Fantasy Noir (2)

Roake had next to nothing.

The fat man could not tell him anything he didn’t already know. The coin and paper he took from the fat man’s till was enough to get by for a few days, but nothing more. He needed working money and he needed information and he needed them now.

He found himself a dirty inn on the south side of the city, near the docks. The woman who ran the place gave him a room key and he slid her some of the paper from the fat man’s till. He climbed the stairs, opened the door and looked in. The room was a closet with a bunk. He moved the bunk sideways so the foot of it was against the door. Then, he rolled the dirty mattress up and used it for a pillow while he slept on the floor.

This was better than sleeping on the street. He would not have been alive by morning if he tried bedding down there.

When he awoke, his back was sore and his neck hurt. He rearranged the bed so he could leave then walked down the stairs and out the front door.

He bought some pastries from a vendor with the coins in his pocket. Already, his cash was running low. Last night, he needed answers. Today, he needed to get home.

He moved down Cascade Street then turned left by the old, cracked fountain. Up the stairs to River Street and then down the cobbled road with no name. He owned one of the rooms at the top of the building there. He had no key. He lost that three months ago. In fact, he suspected someone would be sleeping in his room right now. Three months with no paper meant his landlord would have given the room away and sold everything in it to pay for the back rent.

Roake stepped into the building and climbed the stairs to the top floor. He looked at the door that used to be his. He listened there for a while but heard no sound. He put his foot against the lock and kicked hard. It broke.

He moved in fast, knowing the interior well enough to move with certainty. His back was against a wall immediately, giving him a look of the interior from a place of safety.

The place did not look as he remembered it. Most of it was his—a fact that surprised him—but everything was in the wrong place. There were also new items here and there he did not recognize.

He moved through the rooms fast, his large hands clenched and ready. He walked through the hallway to what used to be his bedroom. It was still a bedroom, but the man sleeping there was someone he did not recognize. Nor was the woman lying next to him. Roake wondered why his entry did not wake them. Then, he saw the small bottles next to the bed and the stubs of stinking black cigars and he knew why.

Roake moved slowly now. He could take his time. He wondered if the two of them ever bothered looking under the bed. He knelt down on his side and reached under it, finding what he was looking for. Apparently not.

He removed the long knife quietly. Then, he looked around the room for what he needed. He used the knife to cut long strips of cloth from the clothes lying around the bed. Then, he used the strips to tie the woman’s hands and feet. She objected slightly, still asleep. She mumbled “Javis, stop that,” through what sounded like numb lips. Then, he did the same to the man. He didn’t object at all. He just giggled a little.

When he was done, Roake picked up a pitcher of water from the kitchen and brought it back into the room. He poured the water over the man’s face. When the man awoke, Roake covered his mouth with one hand while showing the knife with the other. The man panicked, trying to shout, but then he saw the knife. Roake didn’t need to say anything. He looked in the man’s eyes. They were still blurry from last night’s entertainment.

Roake nodded at him. “Hello, Javis,” he said.

The man he called Javis started for a moment. Roake could see the man’s thoughts behind his eyes. How does he know my name?

“Doesn’t matter, does it?” Roake said, answering the man’s quiet question. “All that matters is I’m here and I have a knife. And you are in no condition to do anything about it. Is that right?” Roake paused. “Just nod, Javis.”

Javis thought for a moment and then nodded.

“Right then,” Roake told him. “How long have you been in these rooms?”

Javis stuttered a few times before he got the words out correctly. “About two months,” he finally said.

Roake pointed at the shreds of clothes with his knife. “Those are not rags there. Silks. You must come from the Upper City. That right?”

Javis hesitated.

“Dunna lie to me, Javis,” Roake said. “I have a knife. You are tied up. And your woman over there can’t even wake up. And nobody’s going to come help you in this part of the city.”

Javis nodded. “Yes,” he said.

“You rent this room to bring women down here to the Lower City. Impress them with your secret criminal side. Is that right?”

Javis nodded again. Roake could see tiny flicks of anger starting to form in Javis’ eyes. He was being humiliated. Even in private, that was a bit much for him.

Roake was hungry. He thought about leaving Javis here, but decided against it. He picked the young man up and threw him over his shoulder. Roake carried him into the kitchen and sat him at a table. Then, he opened the pantry and looked at the fresh fruits and bread. Roake sat down and ate in front of Javis as he thought about what to do with him.

