Name: Clara Noir
Occupation: Professional Mime
Height: 5’6″
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Black
Skin: Death metal pale
Outfit: Black and white striped trench coat, black fedora, black leggings, white boots
Description:
Mimetown is a rough-and-tumble neighborhood of the city, with a vibrant culture and cuisine that hides a seedy underbelly. Clara Noir plies her trade in the roughest part of town as she mimes glass boxes and ropes for tips.

Some say that she is involved in other, darker business with Mr. Quiet, the unspoken crime boss of Mimetown. Trouble never seems to be far behind her, and if she knows anything, she ain’t talking.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

She entered the office with a swagger, chocolate gams on full display despite the comparatively bitter cold outside. She wore sunglasses against the glare of Alaska’s winter.

The detective looked up from his newspaper, pale and delicate behind dark glasses. “I’m closed,” he said, taking the full measure of his prospective client’s dark smooth skin and sweet smell.

But clients were hard to come by in Fairbanks, so he made no further attempts to eject her.

“I need your help,” she said. “I’m being stalked.”

“Stalked by who?” the detective said. “An ex?”

“Cadbury. Nestlé. Mars. All the major candymakers have a man in town looking for me.”

“Hmph,” snorted the detective. “You’re not that sweet, I can tell.”

The woman swept off her glasses. Eyes, eyelids, eyelashes…everything was the same chocolate shade as her long legs. She was a woman literally made of milky chocolate, and only cool temperatures and strategic clothing made it possible for her to walk about unchallenged. “They want the secret of my creation,” she said. “To make chocolates that dance, chocolate pets, a whole world of enslaved sentient treats. I don’t suppose you understand that, or believe me.”

The detecttive swept off his own glasses, revealing marshmallow peepers of his own. “Try me,” he said.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

“It’s simply that a koala isn’t what I was anticipating ,” said the client.

“Oh, so you think that koalas are somehow inherently unable to do mercenary work?” the bear said, its voice strangled and unnatural, issuing as it did from the koala’s nasal vocal folds..

“Well, I’ve never even met a mercenary before, much less one who was a kolala,” the client said quickly.

“I’m one of the handful of critters that can properly handle a gun,” the koala sighed. “With two thumbs, I can shoot better and more accurately than anyone or anything else! I can see better than humans and smell better than humans to boot.”

Genuine curiosity and defensive scorn; the client was seemingly torn between both. “Why haven’t I seen any koala mercenaries before, then?”

“Dolls. Recently humans’ dolls have gotten fat enough so their clothes are our size,” the mercenary koala said, “and that’s what’s been holding us back in the eucalyptus trees all these years. The only thing.”

“So, can you help me?” The client shifted uneasily.

“Yes, provided you can meet my fee,” the koala said. “50 pounds of young and tender eucalyptus shoots a day, plus expenses.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Art Huck–and, for that matter, his moll June, 24 years his junior–always seemed a little schizoid, arguing with themselves about decisions with any sort of ramifications. That was in full swing right now, with Art riposting with himself while riding bitch on Captain Ramirez’s motorcycle about the merits of opening fire on the fleeing forms of Rosie the robot hooker and her captive paramour Rich “The Bitch” Bichovic (LAPD badge number 1138) over one shoulder and Lawrence Wong, a Buddhist clergyman, over her other.

“Shoot her in the head, I invented her and it’ll slow her down! No, no. Just wing the Bitch and it’ll slow her down even better. No, we don’t want to hit him. But we don’t want to hit her either. Damn!”

Ramirez, wondering how the meaty slab of a passenger–and a known pimp at that–had goaded him into a ride-along in the sidecar of his ’28 Indian Chief cycle, snapped back: “I’m not shooting at anything! Say your stop word like you promised.”

As any good part-time mad scientist with a gynoid automaton should, Art had programmed Rosie’s difference engine to stop at the utterance of a specific word. But Art was also determined to see Rosie undamaged and her passenger–and his attempted murderer–laid out on a slab. He fumbled in his vest pocket for the .32 Iver Johnson break-action revolver, loaded with armor-piercing slugs, that he always kept on hand.

