“Trouble on the East Side” by Howard Gimple
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, Howard Gimple gets political.
Brigid Quinlan clutched the corduroy sleeve of Russell Townsend’s blazer and sneered at the herd of journalists being restrained by two burly policemen. She smiled smugly as she and Townsend breezed past them. “Fuck you all,” she whispered under her breath.
“Excuse me, Miss Quinlan, did you say something?”
“I said, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ for giving me this opportunity.”
A handful of demonstrators held signs demanding the elimination of America’s nuclear arsenal. Next to them, a small cluster of onlookers gathered to get a glimpse of America’s latest media phenomenon.
Halfway down the block, a bicycle messenger straddled his bike. He wore a black teardrop helmet and wraparound goggles.
The object of everyone’s interest was the former Assistant Director of the U.S. Nuclear Command turned outspoken anti-nuclear crusader. Tall and gangly with a permanent ‘aw shucks’ expression and a nest of wavy orange hair, the Harvard-educated physicist from Augusta, Kentucky was charming, articulate, and controversial—in short, the answer to journalists’ prayers during a slow news season.
He had just climaxed a rousing speech in the United Nations’ General Assembly that received a thunderous ovation from everyone in the room. Everyone except the U.S. ambassador.
Before she began her interview, Brigid positioned Townsend so that the U.N. building would be the backdrop of the shot. She gave the thumbs-up sign to her cameraman.
“This is Brigid Quinlan at the U.N. with Russell Townsend. That was quite an ovation you just received from the General Assembly, Mr. Townsend. What do you plan to do for an encore?”
“It wasn’t me they were applauding, it was my message. Right now, there’s enough nuclear material in America’s silos to destroy every living thing on this planet five hundred times over, yet the United States is one of the few countries who refuse to sign a pledge to eliminate or even reduce its nuclear stockpile. In fact, Congress just earmarked sixty-five billion dollars to update it. Tomorrow I’m going to Washington, and if they won’t listen to me inside Congress, I’ll speak outside the Capitol every day until they do.”
The bike messenger swerved around the barricade and stopped in front of them, blocking the camera. Brigid turned off her mic, glared at him and screamed, “What the hell do you think you’re doing!”
The messenger produced a large silver-plated pistol. Gripping it in both hands, his legs astride the bike, he fired four shots in quick succession. Then a fifth rang out. Townsend fell. Then Brigid.
Women screamed. Men shouted. Children cried. Some people dropped to the ground. Others ran for cover. Several police officers drew their weapons but held fire—too many bystanders in the way.
The shooter dropped the gun on the sidewalk, wheeled his bike around, pedaled furiously down First Avenue, then headed west across Forty-Fourth Street. For the police, pursuit was not an option. They were stuck behind the hysterical, panic-stricken crowd.
The gunman weaved in and out of traffic, riding the wrong way down one-way streets, changing direction every few blocks until he was sure no one was following.
He stopped in front of a small office building on Fifth Avenue and Thirty-third Street, one of the few buildings in the area without security guards. He left his bike leaning against a “No Parking” sign, stepped through the revolving doors, and headed for the men’s room in the rear of the lobby. Locking himself in one of the stalls, he peeled off his bicycle jersey and tights, and put on the navy blue jogging suit and baseball cap that were in his backpack.
He headed toward Thirty-second Street, tossed the backpack into a dumpster, and walked west. The street was packed with people, many wearing tennis gear. The marquee of Madison Square Garden up ahead of him read, “Tournament Players Championship—Tennis’s Ultimate Test.”
Just before he got to the ticket booth, he slipped through a side exit and down two flights of stairs to a door marked “Players Entrance.” A beefy security guard stood in front of it, glaring at him menacingly.
“Hi, Lenny, how are you?”
“Oh, hello, Mr. Marks. You better hurry. They were looking for you a couple of minutes ago. It’s almost time for your match.”
“Trouble on the east side. My cab got stuck and I had to jog the last few blocks.” He fist bumped the guard and walked quickly into the locker room.
HOWARD GIMPLE recently left his position as senior writer for the Stony Brook University alumni magazine and website to pursue writing fiction full time. While at Stony Brook, he taught two freshman seminars: “Rock & Relevance,” about the political influence of ’60s rock ‘n’ roll, and “Filthy Shakespeare,” exploring the dramatic use of sexual puns and innuendos in the plays of William Shakespeare. Prior to that, he was a writer at Newsday and an advertising copywriter. Born in Flatbush, the heart of Brooklyn, Howard now lives on the north shore of Long Island with his wife Chris and his two goldendoodles, Brinkley and Mia.
Posted: Oct 21, 2015