Part 1: Someone To Watch Over Me
Los Angeles, April 1951
His hands were clenched into fists, the skin stretched taut and white over his knuckles. They were huge, his fists...lightly scarred and callused, the hands of a man who was not afraid to use them in violence. His expression one of contained savagery, he listened to the bloodied and battered woman in the hospital bed respond to his partner's respectfully delicate questions. As she haltingly told Dick Stensland what her husband had done to her, Bud White's rage spiraled to a point where he almost lost control.
The woman was Italian, the imported wife of a slimeball pal of Johnny Stompanato's. She began to weep, pathetically bemoaning her shame, crying in broken English that she would never be able to face her family again. Bud couldn't stand it: one more minute and he was going to explode. Rigid with anger, his shoulders hunched and fists tensed, he stalked from the room.
He waited for Stens in the corridor, the antiseptic-tinged air fouling every breath he took. Christ, he hated hospitals. Hospitals and funeral homes...the sickening scent of chemicals and death mixed with the cloying perfume of too many flowers was enough to bring back the nightmare of his mother's murder as if he were living it all over again. He'd been a kid when his mother died...only twelve...and even though he was now a man of thirty, being in those places and smelling those odors was association enough to drive him to a state of fury that was near madness.
Stensland came out of the room, silently easing the door closed. He stood in front of his partner, an atypical expression of sympathy on his florid face. Stens knew Bud's history, knew how the sight of battered and weeping women affected him.
"Get hold of yourself, Bud. You ain't gonna be much help to the lady if you're so mad you can't see straight."
"I can handle it." Bud took a deep breath and squared his powerful shoulders. "Let's go."
Stens slid his hands in his pockets and deliberately leaned against the wall. "Go where?"
Bud stepped close and hissed, "The fuck you mean, where? To get the bastard who did this to her." He strode toward the bank of elevators.
Stensland heaved his bulk off the wall and hurried to catch up. "Pick him up, you mean. Take him in to the station," he persisted, his eyes hard on Bud's livid face as he matched his pace to his partner's.
Bud growled, "Pick him up, my ass. I ain't taking that guinea fuck in. If he's lucky, I'll put him in the hospital instead of the fuckin' morgue."
They reached the elevators; Bud stabbed a finger at the down button and jammed his hands into his pockets, a portrait of contained ferocity. Rage rolled off him in palpable waves.
Undaunted, Stensland said, "Uh uh, Bud. We take him in, no rough stuff. We been watching Monaco for months and the dumb bastard just handed himself to us on a silver platter. You touch this guy and get the case thrown out, the brass'll be all over you. They'll never swallow some bullshit resisting arrest line on this one." He hunched his shoulders and stuck his hands into his pockets, getting himself wound up to preach. "We got enough IA crap hanging over us from the last…"
Bud broke in, his voice hoarse and curt. "Stens! You want out of it, fine. Just don't get in my way." Only a few years from his pension, Stensland was getting short-timer syndrome. Bud couldn't blame him; when you got this close, the chance of fucking up and losing it all was a constant worry. He said evenly, "You stay here with the woman; I'll go after him myself."
Stensland opened his mouth to protest, but backed off when a doctor in hospital whites approached to wait for the elevator. He shrugged, grimacing. Talking to Bud when he was like this was a waste of breath...nobody was going to stop him from doling out his own brand of justice to a low-life wop wife-beater. The guy had done too much damage to the lady to be shown any mercy from Bud; her face would be permanently disfigured from the beating she had taken. He knew it, Bud knew it...only the lady herself probably hadn't realized yet that she had gone from being a pretty woman to an object of pity in the passing of a few violent minutes. Stens sighed. Much as he knew Bud considered him a friend, his advice to go easy wasn't going to keep his partner off the guy tonight. Bud's hatred of wife-beaters was a growing legend in the Department. The best Stens could hope for was that White left Monaco alive.
The elevator came. They rode down in silence; him, Bud, and the doc, a young guy who gave them the once over and looked pointedly away. He and Bud went through the emergency room doors into the cool early June night and got into an unmarked cruiser. Bud slid in behind the wheel, Stensland took shotgun. He pulled a breath and looked over at his partner, meeting Bud's glare with one of his own.
"Fuck it," he swore, loyalty winning out over caution. "If we're going, let's go. I'll watch your back. But for crissakes, don't kill him, Bud. Hold off that much, at least."
All he got in reply was a non-committal grunt.
* * *
Anthony "Big Tony" Monaco was an ape of a man: hairy, short, broad, long-armed, and amazingly bow-legged...a singularly unattractive person, though he didn't think so. He was nursing a beer in the Starlite Bar and Grill, keeping his back to the wall and his eyes on the front door. They'd be coming for him, to arrest him for beating the crap out of Sophia.
He took a nervous gulp and wiped his upper lip with the back of his hand. He'd fucked up big time, slapping his woman around like he did. He'd put her in the hospital and the dumb bitch spilled on him instead of keeping her trap shut like a good wife should. He'd heard from Johnny Stomp that their paisano were not happy with him. He'd been warned time and again to maintain a low profile, keep his nose clean. He was hungry to move up in the organization, wanted a piece of the action instead of just doing muscle jobs, but a good dope runner was an invisible dope runner. No arrest record, no cops with a hard on for you. Now because of his cold bitch of a wife and his own hot temper, he was guaranteed a trip downtown on an aggravated assault charge, and some heavy duty questioning by the Hollywood dicks.
Big Tony wasn't too smart, but he knew once the cops got him in an interrogation room, their questions were not going to be about beating his wife bloody. He scratched himself nervously, cursing Sophia under his breath. He didn't know what possessed him to go so crazy on her: it was like something inside him snapped. He was sick of her and her old country guinea habits. Always creeping around like a sneaking cat, always acting like she was afraid of him, and worst of all, always...always...a lousy waste of time in bed. He wanted a couple kids to carry on his name. How was he supposed to knock her up when it was like fucking a corpse to screw her?
Tony got married late...he was 36...and he married a girl his family imported for him from Italy. He'd thought at first that was what he wanted...at least he was sure of getting a virgin and not some slut that had been giving it away free for years. It seemed a good idea then that the future mother of his children would be from the old country and guaranteed pure...and that she would be content to stay at home and raise kids and cook and clean, see to his every desire.
But Tony was used to call girls and bar rags, starlets on the make for contacts, women who had been around and knew how to give a guy a good lay and a decent blowjob. He liked girls who showed him a good time...liked them boozy and cheerful and dressed to the nines. Fuckin' Sophia wouldn't take a drink, wouldn't smoke a cigarette, wouldn't use lipstick or do her hair in anything but a scraped-back bun. She wore nothing but shapeless old country black dresses like an eighty year old nonna. She hated sex with him, wouldn't give him head, wouldn't let him go down on her. He'd even caught her praying while he fucked her. Last night her silent tears and rigid body, her refusal to even let him see her naked, had pushed him to the limit. He lost his temper and let her have it good. Too good maybe, good enough to break her cheekbone and nose, knock out a few teeth, dislocate her arm. Good enough to send his ass to stir if she pressed charges.
Tony mumbled the first prayer he'd said since he'd made his Confirmation years ago: "Jesus, just let me come through this clear and I promise I'll never hit my old lady again."
It wasn't that Tony was afraid of the cops. Fuck no, the cops were the least of his worries. Tony feared Moe Conti, was more afraid of his paisan than the cops. At least the cops played it straight most of the time. But if he fucked up and spilled something he shouldn't to them, Moe would cut his dick off without blinking an eye. That he was afraid of.
