The Dealer

The dealer flicked her a card.

The detective grinned from underneath her fedora. Hazy smoke from the cigar clamped between her teeth blended into the general fug of the speakeasy--spilled booze, stale sweat, and old tobacco. A chorus of groans went up around her as the card came to a halt. The detective hooked her thumbs in her suspenders and leaned back in her chair.

"So boys," she almost cackled from one side of her mouth, ticking her head at the cards on the table before her. "Anybody going to stick for the pair of ladies? No? None of you big strong men big and strong enough for the three of us?" The detective rolled up her sleeves and puffed on her cigar.

Cards slapped the table as the other players disgustedly folded, one after the other, and their collective grumbling masked the heavy footsteps of a pair of approaching torpedoes--a giant of a man and a cyclopic automatic scrapper. The detective leaned past her glass of liquor, over the table and was scooping up her winnings when the Man With No-Neck slapped a meaty paw around her wrist.

"Mr. Scarpetti said yous to come with us," he rumbled.

"Mr. Scarpetti says a lot of things. If he wants to see me he can send roses and a bottle of whiskey like any of my other upstanding suitors," the detective said around her cigar.

"Mr. Scarpetti also said we's to bring you whether you got a broken jaw or not."

"Did he now."

"He did."

"Specifically, in fact." The automaton chimed in, its voice caustic with a popping buzz.

"Well. That changes things, now doesn't it." The detective pulled deep on her cigar, the tip glowing with a ruddy light. Moving in a blur, she grabbed her cigar with her free hand and ground it viciously into the back of the man's hand. He roared and snatched his hand back. The detective, in turn, snatched up her glass and tossed the contents into the automaton's air intake. The automaton's eye flashed crimson as fire belched from all the ports in its head, its fists smashing wildly onto the table, spraying money and drinks into the air. Without missing a beat, the detective hauled off and punched the first mook in the throat, then drew a snub-nosed revolver from the holster at her side. She pointed it at the automaton's one, staring eye.

"Like I said. That changes things. You tell Mr. Scarpetti that if he wants to see me, he better add chocolates to the list of gifts I rattled off before."