A-to-Z Noir

“A down and out gumshoe, a couple of femme fatales and a rising tally of dead bodies. Detective Jack Murphy just wants to make a little dough but he’ll settle for getting through this challenge alive!”

So, after a rocky start, I’ve decided to take part in the A-to-Z Challenge 2014.

As my theme I’ll be doing a noir-style detective thriller. The attempt is to keep it short and sweet, paying homage to the classic noir elements of Chandler and Hammett – the hard boiled detective, the sultry femme fatales, the tough thugs and quick turns – while hopefully adding a little something of my own.

It’s a fast paced, shoot-from-the-hip world, maybe just right for an A-to-Z Challenge. Either way, Murphy and Company are about to find out…

Happy A-to-Z Challenge.

– HMB

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The Pool

In an attempt to commit to the blogging thing (as a means of keeping the writing muscles limber) I’ve decided to attempt one of the Daily Post’s Weekly Challenges ( http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/gonzo-writing-challenge/ ) … So here it is:

THE POOL

I arrive at the pool.

She lies stretched out like an offering on a white deckchair in the blazing sun – her blacked-out eyes,  long black hair, arms at her sides like something yet to be taken out of the box. Her olive skin is glistening. I wonder what sunblock she uses, what the SPF is. I wonder what SPF means and how many poor bastards had to sizzle to a crisp for them to figure out just the right formula. Or how many translucent pale bodies were driven mad in ghostly frustration before they realized that the formula was too much, that they were better off  using it as a cake frosting.

The pool is a mesmeric blue. My thoughts on sunscreen are thrust aside once again by how she lies there now, her body more like a lean meat cooking, a sleek sausage in a skillet. She has that slight glisten of bacon grease or maybe syrup. Syrup can be sexy. She looks covered in syrup. She is a syrup covered flapjack from one of those upper-scale breakfast houses…

I realize I haven’t had breakfast yet.

I take off my shirt and feel the grumble in my belly. It’s the price one pays,  I think, lowering myself all fish-belly pale into the cold blue. If I ate I’d have to wait two hours to swim. Those were the rules. Universal rules Moses brought down from The Mountain (where he must have swam in God’s Malibu villa) and then handed down from parent to parent, like how a crumb before dinner would spoil your appetite or how masturbation would send you blind.

I silently thank the Lord now for the tip – because nothing would be more embarrassing than cramping up here, sinking below these crystal chlorinated ripples to be found drowned in 3 feet 6 inches of water.  It just wouldn’t do. Not with a girl that beautiful sitting just a few feet away.

Stepping in, the water is so cold I feel my gravitational centre retreat. It knows better. I sink in and my system goes into some kind of shock. I can’t breathe for a second, but I pretend otherwise. Who needs to breathe on a beautiful day like this; a powdery sky overhead, sunlight glinting diamonds off of the water, blazing sun lashing my scalp while I freeze from the shoulders down, feet going numb, while sweat runs along my temples into my eyes, stinging them… My neck’s fine though. My neck’s happy as a clam.

I begin a slow breast stroke back and forth. The Girl doesn’t move. Maybe her eyes do, behind those big lenses, but I can’t tell. Maybe she’s blind. It’s romantic, I think. Blind, like my love is now, something pure for a stranger who can be anyone, anyone I can imagine. Because it’s all in my mind now. My body has no part in reacting to the girl on display. My body has bigger concerns – right now my body’s thinking about hypothermia, about survival. My body knows that a girl like that is no use to you if you’re stuck in a bed, running a fever while you’ve got chill, a shivering snot-filled mess. No, brother, if that’s your plan, may as well have a hearty breakfast and let it all end at the bottom of a shallow pool.

