Neon Noir: The Fifth Beat

There are two warring mob families in Capital City. The Belrose’s have strong ties to the politicians and city hall, though not strong enough to remove their rivals. The Guadio’s have bribed enough of the police force to keep out of jail.

Robert Howell

“Wake up, ya dirty bastard!”

A splash of water slaps Robert across the face, drenching his whole body. He awoke to a mostly dark room, a single beam of light shining down into the center. It lit enough for him to see the two men holding him captive, but not enough to tell exactly where he was.

“I’m awake,” the detective calmly responds. It took all his strength to remain in control.

He tensed his arm, feeling out the restraints. Rope held him to some kind of metal frame. However, he was only tied at his arms and wrists. His legs were free.

Small miracles…

“So you are.” The voice was self-assured, and deeper than the pit Robert found himself in. The man who woke him up was another wiry fellow, could have been Jack’s stronger brother. But the other one? He looked like a train car. He had a cap and a cigar, but nothing fancy, and was bigger than a gorilla.

These two were enforcers, but not ones Robert could place.

“How was your nap, copper?” The thin one set his bucket upside down and sat on it. A little bit of the water dripped out under him.

“Well, I woke up. Couldn’t have been all bad, I guess.” Robert’s eyes started adjusting to the darker parts of the room. The mishmash of metal surrounding them didn’t provide too much more on his whereabouts.

The beat of the city’s heart did though. Now that he was fully alert, he could hear it clearly, ringing through the metal room. The loud but regular hits told him he was near a construction site, or metal shop. Somewhere that would use an electric hammer.

“Woke up you did, by the boss’s good graces.” The big man spoke again. The voice was cockney, undignified, not what you’d imagine a high-ranking enforcer to sound like. Of course, the outfits said the same. Something was off though. Something about his phrasing.

“That does bring a question to mind. Why didn’t Francis just kill me?” The events of last night finished coming back to Robert. Jack Cuthbert sold him out.

The thin man started giggling to himself, not the one doing the talking today, it seems.

“Our boss has plans for you. Of note, your snoopin’ about for his business partners.” The big guy gives Robert a tap on the chest that would have sent him to the ground were he not tied up. The man was muscle on muscle. “He’d prefer if you stopped.”

Robert lets out a laugh.

“Then he should have just killed me. What makes him think I’ll stop?” Robert’s mind races as he speaks. This doesn’t make sense. If what he knows about Francis is right, he would have just had him killed.

I’ve been so careful, taking every measure to avoid being caught. How did he find me?

“We could threaten your life, but I feel that’s wasted effort.” The large one takes a few steps over to his friend and puts his hand on his shoulder.

“Randall here had the bright idea to threaten your old lady, but that’s so unseemly.” The cockney accented words snapped Robert’s attention on the two, and off his attempts to place his location.

“If you lay one hand on Selene, I swear I’ll-“

“It would have been two hands on her throat, but you’ve nothing to worry. That would be far more trouble than its worth.” The talker has been so calm in all this. Even for the crime in this town, kidnapping a cop can’t be a common occurrence. How is he keeping his cool?

He continues.

“No, we’d rather you keep doin’ your job.” He snaps his fingers and the one he called Randall jumps off his bucket and disappears into the darkness.

Robert tries to follow him, but just sees him standing by some more metal? Is that a shelf?

He comes back, having retrieved what he went for, a physical file folder in his hand. He hands it to his associate, who proceeds to thumb through the contents.

“You’ve been looking into the Arcadia.” He says, matter of fact.

Robert’s brain churns, trying to figure out what that is. His keeper notices the pause and fills in the detective.

“The club. The one you can’t prove is real.”

The cop’s face keeps the look of confusion, but now it’s for a different reason. Robert sought Francis to find his supplier, and through him, track down this other bar. If he happened to build a case against the mobster while he was at it, then maybe after bringing down the hidden club, he could have the resources to go after one of the two major families.

But here, he was being given a shortcut. He had a name.

“I have here a picture, and a name. More than enough for you to piece things together. In trade, you stop putting your nose where it don’t belong.”

Robert considers the offer. If he says no, there’s a chance they’ll kill him anyway. On the other hand, they’ve already proven they know how to track him down if he breaks this promise and keeps going after the mob.

It’s not like he has a choice.

“Fine. You can cut me down. Not like I could take you both down.”

The large man gestures toward Robert and Randall jumps up. He pulls out a big knife and starts slicing away at the rope. Once his arms are free, Robert stretches them out, his muscles sore. He notices a small hole on his arm, likely where they drugged him after knocking him unconscious.

Got to be more careful.

“If I were you, detective, I’d go home and plough my wife. You’re not getting sleep for a long time.” He drops the file on the ground and starts walking away. Randall is close behind.

Robert quickly drops down and looks through the file. In it is a candid photo of a dark-skinned woman, with long hair. It looks to have been taken through some bushes. He turns it over and reads the name on the back.

“Well, Ms. Vashti Kianian. Looks like you’re out of shadows to hide in.”


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