Saturday, January 7, 2012

Chicago Likes Things Tidy - F3 Cycle 62

Prompt: Write a story set in the 40′s or 50′s where the protagonist is addicted to something
Genre: Pulp Crime or Pulp Romance - I picked crime
Word Limit: 1,800 - Actually finished with 1794 words
Deadline:  Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 9:00 pm EST
Rip looked up the front of the five floor brownstone on East 173rd in the Bronx.  He looked at the slip of paper in his hand.  "Fifth Floor - back apt."  Then under it, “Ask for Gus”.  He looked again up the five floors, every window hanging wide open in respect to the brutal summer of 1943.  Rip pulled a grimy handkerchief out of his back pocket, removed his hat and wiped the running sweat from his forehead.  He took one more anguished look up and started climbing the steps.

Plodding up the stairs, Rip considered why criminals always set up shop in the dumbest of places.  Here was a stand alone five story walk up and the flounder not only deals his drugs here but also runs his counterfeit gas ration card operation on the fifth floor.  Just what kind of brainiac was this clown anyway?  No way out but down these stairs or some rickety steel fire escape out back that may or may not be safe to even let the cat out on.  Gasping and red faced, Rip finally reached the fifth floor.  He wondered if he’d be able to get some free smack along with the fake ration cards he was there to pick up.  

On the landing Rip collected himself.  He took a moment to re-wipe his brow, pull up his britches, and run his right hand up under his left pit to make sure his gun was still there.  Rip performed this unconscious ritual every time he was involved in criminal activities in a new location or meeting with someone he did not know.  This visit would entail both. With a final few tugs readjusting his crotch, he headed down the dim hallway to the back apartment.

Rip looked at the apartment door.  It was slightly ajar and the jam was splintered.  He backed up.  He pulled out his .38 and flipped open the cylinder to make sure it was loaded.  Again, this was an unconscious action on Rip’s part.  His gun was always loaded, but checking it allowed him some time to find his balls and maybe reconsider.  Call it his gut check routine.

He could leave.  Turn around and walk away.  Tell Ramsey no one was home.  Nah.  He had to follow through.  Ramsey would find out.  He always did.  Rip walked up to the door and gently pushed it in with his foot.

The door opened onto a long dark narrow hallway and immediately complained with a loud creaking sound.  “Great.  Guess I ain’t surprising anyone.”  The sneak option gone now, Rip rushed in hard and fast, turning right or left at each opening until he got to the kitchen at the rear of the apartment.

“Oh Jeez, come on, this ain’t right.”  Rip turned away and puked on his shoes.  Coughing and hacking he found his grimy handkerchief, wiped the vomit from his mouth and turned to look again.  Immediately his stomach tossed out a few more dry heaves and then settled down.

What used to be a human being sat in a wooden arm chair next to a white enameled kitchen table.  The victim’s wrists were tied down to the chair arms and the feet tied to the legs.  A pool of blood isolated the chair like an island in a red lagoon.   Where there had once been eyes in a face, empty sockets looked out of what hides under the face.  The throat was laid open from ear to ear and the head tipped awkwardly to the side.  The skinned face and two eyes sat on the table next to the body. 

Transfixed by the gory scene, Rip almost did not hear the kitchen door begin to swing shut.  He turned  and at the same time moved to grab his piece.

“Ah, ah Aah, I wouldn’t if I were you Rip.  Unless you want the back of your head on that table next to his face.”

Rip froze.  Slowly he dropped his hand and completed his turn.  Facing him was the barrel of a .45 held by the prettiest gloved hand he could remember ever seeing.   Rip focused on the gun and then let his eyes travel up her arm to………oh my god, it was Betty out of Chicago.  Rip relaxed.

“Betty, what the Hell?  You into torture now too?  And why are you even here?”

“Well hey there Rip.  Good to see you too.  And no, he’s not mine.”  Betty did not lower her weapon.  But Rip was not worried.  He opened his jacket and pointed at his top pocket.

“Yeah go ahead, but slowly Rip.  Light me one also.”

Rip pulled out his pack of Lucky Strikes and tapped out two cigarettes.  Putting them both in his mouth he lit them and handed Betty one.  Betty took the cigarette and glanced at the butt.  “Still lipping the butts I see.  You know that’s disgusting?”  Betty still stuck it in her mouth and took a long pull.  She looked at Rip.  “Been a long time Rip.  We had some good times back in the day didn’t we?”  She still had not lowered her gun.

Rip tensed.  Something was wrong.  “Betty, why are you here?  Contract?”

“Yeah Rip a contract.”

“This guy?”

“No Rip.  I’m here to see you.  Just before I turned off Ramsey’s lights, he kindly told me where I could find you…………Why’d you hook up with that loser anyway?  The guy was skimming hard and Chicago, well you know Chicago.  They don’t take kindly to skimming.  They know about the H.  They aren’t sure, but they think they have been supporting yours and Ramsey’s habit for the last year at least.”

Rip could feel sweat rolling down his spine.  The brim of his hat where it met his skull was a dark wet band.  He once again slowly opened his jacket and pointed to his right hip pocket.


“Yeah go ahead.  You always did sweat more than any man I ever knew.  Especially when…………”  Betty’s eyes softened for a second and then went back to hard.  Rip reached around for his grimy handkerchief and the switchblade he always had packed in with it.

“I guess it won’t do any good to say I did not know Ramsey was shorting Chicago.”

