Saturday, February 26, 2011

RAT PACK REVUE: "STAR" ~ By Julie Morrigan . . . Debut AT THE BIJOU

 By Julie Morrigan 

Sammy lit a smoke and leaned back on his bar stool at the 500 Club. 

‘Hey, Dean,’ he said. ‘Did you ever meet McGraw?’


‘McGraw. Irish dick works downtown.’

‘Don’t know that I ever did,’ drawled Dean, sipping on a martini. ‘Why’d you ask?’

‘He told me this story ‘bout a broad he was sweet on. Celeste, used to sing at “Santini’s”. Remember her? It kinda stayed with me.’

‘Yeah, she was a cute kid. How’d it swing?’

~ ~ ~ ~  

I was downtown on the trail of a weasel named Benny the Snitch when the call came in. Just that morning we’d found the landlord of a rundown rooming house with his brains all over his pillow, one eye staring at the ceiling, the other turned to jelly by hot lead. I figured if anyone knew who done it, Benny did. Turns out a couple of flatfoots had got lucky and they already had the killer bang to rights, sweating over his relationship with his maker in a holding cell.
‘What’s his name?’ I asked, flicking a match and putting the flame to a smoke.
The flatfoot chuckled. ‘Miss Celeste Aubuchon, if you please,’ he said. ‘Scumbag Sammy got iced by a dame.’
Thirty minutes later and I’m back at the station house, gulping down a mug of stewed coffee while Smitty fills me in.
‘We was questioning the people that live in the rooming house. Asked ‘em all straight out did they do it. We ask her and she says “yes”, calm as you like and goes and gets the gun. 

Apparently she can kill a guy, but telling lies is a bad thing, she can’t do it.’
‘No kidding!’
‘And McGraw, you wanna see this broad. Looks like a goddamn movie star!’
I could hardly wait to see this exotic creature for myself. She sounded like quite a piece of work. I had her moved from the cell to the interview room while I finished my coffee, then I headed off to question the city’s latest stone cold killer.
Smitty had told me she was a swell looking dame, but she still took my breath away. She was standing when I went into the room, her back to me, and I got the chance to take in her shape: she had curves in all the right places, topped off with a platinum blonde hair-do. When she turned, I gawped. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, sleepy, brown eyes and blood red lips, cheekbones you could cut a finger on. She was smoking a cigarette in a holder, and when she saw me, she took it from her lips and moved towards me.
‘Hello, sir, I’m Celeste Aubuchon,’ she said, holding out her hand in a formal greeting.
‘McGraw,’ I said, shaking her hand, careful not to squeeze too hard. For all the poise and polish, the dame looked fragile. 

