WEP 2018 December Contest

With the contest theme being Ribbons and Candles for the final challenge of the year, I wasn’t confident about what I wanted to do.  I considered doing a Victorian-inspired holiday celebration with a steam-punk aesthetic. Upon researching some Christmas/Yuletide traditions from the time, I realized it may not have been the best idea to attempt with this particular theme. Clearing the slate so to speak, I also consider doing a small town inspired Christmas through the eyes of a time traveler.  Which I thought would work well but after six-hundred words realized ending the idea without revealing the main character’s secret was impractical. There were just too many questions left unanswered for the ending to feel complete.  Trying to find something that would work within the festive theme,  I stopped thinking about the idea for a couple of days. 

Somehow that managed to shake an idea from my head. Using the 1920’s to imagine a world where jazz filled the airwaves, and the mob ruled entire cities. With that atmosphere in mind, I considered a few ideas before settling on the idea that would become my contest entry which I present below. 


The winter chill had filled the air the snow by the time I entered the speakeasy. Mr. Domino had renovated the place since my last visit. Art Deco laminate tile ran through the entire floor, giving it a hexagonal black and white pattern that reminded me of a piano. Vaulted stone painted white decorated the ceiling. Brass chandeliers hung by silver steel chains were dropped from the ceiling. Bright red and blue ribbons hung across the bottom of every light. The strong scent of tobacco and homemade moonshine filled the air. Brass-heavy jazz was playing from some unseen musicians intertwined with the aromas. Several young flappers were dancing to the music with their fellas.

Weaving my way through the crowd of dancers, I made my way to the bar. A burly bartender in a tailored three-piece grey suit stood behind the bar. Slicked back greasy black hair stopped at the man’s ear, adding to his clean-shaven face. Deep brown eyes watched the dancers for a few moments before glancing at me.

Asking me “Watcha drinkin tonight,” while his gaze hinted a silent message; either get your drink or leave.

Glancing around at the few other patrons who were standing at the bar, before responding “A Manhattan but first a message for the owner. Tell him Mr. Keys has arrived, he will know who I am.”

The bartender nodded before going to make my drink. My suspicious nature was forcing me to glance around. Looking for associates of the man I was looking forward to seeing. The iron in my pocket was feeling heavy as several men in all black tailored suits began approaching me. A gold domino lapel pin rested on the right side of the jacket of the suit. Black fedoras were tilted just enough to obscure their faces from view. Tommy guns with wooden stocks pressed against their shoulders.

I asked, “Escorting me to see Mr. Domino gentlemen?”

The men nodded in unison before directing the black barrels of their Tommy Guns up. I have enough odd jobs to know what that meant. Giving me little time to stand up before beginning to walk away. Raising myself from the stool, I followed them ignoring the chaos of dancers moving to the music.

The music had grown steadily quieter by the time Mr. Domino’s goons led me his office. They motioned for me to enter the door before taking a watching spot by the door. Finding Mr. Domino was waiting for me, tapping a cigarette between his thumb and forefinger of his right hand. A polished silver Colt M1911A1 was resting on his antique wooden desk, within arms reach if necessary.

Mr. Domino asked, “Is the deed done Mr. Keys?”

I nodded, before producing a vanilla envelope from my pocket. Placing the container down by the gun, knowing the envelope’s contents would sway Mr. Domino’s immeasurable appreciation. Mr. Domino spilled the envelope’s content onto his desk. Ten severed ring fingers rolled onto his office, with their gold rings still attached. Each finger belonged to Mr. Domino’s competition.

Mr. Domino began to grin before commenting, “You have done well, Mr. Keys. These rings will make fantastic trophies for me to inspire fear from anyone else foolish enough to challenge me. As much as I would prefer to keep you around, I’m not foolish enough to cross my sister,” opening his desk and pulling out a small cloth bag. “Take this and my blessing to marry my sister,” standing and grabbing me the collar of my shirt. “Break her heart, and I will break you,” letting go of my collar.

“I know,” grabbing the cloth bag as I remarked.

Mr. Domino nodded once, before allowing me to leave his office. Shoving the money bag inside my pocket, trying my best to hide it from everyone. This money was my way of starting something new with my beloved Margaret. She knew the full extent of my past and didn’t care. Hoping between my reputation and her being the sister of Mr. Domino would be enough to scare any enemies away.

*****

A few hours later I arrived at Margaret’s house, the bag still hidden inside my pocket. She opened the door with a smile before I could knock. Leading me to her kitchen table, where a vibrant red unlit candle sat on a silver tray. A box of matches rested beside it, two of them poking out of it.

Margaret commented “Let’s light this candle and begin our new life together,” handing me a match with a smile spread across her face.

Smiling as I took the match, more than ready to start our new life together.


Word count: 774 Critique level: Full

25 thoughts on “WEP 2018 December Contest

  1. There’s something chilling about Mr. Keys… but, um, I can’t quite… put my… finger… on it… HA. Seriously, I have a feeling he’s a bad dude, maybe even worse than his future brother-in-law.This is an unusual take on the ribbons & candles theme, but you did a good job with it. You did especially well describing the speakeasy,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Christopher! This to me is the best story I’ve read of yours. I like this era and always find the atmosphere alluring. As Olga said, it is indeed reassuring that even contract killers are human enough to love a woman and celebrate their love with candles. Nice touch at the end after the somewhat gruesome middle.

    Happy Christmas!

    See you at WEP in the New Year!

    Denise

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Turning over a new leaf after a life of crime – a really unique take on the prompt. Agree with Denise, I liked this entry the best of all yours so far. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great entry. I love stories from this time period. I’ve always had a soft spot for mobsters and contract killers, but not because I want them to do all those bad things, but because the reasons and how they got into doing these things are always so interesting. Mr. Keys seems like he worked hard to provide a better future for him and his love, it’s just really sad so many people had to die to make it possible. Not sure the brother-in-law is the one to worry about. Hope Margaret makes him happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You already had my attention at the mention of jazz and the mob – topics I love!

    “Tell him Mr. Keys has arrived, he will know who I am.” Oooh, love the hint of things to come…
    Black-tailored suits, fedoras and Tommy guns – it gets better and better.
    “Vanilla envelope”? Did you perhaps mean to say manila envelope?
    “Ten severed ring fingers…” I’m not surprised at the contents… but TEN? Wow. Now you’ve upped the game. Mr. Keys has to REALLY impress this guy. I’m loving this!!
    Mr Keys scared of his sister? Interesting revelation. Sounds like SHE is the real deal.
    Please continue with this! I’m curious about Margaret and to see where you take the story…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, I love Noire, so I’m glad you chose to couch your story inside its dark pocket. I had to keep reading because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how you were going to bring in the theme of ribbons and candles after those severed fingers. But you did, and the sweet ending was perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

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