Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New*Year, NEW NOIR ~ AT THE BIJOU presents ~ CALLING CARD, Helen Howell's Debut

C A L L I N G   C A R D 

By ~ Helen A. Howell 

I'd come down from New York to Chicago some weeks back. I had a score to settle with a certain thug. Not that he'd know me from a rotten apple. But I certainly knew him. He'd kicked in the face of my kid brother just because he didn't like his tone. Yeah, you could say I had a score to settle, but it wouldn't be easy. I swigged back my whiskey. It was the good stuff, sometimes hard to find in these Prohibition times. But the mobsters had it made, their clubs could supply it if you had the dough. Sharp prices but well, a fella's gotta drink hasn't he. I tapped out a cigarette and lit it. The waitress, as they liked to be known, a blond with large peaches, small hips and ruby red lips, hovered at my table.

"Can I get you anything honey?"

I took a drag on my butt and blew out a cloud of smoke as I eyed her up; had I time, was she worth it? Nah, I didn't need the distraction. "Just bring me a bottle of the good stuff doll."

She leaned down low, those peaches round smooth, heaved rhythmically with her breathing, and whispered in my ear, "Are you sure I can't offer you anything else?"

"Nice, but not now, just bring me the drink, maybe later." I slapped her on the rump, and she giggled as she walked away. These broads, read 'em like a book. The band in the corner were playing a Louis Armstrong number -- jazz was it right now and the Chocolate & Cream Club was one of the best known on the North side of Chicago.

The waitress came back carrying a bottle and a fresh glass. "Here's your drink big boy."

I threw some sugar on the table, she picked up the bills, pouted those full lips, winked and wiggled off back in the direction of the bar. Hookers . . . I lit another cigarette and poured myself another shot. I pushed the clean glass to one side while I waited for my meet to arrive.

I figured the only way I was going to get near my target was to join up with the mob. I tried to get into Capone's circle. That was where I really wanted to be, but Scarface was not easy to reach. I poured another shot and tossed it back. The heat hit my throat, so smooth, warm as it slid down. I clenched my teeth as I thought about Capone, stubbed out my butt and immediately lit up another. I'd heard that Al was worth around sixty million clams, made rich by the blood of others. Fucking Italian. The great Capone, the czar of Chicago, a finger in every pie; gambling, prostitution, bootlegging and still trying to take over everyone else, spreading like a cancer out of control. I never got a foot in the door, so my next choice had to be his rival Bugs Moran. The Irish might be tough but they were ready to recruit if they liked the look of you, and they liked the look of me.

I filled my glass again, checked my watch. Where is that sonofabitch? He's half an hour late already. Another ho stopped by; thin dress wrapped around her ample body, sheer enough to see through, tits worse for wear. "Buy me a drink honey? I can be nice."

I threw a bill in her direction, "Get lost doll." I'd need more than a bottle of this whiskey before I'd let her be nice to me.

"Screw you." She took the bill and wandered off.

Any other time I would have slapped her big mouth, but I didn't need the attention on me, not now, not till I had this job down. I spotted Moran's man coming across the room. I could tell who he was by his threads. He looked the cat's meow, with his two toned spats and silk suit. Fucking Irish, who are they kidding. He arrived at my table, pulled out a chair and sat down. I held the bottle of whiskey and nodded towards him, "Drink?"

"Sure." He pulled out a silver cigarette case, opened it and slipped a coffin nail between his lips, then snapped the case shut and placed it back in his pocket. I struck a match and held it out to him. He bent forward and sucked hard on his cigarette. Leaning back he blew out a stream of smoke and said, "Pour that fucking whiskey."

I did as he said and pushed the glass his way. He picked it up and swilled it down then pushed it back at me. I filled it again, slid it over to him, and poured myself one. I lit up another butt and leaned back in my chair. You have to show these thugs that you're not scared, if you can't do that, you're dead. I took a long slow drag on my cigarette as I waited for him to speak. He stared back at me. Maybe he was trying to see if I would falter in some way. Like I said, fucking Irish.

He picked up his drink, swallowed it in one go and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. "I'm Danny, but most know me as The Doctor on account of this 'ere." He reached down to his belt and pulled out a double bladed knife with a long brass handle.

"Nice." I carried on smoking.

"I'm showing you this, so you know that if you cross Bugs I'll be paying you a visit."

