I’m violating an Author Rule™ of some sort, but as I paused to admire the initial draft of Dead Shot: A Diane Pembrook Thriller I thought, “Hey, how about a sneak preview for the web site?”
Here’s a smidge of Chapter 11, with the caveats that this is the INITIAL draft, all the words are misspelled, I had the sun in my eyes, and I wrote it in like, fifteen seconds. Don’t be shocked if none of this makes the final cut, is what I’m saying, but at present I am hard-pressed to believe it won’t. Enjoy!
Just over a month later, Diana hurried to work past a patchwork of buildings, all pressed together, giving the impression they were one solid unit. New graffiti covered the scrubbed bricks with bolder designs. Diana glanced at one of them, and wondered what the significance of SMET was. She was running late, and despite being paid in cash under the table, Mister Leotis had a simple policy: Late three times, and you’re out. She was looking at strike two, if she didn’t hustle.
Hustling was all she had done since arriving in Newark. Veronica had a small one-bedroom apartment, and when they came home from the train station, she pointed at her loveseat and said, “That’s yours.” Her back ached every morning as she stretched from a fetal position, but she was grateful for the roof over her head, and grateful to Mabel for making the arrangements.
Diana had found the job on her own. She hustled and went door to door, looking for work, always inquiring at the back entrance, as a coded signal for “cash.” Most places put on a show of turning her away, but as she hoped, as she was about to move on to the next block, a swarthy man in a bloody apron waved her over after looking both ways.
From that day onward, she worked in the stock room at a small neighborhood market and butcher shop. Mister Leotis worked the meat counter, speaking Greek to his regulars and passable English to her.
Athena, his daughter, pushed the back door open and scowled at her. Her hair was pulled straight back into an oval hair clip, and she wore a black dress cinched with a thin belt, and glossy knee-high boots. She liked flirting with the young men who came into the shop, to her father’s chagrin.
“You’re late again. I’m telling Papa.”
Diana didn’t have a watch, but the last clock she passed said she had five minutes before work, and she was sure it couldn’t have passed by that quickly. She drooped her head, and shuffled toward Athena. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“No, it no happen again, ‘cause you gonna get fired.” She karate-chopped her upturned palm. “Whack! Bye-bye.”
Diana attempted to brush past her and get to work, but Athena put her arm out, barring her from entering. Diana looked up at her, and Athena chewed gum, smirking.
“Hey, how much you got?”
Diana didn’t carry much cash, and lived hand to mouth as it was. She grabbed $10 to last the day. She had her cleaning job to get to later that afternoon. She reached into her front pocket, and produced a single worn bill. “Just this.”
Athena snapped it from her hand, and put it down the front of her dress. “I forget this. No more late, huh?” She slapped Diana’s cheek lightly, and winked.
Diana felt the loss of her food money, but put on a brave front. “Thanks, Athena. You’re the best.”
Athena popped her gum, and ushered Diana into the back of the market.
“S’another nice day out, huh? People go outside. Shop here, maybe.” Mister Leotis shuffled to the end of the meat counter, and switched on the television. He waited for the picture to appear, and clicked the remote through a series of channels all showing the same thing. Black smoke billowed from a building, and police cars ringed the site as a reporter spoke intently into the camera.
“Where sports? Too early?” He kept clicking the remote, and found an infomercial for the new way to slice pears. He shrugged, and tossed the remote on a pile of boxes. He turned around and saw Diana sweeping the floor, preparing for the market to open. He called to her. “Diana, you remind me put sports on TV. People no wanna see that crap.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, looking up from her labors.
Athena huffed and slid the cash drawer into the register, then slammed the drawer shut. “Papa, why we no have Instant Pay by now? Cash is stupid.”
Mister Leotis waved her off. “Ahhh, fancy business. Cash is good.”
Diana nodded to herself as she swept. Cash was very good, and now she didn’t have any, thanks to Athena. Her, and running late. She resolved to find a way to wake up earlier.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of metal on glass. A crazed woman slapped on the front window, and pulled on the locked door. She shouted in another language—Greek, Diana assumed—and Athena gestured back at her to read their posted store hours.
A group of people ran down the street, followed by police cars, lights flashing. Diana ducked behind a shelving unit stocked with olives. The woman slapped the glass again, and Mister Leotis poked his head up from the meat case. “What she want? Not time yet.”
Athena popped her gum. “I dunno Papa, she looks crazy.”
Diana rested her hand on a shelf, and watched the drama furtively. They got the occasional crazy person, but she recalled seeing the woman in the store before, and she seemed fine then. What was she upset about? Why all the commotion? As she peered over the shelving unit, she felt something move under her hand.
Another tremor sent a stack of tomato cans crashing to the floor. Mister Leotis stood up quickly. “Diana! Clean up mess!”
She dropped the broom, and rushed to pick up the cans. Another tremor shook the building, sending more cans and boxed goods to the floor. A sound like thunder roared somewhere beyond the walls of the market. The woman at the door screamed and smacked the glass once more with her ringed fingers. She looked to her left in terror, then ran to her right.
Athena ran to the back of the store.