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News & Features » January 2017 » “Pre-flight Checkmate” by Howard Gimple

“Pre-flight Checkmate” 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 takes a short flight in a private jet.

howardgimplePre-flight Checkmate
by Howard Gimple
LaGuardia Airport, Queens, NY

Wearing a blue TSA uniform, a LaGuardia Airport security badge, and large, wraparound dark glasses, Jay drove to the south runway, where Morrison and his pilot were preparing for a pre-dawn flight. He stepped out of the Jeep, holding a leather carryall.

“Are either of you are the owner of this plane?”

“This is my plane.” Morrison tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice.

“I have to inspect the aircraft.”

“Can’t this wait? I’m Undersecretary Richard Morrison. I have a nine o’clock meeting in Washington with the Vice President.”

“This’ll only take a few minutes.”

“If I’m late, it’ll be your job.”

“Then we should hurry.”

“What’s your name?”

“My report will have all the information you need.”

Morrison motioned to his pilot. “Cliff, show this officious idiot what he wants to see.”

“Sorry, sir. It must be the registered owner.”

Morrison grunted and stormed up the steps. Jay followed. He reached into a pocket by the door and thrust a folder at Jay.


“Into the cockpit, if you don’t mind.”

“I do mind!” But he walked into the pilot’s chamber.

“Sit behind the controls.”

Morrison turned and glared at Jay. “I will not. Show me your identification right now.”

Jay leveled a Sig P238 at Morrison’s head. “Sit down and start the engine.”

“Who are you?” Morrison stammered. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead.

“I’m the person who will put a large hole in your forehead unless you start the engine right now.”

Morrison switched on the controls. The Beechjet Hawker roared ferociously to life. “All right. Now what do you want?”

“I want you to fly this plane.”

“I can’t pilot an aircraft anymore. I have a heart problem.”

“You’ve got a bigger problem if you don’t. Take it up!”

Once airborne, Morrison said, “Shoot me and we both go down in flames. Now what the hell do you want?”

Jay took off his glasses. “I want to know why you killed my grandfather.”

“Jay Marks? Have you gone insane?”

“Hello, Cousin Richard.”

“You think I killed Danny?”

“I read his manuscript. Your career will be ruined if that book gets published.”

“There were three senators and several organized crime figures mentioned. Any of them could have ordered your grandfather’s murder.”

“How do you know who was mentioned in the book? It was stolen the day Danny died.”

“Of course I read the book. A man in my position has a duty to read everything potentially harmful to him.”

“That still doesn’t explain how you saw it.”

“I had it stolen the minute I heard your grandfather had died. That doesn’t mean I killed him.”

“Then who did?”

“I have no idea. But when I find out, I’ll have to remember to thank him.”

Morrison put the plane on autopilot, turned and glared at Jay.

“We could have discussed this over lunch at my club and avoided all this foolish derring do,” the trademark Morrison smirk was now firmly etched on his face. “But I see you inherited your grandfather’s penchant for brash action without any forethought. This could result in some very serious charges when we land. But if you put the gun down now, we’ll continue on to Washington. You can take the shuttle back to New York and we’ll forget anything happened.”

“You killed Danny. I’m sure of it.”

“You have no proof. And even if you did, who’d believe you over me?”

“I do have proof,” Jay lied. “That you were there, in the house, the day he died.”

“I was in the house that day. I was trying to convince him not to publish. But as soon as he saw me he became enraged.”

“He blamed you for my father’s death.”

“He attacked me. We wrestled for a few minutes, then he collapsed, heart attack. He was dead when he hit the floor.”

“So you did kill him.”

“That would be for the court to decide. But they’ll never get the chance.”

“You’re right.” Jay squeezed the trigger. A red stain slowly overspread Morrison’s powder blue Brioni shirt.

The jet lurched.

Jay reached for the controls over Morrison’s lifeless body and changed the directional heading to southeast. He took a parachute out of his bag, slipped it on, opened the hatch, and jumped out into the pink sky of early dawn. As he floated downward to a deserted stretch of beach, he watched the pilotless jet dive awkwardly, like a drunken gull, towards the Atlantic.




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.


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: Jan 23, 2017

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