Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction: Glass Half-Empty (Part 1 of 3)

Here’s my attempt at the Author Aerobics: Genre-Bender Challenge! I had so much fun with this that I couldn’t constrain myself to 1000 words. So this is part 1 of a Hardboiled / Noir / Steampunk tale (at least I think that’s what it is). I’ll post the continuation on Saturday, and the conclusion on Monday.

Glass Half Empty (Part 1)
by T.S. Bazelli

Claude sat up straight to attention, wiping the spittle from his cheek, and smoothing his hair with the saliva as the banging on the door continued.

“Wait just a moment please, I’m busy with a client…”

The door slammed against the wall, and wooden frame of the office shuddered. Claude winced as the echo of the impact reverberated in his skull.

A woman with unpinned curls, and a corset two sizes too small glided the room. Dried mud traced the hem of her well cut dress.  Not 100% respectable. Just how he liked them.

He pasted a smile on his face as he fished his spectacles out of a drawer. He found them under a pile of wine corks, and crumpled papers. Nevermind that he actually needed them, he thought it made him look a touch more intelligent. Women liked that. “My apologies miss.”

He threw up a little in his mouth as the room came into focus. He realized it was Colette staring back at him, and that he wasn’t wearing any pants. “An unexpected visit.” He mumbled, as he fumbled for his breeches. Blessedly, she refrained from commenting that it was high noon, and that he was already apparently well on his way to drunk.

“I need your help big brother.” The admission was red on her face as if it might choke her. She whipped down a card onto his desk, and sat down in the adjacent chair. The card read Dedective Claude Russo, a misprint by the printing press, so he’d scored the cards for free. He figured, most of his clients couldn’t read anyway.

“Er, so yes, what can I do for you, Colette? Some boyfriend mistreating you? I know some chaps that could give him a right beating for cheap.”

“No, I need you.” She tossed black curls behind her head and crossed her arms.

He set his notebook in front of him, trying to maintain his professional composure. Collette reached over to wipe his beard with a handkerchief, dislodging several bread crumbs. He tried to disguise his irritation as he dipped a quill in a pot of ink. “Go on.”

“Several of the other courtesans–”

Prostitutes, Claude scrawled on a scrap of paper in looping black letters. The ink pooled in the O.

“have gone missing over the last month. I think something terrible has happened but no one wants to say anything. I’m afraid I will be next Claude.”

“Is there anything that connects them? A particular client perhaps? A name?”

“Duke Hansard Elroy.”

Elroy, Claude thought. The name was not familiar to him, but those were not the circles he seldom had invitation to travel. The name had the sound of money. He noted it down on the paper. The case was starting to look more promising.

“You’re missing the “i” in extortion, dearest brother.”

Claude looked, down, and crumpled the page. “What? Er.” Damn. She was too quick by half.

Colette continued. “He’s been throwing gold at Madame Louisa as if it were pennies. She keeps sending him girls and no one says a word when they don’t return. The duke is throwing a masque tonight at his estate.”

She plucked the quill from his fingers, and wrote down an address and time on the back of Claude’s business card. “I will be there. I hope to come back alive. I leave that responsibility in your capable hands, Claude, or I swear I will haunt you from my grave.” She dropped a sack of coin on the table. Her cut of Madame Louisa’s gold for the evening, he guessed, as she walked out the door.

Colette always kept her word. He weighed the purse, wondering if it were enough to pay for a cremation. She couldn’t haunt him if he scattered the ashes could she? He shuddered. He turned the card over in his hands. The ink smeared his fingers, but that was the least of his problems. He swore. He was out of bourbon.

Click here to continue to part 2

And big thank you to Valerie from As the Moon Climbs for the lovely blogger & versatile blogger awards! 🙂 I am honored and grateful. Her Broommates stories never fail to put a grin on my face!

18 Comments to “Flash Fiction: Glass Half-Empty (Part 1 of 3)”

  1. Very nice. That ending almost makes me think Claude might be the killer. But then, he’s too disorganized, perhaps. 🙂

    Great story. Your descriptions put me right in that room.

  2. I liked some of the little details in this one… The corsette, the quill and ink…

    I just hope there’s an airship in part two. If you’re going to make it a steampunk-noir crossover, at least there should be an airship! 😉

    But seriously… classic noir scene, here, with fun victorian details.

  3. Aw, thanks for that plug at the end. Can’t wait to see whether he makes a mess of things and poor Colette gets the sharp end of the stick. I kind of hope she can fend for herself, really. Good read.

  4. Iiiiinteresting beginning. And kind of a fun character. He’s not SO bad that you dislike him (at least not yet) but he’s definitely not good enough to be boring. ;P

  5. Oh that scene is classic, which means so overused that handling it yet again CAN cause people to snort, but you handled it so well. It translates well into streampunk and as it was noted the details that hint the Victorian setting make it clear and are not intrusive.

    I liked it. There are prostitutes and a masked ball. What’s not to like.

  6. Intriguing opening scene. I like how as it grows we realize that Claude can’t spell and it’s his fault the printer’s made an error. However, did he manage to channel himself to throw churls into Colette’s hair?

    Wondering who is the narcissist or whether given your comment on JP’s flash there even is one… hmmm.

  7. I love that he didn’t realize it was his own sister! So funny! 🙂 What a way to take a cliche intro and turn it into something fresh. I also liked that she was totally onto what he was writing down on the paper. Really nice details, especially the misspelled business cards – says a lot about his character. 🙂 Can’t wait to see the next part.

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