Part 2: Stay As Sweet As You Are
Los Angeles, May 1951
It rang five times before she answered. He was just about to hang up when he heard her breathless, "Hello?"
"Hey, doll. What did I get you from?" Bud hoped she wouldn't say the shower. He didn't think his dick could take it.
Although her heart was hammering hard, Jeanie managed nonchalance. "Hi, Bud. I was outside, talking to my neighbor. What are you up to?"
"Not much. Feel like some dinner?"'He's not mad at me, he's not mad at me…' Her mind almost sang it; Jeanie felt giddy with relief and joy. Bud heard it in her voice when she answered, "Sure. What do you have in mind?"
"How about some Italian? I know a place up near Venice. Good spaghetti, better meatballs. Interested?"
"Oh, yes! I love spaghetti."
"Be ready in an hour?"
"I'll be ready, Bud."
He hung up, the image of Jeanie's face in his mind, feeling better than he had all day. So much for resolutions.
e e e
A month went by, a month of seeing Jeanie almost every night, except for the days the lieutenant caught him for overtime. A month of leaving her at the door after goodnight kisses that had his dick so hard it could have cut diamonds. He thought of her all the time, at night in his lonely bed, in the cruiser with Stens beside him talking endless bullshit, at crime scenes when his mind should have been on business, at his desk typing reports. He couldn't go long without talking to her, took to calling her at work during the day, and then, a month after they'd met, on impulse he stopped by her office to take her to lunch.
Seeing Jeanie dressed for her job was like seeing a different person. She wore casual stuff when they went out; skirts and sweaters, crisp blouses over tight slacks that hugged her figure and drove him wild, and on one memorable trip to the beach, shorts and a shirt tied in front that exposed a few inches of her midriff. Bud grinned to himself. That had been a good day. Jeanie in a blue two piece bathing suit, her skin turning pink in the sun.
Today she wore a navy pinstriped suit with a white blouse open at the collar. He waited while she pinned on her hat, a little white pillbox that perched on top of her upswept hair. Some part of him responded to the allure of feminine primping, and not for the first time when he was with Jeanie, Bud thought of his mother. When she turned from the mirror he winked at her and grinned to show his approval. The little hat finished her off; Jeanie looked competent and business-like, sure of herself. But most of all, she looked like a lady.
The eyes of the girls in the steno pool followed them as they walked out, junior secretaries whispering behind their hands, wondering if the looker with the dreamy eyes was Miss Rohar's boyfriend. Jeanie knew what they were thinking; she'd spent a few years in the steno pool herself and remembered the girlish teasing and innuendo. She'd been so proud of Bud when he strode into the office, his shoulders wide in his tweed jacket, his handsome face impassive, his eyes warming when they caught hers. He kept his hand on the small of her back as they left the office, and that made her proud too. She liked the show of proprietary tenderness, liked having Bud's big hands on her.They had grilled cheese sandwiches in a quiet corner of a busy coffee shop near her building. Jeanie talked and Bud listened, a smile playing on his lips and in his eyes. He liked to hear her talk, even if he didn't have much to say in reply. It was good just listening to her voice, watching the animation in her face. She was so bright, so pretty, he could have sat there all day, but when he checked his watch, he saw her lunch break was almost over. A nod to the waitress brought her to their table; he paid the check and added a generous tip. On the way back to her building they made plans to go to the movies that night. Rio Grande was playing, a re-teaming of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. Bud was looking forward to it; he thought maybe Wayne and O'Hara were his lucky charms. He walked Jean into the lobby and with a boyish grin that melted her like the cheese on their sandwiches, pulled her into a stairwell to say goodbye. As soon as the fire door closed behind them, he drew her into his arms.
"Jeanie, Jeanie...you're driving me crazy, baby. I think about you all the time."
His voice was a low rumble against her cheek, his breath warm in her ear. Jeanie clung to him and pressed her lips to his, her kiss a silent confession that she did little but think of him, too. She felt his fingers slide under her suit jacket and stroke over the silk of her blouse. Her skin seemed to leap for his touch, heat bloomed in her belly when he purred his pleasure at the feel of her body in his hands. Jeanie might not have had much experience, but she knew Bud was getting close to the boiling point. A month of seeing each other, several more dates at the drive-in when she had let him go so far but no farther, had brought him to a fever pitch.'Who am I fooling...I'm there too,' she admitted to herself. Bud was the man she'd dreamed of as a teenager during the war years, the kind of man she'd always wanted for herself. She was in love with him, had been from the first...she felt like she'd been waiting for him forever. In her eyes he was her white knight, as dashing and brave as the soldiers who had gone off to fight in the war, though he'd told her he'd been turned down for enlistment because of an old football injury. But the soldiers were done with their war, and he was still fighting. He put his life on the line everyday. She thought there was nobody as brave as he was.
"Want to grab some dinner before we go tonight?" Bud nuzzled her neck and breathed in the scent of her perfume. "Or am I crowding you for time?"
Without allowing herself to think about the almost certain consequence of being alone with him in her house, Jeanie said, "Why don't I cook dinner for a change? I can stop at the market on my way home and get something special. What would you like?"
