Friday, May 8, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 080 - Alan Griffiths


I've long believed that as people grow old, as the years pass, as memories start to fade like old sepia photographs, they gradually become their parents. Not just in looks but in habits, routines and principles held; as they segue into their blood relations.

That morning, as I carefully shaved the stubble from my chin with my Father's bone handled razor, his refection peered back at me. Dark wavy hair, flecked with grey and starting to recede, blue eyes and a Roman nose above thin pale lips. His proud jaw line was trimmed clean as I pulled the Sheffield steel across my face.

Downstairs, I tuned his Bakelite radio to BBC Radio Four. An egg went into a pan of simmering water and I counted three minutes on his Rotary wrist watch.

A pot of percolated coffee bubbled on the hob. I poured some into an ancient Willow patterned china cup, added a drop of cream and took it over to the heavy oak table; savouring the aroma and then the bitter taste as I sipped the coffee.

The Times sat on the table next to the breakfast crockery, open at the crossword, the clues waiting to vex and torment my mind, just like they had vexed and tormented his.

The egg was perfectly cooked as I chopped the top with my butter knife and dipped toast into the creamy yolk. I smiled as I filled in the blank spaces for three down with his Parker fountain pen. The answers normally never came that easily; maybe a sign that today was going to be a good day.

Before I left his house, I fastened the cuffs of my Savile Row shirt with his pearl cufflinks and, standing before the full-length walnut-framed bedroom mirror, I fixed my tie with a Windsor knot. As I pulled his tortoiseshell comb through my hair, he looked back at me and I gave him a wink in return, saying aloud, "Morning, Pa."

Late summer was turning to autumn and the weather was ominous with malicious clouds scuttling across the sky. I stopped outside my old Victorian school building, now renovated into luxury apartments, with dozens of swanky cars parked like metal insects on the old playground tarmac. I could still see him, all those years ago, waiting at the gates for me and could not help but wonder what he would have made of the world today.

As rain started to spit from the dark sky, I thought wistfully of how he had grown weary in his later years, seemingly unable to adapt and accept modern ways. I'd buried him, to rest in peace alongside my Mother, nigh on twenty years ago.


Mid-week half-day closing on a Wednesday used to be the norm for all the High Street businesses. I was now in the minority but still chose to close the family's jewellery and watch repair business at one o'clock.

I was flipping the closed sign over on the door when a young man stuck his boot between the door and the frame. He was wearing jeans and a dark-coloured sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head. Wraparound sunglasses hid his eyes and heavy stubble covered his face.

"Sorry, guv'nor, but I need a replacement battery," he said, tapping the cheap watch on his wrist. An emaciated roll-up bobbed at the corner of his mouth as he spoke. "And you're the only watch repairer for miles."

I asked him to stub out the cigarette and stepped back to allow him entry. He dropped the butt to the floor and crushed it under his boot. Then, in one swift movement, he pulled a gun from his waistband and I found myself staring, open-mouthed, at the black O shape of the gun barrel.

"Do as you're told, old man, and you won't get hurt."


As I twisted the dial of the Sentry 1250 backwards and forwards, clicking through the combination, I could feel beads of sweat start to trickle down the back of my neck and under my collar. I pulled open the heavy steel door and the familiar sour smell of the safe took me back to him and what he would have done.

"No tricks, old man," he said, pushing the barrel of the gun into the back of my head.

The money was, as always, methodically counted and separated into neat bundles; ready to be banked. As I turned towards him, my left hand and arm held close to my body and full of money, I could see his eyes spark with greed. He should have been looking closer over my shoulder and maybe he would have seen my Father's medals on the bottom shelf alongside his Webley automatic.

The greed in his eyes turned to fear when he saw the gun in my right hand. Too late as I levelled the gun at him and fired.

I sat down on the polished wooden floor, amongst the bundles of crumpled bank notes and looked at the dead body. The smell of cordite filled the air and my ears rung from the Webley's recoil. I took the medals from the safe, brushed them across my lips and then held them against my heaving chest as I wept.

When my breathing had returned to something like normal, I calmly put the barrel of the revolver into my mouth; the hot metal burnt my lips but I kept a steady hand, closed my eyes and squeezed the trigger.

Just like Pa had done.

BIO: Alan Griffiths is a rookie writer, from London, England. He has a keen interest in reading and writing Crime Fiction, particularly Noir and Pulp. His short fiction can been found on A Twist of Noir, Pulp Pusher, Powder Burn Flash and Six Sentences.


David Cranmer said...

Well done.

Paul D Brazill said...

Fantastic. Al, this is a great story. Really powerful.

Joyce said...

Oh my. Just moving along, reading and enjoying a well written tale that draws you in from the very start, then comes the end...

This was amazing, Alan, really superb. I look forward to reading more of your work.

Unknown said...

Another great story! As always great atmosphere, solid pacing.

Alan Griffiths said...

David, Paul, Joyce and Keith,
Thanks for your kind words and encouragement – much appreciated.

Ray said...

Powerful and brilliant. Great story.

Michael Solender said...

well done. nice pacing and flow. wonder why he didn't relish his triumph in a more measured way..

Al Tucher said...

Nice twist!

Author said...

Powerful stuff, Alan - I really enjoyed it, thanks!

Alan Griffiths said...

Thanks to all for your generous comments. Best Wishes.

Anonymous-9 said...

Closely detailed characterization, Alan. Surprise ending. No wonder you were nominated for a Spinetingler Award.

stephen cooper said...

Good stuff Alan, really enjoyed this.