“The Rumor” by Cass Lewis
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, Cass Lewis takes us to a dive bar in the gentrifying Mission District, where seedy neighborhood characters mingle with tech industry hipsters.
by Cass Lewis
Mission District, San Francisco, California
I had warned Mikey Ronagan that sooner or later someone was going to shoot that cocky smile off his face, so I don’t know why I’m letting the image of his dead body ruin my moment today.
All I have to do is sign the papers and I will be free of this moldy cave of a bar aptly named “Dive” in San Francisco’s Mission District, a neighborhood teeming with hipsters un-ironically complaining about gentrification. My block of the Mission is bookended with a store that sells high-end dog sweaters and a shop that sells rosaries and tall candles depicting Catholic saints. Within one block you can smell freshly baked tortillas wafting from the taqueria and ripe mangos being sold at the produce stand to the foul stench of incinerated garbage and unwashed homeless people neglected and ignored by passersby. Throughout the palm tree-lined streets, hundreds of colorful murals cover the brick walls, ranging from portraits of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta inspiring workers to rise up, to a sci-fi portrayal of the tech boom destroying the world.
At night, I turn up the volume of the rockabilly music to drown out the cacophony of gunfire erupting on the next block, which is the territory line of two warring gangs. The city newspaper doesn’t even mention when a gang member is gunned down yet regularly offers listings of the best local pet spas.
But that’s not why I’m selling the bar. I made plenty of money here and I stand to make even more now that this area is becoming as affluent as the Marina District. I’m selling it because I haven’t slept an entire night since I had to dispose of Mikey’s body six months ago, and no matter how hard I scrub or how many times I paint over the cement floor I can’t get the sight of his blood and brain matter out of my field of vision.
I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe that the guilt from our sins can haunt us and ruin our lives far worse than any poltergeist portrayed in the scariest horror movie. And right now the ghost of Mikey Ronagan is threatening to kill this deal.
Victoria Eagleton sits across from me in the corner stool of my bar. She wears her blond hair combed away from her face with its petite features. Her pearl necklace, which she rolls between her thumb and pointer finger, glows in the dim light.
“You’re not getting cold feet now, are you?” she asks.
I shake my head and ask her to tell me again about her plans to turn my bar into a “smoothie shack.”
But all I can hear is Mikey’s voice the morning after I brought him home with me.
“I’m not a cop,” he said. His voice’s raspy timbre underscored his rock star appearance of long, dark hair and pronounced sideburns. He looked too good to be true, which was one of the reasons Billy, a regular at my bar who happens to be a coke dealer, started calling Mikey a phony.
“I’m telling you, Mikey,” I said, “everyone knows you’re an undercover cop. It’s only a matter of time before someone kills you. And, cop or not, you and I both know it won’t make the papers and no one will even notice.”
“You’re just saying that because of last night,” he said, touching my bare shoulder. Even now, I can still feel the warm weight of his hand against my skin.
That morning I was hung over and offended that he only came home with me to sleep off his buzz. When he woke up, he apologized and revealed that he was actually married. Without thinking of the consequences, I shot off my mouth about him being an undercover cop, first to him and then later to Billy when he made some crack about my taking home the regulars.
The next afternoon, I found Mikey sprawled across the floor of my bar, his handsome face completely gone. My vices and questionable associations made calling the cops out of the question. So I closed down the bar and hauled his body down to the basement’s industrial-sized incinerator.
“I’m really excited to get started,” Victoria says, handing the pen to me. “This place has such a welcoming vibe.”
I nod and sign the papers as the coagulated red spatter closes in on my vision.
CASS LEWIS is an award-winning playwright with productions in London, New York, Dublin, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities. Her work has been published in 10 books and several magazines including: Boston Literary Magazine, Fractured West, Weave Magazine, The Dirty Goat, and Big Pulp. Her experience working with maximum-security inmates, at-risk youth, homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals informs her writing. More information can be found on her website: CassLewis.com.
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: Sep 26, 2016