The Ghost and the Femme Fatale
attached to the body he’d had in life. A gray fedora sat on his sandy hair; a double- breasted suit was attractively tailored to his broad shoulders and narrow waist; and despite his menacing iron jaw and the ominous dagger-shaped scar on his square, flat chin, he wore an openly bemused expression.
    “Ava wore that little number in Sing apore . I saw it last year at the Mayfair—or half of it anyway, before my mark took a powder.”
    “Ava Gardne r ?” I looked down at my gown again and frowned. “Did she have an acre of cleavage showing, too?”
    “Yeah,” said Jack. Then his granite- colored eyes took me in from my painted toenails to my upswept hair. With a single finger, he pushed back the front brim of his fedora and gave me a little smile. “But I prefer redheads.”
    I touched the back of my own shoulder-length auburn hair, now gathered into some kind of twist. I felt old- fashioned bobby pins holding it in place. I also realized that I wasn’t wearing my black- framed glasses. I blinked, trying to discern whether my contacts were in. I didn’t feel those, either, yet I could see just fine.
    “What’s this all about? I was trying to talk to you about Hedda Geist and what you implied about—”
    “I know. Come on,” he said, taking my elbow, none too gently, and hustling me along the sidewalk.
    “Easy! Not so fast! I can hardly walk in these torture devices!”
    Jack barely slowed. “They’re part of the cover, doll. So suck it up and march. You’re on a case with me, now, and I’m not putting up with bellyaching.”
    “Case? What case?!”
    Jack didn’t answer, just kept hustling me up the block then around the corner. He slowed as we approached a dark green awning. There was no writing on the fabric, no sign on the heavy door.
    Jack stopped and glanced down at me. “Got your breath, baby?” Before I could answer he pulled open the door and stood aside. “After you.”
    “After me? Where am I going?” I peered into the darkness beyond the door. “What is this place?”
    “You’ll get all the answers you want if you just move your skirt inside .”
    I tentatively stepped forward, teetering on my ridiculously high pumps.
    “Good eve ning, miss,” a voice called from the abyss.
    My eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, and I realized I’d stepped into some sort of reception area.
    “Do you have a reservation?” A middle- aged man in a tuxedo was addressing me from behind a wooden podium. “Are you meeting someone?”
    “I ... uh...”
    “She’s with me,” said Jack, stepping up to the maître d’.
    “And do you have a reservation?” The tuxedo- clad man glanced at the large open ledger on his podium.
    “We don’t have a reservation,” Jack replied smoothly, “because, you see, the lady didn’t like the Broadway show. So we left early. We’ve had dinner already, so we’ll just be wetting our whistles at the bar until our friends leave the theater across the street. That okay by you?”
    Jack palmed the man a bill.
    “Of course, sir,” said the maître d’. “Enjoy yourself.”
    Jack stepped up to me, and I expected him to grab me by the elbow again and hustle me inside. But he didn’t. This time, he leaned toward me and offered his arm.
    “Oh,” I said with an undisguised smirk, “ now you’re going to act like a gentleman?”
    “It’s not a proposal of marriage, baby. I’m just trying to make it look good.”
    “Well, the way you manhandled me on the street, I’d rather not.”
    I tried taking a few bold strides all by myself, but I had zero practice carrying off four- inch heels beneath a slit- skirted gown, and I nearly fell on my face.
    In a flash, Jack was there, propping me back up. “Take a break from Miss Prissland,” he rasped in my ear, “and take my arm already.”
    I knew when I was licked. With a sigh, I wrapped my gloved arm around the gray fabric of his double- breasted jacket and let him escort me into the large dining room.
    Two “M”

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