Atlanta Radio
Theatre Company

Brad Strickland Interview




This month we’re completing our interview series…for now. Be sure to let us know what you think of this new format and we may mix it in again from time to time! This time we are featuring ARTC actor and Head Writer Brad Strickland. Also, how is everybody liking the new Libsyn plugin format? Be sure to let us know what you think and we’ll make adjustments based on your feedback!

Brad Strickland

Not as mean as he looks.

Brad is the author of many of our finest adaptations, including At the Mountains of Madness and The Rats in the Walls by H. P. Lovecraft and the forthcoming Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. He is also the author of several original audio dramas such as An Arkham Home Companion. He has several published novels and was the writing partner with the late Thomas E. Fuller.

You’ve heard his voice in several ARTC live productions and also as Professor Cletius Tremaine in The Dancer in the Dark.

 

 

 

Brad Strickland at the microphone

Brad as Prof. Tremaine

 

Brad Strickland and Richard Hatch

Brad Strickland with Richard Hatch in “The Weapons Shops”

 

Tags: , ,

Dave Schroeder Interview

Size: 31M Duration: 16:54

As we enter the last quarter of 2015, we’ve got big plans for the podcast. We’ve been publishing since 2006 and have been highlighting our live performances. The response from our fans has been incredible, and we’re deeply grateful for all the kind words that have been sent our way. We’ll still be bringing you live performances on occasion, but the time is approaching for us to change things up a little.

For the remainder of this year we will be featuring interviews with various ARTC actors, authors, technicians, and producers to help our fans get better acquainted with the people who have been bringing you audio drama since 1984!dave shr.
This month we begin with an interview conducted by ARTC founder William Brown with actor and author Dave Schroeder.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Let us know what you think, and we look forward to helping you get to know us better with even more exciting events to come!

Tags: , ,

Noir in the Naked City – Episode Eleven: Strength

Naked City Atlanta logoNaked 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
Naked City’s Facebook page

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 Eleven: Strength

I allowed the old man to lead me away from the killing field. The codger moved with a surprisingly swift stride for someone who looked as feeble as he did.

“Hurry along, Detective,” he said, looking over his shoulder. “It wouldn’t do to be caught here now.”

I tried to match his speed, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I couldn’t even figure out why I was so upset. I’d barely known her and it wasn’t like we’d ever had time to have a conversation that didn’t hinge on running from the bad guys. It probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. Sour grapes taste great in moments like this.

We hurried past the building where they’d been keeping us just a few hours ago and proceeded down a rough path. I could see the main road from where we were, but we seemed to be avoiding it. At last we came to a small shack. It was the stereotypical shack – front porch with columns holding up a sagging roof, shingles peeling, and a rocking chair. It may have even been painted a dingy green color, but it was hard to tell in the dark.

The old man opened the door and stood aside for me to enter before him. I shambled across the threashold and promptly allowed myself to collapse on the hard wooden plank floor. The man came in, lit a lantern, and closed the curtains.

“Would you like something to drink, Detective?”

I considered it. In most aspects of life there’s what you want and what you’re prepared to live with. What I wanted was something nice and toxic, something that would kill a few brain cells and put contracts out for the rest. What I was prepared to live with was water, so that’s what I asked for. I had a feeling we weren’t out of the woods yet.

The man brought me my water and I dragged myself into a sitting position. I stared into the glass, but didn’t drink.

“You said I had something important to do,” I finally managed.

“Oh, I just said that to get you away from there,” the old man said, sitting down and sipping from his own glass of water.

“Who are you?” I asked, starting to get angry.

“That is a very complicated question. I am many things. But from your perspective the most important thing I am is the man who created you.”

I’d always heard the phrase “go to meet your maker,” but I’d never imagined it would happen so literally.

“This is crazy,” I said. “If they have you, what could they possibly want me for?”

“Well, first of all they don’t know who I am any more than you do. I got wind that they were attempting to replicate my experiments and managed to infiltrate their ranks by presenting myself as a cat lover. All those years volunteering at the Humane Society really paid off there.”

“And second?” I asked.

“Second, you have something that even I don’t have. It’s what they’ve wanted from you all along, but they couldn’t just take it. They had to win you over. I’ll have to say they’ve done a remarkably poor job of it.”

“And what’s that?”

“Detective, you aren’t living up to your title very well. Aren’t you supposed to be good at piecing the puzzle together? I’ll give you a hint. I cloned you by crossing your father’s genes with those of a stingray.”

“That’s a terrible hint. I already knew that. It’s why my bones are so flexible and why it’s a pain in the ass to walk anywhere,” I snapped.

“And how many other stingray/human hybrids would you say are in the world?”

“I dunno. Just me, I suppose.”

“At the moment you are correct, however at one time there were three,” the old man said.

“As I said, this is crazy. What about my brother? He’s a shark/human hybrid, and they cloned him. What does any of this have to do with me?”

“You saw how uncontrolled that clone was. Your brother was complicit in their scheme at first, but had a change of heart after he saw the results of his clone. That’s why they needed you. They were counting on your hatred of your brother to get you to come over to their side,” the old man said. “Because you had that precious thing that couldn’t come from any other source: experience.”

“Experience?”

“Every species has a set of instructions in its DNA for what to do – building the body, basic movement, essential survival, and so on. But, especially in more advanced species, the individual must be instructed on HOW to do those things. They have the potential, but not the ability. They can survive, but they can’t thrive. That’s why there aren’t three of your kind any more – the others didn’t manage to learn how to be stingray/human hybrids before they got killed. You did. You figured it out. That was your great strength that they needed. And this whole affair has been designed to get you to come over to their side and teach the army of clones they wanted to create how to do it themselves.”

“And what am I supposed to do now?” I couldn’t stand this conversation. I would have almost preferred to be back with the cat. “And what about the cat?” I interjected.

“Another of my creations, although he doesn’t know it,” the old man sighed. “You know how cats are. They always have to be in charge. This one is just a bit more ruthless about it than most.”

“Only a bit,” I said, but it was a halfhearted joke.

“Detective, I know this is difficult for you, but you need to be strong,” the old man said.

He was right. But I was tired of being strong. I just wanted to go home, crawl into a saltwater bath, and intoxicate myself for the foreseeable future. It wouldn’t help, but it was better than listening to this old geezer prattle on.

“Perhaps this will help,” the man said, laying a pistol on the floor next to me.

“What, you want me to off myself?” I asked.

“No. This was Lila’s pistol.”

“Who’s Lila?”

“Our Nazi co-conspirator,” he replied.

“But how did you get it?” I asked. I picked it up and examined it. It hadn’t been fired. “I don’t understand. She shot Abigail with it, didn’t she?”

Just then there was a knock at the door.


 

This was the concluding chapter of Noir in the Naked City. At the end, instead of giving the audience the usual binary choice to make about where to go next, I opened it up for others to continue the story. If you’re reading this and want to contribute the next chapter, just show up to the next Naked City event and bring it! February 2015’s theme is Restraint. Have fun!

Tags: , ,

Noir in the Naked City – Episode Ten: Charity

Naked City Atlanta logoNaked 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
Naked City’s Facebook page

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 Ten: Charity

They say that when you have a really important decision to make that you should flip a coin. Not because you should leave important decisions up to chance, but because when the coin is in the air you suddenly know exactly which way you want it to land. Unfortunately the coin doesn’t always land the way you want it to.

With the clone at my brother’s throat and the Nazi dame with a pistol aimed directly at Abigail’s head, I knew what I wanted to do. I couldn’t reach them both in time, and I desperately knew who I wanted to save. But we don’t always get what we want in this world.

As I started to move forward, the anger started to build in me. It wasn’t fair. A genetic experiment had brought me into this world. My family had been in an adjoining test tube and my friends only called me when they needed something. Resentment followed me around like some sick groupie and society had been only too happy to sweep me under the rug.

This city…this city was a cesspool and going downhill from there. Organized crime, corrupt politicians, greedy corporations, and those were just the big players. The real decay came from within, not from those ruling on high. Ignorance, apathy, pettiness, and sloth were the water that was causing the grassroots to rot out from under itself. It was enough to turn anyone’s stomach. And here I was with a choice to make.

I felt the muscles in my legs start to coil. When your bones are made of cartilage it makes walking around a real pain in the ass, but it also means that your skeleton is basically one big rubber band and I was about to shoot myself forward to save the person I knew I needed to save, not the one I wanted to.

