Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nanowrimo - Halfway through, and halfway there

Today marks the halfway point for the National November Writing Month challenge. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I've done this before, and every year the experience has been a little bit different (I'm hoping that these experiences will collectively make me a better writer).

This year, the words have just flowed. I've been diligently writing every morning, and in an hour and half session manage about 16,000 words -- a little over 500 words a half hour. And halfway through the challenge, I've written 25,188 words. So I'm right on track.

Of course, this is a challenge about quantity, not quality. I suspect when I get finished, I'll have a solid 30,000 word book buried in there somewhere. But that's alright. Because one of the points of this event is to turn off the internal editor that blocks the free flow of ideas and just get them out on  paper (or screen) to work with.

"The Crime Broker" is significantly off track from my outline. Oh, I'll hit the key points -- but characters have blended together, events have shifted around, and one of the recurring characters in this series I wanted to use just doesn't seem to fit in with the story as its moving right now.

To celebrate the halfway point, here's the chapter I just finished. If you check the outline, you'll see it's not there. But it does continue the thread started by the arrival of Ned Callahan. Gosh, I wonder how it will all end....

(Remember: this is a first draft with no edits. Also, this is an homage to the pulp adventure magazines of the 1930's so picture the action taking place in the New York City of the old black-and-white gangster movies.)

The Crime Broker
by Ralph Graves

Chapter 14 – Desperate Race

Raven slipped into the dark alley across the street from Palentino’s apartment. He had waited until the three thugs had departed. He heard a soft footfall behind him. It was Crow.

“I couldn’t signal the last part of the plan,” he said, not turning around. 

Crow came up behind him. “I contacted MacGuffey,” Crow said, “He’s ready and waiting.”

“Not for what’s coming,” replied Raven. “C’mon. I’ll fill you in. We’ve got to stop an ambulance!”

MacGuffey had hand-picked each man who accompanied him that evening. Every one a seasoned veteran of the force. When he captured the man who killed Ned Callahan, he didn’t want any slip-ups – or any more fatalities.

The trucks were to travel a winding route to the garment district. MacGuffey was familiar with the area the hijacking was to take place. It was an industrial area, with blocks of light manufacturing and warehouses. Plenty of places to hide in ambush, and plenty of large, double-door structures that could hide away the stolen trucks.

The truck he was riding jostled him gently as it moved down the street. Mac had to concede that Palentino had a good plan – but he had a better one.

Two black roadsters sped towards Bankroft Memorial Hospital. In the front car was Raven. He had been unable to reach Mac, and with the lead Tom and Butch had, the only option was to intercept them. Crow drove the second. The two didn’t really have a plan – but years of training had attuned the two so that they worked as a team even in the most surprising of circumstances.

Raven glanced at the dashboard’s clock. 7:10. Within five minutes Butch and Tom were scheduled to steal the ambulance, and he and Crow were still seven minutes away! Raven’s foot bore down on the gas pedal. He wove the roadster through the slow-moving traffic with the expert handling of a race  car driver. Crow remained right on his tail.

Soon the small hospital was insight. Jut one block more! As Raven approached the intersection, he saw an ambulance lurch out of the emergency exit and careen into the streets. It zoomed through the intersection, against the light. Tires squealed as surprised motorists slammed on their breaks. The ambulance made a hard right, and rocketed down a side street, its siren clearing the way ahead of it.

“Could it be – ?” Raven asked himself as the ambulance  sped past him. As if to answer, an orange flame sputtered from the right side of the ambulance, and storefront windows collapsed, their shattered glass cascading into the streets.

Raven flashed his lights and turned left in pursuit. Crow caught the signal and sped straight through the intersection and up a block. There he turned left as well, tearing down the parallel street at a breakneck pace.

The wailing siren of the runaway ambulance attracted the attention of pedestrians – the ugly snout of the machine gun sticking out the cab window sent them scurrying for cover. Tom laughed as he sprayed slugs out over the sidewalk.

