Some news + a little East-City Noir

Well it’s been a quite a while since I pumped out a blog; as I’ve had a very topsy-turvy few months with hospital stays, physiotherapy, moving ,and trying to get the brain-box functioning properly. But as things have slowly settled down, I’ve been able to work on finishing the first draft of Fallen Angels, and send it off for a look-see with a small-press in Europe for some feedback.

On a related film note, my 2014 new-noir film Lucky 7 popped up on Apple TV via the distributor Factory Film Studios. Follow the link below to catch the Shanghai Film Festival selected drama:

But back to writing. I recently went through a few story ideas that have been kicking around in my mind for years. And thought to myself, let’s try out an opening chapter or two. The action has shifted from Hamilton, to my old hometown of Peterborough. The year is 1980, and out protagonist is about to get himself stuck in a quagmire of industrial espionage, sex, and murder. In between dog-walking and pizza deliveries. Here is a peek, enjoy:

“The alarm wasn’t any quieter today. Big Ben clanged its harsh clarion call, as it did most mornings. Peacock turned on his mattress and reached with a well-practiced move; grabbing the clock and tossing it across the room. It clattered along the floorboards, but the bell rang on. “Dam Westclox,” Peacock muttered to himself. Now he was forced to get up, just to turn the fucking thing off. Its radioactive glow had faded from when he went to sleep. But there was still enough illumination to see the time of morning. It was 7 am. Big Ben didn’t care that it was New Year’s Day. 1980. 

It was the beginning of a new decade, and the end of the 1970’s. “Well thank God for that” Peacock thought as he sat up in bed and leaned his feet over to the bedside carpet. Dam he was tired. But duty called. Even today. Lack of sleep or not. Not that he had been revelling in the NYE festivities at the Holiday Inn on George Street. Or anywhere else for that matter. Nope. He was kept busy driving around the city all evening delivering pies and lasagna’s for Big John’s Pizza. He only glimpsed any celebrations through the doorways of apartments and townhouses scattered across town. He had made good money, and tips. Those where welcome. But the invitation to a swinger’s orgy at an old Victorian mansion and the various bottles of beer that were offered to him here and there? Those were kindly rejected. 

“Typical Peterborough” Peacock thought. Some desperate ex-hippies trying to experience living through dope and free love. Right here in the backwards conservative bastion of Ontario. With a new anti-politician on the rise. Bill Dom. He was opposed to metric system conversion, bilingualism, and abortion. The one thing he could support was the reintroduction of the death penalty. Meanwhile, a slow rot had already settled in here amongst the once powerful industrial base that made this city. Some leadership. 

But the time to ponder the state of local politics would have to wait. Peacock had two other careers besides pizza delivery. He had dogs to walk. Every morning and afternoon. About 6 of them. The mutts of professors from Trent University. Mostly from the same area of north end Peterborough. But right now, there was only one he had been walking the last few weeks. Max. While most academics were at home for the holidays, the Bauman’s had flown off to Germany for three weeks to see family in the old country: Germany. So, Max had needed a home for a while. And Peacock had just the space for him. 

It was down the adjoining short hallway that led to a small office overlooking Hunter Street. Peacock got up and wrapped himself in an old mustard coloured terrycloth robe. He put slippers on his feet, grabbed his keys and opened the back door. Walking down the short hallway he stops at an opaque glass topped office door. The lettering stencilled on it reads: Peacock Investigations Inc. It’s the third career of his, and Peacock hopes it takes off some day. 

 So far, his jobs here have been limited to tracking cheating husbands and tax cheats. Not the most exciting of endeavours he would admit, but he was a filling a niche in this town. That meant he had no competitors for the meagre trade that dribbled in. But one day, he dreamed of finding something meaty to investigate. That would make a splash in town. Then all the doubters would eat a slice or two of fresh and juicy humble pie. His family included. For not shuffling down to one of the factories for his employment. Or going off to a university. All his friends from school were either long gone from Peterborough or working at some plant or other toiling away and starting families. But not Peacock. 

He was a correspondence-course educated Sam Spade, but no dummy. He’d spent many hours at the public library in town and Trent University’s equivalent. Reading about crime, psychology, anatomy and all kinds of other subjects that may be of use. Peacock even had a buddy Castellano who worked in the bowels of Civic Hospital, that would sneak him in some times to look at stiffs in the morgue. Although he’d never seen one outside of there. Other than at Duffus Funeral Parlour, lying mannequin-like in a coffin. 

