Log in

No account? Create an account
30 April 2012 @ 12:58 pm
The Real LJ Idol: "To Avoid Sinking"  
To Avoid Sinking
real lj idol | week 25 | 2012 words
Cesspool – an Idol Intersection with kickthehobbit (her story is here).


It's no job for a woman, people always said, and it pissed Maggie off. Either they were saying she didn't have the stomach for it, or that she failed at femininity.

The hell with them. What did they know, anyway?

Nobody liked the kind of people she dealt with as a cop. Who would? They were scum—murdering, abusive, drug-dealing scum. She wasn't there to offer them sympathy or to save their sorry asses. Her job was to throw them in the slammer until they were so old their teeth fell out.

The only people Maggie felt sorry for were the victims, some of them so devastated they'd probably never recover. But she'd used that as motivation for becoming a cop and then later a detective. Getting criminals off the streets kept other people from becoming their victims. It was the best she could do.

Today's caseload included a hit-and-run in the Bowery, and the continuing investigation of a murder near Broadway. There were a couple of notes on Maggie's desk—phone calls that had come in during the overnight shift. She glanced over them, reached for her coffee cup and headed to the break room.

"Stylish," Roy Gaines commented as she passed his desk (because that never got old).

"Bite me." She was wearing her typical black dress pants and walkable shoes, with something professional on top—clothes that would let her run after a perp, if she had to. She was sure Gaines would have scorned fashionable clothes just as strongly.

Her partner, Glen Kliebert, was already getting coffee. "You talk to Mick yet? He got the results back on the evidence trace from the vic's car."

Maggie refilled her mug. "Anything helpful?"

"A couple of hairs on the driver's side that didn't match the vic or her roommate, and the roommate says no boyfriend."

"Have they run anything against the database?"

"That's next." Glen checked the doorway behind her, and lowered his voice. "The log says you were here late last night. Things with Joe not going so good?"

Joe Weisz was the lunch chef at a pricey café near Central Park. She'd met him on the job, and he'd called the station to ask her out the day afterward. They'd hit it off so well that they'd been spending most nights together until last Sunday, when he'd suddenly decided he was nervous about her being killed in the line of duty. Cold feet—seemed like a lot of her relationships hit that point. This one had really mattered, though. A week ago, she'd even found herself thinking that Joe might be the one…

Glen was still waiting for an answer. Maggie sighed. "He called things off. Couldn't get past the job."

Glen grimaced. He'd been married twice already. He knew. "You'll meet someone, Mags," he said.

Maggie shrugged, but inside she was smiling. Glen knew her better than anyone. If he still thought there was hope, who was she to argue?

They went back to their desks and sat down, facing off across Glen's In-tray, and Maggie's half-dead ficus plant. There was another note on Maggie's desk. "Patrol called," she said. "They're sending us a list of witnesses and last-known-associates for the hit-and-run today."

"Associates," Glen snorted. "Deadbeats and winos, is more like it."

"Still, unless he was sleeping out in traffic…"

"Yeah, I know. A crime is a crime. Let's see when the autopsy's scheduled, and then we can head out."

The drive to East 2nd Street seemed to take forever. Lunchtime rush, Maggie thought. We should have eaten first…

But once they started interviewing the victim's friends, she was glad they hadn't. All the men were homeless, and reeked of vomit, alcohol, and sweat. It was all she could do to hide her disgust. Still, they all seemed genuinely upset over their friend's death.

"It's dark at that corner," one man said, "but I could still see. The light was red, and the car just ran him over like he was nobody, you know?"

Maggie nodded. She'd heard it before. It was exactly why she and Glen were there.

The other witness said the same, and he'd gotten a partial plate number for the vehicle. The whiskey fumes coming off the man didn't promise much in the way of accuracy, but at least it was something. A previous witness had said the car looked like a dark-blue SUV. Adding those two pieces of information together might turn up something.

"You hungry?" Glen asked when they'd finished.

"Not anymore," Maggie said, but smiled to let him know she was joking. They stopped at Polish Pete's hot dog stand on the way back to the station for a kielbasa-dog and some brats. Glen pretended it was for her, but the man loved his brats. Sometimes Maggie thought he was just one brat or T-bone steak away from having a heart-attack, but she hoped not. He was a good partner—not like that jerk-off she'd been paired with after the Academy. She'd have liked to see him make retirement in another ten years.

At the station, there was another note on Maggie's desk regarding a possible witness to the abduction of their homicide victim, Laurel Martin.


They drove to the Sheraton on Canal, where the witness worked as a desk clerk. The manager let them use a conference room for the interview.

"Tell us what you saw, Shelly," Maggie said.

