“Where Harry Met Sally” by Bruce Harris
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, Bruce Harris takes us to an iconic New York deli.
Where Harry Met Sally
by Bruce Harris
Houston Street, Lower East Side, New York, NY
Big Lew’s ample hips flopped over the sides of the wooden chair. The lunch crowd hadn’t yet begun to stream in. Big Lew nervously fingered his ticket. A pastrami sandwich on white bread, ruined with mayonnaise, sat before him. He saw me and waved. I grabbed a ticket from the bored-looking host and sat down. The sandwich looked ridiculous. I’m sure he’d polished off a hot dog or two prior to my arrival.
“Here?” I asked.
Lew shrugged. “What’s wrong with here?”
I said nothing, looked up. Big Lew’s eyes followed my gaze. “Shit,” he said. “Let’s move.” He pointed. “Against the wall—that table’s better.”
He lifted his plate off the table below the round Where Harry met Sally sign and parked at the new spot. “Thanks,” is all he said.
“You’re not Jewish, are you?”
Lew’s cheeks jiggled as he shook his head. “No. Why’d you ask?”
“Forget it.” I glanced around the restaurant. No one was in earshot of us. I raised an eyebrow. Big Lew took the cue.
“Got ’em right here. Like I said, they’re perfect.” He pointed to the sandwich. “Mind if I eat?”
“If you must. Anyway, I’ll be the judge of perfection. Or rather, the cashier.”
Lew downed half the sandwich, then aggressively rubbed his hands against a napkin. He leaned back, reached into his pocket, and dropped two C-notes onto the table. Through lips that appeared to have pastrami grease–coated lipstick: “There, see what I mean? Perfect. One’s real, one isn’t. Can’t tell, right?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “No one can.”
I examined the two bills. “Means nothing that they look good to me. Let’s see what happens when you try to pay.”
Lew held up a fat finger. He jammed two huge bites into his mouth. He barely chewed, swallowed. He slid the Katz’s pink ticket toward me. “Tell you what, use the real hundred and pay for my lunch.” He took my blank ticket and the bogus Ben Franklin. “I’ll tell them I lost the ticket. Happens here all the time. People want to take the tickets home as souvenirs. Costs them fifty bucks. They’re crazy! I’ll pay with the funny homemade bill. Then I’ll introduce you to my boss and we can get down to business.”
I barely had time to say, “Let’s go,” before Lew polished off the sandwich. The cashier grabbed my hundred-dollar bill and swiped it with a counterfeit detection pen. One quick swipe across the bill, satisfied, and she rang me up.
Next it was Lew’s turn. He grabbed a toothpick. “Lost my ticket,” he informed her.
“Fifty dollars for a lost ticket.”
“Really?” Lou feigned surprise.
“How do you like that.” It wasn’t a question. Lew handed her the fake hundred as he worked the toothpick between his teeth.
The cashier swiped the bill, nodded, and placed it into the cash register. “Next!”
On Houston Street, Lew handed me the blank Katz’s ticket and the fifty dollars change. “A souvenir from our little business meeting. Satisfied now?” He wasn’t very good with the toothpick. A piece of pastrami remained wedged between his two front teeth.
“And I have a souvenir for you, Lew.” It was the cashier. She grabbed his arms and placed them in handcuffs. “You’re under arrest for passing counterfeit currency.”
“What the? You sons of bitches!”
I introduced the cashier and myself. “Lew, I’m Detective Steve Goodman, and this is Detective Shelly Steele. New York City Police.” I showed him my badge. Shelly did the same.
After a patrol car carted Lew away, Steele and I went back into Katz’s for lunch. We each took tickets and headed toward the pastrami lines. “I’m starved,” I said. I reached into my wallet and withdrew Lew’s fifty-dollar bill and dropped it into the pastrami cutter’s tip dish.
Two young girls taking more selfies than bites of their food vacated the Harry met Sally table. Shelly and I cleaned it off and sat down. My sandwich was fifty times thicker than Shelly’s. “Little trick I learned long ago: big tip, big sandwich.”
“So, how are we going to get to Lew’s boss? Will Lew talk?” Shelly asked.
I tapped the ticket against the table, turned, and looked up and down the long, bustling counter. “How many items you think they serve here?”
Shelly looked confused. “I don’t know, a hundred maybe?”
“Close enough. I’ll give you a hundred reasons how we’ll get Big Lew talking.”
BRUCE HARRIS is the author of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: ABout Type.
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 [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Jun 13, 2016
Category: Mondays Are Murder | Tags: Mondays Are Murder, Noir Series, New York, flash fiction, New York City, NYC, Bruce Harris, Lower East Side, Where Harry Met Sally, Houston Street, Katz's Delicatessen, When Harry Met Sally
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