Bud pulled back and peered at her face. He hadn't been past her front door since the day he'd picked her up for their first date. She’d made it plain she wasn't ready to sleep with him and he wasn't about to push too hard and scare off the sweetest woman he'd come across in a long time. And now she was asking him to come for dinner. Did it mean she'd changed her mind? Still cautious, he played it light.
"You know how to cook, huh?"
She leaned back in the circle of his arms, smoothed his tie, and grinned archly. "I'll have you know I won the bake-off two years in a row at the Summit County Fair."
"Yeah? That good?"
She nodded playfully. "That good. So what would you like for dinner, Officer White?"
He kissed her again, a quick peck that left her wanting more. "Surprise me, doll," he said, then opened the door and glanced up and down the corridor. "Come on, nobody's out here. Let's get you back to work before they fire you."
They walked to the elevator and when the doors slid open, Bud stopped her with a gentle hand on her arm.
"What time tonight, sweetheart?"
Her eyes went soft at the endearment. How she loved being his sweetheart, this gruffly tender man who made her feel so safe. "Can you be there by seven?" she asked, stepping through the doors into the vacant car.
"I'll be there."
He squeezed her arm gently in farewell, watching her face until the elevator doors closed. Bud thrust his hands in his pockets and walked out to the cruiser. Force of long habit made him glance quickly in every direction. A dark-haired man was leaning on a building across the busy street; Bud narrowed his eyes and looked closer. Recognition hit him like a punch to the gut. Monaco, watching him with an insolent smirking grin. Bud stepped off the sidewalk, intent on a confrontation, but had to stop and wait for a bus that lumbered slowly past. By the time it was out of the way, Monaco was no longer there. His eyes swept the street, but the hood was long gone.
He sprinted to the cruiser and drove around the block, then in widening circles of the area. No sign of Monaco, the prick had gone to ground. Every cop's instinct he had rang warning bells in his head. Bud headed for the station, fuming, thinking.
He'd called on Sophia Monaco at her Uncle Giorgio's three times since she'd left the hospital. She was healing, but still had that hunted look in her eyes that made him feel helpless. Last time he'd asked her if she wanted to go back to the old country to get away from her husband. He figured he could just about come up with the fare from his savings...it might wipe him out, but it'd be worth it to know the woman was safe. The brief flash of hope in her eyes told him what she didn't get a chance to say; the old uncle interrupted her, told him that was impossible. Italy was a Catholic country, Sophia was a Catholic woman. Catholics did not divorce; Italian women did not leave their husbands, no matter how cruel they were. Sophia had turned away from him and left the room, defeat evident in the slump of her narrow shoulders. Bud watched her go, the memory of his mother making him sweat.
And now Monaco had seen him with Jeanie. Christ, Jeanie...already damaged by a childhood with a wife beating father and a husband who had used his fists on her too. Bud's eyes went flat and cold, he made his decision without fruitless debate or guilt. He swore that wop cocksucker wouldn't get close enough to even look at Jean again.
Jeanie was running late. A last minute crisis at work had kept her until five-fifteen and she'd missed her bus, had to wait for the next one. She had planned to make Bud chicken and dumplings, the old-fashioned dish that had won her the county prize, but there was no time for that now. At the corner market she got lamb chops, new potatoes, fresh green beans. It was close to six-thirty when she unlocked her door and grabbed the mail from the box without looking at it, tossing the letters carelessly onto the top of her floor model Philco. A letter from her mother in Akron slid off and fell behind the radio, but Jean didn't notice and hurried into the kitchen. Still in her suit and hat, she lit the broiler on the stove and unwrapped the meat, then wondered in horror if Bud liked lamb. Not everyone did, its taste was strong and unappealing to some. 'Too late now,' she thought, brushing the perfect chops with melted butter flavored with rosemary. She snapped beans, scrubbed potatoes, set the pans on the stove on a low flame.
Only then did she dash to change her clothes, stripping off the business suit and high heels to slip into a pair of loose cuffed shorts and a cool cotton blouse. She considered taking her hair down but it was warm today; better to leave it up and off her neck while she cooked. A quick glance in the mirror, a swipe with her lipstick to freshen the color, and then she thrust her bare feet into a pair of open-toed canvas shoes and went back to the kitchen. She was setting the table when Bud knocked.
He'd stopped at Nick's Liquor on his way over. In one hand he held a bottle of single malt in a brown paper bag, a bouquet of pink roses wrapped in a twist of green waxed tissue was in the other. Jeanie cooed over the roses, her face suffused with a telling blush. Bud followed her to the kitchen. She gave him a tumbler and let him pour his own drink while she cut the stems and put the flowers in water, then set the vase on the table and lighted candles. Bud watched her, leaning against the counter, sniffing the aromatic air appreciatively, sipping from his scotch. He was content to be in her kitchen with the mouth-watering aroma of a home-cooked meal in the air, and Jeanie making like a wife. He felt comfortable, at home with her. Before he'd met her, the idea of getting married had left him cold. It wasn't that way now.
When Jeanie stepped toward the stove, he caught her by the arm and pulled her close. "No hello kiss, honey?" Her eyes grew soft again; he loved her eyes.
