National November Writing Month challenge when my novel jumped the tracks. As I outlined the problem in a previous post, a character popped up in the very first chapter who was not in the outline. I had no idea where he came from or why he was there.
But I do now.
By the end of Chapter Two, Ned Callahan was gone -- but he served his purpose.
Here's both chapters so you can see what happened.. Remember -- the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, not to edit it. So what you're reading is the first (and at the moment only) draft. And remember, this is an homage to the pulp adventure novels of the 1930's -- so read accordingly.
The Crime Broker
Chapter One – A City Besieged
Three police cars cut a swathe through late afternoon traffic in lower Manhattan, their blaring sirens creating a cacophony that echoed through the streets. Lieutenant Mike MacGuffey, riding in the lead car, leaned over to the driver. “Faster,” he said. The officer nodded and pushed the accelerator further into the floorboard.
The radio car surged forward, and the other two did likewise. MacGuffey chewed on an unlit cigar, his grizzled features scrunched together in worry. For the past two months, the city had been in the grip of crime. A series of robberies, each one more audacious than the last, had swept through New York.
MacGuffey absently scratched his head of coarse, rust-red hair. He and the officers of the three radio cars were responding to a silent alarm at Bennington’s, one of the city’s ritziest jewelers. If they could catch the thieves in the act, the police just might have a lead to the mastermind behind this crime wave.
“We’re four blocks away, Lieutenant,” said the driver. MacGuffey nodded and grabbed the radio microphone. “Attention Cars 7 and 23. Attention, Cars 7 and 23. This is Lieutenant MacGuffey. Turn off your sirens. I repeat. Turn off your sirens. We don’t want tip off those birds knocking over Bennington’s.”
The sound coming through the open car windows diminished somewhat. MacGuffey turned to glare at the driver. “You, too, knucklehead. Turn off that siren!”
The driver gulped nervously and complied. “Sorry, lieutenant, guess I wasn’t thinking.”
MacGuffey harrumphed, and the two policemen riding in the back grinned in anticipation. They had seen MacGuffey chew out patrolmen before, and knew he could make an art of it. Instead, the grizzled detective looked reflectively at the driver.
“New to the force?” he asked.
“Yes sir. I’ve been with the force three months, today.” The driver flashed a small smile, but did not take his eyes from the road as he continued to thread his way through lines of slower-moving vehicles.
“What’s your name, son?” asked MacGuffey.
“Ned Callahan,” he replied.
“Well, Callahan, a word of advice,” said MacGuffey. “We’re going into a very dangerous situation. Just keep your head about you, remember your training, and you’ll be fine.”
“And one other thing,” added MacGuffey. “Follow my orders immediately.”
The two other officers were a little disappointed, but not surprised at the exchange. In addition to being one of New York’s foremost detectives, MacGuffey had the distinction of being one of the best mentors on the force. Jim Rowland, the current police commissioner had trained under MacGuffey, and the two remained close. In fact, it was Rowland who had personally sent the red-headed detective out with the radio squad.
“Do what you can to bring them in alive, Mac,” the young commissioner had said. “We’ve got to stop this crime wave and fast.”
* * *
As the cars journeyed through Manhattan, Mac had outlined his plan via radio. Arriving at the block Bennington’s was on, the radio cars moved into position. Mac’s car, in the lead, drove to the end of the block and turned left to block traffic. The trailing car did the same, effectively sealing off the street. The middle car rolled up close to the curb in front of the store.
Mac and his men rolled out of their car. One of the officers walked forward into traffic to direct traffic away from the scene. Mac, Callahan, and the other policeman started up the block to the middle patrol car in a crouching run. The grizzled detective glanced up the block and noted with satisfaction that the men in the tail car had duplicated his actions. One remained behind, the other three made their way to the middle car.
The officers in that vehicle had exited through the left side, keeping the doors facing the jewelry store shut. They now huddled behind the patrol car with guns drawn, stealing an occasional glance over the hood or around the trunk.
Berrington’s storefront sported a modern, streamlined look. Rather than large plateglass windows, the store had inset polished black panels. Small windows in the panels displayed a few items of great value. The door had ornate chrome decoration and large, rounded bars for handles. The decoration served to obscure most of the view through the tinted glass door.
Nevertheless, it was possible to make out movement inside the store. Mac and his men arrived at the same time as the other three policemen. He peered over the still-warm car hood. Through the door he could see shadowy shapes in motion. Their outlines made it clear they were armed. One seemed to be patrolling the store, walking up and down, whirling unexpectedly from time to time as if startled. The other was making his way methodically down the row of display cases.
Filling a sack as he goes, no doubt, thought Mac. He looked more intently through the glass, taking a chance and rising up to get a better view. He quickly ducked down, and motioned the other officers close to him.
“Okay, I think I got the lay,” he said. “Two robbers; one’s grabbing the ice, the other’s guarding the customers and staff. It looks like they’re laying down on the floor.”
Callahan gulped nervously. “Are they dead?” he asked.
“Nah,” replied Mac. “If they were, that second jasper wouldn’t be looking around all the time – he’d be helping his partner load the loot. Our job is to keep them that way.”
“How we going to do that?”
Mac grinned. “Wait till they both come out, then grab ‘em. Remember,” he cautioned the men, “Rowland wants them alive, so easy with the rods, OK?”
The policemen reluctantly nodded their consent.
Suddenly the car radio came to life. “Calling all cars, calling all cars, hold-up in progress at Regent Jewelers, 34th and Park, Repeat, hold-up at Regent Jewelers, 34th and Park. All units respond.”
Callahan looked at MacGuffey with surprise. “That’s just two blocks away! We’ve got to respond.”
MacGuffey glared at the young officer, but he knew Callahan was right. Being the closest unit, they had to respond. But how could they prevent two crimes at once?
Chapter 2 – The law divided
One of the officers keeping tabs on the events inside Barrington’s nudged MacGuffey. “Looks like they’re about through,” he said.
The grizzled detective nodded decisively. “OK, here’s what we do.” He pointed to five of the police gathered around him. “You mugs take the lead patrol car and beat it over to Regents. But no sirens! Sergent Murphy, you’re in charge. Stop the robbery, but capture them alive if you can”
The police sergeant saluted curtly. “Right. Alright, men, let’s go.” He ran down the street with the four other policemen trailing behind him, all keeping low profiles as they hastened towards the patrol car.
“Look sharp, here they come,” called out one of the remaining officers. The silhouettes of the two men filled the door of Bennington’s. MacGuffey grabbed Callahan’s arm.
“A little,” the rookie admitted.
“Just follow my lead, and keep your head down,” Mac said.
The two crooks emerged from the store. Their features were hidden behind bandanas tied across their faces and caps pulled low over their eyes. One man wore a light brown overcoat over a pinstriped suit. The other had coarse black woolen sweater. Each had a bulging valese in one hand and a deadly-looking tommy gun in the other. They stopped short when they spotted the patrol car in the street. With a curse, they swung their weapons up.
“Give up,” shouted MacGuffey, “you haven’t got a chance.”
The crooks opened fire in unison, riddling the side of the patrol car with a hail of lead.
“Open fire,” said Mac, “but shoot to wound. I want those babies alive!”
The policemen’s revolvers spat tentative shots at the crooks. In the polished panels of Bennington’s bulletholes suddenly appeared with spiderweb patterns of cracks radiating out from them. Small shards of black glass sprinkled the street.
The crook with the overcoat dove for cover behind a mailbox on the curb. “Get to the car, Tom!” he barked, as he fired off another burst in the direction of the patrol car.
The man in the pullover jumped to the left and collapsed as a bullet piereced his left leg. Without losing his grip on either his machine gun or his valese, he pulled himself across the sidewalk to a low-slung coupe.
Seeing the wounded gangster move towards the car, Mac’s men redoubled their efforts. An officer leaned over the trunk of the car to get a better shot, and was immediately forced back by a barrage from the overcoated gunman. The sound of the slugs puncturing the metal sides of the patrol car was deafing.
Tom made it to the couple. He dropped his weapon and grabbed the door handle, using it as a grip to pull himself up as the door swung open.
