Every time I walk into Toot’s joint down on Sixth and Vine I get this ugly feeling all over me, like something crawled out of the sewers and was enveloping me with its slimy waste. It was that kind of place. Clientele down and out for the count. Women and men hibernating in cold, damp booths where even the darkness was to bright for their taste. This is where Jezzie – short for Jezebel LeBlanc, Lobelia’s older sister, worked cleaning and tending bar as if it was just a bad habit she’d learned to live with; all in a day’s work: nothing to it, just another wonderful life here in God’s sweet country. Yea, but her god wore horns and did a gig every Saturday night down in Bo Town in the backwoods with more than a little hoot and whiskey, and a lot of dancing and carousing.
No telling why she did it. It wasn’t as if she needed money. Her drug slinging man, Booker T. Toutant worked these streets like it was his private store padding his wallet without a brow sweat. He had teams of hungry teens out there willing to pop one and take the heat for it now and then just to make a moment’s cash out.
She was in the back storeroom bringing up a box of Jax for the cooler from the basement. She smiled at me with those big teeth and cheery dimples that still left me in awe.
“How ya doin’, Jess? Been a long time since I seen you round here.” She said sarcastically. Then she pushed past me like she was hurt I hadn’t dropped by sooner cause of her sis.
Yea, I felt bad about that, but not enough to cry over. Not yet, anyway. “So I here tell, Toot – my nick for her man, is riding his boys hard these days.
She gave me a look. “Don’t you be bad mouthing my man now. You here me you cocksucker!”
I always did like anger in a woman, brought out the underbelly of their venom where one could deal with it. It was the ones that hid it behind smiles you had to be careful of, those were the deadly ones. Like cobras, those were. “Nah, Hun, I didn’t mean nothing by it.”
“Well, you sure and hell ain’t come here to shoot the shit with me, I know that much. So what the hell you want. Why aren’t you out there getting her killer instead of in here bothering me you bastard. Tell me that?” Her eyes had that black fire and were sparking like those July 4th fireworks down on Pogan Creek. Yea, I’d best just state my business and be gone.
“Don’t you, Hun, me you son-of-a-bitch. Get the fuck out of here, will ya… of course you’re not, I can see that long way away. So get it out you toad, you. What you want. Just say it and be gone.” She said matter of factly.
“Simple, Jezzie, did Toot have any troubles of late? Anything out of the ordinary? Maybe those Big Boys from up East come collecting and not get what they came for? …”
“What you getting at? You think my man had something to do with my little sister’s death? Is that it? Why you two-bit bastard.” Those fireworks had become bombs exploding now. She picked up one of those frosted beers from the cooler and pitched it at me like an infield thrower. Dam she’s good. If I hadn’t been keyed up I’d of gotten it on the kisser, sure tell. Luckily it grazed my right shoulder and skimmed off lightly or I’d been laid out good.
“Ok, ok… I had to ask, Jezz!” I said cautiously.
“Well if you have to ask, why don’t you go ask him yourself. Get the hell outta here now, before I get all these boys to throw you out.” She pointed to a bunch of overgrown teenage hoodlums at the pool tables in the back who were all itching to do just that. One even began walking toward me in earnest.
“I wouldn’t do that, son, if you know what’s good for you.” I said with just enough force to make him stop and think about it.
She gave him a look. He slowly backed up to where his friends stood snickering at him now.
I did the same. Slowly backed out of that cage like I was a tiger ready to pounce on anything that might move my way.
* * *
– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.
Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.
Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress