I hop on the horn and learn that Madame Crinkélcute is the headliner for a small jazz lounge downtown, only a couple of blocks away. I decide to hoof it. The rain always helps me think. I pull the collar of my jacket up around my ears, an overcoat cocoon against the splashing slog. I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline, the lack of drink, or the lack of sleep, but my hand’s got the shakes. I shove it deep into my pocket and ignore it.
The door to the lounge is bathed in the neon glow of Crinkélcute’s name, a pulsing, permanent ad, not yet peaking in popularity, the inevitable decline into sad, washed-out irrelevance hiding on the other side, just a plug’s pull away. For now though, she’s in. And she’s big. Her poster is checkerboarded on the lounge’s door, her image all sex and style, only a few squares from the pattern missing, masturbatory mausoleums for aging men.
From the moment I walk in, she has me curled around her finger like cigarette smoke. She glides through the room to meet me, shadows breaking apart in her golden light. I’m mesmerized by her. She knows it, too. She’s had that effect on men her entire life. What she’s still doing here, I have no idea. She’s more Hollywood than Potato Town, but then again, even the best placed flytrap catches a few butterflies.
She asks if I want a drink. I want to tell her I want more than that, instead gladly accepting a bourbon and ice, a heavy-handed pour, more than two fingers to tease. She takes a seat across from me, martini in hand, her first sip a tattooed red kiss on the glass’s lip. We make small talk. Her eyes always two levels deeper than mine, searching for something. The drink settles me down, and I remember why I’m here.
I bring up my work and she’s not surprised. I bring up the Russet and she plays coy. I bring up his death and that’s when she breaks down. Turns out even angels can cry. She comes clean about everything she’s done. But all that’s she done is hardly a crime. Says she called in a favor from a powerful guy, wanted to know for certain that the Russet had moved on, to find out if it was true when he told her she was the other one. Crinkélcute’s no killer, just a victim of the first and oldest disease, that toxic decay called love.
I don’t console her. I just press for the other potato’s name, and move on. Sometimes it’s best just to leave, swallow down the longing. That’s the way it goes in this life. That’s the way it goes when you forever live in the shadows of crime.
I call back in to the station. I need a last known address. Name? Sweet Potato.