Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – August 14, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a group for writers I’ve been hanging out with.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

I’ve been re-working an earlier scene. Let’s go back… Jake has just walked into Beau’s Bar & Grill and has been talking with some guys at the bar.

            The barman drew a pint from the tap.

            “I spent some time up in Manhattan,” he said, placing the beer in front of me. “It was after I got out of the army. Used to catch the jazz shows at the Village Gate. Everybody played there.”

            I raised my glass and waved it in his general direction.

            “Vietnam?” I asked him.

            “That’s nice of you to say, son,” he replied, chortling. “Korea. I got to spend my formative years hanging around the 38th Parallel, waiting for things to go bad the way the old timers loved to say they would.”

            “How ‘bout you?” asked the reedy guy with the glass eye.

            I caught a whiff of sour tobacco on his breath, which was saying something in a bar as smoke-encrusted as Beau’s Bar & Grill. He must also have been an aggressive shaver, judging by the network of nicks and scrapes in various stages of healing.

            “Me?” I said. “You’re more likely to find me at CBGB’s on a Saturday night.”

            The barman chortled again.

            “I’ve heard stories about that place,” he said.

            “They’re all true.” I knocked back half of my beer.

            The reedy guy tapped me on the shoulder.

            “You know what I mean,” he said.

            “Yessir, I do,” I replied. “And the answer is I went when they drafted me.”

            “Went where?” asked the round guy.

            “Overseas. They shipped my ass overseas.” I emptied my glass. “All the way from Manhattan to Staten Island.”

            The reedy guy grimaced and shook his head a little. His rotund pal gave me a funny look for a second, then laughed from way down in the gut. The barman smiled and replaced my empty glass with a full one.

            “That’s a pretty good gag, mister,” said the round man.

            “The name’s Jake,” I replied, “and it’s no gag.  I spent my whole hitch guarding a warehouse on Staten Island. Never did find out who my guardian angel had to blow to get me that post.”

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – June 5, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a group for writers I’ve been hanging out with.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up where last week’s left off. Marisa and Jake have made their escape from the bar and are on the road to… who knows where? We open with conversation about Jed’s pending incarceration…

“I guess the man was planning to spend his last night free having a quiet drink or six,” I said.

“Until you gave him something else to think about.”

“I gave him something to think about?”

“Which one of us is cavorting around with his ex?”

“Which one of us sat herself right next to me? On an empty beach?”

She muttered at the window and dismissed me with a wave of her hand.

I hit the next curve at eighty-five, using the right shoulder to pass a battle-scarred produce truck. My tires screeched as I pulled back onto the road. The truck driver gave me the horn. I gave her the finger.

“Now I can believe you’re from New York,” said Marisa, smirking and shaking her head. “Where are we going, Jake?”

“My motel,” I replied. “I don’t know any other places here.”

“Good. Not even Jed wants to cross Evangeline.”

The moonlight broke through the cloud cover, painting the road ahead in incandescent blue.

“Not again, anyway,” she said.

 

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – May 28, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a group for writers I’ve been hanging out with.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up where the last one left off. Jake and Marisa have made their exit from Beau’s Bar & Grill – without the brawl they expected.

Now they’re in Jake’s car, heading out into the night…

Like most vehicles of a certain age and tonnage the 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme got from zero to sixty in about three days. If Jed and his party had wanted to catch us they’d have had time to walk to a dealership,  buy a brand new pickup, and then run us down.

I checked the rear view mirror as my beloved scow chugged and gasped into the straightaway, due north from Beau’s Bar & Grill. The door was just as shut as we’d left it. I accepted the absence of a gang of angry locals giving chase, but still gave the Olds more gas.

Sixty to eighty happened much faster. With a bit of forward momentum to work with all eight cylinders got involved, launching us down the moonlit road like a rocket hitting second stage.

“This jail thing,” I said, “when does he have to report?”

She leaned forward,  running her thumbs over her tattooed instep. The blue in the letters of the tattoo and the matching paint on her toes glowed in the soft moonlight.

“Supposed to be tomorrow.” The corners of her mouth twisted upward as she said it.

“Supposed to be?”

“I’ll believe it when I hear that big metal door shut and lock behind him.”

Clouds moved in from over the water, blotting out the moon. I switched on my high beams and concentrated on the road.

I took my right hand off the steering wheel and flexed the ache out of my fingers. I hadn’t noticed how tightly I’d been gripping the thing.

