Noir / Noir

Uncle John

Uncle John

Uncle John lived a couple of doors down from us at our neighbor Bobbi Carrs house.

Bobbi ran a rooming house. the only two people I ever knew to live with her were Alec, 75 years old. german national. a very quiet, round old guy who walked around with his hands behind his back like he was contemplating something? nothing sinister, mind you? plotting? perhaps. most likely, only reliving his life through memories long past.

The other gentlemen renting a room was Uncle John. Now…John wasn’t my real uncle. I just called him that. John was in his late 60’s, early 70’s I’d guess? he was 6 foot something. to me? he might as well have been a giant.

As a boy, I thought Uncle John was the coolest guy around. former US soldier who served in WWI. a retired widower. His wife had passed of an illness twenty years prior. he never re-married. moving around the country holding various jobs to makes ends meet.  settling in Oak Park Illinois just a couple a doors down from our home at 830 Wenonah Avenue in the late 50’s.

Oak Park Illinois is located just west of the city of Chicago. a stones throw on the Eisenhower Expressway or The Ike as locals call it.

I’m not sure how it was that Uncle John and I started taking walks together?

I’d see him from the window and wave. he’d smile, waving back. I was about 4 going on 5 then.

Perhaps Mom saw it as an opportunity to watch her daytime soap operas without some ungrateful little sneak underfoot. I used to beg her to let me go with him.

Uncle John was shy and polite to everyone in the neighborhood.

I was grateful for his company. we got along. He listened to me blather about this and that. I had questions man. lots of questions.

If he had the answer. He was patient and kind and would explain things to me. If he didn’t? He’d let out a deep sigh. look at me and shrug.

I wanted to be just like him.

What I enjoyed most about our walks together was ignoring my normal boundaries. those set by my folks.

“No farther than the corner.” they’d say, “Stay on this side of the alley.”

Uncle John didn’t operate on that frequency. he wasn’t gonna be content just walking back and forth on our block.

I knew it. so did Mom I imagine?

Uncle John was a smoker, While on our walks together he always took the opportunity to light up a butt.

Sometimes we’d walk to Al’s Grill on Madison Avenue. Where he’d get a cup of coffee, I’d have a glass of water.

Al’s was a great place, typical fifties diner. long counter. several booths. if you sat at the counter you could see the cook. this big guy moving around in the kitchen. I’d watch him shoving the food through a small window to the waitress. wondering how he fit through that tiny window? did he live in there? was there another way in?

One particular afternoon as Uncle John enjoyed his coffee and cigarette, I was spinning myself around on the counter stool, content for the moment, trying to make a revolution without using my hands.

A Large Cadillac pulled up out front. A man in a black suit stepped out and headed inside.

He ordered 3 cups of coffee at the counter from the waitress. placing five dollars on it. She brought him his change. followed by his coffee to go.

I didn’t see the man from behind when I spun kicking the cups of coffee onto him and all over the floor.

He started waving his arms around. Shouting. mostly at me.

Uncle John got between the man in the suit and me.

“It was an accident. He’s just a boy. Look? I’d like to buy you the cups of joe to replace what you spilled.”

“What I spilled!?!”

My Friend held out his hands palms up. “Please the boy.”

The man glared at me.

I wish he hadn’t.

He leaned in to whisper something to Uncle John.

Who then looked at me and said, “we’re leaving.”

The man immediately stepped in front of us. Putting his hand on Uncle John’s chest.

I never saw Uncle John move so fast. he hit the man with something he’d pulled from his pocket. knocking him to the floor unconscious.

It was a blackjack he carried for protection.

The cook came out from the kitchen

“Do you know who that is? he works for Momo. you better get outta here quick. C’mon let’s go!”

Uncle John grabbed my hand and the cook led us out the back door into the alley.

“Run.” was all the cook said. “Run.”

We did. couple of blocks away we stopped. I looked at Uncle John who was breathing hard.

He kept asking me if I was OK?

“Who’s Momo?” was what I wanted to know?

“Robert, time to go home.”

He might as well have been Walt Disney for all I knew or cared.

Alec was sitting on the front porch of Bobbi Carrs house as we hurried up the street.

John said something to Alec. who got up and went inside.

We knocked on the door of our house. My Father answered. Mom came to the door behind him.

John asked if he could come inside a minute, first looking over his shoulder and up the street as we entered.

