DREAMS NEVER DIE - ALBERT TUCHER
Previously appeared at DZ Allen's Muzzle Flash (perhaps the last story ever to appear there)
“How can you read those things?” said Diana.
Veronica looked up. “Why shouldn’t I?”
“Well, you and I, we’ve seen hundreds of men at their … well, maybe not their worst, but definitely not their best. If anybody should know how bogus romance novels are, it’s us.”
“Would you prefer I did drugs?”
“How does that follow?”
“Sometimes I don’t want to feel anything. If these books rot my brain, well, maybe that’s what I need.”
Diana slid into the booth and pointed at Veronica’s cup of McDonald’s coffee. “I just saw one of your guys pull in across the street. You going to see him with coffee breath?”
Veronica dismissed the motel with a wave. “I don’t have anybody else today.”
“Then he’s seeing somebody else.”
Veronica shrugged. “He can do what he wants.”
“I think maybe you’re taking this Zen thing too far. You should at least find out who’s moving in on your territory.”
“What do you do when you don’t want to feel anything?”
Diana took a closer look Veronica was serious.
“I guess that’s not a problem. When I’m not working, I don’t even think about it.”
“What do you do when you’re not working?”
“I don’t know. Stuff.”
“You read books,” said Veronica. “I’ve seen you.”
“Not this stuff. I read...damn.”
“Travel books. To places I’ll probably never go. I guess that counts as turning my brain off.”
“I hate to be an I-told-you-so, but I told you so.”
“Okay,” said Diana, “you win.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.” Veronica studied her. “You ever carry anything? You know, a gun or a knife?”
“I always thought it would cause more problems than it solved.”
“You’re probably right.”
“What brought that up?”
Vernoica looked down at her book. Diana checked her watch. She climbed out of the booth and started toward the exit.
“You know,” said Veronica in a tone that made Diana stop and turn back, “the cover art is what I pay attention to. That’s how I know if I’ve read it before. I usually don’t even notice the titles.”
Veronica smiled and turned the book around to display the cover.
“Dreams Never Die.”
The smile disappeared. “I’ll be here.”
“Okay,” said Diana.
That was a little weird, she thought as she left the restaurant.
She waited for the walk sign and crossed the four lanes to the motel. Her date, one of her low-maintenance clients, was in his regular room. This man seemed to enjoy conversation more than their main business.
When she opened the door at the end of the hour, she saw some commotion at the other end of the row of rooms. It took her a moment to sort everything out. An ambulance sat with its lights on. Two patrol cars also had their flashers going. A crew of EMTs steered a wheeled litter with a man on it through a crowd of cops and onlookers.
Her old acquaintance Detective Tillotson watched the proceedings. He saw her and motioned her to come to him.
“You see Veronica?” he said.
But the queasy feeling in her stomach was already telling her the answer.
“The victim ID’d her. If she’s lucky, he’ll make it.”
“She said to tell you she’ll be waiting over in Mickey D’s.”
“I didn’t understand what she meant at the time, but yeah, she did.”
“Why do you think she shot him?”
“Probably he was messing with her head. Some guys think, what the hell, she’s only a whore. That’s what she’s there for.”
“Promising her the old happily-ever-after bullshit. Then the time came, and he tried to back out of the deal.”
“Does anybody fall for that?”
“You might be surprised.”
“I would if you did. Do guys try it with you?”
“I just listen.”
Tillotson turned and watched the ambulance wedge itself into the traffic on the street. “I guess I should go get her,” he said.
“I don’t suppose...”
“...You could let her finish her book?”
BIO: Albert Tucher is the author of over twenty published stories and four unpublished novels about prostitute Diana Andrews. Like most authors of hardboiled crime fiction, he is a librarian in his day job.
The City on the Edge of Forever (1967)
1 hour ago