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – May 14, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been hanging out with.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up where last week’s left off. It’s a longer than usual, mostly because I really wanted to get us out of the bar already! Sorry ’bout that.

We’ve just learned that Jed is headed to jail for shooting someone, which moved him up a notch on Jake’s danger scale. The last lines of last week’s snippet ran like this (Jake speaks first);

“First time he pulled something that serious?”

“First time someone had the guts to testify against him in court.”

And here’s this week’s segment;

That earned Jed another notch. Maybe two.

I stopped dancing. It took her a second to follow suit.

“Only second degree?”

“Jury bought it when he said he didn’t intend to kill the man,” she replied.

I leaned back against the nearest unoccupied table. I had my pick of them. All of the tables in our immediate vicinity had become unoccupied over the last few songs.

“Do you buy it?”

“I don’t think he much cared, so long as he got to shoot him.”

I grumbled something unintelligible. I glanced at Jed’s end of the bar and ran right into five hard stares coming my way.

Jed and his crew had all turned to face Marisa and me and each man had his eyes on us. A uniform aura of the kind of overconfidence a man developed when everyone he’d ever roared at backed off in a hurry blanketed the five of them.

The four followers gave me the dead fish eyes, devoid of everything except for boredom and indifference. They were good at it too, though slight facial tics and a lot of blinking showed me how hard the two latest arrivals had to work to sit still.

The big man himself drained his beer, then gave me a smile that would’ve made a game show host proud.

Everything I needed to know was in that smile.

I matched Jed’s stare until the end of the song, then broke contact and took Marisa by the hand.

“We can clear out of here now,” I said, pivoting toward the door.

She turned with me, slipping her arm around my waist.

“You sure about this, Jake?” she asked. If she was disappointed by our uneventful exit she hid it well. Her tone of voice held only surprise and a hint of doubt.

“He wants me to know he’s there,” I said as we walked. “Nothing more.”

“For now,” she replied.

I paused when we reached the door. Marisa pushed it open.

“If he was gonna pull something we’d be into it by now.” I stifled the urge to look over my shoulder. “That’s how this usually works.”

She stepped forward and led me out of the bar. The heavy wooden door creaked as it inched shut behind us.

A gust of salty ocean wind blew through, chasing some of the cigarette stink away from us. The cries of seagulls enjoying the late night buffet near the edge of the water rode in with it.

“Usually, huh?” said Marisa.

I waited for ten long seconds. The door did not open.

“Usually,” I replied as we climbed into my Olds. “But not always.”

The engine caught on the first try. I gave her little gas before shifting her into gear.

Her sun-browned skin took on a reddish glow in the soft dashboard light. She slipped out of her sandals and stretched out her legs.

“Drive, Jake,” she said, resting her bare feet on my dash. “Shut up and drive.”

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – May 8, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been hanging out with.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up right where last week’s left off. Jake and Marisa are enjoying each others’ company at Beau’s Bar & Grill, under the watchful eye of Marisa’s ex, Jed. Marisa has just intimated that Jed, has something big on his mind and is about to tell Jake what it is…

“He’s going to jail.”

She showed me a smile packed with joy and regret in unequal parts. I showed her my best quizzical expression.

“He should be there now,” she continued. “His lawyer talked the judge into giving him a week to get his affairs in order.”

“Affairs? Like what? Arranging for someone else to traumatize the locals while he’s locked up?”

The smile faded into a scowl as I imagined visions of past grievances knocking around in her thoughts.

“Kids, mostly,” she replied. “He’s got a lot of kids to be looked after.”

“He’s got kids living with him?”

“It’s hard to tell who actually lives in that house.”

The record in the jukebox changed again. The basic four bar blues picked up a beat. Marisa and I danced a little bit faster.

Beau’s hard stare caught my attention from across the room. He glanced toward Jed’s end of the bar, then turned back to me with his best, “get the hell out of here while you still can,” look on his face.

I replied with what I hoped was my best, “I got this,” face.

“What’s he going down for?” I asked Marisa.

“Second degree assault,” she said. “He shot somebody.”

I nodded, moving Jed up a peg on the danger scale.

“First time he pulled something that serious?”

“First time someone had the guts to testify against him in court.”

