The other day, I received an email from Patty G. Henderson of Black Car Publishing saying that DARK THINGS II: Cat Crimes will (we hope) be available for Christmas giving. My short story “Crumb” will be one of the offerings.
I wrote it as a challenge to myself. A hard-boiled, noir publication said specifically in their guidelines they didn’t want any submissions with tea or food or cats, so I wrote one. They rejected it. What’s wrong with cozy noir, I ask you? Mike Hammer could have done some serious damage with a couple of knitting needles, am I wrong?
Here is an excerpt:
by Marian Allen
My scarlet nails extracted an evil-looking little black cigarillo from the package with the curvaceous señorita on it.
I offered Jake–ex-Detective Sergeant Jasper Perkins, my current love interest–a smoke, but he shook his head and lit mine for me, then his own filtered menthol. We were sitting within shouting distance of my shop, in The Tobacco Barn’s “sampling room”–a glass-fronted, air-tight lounge, exempted from our town’s no-smoking ordinance and guaranteed to offend the sight of every non-smoker who passed. A hollow-cheeked man scurried by, his hooded trench coat flapping around his sweatshirt and jeans, coughing into a big cloth handkerchief. I caught his eye and blew smoke rings.
Sharp winds and cloudy skies had turned into a hell of a storm. The wind lashed the trees that Planning and Zoning had made the builders leave around the parking lot and rain smacked the shop windows like transparent paintballs. The radio was threatening severe storms and possible tornadoes, but the place was still crawling, shoppers dodging from building to building, money burning holes in their pockets.
Jake peered across the corner of the lot at my place, Ma Barker’s Tea and Crumpets.
The rain stopped and the wind died away.
“You got a customer,” Jake said. “That guy in the trench coat just went in. Dude’s bald as a post.”
I jerked to my feet, stubbing out my cigar, pulling my handbag strap onto my shoulder.
“What’s the matter?” Jake caught up with me on the walkway. “Friend of yours?”
“Friend of Snake’s. That’s Snuffy. Not a tea shop kind of guy.”
The wind picked up again as we got to Ma Barker’s. The two of us fought the door open and had to dodge to keep from having our heels crushed when the wind blew it shut.
The first thing I saw, even before I saw Snuffy, even before I saw the body, was the blood. Then I saw the corpse. Some guy I didn’t even know was spread-eagled on the floor by the counter, his white down windbreaker already a soggy scarlet, a hole twisted to one side but probably originally centered on his heart.
Then I saw Snuffy, doubled over with his prescription inhaler stuffed into his mouth, squirting and sucking it in and holding his breath like it was the best damn joint he’d ever toked. The hand that wasn’t holding the inhaler gripped an eight-inch blade, and that hand was covered in blood.
“Yo!” he gasped. “You got a freakin’ cat in here?”
I only meant to call, but I ended up shouting: “Suzanne?”
“Get out, Ma,” I heard her voice, real weak, from the other side of the counter. “Snake told him to kill us both.”
“Nobody move,” Snuffy said, as I started toward my daughter. “I’m closer to her than you are. Stay put, if you want to buy her a little time.”
“Who’s the dead guy?” Jake wanted to know. Cops.
You may be sure I’ll let you know when the anthology is available. 🙂
WRITING PROMPT: Think of a kind of story you hate to read. Now think of what elements in it you hate. Now sketch out a story with those elements that you WOULD like to read.