Blood’s Blood

by Gerald Page

Illustrated by

If you think it changes anything whose blood drips on your expensive rug, you’re crazy. I don’t care whose blood it is, how red it is, or anything else. Blood’s blood. What drips on your carpet makes no difference to me. It never did. It never will. It’s not me that owes you a slug between the eyes. It’s the whole world. I’m just the guy that gets the honor of paying that debt.

I need to hurry now. I’ve lost too much of my own blood. I lose much more, I won’t be able to stand up. I won’t be able to open the door. I might not even be able to hold this gun up steady while I put the sights on that spot in the middle of your forehead and squeeze the trigger.

We can’t have that, can we?

Well, we won’t. Not if I can help it. And I think I can.

I never paid much attention to her. Not many did.

Maybe if she’d gotten a break in the looks department, things might have been different. She was a plain girl, not the kind anyone would remember. If I ever saw her fixed up, wearing makeup and with her hair done up nice, I can’t remember. She had a small, round face, I don’t suppose there was anything wrong with it, but she never did anything with it so you’d notice her. Her clothes weren’t much, though they were always clean. I never saw her with a smudge of grime on her carefully mended clothes or her face. Most of the time when I saw her she was behind that counter in the lobby of the Jastrow Building. She sold cigarettes, cigars, chewing gum and candy, never made more than two pennies off any single thing on top of that counter of hers. But she was there, every day when I came in on my way to my office five floors up.

Her name was Mary Hanson. She always had a smile for me. I don’t suppose it was much of a smile. Oh, it was nice, but you’d never see it selling soap or toothpaste in a magazine. Still, I got so I looked forward to seeing it. I’d hit the doors a little before seven, cross the floor to the elevators and when I glanced toward her cigar counter, there it would be, that smile of hers, plain as a brown paper lunch bag, very shy, but every morning it was there. I looked forward to it.

She said, “Good morning, Mr. Drake,” the way she always did and I’d nod and say back, “Morning, Mary. I hope you’re doing well, today.”

Every time, she almost blushed. I’d spoken to her maybe a thousand times over the years, and she still blushed. For that matter, if anyone came up and asked for a pack of Luckys, she’d blush at him, too. Most wouldn’t notice. There was a Depression on, wasn’t there? And there was talk about trouble in Europe, too, like maybe there could be another war, and guys like Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin who seemed eager to fight one. Most people were too busy worrying about that and their own miserable lives to pay much attention to a plain girl like Mary.

.I spotted Gellar waiting at the elevator that morning and as soon as I did I stopped paying attention to Mary, too. Gellar had that look on his face that said something was wrong, bad wrong. As I got there he said, “Can we have some words, Philo?”

The elevator got there before I could reach the signal button. Gellar and I were the only passengers if you don’t count the old man that sat inside the elevator and drove us up to my floor, but neither of us spoke until we were in my office. The gold lettering that said, “James Drake” on the glass of the door was cracked and peeling like most of the lettering on most of the doors here, except maybe for the insurance company that occupied the top three floors. The furniture hadn’t been new when I bought it. I don’t think it had been cleaned, either.

It was almost lunch time. I was coming back from an interview with a potential client. The interview hadn’t panned out; he needed three or four men for the job and preferred they all work for the same agency to save him having to do too much paperwork. I would have liked the work, but he was right.

Gellar knew better than to stand on ceremony in my office when there wasn’t anyone else present, and as I took off my coat and draped it over a hook on the coat rack, he made himself to home. He opened the bottom drawer of my desk and pulled out the bottle and two glasses I always kept there.

He cleaned the glasses with his handkerchief, which was probably no dirtier than they were, and poured cheap scotch into both of them and picked one up. He held it in his hand as he sat down and waited for me. I said, “Don’t stand on formality around here, pal,” and sat down behind my desk.

He said, “Sorry,” and took a sip. I blinked. Gellar wasn’t the type to ever say he was sorry.

I picked up my own glass. “Isn’t it a little early for this, Sarge?”

“I don’t notice you passing it up.”

“Times have changed, but when I was on the force, I never touched the stuff before ten A.M.”

He held the glass up so it would catch the morning light fighting its way through the grime on my window and said, “Which brings me to why I’m here. Somebody did in Pierson last night.”

