The Swetky Agency

Submission Synopsis

Chi-Town Blues
by D. J. Herda

Print This Page

75,000 Words

Anthology of Chicago-based Short Stories

Whimsical, haunting, riveting, and erotically charged tales of life in and around the Windy City.


When author/editor D. J. Herda left Chicago, he took a big part of the city with him.  Now he has unleashed it in all its wild-and-wooly, sexually charged, hit-and-hit-harder glory.  These tales are hauntingly vivid, running the gamut from Crime and Punishment to Humor and Coming-of-Age in the Windy City. 



(Note: To sample some of the stories, see below)

1/ The Fisherman
2/ The Tenants
3/ The Union
4/ The Great Duplicity Affair
5/ Double Jeopardy


"Double Jeopardy"


A cockroach poked its head anxiously out from beneath a bureau across the room.  Several times it peeked out, paused, sniffed the air like a golden retriever getting a fix, then scurried back to safety.

"Yes, Mrs. Martinowicz," I said.  "I mean, no."  The insect was proving to be welcomed diversion to the endless harangue falling from the woman's ancient lips.  For hours, she droned on, pausing only long enough to ask a brief question, never long enough to hear an answer.  She'd enjoyed a happy childhood in Poland, selling flowers to the peasantry in her grandmother's shop.  She moved to America, met and married her husband, lost him only a year ago.  A yellow tear formed in the corner of one eye, beading up to enormous proportions, then scaling its way slowly down a complexion so parched and crinkled, you could have read the Preamble in it.

"You know, excuse me, Mr. Joseph, sir, such a beautiful, such an elegant name as that ... excuse me for saying the trouble with this America people is all this, this ... fooling around that so many people ... and the women ... do.  It's a sin, excuse me, how these old hags who could scare the Frankenstein how they smear all this makeup stuff all over their faces and they put on these short dresses, these skirts, and it's a sin how they chase after some men, now, isn't it?  But, you know, Mr. Joseph, sir, I feel sorry for them, because they're all empty people inside ... with this sexy business and all.  And I can't stand empty people.  I can't stand people who don't use the brains the good God gave them.  Excuse me for saying it, Mr. Joseph, sir, darling, but I just can't stand no empty people.

"Mrs. Martinowicz ..."  I pulled my legs under me and boosted myself from the chair.  "I'll take it."

Mrs. Martinowicz patted the ball of yellow hair tacked to the back of her head.  "Then you don't want it, no?"

"No.  I mean, yes, I want it.  I'll take the apartment."

"Oh, my God, can you believe it?  Such an elegant young gentleman like yourself, to want such an old apartment like this.  That is a gift from the God.  Believe me, sir, a gift from the God."

"I have to go now, Mrs. Martinowicz.  I'm on my lunch hour from the bank.  I don't have many things to move in here in the way of furniture and all.  Mostly clothes.  A few boxes.  I could do it in a day, easy.  Maybe this Saturday, if that works out with you."

I watched very carefully the way Mrs. Martinowicz signed her name, "Mrs. Josephine Martinowicz," on the receipt, which she folded twice and handed to me.  I'd had some training in handwriting analysis and found it fascinating, analyzing people's natures and then comparing that to what their handwriting revealed.  It was more than a pastime with me.  It was a vice.

"Then, Mr. Joseph, sir, I see you Saturday, around noon, no?"

My mind raced as I hiked the stairs leading to the outside walk.  What a God-awful hole.

 Who would have imagined?  Me, a rising, button-down-collar man at the First.  But, then again, it wouldn't be intolerable.  Within a coupe of days, if all went well, I'd be settled in.  Within a couple of weeks, I'd be rich.

*          *          *

The last two people filed out of the department.  I opened my bottom desk drawer and pulled out a stack of mimeographed sheets.  Slowly, I ran my finger up and down the list, stopping finally at Account Number 74775.

"Martinowicz," I whispered.

Quickly my fingers followed the line of print after her name.  Address?  Four east Maple, 60606, 659-1111.  Credit Rating?  AAA.  Loans in Force?  None.  Amount on Account?  $373,244.

"Lunch, Joe?"

The voice startled me.  "What?"

