The glare from the setting sun cuts through the window, bathing the clutter in the office in a warm orangey hue. Remly, lost in his thoughts, looks up from his desk. Time. He straightens his shirt in the mirror and walks out into the hallway.
Passing by the grimy sign hanging on the wall, Remly dances his fingers across the tarnished bronze, feeling the shallow grooves of the letters beneath his touch. In faded text, the legacy of this agency lays etched. James & Manson – Private Detectives.
Walking into the room beside, Remly spies Albus brooding at his desk, the bald patch on his head turned towards the door. Whether Albus notices the younger man coming in or not, Remly cannot tell. Waiting patiently, he admires the evening sky, watching it cool into a navy blue.
As the light fades, Albus stirs from his stupor, wiping the streaks off his face with rugged hands.
“Well kid, this is it.”
Remly looks down at the floor, kicking at the imaginary dirt as Albus pulls his coat on, eyes transfixed on the sky.
“Never thought this day would come you know. Been here for over forty years.”
Remly smiles, “Forty-one to be exact. Twenty-eight with dad, thirteen with me.”
Albus turns and grins, wrinkling his eyes. “Forty-one years with the best damn partners a man could have wished for.”
“You can always visit,” Remly says, walking towards the desk. Albus produces a bottle and two glasses from his drawer and pours out the drink, handing one to Remly.
“Ain’t gonna be the same kid. It’ll just be me yapping and taking up your time. You gonna spruce up the place?”
“Maybe.” Remly says, looking down into his glass.
“Well, at least the old girl’s in safe hands.” Albus sighs, running a hand across his mahogany desk. “Been with me since day one you know. A present from the boys down at the station.”
“Still keep in touch?”
Albus eyes glaze. He shrugs, stretching out to make a toast. “James & Manson is all yours now Remly. Remember, if you ever need anything…”
“You’ll be the first to know.”
“Good.” Albus says, blinking back his tears. “We’re proud of you, you know that?”
Remly grins, “Too bad pride doesn’t pay the bills.” He downs the smoky-brown fire in a single gulp and grimaces. “…where you get this stuff?”
“It’s been sitting around.”
“For what, a decade?”
Albus smirks, downing his own with a satisfied smile. “Strong stuff. Bet your old man would have appreciated it though. Now that’s a man who knows his whiskey.”
“Enough to die from it.”
The moment lapses into silence.
“Well,” Albus coughs, putting on his hat. “Guess I better get going. Me and Margery have a plane to catch, and I haven’t packed.”
“Oh, where are you taking her?” Remly asks, in a friendlier tone.
“Hawaii!” Albus beams, years falling off his face. “Just me and the Mrs on the beach.”
Remly grins, “Send me a postcard then. Haven’t had a chance to see paradise myself.”
Albus breaks into a hearty laugh and shakes his head. “You ain’t gonna find paradise out there Remly. You gotta find it in here.”
Remly gives a weak smile as Albus taps a finger over his chest. “Sure you don’t want me to call you a cab?”
“Save it kid. Buy yourself a nice dinner tonight. God knows you’re gonna need it.”
Remly gives an appreciative smile. “Thank you Albus.”
“You too junior.”
The two men share a quiet hug.
Albus shields his eyes. With a final pat on Remly’s back, he breaks away, walking out the front door of his office for the very last time.
Glancing after the retreating back of Albus, Remly sheds a tears, forcing himself back into the real world. His partner might be gone now, but life goes on. It always does. Bills still need to be paid, and clients need to be informed. Looking around the musty old office, Remly worries about making the rent this month.
For years, James & Manson has languished, surviving on scraps thrown their way by their limited client list. Debt collectors, job agencies, and anyone else who needs the low down on the dirt, they call Albus. The work might not be flashy, but it puts food on the table.
Dragging Albus’s rolodex across the table, Remly fingers through the yellowing cards. Now that both founding members of the agency are gone, Remly needs to find out which of the regulars will be sticking around. Picking a card out at random, he makes the call.
“Wachowski! Long time no hear from ya. How’s the bailor business?”
A gruff voice on the other end answers. “Ain’t got nothing for you Manson, better luck next time.” He hangs up.
Remly picks out another card. “Milo? Remly here, James & Manson. Naww, just calling to check if…” Same answer. Stung by the rejections, Remly pulls out three more cards from the pile.
Two of them shoots him down immediately. Last one.
“Words on the street that you’re flying solo now Remly. The boss ain’t too thrilled about that, says you lack experience.”
“Krippie, come on. We’ve been working together since I was a kid! You know my dad.”
“I like you Remly. Sorry.”
Five strikes in a row. Remly’s psyche is shot. He slams the receiver down and makes a grab for the bottle, pouring himself a double. He fumes, chugging down the whiskey and feeling the fire burn down his throat. “To you dad,” he croaks, raising his glass. “And to so-called friends.”
The warmth spreading inside of Remly makes him feel good. It helps him to relax. He pours another double and gulps it with gusto. Just one more. By the time Remly stops, half the bottle is gone.
“Sorry dear, won’t happen again,” Remly slurs, chuckling as he mimics his father. Leaving the mess on the table, he stumbles out of the office, ready to call it a night. He promises himself to call again tomorrow, though the prospect of being rejected again weighs heavily on him.