He spoke with my parents in the front room a few minutes.

I went in the next room to turn on the TV. Hoping to squeeze in a couple of cartoons or some Three Stooges. Maybe Garfield Goose was on?

I knew I was in trouble. Though? I had no idea of the severity.

I thought I’d probably get a spanking? maybe no tv? very likely have to go to my room? dollars to doughnuts going outside to play was out.

I heard Uncle John leaving and went out to say goodbye. I told him I was sorry. he knelt down, looked me in the eyes telling me it wasn’t my fault. Then he mussed up my hair said goodbye and left.

Alec met him on the sidewalk in front of our house carrying what looked like….is that a gun?

Closing the door behind him, I thought, here it comes. Dad’s gonna yell. Mom’s gonna send me to my room. only they didn’t?

Mom came over knelt down and hugged me.

Then Dad walked over putting his hand on the top of my head for a second. before he picked me up.

Something was wrong.

We all went to bed early that night.

I slept in bed between Mom and Dad.

They sent my Brother and Sister to sleep over that night at their friends.

When they got home the next morning. my brother would explain that the man I kicked coffee on was a bad man. he might come looking for us, try to hurt Uncle John and me.

In the weeks that followed, word went out. someone was looking for an old guy with a little kid.

Questions were being asked.

It wasn’t good at home. everybody was acting weird. mood was wrong.

I had to stay inside for a while. if I did get to go out? my parents, brother or sister went with me.

Mom and Dad were constantly looking out the front door or back windows of our house, scanning the street and alley. certainly no one went out after dark. my brother and sister were driven and dropped off everywhere.

it was a Friday Night, the light in the alley behind our house went out. it never went out. ever.

Dad wasn’t home, Mom grabbed my sister, brother and I, we headed for the basement.

Someone was in our house. we could hear them upstairs.

Mom immediately called the police from the phone we had downstairs.

We all huddled in the corner quietly. listening in the darkness. terrified.

The police arrived, entered and searched our entire house. they could find no sign of forced entry. no signs anyone had been there but us.

I knew better. we could hear them walking around, our floors creaked. there was no mistaking the sound. Ask my sister. we all heard it.

Eventually things seemed to calm down.

Mom and Dad acted like Mom and Dad again.

I didn’t complain, a rarity in our household at the time.

A few years later after my brother graduated high school, and went off to college. my parents sold our house in Oak Park, moving us to a suburb north of the city of Chicago. I was 8 years old.

When I got to be my brothers age, I became aware of the facts. the man I kicked coffee on worked for a man who lived on our street.

That man was Sam Giancana. The Boss of the Chicago Mob. the man in the black suit who Uncle John belted worked for one of the most powerful mobsters in America. certainly in Chicago.

Giancana lived quietly in Oak Park.

My Brother Tom explained that Dad spoke with one of his guys. telling him what had happened. that it was an accident. the guy listened. then, made a call while dad stood there waiting. after the call? he told him, no one would bother me or our family.

No such assurance was made for Uncle John.

So? Unbeknownst to anyone, Dad gave Uncle John some money, he disappeared the next day.

I never got to take a walk with my friend ever again.

Every year on my birthday I would get a post card from him. usually from some place with palm trees and a swimming pool.

When I was 14 or 15 the post cards stopped?

Mom and Dad sat me down.

Uncle John died peacefully in California in 1975. he was 81 years of age.

No one ever came looking to harm my family. and they never found our friend.

Uncle John had protected me. Dad recognized that.

For all the negatives others attached to my father over the years. this time he got it right. This man had done right with his son. And it was his job to do the same for him. In a time when things like loyalty and honor meant something.

Funny how things work out? nothing ever happened.

You worry. you wait, the bad you think is coming, doesn’t.

On June 19, 1975, 67 year old Sam Giancana was shot in the head and neck at 1147 S. Wenonah Avenue in Oak Park Illinois.

His killer was never found.

To this day.

Several times a year I take a ride to Oak Park and drive down our old street. I’ll Park. look at our old house, think of my childhood. Remembering those innocent days of my youth.

Then I drive down Madison Avenue. Al’s Grill is still there. Though, I stay in the car. I’m always afraid to look inside. maybe that old gunsel is in there? waiting for me?

I don’t take foolish chances anymore.

I just want another day. you know? another memory.

