I’ll never forget the day I met her- the war had just started, and I was fresh on the street with my GI reject papers. Flat feet. So I did what any other flatfoot would do- I opened my own Private Dick service. To add insult to injury, my first case was for a new GI- wanted me to tail his sweetheart while he was off fightin’ for the American way. So I trailed her, but downtown, the broad gave me the slip. I turned down a wrong alley and a couple punks jumped me. I grabbed my pocket gat, and accidentally took off the tip of my pinkie toe. Fainted dead away. When I opened my eyes, I was lookin’ at a curly bleach blonde with bee-stung lips and big brown doe eyes. I was always a sucker for big brown eyes. Honey Potter, RN. One look at that doll face and I was over a barrel. It was Honey who patched me up and gave me a shot for the pain. I was smitten with her bedside manner, and her firm, high rack you could set your coffee mug on without spilling a drop. And her rear view like the Liberty Bell- hubba hubba! And her gams a mile long. All that wrapped up in a form-fitting white nurse’s uniform, with a cute little hat. I was a goner from the get-go. That was before all the trouble started. Junkies are a dime a dozen, and the lure of the needle got the better of my Honey Pot. I did the best I could to help her out. And it was bad enough with her nailing herself. But when she started nailing her patients, I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I ratted her out. And she went to the Big House. Last I heard she was out on a technicality. Funny how justice works. Or doesn’t.
And funny how life sometimes throws you a sidewinder. Just when I thought I had gotten over her, my ameche rings.
“Hi-de-ho, Tommy. It’s your Honey Pot. I’m out of the Big House and off the H train for good.”
“Congrats, Honey. So whaddya need, babe- a ride outta town? A crash pad? Wanna bum some dough?”
“No, baby. I got my own place.”
“You drunk, Honey?”
“No, baby. On the square. I thought you’d be proud of me. I’d like you to come on up to the house.”
“My house. 6319 Upland Lane. In Osseo. It’s a gift from Nana. She’s moving back to St. Louis. She said she misses the big city.”
Now I’m no greenhorn, but there was something in Honey’s voice that made me believe her. Or maybe it was just my hormones talkin’. I had been down on my luck lately. And no PI gigs means no dough, and no dough means no broads.
It had been a long time. Too long.
So I hop in my jalopy and head for Osseo.
I’d been to Nana’s house before- dropped Honey off there a few times after she spent another Saturday night boozin’ at some dive. Now Honey says she owns the place. Nice neighborhood. Clean lawns. Respectable people. Just what Honey needs, now that she’s on the square.
I ring the doorbell. Honey takes her time answering. I hope I got the right place.
“Hi-de-ho, flatfoot. Come in and take a load off.”
She’s as pretty as a pinup, just like I remembered. Skimpy white sweater. Tight red skirt. Smells good too- like cinnamon apple pie.
“Nice place ya got here, Honey. Looks like you’re on the right track.”
“I am. I even got my old nursing gig back.”
“They took you back with your record?”
“I got my gig back through the state’s good behavior program.”
“They certainly didn’t hire me for bad behavior.”
“But you injected patients with junk- junk they didn’t need. No hospital would take you back after that.”
“They never proved that! All they proved was I was incompetent.”
“Incompetent? They put people away for incompetence?”
“You know as well as I do they had to put the blame on someone. I was their scapegoat. Their sacrificial lamb. But I was only tryin’ to help those poor souls. Ease their pain. I know what pain is. I can see it. I can smell it. You don’t grow up with an alcoholic daddy and a drug-addicted mama without knowin’ what pain is.”
I take Honey in my arms, then grab her wrists and spread her arms. She flinches.
“I’m clean, Tommy, I swear I am. Nana wouldn’t give me my kids back if I wasn’t.”
I see a line of dots running up the inside of both elbows.
“Old marks, I swear. I haven’t touched a needle since before they put me away. That’s not my scene anymore. Ya gotta believe me, Tommy.”
“Okay. I believe you. I just gotta be sure this time. You’re no girl scout.”
“Scout’s honor,” Honey says and salutes. She pours me a Manhattan. I smile. Then she pours herself one.
“You back to drinkin’, babe?”
“Whya givin’ me the third, Tommy? I take pills to take care of the alcohol. They’re from my doc.” She wraps her arms around my neck and kisses me. Soft, wet lips. I melt in her arms. Her hot breath tickles my neck, then she pulls away.
