He bent down with a match crooked in his right hand. She pulled back, waving him off.
“It’s an electronic cigarette,” she said by way of explanation. “It stays lit all day.”
“Just like me,” he said, downing a gin.
She smiled, but she didn’t laugh. It wasn’t the sort of joke you laughed at, exactly. Funny, but a little too on-the-nose.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” she said. “Just have to powder my little girl’s room while I freshen up.”
“Sure thing, baby.” He took his hat off.
“Incidentally,” she purred, sticking her head back around the corner, “what’s the wi-fi password here, darling? I need to check something.”
Cats purred. Cats scratched, too.
“That network is locked,” he said.
“That’s not the only thing that’s locked around here,” she said, and disappeared.
The doorbell rang. Christ. Had she been sleeping?
“Who is it?” she said in her regular voice, then cursed herself inwardly. “Who’s there?” she called out in her softest, most dangerous voice, the one that mixed poison and honey in her throat.
“It’s me, baby. Open up.”
“Just a minute,” she said. Had she shaved her legs? You couldn’t ask a man to commit a murder for you with stubble on your legs. Men only killed for smooth women; they’d drilled that into her on Day One at Dame Academy. One thing was for sure: this wasn’t going to be repeat of Shanghai, when that quick-talking gunsel had slipped through her fingers just because no one had been willing to tell her she had lipstick on her teeth when she tried to flash a heavy-lidded, catlike smile at the mark.
Dame Academy hadn’t even wanted to take her at first. “Her legs are too short,” the Headmistress had said dismissively, before lighting a series of cigarettes with the heel of her shoe and tossing her Veronica Lake curls into a silver basin. “Try the secretarial pool.”
“But they go all the way to the top,” she’d said, crossing her legs so her hemline slid just above the knee, revealing four flasks, a pearl-handled revolver, and a couple of knives with different names carved into the handle.
Headmistress had smiled at that. “So, there’s some cat underneath that mouse after all.”
“Come in,” she said. “I’m very helpless.” She crossed her legs. Fuck. She still hadn’t shaved. Headmistress would have pulled off her manicure if she could see her now. Sleep with your makeup on, girls. You never know who’ll come breaking and entering. She dove out the window. Nothing to do for it but leave town and start a new life, with new legs, somewhere else.
“I follow my own code,” he said.
She sipped her drink. “I follow a lot of things.”
He looked puzzled. She shook her head. “I’m sorry. That sounded more suggestive in my head. I just…we’ve been bantering for hours. I’m sorry. I’m so tired. I don’t know what I’m saying.”
He still looked puzzled.
“I’m trying to suggest that I’m sexually available,” she said. “But in a vague, plausibly deniable sort of way.”
“Fair enough,” he said.
She put down her drink. Enough was enough. She’d just murder her sister herself.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.