"I was driving home after my shift—I get off at ten—and I saw a man and a woman in front of where they hold the Flea Market on Broadway. The woman looked like the one in the papers."

"Was there something about them that drew your attention?" Maggie said encouragingly.

"Yes," Shelly said. "They were close together, and it looked like the man had his arm around her. But she was walking all stiff and funny-looking. Like she didn't want to go with him."

"Did you happen to get a look at him?"

"I think so. He was a white guy, mid-to-late thirties, and kind of tall. He had on a brown jacket and black pants, and his shoulders looked really, really big compared to the rest of him."

Maggie hid a sudden spark of excitement. "Do you think you could work with a sketch artist to come up with a picture of him?"

She and Glen took Shelly to the station with them and set her up with an artist, before returning to their desks. Maggie's desk had a preliminary report from one of the crime-techs containing twelve dark-blue SUVs with license plates matching the partial given by the hit-and-run witness. She looked it over while Glen called to check on DNA matches for the hair sample found in Laurel Martin's car.

The autopsy for the hit-and-run should have started. She and Glen would check in with the coroner later, for the results. Maggie wondered if there was an ID for the victim yet. They'd have to notify the family, assuming they could find them. That was one of the worst parts of the job. She always dreaded it.

Laurel Martin's mother had sagged right down to the floor when they'd told her that her daughter was dead. Even though her daughter was an adult, they'd talked on the phone nearly every day. It was clear the loss was devastating.

Maggie phoned her mother every couple of weeks, unless her mother called first. Her mother had moved back home to Michigan after Maggie's father died, and always wanted to know when Maggie was going to visit, and had she found a man yet? Maggie had lived in New York all her life and planned on staying there, and she hadn't even told her mother about Joe. Just as well, now that it was over, but that was the thing: dealing with the aftermath of a breakup was hard enough without Maggie's mother adding her own drama to it. Who needed that?

The techs had done a good job with the prelim on the hit-and-run. The two vehicles at the top of the report belonged to men with DWI priors. Maggie ran the owners through the state's criminal database, and discovered that one of the men was already in jail. The other looked more promising, especially since he worked just five blocks from the part of the Bowery where the accident had taken place.

"Read this over, would you?" Glen passed a report across their desks.

Maggie looked at the cover, and realized it was for the case they'd closed yesterday. Paperwork—you just couldn't escape it. She and usually Glen traded off, and they both did a decent job of it. She read through his summary, stopping on the third page. "I don't see anything about the parking lot attendant," she said.

"Crap. Knew I forgot something. Hand it here."

Smith and Bolnik came through, blustering loudly over an arson case. Bolnik caught Maggie's eye: "You and the geezer solved that homicide from yesterday yet? Twenty bucks says we beat you to a booking."

Maggie returned his gaze, rarely one to back away from a challenge. "You're on." She hoped the sketch artist was getting something good…

She and Glen met with the lieutenant a half-hour later, to brief him on the status of both cases. The lieutenant was very big on status, which made it harder to get things done. He suggested the approaches they were already taking, and asked the obvious questions about what they'd learned. Glen had more patience with it than she did, but she could see his neck starting to stiffen by the end.

The lab had called while they were away—no match in the database on the hair from Laurel Martin's car, but they'd narrowed down the rope fibers found on the body when it was recovered. The autopsy hadn't been performed yet, but the medical examiner was likely to rule death by strangulation. The fibers might come in handy.

Shelly had finished with the sketch artist, so now they had something to send out to the media. Glen made arrangements with Press Relations while Maggie looked into Bob Waggoner, the guy with two previous DWI arrests and a dark-blue Dodge Durango. Mr. Waggoner had not shown up for work that day, and the landlord of the apartment that matched the address on the car's registration said that Waggoner had moved out four months earlier.

It was seven o'clock by the time Maggie got off the phone. She could feel the effects of the previous day's late hours catching up to her, and much as she hated to admit it, it was clear neither case would be solved that day. She gathered up her jacket, purse, and gun, and rode the elevator down to get her car and head home.

There wasn’t much waiting for her there, now that Joe was gone. They'd only been together a couple of months, but she'd really liked coming home to him. She supposed she'd get used to being alone again after awhile, but his leaving was still fresh. She missed him. All she had to look forward to now was a few hours of relative quiet.

Maggie was starving by the time she got to her apartment, and bone-tired as well. She dumped everything on the couch and stuck some soup in the microwave to heat. She sat down and ate an apple while she waited, staring blankly at the curtains over the sink.

The phone rang.

God, not her mother. Tonight of all nights, Maggie just wasn't up to it, and only her mother still called on the landline. But then she thought of Laurel Martin's mother, collapsing in grief with the news of the death of her only child. Maggie sighed.

She put down the apple and steeled herself, taking a deep breath and reaching for the phone. "Hello?"

