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News & Features » January 2018 » “Cutting Corners” by Dick Carmel

“Cutting Corners” by Dick Carmel

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, a short of breath detective tracks his target . . .

Cutting Corners
by Dick Carmel
The Loop, Chicago, Illinois

Blades reached her just as the light at State and Washington turned green. He took her elbow, stopping her under the Macy’s clock that overhung the street, demonstrating that time hangs heavy as well as ticking short. Spring already. Blades’s shirt was plastered to his back under a tweed sports coat wrong for the weather, but that would probably be right for the season when the wind changed and blew in from the lake. There were no birds chirping over the Loop. Just pigeons depositing their opinions. No flowers in the air. Just the smell of fast-food joints and the odor of his armpits. No music, just his heart, crushing through his shirt. He counted to five before trying to talk. Twenty years earlier, he would have lost his breath at her beauty—blonde hair tumbling down, teasing her blouse, and a walk that wavered between the promise and danger of sex. These days, he was short of breath just from his job. No need for the added excitement of trailing a target. Even one who looked like her. Served him right for playing the ponies and needing to watch his shekels.

“I have some questions since we spoke,” he said.

“I’d like to buy back the introduction.”

They were walking again, purse hanging from her shoulder, banging her hip. Blades panted with every step. She abandoned him when he leaned against a building across the street. Served him right for not affording a cab. Learning her destination without the distraction of his sweat and shortness of breath would have let him take the offensive. Now, assuming he managed to spot her and catch up to her ahead, what he could do about it was the obvious question.

Once breathing as easy as he could these days, Blades resumed in her direction. She might have stopped at some window long enough for him to find her. If she entered a store, he would never know which one. But that was unlikely. She was the kind of woman who didn’t buy for herself. She was bought and paid for by his client. At $150 a day, Blades himself was for sale.

After another block, Blades got lucky. It had been a long time, but he hadn’t forgotten the smell of success at the hunt. She was looking at a display of diamonds, all too big for his wallet.

“Please don’t run again,” he managed to say. “I’m getting too old.”

“Getting?” She apprised him. “You were ‘got’ some time ago.”

He ignored the repartee. He had already told his client about her rendezvous the night before, at the Hilton. In the old days, he would have slipped the desk clerk cash for a key, entered their room with camera in hand, and caught them in the act. Eased his client out of the marriage without paying her a nickel. These days, he had no evidence. Just his testimony. Maybe he could trick her into admitting it on tape. He patted the recorder in his left hip pocket.

“Last night I saw where, when, and with who,” he said.

“With whom,” she said. She remained fixated on the gems, speaking in a tone indicating that he didn’t matter, but that she would humor him.

“Let’s talk about it.”

“Let’s,” she said. “But in private – the alley.” 

Now she was looking at him, appearing to size him up. What he wanted. If she took him seriously, she might sign the settlement agreement he had in his pocket without demanding any payment. Then he could keep the cash for himself. She nodded at the gangway between their building and the next. Agreeing on solitude and a quieter setting, he followed her there.

After just a few steps, Blades was panting again. Halfway in, she stopped. He managed to say: “Your husband is willing to make a deal, if you agree to it right now, without involving any lawyers. I’m glad I caught up to you.”

“You didn’t catch up to me, I fell back to you. If I had to, I would’ve walked backward to get rid of a witness. This is Chicago. The cops will just assume it’s another killing in the streets. Unusual for downtown, but still . . .” She had a pistol in her hand. Too small for more than a round, but it would do the job, and the street noise would muffle the sound. Breathing easy for a change, Blades closed his eyes and waited. 


DICK CARMEL was born in Chicago and now lives in a suburb. His short stories and nonfiction have been published in Typehouse Literary, Chicago Literati, bird’s thumb, Mash, and Travel Today, as well as in the Northwestern University Law Review. He has also written two crime novels (both unpublished, although according to his former agent he came close with the first). Suffering from either eclectic or haphazard taste, his favorite authors include Elmore Leonard, Tobias Wolff, Jennifer Egan, A. E. Home, and Rupert Thomson. Dick received B.A. and J.D. degrees from Northwestern University.


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 info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jan 19, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , , ,