Below you will find the first 150 or so words of each story in Murder, New York Style, Fresh Slices. We hope you enjoy these tidbits as a way of introducing you to the various styles and voices in the anthology.
Tear Down by Anita Page
The porch was gone and the windows had been removed from their frames. Lumber was piled in the small side yard. To Delilah, in the back seat of a taxi parked across the street, the house looked exposed, like a woman caught with her buttons undone.
The blue-haired receptionist at the physical therapy place was right. Margaret something. Delilah had known her for years from bingo. “Looks like they’re ready to tear down your old house, honey.” In that chirpy voice, like she was talking to a three-year-old.
Delilah, fighting off panic, had wanted to see for herself. That took awhile, because after the damn knee surgery, even hobbling to the bathroom was a production. Today, finally able to get around, she’d called the taxi service and stepped out into a chilly spring rain.
The Doorman Building by Anne-Marie Sutton
“Here, Mrs. A., let me grab that before you drop it.”
Sarah Armstrong extended her right arm where the plastic bag from the wine shop was cutting into her wrist.
“Thanks, Carlos,” she said, as the always-eager young doorman slid the two bottles of wine from her hand and waited patiently while she readjusted the bags of groceries in her arms. It didn’t escape her notice that he checked out its contents before handing the bag back to her. She didn’t care. There were millions of people living in New York City, and she supposed half of them would soon be settling down to a drink to start their evening.
The Sneaker Tree by Terrie Farley Moran
On an intensely clear September day, my mother was laid to rest in Calverton Military Cemetery out east in Suffolk County. At the gravesite, my Uncle Eric said Mom would always be there, patiently waiting for my father. My brother Sean replied that Mom waiting for Dad would be a first. A few chuckles and guffaws from the family broke the tension, allowing us to finally move to the waiting limousines for the long trip home to Queens.
By the time we got back to our two-story clapboard in College Point, it was nearly three o’clock. Benateri’s on Fourteenth Avenue had a buffet all set up in our dining room, and the mourners scoffed down hot and cold antipasto and sandwiches stuffed with prosciutto, sopressata, provolone, and tomato. They ploughed their way through three different pastas, and then gradually went home to their own lives, leaving little more than green lettuce and black olives behind them.
Taking the High Line by Fran Bannigan Cox
The drone of techno music nearly drowned the words she shouted across our table. They were accompanied by a smile, freshly licked with a flash of tongue. The promise of it seared any doubts I had. Later, up on the High Line, downtown’s innovative park, her promise would be delivered. In our special spot two stories above Washington Street between Little West Twelfth and Gansevoort Street, screened by choke cherry trees, we would be alone, floating above the roar of yellow cabs rushing beneath our feet.
Margot moved closer on the red banquette and slipped her hand into the waistband of my pants, proprietary. She sucked the olive from her martini. “Don’t look so intense,” she said.
“You like it.” I knew she did.
“Yeah. That’s true. But sometimes I think you live just next door to crazy.”
The Brighton Beach Mermaid by Lina Zeldovich
Tanya Kremin, once a respected Moscow lawyer and now a reluctant American call girl, walked into a dilapidated motel on Brighton Beach Avenue, the Russian enclave of New York City. She trudged up the stairs, her heels clacking on the cheap linoleum floor, and found the room. Her stomach churned as she forced herself to knock on the door. The experienced girls had advised her not to look, not to think, and not to panic. She wasn’t nervous, but she was disgusted. “God, please don’t make him ugly and smelly or I’ll throw up,” she thought.
Tanya had never dreamed of making her living in a miniskirt and a low-cut blouse, but when a bomb planted in her Moscow apartment had gone off three months ago, she had to run for her life and leave the country. She had signed a dancer’s contract with the International ShowBiz agency and landed in the Brighton Beach Mermaids cabaret.
Justice for All by Catherine Maiorisi
Wow. Seeing was believing. People really did live on boats in Manhattan. Fantastic. But no time to gawk at the picturesque scene—yachts and houseboats and sailboats bobbing in the blue-green Hudson River at the 79th Street Boat Basin. I clipped on my shield, waited for an opening in the stream of bicycles, joggers, dogs, and baby strollers, then dashed across the path to the uniformed officer stationed at the gate. She logged me in and pointed to the knot of humanity gathered on the boardwalk to the left. I paused to get the big picture before diving in, so to speak, and saw Detective John Quinn, the primary, standing with his back to the scene, staring across the river at New Jersey.