She tipped her face, he bent and took her upper lip in his, kissing it tenderly before capturing her entire mouth. He felt her shiver as his hand slid over her back in little circles. His tongue teased at the seam of her lips and she opened to him, let him in to taste. Bud cupped the back of her head, held her to him while he fed. And then reluctantly, he let her go.She laughed shakily, the unmistakable evidence of desire in her suddenly languid eyes, and took a step back. "That was some hello, Officer."
He cracked a lazy grin. "Yeah, it was. I missed you."
Jeanie smiled, and it was like the sun had come out on a rainy day. Bud's heart thumped hard in his chest. She leaned up to kiss him again, whispering against his lips, "I missed you too."
e e e
Bud sat at the table sipping coffee, let his excellent dinner settle while he watched her clear the dishes away. He offered to help but Jeanie shook her head and said she wanted him to relax. Fine with him; he was no good at KP anyhow. He was good at observation, though. Bud kept his eyes on Jeanie as she moved around her kitchen. He liked the way she moved, liked watching her face. It was easy to read, her face. For all that she was twenty-six years old, held a responsible job, and had been married and divorced, it was the face of an innocent. He tipped a glance at the clock; already going for nine. Too late to catch the show at the Odeon...maybe he could talk her into staying here instead of going out somewhere.
Maybe he could talk her into letting him stay all night.
Christ, she was driving him crazy. All he thought about was her and now, after eating a dinner she'd cooked just for him, all he could think was that he'd be nuts to let her go. He looked around the kitchen; it was homey, comfortable, and all of a sudden Bud got an image in his head. Jeanie and him, sitting at this table together morning after morning, sipping coffee and sharing the newspaper. For the second time since he'd come into the house, he thought about marrying her. Over the rim of his cup, Bud watched her rinse plates and stack them in the sink. She bent to retrieve a box of detergent from under the sink, and her cuffed shorts stretched tight and rode up a little. He groaned silently, his eyes sweeping from her ass to the turn of her ankle.
Jesus, he wanted her.
He tore his eyes away and stood. "Where's the can, baby?" Jeanie pointed and Bud went up the stairs to the second floor. He stopped at the threshold of her bedroom, took in the dresser with its frilly lamps, bottles of perfume and hair brush, let his eyes drift to the double bed. A white slip and a pair of discarded stockings lay on the spread, and their casual presence made him immediately think of undressing her. He stared at the bed, pictured Jeanie lying there waiting for him, and made up his mind.
They weren't going out tonight.
When he came downstairs, she was in the living room on the couch. She'd turned on a lamp in the far corner, had the radio playing. Sinatra's voice crooned low and soft:
Won't you tell her please to put
on some speed
Follow my lead, oh how I need
Someone to watch over me
Bud sat and pulled her close, murmured into her hair. "Too late to hit the show now, sweetheart. How about we just stay here?"Jeanie shivered as the deep rumble of his voice reached inside her chest. 'Tonight,' she thought, and looked up, caught the unmistakable simmer of passion in Bud's eyes.
His movements slow and deliberate, he lifted her into his lap and began removing the pins from her hair, taking them one by one until the glorious fall of auburn lay in waves around her shoulders. He pushed his fingers into the heavy mass and massaged, loving the feel of it, soft and silky in his hands. He leaned her back to rest on the low arm of the sofa and then slowly, holding her eyes with his, bent to kiss her. Bud took his time, savoring the taste of her mouth, the sweet tenderness of her kisses, the breathy little sighs of desire. His own breath came faster; his cock lengthened and throbbed against the curve of her bottom.Thick fingers managed the delicate buttons running down the front of her blouse effortlessly; one by one he undid them and laid her chest bare. Jesus, those tits, full and lush in a white cotton brassiere. Bud bent and mouthed her nipple, grasped it gently between his teeth and tugged, the scent of her filling his head.
Jeanie sighed in pleasure. Her hands went to his hair and held him, her touch light, warm. Bud dragged his tongue over the pouting flesh above her bra, nosed into her cleavage and breathed her scent. His hands were everywhere, cupping her breasts, smoothing over her belly, squeezing the cheeks of her generous ass. Each place he stroked or kissed became remarkably sensitive; her skin leapt and quivered at his touch. When he cupped her sex she rocked into his hand, wanting, needing him to do more. The slow hot ache deepened, her need for him grew urgent and unrelenting. Jean knew she wouldn't stop him tonight.
Fingers at the waist of her shorts, the slow slide of the metal zipper, a whispered, 'Lift up, honey...' Sweetly acquiescent, Jean let him remove the shorts and her panties. He lifted her and with a sure flick of his fingers, unfastened her brassiere, then drew the straps down and took it away.
Deep rose flushed her cheeks and throat as she lay naked on his lap, feeling his burning eyes devour her. From under her lashes, she stole a glance at his face and caught her breath at his expression. She had been expecting lust, but that was not all she saw. Bud's eyes glowed with something more, something deeper she had not thought she'd see. Almost reverently, his hands covered her breasts, massaging, pressing them to her chest.