I go back and forth a few times. The view doesn’t change much. I’m like a goldfish, “Oh look, a horizon! … Oh look, a horizon!” Then I climb out slowly, casually, the oh so subtle tug of the swimsuit crotch which is scared of the temperature change and so clings to my privates for comfort. The Girl doesn’t seem to notice. She hasn’t moved the whole time. Maybe she’s dead, I think. Someone could have just left her here, murdered, neck snapped. We won’t know until she’s overdone, starts to cook in the sun, starts to burn. If the SPF is just right maybe she’ll incinerate, just burst into flame… Not a bad way to get away with murder.

Drying off is probably the best part. I feel invigorated. I should rub myself all over with a towel more often… in public… Well it’s probably the sun that makes the difference. I enjoy the fact that I can take full breaths again. I crave a cigarette. I dolls up, fixing my hair and donning my flipflops. I look back once more at the pool and it tries to seduce me back in, “Forget how cold I am… See how I glitter in the sun? … See how I sway so gently back and forth? … I could rock you like a baby…”

I won’t fall for that again. Not today anyway. I take a last glance at the beautiful corpse. Such a tragedy. I head inside thinking about breakfast.

Creation

In the beginning there was Nothing and then there was Something.

It seems strange to me that this is the thing on which both science and religion want to agree: there was nothing, and then there was a “big bang” or a God spoke the words saying, “Let there be light.” Either way, the silence was broken and it’s been havoc ever since.

But hold up a second. Can we define “Nothing”?

Because via one theory, there was a miniscule concentration of matter – all of the matter in the universe in fact, squeezed down to the size of a pin head – which violently exploded outwards (and who wouldn’t explode? talk about invasion of personal space), scattering and expanding to form the now (partially)known universe. But where did that pinhead universe come from? Isn’t that “something”?

The other theory is trickier. We’ve got Nothing and God. God just sitting around in Nothing, with nothing to do. And then God gets an idea; he’ll make man, and the world, etc. Only he can’t see a dang thing… Ok, I don’t know, there seems to me to be something going on in all that Nothing… In the end, there really is no escaping the notion of “God” for God is the ‘X’ in the whole equation of Something (S) springing from Nothing (N)… ie. (N+N) X = S.

Anyway, that’s besides the point, because what I was really meaning to get at is this: Sound…

Filmmakers Wanted

 
i9 Control online Promo Upload 005 copy

 

 

And so, I am now part of a company, i9Films, that aims to help filmmakers find a worldwide audience and audiences find world cinema.

We are currently seeking to build our catalogue for the site, so if you or someone you know is a filmmaker, please take a look.

We want to create something that filmmakers will want to use, something that filmmakers will enjoy so that they can grow and create films that audiences will to enjoy. We are seeking to build long term relationships with filmmakers and therefore are eager to create “win-win” situations for all parties.

Hope you’ll give us your feedback and looking forward to seeing what’s out there in the world of cinema!

Bombshells

film_noir_by_glueckauf 2

Chapter 2

Blondes. They always spelled trouble.

I could tell the one standing in the middle of my office was no different; with those bored baby blues and the way she couldn’t move from window, to desk, and finally to chair, without first making sure her hips got a good look around.

I had been surprised to find her here at this hour and could only guess that my ever-reliable assistant had let her in before quitting the scene. She had that typical blonde air about her; an air of entitlement. It was an attitude that just because she was a blonde, with a gorgeous figure and Tinseltown looks, and I was a man, that God had put me here to serve her. She would learn soon enough that that assumption didn’t hold true everywhere.

Luckily for her though, it held true here.

Between the booze in my head and the loneliness huddled around it, I was ready to do my best to make her comfortable. I tripped over myself to pull the chair for her and fumbled her a cigarette, then dropped my lighter. This last at least afforded  me opportunity to discreetly slide my eyes the full length of her. It was a roller coaster.

“Mr. Murphy,” she said, with false innocence, “I have a job for you.”

Now dangerous things always come in threes; there was Alvin in the bar downstairs and I was considering the blonde already as being detrimental to my health. I could only assume that the job would be the coup de grace.

