“Music Capital of the World” by Joe Canzano
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, Joe Canzano brings us to Austin for the music, the romance—and the murder. Next week, Carrie Cuinn tells us the story of a private eye and hired to trail a suspect fiancé in Ithaca, NY.
So Johnny Fizz was dead and now it was my problem.
Not because I was some hotshot Austin cop working the 6th Street district, wrestling with drunken punks the way Stevie Ray had wrestled with that fire-breathing Strat. No, it was my problem because I’d played in a band with Johnny for years, and I knew at least a hundred people who wanted to see him with his head blown off.
But there was one person who wanted his head more blown off than the rest, and she was my first stop.
The boss had given me some advice. “Don’t fuck it up,” is what he’d said. Of course, he knew I had a PhD in fucking things up, or maybe a master’s degree; I’d been too drunk on graduation day to remember. So I headed out into the steamy evening in search of Claire, who lived just off 6th near the clanging walls of The Chuggin’ Monkey, without even bothering to think about what I’d say or how I’d say it. It was the same technique I’d used to get her into bed.
She opened the shiny red door of her apartment and my heart stopped.
She flapped her eyelashes in mock surprise. “Joe, what are you doing here? Am I in trouble with the law, or do you just want to buy me a fish taco?”
“Maybe both,” I said. She laughed, and I followed her slinky blue jeans into the living room. Her boots clicked on the hardwood floor.
I remembered how she liked boots. She had the hand-painted ostrich skin kind, and others with skulls on the side, and a bunch of stuff a waitress slinging “stacked pork enchiladas” at the Iron Cactus shouldn’t be able to afford. It was funny how much leather she bought with plastic. It was funny how much better she looked than the last time I’d seen her.
I sat on the beer-stained sofa and grabbed the beat-up Martin guitar sitting next to me. It still played real nice—I never should’ve given it to her. She couldn’t play it worth a damn, but she looked good doing it. It was just something to hold while she was singing. That was pretty much her style.
“So, did you hear about Johnny?” I said.
She handed me a bottle of Lone Star and took a swig of her own. Outside, the streets were starting to light up. It was Thursday, but every night was bright like the Fourth of July, and every club was packed: Maggie Mae’s, the Thirsty Nickel, the Dirty Dog Bar—a person could really get lost in the sweaty mess of tourists and college kids out drowning in beer and the electric fuzz of rock and roll.
“Yeah,” she said. “I heard he lost his head.”
I gave her a sweet smile. “Don’t sound so upset.”
She smiled back. “I’m not upset. But a good bass player is hard to find.”
I laughed. “Yeah, but every band is looking for somebody. Somebody who isn’t always late. Somebody who isn’t always too broke to chip in. Somebody who isn’t always drunk or high or just a complete asshole.”
“Well, Johnny wasn’t late. Though he had me thinking I was a few times.”
I frowned hard, and she slid down next to me.
She wasn’t a typical Austin girl; she wore more lipstick and less clothing. Her lips were like two smeared roses and her sleeveless pink T-shirt showed off the nubs of her nipples along with the garden of thorny flowers tattooed high on her left arm.
There was also that scar over her right eye. Funny how she never tried to cover it up.
“You look good, Claire.”
“Thanks. So do you.”
“I’ve been thinking about you.”
She scowled. “Because I’m a suspect? Because Johnny was a bastard who wouldn’t let me sing any of my own stuff? And because he beat the shit out of me?”
I put down my drink. “That’s partly it.”
She stared into my eyes and licked her lips.
“Do you still play bass, Joe?”
I didn’t blink. “You know I do. Do you still own that Colt .45?”
“You know I do. We’re looking for a guy.”
I dropped the guitar and leaned sideways, and she was right there, kissing me hard.
“Do I need to audition?” I said. My heart was beating like a drum.
“No. You’ll do just fine.”
JOE CANZANO is a writer and musician from New Jersey. He’s recorded five CDs of guitar-powered rock and roll, and he’s written three novels (plus another one that’s almost done!). His short fiction has appeared in The Chrysalis Reader, The Wisconsin Review, Happy, Pearl, Studio One, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Quercus Review. Please visit http://www.happyjoe.net for more than you’d ever want to know.
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 to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Aug 19, 2013
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