“What do you know about that?” I said. I added, “Well, I’ll be damned,” and took another sip. “I’d sure like to shake that guy’s hand.” Then I thought about that. “Hey, you don’t think I did it, do you?”

“You? He was shot, not kicked to death. Not even the old man earmarks you for the kill, though I imagine he’ll send someone around to talk with you pretty soon if a better suspect doesn’t show up.”

“Is that why you came here? To warn me I’m going to be questioned?”

“No, I came here for some of this high class rotgut.” He made a face. “What did it set you back, anyway, a dime?”

“Almost. Tell me about Pierson.”

“Seems like around midnight he passed an alleyway over on Braddock and somebody in it was waiting for him.”

“What alleyway?”

“The one between the drug store on the corner and that toy store. You know them?”

“I pass them on the way to work every morning and again in the evening on my way home. Barely notice them, either time. Pierson must have been lying dead in there when I went by this morning. Was he working a case?”

“We think so, though there’s no paperwork to tell us what it was.”

“Something secretive, huh?” I shook my head, sadly. “When did you find him?”

Gellar didn’t answer. Helooked tired and I asked him how long he’d been up. He ignored the question and said, “You know Pierson. Always played it close to the vest until he was sure whether there was an angle in it for him. We got the call around two. I was off duty, but for the last three months Pierson and I have been listed as partners, so the Captain woke me up. Pierson had been shot twice in the face. Not a good thing to wake up to.” He finished off his drink.

“Listed?”

“On the roster. It’s not like he shared anything. As I said, we couldn’t even find any case notes. Half the time, we got a call I couldn’t locate him and would have to take it by myself. The real reason I came here was to find out if you’d heard anything on the street about the shooting.”

“So I’ve fallen from Detective First to informant now, have I?” “Hell, you fell to ex-detective before you climbed back up to informant.”

“That’s private detective to you, flatfoot,” I said amiably.

“Don’t get mad. I know you hear things. Even when you were on the force you heard things the rest of us never got a hint of.”

I laughed without much humor in it. “So it wasn’t just my rotgut drew you here?”

“Hell no. Though it’s a consideration,” he said.

I finished off my own drink, thinking things over and coming up with nothing. I went over to the small sink in the corner and washed off my glass, hoping he’d get the hint. “There’s always a lot going on in this burg, but to tell you the truth I’ve not even heard anyone mention Pierson’s name in weeks. I’m sorry.” I shook my head and added, “I never liked him. To tell you the truth, in my opinion he was a son of a bitch. But he was a cop and I don’t like the idea or people going around and shooting cops any more than you do.”

“You poor soul. Wait until you’ve been off the force a few months longer.”

“What would you know about that? You were born on the force.”

He got up, ignoring the remark, thanked me for the drink and made his way out of my office.

I sat there awhile after he was gone and stared into space as if somebody might have written the answer on the wall. Not that that was likely to help because the truth was, I didn’t have any idea what the question was. Who killed Pierson? What did I care who killed that rat bastard? It hadn’t been me and I was reasonably sure the boys hadn’t discussed me as a possibility other than as a formality which they’d obviously dismissed.

I guess it was ten or fifteen minutes after Gellar was gone that someone knocked on my door. I said, “Come in,” thinking the Old Man had probably sent someone around to get a formal statement from me about my whereabouts last night.

The door opened slowly and a small, round, plain face peered around the edge of it as if not sure she’d heard correctly. I smiled and said, “Mary! This is a pleasant surprise. Come in.”

She came in far enough she could have closed the door if she wanted to. Instead she held it open like an escape route and looked at me like she was about to apologize for interrupting. I said, “It’s good to see you. Sit down. Make yourself comfortable.”

She sucked her lips in and looked uncertain, but she was game. After a moment’s hesitation, she closed the door behind her and came in. She sat down across from me in the same chair Gellar had sat in, folded her hands in her lap for all the world like your maiden aunt. She couldn’t bring herself to raise her eyes and look at me directly, even then. She was chewing on her lower lip.

I said, “Can I get you anything? A glass of water maybe?”

“No – no, thank you. I—“

She let the word hang in the air between us for a moment, then decided on another tack. She said. “You’re a policeman, aren’t you?”

“I’m a private detective,” I said.

“But you used to be a policeman.”

“A long time ago.”

She nodded. “Can you help me?”

“I might, I suppose. Of course, I’d have to hear the story first.”

