment asking no more than to be near.
They walked across town, east of Sixth, to a restaurant — quiet, fairly fancy and expensive. Looking in from the street, like a kid at jellied apples, he could see them seated in a booth, a waiter taking their order. Shamelessly, but beyond their range of vision, he entered, himself, and was able to find a booth separated from theirs by a latticed partition. Through the tight latticework he could see only the glow of the lamp on their table, and once, he believed, when Caroline moved, the glint of her hair. He could hear them talking of random things — unimportant things, perhaps, to anyone but him.
“I should be home helping pop soak his feet, the poor lamb. His corns are hurting again, but you couldn’t get pop off the job without bombing the bus terminal… These tickets, David? Oh, these are sweepstakes tickets he bought me.”
He could hear the scratch of a match and see its gleam as David held it to a cigarette. Cheap compensations were here for the gathering: the smoke of the cigarette, for instance, rising above the booth for him to see.
The waiter came around to him. “A glass of beer,” he said softly — very softly. “Nothing to eat, no, thank you; just the beer.”
And Caroline’s voice again, “… How’s the new project, David?”
“It’s got lumps like pancake batter all through the first two acts,” said David.
“I don’t believe you, but you look tired. Possibly that’s the —”
“Nice an’ cozy, ain’t it?” another voice said. Sugarboy Spartano had managed to slide into the booth beside him, and in an easy, almost comradely way was reclaiming Allie Fargis’ automatic from Danny’s jacket pocket.
Danny offered no resistance. Another man sat opposite — a shorter, square built man.
Danny considered them without marked interest. “Quiet,” he whispered, because Caroline was talking again. He repeated the emphatic whisper, “Quiet, please,” to the square built one and they looked at him as though he were crazy, and in the situation, as it was, they were not very wrong.
“The dough, Mac,” Sugarboy said softly. “The yardage. The long green. Get it up.”
Danny placed a restraining hand on Sugarboy’s powerful wrist.
Caroline’s voice came to them, “Perhaps if you tacked the whole thing together first, so you could look at it more objectively, David. Let the first draft be as lumpy as —”
“Two more beers,” Sugarboy told the waiter.
“We’re wastin’ time,” the other man said.
Sugarboy shook his head. “The guy’s broad-crazy; a lot of ’em go this way.”
The waiter returned with the two beers, and Sugarboy and his companion drained the glasses swiftly. Sugarboy pressed the automatic rather affectionately in Danny’s ribs. “This is for dessert,” he said. “We go now.”
There was no peaceful alternative. They rose. The squat man led him firmly, if not too obviously, toward the door. Only at the door itself, with the two men close upon him, did Danny for some reason turn and look at the other row of booths, and then find Caroline’s soft, level glance locked suddenly with his own. A fractional moment, but there it was, her mouth falling open, words forming at her lips, but not forthcoming, and her face gone pale as the tablecloth, and then he was gone, though he would never, never forget it.
“So blow a hole in me,” Danny said.
“We want the dough.”
“You want it. I’ve got it. So what?”
He sounded a little bigger and tougher than he felt. They stood on Sixth Avenue, in the half-lighted entrance of a locked liquor store. He had the fair compensation of knowing that with people still on the streets, this was not the time or the place for a heedless use of firearms, and he had the key to Penn Station Locker No. D-324 somewhat uncomfortably in his shoe.
They frisked him with passing thoroughness. Sugarboy looked at his driver’s license and the car registration. “Daniel E. Meade, t’ree twenty-six Pearson Avenue. You been holin’ out in Ohio, huh?” Sugarboy then examined the ticket from the parking lot near New York’s 23rd Street, the time punched on the ticket. He gave this to the shorter man, whose name was, incredibly, Hubert.
“The jerk could of blown like a blue bird,” Hubert said, “with sixty grand. Instead he has to hang around to see his valentine.”
