The first chapter in what I hope to be a published noir mystery novel
You could feel the energy in the air. It pulsated through the night. It followed the crowd below as they marched through the streets. You could hear screams of joy, even from all the way up here. The energy seemed to keep him warm, even a little bit in the icy cold sting of the night.
The sight below filled him with awe. There was a strange feeling that filled his chest. It felt as if every worry had been wiped clean and there was nothing left to stress about.
Franky watched the valley of towers; it’s lights beaming into the night sky, casting a hazy glow that surrounded the city. The rivers of cars and people all rushed by. They flowed into one central area nearby where he could hear the collective babble of the brook. His heart swelled once more. He so wished to be down there with them.
He turned to the door behind him. It was closed.
A heavy sigh dragged out of his throat. That was the last time he’d look. His neck was starting to cramp.
Whether it was from his nerves or from the freezing cold temperature up there, his whole body shook terribly. He could still leave, there was still time. Maybe he could move to the next town over and hide out there. Start all over. Again.
Franky shook it off and focused on the bustling below. People shouted in excitement, some so happy, some obviously way past their drinking limit already. All of them were there together, hand in hand, hugging each other closely. Even if there was someone alone, they got grouped together with others with open arms. There was that feeling again.
He sighed. He turned to the door. Nothing.
This was ridiculous. There was no reason he should just be hiding up here waiting for something to happen. If anything he could at least enjoy himself and hide amongst the crowd. Maybe someone was passing out champagne and he could steal a couple drinks. Or more.
He shook his head and laughed quietly to himself. He stepped away from the edge of the building and headed to the door. At least for tonight, he’d enjoy himself.
Just as he opened the door, his heart leapt out of his chest and raced back to the edge. Two figures blocked his path. One was built like a tall squirmy snake, the other like a brick wall, hence their names. Both smirked in the most disturbing way, their fangs gleaming at him. Franky froze in his tracks.
“Ah, Franky,” Snake said as if he’d just seen an old friend for the first time in years. “Just the man we’ve been looking for.”
“Fellas, what are you two doing in a place like this? Come to enjoy the view?” Franky said, desperately trying to cover the panic in his voice.
Before he could say anything else, Brick grabbed him up and tossed him to the ground. Franky landed hard on his back. The two loomed over him.
“So this is where you’ve been hiding,” said Snake. “Kinda cold ain’t it?”
Franky leaned up. “Hiding, of course not, I was just enjoyin’ the festivities.”
“All the way up here and you didn’t invite us? Here let’s give the guy a hand.”
A hard kick to the stomach from Brick. Franky wheezed out all the air in his body.
“I said a hand not a foot,” Snake said with a smile in his throat.
“Get up,” the wall demanded.
Franky couldn’t get himself to move. He gasped for air. “Just give me a second, fellas.”
“I said get up,” the wall said through gritted teeth.
Franky quickly scrambled to his feet. The two of them still loomed over him. They each brushed off their suits and adjusted their fedoras, almost in unison. They looked like a couple of high class bouncers.
“Where?” Franky peeped.
Brick got right into Franky’s face. “You know why we’re here. Now let’s go.”
Brick turned to leave. The other smirked at him. Franky didn’t move.
“No,” said Franky.
The wall whipped back around. “What?” he yelled out.
“I’m not going.”
“Yes you are. We’ve been looking for you for quite a long time and here you are. Boss wants to see you. Now!”
“You wouldn’t want to keep the boss waiting, would you?” said the slithery snake.
“I know what he’ll do,” said Franky, his voice catching in his throat.
“Well if you know, let’s just get it over with then,” said the mighty wall.
“Why are you doing this?” Franky said heartbroken.
“Because we gotta job, and you’re it.”
“But we’re pals, we know each other.”
“I’d say more like associates,” said Snake.
“You know what you did,” was all the wall said.
“Look, let me just explain myself and I can fix this” Franky begged.
“Tell it to the boss.”
Franky backed away from the two, his body trembling. The heel of his foot bumped up against something hard. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the cold, dark city. Without thinking, he stepped up onto the ledge behind him. His whole body tightened up. He didn’t dare look down.
“What the hell do you think you’re gonna do?” Snake said.
“Don’t come any closer.” Franky’s voice shuddered.
Franky didn’t say anything. He couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“The boss wants you alive and well, not a pancake.”
The two of them inched closer, Franky scooted away. His heels hit nothing this time, just emptiness. Franky’s stomach did flips. He clenches his sweaty palms.
“What are you, insane? Get down from there.”
Franky just glared at them, unmoving.
“Do it,” came Brick.
“You’re a fucking coward, Franky, you know that? You can’t even face the music and man up to what you did. We don’t care for the likes of you, and neither does the boss. So do us all a favor and save us some time,” said the wall coldly.
“Jesus,” the snake quietly gasped.
Franky’s eyes welled up with tears. He shut them closed and looked to the ground, trying to hide his fear. Below him, he could hear the uproar of the crowd getting louder. People cheered and applauded. A bright light shone down on him, encasing him in blue light, just like a spotlight. This was his stage, the ledge of some tower. The tears came harder.
“Come on!” Brick demanded.
“Give him a minute, man, he doesn’t have many more,” said Snake.
“You wanna keep the boss waiting another minute?” Brick yelled. Snake shriveled up away from him.
