I saw the MG.
I also saw six men leaning against it, arms crossed, staring blindly through the fog at Ian Clevering’s house. I stood stock-still, thinking. Obviously, they hadn’t heard me come down the steps. Neither had they heard me close the front door. I’d done it quietly, as though I really had been a burglar.
They might have seen the sheen of the electric lights in Ian’s residential quarters, when I’d turned them on. If they had, they must have guessed that I was leaving the house when I’d turned them off. They were waiting for me, and they were Mafia buttons.
They had either killed or kidnapped Ian Clevering. They had left a man to watch his place. The man had seen me enter, had phoned the boss-man, and hence they were here, ready to put me out of business, too.
“Damned bastards,” I whispered under my breath.
My hand closed about the snub-nosed automatic. Very tenderly I drew it out of my shoulder bag. Then I kicked off my shoes and stuffed them in my Coco shoulder bag. I crept forward through the fog that was closing in around the whole kit and kaboodle of us. The fog was my ally. I couldn’t see them right now but they sure as hell couldn’t see me either, and I was only one person who had to hide. Not only that, I knew roughly just about where they were.
I bent over, crept along. Legs loomed up before me, nebulous with gray mist all around them. I took a deep breath, tightened my grip on the Colt, then jammed it upward, right about where I expected the guy’s solar plexus to be. As the barrel went into flesh, I pulled the trigger.
The sound of that shot made my eardrums ring. It also made the remaining five buttons erupt from their lounging positions and reach for their rods. One of them fired into the fog; fortunately, not at me. I heard a man groan and a body thump against the pavement.
“You goddamn fool! You shot Kenny!”
“I thought it was the dame, Al. I swear I did.”
“Split up! Separate,” snapped the man known as Al. “She’s got to be close by, and from what I hear about her, she ain’t gonna run away. She’s a tough cookie.”
I got down on my hands and knees. The buttons would be walking around at their full height and wouldn’t see me crouched down here in the thick fog—or so I hoped—until after I’d done for them. I moved a little away from the car, figuring they’d stay close to it. They could get lost very easily here if they wandered far from a contact point.
You have to experience one of these pea-soup fogs to believe them. I have known pretty bad fogs in Uncle Sam land, but forget those. There was no way they could compare with something like this. It was like being inside gray cotton batting, except that you could breathe, after a fashion. More legs, with shoes sliding along. I rose up as the legs passed me. I swung the automatic. The barrel thudded against the back of a head, hard. The man fell as though I’d pumped a slug into him. He lay there and didn’t move.
Voices rose up around me. “Al, was that you?”
“I’m Over here. Eddie?”
“Here, Al.” There was a silence. Al said bitterly, “She got Tommy Damn her hide Three of us down and she’s right here, maybe in reaching distance of any one of us, and we can’t see her.”
I expected them to start shooting, so I got down real close to the ground. But I guess Al figured that they might shoot each other instead of me, as had already happened, and he wanted no more of that.
I could hear their breathing, harsh and angry. It annoyed the hell out of them to know that a single girl—a “hole”, in Mafia lingo—was here and giving them the short end of the stick and they couldn’t do a single thing about it.
It was an explosion of feeling that ripped that shrouded night. One of the buttons had stumbled Over the unconscious Tommy as he sidled around the car.
“What is it?”
I rose to my feet, intending to bash him as I had Tommy.
And—arms closed around my girl-girl body.