Friday, July 30, 2010

#fridayflash~The Waiting Black Mariah

The Waiting Black Mariah

Jimmy Barletti and Vinnie, his muscle, slouched in their front row seats at the Regal. They watched the last of the credits roll by through a shroud of grey cigarette smoke. Vinnie glanced behind him as the last few people filed out of the theatre. “Looks like we’re good to go, boss,” he said as he ground out his cigarette in the ashtray.

“That Cagney’s some kind of guy,” Barletti said, stretching his arms above his head.

Vinnie nodded his agreement. “Yeah, but he’s no George Raft,” he said.

“Damn straight.”

The men wandered up the aisle of the opulent theater as the heavy velvet curtain slid across the screen. Barletti liked this joint best because of the fancy art on the ceiling. Guys wearing armour and swinging swords, protecting busty dames with next to nothing on.

“I gotta take a leak. I’ll meet you in the lobby,” Barletti said.

“I’m nearly out of smokes. I’ll get a pack from across the road and meet you on the sidewalk in a couple of minutes.”

Barletti had a quick pee and checked his reflection in the bathroom mirror. His fingers scraped against the stubble on his chin but he figured he’d pass muster. He was meeting his girl in O’Reilly’s for a drink. Barletti carefully combed his hair, put on his fedora and returned to the lobby. He pushed open the heavy glass door and walked past the ticket booth. There was no sign of Vinnie.

The bright marquee lights made the misty air sparkle but they suddenly flickered off, leaving Barletti in near darkness. It was only then he noticed the street lamp above him had been smashed. He slipped his hands into the deep pockets of his overcoat, fingering the steel of his snub nose revolver, as he strode along 47th street. Vinnie had parked half block away in front of Cicero’s butcher shop.

Barletti had just passed the dark entrance of Epstein’s watch repair when he heard the heavy footfall of two people behind him. He began to run but traveled only five strides when his left foot caught the trip wire strung low across the sidewalk. Barletti’s knee buckled and he sprawled face first to the wet pavement. His hat fell off and a layer of skin was scraped from his palms as they hit the rough concrete. He clenched his teeth but didn’t cry out, not wanting to give the bastards the satisfaction.

The thugs were on him like hyenas on a dying lion. The skinny guy with the silver tooth yanked Barletti’s head up by his hair while the other guy, the one with the flattened nose, gave him two quick jabs to the face. He was pulled to his feet when Nose guy kicked him squarely in the family jewels. Barletti sucked in air and stopped breathing for a split-second before the lightning bolt hit him in the balls. He vomited on the sidewalk and curled up on top of the mess. The men frisked him and took away his gun.

The attackers grabbed Barletti under the arms and hoisted him up. They nearly supported his full weight as the toes of his wing tips dragged against the pavement. Even with blood in his eyes, he spotted the large man leaning against the light post across the road. The guy’s cigarette glowed below the hat hiding his face but Barletti knew it was Vinnie.

The goons dragged him to their large, black cruiser parked behind the meat shop’s delivery van. He recognized the sexy curves of the ’38 Buick Special. Some of the boys joking called it the Chariot to Hell and Barletti had a bad feeling he might find out if the boys were right.

Silver tooth guy pulled open the door and heaved Barletti into the back. The bench seat was covered with a blanket that looked like it had been swiped from a granny’s bed. It was yellow with white lilies all over the place. Nose guy squealed the tires as he pulled out from the parking spot.

Barletti tried to ignore the throbbing and wetness he felt in his groin area and attempted to steady his breathing, even though his heart hammered in his chest. He was bathed in light and darkness and back to light as they swiftly passed under the street lights heading towards the freeway ramp. The rain fell harder now; it tracked down the window above them in glistening tears. He tried to raise his head but was rewarded with a cuff to the ear with the butt of a gun. “Don’t make me mess up the interior of this nice car, asshole,” Silver tooth said.

“What the hell do you guys want with me anyway? What did I ever do to you?”

Nose Guy chuckled and glanced in the rear view mirror at the prone form in the back seat. “You’re a pretty stupid guy, Jimmy. I’d heard you were a smart guy, but that ain’t true at all.”

“What are you talking about,” Barletti said, glancing up through his swelling eye, more sensing than actually seeing the driver.

“Ya know that broad you been seeing?”


“Yeah, her. She’s taken goods ya idiot.”

“So what. That’s between me and her!”