The door opened, traffic noise from the boulevard bleeding in, and a brawny man with a crew cut stopped in the doorway, his eyes scanning the room. Even though there was no obvious sign of it, Tony knew the guy was a cop. He tensed, kept his head down as Bud White sauntered casually over.
Bud slid smoothly onto the stool next to Monaco and spoke in a low voice that throbbed with menace. "What do you say, shitbird? You have a good time beating a defenseless woman?" He leaned closer to Tony and threatened quietly, "It's the last good time you're gonna have for a while, you wop cocksucker."
Tony tried a bluff on the outside chance the guy wasn't sure who he was. "The fuck you talking about? Who the fuck are you?" he snapped, pretending outrage.
"Swear at me again and I'll make you sorry." Bud flashed his badge. "LAPD. Get up and put your hands behind your back."
Tony cast an appraising eye over Bud, thinking he could probably take him. The cop was heavily muscled and looked solid as a rock, but his own pals didn't call him Big Tony for nothing. He got brave.
"Beat it, asshole." He sipped from his Schlitz and brushed Bud off like he was lint on a jacket.
In a move so fast Tony didn't have a chance to react, Bud grabbed him by the arm and twisted it behind his back as his hand slid into the slicked back hair and jerked. The Schlitz bottle fell over on its side; beer foamed out on the bar and into Tony's lap. It looked like he'd pissed himself. Maybe he had. It wouldn't be the first time a lowlife hard ass had pissed himself when Bud White set out to put the fear of God into him.
"Did you just call me an asshole?" Bud asked, feigning disbelief. "After I warned you about showing proper respect for an officer of the law?" He pulled on Tony's hair, looked into his upside down and startled face. Bud smiled malevolently.
His eyes wide open and bulging, Tony broke into a cold sweat. Christ in heaven, but the guy was strong! Strong and fast. He tried to flex his arm, testing the hold. It immediately tightened and he felt his muscles and tendons scream in protest.
"Okay, okay!" he gasped, hoarse with pain.
"Shut the fuck up, tough guy." Bud threw a glance at the bartender. The man was industriously polishing glasses, his back to them, acting as if he hadn't noticed a thing out of the ordinary. With only a little extra pressure on his arm, Bud propelled Big Tony towards the back door of the Starlite. His prisoner went quietly, almost meekly. Bud snorted in disgust. Some tough guy. Tough enough to beat the shit out of a woman, but an easy fold when it came to someone his own size.
He was itching to hurt the bastard, but Bud played it smart. He'd thought hard on the drive to the Starlite and decided that a lowlife guinea hood wasn't worth giving IAD a reason to come down on Stensland and screw him out of his pension. Stens was a pal and he was right...Hollywood dicks had been looking for a reason to haul Monaco in and question him on the recent killing of two of Mickey C's runners. Not that anyone gave a shit about the goons, but everyone in Narco wanted to know what happened to the dope they were shipping. Bud decided a nice neat collar of one of Cohen's men would do him and Stens more good with Dudley Smith than if they brought the guy in half-dead, so he swallowed his need for retribution and played it straight. And if Monaco beat the rap somehow, Bud would come down on him like the wrath of God. Pay him a little visit some night and kick the living shit out of him. Either way, he'd get the prick.
So instead of kicking the living shit out of Monaco now, Bud cuffed him and hustled him outside. He couldn't resist just one blow for justice, though. Stens watched as Bud led his prisoner up to the unmarked and opened the door, as if he was going to help him in. As Monaco ducked his head, Bud bounced it off the roof. Hard. Monaco fell into the back seat and lay there, stunned.
"Sorry," apologized Bud. "Didn't think you were that tall."
Big Tony, dazed and all but incoherent from the blow, sat shaking his head like a dog. Blood splattered on the car window, little drops of crimson forming a circular pattern on the dirty glass. It poured down his face, staining his jacket and shirt. Bud smiled, satisfied.
' There’s a little taste of what your wife felt when you hit her, you fuck,' he thought grimly.
He expected Big Tony to say something about his rough treatment and waited for the usual bloodcurdling threats of retaliation, but Monaco kept quiet on the way to the Wilshire station. Once there, he gave terse but cooperative answers when they booked him, and seemed relieved to get away from the arresting officers. Bud watched, icy-eyed, as they led him back to the lock-up.
He paused at the counter to sign the booking forms.
"What happened to him?" asked the watch commander, jerking his head in Big Tony's direction. "You going vigilante on us again, White?"
"Not me. Guy's clumsy; he smacked his head off the roof of the car gettin' in."
"You help him?"
Bud grinned. "I might've."
The watch commander laughed. "You're a card, White."
"Yeah," Bud agreed, going back to his forms. "A wild card."
LAPD held him as long as they could, but within forty-eight hours Monaco was back on the street, his bail met by a seedy lawyer who represented small time hoods on a regular basis, courtesy of Meyer Cohen. Hours of questioning by the Narco Squad netted them exactly nothing of use for prosecution, though Tony had let slip a detail here and there that gave them a few leads for further investigation. Confident he'd beat the rap this time, on his way out the door, a cocky Monaco flipped the bird to the officer at the desk.
Livid, Bud White listened as his partner told him that Monaco was out on bail.
"I knew he'd get out, but the son of a bitch ain't off the hook yet. I'll be on him day and night, watching every move he makes." He narrowed his eyes and asked, "What about his wife? She still in the hospital?"
Dick Stensland nodded. "Yeah. For now she is, but they're gonna release her tomorrow. We ought to go over there and talk to her, Bud. Make sure she don't drop the charges. Make sure she goes somewhere safe."
Bud nodded, his face grim. "As soon as I finish this report. Gimme fifteen minutes."
* * *
She was gone when they got there. The priss-assed nurse at the desk told them a dark haired man with 'decidedly simian' attributes had come and picked her up just an hour ago. And no, the doctor hadn't released Mrs. Monaco, but she'd gone anyway.
"Simian attributes? What the hell does that mean?" Bud growled, irritated. He hated it when people used words to try to intimidate him.
The nurse smirked. "It means he looked like an ape," she said, a superior note in her voice.
Bud's eyebrow rose questioningly. "You couldn't just say that?"
She shrugged delicately in reply. Bud shook his head, disgusted.
Stensland persisted, "No idea where they were going? Neither of them said anything?"
"No," said the nurse, suddenly uncomfortable. Obviously, these policemen were not happy that Sophia Monaco was no longer safe in her room across from the nurse's station. She thought that perhaps she should have tried harder to convince Mrs. Monaco to stay in the hospital.
"Did she seem scared to you? Like she didn't want to go with him?" Bud pressed, glaring.
The nurse hesitated. "Maybe. A little. But she called me into the room and said she was going home with her husband."
"Did you try to talk her out of it?"
"No, not really, I…"
"Goddammit!" Bud swore under his breath, then leaned in and said pointedly, "Don't it say on her chart that her husband is the one who put her here?"
"Yes," she admitted. "It does. But…"
His glare froze her into silence.
"Thanks, miss. You been a big help," Bud growled. He obviously meant just the opposite, and the nurse dropped her eyes, ashamed. She didn't look up, not even when the big cop strode away.
He and Stensland stopped at Monaco's last known address but the place was deserted...no surprise there. They cruised through Hollywood, stopped in at several bars he was known to frequent, but no luck...Monaco had gone to ground. Bud couldn't get Sophia's rearranged face out of his mind. Her black-ringed tearful eyes haunted him; he probably should have just followed his instincts and beat Big Tony into dog meat when he had the chance. After a few hours of fruitless searching, he dropped Stensland at his apartment and started for home, but halfway there he detoured and stopped in at the Formosa on the off chance that Johnny Stomp would be available for consultation. Maybe he knew where Monaco was hiding out.