“It’s my friend,” she began and she got all uneasy, this time for real. Something to do with the word “friend,” it seemed to have some special implications in this case. It spooked her.

“Anything you tell me is confidential,” I assured her. “Ms…?”

She didn’t fill in the blank.

“My friend… A man I’ve been seeing. He’s gone missing, Mr. Murphy.”

“Men go missing all the time, Ms…” She left me hanging again. “What makes you think you need a private dick?”

“This… man,” she said cautiously, “he was supposed to meet me. He never showed up.” She took quick short tugs at the cigarette. “Mr. Murphy, I think his wife may have… well I think she murdered him!”

Cat’s Pajamas

Kim-Novak-and-Pye3 copyChapter 3

Customers. In most businesses you needed them.

The P.I. business is no different. But every now and then there was the feeling you’d be better off without one.

The blonde sending up smoke signals in my office was a case in point. She struck me as too wise to truly believe that a man who could stray from his wife couldn’t also stray from his mistress. She was nervous about something too, and I wasn’t convinced that it was concern for her illicit lover’s well-being. She was holding something back.

Still, my encounter earlier with Alvin reminded me that I couldn’t be too picky. So I had agreed to take her case, once she flashed the requisite dough and agreed to cover expenses. I did insist on getting her name first though.

“Thank you, Mr. Murphy. Delilah Ambrosia. Thank you so much.” She gave me a screen-test worthy smile of gratitude while pumping my hand. “And you will be discreet won’t you?”

“As discreet as an angel.”

I got some more details and sent her on her way.

The guy she was looking for shouldn’t have been too hard to find. He was a big shot by the name of Lionel Tucker. Lionel owned a few night clubs. Some fine dining types. As well as a few not-so-fine dining clubs, where the dancing girls were as friendly as you could afford. He was a slick player and I had seen him around but always at a distance. Lionel Tucker was a cool cat, one of those guys who walked around without touching the sidewalk. But in my experience, guys that high often had a finger in the gutter. There were rumours of mob involvement and various rackets. Still he got to sleep in a big old house at night, with a pretty wife, wearing matching pajamas, and apparently he got to go home with the likes of Delilah Ambrosia too. I suppose you couldn’t blame a guy, but didn’t mean you had to like him.

Luckily for me, you didn’t have to like a guy to find him either. It was a healthy paycheck and I didn’t mind the excuse of a few more meetings with Ms. Ambrosia, even if it was just to better suss out her angle. I’d do some digging first thing in the morning, just as soon as I’d had a shower and got some shut eye.

But first maybe one more drink.

 

Dead Men Don’t Dine

Personal-12-FilmNoirPlayboy 2 copyChapter 4

Delilah.

She had thought her sugar daddy, Lionel Tucker, was on the slow train to La-La Land, checked in with a ticket bought by a jealous wife. On the face of it the truth seemed a lot simpler: Lionel had got tired of his jelly on the side, decided to change up the dish.

That was the looks of it anyway, from where I sat at the bar of the Havana Boom! Lionel was attacking a slab of steak pretty heartily for a dead man. He was trim, long and thin and everything looking drawn by a sharp pencil, down to the slick black patch of hair, to the pencil moustache below his sharp nose. His suit was a neat grey pinstripe and the white napkin was tucked in the collar like a cravat.

The girl sitting opposite him was no Delilah Ambrosia. Probably some mid-west bumpkin freshly arrived in the city judging by the plump pink features, the country flowered dress and the pudgy fingers. Seemed to me Lionel was trading down, but then there were always other sides to the story.

Either way, that wasn’t his wife and Lionel was indulging appetites that were definitely reserved for the living.

It hadn’t been hard to track him down either. The Havana Boom! was his club. A couple discreet questions and, for all intents and purposes, the case seemed pretty neatly sewn up.

