This week, for Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenge, we had the task of writing a 1,000 word story on a superhero theme, with the added twist of a dash of flavour from a different genre. After the nice feedback I had from my blend of noir and comedy (read A Bad Day for Bernard) I just had to give my grizzled PI another outing. Please note, I'm a British writer but I've tried to incorporate US spellings – please forgive me if I accidentally slip back across the Atlantic. I hope you enjoy the story.
MC Productions Presents:
A Mysterious Case of Bourbon
In Jack’s Bar, there are three rules; a solemn code, set out in cold hearts and stony faces, and obeyed without question by the coalition of the lonely and the damned that make up the regular clientele.
You always clapped the soloists, especially the drummer with the shrapnel in his cerebral cortex;
You always tipped your waitress, unless you liked your whiskey served with spit;
And you never, under any circumstances, struck up a casual conversation at the bar.
The schmuck slouched on the barstool next to mine, didn’t know the rules.
“Hey, buddy,” he slurred in my general direction, “do you wanna know something funny? Do ya?”
I just took a sip of bourbon, and stared straight ahead, watching his reflection in the mirror behind the bar.
“Silent type huh?” he went on. “Well, I’ll tell you anyway.” He puffed out his chest. “I could leap right over this whole place.”
“Please,” I said, “don’t let me stop you.”
He let out a braying laugh that echoed across the room. A few customers cast him angry glances. One guy even lifted his head off the table first. The drummer missed a paradiddle, and his scarred face twisted into a scowl.
But my companion didn’t notice the attention he was getting. “That’s harsh man,” he said, “you could hurt a guy’s feelings.”
Now, I turned on my stool. “Listen,” I said, speaking carefully, “this isn’t your kind of place. I suggest you take a hike, whilst you still have two functioning kneecaps.”
He stared for a moment then slid off his stool. “Okay,” he said, “how far?”
I rubbed the stubble on my chin. I could play along, if that’s what it took. “How about a couple hundred miles?”
“Sure,” he said and stepped towards the door.
“Bring me back something nice,” I called out, and turned my attention back to my old friend Jimmy Beam.
“Will this do?”
I whipped my head around. And there he was. Stood right behind me, holding out a stuffed moose head and wearing a baseball cap with “Welcome to Alaska” picked out in gold thread. I almost choked on my drink.
“How the hell did you do that?”
He shrugged. “It was easy. But I think I went a bit farther than I meant to.”
Cymbals crashed, and over his shoulder I saw the drummer picking his way past the floor toms. “Time to leave,” I said. I took my new friend by the elbow and led him towards the door.
Outside, I propped the guy up against the wall and he lit up.
“Christ almighty,” I yelled, “you’re glowing.”
“Oh that,” he said. “It’s just my force field. It does that sometimes. It’s the fresh air.” He took a couple of breaths and the glow faded.
“Who are you?”
But he wasn’t listening. He pointed up the street. “Look,” he said, “it’s the Empire State Building. I’ve been up there.”
“So what?” I asked. “So has my Aunt Mildred and she’s got a wooden leg.”
“Ah,” he said, and looked me in the eye, “but did she fly?”
“Only once,” I replied, “there was a nasty business with her leg. The sniffer dog never recovered.”
The man laughed like a dingo at a dog show. “You know what I mean,” he said. “I flew to the top, to rescue that girl. It was in all the papers. It was on TV.”
I looked him up and down and my heart missed a beat.
He cocked his head to one side. “Have you seen a cardiologist lately?”
“You,” I whispered, “It can’t be true.”
He nodded. “Yes, I’m Alpha Man,” he said, “but please, call me Dave.” He frowned. “I’m not kidding about that cardiologist.”
I put my hand on my chest. Sure enough my ticker was banging to beat the band. “You’ve got some great party tricks,” I said, “but you can’t be Alpha Man. He went into his Cathedral of Contemplation.”
“Yeah, that’s what my people told the press,” he said, “but I’ve been laying low.” He bit his bottom lip. “Some guy tried to pick a fight and I sort of pushed him.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad.”
“Yeah, but he ended up in inny- what’s the word?”
“No, Indonesia.” He gave me his best boyish grin. “I don’t know my own strength.”
I ran a hand through my hair. “Damn,” I muttered, “I left my Fedora in the bar.”
Dave stood up straight. “No problem.”
And the next thing I knew, the damn thing was on my head. I plucked it off and checked. It was mine. It was an old friend and I’d have known it anywhere. “But, how?” I asked. My usual eloquence in the face of dramatic revelations had abandoned me.
Dave smiled and looked down at his hands. “It’s nothing really, just a bend the space-time continuum sort of thing.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Prove it,” I said. “Do it again, but this time, bring out something else… say, a book of matches with the bar’s name on. Oh, and get me a pack of cigarettes. And a bottle of bourbon.”
“Here you go,” he said, holding out his hands to show me the goods. “And look, I brought you a glass and some ice.”
“Okay,” I said, pocketing the cigarettes and the matches, “but you can keep the glass.” I took the bottle, unscrewed the cap and took a long pull. “Well that’s dinner over,” I said. “How about we go on to a club?”
Dave beamed. “Sure,” he said. “Where shall we go?”
“How about the 1930’s?” I said. “Can you do that?”
He looked thoughtful. “I don’t see why not.”
I put my arm across his shoulder. “Let’s go.”
“This is great,” he said. “You could be my sidekick.”
“No,” I said, “not that.” But as we walked towards the setting sun, I had to smile. “You know, Dave,” I said. “This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
* The End *
I hope you enjoyed the story.
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