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NOIR, Chapter 6

Storyteller
After some reuben on rye and coffee, I was home. I crashed on my sofa, having made my choice of whiskey from bourbon and lemonade. I sipped and slowly washed away the memory of Holly. The memory of Maxim. The memory of what seemed to be ghosts. I shouldn't care, I barely knew her. The more I drank, the less I did. Eventually, I had forgotten and was fast asleep.

I woke near dawn, the room was dark and I heard noises from the kitchen. I looked to the door, it was shut and locked. I wanted that gun now more than ever, but I knew that the cops were probably processing it as evidence at this point. I grabbed my whiskey bottle and sipped the last little bit of it; held it upside down from the neck and slowly rose to my feet trying not to make a sound. The radio turned on and I could hear the sound of the intruder fumbling through the AM waves looking for a station to fit their desires.

Jazz. Sultry jazz.

I heard clinking of glass and footfalls coming towards me, I slid against the wall near the kitchen doorway. A dark, slender figure entered carrying something large and dark in its hands, possibly a Tommy gun. I slipped in behind the figure, breaking the bottom of my bottle which was held with my right hand on the wall to my right and then held the jagged end to the neck of the intruder. With my left arm I reached out and around, crossing left arm and chest of intruder.

"You get one chance," I whispered in the right ear.

"Johnny, darling, it's me, Holly."

Amidst a raunchy, damp sort of smell I could sense Holly's perfume. It was her. She wasn't dead. After releasing her and turning the light on, I could see Maxim had beat her up pretty bad. She had black and blue eyes, bruises on her arms and legs. Her dress was torn, wet and her lip was busted and swollen. In her hands she held a glass and my bourbon, a far cry from a Tommy gun.
"What went down, kid?"

"Let me get a drink first," she started as she went to my couch, "I need to numb the pain."

I joined her, sitting close to her. She started to pour the drink, but her arm was obviously in a lot of pain. I took the bottle and glass from her hands and poured the drink myself. I handed her the glass and she gulped it instantly and handed it back. I poured some more, this time she savored it. She made it last.

"He took me to Buehler Lake," she began her story, "They worked me over. There were three of them, four counting Maxim. He kicked me twice, but stopped because I was scuffing his loafers. What a pity. They had bats and crowbars, but mostly they kicked and punched. They wanted it to last. Eventually I scrambled and threw myself over the dock into Buehler. I swam beneath the dock and waited for them to give up looking for me; they did and left. I waited until nightfall, then came out and made my way here. We gotta show him up, Johnny. We gotta get him back. This has to end."

After a moment of thought, I responded, "I don't know, kid, I'm in enough trouble as is. My little sister is a cop and serious about it, if I keep getting in trouble she'll nail me."

"Johnny, darling, you're all I have," she compelled and placed her left hand on my leg.

"What about your parents? They have money, they can ruin him better than I can."

"They won't listen to me," she starts, "They think I am making this all up."

"Look at you; you can't make this up. Go to them, show them. Good grief, I'll tell 'em what I know; what I've seen."

"No, Johnny," she removes her hand and turns away, hanging her head, "Maxim has convinced my parents I'm cheating on him, they won't listen to me. They've disowned me. I'm not even in the will anymore. I bring too much shame to them. I have nothing. I have no one."

"Well, did you?"

"Did I what?"

"Did you cheat on him?"

After a moment, she responds, "Sort of."

Here I thought I had a chance with her. Here I thought she was digging me. All the Johnny, darlings and batty eyes. I'd fallen for a dame and she had someone else on the brain. I almost went to jail for life for her and I ain't even her daddy. I was ready to kill her myself.

"It's you, Johnny," she looks back at me, "I'm in love with you, though I know we barely know each other and we haven't really done anything. He has pictures of us together and that's all my parents can see and I can't really deny how I feel for you."

I wrapped my arms around her in an embrace; gently, so as to not irritate her wounds. I pulled her in tight to me. She was cold, so I grabbed a blanket from the back of the couch and wrapped it around her. I held her tightly, trying to warm her body with the blanket and my own heat. I realized now that it was not over. That the plot hadn't even thickened. The villain had to go and I had to be the hero. I was gonna kill Maxim.

"Where does Maxim live?" I began to formulate my scheme, "Tell me where he is and I'll kill the rat myself."

"No, Johnny," she pleaded, "Not Maxim."

"What do you mean not Maxim?"

"I want to scorn him before he dies."

She was cruel, but it was understandable. After what she had gone through, one could see where such notions would come to mind and one might even rationalize them.

"What did you have in mind, kid?"

"There's a man," she started, "His name is Stanley Black. He's got some blueprints in a leather briefcase that Maxim needs to have for some shady deal he's working. If we get those blueprints and destroy them, he'll be in a heap of trouble. We'll let him sweat it for a few days and then we'll kill him."

For the first time since she'd been in my apartment, she smiled. It was an eerie smile, but an understandable one. Vengeance and freedom were within her grasp. She could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and that made her happy. I was happy for her.

"I'll need a gun; do you still have any cash?"

"Yes, Johnny darling, just enough to get us through the rest of this trouble and buy a one-way ticket on a train to anywhere," she smiled in a nice way this time, "We'll live on love."

"For you, kid, sure."

We kissed.

She stayed the night at my place, but not in the lustful way. She was too beat up for any foolishness anyhow. She slept in my bed and I sprawled on the couch, too afraid to lay next to her battered body. Afraid I might roll over in my sleep and hurt her more. I felt relieved. I felt at peace. Tomorrow morning, after my hangover, I'd be buying a gun and paying Stanley a visit. After that, it would merely be a matter of time before Maxim was dead and we were on a train to anywhere. And we'd savor it; we'd make it last.

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