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It was a dark and stormy night…

I always wanted to write something that started that way, so here goes, exerts from a gritty, tongue in cheek film noir adaptation of issues inherent in the ethics of climate services given limits to predictability. I would like to remind that in true film noir tradition, these characters are all antiheroes, I do not endorse their decisions or motivations. As some of the names suggest, I also have to admit that I pulled most of the plot from an episode of the popular childrens’ cartoon Adventure Time.

Let me also suggest some mood music.

Chapter 1

It was a dark and stormy night. Loraine sighed, this type of weather was bad for business, on nights like these, there was no where to go, and no reason to stay.  There was only one customer in the cafe, his hat pulled low, sitting all but motionless in the corner. A shadow passed by the window in the flicking light of a single street lamp. Seemingly ages later, the door knob turned, and a figure in a long coat stepped in from the rain. He waved at Loraine who filled two glasses and sashayed over the corner, where the two men began a whispered conversation. Eventually their whispers were drowned out by the arrival of the usual gamblers and she uncovered the roulette wheel.

[ … ]

Chapter 2

The sun rose over the city port authority, shining through the office window of Detectives Bayes and Gorey. The first squinted against the light and drew the blind.

“You have a hard night Tom?”

“Yeah, yeah I did. She left me Ally. I mean it was always a possibility, but I never expected …”

“Save it Tom, we have to see the boss, sounds big.”

The two men walked slowly down to the office at the end of the hall.

“You wanted to see us René?”

“Yes, sit down. This is the bad one. As of this morning, we’ve got a boat carrying a dirty bomb steaming straight for the harbour, going by the reports, could do quite a number on this place.”

“We sure about this? What’s the intell?”

“Everybody in the business has been over this one. Sure there’s a lot of hand wringing over who brought this on, but from what people are willing to agree on looks bad. We’ve got reports from everyone who keeps tabs on this sort of activity, the International Portfolio of  Criminal Characters, the Marauders Evildoers and Thieves Office, Wrongdoers and Malicious Operatives, Criminal Subversives and Antisocial Gangsters, the list goes on, all the groups have weighted in, and this one is gonna be rough, fellas.”

“How’s it gonna go down René?”

“We’ve got four ships bringing in plutonium, due to dock in twenty-four hours, one of them has been rigged to explode when she hits port.”

“Who’s behind this? What do they want?”

“Standard stock villains, just want to shake things up I suppose, there’s a lot of business that you can only go about when things are in disorder.”

“We’ll have to close the harbour, boss.”

“Are you out of your mind Al? The city can’t afford that. You two have to hit the streets and find out which boat is carrying the bum load.”

“If we already know the boats carrying plutonium, then that’s all we have to worry about. Can’t we just intercept them before they reach port?”

“That’s international territory Tom. You wanna get involved in that kinda politics?”

“Well just turn those four boats away than, tell them they can’t come into our waters.”

“No can do, orders from above is that they want as many of those  shipments delivered as possible.”

“And that’s worth risking the whole city?”

“Higher up says they need that plutonium.”

“What for?”

“I wouldn’t know, to make bombs probably. Now you boys get out  there and crack this case. Remember, if you can’t figure out exactly which boat is gonna go bad, a lot of people are gonna die.”

[ … ]


Chapter 6

[ … ] The glow of the streetlights dimmed as Thomas strode further  down the alleyway. The shadowy figure in the long coat ahead stopped walking and turned around. The flash of the match as he lit a cigarette briefly illuminated his face.

“That’s right Ronnie, there’s no where to go from here. You know what I’m gonna to ask you, just start talking.”

The figure paused, and shook his head through the smoke. “You’re not going to get anywhere with this one Tom. I don’t know which boat that bomb is on. Nobody does.”

“Somebody has to know Ronnie. If you don’t, tell me who does.”

“It’s like I said flatfoot, nobody knows. Word is they just handed out briefcases to four different chumps and put them on the boats. They all think they’re carrying around cash and gonna be real popular when they deliver it, but of course for one of them, it’s really a bomb. Which one? They mixed up the briefcases before they handed them out, not even the big bosses know who has what.

“How’d they mix them?”

“Don’t embarrass yourself. That’s like trying to win cards by asking how the dealer shuffles. Speaking of losing hands, how’s Loraine?”

“You telling me you don’t know how she is?”

“Look buddy, if you’d had any sense you’d have gotten out of this town when you heard what was on the table for this place, and instead you spent all your time tracking leads to try to save the boys upstairs a few bucks and some uncomfortable decisions. You want to show them you been doing your job, bring in Bebé, he’ll talk if you push him.”