But tomorrow can worry about itself. Tonight, Remly has his mind set on steak. At least the thought of one anyways, as he looks into his wallet. Sighing at his sad state of affairs, he wonders how Albus managed to save up enough for Hawaii.
Grabbing his coat and hat from the other room, Remly shuffles out the front door, making doubly sure to lock up everything behind. Without Albus to look over his shoulders now, Remly feels the need to be extra careful. Fumbling with his keys, Remly lets out a smile. Barely an hour, and already he misses the old man.
He gives the door a swift jerk, hearing the lock falling into place. Someday, when finances allow, he will replace this damned door, and the grimy sign out front. Better yet, he might just move out, eave the ghosts behind and make a fresh start. Smiling at the thought, he makes his way down the hallways, whistling to himself a nameless tune.
The elevator shaft is a distance away, across to the other side of the building. Why this is so, Remly never asked. But it does mean his rent is cheaper. Being far removed from nosy neighbors and prying eyes only sweetens the deal.
The fact remains though, Remly will be out on the streets if business continues to slide. He thinks about letting out one of the offices as a temporary measure, but that would mean having to share the signage space out front. After forty-one years, Remly is not ready for that. Not yet.
What James & Manson really needs is a new gig. A big fat client to move the agency out of its doldrums and into a new life. And Remly wants it now. Taking his cigarettes out from his coat pocket, he lights one up as he rounds the corner, distracted by his problems.
Remly looks up just in time. He skips a step and turns aside, narrowly avoiding a collision. The figure appearing around the corner turns and glares at him, muttering his discontent.
“Pardon me,” Remly says, breaking away from his thoughts to offer an apology. But the elderly gentlemen in the white suit ignores him, hobbling away on his walking stick. Instinctively, Remly’s investigative senses come alive. Trimmed beard, studded ivory cane, a spot of the latest Eau de Cologne. Remly smells money.
Intrigued, he moves into the shadows along the walls, taking another drag on his cigarette. He eyes the old man hobbling from unit to unit, scrutinizing the names and signboards.
“You looking for something?”
The old man turns around, searching for the voice.
“Would be easier for you to just ask.”
Spotting Remly in the dark, the man replies in a thick English accent. “This is none of your business young man.”
Remly blinks, keeping his cool. “You’re trespassing on private property here, so I suggest you remember your manners.”
The man straightens his back and stares defiantly, “And who might you be?”
“A nobody.” Remly grins. “But at least I pay the rent. So who are you looking for.”
The man eyes Remly suspiciously, “The only reason I’m having trouble is because this blasted building doesn’t seem to have a directory. Do you know when I might find the offices of James & Manson?”
Remly perks ups. He takes one last puff from his cigarette and throws it to the floor, stubbing it out with his boot. “Depends on why you want to find them?”
“That is my private business.”
Remly walks up to the man and extends a hand. “You found him. Remly Manson at your service, what can I do for ya?”
The man steps back. “May I see some identification?”
Reaching into this coat pocket, Remly pulls out a card. “If you’re hoping for a badge…”
The old man squints at the card. “This will do Mr Manson. But I’m actually looking for a Mr Albus James.”
Remly’s enthusiasm wanes. “Albus is gone for the day, if there’s anything I’ll be more than happy to…”
“Thank you, but no,” the old man says, raising a hand to decline. “I’ll like to speak to Albus in private, it’s… well its a matter of utmost confidentiality. Is there anyway I can reach him?”
Think fast Remly. “I can assure you sir, that as a partner of James & Manson, I am just as capable in handling your request, Mr…”
“White, Sullivan White.” The man says, tipping his hat with his cane.
“Mr White.” Remly nods in acknowledgement. “Now, me and Albus have been working together for a very long time, and there’s not a thing in this world we don’t trust each other with. Don’t let this youthful mug fool ya now,” Remly says, forcing a laugh.
The man glances down at the card and back at him. “You’re the Manson?”
“Presently so,” Remly answers, tipping his own hat in response. “Now why don’t we go to the office so that we may discuss this in private.”
Mr White bites his lips. “Perhaps when Mr Albus is available…”
Remly’s heart skips a beat. He weighs the costs in his head, and goes in for broke. “You win Mr White, I’m going to send for Mr Albus right now.”
Surpised, the features on the old man’s face begins to soften. “If it’s not too much trouble.”
“But while we’re waiting, why don’t you join me for dinner and some wine. There’s a nice little restaurant just across the street.”
– This is a repost from a story intro I uploaded earlier in the week.
– Trying out a more economical form of writing. Basic stuff like:
- Cutting out dialogue cues
- Single-word verb approach for action
- Less “Ands” “As” and cluttered link words. Using more periods and commas.
- Letting things go unsaid, unexplained. Particularly in the narrative. This forces the dialogue to come to the front.
- Playing with bigger chunks of dialogue. Only breaks in the sequence should only be actions, not narrative explanations, which I tend to do.
- Essentially, after trimming all the fat, I cut a 3000 word intro to a 2000 word one and made it sound better.
- I think I’ll like to explore this style of writing more, but its tedious.
- The game of subtext – Two big chunks here. Instead of just words, I tried to put some hidden meaning and agenda and leaving it unexplained. Seems to work.
- Any jarring parts? Any parts that just seem to jump?
- Some parts might need to be slowed down. but I’ll cut down first and pad it up later with content instead of word.