Dashiell Austen, the Late, the Great

excerpt from Persuasionville, 1946, Simon & Schuster

“You will spend the holidays with us,” said Tansy, “won’t you? Oh, do say that you will!”

“Well, now, I don’t know,” rumbled Jake.

“Oh, Mr. Bullet, you simply must come,” cooed Esmerelda.

“Yes, yes, say you will, oh, please, do say you will,” chorused her sisters, and pulled the sleeves of his coat.

Jake scratched his stubbled cheek, slid a thin black cigarette between his lips and struck a match against his thumb. He studied the faces of the girls over his cupped hands, without seeming to. Tansy, Esmerelda, Heloise and Opal all stared at him pleadingly, their large eyes moist with the ardency of their appeal. Hyacinth, the oldest, watched him coolly, drawn slightly away from his smoke in distaste, her eyes half-lidded, her pianist’s fingers folded primly over the high empress waist of her gown. She was a canny one, was Hy, and calculating; a body with more curves than the bay road and a mind more Byzantine than a thousand empires. “Up to Miss Turner,” he grunted.

The four girls pressed against their sister, whispering a thousand promises and blandishments into her delicate ear, if she should only say yes. Miss Turner pursed her lips, then drawled, “Oh, I think you should come, Mr. Bullet. I dare say we shall find some use or other for a private investigator. Aunt Rose has been looking wretched this last se’ennight, and no wonder, fretting herself over the Colonel’s will and all, and he scarcely in the ground! You always make her feel better, you know you do.”

Jake grinned. “I guess maybe I do. You can always stand me in a closet with the rest of the hatracks if you can’t find anything to keep my interest. Oughtta be good for my nervous condition and all.”