NaNo: The marathon is over
As usual, I’m not finished yet
So November is over, and so is National Novel Writing Month. This year, my final total at the end of the month was 64,030 words.
This time around, Hannah Montgomery and her friends are trying to solve Murder on the Sports Desk. The victim is a photographer whom nobody much liked. There’s an irate hockey goalie who’s the prime suspect, but things look awfully fishy – even if he’s not the brightest bulb on the string, he wouldn’t make all of the dumb mistakes that make most of the evidence point straight at him.
Hannah and her fiancé, Harry O’Malley, have finally set a wedding date. But somebody’s blackmailing Hannah, apparently thinking that she’s stepping out with her best friend, Flash Duran. The photographer who got murdered is (or was) apparently one of the blackmailers. There’s the added complication that the victim of this murder was the brother of a previous murderer … or rather, a previous killer who was found not guilty by reason of insanity and is now in a mental institution.
So Harry’s working the late shift at the cop shop, and Hannah’s gone to Flash’s place to share a pizza with him. The pizza came with an unexpected extra tucked under the round piece of cardboard underneath the pie itself, a CD-ROM with a compromising video.
Flash’s face was pale. “How did they get that disc into my pizza?” he asked.
“How often do you order pizza from this place?” Hannah asked.
“About twice a week,” Flash said.
“Well, they clearly have a camera pointed at my boat,” Hannah said. “I’m betting they have one pointed at your house, too. They’re probably well aware that you have a habit of ordering pizzas from this particular pizza place. All they would have to do is find an employee to bribe into slipping that disc into your order.”
Flash pulled out his phone and pressed a speed dial number. “Hello … This is Flash Duran … Yes, it was good … I just realized I didn’t tip the delivery boy as much as I had planned … Yeah, next time he’s out, have him stop by here on the way back … Oh, yeah, he’s good; you ought to give him a raise … All right, thank you.” He hung up.
“Well, if the delivery guy was the person who got bribed, you’ve got a chance at getting something from him,” Hannah said. “But if it wasn’t him, you’ve just made a kid very happy for no good reason.”
“That’s the very best reason for making a kid happy,” Flash said. “Random acts of kindness were always fun when I was a kid.”
“Well, I guess while we’re waiting, we can watch the rest of the movie,” Hannah said. Flash complied and switched the discs in the player. Just as the movie was ending, and Bob Hope was watching Bing Crosby getting the girl, the doorbell rang. It was the pizza delivery guy.
“I’m so glad you showed up,” Flash said, handing the kid a $10 bill. “I had decided to give you an extra large tip this time because you’ve always been so good – on time, always polite, all the things a pizza delivery boy should be. But then I got distracted and forgot” – he glanced over at Hannah, who was stretched out languorously on the sofa – “and I left this on the table when I meant to give it to you. But anyhow, here it is. By the way, I noticed there was something extra in the pizza box.”
The pizza delivery kid’s face turned red. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “This has really been my big night. This guy came into the shop just after you ordered your pizza, said he was a friend of yours, said he’d pay me $20 to put this disc in the box with your pizza. I thought it was weird, but twenty bucks is twenty bucks … and now I got thirty!”
“Do you remember what this guy looked like?” Flash asked.
“Well, he was sort of … average,” the kid said. “Average height, average build, maybe a little more fit than average.”
“What about hair and eye color?” Flash asked.
“I don’t know about any of that,” the kid said. “He had on a baseball cap and a hoodie and dark glasses. He was white, though, very fair skin. Probably sunburns easily. That’s why he was covered up, I figured.”
Flash pulled another $10 bill out of his pocket. “Thanks, kid,” he said. “By the way, what’s your name?”
“Joey,” the kid said. “Joey Rodriguez.”
Flash handed Joey the money. “Thanks again for everything,” he said. “Just be sure never to mention these extra tips or the other guy, or anything else about this, to anybody. And I mean anybody.”
“Sure thing, Mr. Duran,” Joey said. He gave a half-wave, half-salute, and walked back to his car with a spring in his step.
“Well, that gets us something,” Hannah said. “But it doesn’t get us all that much. We already knew we were looking for a guy of average height and average build in the flower case; now we have the added information that he’s a fair-skinned white guy who maybe works out some.”
Flash gestured toward the disc that was now lying on the coffee table. “I wish we could get that thing tested for fingerprints,” he said. “But if we take it to the police, the police look at its contents, and the police include Harry.”
“There probably aren’t any fingerprints on the thing anyway,” Hannah said. “These guys aren’t careless.”
“I guess I could take the disc to my studio and use the computers to look for digital signatures,” Flash said. “But like you said, these guys aren’t careless. They probably wiped their tracks.”
They both slumped back on the sofa, tired and dejected. Suddenly, Hannah sat upright. “My column!” she exclaimed.
“Your what?” Flash asked.
“I need to submit next week’s column to the Capitan tomorrow,” Hannah said. “But I haven’t even thought of a topic yet. Quick, what’s your biggest grammar bugaboo?”
“My what?” Flash asked.
“The grammar issue that causes you the most frustration,” Hannah said. “The one that you’re dying to see a clear explanation of.”
“That’s gotta be which ‘there’ to use,” Flash said. “I mean, I never can figure out whether I’m supposed to use T-H-E-R-E or T-H-E-I-R or that other one with the apostrophe in it. I’d love to see a Grammar Goddess column on that.”
“Your wish is my command,” Hannah said, pulling her laptop out of her satchel and shoving the now empty pizza box to the floor to make room on the coffee table. Half an hour later, she had a column written. “Here you go,” she said to Flash, turning the laptop toward him. “See if this clarifies things.”
Flash scrolled through the article, reading it. When he finished, he turned the computer back to Hannah. “Wow,” he said. “You really can explain things. I especially liked the bit about apostrophes, how you use those when you have something that can be spelled out. I didn’t know that before.”
“I’ll take that as a ringing endorsement,” Hannah said. “I’ll be taking this to the Capitan tomorrow.”
“Before or after we go sailing?” Flash asked.
“Before,” Hannah said. “Once I get this out of the way, we can have the rest of the day unencumbered.”
“What about Harry?” Flash asked.
“I don’t know what his plans are,” Hannah said. “He officially has the day off tomorrow, aside from being on call. Even if he doesn’t feel Avenger the way you and I do, would it work for him to come sailing with us?”
“Sure,” Flash said. “Maybe eventually, he will get to understand that boat, or at least understand what she does for the two of us. And even if he doesn’t ever get to that point, maybe … well … if he does ever see that video, maybe he will understand what caused me to … what caused, well, what happened.”
As previously disclaimed, this is pure fiction.