So back in high school and college, I loved to write stories, poems and the like. I was never really good, but just loved to do it. In high school a friend and I had an idea to write a novel. We got about 5 chapters in, when we had other priorities. My sophomore year of college, I decided to resurrect this idea. I had modified some of the early chapters, removing some of them or moving the ideas into other chapters. In the end I added about 10 new chapters, with my friend contributing a couple more. The only one to see any of this work has been Greg, so I wanted to share 2 chapters so that others could see what I had done.
Chapter 7: Time Flows as the River Ebbs
The moon illuminated the burgundy V16 as it raced north. After thirty miles the car pulled to the curb in a small town near the course. The town was only one square mile in area, with no traffic lights. There existed two stops signs at its major cross street. The most traffic this place got was when the interstate was having work done on it and this became the detour. Two lonely light posts lit the sidewalk.
With shades in tow he changed from his gray slacks and blue shirt to more themed attire. A pinstripe suit and pink shirt inlaid with a Celtic pattern around the collar. A white tie added much needed contrast, but the defining pieces were the golden cufflinks, hand crafted in the nineteenth century by his ancestors. To top off the ensemble he ventured to his trunk.
The compartment revealed forty plus designer newsboy hats. Carefully perusing his vast collection, he finally selected his best hat. A white trimmed black hat with two pink stripes to match his shirt. He wasn’t ready but he did look good.
Carefully he closed his trunk and walked two blocks further south. There he found the sole sign illuminating an alley. The red neon sign had a picture of a martini glass. The glass was half full and began to tilt; a liquid was pouring onto the people below. Under the glass were markings of an establishment. The only letters still intact were: O D C L Q U R
Mr. Chen walked under the old sign just to watch it flicker off in a blast of its old glory. Taking the lack of lights as a signal, Mr. Chen proceeded down the narrow alley.
At the very end of the corridor was a small torch light. Mr. Chen’s pace quickened as he approached the light. His eyes remained glued to the light. Out of his left pocket he produced a similar light and added it to the existing one. The two lights now illuminated a large metal door.
Before Mr. Chen could enter he was approached by a man draped in a trench coat and a hat out of a Dick Tracy comic book. Mr. Chen took out an envelope as if the meeting was pre-arranged and the two exchanged some words. The shadowy figure then walked away as Mr. Chen watched him slowly disappear.
Mr. Chen stood waiting patiently; with his left hand he concealed the light. For the next few minutes he stood in total darkness. He uttered no words, shocked with the information he had just received. As the time ticked on his right hand began to shake. With more time passing he started to pace in the alley.
While his back was turned the door became ajar. Slowly turning back he approached the door. As he got closer a sliver of light fell onto his face. Knowing his cue he walked through the door, hesitant at first, but then continued with delightful calm.
An oasis in a desert was the only way to describe what lay on the other side. A bar with entertainment and rich meals lay before you. Drinks that could quench any thirst, physical or emotional. Tonight was slow, but on a normal day you would see this place packed as though it was the last place on Earth.
Mr. Chen proceeded to the left, where the bar lay. Behind the counter a medium sized man in his late twenties took your orders. You couldn’t pin down his ethnicity because in every light he looked somewhat different. Behind him lay the vast collections of liquor any establishment had to offer. If you thought of the brand and year they had it here.
The man wore a black apron over his black pants and white shirt. He currently was on the other side of the L shaped bar, cleaning his prized mahogany counters and pristine drinking glasses. Within a few minutes he noticed Mr. Chen and hastily came over with towel draped over his right shoulder.
In a deep voice that you’d swear was coming from someone else, he belted, “What can I get you Leo?”
“One bartender surprise on its way.”
He pulled from below the counter a small shot glass. Then he promptly pulled two handles of colorful liquor, one green and the other a deep blood red. As he mixed the two into the tiny shot glass, the resulting color resembled something coming out of a tap in Mexico.
“This should help you out,” saying as he gently passed his creation in front of Leo.
“Thanks.” He began to take his hat off and started to sip the shot.
“No! No, no you can’t sip my masterpiece. You have to gulp it all down.”
“Sure thing Frank.”
Leo was hesitant, but with Frank lurking, ready to help at any moment, he frantically swallowed the bartender’s self proclaimed artwork.
“Why don’t I send you a beer and you go sit in the lounge? We’re going to try out a new singer tonight and I’d love to hear your opinion.”
