me in the piazza

I'm a writer, publishing both as SJ Rozan and, with Carlos Dews, as Sam Cabot. (I'm Sam, he's Cabot.) Here you can find links to my almost-daily blog posts, including the Saturday haiku I've been doing for years. BUT the blog itself has moved to my website. If you go on over there you can subscribe and you'll never miss a post. (Miss a post! A scary thought!) Also, I'll be teaching a writing workshop in Italy this summer -- come join us!
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Action scene, the result

Okay, this is what took me two days. The set-up: Lydia Chin, Bill Smith, and a guy named Jack Lee are being followed. They want to know by whom, and they want to know which one of them is the actual target. It's night. Bill's driving. He drops Lydia and Jack off. The car that's been tailing them doesn't drive off after him.

We paused at the corner to look like we were conferring. "What if it's the guy who shot at me, come to finish the job?" Jack asked.

"I thought we decided he wasn't really trying to kill you, just scare you."

"That's the job I meant."

"A big tough guy like you? Okay, now go."

"No, the big tough guy's you," Jack said. "See you around." He turned right, crossed the street and walked away. I turned left.

A few seconds' pause. Then headlights swung around the corner and cast their light up the street.

So. It was me.

The headlights didn't keep coming. Was whoever it was just trying to find out where I was headed? I continued down the block, wondering where everyone in Queens was. No cars, empty sidewalks. Blue glows in some of the windows told me there was a lot of TV watching going on. Homebodies, these folks out here. I stopped in front of a house with no lights on at all, looked up at it, took out my phone and stood there as though I were making a call. Actually, I was.

"You, or Jack?" Bill asked when he picked up.

"Me. He's idling at the corner a block up from where you dropped us. I went left."

"I'm two blocks down. Be right there."

"A door's opening. One of them just got out."

"Anyone we know?"

"I can't tell without turning to look but I don't think so. Big. I'm going on in the same direction as though I had the wrong address. I'm going to keep talking, maybe he'll want to wait until I'm not connected to anyone before he clobbers me. See if you can come around and get a look at him first."

"See you soon."

But not soon enough. Whoever this guy was, the fact that I was on the phone with someone who could presumably call a cop if I screamed -- or suddenly went silent -- must not have worried him. He was quiet and he was fast and as I turned my head to look at a house number I found him almost at my elbow.

I took a sharp leap backwards. "You really should learn to knock," I told him, slipping the phone into my pocket, still on. I thought he might overlook that while he focussed on the .38 from the small of my back, now in my hand. I checked him out: a big Asian man, not handsome, not hideous. Sportcoat, white shirt, no tie. In his hand, a gun also, and bigger than mine.

"I can shoot faster," I said. "Also, I have more incentive."

He smiled quizzically. "Incentive? For shoot me? You don't know me." His words' dropped endings rang of Mandarin.

"That's the point. You've been following me. You could've shot me already but you didn't. So you don't just want me dead, you want something from me. I, on the other hand, don't like to be followed down dark streets, don't know you, and don't want anything from you. Why shouldn't I shoot you?"

"But you don't shoot. Just stand there."

"Who are you?"

"Oh, now you want something?"

Yes, I wanted to know where the hell Bill was.

"Why are you following me?"

"You want two thing! I only want one. Want to talk to you."

"You and your gun?"

"Dark street dangerous place for lady. Come, I drive you home."

"I don't think so."

But apparently his driver did think so. He stomped the gas and in about three seconds had swerved up the block and right up onto the sidewalk behind me. His door blew open and I was thinking, Damn, I am going to have to shoot one of these guys when the big guy yelped and spun around. Whatever was up with him, it gave me a chance to spin, too, and slam my gun up under the chin of the driver, off-balance as he left the car. His head snapped back. I threw a hard fist into his stomach and when he folded I smashed him on top of his head. That should hold him. I ducked down in case the big guy had solved his other problem and decided it was time to shoot me. But he wasn't even looking at me. He was shouting and cursing in the other direction, half-turned, one arm up to ward off a stone, and then another, that flew at his head. Both bounced off his shoulder. He waved his gun around, looking for his target. Another stone came soaring out of the dark to smack into his knee, and when he reflexively dropped his hand to there he got clonked on the temple.

With a howl he took off toward the thrower and ran into a hailstorm of pebbles. Another big stone hit him square in the face. One more like that and he fired into the dark, the gunshot thundering on the quiet street. In answer, a flying stone clipped his ear. He cursed again and when another skipped off his skull he turned, racing for his car. I stepped up to block his way but he plowed into me, then grabbed my jacket and began to drag me with him. Stumbling, I tried to break his hold. Whether I could have, I don't know, but it didn't matter: a rock walloping his back made him stagger and slacken his grip. I pulled loose and stuck my leg out to trip him. He did a little jig but kept his footing, screaming to his driver as he reached the car. The driver, looking dazed, stood and lurched in behind the wheel. He started the car as the big guy dove into the back under a rain of rocks.

I watched them roar off, then turned to look up the street, where a figure was sauntering out of the dark, hands in his pockets.

"That," I said, "was pretty impressive."

"Little League," said Jack. "Middle school travel team. High school all-state. College varsity."


"And relief both. Kid Iron, they called me. My junior year all-state season's still the team record."

"So all this whining about flying bullets -- "

"I said I couldn't shoot a gun. I didn't say I was helpless. As long as there's a gravel driveway and a little landscaping, I'm good. You think maybe we should keep walking?"

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