Introduction to the Blog Noir Series & Special Props
It all started with a damn good idea. Feisty Repartee’s Christina asked a handful of folks to participate in a Blog Noir project. This was to be bloggers’ take on classic American Film Noir. I was tickled when asked to join the crew. Admittedly, Jim from Parkway Rest Stop (Chapter 1) and Key from Key Issues (Chapter 2) are pretty hard acts to follow. But, I hope you enjoy! Also, special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Parkway (who usually go by their aliases – “Dad” and “Mom”) for acting as a sounding board and Mr. Surly for great thoughts on dialog and liberal use of a red pen.
Blog Noir: Chapter 3
O’Callahan spoke rapidly into a cell phone describing our location to paramedics. But it was no use. My father was gone.
Behind me came a thunderous yelp. Spades had sprung from the open rental car window and bounded towards me, nearly knocking me off my feet. He nuzzled my father’s now limp hand with his coal-colored snout and cried out in a high-pitched whimper.
“I never pegged you as the sentimental type, Spades,” I said, dusting off my black leather pants and wiping away a stray tear. Funny. I don’t remember starting to cry. After reaching down to stroke Spade’s head, I turned my attention towards the well-worn envelope my dying father had just thrust into my manicured hand.
O’Callahan ran to me, throwing an arm around my shoulder, “Are you alright?”
“Just dandy,” I said, squirming away. I secreted the envelope into my bag and wiped my smeared mascara, “You see the shooter?”
“No. The police will be here soon. Are you sure you don’t want to sit down for a few minutes or something,” O’Callahan said soothingly, pointing to a nearby bench.
“Piss off. I’ll have plenty of time to rest when I’m dead.”
Callahan stared at me blankly.
“Listen. I’m sorry,” I said softening, “I’m just pissed. Someone’s fucking with me and I don’t like it. I need a few minutes,” taking a quick drag of a cigarette, “Would you mind taking care of business here? We can meet at the hotel.”
“Sure. Whatever you need, Max. 7 o’clock. Hotel Nanelle. Don’t go off and do any crazy shit.”
“Me?,” I smiled sarcastically, “Never.” I put out my cigarette and walked towards the car.
Not breaking my stride, I yelled over my shoulder. “Spades, come on.”
I clicked the locks and opened the back door for Spades. He looked at me like I just gave him a lifetime supply of kitty litter.
“What are you waiting for?” I snapped. Spades must have known my patience was wearing thin and gave in.
But, by the time I got behind the wheel, Spades had leaped over the center console and sat himself comfortably in the front passenger seat.
“Nice. Real nice,” I grumbled as I started the car. Secretly, though, I appreciated the company.
- - - - - - - - -
As soon as I was sure that the car was out of sight, I pulled over and took out the envelope. It was nothing special, the kind of thing you can buy at a local office supply store.
I checked the mirrors to make sure I wasn’t being watched. Sure. O’Callahan seemed to be on the up-and-up, but he bullshitted me once before, and I didn’t just fall off the goddamned turnip truck. Whatever is in this envelope was worth dying for, and I wasn’t about to share that information with a guy I just met – even if he was a fed.
Inside the envelope was a well-worn business card.
Theirs No Better Cajun Food to be Found
11 a.m. – 4 a.m. 7 Days
4 Bay Court
They better cook better than they spell.
On the back of the card were scrawled two words, “Ask Mel.”
“OK, Spades,” I said turning the key in the ignition, “Time to get something to eat.”
- - - - - - - - -
After three trips around the block, I finally found the place.
Back in Jersey, places with a name like “Café Breaux” serve expensive wine and give you leftovers wrapped up in an aluminum foil swan. Here the ripped screen door complete with a sign reading “In God we trust – all others pay cash” made it clear that this definitely was not a swan joint.
“Come on fella,” I said, opening the car door. Spades followed behind me wagging his tail.
One smell of that place and I was at that wedding all over again – the spicy aroma of andouille sausage frying on the grill mixed with the unmistakable odors of cigarette smoke and sweat. Although I had spent only a small part of my life in the south, this place felt like home.
While Spades sniffed for scraps, I glanced around and took in the place. Peeling paint. Ratty curtains. Five tables. Handful of patrons. My guess was that people didn’t come here for the atmosphere.
“You want something, honey,” an aging waitress asked, smoothing her hair back into its messy bun, “Hey, no dogs allowed.”
“Sure. Whatever you say. I’m here to see Mel.”
“He expectin’ you?”
“Maybe. But we won’t know until you ask him, will we?”
“Right,” she looked at me sideways, “I’ll go see.”
The whole place seemed to be covered with a thin layer of grease – seasoned like a well-used cast iron skillet. It was just then I remembered I didn’t have breakfast. I wonder if they serve bourbon.
The waitress re-emerged, “Follow me,” she said and she led me to the kitchen.
