This was published as part of the first edition of the Primer Papers, a publication created by the kids at the Primer Newsroom. Primer is building the world’s first home for ambitious kids. Learn more here and find out how your kid can publish too.
About the Story
1921 is a mystery-novel-in-progress by Finn. Taking place in the “crime” side of New Abiqua City, it follows WWI veteran Oscar Parker as he fights kingpins, persuades witnesses, and attempts to solve his first and greatest mystery yet!
The man with the suitcase fidgeted with his collar. "Have ya got em' goods?"
"Are my teeth rotted brown?" replied the man next to the fire escape. Even the rats squealed with fear at the sight of the man.
"Good. Then let's seal the deal." He gave the man his suitcase in exchange for a small trinket, whatever it is.
That's New Abiqua’s Buster Knuckles on the left. The guy in the vest. Who that other guy is, I ain't no clue, but I reckon he's lousy with cash. A good bunch of cash. I'm living in a dumpster, see, and I'm not 10 feet away from a full-on kingpin.
"Stop your yapping." I buckled up my jaw and went back where I was. With his head in his hands I saw Cosby Shaw, the boss and editor-in-chief of this office. The Abiquan Bugle office, that is. The editor looked at me with his good eye. "You expect me to put one of my writer's time towards a poor man's story? You're plumb crazy."
I must've looked shocked, cuz he started laughing like a man at a Chaplin film. I thought for a good minute before saying "Here's a deal. I write the story, and you don't even have to put it in the paper. You just ought to read it."
Then he held out his hand.
And I shook it.
I went back to snoop around the alley where Knuckles and his associate met. No clues, except for the excitement in the air you feel whenever you’re solving a mystery. A nice feeling, but that didn’t change squat. “Dagnabbit.” I muttered.
The alley itself was between 2 real shady spots. The kind of place where bottom-of-the-barrel types hang out. Like me. On one side, we got a speakeasy I used to drink at when I still had my money from the war. Course, all those greenbacks are in someone else's wallet now. Figures.
On the other side, we gots one of those bean shooter shops. Every once and a while you would hear someone burn powder. Makes you wonder what’s in there worth throwing a bullet away for.
I decided to question the respectable Mister Howard Woods of the speakeasy. Ever since the 18th Amendment got passed he decided to pool his cheddar he earned fighting for his majesty the queen in the war. Real interesting guy. With all the cash he’s earned being a bartender it’d be impossible for him to be on the nut. He ain’t no idiot. That makes my job rather difficult.
When I came in he commenced filling up a mug with the giggle juice. “Put it on the tab?” he asked in that Brit tone of his.
“Not today, Howard.” I replied. “I’m gonna need to ask ya some questions on account of a certain Buster Knuckles.” Ol’ Howie stiffened up. He'd been paid off to keep quiet.
“Sorry, but running a bar takes more cash than you think.” He handed me the mug full of liquor. “It’s on the house. Knuckle’s paying.” I got up and walked out. I wasn’t about to be in debt to Buster Knuckles.
I headed back to the Bugle’s offices. Cosby Shaw had been polite enough to give me a spare room to stay in. Between the old mismatched chairs, used desk, and the army surplus cot, you’d be lying if you called it an office. But it would have to do. I laid on the cot looking at the mildewed ceiling above. My eyes became heavy, and I eased into deep sleep.
“Wake up, dummy. Or do ya want your skull peppered with bullets?”
I opened my eyes to find a lanky man looking down at me, his warm, putrid breath penetrating my sinuses. Too dark to see anything.
“What do you want?” I inquired.
“I want you to lay off. If this makes the presses, we can make things very hard for you. You can also count on any buddies you have getting.. Let’s just say a bump off.”
He must’ve been on his way out cuz’ I heard a creak and the light from the hall cast him into an eerie silhouette.
“One strike down. Two to go.”
Then the door shut, and the room went into darkness.