He groaned low at the sight of them overflowing his hands, his voice thrummed like the deep notes of a cello as he took one swollen pink nipple into his mouth and sucked rhythmically. When he brushed his fingertips over the russet curls between her thighs, she stiffened, then relaxed, her legs parting, inviting his touch. He slipped a finger inside to test her and moaned at the heat and slickness.
He slid from under her, laid her back on the couch and stood to undress. She watched him from under her lashes, her eyes glints of deep blue that caught the light and flared with heat as his chest was bared. So broad and firmly muscled, every line of him radiating strength, it seemed to Jean that nothing and nobody could ever hurt her again as long as she had this man by her side. Bud dropped his pants and she gasped, her breath leaving her at the first sight of him naked.
His eyes held hers as he lifted her leg to rest on the back of the sofa, brought the other over his shoulder. She tensed and blushed furiously as gazed on her, wide open and naked to him. His eyes smoldered, burned with need before he closed them and lowered his head. She heard him whisper, 'So beautiful...' felt the warm rush of his breath, and then the wet heat of his mouth as he kissed her sex. She jerked and moaned at the steady press of his tongue as it glided up and down, tasting, lapping. Her breasts heaving with every ragged breath, Jean tried not to think of what she must look like to him, but she couldn't stop her body from wantonly reacting to Bud's sucking mouth. She was too inexperienced to realize that the sight of her passion drove him to a fever pitch, didn't know that her innocently sensual reaction to his love-making made him want her more.
He sucked, lips firm around her pulsing clit, and she came for him. Listening to her soft mewling, feeling her violent shudders, made him throb with pride and need. He kept his tongue on her, brought her to orgasm again, and this time he had to hold her down with his hands. She bucked against him hard before her hips broke into a rhythmic, instinctive undulation that drove him wild. She sobbed; he looked up to see her toss her head to one side, completely lost in pleasure. His eyes burned at the sight of her, the smooth curve of her throat, the unconscious way her arms reached for him, the thrust of her breasts, nipples hard and distended, begging him to touch them. The lamplight fell on her face and chest, pink with the flush of her orgasm.
Christ, fucking gorgeous.
He couldn't wait, couldn't hold back the driving need to possess her, make her his. He was up, kneeling between her spread legs, his cock in his hand. He pumped once, then fitted the head between her lips and stroked her, gathering wetness. And then he was in, pushing into heat and softness, holding back as she gasped at his size and tensed.'Almost a virgin...' The thought bloomed and he hushed her in a gentle whisper, "Easy, honey...I won't hurt you, Jeanie."
He held her eyes as he gave her a little more and felt the tight muscles grasping, pulling at his dick. He sank into her body, gathered her into his arms and buried his face in the curve of her shoulder, murmuring, "Jesus, so good, baby. You feel so good, Jeanie...ah, Christ..."
Jean kissed his ear, ran her hands over the width of his shoulders, loving the feel of him over her, covering her, his body both invading and welcome in hers. She murmured his name over and over; he felt it like a caress.
There was something she would have liked to say in this moment of their joining, a simple declaration of her love, but she held back, kept the words prisoner in her mind. Maybe he didn't think of their lovemaking with the emotion she did; she had been brought up to believe that for men, sex wasn't the offering of love it was for women. Her husband Carl had never made her feel anything but used when he took her. But when Bud raised his head and looked at her, she saw that she was wrong.
His eyes blazed love and tenderness, she read his fierce need to possess and protect her, to keep her for himself. He began to move, slowly at first, holding her gaze until sensation overwhelmed him and his lashes dropped as he lost himself in the rising pleasure. Deeper, stronger, each thrust of his hips pushed Jean closer to something unfamiliar but instinctive. She strained toward it, matching his rhythm, clenching down on him to increase his pleasure. And then she was mindlessly calling his name as an astonishing ecstasy seized her in its grip. Grunting, Bud poured into her, his orgasm intensified with the knowledge that he had given her that elusive pleasure. He plunged deep and groaned her name, filling her body with his love.
e e e
He woke early to the warmth of Jean's body snug against his, his hand curled possessively over her breast. Instinctively, he rocked his morning erection into the sweet curve of her ass and buried his face in the nape of her neck. Senses reeling from the scent of her and the feel of her naked body in his arms, he thought of the night before; carrying Jeanie up the stairs, her arms clinging to his neck, her lips against his cheek. The shower together that had exploded into more love-making, this time their passion a little rougher, a little edgier. Settling to sleep with her in his arms long after midnight, the desire to protect and cherish her driving him to hold her all night long.
Christ, it was all so fucking good.
She stirred and Bud smiled into her hair. "You awake, honey?"
Jean slid her hand over his and squeezed. "I am now." She rocked back against him, he ground into her and kissed her bare shoulder.
"I guess you know what I'm thinking then, huh?"
In response, she lifted her leg. A hiss of pleasure escaped his lips; he slid into her effortlessly and rocked, savoring the sweetness of her cunt closing over him. Morning love, slow and easy, tenderness in his heart and in his body. Bud whispered to her, pulled her face back to kiss her, and then rolled her over so could watch her eyes, see her love for him.
'I want this all the time,' he thought, as release claimed him and he sank shuddering into her welcoming arms. 'I want her for good.'