Hubert hit him then, brutally in the stomach, to intimidate him. Danny sucked breath against the pain and kneed the short man in the groin in swift reprisal, and then a cop came by, and they were quiet there, all three, with Hubert wearing the sickest smile you ever saw. And Danny could easily have called to the cop, but he did not. He was gagged and almost hypnotically lured by the gathering, growing pride of self that told him, however irrationally, that he could deal with these bums himself. As a kid growing up on the streets of New York he’d never acquired the habit of yelling “Cop!” Nor was he without considering that a day spent in jail or in a D.A.’s office would outlast the brief lease he held on Locker No. D-324.
Hubert watched him, the pain written clearly on Hubert’s face. “You don’t want cops, either, do you, mister?” But Hubert, for the moment, didn’t attempt to hit him again. “I’m gonna fix your trolley but good,” said Hubert, as though to regain self-stature. “I’m gonna crawl on my belly to Allie. I’m gonna say, ‘Allie, Allie, save that love-sick slob for me!”
“Tell me more, please.”
Contempt was the only luxury that Danny could afford. They walked along Sixth Avenue.
“The dough,” said Sugarboy. “Where is it?”
“In the five-and-dime window,” Danny said.
“He’s smart,” Hubert said. “He studied up on books how he could become the smartest corpse in the whole morgue. Well, you can’t get out of town, you hear? You’ve got till twelve o’clock tomorrow to get the dough. Meantime you don’t eat or sleep. Where you go, we go.”
“Like Baby and Bogie,” Sugarboy said. “Like love and kisses. Everybody all together, Hubert means.”
Danny stopped in the middle of the street. He had an idea Broadway would be safer than Sixth Avenue at this hour. More populated, anyhow. “Suppose we go talk with Allie, boys? Maybe Allie and I can come to some agreement about the money.”
“You kiddin’? Him do business with a punk like you?”
But they walked west to Broadway, anyhow, then south from 54th along the big street, quiet now but for the newsboys and the taxicabs. At 48th they turned again and approached the bowling club. Danny went willingly enough. Sugarboy Spartano opened the door and Hubert went in with Danny. Sugarboy, proud of a mission well done, then took Danny’s other arm.
“Who is givin’ away the bride?” said Hubert. “I’ll toss ya.”
Then Danny moved, as had been his intention, with sudden violence. The back-thrust of his body drew him free from their custody, and then the forward pressure of his strong arms pitched the two men down the stairs, their bodies tumbling, falling, crashing.
Danny ran with a purpose, and with a destination in mind. And when Hubert and Sugarboy, limping and hauling themselves, attained the street, there was no sign of him. Minutes later a huge storage-bound bus left the coast-to-coast bus depot, but that meant nothing in particular to them.
The bus pulled into a storage lot west of Tenth Avenue where others of the fleet stood, big as houses, in the dark. A man with a flashlight guided the big job in, his light a little foolish in the great glare of the headlights. The driver worked the bus into its designated place, then snapped off the lights. He got out, joining the other man, and Danny stayed where he was.
He slept a little on the wide rear seat, pulling his jacket more closely about himself, for it was chill in the April morning. Mostly he did not sleep, but lay there in the quiet, thinking, and hugging to himself as he had not in years the warm compensation of undiluted self-respect.
Three things he knew. He would not run away. He’d run the last time, but then because he couldn’t face the people he had failed so miserably, and because the Army was beckoning anyhow. The job in Ohio, and the one before that in Nevada, had been joyless. He believed he would rather be dead than back in the desert — and the desert, to him, was any place, anywhere more than fifty miles from New York. The other things he knew were that, win, lose or draw in his own affair with Allie Fargis, he’d allow himself the earned award of seeing Caroline — this, plus a knowledge of where his money would go, should Allie or Mlie’s assistants of a sudden dispatch him toward his heavenly reward. And if he couldn’t lose his money, he could lose no more than his skin. He slipped out of the bus when hands on the dashboard said it was six o’clock.