"Mags?" The sound of that rich, warm voice was so unexpected that it made her heart skip for a moment, rising on a flutter of forgotten excitement.

It was Joe.

If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it and its Intersection, along with many other fine entries here.

medleymisty: tireswingmedleymisty on April 30th, 2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
I wanted to read your partner's before commenting, and now I have. :)

I like your character. :) I'm not so sure about Joe. I'm glad he called her at the end, but if I was her I'd take it slow, because who's to say he won't go all weird and abandon her again?

I like Glen. I ship Glen/Maggie! :)

One thing I noticed about both entries - they're both long and really detailed. Yours has so much information about the cases and the way that the police do their thing - did you do research, or did you just already know all this stuff?

Yay I liked it and it's all awesome. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 1st, 2012 12:36 am (UTC)
Yay for reading both first!

I'm glad you liked Maggie. I did, too, but who I really liked was Glen. And why? I'm not even sure-- he just seems awesome to me. Your Glen/Maggie thing cracked me up, because I don't entirely disagree. :D

This entry became longer than I intended, and that was partly to emphasize the prompt and also because I wanted to show some of the long (often fruitless) hours that go into day-to-day detective work. The eventual result is good, but the individual days are not necessarily rewarding.

I do read a lot of mystery novels, and I watch a lot of the cops shows (well, the L&O ones and The Shield, but not the 'maggot' shows as I think of them). But I also did research on the NYPD and how they work, vs. other police departments. Mainly, it was logistics (like precinct boundaries), but I also discovered that unlike mystery novels or shows like 'Homicide,' you can't really be a homicide detective in the NYPD. You're a detective, period, potentially for any case that comes into your precinct and needs further investigation.

Glad you liked it, and thanks for reading. I've got to start reading everyone else's stuff now, since there's quite a bit already posted. :)
(no subject) - pixiebelle on May 2nd, 2012 02:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 2nd, 2012 05:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pixiebelle on May 2nd, 2012 05:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 2nd, 2012 06:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - alien_infinity on May 1st, 2012 04:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 1st, 2012 05:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
lawchickylawchicky on May 1st, 2012 02:00 am (UTC)
I'd love to know what happens to Maggie! Hoping to find the continuation with your partner.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 1st, 2012 02:31 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it! Did you see Misty's comment above? She had a completely different idea about where Maggie's future should go. ;)
(no subject) - lawchicky on May 1st, 2012 03:09 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 1st, 2012 06:21 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pixiebelle on May 2nd, 2012 05:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
basricbasric on May 1st, 2012 10:00 am (UTC)
I love her strength. Your character is strong. I could read a book on her adventures.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 1st, 2012 05:08 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad to hear you say this, especially as you're such a strong woman yourself! It's a hard line to walk, and the difficulty really isn't inside yourself so much as it is other people.

I think women face this much more than men. I love the Harry Bosch mysteries, and I think Harry is pretty awesome even though you can tell that he's borderline unlikable and a lot of people find him difficult to work with. That's much harder to do with a female character (though I thought Kinsey Milhone, in the earlier books, was similarly prickly and glorious).

Strength doesn't mean lacking in heart. It means going on in spite of that, and it's a challenge for people (like you) who do that.
(no subject) - similiesslip on May 1st, 2012 11:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 2nd, 2012 12:27 am (UTC) (Expand)
A Sentient Being: Libraryalien_infinity on May 1st, 2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
I really enjoy this! ^_^
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 1st, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! It was fun trying out new territory, though the research is always work. :0

But the more surprising thing is getting attached to some of the characters as you write, especially the secondary ones who don't seem to have as much detail. By contrast to some of the tools in Maggie's office, though...
A Karmic Sandbox: Mona Lisa Impressionkarmasoup on May 1st, 2012 10:27 pm (UTC)
Good setup here... very "day in the life."
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 2nd, 2012 12:29 am (UTC)
Thank you! I wanted to capture how difficult this kind of work can be, not just because of the people you encounter but also because clues and solutions don't come as easily as you'd like. When things are obvious, detectives aren't needed. It's the troublesome cases where they get called in.
Kizzyxo_kizzy_xo on May 1st, 2012 10:45 pm (UTC)
Read both!

I love the "day in the life" aspect of this -- sure, it's probably longer than you intended it to be; OTOH I don't think many people realize all the details involved in real life detective work, considering most TV shows highlight ONE case per episode. You've captured that perfectly.

I wonder about Joe's sudden disappearance/reappearance. There's a heck of a lot of potential intrigue there ;)

I like Maggie! I wish she was a real person!

