Wednesday, August 17, 2022



Hi All!

Well it certainly has been a while since I have written for a WEP challenge. This month's challenge is Moonlight Sonata. Somehow, this image and song spoke to me. 

First, I would like to thank all the lovely ladies at the WEP for allowing writers to create something magical with their amazing prompts! The quality of writing is above and beyond. I seriously do not know how they can pick a winner. Please drop by the WEP site and read these amazing stories!

For my entry today, I am submitting an excerpt from a Noir story that I had started writing many moons ago. "Moonlight Sonata" to me evokes atmosphere, sensuality, and passion. Let met take you back to 1940's Chicago...

Rosemary is meeting her friend, Doris, for a costume party at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago. Doris is setting her up on a blind date with a friend of her gangster boyfriend.  Rosemary is leery, she doesn't like Marty, but Doris assures Rosemary that her date, Cal, is a detective and a real gent.  It's a typical cold and windy night in Chicago... AS-

A sterling mist swirls like autumn leaves, shading the full moon on this All Hallows Eve. Only a single beam of light weaves through the chilly veils and settles on the swinging fringe of an unsuspecting flapper’s dress: the ever present wind, catches each and every delicate strand.

She stops in front of a brilliant marquee; hundreds of lit spheres floating in golden bronze. A masterpiece of mirrored images reflect Chicago’s finest citizens as they enter into the Palmer House. 

After adjusting the feathered headband, she wraps herself in a bubblegum-pink faux mink, steps behind a masked Cleopatra escorted by a bandy-legged Marc Antony, and slips into the lobby.

“Over here, honey.” Doris’ nasal voice rends through the din like a foghorn on a stormy New England night. She glances down from the top of a polished marble staircase centered with a blood-red Persian runner. The ceiling reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel, and appliquéd with hundreds of inlaid gilt medallions, frames Doris as she waves a lacy, gloved hand to the approaching flapper.

The man standing next to her, suited up in navy pin-stripes and spats, extends his arm. “I’m Marty. Glad you could make it tonight, toots. Doris was right, you’re a livin doll.” He wraps his arm around her waist and ushers her toward a tall, strapping man. “This is Cal Cavanaugh...your escort.” He glares at Cal. “Well say something to the dame, you boob.”

Cal’s throat constricts and he swallows hard. As he bends slightly a cowlick brakes free from his greased, raven hair and covers the right side of his horn-rimmed glasses. “A pleasure,” he says low.

A penciled brow raises and she licks her ruby, bee-stung lips. “How do you do.” Her eyes rake over his broad physique. “I don’t understand your costume. Am I missing something?”

A bead of sweat clings to his brow as a grin etches into his square jaw. 

“ her you big palooka.” Doris giggles and smacks him on the back with a senorita’s fan.

He raises thick fingers and unfastens a tight collar and three buttons. Sapphire blue and a red S encased in a yellow triangle strain across his chiseled, muscular chest.

Doris fans herself frantically. “What I’d tell you, honey. He’s a real pip.”

A slight pink glow peeks through her powdered face. “I see. I have a date with Superman. Is that all you?”

Now it was his turn to blush.

The gangster, the flamenco dancer, the flapper, and Superman climb the alabaster stairs flanked by blank onyx illuminated figures. Open etched glass paneled doors graciously invite the quartet into the Empire room. A heavily encrusted gilt medallion holds center stage on the elaborate ceiling as rainbows of faceted light dance from dozens of draped crystals onto the polished hardwood floor.

Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade touches every romantic as hundreds of masked couples sway like coconut palms on Havana’s sugary white beaches. A silence passes and the orchestra engulfs the room with In the Mood.

Marty drags Doris onto to the dance floor. “Bye, we’ll see...”

Cal extends his hand. “Care to dance?” He flashes a smile.

She folds into his arms and the music sweeps them into a sea of glittery gowns, cloaks, masked strangers, and mysterious creatures of the night. 

The chandeliers dim to barely a wisp and a spotlight hits the orchestra leader on stage. 

“Tonight I have the great pleasure to introduce the debut of the world renowned pianist, Liberace.”

Hundreds of raised hands applaud while lips pucker and whistles howl.

“Ladies and gentlemen, LIBER-RACE!”

Sporting a beaded black tie and tails, he steps on stage holding a lit twelve taper candelabra and places it on the high-glossed Steinway. 

A deafening silence filters through the room like a noxious gas.

With the waving of one diamond-studded hand, Liberace casts his spell. From Mozart’s, The Magic Flute, to Casablanca's, As Time Goes By. Each new melody blends seamlessly into the next. Pin-pricked eyes dart across the keyboard and never miss a single note. 

Liberace begins to play Beethoven’s, Moonlight Sonata. Within its ominous tones, a girl screams, breaking the magic spell. She struggles behind a marble pillar as the final fringe of a flapper’s costume disappears into the shadows. 