* * *
Stompanato wasn't at the Formosa, but to Bud's amazement and delight, Monaco was, a bandage on his forehead showing bright white against his swarthy face. He was at the end of the bar and had a woman all but cornered, blocking her in with his body. Bud could see she was uncomfortable, really embarrassed, at Monaco's attentions...the bastard had his arm around her and was all but devouring her chest with his eyes.
The woman was very pretty, though a little on the plump side. Lush, with a spectacular bosom that pouted over the top of her dress. Bud couldn't see the rest of her but he was ready to bet she had a great ass, full and curvy, the kind of ass men liked to grab in their hands and massage while they pulled its owner closer. She looked too good for the likes of Big Tony; sexy, but classy, quiet. Her hair was auburn and long, falling in glossy waves down to her shoulders. He checked out her dress; some kind of dark blue shiny stuff with a matching wrap coiled around her shoulders. It looked expensive.
He slid onto an empty stool and ordered a scotch when the bartender came, settled in to keep watch. Bud never took his eyes off Big Tony and the redhead; he stared openly until the woman noticed him. She stared back, her gaze unwavering and obviously entreating. It was clear she wanted a rescue, so Bud slugged back his drink and made his way over, slipping past the crowds at the bar. As he drew close she waved and he heard her say, "Oh! There's my date. Hi honey!" She turned to Monaco and said, "Thanks for keeping me company; it was nice of you."
Without missing a beat she got up, took Bud's arm and turned him away from the bar.
"Please, help me get away from that man," she whispered, leaning toward his lowered ear. "He's scaring me."
Bud liked her moxie. He patted her hand and played along, steered her into a booth. "Sure doll," he said, cutting his eyes at Monaco. "Sit here till I have a talk with him. Be right back."
"No, you don't need to do that…" she protested.
"Yeah, I do. Just give me a minute. Don't go away."
An ashen-faced Tony was on his way out the door but Bud caught him in the parking lot, spun him around with a rough hand on his shoulder.
"Hold on, sport. What's your fuckin' hurry?"
"Let go, White. I'm legal, you got nothing to hold me on. My wife dropped all the charges."
Bud lowered his chin and said menacingly, "So I heard. You have to beat her up again to convince her?"
Big Tony kept quiet and Bud got mad. He shoved him against his car, a flashy new Cadillac with a custom tutone paint job. "What's the matter, shitbird? All of a sudden you got nothing to say for yourself? Where's your wife, you guinea fuck?"
Monaco shrugged. "She's at her uncle's house. They're gonna take care of her until…." He paused, cut his eyes warily at Bud.
"Until she's better?" Bud finished. "She'll never be better, you prick. And she ain't gonna grow new teeth." He tightened his hold on Tony's shoulder. "I'm giving you a warning, tough guy. I hear about you touching her again...if she even goes to the doctor for a fuckin' check up...I'm gonna be on you like flies on shit. I'll give you a nice taste of what it's like to get the crap kicked outta you...and I won't stop at a few broken bones and lost teeth. Capisce?"
Tony nodded. "Yeah, I capisce."
"Good," said Bud. He took a notebook and pencil out of his breast pocket. "Gimme that address; I'll check up on her. For your sake, you better hope she's there and she don't look any worse than she did the other night. I see one new mark on her, your fuckin' wop ass is grass."
He wrote down the address Tony gave him and tucked the notebook back in his pocket. Turning cold eyes on the cowering hood, Bud said, "Remember what I told you." Like lightning, he kneed Monaco in the balls and threw him, gasping and shuddering, into his car. "Get the fuck out of here."
Bud watched him peel out of the parking lot and turn west onto the boulevard, then went back into the Formosa. The redhead was still there, sipping at a pink drink with a little paper umbrella in it. Bud slid into the booth and smiled at her.
"He's gone. You won't be seeing him anymore, Miss…?" He let the question dangle, his eyebrow raised.
She smiled too, a dazzling smile that brightened her face and showed off her beautiful teeth. "Miss Rohar," she said. "Jean Rohar. My friends call me Jeanie."
"Nice to meet you, Jeanie," grinned Bud. "That was some pretty fast thinking you did there," he complimented her, jerking his chin toward the bar. "You were right to be afraid of him; the guy is bad news."
"Not that I know much about men, but I could tell. He wouldn't go away, even though I asked him to." Jeanie shuddered delicately, remembering.
Bud flicked his eyebrows up and down, quickly. "What you just said…." he began, "...no offense, and I know it's the oldest line in the book, but what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this? Don't you know guys like your pal are a dime a dozen in joints like the Formosa?" He smiled to take the edge off his words.
Jeanie shook her head. "I didn't know. I read about this place in the papers; they said movie stars come here once in awhile. I haven't been out in ages, and I thought….well, I thought…" She looked down, said softly, "I thought it might be fun."
"Yeah? What do you think now?"
"I think maybe I'm in over my head," she admitted.
Bud looked her over again, his glance lingering just a beat on her cleavage, then brought his eyes back to her face. There was a look of sorrow there, as well as innocence. This girl was no bar rag; she was a lamb going blindly to the slaughter. She had to be in her mid twenties but she seemed younger, almost innocent. She didn't have the hard edge most Hollywood women had, didn't seem to realize that a woman alone in a club was considered fair game. He leaned back against the banquette.
"Jeanie, I'm hungry. I didn't have lunch or dinner. I have to make one quick stop, but after that, how about it? Want to come along and get something to eat with me?
A smile broke over her features and lit up her face. Bud thought again how pretty she was, so clean and fresh looking, with a sultriness that floated just under the surface of innocence.
"I….that'd be nice, but I don't know... Do you think you could tell me your name first?"
He smiled to reassure her. She was nervous about going with a stranger, and he was glad to see it. At least she had sense enough to know it wasn't a good idea. He reached inside his jacket and pulled out his shield, shoved it across the table so she could see it. "Name's Bud White. LAPD. So you see honey, you really are in good hands now."
Jeanie dropped her eyes a moment, then looked up at Bud again, her face relieved, her smile going sweet and shy. "I know I am. I could tell I was safe with you even before you said you were a policeman."
'Not that safe,' Bud thought. He'd love to take a taste of her full lips. They looked soft, inviting, and her teeth shone like little pearls. This time his smile was genuine, a thoughtful, dreaming smile that reached his eyes and made them darken to green. Jeanie's eyes widened in astonishment. Up till now, she hadn't thought Bud White was all that handsome, but his smile changed that. 'Wow,' she thought. 'What a stunner!'
He stood to help her out of the booth and slid his hands up her arms to adjust her wrap. "Cover up, Jeanie. It's cool outside," Bud warned, bending slightly to let the scent of her perfume drift into his nostrils. They started out of the Formosa, Bud scowling ferociously when a guy at the bar turned to check Jeanie out. Catching his glare, the sharp leaned back to the bar. "No offense, man," he protested, hands raised in the universal gesture of surrender.
Bud ignored him and rested his hand on the small of Jeanie's back to guide her. He felt good. Like he was on a roll.
* * *
He stopped at the address in Elysian Park and checked on Sophia Monaco, leaving Jean in the car with the radio playing softly. Sophia was there, frightened, still bruised, but she bore no new marks and said her husband had not hit or threatened her again. She seemed confused and refused to listen when Bud attempted to talk her into re-filing the charges. Her uncle said he would take care of her, swore that Sophia would be safe in his home. Bud gave him a card with his phone numbers and told them to call if they needed him. He went back to his Packard feeling a little easier in his mind about Sophia, and more than a little excited about having dinner with Jeanie Rohar.
