I knew I was lit when I cracked my eyes. Me, Steve Shamus, private eye, lit to the gills on giggle juice. No... I actually was lit, like I was caught in the high beams of every Buick driven by every two-bit mug in H-burg. How those Buicks got in my fifth floor office I don't know. But no, it was just one light: a chrome Rayovac, slender fingers grasping it lovingly. I thought about something else I'd like to have grasped like that. The ceiling bulb flickered on; a hand was on the light switch and another held a .38 aimed at my ticker. Yeah, I know - that's three hands. But that's what I liked about Bonnie the Hat: she was different.
She was the canary who sang in cheap dives for tips, shots and butts. Slip her a pack of Luckies and it'd be "Is You Is or Is You Ain't My Baby" until your ears bled. But the doll was a looker, and so she did, glomming me then shooting me that smile; suddenly a million violins exploded in my head. No... I'd left the radio on.
"Hand over the jack, gumshoe," she snarled.
"It's Steve, not Jack," I reminded her. How could she forget, after that night in the alley with the handcuffs, nylons and whipped cream? That reminded me to get myself a new pair; I always got a run in them after the rough stuff.
"Cut the gab and make with the cabbage," she hissed. "Toss me the lettuce."
I was onto her game and let her know it. "Sorry sweetheart, your salad days are over." A quick slug in my kisser with the butt end of her .38 left me with two less teeth but hope in my heart; maybe she remembered that night in the alley after all.
Then the world turned upside down; the door burst open and like the morning after a twelve tamale dinner in a cheap Mexican restaurant he showed up in my life again: Shades Blanchard.
He was the only guy I knew who, instead of sunglasses, wore miniature window shades. He pulled the cords and they rolled up neatly above his monobrow, revealing two shiners. "Shades," I said, "What happened?"
"Walked into a door," he claimed.
"It was French doors. Who's the dame?"
"I'm Bonnie the Hat," Bonnie the Hat said.
"How come you ain't wearin' no hat?" Shades asked her.
"None a yer beeswax," Bonnie the Hat told him. She turned back to me and said, "Last chance, dick, hand over the cabbage or I plug the both of youse."
I tossed it over. She put it on and said, "Thank God. I feel naked without a hat, and mine's in the dry cleaners."
Opening: Paul Penna....Continuation: Evil Editor