Saturday, November 5, 2011

NOVEMBER goes NOIR; AT THE BIJOU presents ~ WISH UPON A STAR ~ By Julie Morrigan

~ By Julie Morrigan

I was sitting on a bench minding my own business, waiting for Harry’s Bar to open. I had a fifth of bourbon hidden in my coat pocket, was taking nips to keep the cold out. Trying to make it last. Failing. The money was running out and I had no idea what I would do when it was gone.

I saw Harry open the doors and he looked over and nodded. I stood up, but before I even took a step forward, a couple of kids ran past and knocked the hat off my head.

‘Hey, watch what you’re doing,’ I shouted, bending down to get my hat. My bad leg gave way and I fell to the ground, landing on my hat and my hip. I heard glass break, felt wetness, realised it wasn’t just my hat that was ruined.

The young punks found it quite the show. ‘Look at the stupid bum,’ said one.

‘Loser!’ shouted the other.

I rolled around and managed to sit up, my legs straight out in front of me. I retrieved my hat, tried my best to pull and push it back into shape. One of the boys stepped closer and I tensed, scenting potential violence.

‘Hey,’ he said, peering into my face, ‘ain’t you Sergeant McGraw?’

‘Just McGraw, son,’ I said, as he held his hand out and helped me to my feet.

‘You caught the guy thatmugged my grandma,’ he said. ‘Jesus, what the hell happened to you?’

I stared at him, glimpsed fragments of a former life like shadows in fog. ‘Life,’ I told him.‘Life happened to me.’ Then I staggered off over the road, my pocket full of broken glass, and pushed my way into Harry’s Bar.

The kid was right, I used to be a cop. A lifetime ago. I pondered on it as I whiled away the hours and the drinks and too much money in Harry’s. Thought about how it had suddenly gotten to be too much, the things I had to know and see. How I’d spent more and more time in Harry’s, and less respectable joints,too, would go just for one, thenstay for one more. How I’d gotten careless and caught a bullet, and been paid off from the force.

And I thought about her, about how folks like us should know our place and leave the dreaming of dreams to other people better suited to it. She’d dared to dream and it had killed her. I watched her die and the best piece of me died with her. I didn’t have dreams anymore.

Later, in my apartment, I welcomed midnight with another slug of bourbon, opened the blinds and stared out at the night sky. There was a new moon, a silver sliver waiting for a pretty girl in a spangled costume to hitch a trapeze to the top. There were stars, beautiful and bright, scattered like diamonds on black velvet. And there was Celeste, the brightest and best of them, shining down on me, bathing me in a light so pure it brought tears to my eyes. I brushed them away with the back of my hand then, like so many times before, heard her voice in my head: ‘Don’t be sad, McGraw. How else was this movie ever going to end?’

‘I know,’ I told her, ‘but I wish … I wish …’

I hung my head. Wishes were like dreams: not meant for the likes of us.

And so it went on, every day at Harry’s, every night staring up at the sky, always a drink in my hand, chasing away the hangovers with more of the same.

Must have been two weeks later I was on the bench waiting for Harry to open his doors when the kid who’d knocked my hat off sat down next to me. He didn’t say anything for a while and I had nothing to say to people in the regular world. Hell, I hardly had two words for the people in mine.

‘McGraw?’ he said finally.


‘I need your help.’

I looked at him like he was crazy. I couldn’t even help myself.

‘My dad’s gone missing.’

‘Probably wanted to,’ I said.

‘Maybe. I’m not so sure. I think he’s in trouble.’

‘Even if he is, what do you want me to do about it? Go to the cops, it’s their job to find him.’

‘They don’t take it seriously,’ the kid said, a hitch in his voice. ‘They just think he’s skipped out on Mom.’

I looked at him. Just a freckle-faced kid, younger than I’d thought, a tear at the corner of his eye.

‘You found that mugger. He could have been anybody, anywhere in the city, but you found him, McGraw. I thought maybe you could find my pop.’ He wiped his eyes. ‘We’d pay you. We couldn’t afford a lot, but we can pay …’ His voice petered out.

I sat back on the bench and turned my face up to the sky. Even though it was morning, I could see a bright light up there looking right down at me. Some people might have thought it was a planet, but I knew it was Celeste. And I knew what she would want me to do.

I lowered my eyes to street level in time to see Harry open the doors and nod over to me. I flicked him a quick salute, then turned to the kid.

‘Come on, son, let’s go get a cup of coffee. Then you can tell me about your dad.’ I squeezed his shoulder. ‘This city ain’t so big. I’ll find him for you, you’ll see.’

© 2011 ~  Author JULIE MORRIGAN
another original ~ AT THE BIJOU 

Starring photo  - ala Mutter

Stars come out - AT THE BIJOU

Oooh, Absolutely*Kate, 
MadDog Michaels 
and ever suave Bogey, 
our BIJOU Jools 
did good, so good.

Sailing shadows into Noir
Absolutely*Kate: Veronica, You're not just peeking out behind those tresses to tell us what we know - Our precious Jools is an author star in her own firmament.

MadDog's true grit.
MadDog Michaels:  Yeah. What Kate said,
Gotta keep an eye
on these guys.

Ronnie, don't pay no mind to these knuckleheads. They'll go round and round all night with their 'Hey Kids ~ Let's put on a show' but yeah, you spotted one on the rise alright. Jeepers, here's lookin' at your peepers. Katie - Spill your spiel more on Morrigan?
Absolutely*Kate:  Sure thing Tough Guy. Who am I to argue with a fella who's packin' and oglin' all at the same time? Betcha you can chew Juicy Fruit while you're at it too.

BOGIE:  Watch it there Toots. You're cruisin' -- 

Absolutely*Kate:  Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. JULIE, Julie Morrigan ~ gosh, there's SO much to say about this stunner from the UK that writers 'round WebTowne, admired with reason for renown. Saaay, what do you think MadDog -  I mean, Kevin?

Whatta Opening Act!
Kevin Michaels:  Kate, Jools gave us a great story - from the beginning she set the tone of the story and hooked me within two sentences. An incredibly visual story - you can picture Harry's Bar, taste the burn of the bourbon, and see the kids running past him, and see the new moon from his window . . . . McGraw's one of those characters that in a lesser writer might be a caricature of the ex-cop PI, but Julie makes him realistic and believable (think Matt Scudder in Lawrence Block's books) - you learn everything you need to know about him in a solid, succinct style (great line: "I hung my head. Wishes were like dreams; not meant for the likes of us."). The dialouge moved along realistically and natural, and Julie used it effectively to tell you more about McGraw and who he is. You finish the story and want more. Excellent - stylish - gritty...all the things you want in noir!

A*K:  WAIT! 

Kev:  Huh?

Absolutely*Kate:  Well sure, I'm jake with all you said on WISH UPON A STAR but let's just show the folks another JULIE MORRIGAN hot show, the better to know Jools best. You know, the one where she first introduced that big lug McGraw -- Remember? At our all-star RAT*PACK*REVUE ~ AT THE BIJOU.

KM:  You mean -- STAR?

A*K: I mean STAR.
It's always about
the Classy Dames

Julie Morrigan
 wrote STAR? 
Why she's written -- 

BOGEY: Shhhh Ronnie, show's about to start. These kids know how to put on some hot diggety ones.

{ Kate, nudgin' Kevin:  Hey, Bogey sassed Veronica. How cool is that? }

( Kevin, smirkin' at Kate: Yeah, he said 'hot diggety' too. Now how'd THAT happen? )

    Julie Morrigan  

    Author of 'Gone Bad', 'Convictions', 'Heartbreaker', and 'The Writing on the Wall'


 ~ Julie Morrigan's Debut AT THE BIJOU

 S T A R 
 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 la
st 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.

Sultry is as sultry does
Kate ~ Will you tell us more about the talents of JOOLS? And I love this theatre. Your regulars are so,
 shall we say - Livley?

Absolutely*Kate:  Don't mind if I do splash, Ms Lake. And thank YOU for classin' up our venerable joint, as NOVEMBER GOES NOIR ~ AT THE BIJOU. Now, more on Morrigan ~ 
Variously described as a crime author, Brit Grit writer — and even 'the new queen of urban noir' — Julie's short stories have been printed in respected publications such as Bullet, Out of the Gutter and Blink Ink, and online at such venues as A Twist of Noir, Thrillers Killers & Chillers, and here AT THE BIJOU
Julie's first short story collection, Gone Bad, and debut novel, Convictions, have been met with acclaim from readers, with Convictions voted as one of the top five books of the year by crime and thriller fans at the Crime Fiction Lover website.

October saw the publication of Julie's latest novel, Heartbreaker — the thrilling story of the excess, betrayal and guilt behind an English rock band — and new short story collection The Writing on the Wall — a collection of weird and spooky tales guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine.

Julie may be found online at her outtasite author's site ~ Julie Morrigan . She is currently working on another novel and a third collection of short fiction. Both will be published before the end of 2011, and I'm proud to say, she'll be sailing her wonders with us upon HARBINGER*33.

It's all about the starboard side

Jools, We love your splendid shows as NOVEMBER goes NOIR ~ AT THE BIJOU. But ... uh ... will you do our shadowy audience a favour?

Thanks so much for this, Kate. It's all very much appreciated. You really are a generous soul. You rock, m'dear! So certainly ~ what can I do for the lovely folks AT THE BIJOU?

Absolutely*Kate: As the classy dame you are, will you get in character ~ Will YOU go Noir?

Absolutely*Kate, Kevin Michaels, 
Ms Lake, Mr Bogart, and all my
 fine friends AT THE BIJOU ~
 ~ "Here's lookin' at you kids!" 

Ya don't mess wit' my material Toots. No matter how swell ya sling your woids. You're cruisin, I tell ya - da whole bunch of you wanna be hoodlums . . . but hey, I dig it.


Goes   NOIR
every other day that's NOIRVEMBER

Be there

or be square Bub.

Talkin to you too, Toots. 


rises on:





the Rat-A-Tat-Tat of

yet a new BIJOU Debut ~




making his first official appearance on our stage  ~

a cup of Joe,




"NOIRVEMBER" term coined & minted
 by the trendy Harry B Sanderford 


Helen A. Howell said...

I love this story, I could see McGraw as a drunk bum and visualise Harry's Bar. I really liked the after and before elements to this story. You gotta feel kinda sorry for McGraw, perhaps he felt kinda responsible for Celeste Aubuchon.

The style, mood and atmosphere were just perfect in the piece.

Nigel Bird said...

Absolutely superb. The leg giving way, that's where I absolutely tuned in.

It's such a strong tradition to follow, that PI/drunken-bum-who's-sort-of-a-PI-without-the-title but Julie's got it in spades (Sam Spades).

This girl has a lot of great work to be savoured (unlike the bourbon's McGraw throws down his neck), so go and check her out.


Graham Smith said...

Coupla great stories there Julie. Loved the line 'I wanted to be a starlet not a harlot'

The scene and atmosphere of Harry's Bar is exactly what I was aiming for with my own efforts. Yet you eclipsed me without hardly setting a foot in the door.

McGraw has legs (well leg) for many more adventures.

Anonymous said...

Jeanette Cheezum

Julie, welcome to the Bijou. It's been my pleasure to read your work.
Kate, you not only have a new stage, you have some new treasures to present.

Author said...

Thank you so much for the kind and generous comments, folks. McGraw was only ever meant to have one outing, but he got into my head. I'm planning on writing at least one more, so we can see if he manages to track down the kid's dad. :)


Crybbe666 said...

Julie, I already knew you had talent and this appearance at the Bijou confirms it. Absolute cracker of a story, too. Well done!

Kevin Michaels said...

Well done Jools. Two excellent stories! It's all about style, mood, dialogue, and these both had it.
Way to go!

Author said...

Thanks, folks! The bar is set pretty high here ATB, so it's good to know folk are enjoying the stories. Ta!


Chris Rhatigan said...

Both of these stories are just top shelf. Stylish, thoughtful noir. Fantastic work, Jools.

Madam Z said...

I wrote a long, detailed comment expressing my admiration for Julie's excellent stories, but it disappeared when I tried to post it. So I'll just say I enjoyed them very much and hope to read more of her work.

Author said...

Thanks, Chris - looking forward to your showcase!

Madame Z - that's happened to me before - hugely frustrating. Very grateful that despite what happened, you still commented. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Julie is a class act, as McGraw shows. She blends humour with dark in just the right measure, I bet she makes a great cocktail too.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Wow, what a double feature! Great sequel to the first McGraw story, which I loved. You perfectly captured the despair, pain, and struggles of his downfall. So many excellent lines throughout the whole story. All that, plus A*Ks excellent presentation and Kevin's commentary, made this a real treat.

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

"And I thought about her, about how folks like us should know our place and leave the dreaming of dreams to other people better suited to it."

Glad am I that McGraw shook that bum leg to tell a kid, "The city ain't so big . . . "

Guess your tough characters are suited better for dreams than sitting on a bench minding their own business. Guess Celeste knows her place in the celestials and how to twinkle at a man who was straight with her.

Guess you've got enough going with this character to bring him round again. Guess that's the stuff dreams are made for.

Guess I'm real glad. I really enjoy this couple - they're out of this world.

~ Absolutely*Kate, not having to guess how glad we are that you're back AT THE BIJOU. You wear your NOIRtoriety well.

Author said...

Richard, thank you! (And yes, it has been known ... martini not dry enough, sir? Allow me to add more gin!)

Sean, the Bijou is looking fantastic, isn't it? November noir is a class act - just like Lady-K.

Ah, Kate, m'dear, you have done me proud with this fantastic showcase. Thank you so much. I'm honoured to be At The Bijou.

Incidentally, I started the next McGraw story yesterday. Starlight Investigations hasn't been in business five minutes and already the door has been kicked in, there's a missing one-eyed Pomeranian - and a redhead. Always a dame. Always trouble. Great fun!

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...


Oh Jools, that's heightened inspiration alright. LOVE THE NAME and even see it as a book title to sequel swell the cases and capers that 'divine inspiration' can add to solving a good case. But holy crap! The door's been kicked in! A redheaded dame's involved (natch)

Please, please hurry up and write this one so we can read it -- Funny, who'd think to misplace a one-eyed Pomeranian? He should find half his way home.

You ALWAYS have a showcase or tryout home AT THE BIJOU for your superb wordsworthiness AuthorDame. You touched me with how you said the what you said. Thank*you my colleague-friend, thank*you.

~ Absolutely*Kate