‘Please, take a seat, Miss Aubuchon.’
‘Thank you, Mr McGraw,’ she said, taking her seat at the table.
‘Just McGraw.’ I sat opposite, her perfume wrapping me in its heady sweetness and drawing me in.
‘Call me Celeste,’ she said, smoothing the skirt of her emerald green suit over her thighs.
‘So, Celeste, what’s the story?’ I asked, as I tried to keep my eyes off her lips and my mind on the job.
‘I killed a man,’ she told me. ‘But he was a bad man and I’m not sorry.’
‘I see. Want to tell me how it all went down?’
Celeste took the cigarette from the holder and tamped it out in the ashtray, put the holder on the table in front of her. ‘It all started last year,’ she told me. ‘I packed my good shoes, my best lipstick and all my dreams into a cardboard suitcase and headed west to seek fame and fortune. I’m a star, McGraw. I wanted the world to know.’
‘How do you make that out?’ I asked, struggling to recall where I had seen this dame before.
‘When did you know you were a cop?’ she asked me.
‘Gee, I always wanted to be a cop, right from when I was a kid. I was born to do this job.’
She shrugged. ‘Same here. I was born to be a star.’
‘You and a few hundred other dreamers,’ I muttered, thinking how many times I’d heard that line or one like it. I was surrounded by stars. They shined my shoes, gassed up my car and packed my groceries. ‘So, what happened to turn you from a star into a killer?’
‘My looks got in the way.’
‘Forgive me for saying so, but I would have thought your looks would pave the way rather than block it.’
She nodded an assent. ‘Up to a point, for sure. Looks and talent got me parts in a couple of B-movies. Then I had a screen test for a real peachy role. The studio wanted to make me their newest starlet. There was just one problem.’
‘Which was?’
‘The casting couch. I was expected to … earn my opportunity, shall we say.’
‘I’m guessing you decided not to.’
‘The studio head was old, fat, bald and married. I was saving myself for the right guy. I wanted to be a starlet, not a harlot. I said “No”, another girl said “Yes” and that was it: I wasn’t even on the B-movie roster anymore.’
‘Tough break.’
‘I picked up a job singing in a club, “Santini’s”, on Fifth and Main.’
Bingo. That’s where I’d seen her, singing sad songs in a voice like liquid gold, half-glimpsed through a smoky haze as I sipped Bourbon and tried to forget the sights I’d seen that day. Celeste was right: she was a star.
‘I was sharing a nice apartment with three other actresses, but even with the pay and the tips, I could no longer afford my share of the rent. So I had to pack up my little suitcase again and find somewhere cheaper.’
‘I’m guessing that was the rooming house.’
She nodded. ‘I cut back, tried doing without things, but I couldn’t do without enough of them to make ends meet. There’s been some weeks over the last two months I’ve had to pay my rent on my back.’
I took out two cigarettes and lit them, offered one to Celeste. She took it and met my eyes while she put it to her lips and drew. I felt sorry for the dame. She had turned down a studio chief, preferring to wait for her one true love, then had to give it up for Scumbag Sammy. ‘The last few weeks I’ve made the rent, but this week when he came knocking, I couldn’t cover it. I had a cold, I couldn’t work for some nights. I had half, and I promised to pay him the other half in two days time. I would have, too, but he wouldn’t agree. He told me to take what I had and buy something nice for myself, and to go to his room that night wearing it.’
‘But you bought a gun instead.’
She nodded.
‘Who sold you the gun?’
‘I don’t know his name. He was a friend of a friend of a friend. No questions asked, you know the score.’
I sure did. It was an old song she was singing. ‘You took the gun to Sammy’s room.’
‘The door was on the latch. I went in and he was lying there, waiting for me. I … I couldn’t take it no more, McGraw. This isn’t how I came out here to live.’
‘So you shot him.’
‘Yes, I did. I aimed for between his eyes, but I was slightly off.’
‘Still, it did the job.’
‘Why didn’t you run? Or lie?’
She shrugged. ‘I don’t know, McGraw. Maybe I just wanted to be little Jenny Brown one more time. Tell the truth and shame the devil, that’s what Momma always said to me.’
The trial was an open and shut case. Took but a couple of days to sentence Celeste to the chair.
I visited Celeste every week in prison, took her smokes, powder, lipstick, the bare essentials, while a bunch of appeals tried and failed to keep her alive.
‘This isn’t living, McGraw,’ she’d drawl at me through a cloud of smoke. ‘I’m already dead.’
I still had a foolish dream that she’d get out one day, come to me and let me look after her like the gal deserved. My dream got the same treatment hers had, however, and so on one cold, dank morning in December, just a week before the holidays, I got to say goodbye to her for the last time.
‘Don’t be sad, McGraw,’ she said to me, when she saw my face. ‘How else was this movie ever going to end?’
My last view of her was when she was led into the chamber by the guards, shaven-headed, her platinum locks all gone, but still beautiful. She would always be beautiful. The guards were pretty much all in tears as Celeste and I locked eyes for the last time and the hood was placed carefully over her head. She was brave right to the end.
As they pulled the switch, I recalled her last words to me: ‘Look out for me, McGraw. I’ll be shining down on you every night from the heavens, the brightest star you ever saw in your life.’

(c) 2011 Author Julie Morrigan
Another AT THE BIJOU Debut

Absolutely*Kate:  Wow Julie! That story's an all star, star-studded linger to the soft reaches of the mind.
JULIE MORRIGAN: Thanks for reading Kate, and for giving me the opportunity to have a shot at this. I really enjoyed doing something a little different, it was great fun! :) And I'm very much looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. Gonna be good, I know it's gonna be good. AT THE BIJOU rocks, no doubt about that.

Absolutely*Kate: Here Jools, have another martini and on behalf of the BIJOU academy of authors, this little shiny fella. It's the RAT PACK REVUE, with all your starring stories, from Robert J Randisi's RAT PACK Mysteries to Kevin Michaels opening up the 500 Club with Skinny D'Amato that's rocking our theatre house lately. You see how they're lined up 'round the block. Personally, I think once the word got out we could hail Mr Randisi as "Bob" the crowds got all a'tingle. 
JOOLS: All a'tingle is good Kate. I'm just peachy with shiny fellas! Speaking of which, my brain now steeping a killer interview question for RJR. That's our Grand Finale, right?

