A Burning Cold Morning (Part 24)

Over the course of the next five hours the three of them talked although it was not about any actual criminal partnership.  The speakeasy was much too public for that kind of discussion.  Leo did share enough of his own story, or at least a version of it, to convince Jerry Salazar that he was criminally minded and might be someone with whom Jerry could do business.  They parted ways around eleven p.m. with a promise to meet up again in a couple of days at a more private location.  Leo was fairly drunk by that time and stumbled as they emerged from the alleyway onto Fifth.  Veronica caught him and pulled him back up, admonishing him to “get straight and walk normal.”

“You know Veronica,” Leo mumbled, “you said it was gonna be a toot and it was.  That was…,” his voice trailed off and he seemed to be recalling something as his eyes had a faraway look.  “I’ve always been meaning to ask you something, something about McNeil.”

“And what’s that?” Veronica replied.

“You helped him, didn’t you?”

“I can’t imagine what you mean by that Leo, you’re drunk and talking nonsense.”

“You know, you know, you know ” Leo replied slowly, wagging a finger at her, “Roy Gardner, that’s who, that’s who I’m talkin’ about.”  His speech was slurring and he stumbled again but caught himself and then stopped and turned to Veronica.  “You helped him get off that island, I’m sure of it.  I mean, how else could he have man, mana,…,” Leo stopped to try to figure out what he was saying.  “ I mean, how else could he ‘a done it?”

“Stop talking nonsense and keep your damn voice down.  Now, let’s get you back to your room.”  She stepped away but Leo grabbed her arm.

“Just tell me, just admit it, you helped him.”

Veronica pulled her arm away and started walking.  “Come on now, let’s get you back before you get us caught out by the police.  You’re a real  wurp ya know Leo, you really are.”

She did manage to get him back to the Governor although the last two blocks mostly involved her trying to convince him to keep walking and then assisting him to stay upright as he was rapidly slipping into oblivion.  By the time they reached the hotel he was almost completely passed out, leaning on her heavily with an unlit cigarette in his mouth.  She left him at the registration desk with the manager who commented, “Well, I see he really had a time of it tonight,” before having the doorman assist in carrying Leo up to his room.  They put him face down on the sofa, covered him with his overcoat and laughed a bit at his general condition.  When he awoke the next afternoon with a splitting headache and vomit on his shirt and the floor next to the sofa he was surprised to find himself in his room.  After easing himself up and calling down for coffee he attempted to reassemble the events of the night before but had little memory after the first hour at Plumb’s.  After another day of slow recovery he was feeling better by the afternoon, sitting in a lounge chair and starting to eat a bowl of soup while day-dreaming about robbing a bank.  A very loud knock on his door startled him back to reality.  When he opened it he saw Veronica who laughed before speaking.

“Aren’t you a sight?  You’re a bit of a novice with the whisky I take it?  Two days and ya still look like death.”

“I’m fine, just fine,” Leo replied.

“Hardly I reckon, but say what you want to make yourself feel better.  I guess maybe you’re just a dewdropper then, nothing to do and nowhere to go.  I thought you wanted to do some business Leo, not sit around with your soup bowl all day.”

“Really, give me a break huh?  I’m just fine, now what are you here about?”

“See, you’ve already forgotten, or maybe can’t remember?  I’m not too sure about you at all Leo, maybe we should just skip this.”

That stung Leo, as all comments about his criminal prowess did and he snapped back at her.  “Damn it!  I’m just fine and we can do business!  Now, what’s this all about?”

“Yes, well maybe you forgot about our meeting with Jerry today?”

Leo, who did remember meeting the man, had to admit that he had no idea what she was talking about when it came to a meeting which provoked another laugh from Veronica.  She explained the whole thing to him again but Leo, now that he was sober, was not so willing to go along.

“I don’t know Veronica, I really don’t.  I mean I don’t know the guy and well, I guess you do but still.  How do we know he’s playing straight with us?”

“He’s not playing anything with us, not yet anyway.  We just agreed to all meet up today and discuss things, you know, see what angles Jerry might have that we could get in on.   You agreed to it Leo.”

He ran his hands through his hair before replying.  “I might have, I don’t remember, but I though we were going to get our own operation going.”

“How do you ever expect to make it big if you won’t talk to the big-time operators?  You sure didn’t seem to have any problem with it in KC, or at least not from the stories you tell anyway.”

“That’s just it, ok?  I mean, where did that get me?  I’ve been thinking a lot and I figure it’s better to run things on my own, or just with a few folks that I know.  It’s safer that way.”

“You really are dumb Leo, I mean, look at what your last solo operation got you.  Nothing.”

“Well, I crossed paths with you, I got that out of it.”

“Stop it, really, it’s silly to talk that way.  And it’s silly, and stupid, to turn down a meeting with Jerry especially after you agreed to go.  He’s not someone you want to insult.”

“I don’t mean it that way, I just want to do things on my own.”

“Well, you do that then.  I have to keep living here so I’m going to the meeting.  Happy day-dreaming Leo.”

…to be continued

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