As I approached Quinn, the boardwalk undulated in the wake of a passing ferry carrying early-to-work New Jersey residents to their jobs on Wall Street. The walkways moaned and screeched with each wave. My stomach lurched.
A Morbid Case of Identity Theft by Clare Toohey
In a fourth-floor Brooklyn walk-up, summertime is a battle for survival, and the computer where I edit video and my apartment’s overloaded A/C refused to co-exist electrically. I’ve known Joanna since my first crop of peach fuzz, concurrent with my first failure at sneaking into a Roger Corman horror movie marathon, so I wasn’t suspicious of her offer. Free computing in her climate-controlled library of unusual tomes and oddities. I didn’t even have to open to the public, she said, just ‘babysit the curiosities’ while she took her first week’s vacation since founding the place. That seemed overprotective for a bunch of junk, but I was grateful anyway.
The Morbid Anatomy Library stands within a sprawling warehouse of art galleries. The industrial building hosting this cooperative is a former box factory squatting beside the historic and toxic Gowanus Canal. July’s heat enhanced the canal’s olfactory pleasures, but that wasn’t the most revolting aspect of my trudge to the library.
[this full story is available for free at CriminalElement]
Only People Kill People by Laura K. Curtis
For eight years, it was my honor to serve and protect Sam Bradley, his family, and his employers. Sam took care of me, and I took care of him. He kept me clean and dry and safe. Every morning, he would take me out, check to be sure I was in good shape, and snap me into a leather holster beneath his jacket. Then, he would kiss Consuela and the children, take the bagged lunch she had prepared, and head out.
Sam and I worked at Goldmark Jewelers, in the diamond district of New York City, where most of what glitters is compressed carbon and the rest is platinum. We would take the subway down from our Harlem apartment, stopping on the way for coffee and a bagel with cream cheese from the deli near the station. The subway was always crowded, but even with all the jostling, I remained secure in my leather case, Sam’s jacket tightly buttoned so that no one could see me.
The Greenmarket Violinist by Triss Stein
We poured out of class buzzing about the complex assignment we had been given. I am as dedicated to pursuing my history degree as anyone—there is a Ph. D somewhere far down the road—but didn’t these professors realize we had other courses? And jobs? And families?
My friend didn’t care about any of that. She grabbed me and started babbling about the morning drama at her job. She had arrived at the small historical house museum where she worked, where nothing had ever happened in this century, and found an ambulance and cops swarming all over the tiny park.
Even half-listening as I was, I thought it was a crime that made no sense at all. An old man was beaten badly enough to put him in the hospital, late at night in a Brooklyn park. Sadly, not an entirely unknown urban tale.
The Understudy by Lois E. Karlin
They met at a Talking Heads concert at CBGB, both of them five-foot-eight with hazel eyes that connected above the crowd. Colleen Morgan and Jenna Strickland were skinny brunettes, hair spiked with wax. Funny how lookalikes found each other. Funny how wealthy Jenna-from-Greenwich wanted to hang with a stray from Pittsburgh.
It was ’78 and they were twenty-four, living in a squat on Avenue C. The neighborhood people couldn’t tell them apart. Colleen thought Jenna was prettier, lips full and eyes outlined, but the two of them were close enough to mess with peoples’ heads.
They shared Alphabet City with junkies and artists who came for the same reason they had: to live cheap in a place the rest of the world had forgotten. Neither of them minded the rusted appliances and stripped cars that lined the streets, or the burned-out tenements. As near as Colleen could figure, Jenna stuck around convinced that Alphabet City was the way to the writer’s life, and that someday Joey Ramone would return her love.
Murder on the Side Street by Stephanie Wilson-Flaherty
Summertime, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
The view down each avenue includes the steel-gray silhouette of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The cuisine has expanded from the traditional pizza places and Chinese food takeout joints to Mexican, Lebanese, and Thai. On the side streets, the Korean women carry umbrellas to guard against the sun, and the Middle Eastern women sweat under their headscarves and burqas.
Yep, we’ve got it all in Bay Ridge. From some pretty classy Italian restaurants that make the grade in Zagats, to Irish pubs with microbrews and decent grub, to basic working-man dives serving Bud and shots, to hookah parlors with curtains in the window to hide whatever it is they actually do in there.
I’m a native, you see, who’s rapidly becoming a stranger in her own land. I’m not the latest model; there are quite a few miles on my odometer and, if I have my way, I’m going to clock quite a few more before the engine goes.