My options sucked. On the one hand I could save Abigail and doom the world to a fate of eugenics and genocide at the hands of these half-baked hate mongers. My insufferable brother would be dead, I could give these goons what they wanted, and walk away in the hopes that she would follow, but even if she didn’t there would be lots more people like me in the future. I could finally stand a chance of fitting in. But these losers would be in charge then, and they didn’t deserve to be in charge.

On the other hand I could save my brother and we could work together to stop this new world order. Civilization could be allowed to sort its problems out for itself without a master plan and would either succumb to the rot or rise above it to achieve a kind of weird nobility. As far as I was concerned civilization had had their chance. They didn’t deserve another one. All the redemption had been squeezed out of the entire works ages ago. And I would lose the first woman I’d felt any connection with in a long time.

I pushed off from the ground and my bones added extra snap to the spring. I raised my right arm back. I’d only get one shot at this, so my aim had to be good and I had to put as much force behind it as I could. As I sprang, the world muffled around me. I vaguely thought I heard my brother screaming something at me, but I couldn’t hear him over the report of a pistol being fired. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of red and something drop to the ground, but I didn’t look at it directly. I had my eyes fixed on my brother’s clone, who seemed to be moving in slow motion, and my vision was blurry.

When I reached them, I punched the clone as hard as I could with my right arm. The serrated barb that grows out of my forearm plunged into his chest where I desperately hoped some vital organ was located. After sinking the barb in as deeply as it would go, I pulled my arm back and began punching him as hard as I could. The barb detached itself from my arm and stayed in his chest. I wished I could pull it out and stab him again and again and again, but that’s not the way this works. I didn’t deserve to have that much power. I didn’t deserve a lot of things. After what felt like forever, the light went out in the clone’s eyes and he rolled off.

I sat back, exhausted. As quickly as it had come, my anger drained into fatigue. In place of the usual sounds of the night or any of the remaining participants talking, I heard a buzzing noise. I vaguely registered my brother getting up and running off somewhere. I didn’t care where. There was a commotion and lots of yelling, but I ignored all of it.

After spending an entire lifetime looking out for number one I had finally fulfilled one selfless act of charity. It hurt like hell. I’d saved the world. And now that it was saved it could go fuck itself.

“Detective,” I heard a voice say. I looked up and saw the old man, the one the cat had kept around for companionship.

“What?” I replied.

“We should get you out of here,” the old man said. “Nothing else good is going to happen here tonight.”

“Where would we go?” I asked.

“Does it matter?” The old man held out his hand.

“It does if you’re going to turn me over to the cat.”

“I could do that,” the old man said. “But it wouldn’t really be in my best interests, so I won’t. Of course I have no way of proving that to you now.”

“I need to see about Abigail…” I began.

“Detective,” the old man said gently, “You can’t help her anymore.”

“And my brother…?” I began again.

“He can take care of himself. There’s something more important for you to do now.”

CHOICE: Go with the old man or stay and help his brother.

Tags: , ,

Noir in the Naked City – Episode Nine: Terror

Naked City Atlanta logoNaked 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
Naked City’s Facebook page

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 Nine: Terror

We emerged into the night, my brother glancing back over his shoulder. We were somewhere on the far outskirts of the city, much farther than I’d anticipated. There were woods nearby. I looked around for Abigail, but couldn’t see her.

“Turn left,” my brother said. I did so and affected the shambling lurch I use for quick locomotion, but then he said “now right!” and I stumbled and fell trying to make the correction.

“This isn’t going to work,” I said from the ground. “You can have speed or quick turns, but you can’t have both. I need to know where we’re going.”

“I don’t know where we’re going yet. I’m trying to throw them off our trail.”

I groaned. My brother. Hadn’t seen him in years, but he hadn’t changed a bit. “Fine. Where did Abigail go?”

“I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. We need to split up for a bit until the heat’s off.”

“For once in your life can you make a decision?” I said through gritted teeth. “I have no idea what’s going on, I’ve got Nazis and cats after me and I’m not sure which is worse. They’ve captured me two or three times and haven’t done anything and now YOU show up insisting that we have to go right now, except you have no plan as to WHERE we should go.”

“I’m sorry, Meyeni,” he began, but I stopped him by getting up and lurching away from him.

“I told you not to call me that.”

I heard silence behind me for a few moments as I trudged away, heading for the woods. More cover there. I thought he might follow me or say something, but the next thing I heard was his retreating footsteps. Good riddance. He bailed me out of that situation, sure, but he sucks at making decisions and that kind of waffling can get you killed pretty quickly.

