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McBain, Ed [aka Evan Hunter] - [SS] Running From Legs [v1 0]

McBain, Ed [aka Evan Hunter] - [SS] Running From Legs [v1 0]

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Published by: toubib on Jun 04, 2008
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10/07/2012

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Running From Legs
By Ed McBain [aka Evan Hunter]
Scanned & Proofed By MadMaxAU
* * * *
Mahogany and brass.Burnished and polished and gleaming under the green-shadedlights over the bar where men and women alike sat on padded stools anddrank. Women, yes. In a saloon, yes, sitting at the bar, and sitting in the black leather booths that lined the dimly lighted room. Women. Drinkingalcohol. Discreetly, to be sure, for booze and speakeasies were against thelaw. Before Prohibition, you rarely saw a woman drinking in a saloon. Now you saw them in speakeasies all over the city. Where once there had been fifteen thousand bars, there were now thirty-two thousandspeakeasies. The Prohibitionists hadn’t expected these side effects of theEighteenth Amendment.The speakeasy was called the Brothers Three, named after BrunoTataglia and his brothers Angelo and Mickey. It was located just off ThirdAvenue on 87th Street, in a part of the city named Yorkville after theDuke of York. We were here celebrating. My grandmother owned a chainof lingerie shops she called “Scanties,” and today had been the grandopening of the third one. Her boyfriend Vinnie was with us, and so wasDominique Lefevre, who worked for her in the second of her shops, theone on Lexington Avenue. My parents would have been here, too, butthey’d been killed in an automobile accident while I was overseas.In the other room, the band was playing “Ja-Da,” a tune from thewar years. We were all drinking from coffee cups. In the coffee cups wassomething very brown and very vile tasting, but it was not coffee.Dominique was smiling.It occurred to me that perhaps she was smiling at me.Dominique was twenty-eight years old, a beautiful, dark-haired,dark-eyed woman, tall and slender and utterly desirable. A native of 
 
France, she had come to America as a widow shortly after the war ended;her husband had been killed three days before the guns went silent. Oneday, alone with her in my grandmother’s shop—Dominique was foldingsilk panties, I was sitting on a stool in front of the counter, watching her  —she told me she despaired of ever finding another man as wonderful asher husband had been. “I ‘ave been spoil’,
n’est-ce pas?”
she said. Iadored her French accent. I told her that I, too, had suffered losses in mylife. And so, like cautious strangers fearful of allowing even our 
 glances
to meet, we’d skirted the possibilities inherent in our chance proximity.But now—her smile.The Brothers Three was very crowded tonight. Lots of smoke andlaughter and the sound of a four-piece band coming from the other room.Piano, drums, alto saxophone, and trumpet. There was a dance floor inthe other room. I wondered if I should ask Dominique to dance. I hadnever danced with her. I tried to remember when last I’d danced withanyone.I’d been limping, yes. And a French girl whispered in my ear—thiswas after I’d got out of the hospital, it was shortly after the armistice wassigned—a French girl whispered to me in Paris that she found a man witha slight limp very sexy.
“Je trouve tres seduisante,”
she said,
“uneclaudication legere.”
She had nice
 poitrines,
 but I’m not sure I believedher. I think she was just being kind to an American doughboy who’d gotshot in the foot during the fighting around the Bois des Loges on a badday in November. I found that somewhat humiliating, getting shot in thefoot. It did not seem very heroic, getting shot in the foot. I no longer limped, but I still had the feeling that some people thought I’d shot
myself 
in
 
the goddamn foot. To get out of the 78th Division or something. As if such a thought had ever crossed my mind.Dominique kept smiling at me.Boozily.I figured she’d had too much coffee.She was wearing basic black tonight. A simple black satin, narrowin silhouette, bare of back, its neckline square and adorned with pearls, itswaistline low, its hemline falling to mid-thigh where a three-inch expanseof white flesh separated the dress from the rolled tops of her blond silk stockings. She was smoking. As were Vinnie and my grandmother.
 
Smoking had something to do with drinking. If you drank, you smoked.That seemed to be the way it worked.Dominique kept drinking and smoking and smiling at me.I smiled back.My grandmother ordered another round.She was drinking Manhattans. Dominique was drinking Martinis.Vinnie was drinking something called a Between the Sheets, which wasone-third brandy, one-third Cointreau, one-third rum, and a dash of lemon juice. I was drinking a Bosom Caresser. These were all cocktails, anAmerican word made popular when drinking became illegal. Cocktails.In the other room, a double paradiddle and a solid bass drum shotended the song. There was a pattering of applause, a slight expectant pause, and then the alto saxophone soared into the opening riff of a slow,sad, and bluesy rendition of “Who’s Sorry Now?”“Richard?” Dominique said, and raised one eyebrow. “Aren’t yougoing to ask me to dance?”She was easily the most beautiful woman in the room. Eyes linedwith black mascara, lips and cheeks painted the color of all those poppiesI’d seen growing in fields across the length and breadth of France. Her dark hair bobbed in a shingle cut, the scent of mimosa wafting across thetable.“Richard?”Her voice a caress.Alto saxophone calling mournfully from the next room.Smoke swirling like fog coming in off the docks on the day welanded over there. We were back now because it was
over 
over there. AndI no longer limped. And Dominique was asking me to dance.“Go dance with her,” my grandmother said.“Yes, come,” Dominique said, and put out her cigarette. Rising, shemoved out of the booth past my grandmother, who rescued her Manhattan

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