It’s taken us nearly a year to get here but we’re finally here, the final instalment of “A Rainy Night on Drury Lane” is here, the hardboiled noir story about a very softboiled detective by the name of Richard Wentworth comes to its conclusion.
He does die by the way. Because sometimes people die.
For any newcomers I would usually tell you to start with Part I — With Sensual Red Lips but seeing as next week I’m releasing the whole thing as a FREE eBook I almost want to recommend that you wait for that instead. Come next week, the novella “A Rainy Night on Drury Lane”— including two never-before-seen chapters—will be available for download in a variety of formats from carloseriksson.com/a-rainy-night-on-drury-lane. If you visit now you can sign up to be notified when it’s available.
The snow is falling down on Drury Lane, taking the adulterous city of Chicago and its indiscretions and covering them in a white blanket of forgiveness. The wind is howling through an open window and sirens wail in the distance. Detective Wentworth is slumped in a chair in his office, his eyes are closed and the cigarette is his hand has almost burned to its end.
Grace, as she had come to be known by most, was standing next to Detective Wentworth. She was an attractive freckle-faced woman in her late twenties with bright copper colored hair and olive green eyes and with the exception of her two children very few people called her by her real name anymore. “Catherine couldn’t take care of us, but Grace can.”, she would remind herself of sometimes.
“Bastard. The poison wasn’t supposed to act that quickly.”, she muttered to herself whilst throwing Detective Wentworth’s things around.
Can you still hear me? Where do you keep the safe?“, holding him by his trench coat she was shaking him violently.
His head fell backward as she let go and there was no answer. Pressing her ear to his chest she could still hear his shallow breathing underneath the sound of the skipping record.
“Neither here nor there. Where have you gone?”, she stood up looking at him for a while before turning her attention to the skipping record.
“Sometimes your father just won’t take ‘No’ for an answer, you know that. We’ll say you earned them doing chores for Mrs. Wilson.”, having turned around before she had finished her sentence she was already walking away.
Richard Wentworth stood there for a moment, wishing he could run up to his mother to hug her and tell her that everything would be all right.
Every time his mind replayed this moment he would always turn around and run toward the fair, but this time something was different. This time, as if his legs could hear his inner voice, he ran and caught up with his mother, embracing her with his scrawny arms.
“I’m thorry mom, I’m thorry I couldn’t get you away from him in time.”, he was struggling to keep the tears away.
Hugging him back she did what any mother would and comforted him, “That’s all right honey, it’s not your fault—”
“But it ith”, Richard howled, “If only I had—”
“Pish posh, I chose to stay. To protect you. To keep you safe. That’s what moms are for you know, to protect their little ones. You did all you ever could have.”, his mother stroked the hair on his neck as she calmed him down.
Putting her hands on his shoulders she looked him straight in the eyes, “Now, you put those foolish thoughts of yours to rest and go and enjoy yourself, okay? And don’t you worry about me, it’s supposed to be the other way ’round.”
Richard wiped away the snot on his sleeve and looked back at his mother, “Okay, I will.”
“That’s my boy. I’ll see you later.”, his mother said before vanishing into thin air.
Returning from the kitchen—having gone through his cupboards—Grace grabbed Detective Wentworth by the neck of his trench coat again, shaking him backward and forward she tried to wake him up but it was already too late.
Richard William Wentworth—“Dick” to his acquaintances and the few friends he had had—had taken his final breath a few minutes earlier. Grace let go when she noticed herself staring into the slightly open mouth of a dead man whose body was still very warm but other than that had no signs of life.
Frustrated at herself for giving Richard too much poison she sat down in the chair by his desk. The armrests were worn out at the edges and the cushion felt like it had no stuffing any more.
“Richard, Richard, where have you hidden these riches of yours?”, she said to herself.
There was nothing of any value as far as she could see and most of the junk here looked like the kind you would have to pay someone just to get rid of.
“You didn’t get a lot of visitors here, did you? The state this place is in, I’m surprised you even invited me back here.”, leaning back in the chair she accidentally bumped into a few carefully balanced boxes that proceeded to fall, taking several piles of newspapers with them.
Letting out a loud sigh she crouched down to clean up the mess.
“Wherever I go, there’s always some man whose mess I have to clean up. When is it going to be my turn to sit back and watch as someone else cleans up my mess?”
She looked towards Richard and his flaccid body, slumped down in the rickety chair, “I suppose you won’t mind if I tidy this place up a bit, eh?”
Her gaze shifted focus to the bookcase behind Richard and from her crouched down position she would clearly discern what looked like a piece of paper, nestled between “This Side of Paradise” by F. Scott Fitzgerald and a coverless Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”.
Richard William Wentworth hadn’t been much of a reader, unless it was horse racing results, but he had enjoyed the look of rows of books and the many adventures he imagined where held between their covers.
Dropping the newspapers from her hands she walked over to the bookcase to discover that what she had mistaken for a piece of paper was actually an envelope. Thumbed and worn on the edges the envelope had the text “À mon Richard” written in beautiful penmanship on its front.
“Did you have someone special after all?”, Grace only spoke a few words of French—most of which were swearwords—but a love-letter was a love-letter regardless of the language.
Whoever this Josephine is or was, she had clearly felt strongly about Richard and by the look of the envelope and the letter, so had he.
Inside the envelope Grace also found the bearer bond for $100,000.
Grace hadn’t been sure if Richard had been telling the truth when he had bragged about his newly acquired riches. She had told him that he wasn’t the first one to try to get her with a line like that.
Now she stood there silently for—what felt like hours—but was minutes, before finally falling to her knees. Under her breath, as if she still needed to hide it from the world, the tears came streaming down and Catherine—not Grace—smiled.
She whispered to herself, “No more Grace.”