Palentino dropped his cigarette to the cement floor of the warehouse and crushed it with his foot. The lookout at the dirt-encrusted window had just given him the high sign.

“OK, you mugs, pile in,” he said. The mobsters clambered into the two panel vans parked inside the warehouse. The lookout opened the warehouse doors, and hopped aboard the second van as it drove out into the street.

The large transports carrying the furs were easy to spot. They lumbered slowly up the block. Their sides bore the markings of a large trucking company, but Palentino had been given the truck numbers – the white numerals above the cabs told him these were the right ones.

The driver of the front transport saw two small panel vans approach on the left. In this area, trucks of all sizes were a common sight, but forewarned of the hijacking, he eyed the approaching vehicles with suspicion.

One pulled in line behind the two fur transports and the other swerved out and roared past the large trucks and slipped back into the lane just ahead of them.  The parade of four trucks continued for another block. At this point, the street narrowed. Once the trailing van had past the intersection, Palentino struck.

The lead van suddenly whipped to the left and stopped, completely blocking the street. The other van did the same. Armed men piled out of both vehicles. All had caps pulled down over their foreheads, with dark bandanas tied across the lower half of their faces.

The drivers of the two transports had no choice but to stop their vehicles. Even if the lead truck had smashed into the van blocking the street, at the slow rate of speed it was traveling, it couldn’t push the smaller truck aside and break free from the trap.

Brandishing their weapons, the robbers swarmed over the stalled convoy. Automatics were thrust through the cab windows. The drivers, with arms raised, were pulled from the trucks while gang members slide into their seats. The transport drivers were each slugged in the back of the head, and abandoned by the gang as they scurried back to their waiting van.

The bodies slumped to the pavement as the trucks were kicked back into gear. With sure command, the driver of the lead van whipped the vehicle back into the street and lead the three other trucks down the block.

At the next block, the van turned left into the waiting open doors of an abandoned warehouse. The two transport trucks roared in after them. The trailing van followed, and when it had cleared the entrance, the doors slid shut.

Within two minutes it was all over. Crime had struck, and a fortune in valuable furs had seemingly disappeared into thin air!

Raven cursed and tromped the accelerator to the floorboard. The roadster leaped forward with a sudden burst of speed. In a nondescript garage near the East Side, Raymond and Carlton maintained a special fleet of vehicles for Raven’s use. The roadsters that Raven and Crow drove in pursuit of the ambulance seemed to be ordinary cars, but inside their hoods were powerful motors designed for terrific speeds.

Within moments Raven was directly behind the ambulance. The white juggernaut hurtled down the avenue with seeming abandon, occasionally whipping into oncoming traffic, forcing cars to vere aside. A few hopped the curb, and one crashed into a street lamp, causing further mayhem.

When the ambulance next moved to the left to panic oncoming traffic, Raven made his move. His roadster surged ahead, to run parallel to the ambulance.

In the cab of the ambulance, Butch drove with intense concentration. Although causing accidents, he had kept the vehicle from being involved with one. But his skillful driving occupied all his attention.

Tom, on the other hand, seemingly enjoyed the wild ride with abandon. He had emptied his tommy gun indiscriminately out the side of the cab, punching holes in parked cars, chipping pavement and smashing windows. He hadn’t wounded a pedestrian yet, but hoped to have better luck with his next round of ammunition.

He laughed crazily as snapped the drum magazine into place on his smoking machine gun.

“Some fun, eh?” Tom shouted to Butch. Butch grunted. He swerved again into oncoming traffic and saw in the rear view mirror a dark roadster move to his right. Tom saw the roadster pull alongside just as he slung his tommy gun up. He aimed the weapon at the driver of the roadster.

His laughter abruptly cut short. As the two vehicles raced down the street, Tom could clearly see the face of the driver. He recognized the peculiar blue-black jacket and the black turtleneck sweater. He recognized the black, bushy hair and walrus mustache of the man. But more, he recognized the cold, steely gaze of Raven.