Every morning they were on shift, Bud drove to Stensland's apartment and picked him up. It was an arrangement they'd had since Stens had wrapped his Ford around a pole late one night, driving home from a drunk. On the way there he thought seriously about marrying Jean. It was too early to ask her, they'd only known each other a few weeks. He told himself to take it slow, he didn't want to spook her...she'd had a prick for a husband the first time around, she was still skittish about marriage...fuck, she was probably still leery of men, period. But he wanted her to know he was serious. And he wanted to make sure she didn't see anyone else. He thought of high school, how some of the guys had given their class rings to their girlfriends, gone steady. Bud never had a class ring to give anyone, never had a girl he liked enough. He realized he'd never cared this much about any woman, never wanted to keep one just for himself. Christ, even the thought of Jeanie going out with someone else made him wild.
He pulled up in front of Stensland's building and hit the horn. His partner ambled out after a few minutes and got in the car, his only reply to Bud's mumbled greeting a grunt. Bud grinned. Looked like the old man had a bad night.
He drove up Los Feliz toward West Hollywood, the two-way on low, scoping the sidewalks, cursing the early morning traffic under his breath.
Stensland pointed to a coffee shop. "Pull over...I gotta feed this fucking hangover before it kills me. We got time to grab something."
Bud gave him heat. "Yeah, maybe some coffee will jolt you out of your lousy mood."
He slid the cruiser into a parking spot in front and followed Stens inside. He wasn't hungry...Jeanie had made him a real breakfast before he'd left for work that morning. He smiled, thinking of her great coffee and the eggs that were done just the way he liked them, the perfect toast with exactly the right amount of butter. He thought of her sex-flushed face and that lush body in a green satin robe, the sweetness of her smile across the table. Everything about Jean was perfect. Perfect for him. Jesus, he was crazy about her.
Stens gave him a look when he only ordered coffee, peppered him with questions. Bud gave him evasive answers or grunted, and finally clammed altogether. He wasn't going to talk about Jeanie with anyone, especially not Stens. He wasn't about to let the woman he wanted to marry become the butt of a cheap joke in the station. The memory of their kiss goodbye at the door floated into his mind, and unknowingly, his mouth pulled into a smile. Across the table, Stensland grinned.
"Looks like somebody's been getting it good, and it sure as hell ain't me. Been too long, partner. Whaddya say we hit a few bars tonight when the shift's over? Dig up a couple of girls?" Stens liked going out with his partner. Women loved Bud and after he picked the one he wanted, Stens usually got laid by one of the leftovers.
Bud looked up. "Huh?"
"I said I got a yen to go on a toot and find a broad. How about it?"
Bud narrowed his eyes. "You're in the mood for another drunk, go yourself, pal. I ain't babysitting your sorry ass tonight."
"Got something else to do, huh? What's her name?" Stensland hid a grin in his cup, but his eyes were sly.
"What's whose name?" Bud pushed his coffee away and dug for change in his pocket. "Give it a rest...and hurry the fuck up. You dick around here all morning, you won't get off shift at all, shitbird."
"Not gonna spill, huh? Suit yourself." Stens belched and stood, threw a dollar next to his ravaged plate, and followed Bud out to the car.
They checked in at Central Division. The watch commander was Fortnum, a guy Bud knew from his salad days on traffic detail. They'd partnered up before Bud moved on to the detectives bureau. Bud nodded in his direction as he and Stens headed for the squad room to catch the morning briefing.
Fortnum deadpanned, "Hey White...a pal of yours got booked on a felony B&E with attempted assault last night."
Bud shrugged carelessly, kept going. "Yeah? I got lots of pals. What's his name?"
Fortnum grinned, hooked a thumb over his shoulder. "Tony Monaco. We got him back in holding."
Bud stopped dead, but kept his expression impassive and thrust his hands into his pockets to stop their involuntary clenching. "Monaco's no second story man. He's a dope-runner, muscle for hire. Where'd they pick him up?"
"Elysian Park. He went after his wife; the uncle called us. We got him before he could get to her."
Guilt dropped onto Bud like a load of bricks. He'd been out of touch last night, nobody had known where to get him. He thought of Sophia Monaco and her uncle desperately trying to call for help, and his phone at home ringing into empty air. Bud's face flushed dull red as rage poured into him. He stalked past the desk, his shoulders hunched and tight. Stens grabbed for him, he shrugged him off.
"Nice work, asshole." Stensland glared at Fortnum and took off after his partner. He threw a command over his shoulder as he disappeared through the swinging door, "Call a coupla guys to help me hold him back."
Monaco was in the third cell, lying on the cot with his arms folded behind his head. Bud stared at him, felt the fury building, boiling, taking him over. "Open it up," he said curtly to the guard, jerking his chin at the door.
Monaco's head rose from the dirty blue-ticked pillow. The color drained from his face when he saw Bud on the other side of the bars. He eyed the guard anxiously, grated, "Don't let him in here!" His stomach clenched in real fear when the guard laughed.
At the end of the hallway, Stensland burst through the door on the double, trailing a pair of bluesuits. He jabbed a finger at the guard, barked, "Keep that fucking cell locked down!" Cautiously, he approached Bud, pulled at his arm. One shrug of the heavy shoulders brushed him off.