 

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – May 1, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been hanging out with.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

When we last left our heroes, Marisa had just confided some past abuse- and her novel solution to the situation- to Jake. Marisa had elicited a promise from an inebriated Jed to never hit her again. The action picks up right where the most recent snippet left off, with Jake asking her if Jed had been holding up his end of the bargain of late.

Her response? She says, “More or less.”

We pick it up with Jake asking another question;

 

“Which has it been lately?”

She took far too long to answer that question too. I gave her the out by asking an easier one.

“How long have you two been exes?”

She sloughed off my arms from around her waist, then waved the back of her ring-less left hand in front of my face.

“Yeah,” I said. “I noticed that back on the beach. Doesn’t really mean anything.”

The freckles on her cheeks reddened as she got sore. Heat spread into her sharp blue eyes.

“It means it’s been long enough.”

“We’re talking years? Months? Hours?”

She placed one hand on my shoulder, pulling me toward her. The clean ocean scent of her hair chased the stale barroom air for a couple of seconds.

“You know, Jake.” she rasped, right into my ear, “you’re beginning to sound like a guy who doesn’t want to take me home tonight.”

I glanced at Jed’s end of the bar. His buddies had all occupied stools and, like their leader, sat in silence, not looking at Marisa and me. Everyone who’d been anywhere near that part of the bar had moved away.

“Your boy sure is the life of the party,” I said, lifting my head back up. She left her hand on my shoulder.

“Why? What’s he doing now?”

“Not a damned thing.”

“That’s how he is,” she said with a shrug. “He looks like the big, loud type, doesn’t he? Well, he’s not.”

“Until it’s clobbering time.”

“Even then he’s pretty quiet.”

We shut up for a little while. Marisa began moving her hips in time to the slow blues number coming out of the juke box. I allowed mine to follow her lead.

“He could have something on his mind tonight,” she said.

“You mean other than you and me?” I put my arms around her as we danced.

“Bigger than you and me, Jake. Much bigger.”

I felt eyes on me from all around the bar, probably every eye in the place, except for those belonging to Jed and his pals.

“Bigger?” I asked. “What might that be?”

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – March 27, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been hanging out with.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up right where we left off- with Jake and Marisa in Beau’s Bar & Grill. The presence of Marisa’s ex and his friends threatens to complicate their evening.

Unsure of exactly what he’s stumbled into, Jake has just asked Marisa, “What happens to you if I walk out of here alone?”

“You’re not gonna do that, are you, Jake?” she asked. “Walk out of here alone?”

“Does that worry you?”

She took some time to consider her answer. The clash of conflicting emotions on her face reminded me of a six car pileup on the Jersey Turnpike.

“It’s not what you think, Jake.”

I gave her some time to reconsider her answer.

“All right,” she relented, “it is what you think. But it only happened once and I took care of the problem myself.”

She starting talking faster. Faster and louder.

“After he knocked me around the house that night I hid out on the porch and waited for him to do what he always does after a big night.”

“What’s that?”

“Drinks too much beer and falls asleep on the couch. I waited ’til he started snoring, then got the shotgun out of the truck, went on in, and jammed it right up into his crotch.”
“Very effective,” I said.

“I promised him a twelve-gauge vasectomy if he didn’t swear to never put his hands on me like that again.”

“And he’s held up his end of the deal?”

“More or less.”

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – March 20, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been hanging out with.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

We last left our heroes hanging out in Beau’s Bar & Grill. A trio of Jed’s buddies has just arrived, running the numbers to five-to-one against Jake…

I watched the standard ceremony of handshakes and back slaps as the new arrivals gathered around Jed. The taller of the two bearded men hooted at Beau for service.

The big bartender sent a sour look my way, replaced the gun from where he’d taken it, then went over to take their orders.

Great barks of laughter from the end of the bar cut through the music. The handshaking and back slapping wasn’t over yet. Mickey and Jed’s other three pals were having a grand time. Jed nursed his beer in silence.

It was an interaction I’d seen dozens of times, the pack circling around the leader, each member fighting to win the title of most enthusiastic lieutenant.

“The gang’s all here,” said Marisa. “Now what?”

“Ever see those clowns in a scrap?” I asked, continuing to observe the ritual.

“You mean all of ’em together?” She took a look toward Jed and his boys.

Jed chose that moment to shift his gaze in our direction.

“Can’t say as I have,” she continued. “I’ve heard stories of them ganging up on people. Never saw them doing it, though.”

I nodded, turning my attention back to her. I saw fear in her eyes, fear and enough of something else to make me wonder how much ex there really was in their relationship.