Callahan started pumping shells into the coupe, completely emptying his gun’s chamber. Several of the shots went wild, clipping pieces of masonry off the building behind the vehicle. A few hit home, though. The right headlight disintegrated and sparks flew as two bullets richoted off the radiator grille.
Tom slid into the driver’s seat, his eyes almost level with the dashboard. The windshield sprouted three bullet holes in rapid succession before the glass shatted, spilling into the car. The coupe’s engine roared to life and the vehicle charged forward with an ear-splitting squeal as the rapidly spinning tires grabbed for purchase on the pavement.
The car stopped briefly in front of the mailbox, shielding it – and the gunman behind it – from the vengeful barrage of the police. The man abandoned his ad hoc fort and dove into the car.
Callahan was franticly reloading as Mac and the others fired at the coupe. With the lead patrol car no longer blocking the street, the way was open for the crooks to escape into the city.
“Aim for the tires!” commanded Mac. The officers, no longer pinned down by gunfire, stood and took aim. Most of them only had a shot or two left, and they wanted to make them count.
Then a motion caught Mac’s eye. Looking through the rear window of the coupe into the darkened interior, he saw the second crook swing his machine gun over the back of the set.
“Get down!” screamed Mac, dropping to his heels. At the same moment, Callahan slammed the now fully loaded chamber on his gun shut and jumped up on the running board with a shout of triumph.
The shout was cut short by machine gun fire. The coupe’s rear window exploded outwards and aa deadly rain of lead that cut through the top half of the patrol car like a scythe.
Callahan fell backwards into the street, his arms splayed outwards, his face frozen in a look of surprise. Mac rushed to him, ignoring the coupe that roared off into the late afternoon traffic. He barely heard the desultory shots fired by the policemen at the back of the retreating vehicle as he cradled the young rookie in his arms.
But there was nothing to be done. Callahan had died instantly.
“ Listen, and keep your head down,” whispered Mac, “that’s all you had to do.”
* * *
Murphy and the patrolmen in the lead car sped onto 34th Street. It had been just over a minute since they had left Bennington’s. The driver had kept the accelerator pushed to the floorboard. Murphy glanced around the interior of the car. All the men were alert and ready for action, their guns drawn and ready.
The patrol car took the corner on two wheels. In front of Regency Jewelers, a late model sedan sat idling, its driver scanning the streets as if waiting for something. When the police car appeared, the driver popped the clutch into gear and tromped on the accelerator.
He steered the sedan directly towards the approaching police car. Murphy’s eyes widened with horror as he saw the sedan speed towards them.
“Look out!” he gasped. The patrolman at the wheel desperately hit the brakes, but the police car had too much momentum to stop. The driver of the sedan dove out of the doomed vehicle just in the nick of time and hit the asphalt with a solid smack!
The two cars hurtled together with a terrific crash! Fenders crumpled and metal ground against metal with the impact. The chassis of the patrol car bend upwards, pitching Murphy and his men forward, then up. The car body crumpled in the middle, popping the doors open while pushing the seats together, pinning the men inside.
In a second it was all over. Murphy, dazed from the impact, feebly tried to push himself out of the wrecked patrol car, but to no avail. His chest was held between the dashboard and the back of the front seat like a vice. He could hear moaning behind him, but couldn’t turn his head to see who was making the sound. The police driver was pinned like Murphy. His head was pushed into the steering wheel, and a thin trickle of blood ran down his forehead and past his closed eyes.
Murphy groggily turned his head to look at Regents. The store was only ten feet away – yet for Murphy, helplessly trapped in the wreck of the patrol car, it might as well have been on the moon.
He could only watch helplessly as a gang of five crooks ran out of the store, each of them carrying some swag. A car parked at the end of the block turned over its engine and drove up to the group. Three got in, and two went to help the driver of the sedan. They half carried-half drug him into the car, which then pulled away at a stately pace.
Murphy cursed silently as he watched it travel two blocks, turn left, and disappear behind a row of buildings.
Two robberies within minutes of each other, and each successful! The law had failed to stop this wave of crime.