Sadly for me, Everybody is gone now. Uncle John, Dad, Mom, My Brother. Bobbi Carr, Alec. They’re all gone.

I miss my friend. I wish so very much we could take a walk and talk about that day so long ago.

I’ve got questions man, lots of questions.

You can’t ever go back. Nobody’s there anymore. You can only go forward.

We All Just Move On. We Have No Choice.

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Friday Night. Shootin Pool.

Wondering what I’ll do when I’m through tonight?

The door opened.

In she walked. Long blond hair. with curves in all the right places. wearing some kind of party dress that didn’t leave much to the imagination. a little overdressed for Mal D’s Billiards. Gals wore get ups like this to those fancy smancy clubs downtown. only thing the rabble in this place knew about clubs? were the ones the coppers put over the top of your noggin for cracking wise at em.

I was about to lose 50 bucks in a game of nine ball.

I put my money on the rail.

Mott’s handed me a drink. and said, “Watch this, Jimmy is a ladykiller.”

The Blonde was sitting at the bar talking to Mott’s friend Jimmy.

“That ain’t no lady Mott’s.

I knew the type. Not exactly a Sunday school teacher.

Jimmy excused himself to make a phone call.

She crossed her legs. leaning back on the bar.

Caught me looking her way.

Giving me the up and down.

Man can stand only so much.

I swaggered over.

Then I said “hi,” like a spider to a fly.

“Where’d Mr. Jimmy go?”

“Had to make a phone call.”

“You know Jimmy?” She asked me.

“I’m his parole officer.”

“You?”

“Oh? Oh My? we just met.”

She was practically in his lap for crying out loud. just met?

Jimmy reappeared. “Help you wit something?”

“Just keeping her company til you returned.

“Fade….Will ya?”

I tipped my hat to her. excusing myself. heading back to the tables.

Just my luck, lost my second game and another 50 bucks. I couldn’t focus.

I turned to see the blonde alone at the bar.

“What happened to Jimmy?” I asked Motts.

“Dunno.”

It was getting late. I walked over….

“Where’s Mr. Terrific?”

“He had to leave.” she said. “Men.”

Leaning on the bar. I told her. “You got us all wrong. He ought to have his head examined, leaving a beautiful dish all alone in this place.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere.” she blushed,

“You remind me of the first woman who ever slapped my face.”

We talked a while, had a couple more drinks, she lived along the lakefront. wealthy family. she was trouble, no doubt about it. one look at those legs and that get up she was in and I knew. Trouble. no one wears a dress like that to a pool hall.

“So doll face what brings you in here tonight?”

“Suzie.” she said.

“Sorry?”

“Suzie, my names Suzie.”

“Gotta be someplace downtown with society fellas falling all over a dame like you?”

“Exactly why I’m in here tonight.” she told me.

“So you’re slumming it?”

“No, not at all. I just wanted to see how the other half lives.”

“And?”

“So far? mmmm.”

Smiling like the devil would smile at you.

I would have run away. but I was on my own.

I tipped my mitt.

We finished our giggle juice. and left together. Heading back to my place. Stopping off to grab a bottle of champagne from Larry’s House of Booze.

Halfway through the bottle, she told me she wouldn’t sleep with me tonight. I just smiled.

All we were missing was candlelight, soft music and our clothes at the foot of the bed.

I lit a candle. dimmed the lights. tripped and fell into the wall head first.

Staggering to my couch. Suzie knelt beside me, concern on her face. trying not to laugh.

I put my arm around her waist, pulling her close.

Again, she told me she wouldn’t sleep with me tonight.

I just smiled. looked into her eyes and unbuttoned her dress.

Lying there afterward, she asked if she could sing me a song.

Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had a naked woman sing to me.

She got out of bed, turned to me, clasping her hands together and belted out “Crazy for You.” By Patsy Cline.

Why? She wasn’t the devil after all?

Just a lovely woman looking for some companionship.

Who am I to argue with a lady?

In the morning. I awoke to find her still lying next to me.

“I thought I told you I wasn’t going to sleep with you?”

“You did? didn’t you? What happened?”

“Well? What’s a girl to do?” she said as she stretched.

After coffee, we got dressed.

“What are you doing later tonight?”

“I’m sure I can move my plans around if need be.” I told her.

She took her pen out. handing me a note .

It read.

