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NOIR, Chapter 2

He was full of himself. A real work of art, as it were. He was so stuck on himself, there was no room for anyone else. The world revolved around him. It was once believed that everything revolved around the earth, then they said it was the sun that everything revolved around. Come to find out, they were all wrong. The world revolved around him. Maxim Jay de Claire. An odd name, but a snooty one. And not just in deed. In ear. Just listen to the way that name rolls off the tongue. It's obvious that the owner of this name is nothing but ego. Maxim Jay de Claire, only son of Madame de Claire. A rich snob from birth that was never satisfied. A brat, spoiled rotten. At least that's the way she portrayed him. And it seemed to fit.

I came in for a cup of coffee and a sandwich (turkey on rye) but then suddenly...

Thought interrupted.

Enter the dame. Hair flowing, dress flowing, mind roaming. She looked sweet, innocent, but as if she'd seen enough filth in her time. Maybe an abusive and cheating husband in the likeness of her father. Maybe it was her father that was filth. Maybe... either way, she was a peach. A doll. A real Rita Hayworth, without the facade. This dame was fine to look at because of good genes, as opposed to good grooming and hygiene. She was a natural beauty.

"What a dame," I mumbled to the Soda Jerk whipping up my float.

"What?" he asked with a puzzled look. Youth, they don't get beauty.

"Do your duty, Punk," I started, "And finish my sarsaparilla."

Soda Jerk frowned at me, topped off my black cow by dropping the last scoop in, handed it to me and turned away with a sigh. Good riddance.

"Coffee... black," she spoke softly as she sat on the stool next to me. I looked ahead, trying to ignore her presence. No one heard her voice, but me. Soda Jerk was clear at the other end, helping a Negro by now.

She sat for a moment, then repeated herself as the same as before, "Coffee... black."

Once again, no one hears but me.

"Coffee... black."

"Speak up, Kid," I tell her, without looking.

"Coffee... black," she says again without raising her voice, changing her pitch or changing even the fluctuation.

"Good grief, Kid," I start, "Hey, Punk! Coffee, black!"

Soda Jerk looks at me with prejudice. He sighs, then turns pours some black coffee with ease. He carries it to me and plops it under my chin, asking, "Anything else?"

"It ain't for me, dimwit. It's for the dame."

Soda Jerk smirks and states, "In your dreams." He leaves the mug beneath my chin and walks away. I slide her the coffee.

"Thanks," she says.

"Forget it, Kid."

I hope she doesn't feel she owes me. I hate it when people think they owe you. Whatever she's thinking it ain't hurting me much. She stares. She stares at the black void that she apparently thinks exist in her life. She stares at the bottles behind the bar, on the shelf. No, maybe the wall. Yeah, but that ain't what she's thinking. She probably ain't thinking of one thing; probably a number of things. She thinks they all add up and she thinks that stinks.

Or maybe I'm all wrong. Maybe it ain't so deep.

She hits the schmeck. She's a real schmeck schmuck. Yeah, I bet that's it.

"I don't hit shcmeck, I ain't a schmuck and you're all wet," she affirms out of nowhere.

Great... just what I need. A dame that can read minds.

"You know him?" she asks.


"Maxim Jay de Claire?"

"Never heard of the robber baron."

"You have heard of him?"

"No, it's the name, Doll. It just adds up."

"Forget you," she tells me.


She speaks up again, "He's gonna kill me, you know?"


"I'm serious," she reassures me.

"Aces up!"

"You got a chip on your shoulder, Bud?"

"Don't call me Bud; it's Johnny and in my opinion this Maxim can't kill you fast enough."

"I don't need you," she affirms.


"I need your help," she states.

"You're a trip, you know that?"

"Bite me."

"Maybe later."

"He's a narcissist," she explains, "You know what that means?"

"I wasn't born yesterday, Kid."

"Holly's the name, Maxim's my pain."

Holly come lately.

"Can you kill him for me?" she asks.

"Sure, I'll get right on that."

"Dope, I'm serious."

She hits the schmeck. It's the only way this makes sense.

"Let's not talk here, come to my place," she says.

"Sure, Kid," who am I to say no? She's fine, she's feminine and she's invited me home. She may be crazy, but she sounds like a winner to me.

Her coffee mug is full and cold. She didn't take one sip... I don't get dames.


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