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Subject: It's here!
Author: La Reina   (Authenticated as La Reina)
Date: May 24, 2012 at 9:03:52 AM
Reply to: Build-a-Soundtracked-Story Part 2 by klundtacular
I've never written hardboiled/noir before. I've never even read proper versions of those genres (unless you count noir-themed comedic fantasy). And first person suits me ill. But that's what these songs keep telling me, so...

And, I fulfilled my promise. Four days.

Baltimore's apartment was just the way I remembered it. Flashy. Red walls. Smelling a putrid mix of scented candles and old laundry. Those days when I dropped by to get him working on something, he'd open the door with a woman latched on his arm and the air heavy with cigarette smoke. She can be a Betty, or a Molly, or a Flo. It doesn't matter. All that matters was that someone was there to adorn his apartment.

Irene had unlocked the door, but she remained outside, leaning carelessly against the walls and picking bits of the peeling paint with her long fingernails. I stepped past her and began rummaging around the apartment, searching for something - anything - that might tell me what Baltimore was up to before he left.

It didn't take too long to find out. On his desk was a brown envelope, bland and dog-eared at the corners, but marked meticulously with red marker. I opened it and spilled its contents on the desk. A handful of photographs spilled out, along with some papers, and landed on the wooden surface. I bent down and picked up one of the photographs. It was taken with a cheap, supposedly hidden camera. That much was obvious even at first glance. I snatched one of the photographs and lifted it to see what it depicted.

What I saw sent me scrambling for the other photos.

Various shots, some obscured, some clearly visible, of two men in various locations. The few photos taken with a restaurant as the background had the faces very difficult to identify, but the other photographs showed the subjects' identities clear as crystal. It was the Magister himself - in a restaurant, in a hotel lobby, and in what was probably a garden or a park - each and every time with a much younger man. They were photographed, or spied, rather, doing different but probably worrisome things. Sitting a bit too close. Looking fondly at each other. In one photo, the Magister was putting the younger man's forehead to his lips.

I called for Irene. She stepped on the carpet confidently, her shoes making soft, velvety thuds against it, and she appeared behind me in a matter of moments. "What is it?" she asked.

I dropped the incriminating photos on the desktop and slid them towards her. "Do you know what these are?"

Irene picked up the photos into a small pile and viewed them one by one. As she scanned the pictures, her jaw slowly descended in alarm and her eyes began to widen. "Is that - ? Oh, my... Is that the Magister?" her silky voice was heavy with surprise and anxiety, and her bosom rose and fell with every breath. Even though...

"Do you recognise the other man?" I pressed on. This was no time for distractions. I kept my eyes trained on Irene's face to keep my focus from trailing elsewhere.

Irene's painted lips opened and closed several times. "It seems to be - oh, my, is it? Is it his assistant? Roger, wasn't that his name?"

"Roger Knighton," I muttered, nodding. There were many rumours about Roger Knighton. How he came of mundane origins. How he got himself a position in the Magister's office. How he quickly rose to the top (like cream, or like scum, depending on who you ask). How the Magister made him personal assistant in a suspiciously short amount of time. I had never seen the infamous secretary myself, not beyond vague descriptions given me by gossip-mongers. But now, with the photographs in front of me, I wasted no time in committing the image to my memory. Fair curly hair, framing a bony face not unlike the Magister's aquiline features. Light-coloured eyes, slight build, approximately in his early- to mid-twenties. I watched as Irene laid the photographs back on the desk. "Do you know him?" I ventured to ask.

"Oh," Irene's blue eyes wandered the room. "Not personally. I've seen Roger around. Around the Bay, that is. He and this frumpy older woman - I guess I've heard him call her 'Aunt'."

"What's a government worker doing in a bar with his aunt?" I raised my eyebrows.

Irene shrugged her shoulders dramatically. "How am I supposed to know?" she moaned. "Even government workers have family."

"Or maybe," I suggested dryly, "he just has a lot of people to meet."

Irene shot me a sharp look. Her face dropped into seriousness, red lips pouting.

I continued. "Everybody knows promotions to so high up the ladder don't come so easily. And what's a better way to get there than a little talk, a little walk, a little wine and dine?"

But it was at that moment that Irene threw her head aside. "But if you're wrong, that would be slander."

"It's not slander when everybody knows it's true."

Irene was insistent. "The Magister is about twice his age! You really think he'd - "

"I don't see why not," now was my turn to shrug. "It's a dog eat dog world, Ma'am. Especially in politics. Nepotism gets more on the line than a lot of other options. And what better way to smooth relations?"

"You're mad."

"It's a mad world we live in. I think I ought to blend in with my surroundings."

An omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive memory for trifles.

This message was edited by the author on May 25, 2012 at 1:24:05 AM

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