Why you telling me this?”

“Because I don’t know Loraine’s story, and if you don’t either then Bebé probably does, and you know what I’m like when I get jealous.  Make it tough on him for both of us.”

Silently the two men returned to the street and walked opposite directions into the night.



Chapter 12

Captain René stared hard across his desk at the three men. “So Bebé, you got something you wanna tell us?”

“Yeah man, I can tell ya what ya wanna know.”

“What’ve you got?”

“Not so fast man, my time ain’t free. You gonna make it worth my while to sing?”

“How do we know you even got anything to sing about?”

“Whoa man, I got my ways, I got systems, it’s as if I was there for the whole thing, like, to the minute.”

“You saying you weren’t even at the hand off?”

“Didn’t need to be, I got sources, I got it all worked out.”

“How reliable are these sources?”

“Whad’ya think I am Tom, a psychiatrist? You fellas wanna know which boat you gotta look out for or not?”

“Yeah, ease up boys, I need an answer for the folks upstairs, and it’s gonna look good for you that you’re the guys who brought it in. Give’m what he wants Al, you’re always saying we need more action and less talk.”

“René, how’s going with what he says any better than guessing?”

“That I’m not the one doing the guessing, that’s what’s better Tom. Besides we all know you have some beef with this guy over your lady friend, you got your chance to give him a hard time, now step back.”


Chapter 13

The rising sun lit the office window of Detectives Bayes and Gorey. Staring out at the three approaching freighters now illuminated on the horizon Tom pretended not to notice that there was no activity at the dockside cafe down the street. He refilled the glass in his hand, passed it to his colleague and kept the bottle for himself.

“You think we did the right thing Ally?”

“Can’t know the future friend, only have to wait and see. I can imagine things might get unpleasant real soon though.”

“Strange how we can imagine all kinds of doomsday scenarios, but going without what’s in those boats for a day was inconceivable.”

“Don’t get melodramatic friend, and pass that bottle over here. I can tell you’re looking down the street at your old gambling hang out. What did you ever see in that girl Tom?”

“I don’t know Alley, I guess we just spoke the same language, seems we didn’t want the same things in the end though.”

“It happens Tom. Ran into Bebé when I picked up the booze, he looked shaken bad, like he’d already lost all the money we gave him. So it’s not like he came out ahead in the end. House always wins I suppose.”



In a remote chalet two figures are framed against the Albertan Rockies by the setting sun.

“What’d you ever see in those guys Loraine?”

“Who, Bebé? You know that was just business. Had to make him think that I was giving him tips because I wanted him to win. Did you see his face when we cleaned him out? Or do you mean Tom? He was sweet, but everything was supposed to be such an open book for him. How’d you know he would give Bebé the money?”

“Tom didn’t want to work with him, but I made it so he couldn’t resist bringing him in just to make him look foolish, which of course worked out exactly how we needed it to. I leveled with him about what I knew, he never would have believed me if I tried to sell him information. For that sort of con you need someone like Bebé, someone actually dumb enough to believe themselves. Shame about the city, but I don’t make the rules, why should I feel bad? You know something or another is always going to happen eventually, we just played it to come out on top when it did.”

“You’re a rat Ronnie.”

“That’s why I know there’s always free cheddar in the mousetrap, baby, that’s the deal.”

fade out



4 Responses to “Climate Noir”

  1. Mark Tadross

    Brilliant. Talking of skimmers – I would like to offer myself as Tristan’s literary agent. I know this publisher ………. strike a good deal …… 5% fee + expenses ……..

  2. Chris Jack

    Brilliant indeed Tristan. You’ve managed to paint a rich “characterscape” that holds a lot of real world truths. A very nice counterpoint to the quasi philosophical pontifications that have been floating around CSAG this week.

  3. Piotr Wolski

    Brilliant… and oddly befitting the context of recent blogs and e-mail discussions…
    @ Bruce – I’d rather go for individuals, perhaps the “1%”, but in fact “skimmers” are everywere. Everyone can be one, in some respect or another… Perhaps we do not even realize that we steal from ourselves…

  4. Bruce Hewitson

    Strangly enough, the phrase that sticks with me is “House always wins I suppose.”

    In climate change who are the “house”. Who is stacking the cards, controlling the probabilities, who has the inside knowledge allowing them to take the (early) profit.

    Government? Nope.
    Banks? Possbily.
    Industry? Likely.
    Lobbyists? Certainly.