She was quiet a moment, and then she said, “It’s about my boyfriend.”

That surprised me. Mary was a sweet girl, but I’d never thought about her having a boyfriend.

She went on. “When you were on the police force, maybe you knew him. His name was Harold Pierson.”

TWO

The idea that anyone could love a rat like Pierson naturally surprised me. That it could be a girl as sweet and innocent as Mary Hanson was hard to believe – or maybe it was just hard to think about.

But I was thinking about it anyway, and the thoughts weren’t pretty. What was a girl like Mary Hanson doing even thinking about Pierson, much less thinking he was something worth being in love with? But I guess almost everybody has someone in love with them.

“Yeah, I knew him. I understand he –.” I bit off the words I was about to say.

I just couldn’t say them, not to her. I coughed to cover up and changed the words to, “I heard about what happened. I didn’t even know you knew him. I’m sorry.” I suppose I meant I was sorry she knew him, rather than about what happened, but I tried not to sound hard about it. Or too soft. I was suddenly afraid she might start crying about that creep. And sure enough, she did.

I sat there watching her, not wanting to say anything that would make it worse. But the only sound in that office was her sobbing and it got to be too much even for me. In a hoarse voice I muttered, “The police will catch the guy who did it. You can count on it. Pierson was one of their own.”

She fought for some self control and the sobs died down a little. She dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief like something you’d find in a box or Cracker Jacks. “Not a lot of guys on the force liked Harold. He used to tell me that was because he knew that most of them were on the take. I think he might even have been killed by one of them.”

That was a possibility, I guess, but I didn’t think it was much of one. More likely he’d been shot by some gangster he’d double-crossed. I bit my tongue to keep from blurting out what I was thinking and managed, “I don’t think that’s how it happened. Mary.”

She dug into a pocket of her dress and pulled out some money. She put a handful on my desk; then went back into the pocket to get the rest. She counted out thirty-four dollars on my desktop.

“I know you’re more expensive than this, Mr. Drake. But this is all I got right now. It might take some time, but I can get more. I can get whatever you need.”

“Put your money back, Sweetheart. I’m not sure I should get involved with this. The cops and me aren’t too happy with each other these days, and if they see me as nosing around in what they think of as a family affair, they might take it the wrong way.”

“Let them,” she said. Something hard that I hadn’t expected came into her voice. “If they don’t like it, tell them you’re working for Harold’s real family. Or what would have been his real family next month when we got married. Tell them that.”

I figured then I couldn’t talk her out of hiring me. I said, “Put your money back, Sweetheart. I’ll go down and take a look at things, see how they’re shaping up. If it looks to me like they’re trying to cover something up, then I’ll get involved. But cops don’t like it when one of their own gets bumped. More than likely they’ve already got a suspect in the hotbox and are sweating him right now.”

She gave me a funny look and for a minute it seemed like she was thinking I might be trying to cover something up, me Jimmy Drake. Then she nodded and picked up her money and put most of it back in her pocket. She held onto a five. “Are you sure you won’t need something for expenses?”

Even then I could see the irony in the idea of me passing up a five spot from a possible client, much less thirty-four, but I said, “Like I said, let me look into it, and we can talk about money after I know how things stand.”

I don’t think she bought into my version of why I was passing up good money, but she just nodded and put the bill back into her pocket. She got up and walked to the door, where she paused and looked back at me. She started to say something but didn’t.

“I’ll let you know what I learn,” I said, meaning ‘As soon as I think of a good lie.’

She went out and was careful to close the door behind her. I just sat there, wondering to myself, how the hell did I get into this one? Which was the wrong question.

The right one was, what was I going to do about it?

There was no point in me going down to the cop shop, because I’d already talked to Gellar, and had no idea what sort of direction to take this thing. Maybe I should just walk in to the precinct and ask if anyone of them killed Pierson, would he pretty please hold up his hand?

It seemed like as much of a chance to learn anything as I could hope for. But it sure wasn’t worth getting out of a comfortable chair for. I thought about the bottle which was back in my desk drawer, but that didn’t seem worth moving for, either. It was sorry times when I didn’t think it was worth moving to get a bottle of even that swill out of a desk drawer and I found myself wondering what the hell might be going on in my head. After a few minutes of that, I said, “To hell with this,” got up, grabbed my hat and coat, and started out for the precinct anyway.