He was looking forward to a nice time...Jean was classier than the women Bud usually saw. He couldn't say dated, not really. He hadn't actually dated a girl in years...all he normally had were pick-ups, one night stands with no obligation, no complications. Sometimes he spent the night with one of the barmaids he knew, accommodating women who expected nothing and would sleep with him for a nice dinner and a night out. Bud kept things on the surface with them, kept it light and meaningless. They knew he wasn't looking for attachments, didn't want to get married or have kids. They enjoyed going out with Bud because despite the fact that they were nothing special to look at, he treated them like they were, showed them a nice time. And he was good in bed. Bud always took his time and made sure it was as pleasurable for them as it was for him.
He glanced over at Jeanie again. He wasn't changing his mind about attachments, but it was nice to take out a woman who made him proud to be seen with her. She was overdressed for it, but Bud took her to his favorite steak house over in Westlake. Morton's was cozy: dim lights, big comfortable booths, candles in straw covered chianti bottles on the tables. When the waiter came, he ordered for both of them: T-bones, potatoes baked in the jackets, salad. Bud ordered another straight scotch for himself and a Coca Cola for Jeanie, who said she'd had enough booze for a while. The waiter brought their drinks and melted away. Bud fixed Jeanie in his gaze and cracked a smile.
"So where you from, doll? Your accent ain't local and you're not Los Angeles savvy."
She looked at him blankly. "How can you tell?"
He grinned. "I'm a detective. It's my job to tell. So spill….where are you from? I'm guessing the midwest."
She nodded. "You guessed right. I'm from Ohio. Akron, Ohio. You know, where they make tires?"
"And what brought you out here?" Bud sipped his scotch, leaned back in the booth. His jacket slipped open; Jeanie's eyes went to the .38 clipped to his belt and she hesitated, the sight of the gun freezing her for a brief moment.
"I, ummm...I suppose I just wanted to try something new. Something different from what I'm used to."
Bud sensed hink and pressed. "Did you think you'd get into movies? Want to be a star?"
He hoped not. There were thousands of girls in the city who'd come for that reason and been disappointed. Most of them were slinging hash or pounding typewriters. And some of them, a lot of them in fact, were prostitutes. Whether street whores or call girls, making a living on your back was dangerous and sordid. Bud knew lots of prosties, not as a customer, but as a cop. He felt sorry for them; he rarely rousted whores.
Jeanie was laughing, a deep throaty laugh that pleased him. "No," she said, shaking her head in reply to his question. Bud's eyes followed the gleam in her dark red hair. "I'm too fat to be in the movies. They say the camera adds ten pounds. "
"You aren't fat," Bud protested, his eyes leaving her hair and lighting on, then glancing off her cleavage again. He thought how he'd like to bury his face in it, kiss her there in the tempting valley between her breasts. Without thinking, he said, "You're shaped nice. Extra curvy. Guys have a term for girls like you...they'd say you're stacked. You ever hear that?" As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he realized she could take them the wrong way. He winked to show her he was teasing and was relieved when she didn't appear to be offended.
"Sure. We say that in Ohio, too. I just never thought of myself that way."
"Well, you are...stacked, I mean. I think you look beautiful," Bud said quietly, and gave her the slow, lazy smile he knew melted women. Jeanie was no different; he saw her eyes soften.
"Thanks, Bud. I think you're nice-looking, too."
He looked at her awhile, took in the creamy skin blushing pink in the low light of Morton's, the clear blue eyes, stared hard at her mouth. He tore his gaze away and glanced down at the table. "You mind if I smoke?" he asked, reaching for the ashtray.
"No. May I have one too?"
He reached across the table with his Zippo and watched her eyes reflect the light of the flame.
She drew back, exhaled, and said, "What about you, Bud? Where are you from?"
"Right here. Grew up over in Silver Lake."
"Really? So you're a homegrown guy?"
Bud tensed, sensed she was moving toward asking him about school and all the meaningless bullshit details people usually exchange when they first meet. But he didn't like talking about his childhood; it was too painful. He gave her the abbreviated version, calculated to satisfy her curiosity and keep her from delving too deeply.
"That's right. Homegrown. Born and raised, went to school here, joined the force in '42. Made detective two years ago. No wife, no kids, no dog." He dragged from his cigarette, blew smoke toward the ceiling. "What do you do for a living, Jeanie? Do you work?"
She nodded, tipped ash. "I'm executive secretary to the chairman of Reliance Insurance. I worked for the company in Ohio and when the chance for this position came open, I moved here."
She fell silent, but it seemed to Bud she had more to say. He waited and sure enough, she started talking again.
"Listen Bud….you might as well know right now that I'm divorced." She threw a glance at his face to see if he seemed shocked, but his expression remained unchanged so she went on. "I was only married for a year, and at first it was fine. Then he…became violent."
Bud's eyes hardened. "He hit you?"
Jean nodded and looked down. Ashamed of her past, she couldn't bring herself to admit that she'd been beaten bloody by her ex-husband, that she feared him still and lived in dread that he would come to Los Angeles looking for her. Even now, months after their divorce, she could hear him ranting that she'd always be his wife, that the divorce papers meant nothing.
"Good thing you got away from him, then," Bud said. "Lots of women don't. They end up hurt and terrified, or dead."
"I know. My own mother…" began Jeanie, but she didn't go on.
Bud watched her swallow, slid his hand over to cover hers. "Mine too," he said quietly, his eyes on hers. "My father killed her. I was twelve."
"Oh Bud! I'm sorry," Jeanie sighed. "My dad stopped, eventually. But I remember those nights when he'd come home drunk and crazy, and when my husband started getting rough, I left. I could see the pattern developing...the drinking, the fights. All it took was one beating, and even though he cried and said he was sorry, that it would never happen again, I left. I didn't want to live that way again... you know, live in fear of a man who was supposed to love me...so I divorced him and came out here to start over."
Bud nodded approvingly. "You were smart. Any man that would hit a woman is worthless. And dangerous."
"Yes, everyone says that. But divorce carries such a stigma. You know, nice women don't leave their husbands, that kind of thing…." Her voice trailed off.
"Better divorced than dead, Jeanie. People who know your story won't think anything bad about you." He squeezed the hand he still held, turned it over and rubbed his thumbs across the palm, back and forth, his touch light and gentle.
Jeanie sat still, loving the feel of his big hand on hers. It had been so long since a man had touched her at all, especially so tenderly. She tilted her head back and relaxed, content to let Officer Bud White hold her hand, content to let the warmth steal into her body. Her mind forged ahead, wondering if maybe Bud might be the man for her, the reason she'd felt such a relentless pull to come to California, and she smiled at her girlish silliness.
From across the table, a fascinated Bud stared at her, at her closed eyes, the dark spiky lashes fanning on her cheeks. His eyes moved to her exposed throat and the delicate line of her jaw, and thought that if they were alone he would kiss her right there, right on the soft-looking skin of her neck and along her shoulder. He'd dip his tongue into the cleft between her breasts and taste her. He let himself drift into fantasy, and in his mind, he had those magnificent tits in his hands, was bending to kiss them… He could almost taste her skin on his tongue and then the waiter came with their food, breaking his mood with jangling discordance. They smiled at each other, little smiles of mutual regret that what felt like an intimate moment had ended.
Bud reluctantly pulled his hand back from Jean's so the waiter could set his plate in front of him. He glanced down at the sizzling steak, the ridge of crisp fat spitting juice that danced and sputtered on the hot plate. It smelled great, but Bud's appetite had changed. He wasn't thinking of food now; his pants felt tight and uncomfortable and he was grateful for the tablecloth that hung to his lap. He shifted on the seat of the booth, picked up his knife and fork, and cut into his T-bone.