Out of Luck by Cathi Stoler
In the end, it’s desperation that screws you every time. Johnny shook his head, taking in the scene on the crowded sidewalk across the street. Pedestrians streamed by—fat-assed tourists in New York tee shirts and shorts, theatergoers pushing through the crowds to make a curtain, strolling shoppers blocking the way with too many bags—the usual Times Square mob out for some action in The Big Apple on a warm summer night.
Except for the guy. The one he’d passed in the dingy hoodie and filthy jeans skulking along the side of the building trying to hold it together.
Johnny had eyeballed him right away. Early 20s, stringy hair, sallow complexion, twitchy mouth. He looked wired enough to light up the block, hands clenching into tight balls, head bopping up and down, bouncing hard on the balls of his hi-tops. But it was the eyes that were the real tell. They never stopped moving. Back and forth. Up and down Forty-first Street. Man, his eyes were jumping.
Tell Me About Your Day by Lynne Lederman
He was flicking the old Zippo and thinking it needed a new flint before he was even aware of the cigarette he’d plugged into the corner of his mouth.
Damn. Can’t smoke with the kid here. He removed the cigarette and contemplated it. Can’t go outside, can’t leave her. Really too cold to hang out the window, let alone sit on the fire escape. She’d know, anyway. He shredded it into the ashtray. Have to get rid of that, and the matches. Weren’t little kids always playing with them, starting fires?
Kids, and also drunks passing out on the couch with a lit butt in their hand, he thought, glancing at the charred hole in the rug. He got up and edged the couch over the spot. That re-exposed the worn path behind it, but hey, can’t have everything. He turned to the window and looked down to the street four flights below.
He’s the One by Cynthia Benjamin
Henry Stern noticed the sepia-tinted stain on his office ceiling as soon as he opened the door. The wincing morning light always highlighted every imperfection in the room. Now, it scudded across the blob of color that seemed to spread, amoeba-like, before his eyes. It looked like blood.
“Just my luck,” Henry said to no one in particular. Then he picked up the phone.
Teddy Dunlop, the building handyman, repeatedly tapped the ceiling with the metal cane he had been using since his knee replacement surgery three months earlier.
“I like finding new ways to use this damn sucker,” he said, gingerly climbing down the ladder. Henry extended his hand to Teddy, but the handyman waved him away. Out of habit, Henry rubbed the port wine stain on his right cheek instead. Was it his imagination or did the morning sun snaking through the broken Venetian blinds deepen the discoloration?
A Vampire in Brooklyn by Leigh Neely
Metallica’s “All Nightmare Long” echoed throughout my room as I buttoned my blouse. The song’s lyrics were about hunting prey at night, which was what I did as a homicide detective in Brooklyn.
I turned down the volume with a sigh, knowing my room-mate, who preferred classical music, would complain soon. I’ve always found heavy metal music relaxing, probably because I became a vampire in the 1970s when music was an integral part of my life. It soothed me.
I glanced in the mirror and smiled. I looked good for 30-year-old woman who had been killed by a psychopath in 1971. He swore he fell in love with me, and kept me alive for three weeks, torturing my body with his hands and my soul with his words. Before he left me, he made me vampire.
He became vampire after his first killing spree in London’s East End.
Remember You Will Die by Susan Chalfin
The title of the Rubin Museum’s latest exhibit was Remember You Will Die. As if I could forget. It’s not the kind of thing that slips your mind when you have Stage Four liver cancer.
The exhibition compared Tibetan Buddhist and medieval Christian depictions of death. Both cultures, the brochure ex-plained, used graphic images of death to remind us that life is fleeting and mortality inevitable. As I stood in the middle of the exhibit, I was surrounded by examples—sculptures of dancing skeletons, artifacts made of human bone, elaborately painted skulls. It was the perfect setting for my goodbye party.
The Rubin is a small jewel-box of a museum in lower Manhattan, its interior painted in vibrant shades of Chinese red and ocher and filled with Himalayan treasures. Rory O’Rourke, a Tibet expert I’d befriended after hearing him lecture at the museum, had helped me book the exhibit space.
The Cost of Cigarettes by Nan Higginson
I stood silent, listening to my sister lie.
“Granny, we got no money for cigarettes,” Jax insisted, poison twitching through her veins. She twitches a lot lately, eyes darting as if following a hummingbird, juiced up on God-only-knows what. She’s good at getting away with every scam she runs, but one of these days she won’t be so lucky. I try to stay prepared.
“Don’t look so stupid, Granny. I told you ’bout that. They’re taxing the crap out of us. Ten friggin’ dollars for a pack of cigs? It’s crazy!”
