Ringo’s luck at dodging bullets had not changed. In the fusillade of munitions that bombarded the house in those pre-dawn moments, he took a bullet through the fleshy part of his left inner thigh. The blood poured so fast from the wound that he would have been dead in just a couple of minutes. But he managed to scrabble up the stairs where his connections to Tanaquil again spared his life.
As was previously insinuated, the second floor was almost entirely devoted to housing a female roommate, one with exquisite sartorial aspirations. I suppose many of Ringo’s inamoratas and courtesans had stayed there over the years. Whether Tanaquil herself had once spent the night, or if Ringo simply supplied himself with some of her charms, I never knew. But in the boudoir just off the main dining room was a collection of cordials, aperitifs, and libations on a silver tray on the dresser. One particular of Tanaquil’s arcane distillations was there but with only one-fourth of the usual dosage. Ringo drank every drop, but the effect was only to stanch the flow of blood and strengthen some remaining sinew. Regrettably, the agony of exploded muscle knew no balm.
Hobbling across the rooftops, he crossed the neighborhood and took a fire escape ladder back to the street beside where the Lancia was parked. Police sirens were coming nearer, responding to the clamor of Tommy gunfire. Spectators were emerging from houses, a few shocked eyes noting the gush of blood on his trousers. Ringo crept into the car and drove away from the crime scene and flashing lights with as little speed and noise as possible.
Dimity and I tumbled out the back door into the alley behind Ringo’s Brooklyn residence thinking he would be right behind us. By that time the shooting had stopped and the Beaux Voyous had sped away, completely missing the fact that the very thing they were after, the Lancia D24, was parked on the next street over.
But Ringo did not come out after us.
“Why isn’t he coming?” I finally said. “We need to go back in.”
“No, Bo! It was just raining hellfire in there a minute ago!”
“We can’t just leave him!”
“Well…stay down. Crawl along the floor…”
“I may have to drag him out…”
“Careful of broken glass…”
“I’ll call from the door first…”
“Maybe we should create a distraction…”
“If he’s alive, we can…Hey! What the—”
At that moment that we both saw the Lancia flash by at the far end of the alley, Ringo’s shoulders hunched and hair whipping under the streetlights. We looked at each other.
“He’s leaving…without us.” I said.
“What! And we were about to go back in for him! Sheesh, let him go. There’s nothing left for us to do but hope my plan works. Poignard drinks the tainted solution and drops dead. Or becomes horribly disfigured.”
“Or is reformed and joins the good guys.”
“Mmmm—dropping dead would be best.”
“Yeah, if the brew ever gets to him. Ringo’s probably on his way to the airport right now to intercept Lorenzo.”
“What? No! He can’t do that.”
“You heard what he said. He’s not going to stop until—”
“We have to stop Ringo from stopping Lorenzo!”
I sighed heavily. “Hold on—”
“No! We’re going after him!”
“Good grief. Just when I thought we were—”
“Come on, boy! Move it! We’ve got to get to the airport. There’s a subway station straight ahead!”
The lack of sleep was catching up with me. Underground on the subway, I dozed as much as possible. We were surrounded by businessmen with suitcases also on their way to Idlewild, the International Airport of New York. Dimity seemed to have found her second wind. And she was chatty.
“Have you ever been to this airport? No? This is where we flew in when we first came to America last year. Only we got special treatment because my dad knows the director. Red carpet stuff. I got to have a soda and a crab cake in the captain’s lounge, and he showed us the private corridors and took us up to the control tower, and all the air traffic controllers flirted with me and pretended to imitate my accent! Such fun.”
“Flirted with you?”
“That’s right. And I told them, ‘Watch yourself, mate. I’m bloody thirteen. I’ll get you five to ten at Sing Sing.’ We all had a good laugh. I’ll bet they still remember me.” She looked momentarily wistful. I was too tired to talk. I just lifted my eyes and my slack jaw to her. She shrugged.
“Could come in handy.”
We jostled and jerked all the way to Idlewild. When we emerged from the dark tunnel, morning was in bloom; the sun was already harrowing away the clouds and drying the asphalt. We didn’t immediately see Ringo, Lorenzo, or the Lancia anywhere. However, I did see a couple of black cars with men in sunglasses and shiny gray suits smoking cigarettes and trying to look inconspicuous in the turnabout. I figured they were Beaux Voyous; oddly, they were looking for the same thing we were looking for.
We walked into the terminal, the corridor stretched to the left and right as far as the eye could see. I was dazzled by the grandeur. Dimity signaled with her eyebrows for me to follow her away from the crowded counters and ticketing lines. We went to an anonymous door; she tried the knob. It was locked. We stood there for a moment; she turned to me and licked her thumb and pressed my errant eyebrows, straightened my collar, and reshaped my hair with her fingertips.
“Open your mouth.”
I did as I was told and she put a pill in it and told me to swallow it. I choked it down. She said it was a pep pill, produced by the government. Admittedly, it worked. For the next 16 hours or so I experienced a kind of reluctant revitalization and mild euphoria, my mind focused and alert while my body complied like an old dog ordered from the couch, leashed, and taken on a brisk walk.
She plucked at her cheeks, smelled under her arms, and stretched her eyes wide open, then faked a bright smile as I watched. Then she knocked firmly at the door and looked back at me with a heavy exhale.
“Here we go,” she said.
In less than a minute, the door opened and a short man with a face prematurely aged, a traditional blue-collar chevron mustache, and a mechanic’s ballcap on backward looked at us.
“Well, if it isn’t Miss St. John! Hello my dear, how’s your father? And I see you brought brother Timmy for a visit.”
“Hi Cricket!” She pulled him close and gave him a cheek kiss. “No, this is not my brother. This is Bo. Bo Mercet. Uh, he’s a friend. A close friend,” she said, grabbing my hand and holding it affectionately.
“O-ho! Lucky lad!” He bumped my shoulder with a fist. “So, are you travelling?” We walked through the door into the crepuscular reaches of aeroplane mechanics and the officialdom of the aviation industry.
“Oh, gosh! It’s so last minute! I think we are boarding a plane to France. I can’t be certain where we are landing. Do you know my uncle Ringo?”
“—er, my uncle—,” I mumbled.
“Is he around?”
“Sure! Ringo? Yes, yes. Charming fellow. He’s just over there. Bit of a row going on a moment ago. I don’t know what it’s about. But we’re used to that sort of thing here.”
As we walked toward him, Ringo looked our way and jolted to see us coming. The Lancia was being prepped for loading onto a plane.