Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sub Plot (1)

In my novel The Chain a lot of shit goes down. And the main narrative weight is carried by the main character, a detective, because that how story-telling works. But I introduced two other detectives in the course of the story, and they're interesting, and they're cynics, and they have cool moments in the main thread of the novel. But there needs to be more there.

I had this weird epiphany on the motorbike one time, where I realised that what I want, more than anything, is to have my own detective show on television, something I could write, something that was mine. And I started thinking about how you would adapt The Chain and how it would work on screen. There are moments that are too big. Budget big. And it goes against the tone of the narrative completely. It's like I was told I had to have a big set piece in the third act because that's how novel works. Which is wrong. So I'm gutting it. Making it more intimate, making it a whole lot scarier. And to do that, I get to write more of these guys. So here's the start of something interesting (I hope), and the beginning of the final run at this draft of my novel.

“This ain’t pretty,” said Detective Gareth Hawthorne as he surveyed the dishevelled apartment that he was standing within. “Not pretty at all.”

Hawthorne had been called straight from his house in the suburbs for this. Captain Francis said he’d meet him there himself. Hawthorne’s partner, Richard Keane, was on his way. Traffic at this hour was horrendous, and the kid didn’t know his way around the city yet. That would change in a year or two. Back to the matter at hand, something ugly had happened in this place, and it wasn’t a short kind of something. An ugly kind of thing happened long and hard in this apartment, and the police had been invited to the party too late to count. There was a smell, a thick stagnant smell of sweat, urine and faeces that permeated the walls. Hawthorne had been smack-dab in the centre of the source, and had then chosen to position himself by the open window to get his bearings back.

“Jesus,” said a CSU as he staggered out of the bedroom. Hawthorne snapped back into the moment, and looked at the lanky crime lab technician as he pulled his mask off for a gasp of relatively clear air. “What happened here?”

“That’s for us all to figure out, Johnnie,” said Hawthorne. “Team effort and all.”

“Sure thing, Gary.” Johnnie the lab tech placed his hand on either side of his spine, and then arched backwards, an audible crack shuddering through him. “Phew. It’s ugly though. Real ugly.”

“That’s why we’re here,” said Captain Francis as he entered behind Hawthorne. With him was Richard Keane, who was wearing his token hangdog expression with no pride at all. “Sorry to keep you, Gareth. Had a look around?”

“Unfortunately so, sir,” said Hawthorne. Keane passed him a large take-out cup full of steaming hot coffee, and smiled. “Thanks, partner.”

“No problem.”

Captain Francis sipped from his own cup of coffee, and made his way to the centre of the apartment’s living room. “I know you’ve been working the Langley family disappearance, but you’ve hit a dead end. So that’s on the backburner as of now.”

“Right,” said Hawthorne. His thoughts flashed to his desk at Central, to the pile of papers that contained his notes, statements from witnesses, every possible lead and thought that Keane and himself had collected since the disappearance of the Langley family. “Why are we hear? Better yet sir, why are you here?”

“You know the story better than me, Gareth. Update your partner.” Francis walked away from the two detectives, and began to eye up the record collection on the wall. He ignored the blood.

Hawthorne flicked through his notebook and turned his attention to Keane. “We’re here because we got an ugly 911 call. Mr David Weiss, a nurse at Hope & Grace General called us from this apartment. This apartment does not belong to Mr Weiss, it belongs to one of his co-workers, Ms Hannah Brant. She’s been on vacation for two weeks, but she was due back at the hospital last night. When she didn’t answer calls from the hospital Weiss went over after his shift ‘cause he was ‘concerned’.”

“So he’s top of the suspect list then,” said Keane.

Hawthorne nodded. “Uniforms are taking his statement downstairs as we speak. Now, look around you. This whole place has been stripped to shit of all valuables. TV, DVD player, CD player, all gone. There’s no money, there are no valuables, all the mirrors have been broken and there’s blood everywhere. The lab boys are taking samples to figure out whose blood that might be.”

“And Brant? Where’s the body?”

“That’s the great thing, she isn't dead. Brant is still alive, even after all this chaos and fubar shit.”

“Where is she?” asked Keane.

