Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Trip: Baltimore Drive-by, Part VI

Fictional character Peter Rozovsky leaps from a moving train and rolls down a grassy bank in Delaware, barely escaping desperate fictional fictionists John McFetridge and Declan Burke. He has the clothes on his back; a partly used, non-refundable train ticket in his hand; and one thought on his mind: Where do I go next?

"It's New-ARK."

"Excuse me?"

"New-ARK, Delaware; NYEW-urk, New Jersey. You're in New-ARK."

"Give me one from Nyew— from New-ARK to Philadelphia at 5:04, please. And one to Baltimore at 5:08."

An intake of breath at the other end of the line, and the clicking on her keyboard stopped. Just for a moment, though.

"Will that be round-trip or one-way, sir?"

"Which one? Never mind. One-way, both."

A few more clicks, and I was done.

"Pay on the train, sir. Whichever one you take. Thank you for choosing Amtrak."

It wasn't quite four o'clock, so I found myself a shady tree on the platform, and I lay down with a good book — not Burke's or McFetridge's. Those were sharing a non-quiet car to Philly with their authors and my luggage.

(Read all of "The Baltimore Drive-by" so far here. And remember: This is fiction. Almost none of it really happened.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Baltimore Drive-by, Part V: Too many strangers on a train

Did the milling crowds that packed Baltimore's hotels for Bouchercon only write about crime? And remember: This is fiction. Almost none of it really happened.

I'd split a cab to the station with someone I’d met at the convention, someone I hoped I could use as a source. I looked forward to the peace of the train’s quiet car. I hadn’t got the box, didn’t know how I'd get it now, but I had to learn what she knew about Burke and McFetridge.

The train was way more crowded than a train has the right to be on a Sunday, so we grabbed whatever seats we could find, quiet car or otherwise. We couldn’t even find two together. I was annoyed, a bit nervous, even, but the train wasn’t due in Philadelphia for an hour. I had plenty of time to get what I needed.

Across the aisle, a man had opened a book. The cover was Hard Case all the way: long-legged woman in green and yellow bodysuit, sleeveless, left leg raised high in a roundhouse kick. Bodily proportions that would make her eight-foot-three in real life. Title and author in stark block letters above and below the long, hot woman: Luchadora Be a Lady Tonight by Fista Krauss. I smiled. The reader probably had no idea who was sitting right in front of him.

Just outside Newark, Delaware, the woman next to me started having a family crisis over her cell phone. I commiserated, kept silent, tried to hold my temper. Then I slammed my own book down on the plastic seat tray and headed for the café car.

On my way back, the train took a sharp curve. I juggled my coffee and tuna, and the heavy metal doors between cars clanked open. From in front came the last voice I wanted to hear: “Geez, you’d think an American train could sell you a decent doughnut.” From behind, a voice I wanted to hear even less: “Quit yer fecking whining and hand me a cigarette, will you?”

The train pulled out of Newark with a long, shrill whistle. I mopped the coffee stains and tuna flecks from my shirt, and I watched it disappear.

(Read all of "The Baltimore Drive-by" so far here.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Baltimore Drive-by, Part IV: Thus spake Ali

Fictional characters John McFetridge and Declan Burke set out from Toronto to Baltimore for the Bouchercon crime writers' convention. A character loosely based on Peter Rozovsky is headed the same way. Burke and McFetridge hold up stores, Rozovsky holds up Burke and McFetridge, and soon the only question is — Who's chasing who!!!!

"A knob," he said, annoyed, "is a COCK — you knobs."

Laughter floated out over the Inner Harbor. "I cannot — cannot! — understand why these tossers have carried on the way they do about bloody boxes of sodding books. Can they not get more?"

"Must be something special in the books."

"Must be something special in the boxes!"

"And who are these knobs anyhow? Declan Burke? Jonathan McFetridge?"



"John McFetridge, not Jonathan. He's Canadian, Burke is Irish. They're crime writers, in town for Bouchercon."

"Do we know anything about them? Pass me that newspaper."

"Oh, you won't find anything in there." I walked over from the bench where I'd been eavesdropping. "I'm Peter Rozovsky, soon-to-be-ex-copy editor for the Baltimore Gazette. The culture reporter is filling in on night police duty and clerical work this week. No one's covering Bouchercon."

"That's a bloody outrage! This is a big event. Big!" He brought a meaty fist down on the metal patio table. Silverware jumped. "What kind of bloody fucking tossers run this newspaper of yours anyway?"

"You got a few hours?"

(Read all of "The Baltimore Drive-by" so far here. And remember: This is fiction. Almost none of it really happened.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Baltimore Drive-by, Part III: Femme fatale, my ass!

