The Beige Boiler and the Midlife Crisis

Film Noir Persona is back after having his heart broken by Leah, and reveals outrageous new details about the old Beige Boiler investigation

Film Noir Persona, welcome back to The Sewers. We congratulate you here and now!

These cheap, empty greetings, these words without meaning or intent, this repeated white noise you somehow have to replay to with white noise of your own. It’s a game a man forces himself to play on days like these. On other days, we don’t even notice we play it. And tell me, which is worse?

I –

Well it depends on the day. It depends on the day. You see, I’ve always been a man who lives in the margins. With all my ambition and all my achievements, there was always somethings pulling me aside, do you know what I mean? Not wanting to take full part in the game, exactly because I know all too well how to play it. Yeah, I know how it works, like an old man in a phone booth watching a murder without hearing a thing.

Hmm.

Yeah. yeah. ever since I was child, I liked just watching people without hearing them. Without reading their lips. Just watching them, their movements, and how they tell it all beyond the white noise they constantly make. Yeah I can read a man on the subway like I read the paper in the can.

That’s an unflattering analogy.

You didn’t let me finish. Like I read the paper in the can – it takes two seconds till I get bored.

And then what do you do?

Nothing. I just read people without even wanting to, it’s something I have in me, had it since I was a child –

I mean what do you do after you get bored with the paper.

That’s not the point. The point is that I walk the streets of this hell hole of a city, this jungle of concrete where people chase their tails like neurologically defected dogs, and everything is laid out before me like a story that’s been told a hundred times before, and in case you wondered, it’s a bad story.

Are you bored with your life?

Am I bored with my life? Sometimes I wish I was. Yeah. nah. I’ve always been a man whose rare moments of rest invite trouble, like a corpse beckons larva.

So what is this? A midlife crisis or what?

Lemmie tell ya something about this, toots. I think every decent man oughta have a midlife crisis every few years. Let’s say every three to four years. How on earth are you supposed to know when your life is at its middle? You don’t want just any crisis to be your midlife crisis. You oughta think things through, sweetcheeks.

Well that’s… that’s true.

It’s as true as running mascara on a widow’s cheek. I’ve had plenty of midlife crises, just so you know.

And you’re also dealing with the broken heart Leah had left you with.

It takes a little more than a misleading broad to break this heart.

What does it take then?

What does it take? Yeah. well surely more than it takes to break a woman’s heart, lemmie tell ya. Yeah I’ve left some broken pieces behind me. Never something I intended to do, nah, it just happens, like when you find a hair in your burger and if it’s good enough, you just take it out and keep eating. But lemmie tell ya, I still haven’t come across a burger that good.

You know, that can almost pass as a proper metaphor about love.

Who said anything about love, toots?

I mean, the burger is like a woman, the hair is –

Let’s not milk it, baby. Leah, she’s not a woman to break my heart. Our affair, from the get-go, was more about revenge than about two hopeless ants picking one another out in the rumbling hive –

Nest –

Of these godforsaken streets. This wasn’t love.

Have you ever known love?

Have I ever known love? That’s a midlife crisis question right there, skipper.  Well I sure have, you can count on that, love like in the movies, like in the pictures. She was a creature born for love, I was the goddamned man who was born to love her. But that’s not the point. I’m knee deep a case right now –

Wait, wait, tell us about her.

I don’t see the point. What’s done is done. What’s done can’t be undone. Talking about old love is like making a list of the things you needed to do five years ago.

I understand it must be too painful for you to talk about.

Lemmie tell ya something about painful, toots. Have you ever taken a bullet in your leg? A bullet that shoots right through your hamstring and snaps it in two? That’s painful. But I didn’t make a big deal of it. Waited for the meat wagon like a soldier waits for the bus. So I’m sure as hell not the kind of man to make a big deal about a girl who was as delicate as a flower but is no longer.

Oh shit, did she die?