"I'll be sure to remember that."

"Let's get down to the business then. This is how it plays out. Tonight Capone is transporting a truck load of hooch. Bugs wants you and two others to hijack it. Capone uses drivers that don't carry, so the whole thing should be duck soup."

"Sounds like a piece of cake." I held his stare.

"The driver and the others are to be chilled, you understand?"

"Sure bump 'em off. I got it."

"You carrying heat?"

"I got a .38." I tapped my hip.

"The other two will have shot guns, maybe you should have one too."

"I prefer my 38." I screwed my cigarette into the tin ashtray and picked up my glass.

"O'Reilly and Doyle will pick you up outside here in another hour. You get this right and you're in. I'll be in touch."

"Oh I'll get it right, all right."

He held out his glass for another refill, I topped up both glasses. We nodded and downed our drinks. Then he pushed back the chair and strode out of the club. I had an hour to kill, I looked around for the blond, and signalled her over.

"Hi honey." Her shape was tantalising and those red lips so inviting.

"How much?"

"One hundred bucks."

"You'd better be special for that price."

"I can be anything you want." She took my hand and led me towards one of the back rooms. 

An hour later standing outside, I waited for Moran's men. I didn't have to wait long. They pulled up in a Lincoln. I jumped in and the car sped off. 

"I'm O'Reilly, this is Doyle." He indicated to the driver.

"Frank," I nodded at him.

"The Doctor filled you in?"

"Yep he did."


We traveled the rest of the way in silence. The car drove off the road and pulled in among the trees. It was nearly midnight. O'Reilly and Doyle jumped out.

"Come on, we have to pull a log out into the road. How else will we get them to stop?" O'Reilly gestured with his head that I should follow. Together the three of us pulled out a fair sized log and laid it across the road.

Then Doyle went to the boot, opened it and lifted out two shot guns. Handing one to O'Reilly he looked at me. "You carrying?"

"Sure." I took out my .38 and waved it at him.

We didn't have to wait for long before the noise of the truck could be heard. It approached and pulled to a halt just before the log. The door opened and a man jumped down. O'Reilly sprung out followed by Doyle and myself.

"Hands up. You others get out of the cab if you know what's good for you." Doyle waved his shot gun at them. They scrambled down, hands raised.

"Don't shoot, we've no guns," called one of them.

"Shut your yap," yelled O'Reilly.

"You know who this shipment belongs to? You'd be crazy to take it."

"I said shut it. Capone won't know what hit him. But we can't leave no witnesses." O'Reilly's finger twitched on the trigger. I could see he was anxious to blow 'em away."

"That's right," I said, "no witnesses." I turned and fired my .38 into O'Rielly, then Doyle. They didn't know what hit 'em." Then I turned back to Capone's drivers. "You be sure to tell Mr. Capone who rubbed out Moran's men for him. The names Frank, Frank Tate. Now take him his hooch."

Those men hurriedly moved the log, scrambled back into the cab of the truck and took off so fast that smoke came off their tires. I figured that this was one calling card that Scarface couldn't ignore. Perhaps I would get close to him after all -- I still had that score to settle . . . .

©2012  DEBUT Author ~ HELEN A. HOWELL
Cold crimes for  Jump-Jivin' January NOIR  AT THE BIJOU

"Now Helen, our good Miss Kate absolutely asked you a few questions a few weeks ago. My notes are crisp. My notes are cool. Your answers though - they show you're nobody's fool."

"Cary, Cary, Cary, Kate thought of absolutely everything to have YOU doing my interrogating. Remind me to bake her up something special for the New Year. Right now I'll feast on how delicious YOU are. Mmmmm, Mmmmmm."

 HH  Wait, you may be gorgeous and take my breath away, but Cary, Cary, Cary, if Kate has absolutely not shared us anything in promotional flair, it's to grab the gusto of a shameless plug when the spotlights are dancin' all over our glimmery Opening Nights *AT THE BIJOU*. My brain is working again, I want the folks I've been sitting with in our rowdy Noir audience to have a handy link to my writing blog ~ helen-scribbles . . . where I share snippets of my writings.

 CG  "Ah, that's the old redhead, no bitterness, no recrimination, just a good swift left to the jaw. So Helen, what's the best holiday gift you ever received?"

 HH  "Philadelphia Story? Oh, you're a teaser Mr G. One year though, there was a small emerald ring I had looked at in the jeweler's window lovingly, knowing it was just a dream— my son surprised me with it as a Christmas gift. What made it the best, is not that it was an emerald ring, but that he knew how much I liked it and got it for me."

 CG   "He's quite sensitive about you - he's going to watch us like a hawk. What was the best you ever gave?"

 HH   "Notorious? Is that where you re-swiped that line Mr gorgeous G? You know Kate absolutely calls that Nigel chap Noirtorious. But I think that's been 'cause he's changing cue cards around backstage. Oh, my answer -- That would have to be fun and laughter topped off with a large dollop of love, Cary."

 CG   "What a ridiculous way to start a day. Well, I hope it doesn't get any worse. Just pulling your leg Helen. Our Absolutely*Kate dared me to sneak in as many of my good lines as I could whenever you waxed eloquent. I'm holding up just dapper, don't you think? What, where or how does one gift dazzlin' HELEN HOWELL Writings for greater happiness in a world that certainly needs it?" 

 HH    "Monkey Business? That was a tricky one. But you and the vast *AT THE BIJOU* audiences can find all my scribblings of Flash Fiction, Drabbles poems etc. at" 

 CG    "The last person who said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat. That one was a stretch, but you stretched two adept plugs into your site Helen. Good Girl. Now do your song and dance Toots. You're centerstage *AT THE BIJOU*. You're dressed rather splendid by the way. All that glitter. All that glam. Our director, Absolutely*Kate's introduced you and handed you the mike. Tell our red-velvet seated audience the one liner bio you wish them to remember about the author you see yourself being . . ."

 HH     ✿•*¨`*• "She writes, she reads and she's versatile  •*¨`*•✿ And was your last line from His Gal Friday???"

 CG     "Very good Helen. You got another one correct. Who helps with your material, by the way? 
And, how does a girl like you get to be a girl like you?”

 HH    "I never believed I could be a writer, let alone think that anyone would find my stories entertaining, compelling and worth reading. I hope I can continue to entertain you, Kate and our assembled audiences with my writing . . . . . . . . uh . . . North by Northwest?"

 CG    "Well give the girl a cupie doll! And Helen, will you give a New*Year's wish prophecy to come true for all that are now reading you, oh lovely author whom *AT THE BIJOU* is lucky as loaded dice to know? Go right ahead little lady.
 Make our Katie prouder than she already is to know you. You can’t be a true person, or a true woman, Helen, until you have learned to have some regard for human frailty.”

 HH     "I wish that words may flow freely into all your lives in such a way as to brighten your day, captivate your hearts and thrill or chill you to the bone — entertaining you in a way that only writing can. How'd I do Mr Grant? And -- Philadelphia Story again?"

 CG    "Bingo! Now gal, let's scoot. Our pal Bogey is giving me menacing brow wriggles and hates to be upstaged. You did swell gal, just swell for your splendid debut *AT THE BIJOU*."

"Holy hot shot, Helen, I couldn't have put better words into Cary's spontaneous scripting if I tried. I'm smiling though. I can still remember you sneakin' back stage and tellin' me you'd have jitters comin' up on stage with all our regulars and other roustabout ringers. Darlin' tough broad. You wrote quite a tale for us all . . . AND showed your savvy in cinematic acclaim with  any ol' movie star who walks in the BIJOU door. Harry though is a little miffed. Seems Cary took Harry's favorite chair.  The next ruckus you hear could be testosterone . . . "

SIT DOWN SCHWEETHEART ~ Testosterone? Nah Katie girl.

I'm tough enough on my own wit this rowdy crowd youse got goin' and any chair, Harry or Cary out there muckin' up the theatre seats are gonna have some serious answerin to do. 

Don't dem guys know you got SHOWS goin on?

   LINK delicious INFLUENCES of ~


and Absolutely*Kate so far . . . . 

Every-other-day cold crimes . . . jump-jiving January's New*Year NEW NOIR

Paul Brazill ... Kevin J Mackey ... Leon Jackson Davenport

BR Stateham ... Fiona Johnson ... Jack Bates ...

Luca Veste, on the record 'bout OFF THE RECORD

Sal Buttaci ... Julian Bramwell Slater ...  

