Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Wall (part 4)

Wall knew from his conversation with Max that the 911 call from Timex was wrong. The victim had not been shot. So, why did that little guy Gaither think he heard gunfire?

On his way back to the Timex plant, Wall’s exit off of Interstate 30 reminded him of his first trip down that offramp. As a teenager, he had just left a Robert Plant concert and was pretty sure he would not make the 60 miles home on an empty tank. Instead of risking it, he had found the nearest gas station. A Little Rock cop pulled up beside him as he pumped the gas.

“Son, you really should not be here after dark. Where are you headed?” the cop asked.

“I’m just stopping here for gas, and then I’m on my way.”

“Make sure you don’t stop anywhere else.”

“Yes, sir.”

Now, as he headed down 9th street, he again understood the cop’s concern. All the homes and businesses, except the occasional gleaming convenience store, could be described best with a word he didn’t use often: ramshackle. Most needed structural help, and all could have used a fresh coat of paint. Gang graffiti did not discriminate between the old and the older, nor the vacant and the occupied. It looked as if violence could erupt from any street corner, and that it was not particularly concerned about the sun’s presence.

Wall was not afraid of it now as he had been years ago, but he knew to keep to himself unless he was working a case.

Back at Timex, the plant manager, an attractive woman Wall placed in her late 40’s, started him off with a tour. He guessed it was to stall while the corporate bigwigs from Middlebury, Connecticut made their way to the site. Although he wanted to get to the investigation, he enjoyed the tour. It was like discovering a whole new world.

Rivers of various shimmering, molten metals ran in three-inch wide canals, converging in large vats to form alloys. When Wall leaned in for a closer look at a river of zinc, the manager said, “Watch where you put your hands. You would end up with fewer fingers, not really neat zinc-plated fingers you could use to battle Spiderman.”

Racks of countless molds were lowered into shiny aluminum lakes for filling, then lifted and allowed to cool, she explained. After some tool work and a good buffing, the newly-formed watch bezels were loaded onto racks and sent along a track for a succession of metal dips and hot baths to form the plating.

“So, how could someone hang a dead man over one of these vats without anybody noticing?” Wall asked.

“Well, it was early, Detective, so most office workers were not here yet. As you can see, this area is completely automated. Workers handle the racks only during loading and unloading. Periodic checks ensure everything is operating within parameters.”

God, this sounds scripted. I might not get a thing out of her.

“And the lucky winner was a lady,” Wall said as he played back her scream in his head.

Then, his mind wandered as he re-ran the events from three days before.

After leaving Gaither the Sweepover and taking the stairs in three downward leaps, Wall bolted to his left toward a second scream. He almost dropped his mobile phone as he pulled it from its holster and dialed headquarters. Between ragged breaths, he muttered to himself, “Damn it. Why did this have to get so complicated? I don’t need complicated right now.”

“Lt. Wilson,” the voice on the other end said.

“Hey, Wilson. It’s Wall. We need all units near the Timex plant to respond immediately and secure the area.”

Another scream made its way down the halls. Now Wall had a better fix on it, and turned down a hallway toward a set of large, windowed double-doors.

“What the Hell was that?” Wilson said.

“The perp may still be on premises. When I got here, the body was gone. I just heard a scream and I’m trying to find the source right now. Get me some damn black-and-whites.”

“I’ll put an APB out right now. Shit. Do you have a description of the suspect?”

“Not a clue. Bye.” He slowed down to a fast walk. He hadn’t run that much in quite a while.

His hands busy fumbling to put his phone away, he kicked the doors and immediately saw the body.

“Oh my God,” he said.

“Excuse me, who are you?” asked the man comforting a frantic woman as he tried to direct her gaze away from the corpse.

“Detective Wallace Davies. Did you see anybody else in here?”

“No, sir. I just heard her scream so I ran in here to see what was the matter.”

Wall looked at the man’s face. He had sandy blond hair, probably late 20’s — a guy Wendy would have called good-looking. He couldn’t quite place the color of his eyes.

“They’re hazel,” the man said.

“I’m sorry. What was that?” Wall asked, angry with himself for staring too long.

“My eyes. Not green. Not brown. Hazel.”

“Sure, right. You two go to the nearest office, and lock yourselves in. Do not leave the premises. Mr. — “

“Stivins. Jeff Stivins. I’m supervisor for this section.” Then, to his co-worker as they walked toward the door, “Don’t worry, Kay, we’ll get you to a safer, more pleasant place.”

(continue to Part 5)

10 Responses to Wall (part 4)

  1. Hmm…. still to many “Wall’s”… and just a tad disjointed, but overall real good!

  2. Dave – It sounds like maybe you don’t like the name “Wall.” I admit, I’m not crazy about it after having to adjust sentences like “It hit Wall,” or “Wall hit the…” But, it’s the character’s name, and I have to use it some to establish that it’s him, not someone else, doing the action or saying the words.