With a snarl, Tom pulled the trigger of his machine gun. Slugs splayed off the side of the roadster, and he realized in surprise that it was armored! He aimed a second burst straight at the face of Raven, smouldering with fury. The glass of the roadster’s door scratched and starred, but didn’t break.

Through the marred surface of the bullet-proof glass Tom could still see those cold eyes.

He turned to Butch. “It’s Raven! We gotta get outta here.”

Butch nodded and shifted gears. The ambulance started to pull slightly ahead.  Tom watched in horror as Raven calmly matched the vehicle’s speed, then turn slowly to the left. The roadster’s fenders ground against the side of the ambulance, sending off showers of sparks.

Butch fought desperately for control, trying to push the ambulance to the right. Raven gave ground, and the ambulance moved out of oncoming traffic. But the two vehicles remained locked together. Butch pulled the wheel to the right, hoping to force Raven into the curb. The roadster maintained its course.

He tried again, but without success. The two vehicles hurtled down the avenue at top speed, side by side. They neared an intersection. “Take a left here!” Tom said. “We’ve got to shake this guy!”

Butch nodded again, and crossed his arms over each other. When they reached the intersection, he would be prepared to spin the steering wheel, causing the ambulance to veer off suddenly – hopefully too suddenly for Raven to react.

Though the crooks had forgotten the ambulance’s sirens on, the wailing had helped clear the streets. Hearing the klaxon call, drivers had left the intersection open for the oncoming ambulance. As it entered the intersection, Raven stomped on the brakes. The roadster dropped away from ambulance.

Tom shouted a cry of triumph and Butch readied himself to make the turn. As he began to do so, he saw movement on his left. Another dark roadster came barreling down the side street.

There was no time to react. Butch saw the driver’s side door pop open and a figure roll out, then the roadster smashed into the ambulance, just as it turned into the path of the oncoming car.

The impact crumpled the front of the ambulance and sent it spinning clockwise back into the intersection. The roadster stopped cold, its radiator collapsed into the motor. Butch was hurtled across the cab by the impact, smashing into Tom who in turn was crushed against the right door.

The ambulance continued its spin, pivoting on its right rear wheel. As the tire ground against the pavement, it exploded, dropping the rear of the ambulance. The white juggernaut tilted slightly, then fell on its side as it completed the spin.

Raven’s roadster skidded to a halt halfway into the intersection. It had taken all of Crow’s skill to leap from his car and land in the street without injury. As his vehicle had crashed into the ambulance, he had rolled to the curb and onto his feet in one smooth motion. Without pause, he ran into the intersection and past the wreck.

A quick glance confirmed that both Butch and Tom were out cold. The distinct wail of a police siren meant the authorities were on their way. Crow ran to Raven’s car.

Just as the stunned onlookers began to react to the crash, Crow opened the door of the waiting roadster, and climbed in as the car roared off. Crime had been blocked!

Inside the warehouse, Palentino was giving orders. He had the transports pull alongside two other large trucks already parked in the cavernous structure.

“OK, boys, make it snappy. Get them bolt cutters and let’s get the locks off of those doors. We need to get them furs out of those trucks and into ours pronto. I want to be long gone before the cops start searching the neighborhood.”

Almost at the same moment, the bolt cutters bit through the links and the ruined locks clattered on the concrete floor of the warehouse. The crooks threw open the doors of the hijacked trucks. Palentino beheld the sight with satifaction. Rich, luxurious furs and ermines hung in racks, filling each truck.

His face broke out into a large, satisfied grin. A grin that quickly faded. Emerging from the forest of furs came uniformed policemen, armed with machine guns and riot guns. A grizzled plainclothes detective with unruly red hair stepped out from behind a fur coat, a large revolver gripped in his hand. His face was hard.

“You’re all under arrest,” he said in a quiet, menacing voice. Mac glared at Palentino and leveled his revolver at the crook. “You’d better come along quietly, because I am looking for any excuse to shoot you down the way you did Ned Callahan.”

Palentino blanched, and he slowly raised his hands. Sensing that Mac was deadly serious, the other crooks did the same.


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