- - - - - - -
A man in a stained apron held court over three steaming stockpots. One slice of bacon away from a triple bypass, this guy was tickling the 350 mark. He smoked a hand-rolled cigarette while stirring his sauces, sipping off his spoon every couple of swirls.
“This is Mel,” said the waitress, as she grabbed two overflowing plates of gumbo, sizing me up as she exited backwards through the swinging kitchen door.
He turned and smiled, “Bonjou,” he said in a thick, Cajun accent, “You need somethin’?”
“I was told by someone to ask for you.”
“Guess you’re not from around here. I asked ‘Who?’ Who sent you?”
Mel laughed in a way that sounded like a cross between a shout and a coughing fit. “Oh, that old devil! Why’d he tell you to come see me?”
“I was hoping you could tell me. I’m his daughter.”
“He’s your père? Sit down and have something to eat. How about some sausage?” I shook my head “no,” but Spades’ ears perked up. Mel found some scraps on the counter and threw them to the salivating Spades who eagerly scarfed them up off the kitchen floor, “So, you’re the daughter from up north?”
“He talked about me?” Mel asked, surprised.
“A bit every now and then” said Mel, petting Spades behind the ears. “He ain’t been around lately for lunch. What’s he been up to?”
Mel wiped his hands on his stained apron and our eyes locked for few seconds before he looked down at his shoes. “I’m very sorry to hear that. Your father was a good man.” said Mel.
“I appreciate the sympathy, but we weren’t exactly what you would call ‘close’.”
“I know,” said Mel, “but Jules always had a place in his heart for you. I’m sorry he won’t be coming around no more.” He sighed and sat on a nearby stool, appearing for a few moments to be lost in thought. Mel took a deep breath and a long swig of something on ice and continued his story.
“He started coming here about 12 years ago. Came for lunch almost every day. Said the food tasted like his mother’s,” Mel puffed with pride and threw Spades a few more morsels. “He was a friend to me, and you can never have too many o’ those.”
Mel lowered his voice to a hoarse whisper, barely audible over the hum of the
exhaust fans. “You see, I got into trouble a few years ago. Real bad. Used to bet too much for my own good. I owed the wrong people a lotta money.” Mel’s brow furrowed as he rose from his stool to heap a steaming pile of crawfish onto a chipped plate. “One time they came by and beat me up real bad. Threatened to take my legs if I didn’t pay. They weren’t real quiet going about their business if you know what I mean, and your père overheard.”
The door squeaked. The waitress lumbered in to pick up her next order. Mel quickly turned to his pots. She locked eyes with me and said, “You just about finished up here?”
“Thanks, warden. Didn’t know visiting hours were over.”
She flashed Mel a look that said she wasn’t pleased and scurried back through the swinging door into the poor excuse for a dining room.
“Don’t mind my wife,” said Mel, “She’s just suspicious of strangers after what happened. You can’t blame her. Anyway, the next day your père came in and handed me an envelope full of cash – over fifteen thousand. Told me to pay my debts and never tell anyone about the money. He wouldn’t let me pay him back either.”
“Do you know where he got it?”
“He never said, but I’ll tell you this. I never gambled again.” He reached behind him and threw some sugared pastries in a bag, “Have some beignet. Still hot. Your père’s favorite.”
“Look Mel, let’s just say my father didn’t pass away in his sleep. He may not have been dad of the year, but I owe him enough to find why he’s ordering the early bird special in heaven or hell – I’m not sure which. Did he have any beef with anyone you know of?”
“I don’t think so,” Mel said. “Your père was a good man --”
I had heard this already and still had trouble believing it. I looked at him hard. “Was he into anything dangerous?”
“I don’t really know, cher. I didn’t pry too deep into Jules’ business.”
“Mel!” his wife bellowed from the front.
She’s a real peach, ain’t she?
“Oh,” said Mel, “There is one more thing. Last time he was here he mentioned something about a guy named Gallagher or something. Said he planned to see the guy.”
I handed him my card. “Thanks. Call me if you think of anything else.”
“I sure will. And take care, cher. Don’t want you to end up like your father.”
“Thanks, again,” I mumbled, turning towards the door.
“Wait! I remember now. The guy – the guy your père was supposed to meet wasn’t named Gallagher. I knew it was some kind of Irish name. It was O’Callahan. That’s the name he said – O‘Callahan.’ Hope that helps.”
“More than you know.”
“Come on, Spades, time to go. We got some ass kickin’ to do.” Spades reluctantly left his begging post and followed me through the swinging door, through the dining room and out onto the sidewalk.
Suddenly I found myself standing eye to eye with Love Carlisle – with a
Glock pointed straight at my chest, “I’ve had enough of your bullshit,” she sneered though clenched teeth and ruby-red lips, “Hand over the dog.”
To Be Continued...
UPDATE: Liv and Christina made a switcheroo. See Christina's Feisty Repartee for Chapter 4. (Liv will be takin' Chapter 5.) Eeee! I can't wait to read Christina's next chapter...