“The Night of DeLyria” by Marcelle Thiébaux
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, Marcelle Thiébaux brings us to Jersey City, Christmas, 1937. Next week, Michelle Sacks takes her tale to the Octopussy Lounge in Udaipur, India.
The night before Christmas 1937, the taxi dancer calling herself DeLyria was murdered in the bath of a luxury, park-view apartment.
Friends last saw her at midnight, when she left the Gardenia Dance Hall on Central Avenue, Jersey City. Her guys and gents waited outside in the slush. Their wallets bulged.
“Hey, DeLyria, I got paid!”
“Marry me, DeLyria!”
Stepping downstairs, DeLyria showed herself: Platinum dance shoes, twirly-hipped skirt, monkey-fur jacket dyed heavenly blue. Her face of an odalisque gladdened the fans, who loved her plummy flame-glo lips and her tiny chocolate drop of a “beauty mark.”
“Sorry, fellas,” she flung at them. “Got a heavy date!”
A few black nights later, when Christmas was over, Dr. Ludwig Scherpe drove into New Jersey’s Kearny Marsh, known as the Meadowlands. He had to get rid of the body. His boss gave the order, and his boss was the Nazi-American Gauleiter, Jersey’s top regional leader of Gau-USA. The outfit planned to take over Amerika, and couldn’t suffer a scandal.
The doctor chose a spot where the cattails grew thickest; where in summer the moorhens, grebes, and black herons nested, and mosquitoes as big as rats sucked blood.
The girl was bigger than Scherpe, and hard to heft. He wrestled her from the trunk where she’d lain since Saturday, tied in burlap. Yes, he’d seen the chippie hure when she was ripe with insolence, swaying on those hure‘s heels, rocking those hips. Not that he cared. He disliked women.
He dug in the winter sludge until his back cried out. He was no youngster. Blood and bone spattered his raincoat and flecked his glasses. But once in, she’d stay down there a good long time.
He jammed the shovel blade into her, smashing her again so beauty turned to pulp as cold as the red snow beneath. Panting, he spaded furrows into eyes, nose, and teeth, like spading the earth for potatoes. Befehl ist Befehl. An order is an order. The stupid hure had angered the boss. He’d had to knock her into the tub, then called his underling, Scherpe.
Dr. Scherpe’s headlights lit the bare dirt roads and waving grass. The rearview mirror revealed only darkness. Alles in Ordnung, his father used to say. Everything in good order.
He hooked off the Belleville Pike to Fish House Road, then up the Pulaski Skyway. Smokestacks poured fires, staining the night sky. Yellow rose. Kopper’s Coke flashed. Secaucus, Weehawken and Hackensack glowed and twinkled like Christmas lights—like long ago, when his mother decked the Yule tree with flaming wax candles.
The doctor sped through the Holland Tunnel, coming out as the sun reddened Manhattan. Back in his rooms behind the podiatry parlors, he felt the relief of home. His suite commanded a bay window at Lexington and Eighty-Sixth, near Schaller & Weber’s delicatessen. A favored client, Dr. Scherpe enjoyed a standing Christmas order for Westphalian ham.
The doctor cleaned his spectacles with alcohol. After bathing, he powdered his cheeks with talcum and refreshed himself with Mühlens 4711 cologne. In his room piled with featherbeds, where he could have thrown himself down and slept for a month, he put on a Berlin-tailored three-piece wool suit, and knotted a silk cravat. He gave himself a onceover in the armoire mirror: Cloud of fluffed silver hair, baby-soft jowls, budlike mouth—all passed inspection. Alles in Ordnung.
He stepped into the sanctum of his surgery, pungent with antiseptic. Here he tended the bunions and hammertoes of Teutonic Yorkville. He gazed at his foot charts, soothing diagrams of hallux, metatarsus, and phalange.
He checked the peephole behind his diploma from Yorkville Medical College, anno domini 1911, and peered into the waiting room. Three ladies quietly sat. The doctor donned a white coat and made a phone call, speaking low into the mouthpiece.
“The pharmaceuticals are delivered, mein Herr.” He hung up.
Closing his eyes, he saw the marsh and reeds. He saw the blue simian pelt, the monkey jacket that would swim up in the spring rains. A rheumatoid trembling assailed his legs.
He opened the door and invited his nine o’clock patient to enter. He bowed and kissed her hand, lips barely touching skin. He asked her to remove shoes and stockings behind the ornamental screen. Seated before the bay window, the doctor squelched his neck spasms and reached for the lady. In pink cushioned palms he cradled his first foot of the day.
MARCELLE THIÉBAUX has stories in Twisted, Literal Latté, Karamu, The Cream City Review and most recently, Grand Central Noir (2013). Her books on medieval themes include historical novel Unruly Princess (2012) and The Stag of Love, soon to be reissued. She’s reviewed fiction for Publishers Weekly and the New York Times Book Review. She spent her childhood reading fairy tales in a tall house of noirish gray on the Hudson Boulevard in Jersey City, where she was born, within dreaming distance of the Meadowlands, the Kopper’s Coke sign and the Pulaski Skyway. She’s finishing a novel, American Girl, set in 1930s Berlin. She is a current award winner in the 82nd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition for her genre story “Berlin Noir.” MarcelleThiebaux.com
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 5, 2013
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