“No Rip it won’t.  Chicago likes things tidy.  This is tidy.  And by the way, don’t pull out that blade.  There’s no way you’re gonna…………”  Before she could react, Rip had the knife out and on its way.  It caught her just under her jaw severing the carotid artery.  Blood spurted hard and Betty grabbed her throat with a white gloved hand.  Rip jumped to the side as Betty fired wildly, missing him by inches.  Betty collapsed to the floor and forgot about Rip.  He walked up to her and kicked her .45 to the side.  He watched the life drain out of her and then yanked his knife out of her throat.  Wiping it clean on that fetching summer dress she was wearing, he looked at her face.  Her beautiful face.

She may have known Rip had the blade, but she never knew how good he was with one.  His name was Rip after all.


Rip took some moments to collect himself.  Should he try to clean up this mess?  He decided no, he would just leave it for the cops.   But he knew what he should do.  Find the face man's stash.  He ought to get something out of this and free heroin seemed as good a perk as any.  Rip began to rummage around, being careful to use his handkerchief to open drawers and closets.  Finally, in one of the bedrooms, in a suitcase, he found it.  “Must be a couple of ounces here”, He smiled and closed the bag.    He went back into the kitchen.

Rip turned around and looked at the butchered man sitting in the wooden armchair.  What about him?  Who the Hell did this?  Rip decided it didn’t matter.  What mattered was him getting as far from here as possible as soon as possible.  But Rip didn’t rush.  He didn’t panic.  He took the time to think about what he had touched.  Nothing he hadn’t used the handkerchief for he figured.  He made a 180 degree slow turn examining everything in the room. 

When he came back around to the kitchen door to the hallway, it swung open.  Rip was wired now and immediately had his .38 out and ready.   Standing there was an elderly gent wearing a bloody apron.  His arms were covered with dried blood.  Specks of blood dotted his face giving the appearance of measles or a pox of some kind.  The elderly gent stood rigid and silent. 

Rip pointed his gun at the man.  No response.  The man stared through Rip to the gory scene behind him.  Rip decided he would break the ice.

“Who are you?”

Again no response.

Rip waved his gun to emphasize.   “I said, who are you?” 

The man came out of his funk and looked at Rip.  In a just off the boat foreign accent, “I am Super.  My name is Guido.  And this man…..”  Guido raised his hand and pointed with a blood covered finger at the blood covered corpse sitting at the kitchen table.  “This man, he no good.  He…………”  Guido seemed stuck.  “Ah,  he Tom Peep my daughter, then he ………….”  Tears began to roll down Guido’s eyes.  He cleared his throat and sniffled some.  “He no Tom peep no more.”  Guido raised his hands to his face and began to sob uncontrollably.

Rip stared at Guido standing there all pitiful and covered in blood.  His mind raced.  He felt for the guy.  But he was standing between Rip and the door.  If he had heard Betty’s gun, so might have others.  What to do?

Rip looked at Betty.  Rip looked at the bloody corpse at the table.  He looked again at Guido who was now on his knees still sobbing.  Spotting Betty’s gun, Rip took his grimy handkerchief and used it to pick it up.  He holstered his .38.  He turned and walked up to Guido.

“Fella, as much as I really feel for ya, I have to do this.  You are a witness.”

Rip placed the barrel of the .45 against the front of Guido’s head and fired.  Guido collapsed in a heap, most of his brains scattered down the hallway to the front door.  Rip looked at the mess.  “Damn”, Rip thought, “I forgot Betty always used dum dums.” 

Rip picked up the suitcase with the heroin, stepped around the dead body of Guido and left.  Half way down the five floor walk up, he decided that going down was always better than going up.
 I would like to thank Flannery Alden of Flash Fiction Friday for giving us wannabe writers excellent prompts to play with .
Image By Joerg Warda


Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw said...

I like the sense of inevitability here... it really adds to the mood of the story... you know it's not going to end well... but you make the reader wait until the end... then that final punch!

Dialogue with Betty and Rip is good... of course, now I want the backstory... what's Betty and Rip's history.

Very nicely done... a dark, gritty read...

Anonymous said...

Dark and cynical, full of blood and grit and pulp. The Guido twist is intriguing. I'd say you're a full-on writer. :)

Beach Bum said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this story.

Carmen said...

I too enjoyed the dialogue between Rip and Betty. The little touches you added about Rip really make his character come alive - his checking his gun, the way he lips his cigarette butts, his hankerchief.

The story's beginning feels rough. The repetition of Rip's name to start several sentences feels a little awkward - using "he" and removing Rip's name so much in the beginning would do wonders to make intro less clunky feeling.

Beginnings are always rough - I hate them myself when writing. You can see just how much more smoothly the story starts to flow and the writing becomes after you get the beginning out of the way and find your groove.

Really good job with this! You make me wish I had taken part too!

MRMacrum said...

Veronica - Thank you, I am glad you liked it. Rip's and Betty's back story? Not sure, but I am positive there is something good intheir past.

cmstewart - Which just points to one of my quirks. Leaving the body a puzzle just was not going to cut it for me. I had to resolve the mystery of the brutalized body. Quido filled the need expeditiously, but I wonder if it comes off as it was, an afterthought.

Beach Bum - I am very pleased about that. Thanks guy.

Carmen - Yeah I struggle with the he she, Bob, frank thing. Too many of either to close to each other can make the flow awkward as Hell. I do appreciate you pointing it out. And I mean that.

I wish you had taken part also. Noir is fun to attempt, but damn hard to nail.

Anonymous said...

Guido does not come off as an afterthought IMO. :) A bit unexpected and focus-shifting, but I think he fits the story, and absolutely adds interest.