Sunday, September 24, 2006


The Drugstore Comic Book Incident (IV)

Part four of barely more than six in a thrilling new hardboiled noir serial.

The blast sang in my ears and the room lit up in the muzzle flash. I kept my eyes open all the way through, waiting for the punch of the slug and the final searing pain.

The man slammed back against the wall and slid down, leaving a dark smear on the wallpaper. The air stank of cordite. She stepped into my field of vision on the left, a broad I didn’t know with a British-made Browning dwarfing her small fist.

I got up and staggered over to the guy - C---st but my g---ds hurt - but she’d gotten him smack in the heart and I knew he was a goner even before I felt his neck. I pulled the stocking off his head. Bearded, but he was nobody I recognized.

She stood with her gun lowered. First things first. I went over to Monstee who was making tiny squeaking noises on the carpet. I picked her up, looked in her eyes, at her teeth. She was sick, but alive. I put her down in her basket in the corner and made a phone call. It was the early hours of the morning but he’d come.

She was tall and fine-boned and fair, and her eyes were not on me but on the man she’d shot. In her hand there was the faintest tremor. I lit a cigarette.

‘You look like you could use a stiff one.’

‘I’d prefer a drink, if you don’t mind,’ she said.

I don’t give out my Jack Daniels to people I’ve just met, even if they have just saved my life, so she had to settle for a generous shot of my 125-year-old Islay single malt. As I busied myself with the drinks I saw her glancing around at the décor, clearly doubtful. I sympathized with her. The guy I’d hired to decorate had gotten it all the wrong way round. For instance, I asked him for a thin blue carpet in my front hall, and instead he put a thick pink one up my back passage. I handed her a glass and lit a cigarette and squinted at her across the smoke.

‘Are you one of those femme fatales?’

Femmes fatales,’ she corrected. ‘No.’

‘Are you the plucky young journalist who investigates a crime even after her boss has told her to lay off?’

‘No!’ she chuckled. ‘That’s a whole other genre.’

As the Scotch took effect she began to speak more flowingly. Her name was Sam P C Bride, and she was, like me, a private eye. She’d been hired two days earlier by a drifter named Joe K’Mayall. He was a curiously humorless young man who’d turned up at her office and asked her to shadow him for a few days as he was afraid that he might disappear suddenly. In that event, she was to find out what had happened to him. He’d paid her a handsome sum up front. In the early hours of this morning she’d tracked him to the Wicker Universe on Charles Manson Ave; when she’d got there she’d found a crime scene, the cops. Me. She’d caught a glimpse of the handless corpse and seen that it wasn’t her client, but she’d sensed a link and had followed me home.

I don’t believe in dames as private dicks, but there was something about this broad – her heady perfume, the way she crossed her legs – that was making my head swim. The door buzzer went and she put her hand on her Browning and I fingered Pussy but it was the guy I’d phoned earlier and I let him up. Dr Joe McCrumble arrived in a fluster of muscular apologies. I told him that Monstee had been poisoned but that I’d seen in her eyes the unmistakeable sign of a Filey worm infestation. He picked her up and looked in her eyes and turned his head to me and nodded once, his mouth grim-set. Of all the things to come out of North Yorkshire, the Filey worm is the most terrible. He took her away, resolving wordlessly to do his best. He would, of course, as long as I held on to those negatives.

Once he’d gone I went over to the corpse against the wall and searched him. His driver’s license said he was Justin Barker, from Valencia, which was one of the vilest ghettoes in the city. In his wallet I also found a sheet of paper which had this list written on it:

Hands: $20/pair

Feet: $25/pair

Heads: $100 each

Torsos: $50 each

Dogs: $100 (one-off only)

Sexual vibrators: $500

Foot Eater: $75 (dead), $150 (alive)

I lit a cigarette.

Sam stared down at the page. I held it up to the naked bulb hanging from the ceiling.

‘There,’ I said.

Barely visible on the page, in the glare from the bulb, was a watermark. Three letters, interlinked in a highly stylized way. C, F and T.

Cosifantutti. The most recently established and most brutal Mob family in the city. If this Barker guy who’d poisoned Monstee and then taken photos of her, and had then fought and tried to kill me, was mixed up with the Cosifantutti family then things were more frightening, more high-level than I’d thought.

I sat with Sam Bride after that for a couple of hours, smoking and drinking and listening to her slivers of intelligence and giving her shafts of mine. Yes, dammit, there was a charge there; but we were professionals, and our best bet was to co-operate.