For her part, when Rosie had abandoned the bus to Reno after the police had blown out its tire on the side of the road, she’d had nothing on her mind but matrimony with a side of escape. With her beau in one hand and a priest in the other, all she needed was the rest of the wedding party. It was, after all, her day. But when she saw a roadside Woolworth’s, though, Rosie the Riveting made a sudden, and sharp, turn. Woolworth’s had everything, after all, including everything you needed for an impromptu wedding.

Captain Ramirez, shaken by the report of a pistol right next to his good ear, shouted at the small-time pimp and part-time mad scientist riding bitch in his sidecar to drop his weapon. Art argued with himself about it, but was largely drowned out by the roar of a Dusenberg V12 alongside–his wife, June Huck, behind the wheel. She’d caught up with her husband by stealing his car, and was shouting something about a safety deposit box. The bitch had been trying to get into it, to make off with Art’s nest egg, since he’d met her.

That was enough for him. He shouted out the safe word.

Rosie’s mainspring unwound, and her storage compartment–with a door located about where you would expect on a hooker automaton–sprang open. Every little thing Art had ever used her to hide, from weapons to diamonds to oil, splurted out. All at once.

The massive pile-up accident that followed went pretty much like one would expect.

Inspired by Fiasco by Bully Pulpit Games, specifically the Los Angeles 1936 playset.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Officer Richard Bichovic, LAPD badge number 1138–“Rich the Bitch” behind his back, or to his face if you didn’t mind a knuckle sandwich with a pound cake for dessert–turned the tumblers on the lock to his cheap apartment. The Bryson Towers apartments, once the Mayfair Hotel, had weathered the depression about as well as Rich himself had. The interior was a dark snarl of empty liquor bottles, .38 special shells both live and spent, unspeakable stains, and private armies of cockroaches marching in lockstep as they fought fierce turf wars.

Shaking down Art Huck, that big Stonehenge of a part-time mad scientist turned full-time pimp for robot girls of his own invention, had once been Rich’s best source of quarters to stick into robo-girls (or to stash in the rainy-day fund to buy the occasional soft silk ladies’ undergarments in size 42). Now that mook had the gall to turn the tables and blackmail Rich with a pair of a pair of Lovelace-brand lacy lavender ladies’ lingerie panties and a newsreel of them in action. His wife, June Huck, had been far too uninterested in killing her husband given their 23-year age difference and her repeated insistence that the relationship had been all about Art’s key to a safe deposit box at the Commonwealth Savings & Loan.

But when the streetlamp light from outside illuminated the inside of Rich’s apartment, sending all manner of fellow vermin scrambling for somewhere dark and moist, Rich realized that his earlier thought at Florian’s Bar–that things couldn’t get much worse–had been perhaps the understatement of the year. Or at least tied with Captain Ramirez of the 77th Precinct saying that Jesse Owens had done “okay” in the Olympics.

Rosie Nuts ‘n’ Bolts–Rosie the Riveting, Art Huck’s earliest robot gal, still his number one earner, a robo-prostitute with a heart of gold (Rich knew, he’d seen it, he knew where the hatch was)–was sitting on the moldy, sheetless Murphy bed. She was wearing a wedding dress, holding a diamond ring big enough for King Edward VIII to set in a crown for his mistress.

“I-LOVE-YOU-RICH,” she said. “I-LEFT-FATHER. WE-ARE-GETTING-MARRIED.”

“…wha?” Rich said.

“THIS-IS-MY-DAY,” Rosie said, her vacuum tube eyes flickering brightly and sparks shooting from her mouth. “WE-ARE-GETTING-MARRIED. I-LIKE-IT-SO-I-AM-GOING-TO-PUT-A-RING-ON-IT. FATHER-O’HOULIHAN-WILL-MEET-US-IN-RENO.”

“L-look, babydoll, this is all a little sudden,” Rich slurred, through half a bottle of Olde Fortran Malt Whiskey from Florian’s private reserve. “Don’t you think that you could get those panties from your ‘dad’ for me? Burn that film? What good’ll it do it get married if my reputation’s in tatters?”

“THIS-IS-MY-DAY,” repeated Rosie. Rising, she seized Rich’s tottering form with a whirring of flywheels and servos, thrust the ring onto his right index finger (spraining it and drawing blood). Against his half-hearted protests, she carried him to the bus stop.

“WE-ARE-GETTING-MARRIED,” she repeated to the bust driver on the Reno Express, departing hourly from the Del Mar racetrack. “THIS-IS-MY-DAY. TAKE-US-TO-RENO.”