Absolutely*Kate: That's right Ms Lewthwaite, Ms Morgan, JULIE, but FIRST, let's tell the folks besides your dream of being an author in residence, somewhere, somehow, what makes you such a dynamic crime writer.
JULIE:  Well, {clears throat}, I'm a business writer who is having a hell of a lot more fun writing fiction. Schizophrenic by nature, you might find my stuff credited to Julie Lewthwaite, Julie Morgan, or even Julie Wright. I promise that I will soon pick just one name and stick with it! Last year I won Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society’s ‘Phantoms at the Phil’ ghost story competition with THE BLACK DOG. I also have stories in such classy joints as  Out of the Gutter, Thrillers, Killers and Chillers and Do Some Damage.
Absolutely*Kate:  Julie, you'd best work that name thing out as you're a rising star in pulp fiction lore already. Then again, look how many monikers the world knows our pally Mr Randisi, RJR, Bob as. Great writes are always your rep. I met up with your stunning rep for the very first time when I got a gander at your 'killer' WHITE CHRISTMAS while DSD was doing their superb Christmas/crime challenge. The rest as they say in our mutual appreciation, is history that's gonna be legendary. 'Specially when folks check out how you're corraling your juicy oeuvre (did that sound right?) over at your tantalizing site, GONE BAD.
JULIE:  Thanks, Kate - you're a diamond! 
Absolutely*Kate:  You are most welcome Jools. And you *shine* in your debut AT THE BIJOU. Please keep comin' 'round. We dig you here.




Saturday Matinees too.

Be there or be square.


Always swell to see you here.

~ Absolutely*Kate,
and our swanky staff of renown


Sinatra: "If power doesn't mean that you have the opportunity to work with the people that you love , then you haven't really got any."

Opening Night: "RAT PACK REVUE TO YOU"

RAT PACK REVUE: "How Did All These People Get Into My Room?"  By Robert J Randisi,
working the lounge before he hits the main room

RAT PACK REVUE:  "Who's Got The Action" By Kevin Michaels knowin' the night club scene






~ ~ ~ ~

~ ~ ~ ~


Kevin Michaels said...

Hey - I know that club. Cool story ....great noir feel with some kick-ass dialogue and two lead characters that you know and like right from the beginning. Well done Jools.

Author said...

Thanks for the kind words, Kevin - and for letting me hang out in the 500 Club. That's a classy joint you've got there. Celeste would have loved it!

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Great story Julie. True noir. The narrative and dialogue were awesome.

Author said...

Thanks, Sean. I had fun with this one - once McGraw started talking, I couldn't shut him up!

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

I just love McGraw Jools. He's gotta lotta tales to tell I'm bettin' ya. And definitely a star to guide him. Hmmm, celestial Celese, who woulda guessed?

"STAR" softly gripped me through and through. As our fellow crime fellas said, noir-feel that had me lookin' over my shoulder for just the right music soundtrack. Oh, nice touch with Sammy and Dean at the 500 Club -- I felt like I walked out of Kevin's story and got called back in for another treat.

Glad you'll be gracing AT THE BIJOU's stage and screenings as a regular. We so love your style, in words and deft enthusiasm that is you, whatsoever name you're bylining.

My thanks, our thanks,
~ Absolutely*Kate

Author said...

Thanks for making me so welcome! I think McGraw might be back, too - I think he has a lot to get off his chest. He's been around the block more times than the queue for a new screening At The Bijou, and yet he still sometimes gets surprised by something, or someone. Those are the tales he yearns to tell. He just needs an audience.

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

AUDIENCE? You want audience? We got audience ... some of the coolest cats to push open a mahoghany double door and find their way to their fave red velvet seat ... sharing their own tales under the spotlights too.

Carouse around Lady Jools ~ This BIJOU's for You. (and our publishin' house looks mighty interested in McGraw's jawin' s'more too) ~ Absolutely*Kate & Co.

Paul D Brazill said...

Smooth change of gear! That club wasn't Fusion in Sunderland, was it?

seana graham said...

Yes, I really liked the set up. Gave an added dimension to the story. And I'll agree that McGraw deserves some further innings. As did Miss Celeste Aubuchon, but she won't be getting them, alas.

Author said...

Cheers, Kate! :D

Paul - ta - and dunno about Fusion, but I took great pleasure listening to the Toy Dolls play 'She goes to Fino's' at a gig they did in Rumours! (That'll be 30 years or so ago now - damn!)

Seana - thank you. It is a shame about Celeste, but hopefully McGraw will be back.

Unknown said...

Nuthin' like a noir served up sweet... This delivered, Julie!