O’Malley’s was quiet for a late afternoon, the regular crowd had not shuffled in. That’s cause there was no piano man. Ha!
Actually, I wanted it quiet. Bartender Stuffy O’Hearn, an old pal of mine, kept my pints and fish-flavored cheese snacks coming. There wasn’t much I could do about Honey without shaking down Wabo’s crew. But I had to be smart about that, or someone was likely to get hurt. Most likely, me. An episode of “Too Cute” played on the television behind the bar.
I knew my solitude was coming to an end when I saw Stuff’s eyes grow larger and he took a step back from the carved mahogany bar. Under his breath I heard him say “I gotta piece under the bar, if ya need backup.” I shook my head. I was a regular and I didn’t need to cause a scene or wreck the place, if I could avoid it. I glanced into the corner mirror and spied three menacing figures approaching. Looked like I didn’t have to track down Wabo’s crew after all. But there were three of them and one of me. I could have taken Orangey or Sattar, and maybe even both at the same time, but the third cat was a bruiser. He was a Siberian Forest Cat. He had beautiful markings, I must admit, but he was also huge. I’d dated a few females of the breed, and I’ve got to tell you, they can wear you out. Anyway, he didn’t look all that smart, but it didn’t take much to set them off, so I knew I better play it cool.
“Well, if it ain’t our favorite fly in the ointment.”
“And who might you be?” I said to the orange tabby, with a “Hello Kitty” bandage on his clipped ear.
“Yuwse knows who I is, but you might not know the name. Every calls me Flame.”
I thought about snuffing him right there, but my cooler nature held. “And who are your friends?”
“I’m Sattar. And we are getting somewhat irritated with your recent meddling into our business. Not sure about your relationship with a certain moll we know, but we want it to stop. Immediately.” The Hulk just grunted. “And this is Igor. He a trained ex-Russian trooper, so don’t get smart with us.”
“I’ll try to keep it on a kindergarten level for his benefit.” Igor’s eyes scrunched and his ears twitched, and I realized he wasn’t so dumb that he didn’t recognize an insult. “Let’s keep this civilized, shall we? This is a nice family bar and I don’t see any reason to mess up the day of others.”
Flame still looked like he wanted to mess it up. But the leader was clearly Sattar, and when he nodded they both took a step back.
“Listen, Duff. We know who you are and what you do. You’ve got a reputation as a smart cat and a tough adversary. I respect that. But our boss wants what he wants and he’s going to get it. And you aren’t going to stand in our way. “
“What is it you are seeking?”
A wry smile crossed his face and his whiskers shimmered. “If you truly don’t know, I’m not telling. I’m sure your fancy-pants bimbo spilled the beans though. I thought you might want to duke it out with us right here. A little taste of honey make you soft?” The fur on my back started stiffening in irritation as they dissed Honey.
I gritted my teeth. Their time would come. “Is she ok?”
“How should I know.” A sinister glint flashed in his eye and his grin grew just a tad more menacing. Somehow I knew that she hadn’t told them anything yet. Despite their being gangsters, they usually didn’t rough up dames. They might kill, but seldom cathandled the ladies.
“If anything happens, you are going to pay,” I hissed.
That was the first and only time I saw Igor smile. He was going to be a pawfull.
Sattar, dark face and deep blue oriental eyes, set in sharp angles, took back the floor. “Tell you what, smart guy. If you figure out what’s missing and find it, we’d be willing to trade. You might find a little sweetie released, might even make a few extra clams. But if you interfere, there will be consequences. I can assure you that. You know where to find us.” With that he turned on his haunches and marched out the door, followed by his sidekicks. An audible sigh could be heard from O’Hearn.
“What was that all about, Duff? I thought for sure those rummies were coming for blood.”
“Naw. They are basically muscle, not calling the shots. It could have got ugly if I pushed it, but didn’t want you or your customers hurt. I need to track something down, but I don’t know what to do.” I told him an abridged version of my dilemma.
After a few minutes, and serving a few mojitos to the cuties at the end of the bar (who I was sure were checking me out), O’Hearn threw his bar rag over his should and said, “Well. You have more information than you did at the start. I say you revisit the place you started and see if any of the knowledge reveals something you might have overlooked not having known it in the first time.”
“Wow, that is really sage advice.” I jumped off the stool and reached for my wallet, but O’Hearn raised is paw and said, “It’s ok. On the house. Thanks for keeping things cool there.”
[Join us tomorrow as we continue The Adventures of Duffy
Dean, Detective on this radio channel.]