“The Gunman Who Came In From The Door,” by Rose Biggin

Dec 20th, 2015 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

The demand was for constant action; if you stopped to think you were lost. When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand. – Raymond Chandler

It was a dull day, I wasn’t doing very much. In theory I was working from home, but that theory wasn’t working and neither was I. I tried looking out of the window but the sky was a smudged grey, like yesterday’s make-up, and it didn’t compel me out of doors or into better thoughts. I looked again at my work, but it could all wait a few more minutes. I didn’t know what to write. I was waiting for inspiration, and starting to feel stood up. The phone was silent. The clock ticked. A man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

I stood immediately, with my hands up. I hate guns. I wanted to say who are you?, why are you here?, what are you doing with that gun?, or something stronger, but I found I couldn’t speak. Anyway, it was his turn to say something. He had the gun.

We didn’t speak for a few moments, just stared at each other. He had a hat as well as a gun. I had neither.

“I’m here about the case,” he said.

“What case?” I said.

“You know what case,” he said, and seemed content to leave it at that. I wasn’t.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. “I’m not a detective. I’m an actor.”

He raised an eyebrow. “An actor?”

He sounded unconvinced and I didn’t like that. As if he thought actors didn’t exist outside the theatre—like a school kid can’t believe his teachers sometimes go to shops or restaurants? It wasn’t my fault I was at home today. Let him walk into the theatre with a gun while I’m working, he wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at me like that.

But he had a gun, so I kept it short. “Yes,” I said. “I’m a writer and an actor.”

“You in a play right now?” he said.

“I’ve just finished one,” I said.

“Get good reviews?” he said.

“I never read those things,” I said. “Mostly they were bad.”

“Quit stalling,” he said—hypocritically, I thought. “I’m here about the case.”

“I’m telling you,” I said (because I was), “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” You hear stories about confused fans, practical jokes, that sort of thing – but I’ve never played a detective in anything, so this wasn’t one of those stories. I didn’t know what he wanted. “Unless you mean, I don’t know, do you mean an actual case? Have you lost a suitcase? Because apart from that I don’t know what—”

He started to say, “You know full well what I’m talking—” but he was interrupted.

A man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

“Oh, god,” I said, and stepped away until I reached the far wall. I thought this must be back-up, but the first man looked as surprised as I was.

The two men arranged themselves so they were evenly spaced. They pointed their guns at each other, which was a relief for me.

“Do you two know each other?” I said. They both shook their heads. “Are you here about the case too?” I said to the new man.

“Aha! So you do know about it!” said the first man, pointing the gun at me. The second man kept pointing his gun at the first man.

“I don’t know this man,” said the second man, “But it sounds like you’re the person I’m looking for.”

“Now look,” I said, “I was just telling your colleague here: I know nothing about this.”

“She was saying that,” said the first man. “But I think she’s lying.”

A man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

“Is this where I can get some info on the Siddons Case?” he said.

The three men pointed their guns at each other.

“The Siddons Case?” said one of them. “I’m here about the Terry Affair.”

“Look,” I said. I’d had enough of this. I went for a guaranteed tension-breaker: drinks. “Anyone want a cup of tea?” (I had a feeling I should offer scotch or whisky, but I didn’t have any. And I didn’t want anyone to get drunk.)

The men nodded. The second man said, “Ooh, lovely.”

I went into the kitchen and put the kettle on.

As I returned, a man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

Without saying a word, I went back into the kitchen and put out another mug.

When I returned again, all four men were asking each other what they knew, and nobody was admitting to knowing anything. I watched for a while. After a few minutes, I started to suspect they’d forgotten about me. A man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

A man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

A couple of men sat on the sofa. One pulled up the footrest and sat on that.

A man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

A man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

A man came through the door with a gun in his hand.

I proposed a gun amnesty. Some of the men were reluctant at first, but eventually, they all agreed to put their guns in a pile in the corner. I don’t know if there were any more guns hiding in socks or waistbands. I didn’t want to check, I didn’t look.

A man came through the door with a gun in his hand. He was immediately told about the amnesty by the other men, and complied with no trouble. The pile of guns grew by one gun.

I never made the tea. I didn’t want to offer again, and anyway I didn’t have enough mugs. By now it was standing-room only.

A man came through the door with a gun in his hand. He added his gun to the pile of guns and looked around, was welcomed by the nearest group of men, and squeezed in. Multiple conversations were happening by now, and some of them sounded friendly. I saw handshakes, and some of the men were doing impressions of the other men. I thought about putting on some music. Then one man asked me where the bathroom was. That was it.

“All right,” I said. “Everybody out.”

It took a while to get the men to go; eventually I had to move one of them off the sofa and stand on it to get their attention.

“I’m sorry,” I said, and I waved my arms until they were quiet. “May I have your attention please?

“I think there has been a misunderstanding. I can’t help any of you with any cases or mysteries you may have come here to investigate. I was sitting at my desk and I’d like to get back to it. I have a lot of work to do. Thank you.”

They took their guns with them as they went. I don’t know where they are now.

Last night I dreamt that a gun came through the door with a hand in his man.


Defenestration-Rose BigginRose Biggin is a writer of stories and plays. Her published fiction includes “A Game Proposition” in Irregularity (four sex workers in 17th-century Jamaica play dice against the explorer William Dampier) and “The Modjeska Waltz” in The Adventures of Moriarty (a thrilling diamond heist and feminist ballroom dancing). She has a PhD in immersive theatre and digs film noir, old maps and peacocks. She’s @rosebiggin on Twitter.

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