Bud bellowed, "Open the fuckin' door!"
The guard looked between him and Stensland, tossed Bud the keys. Stens shook his head, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and followed his partner into the cell. Bud dragged Monaco off the cot and slammed him against the wall, pinning him with a forearm to the throat.
"I told you to stay away from her, you guinea fuck. You don't take a warning so good."
"I just wanted to see her...she's my fuckin' wife!" A strong hand grasped his scrotum and squeezed. "Mother of God!" Sweat popped on Monaco's forehead, his eyes went wide in fear.
"See her for what? Thought you'd get your rocks off? Slap her around a little?" Bud leaned in harder, Monaco choked. He could hardly breathe, pain screamed up from his balls.
"I wasn't gonna hurt her...I just wanted to get laid. You know what it's like...you got a woman..." Monaco gasped.
'Jeanie, he's talkin' about Jeanie...'
Enraged, Bud leaned in, increasing the pressure on Monaco's throat. He'd kill the fucker, take him out for good, spit on his fucking corpse...Dimly, he heard the bluesuits and Stensland, their voices loud, panicked, shouting at him to ease off. A suit pried at his arm, he shrugged him off but eased the pressure on Monaco's throat, let go of his balls as a reproving voice in his head warned, 'Play it smart...no witnesses.' Monaco collapsed to the floor, rolled into a fetal position. Bud stood over him, breathing heavily, let Stensland pull him away. He stalked out of the cell, stopped at the desk.
"I wanna know the minute that prick makes bail," he said quietly. Fortnum met his eyes, nodded. Bud strode away.
e e e
Jean sat at the table with another cup of coffee, thinking of the night before and even better, that morning. Bud's eyes, his arms around her, his goodbye kiss and his whispered, "I'll be back when I get off," as he went out the door. She smiled. Bud...
He loved her. She could see it in his eyes, feel it when he touched her. He hadn't said it yet, but he didn't need to. She knew. Jean looked around her kitchen, remembering him leaning against the counter as if he belonged there, sitting at the table sipping coffee, his eyes following every move she made.
Abruptly she rose and went to the living room, stood in the doorway and looked at the sofa where they'd made love. She closed her eyes and saw his face, the passion etched in every line, remembered the strength and power in his body over hers. She had never felt like that in her life; utterly taken over, but still cherished, almost adored. A blush colored her cheeks at the memory of his eyes as he'd looked up at her from between her thighs and unthinkingly, she smoothed her hands over her belly, as if she could quiet the butterflies that fluttered there. She ached for him, wanted to feel this way forever. And then she laughed at herself, all but panting in her sunny living room with the sound of children's voices coming in through the open window and Mrs. O'Leary's strident howl calling to them to come in the house. She was acting like a lovesick teenager, just the way she had when she was a kid, and had a crush on Joe Bishoff from next door.
Well, she wasn't a kid anymore. She was a woman in love, and her man was coming home to her. She intended to pamper Bud White like he'd never been pampered before. Home-cooked meals, tender care, lots of loving. She could tell he wasn't used to it, wasn't used to anyone making a fuss over him, and he soaked up her attention like a sponge. He'd told her next to nothing about his childhood...hardly anything about his life, really. But with the intuition that comes with love, Jean knew there was heartbreak in his background, loneliness and insecurity and pain, just like her. They were two bruised souls who'd somehow found each other, and now it was up to them to take this chance for happiness and see where life took them. Silently, Jean thanked whatever lucky star had made her go to the Formosa that night, and swore to herself she'd do anything to make Bud White happy.
She turned to go back to the kitchen to take care of the breakfast dishes, and her eye caught the stack of mail that had been waiting on the Philco since she'd dropped it there yesterday. She leafed through the envelopes: a letter from an old girlfriend living in Cleveland, an electric bill, her charge account at Bullock’s...that was the bill for the dark blue dress she'd worn the night she met Bud. It had been a terrible extravagance, but it turned out to be worth every penny, Jean thought. She went back to the kitchen to pour another cup of coffee, and the letter from her mother, warning her of her ex-husband's increasingly frequent and sometimes violent demands to know where she was, remained unseen on the floor behind the radio. Just as she was going to sit down and read all the latest from Cleveland, the phone rang.
Jeanie answered smiling, because she knew it was Bud.
e e e
'What a lousy fuckin' day...'
It should have been a good one, with the memory of the night before and this morning to warm him, but Monaco...fuckin' Monaco.
Bud called Sophia's uncle as soon as he got to his desk to make sure she was all right. It didn't help his mood when Giorgio said his niece was scared shitless and had spent the day crying in her room. He promised to stop by later and talk to her, made the old man agree not to drop the charges on Monaco this time. Bud gave him Jeanie's phone number, said to try him there if he wasn't at home, and then he called her himself.
All it took was a few words from her and he felt better. They made plans for the evening...he promised her the show they'd missed last night...and the sun broke over his face when she told him to bring his toothbrush. He grinned, thinking he was going to bring a lot more than his toothbrush over; from now on he'd be spending lots of time at Jeanie's house. Lots of nights. Despite the morning's incident with Monaco, his day brightened.