At Penn Station the locker opened with one easy twitch of the key. The money lay, newspaper-wrapped, exactly as he had tossed it in there, like twenty cents’ worth of bananas. He put the entire sum in a brown paper bag he had salvaged from a refuse can at the station’s upper level. He took it with him to a cavernous room marked GENTLEMEN, where he was able to rent for sixty cents a dressing room with shower. He borrowed a razor and a daub of brushless shave cream from an attendant. He gave the attendant two dollars and the suit he had slept in, with instructions to have the suit sponged and pressed. When he emerged at 8:30 he looked quite pretty and the station swarmed with commuters. He didn’t linger. By grace of the New York subway system he had breakfast in Brooklyn and lunch in the borough of Queens. He came back to Manhattan when he was ready.
“Stop here,” he told the driver of the cab.
It was not quite eight P. M. He was not impressed with the prudence or brightness of what he planned to do, but whatever happened, he’d consider it worth the cost. He stood in front of the bus depot.
“Hello, pop,” Danny said.
Patrick Shane turned slowly around. “The Lord have mercy on us,” Patrick Shane said softly. “It’s the bridegroom.”
“Just about eight years too late,” Danny said. “Look, pop; don’t ask me a lot of questions, please. Not now. Do what I ask you?”
“What’s this you’re handin’ me?”
“From the looks of it, pop, it’s a brown paper bag. I want you to put it away, in your office, maybe, or someplace safe, but strictly under lock and key. And listen to me… No; don’t argue. Listen. Thank you. Now, if you don’t hear from me by tomorrow, pop, whatever you find in this bag is a present for Caroline. Tell her it’s mine and that it was always mine. From me to her. With love, say, pop. Especially with love.”
Then he was gone.
Two minutes after eight. Forty-fifth Street now, and Broadway. This much he was entitled to, he tried to persuade himself. One look at her, anyhow. One look up close. Nothing silly, understand, or saccharine sweet, or bubbling over at the emotions. Just one little visit with Caroline before telling Allie and his muscular friends where all of them could go.
He knew there’d be someone hovering close to the stage door of the Judson. That was foregone, simple as daylight, and it happened to be Hubert. He came up behind him and stepped on his heels. “I’ll be a few minutes, Hubert; don’t go away.” He opened a door marked PRIVATE. No ADMITTANCE. He went inside, and the doorman wasn’t there. He bluffed his way past other people to the designated door.
He knocked gently, then heard her voice: “David? One second, please.” Then, after a moment, “Come in.”
He walked in slowly, closing the door behind him. He saw her face through a kind of mist. “It ain’t Hamlet, lady,” Danny said. “It ain’t even Milton Berle.”
But it didn’t seem as though she could speak. She walked toward him with small, deliberate steps, her eyes too full of her feelings, reaching with one hand, as though to touch him.
“Danny.” That was all at first. “Last night I was sure,” she said then. “Last night I was positive I’d seen you — that it had to be you. But then I told David it must have been an illusion or wishfulness, and we blamed it on my tiredness or — well, something like that, Danny.”
And she kept looking at him, withdrawing the hand that had almost touched him. She stood uncertain of herself, as though she were going to cry, her mouth trembling just a little bit, her white teeth clamping her lip. She wore a modest, simple dressing gown. Her hair was tumbled long and he could see the soft inviting lines of her throat, count the measured breaths she took.
“Where, Danny? Where have you been? And why so long?”
No act at all, and she frightened him. Just the look of her told him he shouldn’t have come here. Certainly not with Allie’s ax still hanging over his head. Her reaction to seeing him told him more than he had come prepared to learn — that only a decent and restraining pride was keeping her out of his arms. And she was too smart not to know that he must know this too.
“Yes, Danny; I guess I’m shameless.”
He held her then, close to him, his hands in the soft folds of her hair, and he floated with the myriad things he felt and could not understand or express or toss away.
“Look, Caroline, look.”
But she couldn’t look, and he couldn’t, either. He could only stay close to her this way and speak to her, telling her enough, but not too much. Telling her of old shame and the convenience of the Army as a hole to fall into all those years ago, and of Nevada and Ohio after that, and all the dead time since he’d seen her last. But not about Hubert, waiting outside. Not about Allie or Sugarboy or the money in the old brown paper bag.
