“Into Darker Night,” by Jim Pascoe
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.
Into Darker Night
by Jim Pascoe
Downtown Los Angeles, CA
I don’t do well in situations like this.
I don’t like to talk about myself, and I don’t like small talk. Guess that makes me the odd man out in LA.
The scene before me spread out like the opening of a movie. Interior establishing shot. A party. Extras hovering around, moving lips without anything coming out. Even with a bunch of people all grouped together, the place felt sparse. Ten thousand square feet and twenty-five-foot ceilings will have that effect.
What was I doing here, in a penthouse loft on Spring Street?
Dance music from the 80s pushed out of a 90s plastic boom box, the kind that looked like the front end of a car. No one was dancing.
Two weeks. Audrey had been gone for two weeks.
I was alone in this mess. I knew that.
Across the room, a redhead. Younger than me and out of my league. She was with an uppity blonde, probably an actress.
When I saw her, I knew what I had to do. Just needed to wait for the right moment.
Be cool, man. Maybe get another 7 and 7 to relax. Focus. Don’t let it all fall apart.
Suddenly I found myself behind the redhead. I reached out to tap her shoulder. She knew something. If I could just get her to talk.
A smarmy hipster guy with stupid facial hair and thick black glasses stepped in front of me.
“What’s up, lady lady?” He squeezed the redhead’s elbow.
“We are, daddy. All the way up.”
Damn. Not now. I had to ask her where Audrey was. This guy reeked of Mary Jane. If he offered her a smoke, I’d lose my window.
Audrey had left me a long letter. All her words were clues about why she left, where she’d gone. Think I should look to myself for answers? Think again. I was empty. Empty like tomorrow morning’s bottle of booze.
Redhead walked out of this scene toward an interior door. Hipster followed. A bedroom? A bathroom? The blonde friend was not around.
No! I was so close.
Think. Think like a writer. What would a noir protagonist do?
All around me colors desaturated into a pale blue–wash. I imagined myself wearing a ribbon-banded fedora. Cigarette on my lip. I march over to Redhead, wink, and turn to swing a strong right hook at her hipster friend, clipping him in the chin. His thick glasses fly off in slow motion.
But that wasn’t real. This lonely man at a party was real. I stared off into nothing.
I put my drink down and headed to the exit.
I needed to get out before someone noticed I was shaking.
In the elevator, I pushed the button with one hand, rubbed my forehead with the other.
Audrey . . .
“Hey! Hold the door!”
I reached out to hold open the closing doors.
In walked the redhead and her girlfriend. They looked drunk enough to be obviously trying not to look drunk.
The three of us stood with our backs against the elevator car. I felt the sweat on my brow. The redhead tried so hard not to look at me, she cracked a smile. The blonde rolled her eyes.
Redhead broke the silence, turned to me.
“Hey, you’re that writer, right? I mean, yeah.”
I floundered. “Ah . . . no. That’s not me. You got the wrong guy.”
The two girls laughed to themselves. The blonde whispered something into her friend’s ear. Redhead had her head lowered, eyes closed, locks of hair over her face. Still smiling.
The elevator doors opened and the two girls walked across the dirty white lobby to the scratched-glass double door exit. The redhead held her left arm high in the air, waving to me without turning around. The blonde laughed into her friend’s shoulder.
“Goodnight, Jim . . .”
Later. I stood alone in empty, dark, downtown Los Angeles. Spring Street was silent. I liked it better outside.
The redhead didn’t know anything. I was wrong.
When I closed my eyes, the silence slipped away. A man turned the corner and I heard him working a didgeridoo, the warble bouncing off the skyscrapers until it got lost in the alleys where no one goes.
Warble warble warble.
My eyes popped open, and I realized it was gone.
* * *
JIM PASCOE is a writer, designer, and an Emmy Award-winning creative director. He is responsible for the packaging design of over 100 DVDs, including Mad Men, the 2010 Kubrick Collection, and Coraline, which won Best in Show at the Hollywood Reporter’s Key Art Awards. He has written comics and books featuring Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kim Possible, and Hellboy. His graphic novel series Undertown was serialized in over fifty newspapers worldwide, and his recent crime fiction has appeared in Los Angeles Noir and Florida Heat Wave. He is the cofounder of UglyTown and coeditor of By the Balls: The Complete Collection.
* * *
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the submission 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 to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Apr 1, 2013
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