Drunk on the Moon
It’s happened to most people at one time or another. Maybe after a birthday party or a fight with the wife.
You wake up throbbing with gloom and aching with guilt.
Memories of the previous night trample all over your thoughts with dirty feet. Nausea curdles away inside you. Your mouth’s like the bottom of a bird cage and Keith Moon is playing a drum solo in your head.
You peel back your eyelids and shards of sunlight slice through the blinds. Your bedroom looks as if it’s been redecorated by winos.
You stagger to your feet and stumble into the migraine bright bathroom to puke. You’re sweating, shaking and pins and needle acupuncture your body.
Your clothes are torn and covered in blood. And then the waves of memories come flooding back like a tsunami.
And then you put your head in your hands and you weep.
Like I say, it happens to most people every now and again. But to me it happens every month. Three times a month to be precise.
And it happened again last night.
The oil slick of night was melting into a granite grey day and dark, malignant clouds were spreading themselves across the morning sky as a battered yellow taxi with blacked-out windows spluttered to a halt in front of my apartment block.
I pushed past an over-dressed Russian woman who struggled to control a black umbrella which fluttered and flapped like a big black bat trying to escape from her grip. Ignoring her protests, I grabbed the handle and opened the door.
I shuffled into the back seat of the cab as Duffy, the driver, blew his nose on a Santa Clause napkin and threw it out of the window. Duffy’s face was so acne scarred it looked like a chewed up toffee apple and his spidery quiff was dyed black as ink. Not what you’d call a sight for sore eyes.
‘Shitty, morning, eh, Roman?’ said Duffy.
‘I’ve had better,’ I said, slumping against the car door.
Duffy hummed along to Mel Torme’s ‘Gloomy Sunday’, struck a match on the no smoking sign and lit up a Cuban cigar.
‘The Velvet Fog,’ said Duffy. I said nothing. ‘His nickname is The Velvet Fog.’
I ignored him as he ran a red light.
‘Twilight time,’ said Duffy, his face was sweating despite the fact that the cab was as cold as the grave.
‘That’s what we used to call this time of day, Twilight Time. You know, like the song?’
And then he was silent again, apart from his teeth grinding and the clicking sound that his jaw made.
The taxi snaked its way along the sea front, past pubs, greasy spoons, sex shops and kebab shops before stuttering to a full stop outside Duffy’s Bar. The rain fell down in sheets and the fading street-lights shimmered, reflected in the taxi’s windscreen.
Duffy got out, pulled up the metal shutters and opened up the bar.
* * *
As Duffy switched on the lights, the jukebox burst to life. Howling Wolf snarled out ‘I Ain’t Superstitious’ as I nestled on my usual bar stool, calmly contemplating the double whisky that Duffy had placed in front of me. The ice cubes seemed to shimmer, glimmer and glow in the wan light. Twilight time, indeed.
I briefly turned my gaze outside. The wet pavement reflected the bar’s flickering neon sign, as a gangling scarecrow rushed across the street.
Tall and with long black hair, Detective Ivan Walker flew in out of the storm like a murder of crows, bringing rain and a waft of autumn leaves behind him.
Swathed in scarves, he wore a tattered long black raincoat which flapped in the breeze.
He took the stool next to me and put his badge and his Colt Anaconda on the bar. Duffy poured him a death black espresso.
‘Twilight Time again, Roman.’ he rasped in a voice like broken glass.
‘So, I heard,’ I said.
Howlin’ Wolf ended and was replaced by Dusty Springfield.
‘The White Negress,’ said Duffy, looking up from his National Geographic. ‘That was her nickname. It wasn’t racist.’ He was a mine of information, he really was.
I took in Walker’s appearance.
His face – almost angelic – was latticed with scars. On the side of his neck was a burn mark shaped like a pentangle.
My hands were shaking and I slurped my whisky.
‘Hair of the dog that bit you?’ said Walker, as I poured myself another drink.
I said nothing. It was a tired old line but not as tired as I felt. But then, two nights on the prowl will do that to you.
‘Tough couple of days, then?’ said Walker.
‘It a dog’s life, eh?’ said Walker
I ignored him, closed my eyes and let the booze wash over me.
‘Did you boys hear about the murders last night?’ said Walker.
‘Can’t say I did,’ said Duffy.
‘Really?’ said Walker. ‘It’s been all over the news.’
‘Don’t follow the news,’ said Duffy. ‘Depressing.’
‘Oh, this is a good one, though. A couple of Ton Ton Philippe’s boys were sliced up and ripped to pieces outside The Pink Pussy Club.’