“What happens if I walk out of here alone?” I asked.

She regarded me with an expression of worry and insouciance in nearly equal parts.

“To me or to you?”

“Let’s start with you.”

The stiffness in the set of her jaw and neck revealed how hard she had to work to not look toward Jed. I looked at him for her.

The guffawing had quieted down now that each man had a beer in his hand. Jed held court in the middle, engaging his crew in quiet conversation.

“You’re not gonna do that, are you, Jake?” she asked. “Walk out of here alone?”

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – March 6, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been hanging out with.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post a snippet.

When we left off, Marisa was telling Jed not to expect much help from anyone in the bar– including Beau, the proprietor– in his potential confrontation with her ex-husband Jed and his pals.

“Beau?” she asked, turning to look. “He’ll defend his bar, sure. Probably call the sheriff for you too, but I wouldn’t expect much more.”
The big bar owner glanced my way. I tried catching his eye. He didn’t return the look but he didn’t look away either.
“I don’t think he scares that easily,” I said.
She shrugged, moving to eliminate any remaining space between us in the process.
“Let’s worry about it when there’s something to worry about,” she said.
“Easy for you to say,” I replied, slipping my arms around her.
She rolled her hips to the beat and tried to pull me toward the middle of the dance floor. I planted my feet where we were.
“This is a good position,” I said, reeling her back in.
“I’ll have to remember that,” she replied, resting her hands on my shoulders.
Jed’s flunkies took another two tunes to arrive.
Three guys in ratty black concert t-shirts– two of them with mullets and matching lumberjack beards, one of them clean-shaved with short blonde hair– rumbled into the bar. They all had that lanky, yet big-boned, build common to bodies accustomed to long hours of physical labor.
They walked right by us on their way to join Jed at the end of the bar.
Jed didn’t look up from his beer.
Beau’s hand dipped back beneath the bar as they passed. I got an eyeful of a walnut brown gun stock when it came back up.

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Snippet Sunday – Hard-Boiled/Noir WIP – January 31, 2016

Snippet Sunday is a Facebook group for writers I’ve been privileged enough to have been accepted into.

From the group guidelines; “Welcome to Snippet Sunday, where writers come together to share a few sentences of their current project–whether it’s a recently released novel, a WIP (work in progress), or an older manuscript that’s being revived. Intended to hook readers, gather feedback and build an author’s fan base, Snippet Sunday is the FB group that does all three.”

This week’s snippet picks up where last week’s left off. The clown Jake refers to is Jed’s friend in the aloha shirt…

“Who’s the clown with him?”
“That’s Mickey,” she said. “One of Jed’s ex-brothers-in-law.”
“Should I be worried about him?”
“Mickey? He’s okay. Mostly.”
“Oh good.” I said, looking at the front door.
“I’m actually more concerned about Jed’s other friends.”
She looked toward the door too.
“Which other friends?”
“The ones he probably called a few minutes ago.”
“Jed doesn’t have friends so much as a bunch of guys who do what he tells ’em to.”
“Well that’s a relief.”
I pulled her in closer and we danced right through the next record change. The pickup in tempo brought people back out of their booths. They gave us much more than our fair share of space as they started moving to to the greasy blues groove.
“So your plan is to wait around for the rest of the gang to get here?” she asked.
“Better in here than out there. No telling what we’ll run into outside.”
Jed lumbered toward the far end of the bar. Martha and her husband saw him coming and vacated their seats. The husband gave Jed the stink-eye as they moved out of his way. Jed ignored the man and parked himself on an empty stool. Mickey stayed by the phone.
“If this town’s as small as you say,” I continued, “they ought to be here any time now. Once they’re inside I’ll know what I’m dealing with.”
She stared at me for a couple of seconds,
“You’ve done this before?”
I looked away, first toward Jed, then toward Beau behind the bar. The proprietor had relaxed a little. Both hands rested on the edge of the counter but he hadn’t moved from his spot.
“I’ve got witnesses in here,” I said, “and maybe I’ll even get a little help.”
She let her hands drop away from my shoulders.
“Were you listening to me? He’s got ’em all shit scared, Jake. Nobody here is going to help you.”
I nodded in Beau’s general direction.
“What about him?”
“Beau?” she asked, turning to look. “He’ll defend his bar, sure. Probably call the sheriff for you too, but I wouldn’t expect much more.”

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