Reluctantly he wobbled to the front of the lounge. He found a seat at one of the many circular tables, all black. The stage was a mere arm length away, in its golden beauty. The walls were all velvet and two white ancient Egyptian pillars stood in the middle of the room. At the table a beer was already waiting for him. Next to the beer laid his precious hat that he’d forgot.
“Joey, bring out the act.”
“Sure thing boss.”
The dimly lit lounge lost its lights after that command. On stage was a microphone and spotlight waiting only for the perfect act. As everything was getting ready, soft piano reverberated though Leo’s heart. An elaborate sound system embedded into the floor and walls gave the perfect theater sound for the room with the worst acoustics.
The charming and quiet jazz music played for a good ten minutes. All the while Leo kept the beers rolling his way. By the end of the set he had finished three and began working on his fourth.
A slow waltz started to play and from behind the velvet curtains emerged the star. She was gliding to her spotlight in a white strapless ballroom gown. Her red lipstick glowed in the bright light. Stepping slowly to the mic, her brown wavy hair fell over her right shoulder, just above her elbow. As she began to sing, one got lost in her inviting big brown eyes.
Mere minutes had passed for Leo, but the vibrant singer finished her set and was ready to head home. But before she went on her way, something compelled her to meet her first fan, if you can call Leo that.
The table was clean of glasses; all that remained was his hat. Leo had seemingly passed out, but was more in a state of exhaustion than drunkenness. He almost didn’t notice the beautiful young lady pulling up a chair beside him.
A change from the glamorous attire we had all pictured was her birthright; she wore no makeup. Her hair was in two pigtails and her lips reflected the sweet taste of cherry lip balm. The once proudly draped gown was now transformed into a knee length aqua skirt and white top with two straps.
“Hi there. How is your evening going?” questioning her audience member.
With a dazed and confused look he stated, “Going well after your lovely songs.”
“Why thank you. You are way too kind.” Her light cheeks began to glow rose red.
“If I were a part of a record label I would sign you and get you out of this place as fast as I could.”
Her cheeks retained more color, and her face went blank. She had no way of answering the gentleman’s comments.
“My name is Leo Chen. What may I call you fair maiden,” said with charm, as he took her right hand and gently kissed the back.
“What a gentlemen. You may call me Layla Carn,” adding a giggle to show her state of pleasure.
Time seemed to slow down as the conversation continued. But time was not slow enough for the night was not as vitas as a young Roman warrior. Both glanced at the clock over the bar to signify their intent to leave. Neither wanted to, but with a silent glance of their eyes they knew it was inevitable. Leo stood up; helping Layla to her feet, then shared a soft hug lasting an eternity for both. A slight tap on the back ended the warm embrace. Leo then bowed to his mistress and took his leave.
About halfway across the room he searched for his precious hat. Tilting his head over his shoulder in the direction of his table, he saw neither hat nor girl. He continued to walk out through the metal door into the darkness of the alley. His head was down all the while he walked to his car, but he had a strange new bounce in his step.
In almost a skip like step he bounded to his car. He searched his entire self for his keys only to find them in his sock. Before he got into his car he looked back as the sign re-lit. But this nostalgia lasted only a second. There would be time for memories later.
He started on the long journey back to his place. With a quick u-turn and a change of song selection he was on his way. The red lights blazed a railroad to the desolate town. The silence was broken with one swooping instant. A once round establishment of yesterday now had no marking in history. Pieces of what lay were a reminder of the bits this town was finally coming. The town was again silent. Only reverberations of a Parthian shot lay behind.
Chapter 12: The Heart of the Case
Chicago. It was a night like any other night. He was wrapping up his work at the office located precariously on the third floor of the rundown building. He was cleaning off his desk as he poured himself the last of his whisky. As he raised his glass to the window he knew he had to savor every last drop. Work had been slow since the removal of the great Chicago crime lord Bugsy Capone. As he finished off the last drop of his drink he heard a quiet creaking from the hallway. His first instinct was to grab his pistol from its’ holster. He inched toward the door to prepare for the entrance of whom he thought to be one of his many enemies. He glanced through the snowy white glass but he saw the shadow of no one.
Now convinced that no one was there he retreated back to his desk. He grabbed his black felt hat and his trench coat. The dim streetlights guided him through his now dark office. Forgetting that he rearranged his space, memory let him down as he banged his shin against the oak chair. Continuing to walk, another knock, thinking there were rats running into the desk. His hand reached the knob, but the door opened on its own.
