My Pentium 920 typewriter clacked furiously as I slapped my calloused fingers against her cold metal arms. DING! as I flipped the release lever. Rain smacked the window behind me, in a moment of contemplative silence I focused on the water’s pings. The tiny sound waves sending their small vibrations through the air, into my eardrum. Too much thought, so I took a swig. It was something strong and amber, I held the bottle high a little longer than was comfortable. The warm slosh down my throat didn’t kill the thoughts though, it released them. I was complete, I’d finally done it. A real detective was what I’d become, a man in a trenchcoat, drink in hand, clacky typewriter. Even the goddamn weather worked in my favor, that dark noir rain. That’s when she came in. A done-up broad with legs longer than… eh screw it. She was hot and in need, just as I had expected. “Mister” she called in that whining twang of Mid-Atlantic English. “Mister, I need your help. I seem to only exist in this universe just to provide you with some, well, some sort of story.” She strode toward me with the sway of the ocean, her head buried in her hands. “And I’ve, I’ve forgotten what to tell you. I’m sure it had to do with a murder, and I know it was in a dark part of town, you know the place Mister. It also involved my dangerous and risque career as a night performer, you see. I sing and dance on stage.” I stepped onto my soapbox, lifted her head and stared into those beautiful blues. “It’ll be alright darling, there’s no stopping Clark Weston.” I gave her a name that sounded strong, a name she could rest her head on. “Oh Clark,” she looked at me and slipped a Virginia Slim from her handbag, I offered to light but she declined. The lightbulb above us grew more intense and she stared into the window and as if reading lines from a script she let out, “Today’s woman can take care of herself.” She winked, still facing the window, then struck a sulphur light that sputtered and spit before burning white.
“Listen Doll, I need to know what you seem to have forgotten in order to get this thing moving. Any ideas on what’ll jog your memory?” From the window a voice seemed to say “whispering murders” but before I could ask the leggy blonde if she’d heard the words, she repeated the same. “He was murdered, my god he was murdered, and before he died he told me that there was a whisper in his ear.” I looked into the strained face, the crow’s feet and running mascara and asked, “Who, Miss, who was murdered?” From the window again, “brother.” I stared at the glass, rain panging away. “My brother, oh lord, my own brother was the one who was murdered…” Her story had quickly become secondary to my primary concern, where was this voice coming from? “Will you help me, Mr. Weston?” the Dame called as I stepped toward the window. “You heard that voice, didn’t you?” I asked, brushing away what I had quickly suspected to be her false concern. “No, nothing but the rain.” But she was wrong, there was more outside than just the rain, there was a voice feeding her lines.
I pulled at the pane and snapped through the layers of paint, this thing hadn’t been opened in years. Rain slapped at my knuckles and face as I poked from the third story. Nothing. Nothing but a couple black cars and flashing neon. I shoved the glass back in place, “Yea, I’ll help you, where do we start?” She flashed a closed smile and swayed her way out the front door to the stairs.
She slipped into the passenger seat of what must’ve been my car. “The Rouge, that’s where we go first.” And although I had never heard of the place my arms seemed to turn at the right moments, twisting the black Crown Vic down the rain soaked streets. The neon greeted our arrival, Girls… Girls… Girls…. hanging on the wall. Three in succession neon orange, neon yellow, neon red. “This is it, better let me inside first.” She didn’t ask, she told. I followed.
The building was alive with topless women and spinning lightbeams. Men with fists of money and drinks stood at the edges of the dancer’s platforms. “HE’S WITH ME” shouted the dame to a beefy brickhead with scars on his cheeks. We made our way past him. Upstairs she shut a door behind us and the music was muffled away. “Okay, your clue is in here.” With that she sat on a folding chair and twirled her locks. I scrunched my nose and began to ask my seedy underground guide how she knew the location of my clue but stopped at the sight of a red splotched teddy bear. Blood. I held it to my face and examined the matted spots. “My god!” shrieked the blonde. “My god it was his. My brother’s bear!” Her face fell to her hands. “Listen here, you told me I’d find my clue, you knew about this bloody bauble. Tell me, what’s the big idea?” With no response I grabbed her arm, “Tell me how you knew this was here? You put it here?” But she wailed without pause.
The door rattled against ferocious knocks. “PROTAGONIST! YOU WON’T SURVIVE YOUR FIRST FIGHT.” The door flew forward, released of its wall-bound hinges. The scarred brickhead emerged from surprisingly theatrical smoke that seemed to fill the doorway. “You won’t be the hero of this story, I’ve crushed many greater than you on my way to the top.” Though reason seemed unwelcome, I had to find why this brute wanted a battle. “You don’t know me, I’ve done no wrong here. Why do you want to fight?” The man relaxed from his hunched position and beamed a pair of intelligent brown eyes. “You want a reason?” He smiled. “Maybe the woman you’re with is my lover and the cries that came from behind the door set off my short fuse. No? Ok, maybe she’s working with me and has lured you into this conveniently small room just so I can arrive and steal your money. Still not convinced? Let’s just say that this is your first test. As I pointed out before, you are the protagonist, you are the hero this time. But don’t get me wrong, that’s no insurance that you’ll survive. I’ve killed four hero’s before you and, if history is any judge, I’ll kill you too. This is your chance to prove yourself, to prove that you can stand up against the brute. Will you use cunning and wit, will your strength win? Ha, I think not. What was the name He gave you? Clark Weston. Catchy. Prepare to die Clark Weston.” The brute heaved the recliner in my direction, but I had already leapt to the side, dodging the explosion of wood and cushions. The brute did seem formidable, by his own count he had killed “my kind” several times before. While I never had the chance to meet them, I had to wonder why they never carried the staple item held by any respectable private investigator, a handgun. But this question among others had no answer. And in wondering all of this, I quickly cocked the hammer on my Smith & Wesson just before unloading three rounds into the formidable gut of the brute. And like a tall rotted log, he fell hard and let a hollow howl. I knew this place wasn’t right from the beginning, the way I just “woke up” at the office and how the voice came in from the window. I needed more answers than who the whispering murder was and I think the best place to start was with that dame.