“I know I shouldn’t have come here now, and I probably knew it before I came. I tell the biggest, most convincing lies to myself; the way, I suppose, a lot of people do, but that doesn’t make it right. I thought possibly you and David would be getting married, you see? Because — well, because you’re out of my class. You’re better people than I am, Caroline.”
“Are we, Danny? You’re sure? So very sure?” Now she looked at him. Now she watched him. “I was never engaged to David, Danny. I never accepted a ring from him. I never accepted a ring from anyone but a boy in Philadelphia. Like I said, I’m shameless and, Danny, I still have the ring.”
He didn’t say anything much. The door opened and a maid came in. The clock on her dressing table said 8:25 — fifteen minutes to curtain time. Caroline stood apart from him and not too daintily blew her nose. Her eyes were red.
“Excuse me if I behaved like an ass,” she said. “We’re not a family that breaks down lightly or often, Danny, so there must have been a reason. You’ll be back?”
“I think I’ll be back,” he said. “I think I’ll be back or else you’ll read about it in the papers.”
Outside the theater, Hubert fell in stride with him. Theater traffic filled the street. They walked together, wordless, with Danny taking one look at the tight-lipped, bunchy-muscled fool that walked beside him. How tough do they get? How tough can they get? While they walked he looked at his own square hands. He’d been able to use them all his life and might be able to use them again.
Allie Fargis opened the office door himself. “Welcome home,” he said, but it was not a jovial statement. Another man sat there, and Danny remembered him from an afternoon eight years before — Allie’s lawyer. Delaney, his name was. He sat tapping one foot, his hands folded neatly in his lap. Allie Fargis closed the door. Sugarboy Spartano and Hubert, like drilled apes, stood one at each side of the door.
“The money?” said Allie.
“I ate it,” Danny said.
Hubert’s hands opened and clenched at Danny’s remark. Sugarboy, towering with his own bulk, merely looked blank, the smoke of his cigarette trailing slowly past the dumb expression on his face. They were caricatures more than they were men. Stock types, Danny thought, but blubberheads, and a respectable director would fire them from a stage for overplaying their parts. Then Danny’s glance went back to Allie Fargis and to Delaney, the lawyer, his polished shoe still tapping the carpet, waiting. Two kinds of crooks, like two sides of a coin — the smart crooks and the meatballs, with the brains, of course, controlling the muscle.
“Why don’t you turn the dogs loose, Allie?”
“I don’t want your smart remarks. I want sixty thousand dollars.”
“How badly do you want it, Allie? Not badly enough for a murder here, do you? Nothing vulgar or violent with Mr. Delaney present. It could be embarrassing for him and bad for your business. Too many difficult situations and the crook could get disbarred. Right, Hubert? Sugarboy?”
They only glared at him and looked to Allie, for there are hierarchies in all affairs, political or criminal, he was beginning to understand. The meatballs serve, but they don’t intrude. They work in the alleys, but rarely in the parlors.
“Hubert, for instance,” Danny said. “I wonder now why I’ve been afraid of people like Hubert. After all, I threw him down the stairs last night, and I could probably do it again. Couldn’t I, Hubert?”
His voice had been rising and rising, and the sound of it, and the need to do something, made a kind of heady wine, so that suddenly he grasped Hubert by the shirt and defiantly slapped his face. Hubert’s hand reached back to a rear pocket and Danny punched him in the mouth. Hubert fell, and in falling reached again for the gun in his pocket. Allie Fargis leaped from his chair and took the gun from Hubert’s hand.
“He wouldn’t have used it, anyhow,” Danny said. “Not here.” He looked at Delaney, who had paled, and at Sugarboy, who, without command, had done exactly nothing.
“You know something, Allie?” Danny said. He spoke on a note of triumphant discovery. “I’m the only tough guy in the room.” He pressed a thumb against his own chest. “Me!” He sat down facing them all.
Delaney said to Allie Fargis, “You’re doin’ fine, aren’t you?”
Fargis licked dry lips. He tried again. “Look, mister,” he said to Danny, “you’re alive for one reason. I don’t want your hide. I couldn’t sell it for a dime. I want the money. I need the money. I have to —”
Allie stopped. He’d talked too much. The sweat was on his head like dew on a melon. He looked again to Delaney, but Delaney only shrugged.
Delaney said calmly enough, “Call Sam. Tell him you need more time.”
“I don’t have to call him,” Allie said. He looked at the clock on his desk. “Sam’ll be here any minute.”
“This thing’s improving all the time,” Danny said. Who’s Sam?”
“Sam, if you’ve got to know,” said Allie, “only happens to be the party whose money you’ve got. It wasn’t mine. It was his. Think that over. Chew it a while. Put it on the record player so you can learn it real good. Sam … is … Sam Friede!”
“So I’m dead and buried?”
“Without that money, you fool, you’re the deadest duck in New York.”
Danny sought to look unimpressed. “I should jump through a window?”
“You’ll jump through more’n a window, you fresh punk!” Allie was screaming now, naked without the cloak of poise he always wore. “You’ll jump! I’ll jump! The whole damned town’ll jump! You hear me!”
And he wasn’t fooling, Danny could tell. Delaney said, “Easy; take it easy.” Delaney was tapping that foot again. Delaney was seeking to think calmly, as one who can afford to think calmly, as though his own neck would not be in the noose of Sam Friede’s disapproval.
When the door was opened, you could see that Sam Friede was a man built in proportion to his reputation. He was Gargantuan, with a cherubic face just a bit too wise. He looked like a blown-up angel who had swapped his halo for a bag of gold. Danny had never seen him before, but had many times heard of him: Sam Friede, the alleged lord of more rackets than a dollar has nickels or dimes. Sugarboy Spartano, after opening the door, had leaped out of the way, like a sore-covered beggar from the petal-strewn path of a king.
And now Danny had the feeling that he couldn’t win. It was like a hurdle race where they kept increasing the height of obstacles to be cleared until you finally fell on your nose. There was no sign of pity, fear or compromise in Sam Friede’s face. Just the small bright eyes in the swollen mass of his features, and the little ears clamped tightly against his head.
This enormous man looked carefully about — at Allie Fargis, at Delaney, at the abused and disarrayed spectacle of Hubert, then, most carefully, at Danny.
“You must have had the wrong boy on your carpet,” Sam Friede said finally to Allie. “You got that money?”
“Look, Sam,” Mile began. “It may take a little time. I told you about this lunatic, didn’t I?”
“You told me, Allie, but maybe you didn’t tell me enough.”
Sam Friede moved carefully around Danny, his small eyes appraising, yet revealing no clue to the final assessment. He resembled a reconnoitering tank. His massive hands, like baseball mitts, were playfully tapping his chest. You had a feeling this fabulous flesh could move with a speed not at first suspected, and that, if he chose, Sam Friede could break you like a dry stick. You stood there matching glances with this man, the while your hopes descended.
“Well?” Danny said.
The puffed face was inscrutable, but Danny thought he saw a glint appear in Sam Friede’s eyes. He didn’t know for sure. He merely stood his ground, ready to fold his fists and throw them if he had to. But Sam Friede merely shrugged. He sat down, choosing a straight-backed chair, so that his flesh, unimpeded, could overflow the sides of the chair. He looked once again at Hubert, then back to Allie.
“Let’s get this straight, you brain bomb,” Sam Friede said. “This boy took the money from you? A fresh nobody, a punk; he came in here, slapped you silly, then took it away? Now tell me more.”
Allie looked helpless. “Well, the guy … he won’t get it up!”
This did not impress Sam Friede. He regarded Allie with obvious contempt.
“You mean that this is no Boy Scout, as you thought? This is a grown man?”
“He’s crazy,” Allie said. “Like I was trying to tell you, Sam.”
“Well, please don’t bother telling me, because I’m going to tell you something. Whether this kid gets up the dough or not,” Sam Friede said, “isn’t my responsibility. He doesn’t owe me anything. You do.”
“But, Sam, look at it this way: I had the money in my hands. I was here last night — a little earlier than now, it was. And then, like I explained.”