It was getting dark, the kind of dark that makes your imagination populate every inch of space with your worst fears. Of course in the mood I was in, I probably was someone else’s worst fear. I hated feeling out of control of what was going on around me. I had to find Abigail. I’d been going through the motions with my life for a long time, but here was someone I felt a connection to. It was important.

I heard sounds all around me. The shadows moved and made visibility tricky, but there was plenty to hear and I felt an unfamiliar sensation building within me: actual fear, and I wondered if going into the woods had been a mistake. In general, nothing really scared me. I had a healthy respect for some people and cats made me nervous, of course, but actual fear was new to me. Seeing my brother’s clone and knowing what they were going to do with it was something else altogether, though. The world was changing.

“Detective,” someone said. It was a lingering voice, drawing out the word. I stopped and tried to triangulate the source of the sound. “Detective…” the voice said again. “It’s a tasty offer.” That damn cat.

I considered retorting back, but decided to keep silent. Then I thought I felt something furry brush against my leg and I kicked helplessly out into empty space.

“Detective, you really don’t know what you’re missing,” the cat said. The voice was coming from all different directions.

“Don’t believe him, detective!” That was Abigail. She was close by, but I couldn’t see her. The dense woods, the shadows, masked her from me.

“You probably want to know why we haven’t just taken what we need from you, detective,” the cat went on. “After all, we’ve had you at our mercy several times now. What could you possibly have that we couldn’t have just taken by now?”

“Detective, you’re the biggest fool I’ve ever met, but use your head on this one for a change!” Abigail called out. I wished I knew where all these damn voices were coming from.

“Listen to her, Meyeni,” my brother joined in.

“Your genetic material is invaluable to our plan,” the cat said, clearly moving, slinking through the shadows.  “But we could have gotten that anytime. What proof is there that I mean you ill will? What are they so afraid of? Could it be that they don’t want you to get what’s coming to you? What is rightfully yours? Or even just a night of peaceful sleep instead of the nightmares you drink to fight off every evening? We can give you those things.”

The sounds of the night were punctuated by rustlings all around me. The shadows squirmed and mocked my vision. I closed my eyes and tried to picture the scene around me, but the sounds of the night surrounded me and swallowed up the rustling movements of my friends and my enemies alike. I wasn’t even sure which one was which anymore.

“All of you stop it!” I finally yelled.

“Meyeni,” my brother began, and then stopped. “Detective,” he continued, “they are telling you the truth about one and only one thing: the choice in this is yours. They cannot just take what they need. But they will lie to you until their dying breath to convince you to join them, and once you have done so then all is lost. It is true you haven’t always gotten what you deserve, and some of that is my fault. And for that all I can say here and now is…I am sorry.”

I buried my anger at my brother…Prionace…and tried to think.

Just then I heard a snarl and saw the clone leap at my brother, tackling him to the ground. Then I felt a sharp pain in my shoulders as that damn cat jumped up and raked at my back. I reached back, grabbed him, and flung him as far away as I could, but his claws took a chunk of my shoulder with him.

Turning to my right I could just make out the clone, teeth bared, about to tear out my brother’s throat. Abigail was near as well, looking uncharactaristically frightened. I tensed to spring on my brother’s attacker when I saw movement. The Nazi dame stepped out from behind a tree with a pistol aimed at Abigail’s head. I knew I’d never reach them both in time.

Choice: Who does he save?

Tags: , ,

30 Years of ARTC: Dragon Con 2005 part 2

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

Continuing our Dragon Con theme, we now present The Weapons Shop by A. E. van Vogt. This was a great year for ARTC as we got to perform alongside Battlestar Galactica star Richard Hatch and we also announced a new imprint that will hopefully see its first title released next year, The Sound of Liberty!

Richard Hatch with Brad Strickland

Richard Hatch with Brad Strickland

In 2005 ARTC created the Sound of Liberty project, a unique initiative to identify and adapt works of classic science fiction that put a focus on freedom and liberty. In the intervening time we’ve been busy finding suitable titles and negotiating with the authors. We hope to have the first title on this exciting new category for sale by next year, but the first title to be performed was The Weapons Shop by A. E. van Vogt.

Lydia van Vogt

Lydia van Vogt

We were pleased to have been granted the rights for this performance by his widow, Lydia van Vogt.

Chuck Hammill and Brad Linaweaver introduce

Chuck Hammill and Brad Linaweaver introduce The Weapon Shops

We’re really looking forward to diving into some of these amazing stories!

Cast photo from

Cast photo from The Weapon Shops

A great performance with a stellar cast! This one’s headed for ARTC Studio very soon!

Gerald W. Page accepts the Thomas E. Fuller Lifetime Achievement Award

Gerald W. Page accepts the Thomas E. Fuller Lifetime Achievement Award

We also got to honor one of our longtime writers, Gerald W. Page. You can hear his work in our catalog on The Assassins and The Happy Man! Thanks for all the great stories, Gerry!

Tags: , , , ,

30 Years of ARTC: Dragon Con 2005 part 1

This being our 30th anniversary, we thought we’d dip back into the past and recap some of our previous performances, triumphs and tragedies, in a series of posts. And don’t forget our Chronology! It’s not as detailed, but it really shows the growth of ARTC over the years. You can see all of the photos in their full size on our Flickr album!

We’re still on a Dragon Con high (or still getting over con crud, your choice), so this week we bring you the 2005 edition! Hey, they’re our biggest audiences of the year, I think we can be forgiven for spending some extra time on these great fans!

If there’s one thing we know for sure at ARTC it’s that we’re nothing without our writers, and we’ve been very lucky to have worked with some of the best. Writing audio drama isn’t done much anymore, and finding someone who can write it well is uncommon. We have an extensive workshopping process to make sure that our scripts are their very best before we present them to our listening audience.

At this Dragon Con, we featured several of our newer writers, who have since gone on to write some really incredible stuff!

Jonathan Strickland

Jonathan Strickland

Jonathan Strickland has written a lot, but for this performance we featured an episode from his Mildly Exciting Tales of Astonishment (META) series.

Sketch MacQuinor

Sketch MacQuinor

Sketch MacQuinor seems to write all the time, although sometimes he only writes it in his head. For this performance we showcased the Brotherhood of Damn Sassy Mutants (work out that initialism on your own, kids), but he’s also created The Game is Afoot!, Blue Hannukchristmas Carol, and lots of other stuff too numerous to mention here.

We also performed Rory Rammer, Space Marshal and The Adventure of Brave Ragnar, but somehow managed not to get a picture of Ron N. Butler or Kelley S. Ceccato this year.

Brad Strickland

Brad Strickland disapproves of this egregious oversight.

And after the writing is done, it’s time for the rest of the team to swing into action!

The cast warms up for the performance.

First, warmups.

Vocal warmups are vital to a good performance. Here you can see the ‘huddle’ style.

Brad Weage and Joel Abbott go over the musical score before the show.

Music is important, too.

Music and tech work closely together to ensure everything is plugged in and functional.

Foley artists creating live sound effects.

Foley gets into the mix.

It’s not a radio show without Foley!

David Benedict and Jack Mayfield perform.

And then it’s showtime!

We still aren’t sure what Jack Mayfield is looking at in this picture.

We’ll be back next week with part 2 of Dragon Con 2005!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Noir in the Naked City – Episode Eight: Revolution

Naked City Atlanta logoNaked 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
Naked City’s Facebook page

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 Eight: Revolution

“You’re an idiot,” Abigail said. It was tough to argue with her. We both sat tied up in chairs in a large room. Heavy wooden beams held the high ceiling up. Some kind of old warehouse, I supposed. In the room with us were the Nazi dame, a couple of her goons, an old man with a cat in his lap, and a third man, also tied up, who looked familiar even though I had no idea who he was.

“Now, now,” the Nazi dame said condescendingly. “No need for that kind of talk. Our good detective is going to help us usher in a new age of civility and prosperity.”

“Which none of the existing people are going to get to enjoy,” Abigail said.

“Details, details. It’s all for the greater good! You have to think on a species-level plane, my dear, and don’t let yourself get bogged down with simple individuality.”

That was the cat talking. Which was unexpected. The dame had identified the cat as her employer and the old man as the cat’s caretaker, but she hadn’t mentioned that it could talk. This was getting weirder by the minute, and coming from me that was an extremely bold statement.

“Species-level plane?” Abigail shot back.

“Gag her,” the cat said, idly bathing its tail. “She bores me.”

“You’re a cat,” the Nazi dame said. “Everything bores you.”

The cat glared at her briefly, then resumed its bath.

“Now,” the Nazi dame continued as the goons put tape over Abigail’s mouth, “to business. As you can see, detective, I am no liar. I give you your brother.”

“That’s not my brother,” I replied, matter of factly. I was still trying to figure out that damn cat. I was also trying to figure out how these idiots could be this stupid. They knew who I was and they still tied me to a chair?

“Of course it is,” the dame said smugly. “There are a few minor variations, but he’s your brother. Genetically.”

“Oh. How long did it take you to grow him?” I asked.

“We’ve perfected a new technique,” she said in answer. “It only took a few weeks to get him to this size. Yours may take a little longer, for obvious reasons.”

So this was the plan. This was how they were going to create their master race. Their plan was to clone me, and my special situation was going to give the new group some distinct advantages. The next step was obvious. Exterminate the inferior species.

I locked eyes with the thing they were trying to pass off as my brother and saw the reason he was tied up. He wasn’t a prisoner. The ropes were there for everyone else’s protection. I saw rage, ferocity, delusion, and a demented sensibility that showed no remorse. But worst of all was the fact that he wasn’t struggling. He was showing patience. And when the time was right, he might turn out to be a master race all by himself.

“What’s up with him?” I asked. “Your special technique have a few side effects?”

“Oh, no,” she gloated. “Our technique is flawless.”

I reflected on that statement. Flawless implied that they achieved their goal. It made me wonder if I had the right idea on who the murderer was who’d ripped that guy’s throat out. It also made me wonder if I’d just glimpsed how the inferior species was going to be exterminated. And lastly, I wondered if these folks had any idea how they were going to remain in charge of this weapon.

“So what next?”

A smile graced the face of my captor. It was simultaneously stereotypically beautiful and horribly frightening at the same time.

“Now, detective, we pick up where we left off before you were so ungraciously removed from our presence.”

That was enough for me. Silently thanking what few lucky stars I had left I twisted my wrists and my extra flexibility allowed me to slip right out of them. I quickly pushed my sleeve up on my right arm exposing a serrated barb that grew out of my forearm and used it to slash at the ropes around my feet. By that point the goons were heading my way. I dropped to the ground and watched them clumsily collide right where I’d been a moment ago.

I reached out and cut the ropes from Abigail’s feet and rolled so I could reach her hands. Her nails were painted a fiery red and her fingers, while looking delicate, also showed a great deal of strength. I stared at them for a moment, fascinated, but quickly came to my senses as I heard the cat howling in anger.

“Get outta here, Abigail,” I said. She didn’t reply, but instead bolted from the room, leaving the door open for me. Polite of her. I looked up and saw that they had untied my brother’s clone and that he was now standing.

Powerful. Muscular. And grinning with a mouthful of sharp, jagged teeth. I gritted my own teeth and used the chair to heave myself upright, my right arm now held out in front of me. The goons were back on their feet and there was a clear path to the door, but I wasn’t sure I could outrun all of them.

“Detective,” the cat said calmly. “You haven’t even heard my offer.”

“He doesn’t need to hear it,” another voice said. I turned and saw my brother, my real brother, standing there with his own set of jagged teeth bared. “Now we’re going to go,” he said, “and you’re not going to follow us.”

“It’s a tasty offer, detective,” the cat said calmly. It was sitting up now, its bath over, and no more leisure time. Cats make me nervous for obvious reasons.

“How many times do they have to lie to you, Meyeni?” my brother asked.

“Don’t call me that,” I spat back. I remembered now why I had quit talking to him.

“Their offer will be to take what they need and then kill you. Abigail needs you. Hear it later when they aren’t surrounding the building. We need to go now.”

Choice: Retreat to safety or stay and hear the cat’s offer?
Audience opts to retreat to safety.

Tags: , ,

Noir in the Naked City – Episode Seven: Madness

Naked City Atlanta logoNaked 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
Naked City’s Facebook page

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 Seven: Madness

The car pulled away from the curb, leaving Abigail and Gus behind us. For someone who hated cars so much, I sure seemed to be spending a lot of time in them lately. Guess it’s my accommodating nature. Not everybody likes to walk everywhere like I do. I looked out the side window and watched the world go by, a blur of people all moving about in their routine. I wondered if they felt as out of control of their lives as I did in mine.

The Nazi dame sat next to me in the back seat. “What’s the matter, detective?” she cooed. I didn’t answer.

It had felt wrong to leave Abigail back there, but I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t even get a chance to tell her why I had gone. Gus had been prepping for a fight, and he just might have been able to take our dear fraulein friend even with the pistol she’d been holding. What they hadn’t noticed was her three goons lurking in the shadows.

The entire situation was beginning to get on my nerves. A vicious murder, crazy Nazis trying to create their own master race, Abigail, my long lost brother. What next? I closed my eyes and tried to figure out how I’d gotten into this. Then I decided I didn’t care. It was time to get out. Literally. As the car slowed for a traffic light, I unbuckled my belt, threw open my door, and vaulted out into the street. I dodged a car coming from the other direction, threw myself forward into a roll, and launched myself forward.

Behind me I could hear the Nazi dame screaming, apoplectic with rage, yelling for them to get after me, but they’d never catch me. I had a head start, was in better shape than them, and have a kind of springy gait that gives me a little extra edge when I’m on the run, something which feels like it happens a lot. I just hoped that Abigail had had the brains to get away from the Empire Night Club, because it was a safe bet they’d go after her to get to me. Assuming her goons hadn’t just scooped her up after we left. She clearly knew too much anyway.

I ducked into a doorway and listened for the telltale pounding footsteps of pursuers and heard nothing, so I allowed myself to breathe for a minute. I looked around the immediate area and saw some bum sitting on the ground, leaning against the brick wall of the building, but nothing else. These guys are everywhere. Down on their luck, out of time, and up against the wall, in this case literally.

It was this kind of thing that made the Nazi dame’s plan almost appealing, if it weren’t completely crazy. It wasn’t like things were rainbows and sparkles out there now in the Naked City. It was grimy and gritty and you could find yourself with a knife between your ribs shortly after breakfast if you looked at the wrong person the wrong way or end up like this poor schmoe if things didn’t quite break right. Breed a master race and maybe things improve. Care enough about your population and maybe you take better care of them. Maybe I should just let them get about their business and look out for myself.

The interesting part about bums like this guy was that they were often the best confidence men in the city. They had persistence, could convince you of all kinds of things when they were sober, and could own the world for a song if they could just get their act together. Their downfall was usually substances or madness. Impossible expectations and an inability to compromise could lead someone to turn down the golden goose while they were holding out for diamonds and end up with nothing.

The bum looked up at me, as if seeing me for the first time, and stared. Stared a little too long.

“I almost had it all,” he said.

“What’s that, old timer?” I asked, looking around nervously. Getting distracted while on the run was a sure way to get dead.

“All of it. Every bit. The fountain of youth. The Philosopher’s Stone. El Dorado. The Holy Grail. You name it, I almost had it.”

“So what happened?”

“Turns out you don’t have those things. They have you.”

With that he lunged towards me and shoved a stick of gum in my hand before I could react. He stared at me with a knowing look in his eye, although what he knew was anybody’s guess, and then opened the door and ducked inside. I went to follow him, but he’d locked it behind himself.

The next thing I heard was the sound of screeching tires. The Nazi dame’s damn black car backed into view at the end of the alley. They’d found me somehow.

I turned to run, but the other end of the alley was also blocked. Damn. I looked around. No ladders. I tried the other doors that were close by. Locked.

“Detective!” I heard the Nazi dame’s voice cut through the sound of the idling motor of the car. I turned to face her. This time she’d probably just go ahead and put me in handcuffs. An intriguing thought, but the circumstances were wrong. But when I got my head around in her direction, I saw that Abigail was with her. Double damn.

“You are much more problematic than I’d anticipated, Detective,” the dame hissed. “Now get in the car.”

“Detective, I know you’re going to get in the car because you’re just the kind of noble fool who tries to rescue the damsel in distress,” Abigail said, rolling her eyes. “But I’m telling you anyway that she’s a liar and that you should run away back down the alley. There’s only one guy there. You can make it. Don’t worry about me. You need to go to your brother. He’s at the park. He’ll explain when you get there.”

I looked and saw that she was right. I probably could make it. But I’d hate myself in the morning.

CHOICE: Run away to find my brother or go with the Nazis to save Abigail.

 

Tags: , ,

Noir in the Naked City – Episode Six: Sexy Sex Sex

Naked City Atlanta logoNaked 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
Naked City’s Facebook page

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?

Tags: , ,

Older Entries