Out of the corner of Franky’s eye he could see what was casting the blue light. Some large sparkling orb, emitting the brightest light he’d ever seen. It was high in the sky, standing atop a long antennae. The New Year’s Eve ball.
Just then, Franky was seized up by two mighty hands. He was lifted up and over the edge by the front of his jacket. His heart pumped a mile a minute and wanted to burst out of his chest. His feet kicked at the nothing below him as his hands clutched onto the trunk like arms of the wall. He couldn’t seem to let out a scream. All he could do was stare into the fiery eyes of the massive wall and inch away from his.
“TEN!” came the collective roar from below.
“Let’s get this over with!” he screamed into Franky’s face.
“What are you doing?” cried Franky.
“You wanted this, didn’t you?”
“No, please, no!” he begged.
“We’re hired henchmen.”
“And we’re hired to get rid of trouble.”
“And you’re big trouble, Franky.”
“You always were.”
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Fireworks burst, filling the night sky with blues and reds. The lights showered them in different colored lights. Franky could see Brick’s green face full of shock. He could see his blue hands tightening their grip. He could see the red light shimmer off of the thick liquid of the same color as it oozed out of Brick’s chest. Then they fell.
Both of them fell to the ground, Brick pulling Franky with him. Franky fell on top of the boulder of a man. Franky struggled to get up, away from Brick, away from the blood now pouring onto the rooftop. He yanked himself out of the clutch and onto his feet.
Franky couldn’t take his eyes off of the body before him. It was a just a body now. The blood now pooled at its back. Its arms lay limp to its sides. Its eyes stared at nothing above it.
Franky felt numb.
“You killed him,” came a voice.
Franky had forgotten about the other one.
“You killed him!” Snake ran at him. “You killed him you bastard! You killed-”
In an instant, Snake was gone. There was nothing left of him. It was just Franky and the body.
And a shadow.
It flickered in the light of the fireworks, but stood prominent from the light of the exit. It draped itself over the bleeding corpse. There, standing in the doorway, was a skeleton.
Franky froze at the sight. It was as if someone had ripped the skin right off of some poor soul. For someone who looked decades past dead, they looked as if they had just gotten ready for the casket. With their red pinstripe suit, matching pants, and even black dress shoes and leather gloves. There was no way they were straight from the grave with hair the clean and slick, it was even styled into a jet black pompadour. The man was like the Grim Reaper, right down to the eyes which were white dots, like lights at the end of two long, endless tunnels.
Neither of them moved for the longest time. Both eyed each other, waiting for the other’s first move. The skeleton man just stood there, his mouth in a permanent grin.
“Boy, did I miss some party,” came the thickest New Yorkan accent Franky had ever heard.
Franky just stared blankly.
Franky slowly nodded as if he were in a daze.
“Good, that’s good.”
The skeleton man stepped forward. Franky flinched and instinctively backed away.
“What?” said the skeleton. He still clutched the smoking gun. Franky went pale at the sight of it. “Oh, right, sorry.”
He quickly stashed the gun away in his suit pocket. The skeleton man moved closer to Franky, his face looking grim in the flashing lights. The top of his head came up to Franky’s waist. His eyes flicked up to meet Franky’s, Franky tried his hardest not to wince.
“Beautiful night, ain’t it,” said the skeleton.
Franky just nodded again.
“It just gives the feel good feeling, don’t it?” The skeleton let out a happy sigh.
Again, Franky nodded.
“You sure you’re okay?”
Franky’s nod slowed. His eyes involuntarily rolled over to the corpse not two feet away from either of them.
“Vampires,” the skeleton said disapprovingly as he shook his head.
“You killed him” Franky said almost in a whisper.
“It was either him or you and I think I’d prefer you,” replied the skeleton.
“But why’d you save me?”
The skeleton just looked at Franky. “Would you have rather I let you join the party below in style?”
Franky went quiet once again.
“Any reason they were gonna throw you overboard?”
Franky remained silent. The skeleton held his hands up in surrender. “Fine, you don’t need to tell me nothing.”
Silence surrounded them so much it was deafening, or was that Franky screaming on the inside. He was losing it and he could tell it was written all over his face.
“So, you work for Boss?”
“Boss, you’re boss, king of the vampires,” he said somewhat mockingly.
“Oh, right, yeah.” Franky’s eyes hurt from staring at his deceased associate.
“How’s that crazy bastard doing these days anyway?”
Franky couldn’t help but tear his gaze away to just glare at the skeleton. The skeleton just shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “Right, sorry.”
More silence. Franky shuffled uneasily. The skeleton kicked at nothing on the ground. “Interesting hiding place by the way.”
“Who says I’m hiding?” said with lightning speed.
The eyes flicked down to the body. Its blood had finally settled.
“So why here?”
“It’s a beautiful sight.”
The skeleton man stepped over to the edge and stared out into the city before him. “It is beautiful,” he said wistfully.
Franky joined him. They both stood there for a while, watching the festivities below. The sky was now raining confetti, filling up everything like snow. It sparkled in the light. Franky’s heart swelled once again. It was beautiful.
If only he could pause this moment.
“Why are you here?” asked Franky.
The skeleton man turned to Franky who turned to him and looked him dead in the eye. “I need your help.”