Chandeliers ignite. Faces unmask, revealing dropped jaws, glazed eyes, and vacant expressions. Bodies are paralyzed. Silence louder than Hitler’s Blitzkrieg jolts the once euphoric atmosphere.

As the crowds disperse, the original foursome are now two. 

“Where’s Marty?” Doris shrieks. “And what happened to Rosemary?”

“I thought she went to the ladies room with you?”

“Oh, no ... I didn’t wait.” Tears explode from Doris’s black-lined eyes. “What could’ve happened to her?” She stares up at Cal with a tear stained face. “You don’t think?” she whispered.

“Marty do such a thing? I’ve know him my whole life. I know he could be a goon sometimes...but this?” Cal shakes his head and stands on tip toe as his gaze sweeps over the crowd.

Doris latches onto his arm. “We need to find them.”

As dawn breaks through a driftwood-gray mist on All Hallows day, a body floats in the Chicago river.

I hope you all enjoyed my entry!  Have a great week everyone!


Olga Godim said...

This was a scary and gripping story, very atmospheric.
I noticed a couple of spelling mistakes.
1. The title of the post should read "Moonlight Sonata", not "Moonlight Senata."
2. In the second paragraph of your story, you use the word "marquis" incorrectly. A marquis is a noblemen title. What you want is a "marquee", which is a canopy over an entrance.

Jemi Fraser said...

You've created a great scene, Michael!
I hope they're wrong and that Rosemary is okay!!

Yolanda Renée said...

As Olga said, ATMOSPHERIC! In capital letters. I was transported to that ballroom. Just beautiful and the music, if only I could have been invited! Just don't want to be the body. Love it! I can't wait to read your final noir! You excel at these!

Debbie D. said...

Wow! That sure took a turn. Well played, Michael, and I love how you used a real person in the story. Your vivid descriptions brought the whole scene to life!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Oh wow! Did not see the dead body coming.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Thanks, Olga, I will change it and look for the misspellings...

Thanks, Jemi... as with all noirs, there are some unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Thank you so much, Renee! I am so glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks, Debbie!

LOTS of surprises with this story, Alex...Thanks for dropping by!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Michael - a real 1920s noir ... those were the days of flapper horror ... so well written in that genre - an interesting take on the WEP this August - cheers Hilary

Denise Covey said...

As promised, Michael, I LOVED IT. Atmospheric is the word, but I have other superlatives. You capture the era perfectly in your dialogue and narration - "toots" "pip", so interesting. You know what I think. You have a novel here Michael. Get to it. How many times have I asked you to get back to your noir? Again, thanks.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I really enjoyed this. Your dialogue really reflects the time period. Loved how you end with a real twist that makes us want to read more.

Pat Garcia said...

Excellent story. I wonder what happened to Rosemary. Did Marty kidnap and rape her? Was it her body that floated on the Chicago River? These questions leave a mystery hanging in the air and give me a very unsettled feeling.
Shalom aleichem

Kalpana said...

It was certainly very atmospheric and I was enjoying it, expecting a playfully romantic ending, not the beginning of a mystery. You must finish it Michael and tell us whose body it was, whether Rosemary is safe and what was the motive for both the kidnapping and the murder.

Damyanti Biswas said...

Absolutely loved the premise! I enjoyed the little details you presented in this :)

Michael Di Gesu said...

Thanks, Hilary~ I am so glad you enjoyed it!

Well, Denise...I know how much you enjoy my "atmospheric" writing. I have been writing this story on and off for years now. I HOPE to complete it after the holidays. Life is SO busy now with finishing up the house, company, and travel. I am SO HAPPY you enjoyed it!

Thanks, Natalie. I do LOVE this era and I did do a lot of research to create an authentic dialogue. To me, this is VERY important in period writing.

So glad you enjoyed it, Damyanti~
Pat- I will tell you this, Marty did kidnap Rosemary, but hers was the the body floating in the Chicago river. As with all Noir, the story must unfold with many unexpected twists and turns to keep the reader on edge. I am glad I managed to accomplish that in this excerpt.

Kaplana... ME-give a PLAYFUL ROMANTIC ending- lol- I thought you knew my writing better than that...and remember this is NOIR. Darkness prevails. As I told Pat, it is not Rosemary's body floating in the river. That is ALL I will tell. I do plan to complete this story. I am aiming for a Novella. If I can flesh it out more, then perhaps a novel. Because of all the atmospheric elements in this genre, for me it is VERY difficult to keep up such details. I have about 7k words so far. It will be a story that will take a while to finish. This is not something I can "CRANK" out in six to eight weeks like my other novels have taken me to do.

N. R. Williams said...

That was a surprise. I hope they find their friends.

Elephant's Child said...

Dark, nasty and engrossing.

Shannon Lawrence said...

There were aspects that made me think of "The Great Gatsby." The setting is gloriously described and the dialogue is perfect for the surrounding prose. This feels like just the beginning.

Michelle Wallace said...

Evocative and atmospheric!
You need to continue writing this story - I want more!

Mary Aalgaard said...

Ooo. Very exciting. What happens next? I'm hooked. Great use of the song. I love Liberace! I can just imagine what it would be like to hear him playing live, all those gorgeous songs. Great atmosphere in this piece. Well done!

This is my first time doing the WEP challenge. The prompt was inspiring.

Mary at Play off the Page

Lenny Lee said...

Loved it! Wow, you’re a master of description. The story pulled me in and I felt like I was standing right in the middle of the ballroom. Sorry, I forgot my costume. Lol. You captured the era and dialog perfectly. I love stories with a twist. Everything was going great and then you whacked me over the head. Where’s Rosemary? Was it a costumed Liberace behind the wall with a candlestick? Or did Superman do her in? This story begs for more. Great take on the prompt. Thanks for a good read.

Michael Di Gesu said...

I like using surprise endings with my snippets. Leaving the reader wanting more is the whole idea of good writing. They only find ONE friend, Nancy...I will not tell you which one.

True, Sue. But with Noir is must have all those elements to qualify for NOIR...

Shannon... What an AWESOME compliment. A comparison to the Great Gatsby is quite the honor! Actually, it pretty much is the beginning of this story. I had to leave out the first few pages because it would have been more than the 1000K limit. But, this is the first chapter.

Michelle...I plan on continuing with this story. I am hoping to at least have enough words for a Novella. I'm at about 7K now and for a Novella, it needs to be at least 20-30K. I still have a long way to go. Writing in this atmospheric and detail oriented style takes a lot of time for research to be authentic. I spent hours finding the correct slang words and authentic locals. Luckily, the Palmer House is still in Chicago. It has gone through several renovations, but I did find many pics to study from that time frame because it is such a historic landmark in Chicago.

Thank you, Mary! I am glad you enjoyed it! Welcome to the WEP Challenge! I hope we get to read more of your work. I agree, watching Liberace in person would have been THRILLING. Luckily, there are many videos of his early years playing. He used to have his own TV show back in the 1950s.

Thank you, Lenny! I definitely plan on continuing with the story. I have been working on it for many years on and off and once I DELVE into, I should have at least enough for a Novella. I have never written a Noir/mystery before, so it will take me some time to figure out how I want these murders - yes murders- to unfold.

L.G. Keltner said...

You created so much atmosphere with your descriptions! Marvelous! And that ending. Ominous and mysterious. Well done!

Nilanjana Bose said...

Michael, you write period so well and your imagery is superb! I'm so very pleased to see you here at WEP. I hope it's not Rosemary who's been killed and the body is someone else's. Intriguing and thoroughly enjoyable. Thank you.

cleemckenzie said...

Wow! What great imagery, Michael! I could see the place and the characters so vividly. The mood you set was perfect.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Thanks, LG...I am so happy you enjoyed it!

Nila- It is always great to be back submitting to the WEP! I am so happy you enjoyed this snippet. Not to worry, Rosemary is alive, but nothing is ever the same for her after this incident.

Wow, thanks, Lee!!! That is quite the compliment coming from you. You made my day! I just hope I can manage to complete this novella with the same "perfection." This is probably the most challenging genre I have ever written in because it needs all of the description, mood, suspense, and intrigue to be a successful Noir. Fingers crossed.

Christopher Scott Author said...

A truly atmospheric, image-loaded piece of flash fiction that fits the theme superbly. Well done, Michael.

J.Q. Rose said...

The Palmer House caught my attention right away. I was there in the 60s with my roommate who played in a band at the Palmer House. Your descriptions with lyrical language brought me right into the scenes. Yes, please do complete your novella. I love stories during this era.

Ornery Owl of Naughty Netherworld Press and Readers Roost said...

This is an eerie and beautifully written piece.

A Hundred Quills said...

Great description, setting and imagery. Thumbs up for the ending. Very well written.

Deniz Bevan said...

Love the slow build up before the fear and worry!
I especially loved that line about the couples swaying like palms.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Thank you, Chris. I am glad you enjoyed it!

J.Q. How exciting that you were at the Palmer House back in the day! I definitely plan on finishing this story, but when I have the time to focus on it. Life is crazy right now, as I am sure it is for you, too.

Thank you so much, OO...

Thank you, Sonia. I am glad you enjoyed it!

Hi Deniz! Nice of you to stop by! I am very glad you enjoyed it.

Bernadette said...

Loved the build up. I wonder if that's Marty's body or some poor witness? Was Cal or Liberace in on this too?