“Maybe. But ya gotta ask yourself, what kind of moron would fuck the police chief’s wife and ‘spect to get away with it?”

“Yeah. Real moron,” repeated Silver tooth guy, jamming the gun barrel into Barletti’s ear. The thugs laughed in unison.

The large black Mariah, propelled by its 141 horses, sped along the freeway towards the marshlands west of the city. The heavy rain drummed against the shell of the car and disappeared into the water that pooled on the road.


Sulci Collective said...

I love gangsters and you do a mean line in them here.

But I always wonder, if it's set in America, then does that mean you have to spell things the American way like 'armor' - cos you chose sidewalk and asshole over pavement and arsehole. It's a tricky one that I've wrestled with too

marc nash

Eric J. Krause said...

Gritty and very cool! They were on a different side of the law than I expected. Good story!

Karen from Mentor said...

Wow. Just wow. You nailed this one my friend. Loved the voice. Loved the details. The blanket that was like one off a granny's bed? N I C E.

I have a question about the groin injury...[there's something I've never typed before..] The vomiting I've seen done.[so check] Loved the lightning bolt pain imagery[check, check]...but the wetness? was it A)Blood, B)Urine? C)His own vomit? D)Something I don't want to think about?

This gets an A.

Gracie said...

Hard and smooth like the barrel of a new revolver, sir. This actually played in my head in black and white like that Cagney movie they were watching.

Great, gritty story.

A, indeed.

Cathy Olliffe said...

Alan, what a gorgeous story, told in black and white and beautiful.
Your last paragraph, in particular, is especially nice.
I just wish people still dressed like that, fedoras and all.
Well done, ma friend.

Carrie said...

Yay gangsters!

J. M. Strother said...

Really well done. The atmosphere here was done to perfection. Doubly chilling when you find out they're working for the Police Chief.

Kemari said...

Gangsters are the new ninjas. Woohoo!

I love this. Especially when we find out he's doin' the wife of the Police Chief.

Good job!

Lou Freshwater said...

Methinks someone had an awfully good time writing this. Which helps to explain why it is a good time to read it.

Bukowski's Basement said...


By the way, the orignal "black maria" is located in my town. Thomas Edison named his first movie studio The Black Maria ...

I loved this post, man... MORE!!!

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

hah - great misdirection! Very cool story, and the atmosphere was spot-on.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Marc- Yeah, I've laboured (with a 'u') over that before. Probably 75% of readership is American and I wonder if I should be trying to edit that stuff to suit. Then again, would that piss off the 25% of the Brits, Canadains and Aussie's?

Eric- Glad you enjoyed the story.

Karen- Thank you for your kind words. That 'A' makes up for the ones I didn't get in school...

As for the groin discussion. I'm leaning towards B) but until a guy experinces, that he can't say with any certainty. Vague but true.

Gracie- Thanks! That's an interesting observation about it playing in your head in black and white. Very cool.

Cathy- Thanks a lot. Very nice of you to say that stuff. Maybe Ant could help bring this stuff back into vogue.

Carrie- Yep, they're bad, bad men but always entertaining!

Jon- Thanks for the kind words, sir!

Kemari- Ha! "Gangsters are the new ninjas". Great point. And thanks!

Lou- It was fun and painful in places. Pieced together in 6 days after something my dad said while watching a movie with large black cars set in the '50s. Glad that you enjoyed it.

Ant- Thanks. Glad to hear that you liked it.

I didn't know about the origins of that. My dad mentioned they had that expression in Britain for the large, black police cars. They used that expression here in Newfoundland as well (not surprising, considering its British roots).

I went with the UK spelling 'Mariah' rather than 'Maria' to avoid the mis-pronounciation of the word and to avoid having people that the story was about a woman called 'Maria'. I din't know that Edison had a movie studio...

Mazzz- Thanks very much. I'm happy to hear that there was a bit of surprise factor in the end.

Mari said...

The mafia is everywhere, it's just disguised as the 'good guys' so we think it's something from the past. I live in Italy, remember? O_o

Great atmosphere! I could picture a black and white movie, and uh, they guys pain in his lower parts...

Laura Eno said...

Spot on! I tip my fedora to you... ;)

As to Marc's question - personally, I don't care if it's a mixture of spelling/regional words in a's all the same to me. I don't even notice it.

Linda said...

This piece has such atmosphere; the setting is it's own character. The pic sets the town perfectly. Peace...

