New York Minute
An Hour's Worth of Freewriting
by Ari Moriarty
Author's Note: A couple of weeks ago, I started adapting one of my Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries fanfiction stories into an original piece. While doing so, I did a couple of freewrites focusing around the main characters in that derivative story, and this is one of them. It's sort of an origin story of how my two main characters met, since when we first meet them in "There's Something Wild About You," they've already been married and divorced.
The way I do these freewrites is that I put on some suitable music (in this case, "New York Minute" by Don Henley)," and I glue myself to the computer for exactly one hour. I'm only allowed to write for that hour (it's essentially a focus exercise).
This is what I came up with this time.
Saturday, February 12, 1927
It was already after ten o'clock that evening by the time Inspector English and Constable McBurney finally caught sight of the gaping maw of the newly minted Holland tunnel. It had been a long night like something out of an action picture; a ridiculous motorcar chase across Manhattan and halfway into Jersey on the trail of a runaway drug pusher, now suspected of the murder of his informer ex-girlfriend. Inspector English couldn't help but feel that there was something particularly surrealistic about the aggressive New York skyline tonight; the only city in the world, he was sure, where a man could live real life like the hard-boiled detective in a melodramatic mystery thriller.
"Nice night for it," remarked McBurney placidly from the driver's seat as they proceeded, the only motorcar on the road, in the direction of the tunnel.
Senior Constable Frank McBurney was about as mercifully unremarkable a man as men come. Large, quiet, right smack in the middle of his forties with big bushy eyebrows and a perpetually placid half-smile on his face, Frank was a decently experienced cop with a nice wife and kids tucked away somewhere in the interstices of the city.
Detective Inspector Earnest English, himself only in his mid-thirties, was tall, had once been what he would have called 'athletic, yawned widely before he could stop himself and then felt ridiculous, in the face of Frank's placid calm.
Frank's been driving like a madman all night, thought Earnest ruefully. What gives me the right to be tired?
"Shame we couldn't catch him, sir," remarked Frank, shrugging as they began their descent into the tunnel. "Better luck next time."
Earnest sighed and gritted his teeth, hoping that there was actually going to be a next time and wondering, for maybe the four hundredth time in the last forty-five minutes just where exactly the bastard had managed to lose them and how it was that he'd given them such a clean, untraceable slip.
It was just as they were passing into the tunnel that Earnest heard it; a high, ringing, too-shrill laugh that sounded just a little bit too much like a scream.
Glancing up, he caught sight of what he could have sworn was a woman seated on the edge of the overhanging scaffolding just above the tunnel's mouth, dangling her legs down over the lip and cackling to herself.
"Frank," snapped Earnest, "stop the car."
Frank shot Earnest a doubtful look, but then shrugged, took a quick look over his shoulder and then ground the car to a halt right there in the middle of the tunnel.
Throwing open the door, Earnest jumped out of the car and ran to the mouth of the tunnel again, backing himself up until he could crane his neck up and look for the woman.
As it turned out, there were two women. One of them, a pale-skinned, dark-haired creature in a very sparkly, spangled white party dress was sitting on the scaffolding, peering down at Earnest out of big, wide, dark eyes. The other, a remarkably statuesque, coffee-colored woman in a much more conservative set of ladies trousers was standing just a feet away from Earnest by the side of the road, waving urgently at him.
"Help," she called. "Help, police! Pretty please? My friend here is engaging in drunk and disorderly conduct."
"Hello," called the woman in white, waving cheerily at him from on high.
"How the hell," he demanded, "did she get up there?"
The woman in white just laughed again in that slightly unsettling way of hers. The dark-skinned woman only shook her head.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you, officer," she assured him. "At the moment, I'm more worried about how we're going to get her down."
Fair enough, thought Earnest, frowning.
By this time, Frank, too, had abandoned the car and was ambling out to meet them. At that moment, the woman in white gaily kicked off one of her little black, pointed shoes, and it fell to the ground not too far from Frank's feet. Frank dutifully bent down and retrieved it, examining it for a moment before nodding approvingly and holding it up to show the others.
"A hostage sir," he announced.
Oh yes, thought Earnest in exasperation. How perfect. Extremely drunk lady, you'd better come down from your precarious perch right now, or my constable here will take your shoe into custody, and we wouldn't want that, now, would we?
"We were at a party," the dark-skinned woman told him unnecessarily.
"Yes," muttered Earnest. "I can see that. You know, I could and probably should ask you just exactly where you've both been tonight, and how much, exactly, your friend up there has had to drink."
