Hard Boiled Test #1

I’ll be experimenting with styles in the next batch of writing. The novel I plan to write for NaNoWriMo is based on a science-fiction noir screenplay I wrote a while back. As film noir detective stories owe a lot to the hard boiled detective serials from the 30s and 40s, I thought I’d see if that style fits. This is my first attempt to write in the style, and even if I can master it I think it’s dated enough that I’ll explore some sort of modern hybrid. This story is just a beginning and not a whole story, and is shorter than normal because as an experiment I did a lot of deleting and trying again.

Bernard Fennelly wasn’t pretty. Sure, he filled out a sharp suit and a nice looking hat with a banded brim that kept his hair out of the wind. That’s about all the positive I ever noticed. He sported these shoes big enough to scuba dive with and painfully round shooter-marbles for knuckles. He once shook a fist in my face and I swear I heard them rattle. The ugly man pursed his lips to the side, and with his hook nose he looked like he’d taken a punch to the face and then stopped half way through to think about it. He wasn’t liking much the direction the conversation had taken.

“No gun. No gear allowance. No expense allowance. No goddamn allowance. You’re a cop, man. Salary’ll get you through.”

“Should’ve talked to me eight years ago, then, when that would have made sense.” Bernard’s assistant was silent, standing behind him, all wired up so that he hardly seemed present, like reality was just an option. He was built for the job, too: short, and barely enough mass to keep his pants up, with a phone clip in each ear, cam-scanner clipped on his glasses, and a three-leaf tablet he kept shuffling data on. Regular geekborg.

“Look. Rick. We could use your help. People are missing. Not here in the city. Not my beat, but before they got here so it’s not really somebody else’s problem either. We figured, Rick’s in Immigration, used to be a cop. Night’s coming, so he’ll be counting the ceiling tiles for a month. Itching to stand up, explore life outside the cube. Maybe he’d like to lend some insight.” Bernard leaned against my desk. “Unless you enjoy sorting through sacks of some FOB granny’s underwear for that salary you’re keen on.”

He was flattening some paper with his palm. I moved the stack of forms to the other side of my desk. They weren’t better over there. I just wanted to make him lift his hand.

Envisioning himself a radio serial hero, Nico Janssen swooped in from nowhere and slapped the corner of my cubicle. This guy was the tallest, greyest guy I’ve ever known. But not tall and big, just stretched a half meter beyond what you’d expect. If you saw him standing next to anyone regular you’d probably wonder when you accidentally stepped into the fun house.

He was my boss, head of this little department of that little division of Customs & Immigration. “All set up,” he said. “A little cross-departmental dalliance. I like it.” No smiles, but obviously pleased, he slapped Bernard on the shoulder and then moved on with his office patrol when Bernard didn’t seem to notice.

I dropped the paper stack into a locked bin. “Appears I’ve made up my mind.”

Bernard smiled. I didn’t think he could get any uglier. “It’s not like I’m asking you to the prom. Sedova’ll get you set up,” he said, jerking his thumb toward his assistant. He stood, rattled his knuckles then filled his pockets as he turned around. The LED light in this place took a dive toward blue, then shifted back toward something scientifically appropriate for ambient office work. The shadowless glare gave me a scientifically appropriate headache. I probably shouldn’t blame it all on the light.

Sedova caught his master’s eye and they briefly conversed. Bernard hadn’t practiced his whisper voice much, and though Sedova’s voice was an ID card slid from a fine alligator skin wallet, I could easily follow one side of the chat. The word “body” came up three times in as many seconds, and Bernard went for the door throwing a billowy coat over that nice suit.

Sedova looked up at me. “We’ll be out front in seven minutes.” He left too.