Naked City is a monthly live literary event held at the Goat Farm in Atlanta. Each month, the hosts reveal the theme for the next month and people sign up for the privelege of getting five minutes to speak, sing, or do whatever on the subject of the theme. Go over your five minutes? Then you must spin the Wheel of Consequences!
Starting in February, I began a writing challenge for myself: A crowd-influenced serial called Noir in the Naked City where, at the end of each episode, the protagonist would be faced with a choice. The audience would make the decision for the character, and then the next episode would be written with that choice in mind AND on the next month’s theme.
We’re four episodes in now, and new audiences are probably going to be a bit lost. So I’m posting them here so people can catch up. I’ll post one per week until we’re caught up, and then the next episode will go live right after the event itself. Hope you enjoy them!
Episode Four: Rebirth
In the baseball game of life, sometimes you get thrown a curve. Other times, though, it’s more of a slider. And then you have to make a choice, and that choice can be the difference between a hit and a swing and a miss. Lately I’d felt like the latter was happening a lot more than I’d like. And currently I was staring straight into the face of a fastball with my name written all over it.
The dame looked at me impatiently. She’d given me a proposition, although it wasn’t the kind I had been hoping for. She wanted me to help her create a master race. And she was right – a change was coming, the likes of which the world had never seen, and soon it was going to be time for everyone to decide whose side they were on. I’d always been on my own side, and that made the decision pretty easy for me. The murder case wasn’t going anywhere anyway. Time to get on with doing something a bit more important than just some poor slob with his throat torn out.
“I’m in,” I said finally. She smiled and looked at the old man with the cat on his lap. I still needed an answer about that, but I figured it would wait.
Looking back at me she said, “Detective, you have made my employer very happy.” She was right. I could hear him purring from here.
“What next?” I asked.
“Now you go home, detective,” the dame replied. “And you must stay there at all costs. Your safety is paramount until we can gather the necessary materials to take advantage of your unique situation. We’ll need some rather sophisticated tissue samples from you, for example.”
An hour later I was back at my apartment with instructions to wait until they got back later to pick me up.
Calling my place an apartment was an insult to the word, but the landlord objected when I called it a fleatrap and calling it an extension of the deepest, coldest pits of Hell tended to put off prospective dates. I unlocked the door, opened it, and fell through face first. I shut the door, slid out of my “wheat” coat, crawled across the floor into the bathroom, shedding the rest of my clothes along the way, and hoisted myself into the tub. A warm bath was what I needed. Then I could get drunk.
As the warm water caressed my skin, taking away the aches of the previous night, or most of them anyway, I heard footsteps out in the hall. Probably the neighbors. Except that they stopped. I didn’t have neighbors on either side of me or across the hall. They were all the way down at the end and I was used to the sound of them coming and going at odd hours just fading away, but these stopped. And then I heard knocking on my door. Fighting the urge to recite “The Raven” in my head, I sunk deeper into the water and hoped they’d go away. Instead they knocked louder. So loud that I could still hear it even after I dunked my ears under the surface, the water deepening the sound so that it resembled the heartbeat of an elephant, low and resonant.
Please, God, make it stop.
Surprisingly that seemed to work, as the pounding went silent. I cautiously raised my head up, but heard nothing else. No footsteps. That meant they were still there. Patient. Patient usually means dangerous for me. I slowly got out of the bath and slid quietly across the hardwood floor. I kept it to a smooth shine at all times for just such occasions. When I reached the door I stood up and put my hand carefully on the handle. Tensing up, I yanked the door open and was confronted with a sight I hadn’t expected.
Another dame. This one was about as different from the first one as it was possible to be. A little shorter, her hair a little redder, and she’d shied away from the skintight dress look, which, based on what I could see, was a pity.
“Hello, Detective,” she said. It was at that moment that I realized I was still naked from the bath. I slammed the door, vaulted across the room, grabbed my “wheat” coat, and threw it on. When I felt decent enough to talk to a lady, I opened the door again.
“Sorry,” I began.
“Skip it,” she said, interrupting me and striding into the room without being invited. “I have a case for you and we don’t have time for this.”
A real no-nonsense girl. But I had bad news for her. “Sorry,” I said again, “but I just sort of retired.”
“To go to work for the jerks who want to create a master race, yeah, I heard,” she said, plopping herself down in my favorite chair.
“Sure,” I said. No point in denying the truth when it’s thrown in your face.
“Forget them. You’re going to want this case. It’s going to make you a new man. And we have to leave right now.”
“Why’s that?” I asked. “And I can’t go anywhere. My new employers told me to sit tight.”
“Detective,” she said impatiently, “this case…it’s about your brother.”
I fell down on the floor. That happens a lot in any case, but in this case it was because I’d forgotten I even had a brother. It had taken me a long time and a lot of booze to do it, but I’d finally managed it and here was this dame coming in here reminding me. The way she’d made herself at home told me that there was no way she was going to just take no for an answer, and she didn’t seem inclined to discuss it. I could throw her out physically and call the cops or I could go with her and find out what was going on with my brother…which meant that the master race folks were going to come looking for me, probably in an unpleasant manner. And I had to decide right now.
CHOICE: Sit tight and wait on the dame to continue creating a master race? Follow the new dame to investigate his brother?