The Earl Webber Detective Agency – Chapter 1: The Red Lady

First a Little Introduction

I’ve been sitting on this for awhile but I thought I’d go ahead and release the first chapter of a project I was working on awhile back. Before COVID really got going, I had a game of Savage Worlds going on with some friends. This game is a role-playing game that supports any setting and is a lot of fun. We had chosen to do a 1920’s-esque noir story focused on the titular Earl Webber Detective Agency.

However, now it’s become impossible to continue the game, and by extension the nature of this project which was to serialize our games into a short-story format to be released for your reading pleasure. With that said, I do have another partially written chapter and the ability to continue the story on my own thanks to my extensive notes.

What follows is the first chapter, which is really a prologue more than anything. If you like this I can finish the second chapter and release it for you here at a later date. If not, then no big deal. I figured I’d just put it out either way as opposed to letting this just rot away on my hard drive. Last thing, this is more-or-less a draft so some things may not be as polished.

Chapter 1 Proper – The Red Lady

Welcome to the sunny city of Chicago. Prohibition is in full effect, the mafia is more active than they ever have been, and as a result, the crime rates are skyrocketing. You know what they say, everybody wants a piece of the action. For a private detective, you couldn’t ask for a better time to be alive! Our story focuses on one such detective and his agency, right on the edge of the West Side in a crumbling brick building on the second story. And like all good stories, it starts with a lone lady in red.

Earl’s office, despite being the base of his operations for several months now, is still in a state of disarray. The boxes containing various files and records are overturned, with no regard for organization. The pale blinds that cover each window that looks out over the bleak Chicago skyline are broken and haphazardly attached at an uncomfortable angle. A solitary fan hums from the corner despite the Winter season, scattering loose papers from Earl’s desk onto the floor. Classical music provides a somewhat sleepy ambience as it wafts its way from the other room to Earl’s desk.

Earl and Felx have found themselves stuck on a previous case where a certain individual has asked them to look into a possible instance of embezzlement at a large financial institution. Needless to say, the woman who just entered made for a welcome distraction.

Standing at about 5’6″, she was just a hair shorter than Earl. Her slender frame highlighted expertly by a finely tailored red dress that was revealed by the woman removing her tan winter coat, draping it carefully over her left arm. Her short curled auburn hair was done up in a way considered quite fashionable, framing her soft features and deep hazel eyes perfectly. Her fine porcelain skin further emphasized her dazzling beauty, surrounding her with an invisible aura of elegance that could demand the attention of either sex.

Clearly this woman was of wealth, making the scenario all the more bizarre. If she wanted to, far more reputable establishments would surely be chomping at the bit to land a job with her, and not just for her money either. Despite Earl’s overwhelming curiosity regarding this mystery, he knew better than to rush things. It was at this moment that he realized that he should be greeting her.

“Welcome ma’am, please have a seat. I’m Earl Webber of the Earl Webber Detective Agency, how might we be of service to you today?” Earl asked with a thick New York accent. His words were somewhat smarmy in tone, ending in a sly, but otherwise pleasant smile. He figured this would be an easy job, likely she wanted to know if her husband was cheating or something. Practically child’s play for a man of Earl’s talents.

The woman gave a nod of acknowledgement before lighting, and taking a long drag of a cigarette, sizing up the detective. Before her was a strange gentlemen who couldn’t look more out of place even if he tried. Most people in polite society would consider him “eccentric”, but the term that came to mind for the woman was “repulsive”. While he was sporting a perfectly pressed suit, its garish neon tones combined with his thinning brown hair and ill-kept stubble only acted to exacerbate his mousy features. Despite being roughly the same age of the woman, in his early thirties, Earl had a weathered look about him that made him appear almost a decade older than he actually was. Though there was a fire in his emerald eyes that implied a certain level of tenacity when it came to these sorts of matters.

Once she was satisfied, she moved to sit across from Earl in a tattered vinyl chair. “Yes, of course. I’ve heard of you from a friend-of-a-friend. You come highly recommended…” She paused for a moment before positioning herself against Earl’s desk in order to get close to him.

In that moment Earl’s mind swirled with a mixture of excitement and intrigue. He could barely contain himself, not for the beautiful dame in front of him but because of his overwhelming desire to hear her next words. It was as if he were unable to breathe until she spoke again. Finally, she offered him some relief. She motioned for Earl to place his ear close to her full red painted lips and began to whisper, “But first, I need to ask… there’s nobody here to overhear this information? The matter is… sensitive.”

This concern was, of course, completely justifiable. Not only did the office look like some sort of tragic accident occurred, its walls were indeed rather thin. One could easily overhear any conversation which was not at all uncommon from the few times other tenets rented any of the rooms above or below them. The only one ever here was the landlady downstairs but she frequently went out.

At this time it is worth noting that, up until just a few moments ago, Felx had been asleep in the “storage room” next door on his makeshift cot. Being down on his luck, and Earl’s need for regular medical attention for his other compatriot, Stephen McCutcheon, he was allowed a space in the office to use as a basis for his operations. The activity in the other room began to stir him a bit as the radio quietly played some classic concerto which slowly began to blur with the conversation happening in just the other room over.

Earl made a gesture as to indicate that, aside from the obviously present Felx, there were no others privy to the conversation at present. However, he felt the need to make a verbal note of it as well. This was mostly to ensure that Felx knew they had a client and to get himself in a semi-presentable state. The woman let out a sigh of relief. “You do know who I am, right?” The question astounded even the woman, it wasn’t what she had planned to say and as a result it took Earl further by surprise.

“Uh… of course…” Earl’s voice trailed a bit as he began to dig deeply into his mind, scanning the room for any sort of clue. That’s when his hand began to idly tap on a nearby coffee-stained newspaper. It hit him once he glanced down at the picture he was tapping by mere chance. Before him was the living version of that stunning photograph; this woman was none other than the famous actress Martha Chard.

That’s it for chapter 1, with the second chapter onward being considerably longer. Chapter 2 is about 50% complete and is told entirely from Felx’s perspective, an Italian immigrant working as a back-alley doctor. If you would like to see me complete that, please let me know. Also, if you enjoy my work here please consider becoming a Patron or making a one-time donation by utilizing the buttons below. Thanks for reading!

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