[Note: Taken from a chapter in my soon-to-be-released thriller, Book 4 of the Sam Sunborn Series. Posting this as I just flew home to New Jersey from California like Monica in the following story/excerpt.]
At 9:45 PM, Monica struts through LaGuardia Terminal, roller bag in tow. LaGuardia Airport is as dingy and worn as she remembered from her last trip here to rescue Evan, her son, who had been kidnapped. She descends the escalator to the baggage claim level and scans the row of drivers, some formally dressed in black chauffeur attire with black hats, holding signs, or iPads with passenger names displayed.
After a few moments, she spots an older man nattily attired in a tweed sport coat with a twirled mustache and a relaxed grin. His hand-drawn sign reads M. Sunborn. He seems to recognize her before she even makes eye contact. “Ms. Sunborn, John Bayers at your service.” John bows from the waist then takes the handle of Monica’s bag. “I’m parked illegally just outside, but the patrolman who ticketed the other drivers is an old war buddy. So no problem.”
Monica likes John right away and finally relaxes a bit. Traveling always makes her nervous. Will she miss the connection? Will the plane be delayed? Will there be enough legroom? Will there be a 300-pound person in the middle seat next to her for five hours? Wait a minute. She never has those thoughts. She’s usually a relaxed traveler. It’s Sam who always seems to worry about everything. She never realized how bad it was for him until now. She is feeling his anxiety in her bones like it came from inside her, but it’s Sam. Sam inside her.
She shakes it off and follows John to the Mercedes. He loads her bag in the trunk. Then she feels like Sam again. Do I sit in the front or the back? With him, it’s always a decision, a calculation. Monica operates by instinct. I love him, but Sam often overthinks things. She never does. She opens the front passenger door and slides in.
John gets behind the wheel and like he can read her mind, hands her a water bottle. “Thank you, I’m parched,” she says.
“Flying will do that to you,” John says. “Deputy Director Little asked me to bring you to their office in Lower Manhattan tomorrow morning. I’ll take you to your hotel now.”
Monica pushes the hair from her eyes. “I’d like you to take me to the incident scene first, please.”
“It’s dark and cold there now. Besides, I’ll have to check with Deputy Director Little to deviate from my orders.”
Monica gives him a hard stare. “John, if you and I are going to get along and you want to stay on my good side and believe me you want to stay on my good side, you’ll take me where I want to go. I’m not threatening you. We’re both trying to help here and you need to trust me.”
John hesitates. “OK, but are you sure you want to go there? From what I heard, it’s pretty gruesome.”
“If I’m going to help Rich and Michelle solve this puzzle, I need to see all the pieces. As my husband used to say, ‘pictures are no substitute for seeing the real thing.’”
“Used to say?”
“Yes, he passed away recently.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that. Apologies, I didn’t mean to pry.”
“That’s OK. He used to help Director Little on high-profile cases and I’m going in his stead this time.”
“I see. You must have some special skills too.”
“I learned a lot from my husband and I still do even though he’s gone.”
Thirty minutes later, they cross the Brooklyn Bridge into Lower Manhattan. John steers through the narrow streets avoiding the bikers and J-walking pedestrians until they arrive on Church Street. “We can’t get any closer. It’s all cordoned off,” John says.
“Then I’ll walk from here.” Monica opens the door.
“Wait, let me pull over and park if I can. I’ll come with you. Director Little may be upset that I did not follow his orders by bringing you here, but if I let you go alone, he may have my head.”
Monica closes the door. “Fine, there’s a spot just past the next corner.”
They park and walk the five blocks to the edge of the yellow tape. The bodies are all gone. There were so many, they had to be hauled away, stacked inside refrigerated trucks, and parked outside the coroner’s office. It might take weeks for the MEs to get to them all. One truck full of bodies is on its way to the FBI’s Forensics Lab in Quantico, Virginia.
When the officer guarding the tape looks the other way, Monica ducks underneath and heads west on Ericsson, right through the middle of the scene. John hesitates and then follows. The street is still crawling with forensic people and photographers. The spotlights and dark shadows add to the eeriness. Small numbered yellow placards, hundreds of them, are scattered about marking bits of evidence. The pavement and sidewalks look like they have been splashed with dark red paint, but it’s not paint. The ravenous flies, even on a cold Winter’s night, are having a field day.
Monica and John act as if they belong there and the forensic people are all too focused on their tasks to notice them. Monica instinctively looks up at the buildings on one side of the street. They are four and five-story renovated red brick. The other side of Ericsson is lined with bare oaks and maples guarding the exit ramp from the Holland Tunnel. Monica tries to play back in her head the video she watched of the attack before leaving home. It’s as clear as if she were watching it on TV now. She’s never been able to have such vivid recall of anything before. It must be Sam again, his skill, his photographic memory.
She points to the roof of the building and two of the windows and says to John, “The shooters must have been positioned there and there and there.” She sweeps her arms down towards the pavement and closes her eyes. She pirouettes, steps, and raises her arms like she is doing an ancient dance. Her eyes flash open. “I see. I see it all,” she says.
“See what?” John asks.
“I’ll explain in a minute. Right now, I need to call Rich. Then please take me to the hotel.”
Readers! What did Monica see? If you think you know or can guess what she saw, please share your ideas in the Comments below.
Recent Releases by Charles Levin:
NOT SO DONE – paperback from Amazon – ships in one to two days
Order the Ebook – read immediately
Kindle Unlimited – read immediately
Audible Audiobook – listen immediately
NOT SO DEAD Trilogy – Kindle/ebook and Kindle Unlimited – Boxset of all 3 Sam Sunborn Novels.
Read for FREE some of Charles Levin’s short stories:
P.S. My original fast-paced thriller NOT SO DEAD and the new techno-thriller, NOT SO GONE, are also available on Amazon. Read more about it. Better yet, buy a copy
Audiobook versions available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes