The following post, by Geoffrey Jason Kagan Trenchad, is the ninth installment of 10, 12th Street Online’s first serial novel. Last semester, five authors were asked to write two chapters each, not knowing what their fellow authors would write until the previous chapters were published.

The story of a bat mitzvah and a marriage gone bad has morphed into a murder mystery. You can read the first eight installments here. Be sure to check in next Monday for the conclusion. You might be asking what we’re asking: how will they wrap this up?

From: (Mike Lowry)

To: (Mike Lowry)

Re: Case # 120-9

Nov 3 2008 3:14 PM

Subject exits Whole Earth Montessori School, 277 E. 78th St.

Subject wears red backpack, brown shoes, tan pea coat, green scarf

Subject walks south on Lex

Enters 77th St. subway stop

< Sent from my iPhone >

 

From: (Mike Lowry)

To: (Mike Lowry)

Re: Case # 120-9

Nov 3 2008 3:46 PM

Subject boarded 6 train approx 3:16 PM

Transfered at Grand Central to 4 express approx 3:31 PM

Exits Union Square in front Virgin Megastore

Walks N thru park

Enters B&N bookstore

Escalator to 4th floor

Takes copy of Watchman graphic novel from shelf

Escalator to 3rd floor

Buys hot chocolate at café 

Sits at table in front of window

< Sent from my iPhone >

 * * * * * 

Mike thanks God for living in the future. Back when he started, he had to take all his notes by hands. If it was a car watch, no big deal. But a foot follow, it gets to be a pain in the ass trying to write down everything but not look like your writing everything down. These days he just e-mails himself. Time and date recorded without ever having to check a watch. And these days everybody’s shuffling their thumbs. He can be standing in the magazine aisle of a bookstore between Modern Bride and Soldier of Fortune monitoring all movements of a subject without looking suspicious at all.

Jeremi is at the part of Watchman where the bad guy reveals how he did it. How the master plan was conceived of and executed. There is a flashback and a voiceover. A series of panels show a man falling out of a window. The ground gets closer and closer in each frame. The good guys tell him he must be stopped but they don’t realize it’s too late.

* * * * *

From: (Mike Lowry)

To: (Mike Lowry)

Re: Case # 120-9

Nov 3 2008 5:21 PM

Subject exits B&N main doors

Turns right on 17th St., westbound

Turns left on 7th Ave., southbound

Walks to 14th St. subway stop

< Sent from my iPhone >

 * * * * * 

 

Mike thinks this is stupid. He can’t let it end like this. They were married for Christ’s sake. Still are, sort of. They made promises in front of God and everybody.

He remembers how she looked walking down the aisle, like a movie star, so beautiful it didn’t seem real. He had balled up his toes into a little foot fists to keep his leg from shaking, just like his dad told him to do.

Even if it’s over, it doesn’t have to be like this, he thinks. They can be civil. This is not a Dashiell Hammett novel. He is not Sam Spade. He is a real private investigator.

He does not need to have a spurned ex.

He is a real private investigator who is stalking a 12-year-old prep school kid that doesn’t have the body mass to throw another boy of comparable size off a balcony. Especially if that balcony has a rail that comes up to near the boy’s shoulders. It’s simply a question of leverage.

Yes, Mike is a real private investigator who is making his rent this month taking money from a clearly depressed and desperate father who is willing to drain his dead child’s college fund to find out why he died. A client that will not take a simple suicide for an answer.

* * * * *

From: (Mike Lowry)

To: (Mike Lowry)

Re: Case # 120-9

Nov 3 2008 6:11 PM

Subject goes N on 1 train, last car

Exits 103 St.

Subject walks E to Amsterdam

Turns left

Subject enters parent’s house

1038 Amsterdam Ave., Jessup Building.

< Sent from my iPhone >

 

From: (Mike Lowry)

To: (Katherine Brenerton-Lowry)

Re: hey

Nov 3 2008 7:23 PM

hey, sorry about the other day. can we get dinner? drink later?

< Sent from my iPhone >

 

From: (Mike Lowry)

To: (Katherine Brenerton-Lowry)

Re: hey

Nov 3 2008 8:45 PM

seriously. let me make it up to you. just a drink.

< Sent from my iPhone >

 

From: (Mike Lowry)

To: (Katherine Brenerton-Lowry)

Re: hey

Nov 3 2008 9:52 PM

make your paranoid husband feel better. just tell me to go to hell.

 < Sent from my iPhone >

 

From: (Mike Lowry)

To: (Katherine Brenerton-Lowry)

Re: hey

Nov 3 2008 9:53 PM

you could just get old school and tell me to 7734209. ;]

< Sent from my iPhone >

* * * * * 

 

Mike knows he shouldn’t be here. He knows that just because she didn’t return his e-mails, it doesn’t mean something’s up. He’s walking down Katherine’s hallway, half expecting to see her turn the corner. Fuck, that would be awkward. What’s he gonna say if he sees her? What if she’s with a date? Shit, he thinks, she’s still using my name. If that was worth something to the doorman, it should be worth something to whatever guy she’s…

Mike reaches her apartment and the door’s an inch ajar. He knocks firmly on the frame.

“Hello? Anybody home?”

No answer.

This is a bad idea, he thinks as he enters. In the doorway he tries to reach with his ears, but there is no noise. He takes a few more steps. The coffee table has been pushed off center and the lamp is tipped. An arc of blood is splattered against the wall leading to the bedroom.

Every nerve in Mike’s body is screaming to get out of there. He very much regrets leaving his gun at home. The blood splatters get thicker the farther he gets down the hall. The door to the bedroom is half open. He pushes the door open with the tip of his shoe. The blankets and sheets have been ripped off the bed. The mattress is covered with a puddle of blood. His wife’s body is sitting against their old headboard. Her head is in her lap.

 


The following post, by Geoffrey Jason Kagan Trenchad, is the fourth installment of 10, 12th Street Online’s first serial novel. You can read the first three chapters here. We’ll be publishing a new chapter each week.

Katherine said it was gonna be slow this winter, but Michael was optimistic. His band, The Black Maria, had just opened for Hold Steady at the Bowery Ballroom. Greg Finn, Hold Steady’s lead singer, said he loved ’em and Mike figures if he plays his cards right he might have a tour lined up to cover December’s bills, and maybe a little extra for January. God bless Katherine, he thought. It was a rare and precious thing to find a catering company owner in this city who understood it was not, in fact, your life’s mission to carry champagne trays or fill amuse-bouche soup glasses or pour gallons of fucking Diet Coke at an uptown bat mitzvah way too early on a Sunday.

Mike is just at the point where playing music is almost enough to meet the rent and pay bills on time. But every second he’s not on stage or in the studio, he’s tending to The Black Maria’s MySpace page. Or sending out links to demos. Or calling some promoter about money they owe. Or a million other less than glamorous tasks that he never thought would be part of the whole struggling-rock-star gig when he was in high school. Not that he’s complaining. He can’t afford to buy his girl the perfume that she likes, but he lives in New York fucking City and he plays music to make most of his living and that, too, is a rare and precious thing. 

Besides, the job that fills in when the T-shirts don’t sell isn’t that bad. Sometimes it’s just pouring sodas for seventh-grade girls who think the tattoos creeping out from the cuff of your work shirt are the coolest thing they’ve ever seen. Sometimes you get to take home an extra gift bag because one of the guests didn’t show and it just happens to have a bottle of Lolita. Sometimes your boss, who is the nicest white woman you have ever worked for, takes your tray of brownies and sends you on a smoke break.

In the hallway out to the elevator Mike passes the most distraught preteen boy in all of Manhattan, which put him in high running for the most distraught preteen boy in the world. Mike remembers how utterly trapped it felt to be that age. He had read a story on the train this morning about a girl who shot another girl in the face. They were in the seventh grade, and up until recently had been best friends. Broken-heart necklaces and all. Mike thinks about all the times he thought of doing something like that, or worse, and is so glad he just buried his face deeper into sci-fi novels and the soundproofing he put up in his room. He plotted and schemed like an arch criminal to save his money and not get strung out or get anyone pregnant, and he made for damn sure he got the fuck out of his small town if it was that last thing he did. Good luck to you, he thinks, saddest little preteen boy in Manhattan.

Mike rolls a cigarette while he walks through the lobby to the front door. He flicks the loose tobacco stuck to the calluses on the fingers of his chord hand. There’s a bad cut on his index finger that he sealed last night with crazy glue, but now it’s opening back up. Mike starts to scroll though the favorite numbers saved in his cell phone. Thinking about how he’s gonna tell his girl how he got to work OK and on time, despite the hangover and subway fuck-ups. How the Jonas Brothers are setting up for their very special acoustic set for a very special birthday princess, and he’s happier than a puppy with three dicks to be outside and on the phone. How he loves her so much sometimes he just aches for enough ways to say it.

Mike thinks about saying all of this as he steps out from under the awning to light his cigarette. He realizes, flicking the lighter faster and faster as he curses at it, will not in fact, make it work. Mike closes the phone, goes inside to borrow a book of matches from the concierge, steps back out from under the awning and hits send. On the fourth ring a body smashes face first into the sidewalk in front of him. There’s not much blood at first, but the thud of impact is accompanied by an eerie cracking of bones that ripples through the cold November air. When the blood does start to creep toward his feet, he can’t seem to move out of the way. Clare says, “Hey baby, hello, can you hear me?” Mike quietly mumbles, “Oh my god oh my god oh my god.”

The call drops and Clare is unsure what to do. Should she call back or wait for Mike to call her back? The last thing she wants is for him to try to call her while she’s trying to call him, and for them to get caught in a purgatory of busy signals. She takes the stack of poems she was grading, the ones by the students in her gifted and talented program, off her lap. On the top is a poem from Jeremi about cars. She knew it was going to be terrible and is more than a little relieved to be interrupted. Somewhere in the pile underneath is a poem by Ballard about birds that she won’t read until after she hears the news. Clare puts the whole stack on the nightstand next to her bed. She lights a well-rolled joint that hangs out the corner of her mouth. She paces from the living room to the kitchen and tries to call Mike back.