THREE

The cop shack was mostly empty. A sergeant named Pettigrew was at the desk and looked up from his crossword puzzle as I strolled in. Seeing who it was, he mumbled, “You heard about Pierson?”

“Yeah. Seeing there’s no one else here, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say all the bluecoats must be out there slamming every snitch in town up against a wall and growling at them did they kill him.”

“You worked under the Captain. You know how it is. If you came to see him, he’s in his office probably gazing anxiously at his watch, wondering what’s taking you so long to get here.”

“Anything about the case I should know?”

“The skipper might know something” Pettigrew said, airily.

“You ought to be doing jokes in a nightclub,” I said.

“What’s a five-letter word for ‘Get lost’? Oh, yeah, ‘Drake’”

“Don’t be so subtle,” I told him, but I took the hint and strolled back out to the street. There was only one other place I hadn’t been to, yet, so I went there.

There was one cop in attendance when I got to the alley where Pierson died. He was a kid, big and beefy like a beat cop, but he looked like he belonged in high school. He was no one I recognized, so I flashed him the ID. He came close enough to read it, checked out the photo and my face, seemed satisfied and stepped back where he’d been when I got there.

The body was already gone. There was still blood on the pavement and lots of footprints in it. No doubt most of the footprints had been made by cops and reporters. I didn’t see any shell casings or wallets with ID the culprit might have dropped for my convenience. Nor had anyone waited around to confess to me. My visit to the scene of the crime was obviously a bust. I surveyed things like a private dick in a B movie, but nothing seemed to have been conveniently missed by the gendarmes for my personal edification. So much for story book tradition.

I walked back to the Jastrow Building and wondered why I was bothering. It wasn’t as if I didn’t think whoever shot Pierson hadn’t done the world a favor, that was for sure.

There was no sudden flash of deductive reasoning on my way back, no finger snap and a name I should have thought about the instant I heard that Pierson was dead. I decided I’d done enough. I decided to tell Mary I’d done all I could and the cops were on top of things. When you got right down to it, that was the truth.

But Mary wasn’t at the cigar counter when I got there. She was probably in the bathroom, I thought, which was a great opportunity to not have to talk with her.

I started toward the elevator when I heard a noise.

It was a sort of scraping noise and something like a gasp. I almost ignored it. Then I heard the gasp again and I realized it was coming from behind a door to a janitor’s closet or storeroom or something off the lobby. On instinct, I tried the door. It came open.

I saw Mary, pushed up against the wall inside the room. The creep who’d pushed her had a hand the size of an end table over her mouth. His other hand held a knife. I grabbed him by the collar of his coat and yanked him backwards. He yelped with surprise and let go of the girl as he fell back. He twisted, bringing around the hand that held the knife. I felt something slice into my arm, but I was past caring. I kicked him in the face as he landed on the floor. I was mad as hell and I gave him another kick for good measure, this time in the stomach as he tried to roll over. He tried yelling but I’d kicked too much air out of his gullet for him to do that just now.

He was far from finished, however. He pushed himself up and tried at me with the knife again. It caught my shoulder, which I knew the way I know two and two is four, not because I was feeling it. I hit him in the mouth and he let go of the knife, leaving it stuck in me. My next blow slammed into his gullet and he folded like a hinge, giving me his right ear as a target. My knee came up under his chin and stood him up like a soldier at attention.

A lot more stuff went on after that, until my knuckles were scraped and bleeding and my blood was spraying like water from a hose each time I slammed him. I seem to recall him begging for me to stop but I’m not really sure he did that. I’m sure I didn’t worry about if he did. I kept at him, this way and that, until he slumped forward and would have fallen down but I kept straightening him up by hitting him more and more. After a while I was too damned tired to keep it up. I let him drop. He made some sounds but his moves were small and jerky and he didn’t seem to offer me any real threat.

I reached under his coat, found a heater right where I’d known I would, and stood up, pointing the gun down at him. He was still trying to find the wind to say something with. This time I kicked him in the nose, and felt it give away with a satisfying flush of blood to go with it. He found his wind now, gave a bleat like a stuck pig. I kicked him in the face again. I really liked that, so I gave it to him again after that.

Mary had slid to the floor and was sobbing. I helped her up. She looked down at the guy with the busted nose. I said, “He’s through hurting you, Mary. He’s got other things to worry about.”

