Heels Are For Hating and Other Stories
Click on image to enlarge.
by Fletcher Flora
Description: Jackie Brand is a small-time middleweight boxing professional just barely trying to make ends meet. The week before a fight with one of Jay Paley's boys, he comes home to his wife Peg daydreaming again about her much-coveted motor court out on Highway 66, and guiltily he goes out to have a drink. At the bar, he is met by the competition's manager, and the latter makes a proposal: lose the fight and get paid ten thousand dollars. The amount would actually cover the downpayment for Peg's house, so Jackie decides to accept the offer. But what price will it cost him? Also includes the stories: SHE ASKED FOR IT, POINTS SOUTH
Fletcher Flora (1914-1968) wrote various "sensational" stories during the 40's and 50's. Flora started writing right at the end of the pulp era, for magazines like 'Dime Detective'. Then he moved on to do some 60 stories for the digests (Pursuit, EQMM, Suspect, etc). His mystery output includes over sixty short stories and sixteen novels. The Hot Shot and Strange Sisters are among his credits.
eBook Publisher: Wonder Audiobooks, LLC/Wonder eBooks,
eBookwise Release Date: February 2010
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [101 KB]
Reading time: 66-93 min.
About a week before the date of his fight with Emmet Darcy, Jackie Brand went home one evening to find his wife Peg at the kitchen table with a pencil in her hand and a big sheet of paper covered with figures in front of her. Peg was a little gal, maybe five-one in heels and about ninety pounds sopping wet, but every inch and every pound collaborated to produce a quality product. Her hair was pale gold, almost white, and it had the same soft glow that got into her eyes when she was excited about something.
When Jackie came in, Peg looked up at him and said, "I drove out on Highway 66 today. That little motor court is still for sale. I talked to the owner."
"How much?" Jackie asked.
"Twenty-five thousand. Ten would finance it."
"How much we got in the bank?"
"About a G."
"Okay, a grand. My guarantee for the Darcy brawl is five more. Expenses will whittle that. You see, baby?"
She crumpled the paper up into a little ball. "Sure, Jackie, I see. I was just passing the time, anyhow. I'd better fix you something to eat."
That's the way she was. Never any bellyaches, even though she'd learned quite a while ago that she and Jackie weren't going much of any place. Jackie was a pretty fair middleweight, as middleweights go, but pretty fair isn't good enough. Pretty fair means you're just there for the really good boys to knock over on the way up. In the meantime, you earn a living. You hang around on the edge of Big Time, and you earn a living.
The longer Jackie looked at Peg that night, the worse he felt. After supper, he couldn't stand it any longer, so he got up and said he was going for a walk. He decided a beer might make him feel better, and he went down the street a few blocks to Happy Sam's Bar and Grill. Happy Sam's was a place where a lot of minor sports characters hung out, and when Jackie went in, there was Benny Lester, Emmet Darcy's manager, sitting at a table with a bottle of Blatz. He lifted a thumb, and Jackie went back.
"Hi, Jackie," he said. "Sit down and have a brew."
Jackie sat down, and Happy Sam carried another Blatz over from the bar. Benny sat watching Jackie until he'd had a couple of big swallows from the bottle. Benny was a guy who could bide his time, like a spider in a web. He even looked like a spider. Thin and gray, with a wizened face.
"I been thinking about your match with Emmet," Benny said. "The kid's a comer, but he's green. He needs experience. You been around a long time, Jackie. You know the tricks, and you got a good right. It's mostly that right that worries me. Green as the kid is, he might walk into it."
"Maybe I'm supposed to send flowers," Jackie said.
Benny killed his Blatz and wiped his mouth with the back of a dry hand, looking into the empty bottle as if he'd lost something there. "Time comes when a guy ought to check out, Jackie. It doesn't pay to hang around after hours. A guy can quit and get into something soft if he's got a bundle."
"What's a bundle?"
"Ten grand, maybe."
Jackie laughed. "You got ten grand to spend?"
Benny lifted his shoulders. "Not me, Jackie. There's a guy interested who spends ten grand like nothing. In an investment like this, he wouldn't even think twice."
Jackie thought of Peg and the way she was quietly breaking up inside with the wanting of something she couldn't have. A little motor court. A stinking little outfit out on 66. It wasn't much to ask, after the years she'd given. Add ten grand to the five grand guarantee, it made a lot of things possible.
Jackie finished his beer. "Talk's cheap," he said. "Talk's not worth ten grand. Not your kind, anyhow."
Benny leaned forward, his gray little face quiet and closed. "How about Jay Paley? You figure his talk might be worth ten grand?"
Jackie traced the outline of the empty Blatz bottle with the tips of his blunt fingers. He wished there was something left in it. A lot better if it were something stronger than five per cent. The name of Jay Paley was enough to make a guy want a quick shot. In its way, it was a name like Emmet Darcy. They were both supposed to be on the way up. In different rackets, though. In Jay Paley's racket, there wasn't any breather between rounds, and the only rules were the ones that were made to break. A pretty important guy, Jay Paley. He'd even been on television with some senators and other guys. He'd had a kind of minor part, really, but he'd been there just the same.
"What makes Paley interested?" Jackie asked.
Benny sat back with a thin, dry smile that managed by a physical paradox to look oily. "Come off, Jackie. Who you think owns Darcy?"
"Word is, you do."
"Don't be silly. Darcy's valuable property. I couldn't buy a couple of his left hooks."
Jackie took a deep breath that burned in his lungs like the ones he usually started drawing around the sixth. "You tell Paley he can see me if he wants."
Benny's thin smile cracked open, permitting an escape of beery air. "You're getting sillier, Jackie. Jay Paley doesn't come see people. People go see him. If you're ready to go, I might be able to find him."
Jackie started to think again about Peg and the place on 66 and fifteen grand minus expenses. And it seemed to him, sitting there over an empty beer bottle, that Benny's gray little weasel face dried up completely and blew away, and in its place was Peg's, the eyes trying to hide their hurt and hunger behind a kind of gallant, small-girl smile. Peg, who asked for so little and got such a hell of a lot less. Peg, who was married to a big stumble bum who tried and tried his level best, God knew, but whose best was never good for more than peanuts here and there. Peg, Peg, Peg. The name was like a crying inside him, and all at once he was standing up.
"I'm ready," he said.
On the way out, he glanced into the mirror behind the bar, and there was a pair of snotty eyes popping out of the glass at him. They belonged to Spud Perkins, who was hunched like a toad on a stool at the bar. He didn't turn to face Jackie. He didn't make any kind of sign.
Spud was a flabby little guy with eyes that were popped half out of his head by an overtime thyroid. His throat was scarred and sunken where a goiter had been removed. He was Jackie's manager all the years Jackie was in the fight game. He always took good care of Jackie, and he was always strictly honest. Jackie hated him. He hated his guts.
Maybe it was because those popped eyes were always snotty with cold contempt. Maybe it was because Spud always wrapped a sneer around a ten-cent cigar. Or maybe it was because he always said what he thought, and most of what he thought was nasty with the same contempt you could see in his eyes.
Like in the dressing room after the fight in which Jackie upset Joe Donny with a ninth round kayo. When everyone had gone but Spud and Jackie, Spud rolled his cigar to one side of his sneer and said, "So you won. You won because the guy got sloppy and left an opening you could've thrown a chair through. You took a hell of a beating for eight rounds just hanging on for a chance to throw the sleeper. You're a catcher, boy. You take six to heave one. Pretty soon you'll be punch-drunk. You'll be a bum. You'd better quit."
Jackie had cocked the right that had smeared Donny and measured the blur that was Spud's face. Spud hadn't moved an inch, and the fist had dropped.
"Look," Jackie had said. "I'll take the punches. You just match the fights."
Spud had shrugged. "I saw Benny Lester in the hall. He wants you for Emmet Darcy. He thinks a Brand-Darcy match will be a step along for his boy."
"That's what Donny's manager thought. You get me Darcy."
Spud had shrugged again and turned away. "I'll get him," he'd said.
And so he'd made the match, the one that Jackie was putting on the market, and now Jackie held his eyes in the mirror for a second and then went on out with Benny. On the street, they legged it a block to Benny's parked Olds and took a short ride across town to Eddie Malaca's Elite Billiard Parlor. They went in past a crowd of fringe characters playing rotation and snooker and into a back room. Jay Paley, the big guy around Eddie Malaca's, was sitting at a round table in a corner with a handful of pasteboards. His little eyes took time to mark the approach of Benny and Jackie and then returned to the consideration of a club flush. He backed the flush and won, teetering back in his chair with smug complacency.
"Something on your mind, Benny?"
"I've brought Jackie Brand around. He thought you might be interested in buying some insurance."
The little eyes flicked over Jackie as if he were another flush. "You selling insurance, Jackie?"
"Just big policies. Nothing less than ten grand."
Paley laughed and rocked his chair down. Standing, he strolled across the room and dropped at a vacant table. Benny prodded Jackie into motion, and they followed after.
"Sit down, Jackie," Paley said. "What kind of policy you got?"
Jackie remained standing. "Ten grand in advance and you name the round."
Paley's little eyes were twin points of glittering light. "Ten grand's a lot of lettuce, Jackie, even to a guy like me. I expect my money's worth. If I don't get it, you better invest the ten in a policy of your own."
"I'll deliver. You just name the round."
"The seventh ought to do. Not too soon. We'll want to give the customers something."
"Okay. The seventh. Now I'd like to see the ten G's."
"You'll see the ten, all right. You think I carry a bundle like that in my pocket? I'll send someone around to Lefty Jordan's Gym tomorrow. How about three o'clock?"
"Three's as good a time as any. I'll be in the dressing room."
Jackie turned and looked at Benny, and he could see the contempt was already in Benny's eyes.
"I'm sticking around for awhile," Benny said. "Grab a cab."