Suzie,
1150 north lake shore drive. # 1707.
Bring Champagne. 9pm. 

The doorman of her building called to announce my arrival. directing me to the elevator.

17th floor.

I knocked on her door.

She opened it wearing a full length mink coat. holding a Polaroid camera.

I Handed her the Bottle of Champagne. “I’m afraid I’m a little under dressed.”

Opening her coat. “What a coincidence? So am I.”

Thunderstorms crossed the city.

This time she put on the music and I managed not to fall into the wall.

It’s almost like we were meant to be together?

We had dinner a week later when she told me, I wasn’t her type.

Apparently her type involved swine with money who could wine her and dine her. take her to society functions. I didn’t have those connections anymore, nor did I really ever want them to begin with. You ever talk to the upper crust? Snooty, real snooty. But the ladies do like to dance under the covers…No matter what they first tell you.

She was a society dame. I was just some mug she bumped into for a couple of days in the spring.

It was a clean sneak. nobody got hurt…I took the rumble. hitting on all eight.

on the square.

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The Glass exploded above our heads. crystalized mist rained down on everyone seated in the place.

What the Hell?”

It took a minute to realize what had happened.

We looked up to where the glass had come from. at the top right corner of the pubs massive front window was a small circular hole about the size of a quarter.

I turned back to the Redhead. who was covered in it. “Are you OK?” she nodded and winced “I think so?”

Grabbing a towel off the long wooden bar on the far wall. I dabbed it in my water-glass. gently touching her back and shoulders.

“Stay still.”

The bar had gone silent, Walter the bartender yelled out? “Is Everyone Alright?”

A table of five pointed to the back wall of the place where a curious hole near the ceiling was.

A young man about 25 years old was telling his table mates,

I heard it! buzzed right over my head. 10 feet lower and you’d be calling an ambulance right now.”

Someone had just fired a shot from outside into Gingers Ale House.

But who and why?

I had met The Redhead about 3 hours earlier. she was standing at the side of the stage all alone. wearing a short green dress and swaying to the music. She was just a itty bitty little thing. Cute as a button.

I caught her smiling at me.

Perhaps? it was the silly grin on my face. I don’t know? dancing back and forth to Terrance Simien and the Mallet Playboys all by myself.

I had a groove going. enjoying the live music in front of me, free from the emotional torture of the past year. my divorce had been a life sucking kick in the balls. tonight, I put the wreckage of it behind me.

I was now…finally…looking forward to the future.

“You need to get out man.” friends kept encouraging me. they were right of course. sitting home in front of the television had grown old.

I’d decided to stop by North Center Street Fest after work to see a band I liked.

I told her, “I can tell the type of person someone is by a little quiet conversation.”

She suggested, “Gingers Ale House?”

Hailing a cab. I held the door for her.

As we entered, she grabbed my arm, cooing “Ooh a Gentlemen.”

Ginger’s wasn’t crowded that Friday night. It was still a little early for the regulars.

We took a table at the front of the room next to the window.

“So what brought you out tonight?”

I told her, “To hear the band, didn’t feel like staying home.”

“You can’t stay home on a Friday? that’s no fun.”

Our conversation flowed, she was easy to talk to. seemingly interested in what I had to say. I learned she was an actress in town. Theater, Commercials and Industrial Films mostly.

I asked her “Have I seen you in anything?

“Not yet.” she replied, “Just some small store front theater, few commercials. nothing national. I’m changing agents right now, taking some classes. I’m going to get some new Headshots taken next week.”

Moments later, we were covered in a glass mist.

I leapt into action.

Walter the bartender refreshed everyone’s drink after making sure his patrons were all ok.

Red excused herself to use the bathroom. I watched her walk away. her hips moving ever so….

Like a big old walleye, she had me, mesmerized. I had inhaled the bait.

When she sat back down she asked me what I did?

I told her, “I was a double naught spy.”

“Really?” she said.

Starring deep into my into my eyes, she asked teasingly. “Do you work under cover?”

I sat up straight, pulling my chair closer, leaning across the table telling her, “That’s the best kind of double naught work. All you need is a good bottle of Champagne and The lights of the city to make the opposition talk.”

“Pity, we don’t have a good bottle of Champagne?” she pouted.

Mustering up my best Scottish accent.

“But we do Moneypenny, Dom Perignon 96 back at headquarters, interested?”

