Neon Noir: The First Beat

The year is 1927. Prohibition is in full effect. And Capital City has the most advanced tech available. The entire city seems to move to a beat, as the electronic hum bounces everyone about. But people are still people, and most people can’t be trusted.

Ryan Shane

This is it?

When Ryan was told to go to the Arcadia for a job, he was expecting something a little more impressive. But as he looked over the dilapidated building, he started having second thoughts.

I never should have come here.

As much as he wanted to turn away though, he couldn’t. The last few dollars he had in his pocket surely wouldn’t be enough for food for the rest of the week, let alone rent. What choice did he have but to ask this Lady Vash for a job?

Ryan walked around the building trying his best at finding the entrance. The door was as rundown as the rest of the wall, he walked past it three times. He held his breath and opened it, a dark hallway the only thing greeting him.

He wondered for a moment if the city’s heart would follow him down there. He always felt better when he could hear it. Even here in the hard part of town, the hum of electronics followed and moved him.

I guess I got nothin’ to lose.

The dark hallway turned a few times. Ryan worried it would be nothing more than a prank, that Abby was setting him up like this for a laugh. Why would a speakeasy be here? Weren’t they for the rich or the mob?

The hallway approached its end, a door illuminated in a silhouette of light greeting him. It seemed there really was something down here.

Ryan opened the door and was astounded to find the speakeasy was really here. Hell, it wasn’t just a bar, but a night club. Over on the stage, musicians tuned their instruments. But it seemed they were lacking an electro-player. Matter of fact, the walls didn’t have sound dampeners. The city’s heart throbbed down here. If Ryan weren’t sure it were crazy, it almost sounded louder down here.

The kid behind the bar noticed Ryan enter and stepped out.

“Hey, we ain’t open. Come back later.”

Ryan reached into his pocket and pulled out a small white card.

“I was invited. I’m looking for Lady Vash.”

The bartender took the card and looked it over.

“You’re gonna want to drop the ‘lady’ from her name. Wait here.”

He ran off to the back. Ryan stepped into the club, looking about. It was a good size, and looked fancy. Well, hard to say if it actually was fancy, or just felt that way after seeing the outside. I guess this made sense though. No one who didn’t know what they were looking for could find this place.

He took a seat to await his host. As he did he noticed the band had stopped tuning. A woman came out to the microphone, ready to sing. Were they going to play?

How can they play over the city’s heart?

The bass player and drummer seemed to be really still, as the rest of he band looked their way. Soon their heads were bouncing up and down to the beat of the city’s heart. Each hum of the tech surrounding them acted as an electro-drum beat.

The saxophone surprises by starting off. It wails out, singing its soulful mourn. As it comes to a crescendo, the rest of the small band joins. City’s heart acts as the electo player, the sound of a generator winds up, leading to the drum smashing into the bass. The horns blare out, announcing their arrival well.

Then whole mess staggers like a drunkard out into the night. They find their footing and fall back. The bass and drum walk together, really getting the groove going. The horns pop back in, joining the walk.

And then, she starts singing. Her voice carries over the sound of so many instruments and the singing of the city itself. For a verse or two, the saxophone player stops singing and joins her.

“We can’t afford an electro player.”

Ryan is brought to his senses at the sound of a woman’s voice right next to him.

“You pay for the electro player and you also have to pay to sound proof the whole place. But they do well with the heart.”

The woman wore a deep blue suit, expertly tailored and well pressed. She had a drink in one hand and her other in her pocket.

“Are you… Lady Vash?”

She pulled her hand from her pocket and extended it in a handshake.

“Call me Vash. Who sent you?”

He took her hand and gave it a slightly weak shake. He wasn’t entirely sure what was going on.

“My name is Ryan and-“

“I didn’t ask for your name. Who gave you the card?”

Ryan let go of her hand and studied her face and clothes. She was definitely a woman, but he couldn’t understand why she wore a suit instead of a dress. Her skin was darker than he was expecting, though nowhere near as dark as her hair. That was black as night, stretching halfway down her back.

Despite the suit, she still wore heels that gave her an extra few inches in height. Between those, her hair, and the fact the suit was tailored to her body, it was clear she wasn’t trying to hide that she was a woman.

“The card. I don’t have all day.”

“Yes! Right. My friend Abby gave it to me. She’s a waitress at a diner downtown. I mentioned I was looking for a job and she recommended me to you.”

Vash looked over the young man, a look of confusion spreading across her face.

“Abby, huh? How did a mook like you bag a girl like Abby?”

Ryan furrowed his brow, not sure right away what she was implying. He figured it out though.

“Oh! She and I aren’t together or anything. Just old friends.”

“Thank goodness. I love having her on call for some fun nights.”

Ryan furrowed his brow a second time in as many moments. This time he didn’t pick up on what she was implying.

“So, Ryan. Why can’t you find a job? If someone else won’t take ya, why should I?” Vash takes a seat in the chair across from the young man.

“I, um, I’m not sure. Abby implied it’d be something physical. She was asking about my time in the army.”

Vash gets a twinkle in her eye. If Ryan weren’t looking as carefully as he was, he might not have noticed it.

“Army boy? I guess Abby knows what to look out for. I need someone new for security.”

Ryan’s eyes widen. He had assumed this would be peeling potatoes or washing dishes or something.

“Security? Me? I don’t think- I should maybe go.”

He gets up from his chair.

“Pay is one-hundred bucks a week.”

He stops.

“You can’t be serious.”

“Oh honey, I’m very serious. But it’s an intensive job. During club hours, you bounce anyone acting up. Anyone too sauced. Out of club hours, every so often, I’ll need you to be my personal bodyguard.”

The job was a mixed bag. On one hand, the pay was amazing, and the club job should be easy enough. It was the personal part he worried about.

A gig is a gig.

“I’ll do it.”


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