My Book Excerpts

Death On West Forty-Eighth St.


In Manhattan, 6883 miles from Islamabad, the night barely holds along west Forty-Eighth Street, while not yet ready to surrender to the arrows of early morning light that will pierce and reduce the last of it’s shadows. The rain that has drifted away has thoroughly rinsed Hell’s Kitchen’s streets and all that move upon them. The hissing wheels of a car heading south on Ninth Avenue spatters a resentful cat that hisses back. The white Dodge Charger, with the bold NYPD decorating it’s panels, turns east onto Forty-Eighth where two sad ladies in hotpants, whose business has been dampened by the downpour, are anxious to leave, like Transylvanian creatures fearing they’ll be withered by dawn’s first glow.

The two, one black, one white, guessing apartment dwellers have complained, step back into a darkened doorway on the south side as the patrol car approaches, safely concealed as it passes. The ladies remain this way for some time, wise to the ways of cops who sometimes circle back for a second look. Some cops ignore them as part of the scenery, others harass; sometimes according to mood, the ladies believe.

Moments later they observe a black Cadillac as it streams smoothly into Forty-Eighth and parallel parks near a doorway across from them. A passenger door opens and a tall woman lurches unsteadily between parked cars to the sidewalk. The door slams shut as the car pulls away in a hurry and disappears east. She is tipsy as she staggers and balances with effort, does a little dance on clicking spiked heels while she searches her purse for keys.

The black lady of the night nudges the other, who stifles a laugh and whispers, “Look!” when she spies a man moving along the wall toward the unsteady woman. “What’s he doin’, slinkin’ like that?” whispers the one who nudged, and they press back trying to sink farther into the recess of the door.

The woman finds her keys, selects the right one and jabs four or five times at the keyhole before finally inserting it and turning the lock. She leans on the door to open it at the same moment she is confronted by this man who comes at her fast with a raised handgun; yet she flails in fear with energetic speed, startling him, her purse striking the gun as it fires a silenced round. Struck, she spins to the ground between the door and the jam, propping it ajar. She struggles and groans until he covers her mouth with a gloved hand, restrains her thus and places a second round into her temple, ending whatever she was in this world. He then reaches into her purse, removes her wallet, takes some money, takes two credit cards, leaves a third exposed on the body, drops the wallet nearby.

Terrified, the watchers are careful not to scream. Abruptly leaving cover they head east while attempting unsuccessfully to sprint on wobbly three-inch heels. They finally remove them to run and skip and hop in pain with softly uttered “Ooo”s and “Oh”s and “Shit,” in stockinged feet, and remembering the cops they frantically try all the front doors until, mercifully, they find one that is unlocked.

At the moment the gunman spies the escaping ladies, the patrol car makes its leisurely swing back into the side street. One can imagine two yawning patrolmen in the early hours of this morning, thinking of bed, suddenly more alert and focusing on the two women at the same instant the gunmen observes them, sees their running, stumbling disappearance through the doorway, sees the cops, while the cops remain unaware they are panicking this assassin who, having no other options, steps over his victim and slips inside the door to her building. Understandably curious as to why the hookers have been running, the cops pull up to the building and exit their car as a brilliant sliver of sun burns the rim of Queens, shatters the dawn, and sends its first shafts of light west across Forty-Eighth Street.

(To reach my HOME PAGE: hover & click the America, America… title atop this page.) COMMENTS are welcome, below.

Martin J. Ryan

Categories: My Book Excerpts

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