by Paul D. Marks
Since this is a fairly long post, let me mention my BSP at the head: My story Deserted Cities of the Heart appears in Akashic’s St. Louis Noir, which just came out on Tuesday of this week. Please see the end of this post for more details.
Now to the question at hand:
Like others here this week, I didn’t really know what to make of this question or how to respond. My initial thought to the questions were just to say “I really don’t think about fan fiction one way or another” and “No, I haven’t written any,” and leave it at that. But that would have made for a very short piece. Then I wrote a serious response based on the little I do know of fan fiction. Didn’t like that either. So I decided to try my hand at it. It’s my understanding that in one version of fan fiction, or fanfic, the writer creates a new ending for a well-known work. And what we have here is my fanfic alternate ending for the movie version of Double Indemnity, complete with Product Placement. And I know what I’m doing here is sacrilege (to me too) but hopefully also at least a little bit entertaining.
So, if you haven’t seen the movie there might be SPOILERS (sort of). If you have I hope I don’t ruin it for you. And since I came on this brainstorm late and close to the deadline, it’s probably not as polished as I would have hoped, nor as concise – so sorry if it’s a little on the long side, but hopefully worth a look.
It also helps if you know the Double Indemnity story. If not, this probably won’t make sense to you. Oh hell, it might not make sense even if you know the story.
We pick up our intrepid hero, uh, anti-hero, Walter Neff in the offices of the Pacific All-Risk Insurance Company in the dead of night. The wounded Neff has been talking into a Dictaphone. His co-worker, Barton Keyes, has been listening to the last part of Neff’s confession of duplicity and………murder. Here we go:
Somewhere in the night, Walter Neff held a handkerchief over the bleeding chest wound. He’d looked around the office for a dressing, but all he found was Newman’s Own. It wouldn’t work so the handkerchief would have to do. He stumbled out of the office into the hall of the Pacific All-Risk Insurance Company. He slumped down. Barton Keyes watched from the open door behind him, unlit stogie in hand. He approached Neff.
“You’re really through now, Walter. All washed up.”
“We can’t all be the King of the World, huh, Keyes. Besides, I wish I had something to wash up with now.” Neff inched down the hall.
“Where do you think you’re going, Walter?”
“You’ll never make it.”
“You gonna stop me, Keyes?”
“Me and that gaping wound.”
“What’s that, Walter?”
“My ace in the hole.”
“And what are you going to do with it?”
“Nothing, if you don’t stop me. Nice gun, don’t you think. I borrowed it from Mrs. Dietrichson.”
“I’m sure she won’t miss it.”
“I’m sure she won’t.”
“You’ll never make the border.”
“No, you watch me, Walter.” Keyes stepped in front of Neff, blocking his path to freedom. Neff’s eyes locked on his, even though Keyes was about a foot shorter. “We should have brought some apple boxes, huh, Keyes.”
“You think of everything, Walter. I’ll make a note to contact the grip department about that.”
“I love you, Keyes, but me and my gat gotta do what we gotta do.”
“I love you, too, Walter.”
Keyes hit the ground. Neff took Keyes’ keys from his pocket, including his 20 Year Anniversary Gold Key.
Neff jammed the handkerchief against his wound to slow the bleeding and a paper towel roll in his pants for his ego (Brawny, of course!). He staggered down the upper hall, limping past Raymond Chandler, still sitting there in that chair unnoticed all these decades. Chandler jerked his foot out, trying to trip Neff.
“Damn, I hate when my characters get away from me,” Chandler mumbled.
Neff, coughing blood, danced around Chandler. And being Fred MacMurray, he pulled out his Selmer Gold Medal saxophone, seemingly from nowhere, and played a few bars of Coleman Hawkins’ “I’m Through with Love,” and he wished he were. But he knew he wasn’t. He threw the sax over the railing down to the ground floor, slid down the banister. Danced toward Max, the 800 year old night watchman.
“Here, Max.” he said, handing him the keys.
“Why, ain’t those Mr. Keyes’ keys, his gold key too?”
“Keyes won’t be needing his keys anymore.”
“Are they the keys to the kingdom?” Max laughed at his own insipid joke.
“Only if the kingdom is Pacific All-Risk Insurance.”
“What about that special key of Keyes’?”
“What key is that?”
“The glass key.”
“Don’t have it.”
“Well, then can I borrow your rod?”
“No can do.” Neff headed for the front door of the building.
“Don’t catch cold. This weather’ll be the death of you,” Max said.
“Yeah, Max. Sure.” Neff tipped his fedora.
He dashed out of the fog into the rain-slicked street. His car was waiting for him in the red zone in front of the building. Luckily no ticket, especially since three motorcycle cops were standing chewing the fat just across the street. He put the key in the ignition. Rrrrrrrr. Rrrrrrrr. It wouldn’t turn over. Movie cars never start the first time, he thought, sweating blood.
