No Good Men
Thea McAlistair © 2019
All Rights Reserved
Mob money could buy a lot, but apparently it couldn’t buy taste. Every
single architectural detail of the Ostia struck me as garish: from the
chandeliers dripping crystals to the thick wooden accent panels to the
gold-painted cherubs carved into the tops of the columns. But my opinion didn’t
matter; I was just hired muscle.
The club had opened the previous December—about two seconds after booze
turned legal again—and attracted all sorts of upper-class clientele, including
my boss, Mayor Roy Carlisle. They called him the White Knight of Westwick, and
he ran on the rather ironic platform of driving various ne’er-do-wells out of
the city. But again, not my business. My job was to hover just behind him in
case something terrible happened. Nothing ever happened though, no crazed
attackers or falling pianos. The worst crisis I’d run into in the ten or so
months I’d been working for him was a freak rainstorm at a garden party, and I
had to hold my jacket over his wife Emma’s head to protect her hair.
Still, it was a dollar a night to stand around, and that was more than other
people were getting. The Depression had wiped everyone out, including me. If I
hadn’t taken up bodyguarding, I would’ve been thrown out of my room in the
boardinghouse faster than I could say eviction. Writing pulp stories wasn’t a
lucrative day job, and even less so at the beginning of a career.
Which was why, despite my thoughts on the decor, I was pleased to be at the
Ostia. Everyone said they had the best acts in town, and I couldn’t disagree.
That night they opened with a pretty, button-nosed redhead. She was French, or
at least she had a good enough grip of the language to sing in it. I didn’t
know what she was singing about, but it sounded sultry enough as she made eyes
at our table.
Carlisle lapped it up, ignorant or indifferent to Emma turning bright pink
beside him. She didn’t say anything though. Maybe she’d taken a lesson from
other political wives and learned to swallow her pride or risk becoming
divorced and destitute. Not that she didn’t deserve to be proud. She was still
pretty at thirty-five—ten years Carlisle’s junior—blonde and delicate with huge
She must have gotten her looks from her mother, because her father had the
smashed face of a bulldog and towered over even my own six feet. Seated to his
daughter’s left that night, Marc Logan also stewed in silence, his hand
alternately crumpling the napkins and patting Emma reassuringly on the knee.
His own blue eyes, the haunting color of old ice, bored a hole into the side of
Their dinner guest for the evening, Mrs. Green, likewise noticed his glare
and apparently decided the best course of action was distraction. “Emma dear,
did you see what Miss Kepler was wearing the other night at the Peterson soiree?”
she tittered as she coiled the chain for her hanging glasses around a finger.
“Hmm?” Emma turned her head just enough to keep her husband in her
peripheral vision. “I’m sorry; what were you saying about the Kepler girl?”
“Her dress!” exclaimed Mrs. Green. “It was scandalous! So low-cut. Anyone
would have thought she was selling herself. Her father should never have let
her out of the house like that. Don’t you agree, Mr. Logan?”
Logan blinked slowly, no doubt trying to come to terms with the dullness of
a conversation centered on someone else’s clothing. “While I have to agree that
she was… improperly dressed for the occasion, it is quite difficult for a man
to say no to his daughter once she’s gotten her mind wrapped around something.”
He glanced at Emma, who smiled weakly.
Mrs. Green continued along the thread of scandalous attire, but I let my
attention slip back to Carlisle. Oblivious to the rest of his table, he
continued to stare at the French singer. While such behavior wasn’t unusual for
him, that night it was so obvious that even I was becoming uncomfortable. I
glanced at my watch and suppressed a groan. It was only half-past ten. Donnie
wouldn’t be around for another hour and a half.
“Are you feeling all right, Mr. Dawson?”
My attention snapped to Emma. “Yes, ma’am,” I answered, hoping she hadn’t
noticed my boredom.
Her mouth quirked like she was in on some joke I didn’t know the punchline
to, but she said nothing else. Instead she turned to her father, placed a hand
on his shoulder, and whispered something in his ear. He grunted in response.
Carlisle didn’t notice the exchange, or maybe didn’t care. Mrs. Green kept
The song stopped, and the French girl took a bow. We all clapped, Carlisle
too enthusiastically, and Emma barely at all. The girl swept off the stage to a
table off the wing for a break, and she was replaced by a dark-haired woman
with too much makeup. The new woman sang with a rough alto voice, occasionally
throwing appraising looks at Carlisle, though he didn’t return them. Once the
French girl left, his attention had returned to the food. The rest of the table
did the same.
With my charges occupied, I took the chance to look over the room again.
Nothing out of the ordinary. Diners, waiters, a glossy bar at the back. The
maître-de waving through a man who had just entered… I realized I knew the man
weaving his way between tables. Donnie was terribly noticeable with a thick,
out-of-fashion beard and pocket-watch chain draped across his waistcoat. I
looked at my own watch again. It was only eleven.