Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Beginning 677

It’s a long way from the gutter to the back seat of a limo, Chuck Mallory thought as he sat in the back of the stretch Lincoln. Recessed lights cast a discreet glow and a hint of sandalwood lurked in the climate-controlled air. It’s not my limo, but still, it’s a long way from the gutter.

Mallory looked at the two men sitting across from him. They were dressed in dark suits and wore serious faces. He didn’t know why he’d been asked -- summoned, really -- to meet Seth Davies, Chairman of the Board of the Port Authority, and Bill Donovan, a fellow board member. Or why he’d been instructed to make sure he wasn’t followed to the rendezvous point.

“This conversation is to be kept in the strictest confidence, Mr. Mallory,” Davies said. “We must have your word on that.”

“Mr. Davies, anything you choose to tell me will be treated with the utmost discretion,” Mallory said. “But you already knew that, or you wouldn’t have contacted me.”

The man stiffened. "How did you know my name?"

"Everyone knows who you are, sir." Mallory leaned back, making himself comfortable. "Your name's all over the papers, what with the . . . unfortunate allegations."

"Yes, well," Donovan huffed, cutting to the point with an admirable lack of bull. "That's why we're all here. This is a photograph of the detective in charge of the investigation. We need it to look like an accident."

And here it came, the familiar manila envelope that everybody seemed to use for these things. Mallory upended it, tactfully setting aside the cash to count later in favor of studying the photograph. An unpleasant frisson went down his back when he saw the familiar face staring up at him. The woman next to him must be the fabled wife.

"Is there a problem, Mr. Mallory?" snapped Davies.

"No, sir."

But as Chuck snapped the folder shut he knew two things: one, this was going to be the hardest hit of his career and two, ace homicide detective Zack Martinez's wife was actually pretty cute.


Opening: Wonderwood.....Continuation: Sarah from Hawthorne

22 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


Davies leaned in. "It's about the garbage dump, Mr. Mallory. Your rent is much past due, and you know the mayor doesn't like to be kept waiting."

What fools these men were, Chuck Mallory thought as he dug five bucks out of his jeans pocket. When his garbage bomb was ready, they'd regret their insolence. For now, though, they'd only regret letting the King of Garbage sit on their nice, leather seats.

--Rachel


Davies leaned in. "It's about the garbage dump, Mr. Mallory. Your rent is much past due, and you know the mayor doesn't like to be kept waiting."

What fools these men were, Chuck Mallory thought as he dug a fiver out of his jeans pocket. A whole garbage dump rented for a measly five bucks.

"Just a second, Mr. Mallory," Davies said, sipping from a vintage Italian wine from the limo's mini-fridge. "Rent's gone up another two dollars and fifty cents. The government's got to pay for the stimulus somehow, you know."

--Rachel


Davies opened his mouth to reply, but just then the limo strayed all the way over the median line and into the path of an oncoming eighteen-wheeler.

The last thought that passed through Chuck Mallory's mind was: the back seat of that limo was clearly too far from the gutter.

--Steve


The Director raised his eyebrows. "Oh, really? You're that secure?"

Mallory raised his arms in indignation "Hey, I'm as mum as everyone on the net today. I'll keep it to my closest friends... Y'know, you told me to enlist them? So my blog, my twitter, my faceboo... Is “Mr. Mallory,” Mr. Davies said, “I understand we have your strictest, utmost confidence, in the confessional way, let’s say.”

Davies paused, drinking in the sandalwood from the piney-wood new-car air freshener he’d just about lathered the upholstery with in his quest to remove the smell of gutter whores from the rearend upholstery. Or was it the whore’s rearend smells from the guttered cushioned pattern of the burgundy leather? He could never get that part quite right…

“But what I need to know is,” Davies paused again, “are you absolutely certain you weren’t followed?”

“Mr. Davies,” Chuck Mallory said, wearing his own special brand of Serious Face, the latest craze in a long line of Ralph Lauren…lines, “ I assure you, I’ve thrown anyone interested, off the proverbial scent.”

--Robin S.


"We just received confirmation," Mr Davies leaned over and whispered to me. "The aliens will arrive by sea."

--Wendy

Evil Editor said...

More Unchosen Continuations:


Donovan leaned forward. "You lost your software job two years ago."

"It was an, uh, ethical disagreement. But I was one of their best." Chuck replied.

Donovan raised his eyebrows. "Yet you make ends meet by selling DVDs out of a suitcase on one of the city's busiest thoroughfares."

"Man's gotta live."

Indeed." Davies cleared his throat. "We have a proposition for you, about which you must never breathe a word."

Chuck wiped the sweat from his upper lip as he watched Davies pull out a brown envelope.

"Mr. Mallory," Donovan said. "Chuck. As Port Authority representatives, we don't believe you appropriately represent our high quality collection of wovens, sport shirts, outerwear, headwear and accessories. This is a $50 voucher for The Gap."

The limousine glided to the kerb and the door swung open. Chuck suddenly found the gutter much closer than he remembered.

--ril


Chuck's nose twitched almost involuntarily. "Do you smell something funny?" he asked.

"I see you've finally caught on, Mallory," Donovan said. "Pardon the inconvenience, but I have more important things in mind for you than Port Authority minutiae."

The sandalwood. Of course. It was a trap. A sheen of sweat arose on Mallory's brow as he looked nervously at his legs.

"Our limo is known for its smell," Davies said, but Mallory wasn't listening. His legs were shriveling--mutating--into one slippery, clammy fin.

Mallory looked reproachfully at his betrayers. No matter what happened, one thing was for sure: he would make a really lousy mermaid.

--Teucer



“Our careers, our relationships, every thing we have worked for could be at stake.”

Mallory nodded. “Perhaps if you would take me into your confidence?”

“The Friday after next is my bachelor party and – well a man of your experience knows how these things end. So our question to you is, how does a man get from the gutter to the back seat of a limo?”

--Joel G.

Evil Editor said...

The final paragraph of the opening suggests that Mallory has a reputation for discreetness, which wouldn't be true of someone in the gutter, so we can assume he clawed his way out of the gutter some time ago and was reflecting on his life when he made the limo/gutter comparison.

However, if that's true, if he has established himself in his field to the extent that these men know about him and his reputation, it seems odd that he has no idea why they would summon him or why they would want him to make sure he wasn't followed.

Possibly there's a perfectly logical reason he has no idea, in which case I have no complaints.

fairyhedgehog said...

I wondered why Mallory wasn't more nervous about meeting them but I guess that comes out as the story develops. I would like to know what happens next.

The continuations were fun.

_*Rachel*_ said...

Nice continuation!

Do you use, or have you considered, italics for thoughts? This is pretty easy to understand without them, but, yanno, it's an idea.

I think the only nitpick I have is that there's a disconnect about how long it's been since he was last in the gutter. The first paragraph or so makes me think the gutter was pretty recent, but the rest implies farther in the past.

I like this. I'm not slobbering in delight, but I can't think of anything that bugs me, and I'd read on.

Dave F. said...

I think you need something special in this. It's bland. There's nothing wrong with it. It introduces three characters and that's OK. It can go on to describe a problem in the next few paragraphs and that will hold the reader's attention.

Perhaps replace the description of the limo with something about Mallory.
Or in the next paragraph add some fact about Davies and Donovan more than simply "Board Member." For example, describe Donovan as Consiglieri. That would paint a pretty picture.
Or maybe just rearrange the words you have to make the sentences snappy. Like: They wore dark suits, serious faces, demanded discretion, and most of all, secrecy. It might be just cadence and rhythm.

This is like having a steak dinner at home and a steak dinner at a restaurant.

Wes said...

Great continuation!!!!! That hook would make me read a book. But "cute" might be too weak. The overused "hot" might be better given the nature of the man thinking it.

Xiexie said...

I agree with Rachel and Dave. This is good; it just lacks that extra "umph", and I don't think you're far from that "umph".

I also agree that if Mallory is known for his skill in these types of events, that I don't think he would be so surprised that they found him. I'm sure the story goes on to explain this though.

I need think about it for a while before I can offer what I think that "umph" can be.

Anonymous said...

It might have more impact if you used the comment of Mr Davies as the 1st paragraph.

Being a savvy crook seems inconsistent with going for a car ride for unknown purposes etc with these characters. Too much danger of finishing the trip in the trunk. But maybe the reason he'd do that is about to be revealed. Or maybe he only thinks he's clever, which is ever so true for the usual big stupid.

