Sunday, May 26, 2013

WHO'S FLOATING IN THE CHICAGO RIVER?

Hi, all,

I hope everyone is enjoying their Memorial Day weekend. I DO hope everyone thinks of our brave military men and woman at some point this weekend. IF it wasn't for those brave and selfless people we would not sleep safely at night... We should ALL BE PROUD to be AMERICANS!

This weekend is also the last few days of the Romantic Friday Writers May post. So without further ado, I have written another installment of my latest WIP, which JUST happens to be a 1940's Film Noir novella. I hope you all enjoy it...

Here is a bit of the intro scene for those of you who are not familiar with it. It's All Hallows eve. A swanky party at the world renowned Palmer House in Chicago is at full swing. Liberace is performing and a young woman dressed like a flapper disappears behind a huge column.

Doris, the girl's friend notices her boyfriend, Marty, is missing too. Distraught, Doris seeks the help of Marty's best friend to help her find them ...

At 763 words ....



A pinprick of light creeps in through an icy, frosted window early Monday morning. The dusty glimmer highlights a gray metal ashtray littered with stale cigarette butts. The aroma of burnt coffee lingers, assaulting the senses like an unwelcome vagrant. 

Dry, cracked fingers strike a match, and a flame ignites. The sizzle echoes in the dead silence. A broad chest expands like a organ grinder’s accordion as a rush of smoke escapes flaring nostrils. An unshaven, bleary-eyed Cal reads the first line of a smudged letter. 

My dearest Cal,

By the time you read this letter, I’ll be gone ...

He crumples the paper and bangs his fist on the desk. “Damn her!” Pounding the note smooth, he continues to read and sucks in a long draw from the cigarette dangling from his lips. A smoldering ash drops and bores through the note as I’ll always love you turns to cinders, leaving only a wisp of black smoke.

He bolts upright from a knock on the door. “Come in,” he barks, sweeping the remaining letter and ashes into the open desk drawer.

Clancy lumbers into the office. His menacing steel-gray eyes and shiny bald head reflect the overcast winter sky. Cal turns away from his gaze. 

“What is it?” Cal snuffs out the cigarette and faces Clancy.

“Still mooning over that dame, ain’t ya? Tell it to chaplain, we got work to do!” 

“Who’s mooning? You’ve got ...”

“The captain’s riding me good to sniff out any sort of lead to the Juliano murder. I’ve come up with bupkis. And, we can’t group him with the two other big cheeses who got bumped off, cuz he was nothin but a gunsel, so we need ...” 

Cal’s face drains of all color. 

“Geez, I-I’m such a dolt, I forgot you was friends with that hood.”

Cal glares at him. “He wasn’t ...”

Clancy heads for the door, but gives Cal a sideward glance. “Put a lid on it, and meet me outside. I’ll be waitin next to the black-an-white.” He faces Cal. “That dame of yours, knows somethin ... I can feel it in my gut.” 

The door slams and Cal’s head drops onto the desk with a loud thump. He rakes his stiff fingers through his oily hair and pounds the desk again. “Why, Rosemary? Why?”

His stomach lurches as he thinks of Marty’s dead body swimming with the fishes in the Chicago River and the mysterious note that had soon followed. He shakes his head. Was is only three months ago?

Please meet me at the Palace Grill on Canal St. tomorrow at 11:00 am sharp. Come alone.

Cal would never forget that day. The day he lost his heart.

A movie plays through his mind as he recalls All Hallows Eve and his first encounter with a beautiful flapper. In an instant she was gone ... and then the hunt began ... Doris, the flamenco dancer, hot on his heals.   

After combing the streets of downtown Chicago for hours, checking every two-bit, low-life saloon, Doris throws her arms up and looks at Cal. Dried mascara ran in long tracks down her cheeks. “I don’t know of any other joint. We’ve hit’em all.”

Cal nods. “Let’s check his flat.” 

“He wouldn’t! Marty ain’t capable of somethin like that. You're his friend. How could ya think that of’m?” Tears well in her eyes. 

“Do you know where Rosemary lives, then? Maybe she got away. We should check on her. See if she’s all right.”

