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!
Naked City’s website
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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.
Episode Six: Sexy Sex Sex
Ever feel like you weren’t really in control of your own destiny? I feel like that all the time. Little invisible strings pulling at me, tugging at my mind, and sometimes even turning the world around to make sure I go a certain way.
As we tried to shake the car tailing us, Gus, the driver, grumbled under his breath. “What’s it gonna be, you two?” he growled.
“Fine,” Abigail said with poor grace. “We’ll do it your way. Gus, take us to the Empire Night Club.”
Gus grunted in acknowledgement and hit the accelerator. Abigail looked through the back window at the car tailing us and then turned back to me, the look in her pale green eyes turning my brain to a fine, gritty powder and my heart into an alien about to burst out of my chest. There was passion there, but I couldn’t tell what kind. I suddenly felt underdressed.
“Lost ‘em,” Gus said a few moments later, a smug sense of pride in his voice. “We’ll be at the night club in about another ten minutes.”
I shook my head. I needed to focus, but she was making it really … difficult for me. I hadn’t met a dame like this in a long time. Oh, there’d been plenty to turn my head. The Nazi dame who’d recruited me for her new world order had a body that spoke the language of sin as fluently as any I’d ever seen. Women didn’t always find me attractive at first, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve that my extra flexibility helps out with and the animal part of me wanted to show her all of them.
But that was all just physical. Abigail was something else entirely. She wasn’t classically beautiful, but she had a magnetism about her that accentuated all of her best assets. The flaming red hair, cut to a short and severe length, the shape of her legs, lean and strong, in that black skirt that was surely too short for this kind of work, and the way she carried herself, knowing that she could break you, do it slowly, and that you’d enjoy it until the last horrifying moment. And that smile. I had only seen it for an instant when Gus said we’d lost the tail, and even then it was a grim, forbidding curl of her vermilion lips. It was a smile that spoke of revenge more than joy, betrayed more determination than happiness, and hinted at deadly doom for any who dared to cross her. It thrilled me in ways I had figured myself too jaded and cynical to feel, and I found myself trying to think of ways to get her to do it more often.
I shook my head again. But thoughts that had no business on this case kept intruding. I found myself longing to explore every curve and crevice, listening to every gasp and sigh, and feeling the tension and relaxation that would betray her attempts to dismiss me as the stereotypical limp private dick. But I also found myself wanting more than that. I wanted to find that romantic part of her that I knew was buried deep down and nurture it.
At last the car slowed and came to a stop at the Empire Night Club. She got out first and strode towards the door. I tried not to think about what those legs could do besides walk in those ankle-high boots and drive me to distraction. Gus got out next and took a furtive look around.
She turned and saw me still sitting there. “Detective?” she asked, her voice cutting through my reverie. “Are you coming?”
Declining to answer, I got out of the car, shambled to the door, and rapped smartly on the glass. It was eventually answered by a small, mousy guy with spectacles whose lenses distorted his eyes, giving him a perpetual look like a bassett hound that had been cutting an onion. He wore a white shirt, a haggard look, and a tacky brown and blue striped necktie, loosly wound around his neck. A fleeting image of Abigail wearing nothing but that tie slid through my brain and I shook my head again.
After a moment’s pause he asked “What?”
“Ain’tcha gonna invite me inside for a drink?” I asked.
“No,” he replied. Another pause.
“I’m here about the murder,” I said. Two can play this game, even if some of the pieces are missing and the dice are loaded. Best to keep it simple. Stick to what he can understand.
“Murder?” he laughed. “Sorry, we’re fresh out of murder. Come back in a few hours and I can get you a grilled cheese or somethin’”
“You know what I’m talkin’ about, Murray,” I said.
“So what if I do? Sure, I heard about it. Sure, I got somethin’ you might find interestin’. But I ain’t gonna tell you, and that’s out of pure spite. You had a real good thing goin’ and you blew it, and now you want me to help you? Well ain’t that just dandy?”
“Look,” I began…
“No, you look. I don’t remember seein’ my name in the paper about a year ago. It shoulda been there. We all shoulda been there. But we weren’t because you hadda keep your little secret. Well you can take it to your grave now for all I care. Now get outta my doorway before you scare the customers.”
Murray closed the door roughly in my face and pulled the blind. A moment later a hand reached through the slats, rotated the sign hanging on the inside from “Open” to “Closed”, gave me the finger, and withdrew.
“Now what, detective?” Abigail asked, the scorn in her voice withering the hopes I’d been nurturing during the car ride over.
“Now you come with us,” a voice said. I turned and saw the Nazi dame. She was dressed to kill and armed to maim with a pistol.
Gus cracked his knuckles. Abigail looked at me. “Your choice, detective. You wanna go with her or go find your brother?”
“Your brother?” the dame said, laughing. “Who do you think told us you’d come here? He’s with us, detective.”
Abigail scowled. “She’s lying, detective. That’s impossible.”
CHOICE: Who to believe? Go with Abigail or with the Nazi dame?