“Let’s check on the kids,” she says, and downs her Manhattan. “Tammy is three and Tommy Jr. is eleven weeks. About time you re-acquainted yerself.”
We walk hand-in-hand down the hall and peek in the kid’s bedroom.
“I’m doin’ real good, Tommy.” She puts her head on my shoulder. “I’m outta the Big House and off the street. Off the junk. Got my kids back. Got a nice home. Makin’ money legal-like.”
She cocks her head to the side and looks up at me with those big brown eyes.
“All I need is a husband. Let’s get hitched, Tommy. I know ya love yer Honey Pot.”
“Looks like you’re doing fine on your own.”
She sticks out her red lipsticked lip and pouts.
“Tommy Jr. and Tammy need a daddy!” She stamps her foot- loud.
Hey, don’t snap your cap.” I glance at the kids, but they’re still fast asleep.
“They’re yer kids, Tommy. Will ya ever step up and be a man?”
Funny thing to say, after all the times I watched little Tammy while Honey was out junkin’. After all the times I bailed her out and filled her icebox. After all the times I carried her to the powder room and held her hair while she vomited after another weekend booze binge.
“I know Tammy is mine.” I lift Honey’s chin with my finger. “At least I reckon she’s mine. But I doubt even you know who Tommy Jr.’s daddy is.”
Honey slaps me hard across my mug, then takes off down the hall. She turns, looks at me, then collapses, sobbing. So I walk up and sit on the floor beside her. I hold her and stroke her hair.
“I’m sorry, babe,” I whisper. “I don’t know what I was thinkin’. And I’m proud of you.”
Honey sniffs and wipes her nose on my shirt sleeve. I sigh, close my eyes, and gently rock her in my arms. I hear a shuffle and open my eyes. Honey has her hand in the desk drawer. She grabs a syringe and I grab her wrist.
“I knew it- you’re still on the hop! Still a junkie!”
“Don’t you dare call me a junkie, you fat-head!”
I pin her to the floor, she knees me in my jewels, and I slam back against the wall. Then she lands a left hook right on my kisser.
“You’re off the track!” I say, spitting blood through split lips.
Honey looks down at my blood on her sweater and shrieks. Jumping up, she twists on her high heel and hits her head on the desk.
“Honey!” I fall to my knees and cradle her head in my hands. Her eyes flutter open. “Don’t worry, babe, I’m callin’ an ambulance right now.” I reach for the ameche, but she rips the cord out of the wall. She throws the ameche across the room. We lock eyes for a few seconds, then I hear a muffled thud. I jump to my feet, run down the hall, and check the kids- still fast asleep. But in the glow of the nightlight I see dots on their arms. Then I hear another thud. Honey bursts into the bedroom.
“You nailed your kids to the cross?” I say, shaking my head.
Another thud- this time, louder.
“Get outta here, Tommy! I’m through with you!”
“What’s that sound?”
“You hear me? We’re through! Get out!”
“Not until I find what’s makin’ that racket.”
I shove Honey out of the way and try the master bedroom- empty. Honey comes up behind me, wraps her fingers around my throat, and digs her long red nails into my Adam’s apple. I elbow her in the ribs and she doubles over. Down the hall I go. I try the guest bedroom- empty. Out of the corner of my eye I see Honey grab a lead pipe out of the closet and throw it- I duck, but it bounces off the back of my head. I stumble, charge head-first out of the bedroom, and bee-line down the hall, through the dining room, and into the kitchen. Another thud to my right, in the laundry room- it’s Nana, bound and gagged on the floor. She’s kicking the wall with her foot. I untie her ropes and see she has the same dots on her arms. I feel a trickle run down my back, and I and wipe my hand across the back of my head. My hand is covered in blood. Nana’s eyes get wide, and I feel a needle in my caboose.
“Who’s the junkie, now, Tommy?” Honey’s hot breath caresses my neck, and I melt in her arms.
“Honey . . please . . I’m sorry . . ” I look up at those big brown eyes. I was always a sucker for big brown doe eyes. She traces a finger across my eyelids.
“There, there, Tommy, go to sleep now. Yer Honey Pot will make all the pain go away.”
. . . . . . .