“Off the Record” by Ray Van Horn, Jr.
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, Ray Van Horn, Jr. brings a deadly meaning to the term “off the record.” Next week, Jen Kitses tells a tale of one new father’s miserable dinner hour.
Off the Record
by Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Hampden, Baltimore, Maryland
She came up to me in the parking lot behind the Slung Rig after the show. The lot reeked of piss, puke, and exiled pizza scraps. Even the rats were too finicky to troll around this Hamden hole, where headbangers and punkers partied or balled inside their cars whenever there was a gig. Those who could get it on around this stench had a better constitution than me—that, or some sort of mutant fetish, but hell, that’s mutants for you.
Tonight died before the club doors ever opened. To make it official, a local act, Dirty Trace, outsold the headliners, Fortune Favors. I’d ridden in on the latter’s comp.
I patted my jacket to ensure my Olympus digital recorder was still in my pocket. I loved the compact gadget much more than the bulky, ancient Talkman IV tape recorder I’d toted long after cassettes went the way of ColecoVision. This gizmo was boss; it could record up to ten hours of material.
I’d aced the interview with Fortune Favors’ bassist, Nadia Havilak. Forty minutes backstage and we’d hit many topics outside of music: sci-fi films, hockey, even the freakin’ Animaniacs. We’d agreed reality shows were for sheep. Nadia asked, off-the-cuff, where in Baltimore she could score a few ounces. “You take your chances on the east side,” I’d warned her.
I pitched my foam earplugs into the Dumpster near the loading dock. The Dumpster bore colliding gang marks spray-painted around the olive exterior, along with a drippy anarchy symbol. Sorry, but passé.
I was the lone remnant in the parking lot. As I was reaching for the door handle of my Ranger, I heard Nadia clomping up behind me. She wore thick shank boots as part of her punkette rigout. If those weren’t a giveaway, the steel wallet chain singing at her right hip told me it was Nadia before I even turned to face her. The chain led to the front pocket of her taut black jeans, those wringing her reedy thighs like soaked anaconda skin. I’d been turned on by her well before she answered my first question tonight. During the set, I’d hardly watched anyone else.
“Jason,” she called out to me, her wallet chain tinkling to a stop beside her. “That was a great interview earlier.”
She wrapped her tatted arms beneath her slight bosom. I craved petite women. Inked petite women, if you want to go there.
“Thanks, Nadia,” I responded. Shame on me, I wondered if her flower was decorated like the rest of her. “Anything you want chopped from the final edit?”
“Nah, I stand on everything,” Nadia said, clutching herself tighter. The alley had low lighting, cast from the single bulb overtop the loading dock. Every gnat and moth in the city seemed compelled toward it.
“Cool, so what’s up?” I asked, inspecting the matted, blue-dyed strands on her sticky forehead. I too was sweaty, revved by the sight of her. I wanted a closer examination of those tattoos from a horizontal vantage.
“So, like,” she mumbled, surveying the otherwise empty lot. The only sound outside the prevailing fizz of industrial-a-go-go was the purr of Fortune Favors’ tour bus.
I waited for Nadia to continue, but she only held herself.
I nearly offered her my jacket. I nearly asked if she wanted to sit in my pickup and hoped nature took its course. Instead, I took a step toward Nadia. To my dismay, she retreated two steps.
“What’s on your mind, then?” I asked, trying to bury my disconcertment.
“Dude,” she blurted, looking around again. “We’re breaking up the band. Kelly’s taken such heat about that hit-and-run last month, so it’s for the best. Thing is . . .”
She paused and squinted at me. Frankly, it creeped me out. Only seconds ago, I would’ve gladly jumped Nadia’s bones if she’d thrown the offer out. I had her in age by many moons, but she was hardly jailbait. Foiled, I wanted to jump into the Ranger and spit gravel.
“I can’t believe you had enough couth to avoid asking about that,” she said. “No one else has. Look, Kelly’s innocent, okay? I should know. Off the record, they arrested the wrong chick in this band, get me?”
“Whoa,” I mumbled.
“Next stop, the east side. Later.”
Nadia turned and disappeared into the humming coach.
My hands were trembling as I pulled the Olympus out of the inner pocket of my jacket and gasped.
I watched the recording counter roll on past the five hour mark.
RAY VAN HORN, JR. is a veteran rock journalist, live photographer and current reviewer for Blabbermouth. Ray has written for numerous publications and websites such as Fangoria.com, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Noisecreep, The Big Takeover.com, New Noise, Metal Maniacs, AMP, Hails & Horns, Pit, Impose, Music Dish, Unrestrained, DVD Review, Horror News.net and others. His blogsite The Metal Minute won Best Personal Blog from Metal Hammer magazine in 2009. Ray is a former NHL analyst for The Hockey Nut and his fiction has recently appeared at New Noise. He is the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest for 1999 and his original superhero-themed short stories for Cyber Age Adventures were compiled in the trade paperback, Playing Solitaire.
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: Sep 16, 2013
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