A ceiling light was swinging in the eerie breeze hazily lit the abandoned hallway. He scanned right and left, with his gun securely in tote, his nerves all a flame. Without a sudden shuffle to peak around the stairs, the clean undisturbed manila folder would not have been discovered. Hesitating, he stole a glance in both directions and pocketed the folder as quickly as it had been unearthed. Then as composed as anyone could be, he headed away from his office, still embracing his piece as baby would to his bottle.
Three flights of stairs felt like twenty stories. His racing heart coupled with cold sweat drenched the detective. His path lit solely by the pawnshop across the street. Finally, he reached the bottom, as he was still fumbling for his keys.
His hot rod caked in dust lay in front of the building. Two lone streetlights lit the street. The blue and gray classic awaited its master. He opened the door, but didn’t yet start his car. If anyone knew how much he despised the area they too would have thought it odd that he had decided to meander before taking flight. But alas, he did sit and wait; waiting for his heart rate to calm and waiting to garner nerve to open the manila folder.
There he sat, keys in the ignition, and he took out the folder he had procured. Now on his lap was a sole black and white picture. The picture was a simple warehouse with car headlights on the left. On the back was an old article, about his hey day with Capone. Both were clues to where he was summoned. Clues in this business are a tricky to make. If they are too simple then they can be cracked by anyone. On the other hand, if they are too complex you’re pretty much talking to yourself. With that he was off; his car sputtered and left a dust trial in his rear.
Just shortly after midnight, a blue hot rod rolled up. Surprise was all but lost with the rumbling engine and crackling dock. Lucky for him, the fog had not rolled in tonight. Sitting in his parked car where he had once taken that picture so many years ago he waited. Waiting is what private investigation is all about. Not like what one sees in the movies. Action and cases are far and few between. He sat in his car, eyes open, always ready, waiting.
A silhouette appeared behind the headlights of a new fancy sports car. Our man grabbed his plain tan trench coat and his black felt hat and proceeded to meet the mystery man. Double-checking that his lights were on, his pistol by his side, he made his way to the unknown and potential client.
Behind a golden aura of elegance stood the mystery man, with a larger shadow behind, as our P.I. strode across the docks.
“Mr. Heart?” said a soft whisper with a lady like grace.
“Who may I have the pleasure of meeting out here on this fine evening?” said Heart as he removed his felt hat.
“Sorry, Mr. Heart, you may call me Layla Carn.” She stepped out into the light. Light brown hair gently blew with the soft air. She wore a large mink over coat, no jewelry, or any other opulent accessories.
“What can I do for your Ms. Carn? Your need must be of the utmost urgency with all the secrecy so far.” Heart let his shoulders drop just a tad, he spread out his legs and began leaning towards his right side.
“Sorry, Mr. Heart, my body guard deemed it necessary under the circumstances. Are you familiar with World Co?” she asked as she grabbed a handkerchief from her right pocket.
“Yes I am quite familiar with them. Most of my products in the last year have had their seal all over them.” Heart drew closer to Ms. Carn.
“About a year ago my sister became involved with the head of the company. She always wrote to me but about a month ago she stopped.” Tears started to poor down her alabaster cheeks. She started to sniffle, eventually wiping her tears with her handkerchief. “The last letter I had received from my beloved sister was from Chicago.”
“Pardon the confusion on my face, but what is it exactly that you want me to do?” question Heart.
“I fear that my sister has fallen in trouble. Can you find out what happened to her?” she asked drying her eyes.
“ My fee is 100 per hour…”
“You can stop right there, Mr. Heart. If you take this case I will pay for this case until it’s solved.” All the while fighting back her tears.
“I can do some scouting first so you don’t waste too much of your money Ms. Carn”, as a concerned look waned across his face.
“All the information is in this packet my body guard Bruno will give you.” A big muscular Samoan man all clad in black handed Mr. Heart another manila folder.
“Where can I contact you again Ms. Carn?” reaching for yet another folder.
“I think it is best that I contact you from now on. Upon the next meeting I can give you all the money you require. No expense is too much to find my sister.” She turned and hastily walked to her car.
“The pleasure is all mine.” Mr. Heart placed his hat on his head and walked back to his car.
Two weeks had passed before a man scraped out the Alex Heart P.I. off of the door. A car just like Heart’s old one, except with a brand-new shine sat lonely on the street. A lone man stepped out around noon, clad in a white suit with a tan trench coat in hand. The car sped off and Alex Heart was never heard from again in that lonely town of Chicago.