Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Twist Of Noir 625 - Lee Hughes

STAGE LEFT - LEE HUGHES

Regis scratched his neck. Someone had done a number on the broad. Looked liked they’d tried combing her hair with a hammer. The tool lay caked in blood and blond beside her.

The police hadn’t been informed.

Regis’s boss had put the theatre on lock-down. The woman sprawled on the carpet was the boss’s niece. The boss had been watching the show from the boxes, he’d gone back to congratulate his niece only to find her mushed.

Regis had an eye for details. If one of the boys was found perforated in a dumpster then the boss sent Regis to handle the situation, figure out who the fuck had the brass-balls to fuck about with his business, that was where Regis came in, he’d hand them on a plate.

Regis took in every detail. He knew the theatre life.

His mother had looked like the dead woman. She’d trod the boards before winding up battered to death out the back of a gin-joint.

He walked the room.

A smile creasing his lips as memories of watching his mother ready herself for a show returned. He fingered a rabbit-foot charm in the untidy make-up box. He looked at his finger, there was rouge on it. His mother had applied rouge in the same manner. The dressing room was just as he remembered it. No shoes on the chairs, nor shoes on the tables.

Theatre folk were superstitious.

He stared at a bouquet. The flowers weren’t fresh, no tag, no wrapping. Just a bunch of flowers with a rubber-band about the stems. Its angle, as though cast aside, unwanted. He wondered if that had been the catalyst.

An infatuated lunatic? Definitely not a mob hit to wind the boss up. This had been done by someone who hadn’t an idea about her connections.

The flowers were his hint.

Pinning it on the handyman was like hanging the theft of a single shoe on the nearest one-legged man. There was no reason for the hammer to have been in the dressing-room. Superstition forbade pictures to be hung upon the wall.

He backtracked his mind to the corridor. A square of pristine wallpaper surrounded by nicotine stains. He remembered the two signs on the floor. One was crisp and new, the other just as filthy as the walls. The handyman had probably been caught short and hadn’t been able to finish putting up the new sign and left the hammer there to continue after the show.

Whomever had used the hammer on her head had picked it up on the way to see her.

Regis wondered.

If you were going to go promise undying love for a woman would you take a hammer?

It was someone she’d not tried to run away from. She’d cast aside the gift of grave flowers, for that was what they were. A bouquet stolen from a grave. Tradition, flowers from a grave to be given at the end of the run. Symbolizing that the show could be laid to rest.

Regis pulled out his wallet and removed a photograph and tore it in half.

He looked at the flowers. He’d seen them the day before. He walked to the door and came face to face with his boss.

The corridor was littered with nervous looking workers.

“Well?” His boss asked.

“Here’s your guy.”

The boss took the picture and looked at the man in it. “Who is he?”

“The man that killed your niece. One favour, though.”

“What?”

“Make it quick.”

“Why?”

“The man’s got problems.”

The boss nodded. “I’d say he’s got a big fuckin’ problem, me.” He handed the photograph to one of his hoods who took it and went looking for the ‘live’ version.

Regis pocketed his hands and walked.

BIO: Lee Hughes's short fiction has appeared on Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, Powder Burn Flash, Blink-Ink, MicroHorror, The Daily Tourniquet, FlashShot, Everyday Fiction, The New Flesh Magazine and, of course, A Twist of Noir. And in print in Cern Zoo: Nemonymous 9. Find out more at http://www.leehughes.net/.

20 comments:

R.S. Bohn said...

Lee, awesome opening paragraph. Great character study, nice little mystery, and as usual, you know your way around the language.

If I was going to profess my undying love, I might bring a hammer. Maybe.

Michael Solender said...

So many tiny details that make this piece sing. The theater references, the mob connections, the underlying clues. A very nicely crafted tight tale from one who does them so well. good to see you back on the page matey.

Alan Griffiths said...

Congrats on a super story Lee and a great opening. I loved this line: Looked liked they’d tried combing her hair with a hammer.

David Barber said...

Nice one, Lee. Enjoyed that one.

Mike Wilkerson said...

Your writing is growing by leaps and bounds, Hughes. No fluff, no regrets, no low volume- you turned the dial up to ten on this one.

Very, very good stuff.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Like others mentioned, the opening was very strong. Lot's of nice, clever lines throughout, and the writng is tight. Great job Lee

AJ Hayes said...

Maximum artistic use of space. The clues intertwined within the action.Physical motion and, lord knows, an internal hurricane moving fast. The story has a timeless quality. You sort of dream it, then come awake with a jolt. Quality stuff, this.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Tight as a nun's thingy! Great take on the theatre too, luvvie.I agree with Mike W - really well written!

Richard Godwin said...

Really well plotted, great pace throughout, I really enjoyed this Lee.

Lily Childs said...

Clever, tight and macabre with the theatrical references. Almost poetic in its dark delivery.

Loved the line "The tool lay caked in blood and blond beside her."

Good to see you out and about again.

M. C. Funk said...

Strong start with some iron-solid poetry. Smooth conduct throughout. Like AJ said, you almost forget you're just reading it.

jrlindermuth said...

Nice write, Lee.

Jodi MacArthur said...

I like how the fond memories of his mother and theater aided him in solving a ghastly murder. The flowers. I could smell them. Bittersweet. I always enjoy your shorts, Lee.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

This is excellent - love the story and envy the writing style. Great stuff

Joyce said...

It was driving me crazy trying to come up with a word that describes the emotion that radiates from this and Jodi provided it. Bittersweet. Such a strong piece, full of images, both comforting and disturbing. Really well written.

Anonymous said...

Terrific story. Love the theatre background woven in.
Trye grave flowers...
Kelly

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Awesome job. I really enjoyed STAGE LEFT. Nicely done!

Chris Allinotte said...

Lee,

Well done - you've hit on a perfect blend of action with your trademark noir style.

The theatrical superstitions add depth to the story, and the mob side of it manages not to get cliché (which is tough.)

It's mentioned above too - but I seriously love that opening line.

Col Bury said...

Matter-of-fact style and oozes class this. Like Lil, the 'blood and blonde' line stood out for me.
Quality, Lee.

Des Nnochiri said...

Crisp, clean, and brutal.
Nice job, sir.