He could use Javis to get back into the Upper City. He could also blackmail him. Javis looked young enough. He was probably still in the academy. Renting a room like this—along with that little jar and the black cigars—would be enough to get him expelled. But extortion was risky. Roake didn’t like risky.

The man probably had paper. And he might have the information Roake wanted. He finished cutting up the fruit with his knife then talked to Javis while he ate.

“Do you know who lives in 22 Fruit Dove Court?” Roake asked.

Javis creased his brow. “What do you mean?”

“What is the name of the man who lives in 22 Fruit Dove Court?” Roake asked again.

“No man lives there,” Javis told him.

Roake chewed on the fruit and pulled a bite of bread off the loaf. “Is it abandoned?”

Javis shook his head. “No, only the man who used to live there is dead now. Only his widow lives there.”

Roake nodded. “That’s right.” He ate more fruit. “What’s her name?”

“Lady D’Auterville?”

That was not the name Roake was told. “Are you sure?” Roake asked.

Javis nodded. “Yes. Her husband was killed three months ago in a robbery…” his voice trailed off as he watched Roake. Then, he said, “You were the one who killed him?”

Roake didn’t answer that. He kept eating bread and fruit.

“Murderer!” Javis yelped.

Roake raised his knife at Javis. “If I’ve done it once, it means I could do it again.” Javis did not shout again.

“Tell me,” Roake said, finishing off the bread, “what the widow D’Auterville has been doing since her husband died.”

“I do not see any reason I should tell you a thing,” Javis said.

Roake stood and walked across the kitchen away from Javis. He returned with a bottle of wine. He uncorked it and drank the wine straight from the neck. Then, he put the bottle on the table.

“This is what is going to happen, Javis,” Roake said. “You will tell me what I want to know. If you know it. If you know something I want to know and do not tell me, I will go into that room and ask the woman the same questions. She will tell me. Do you know why? Because I will show her your dead body and tell her that you died because you wouldn’t answer my questions.”

Javis looked at Roake from across the table. His eyes were less foggy now. Less frightened. The man was calculating. Roake didn’t care. He knew the man would talk or he wouldn’t. It didn’t matter at all to him.

Javis must have seen that in Roake’s eyes. He sagged a little in the chair, his arms still bound behind him.

“I’m thirsty,” he said. Roake stood up and got a cup. He filled it with water and put it to Javis’ lips. The man drank. Then, he talked.

Fantasy Noir

Just this morning, I woke up with a desire to write something that’s been simmering in the back of my head for a long time. It’s the start of a "fantasy noir" novel. Its inspirations are pretty clear to anyone who knows me. This is the beginning of what I wrote.

1

When the fat man saw Roake’s face, he tried to run. The fat man didn’t make it.

Roake moved fast, grabbing the fat man by his collar and pulled. The fat man hit the plank boards hard and made a small noise. Then, Roake put his foot on the fat man’s throat and stood there, and watched the fat man choke.

He let up the pressure just a little. “Tell me,” Roake said. “Tell me the name.”

The fat man’s eyes bulged. His face was almost purple.

“Tell me,” Roake said again. “Or it will take all night for you to die.”

The fat man tried to speak but his words only came out in sputters. Roake picked the fat man up and slammed him into a chair. The fat man held one hand to his throat. He nodded.

“A man in a mask,” the fat man told Roake. “I dunna have a name,” he said.

“Rich?” Roake asked.

The fat man nodded. “Smelled like honey. He smelled like honey.”

Roake stood within an arm’s reach of the fat man. He turned to look behind the bar. “Anything I want back here?”

The fat man nodded. “A whole week’s worth,” the fat man said.

Roake went behind the bar. He found a metal box. “The key,” Roake said.

The fat man took a key from around his neck and threw it. Roake caught it and opened the box. Paper and coins inside. Roake took all of it. Then, he walked around the bar back to the fat man.

“You know something,” he said. “Something you arna telling me.”

The fat man shook his head. “I swear. I dunna know nothing.”

Roake picked up a fork from one of the tables. “Pull down your pants,” Roake said.

“Whuh?”

“Pull down your pants," Roake said, holding the fork. "Ila start there. Work my way up. Until you talk.”

The fat man’s face went pale. His jaw trembled. Roake took one step toward him and that’s when the fat man started talking.