No. she’s just not a delicate flower anymore. There are things other than death that can make your heart stop, you know. Anyways, it is among these thoughts that I’ve sunk into this case, yeah, another mystery, another crime to solve – or to commit. That’s the way things are in the margins, in the shades. It was last Wednesday when I heard a knock on my door. I was in bad shape, toots, lying on my sofa with a bottle of Johnnie in one hand, a lucky in the other, it was early in the evening, late in the afternoon, I didn’t care enough to turn the lights on. There were weird, crepuscular shades of color coming from my window, breaking on the walls, hiding beneath things. Yeah, I was in bad shape. Heard a knock on my door – couldn’t care less. But it kept on, and on, and on. “get the hell outta here!” I cried at last, “it’s me, Lilly,” I heard a whisper through the door. That’s Lilly alright, my next door neighbor’s daughter, a sweet sixteen, as sweet as a lollypop, a candy delectable to the eye –

Wait, when you say a sweet sixteen, are you saying she’s sixteen?

Yeah, that’s what I said.

Why are you so repulsive? Were you born this way? Did your babysitter abuse you or something?

I’m just saying she’s a beautiful young girl. Don’t pluck your own feathers over it.

What?!

Do you wanna hear about my case or not? well it was Lilly. “open up,” she whispered, “quick, quick, open up!” I got up. She grabbed my hand, rushed me down the hall, smelling like fresh strawberries. She dragged me all the way down the stairs outside the building, then crouched down and pulled me with her. “look!” she whispered, and pointed down the street. And then I saw it. A man, of mediocre height and figure, and a fine dame, much finer and taller than him, with a blue-purple scarf. They were arguing, I could see it in their gestures, in their faces, in the way they looked away from one another. But I couldn’t hear a word they said.

Yeah?

Because they were sitting in the Beige Boiler.

No!

Yeah. I said to Lilly, “you’re a smart little brat, Lills. Now go back inside, these lovely eyes of yours aren’t made for seeing what’s gonna happen next.” She rushed back up, she’s a good girl, they don’t make them like that anymore, lemmie tell ya. I walked slowly, crouched over, the shades doing me a dozen favors. The couple in the boiler – they were eyeing the street while arguing, but they didn’t see me till it was too late. For them. I pulled the driver’s door open in a swift motion, they froze for a second. Then the man pulled out a pistol. “is this a way to welcome an old friend?” I asked, “you either come inside or you keep walking,” said the man.

No way!

I said, “love to come inside, but I ain’t sitting in the back like a boy, so why don’t you make an old friend feel welcomed.” The man, who was at the driver’s seat, snuck a look at the dame, “I sure as hell ain’t sitting in the backseat,” she said, her voice and manners were not as you’d expect from a fine dame like her. “well I guess we have problem, then,” I said, and the driver said, “we’ve no problem. You either get inside or you keep walking.” And lemmie tell ya, sweetcheeks, I kept walking.

What?!

Yeah. I play by my own rules, and they – whoever they were – had to hear and see it, loud and clear. later that evening, the Beige Boiler, that’s always parked down my street at night, was gone. And I haven’t seen it since.

Is this supposed to make sense?!

Yeah. com’on, toots, they showed themselves. They need something from me, and they’re trynna play hard to get. The man had a pistol, he gave me two options. In a situation like that, the smart thing to do is to come up with a third. That’s what I did.

The Beige Boiler has been following you for over a year, and you just walk away from it?

Well you know what they say, curiosity kills the rats –

The –

Couldn’t let that happen. Couldn’t let my curiosity get the better of me. So now, we wait.

You really messed that one up. You’re never gonna see them again! We’ll never know what the Beige Boiler was about! I can’t believe it. You’re like a season of Lost.

Oh we’ll wait and see. Yeah, broads are more prone to curiosity than men, we know that since the dawn of time –

Oh fuck off –

Give me two months, skipper, and this mystery is solved. Guaranteed. Me and Lilly are full time on it.

What? She’s on the case with you? Does her mother know?

Sure thing. She brings the potato salad.

You’re a psychoperv.

Right back attacha, sweetcheeks.

 

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