"Oh dear," murmured Jeanie, eyeing her plate in dismay. "Look at the size of that thing."
"You don't like steak?" asked Bud, his fork poised to spear his first bite.
"I like it, but this is a lot."
"Go ahead and dig in. Eat what you want; if you don't finish it, the waiter's dog will get lucky tonight," Bud joked.
His hunger returned at the first mouthful of perfectly cooked beef. Bud ate quickly and without talking until nothing was left but a neatly trimmed bone. Satisfied, he sat back in the booth and lit another cigarette. Contentedly smoking and sipping from a fresh scotch, he watched Jeanie work on her meal until she put her fork down and pushed the plate away.
"No more!" she groaned around a rueful half smile. "That was probably the best steak I ever had, but I'm almost too full to move."
"Oh yeah?" Bud grinned and blew smoke at the ceiling. "That's too bad, I was gonna ask if you wanted to go dancing."
Her eyes lit up and a smile curved her full lips, softening her face into beauty. "Really, Bud? I'd love that. Where will we go?"
'Jesus…' swore Bud silently, fascinated. He caught himself staring and said quickly, "Where ever you want, doll. There's fancy joints like the Mocambo...might see one of your movie stars there...or quieter places, like the Crescent Gardens. You pick. Which one?" He ground his cigarette out in the ashtray.
She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment and said, "I think the Crescent Gardens. That way I can concentrate on you."
It was the right thing to say. Flattered, a smile tugging at his lips, Bud said, "The Gardens it is. Ready now?"
Jean nodded, taken with the flaring glint in his eyes and the flush on his rough cheek and wondered how she could have thought he wasn't handsome.
* * *
Crescent Gardens was a unique place. Though small, it had one advantage over larger and more famous clubs in town. The back wall was on a motorized track and in good weather, it could be opened onto a flagstone terrace bordered with tropical gardens that were hung with Japanese lanterns and scented with night-blooming jasmine. White covered tables ringed the flagstones, each with its own shaded lamp. When Jeanie saw that, she begged Bud to take a table outside.
"You sure?" he asked, lifting an eyebrow. "It's cool tonight. I don't want you to catch anything."
"I'll be fine," she insisted. "You forget that I'm from Ohio, where it gets really cold. This feels warm to me." Her eyes glowed with excitement and happiness at being in a real Hollywood nightclub. Maybe she wouldn't see Lana Turner, but this was beautiful.
Bud couldn't say no when she looked so happy. He slipped the maître d' a five spot and got them a place near the fake waterfall. He took a look around: musicians in white dinner jackets on stage, a second-rate crooner imitating Sinatra singing popular hits. They sat, ordered drinks, and when the band swung into a new song, Bud led Jeanie out onto the floor. Sweet and low, the music washed over them as she moved into his arms with easy grace. At first Bud held her at a discreet distance, but as they danced through song after song, he pulled her in until he was holding her close to his body, his hand firm on her waist, the other holding hers over his heart. They moved perfectly together. Bud was light on his feet for such a big man, and Jeanie followed his every move effortlessly.
After they'd been on the floor for a long time, Bud asked, "You need a break?"
"Maybe for a little bit," she replied, looking up at him dreamily. "I'll taste my drink; I haven't touched it yet."
"Good idea," Bud agreed, refusing to admit that his knee was getting a little stiff. The old football injury still troubled him once in a while and the cool night affected it, but he would have stayed out on the dance floor with her all night if she wanted him to. It had been a long time since he'd had a real date and he was enjoying himself. Back at their table he pulled his chair a little closer to hers and lit cigarettes for them both.
"So Jeanie, you like it here? Even though you didn't see any movie stars?"
"Oh yes! Thank you so much, Bud. This has been a wonderful night. And to think it all started because of that horrible man."
Bud grimaced, she caught it. "What is it?"
"Nothing, hon. I'm having a great time too," he evaded.
"Is it about that man? You knew him, didn't you? Is he a criminal?" she pressed, her eyes suddenly wide with horror.
Bud tipped ash, stalling. He wondered how much he should spill; he didn't want to scare her. Finally he said, "He's a goon for organized crime, a known associate of mobsters. It was just luck that I stopped in the Formosa tonight...I was looking for another pal of his, a snitch." He looked up, his face impassive. "The guy who was in the bar beat the hell outta his wife. We arrested him, but he got out on bail and now the lady refuses to press charges. She's scared shitless," Bud told her, his eyes hard.
"That's where we stopped on our way to dinner…I wanted to check on her, make sure she's okay. She's staying with her uncle now. He's an honorable man but he's old, he won't be able to keep Monaco off her." He took a drag from his cigarette; she saw his fist clench and relax. Bud looked over her head and said malevolently, "But I will."
"Just like you kept him off me." She reached for his hand and squeezed it, leaned up and lightly kissed his cheek. "Thanks Bud. Thanks for playing white knight for me."
He smiled, the tension smoothing out of his face. "My pleasure. How 'bout another dance, doll? It's getting late; let's make the most of it while we can."
At her nod he stood and led her out on the floor again to the opening strains of a familiar song. The guy trying to be Sinatra was singing a Nat King Cole number. Bud folded Jeanie into his arms, listened to the words with half an ear.
Let's fall in love
Why shouldn't we fall in love?
Our hearts are made for it
Let's take a chance
Why be afraid of it?
Jeanie gazed up at him, her sweet blue eyes almost half closed, and he smiled at the look on her face. He was a shit singer, but so was the guy on stage. Pulling her closer, he tucked her head on his shoulder and in a low and gravelly baritone, sang the last chorus.
We might have been meant for each other
To be, or not to be, let our hearts discover
Let's fall in love, why shouldn't we fall in love
Now is the time for it, while we are young
Let's fall in love
It was the band's swan song; they struck up Goodnight Irene right after. The last notes died away and Bud and Jeanie went back to the table, gathered up her bag and his cigarettes. With his hand on the small of her back, they left the Gardens.
"Where's home?" he asked, settling behind the wheel and starting his car.
She hesitated for a brief second, and then gave him an address in Hollywood. He drove through the manicured streets of her neighborhood, approving of what he saw. It was nice there, quiet, family oriented. Not the kind of neighborhood where prowlers and rapists tended to circulate, and that comforted him. Her house was a duplex; even better. The porch light was on, but there were several large shrubs and a eucalyptus tree in the yard…good places for criminals to hide and pounce on unsuspecting women when they came home at night. He told her about it, suggested she cut them back.
"It's not my house, Bud. I just rent here. But I'll talk to the landlord, maybe he'll do something."
"Make sure you do," said Bud, as he walked her to the door. "For your own safety, Jeanie. Rapists and second story men love this kind of stuff. They could hide, be on you before you knew what hit you."
Once on the porch, he waited while she got her key from her purse. And then it was time, now or never. Bud took her hand and looked down at it. "I'd like to see you again, Jeanie. Soon."
She smiled and ducked her head, suddenly shy, as if she knew what was coming. "Me too, Bud."
He pulled the notebook and a pencil from his breast pocket. "Give me your phone number?"
He wrote the number and "Jeanie" next to it, tucked the notebook away. The time was at hand. Bud leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead. She sighed and raised her chin, a clear invitation he didn't pass up. He took her in his arms and kissed her, really kissed her, gratified at the way she melted against him. But when his lips slid over her cheek on their way to her neck, she pulled back.
"Thanks for a wonderful evening, Bud. Tonight was the best time I've had since I moved here."
"I'm glad, doll. We'll do it again real soon." Bud promised. "I'll call you tomorrow."
"I'd like you to." She hesitated for a brief moment and then stretched up and kissed him on the cheek. "Good night, Officer White."
