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News & Features » August 2017 » “Marktown” by Noah Dobin-Bernstein

“Marktown” by Noah Dobin-Bernstein

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, when the neighborhood goes south…

by Noah Dobin-Bernstein
Marktown, East Chicago, Indiana

These punks sure picked an appropriate place to play at the apocalypse.

Nothing like flaming smokestacks for milieu. The whole neighborhood looks like it’s waiting to rise from the dead. Can’t say as much for our victim. From the amount of blood drying on the splintered floor, safe money says he’s in the ground to stay.

I have to step out for whatever they’ve substituted for fresh air in Indiana. The four square blocks of Marktown are sandwiched between steel mills and an oil refinery, but cat piss wins the war of the odors. The smell reminds me I have no idea where to find a bathroom. Like clockwork, I start a murder case and my ulcerative colitis flares up. I better make quick work of the crime scene or I’ll soon be squatting in some trash heap that used to be a backyard.

The facts seem straight-forward enough. Some company bought up a run- down neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon and turned it into a live video game for rich kids from Wicker Park.

I spot one of the residents lurking by a burnt-out garage and wave him over. He’s got a wind-sacked comb-over and tells me he used to be steelworker. He confirms yesterday’s events.

“Yeah, that’s right,” he says. “They came around a couple weeks ago. Offered us cash to leave town for the day. Only seven of us left in Marktown, all the other houses are abandoned.”

“Did you know they’d be shooting up the neighborhood with paintballs?”

“Yeah, they told us. Even offered us an extra hundred if we wanted to act like a zombie. You know, in their game. I told ‘em no. Sounded like too much for me with my arthritis and all.”

“Did you know the killer?”

“I seen him around. Nice guy, just desperate. The other day, I saw him and his kid by the Subway in the Harbor. Bought ‘em a footlong. I don’t know the drugs these days, but he was on something.”

He was. The test came up positive for a poor man’s speedball – meth and opioids. Probably made it easier to pull the trigger.

My new buddy pulls out a cigarette and I ask if I can use his bathroom.

He walks me through a covered porch, the giant holes in the screens patched by cobwebs. Inside, the living room is surprisingly bright and tidy with freshly painted yellow walls.

“It’s nice in here,” I say.

“Marktown used to be nice. Back when actual people worked in the mills.”

The bathroom isn’t bad either, with a small window and only one cockroach. I sit on the cracked toilet seat and replay the crime. A guy barges in to the wrong house with a paint-ball revolver and a squatter guns him down with something a lot harder than paint. The squatter’s toddler was sleeping in the next room.

Was it self-defense? Negligence of the Role Play company? Murder?

I wipe and check for blood on the toilet paper. Sure enough, the flare up has begun. Back outside, I find the ex-steelworker finishing his cigarette, exhaling together with the thousands of smokestacks around us.

“So,” he asks. “You police? Investigating the crime?”

“Yeah, I’m a detective,” I say. “Outsourced though, the police don’t hire their own anymore.”

“You mean like a scab?”

God bless him, doesn’t flinch at a murder but scowls if you cross a picket line.

“I guess so.”

With that I wave a goodbye and head back toward my car. A Benz has pulled up at the scene, and a guy steps out looking like an insurance salesman from Middle Earth. He hands me his card – CEO, Dystopic Gaming Experience.

“I’ve got the releases,” he starts, showing me a sheet of fine print with the victim’s signature. “We explained clearly that these boarded buildings were off- limits. The gamers knew the risks.”

“Sure,” I say. “Shame when your zombies get out of control.”

“This gentleman was squatting illegally in an abandoned house with a gun and no permit.” Our CEO is now a lovely combination of panicked and pissy. “Are we responsible for that?”

I have plenty to say to this bastard, but what’s the point? Long story short, a poor addict shot a hipster. We all know how this one ends.

I scratch some notes and speed off through the fields of identical oil tanks, looking for a fast-food joint to take a shit on the way home.


NOAH DOBIN-BERNSTEIN is a union organizer living in Chicago. He is currently at work on a collection of intersecting stories about diverse Chicago characters in the near future.


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: Aug 28, 2017

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