The bus driver, uneasily eyeing the automata carrying a semi-conscious uniformed LAPD officer, demurred. In addition to worries about the law, he was a Traditionalist Catholic who strongly objected to Pop Pius XI’s recent recognition of robosexual marriage, and explained his concerns to Rosie as simply and straightforwardly as he could.

In response, the mecha-bridezilla flung him bodily through the window. Depositing Rich in an empty seat, she slammed the accelerator and headed for Reno with twenty terrified nuns, a tour group from Chinatown, and a typewriter salesman from Sacramento.

Inspired by Fiasco by Bully Pulpit Games, specifically the Los Angeles 1936 playset.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Arthur “Art” Huck had bigger dreams for the small-time auto garage and filling station he’d inherited. The small-time crook and part-time mad scientist had transformed the oily floors and smoky, squealing lifts into a smouldering den of sex wreathed in cigarette and exhaust smoke. LA was full of pimps in ’36, preying on girls that came to the big city with stars in their eyes, but people tended to notice when they turned up with a shiner or rigor mortis. Art Huck’s girls, though, had no such problems.

All they needed was an oil change every six months or 3000 miles. Whichever came first.

The first client into Art’s garage bordello, illuminated only by the late-afternoon sunshine streaming through grimy windows, was Officer Richard Bichovic, LAPD badge number 1138. He might have been handsome had he not been so irredeemably greasy, but luckily Art’s robot gals liked ’em greasy. “Rich the Bitch,” as he was known behind his back, had a fixation with Art’s number one bot, Rosie, that was matched only with his fixation for money and self-affected swagger. Rich’d been hustling Art and his young wife for protection money for years, ever since being put on the beat.

All that was about to change, though.

“Hey, Art,” Rich said. “What are you doing, standing in my way like a rock out of Stonehenge? You know how much I love shaking you down for quarters to put in Rosie’s slot, but that cycle of life doesn’t work unless I get in there to meet her.”

Art, as much a thick cut of beef at 42 as he’d been in his prime, was unmoved. “Look, Bitch-ovic. You and me, we got business.”

“It’s pronounced Beak-o-vick,” Officer Bichovic snarled. “In the old country it meant ‘fierce warrior,’ so show a little respect.”

“Well, it don’t mean that here,” Art said. He shifted his oily cigar in his mouth. “Bitch,” he added, with a deliberate cloud of smoke.

“You just keep at it, then,” said Rich, shaking with barely concealed fury. “I’ll slap another percent onto your ‘rent’ foe every time you say it. Now beat it. I got a hankering to see Rosie again, put some more of your quarters in her slot.”

Ah, Rosie. Rosie the riveting. Art’s first robot creation, with a copper bodice molded onto her like the hood ornament of a Rolls-Royce Phantom III. She was a robot with a heart of gold, Rich knew. He’d seen it. He knew where the hatch was.

“I got another thought for you,” said Art. “You’re not gonna take any more of my quarters from now on…Bitch.”

“Beak-o-vick!” Rich snapped.

“You’re gonna put your own quarters in Rosie’s meter from now on, or you’re going to sit at home with your new gal Hoover. Unless, of course, you want the boys at the precinct to see this.” Art held up a pair of lacy lavender ladies’ lingerie, Lovelace-brand panties, up with one finger.

Lacy lavender ladies’ lingerie, Lovelace-brand panties with a 42-inch waist, that was.

“Those could be anyone’s drawers,” Rich said, trying his best to hide the nervousness in his voice.

“Rosie’s got a photographic memory,” Art said through a cloud of fresh sun-dappled cigar smoke. “Want to take my word for it, or would you like to see the newsreel?”

Inspired by Fiasco by Bully Pulpit Games, specifically the Los Angeles 1936 playset.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

This post is part of the March 2013 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s prompt is “What the Leprechaun Said,” your generic St. Patrick’s Day sort of thing.

Our last thrilling episode!

“The Leprechaun took it.”

It didn’t surprise me that the trail led back to the Leprechaun. Every piece of gold in Halftown, everything that could possibly be converted into a piece of gold in Halftown seemed to wind up in his pot eventually. Many a gumshoe had gotten a good working over from his goons, provided that they were small or sloppy enough to be overpowered by halflings. So I suppose you could say not that many gumshoes had been worked over, since it was mainly me and Marlow the Low in the Halftown PI gig.

I found the Leprechaun at his usual watering hole, The End of the Rainbow Club, a little speakeasy under the city’s main sewer line. He was at the head of a sumptuous banquet, a fine old halfling tradition that had been driven (literally) underground by banquet prohibition. The guard at the door let me in for some reason when I said I had business with the Leprechaun, probably because I’d come out black and blue every time I went (or was dragged) in.

“Word on the street is that you have a Gorgon’s head-snake in your pot,” I said, cutting straight to the head of the feast with a causal lope. “Just so happens I’m in the market for one.” I casually took out a pack, shook a cigarette into my hand, and then bit the end off. Candy cigarettes kill more halflings than real ones; we like our sweets early and often.

“That so, Tuesday?” said the Leprechaun. He slid off his chair, which put him at about eye level for me. He’s a halfling, of course, not a real leprechaun–that’s just a silly idea. Everyone knows leprechauns are extinct. But if you’re a halfling redhead named Mungle Snuh, the name has a certain cachet.

I tugged on the brim of my fedora. “That’s right. Girl likes her hair the way it is and hired me to bring it back.”

“Do you have any idea what a Gorgon’s snake is worth to the right people?” the Leprechaun continued. “It sees everything they see, hears everything they hear. It’s an easy ticket to blackmail or more, and it’s going to take more than the sayso of a shoer punk like you to make me give it up.”

Halflings don’t trust anybody that wears shoes, you see, least of all their own kind. Me, I kind of like mine–gum sticks to it a lot better than the alternative. Being called a “shoer,” a shoe-wearer, is one of the worst slurs you can sling at a halfling, right up there with “kid” and “dieter.” “Oh, you’re going to give me what I want, Mungle,” I said, hooking my thumbs under my suspenders. “And you’re going to do it for free.”

“Is that so?” The Leprechan’s feastgoers began to rise, looking rather put out and brandishing clubs and small-caliber mohaskas. “And how exactly are you going to do that?”

“That’s an excellent question, Mungle,” I said. “I’ll let you know when I figure it out.”

The exciting continuation!

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
robeiae
writingismypassion
Sudo_One
randi.lee
pyrosama
SRHowen
katci13
MsLaylaCakes
meowzbark
dclary
Angyl78
KitCat
Bloo
areteus
dolores haze
ConnieBDowell
Lady Cat
Araenvo
MichaelP
Ralph Pines

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

It’s never a good sign when a client wants to meet you in an alleyway instead of your office. Granted, the average alleyway smells a bit better than my office and lets in less water when it rains. But the clients always want their suspicions to be alley’d, and I oblige; for my part, I think they’ve seen too many detective movies. I know I have; it’s where we both get our expectations for dress and the proper hardboiled tone for narration.

Evryali the Gorgon was waiting for me in the alley next to my office, her back turned, protected from the rain by a cheap paper parasol from Chinatown. “Your message said you had acquired it,” she hissed. “Let me see.”

I pulled out an old wooden crate–it’d held my last factory order of Lil’ Devil brand snack cakes– and dropped the small, wet packet on it, opening it to reveal the small but highly poisonous snake that had sent me to the emergency room three times and the toilet seventeen times since my halfling “brother” Mungle Snuh had surrendered it under duress of having his feast ruined by a torrent of sewage.

“I’m gonna bite you again, you know,” the snake said. “Even if you are bringing me back to my mistress. It’s just what I do.”

“You just do whatever you have to do,” I said. Sure enough, the tiny snake rose up and sank his teeth deeply into the iron knights’ gauntlet I was wearing, a late borrowing from Gilberte the Small, Knight Errant of 57th Street. The snake cried out in pain and recoiled.

“That’s him, all right.” Evryali turned and approached me, an envelope in her hands. “And here is our agreed-upon fee.”

I reached out to take it, but the snake interrupted my train of thought (money money money or something along those lines) with a startled squawk: “That’s not my mistress! What’re you trying to pull?”

I looked up, surprised. I should have known something was up; statistical analysis shows that 2/3 of my clients try to double-cross me (with the remaining third just settling for skipping out on the bill).

“Too bad you had to open your scaly mouth,” Evryali purred. She grasped her shades, ready to pull them down.

For my part, my anti-Gorgon shades were still with Chang’s Dry Cleaning and Pressing, so I pulled out my gun. I tried to, anyhow; it’s hard to handle a gun made for human hands, even human children’s hands, as a halfling. I dropped the gun instead, and it went off with a crack, with the .22 caliber bullet (hey, it’s the biggest round I can manage, recoilwise) ricocheted harmlessly off Evryali’s normal-looking but subtly armored skin. She laughed, and exposed her blood-red eyes.

Luckily for me, petrification isn’t instant death. As long as your ‘statue’ is intact, anyone with a little mandrake juice or harpy tear salve can being you back. In fact there are roving freelance gangs who do just that, picking up statues and holding them for “safekeeping” while relatives scrape together the cash for a de-petrification. That was the next thing I saw: a cigar-chomping satyr in suspenders and wifebeater, de-petrifying my face (and only my face) so I could arrange to buy my way into a full de-petrification.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

They call me Tuesday because that’s the name on the door. It’s not my name, mind you; it’s just on the door. The last gumshoe in this office went by that name; fittingly enough, he disappeared on a Saturday. but his last rent check was dated Tuesday, or so the landlord tells me.

I really ought to change the name on the sign. But Tuesday is a good name for drumming up private investigation business, much more so than my given name of Hurgo Smendlings IV.

When the dame called at my door, she looked down the length of her nose at me. It wasn’t because of the fifth of gin in my hand or the revolver on the table or the stains from last week’s lunch on my suspenders so much as the fact that she was two and a half feet taller than me. Also she was in stiletto heels and I was at my desk.

“You Tuesday?” she said in a sultry voice. I mean that in the most literal way possible; even at my desk I could feel the humidity rolling off her tongue.

“That’s what the sign says. You need something detected?” I took in her dark sunglasses and the subtle bobbing and weaving of her headscarf…clearly a Gorgon, maybe even one with a real license instead of the fake ones passed around at the docks by snakeladies who petrify people for kicks. Luckily, my shades were Gorgon-proof–basic tool for the private investigator gig. Unfortunately, they were also in my coat pocket at the dry-cleaners.

“One of your people stole something from me,” the Gorgon said, still exhaling moist snake-breath all over my otherwise dry and pleasant office. “I’m looking for someone who knows the halflings and their ways to retrieve it.”

I leaned back casually and put my shoes up on the table. It hurt my back to do that, but people expected it of a private investigator almost as much as the gin and the gun and the fedora. “I have my sources, sure,” I said. “I can give it a shot. But you ought to know that ‘my people’ in Halftown don’t fully trust people like me who leave the community and do unhalflingish things like wear shoes and ask a lot of questions.” That was kind of true, but I was also a little anxious to hurry the humid snake-lady from a people famous for their duplicity and cruelty out the door so I could get back to my nap.

“I’ll pay the full going rate plus expenses and double it if you find the item.”

“Deal.” Then again, a customer was a customer. “What are you looking for?”

“A single lock of my hair,” hissed the Gorgon.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!

Lewis jerked back like a puppet on a string. “No! Please! I’ll tell you what you want to know.”

“Start singing. What do you know about the book?” I’d known from the first that he had a little bit of a songbird in him, but hadn’t been expecting Handel’s Messiah.

“He came by here the other day, looking to pawn it. Said it’d be worth a lot of scratch to the right buyer.” Lewis stared straight ahead as he talked, like a deer in the headlights of a ’32 Cadillac. The truth always was a little blinding for his type, though the fact that he was staring down the headlight of my .32 Winchester probably helped.

“And what’d you say?” I asked, though I already knew the answer. A rube like him was happy enough to buy a heater fresh from intensive recruitment for the local undertaking parlors, but didn’t have any use for a book aside from a doorstop. Lewis would’ve torn up a Gutenberg Bible to pack the pages around a 4-cylinder that leaked more than his roof.

“I told him to hit the bricks,” Lewis said. “No money in books.” Clearly, he’d never seen the hollowed-out Tolstoy in my office full of liquor futures.

“Where was he going after you told him to get on the trolley?”

“No idea.” Lewis glanced nervously at the shooting iron in my mitt like it was going to jump on the counter and do a dance. “A…are you a detective?”

I put my hat back on and pulled my collar up. “I’m a librarian,” I said. “And Mr. Salvatori’s book is very overdue.”