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News & Features » June 2017 » “The Fall” by Nathan Ward

“The Fall” by Nathan Ward

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, Nathan Ward takes us on a deadly ride through Central Park.

20100207_nathan_ward_0134-6-200x300The Fall
by Nathan Ward
Central Park, 1979, New York, NY 

A riderless horse clopping with hungry purpose down the block was not such a rare sight on that part of the West Side then. Especially if your windows looked toward the river and the Jersey horizon. Every so often, a mount dumped its rider in the park near the end of day, scraping the victim off its back on a low-hanging tree limb or antique footbridge, or increasing to a bumpy trot beneath a novice who had missed a stirrup. Then the big stray might burst from between stands of bushes at Mariner’s Gate, the sight quieting awed drivers in their cars as it crossed Central Park West to trot the few blocks to the fragrant old stables and its feedbag.

The Post confirmed that this particular thrown rider was named Noah Hedrick. In his hospital picture, Hedrick had a sickly tanned drinker’s face. Imagine him driving into town that day feeling the tax base bumpily change as his aged grey Mercedes rolled across the county line. After parking the car, he had taken a horse out from the 89th street stable in the mid-afternoon. 

According to Hedrick, his wife had enjoyed a ride in the park in the plummy days when they first met. It was how people might run into each other in an old movie, she told him, Cary Grant untangling the reins of Carol Lombard’s horse from a thicket along the cinder path. As he toured alone beneath the park’s high green canopy Hedrick toasted her with a small flask he carried in his coat. 

The horse, which he’d seen as a broken-down veteran, began trotting unexpectedly as he neared one of the shaded pedestrian bridges. Then, as Hedrick fumbled away his flask, the animal veered right, away from the high center of the arch and toward the stone curve of the bridge, which clipped him on the head and dragged him off his saddle.  When he woke, the sun was no longer above the trees, there was a strong pain in his right arm, sacrificed in the fall, and a feeling in his brain like a cat was settling there that could not get comfortable. The horse was long gone when a jogger found Hedrick before he again passed out.

He next woke in Roosevelt Hospital, where his cracked elbow was splinted, and a woman with an affectless Russian voice gave him a test with electrodes clamped to strands of his silver hair. Why was he here? he demanded in the dark, what did they want from him?  He reached up and felt the wires she had attached to his head, heard his interrogator’s accented commands. Why was he here? he asked again louder, panic clearly rising. After the woman rushed in and flicked on the lights, he began telling her what he assumed they wanted to hear, his hands and voice shaking, the technician trying to calm him and remove the electrodes, but it was too late.  After several minutes, she shouted down the hall for help to keep Mr. Hedrick, who was crying now, from jumping off the table. But staff people from around the floor were already at the door, drawn by all the noise. 

Hedrick looked up, his eyes red, his hand soft and blood-swollen as he offered it to Doctor Gorham, who shooed everyone else from the room.

“That goddamn horse threw me.”

“Yes,” said Dr. Gorham, smiling. “But he seems to have got home safe.” 

“This one here’s a spy, you know,” Hedrick nodded conspiratorially toward the technician.

“Are you sure?” asked Dr. Gorham.

“Oh yes. She got it out of me about my plan to honor my wife.”

“Honor?”

“By taking my ride in the park.”

“Is your wife back home?  Should we call her?” 

“No, they shouldn’t call her.” Hedrick went on. “I left her asleep. She’s been very sick but now she’s asleep.” 

Dr. Gorham sighed before speaking. “I’m sorry, Mr. Hedrick, but I don’t think you should tell me any more.” He signaled through the glass window for the technician, who stuck her head around the door. “Call the Katonah police,” the doctor whispered. “I believe he’s killed his wife.” 

***

NATHAN WARD is the author of a crime history called Dark Harbor: The War for the New York Waterfront (FSG/Picador), as well as The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett (Bloomsbury), which was nominated for an Edgar Award in 2016.

***

Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jun 12, 2017

Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



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