Thursday Scribbles: Gumshoe

About six months ago, I had an idea for a detective story. It was going to be a noir-inspired tale of a down-on-his-luck detective who gets pulled into a mystery by an alluring female acquaintance. Bullets, broads and bad guys would collide as our cynical hero tracked down the murderer of a prominent public figure.

I had planned to write it in 8 chapters, weaving an enigmatic but not overly-tangled web. However, trying to plot it out was a time-consuming process, and I wasn’t too thrilled with the first chapter that I cranked out. The story was also meant to launch my blog, so the longer it took to finish, the longer the blog would have to wait. So I shelved the idea indefinitely and decided to get the blog moving instead. That decision seems to have worked out well.

Here’s a little teaser I’d written up for the story:

Rick Braddock is a standard-issue private eye with all the standard issues. Drunk, cynical, surly and broke, he’s become redundant in a dirty city that’s starting to get cleaned up. So when old friend Karen Sloane comes knocking on his door to ask for help in tracking down her missing fiancé, he jumps on it right away.

Things get more complicated when District Attorney James Calloway, Karen’s fiancé and the city’s leading crusader of justice, is found dead in his office, shot by two bullets from two different guns. In a crooked town, a man like that makes a lot of enemies, but which one decided to take care of business once and for all?

To find the answer, the disheveled detective and the distressed damsel will have to wade through the seedy world of warring mobsters and political corruption. But the real threat might lie closer than Braddock realizes, and his good friend could turn out be his worst enemy.  

Reading that again, I realize that part of my problem was also that I couldn’t decide on the tone of the story. Did I want it to be fun, with an exaggerated noir vibe? Or a serious mystery? Hopefully, whenever I get back to working on it, I’ll have figured that out.

I had also planned a series of illustrations to accompany the story. There were character portraits to familiarize my readers with the main ‘cast’, and there would be a ‘cover’ image for each chapter in the story. Doing all that would, of course, only prolong the whole process further, so I just did the portraits and called it a day.

Below are the main good guys of the story (or as good as you can get in a shady, corrupt town):

Sketchbook

First up is Rick Braddock, private eye. An ex-cop without much regard for authority, Braddock became a private investigator to seek out justice on his own terms. Business was good for a while, but the arrival of a new and promising D.A. had caused the well of crime to dry up. Reduced to chasing philandering husbands, Braddock’s ready to call it quits when a knock on his door leads to his most dangerous case yet.

Karen Sloane is the police commissioner’s headstrong daughter and had been a close friend of Braddock’s during his time on the force, though her father never approved of their friendship. They drifted apart after Braddock quit, and she wound up dating the new D.A. The two of them became tabloid darlings, especially after their engagement. When Karen’s crusading fiance’s goes missing, there’s only one man she can turn to for help, but she’s not going to like what she finds.

Commissioner Tom Sloane has seen a lot of ugliness during his time on the force, from bloodthirsty mobsters to crooked politicians. He still believes in the law, however, and is as hard-nosed as they come. He’s extremely protective of his daughter and never cared for her friendship with Braddock, whose disregard for regulations rubbed him the wrong way. Sloane’s already got his hands full trying to solver the murder of the new D.A. and really doesn’t need Braddock nosing around.

District Attorney James Calloway is the city’s golden boy. He had promised to wipe out crime during his campaign and it’s a promise he ‘s delivered, sending the world of organized crime into chaos. He’s made a lot of enemies on both sides of the law as a result, but his crusade hasn’t stopped. Until the day he disappears from his office, only to end up there that same evening with two bullet holes in his chest.

Up next: The Villains!

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The Librarian

Every shelf in the Library’s cavernous aisles is stacked with worlds and universes, full of life, and also of death. Nobody ever checks out any books from there, though. Nor are there any avid readers wandering around inside, casually flicking through pages while speaking to each other in hushed tones. The Library has existed for as long as anyone can remember, growing in size over untold years (or is it millennia?), a beast that subsists on knowledge and can never be satisfied. And deep in its silently beating heart sits the Librarian. He is the keeper of stories, a guardian of fiction and fact. He was there once upon a time and he will be there happily ever after, though he cannot say if it will be happy or not.

The Librarian has seen the Library’s foundation being laid. He will see its last stone crumble to dust. He has seen babies cradled in their mothers’ arms and old men laying on their deathbeds. He has seen lovers light up the dance floor and enemies scorch the battlefield. Heroes fighting villains; teenagers navigating their lives through friendship and love; regular folks grappling with careers and relationships, hoping to find happiness. The Librarian has seen them all, page after page, chapter after chapter.

He finishes reading the life of a famous radio personality with a dysfunctional family; the poor man dies alone and his family feuds over his assets before the body’s even gone cold. The Librarian sighs and closes the book. The family’s stories will have to wait for another day; perhaps he’ll read some lighter fare next. He returns the book to its shelf where it will be put away for good, never to be read again.

Endings are usually the problem. Some stories take their time building toward an inevitable conclusion, others are cut short abruptly; so many of them are tragedies. He had quite enjoyed the one about the dinosaurs, but was disappointed with how it ended. Asteroid impacts seemed like a cheap storytelling device. His chair creaks a welcome as he settles back into it, exhausted from today’s reading. He glances at the giant tome sitting on one side of his desk: The Saga of Humanity. That one’s been an ongoing project; he reads a handful of chapters every few years, but is no closer to the end. Sometimes, he finds himself tempted to peek at the ending, but that would spoil the surprise. He’ll pick it up again in a year or two and see how the story’s progressed.

The Librarian removes his glasses and rubs his temples, leaning back. Tomorrow he will once again explore new worlds, new lives. He hopes that at least some endings will be happy as he closes his eyes and drifts off into a sleep without dreams.