Woody Bleeker sat at the desk in his apartment, his worried eyes roaming. He spent all day at the office tallying crimes. They were being committed all the time!
Music drifted up from the street with the warm summer air. What kind of world was this that he’d been placed in? A world of murder, a world of vice? Was there no order?
He left his office for the dark street. The warm air enveloped him.
He stopped in at a bar. Inside it was busy, and he had to jostle to get to the front.
“One beer, please!” he said to the bartender.
“Yeah, which one?” the bartender replied.
“Uh, which ones do you have?”
The bartender shook his head and started to serve somebody else.
“No, wait! I’ll have a Rheingold.”
The barman poured it out. Woody sat drinking it, watching the bar’s clientele.
They spoke in the rough tones of Manhattanites. Not one was perfectly formed, not one
spoke in soft flowing flawless syllables. Had they all committed crimes? Where did
that leave them?
Woody noticed two men enter from a side door. They got to the bar and were served
right away. They sat down at a booth in the corner and kept their heads low. Woody
listened to their conversation.
“Are we going tonight?”
“We went two nights ago.”
“But they’re playing the Night in Tunisia movie. It’s brand new.”
Woody followed the two men outside. A clock tower above read five minutes past eleven.
They entered a building whose gaudy neon sign read “THE CRYSTAL THEATRE.” Grimy mirrors surrounded the doorway.
Woody followed them at a safe distance to a large, sloping room with a movie screen in front. The theatre was sparsely populated with moviegoers slumped low in their seats. The film was just beginning.
It had a paper-thin plot. A wealthy debutante came to New York and met a jazz musician. She was with her father at a whites-only nightclub. She met eyes with the musician during the performance. The film cut close-ups of both their eyes together and overlaid them with messages going between:
“After the show.”
“Do you know the Club Caliban?”
“No. I’ll have to sneak out.”
The theatre was plunged in shadow, only lit by the reflected light from the projector. Woody looked at the figures behind him and to his sides. He could have sworn he saw faces he knew, faces from his childhood. A man’s booming laughter filled the room at intervals.
The film’s two characters met up at Club Caliban, but they didn’t stay there for long. They left for a hotel room, and from there the film took a turn for the seedy.
Woody started to feel sick. He got up from his seat and went to the back of the theatre.
He ran into a man in the hallway with a thin mustache and long sideburns. Without thinking, he brought his badge out of his pocket, yelled, “you’re under arrest!”
The man’s eyes widened. He ran down the corridor. Woody pursued, but the man had disappeared into the night.
Follow Ed on twitter at @edjamesking