What would Trudy Parr do? notes on a cunning queen of Noir
by dm gillis
There has to be a tough chick inside of every Noir writer. Without her, he’s just writing greeting cards.
Trudy Parr saved my life. She came to me as a character while I was in a suicidal bipolar fog. I’d sat down to write an epic, self-absorbed suicide note. A straight razor was ready on my desk, next to the blank computer screen and pulsing cursor. It was midnight in November; I was going to go out in style. And suddenly there she was, standing in the dimness of my apartment, wearing a 1940s Coco Chanel outfit. She looked at the razor, and then at me. The smile on her face said, go ahead, what are you waiting for?
I began to write, but not a suicide note.
The straight razor remains Trudy’s up-close weapon of choice, and I still don’t know what I’m waiting for. But once, she told me this: A voice will call you. It always calls me. And when it does, that moment will belong to you. And this much remains true, that line has guided me ever since.
So, what other insights on life might Trudy Parr have to offer? Hmm, let’s see…
“Not this time, mister,” said Trudy Parr. She raised her .45 and drew a bead. “I just changed my mind about taking this fucker alive. Nighty night, Hansel,” she said, and squeezed the trigger. She was prepared for the .45’s kick. Her arm rose only slightly and then levelled out, ready to fire again. Her eyes never left the target.
She picked up the .45 on her desk and put it in her purse. Then she walked to the closet and put on her coat.
“…You wanted to drive me home earlier. Now you can drive me down to the waterfront.”
“I know you hate guns, big boy,” she said. “But showing up to a gunfight with nothing but concern for your fellow man can get you killed.”
“The hell you say,” said Trudy Parr. “This Nazi’s mine.”
“A voice will call you. It always calls me. And when it does, that moment will belong to you.”
Crispin Dench looked down at his drink. He’d only seen Trudy Parr drunk once before. He thought for a moment, remembering what she was capable of. How under the influence, she hadn’t lost her cool composure. But how, below the surface, all reasonable restraint had disappeared.
“No. I’ve hunted you for days, Monsieur Millet. And what happens now is not beautiful, nor am I.”
Trudy Parr looked at her hand. Despite her speed and expertise, there was still a little blood there. As he stood before her in shock, she took a corner of Millet’s tweed jacket and wiped the blood away. “Your kind always looks so surprised,” she said. Dropping the razor, she nudged it down a sewer grate with the toe of her milky white patent leather shoe.
“Fuck you, you underdone pork chop.”
“Save it for the debutantes, Benoît,” said Trudy Parr. “I work for a living.”
“Trudy Parr,” Atkins continued, “her mind I mean, always struck me as a bit of a baby’s pram full of broken toys and biscuit crumbs. Are you with me?”
The neon gave her blonde hair a purple tint. Trudy Parr was half way through smoking a Cuban Panatela. There was an opened bottle of Glenlivet and an empty glass on the desk.
“Hell no,” said Trudy Parr. She gulped back the remainder of her single malt, and opened a drawer in her desk. She pulled out an ugly flat black M1911 .45 automatic. When she placed it on the desktop, it made a heavy thud. “This bitch spits clean and accurate,” she said. “I’m gonna sit here until he walks through that door.” She relit the Panatela with a paper match. From behind the cloud of smoke she said: “This time I won’t miss.”
It was all just a rumour as far as he was concerned, nothing substantiated. Just a lot of barroom stories. The fatal Trudy Parr of Dench and Parr Investigations. A spy for the Allies in Nazi occupied Paris. That was where she’d become a killer, supposedly. Now she sat there looking all Veronica Lake. Eyes too blue. Skin too pale. Demeanour too calm. The matchbook in front of her. Both of her hands on the desktop.
“You’re a big bully of a man, Barney. I hate that. I brought you in on this as a courtesy. One east-ender to another. And you go and get all tough. Like I’m gonna fold all of a sudden, and play the quail. Well fuck you. The inlet’s just down the road, and who’d weep over you being fished out of it in a day or two all cold and wet and dead?”
…he’d struck out and hit her in a rage of self-hate. But she’d moved so fast, too quickly to be believed. And she’d held the knife, from behind, so immovably to his throat. He’d heard her breathing calmly at his ear, and was certain then that he would die. At the hand of that deadly elegant animal. But he had not. He knew she could do it. But instead she’d whispered, You ain’t worth it, Roscoe. And she released him out of pity. He’d listened to her footsteps through his open window as she walked away. Knowing then that he was finally and completely lost to the world.
