Rewritten: The introduction from my Work-In-Progress:Posted: June 5, 2014
My work-in-progress is a stand alone noir crime fiction novel called In Pocket. The pitch/blurb:
If only Wolfgang hadn’t picked the pocket of the fat woman…
Nomadic pickpocket Wolfgang gets blackmailed into teaching his craft to the mysterious Lilith, a young woman with no aptitude whatsoever to become a pickpocket. Wolf figures the easiest way is to go with the flow and instruct Lilith in the art of emptying other people’s pockets, but even he could never foresee the dreadful things that follow…
IN POCKET is a standalone novel with ties to Martyn V. Halm’s Amsterdam Assassin Series. Follow Wolf as he gets entangled in a possible fatal web of violence and deceit, where nobody is who they seem to be and everyone has a hidden agenda.
Below is the rewritten beginning of the novel (old version is here), which is written in present tense. The rest of the novel is in past tense, except for the interludes…
The world is strangely tilted when I open my eyes to the deafening roar of the helicopter reverberating against the walls around me. The down draft of the blades stir the loose dirt on the grimy bricks and I shield my eyes as swirling grit stings my face. Around me everything remains dark. The helicopter’s searchlight must be trained on something else. Or someone else.
The wind dies down and the roar changes to a bass-line thumping as the police helicopter flies off. Just around the corner I hear a siren starting up. An ambulance, not a police vehicle.
I close my eyes again.
I must’ve passed out. For an instant, I think. Just long enough to lose my bearings. My shoulder smarts from lying on the bricks, but the dull pain in my abdomen is worse. I remember her face looking up at me. And the hard punches in my belly, now a faint throbbing.
Without opening my eyes, I push myself into an upright position, the bricks damp and cold against my buttocks. My legs feel like they’re asleep, but without tingling—the usual pins-and-needles sensation is mysteriously absent.
A bad sign. I think I can forget about running. Or even getting up.
I open my eyes and blink a few times to focus.
The wall across from me is less than two meters away. To my left, a dead-end. To my right, plastic garbage bags leaning against an overflowing dumpster.
The siren grows louder and I lean forward carefully to peek around the dumpster.
Sodium lights flood the sidewalk with sickly orange light that reaches into the dead-end alley just far enough to touch my grubby sneakers. A neon-yellow ambulance races past the mouth of the alley, the sound of the siren fading quickly in the distance.
I go through my pockets to check my possessions, but I seem to have lost them all.
Money, gone. Keys, gone. Straight razor, gone.
I look at my filthy pants, stained with dark spots and smelling of urine. I look at my hands, smudged with street grime. And it all comes back. Why I’m wearing these clothes. My possessions aren’t gone. I left them with her before the stake-out.
I only had my phone and the gun. They’re both gone.
All I have left is the small carton in my inside pocket…
Around the corner I hear muted voices and the crackle of a two-way radio. A moment later I hear a car start up. My right hand grabs one of the plastic garbage bags and a spasm of pain pierces my gut as I heave the bag and toss it next to my legs.
The car halts at the mouth of the alley and the bright beam of a searchlight shines on the opposite wall, then swerves around towards the dumpster that hides me from view. The beam briefly illuminated my grimy pants and the garbage bag hiding my sneakers, but moves away without a pause. The light clicks off and the car trundles away.
I realise I’m holding my breath and let it out slowly.
I listen, but don’t hear anyone else, just my own raspy breathing. I’m alone.
My left hand touches my belly, comes away wet.
I raise my hand to my eyes, but it’s too dark too see.
I peer past the dumpster again, but all I see is a cobblestone quay and a canal. Not enough information to determine where I am. Just another dead-end alley in the centre of Amsterdam. The street sign is missing. Or was never there at all. Not all dead-end alleys here have names.
I remember the carton in my inside pocket and take the pack of cigarettes. I open the lid and brush my finger over the filter tips. And the metal wheel of a cheap butane lighter. I breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t know what would be worse; no cigarettes, or cigarettes and nothing to light them with.
I shake one from the pack and light up. My hands automatically shield the bright flame to prevent giving away my position. In the light I count the contents. Seven left, not counting the one I just lit. And a folded piece of tinfoil curled around a tiny waxed paper envelop. I won’t use that unless the pain becomes too bad.
I glance at my left hand. The sticky stuff covering my palm is red. I lower the lighter to see my belly. The lower half of my shirt is dark with blood. In the weak light the blood looks black. I touch the mess gingerly.
Three holes. Bullet holes.
The lighter sputters and dies. As the flame goes, a ghost-flame shimmers on my retina. I shake the lighter by my ear. Sounds like there is still some fuel left.
I cup the glowing tip of the cigarette in my hand, return the pack and lighter to my inside pocket, and blink to restore my night vision.
A shadow glides over the walls as someone passes the mouth of the alley. I watch from behind the dumpster, unable to draw in my numb legs sprawled amid the refuse that litters the bricks.
The shadow flows over my pants and disappears from view.
I listen to the receding steps.
I don’t want to be found. Not after what I did…
I drag on my cigarette. No idea what time it is. If I’m still in Amsterdam’s old quarter, I should be able to hear the bells from the myriad of churches. And pinpoint my location.
I take a last drag and extinguish my cigarette against the bricks.
The numbness in my legs worries me. Maybe the bullets damaged my spine.
In the distance a church bell chimes.
Once. Twice. Silence.
That sounded like the Oude Kerk, but I’m not sure. If this was the Red Light District it would be busier…
Two strikes, so it’s two in the morning.
Six hours till dawn.
A whole night to die in.
And muse about the events that got me in this predicament.
If only I hadn’t picked the pocket of the fat woman…
I’d love to hear what you think, so please comment below. Also, before I will look for a publisher or publish In Pocket myself I will need beta-readers to make sure the story is as good as I can get it. So stay tuned!
If you want to read the next sample, wherein Wolfgang targets the Fat Woman and set in motion the chain of events that lead to his predicament, send me an email at email@example.com with ‘password sample?’ in the subject line.