Still I sat a little longer, sipping at a whiskey and enjoying the pleasures an expense account brings, when in walked Dominic Hutchinson. Hutchinson was a good man, the kind that success hadn’t spoiled; tall, good-looking ex-quarterback type, he had lucked out with an early investment in some oil enterprise and was living the high life since. Any other night I would have been happy to see him, happy to accept his generosity, but tonight I had an expense account and his success annoyed me like it would any good friend. I knew I was just being sore though.

“Hey, Jack!” Dom smiled. His teeth were whiter than Chin’s rice. Lionel looked up and over at us with beady eyes, but I didn’t care, the case was closed. “You working?” Dom asked genially and he slipped onto the stool beside me.

“Depends on your definition of the word,” I smiled. “But let’s say I am, so I can charge this drink.”

Dom looked me over and I felt he wanted to scrub me like his pet Alsatian. I could swear Dom shaved every time he visited the men’s room.

“You’re looking a little rough around the edges,” he said.

“I’m actually rougher the further in you go.”

He smiled but his mind quickly switched to something else. He leaned a white jacket elbow against the bar and tilted towards me. “Listen,” he said in a hush and it got my attention. Secrets weren’t in Dominic Hutchinson’s nature. “Maybe we can help each other out,” he said. I glanced at Lionel and it seemed to me he’d been watching us, but he was back to his meal, ignoring the side dish. Dom breathed conspiracy, “I may have something for you.”

Everybody Loses

noir-photography-theme 2 copyChapter 5

“Elsewhere.”

It was the thought going through my mind because it was exactly where I wanted to be: Anywhere but here.

The fat man’s body sat heavy in the chair and he could have been sleeping, the way his head lolled back all slack-jawed, and his arms hung. Only no one would sleep here. This sewer stank.

The dead body probably wasn’t helping. There were two bloody holes popped in his chest, neatly on either side of his tie. Well at least his eyes were closed.

I should have got out of there but Hutchinson had offered a tidy sum and I wasn’t about to pass it up. “Get it together, Jack,” I urged myself.

Hutchinson had asked me to track down a family heirloom, a painting of a racehorse his granddaddy had owned or some such. He said the item had been stolen but he’d somehow gotten word it had been fenced to a pawnbroker on 5th. I went to see the broker that night. I didn’t think much of the case but I thought highly of Dominic Hutchinson – that is, highly enough of the name when it was scrawled across a check made out to Cash.

With a little convincing the broker gave up a man named Dalton who owned a cafe on 12th and Bayview. Dalton is where things seemed to get seedy. I had asked a couple questions at the cafe. In retrospect, not such a great idea. But turned out Dalton hadn’t been seen for a week. The last anyone had seen him was at the waterway. So that’s where I went. I don’t know why the open gate to the sewer had drawn me. Maybe I’m just drawn to low places that way.

Down the stairs and shadows, I knew something was wrong even before I saw the dead man in the chair. I picked my way through the muck, mindful of my loafers. The irony of dodging puddles in a sewer to riffle a dead man’s pockets wasn’t lost on me. I pinched the corner of his jacket and prayed he didn’t carry his ID in his pants. Luck was with me, if you could call it that, the brown leather slipped out and sprung open in my palm.

“Carl Morella,” I read his name out from the driver’s license. He didn’t respond. I don’t know if I was more disappointed or grateful.

I had no idea who Carl Morella was in all this. I did know of the Morella family though; a small time hood family connected to a mid-level mob family, who of course were connected to a bigger one and so on, all the way up. That’s just how it worked. This Carl Morella was small time, but the cash that had sprung the wallet suggested he was into something lucrative.

I couldn’t resist. I pocketed the cash along with the notion that Carl here hadn’t been killed for money.

“What kinda killer brings a chair to a sewer?” I asked myself. But if I knew, I wasn’t telling.

Seemed like a dead end. In the morning I would have to give Hutchinson the bad news, that it looked Dalton had skipped with the painting. I’d also have to call Delilah Ambrosia, give her the equally bad news that her boyfriend, Lionel Tucker, was alive and well.

Looked like disappointments all round.