Peacock has fiddled with the keys, and finding the right one, opens the door. A small dachshund looks up from a sleeping mat on the floor and wags his tail. His name is Max. Peacock brandishes the leash toward the pooch. “Ready to take care of some business Max. And for some breakfast?” Peacock says. Maxs ears perk up and he trots out from under the opening in the Steelcase desk. 

 The desk is sparsely furnished. A large blotter lays in the centre of the desk with an old Underwood typewriter on top. A penholder, rolodex, file tray, black telephone, and ceramic ashtray were laid out neatly there as well. And old wooden swivel office desk sits behind, and two leather chairs for customers at the front. One back corner held a large metal filing cabinet with a metal fan atop it. The cabinet housed not only Peacocks files, but also his various equipment including walkie talkies, microphones, a super 8 camera and projector, and binoculars. The other corner had a waste basket. On the wall were various framed photos, and Peacocks course certificates. A Telefunken radio was placed on a side table beside some old sporting trophies and an old baseball mitt and ball. And the place was spotless. 

 Peacock ran his empire from here. He’d split off his apartment phone line, and carefully concealed a long run down here to the office. Bell Canada hadn’t figured it out yet, thankfully. Peacock attached the leash to Max’s collar and ushered him out the door, down the adjacent hallway. It led to the side of the buildings wrought iron fire-escape stairs. Below was a small strip of parking spaces where Peacocks trusty K-Car was sitting beside an old Mustang. The rest of the few spots were taken up with vehicles of customers eating in the diner on the ground floor. 

Standing at the top Peacock gets a sudden assault on his olfactory glands. He quickly lights a cigarette to mask the smell. The exhaust vent for the kitchen at East City Lunch is directly below, and the aromas of rancid oil, fried onions, and bacon from the fryer are hanging statically in the frozen, still air. The smell of the nearby Quaker Oats factory is also thick in the atmosphere. It’s just over the Hunter Street bridge, but those scents are of roasted grains and malt. Not so bad, really.  

East City Lunch must be one of the few places open on New Years Day. They’ll make good money from the red eye crowd on the way home, and in a few hours the hangover types would be eating there. It may be a new year, but old habits persist. 

Peacock lets Max lead him down the two sets of steps, to the ground. But with the snow piled up here and there, and his choice of attire, Peacock doesn’t let Max go too far. Just far enough to do his business. The second of which is always an amazement. How can that much shit come out of such a small animal. But out it drops. Max turns with the self-satisfied expression of a satisfactory outing. 

“Good boy” Peacock tells him. “But let’s go back up for breakfast, we can walk later, ok?” 

He’s not sure Max understands, but he beats a path back upstairs to the warmth of the building. Peacock butts his cigarette at the top step and looks down at the still steaming turd. He promises himself he will clean it up when he comes back down. It may be wishful thinking, but the intention is there at least. 

Peacock walks Max back to the apartment, and lets him in. Max already knows where the food bowl will appear, even though he has only been with Peacock a week. Dogs learn fast when eating is involved. Peacock opens a can of some special dog food. Must be from a veterinary office. Science Diet. That’s what it is called. It doesn’t sound very appetizing, but Max loves the stuff.  

It must cost a pretty penny, but his clients can afford it. And lots of other stuff. From the looks of the rings and fur coats Helga wears. Not to mention the Mercedes sedan she tools around town in. She lives in a big spread out in the Weller Street area of Peterborough. Her husband Klaus is some bigwig at National Electric.  

That’s the plant that takes up a huge chunk of the flat heart of the city. A four-square block of industrial behemoth, where ten percent of the population works. And it was surrounded by street after street of houses dating from the 1920-60’s. Mostly housing workers and their families, the former of which would walk every morning to the factory, lunchboxes and hangovers in hand. 

Peacocks’ grandparents lived right smack dab in the middle of Albert Street that ran for a long city block. One side of the street was lined with dozens of 2-3 story red brick houses dating from the 1910s-30s. The factory ran down the entire west side of Albert. So, the view from the front porch or windows of the houses was a 4-story high factory wall as far as you could see left or right. That and the rusted barbed wire fence. And the aroma of home-cooking had to compete with the overwhelming smell of electrical wiring. That burnt, acrid scent was everywhere in the neighbourhood. And God only knows what else you were breathing in. Especially if you worked inside the plant.”