I got out of Sing Sing in ’68 and immediately went to New York City looking for Lola.
There was still a place there called the Copa, but it wasn’t the same at all. They’d taken out the stage for one thing. Lola’s stage. She used to own that place. Even in a line of ten girls in identical costumes, you couldn’t keep from looking at her. Lola had something special. Something so special I killed a man to keep anyone from finding out.
We met in San Francisco. I’d just been mustered out of the Navy after the war and a couple of the guys thought it would be a laugh to go to Finnochio’s in North Beach. I tagged along, not knowing I was going to get hit between the eyes almost as soon as I walked in the door. Couldn’t show it of course. I had to pretend I was smirking at the “queers” and “queens” as much as anybody else, but Lola knew. She told me later that she could always tell which way a boy went the minute she looked at him.
I waited for the guys to get bored with their cleverness and leave. Then I waited for the last show to end. After that I waited some more. I thought the bouncer was going to throw me out. He might have been a pansy, but he looked as tough as any of the guys I’d known in the service. I begged him to tell the blonde cocktail waitress I just wanted to talk to her. I guess he took pity on me. I guess he figured out I wasn’t like the other jokers.
“Hello, sailor,” she said, even though I wasn’t wearing a uniform. I asked her name and she proceeded to spell it out for me. Within seconds, she had a hand on my knee and within minutes it was way farther up my leg than that.
I’d been on that damn boat for nearly two years and even when I was on leave it had never been safe to do anything. I was pretty desperate for an honorable discharge, if you know what I mean and Lola had me so hard, just sitting there in the darkness. I wanted to take her back to my rooming house and do…well, whatever she’d let me do.
There was no time to think of how crazy and dangerous it was. We were just sitting at a table; there was an old guy with a mop on the other side of the room. Lola was working my dick through the fabric of my pants. I’d been telling myself I wasn’t looking for all my life. It was all confusing and wonderful and I was going to have to about a zillion Hail Marys if Father Brannigan ever got wind of it.
I wanted to touch her, to make sure this was really happening. You couldn’t tell by looking; even her throat was perfectly feminine and her skirt didn’t give any secrets away. I looked in her eyes and felt like I was falling into them. She leaned over and whispered in my ear. “My cock is so hard right now,” she said in a purely masculine voice, while squeezing mine.
“Lola,” I growled, my hips rising, trying to get more friction. She pushed me down and straddled my lap, letting her skirt ride up her legs. She hadn’t been lying. I could feel it grinding against my thigh as she rubbed me faster and faster, talking up a filthy blue streak until I lost track of everything and felt myself practically exploding.
I banged my hands against the table and bit my lip trying to keep myself from shouting out loud.
“Wow,” I gasped.
It was a good thing I had a long coat to wear back to my rooming house. I offered to let her wear it, but she had a mink she’d gotten from some old coot who lived on Nob Hill. We walked together in the fog and she told me her dream was to be a showgirl at the Copacabana in New York.
I told her I had a cousin in the Bronx who worked for Frank Costello, so maybe I could get her an audition, if that was what she really wanted.
“Really? You’d really do that for me?”
“I’d do anything for you, baby.”
It was true. I was hooked like a fish. My cousin wasn’t exactly thrilled when I showed up at his place in the Bronx a month later, but then Lola flashed some leg at him and he promised he’d get her that audition. How she got past the casting couch I didn’t ask, although by then I knew all the ways Lola had of making a man happy. I told myself it didn’t matter. All that mattered was how she looked on the stage. Every night I tended bar, knowing that every man in the audience wanted her, but she was all mine.
Those were the days.
I stood there in the crowd a long time with my memories until I felt a hand on my shoulder. I was ready to put my dukes up until I heard a familiar voice.
It took a second to recognize the face. I sure didn’t remember him having so much facial hair.
“Yeah. What the hell are you doing here? I thought you got sent up after that thing with….”
“I’m back. I’m looking for Lola.”
“Lola? I ain’t seen her in years.”
Bruno had been working the door at the Copa the night Rico Barone came in. There was a rule the girls weren’t allowed to drink with the customers, but Rico was a friend of Frank Costello himself. Lola could handle herself, but there was something about the way he was touching her. Everybody knew me and Lola were an item. If anyone found out about Lola, they found out about me. I couldn’t have that. Not here in New York. Not so close to the Bronx. To my mom. To Father Brannigan.
I had to stop him. I tried a little gentle persuasion, Bronx -style. Then a shove, then a fist. He pulled a gun and then I heard Lola scream. That’s about the last thing I remember until the cops showed up. By then Rico was down and I had the gun in my hand. The public defender had some ideas about my copping a self-defense plea, but Costello owned the DA, so I ended up in Ossining.
“You still working here?” I asked Bruno, shouting over the music.
“Nah. No one needs an old guy like me on the door. It’s all about the drugs now. Lots of freaks and fruits. Not like the old days. Podell and the boys are long gone. I just come around once in a while for old time’s sake.”
We went out for a smoke and so I could hear myself think. What the hell was that shit they were playing anyway?
“Lola?” I repeated. She’d stopped visiting after the first two years. Never wrote to tell me what happened. I knew Podell had fired her so I figured maybe she was hiding out for a while. Then it got to be over ten years and I knew something bad had happened.
“She took it rough, Tony. Last time I saw her she was hitting the sauce pretty hard.”
“When was that?” He shrugged and blew a smoke ring. “I have to find her,” I insisted
Bruno shook his head. Like he knew something he didn’t want to tell me. I hoped I wasn’t going to have to hit him.
“Look, I don’t know anything for sure. But I heard a rumor.”
“What rumor?” I said, between clenched teeth, letting him know I was serious .
“I got some friends who hooked up with this syndicate in London. Someone told me they saw her there. Still wearing the same outfit. The feathers and everything.“
Just the idea of s Lola in her old dress was enough to give my cock a little twitch. I’d have to get some time to myself before I went to London.
“A club in Soho. That’s all I can tell you.”
That was plenty to start with. She was my Lola and I was going to find her.