After a few tries it turned over. He zigged and zagged through downtown LA, veering straight towards a watermelon cart – ’cause according to Siskel and Ebert there’s always a watermelon cart or similar to be slammed into.
Pedal to metal, racing at a reckless 73, as much as the car could do and fast for the day, he zipped over to Phyllis’ very cool Los Feliz house. Amazing how he could drive through the streets willy nilly and no one called the cops on him. And no cops saw him.
He screeched to a stop in front of Phyllis’ house. Limped up the walk – first on one leg, then on the other, ’cause the script supervisor messed up – to the still-open door. Phyllis lay on the Spanish-tiled living room floor, coughing up blood.
“Walter, is that you?” Her eyes opened slowly. They stared at each other, both bleeding buckets – so much that for any mortal people they would have been dead hours ago. Love in their eyes. (Okay, I ain’t no romance novelist.)
“Oh, bay-bee, I’m so sorry.” Neff helped Phyllis to her feet. Stuffed some Kleenex Soft and Soothing tissues into her wound.
He pulled two cigarettes from the pack of Lucky Strikes. Held the box up to the camera (what camera, hey this is my story). Put them both in his mouth and lit them.
“Isn’t that from another movie?” Phyllis said.
“You know what they say, good artists borrow, great artists steal.”
“Did Nietzsche say that?”
“Joe Nietzsche down at the Five and Dime. I don’t think so.”
They smoked cigarettes holding hands, blowing smoke at each other.
“That’s a nice outfit, what do you call that?”
“It’s a crimson kimono.”
“I like it.” He admired her anklet from Jared Galleria of Jewelry (213-555-1944). “How much did that honey of an anklet cost, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Not enough, my husband was a cheap SOB.”
“Well, now he’s a dead SOB. But I love you, baby.”
“Me too, Walter,” she cooed. “You think we can make another go of it?”
“Sure, just get some Mercurochrome so we can get fixed up.”
They moved to the bathroom. She pulled the Mercurochrome, BandAid brand bandages and Bactine from the shelf. “Damn,” she said, turning the three items to face the camera. She slathered Mercurochrome on him and he on her. It was very sensual. They closed with the Bactine and BandAids.
“Good as new.”
“Good as new, Walter. Straight down the line.”
“Straight down the line, baby.”
“I love you, Walter.”
“The last guy that said that to me didn’t fare so well.”
“You look hot, baby.”
“I am hot, Walter, white hot, with the white heat of a thousand suns.” She returned to the living room, Neff trailing.
“Do you really think we can make it? Do you really think we have a chance?”
“Why not? We’re not any different than any other pair of cold blooded killers.”
“But look, there’s a shadow on the wall. Isn’t that bad luck?”
“Don’t let it spook you.”
The door opened. Channing Tatum walked in.
“I feel dizzy,” he said.
“Who are you?”
“Mike, Magic Mike. But I think I stepped into the wrong–”
“Take a hike Magic Mike.” Neff pushed Tatum out the door. He was just about to close it when Nino Zachetti walked in. He had that surly look they hired him for.
“What gives?,” he barked, giving Phyllis the once over. “I thought we were going to hook up tonight.”
“Run off, little man,” Neff said.
“What’s the gag?” Zachetti said.
“Do like the man says, Nino.” Phyllis nudged him toward the door.
“The name is Zachetti. And I ain’t goin’ anywhere.”
Phyllis stuck her hand into Neff’s pocket, slid the gun out. She shot Zachetti, philosophically.
“We better lam, bay-bee,” Walter said.
“Yes, Walter. We better lam.”
She packed for every occasion, her travel suit, dinner dress, evening dress, evening gown, after-dinner dress, before-dinner dress, cocktail dress, lounging by the pool dress and matching shoes, handbags and anklets for each outfit. They strolled down the walk to Neff’s car, Neff limping on one leg and then the other. The honeysuckle smells like murder, Neff thought. Why can’t I hear my own footsteps – that’s a bad omen. Wait, it’s cause I’m wearing New Balance sneakers, quieter than quiet. He breathed a sigh of honeysuckle-filled relief. They got into his car, which wouldn’t start, but finally did. They drive by night down to Sunset Boulevard.
“This LA late at night is some place, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it’s a fantastic sight.”
“I feel like I’m being sucked into some kind of exciting vortex with you, Walter,” she murmered, seductively. “What street is this?”
“Scarlet Street, but some people call it the street of chance.”
“I should have known. This is some dark passage we’re on. A truly dark journey.”
“Nothing but a journey into fear.”
“Watch it, Walter. You better take that detour down that sidestreet. Less cops in the dead of night.
“No problem. It’s just a pitfall.”
