Crime Fiction Friday: “The Writer’s End” by Jonathan Woods

Jonathan Woods comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest romp, Kiss the Devil Good Night, on Sunday, November 20, at 5 PM. He’ll be joined by Ben Rehder and Lance Hawvermale. Thanks to Jonathan for sending along a crazy crime fiction Friday to get us all psyched for the event, and thanks to Dahlia for her beautiful, bloody illustrations!

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The Writer’s End: A Key West Story

By Jonathan Woods

Illustrated by Dahlia Woods

Sitting on the porch of a white frame house dating from the 19th Century in Old Town Key West, the writer writes. He wears white cotton shorts, his pale linen shirt unbuttoned. With one hand he accidentally brushes back his thinning apricot-colored hair.

The early Sunday morning light of a tropical autumn is as soft and breathless as a blond bimbo. Palm fronds snicker in a slight, salubrious breeze. The sun glints off an empty bourbon bottle abandoned on the street corner by some derelict of the night.

The writer drinks with care. No rip-roaring bouts of drunken mayhem. No hooch inspired Hell-bound hallucinations or whimpered boozy confessions.

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The writer is a professional; the scribbler of a dozen film scripts credited and un-credited. In his youth a book of poems, now forgotten. And most recently the let-it-all-hang-out Hollywood memoir that has made him famous and infamous. There is no one more hated or feared in Hollywood. He is the agent provocateur of gossip, tittle-tattle, innuendo and snitchery. Wherever he goes, children point him out in the street. No one will tell him their life story.

The writer attends a grand party held in a grand Key West home overlooking the tennis courts and winos in the park across from Higgs Beach. Everyone is there. The ex-senator, the ex-senator’s wife, the ex-senator’s mistress, businessmen dripping with wealth, their wives dripping with diamonds, lesser literati, producers, actors, musicians & camp followers. The crème de la crème of Conch society.

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A tall, lanky blonde wearing very little very well, whose husband is worth a billion or so, mostly offshore, touches the writer’s arm:

“What are you working on now, darling?”

The writer, looking demure as a tomcat who moments before swallowed a foie gras-fed mouse, sips his Perrier Jouet and smiles as thinly as a lemon slice.

“I never talk about my work in progress,” he says.

Later someone whispers to someone else: After the party he saw the writer sitting in the park feverishly scribbling in his Moleskine, oblivious to the snarling and bickering drunks at the next bench. Making notes of the sidelong glances, the hushed offers of infidelity, the deep cleavages, fat wallets and stolen kisses amid the party throng.

Like frenzied gulls feeding on chum, the rumors fly through the narrow tropical streets of old Key West. The writer is writing a tell-all memoir of his time in the Conch Republic. He is penning a searing roman a clef filled with Key West’s glitterati. Vanity Fair to paying him a princely sum for an expose of Key West’s demimonde. He has a vendetta against the southernmost island town because of a spring break incident lost in the foggy past of his years at Yale.

The writer engages in a bedroom romp with a famously bodacious redheaded starlet. They make the bedsprings squeak like an old Chevy on a dirt road to paradise. With homes in San Moritz, the Hamptons, Malibu and St. Barts, she’s slumming in Key West. One moment she’s naked except for a pair of fiery red undies. Next moment she’s just naked. When she cums, she bellows like a water buffalo.

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Afterward, while the writer takes a piss, she flicks through the papers on his desk, rifles amidst his underwear and shirts in the chest of drawers, breaks a fingernail trying to pick the lock of his portable file cabinet. In vain she tries a dozen passwords to gain entrance to the writer’s laptop. Access denied. The only damning evidence she finds is a list of names of some fat cat locals, part-time celebrity residents and high-flying hookers. She’s #8 on the list.

A famous gay playwright offers the writer a blowjob and a gram of excellent coke for the torrid details of the writer’s new book. The writer blows him off. The playwright leaves the upscale Duval Street restaurant in a huff. Depressed, he goes on a weekend bender of crank, booze, barbiturates and unsafe sex.

Accidentally on purpose the wife of the ex-senator runs into the writer at a French creperie on Petronius. It’s eight in the morning and she’s already three sheets to the wind. The writer is having breakfast.

“Your last book gave me chills,” she says, as she empties her entire gunmetal flask of Jack Daniel’s into the writer’s café au lait. “I hope your new one will get me off.”

The writer suddenly remembers he has an appointment elsewhere, downs his coffee in two quick swallows, rolls his eyes at the amount of liquor he has just consumed and staggers to the door. “We’ll get together again soon,” he says.

“You bet,” she says.

After midnight the writer rides his bicycle back from listening to a reggae band at the Green Parrot.

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A deputy sheriff related by marriage to the former senator stops the writer near the old cemetery in the middle of the island. The deputy tells the writer his red taillight is out.

“That’s bullshit!” says the inebriated writer, pointing at the flashing red light on the rear fender of his bike.

“You smell like a fucking liquor store,” the deputy says, “I could throw you in the drunk tank, confiscate your wheels.”

“Whatever,” the writer says.

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Without warning the deputy spins the writer around and scoops one arm across his neck, pats down his pockets. When the deputy releases the writer, he holds a baggie of dark green herb.

“This is a fucking set up!” vents the writer. “I don’t smoke pot. It makes me jittery.”

“The senator doesn’t like you,” the deputy says. “Doesn’t like you having breakfast with his wife. If I were you, I’d move up the coast to Boca Raton before the shit hits the fan.” The deputy opens the baggie and turns it upside down. The night wind catches the oregano, scattering it hither and yon.

Despite endless invitations to all manner of garden parties, fetes, theater after parties, grand balls and literary salons among Key West’s cognoscenti, the writer is feeling nervous. As though the wolves are closing in. That he is friendless. A failure at love. Being followed by Albanian thugs. Constipated with writer’s block. Unable to get it up since the starlet episode.

He suffers night sweats, inexplicable bouts of diarrhea. He senses fear and anger in the eyes of everyone he meets.

His agent keeps calling from New York, asking to see a draft of the new book. “Just send me whatever the fuck you want to share with me!” he yells at the writer. “But send me something!”

The writer calls Bob in L.A. Bob is his oldest friend. When the memoir came out Bob threw a fit and threatened to kill the writer. The writer has a short memory.

On the phone the writer confesses his paranoia, that he’s having a little problem with sex. That he’s on the verge of a crackup.

“You’re dead meat in L.A.,” warns Bob. “You’re smart just to lay low in the Keys.”

“Come for a visit,” pleads the writer. “My cigar roller’s house has two bedrooms.”

Bob catches the next flight from L.A. He checks his bag containing an antique stiletto stashed between his shirts.

The writer is invited to a pig roast on the beach. Dark rum flows from a Blackbeardian oak cask. The most beautiful women of Key West dance on the beach in risqué outfits. Some go naked; paint themselves with voodoo art.

At the pig roast the writer is drinking Cachaca with limejuice and sugar and telling L.A. stories. A woman with nifty tits pulls him away to dance on the sand. The writer sways drunkenly. Suddenly everyone dancing is wearing carnival masks. Everyone is anonymous.

The writer’s dance partner swings him in a circle by one arm. When he spins free and falls backward onto the sand, the knives come out.

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The dying writer, wallowing in a pool of his own blood, sighs and looks up at the snarling, circling wolves. Two of the figures remove their masks. One is the ex-senator. The other is Bob.

“Et tu, Bob?” whispers the writer as Bob’s stiletto slides into his flesh as easy as a hot knife through butter.

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Have an original short story you’d like posted on the MysteryPeople blog? Send it along to scottm@bookpeople.com, and we’ll take a look and see if it’s something we’d like to feature! 

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