“Swinging Party” by S.W. Lauden
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, S.W. Lauden makes a startling discovery in a Beach Cities record store. Next week, Erik Arneson changes Philadelphia’s fortunes, for better or worse.
Marco was always pretty smart for a drummer. He knew the record shop wouldn’t be open at three a.m., so he headed straight for the back door. The teenage punks that worked there often forgot to lock up at the end of the night. If he was lucky he could get out with an armful of CDs in a couple of minutes. His dealer was usually open for barter until sunrise.
He wiped his nose with the sleeve of his hoodie as he approached. A slight ocean breeze kicked up and blew a few strands of stringy hair in front of his sunken eyes. The motion light came on overhead, casting sharp shadows across his gaunt face. He glanced nervously at the empty alley that faded into darkness in both directions. It was only the unbearable itching that compelled him to take the next step.
The door opened a crack as soon as he touched the knob. He muttered, “Thank you,” to nobody in particular and entered. There was a light on in the small office to his right. He shut the back door and listened, studying the hundreds of punk rock flyers that lined the hallway: Black Flag, Descendents, Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Pennywise, Agent Orange. It was a photocopied memorial to all the bands that had influenced his life since junior high.
He poked his head around the corner and was relieved to find the office empty. It wasn’t the owner Tim that he was worried about, but his little brother Greg. The three of them had spent most of 1998 together in a van on an endless US tour, along with their passive bass player J.J. That was a couple of years ago now, but Marco had never met a more violent person before or since. Where Tim was the kind of guitarist who preferred to face his amp, Greg was the lead singer who was always starting a riot. The dynamic worked better onstage than backstage.
Marco gave the cluttered office a quick scan. The cash box wasn’t in plain sight, which meant it was probably locked up in the safe. Or maybe they left it behind the counter again, he wished as he headed into the shop.
It looked the same as it always did in the middle of the night. A watery yellow glow was coming through the windows from the streetlights out front. The towering racks and bursting bins looked like an industrial landscape silhouetted in the crowded space. He took a couple of steps inside and immediately started rifling through the new arrivals. He knew his dealer’s tastes ran toward pop punk, so he set his sights on the Offspring, Blink-182, and Green Day. Anything more than that and Tim might finally catch on to his late night raids.
Five new CDs had a street value of about twenty dollars, enough to get him through until morning. He pulled a plastic shopping bag from his pocket and shoved the loot inside as he walked toward the counter. His forehead bumped into something that shouldn’t be there. Marco looked up and had to duck when he saw the white tips of Converse sneakers coming back his way.
He fell flat on the floor and watched the soles swinging gently back and forth. The rope made a sickly creaking sound as the weight of the body strained the beam overhead. Marco rolled to his side and stared up in horror at Tim’s bulging, lifeless eyes.
Marco sprang to his feet and wrapped his arms around Tim’s legs, trying desperately to take the weight off of his friend’s neck. But Tim’s limp frame just folded and contorted in response to Marco’s flailing movements.
It was useless. He was already gone. Marco pushed himself away.
Tim was swinging wildly now, from side to side at first and then eventually in an ever-narrowing circle. Marco bent down and clutched the plastic bag in his hand. He caught sight of the cash box on the counter as he turned to head for the back door. There were only a few wrinkled bills, but it was definitely enough to make tomorrow a little easier.
He grabbed a record-cleaning rag and wiped down everything he had touched. The motion light came on as he stepped outside. He pulled the door shut and polished the knob. His footsteps echoed down the alley as he ran off to score.
S.W. LAUDEN is a writer, drummer, and marketing guy living in Los Angeles. His debut novel, Bad Citizen Corporation, is in the works. He is a member of the Mystery Writers of America. Links to more writing and music on Twitter: @retluocevets.
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 18, 2014
Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: Mondays Are Murder, Noir Series, Los Angeles, California, Music, Noir, flash fiction, short story, short fiction, Santa Monica, Beach Cities, Swinging Party, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, record store, S.W. Lauden
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