They drove and drove, down to the border, all the way to the big heat of Acapulco.
“I need a drink, baby.”
“Something cold, Walter. There’s a café. La Mar Azul, sounds pretty.”
They parked where the sidewalk ends, walked across the road. Loud voices spilled out of the café as they entered.
“What’s that yelling?” Phyllis said.
“You don’t own me,” the woman said.
“If it weren’t’ for you we would never have gone to jail,” her husband shouted.
“Me, don’t you mean you?”
“What goes on?” Neff said to the waiter.
“Oh, that is Señor Joe Guidice and his wife Teresa. They are very noisy.”
“This is my nightmare,” Phyllis said.
“It’s nothing but a little fear in the night.”
“Well, I’m in a lonely place, Walter, a very lonely place.”
“How can you be lonely with all that shouting?”
“What’re you looking at,” Teresa Guidice said, aiming a daggers glare at Neff and Phyllis. Phyllis shot back with her own patented stare. The Guidices slunk away.
“Here is your table.” The waiter sat Phyllis and Walter in the dark corner, knowing they’d want their backs to the wall. He left so they could peruse the menu.
Phyllis rang a bell for the waiter to come back.
“Did you ring, madame?”
“Twice.” She said. “I’d like a slushy margarita made with Gran Patron Platinum Tequila and just a touch of evil.”
“I didn’t know you could get slushy margaritas. I didn’t think they existed yet.” Neff ordered a Captain Morgan rum and Coke. “Heavy on the rum.”
Just then a stunning woman in stunning white stepped into the doorway, framed and silhouetted in the door, the stunning sun beaming around her. A tall man joined her. The man zeroed in on Phyllis.
“Don’t I know you somewhere from out of the past?” he said to Phyllis.
“How could you? We’ve never met.”
“Sure. Sure. Up at Lake Arrowhead. Phyllis, right? You married that rich guy from Los Feliz.”
“What goes on?” the stunning woman in stunning white said.
“I’m Jeff Baily. You must remember this,” Baily said directly to Phyllis. He was sloe-eyed and slow moving. “This is my, uh, friend, Kathie Moffat. Isn’t she stunning?”
The jealousy grew exponentially in Phyllis’ eyes.
“Seems like I’m the odd man out here,” Neff said.
“Me too,” the stunning woman said.
“You’re no man, bay-bee,” Neff said to the stunning woman in stunning white.
At the same moment, Phyllis and the stunning woman in stunning white both pulled guns. They quickly eyed each other’s pieces to see whose was bigger. Bam! Phyllis shot Baily. He landed on the floor, headed for the big sleep. He fought to open his eyes, a struggle for this actor even when he hasn’t been shot, “Build my gallows high, baby. But make sure you use sustainable wood.” His eyes closed for the last time…maybe.
The stunning woman in stunning white squeezed the trigger. Phyllis squeezed faster. Bam! The stunning woman in stunning white fell to the floor creating a stunning crimson tide. Phyllis turned to
“Give me a kiss, Walter, a kiss before dying.”
“I died a thousand times since meeting you.”
She leaned up, kissed him on the lips.
“The kiss of death?” he whispered.
“Yes, Walter, the kiss of death.”
“You’re crazy, Phyllis,” Neff said with his dying breath.
“Not crazy, Walter, just gun crazy.”
Phyllis looked triumphant. She turned to the camera (yeah, that one), “I’m the Queen of Noir!”
***There are around 30+ film noir titles (and a couple not noir maybe) in this piece. How many can you pick out? There’s a list at the very end of this post.
Also, I absolutely love both Double Indemnity and Out of the Past and the actors in them, so I hope I haven’t offended anyone’s noir sensibilities by taking some liberties with them. They are two of my three favorite noirs, the other being the Garfield-Turner version of The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Now I guess I will be able to say “yes” to the second question, I’ve written fanfic.
Publishers Weekly says, “…[I]t’s no surprise that the most notable tales are the work of three genre veterans…” including “…‘Deserted Cities of the Heart,’ by Paul D. Marks (‘White Heat’), [which] charts the fall of loner Daniel Hayden after he meets femme fatale Amber Loy at the Gateway Arch.”
Join my newsletter or Fade Out:
Here’s the list of titles (and a handful of extras) in ReDouble Double Indemnity. I hope I didn’t miss any:
Somewhere in the Night
Ace in the Hole
The Glass Key
Out of the Fog
Shadow on the Wall
They Drive by Night
LA Late at Night
Street of Chance
Journey into Fear
Dead of Night
The Big Heat
Where the Sidewalk Ends
Fear in the Night
In a Lonely Place
The Dark Corner
Touch of Evil
Out of the Past
Odd Man Out
The Big Sleep
Build My Gallows High
A Kiss Before Dying
I Died a Thousand Times
Kiss of Death