~Aimee States said...

I like it well enough. it just needs some smoothing.

~It’s a long way from the gutter to the back seat of a Lincoln, Chuck Mallory thought as he sat in the back of the stretch limo. The recessed lights gave off a discreet glow and the hint of sandalwood lurked in the climate-controlled air. It’s not my limo, but still, it’s a long way from the gutter.

Mallory looked at the two men sitting BESIDE him...(keep it creepy-close and uncomfortable)

The early problems are simple crap.

Except this ~

"He didn’t know why he’d been asked -- summoned, really -- to meet Seth Davies, Chairman of the Board of the Port Authority, and Bill Donovan, a fellow board member."

Of course he knows, he's a ferkin criminal. If he wasn't, they wouldn't have summoned him. And a person can only take so much "surname and associates" on the first page.

Give away the set up for this character that fits into the novel, don't play innocent.

Eric P. said...

Cut out the rolodex card-like introduction of the other two characters--"Seth Davies, Chairmain of the Board of the Port Authority, and Bill Donovan, yadda yadda" is the author speaking, not the character. Put us inside his head, and spare us the title cards.

Make the first line of dialogue your first paragraph. Voila, drama!

Aside from that, pretty good opening and I wouldn't mind reading further to see where it's going.

Khazar-khum said...

ROFLMAO at the continuation!

Wonderwood said...

Thanks for the comments, complimentary and critical. To clear up an assumption that several people seem to have made, Mallory isn't a criminal, he's a PI. He doesn't know why he's been summoned, but he isn't surprised, as Xiexie said, he's interested.

He's curious because he specializes in finding missing people and he knows this isn't a missing person case (you find out a few paragraphs later how he knows this). The status of the two men and the fact that they sought him out peaks his interest.

Aimee, I can't really have him sitting beside them in the back of a stretch limo given the conversation they're about to have, it wouldn't work, and the scene doesn't really call for creepy-close. But I understand where you're coming from, given you've made the assumption he's a criminal.

I'll see if I can't work in some "umph", but actually the umph comes pretty quickly in the next few paragraphs.

Thanks again for the helpful comments.

Wonderwood said...

Oh, and Rachel, about the italics. Funny you mention that, because my email to EE had the last sentence of the first para in italics, but it didn't translate when he posted it in the continuations section. I emailed him and he fixed it (thanks EE), but the italics didn't make the transition to this page. The intent was there, though. Thanks again.

Robin S. said...

Hey Wood!

Good to see you back! I like Chuck.

_*Rachel*_ said...

You kept us reading, with promise of interesting stuff to come. Good job!

Xiexie said...

Those pesky italics again. Thanks for the response Wonderwood. This (and many other) openings feel like they've got that "umph" a-comin', but we just don't see it cos it's in those following paragraphs.

Wonderwood said...

I was in a bit of a hurry last night when I left my comments, but wanted to come back and say the continuations were great, and I really liked Sarah's. Way to work the currency of the blog into the piece. We're all fans of Zack.

With regard to EE's question, Mallory is reflecting on his past. He once rode in limos, later had a fall from those lofty heights and now is back to being somewhat respectable. These details come out later. As we all know, we don't want backstory in the first 150 words, right? I thought it was a good place to plant a seed of curiosity in the reader's mind without focusing the whole scene on that particular detail. Plus, I liked the first line. It's no "The last camel collapsed at noon", but I thought it was good enough to get the reader moving. If you have no complaints, that's good enough for me. Thanks, EE.

BuffySquirrel said...

It's true, we don't want backstory. We do want umph. So start with the umph :).

~Aimee States said...

"He didn’t know why he’d been asked -- summoned, really -- to meet ***. Or why he’d been instructed to make sure he wasn’t followed to the rendezvous point."

Well, someone's arse is crooked. They're meeting secretly in a car. That doesn't make him sound like a saint. He may not be a criminal, sure, but you're setting up some seriously shiftiness. Hence, my assumptions. I can only base my remarks on you've given me...and you gave me "It's a long way from the gutter".

You should somehow drop that he's a PI so that assumptions isn't made right off the bat.

Anonymous said...

Wonderwood, I like everything you write. Can't wait until you make it big!

...dave conifer

Wonderwood said...

Thanks, Dave! That made my day.