Doris rummages through her beaded bag, pulls out a crumpled hankie, and wipes her face. She blows her nose like a freight train whistle, and stuffs the soiled hankie back inside the bag. “She lives a few blocks from me. At some flea-bitten boarding house. But we can’t go there ... at this hour the landlady’ll flip’er wig! She's no honey. Trust me on this one.”

Cal sighs and shrugs his shoulders. “Let’s call it a night then.” 

“Look kiddo, you know I’m stuck on Marty, right? And I thought he and me was ...” Doris sniffs and locks her eyes on Cal's. “I can’t rest until I know.”  Tears burst from her eyes and she sobs into her hands. 

Cal pats her on the back. “Well, it’s almost dawn. Let’s grab a cup a joe and swing by her place in a few hours.” 

Doris wraps her arms around his waist. “You're a real pip. Ya know that?”



The putrid air from the day’s slaughter hung like a diseased veil as Cal escorts Doris through the hazy streets of the west loop. 


I hope you all enjoyed this excerpt. I'd love to know what you think.

Enjoy the holiday everyone!





34 comments:

  1. Think that was a doomed relationship from the beginning.
    You've made Cal quite the conflicted character. I like that!
    We are safe and we are free because of the men and women in our military. Proud to be an American and a military brat!

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  2. Happy Memorial Weekend Americans, especially you military brat.

    You really nailed this time, this place, Michael. I felt I was there with your rather sleazy characters rasping in smoke-dulled voices. I love the word 'bupkis'. Never heard of it. Now I'm going to be thinking about it all day. Well done with incorporating letters into your story. And it's great that you got yourself back to your WIP. Now I hope you find the time and inspiration to continue.

    Denise

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  3. Loved the atmosphere and the verbiage. You capture the time period. I had to look up flappers the first time I read the word, and I think it is so descriptive of an era, a woman and a culture.

    Poor Cal has a lot of character issues going on with several people. The overall story is hard to discover with how cryptic the emotional clues and transitions are. But it is a continuing story, and the character and era building are coming along sweetly. You're discovering who your characters are, and their relationships, and best of all - their secrets. A very cool phase of development. I can tell you are enjoying writing and researching the characters, the genre and the era.

    Loved the way you used a note as an inciting incident for this particular scene. The letters concept is there, but does not take over the story scene. Well done Michael.

    Thanks for participating in RFW this month. This genre suits your writing skills.

    .......dhole

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  4. Good write up and I hope you too are enjoying Memorial Week-end. I was in Washington DC on Memorial Day two years ago. A wonderful experience.

    Yvonne.

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  5. My mind went from 'hmmmm?' to 'what?' then on to 'no way!' and all the way back to 'hmmmm!'

    I like it.

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  6. I love this, Michael! It put me back in the living room with my mom watching old B/W movies on TV and eating popcorn.

    I gave you a mention on my blog today.

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  7. Hi Michael .. I felt I was in a tv programme .. and I'm now waiting for the next few episodes .. there's lots of atmosphere here .. where will it all lead, and who is 'doing what' ... floating in the Chicago River .. not nice at all ..

    With thoughts to all serving men and women, as well as all those from times past who served and sacrificed their lives .. and to their families too .... Hilary

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  8. If it wasn't for the GREATEST GENERATION, could we even blog today?

    Thanks for remembering, Michael.

    I, too, loved the blending of the letters aspect. Cal seems like someone who could have his own book one day :)

    Dude, you ever need an extra CP - I'm your Hawaiian (unless I'm in Florida or Texas :)

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  9. Man. You're writing is awesome, but you already heard that from me. It's still true, though.

    Have a great Memorial Day weekend yourself, sir! :)

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  10. Very nicely done. I like the hard-boiled dialog and the descriptions. It really pulls you into the piece and holds you there. Interesting characters.

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  11. I can read a love excerpt any day...but why oh why did you stop sending ME love letters??? Durst thou knowst I didst not-ith loathest thee? Well? Durst thee? ;) thanks "pip"!

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  12. Great job of incorporating letters in your story, Michael. AT&T kept me from participating on this challenge -- first time ever. Hate that.

    Have a great Memorial Day!

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  13. Monday May 27th, 2013

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you so much for your kind words about my letter-post. You are such a dear.

    I've just come back from a violin recital - Elisabet and Erik played their violins at their end-of-term-concert. I'm so proud of them even if they only played 'Twinkle, twinkle, Little Star'!

