Things That Go 'Boom!' In The Night

Written by Eilidhan on 23 Jul 2018 20:31.

My creative writing assignment from the college course I've just finished. I've been wanting to write something vaguely noir-ish for a while, and this is my first attempt at it - but take that with a pinch of salt! The main character is a PI of indeterminate gender, named Rowan. I think of them as female, but you don't have to. That's the joy of first person!

I’d heard the explosion in the night, along with the whole north side of the city. The phone call came an hour later.
I made my way to the river with the morning sun in my eyes. The streets were empty even for the early hour – a combination of organised evacuations and chaotic fleeing. There was still a crowd at the road block, gawkers and the bravest or most desperate reporters. One of the officers recognised me and let me through. I ignored the disappointed shouts behind me.
The riverfront was home to a long wooden promenade, lined with cafés, bars, restaurants and tat shops for the undiscerning tourist. I wasn’t much of a fan – only a holidaymaker with more money than sense could afford to actually spend a pleasant hour here.
It was obvious where I was supposed to be going. Smoke was still curling out of the empty window frames, shards of glass buried in the decking in front of it. One long splinter as wide as my hand had skewered a pigeon in place, a chunk of bread clamped firmly in its beak. A ragged raven was eyeing it up from atop a chair that had been flung across the walkway.
“Afternoon, Rowan.”
I turned to the voice, and met the gaze of Francesca, police sergeant and acquaintance, a double-filtered dust mask in one hand. A tired smile found its way to my face. She waved me into the café, through the charred door that was somehow still on its hinges. I stepped over the jagged windowsill instead. Inside, more chairs were scattered, tables flipped over, both had gouged chunks out of the parquet floor. A gilt-brass-framed mirror remained on the wall, spiderwebbed, above a clock of the same style that was cracked almost in two on the ground. I turned it over carefully. The hands had stopped at quarter to four, which meant I’d had barely three hours sleep last night.
The source of the smoke looked to be through a gaudy beaded curtain, gathered aside onto a large hook. I ducked through into a kitchen floored with mock-chessboard tile linoleum, my shoes splashing in the inch of water collected there. Ash floated on the surface like morbid cherry blossom. The white walls were blackened, and everything was soaked.
“Do I need to fill you in?” asked Francesca from the doorway, her voice muffled by the breathing mask she’d reinstated.
“Well,” I said, looking pointedly at the oven whose door was halfway across the room, “I’d say that probably went ‘boom!’ at some point in the proceedings.”
She nodded. “Gas leak probably started during business hours yesterday, but it wouldn’t have built up till everything was shut up after closing. Owner comes down early, preheats the oven, and the moment he opens it—”
“Boom,” I finished. She nodded.
“The wife claims he was making croissants fresh, but there’s nothing prepared. They don’t do food till eight, and that’s pretty early to be preparing.”
“So you think it’s insurance fraud?” I asked, yawning. The smoke was stinging my eyes. I made my way back to the front of the café. “Why did you call me for that?”
“Botched fraud or suicide. Owner’s out the back in a shroud, and the wife insists on talking to you. She won’t even tell us her name..”

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