I was holding her at arm’s length, my hands on her shoulders. I was scared I might get blood on her. She shook like a leaf.

“Do you know who this guy is?”

“I- I never s-saw him before.”

I was nervous about doing it, but I let go of her shoulders. She didn’t fall down, so I bent over the creep, stared at his face. “His name’s Teasdale, I think. He works for Lew Garber, for Christ’s sake. How the hell did you ever get mixed up with Lew Garber?”

Teasdale wasn’t completely out, but he was close enough it made no difference.

I took a close look at Mary. There was a bruise forming on her face where he’d covered her mouth, but it really wasn’t that much of a bruise. I said, “Go to the lady’s room and wash your face. I want to talk with this jerk.”

“Is he awake?”

“Not really, but I can fix that.”

As soon as she was on the other side of the door, I brought my shoe heel down on Teasdale’s wrist.

There was a sharp snap like a broken stick and Teasdale gave a yelp and his eyes sprang open, and then ground themselves shut as he clutched his wrist. “You cheap son of a bitch,” I said. “You lousy, goddamn cheap son of a bitch.”

Blood was pouring into his lap from either his mouth or his nose, maybe both. He was shaking with reaction to the pain. I stomped his busted wrist again and he gave a scream that must have been heard on the top floor of the building. I wondered if someone might not look into the room to see if they could help, but anybody who heard him was smart enough not to investigate. I yanked him forward so his ear was close to my mouth and I growled, “What the hell has Lew Garber got to do with all this.”

I’ll give him credit for gumption. He said, “Who the hell is Lew Garber?”

I brought my foot down on his ankle this time. I don’t think I broke it, but I must have sprained it. I was almost getting tired of having the son of a bitch scream in my ear. “I ask again,” I said. “What’s Lew Garber’s connection with all this?”

He said something really impolite, but I don’t guess it was any worse than what I did then to that sprained ankle of his. “I can listen to you sing like that all day,” I told him.

“All right, all right. Just let up.” He was almost sobbing.

“You remember who Lew Garber is, yet?”

He glowered at me. “He’s the guy who’s gonna blow your head off.”

“Good for him.” I gave Teasdale a couple of hard slaps across the mouth. “I’m starting to enjoy myself, creep, so if you don’t want to tell me anything for the next few minutes, that’s fine with me.”

I patted him down and lo and behold, I found something in a coat pocket. I gave a laugh. “What do you know? My fist was just beginning to get tired, too.”

I pressed a button on the handle and a six inch blade snapped out of it. The edge and the point both looked like they’d been recently sharpened. He just stared at it and I could tell from the look on his face he was probably recalling some of the cuter things he’d done to people with this very knife.

I placed the point against the skin just below his eye. He tried to squirm away but the wall behind his back stopped him. A smidgen of blood formed around the point of the knife.

“What was Garber’s connection with Pierson?”

He mumbled a lot of the words, but I think I got the gist of it.

A minute later I left the room. The old guy who ran the elevator was standing about ten feet away from the door, like he was trying to decide whether or not to take a peek. I said, “Guy in there’s hurt, call him an ambulance,” walked past the old guy and started toward Mary’s counter. But she was gone. The counter was cleared off. I walked over and tried the change drawer. It was locked. She’d done everything she’d normally do when closing for the day, plus one thing more. There was a phone book open on her counter. I glanced at the page it was open to. I saw Garber’s phone listing. I left a smear of blood on the counter but I noted the address the same way I figured she had done.

I thought about calling Gellar but I didn’t know who at the precinct might listen in to the call. Besides, there couldn’t be a lot of time.

I was almost to the door when I heard a door open. I looked back.

Teasdale was leaning against the frame of the door to the storeroom and I hadn’t patted him down well enough. He pointed a gun at me and pulled the trigger. Something hit me just above the hip. He fired a second time but the first shot caused me to drop to the floor and his bullet went high. I clawed my gun out and fired back. He dropped his gun and clawed his stomach and I thought, serves him right.

I clutched my wound, felt blood seeping through my fingers, but not a lot of blood. I’d been grazed. That doesn’t happen very often and had never happened to me before, not that I’d been shot before except once. Mostly the people who shot at me missed, which was all right with me.

But the wound seemed superficial, so I decided I could ignore it..

