1. Noir - I have no clue what this is.

A cigarette sat in the ashtray still lit, smoke trailing from the end. Outside, rain ran in rivulets down the window. The rain had been constant for a better part of the day. It did nothing to ease his tension.

Behind him, a clock counted the seconds.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

That did nothing to help him, either.

She still hadn't said anything, but it was always better to wait until she had before speaking. She being Doris Gray; mob boss, loan shark, and loving mother. This last one he's taking by word of mouth, as he's never seen her with her children. She wears no makeup, far as he can tell. Today, as it is most days, her entire ensemble is black, save for the bright red heels he'd once seen her dig into a man's throat.

Being in Doris Gray's presence made him feel small. Not literally (for his singular advantage over her was his height; even in her heels he towered over her), but small as in insignificant. His presence in her office took up her time and space that he felt had had no right to.

Elegant fingers plucked the cigarette from the ashtray, sticking it between her lips. Taking a long drag, she blew the smoke up at the ceiling before turning her steely gaze on him. "Well?"

That didn't bode well.

His shoulders started to edge up in a shrug. He had to force them back down. That, he knew from experience, she would take as a personal affront. One needed to be sure, and confident in Doris Gray's presence.

She did not put up with hemming and hawing. She did not put up with incompetency. And she did not tolerate your fear. It had taken him some time to earn a modicum of her respect; he was not about to chip away at it, even in the smallest way.

"I don't have it," he admitted honestly.

Her eyes narrowed, brows knitting together. Still. She appreciated him being forthright. Better not to dance around it.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Doris blew more smoke at the ceiling. Stubbing out the cigarette, she exhaled loudly. "I see."

Interrupting was another faux-pas, but this time he couldn't help it. There had been a flicker of anger in her eyes. Anger and something else that bordered on disappointment. "But I can get it."

"That's what you said last time." Doris adjusted in her seat, leaning forward onto the mahogany desk. "And the time before that."

"I know, but—"

"What," her voice cut like ice, "excuse is it this time?" Fingers now drumming on the desk, nails clicking along in time with the clock. "He has a family? They all have families. He needs to pay rent and he's on the nut? They all need to pay rent, and frankly, should have thought about these things before coming to me."

"He was a bit behind the eight-ball," he admitted.

Before he could explain further, Doris flattened her hands on the table, leaning in. "Let me put it to you this way. You get my cabbage, yeah? If he doesn't have it, then you bump him." Something must have showed on my face, because her expression tightened. "If you cannot do that, then the button man will come for you. Savvy?"

Throat tight, he nodded. Excuses like "I have a family" would not keep him alive. As much as he hated to do it, he valued his own life more and he didn't have the ability to make a clean sneak, not from Doris.



She didn't need to say it. He was dismissed. He stood. "Thank you.

Heading for the door, her voice stopped him from stepping over the threshold. "You're getting soft in your years. If you need something to make you hard, remember that I know all about your moll on the side. You might not miss your wife, but you would miss her. Would be a shame for her to get lead poisoning, yeah?"

He swallowed. "Yeah." That was that, then. He'd have to get the money. Stepping out of the office, quick steps took him out of the building and into the rain. Lid squarely on his head, he turned the corner.

It was time to get to work.

This includes an attempt at noir/50s slang. So, some translations:

To be on the nut: broke
Behind the eight-ball: in a difficult position, in a tight spot
Cabbage: money
Bump: kill, to kill
Button man: professional killer, hit-man
Savvy?: understand?
Clean sneak: an escape with no clues left behind
Moll: girlfriend
Lead poisoning: to be shot
Lid: hat