Linda said...

oop, should be tone, not town (working on my mom's computer and the keyboard is weird).

shannon said...

Did I read that this is your first attempt at noir? Holy smoly! I think you found your calling! This was really, really well executed (pun intended :-) The characters were real with a capital R, the setting, the suspense...everything was masterful. Well done!

Aaron Polson said...

I almost vomitted, too. Very nice, Alan.

Wulfie said...

Here's lookin' at you, kid.

This took me back to the black and white movies my mom used to watch w/ the Bowery Boys, James Cagney and such. Fun stuff. Very visual.

Helen Ginger said...

This was very good. I felt like it could keep going. I wanted him to somehow get free.

Straight From Hel

pegjet said...

I'm not sure I've ever read "sexy" and "Buick" in the same sentence before....

You nailed the tone, atmosphere, imagery and, from what I understand, pain (though I've been accused of owning a pair). I saw the light, dark, light as the car sped away. Sad last paragraph, but well told.

ganymeder said...

Great job. I love the voice you used to write this. Well done!

Karen from Mentor said...

Thanks for answering the question. [and ewww]
I'd like to add what Shannon said to my comment.

*snorted* @ Aaron.

Mike Robertson said...

Alan, I can't improve on those comments - great atmospheric vignette. I too visualized it all in B/W (of course). "He's no George Raft." Got that right.

One little technical thing that jerked me out of the story momentarily: "freeway ramp..." I haven't checked, but I'd be surprised if those were built back in the '30s or '40s. They pretty much came along in America in the mid-50s as a result of Eisenhower's Interstate Highway system.

Nice work sir.

Anonymous said...

Great flash - really felt the pace of the story with your descriptions. The characters not having actual names but nicknames about their appearance is genius - great work

L'Aussie Denise said...

Great story. Don't read enough noir. Some great descriptions - 'the sexy curves of the ’38 Buick Special.' Loved it..:)

Alan W. Davidson said...

Mari- Thanks. Italy, eh? I shall consider you my authority on all things Mafia!

Laura- Thanks, you're a doll! Or is it a dame?

Linda- And thank you too. It took a while to find a good street shot.

Shannon- Yep. First timer. I don't read much noir, but thought it would be cool to give it a whirl. Thanks for all the kind words!

Aaron- Thank you, sir. Almost making you, horror guy, vomit is high praise indeed.

Wulfie- Thanks very much!

Helen- Thank you. The escape?...if only I had another 1000 words...

Peggy- You've got a pair? I shall behave myself should I ever visit your establishment. Thanks very much for all the kind things you said.

Karen- You are welcome, kind lady...and if you and Shannon keep talking like that you'll both be my best friends forever :)

Mike- Thanks for all the nice remarks. And that's an excellent point about the freeway ramps. It hadn't even occured to me (wrong vintage).

Brainhaze- Thanks a lot. I'm glad you liked the use of the nicknames.

Denise- Thank very much!

Akasha Savage. said...

OMG. That was excellent. I love anything to do with gangsters and you had that off to a tee.I wanted to read on. I honestly think that's the best thing of yours I've read to date. Good Stuff!!

Anonymous said...

Great story. I too wondered about the highway, but it didn't disturb me much. I liked this one a lot.

Entre Nous said...

LOVE This :)

Pamila Payne said...

Alan, you're a natural. This is so well done. Smart, sharp slice of story.

Kat said...

Vinnie. Pfft. Some friend he is.

And that, kiddies, is why cheating sucks. ;)

Nicely done Alan. Love mob stories! :D

Danielle Ferries said...

Very smooth. Very cool. I love a good gangster story.

Alan W. Davidson said...

Akasha- Thanks for all those kind words!

Coyote- Thany you. I'm glad you liked it.

Entre nous- Thanks, Joni.

Pamila- Thank you. That means a lot coming from one who writes such well-described, gritty tales!

Kat- Yep, Vinnie's a rat. There's a few around. Glad you liked the story.

Danielle- Well, young lady, you're going to have to craft a tale merging the gangster world with horror...

Tomara Armstrong said...

Oh SO good. I love gangsters, and you wrote this so well. It was pretty intense, and I was holding my breath.

great post

kathryn said...

Wow. I could totally picture every minute of this...was totally grossed out by that beating...but in a good way.

I try to be optimistic...but I don't think he's coming back.

katey said...

Alan, you're really good with what you need to say and what you don't-- it just makes the whole thing tear along like mad. Love the image to go with it too!