frankie woke up.
it was dark. the window was open but it was night outside.
she was lying on the bed in her hotel room in her clothes. she could hear music out in the street, and a couple of cats fighting.
damn, she thought, what time is it? what day is it?
she remembered she had pawned her watch. actually she had given it to johnny, and he had pawned it. but he hadn’t given her her share, he told her he needed it for a while, he would give it to her later.
where was johnny?
now frankie remembered. johnny had heard that old man mose had come into some money - from the irish sweepstakes or some such - and he and frankie were going out to old man mose’s hut to check it out.
maybe even rob the old man if it was worth their while.
frankie got out of bed. she was wide awake. i must have slept for a while, she thought.
she left her room and went downstairs to the desk.
cardinal mazarin was at the desk, looking at the register. he nodded to frankie but did not say anything.
“what day is it?” frankie asked him.
the cardinal did not look surprised by the question. “thursday, the 23rd.”
“thursday! are you sure?” the last day she remembered was monday.
“of course i am sure. tomorrow is friday, and i have just been checking the register, to see who the deadbeats were who did not pay last week.“
“i paid last week.”
“i am sure you did, frankie. you are the greatest. you are a good girl.”
frankie changed the subject. “has johnny been around? or mean old stagger lee?”
“i haven’t seen either one of them.” the cardinal wrinkled his nose.
“how about richelieu or wallenstein? have they seen them?”
“if they did, why would they tell me? they don’t tolerate bums hanging around any more than i do. while you are here, frankie, do you want to pay next week’s rent?”
“um - i will catch you tomorrow.”
“fair enough.” the cardinal turned his face back to the register.
frankie went down the stairs to the street. a light rain had started to fall.
she headed for the road of sorrows tavern. maybe johnny or mean old stagger lee would be there.
but neither of them was. pope innocent xvi was behind the bar. he just nodded to frankie. he did not seem any more surprised to her than cardinal mazarin had. nothing too bad must have happened in the three days i was out, frankie thought.
the only other customers were st teresa, mike fink, and sister rose. sister rose’s white habit looked freshly starched, and the black beads of her rosary had a new coat of polish.
frankie sat down, and pope innocent began mixing her usual.
“has johnny been here?” frankie asked.
the pope shrugged. “how long ago?” he asked.
“he was in here a couple of days ago,” said st teresa. “with mean old stagger lee. and st louis jenny, and nellie bligh.”
mike fink laughed heartily. “what a crew! they must have been up to no good.”
“i think it was marie laveau with them, not nellie bligh,” said sister rose.
“then it must have been,” said st teresa. “you have the sharp eyes, sister.”
pope innocent brought frankie her drink and she put a silver dollar on the bar.
“i was just asking,” said frankie, “it’s no big nevermind.”
“that’s a mighty shiny silver dollar,” sister rose said to frankie. “i wish i had one half that shiny.”
keep riding me, frankie thought, all of you keep riding me. but she did not say anything.
the door opened and inspector lestrade walked in.
he sat down beside frankie. “how have you been, frankie? “ he asked.
“great,” she answered. until you came along, she thought, but dd not say aloud.
“why don’t we go for a little walk?” lestrade asked.
“it’s raining out.”
“you have walked in the rain before.”
“just let me finish my drink.”
“why not? i will have a drink myself. a double scotch,” lestrade told pope innocent.
frankie and lestrade finished their drinks. none of the others spoke the whole time lestrade was there.
“a merry group,” lestrade observed as he and frankie went out the door.
“where are we going?” frankie asked.
“i thought we would take a little walk out to the edge of the swamp. pay a visit to old man mose. see how he is doing.”
frankie did not answer, but followed lestrade.
the rain fell steadily. neither of them spoke.
they reached old man mose’s cabin. no light was showing in it.
lestrade banged on the door. no answer.
“look in the window,” lestrade told frankie. “tell me what you see.”
frankie looked in the window. old man mose was lying on a cot. his head hung over the side, and his left hand hung down to the floor. she described what she saw to lestrade.
with a single shove, lestrade forced the door. he crossed swiftly to the cot. he did not bother to strike a light, and looked down at the old man.
“this is it,” lestrade announced. “the end of an era. the old order passes. there isn’t anything more to say.”
frankie could not argue.
because old man mose was dead.