Christina Vincent ... Charlie Wade ... 

Darren Sant ... Aidan Fritz ... Lily Childs ...  

Thomas Pluck and the Lost Children benefit show

New Year, new NOIR, Publisher BLASTED HEATH

editor John Kenyonpublisher of GRIFT magazine

with stories of GRIMM TALES' greats 

Rex Pickett picks a surprise ... 

plus . . . return of our pally, the great Randisi ... 

AT THE BIJOU'S Harry B Sanderford ... Matthew Magda ...  

plus intermittent intermission pizazz by masters of the ceremonious ~ 
Kevin MadDog Michaels and Absolutely*Kate ... 

Why ~ Who knows who's getting into the act? . . . 
RAYMOND CHANDLER may be channeled! 


Jump-Jivin' January's New Year, New NOIR  AT THE BIJOU


Helen A. Howell said...

Wow Kate, thanks so much for inviting me on stage, and swoon arranging for Cary G to be there, what more could a girl want! I've had a real swell time appearing at the Bijou as well as sitting in the red velvet seats with my pop corn.

Thanks again Kate! ^__^

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

You are certainly most welcome, Lady Helen . . . but for someone so nervous backstage -- you certainly tell a tale mighty tough -- I sure am glad you're my friend . . .

. . . and, that you're packin'!

ENJOY AT THE BIJOU ~ You're such a gladhanding part of us all. Just don't ever mess with Jeanette's 3rd row - She has everything arranged there just like she likes it.

~ Absolutely*Kate, smilin' at your swoon - it warms the whole theatre room

Unknown said...

Lush language nails the noir. Beautiful opening scene. He's one cool cat.

Larry Kollar said...

Very nicely done with the twist at the end! You do noir pretty well.

[Not sure "ho" was in use at at the time, only thing I noticed out of place.]

Sonia Lal said...

I loved the ending! The language, too, you do it so well.

Really liked reading the interview, too. ;)

Anonymous said...

That was great, Helen!

Anonymous said...

Could hear the Hagen sax blowin' soft in the background. Smell the whiskey. Lingo was smooth like those guys named Hammet and Chandler. Gonna make the scene wit Scarface, you gotta get the bulge on his favor. Got to watch that treachery angle though or your Ma's gonna hear a knock knock at the midnight door and you'll fall straight into the house all wrapped up like a mummy. Cool.
PS: By de way I'll use my real name and let you guess who wrote this. William Henry Pratt. Yep. Dat's me. And I ain't no teenage heartthrob.

Ian Ayris said...

Fantastic piece, Helen. Reading it at just gone six in the morning here before I head off for work - and it's set me up real nice for the day. Thank you.

Loved the atmosphere created by your language, and the set-up was top drawer. Great voice throughout - consistent and true.

Much enjoyed.

Warmest regards,


John Wiswell said...

A shame I don't drink. I'd need to be quite wasted to get along with this fella. Good work on the voice, Helen.

Anonymous said...

Great snippet of noir Helen. I enjoyed it. I thought you got the language and voices just right (one line jarred with me when the guy says we have to drag a log in to the road. I thought "we gotta" would have sounded less formal here). Loved the twist at the end which I didn't see coming.

Steve Green said...

Ya just know that Bugs is gonna be real bugged when he hears of Frankie's hanky-panky, doncha doll?

And as for the head honcho, Big Al?
I wouldn't be surprised if he gives ol' Frankie a job, and puts him right in the middle of the vipers nest, just where he wants to be.

Scotti Cohn said...

Brilliant! Loved the story, the questions, and the answers!

Salvatore Buttaci said...

What I like about your noir, Helen, beside the great dialogue and noire-feel, is the easy flow that kept me reading. You are good!

Graham Smith said...

That was fantastic Helen. Loved the whole feel and atmosphere you created. Tate has legs and I'd be thrilled to see him get another outing.

Helen A. Howell said...

Thank you all of you for coming over and taking your red velvet seats in the Bijou to watch my performance.

Thank you for all the wonderful comments and the suggestions that were made.

Free popcorn for everyone! ^__^

KjM said...

Frank's gonna have to watch out for a house call from the Doc. Fucking Irish - what can I say? :)

Nice one, Helen. I loved the period feel to the language and setting. Nasty piece of work all these guys.