"I say, aren't you going to lunch?"  Fred Cox learned over my shoulder.  I wanted to close the sheaf of papers before me ... or set them print-side down on my desk.  But neither one would do.  That would surely make him suspicious.  No, I'd just have to sit tight and hope for the best.

"Oh.  No, no."  I pointed to a wrapped sandwich sitting next to my phone.  "I thought I'd just eat in today.  You know, catch up on a little work.  I want to use the 5660 to run some figures I've been working on."  I hoped he wouldn't notice the sweat forming on my brow.

"Bernice?"  Fred turned to the computer.  "If she can't do it, nobody can.  Of course, you have to treat her right, you understand.  Just like any other woman.  You can kick her around a little and push her to the limit, get her all fired up as hell.  Then, just when you think the love affair is over, you give her a pat on her processor, and she'll purr like a kitten."  Fred winked.

"Oh ... yes, sir."  I forced an awkward little laugh.  "Very good, sir.  I'll have to remember that."

"Well, I'm taking off, now.  Be back in an hour, just in case anybody calls."

I followed the hollow sound of his hard-soled down the corridor and across the hall.Pause.  More sounds, and then the slam of the elevator door as the fiberglass-and-steel cage whisked its occupant to the 14th-floor cafeteria.  My pulse suddenly dropped 20 points and I took my first breath in 30 seconds.  Sweat rolled down my temples.

Stupid, Joe.  Very stupid.  If I'm going to do this thing, I have to do it right.  No chance for slip-ups.  Absolutely none.  Or I won't do it at all.  I'm not going to spend the next 30 years of my life in Joliet.  No way!

I continued scanning the list, copying all the information I needed, running the rest through the shredder in Fred's office.  Then I punched some figures into the computer and corrected the master tape for Account Number 74775.  After that, I went across the hall to Internal Security.  As I expected, the department was vacant except for Marge.

"Hey.  Hi, Megs."

"Joe.  How you doin'? "

I shrugged.  "Oh, you know.  Busy, busy.  Like they say, no rest for the wick ... I mean the weary."

Some other time, I might have been tempted to stand around while.  You know, sling a little trash.  Megs had the smoothest curves and the sweetest smile I'd ever seen.  And when she walked, her firm, well-rounded rump swayed poetically--the kind of sway that tells a man she's a woman of great knowledge ... all carnal.  And anxious to put it to use.

"Say, I've got to check out a signature on the scanner.  Okay?"

She threw her shoulders back and motioned with her arms.  "Let me know if you need any help."

I had to struggle suddenly to remember why I was there.  In fact, for a brief moment, I was tempted to feel her out on it--just kidding around.  Tell her I'd make her a partner, ask her along for the ride.  Something in the way she smiled told me she wasn't exactly above it all.  And she'd be good company along the way.

But it was too risky.  I knew that.  There was too much at stake.  Too much riding on everything going smoothly.  I needed a foolproof plan, 100 percent.  And that meant no one else could know what I was up to.  After all, there were a million Margaret Millers down in Mexico.  Plenty to last me for the rest of my days.  And with the money I'd soon have, I'd be able to sample each and every one of them.

D. J. Herda is an award-winning, full-time professional writer/journalist with more than 40 years of writing and editing experience.  He is author of more than 80 published books and several hundred thousand short pieces, in addition to several screen plays, stage plays, and audio and video scripts.  He currently serves as president of the American Society of Authors and Writers, is a member of The Author's Guild, and is a former member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Washington Press Club.

Former ghost writer for Ronnie Schell, Lawrence Welk, Art Linkletter, etc.  Former ghost writer/photographer for Sammy Davis Jr.  Scriptwriter for educational and consumer cable television, in-flight airline, etc. 

This story was written visually, with strong character and scene elements and naturally occurring dramatic breaks.  Its dialogue is hip, pointed, quirky, and humorous, and the scenes contain good descriptive passages for visualization purposes.  Several producers have expressed interest in seeing the book. 

Herda is one of the best fiction writers working today.

NOTE: All material is copyright protected.  No portion of this material may be copied or reproduced, either electronically,  mechanically, or by any other means, for resale or distribution without the written consent of the author.  All copy has been dated and registered with the American Society of Authors and Writers.  Copyright 2007 by The Swetky Agency