Duffy and I ignored him but I knew Walker well enough to know that he wasn’t just here to chat.
‘And?’ I said, eyes still closed.
‘Oh, don’t get me wrong, these boys were scum. They work for that Haitian psychopath for fuck’s sake. I mean good riddance to them and a round of applause to whoever did it. Yeah, but we’ve not much to go on. Although, it looks to me like they were ripped apart by a pack of dogs. Maybe the even same ones that took out Ice-Pick Mick McKinley last month.’
‘But …’ I heard him shuffle in his pocket.
‘We did get one possible lead. We found this in the remains of one of the chewed up hands that had been severed and thrown across the alley.’
I heard the metal scrape across the top of the bar and I knew what it was.
I opened my eyes.
Next to my whisky was a blood splattered badge. My detective’s badge.
‘Let’s be careful out there, officer Dalton’, said Walker as he knocked back the coffee, patted me on the back and headed out of the bar.
‘Bollocks,’ said Duffy, drinking vodka straight from the bottle. ‘Ton Ton Philippe!’ He shook his head. ‘You’re playing with the big boys now, Roman.
As the White Negress sang ‘I close my eyes and count to ten.’ I did the very same thing. Only, I made it up to one hundred.
The City’s brilliant neon cast dense shadows that tried to mask its sordid secrets but a stench still permeated the alleyways and the gutters and the bars. Of course, the stink overpowered some people, smothered them. But not me. I just took a deep breath and breathed in.
I’d worked as a cop in the city for twenty years; robbery, vice, homicide. But that all changed when I stumbled into what sounded like typical drunken bar brawl and I ended up in something far, far from typical.
It was way past midnight and a full moon grasped the sky. I sat half –asleep in my car outside The Playhouse at the bottom of Banks’ Hill. I was on a stake-out looking out for Ice-Pick Mick McKinley, a rat faced coke fiend who had told me that he had a wad of information of Ton Ton Philippe, the Haitian gangster whose control of The City was spreading like a cancer.
Suddenly, a sickly stew of screams and howls clung to the wind and drifted down to my car.
The moonlight oozed across The City’s dank cobblestones like quicksilver; creeping between the cracks, crawling into the gutters. I got out of the car and slowly walked up the hill, my breath appearing in front of me like a spectra.
As I got closer to Duffy’s Bar, I shivered, pulling my long black overcoat close to me and carefully pushed open the large oak door.
Checking my pistol, I stepped into the bar.
The room was suffocating in red velvet and leather. Chandeliers hung from a mirrored ceiling and half eaten corpses littered the wooden floor. And around them, feasting, were some sort of creatures – half – man, half – wolf.
Instinctively, I fired off a round of bullets but the creatures didn’t flinch. They just crawled towards me, snarling and growling.
Then I noticed Duffy on top of the oak bar lighting a rag that he’d stuffed in a bottle of booze. He threw it at a jukebox near the creatures and it exploded like a volcano.
The next few moments were a flash of fireworks and explosions
As the smoke subsided, the wolf creatures were in front of me. And then they pounced.
I awoke in an antiseptic stinking hospital, with Walker beside me eating grapes and playing Sudoku. He told me that after the explosion one of Duffy’s silver chandeliers had crashed down on my attackers who had somehow struggled from under it and crawled away.
The corpses of three half-naked bikers were found in an alleyway by Walker and his boys a short while after. Long haired, bearded weirdoes’, he said. From out-of-town.
Me? Well, they said I was lucky to be alive. Ravaged, was the word they used. So, I was given long-term sick leave to recover.
And I embraced my sick leave as well as most chronic workaholic cops and filled my days and nights watching reality television, eating junk food and getting drunk. Until the end of the month that is, when a full moon filled the autumn night like a big silver dollar. And then?
Well, then, I just got drunk on the moon.
© Paul D Brazill 2010
Drunk On The Moon first appeared in the debut issue of Dark Valentine Magazine.
Bio: Spinetingler Award nominee Paul D. Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England and lives in Bydgoszcz, Poland. He started writing short stories at the end of 2008 and his writing has appeared in all sorts of print and electronic magazines and anthologies, such as A Twist Of Noir, Beat To A Pulp, Crimefactory, Dark Valentine, Needle- A Magazine Of Noir, Radgepacket and Thrillers, Killer N Chillers. His story Guns of Brixton will be included in the 2011 Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime, edited by Maxim Jakubowski.His blog is YOU WOULD SAY THAT WOULDN’T YOU? And his column, I DIDN”T SAY THAT, DID I? is at Pulp Metal Magazine.