The draft opening scene to my next short story, coming after the publication of On 7th Street, An Angel Fell [July 2018].
No guns. No knives. They checked you at the door, so I left them with the man who eyeballed me before letting me in. But I always carried a cheap fountain pen that—unlike the one in my jacket—was empty. No ink and in my back pocket where I could get at it with my hands lowered slightly behind me, on the hips, a non-offensive stance. You can do a lot of damage with a pen when you don’t have a blade.
I had learned that trick in Naples, Italy. In the Gut… a dicey place where women, the wrong kind, and trouble were always in abundance. I had watched a local bully boy get sliced open with one. They don’t make a clean cut though… it kind of catches and rips. After that, he wasn’t so tough. He had picked on the wrong man.
It was like that now.
People think it means I let shit slide. I mind my own business and don’t give a damn what others do. I got problems of my own and just want to sit and drink.
But when that jumbo-sized, scar-faced goon started slapping her around, I had to do something. What she was doing in this hole wasn’t my business. But she didn’t fit in. Nice clothes. Her face an un-inked ivory oval framed by dark hair caught the dim lights in the bar. Eyes that if the light were better would have probably been a bright blue. And curves, distracting, follow her every move just to see things shift under her clothes, kind of curves. The make you run off the road or into a wall looking kind.
Why’d she have to be like that?
Why’d I have to look?
“Fuck,” I muttered. “Hey, gruesome… lay off. Leave her alone.” But he wasn’t in a listening mood I guess. He hit her harder. I pushed back from my table and stood. In three maybe four long steps, I reached and put my hand on his shoulder to turn him. I ain’t no pussy and put my grip into it. He wasn’t one either and when he came around, he grabbed my hand and forearm and twisted. I felt it break. That’s when I pulled my pen from my back pocket, wrote him a little note and stuck it under his chin. The nib caught and snagged flesh as I yanked it free. He gurgled as blood filled his mouth and throat. “Fuck you,” I shoved him aside.
“Let’s get the hell out of here.” She looked up at me, one side of her face already had a bruised grape look to it.
“Why’d you do that?” She looked over at the man on the floor still spitting red bubbles and then at my now crooked left arm with the splintered end of bone poking out.
I held out my good hand. “You need to come with me now if you want me to live.”
“What?” Maybe it was the slaps and punch to the head that made her slow on the uptake.
“We have to go.” I saw a small guy, the bartender’s runner, head to the back rooms. He’d bring back the even bigger, meaner, motherfuckers. “I ain’t leaving here without you.” Shit. I couldn’t believe I said that even as I said it. She grabbed my hand, and I hauled her to her feet. “We gotta go, now, or neither of us is leaving.”
She stumbled along at my side; me more dragging her than she walking. Outside it was like stepping into a coal sack. Down the street, I saw lamppost lights wrestling with the fog that rolls in off the water in the dark hours after midnight and before dawn. The streets, stone and stucco walls around us were damp with it. The fog hung low in wads that had the look of a tattered, yellowed, rag. The kind you used to wipe off malaria sweats and never washed. I had learned the alleys that kept you mostly off the streets. Five minutes later we were deeper into the maze of old buildings that radiated outward from the port’s warehouses. I had to find my bearings to get to my flop. There I could fix my arm and ask her questions. She probably had answers I didn’t want to hear. But I’d still ask her.
[Story in Development]
“Most excellent! I love a hard-boiled noir story and this fits the bill!” -Kevin Lovecraft