Gram rocked in her chair, round-shouldered, bleary-eyed, waiting to be called up to heaven. In the meantime, she was trapped in a worn project apartment in the Stapleton Houses on Staten Island’s east shore. Her skin sags off her face so bad, you want to cry along with her even if she’s laughing. When I help her into the bathtub, I see an old turtle with no shell.
A Countdown to Death by Deirdre Verne
It all started with the package.
I pulled the yellow slip out of my mail slot and peered through the four-inch box assigned to apartment 4D, Windsor Tower, Tudor City, NYC.
“Hey Luis, you got my package back there or at the front desk?” Luis set a stack of mail aside, rolled his chair over and peered back at me.
“I come around, Miss M. We talk.”
“Sure thing.” I wondered how much Luis suspected. Ordinarily a superb doorman, he’d been distracted of late. Luis’ girlfriend was four months pregnant, and they’d been fighting the same amount of time. He had already packed on fifteen pounds of sympathy weight, straining the seams of his neatly pressed uniform. Unwittingly, I had become the in-house consultant for the doormen in my building. I’d never been able to help myself when it came to matters of a personal nature. I’m one of those individuals who feels perfectly at ease posing questions.
A Poet’s Justice by Eileen Dunbaugh
Senida leaned over the old lady’s knobby shoulders, surrounding the fragile limbs as carefully as if they were bone china. Together, they sifted through the pictures in the box, Senida helping her to hold each one as she tried to recall who it was and where it had been taken.
“Peter,” she prompted. “Astoria Park.”
They had a guest today, but with her first expressions of delight in seeing her great-niece over, Maddie’s eyes and hands had wandered back to her picture box.
“You must do this for hours,” the niece said.
Senida nodded without resentment, knowing that life, tentative as the fluttering of a butterfly, could not keep hold of her employer for much longer.
The relative, who’d given her name as Ellen, picked up Maddie’s tea service and headed for the kitchen. Senida started to get up too, but Ellen urged her to sit.
That Summer by Joan Tuohy
“Nana, what’s this box?”
“I don’t know, honey. What’ve you got?” Grace Ann, my nine-year-old granddaughter, was helping me sort through a box of papers and photographs among my mother’s things. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor, a position I could no longer manage, and separating papers from photographs. “Is it heavy?” Listing a little, Gracie managed to move the unwieldy box to the coffee table and lifted off the cover.
“Oh, look,” she giggled. “Who’s this old-fashioned-looking man?”
We were sitting in the living room of my ninth-floor apartment in Fort Lee, New Jersey. It was an older building with windows wide open to the afternoon breeze. By great good fortune, nothing had yet been built between those windows and Manhattan, so, in addition to the warm spring air, there was also a splendid view of the New York skyline and the George Washington Bridge.
Death Will Tank Your Fish by Elizabeth Zelvin
“Sure, I’ll feed your fish,” I said. “No problem.”
“You gotta promise, Bruce,” Neil said. “Those little fellas mean a lot to me.”
The Monday night AA meeting in the High Episcopal church at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 90th Street had just ended. As we stood at the curb outside, the smoke and babble of recovering alcoholics bonding eddied around us.
“I know, man, I know.”
Neil was probably the only alcoholic in town whose story about hitting bottom involved stumbling home in a blackout and crash-landing in a tankful of guppies. Apart from that, we’d heard it all before in the church basements of New York: the shattered glass, the brokenhearted children bawling, and the soon-to-be-ex-wife screeching as she kicked him out. How does an alcoholic make amends for a two-hundred guppy mistake? If you’ve flushed your dead, you can’t apologize or visit their grave. All Neil could do was replace the tank and take very, very good care of it.
North on Clinton by k.j.a. Wishnia
Lots of people think they know Long Island, but most of them don’t know from shinola about the place. All they know is the Gold Coast and the Hamptons, but nothing about the endless miles of strip malls in between. They don’t know about towns like Roosevelt, the subprime foreclosure capital of Nassau County, or Wyandanch, where the public schools are full of ratty old textbooks telling you that JFK’s still the president, or Brentwood, where a murder vic can lie out in the street all night before the detectives decide to drop by and get to work.
You’ve probably heard of that other Brentwood, out in some fancy part of L.A. where all the rich and famous live, like O.J. Simpson and that nutty Lewinsky babe. Not the Brentwood I know.
Today, we’re taking Jamaica Avenue all the way across Queens to darkest Hempstead, south of the LIRR tracks, where the potholes are as big as missile silos and the dope dealers own half the corners from here to Freeport.