Tibbius plays Sidney Whitehill, a feared gossip columnist often used as a vehicle for society slanders and intrigues. Recently, Sidney published a column in which one sentence mentioned that Edouard Angles, a respected mill owner, had been observed late at night leaving a “gathering” at the home of a “known temptress.” Sidney questioned whether Mrs. Angles had believed that her husband was “working late.” He received the next morning an anonymous note requesting that he write no more about the temptress. Folded in the note were a $50 bill and a bullet. Sidney is determined to identify the person who impugned his journalistic integrity and threatened his life. He is well known as an open ear for gossip, he can sift lies from truth, and he owns and practices with a Colt 1911 automatic. His on-again (for now) boyfriend, the owner of Bart’s Diner, has his heart on a string. He knows that Police Chief Dawson has an alternative lifestyle, much like Sidney, that would conflict with the man’s perceived role as a bible-thumping Presbyterian father and husband.
Dozens plays Midge — a taxi driver. A tough broad in a bowler hat, and a grey suit and tie with suspenders. She’s seen things late at night by the roads, in the shadows. Hulking things. And then her fellow sister cabbies started going missing, their cabs found abandoned the next morning. Nobody will listen to her about the shapes in the dark or the missing girls. So she’s going to find out. Shehas leverage over Paulie, nightclub manager. I used to tend bar there and have helped him out of a jam plenty of times. Mike at dispatch has leverage over her. He doesn’t like giving rides to the girls, and will refuse to if you cross him.
It’s morning, well by most accounts of morning. The sun’s not up yet but even with the pissing rain you’d struggle to tell in this sky. Sid and Midge are sat in Bart’s Diner, where he’s opened up early and put a pot of coffee on that’s hissing away in the corner.
Midge is drinking black coffee and smoking a cigarette. Definitely still up from the night before. She’s been prowling the streets, taking fares and looking for …. signs
“Hey, hon,” Sid calls lightly to Bart, “could you get us some sugar?”
Bart comes over to the table with a white ceramic sugar bowl and a small tin pitcher of cream. “Coffee be ready in a minute,” he says gruffly, but smiles at Sid and Midge — especially Sid. Oh yes, it’s on thinks Sid.
“So what do you think, Sid? You heard anything lately? Any news?”
Midge found something last night too: a cab receipt signed in Per Ocksede’s inimical scrawl on ANGLES headed paper. Per was a Norwegian who’d been in Baltimore for the best part of twenty years after the Great War and he went missing three weeks back.
“You still read my stuff? You know that Thursday special I do about rumors for the weekend? That was … day before yesterday? It’s Saturday, right? So — listen good — Friday morning I get a note about the Thursday column. Asking me not to write any more stuff about Luann Donnelly. And in the note … now listen to this … a Grant and a bullet!”
Sid pulls the neatly-folded 50 out of his pocket. “You think it’s real?” he asks Midge.
Midge whistles lowly, “A bribe and a threat, that is!” Midge picks up the bill and squints at it, holds it up to the light. “Real enough in any case.”
“Wait, the Donnelly piece? About Ed Angles? Sid, you won’t believe this…” She shows him the receipt from the missing Ocksede on Angles letterhead. “This missing person shows up hailing a cab on Angles’s dime last night, what are the odds of that?”
The cab was hailed two nights back: you can tell from the top of the numbers above the tear. There’s also the very edge of a bluish smear, something you had first mistaken for ink. Looks like that’s why the receipt was torn.
“Look here, see? This ride was 2 nights ago! There’s something going on. You do a piece about Ed and get hushed up. And then the missing Norwegian shows up at his place or something. I say we head over there and stake the place out, Sid.
“We could ask Mike, but he’s got me over hot water. I don’t know if he’d help us or make things harder..
“Are you listening, Sid? Quit staring at Bart and pay attention. I think we might be on to something. I think these things all might be connected!”
“Ah, goodness, sorry, hon. I do like to see a man handle his spatula, you know?” Sid grins at Midge — she knows his business, at least most of it. “I think you’re right.”
“Do you think we should go give Mike a shakedown? Or head straight to Angles and see what’s what? I guess it depends on how discreet you want to be..
“I gotta admit, I don’t much look forward to confronting Mike. He can make things harder not just for me but for the other girls. C’mon, let’s head out the Angles house.” She eyes the $50 on the table. “You’re paying.” She snatched up her keys and heads for the door.
“Hold up, Midge, we haven’t had our coffee yet.”
Sid has a coffee routine that requires his full attention for a few minutes after Bart pours the red-brown fluid into the flawless white ceramic cup, not splashing a drop into the saucer. Sid doesn’t talk while he drinks coffee. He does pass Bart the $50.
After finishing the cup quickly, although not hastily, Sid gets up. “Ready, hon?”
Midge sits and watches the ritual quietly, lips pressed into a thin line.
Sid finishes, and she sighs exasperatedly, “Yes I’m ready!”