Fictional characters John McFetridge and Declan Burke set out from Toronto to Baltimore for Bouchercon. Why not pull a few armed robberies to pass the time? Then they meet up with Peter Rozovsky and a whole lot of folks with crime on their minds.

It took discipline to punch like that: upper arms still, forearms whirling like a Wankel rotary as she danced lightly on the balls of her feet. All the power came from her elbows and the deadly backhand flick of her wrists. I didn't know why I was there, but I liked watching her work.

"Femme fatale?" Thwack. "Femme-effing fatale?" Thwack. Thwack. "You know what a femme fatale does? She brings the world crashing down on any man who comes near her." Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. "Sometimes she brings it down on herself, but let me tell you: I'm not bringing it down on anybody. You want to save yourself trouble? Look in that box you ripped off from Burke and McFetridge." Thwack. Thwack.

Burke wore a red T-shirt and blue jeans. He hunched forward, hands jammed in his pockets, moving fast. McFetridge held the rolled-up Leafs jacket in the crook of his elbow, the Tim Hortons bag half falling out of one pocket. He ambled and shambled but still kept up with his friend somehow. He put a hand on Burke's shoulder, and they stopped.

McFetridge indicated a door, and Burke shook his head. McFetridge held up one finger and ducked into the doorway. Burke shrugged, leaned against a pillar, and lit a cigarette.

(Read all of "The Baltimore Drive-by" so far here. And remember: This is fiction. Almost none of it really happened.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Baltimore Drive-by, Part II

Fictional characters John McFetridge and Declan Burke set out from Toronto to Baltimore for Bouchercon and decide to do some armed robberies on the way. What a hoot!

Then they meet up with Peter Rozovsky.


Her voice told a smoky tale of cigarettes and whiskey, but it lied. She never touched either.

"Think I'd be able to do this if I wasted all my time hanging in bars with you and Burke and McFetridge?"

"But — "

She whipped her fists into the speed bag so hard and fast that I felt sorry for the bag. Chin tucked, knees flexed, back straight. Elbows in, back heel lifting slightly each time she struck. Her two fists became four, then six, her breath short, spitting wheezes with each punch. I got tired watching her.

But she did hang in bars. But I didn't hang with Burke and McFetridge. I'd never heard of them till we set up the connection and I ripped them off. But —

"But why the hell all this? You write crime fiction. You — "

She stopped punching, and she smiled as she blew a wisp of platinum hair from her left eye. "Would you want to be whipped by a fat dominatrix?"


(Read the rest of "The Baltimore Drive-by" so far here. And remember: This is fiction. Almost none of it really happened.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Drive-by fiction

John McFetridge is writing a piece of online fiction about his ramble from Toronto to Baltimore for Bouchercon with Declan Burke. In McFetridge's version, a pair of crime writers named John McFetridge and Declan Burke ramble from Toronto to Baltimore for Bouchercon and pull off armed robberies along the way. McFetridge's third installment ends with the pair setting out for Philadelphia to hook up with one Peter Rozovsky — a minor character so far, mentioned but not seen. But Rozovsky has other ideas.

I jabbed the .45 at the base of McFetridge's skull, and I cackled as his eyes grew wide.

"Bet you didn't think this was real. You hide guns in doughnut bags up there, don't you? No one would be stupid enough to wave a real gun, would he? What can I tell you; I don't like doughnuts. Now, out of the car. And leave the boxes."

I jerked the barrel to the right as Burke went for his jacket. "Hold it right there, Tiger."

Burke's hand froze. "Tiger? The fook?"

"Tiger. You're Irish, what am I going to call you? Paddy? Mick? Now, out of the car, Celtic, and keep your hands away from your — "

"From my bloody Marlboros, you Yankee gobshite. All right, I'm getting out."

I waved out the window of McFetridge's black 2008 Lexus as I pulled away. "See you later, gents. Put this in your books."

Two nights later I'm shouting to be heard above the seething crowd at a hotel bar in Baltimore, hooting and cheering as a sexy dominatrix lifts her blouse to reveal her tattoos. The crowd gathers in around her, all except two guys heading the other way, toward the door ...

The snake tattoo is flicking its tongue at its owner's scapula, but I've got one eye on the two guys.

One of them shouts: "I said, `I'M AFTER FECKING OUT OF HERE FOR A CIGARETTE, MATE!'."

His friend, a husky, saltish-pepperish dude with a Maple Leafs jacket and a Tim Hortons bag stuffed in his back pocket, shrugs and follows. Shit, it's McFetridge and Burke.


(Read all of "The Baltimore Drive-by" so far here. Disclaimer: It's fiction. Almost none of it really happened.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2008