Things never go as planned, though. Bud thought it was his fuckin' luck...just as he was finishing up a report on a gang of con artists who had hustled a bunch of old-timers by pretending to be workers from the gas company, Lieutenant Davies detailed him to an armed robbery in Culver City. He called Jeanie, gave her the bad news.
"Baby, I'm gonna be late," he rumbled into the phone. "Some stuff is happening here, I gotta work. Looks like we won't make the movie again."
Her voice took on a teasing tone. "Hmmm. Another broken date...how are you going to make it up to me, Officer White?"
The image of her face as she came for him flashed into his mind, the memory of her taste bloomed in his mouth. His voice dropped an octave lower into a confidential growl. "With kisses, sweetheart. Slow wet kisses, all over."
"Then I'll forgive you," she purred.
"That's my girl." Bud was getting ready to say more, but a quick glance up showed him Stensland on his way to the desk. His teasing tone evaporated. "Sweetheart, I gotta go. Make sure you lock yourself in tonight, okay? Don't open the door to anyone but me."
The change puzzled Jean. "Bud? Something wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong. Just want my best girl to be safe. Promise me?"
"Of course I do, but if something's going on..."
"Nothing's going on, baby. I'll see you later." Bud hesitated, turned his back on the approaching Stensland. "Jeanie? I'm crazy about you, baby."
She heard it, the longing in his voice, and gave him what he so obviously needed. "And I'm wild about you, Bud. See you later, honey."
e e e
"Yeah, ain't that the truth," sneered Krupski, the man on the desk. "Your pal's a dumb fuck, White."
Bud winked. "They're all dumb fucks, Krupski."
But in spite of his cool act, sweat broke out on his forehead as he thought of Jeanie alone at home with Monaco out of jail. He went to his desk and called her again, told her to go next door and stay with the neighbor until he got there.
Christ, he hated to scare her, but better safe than sorry. Monaco was on the loose, he knew about them. Meeting her in the Formosa had seemed like a brilliant stroke of luck, but now Bud wished it would have gone down differently. A hard edge crept into his tone, generated by fear. "No questions, doll. Just do it. I'll explain when I get home. Get over there now, Jeanie."
"I will," she promised.
Bud ran a hand over his face, wiped sweat. "I might be later than I thought, baby. Tell your neighbor whatever you want, but don't fucking leave her house until I come for you, even if it takes all night."
It killed him to hear the alarm in her voice, though her words were calm and exactly what he wanted to hear.
"I won't Bud. I'll wait."
"Good girl. Later, baby."
It drove him crazy to stay and write his report, but he wasn't going to give the station guys anything to recall later as being out of the ordinary. Stensland was in the mood to fuck around and disappeared into the day room for coffee. He didn't come back. Bud typed rapidly, signed the finished report and left it on the lieutenant's desk, didn't say goodbye to anyone. He slipped out a side door unseen, sprinted to the car.
Traffic was light, he made Elysian Park in fifteen minutes. All he could think about on the way there was Jeanie. He worried about her, but if she was with the neighbors, she'd be okay. The best way to keep her safe was to find Monaco. Bud swore. He should have fucking beat the shit out of him when he had the chance. The prick would still be in the hospital.
The sky was dark in the east, still pale lavender in the west, when Bud stood on the stoop at Uncle Giorgio's house and knocked and waited for someone to let him in. He heard stirrings, lock tumblers clicking. When the door opened, the safety chain was on. Bud grimaced, no safety chain could hold a strong man back if he wanted in. He thought about telling Sophia and her uncle that and decided against it. Let them keep their illusion of security; it wouldn't matter too much longer.
The old man ushered him into the living room and went to get his niece. Bud stood with his hands in his pockets and looked around. Heavy old overstuffed furniture in dark blue, doilies on the armrests. Candles in red glass holders flickering in front of a statue of the Virgin, religious prints on the walls, a braided cross of Easter palm above the doorway. Typical old country dago house, right down to the mouth-watering aroma coming from the kitchen. He heard a faint sound and turned to see Giorgio leading Sophia into the room, her smile shy but welcoming. They sat together on the sofa; Bud took a chair across from Big Tony's wife and leaned toward her, his hands clasped between his knees.
"You all right, Mrs. Monaco?"
Doe eyes, liquid dark brown, looked at him pleadingly before she nodded. "Si. I am-a okay."
Bud swore silently. She looked anything but okay, he could see she was scared to death. He kept his voice low, gentle. "I came to tell you your husband made bail today. He was released this afternoon."
Sophia's face crumpled, Giorgio swore in Italian."Merda!"
Bud cut his eyes at the old man. "That mean what I think it does?"
Giorgio nodded. "He is shit, less than a man, to beat a woman! My poor niece..."
Bud cut him off. "Listen, I need some information. Names of his known associates, places where he hangs out. Either of you know where he's staying? He ain't living at your apartment," Bud said, his eyes going to Sophia.
Giorgio shook his head. "Nothing. I know nothing of his whereabouts, his friends."
"Sophia?" Bud pressed, staring at her intently. "You know anything?" Her eyes held his, pleading, sorrowful. Bud kept his gaze on her, hoping she'd get the message.