He waited on the porch until she opened the door, slipped in, and locked it behind her. Bud went back to his car whistling.
* * *
Saturday it was back to business. He and Stensland caught the squeal on an armed robbery at a mom and pop grocery store in Chinatown; it took him two hours to get the story from the jabbering mama san. Her husband was nursing a sore head from a swipe with the perp's gun; not enough to warrant a trip in the ambulance, but enough to daze him so that he couldn't answer questions coherently. Bud took his notebook out of his pocket to jot down what the woman told him. As he flipped through looking for a blank page, he caught Jeanie's name and number. Just thinking of last night brought a fleeting smile to his impassive face. Back at the station he started filing his report on the robbery and briefed Stens on last night's run-in with Monaco.
Stensland made a big deal out of Bud's restraint. "I'm surprised at you, partner...you didn't beat the shit out of him. Goin' soft on us Bud?"
"He has a set of sore balls, that's it. Prick got off easy," Bud grinned. "If it wasn't for the woman waiting for me in the bar, I probably would have. She saved his ass."
Stens lifted an eyebrow and leered. "Oh yeah? Was she worth it?"
'She was worth it,' Bud thought, but he didn't tell Stens about Jeanie. He didn't want him to think she was a cheap pick up or come off with his usual comments about how Bud had a letch for bar rags. He clammed, staring his partner down. Stens barked a mocking laugh when he saw that Bud was not about to offer any info, then sauntered off to see if there was any action in the day room. Bud went back to his report.
He waited until three o'clock, just before he got off duty, and called her. She was glad to hear from him, he could tell from the way she said his name, kind of breathless. He heard the smile in her voice.
"Hiya doll. How you doing today? Sore feet?"
"I'm fine, wonderful. Thinking of you, actually." She laughed, her voice low, throaty.
"Yeah? I been thinking of you, too. You busy tonight, Jeanie? I know it's late notice but..."
Quick interruption. "No, that's okay. I don't have any plans."
"Dinner then? Nothing fancy, just something local."
"I'd love to, Bud. Anything is fine."
He got an idea. "Jeanie, you ever been to a drive-in?"
"Well yes, but I'd love to go again. What's playing?"
"Dunno, doll. You got a paper? Why don't you look and pick something. We'll stop by a joint and grab a few burgers, then go to the show. Sound good?"
"Sounds great! I've got the Examiner right here; I'll find us something." She giggled. "No love story, and no war movie. I'll pick something in the middle, fair enough?"
"Whatever you want, hon," Bud agreed. He knew he wasn't going to be looking at the screen much. Not with Jeanie sitting beside him. "I'll pick you up at six. Okay?"
"I'll be ready Bud. Bye."
He sat and thought of last night. Funny how things happen. He'd been looking to shake down Johnny Stomp for info, and instead found his perp and a nice girl. He grinned to himself. Jeanie was probably the only nice girl in the Formosa last night, and she had left with him. He liked her; she was the kind of girl men were proud to be seen with. Sweet. Pretty. A lady. It hit him all of a sudden; she reminded him of his mother. On her own with nobody to turn to. But she played it smart; she'd gotten out before it was too late, before her bastard of a husband killed her. Bud grimaced at the memory of his father, wondered if he'd ever see the old man again. A look of cold hatred washed over his face. If he did, the fuck was dead. He'd kill him.
He shook the bad memories out of his head and went to the day room for coffee. Stens was still there, telling Rice and Dobrowski how Bud had bounced Monaco's head off the car roof. He made it sound like a comedy routine; the others laughed at Stens' description of Monaco's obvious fear of Big Bad Bud. Bud shrugged off their hooting congratulations, went back to his desk to finish his report.
At 5:15 he took off before the captain could grab him for overtime. He had forty-five minutes to shower and change to pick up Jeanie on time. Bud hit his apartment, leafed through the mail, and dropped it on the table for later. He shaved off his five o'clock shadow, jumped into the shower. As he soaped himself, he wondered idly what Jeanie would look like in regular clothes, not all dolled up for a night on the town. He'd miss looking at her chest in a low-cut dress…maybe she'd wear a blouse with buttons he could undo. Or better yet, a tight sweater. His hand slowed on his chest, drifted to his cock and started soaping it.
Drive-ins. Passion pits, the kids called them. Great places to take a date when you were hoping for more than a good night kiss. There was an unwritten rule: the last few rows were for lovers, and nobody paid any attention to what was going on in the other cars. He closed his eyes, imagined Jeanie in a tight sweater and those short pants women called capris. He loved those pants...they did a lot to show off a girl’s assets. Tight across a nice ass, short enough to show off a good-looking leg and ankle. Or maybe she'd wear a dress…that was even better. Clear access all the way to the honey pot that way.
Bud started stroking his soapy cock, pictured Jeanie lying back on the seat of the car, lips swollen from his kisses, eyes sultry and languorous. He stroked faster, imagining himself with her breasts in his hands, bending to take a taste of her nipples, kissing down her belly toward the prize. In his mind, she gasped as he drove his tongue into her, licked along her slit, came for him until she screamed. He exploded into his gripping hand, shuddering under the pounding spray. He stood a minute, leaning on the wall on one arm, and got his breath back before he finished washing and went to get dressed. He was keyed up, edgy, horny as hell. Jerking off had done nothing to relieve the ache of desire he felt for Jeanie.
Twenty minutes later, he rang the bell at her door and it opened immediately…she must have been waiting. She asked him in, led him to the kitchen. He looked her over as she walked in front of him. He lucked out; swingy skirt, nice tight sweater in pale yellow. Her tits looked so good he could already feel a stirring in his dick. She had a newspaper spread open on the table to the movie ads. With an effort, Bud concentrated on what she was saying, followed her pointing finger with his eyes.
"…and so I figured this one would be best. Okay with you?" She was showing him an ad for the Westlake Drive In: The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, another redhead with a great chest.
He nodded, said, "Whatever you want is okay with me. This looks good." A beat, his voice went husky. "You look good, Jeanie. Pretty."
Her eyes softened, sparkled in the bright overhead light. "Thanks, Bud. You look good too."
And he did, she thought. Young and clean-cut; with his buzzed hair and his freshly shaved face. He smelled good too, Old Spice applied with a light hand. Casual clothes; chinos, a dark blue knit shirt that clung in all the right places. She couldn't stop her eyes from going over him swiftly. He was all man; there wasn't a bulge on him that wasn't muscle. Jean tore her eyes away from his chest and looked up at him. He was watching her, a twinkle in his aquamarine eyes as if he had read her thoughts. Mortified, she blushed and let her glance slip away.
"Ready to go?" she asked, her voice low, suddenly shy
"In a minute." He bent towards her, took her chin in his hand and made her look at him. "How about a kiss now, doll? Hold me over till later."
She closed her eyes and Bud dropped his mouth over hers; a soft sucking tug at her upper lip that produced a gasp. His mouth moving softly over hers, he took a full kiss, tasting her, smelling her. Her breath was sweet, scented with spearmint, and the same perfume she'd worn last night drifted into his nostrils. A step closer and she was in his arms, her head leaning back across his arm, her hands slipping around his shoulders. His groin stirred again and he was desperate to press it against her, rub it hard. Had she been the kind of woman he was used to, he would have let her know what was in store for her, but Jeanie was no cocktail waitress or bar rag ginch. He contented himself with her mouth, probing his tongue against her lips. She let him in, held him tight. Those big beautiful tits were crushed against his chest, soft and yielding. Bud rubbed slow circles on her back with one hand, the other slid up to the nape of her neck and caressed. Silky hair slipped through his fingers. Sensation flooded him, his head spun, his dick ached with a dull throb.
