“Fade Out” by Paul D. Marks
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Paul D. Marks takes us to one of LA’s busiest intersections, where life is measured in frames per second.
by Paul D. Marks
Hollywood and Vine, Hollywood, California
Flat on my back in the middle of one of the most famous intersections in the world, Hollywood and Vine. Cars slalom around me. Finally, it becomes clear, like a fade-in from a bad movie: what it all means. The pictures run through my mind at twenty-four frames per second.
I was born in the heart of Hollywood, where everything and everyone is larger than life, or so it seems. And everyone wants to be a star, or at least be in the movies. And now I’m gonna die in the heart of Hollywood. I just wanted to be the star of my own life. Even that was too much to hope for in the land of broken dreams. Maybe it would have been better to have been left on the cutting-room floor.
I never thought I’d make it as a star, but Cora, my wife—that was all she wanted.
Two men come to the door, wearing sport coats over Hawaiian shirts—hey, this is LA.
“Mr. Dietrichson?” The larger one flashes his badge. The other one mimics his move. “We have some bad news.”
“Is my wife okay?”
“Yes,” the shorter one grunts. “Don’t know how to say this, but, uh, she—Cora right?—is trying to kill you.”
“What? You’re crazy.”
“You need to come with us. We have another team looking for her right now.”
“You can’t stay here. She hired a hitman.”
They barely give me time to grab my wallet and windbreaker. We get into their unmarked car and shoot down Highland, out of the Hollywood Hills, past the Bowl and onto Hollywood Boulevard, heading east.
We fly past Wilcox.
“Isn’t the Hollywood division on Wilcox?”
They don’t respond.
I look at the driver’s face in the rearview mirror. I’ve seen it before on some cop TV show: a part-time, wannabe actor-hitman. “Can I see your badge again?”
“Shut up.” The short one jabs a pistol into my ribs. It’s not fake like their badges. “We told you your wife wanted to kill you.” He laughs.
I watch the tourists, the hookers, the wannabes, strut their stuff down the Walk of Fame, stomping on the terrazzo stars set in the sidewalk, tributes to actors no one remembers anymore.
I jam my elbow into the guy sitting next to me in the backseat as hard as I can. He groans. Before he can grab me, I slam my forearm around the driver’s throat and yank it tight in a crushing choke hold. Brakes squeal. Rubber burns. The car lurches to a halt—into the back of a bus. The driver bangs his head on the steering wheel, slumps over. I jump out, chased by the shorter man. Run across the road, dodging a Beamer. I start for the Capitol Records building, farther up Vine.
I’m on the ground, in the middle of the street—right at the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine. People gawk, shoot me with their iPhones. I’ll be a star on the news tonight, maybe even TMZ. Crazy person runs through Hollywood traffic.
A uniformed cop, in shorts and a helmet, bikes over to me.
“I don’t think he’s gonna make it,” a bystander says.
“Cray cray,” the cop says. Yeah, even the cops talk like that here.
The shadow of the Capitol Records building grows longer. Will it get long enough to slice me in half? Funny what you think sometimes.
Cora had been the love of my life, wack as that sounds. But things change. And the movie of my life flashes across my mind’s eye, twenty-four frames per second. They say that happens when you die.
It all starts to make sense now. The too-sweet iced tea, with the green tinge to it that caused horrendous cramps—antifreeze? Her wanting to increase the life insurance on me. The texts coming in on her cell all day and all night that she said were from a girlfriend who was having a rough breakup—yeah, sure. The coldness. All the clichéd and usual things, but I couldn’t—wouldn’t—see them for what they were.
Why does she want me dead? What’d I do to her? Why not just get a divorce? No, that would be too easy. Too normal. Not Hollywood enough for Cora.
PAUL D. MARKS is the author of the Shamus Award–winning mystery-thriller White Heat. Publishers Weekly calls White Heat a “taut crime yarn.” And Midwest Book Review says, “White Heat is a riveting read of mystery, much recommended.” His story “Howling at the Moon” is short-listed for both this year’s (2015) Anthony Award and Macavity Award for Best Short Story. It was published in the November 2014 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and came in #7 in their Reader’s Poll Award. His latest noir-thriller, Vortex, will be out in summer 2015. He is the co-editor of the anthology Coast to Coast: Murder from Sea to Shining Sea, coming in 2015 from Down & Out Books. Paul is also the author of over thirty published short stories in a variety of genres, including several award winners. Five of his stories can be found in the collection LA Late @ Night. He also has the distinction, dubious though it might be, of being the last person to have shot a film on the fabled MGM backlot before it bit the dust to make way for condos. According to Steven Bingen, co-author of the well-received book MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot: “That 40 page chronological list I mentioned of films shot at the studio ends with his [Paul D. Marks’] name on it.” Website: www.PaulDMarks.com.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Aug 17, 2015
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