Giorgio said cautiously, "My niece knows nothing, Officer White. In any case, Italian women do not tell tales on their husbands, no matter how brutal they are."
Bud nodded. "Keeps them in their place, huh?" He stood. "I'll keep an eye out for him then. I doubt he'll be back, but if he does, call the station." He turned as if to go, and then stopped. "Mind if I ask you for a glass of water, sir?"
Giorgio rose, his face apologetic. "Of course, forgive me for not offering you something before now. In all this trouble, I forget my manners. You'll take a glass of wine, Officer White?"
Bud shook his head, mentally crossed his fingers that the old man wouldn't send Sophia to get it. "No sir, I'm on duty. Just water will be fine."
"Sure, sure. Right away."
He left the room and Bud covered the space between them to whisper rapidly to Sophia, "Ma'am, you got anything you can tell me? Nobody will ever know it came from you, I swear to Christ..."
He watched as unbelievably, she turned from him, went to the statue of the Virgin.
'What the fuck, was she going to pray? Now?'Bud shook his head, cursing the odd habits of foreigners, and had taken a step toward the door when Sophia came back, pressed something into his hand, and closed his fingers over it. The old man brought his water. Bud drank it standing and took his leave, ran to the cruiser parked on the street. Inside the car he hit the dash light and looked in his hand. A matchbook embossed with a silver crescent moon, the figure of a shapely woman perched cross-legged on the curve. Printed below he read, The Moonmist Lounge, 14441 La Mirada. Bud gunned the engine, blew red lights all the way back to Hollywood.
Monaco's flash tutone Caddy was there, in a lot beside the joint. Bud slid into a parking space on the street where he could watch the door and the car. An hour went by. Bud cracked his knuckles, kept himself pumped with thoughts of Jeanie and the memory of Sophia's shattered face. He had to piss but he wouldn't leave to go to a public john, couldn't go into the Moonmist. No fuckin' witnesses, nobody to connect him with Monaco. He had an alibi already set: a stop off at the Break Time Coffee Shop. One of the waitresses was sweet on him; she'd remember that he was there. He'd make sure of it. He found an empty paper cup on the floor in the backseat stained with the dried remnants of a cup of coffee drunk on a stakeout last month. He pissed in that, threw it out the window.
Another half hour passed. He started to worry that Monaco wasn't in the joint at all, that he'd left his car and gone off with someone else. Bud thought about calling Jeanie to check on her, had picked up the hand mike to have the R&I people shag the neighbor's number for him when the frosted glass door opened and Monaco walked out of the Moonmist. He was alone and he was nervous...looked up and down the street before all but sprinting to his car. He didn't see the big cop; didn't notice the innocuous cruiser parked half a block down. Bud grinned malevolently, waited until the Caddy was half way up the block before he followed.
He tailed him with two cars between them. Monaco took Sunset, cruised to the Zimba Room, hit the horn and waited out front. Two spooks approached the car, Bud saw Monaco pass a bundle through the window. Dope drop, but he let it go; he wasn't here to bust him for hop. The hopheads went back into the Zimba Room, the Caddy slid back into traffic. Again, Bud let a car get between him and Monaco. He kept Big Tony's tail lights in sight and grinned when he followed the boulevard all the way to US 1. Perfect. Fuckin' perfect.
Traffic was thin on the coast road, but it didn't matter if the cockroach saw him now. Bud hauled ass, settled in behind the Caddy doing sixty-five. It was dark and Monaco didn't make him, not until they'd gone a few miles. Bud knew when he did; the Caddy sped up and he had to floor the unmarked to keep up. He pushed close to Monaco's rear bumper, let the cruiser kiss it, smiled contemptuously when the Caddy swerved into the other lane and jerked back, the heavy car rocking on its springs.
Deserted, the road a straightway for a mile. No headlights behind him or up ahead, vacant beach and steep rocky hillside to the left and right. Bud pulled his piece, gunned the cruiser and pulled up even with the Caddy. Monaco's face in the window, drained white, panicked. Bud drew down, the .38 steady in spite of the speed, his expression coldly malevolent, intense. Monaco stared, his mouth wide open in a rictus of fear. He cut the wheel, the Caddy protested and rocked wildly. Monaco jerked his head to the front, over-compensated on the steering. The Caddy swerved sharply and lost the highway, crashing through the wooden barrier and over the embankment. Bud hit the brakes, got the cruiser stopped without laying rubber. He pulled onto the shoulder, flinched at the impact of an explosion and the sudden orange glare in his rear view. Gears grinding, he threw the unmarked into reverse until he was even with the gap in the barrier. Bud hit the door at a sprint, stopped at the edge of the cliff.
Rocks below, the Caddy a ball of gasoline-fueled flame, warm air rising to brush his skin with sudden heat. In the flickering glare, he checked the hillside. No body, nothing but a twisted chrome bumper and shards of broken glass glinting red in the light. And then he heard them, faint hoarse screams. Bud slid his snub-nose back in its holster. Monaco had saved him a bullet. He stood a moment longer, watching, listening, then turned back to his unmarked.
To be continued