Jesus, all from one kiss… Time to back off, or he'd never keep control. He raised his head, looked into her eyes and grinned.
"Baby, that was some kiss." He brushed his fingers over her cheek. "We'd better go."
Her eyes were dreamy, unfocused. He watched as she brought herself back to the present and laughed shakily. "I guess we'd better. Let me get my sweater and purse."
* * *
They had burgers and milkshakes at a neon-lit joint with carhops in tight pink uniforms on roller skates. Jeanie sat sideways, her back against the car door, her paper-wrapped burger in her hand. Bud passed her fries from the tray hooked to the window and hungrily watched her lips curl around the straw as she sipped from her chocolate milkshake. He tore his eyes away, and stared out the windshield. Carhops skated by, their uniforms tight and short, their legs long and bare. He grinned ruefully, no help there.
When they were finished, he drove the few miles through the twilight to the Westlake, paid the admission, and picked a spot in the fourth row from the back. The coming attractions were already playing; he adjusted the sound and turned from fixing the speaker to the window to find her looking at him with a question on her face.
"Isn't this pretty far back? There are still lots of spots closer to the screen."
He grinned. "I like the back. Better view, not so many people walking to the concession stand."
"Kind of far to the ladies room, though. I might get lost."
"I'll take you. You won't get lost, not with me."
She gazed at him a moment and said quietly, "I think I've already gotten lost with you, Bud."
He couldn't bite back the smile that bloomed on his face. "Yeah? That's good, just what I wanted to hear." He patted the seat next to him. "Come over here, baby. Don't sit so far away."
She slid over and ducked under his waiting arm, nestled against him. They watched the coming attractions and stole kisses, short sweet ones that promised better things to come. Bud felt the heat of her all along his side; his hand was itching to touch her, slide under her skirt along her thigh. But he held back, contenting himself with stroking his fingers over her arm, pressing her closer to his body. The movie came on and it was a good one that kept his attention, especially the fight scene. John Wayne and Victor McLaglen slugging it out all over fucking Ireland. And at the end, Wayne went home to O'Hara to finally get in her pants.
As the credits rolled, Bud cocked an eyebrow in amusement and said, "Guess she's finally going to give it up to him, huh?"
"Looks like it. He's won her over," Jean agreed, nodding.
"And what about you, Jeanie? What'll it take to win you over?" Bud crooned, looking down at her with sudden heat in his eyes.
She wet her lips; her pink tongue flashing in the dim light before it disappeared back into her mouth. Bud groaned silently, 'Jesus...'
"Not much, Officer. I'm half-way there already," she whispered, and raised her face.
Bud turned in the seat and kissed her, leaning her back until she reclined against the car door. He pulled long sucking kisses from her lips, probed with his tongue until she opened and let him in. He heard her sigh, her arms tightened around him. She was so sweet he couldn't stand it; her mouth was driving him wild. He slipped a hand under her sweater and traced patterns over the soft skin on her side. She tensed, he could feel her indecision so he waited, stroked her until she relaxed, kept kissing her. His lips slid over to her ear to whisper, "Baby, you're so soft…feel so nice…"
Her breath was coming fast; she turned her head and pressed her lips to his neck.
His name was like a sigh, her voice low, husky. He took it as a signal to go. His hand crept up to her breast and squeezed. She gasped, seemed to melt against him. He massaged her for a while, his dick getting harder and harder until he had to press it against her. Another gasp, she jerked under him and said, "Oh!"
"Jeanie…" Bud breathed, "I'm crazy for you, baby. "You feel it?"
Bud felt her nod and pressed in harder; it felt so good to rub against her leg. Jesus Christ, but he was hot for her, hotter than he'd been since he was a young kid, chasing virgins. He took another kiss, angling his mouth over hers, then slid his lips over her cheek to her jaw and down to her neck. "Sweet…" he muttered. "You're so sweet, honey." His fingers circled her nipples through her brassiere; they grew harder, peaked for him. He couldn't repress a groan of need, kissed down over her sweater until he could press his mouth to her breast. Jeanie panted, moaned, her fingers shook as she stroked his head.
Bud inched the sweater up over her breasts, gazed at them reverently. So lush and full, even though Jean was lying down, they pouted over her bra. He licked the skin in the valley between them, buried his nose and breathed her scent. His hands slid around behind her, made short work of the fastener and then those magnificent tits were in his hands. He held them pressed them together and licked over her nipples, kissing and lapping. Bud rumbled his pleasure, nuzzled and sucked the peaks into hard little points. Couldn't get enough of them, they were so beautiful, the nipples pale brown against her creamy skin. Hands smoothing over her body, he reached for her buttocks and squeezed them, pressed her closer and ground against her.
"Jeanie, Jesus…I want you, baby. Need you…" he panted, his hands firm on her ass, kneading, pushing her closer to his raging hard on.
A moment of hesitation turned into panic. Jean stiffened under him, he felt it, felt her shutting down. 'No,' he begged silently. 'Stay with me…'
Her hands moved to his face, she held him gently. "Stop Bud. Please stop."
Words he didn't want to hear, words he instantly obeyed. He laid his head on her stomach, his breath coming hard, and tried to cool down. She wanted him; he knew she did. Christ, he could smell her need from here…but she was a nice girl, and he had scared her with his passion.
He lay there and let her caress his face, his hair. At least she was touching him. At least she didn't hate him for pressing her. When his breathing returned to normal, he sat up and drew her with him. He folded her in his arms, peered over her shoulder to find the fasteners of her brassiere and hooked it together, pulled her sweater down to cover her again. Before he let her go, he kissed her forehead and then her nose.
Jeanie said pleadingly, "Please don't be mad at me Bud. As much as I want to, it's just too soon for me to…"
He kissed her forehead again. "Baby, I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at me." He stroked a lock of hair back from her face and tucked it behind her ear. "I pushed you too hard." He stared out the windshield at the B movie on the screen for a moment, then glanced back at her worried face. "You probably figured out by now that it's been a while since I took out a nice girl. Jeanie, I'm sorry. The women I'm used to don't say stop."
She ducked her head, humiliation and remorse plain on her face.
He'd said the wrong thing again. "Hey, don't worry about it, okay? I really like you, doll…it's not just...uh...this stuff that makes we want to take you out. If you want to hold off, that's okay." He grimaced suddenly as the ache in his groin sharpened. Blue balls! Christ almighty, he hadn't had a case of blue balls since he was a kid.
"Bud, what is it?" asked Jeanie, close to tears of remorse and frustration. Why hadn't she just let him?
He blew his breath out in a chuff of air and shrugged, "It's nothing serious, hon." He grinned, suddenly amused. "Jesus Christ, were you really married? You seem pretty innocent about this stuff."
She nodded, miserable, and was surprised to hear him chuckle. She risked a glance at him. He was looking at her with an expression she couldn't read, but he didn't seem angry. His hand reached out and touched her cheek.
"Listen Jeanie… I want you; no hiding that. But I can wait." He tilted his head, gave her a crooked smile. "It's kinda nice, knowing there haven't been that many guys there before..." He let it drift off, embarrassed. He'd been about to say 'me', but he didn't want her to think that he expected her to put out.
She surprised him when she said honestly, "There's been one."
Bud's eyebrows shot up. "Only one? Jesus, you're still a virgin."
She laughed shakily. "Not a virgin…hardly a virgin. But not very experienced, either."
He leaned over and brushed a soft kiss across her lips. "Close enough for me, honey." He pulled her back into the circle of his arm and they watched the rest of the movie. It was okay, not as good as The Quiet Man. His attention wandered, he forced himself to think of work, anything but her soft warmth next to him. Bud was relieved when the film was over. He didn't suggest stopping for coffee or ice cream, the sooner he got away from her and her innocence, the better. He started the car and took her home.
