Mr. Simmons Goes to Washington - Chapter 1

Posted by Whit Barringer , Saturday, April 26, 2008 10:17 PM

I wrote this as a gift for a friend who has the same birthday as me. This is about five months late. His last name is the same as the main character, as are some of his mannerisms. This is the first chapter of a longer story that I will post during the coming weeks. Click the tag "Mr. Simmons" in tag list on the right to see the rest of the story as it's posted. This is my first try at noir, so let me know what you all think.

The CC license is posted at the bottom.


It’s midnight, but it feels like 10:00 in the morning, around the time I start having my first drink anyway – though I sometimes don’t get up until noon. Even though it’s nearly morning, I’m feeling wide awake and needing another glass of gin. It’s too goddamn hot to sleep anyway. It’s a record 102 degrees in the city, and it’s already September. They say it’s going to be a hard winter. As long as the gin’s harder, I’m fine.

I’m just about to push back from the desk and prop up my feet when she walks in, paying no mind to my closed door. I can barely tell it’s a woman without my glasses, so I put them on to see who I was about to tell to go to hell. Then I see her. She’s tall. Her hair’s the fire red that all the boys whistle about. Her coat’s black and covers the clothes she’s wearing underneath. Her black hat is one of those long-brimmed affairs, with a red band around the middle – something real high class alright. It’s hiding her eyes, and I know that she meant for it to be that way. I can tell she’s smart and calculating. She’s the kind of girl that would be just thrilled to run a skewer through my crotch if I cross her.

Though I ain’t ever shown any respect for anyone besides my mother, something kicks me in the ass and forces me to stand up. I wondered to myself if I had had my hat on, if I would have taken it off and placed it against my heart like she was the goddamn American flag. But wasn’t she something.

“Are you Detective Simmons?” she asks, and I try my best to keep my face stony as my heart jams up my throat like a car stuck in rush hour traffic.

“Yeah. Name’s on the door, Sweetheart.” She laughs, but it’s cruel.

“Yeah? Well, you don’t look like any detective I ever saw. Country’s full of bums since the war. Men don’t think they need to work anymore because they did a year or two of hard labor in the military.” I come back down from Cloud 9 with a thud. This broad is poison.

“Come back in the morning. I don’t work at night.”

“If that was true, doll, I wouldn’t have found you here.” I feel my mouth turn into a sneer and I pour another glass of hot gin.

“That don’t mean I take cases at night. Get out and come back tomorrow. How the hell did you get in here anyway?”

“Tomorrow’s Saturday,” she says, ignoring my question like women do. I turn the glass of gin up and toss it back with the practice of a thousand other glasses. I pour another glass.

“Yeah.” I manage to say, caught in my own drunken stupidity. Before I can get the next glass up to my mouth, she’s lightning quick with her leather gloved hand around my wrist. She makes me drop the glass and it shatters on the floor. I’m so angry that I’m seeing red, but she doesn’t flinch.

“This is important, or I wouldn’t be here, you drunk bastard.” I laugh at her audacity.

“Buy me more gin.”

“In addition to your fee?” I squint at her.

“If I take your case now, you owe me twice my fee.” She sits in the chair across from my desk and smiles.

“Alright. And I’ll throw in a bottle of gin.” I watch her as she crosses her legs and I can’t keep my eyes from flicking to them, gorgeous as they are as they go on for miles, leading to a place where I’d like to be, drunk or sober. She catches my eyes. I sit down. Some of the gin spilled on the way down, and my tie lands in a puddle of it on my desk. It’s too late to care. I prop my legs up in it anyway. She’s disgusted.

“What’s the case?” She takes off her gloves as she talks.

“My jewelry has been stolen.” I can’t help but laugh.

“You come walkin in here at midnight to tell me to find your damn jewelry? Who the hell do you think I am? I investigate murders, lady, not cat burglaries.” She glares at me like she wants me to die, and I can’t blame her. I haven’t been looked at any differently than that in a long time.

“I’m aware of that or I wouldn’t have come in here looking for you.” I sit back in my seat again, waiting for the punchline to this joke she’s playing on me. She holds her gloves in one hand and folds her arms. “My jewelry has been stolen, and I know who did it.” I start to interrupt her, but she beats me to it. “I also know that the man who stole them worked for somebody a lot bigger than a two-bit jewelry theft. But he’s dead. I need to know why.” She stops here, and I’m looking at her like she just told me that I’m investigating a unicorn incident involving a banana and a bicycle.

“Listen, I’m not in any mood to chase rainbows and-“

“I’ll triple your fee.” I stand up slowly and run a hand through my hair. I haven’t washed in days. I’ve got a soft beard growing, and I know that she still finds me as disgusting as the moment she walked in. I look out my 12th floor office window and watch a sole car creep down 6th Street and take a left at Martin. I’m trying to figure her out.

“Why right now?” She rejects this question.

“You’ll understand why. But that’s not important at the moment. I need to know if you’ll take the case.” When the gin is long, my temper’s short, and her games aren’t helping my patience. I turn on her like a dog that’s had hot air blown in his ear.

