HIT MAN NANCY
When George revived she saw Nancy leaning over her. At first George was quite disoriented. It felt strange to have been sleeping on the floor. What was Nancy doing in her room, and why was she made up and dressed like Sky Masterson in last year's travesty version of Guys and Dolls? Then, suddenly George remembered where she was and what had just happened to her. Feeling the touch of the girl she had once considered her sweet friend but who was now revealed to be a degenerate assassin, she shook in terror. What was the criminalized detective planning to do to her now?
"Steady on, George, old girl," Nancy said soothingly.
George felt Nancy's hands gently and efficiently chafing her wrists. It seemed that her chum was not trying to hurt her, but helping her to regain her wits.
"What's going on?" demanded George. "Why did you shoot me?"
"I just nicked your ear. You're okay," claimed Nancy reprovingly. She went on in a more apologetic tone. "Sorry about the ear. I meant to miss, but I had to make it close enough to look convincing on the wall behind you. The blood from your ear, however, is a real plus."
The reassured girl's fingers probed gingerly at her injured part. There was what felt to be a cavernous gouge in the flesh about halfway up. At least the outer part of the ear was not entirely missing. She had already observed that her hearing was still fine. Except for a slight ringing sound, the kind she usually got after aspirin or too much caffeine. On the whole, George was not displeased at the extent of her disfigurement. It was almost as good as the dueling scar that she had always coveted. The fresh wound was nevertheless tender and she winced in pain.
Nancy, constitutionally less inclined herself to exhibit signs of pain, misinterpreted her friend's sudden grimace as injured vanity.
"Don't worry," she said. "You can wear a darling earring up there. Lot's of girls have them. No one will ever notice."
"What's the good of being shot if no one notices!" protested George vehemently.
"Shhh!" hissed Nancy, then whispered. "I hear footsteps. Just lie there and play dead. Whatever happens, don't flinch."
George relaxed and closed her eyes obediently.
"Don't scrunch up your eyes like that! Don't even close them. It's a dead giveaway. Keep the eyes open and stare at one spot on the ceiling," instructed Nancy in a quiet but firm voice as she nimbly sprang to her feet.
As the door opened behind them, Nancy turned to face the returning thug. She instantly composed her face into a mask of impatience. George, having meanwhile located a pair of cracks on the ceiling that resembled the coasts around the Straits of Hormuz, was contemplating the intervening "waters" with yogic intensity.
The pusillanimous gunsel entered carrying a long and heavy plastic bag draped over his arm.
"Where have you been?" demanded Nancy. "I don't want to waste my whole day baby-sitting a corpse."
"Would you believe it, Chantelle, there is a shortage of body bags. Why do they need to bump off so many people? I just hope that the river never dries up any time soon," he quipped.
"Chantelle" was not amused. "Get over here and help me put this body in the bag. I have more business to attend to and I can't dawdle. Besides if he gets stiff, he will be a lot more difficult to move."
The gangster obediently walked over to where George was sprawled and spread the bag next to her unmoving body. Kneeling on the floor, he grabbed George by her padded shoulders and as he lifted wondered how the pimp could be so light and small. He did not have time, however, to organize his thoughts into any coherent pattern before he felt a sharp pain radiate out from the back of his skull and he was thrust headlong into the pool of unconsciousness.
Unfortunately, the insensible thug fell directly on top of George, whose injured head was thumped back on the floor. She felt nearly crushed by his dead weight.
"Get me out of here!" screamed George instinctively. "I am going to suffocate!"
"Don't struggle so," reproved her friend. "Lie there limply and I'll pull you out."
The resourceful young detective was as good as her word. It took only a brief moment for George, doing her best impersonation of a new and still slick shoelace, to be drawn free from her claustrophobic quarters.
"Thanks, Nancy," she said as she shook herself, imaginatively releasing and scattering the fragments of the unconscious man's aura from her rumpled pants and jacket.
"Now that my minion is indisposed, it's time for me to order you about," said Nancy.
George came to attention and saluted. "Yes sir, Captain Chantelle, sir!" Then she relaxed and collapsed into a fit of giggles. "Chantelle! Where did you get that cutesy name?"
Nancy looked stern. "I'll tell you the story presently, but help me now to get this guy hidden away. We can't take a chance that someone might discover him here like this. Or worse, they might discover us standing around here looking at him!"
The two girls eased the unconscious man onto the bag and tucked his limbs inside. Before the last arm went inside Nancy pulled a syringe and bottle out of her purse and prepared an injection.
"This will keep him happy tucked away in his bag, should he wake up during the next twelve hours," she explained.
Nancy did not zip the bag all the way, but left the gangster's face uncovered. She and George together dragged the dormant thug across the room and arranged him in a fetal position in the bottom of the closet. George made sure that his head was arranged so that he wouldn't suffocate or choke on his tongue. Then she wiped her hands fastidiously with her ornate pimpish handkerchief. Nancy closed the closet door, pulled out a key and locked it.
"No one will look in there for a while," said Nancy.
George detected a slight note of uncertainty in her friend's tone. Nancy means we'll have to hope for the best, George thought. For there is nothing else we can do about the guy now. George put this worry to one side, for there were other concerns that were uppermost in her mind.
"How did you get in the gang, Nancy, and do you know where Bess is?"
"We can't talk here. It isn't safe," cautioned Nancy. "I'll take you to another room where I can talk to you about everything. Don't say another word until we get there."
"But is Bess all right?" insisted George.
"For the moment, Bess is in a very good place," assured Nancy enigmatically. "Now, hush."
Nancy looked around the room, surveying it for clues—clues that might betray her recent disloyal actions to the rest of the slavery mob. She spotted only one obvious thing, the gunsel's fedora, lying half-crushed on the floor next to the bed. She walked over and picked it up. Her skillful hands soon restored it to a semblance of its former sinister elegance. Then she handed it to George.
"Put it on," she instructed, "and pull the brim down over your eyes."
George had lost her own pork-pie hat in the struggle in the lobby. When she tried on the new hat it slid down so far that it touched her sensitive ear.
"Ouch!" screamed George, pulling the hat off at once.
"You're such a sissy," fussed Nancy. "But I must admit you look like a right doofus under that enormous tent. I guess my old boy is not such a pin-head as I thought."
Nancy reached into her bag and extracted a woman's pink pill-box hat. Without asking leave she arranged it on George's head.
"Now I must look like Jackie Kennedy in drag!" protested George.
"You wish," retorted Nancy. "Don't worry, no one will see it. Now put on the fedora."
George, who by this time had seen the point of Nancy's resourceful expedient, carefully positioned one hat over the other. The fedora now seemed to hover over George's head like a flying saucer about to pounce on the Roswell desert. Nancy pushed it down firmly. George felt the stiff pill-box hat being driven through her skull. But her friend was satisfied.
"It's not a thing of beauty," she pronounced. "But you look the perfect hooligan."
"I never realized that it would take a pill-box hat to make me look the perfect hooligan," George commented wryly.
"Now let us walk out in the hall like we own the place," instructed Nancy. "Just follow my lead and pray that we don't run into anyone curious."