    I am sooo busy! 'Got to get up early tomorrow morning. I'm still in the middle of student-teaching, but it's going well. Then I have a paper to write about it.

    Nice to read an excerpt from the Film Noir novella again. Great dialogue! Your characters walk right off the page and into my room! Love the the dirty hanky and the beaded bag! The crumpled letter is a clever way of adhering to the challenge, but wasn't it already in the original story? It fits well, in any case.

    Your texts and enthusiasm are an inspiration. When I have no idea what to write, I think about you and your stories and this usually gives me a starting point.

    ::The cats are waving their paws at you, Michael. And they're smiling!!::

    Take care,
    Anna

    For the benefit of other readers:

    Anna's REW challenge 'Letters'

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  14. Michael, this is wonderful. I'm already hooked. It's very gripping, dark, romantic, thrilling...Can't wait for more.

    On another note, thank you so much for your kind words at my blog. I'm truly honored to be in such fine company with Alex's other award recipients too. It's also great to be back in blogland.

    I hope you had a great weekend.
    xoRobyn

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  15. Michael, your description and sensory imagery ALWAYS, ALWAYS sparkles! But what I noticed, as well, with this excerpt is how you seem to absolutely nail the dialogue! I know I've read another excerpt from this WIP and loved it. Just like then, I felt like I was right there--in the 1940s! Love it, Michael!

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  16. Michael, sounds like movie dialog to me. Great!

    Happy Memorial Day!

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  17. Hi, Visiting from Under the Tiki Hut. And in two minds about it. It is always good to find another talented writer and blogger BUT I read too much already. I don't need anymore temptation. Really I don't.
    This is a fascinating except - and my weak-willed self wants to know more...

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  18. Michael, your mix of words and the somewhat sleazy characters hooked e right in. Felt like I was watching an old B&W Gregory Peck movie. Real nice!

    Thanks for your comment as well on my story. I really appreciate it :)

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  19. Loved the voice Michael! Felt like I was right in a 30's gangster flick, you nailed the speech.

    I also love a good mystery, so am very intrigued to see how this pans out :)

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  20. Very atmospheric, and the letter prompt is incorporated with casual finesse. The characters are delicious, and the excerpt intriguing. Definitely look forward to reading more.

    Thanks too for your comments on my blog, much appreciated.

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  21. Love the theme and tone and of course the description. Cal's an engaging character.

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  22. Mystery, romance, murder, gangs - what more could anyone ask for? Revealing an excerpt that stands alone is no mean feat - well done.

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  23. The piece is very atmospheric. Great voice too!
    And thanks for the vocab lesson, I learned a new word: 'bupkis'... it's so quaint!

    Hope you had a great long weekend Michael!

    Writer In Transit

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  24. I'm proud to be British - but grateful to those of all nations who work to keep people safe. I know a lot of Americans come into that category.

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  25. Loved the excerpt, Michael. Sounds like a dark tale of romance?
    Also, congrats on the "You Rock" award!

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  26. A great excerpt and I reiterate other comments made - great writing, atmospheric and you've pulled us all in to the era with effortless ease. We all want more.

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  27. You capture the era so well! I seriously feel like I'm watching an old timey movie when I read.

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  28. Love it. And that's saying something because I hardly ever enjoy reading when I'm editing. ;-)

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  29. I think the 1940's are such a romantic time, I would love to read more!

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  30. Wow I felt as though I'd been transported to another place. I loved your description and your dialogue. They were so powerful they were all that was needed to work out where the characters were.

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  31. Seriously LOVE!!!!!! I agree with Nik above me---totally transporting. I was there seeing/feeling/smelling everything. It's just one of your gifts, Michael. I love these excerpts---it reminds me of old Hollywood... the time period I swear I should've been born in! It brings on nostalgia when I read your work. LOVE IT.

    And beautiful post, Michael! We indeed are so very blessed.

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  32. Your piece reminds me of some of the old black and white movies I used to watch on AMC

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  33. Totally enjoyed this, Michael. This is the first installment I've had a chance to read. You've captured the 40s vibe beautifully and I love a good murder mystery and a tortured noir hero. Looking forward to the next installment!

    VR Barkowski

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  34. I cannot wait to read all of this someday! It just draws you in. :)

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