The dark-skinned woman only shrugged.
"Go ahead and ask her," she suggested, "You're welcome to anything useful you think you can get out of her, assuming you can get her down."
Earnest took a deep breath.
"Miss," he called up to the cackling lady.
"Lindh," supplied the dark-skinned woman. "Miss Irene Lindh, 3142 East 26th street. I'm Gertrude Wagner."
"Detective Inspector Earnest English," muttered Earnest absently.
Gertrude extended a hand, but Earnest didn't pay it much attention.
"Miss Lindh," repeated Earnest, "I think it's just about time you stopped playing around and came down from there, don't you? You've gotten yourself into a very dangerous position."
"I know," agreed Miss Lindh delightedly, flinging out both her arms and throwing her head back in a gesture of delighted abandon. "Isn't it thrilling? I'm so very, VERY high…and I'm sure that I could be much higher, even; perhaps somewhere I could see every single star."
High is right, reflected Earnest grimly, shaking his head.
"Not tonight," he suggested. "Just now, just tonight, I think it would be best for everyone if you came down from there right away. Look how worried your poor friend is! You wouldn't want to worry her anymore, now would you?"
Glancing over his shoulder at her, Earnest had to reflect that Gertrude looked more annoyed and wryly amused, but not exactly worried, as it were.
"Gertie?" The woman in white was peering down at her friend now, frowning thoughtfully. "You're not so worried, are you? It's really lovely up here. Do come and join me."
"Not on your life," snorted Gertrude, shaking her head and planting her hands on her hips. "You're embarrassingly smashed, Irene Lindh, and you will do exactly what the Inspector tells you right this minute or I'm going to lose my patience and leave you here overnight all by yourself."
Miss Lindh made a face at Gertrude. "You're a bore," she said, sighing dramatically. "An absolutely bore, Gertie darling. Oh…well, very well, then, if I must then I must.
Earnest, unfortunately, wasn't quite ready for her. Frank was already in the process of moving in to hold his arms up for her when Miss Lindh, dutifully following orders, suddenly threw herself from the scaffolding and came careening down towards the street below at a truly alarming rate.
Gertrude gasped, her eyes going wide.
In an instant he was beneath the scaffolding, just in time to catch Miss Lindh as she tumbled, now giggling more than cackling, into his outstretched arms. He stumbled back, still clutching her, and she enthusiastically threw her arms around his neck and gazed up into his eyes.
"My my, Inspector," she murmured, batting her eyelashes coquettishly at him, smelling distinctly of whisky and wine, and smiling a slow, soft sort of very attractive smile. "What perfect timing you have. The better to-!"
"Irene." Gertrude hurried over, looking relieved and exasperated at the same time. "Thank the lord. You could have been killed. You almost were killed; and it would have served you right if you had been, acting like a complete loon. What ever happened to being able to hold your liquor? What the hell were you thinking?"
"I was thinking," whispered Miss Lindh, still gazing up dreamily at Earnest, "that I wanted the moon, Gertie."
For just a moment, Earnest found himself frozen in place by the look in those deep, dark, heavily intoxicated eyes. His heart skipped an embarrassing little beat, and when he opened his mouth, he found that he couldn't quite think of a single reasonable thing to say; not that there was anything even remotely reasonable about the situation thus far.
Then, Frank cleared his throat, Gertrude clucked disapprovingly, Irene sighed and laid back against Earnest, relaxing into his arms, and the moment was over.
"Miss Irene Lindh," muttered Earnest, glancing over at Frank who was now staring thoughtfully down at the shoe in his hand, "I'm afraid that for your own sake we're going to have to take you down to the police station…at least, until you're sober enough to be less of a public menace."
"Am not a menace," mumbled Miss Lindh, shutting her beautiful eyes and snuggling confusingly closer against Earnest's chest.
Gertrude only shook her head.
"You're a menace to yourself," she muttered, rubbing wearily at her temple and shooting Earnest a quick, grateful sort of half-grin. "Yes, I think that a night in the cells at the police station is an absolutely brilliant idea, Inspector."
Author's End Note: Now, please remember, this is a FREEWRITE, meaning it's a basically unedited little piece that I wrote in exactly an hour.
I have a few more, although I'm not writing at the moment, so if you'd like to see more of the story, please either like the post or send me a message or a ping, and I'll post the rest of the freewrites in this series.
If not, don't worry, I promise my feelings won't be hurt. Cross my heart.