Just like the night before, they stood on the porch again, saying good night. Her eyes were luminous, asking questions she would never put into words. He kissed her gently and ignored them.
"I'll call you," he said. "We'll do something nice…go to Venice, maybe. Cruise the pier."
Even to him it sounded vague, evasive. He saw the hesitation on her face and the sudden fleeting resolution as she made a decision. He read it easily enough, knew what she was going to say before she whispered softly, "Wouldn't you like to come in? Have coffee? I made a cake today…"
"Knew I was coming, huh?"
He grinned at his joke but shook his head no. He didn't trust himself; if he went inside with her it would all start up again. He knew he couldn't keep his hands off her, couldn't help trying to get her to sleep with him.
"Not this time, doll. I'm on duty tomorrow, bright and early." It was a lie, he was off. But he couldn't go in there and promise to be a gentleman.
Her face fell, she looked ready to cry. It both pleased and troubled him, it was good to know she liked him, but he didn't want to pressure her too much. Hell, he didn’t want the pressure.
"Hey," he said, "don't look so down. I'll call you. Soon. Okay?"
Jeanie’s heart ached; she berated herself miserably. He was wonderful, sweet and strong and so nice, and now he'd probably never come back. She could make him change his mind…even a girl with little experience knew how to entice a man until he was crazy for her.
But instead she nodded, her eyes soft on his. "All right, Bud. I had a good time tonight. Thank you."
"Me too, hon." Another soft kiss, a jerk of his chin toward the door. "Go on; let me see you safe inside."
She turned and fished the key out of her purse, fitted it into the lock. The door swung open and she reached inside and flicked a switch, flooding the interior with warm light. Suddenly Jeanie turned back to him.
"Bud, come in. Please."
He shook his head. "No, doll. Not like this. Maybe someday it'll be right. Today ain't that day."
He slid a finger over her lips, hushing her. "Hey, it's okay. I don't want you to sleep with me because you feel guilty, honey. I want you to do it because you want me. I'll know when the time comes." He reached across her, pushed the door open farther. He couldn't resist one more kiss; at least he'd have that. "Now go on," he urged, lifting his mouth from hers. "Get in there. Good night, Jeanie."
Jeanie gave him one more plaintive glance and dropped her eyes. Maybe he was right. Maybe she wasn't ready for a man like him. She went inside, closed the door still looking at him. He heard the locks click and tumble. Bud jammed his hands in his pockets and left. He didn't whistle this time.
* * *
It was early...barely twelve. Despite the late night he'd had yesterday and his early start that morning, Bud wasn't tired. He was too keyed up, too wound up. Too fuckin' sexed up. He needed a woman, needed to bury himself in hot wet cunt. He drove to the KitKat Klub and parked, wondered if Bonnie was working a shift. She was older than he was, on the wrong side of forty. A little hard, a little brassy, but she was good in bed, knew how to use her mouth to drive him crazy. Bonnie was just what he needed tonight...impersonal sex to relieve some of the pressure. He went inside, his eyes sweeping the room for her bleached platinum hair. She was just coming back to the bar with an empty drink tray when she saw him and her face lit up in recognition. She walked over, blew him a kiss. He let his eyes slide over her, from the velvet cat's ears headband to the spiked high heels. She still had great legs, long and slender in black fishnets.
She winked saucily. "Hiya, big boy. Long time no see. Been busy?"
Bud grinned. "Yeah, doll. Fighting crime. Keeping the city safe for lookers like you."
"Come and have a drink, sweetie. I get off in an hour. Interested?"
Bud winked. "That's why I'm here, baby. For you." No indecision here…this one knew what she wanted. He let her guide him to a stool at the bar and shivered as her hand trailed over his chest.
She purred in his ear, "Don't go away, handsome. I'll be back in an hour."
Bud sipped scotch and watched the action until she came to him, a pink sweater draped over her shoulders.
"Ready?" he asked, throwing a five spot on the bar.
"Ready," she breathed, the double entendre unmistakable. "My place or yours?"
"Yours," he said, thinking it would be easier to get away in the morning.
* * *
Hot wet kisses, tongues lashing and dancing. He licked down her neck, tasting salt. 'Not sweet like Jeanie…' his mind told him, and he pushed the thought out of his head. Big tits, softer than he liked, but her nipples were huge, hard and peaked for him. He sucked greedily, filling his mouth with them, slid his hands down and pushed her legs apart. No muff diving tonight, he could smell her from here. He fingered her lazily, bringing her to the brink and backing off until she begged him to let her come. He stroked harder then, circling her clit until she tensed and bucked under his hand. He held her until she calmed, waiting until she was ready to go on. She spread her legs invitingly, whispered, "Come on, big boy. Fuck me…" but Bud wanted something more tonight. He took his cock in his hand, stroked it. Her eyes widened, her breath came a little faster.
"You want this baby?" he rumbled, watching the flicker of greed in her eyes. "Then suck me first."
Obediently, Bonnie slid down his body, licking and kissing. He fed her his dick with one hand, the other gentle on the back of her platinum head until her lips closed over him. He couldn't help himself; he thrust into her mouth, holding her head rigid. She gagged and he eased his grip, allowed her to pull off him. Made a cursory apology.
She didn't. Her hot mouth sucked hard, plunging down, almost to the root of him. Bud arched his back and groaned aloud; the sound of his pleasure spurred her on. Faster, harder, her tongue sliding over velvet skin and bulging veins until he couldn't stand it. He pulled himself from her mouth and rolled her onto her back, spreading her wide with his hands. Held his cock and slid it up and down her slit before guiding it to her entrance and plunging inside.
The words burst from him as he sank into her. Heat and slick wetness closed over his cock. He pulled her leg over his shoulder and rutted ruthlessly, grinding into her on each thrust. Beneath him she purred her encouragement in hot words and low moans, "That's it…fuck me. Mmmm, you're such a man! Oh Jesus…fuck me, Bud!"
No good girl under him now, no almost-virgin to be gentled and taken with care. Bud let himself go, ramming, plunging, sweating out his lust. And she loved it, writhed and bucked and dug her nails into his arms until he grunted in pain and shook her hands off.
"Yes! Oh God, yes!"
He felt her come, the muscles of her cunt grasping and pulling at his cock, and let himself go. Sweet surges of ecstasy took him over as he pumped his load into her. He dropped his head and grunted through his release, his hips thrusting to completion. Gasping for breath, he let her leg fall from his shoulder and rolled away to lie flat on his back, panting. Bonnie slithered closer to him, he forced himself to put an arm around her and hold her. He lay panting, his eyes closed, thinking that this wasn't what he wanted. He was sick of cheap one night stands, sick of fucking women who couldn't get laid unless a guy like him was looking for a quick piece.
Bud opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling. This was dirty, he wanted clean. He wanted Jeanie.
He left Bonnie as soon as she fell asleep, dressing silently in the dark room. Outside, he breathed deeply of the night air, felt it rush to his lungs. Clean…and he felt so dirty. Couldn't wait to get home and take a shower, wash off the cloying residue of cheap perfume, sweat, and sex. After his shower, he lay on his back, one arm crooked behind his head, smoking, thinking. Wondered when it had become important to him that a woman be unspoiled, still have enough of a bloom on her to look good to him.
Bud crushed out his cigarette and rolled over, punching his pillow in an attempt to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. He closed his eyes, saw Jeanie's face, those wounded eyes. He swore to himself he wouldn't call her tomorrow, but he knew he would.
End part one
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