“Don’t pout,” Trudy Parr says. “You lived through it.”
Whatever violent act Mr Finn was planning to perpetrate against Trudy Parr, it was interrupted by her swift right hook.
Trudy was a very reactive girl, and someday Egon was going to mouth off at exactly the wrong moment. I hoped that moment was a long way off, and made for the office.
Trudy, however, walked away toward the Jaguar, slowly in the rain with her hands in her coat pockets. I followed. When I caught up with her, she was leaning against the passenger side door. Gorgeous, even in the rain, but she looked startled. A Vogue model on a bad day, but no. The war had made her too much of a potential menace for polite society. It was safer for everyone that she worked with me, chasing leads and going after bad guys. The war had ended four years ago, but she and I had been changed by indoctrination and duty. Maybe we should never have come back when it was all done, but that was an old and pointless conversation. We’d missed our chance to go out in a hail of bullets when the Nazis evacuated Paris.
She bit the cork end off the cigarette and daintily spit it out to the side. I lit it. We’d done this a thousand times before. I had never asked her why she didn’t just buy plain cigarettes without the cork. I didn’t want to know. I didn’t ask why she still carried a nickel finish .38 automatic in her handbag, either. Asking would sound like disapproval; I didn’t disapprove.
There was a .40 calibre round in her hand. She felt its weight. How many noble acts could a person commit in a single lifetime? Not many, she thought. Not enough. It all came down to a scarcity of opportunity, she supposed. And when opportunities presented themselves, how many people rose to take advantage?
“You!” she said. She began fishing a Black Cat out of a package on her desk. “Percy the fucking Albino. You’re the last sorry SOB I needed to encounter this morning. And Percy,” she said lighting her cigarette, “I’m no one’s protégé.”
“It’s Parr and Dench when I answer the telephone, brother. What’s on your mind?”
Standish held the cigarette lighter over Trudy Parr with mocking daintiness, between his thumb and forefinger. She stank of gasoline. The yellow light of the flame sparkled against the deep blue of her eyes. She smiled and calmly said, “I’ve been ready for this all of my life, pork chop. Do it and I’ll see you on the other side.”
“I get my beauty sleep when the works done,” said Trudy Parr walking out from behind the tram. She wore a trench coat with the collar turned up. “As for you, Ho. I hear the sunlight burns your skin so you sleep in a coffin during the day.”
“Watch out for her, boss,” said Meng, stepping out of the shadows. “She a tricky sister.”
“It’s all the lies of a desperately lonely newspaper reporter,” Trudy Parr said. She turned round on her office chair and looked out onto Hastings Street. It was raining.
Those with nicknames that reflect the opposite of their reality (you see, Hatless Andy is an ironic name. he actually has many hats, get it? oh, never mind.)
“Be nice with what you say about Trudy Parr,” said Hatless Andy.
“There he is,” said Trudy Parr. She sat with Crispin Dench in a black Renault near a subway entrance in central Paris. They watched as a well dressed man with a briefcase purchased apples at a cart. “I say we decapitate this asshole.”
“Yeah, well I scored low on my observe and report tests at assassin school,” Trudy Parr said.
“The only good Nazi is a dead Nazi.” Trudy Parr whispered from behind, into the man’s ear. She spit the words out, using the English of far away east end Vancouver.
“He’s just across the street, Crispin. We can still exterminate the bastard. You know it’s better to ask for forgiveness.”
Trudy Parr opened a desk drawer and pulled out a pistol. She stood and took aim. He grinned as he regained himself, rubbing his chin.
Trudy Parr sat at her desk with her .45 calibre M1911 pistol field stripped and laid out before her. She held the slide in her hand and studied it closely. Then she wiped it clean with a soft cloth dipped in a mild solvent. Her mind was at peace. She counted her breaths. It was a meditation on semi-automatic firearm maintenance.
Trudy Parr put down the recoil spring and picked up the gun’s barrel. She looked through it as if it were a telescope and panned the room. She put it down gently on the fifth ring, perfectly aligning it with the other dismantled parts. On the sixth ring she picked up the phone. “Hello, Beth. What’s rattling?”
“Want me to come down, shake the guy up?” As she said this, Trudy Parr weighed a .45 calibre cartridge in her hand. Its heft was comforting.
Let me know about your favourite Trudy Parr moment.