"So, how's Jerry?" a short man asked nonchalantly, leaning against a brick wall.
"Same as always, the lying bastard," a dark-haired woman muttered with a grimace, kicking up loose asphalt with her foam sandals.
Her laugh was full and woody, like talking over the flames of a late night bonfire. "When isn't he?"
With a flick of his hand, the man's cigarette butt drifted to the ground where he crushed it underneath his size eleven foot; moments later, another replaced the first, scenting the air with the fine quality of unfiltered French culture. "You hate him enough to do this. Takes guts."
She took a long draw, blowing out a perfectly rounded set of os with her red, puckered lips. "If I didn't love him so much, I wouldn't be. You should know that better than anyone, Mr. Jack."
"Have we ourselves resorted to chilly formality? Didn't you just call the man a bastard?"
"Then treat him as such," he suggested, his eyebrows raised in question.
The woman adjusted her faded red blouse, biting the inside of her mouth until she tasted iron. "I am, Richard. That's why I'm here."
"You'd be here regardless, wouldn't you, Chealsea."
"The money's good for an old broad like me."
"I hardly call thirty old, Chealsea."
Her eyes burned with the same intensity of her hand-rolled durrie. "If you're part of the business, twelve's an old maid."
"Plenty would pay." He gestured to each empty street, each alley, each store and home. "You should know that better than anyone, Mrs. Grey."
"Misses. Not quite sure I like the sound of that. Been much too long." With another puff, she blew out the remainder of her straight, the ashes landing on the pocked skin of her foot. She hardly gave notice.
"Sometimes, it is indeed better to forget…"
Suddenly, the door behind them opened to reveal an unshaven man with sweat over his brow, the rusted door he held eerily illuminated in the streetlight. "Break's over! Get over here, Angel. You have three waiting for you over in the back, Blue Room. Emerald Coat's the host. Give 'em the special treatment."
"Yessir." She turned back to glance at Richard once the door closed, her gaunt cheekbones pulled tight. "I don't forget," the woman began, knuckles white as she held the crusty handle to the door. "Because that's not why I'm here."
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