You nailed it - and that twist in the tale(!), excellent.

Eric J. Krause said...

Excellent story! Read like an old gangster tale. Good twist of an ending, too.

Helen A. Howell said...

Ha Ha Kevin I think the Irish are a lovely people really I do ^__^

Thanks Eric, that's what I was hoping for.

Now don't you two forget to get your free pop corn - you can watch the show all over again if you like ^__^

Anonymous said...

Helen, I loved the easy style of this piece. You could hold your own with the best of them. The interview made me like you even more.

Helen A. Howell said...

Thanks Jeanette, takes another curtsy while the spotlight still shines on her. ^_^

Glad you liked the interview, I that that ole dream boat Cary G really made it swell!

Stephen said...

Excellent work here, Helen. The noir feel was spot-on, and the voice flowed as smooth as the whiskey. I hope Frank keeps his eyes open, though. As Kevin mentioned, he'll have to look out for the Doc now.

liminalfiction said...

Loved it! Very smooth reading and I couldn't wait to see how it went down with the hijack. I think gangster noir is my favorite genre from you, Helen!

Kevin Michaels said...

Very nice noir writing Helen-smooth and easy to read.
Well done!

Helen A. Howell said...

thanks Stephen, Richard and Kevin, very pleased you all enjoyed the show.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Helen, Helen, Helen! Who would have thought that the lovely Helen, so demure in spirit across the waves of the internet, would have such a fabulous bit of noir tucked in her bonnet? That was fabulous, really! Didn't expect the ending one little bit, giggled at the peaches and was wowed by the masculine voice of your writing.
Great flash~ and a cool interview with Mr. Grant and Kate at Popcorn Paradise!

Anonymous said...

That was brilliant Helen - so interesting to read and a breath of fresh air. Well done

Nigel Bird said...

Brave going for the prohibition era, so rich in fact and in legend. Frank Tate, though, is proof that fortune favours the brave (especially the brave with a 38).
Great stuff.

Helen A. Howell said...

Hey Cathy, Brainhaze and Nigel, I'm glad you found comfortable seats at the Bijou to watch my performance. Thank you for the applause.

Don't forget to collect your free popcorn on the way out, or you can stay for a repeat performance! ^__^

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

Amazing how much popcorn Helen can give away when she sways her menacing .38 at the heads of our ritzy staff AT THE BIJOU. I think the whole Cary Grant interview has gone dreamy to her head.

Either that . . . or the pride and joy she must be deservedly feeling amongst her comrades of the word'worthy. WELCOME #FridayFlashers gang to all of our NOIRtorious shows . . . There's links a'plenty to meet some fellow wordsmithers among the darker shadows. Likewise, feel footlloose and fancy free to throw a crimespree of your own into the ring.

~ Absolutely*Kate, glad Helen also made friends with Jed the janitor so that she knows where the pushbroom is


An international collaboration . . . the Godfather of Sicilian crime'tales going back into an irony of time . . . a Noir publishing group getting ready to rock the world as we know it . . . once upon some Grimm Tales . . . on the record with On The Record . . . and even haiku makes the crime scene . . . (that's just a sneak preview -- as we warm up cold crimes jump-jiving January into a whole new Noir year)

Unknown said...


Wonderful piece of noir. I'm glad you got back to this because you have a real talent for this genre!

Helen A. Howell said...

Ha ha Kate, I got the broom and the pan, will be cleaning up once my performance is finished. I wonder if Cary G is still lurking in the wings?

@Michael thanks for coming over to the Bijou to take you red velvet seat for my and for your great comment. Don't forget to collect your extra tub of popcorn on the way out, get it while its popping ;)

Helen A. Howell said...

@Michael thanks for coming over to the Bijou to take you red velvet seat for my performance and for your great comment. Don't forget to collect your extra tub of popcorn on the way out, get it while its popping ;)

Harry said...

Great yarn! Pulled me willingly along right to the surprise twist. Well done!

Helen A. Howell said...

Thanks Harry for your great comment.

And thank you all for the support and great comments you have made. ^_^

Chuck Allen said...

Helen, I love your noir pieces and this one definitely didn't disappoint. The twist was great and you carried off the tone of the piece so well. Excellent job!

Helen A. Howell said...

Thanks Chuck! I'm very pleased you got to read it. ^_^