    Read it again, but every time you see “Wall,” substitute “Biff” or “Jimmy-Don” or “Mike” and see if you feel the same.

  3. So did the guy just notice the staring thing, or did he READ WALL’S MIND?? Interesting.

    Also, everybody knows that you have to have nickel-plated fingers to defeat Spider-Man, not zinc.

  4. Excellent writing Mark!

    Of course … I’ve seen that name (Jeff Stivins) before! … so that kind of spoils some of the mystery ;-)

    But I’m still curious how the story will come out! A couple of points:

    1) I *respectfully* disagree with Dave ;-) … I think a story is much better if it takes us somewhere real. I assume you have really been to the Timex plant? Is there really a Timex plant in Little Rock? Btw, I was surprised to find that Little Rock had gangs and “slums”. I don’t know why (Kansas City does!). I also don’t have any problem with the Wall thing .. other than to wonder what will happen if Wall has to interact with an upright structural partition that separates rooms: “Wall slammed into the wall.”. Or, “Man, this case is driving me up the wall.” … “Huh???”

    2) The flashback scenes are still throwing me … the story just seems to be jumping around in time too much. Not that I have anything against that in principle; but, at a couple of points, I felt like I had missed something(like that the body was hanging above a vat). I’d have to reread all of the chapters a couple of times to pinpoint why it doesn’t “feel” right. Maybe if the flashback was in italics, or set off from the rest of the text visibly… I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me.

    Just my $ 0.02 worth!

  5. Jim – Thanks for the constructive comments.

    I hoped someone would remember Stivins. That was meant to be an “oh, no,” moment for readers of that previous story.

    The real place names thing must be a personal preference, because a lot of my favorite fiction uses real places, and does it so well that I’m sometimes not sure what part is fiction. Great book named Archangel, by Robert Harris, does that.

    I actually worked at the Timex plant in Little Rock as a temp for about four months, organizing factory run sheet information in an MS Foxpro database. The fate of the plant you will read more about later in this story. I’m surprised you hadn’t heard of Little Rock’s big-city problems. HBO aired a documentary years ago called “Bangin’ in Little Rock.” It featured not only the gangs, but the coroner Wall mentioned to Max.

    Yeah, the flashback scenes are throwing me a bit, too, but I’ve seen them written very successfully by other authors, so I’m still trying. It’s fairly new territory for me. I like your suggestion about italics.

    In the first entry (through a flashback while talking to Wendy – arg!), Wall remembers the opening scene in more detail, and the victim’s “wrists were tied to a green metal rack that swayed gently over a tank filled with a silver liquid. Drops of blood sizzled as they fell into the molten pool.” So… tank, vat, maybe not interchangeable, but I went with it.

    It’s hard for me to remember certain things, too, and I think that’s a symptom of reading small chunks each day. Some people read a 100,000-word novel in 4 days, but I’ve spread less than 4,000 over that same time frame. As far as I can tell, this is the last need I have for a flashback (besides maybe some character development stuff). I would love to publish it (say those two words together fast) all at once, but I only have enough right now for one more entry. Aaaagghhh!

  6. You know, the Jeff Stivins name totally rang a bell for me but I couldn’t quite place it. Seems so obvious to me now!

    I agree with Jim in that I had to re-read a couple paragraphs once I caught on to the fact that we were starting a flashback. The transition just caught me off guard.

    Just one more entry? Do we have to wait for Monday, or do we get it on the weekend here?


  7. All – Sometimes the questions in your head are answered in the next paragraphs or two (which, in this format, might have you waiting 24 hours). Sorry!

  8. Simon – Did this sentence not help at all with the flashback transition?

    “Then, his mind wandered as he re-ran the events from three days before.”

    I swear, I’m not adding these later. I included it when I wrote this to make sure I didn’t lose anybody. Hmm… going to have to do better, I guess.

    Oh, not just one more entry total. I have enough for one more right now, is what I meant. In other words, I will need to write like the wind this weekend! Hoping to post for Saturday, then let it sit until (or also act as) Monday’s entry.

  9. Oh, that sentence did help out. I think part of the problem is that I don’t read blog posts with the same sort of intensity that I read books since, normally, I’m getting something different out of them.

    I think it’s only with MFDH that I made more of a conscious effort as his tales unfolded.

    So I’ll give you that old break-up line:
    “It’s not you, it’s me.”

  10. No disrespect taken anyone.

    The thoughts/feelings I express, could be completely wrong I’m sure.

    I’ve just never read a fictitious story (at least I don’t think so) like this, with real-life places.
    Takes some getting used to.


Comments are closed.