“Luck’s Refrain” by Meagan J. Meehan
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, Meagan J. Meehan takes us to Coney Island, where people do crazy things for love.
by Meagan J. Meehan
Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York
Fast Freddy died slow. He’d been on his way out for damn near two decades. In most respects he’d died with Lucky.
Lucky—an ironic nickname since there was nothing lucky about Lucy O’Toole’s life. Freddy just started calling her that when they were kids because he won at marbles whenever she was with him.
In the 1920s and ’30s, us scraggly Brooklyn kids ran wild. We lived near Coney Island, home of the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel, but entry into that paradise required money—something none of us had.
Back then, you’d never know Lucky would become such a looker. She always had great blue eyes, but when she hit her teens she sprouted an hourglass figure, legs she shoulda insured, and dyed her brown hair platinum blonde. The look suited her; she never wanted for attention. It must’ve hurt Freddy to watch her hanging on other guy’s arms. I don’t think he’d ever gotten a leg over, but he was nuts about her. By 1941, Lucky was sashaying around in jewels and heels like some Hollywood dame while Freddy worked the carnival games and I sold tickets to the freak show and drank like my old man.
Flat feet got us both out of military service. I survived, but Freddy thrived. He knew how to hustle and make a fast buck—not enough to buy a mansion, but enough to keep himself on easy street. Meanwhile, Lucky played mistress to Robbie Roses, a mobster with big money who got her an apartment in Manhattan. She left Brooklyn before the fire in ’44 and was spared the sight of cash-strapped Coney Island becoming a tacky shell of itself.
Freddy swore the neighborhood was cursed without Lucky. He couldn’t see what she’d become: haughty, indifferent, entitled, bitchy—he’d snap at me if I said one snide thing about her. On his rare days off, he’d take the train into Manhattan just to walk past her building. One night, he wandered into a Times Square bar, got loaded up on booze, and got a Lady Luck tattoo on his forearm with a figure and face identical to Lucky’s. If Robbie had seen it, his henchmen probably woulda cut Freddy’s arm off!
If you asked me back in 1950 which of my buddies was the most likely to end up dead, I’d have said Freddy—but it was Lucky who got whacked.
Her body was found in 1951 in a Surf Avenue alley, beaten so bad she couldn’t have an open-casket funeral. Her case went unsolved, but Freddy was convinced that Robbie had killed her in a jealous rage. Even after Robbie got gunned down in ’53, Freddy spent his life mourning her. Love makes you do crazy things.
So does booze.
By 1967, Freddy was as crazy as a shithouse rat, and Coney Island was overrun with gangs. Occasionally Freddy would spot some bottle-blonde hooker and run down the street calling Lucky’s name; got himself beat sometimes.
One night we were drinking in the abandoned Steeplechase, a forgotten relic of our youth. Freddy was coughing, wheezing, and complaining about pains. Then he’d burst into tears, rambling about how Lucky hadn’t lived to see the aquarium. I’m not sure what else was said but, somehow, I ended up talking.
It happened by chance, if not entirely by accident. I’d been drinking at The Clam when I spotted Lucky walking toward Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, Freddy’s main hangout. I’d chased her down and cornered her against a dumpster. Desperate for cash, I told her I wanted $2,000 or I’d tell Robbie she was screwing Freddy.
He’ll kill him, I’d said, and she knew it was true. Temper flaring, she’d clawed at me with her long red fingernails, so I grabbed a brick and smashed her face over and over again.
I was drunk, I was mad, and I was covered in blood. Somehow I’d managed to get back to my squalid apartment unseen.
Sixteen years after the broad’s murder, I told Freddy I was sorry—and I was, because he was the closest thing I ever had to a friend. He slumped against the crumbling funhouse wall, eyes on his tattoo, and smiled softly, relieved to finally know the truth.
“Lucy,” he whispered and breathed his last.
I’d confessed and still gotten away with it. Maybe I’m the one Lady Luck favors after all.
MEAGAN J. MEEHAN is a published author, poet, cartoonist, and produced playwright. She pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Examiner, and AXS. She is also a stop-motion animator and an award-winning abstract artist. Meagan holds a bachelor’s in English Literature and a master’s of communication. She is an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—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.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—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 4, 2016
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