“Shut up!” Sam Friede said.
That was really all he had to say, and Danny could understand the nature of their relationship. The big fish eats the middle-sized fish, and the middle-sized fish eats the sardines. It all seemed very clear to him now, except that Sugarboy Spartano, standing there, looked like the biggest sardine Danny had ever seen.
Sam Friede then voiced what seemed a simple and practical idea, “If you can’t handle this kid, Allie — you or the slobs that work for you — why don’t you sell him back the bowling alleys you beat him out of in the first place?”
Allie’s mouth fell open, and Danny was not, himself, quite sure that he had heard Sam Friede correctly.
“I talk very plain English,” Sam said, “like I went to a college maybe but not for too long. You been blabbin’ around town for years about how you stuck a dumb kid for that dough, an’ there’s not much of that kind of talk that don’t come back to me. You got great charm an’ a loose trap, Allie, an’ I kind of like this kid.”
“But, listen, Sam. Be reasonable.”
“You listen, you chickenhearted chump. Every time this kid bumps into you he belts your brains out, don’t he? Why, you can’t even pertect yourself.” Then Sam Friede turned to Danny. “For sixty thousand bucks, kid, I give you my personal guarantee you can buy this place as nice an’ legal as a box o’ chocolate candy. We got a lawyer here, already. He’s a crook, like you know, but it won’t show on the bill o’ sale.” Sam Friede seemed to find it highly amusing. He had the bold expansiveness of one who is bound to get paid one way or the other. “You can get a notary from the cigar store on the corner for half a buck, kid I’ll pay the half a buck — an’ we can all get on with our business. How about it?”
Danny sat there, gaping at the grinning ogre before him, realizing that the big man wasn’t fooling. The happiness rose and almost choked him.
“You can get the dough, can’t you?” Sam Friede said.
Danny said, “Gimme the phone book.” He picked it off Allie’s desk. He dialed the number swiftly. “Hello? … Hello? I’d like to speak with Mr. Patrick Shane.”
Then he sat back, looking with weird delight at Allie and Hubert and Sugarboy.
“Lo, pop?… No, pop; this is not Pretty Boy Floyd. It’s me; a friend of your daughter’s… Now, look…”
A few minutes later, Patrick Shane, flanked by two witnesses from the bus depot, and carrying in his hands with loving care an old brown paper bag, was a beautiful sight to see. The notary public came from the cigar store on the corner, and Sam Friede magnanimously shot the works; he gave the man a dollar.
“You know, I like you, kid,” Sam said to Danny. “Just like I said before. You an’ I could do business together. It would be a pleasure all around. You got nerve. You got class.”
“That’s right, Sam,” Danny said, “and I’ve got a wonderful chance of staying out of jail the way I am.”
“I don’t getcha, kid.”
Danny looked at the big man so there would be no misunderstanding. He pointed to the door leading into the “supply” room.
“First thing tomorrow,” he said pleasantly, “the crap game, or whatever they’ve got in there, goes out with the empty bottles. Do I make that clear? Otherwise, Sam, you’re a charming fellow, too, and you’re invited to dance with Allie at the wedding.”
It was later. It was midnight. And all about him the Broadway lights blazed in a manner not permitted in the wartime year of his departure. The lights that spelled the names of chewing gums and coffee brands and cigarettes and motorcars seemed all to be spelling out for Danny, “Welcome Home!”
“All right,” he said, “I’m a sentimental jerk,” because his eyes were misty with the scene.
But the pressure of the girl’s hand on his own hand told him that she didn’t mind too much. She walked with one arm linked in his — hatless, as on the night he had seen her for the first time, long ago.
“Sentiment’s a nice thing, Danny. Sometimes it sticks like a marshmallow sundae, but it’s hard to do without.”
An April moon hung like a jack-o’-lantern over the town. Caroline’s hand turned slowly on top of his and the solitaire blinked like a headlight.
“Of course, we may have to hock it someday,” Danny said.
“So maybe we will,” she said, and they went on together. “So maybe we will … and who cares?”
Featured image: Illustration by Geoffrey Biggs
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