Monday, May 10, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 449 - Steve Wheeler


Originally published at Thieves Jargon in September 2006

Up at the crack of dawn, down to the hotel pool, few quick laps, room service coffee and paper, baseball scores, one more day.

Check numbers... cops, cleaners, locker.

Breakfast at the place downstairs, waitress with a nice ass, poached eggs on brown, slice of some kind of melon, more coffee.

Shoe shine stall off the lobby, barber somewhere around.

Taxi, watch out for those pedestrians, poor bastards, feels nice around the ears, nice barber smell.

Chinatown, could’ve got the dope here just as easy. Better from a white man, even an ex-biker. Neither would remember anything.

Here. This is the number. Asshole taxi driver didn’t like the tip. Fuck him if he can’t take a joke.

Chinese man, middle-aged, used to gun ’em down in ’Nam. Not Chinese but close.

Door opening, no one around, too early for the public. Trucks leaving with crews and piles of clean laundry.

Chink wants more money for the coveralls now.

What the fuck? Theirs, not mine.

Brand new cleaner’s coveralls under the arm, car rental place, something utilitarian that won’t be noticed, something cheap and plain. Nothing memorable.

Rental agent, somebody’s daughter with big tits, perfect teeth. Credit card. Alias. Cheap little economy number, one with reclining seats.

Car rental girl, long legs, short skirt, know what would look good on you, baby?

Freeway McDonald’s parking lot, more coffee. Map.

Silver Spur, ring road, freeway, industrial park. This is the way to go.

Morning radio sports talk. Pitching wins championships. More pitching is needed at home. It’s obvious.

Industrial park, business park, easier when they’re among a lot of other buildings.

Silver Spur. Just opening.

Dark, smell of vomit and urine and sex. Big pictures of strippers everywhere. Subdued rock music in the shadows.

Waitresses setting chairs at tables. The noontime rush’ll be crazy.

Owner in back office. Large, hairy, ex-biker, accompanied by two heavies.

Wants more for the packet.

What the fuck? Theirs, not mine.

Ex-biker, men, snigger at the suit and tie. In the old days, a little blood and a few broken teeth. Shock. Reevaluation.

Factory next door, a few long blocks down.

Parking lot, back, coveralls on, the southern entrance.

Security guards with wands and tasers, cameras everywhere.

Wink from the man checking ID. Through.

Find a cart, push it around the giant floor. Hundreds of drones in blue smocks.

Jesus Christ, how long is this assembly line?

Chinese cleaners with the same coveralls nod, continue cleaning, talking to each other in Chinese.

Locker room, change room. Empty. Locker number fifteen.

Combination 43 - 14 - 12.

Open the door, stick the packet under papers on the top shelf, beneath the photo, wife and kids. This can be a lesson for the kids.

Locker door locked, push the cart to an exit. Out.

Remove the cleaner’s coveralls at the car. Drive to the nearest bin.

A payphone.

“Narcotics. Detective Randall speaking.”

“Detective Randall, I want to report drugs. Illegal drugs.”

“Yes, and what’s your name sir?”

“That’s not important. I saw heroin. In a locker at work.”

“Heroin. That’s a serious allegation, sir.”

“You want the locker number?”

“Who does this locker belong to, sir?”

“James Thayer. Giant Computer. Boundary Road. The factory. Locker fifteen. Bye.”

Hang up, park the car a little closer to the fence, to the entrance the cops’ll use. Recline the seat. Few hours of shut-eye.

Sun found its way past the visor. Hot on the legs. Get out, stretch.

Back in the car in time for the show.

Grey ghost car. Parking out front. Two plainclothes cops waving badges at the security guards, hurrying into building.

Emerging with James Thayer cuffed, confused, mid-thirties, still in his blue smock.

Pushed carefully into the car, whisked away.


Rent-a-car flying down the freeway to Chinatown. Dumped. Taxi back to the hotel.

“Hello. It’s done.”

“Any trouble with security?”

“No. The man was smooth as silk. Cops grabbed Mr Thayer within two hours.”

“Good. That should be the end of that union.”

“You think so? In my experience, they’re pretty resilient. Another one’ll spring up in a few years.”

“Not with a leader like Thayer, though. And we’ll be ready next time. Congressmen are working on it as we speak. They better be. Fuckin’ Commies. Anyway, I’ve got your number if I need you again.”

“Yes. Just leave a message at that number.”

“Well, thanks. The cheque is in the mail to that box number you gave me.”

“Ok. See you.”

Discard the suit and tie. Quick shower. Mini-fridge. Ice cubes. TV. Sports update.


“Hi, babe, how are you?”

“Oh, it’s so good to hear from you. You wouldn’t believe what happened.”

“Yes, I would. Ryan’s dentist appointment?”

“How did you know, dear? He needs braces. It’s gonna be thousands.”

“Jesus Christ, Emily.”

“I know, honey. But we can do it.”


“I know, dear, but it’s his future. We don’t want him going through life with crooked teeth.”

“What about Patsy?”

“Well, you know she had that recital last night.”


“She did fine. She’s so buzzed about it. She wants to be a professional violinist now.”

“Yeah. Right. Till the next fad. Billy ok?”

“He wants you home for the weekend, dear. They’re in the playoffs. He’s pitching the first game on Saturday. You can’t miss that.”

“Tell him I’ll be there. I’m finished here. I’ll be catching the first flight home tomorrow. There’s no need to pick me up. I’ll grab a cab. Just as cheap.”

“So your consulting must have been successful, dear.”

Swallow the cold, smooth rye.

“Mmhm...very successful.”

“Ok, dear, see you tomorrow. You’ve got a lot of messages on your line. See you then.”

“Ok. Bye.”

BIO: Steve Wheeler lives in Ottawa, Canada.

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