I flagged a cab. The driver didn’t notice how I looked until it he was stopped, and by then it was too late. I yanked the door open, piled into the back and barked an order to him. I still had the gun in my mitt, so he didn’t offer any argument. We headed out into the suburbs where Garber’s place was.

I’ll give Garber this; he wasn’t one for showing off. He lived in a small one-storey house that was little more than a bungalow. It had a yard too small to need much attention. I went to the front door hoping some one would answer a knock, but the door was sort of halfway open.

Then came a gunshot from what I took to be a small caliber gun and a woman cried out. I thought it was probably Mary. I heard a slap and she cried out again.

I pushed the door in and shoved myself into the house.

The door opened directly into the living room. There was another door open on a dining room, and a door that was closed, leading in back. I heard voices behind that door, and I leaped toward it.

“God damn it,” a man was saying. “Take her some place and get rid of her. Here; do it with her own gun.”

That was when I opened the door. A man I recognized as Garber was holding up a pistol. Another man was reaching for it. A third had an arm around Mary’s body, pinning both her arms. She was struggling desperately and even at that distance I could see tears streaming down her face. She was looking at the gun Garber was holding. I could smell cordite and there was smoke floating in the air. The ceiling had a small, neat hole in it.

Nobody was looking at me, even though I hadn’t tried to muffle any of the noise I made coming into the house. Blood was streaming down my side and while I didn’t feel like I was about to pass out, you can’t be too careful. So I introduced myself with a lead calling card. My hand was steady enough that I caught Garber in the forehead before he could hand off the gun.

The gun clattered to the floor. Garber didn’t have time to look surprised. He just sort of collapsed to the floor like a tent that had had its center pole suddenly yanked away. The guy he was handing off the gun to, turned around and he did look surprised. I shot him, even though he wasn’t holding any weapon. So sue me.

The guy who was holding Mary let go of her and put both of his hands up. He turned around so his back was to me. “I’m not carrying,” he said. “You probably don’t believe me, so feel free to pat me down. I’ll be glad to call the cops for you, if you like.”

I walked up behind him and brought the butt of my automatic down hard on his head. He fell to the floor and didn’t make a move for some time. I called the

cops under my own effort.

They got there plenty quickly, and the new D.A., a man named Bean was with them. A doctor checked over Mary, who was still shaking, but she was all right.

The doctor checked me next, giving me a bandage and some iodine at county expense. After that, Bean asked me a lot of questions. They didn’t drag me down to the D.A.’s office, or even the station . They just kept me in the kitchen at Garber’s house and kept going over my story. I knew the all cops who were there, of course, and there were a couple who probably would have been just as happy if I’d made a break for it and they got to shoot me. I had no idea what Bean thought of me, and at the end of the day when he said it looked like a clean shooting to him, I still didn’t know him.

The doctor had hung around and looked me over again. He gave me a tube of something to dress my wound with when I changed the bandage, and some advice. The best of it was, “Why don’t you get out of this racket while you’re still alive?”

A couple days later, it had all blown over. Garber was nailed for the shooting, though I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts he just gave the order and somebody else actually pulled the trigger.

Not that I cared. Any way you look at it, Garber was responsible for the whole thing.

Everybody had a different idea of what actually happened. Gellar and I talked it over and we were pretty much in agreement. We both thought Pierson was taking payoffs to keep clear of Garber’s operation and something just blew up in his face. Maybe he was asking too much. Maybe he stumbled into something that was just too dirty even for him to cover up. Maybe he just made Garber nervous. I never regarded Pierson as all that trustworthy, and chances are Garber didn’t either.

Of course Mary tried to give me that thirty-four bucks of hers, but I insisted she keep it. “Pierson was my partner, once upon a time,” I told her and after a while I either persuaded her I meant it, or else I wore her down because she stopped trying.

As it turned out, the cops couldn’t find a way to make me look bad, so the newspapers decided I was the hero. For the two days they ran stories on it, I was a combination of Dick Tracy and Hopalong Cassidy. That got me a couple of big security contracts that allowed me to keep my office open for a while longer.

Not enough money, of course, to move out of the Jastrow Building. So every morning I still go to the same office. And past the same cigar stand in the lobby.

And every morning, Mary gives me that same shy smile. I’m getting so I like it.

###########

ISSUE 33


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