I paid the tab and we left.

The cab pulled up to my building at 655 West Irving Park Road.

We drifted through the lobby, Our Doorman Steve an off duty Chicago Police officer was working that night.

Discretion was Steve’s thing. he’d chat you up normally, though if you were with a lady? he would say good evening, open the door and most importantly not slow your roll.

A Pro if there ever was one that Steve.

I pressed the number 41 in the elevator. she leaned against me, looked into my eyes. I put my hands on her waist pulled her in, kissing her. the elevator stopped and we got off.

I opened the door. the full expanse of the downtown skyline was the first thing you see when you enter.

At night with the city lights twinkling in the background? it grabs your attention pretty quickly.

The place was no bigger than a hotel suite. one large room, full of windows that face south down Lake Shore Drive to the City. there is a small kitchen off the hall and a bathroom. once you see that view? mee-o my-o.

I moved into the kitchen to put the Dom on Ice.

Martin Denny drifted out of the speakers.

“Would you like to dance?”

Red nodded, then held up her hand for me to wait. taking her shoes off. standing before me in her bare feet. I took her hand in mine, placing my other around her waist gently twirling her so she could she the lights twinkling outside.

Slowly, swaying in each others arms.

After a couple of glasses of Dom, she headed to the bathroom, looking over her shoulder as she went, teasing she’d be right back. I leaned on the register cover on the windowsill looking out at the city.

The door to the bathroom opened, she glided over. the back of her dress was undone. looking up, Red battered her eyelashes. “What about that interrogation you promised? ” her dress slid to the floor.

“I don’t think that’s going to be necessary Miss Moneypenny.”

Lifting her onto the register. she wrapped her legs around my waist.

At last, all was right in the world. it had been a long time since I had a woman in my bed.

For a while now, I had been looking for someone like this. call me crazy I think she was too, something in her eyes said so. that and the fact her dress and panties were on the floor in front of me tipped me off.

I pressed her hips and back against the window.

Behind her, the window suddenly spider-cracked. it began to break into pieces.

Grabbing me around the shoulders and neck. She screamed.

Broken glass dropped onto to her back and down to the street below.

Thankfully I had a good hold of her.

I wouldn’t have liked to explain to the police or her family as to how she fell 41 stories with no clothes on.

Or what exactly was she doing up on that windowsill? I spun her away from the broken window onto the bed. nervous laughter erupted.

“Are you ok?” she nodded yes.

“Don’t move.” I ran and got a damp towel, dabbing lightly on her back…..once again.

Leaning forward Red started to laugh hysterically. I thought at first she might be crying until she lifted her head.

I held her face in my hands and kissed her.

I found out a few days later.

The phone rang, it was Red. she needed to see me right away…..

“Of course you do baby. I understand.”

Turns out? I didn’t. She was married. that would be a problem. shame too, it was all going so well. I had hoped it would last a little longer.

Did I miss the signs?

She wasn’t wearing a ring? I never heard her mention her husband once?

To be fair, I never asked. Didn’t think I had to? She sure wasn’t acting married the past three nights.

I told her the truth. if I had known she was married? nothing would have happened.

Suddenly, I was the other man.

Wasn’t that long ago where someone else was the other man. now? I was?

I knew all too well how that felt. looking at it from a different perspective doesn’t make you feel any better. lovely as she was? it would end badly.

Leaving my building a few days later, Steve was at the front desk on the phone. he waved and nodded at me as I passed him.

I stepped out into the night, the punch caught me flush on the jaw. I staggered back through the window of our building.

The glass shattered, the guy who hit me jumped into a car and sped off. Steve called the police along with an ambulance. he was able to give them a detailed account of what happened.

Good man that Steve.

They would arrest Red’s husband the next day at home.

I woke up in the hospital. with a Concussion and a Broken Jaw.

“Good Boy meets Bad Girl….Damage estimated at Twenty Thousand Dollars……”

She came to see me in the hospital to apologize.

I couldn’t talk through the wired jaw. turns out her husband had been following her all along. he was the one who had fired the gun through the window at Ginger’s.

According to Red, he wasn’t aiming at us? she hoped I would be alright. that when I got better?

“Maybe we could get together for lunch?”

Lunch?

I would be taking my lunch through a straw for a while.

Redheads…..The Devils Children.