Promsies by AJ Hayes was this month's entry from the first ever Flash Bang Challenge at my newsletter, Bloody Knuckles. The topic was a picture of the 1940s era bathing beauty located in older post here at the Hard Nosed Sleuth. The prose is down right sinister. Enjoy. I did!
by AJ Hayes
I saw her first on the terrace next to mine at the Biltmore. She was reclining on an Adirondack chaise, head tilted to the side, eyes closed, long legs burnished by the winter sun. I had never seen anything so beautiful. I snapped her picture with my Speed Graphic, worried that the sharp click and fast whirr of the shutter would wake her. But she slept on. She was perfection.
That night I saw her in the bar and bought her a drink. She was vivacious and even prettier than I had thought. During the course of the evening I learned that she was from back East and, like most of the pretty girls in Los Angeles, desperately trying to get into the movies. "Just a break, "she said. "Just one little break."
I smiled at her over my martini and told her I thought I had a part for her. Two parts, actually. A dual role. One that could make her famous overnight.
"Like Lana Turner?" she asked, her eyes bright with laughter.
"Even more famous than that," I said. "A hundred years from now, no one will remember Lana. But everyone will remember you."
"Promise?" She asked.
"Promise." I answered.
The barbiturate I'd slipped in her drink hit her pretty hard so I had to half carry her out of the bar. No one noticed. The L.A. of nineteen-forty-seven was a wide open town, filled with post-war celebration and excess.
I took her to my studio in the valley. In those days it was an empty, desolate place where they used to shoot westerns and jungle movies. The only habitations were widely scattered ranches and a couple of movie star estates hidden behind high fences and thick hedges.
She partially woke just as I finished suspending her. Her hair barely brushed the sawdust covered floor of the old barn I used for my art. Even upside down she was beautiful.
Her voice was slow and slurred when she asked what I was doing.
I didn't bother saying anything. She got the idea when I made my first cut. Her screams were as bright as her laughter.
I had an advantage back then. To the cops I was just another free lance photographer scuttling around the city. Hanging on and hoping for the shot that would take me to the big leagues. Not worth noticing. Invisible.
I took her from the trunk of my car, arranged her properly on the vacant lot and shot my photos. Then I waited for dawn to bring the first sirens. When they came I raced to my paper and stunned the morning editor with the first pictures of my creation. He stopped the presses and featured them on the front page, above the fold, under screaming seventy-two point headlines.
I kept my promises to her. She did play in two parts. Well, her carefully separated body did anyhow. And she is more famous than Lana Turner ever was.
I still have the photograph of her on that hotel terrace. I look at it almost every day. She was beautiful then and she is beautiful now. None of my other works compare.