(Source image: "Dita's Bear" by Sean McCall)
“Lew Wainwright. You wanted to see me?”
“Yes, please come in.”
She had cloudy gray eyes, peering at me through a smoky haze. And a voice that sounded like it was lost at the bottom of a well: frail, timid. She wore a drab dress that tried but failed to hide her figure. I admired the architecture as she walked ahead of me.
“Drink, Mr. Wainwright?”
The neck of the bottle chattered against the glasses as she poured. She was nervous about something, but damned if I could tell what. She downed half hers in a gulp and wandered away across the room.
“Make it Lew, please.”
“Lew, then,” she agreed. “Thank you for agreeing to help me.”
She looked confused. “But...”
“I said I'd come out and listen. I still haven't heard anything about what's eating you.”
“All right, then,” she said softly. “Here.”
I whistled. The photograph she'd handed me showed her in a position only a husband should see.
“Yes,” she whispered. “I want these destroyed. If you can find them, and the man who took them...” She shivered, then: “You can have what you see here.”
I laughed. “That's the bunk, sweetheart. What's to keep me from taking it right now?”
And she shrank back into the recesses of the sofa as I approached, gun already in hand.
Your challenge for today was to use the picture above and write a flash fiction of 100-200 words. Additionally, I provided a key phrase I wanted to see used somewhere in the submission:
Nobody's checking word counts, or for the key phrase, but you're only cheating yourself if you break the rules. Unless you're doing it to earn a spanking (in which case, see me after class).
Special Bonus Director's Commentary Track:
I've been reading entirely too much crime noir lately -- Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Cornell Woolrich -- and so when I went hunting through my stash of FFF pics and saw this boudoir-style pic, I was immediately catapulted into a seedy world where all femmes are fatale, all private dicks are world-weary, and everyone double-crosses everyone else. I was on fire with possibilities, and I came up with several little tales. Only one problem: I'd forgotten about the short word count. I simply couldn't shoehorn it down to anything less than the 248 words I have here without leaving out important bits. So, for the first time I've gone over my own word limit.
That said, I do mostly like how this turned out. Some of the sleuths in crime noir fiction are almost as scummy as the criminals they hunt. Sam Spade, for example, has an affair with his partner's wife, strikes a woman, beats up a suspect for information, lies to the police, and laughs when the woman who loves him is sent to jail. The world isn't black and white in crime noir, but shades of gray. I wanted to reflect some of that -- a private dick who decided to take his reward before he'd wrapped up the case the dame brought him. His first name is a nod to Macdonald's Lew Archer, one of the best of the crime noir series.
Writing in this style is damned hard, though. Good crime noir is sparse, terse, barely descriptive. It's not just the dialogue and the phrasings, it's the atmosphere in general. I can enjoy the hell out of reading it, but I am never really happy with the results when I try to emulate it myself. Hopefully you do like it.
Please note that I am no longer collecting the participants list. If you are playing along this week, please leave your link below using the widget. It will appear in the text of the post itself, not in the comments, so everyone that's playing will be listed here. This frees me from having to chase people down to find out if they're playing or update the Friday post several times for late entries. Your cooperation is appreciated.
In any case, the participants list is below. Go check them out, and thanks to all who played along.
Check back here on Monday for the next challenge! And if you have any photos or artwork you'd like to see in a future challenge, please send them my way.