Friday, October 3, 2008

Dark City

The sky was overcast at night, the only light provided by a dingy bulb overhead. Its light shone on the pavement, illuminating the scene: a few cargo ships, well past their prime, their owners hoping the rusty iron holds together for a few more journeys; some old packing crates, with the mysterious word “ponygirl” stamped on one of them; an old warehouse; and, of course, the rats. I nearly took out my old Webley for target practice, but thought that gunshots might attract attention, even in this part of town. Naturally, the place smelled of rotting fish.

I was here on the trail of a dame – of course it was a dame, didn’t it have to be? Her mother came into my office as I was belting back the first rye of the day. The first one was always the best, and the experience was even better if it happened before ten o’clock. I was feeling mellow enough from the drink to offer the woman one of her own, even before she gave me a retainer check. “Miss Jameson, my daughter has gone missing,” the woman wailed. She might have been pretty if she stopped crying long enough to reapply her makeup. “The police won’t bother. They say she probably ran off with a boyfriend. But I know my own daughter! She went to the City to study at the university. She knows better than to take up with some strange man.”

“How about a strange woman?” I cracked. I didn’t mean anything by it; I just wanted to break the ice a little. The mother just looked at me like she was making a big mistake hiring me. Maybe she was.

“The big Inspector at police headquarters told me to go home and forget about it, that my little girl would come home when she was ready. But his Sergeant – a small Irishman – caught me a I was leaving the station and suggested you might be able to help.”

I nodded. “Sullivan. That little Mick owed me. I guess now he thinks we’re even. Well, a hundred Lindens an hour buys as much of my time as you’re willing to pay for. A thousand Lindens as a retainer, and I’m on the case.”

The business end of the deal taken care of, I suggested we celebrate with a little snort, but the woman shook her head and gave me that look again. I shrugged and poured my own. Good. At this rate the bottle would last the day.

I looked over the usual places a dame might hide out – alive or dead. But the City was deserted. Maybe the threat of rain was keeping the riff-raff away, or maybe the stench of corruption and moral decay had finally gotten to them, and the rapists and murderers and Shylocks had gone elsewhere in search of a way to purify their black souls. Nah, must be the threat of rain.

Finally, I reached the wharf. The old warehouse was my last guess, and the girl’s last hope. My sources told me the warehouse, which had been abandoned and unused for years, except for the occasional junkie nodding off inside and the ever-present rats, had been bought recently. No one knew who the mysterious buyer was, or what the warehouse was used for. I looked over the entrance, deciding whether I should try to pick the lock, when I heard the sound of someone else arriving. I pressed myself against a wall, out of the light, and waited. The newcomer was a man wearing a great deal of bling and very little dignity. He walked up to the warehouse door as though he’d been here before. He knocked, and a voice answered: “Password?” “Ponygirl,” the man replied. The door opened, and he walked in.

I checked that my Webley was fully loaded and decided to take the friendly approach first. I knocked. “Password?” “Ponygirl.” The door opened, and I walked into the underbelly of the City.

It was a shop – a shop for bondage equipment. I scanned the room, but my client’s daughter wasn’t one of the patrons. Mr. Bling was, though, and he seemed very interested in a collar and chain set. It didn’t really go with my outfit, so I moved on. A couple was spending some quality time together looking at leather restraints, and a girl wearing very little was looking at what seemed to me must be a traction device. Everyone was giving me a wide berth. It was clear I didn’t belong there, not with the way I was dressed. To hell with them, I thought, and thumbed the brim of my fedora until it sat at a jaunty angle.

"Does anybody here know -" But I never got out the little girl's name because someone hit me from behind. If it hadn't been for the fedora, my skull would've cracked open for sure. As it was, the world around me turned black as I fell to the floor.

(To be continued - if Your Humble Narrator survives!)
(The noir theme of this piece was just to fit the style of the City Noir sim - which appears to be under construction, with the exception of the store. And I certainly did not want to leave the impression that I went there for the store. :) )

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