“Then you’ll answer my questions! This isn’t a game, lady. I’ll investigate a murder, but I gotta know what I’m in for.” She groans at my hesitation and calls me a coward with her eyes. Goddamn, she’s got beautiful eyes. She looks down, the brim of her hat hiding her face. As mad as I am, I’m ready to leap across the desk and show her that I’m a real man. One she can respect. I’m not a romantic, but I love a good fuck every once in a while. I think she reads this in me, and this unhinges my resolve. She knows men. Even though I should be in control, I’m not. She’s made it clear. I didn’t even get her to offer me the real dealmaker. I’ve lost my touch.

Without my acceptance, she slowly smiles and nods.

“I’m glad you’re in then.” I look back out the window and shake my head. Something’s really off about this. I’m listening, but I keep my back to her, keeping our eyes apart. I don’t like it when I’m easy to figure out. She proceeds to give me the details of the case, without my questions, and I know that she’s got me where she wants me. She lights up a cigarette and seems to enjoy it more than a good girl should.

“The jewelry belongs to me. The thief is William Langley. He works, or I should say worked, with Jasper Tisdale, a favorite of J. Edgar’s men. Actually, they both were. But Langley was dirty and Tisdale knew it. Billy was three-timing Hoover, Tisdale, and me. It got dangerous when he started doing work on the side for Benny Villa-“ I had to stop her.

“Benny Villa? The racketeer? This mess just got too deep, Miss-“

“Call me Nancy. And yes, the Benny Villa, though that name is as phony as he is.” She takes a long drag on her cigarette. I cross my arms and keep listening, though I can already tell this will be more dangerous that I could have imagined. She continues. “I have it on good authority that Benny Villa is trying to go solo – get out from under the umbrella of the Mob. He won’t go clean. He’s doesn’t know how to be legit. But I think this has something to do with why Villa was killed. I need you to find out why he was killed, where Langley is, and if more people are in danger. Namely me.” She’s clearly finished telling me what she felt was necessary, but I need more. I face her and see that she has taken off her hat. Her hair frames her face, and I feel tempted to touch her. I have never seen another human being look so impossibly and completely the ideal of beauty.

“Why don’t you work with the police? You seem to know a lot.” She nods and takes a finishing drag on her cigarette so long that it makes me want to cough.

“Yeah, but that would mark me. Especially if it has something to do with the Mob. Half of the cops in this town are dirty. That’s why I had to come to you. I could do an investigation myself, but I would look suspicious combing for clues.” It made sense, and I was angry that it did. I didn’t want anything more than to shove her out of my office and tell her to never come back. But she was offering a lot, and the rent was up on the apartment and the office. More importantly, I only had a little gin left. I sat down at the desk and looked at her evenly.

“Why do you need to know so badly who did it? Why not just move out of town without dragging me into it? It’d be a lot easier on paperwork that way, and Benny or whoever might be looking for you.” I pause. “But wait. How are you wrapped up in any of this anyway?” She laughs.

“Isn’t it obvious? I know too much. And I know a lot more that I haven’t told you.” I shake my head.

“That still doesn’t tell me how you know so much in the first place.”

“That part isn’t hard, but we’ll see how fast you figure it out.” I want to pursue it further, but I know she won’t budge. What a hell of a girl.

“Why did you come in tonight? What’s so urgent that couldn’t wait until Monday?” She sighs with something other than impatience.

“The police are going to find Langley’s body tomorrow.” I blink.

“He hasn’t been reported yet? He hasn’t even been found yet?” She says nothing, but I can’t keep quiet. “This is too deep, Nancy. You’re trying to get me involved with the F.B.I. and the Mob? What the hell is wrong with you? I should have shoved you out of this office the first few minutes you were in here.” Her gaze chills me.

“I need to know who killed him, and I need to know now. If you hurry, you can find the body before anybody else.”

“Where is it?”

“In a dumpster behind Katz Grocery on Putnam Street.” I laugh. Even though I didn’t expect to, it doesn’t faze her. Nothing does.

“That bastard was murdered in the Jewish district?” She cracks a smile, and it’s like seeing the moon on a rainy night.

“That’s why you can find it before anybody else. It’s-“

“The Sabbath.” I laugh, and it’s fuller this time. “Thank God for the Jews, eh?”

To be continued...

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Picture from briantmurphy.

Creative Commons License

Posted by Whit Barringer 9:45 PM

I suggest all those of you who would like to publish work online go to Creative Commons and get yourself a free copyright license. It'll help you if you don't want all of your work distributed all willy-nilly by letting people know how they're allowed to use your work. I'm planning on posting some serial short stories on here this summer, so I thought I'd go ahead and "relicense" my site.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Posted by Whit Barringer , Thursday, April 03, 2008 9:51 AM

I played around with the new options available at, and have come up with a new (if not a bit messy) sidebar. It's not perfect, but hopefully, once Blogger gets its act together a bit more, options will become available.

I promise I'll start posting more after I get my 20-page paper done for my history seminar class, which is due next Wednesday. Bear with me for another week, and you'll see the sunshine that radiates from my little corner of the interwebs once again.

Jokes! I can do jokes.

Posted by Whit Barringer 8:59 AM

Going to get something to eat last night, one of my friends and I walked to the cafeteria. When we went inside, we were hit with some atrocious smell. Thus, the following exchange occurred:

Friend: Ugh. It smells like formaldehyde.
Me: When did FEMA get here ?