“When uniform arrived they found Brant doped up to her eyeballs, high as a kite. She’s in the ER at Hope & Grace, and the guys and gals over there are running her blood through a gauntlet to figure out what she’s been shot up with.”

“Has she said anything? Named names, given us anything to work with?”

“No,” said Keane. “They’re helping her as best as they can, but her brain has gone on vacation.”

Keane shook his head. “So we don’t have any clue what happened?”

“Come with me.”

Hawthorne led the way to Brant’s bedroom, and Keane stopped at the door. He crouched down and examined the door frame, where a metal slot for a bolt was screwed in. There was no corresponding bolt, only mangled wood and splinters. He stood, and simulated a shoulder barge into the door, then turned to Hawthorne. “Weiss break this down?”

“That’s what he’s saying,” said Hawthorne.

Keane took a pair of latex gloves from his inside pocket, and then stepped into the bedroom. The smell hit him first, but he focused on the task at hand. He traced his fingers over indents in the wood of the door. There were five individual ‘creases’ in the centre of the door itself, at shoulder height. Someone had put a lot of effort into getting it open. “Have uniform check Weiss’ shoulders for bruising,” he said to one of the first responders who was still stood in the apartment. “Looks to me like he may have done himself a mischief… huh?” There were a further two bolt hooks in the door, both without a corresponding bolt, both leaving a corresponding patch of broken door and exposed wood. “These locks don’t belong here. They’re a recent addition.”

“How can you tell?”

“This is a classy apartment, quite a nouveau aesthetic. Why you would have any locks present on the outside is a mystery to me, but allowing for some weird designer’s unique proclivities, he wouldn’t have locks that were so easily broken. The door frame isn’t reinforced. The door is thick, sure, but the locks are industrial grade so they don't synch up. That’s why I assume they were found on the floor?”

Hawthorne turned and looked for the lab tech he’d been speaking to earlier. “Johnnie? You got the locks from the floor?”

“Sure,” Johnnie approached with three clear plastic bags that contained three locks, all of the same make. “You can buy these from any DIY store in the city, unfortunately. Don’t think you’ll be getting anything from them any time soon.”

Keane finally focused all his attention onto the bedroom. The smell was horrendous. There were scratch marks all over the bare walls. There was no bed, just a sheet in the corner. A half empty bowl of water in another. Another corner had been used as a toilet.

Hannah Brant had been held prisoner in her own apartment.

“How did no one hear her?” asked Keane.

“Like you said, this is a new building. She’s the only tenant on this floor. And the walls and flooring are so thick… well. Even if there were neighbours, I’m doubtful they would have heard a thing.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Keane.


Captain Francis was stood behind them now, shaking his head at the scene. “Interview Weiss. Tear him apart if you need to. Find out if he’s the fuck who did this. Talk to the doorman— look at this place, Brant’s been here like this for a time. Who kept her alive? Who kept pumping her full of the shit that kept her pliant?”

“What’s your interest here, sir?” asked Hawthorne. “We don’t normally see you at scenes, so this is a bit of a surprise for us all.”

“I need you on this,” said Francis slowly. “This is straight from top brass. Special Crimes Unit gets this because Vice dropped the ball.”

“Vice?” said Keane.

“The drug. That’s the angle here,” said Hawthorne, things clicking into place for the veteran detective. “No one knows what it is… I’ve got a friend down in Vice, there’s a new drug on the street, and no one knows where it came from, what it’s made out of, or who’s dealing it. We only get wind of it if a user ends up ODing. ‘Red Eye’, right? This is the first time we’ve got a live one.”

Francis exhaled. “You weren’t getting anywhere with the Langley case, and Vice weren’t getting anywhere with this. Hawthorne, you’ve got a background in Narcotics, use it. Keane, you know why you’re being called up for this, right?”

“Sure,” said Keane, quietly.

“Yeah. You’ve both got experience working this kind of case. So work it.” Francis passed his coffee cup to a CSU, and then put his hands in his pockets. Keane and Hawthorne watched as their captain trudged out of the apartment, and then glanced at one another.

“Why are you being called up for this, then?” asked Hawthorne.

“Let’s go talk to Weiss,” said Keane. “Then we’ll head over to the hospital. Sound like a plan?”

“It does,” said Hawthorne.

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