So. We had a common link with the wicker store. An apparent bounty hunter had shown up on my doorstep with an agenda: he was to procure body parts, and mine in particular. Apart from that, we knew flip-all. (Later in this story there’ll be far more occasion for ripe language, so I’m getting you used to the euphemistic flip word early on.)

I thought about calling O’Nann about Barker’s body but decided that I didn’t need the cops stamping their clod-hopping hooves all over this. Sam and I agreed that we’d dump the corpse quietly in the river.

Before we left my apartment I made a list of things I needed to do in the morning:

Phone my contact in the FBI to find out more about the Cosifantutti mob

Call the Laughs broad and update her vis a vis the investigation (and negotiate an increased drink and smoke expenses budget)

Phone O’Nann and find out who the dead handless guy is


Together we hefted the Barker body down the stairs and along the street to my battered ’37 Camaro. I was opening the trunk when Sam screamed.

Alongside my car was a… torso, I guess you’d call it. It was a legless person, his arms batting against the rear door and his thigh-stumps sucking at the tarmac. His legs had been amputated at the inguinal crease.

I lit a cigarette.

Then I rushed round but he was dead, his mouth drooling congealment. I recognized him immediately. It was Reverend Brewski, the leading advocate of Temperance in this city. Many was the time I’d watched him on my TV screen ranting against the evils of drink and stimulants and bebop jazz. Now he sprawled at my feet, stinking of blood and death and wicker.

‘Look,’ whispered Sam, pointing.

I looked. On the side of my car, in his own blood, the reverend had scrawled something. I stooped, staring closer. In bloody scraggling letters it said:


ACH. Arlington Copley Hynes.

G-d damn.

A proper lead. At last.

‘Where are we going?’ asked Sam as I reached across her and slammed the passenger door shut.

‘We’re going to visit someone I know.’ I said. ‘But first, we’ve got to find us some clown costumes.’

I tried to light a cigarette but my package was finished.


Will this story:

  1. ever be finished in under 12 episodes?

  2. feature any explicit sex, as promised?

  3. include a femme fatale?

Ha Ha, first again, crap I've got nothing to say, oh great installment, it had Browning, Islay, and back passage humour everything I require in a story, another reason why Charles Dickens is such a disapointment.
Holy Corolly!
How come you're a day ahead of us?
I shall read it now. Just fill up the cup first.

Come! fill the cup that cheers....
‘You look like you could use a stiff one.’

‘I’d prefer a drink, if you don’t mind,’ she said.

I asked him for a thin blue carpet in my front hall, and instead he put a thick pink one up my back passage.

I really am a sucker for these.

Bravo Foot Eater, it's taking a grip on me. I would say yes to a bit of noir erotica. You can do it.

A humourless Joe K’Mayall! Love it.

And the Filey Worm! It's got it all! Tell us 'bout the wirm, yi booger!

Bravo indeed.
Thangew, gentlemen.

As it happens, my wife's working this evening and so I'm catering for myself. I've just put a couple of succulent lamb chops under the grill, to go with mashed potatoes and onion gravy and crisp green beans.

Now, my dilemma is this. Old Speckled Hen or red wine?

Please advise.
Oh just have both but remember the addage, beer on wine - feeling fine, wine on beer - feeling queer, and not in the gay way either.

By a most weird quirk of blog solopism fate Mrs Maroon is also engaged in the pursuit of mammon this evening. They may end up working the same street. Hey! That would be weird.

May God forgive me for that. If Mrs M. sees that, she will not laugh, nor see the funny side, nor anything. She will get pious and say how she is a small but important cog in the great machine of the NHS, oh yes Footie, she's one of yours, but not in the biblical sense, I hasten. All this talk of chops has made me hungry.
I would advise a bottle of 'beat the wife' but weemen are out, as it happens I too am a sad and lonely old man tonight also,its not been the same since the disco was closed down.
Delicious, Foots! Double-entendres galore plus I was, I confess, strangely stirred when you reached across Sam Bride to close the door.

There was much pleasure in reading this, and much pain: I winced about the inguinal crease and splashed hot tea in my eye causing further wincing. God, was there ever a worse crease at which to amputate anything. Poor Brewski. The devil(s) responsible for this must be brought to justice!

The perfume, incidentally, is made out of the mashed-up heads of the rare blue dusk-moth which can only be found upon Michaelmas Eve in a particular wild cabbage copse on the Isle of Lewis, when they come out to mate. They are leapt upon immediately by maidens, pure-of-heart (they have to sit a tricky multiple-choice test first to ensure purity) in the manner of people clutching at fivers in that wind-cubicle on a whacky Noel Edmonds variety show). The heads and antennae are boiled for several hours with the tears of lovers, stinging-nettle syrup and the juice of one lime, and the
resultant liquor is pumped by dialysis through Mr. Alan Rickman. Liquid is collected 2 hours later from Mr. Rickman dressed as the Sheriff of Nottingham who's been reading saucy magazines throughout. The perfume is complete now, with the precious filtrate of Rickman blood, and will vary from batch to batch according to how many oysters he's been eating. It's heady stuff indeed.

The only thing that didn't ring true for me was the part when Ms. Bride screamed at the Brewski corpski. I don't have her down for a screamer. She might have moaned softly and increasingly louder and bitten her lip (with the shock, see), but I think she's made of stronger stuff and in no way "fragile", a charge levelled at her, lately. She has a spine of tempered steel, I reckon, and not always sweet-tempered steel either. She is a Private Eye after all and can handle any weapon she needs to.

Brilliance as ever, Foots, you dark noir-meister, you.

And (b). Oooooh! Definitely (b).
Yay! Storystorystory!

I vote for choice #4 -- At least 20 episodes (don't forget the prequels), graphic sex (and violent, ooh er!), and a femme fatale! Oh, what the hell, throw in a "homme fatale," too.

Doc, I hadn't heard that one before: "beer on wine - feeling fine, wine on beer - feeling queer"

Here in the Revolting Colonies, we were taught "Liquor before beer, never fear; beer before liquor, never sicker."

Personally, I'll just stick with the liquor. Beer makes me have to pee a lot. Oh, and it makes my nose run. Plus, I'm a cheap drunk on beer, while I can knock back liquor by the gallons, no problem.

Footie, put down the bottle, put your wife aside and your dick back in your pants, and get hopping on the next installment! (cracks whip)
Mrs Problem-Child-Bride, your mind is as incredible as finding money on the street, I stand in awe, I do however now know why gloved handjobs are only offered on the Isle of Lewis by its young loose weemen.
12 episodes? Didn't you say 6 when you started?

Have you learned nothing from Gothic or Closure about the pressures of creating a runaway tale?
it is good stuff mind you. I just don't want it to turn out to be a last-page-was-torn-out kind of story
Most fun you can on a Sunday morning with your clothes on, bravo Footie. I really like the hard boiled pun riddled style of this here story.
Dr Maroon: have you considered the possibility that Mrs Maroon and Mrs Eater are one and the same person, and we're a pair of cuckolds?

Knudsen: I didn't know disco fever had ever reached the West of Scotland. Let me know when New Wave hits; I can particularly recommend Soft Cell to a gentleman of your proclivities.

Sam: with your elaborate description of the origins of your perfume you've just caused me to tear up the first draft of episode five. Thanks to you, it won't be ready for another week at least.

Fat Sparrow: I've just figured out a way to work you into the tale. It's not pretty.

Kim: yes, it was six episodes, and as you'll see from the introduction to this episode it will be barely more than this. I know what you mean about 'serial creep', but rest assured, I plan to put this one to bed very definitely. In fact, the ending was one of the first things I worked out.

FMC: thanks. We haven't seen the last of you, in case you missed your cameo earlier.
"Fat Sparrow: I've just figured out a way to work you into the tale. It's not pretty."

Yeah, I get that a lot. Fuck me from behind, then, you idiots. Jeez, men with standards, what's that about?
Fat Sparrow, Foot say...
" you into the tale."

" you in the tail."

Good work. Treat yourself, have a cuppa and Jaffa cake. Go on, your deserve it.
Monstee -- Oh, excellent! I thought he was being overly picky.

Footie, I take back all those bad things I said about the size of your manhood over at that foot fetish blog you secretly post on.
Footsie, I see Justin could get more for you if he sold you in parts. Looking forward to the next thrilling episode!
If it runs to thirteen episodes, I'll be OK... provided the graphic sex is entertaining enough.
Although I'll feel a little awkward masturbating to your imagination, Foot, I figure one good turn is worth another.
...did I say turn?
I meant ejaculation. My mistake.

sorry it took me so long to comment.

Dolores here, as Joseph is entombed within the walls of our local nick, still waiting for the magistrate to take to her bench. He'll no doubt be pleased as punch that you name checked him. We'll be hearing about it till Christmas.
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