Now fully armed and ready to enter the dark and secret side of A.C's sleazy underbelly, Carlotta made her way cautiously through the nocturnal streets and alleyways of the criminally inclined Dockland Wharfs.
Her next port of call was an old speakeasy she used to frequent in her former glory days when she had been Mort's Girl and an influential member of the gang. The place was hidden along the key-side of the East End, posing as a maritime hardware store; but the back of the building held a small, dingy snug and bar with its own concealed distillery out back.
This was where Carlotta's friend and street associate Maria Whitely used to hang out when she wasn't busy pulling tricks for punters among the derelict warehouses along Waterside Lane. Maria had always been a good friend to Carlotta, and when she herself had been forced onto the streets to make ends meet, it had been Maria who had shown her the ropes, made sure she was safe... well, as safe as anyone could be when playing chippie for the foreign sailors and dockland labourers who liked to frequent this twilight world of degradation, drug abuse, and frequent murder.
Maria was the same age as Carlotta, and like herself, had been raised in one of the city's decrepit orphanages... rejected by her mother, and rejected by society. Carlotta had been lucky, she had caught the eye of Mort when still young and the way out for her was secured; but Maria was stuck in the eternal nightmare squalor, filth, humiliation, and sinful abuse... though truth to tell, Carlotta knew all too well that in this game, after a while, you simply stopped caring too much about anything anymore, accepting your lot in life like a master whipped curr.
No, Maria was all right: if you could catch her sober between her numerous clients. Carlotta had tried to help her in the past. Maria was fortunate in that she was very pretty and wore her clothes handsomely; which made her a popular favourite on the street corners where she plied her wares. Carlotta knew Maria could earn enough money in a single year to drag herself out of the hole she was in... maybe not enough to set herself up in some other kind of business, but certainly enough to give her a fresh start. But truth to tell, as was so common in this lifestyle, the drink, the dope, and the forceful pimps kept you in a permanent state of apathy and semi sober awareness.
Hell! How else could anyone remain sane without daily ritual 'pick me ups'which helped those trapped in the cycle to endure the nightmare and ease the pain of existence? So despite Carlotta's best efforts, her old friend remained forever a pleasure girl of Angel City's often dangerous and unsavoury oldest ever profession.
Carlotta found her friend in the Speakeasy.
A slim, good looking young woman squinted over her glass for a second, trying to focus properly. For a moment, she thought a punter wanted her services, and she was about to decline. The night had been long, and all she wanted now was to lose herself in oblivion and forget about the last eight hour stint.
When her vision adjusted to the light, she saw the person standing next to her was not another 'John'as she had expected, but someone she had never hoped to see ever again in this lifetime.
"Why Carly, oh my God, is that you?"
Carlotta smiled affectionately, and slid easily into a stool beside her old friend.
"I don't believe it. I... I thought you were dead. I thought you went down with the rest of the gang?"
Carlotta shrugged her shoulders.
"I got lucky I guess. I wasn't caught in the set up."
Maria gave a sudden gasp, then looked lazily over her shoulder to make sure no one else was listening.
"So you do know it was a set up then. I always thought it was; and I have my suspicions who arranged it too."
Carlotta's mouth narrowed slightly.
"That's what I need to talk to you about Frenchie."
It was as she always expected; Nancy Drew was the no-good-cheap-bit-of-fluff who had lured Mort to his death. One of Mort's major failings in life had always been his weakness for a good looking dame, and this hook had played him like a fish. Frenchie had explained it all to Carlotta, filling in the missing blanks she herself had failed to comprehend all this time. Staying low had dulled her senses and going into hiding for so long meant she could no longer hold her ear to the ground for reliable news... not even street gossip.
Nancy was a Gun Moll. The Drew gang were a small time street mob... known to some as 'The Amazons'because Nancy only recruited women into her employ. Drug pushing, brothel running, and protection rackets were her game, and maiming, scarring, and occasionally killing were more pastime pleasure activities to her than absolute necessities.
Nancy was also the frau of 'The German'. The German was a top dollar King-Pin working Cash Side; too slick, too smart ever to lower his standards and deal personally with the slum-lands, but his henchmen were known to have their nefarious hooks into various quarters within the Waterfront and Cheap Side regions.
Frenchie believed The German had persuaded Nancy to seduce Mort, using both her feminine charms and the tantalising bate of a safe and sure thing B&E job over at Miller's Crossing, where he was subsequently gunned down.
Frenchie also believed Nancy had made sure Carlotta was out of the way during all this because she was afraid Carlotta would recognise her - from the past! Frenchie had assumed Nancy had subsequently managed to bump Carlotta off along with the rest of the gang on the night which had later become known on the streets as 'Mort's Last Dance.'
Frenchie didn't know any more about Nancy other than these snippets of common gossip, and as neither she nor Carlotta had ever personally seen any of the Drew Gang close up, the lead ended here.
The Drew Gang - in an action shoot out over on the East Side.
However, Carlotta's friend Frenchie did know that at least a few of the Drew gang liked to hang out in a joint called The De Winter's Club.
"Look for a singer at the club called 'Betty Lee Jones'" Frenchie had advised.
"I hear she has no love for Nancy Drew... or her sidekicks".
© 2008, Stephen A Gilbert