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 2nd, 2012 12:32 am (UTC)
It was longer than I expected, and that was partly fof the story arc but also because (as with most jobs) you are rarely lucky enough to be working on one thing at a time. Worse yet, you're trying to get any one of your cases to move, and sometimes they don't help you much. Some of them will go unsolved, and I think there must be that background fear in every detective that each case is potentially one of the ones that goes cold.

I was thinking of Joe as being someone who, with a little time to think about it, regretted the hastiness of his decision. But I like other people's suggestions of possible nefariousness. :0

I like Maggie! I wish she was a real person!
Best compliment ever!
similiesslipsimiliesslip on May 1st, 2012 11:09 pm (UTC)
I really liked this. It must be nice to work with someone you can be comfortable with, like Maggie is with Glen. That's got to be helpful when you work with so much sadness.

This seemed very realistic and flowed well. You had a nice mix between description, thoughts and dialogue.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 2nd, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
I think you described their relationship perfectly-- they're comfortable with each other. Not rude, not overly polite, but considerate and they each know what the other's thinking enough to not need extraneous words or behavior.

You had a nice mix between description, thoughts and dialogue.
Thank you! I like to mix things up, especially in fiction, if the story lends itself to the idea. This one seemed ideal for that.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 2nd, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Jemima Paulerjem0000000 on May 2nd, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
Awwwwww! :D

I like how her job just stays constantly busy, and the little touches of human interaction. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 2nd, 2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
People like this deserve better than to be overlooked by the rest of life, I always think. Though it appears that a number of readers think Maggie should be running off with Glen!

like how her job just stays constantly busy, and the little touches of human interaction. :)
I imagine there are very few quiet/dull moments in a job like this, because the cases back up and they typically aren't all that quick or simple to solve. You're always hammering away at something, even if it feels like the something is probably a brick wall. :0

Thanks for reading and commenting!
(no subject) - jem0000000 on May 3rd, 2012 03:20 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - halfshellvenus on May 3rd, 2012 05:37 am (UTC) (Expand)
Myrnamyrna_bird on May 2nd, 2012 06:49 pm (UTC)
I love mysteries too and I felt all the details about maggie's work and related departments were carefully researched and accurate. I lost myself for a bit and thought I was in the middle of the latest crime drama fiction novel. Good job!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 3rd, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
Ah, so you probably have the same sense of mysteries that I do. I love them, and I read a lot of them (including the "Hi, I'm a lawyer/coroner/PI/PR specialist/caterer/pyschologist and I solve crime, too" novels).

You get a sense of how the investigative process goes, I think, and also some awareness that different states or countries do things slightly differently. That really helped here.

So glad you enjoyed it! It was fun to try out this kind of setting as a writer instead of a reader for a change. :)
Alephalephz on May 2nd, 2012 09:10 pm (UTC)
Ipers! I see I was not the first person to do the police angle.

I just wish I would've done it quite so well. Kudos!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 3rd, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
Aw, I liked your story!

Actually, between watching shows like "The Shield" and "The Closer," this area was one of the first that occurred to me. The Sewer!Monster angle occurred too, but we have so many great horror writers that I was pretty sure that angle would be covered. Not that I would have been unwilling to try!

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
whipchickwhipchick on May 2nd, 2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
This is really interesting, with compelling characters, and you have such a great grasp on the procedural style! I was a little sad to get to the end - the mysteries of the two deaths are set up so well that I was hoping for a lead or a clue or the resolution of a step in the process. This feels like it could be a very strong beginning to a book.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 3rd, 2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I thought about whether to solve one of the crimes, though I was aiming for a long exhausting day (and the possibility that might partner might want to write one of the criminal POVs).

But I decided that the frustration and dedication of this kind of job were better reflected in something more realistic, which could mean an entire day of throwing yourself at two different cases and neither one of them gets solved. You're closer-- and one of them could break at any time-- but there's a reason that persistence is an absolute necessity for this kind of work. Makes me all the more impressed with people who do it!
copyright1983copyright1983 on May 3rd, 2012 03:39 am (UTC)
My grandfather was with the San Francisco PD for more than three decades. You've really captured the day-to-day grind it takes to survive in that job. Well done!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 4th, 2012 12:01 am (UTC)
Yay-- that is wonderful to hear!

I only researched the NYPD for this story, but from what I've read in mystery novels (very factual source, I know), it seems that detectives in California may have different duties depending upon what city they're in, and may even specialize. For instance, one might be an arson detective, or a homicide detective. You'd be able to concentrate really honed skills that way, which would be good. OTOH, if you spent your career investigating murders, you'd never have a moment such as returning a living kidnapping victim to his/her parents. None of the (rare) joys, in other words.

Your grandfather must have been tough. I'll bet he had some stories to tell!
jacq22jacq22 on May 3rd, 2012 04:44 am (UTC)
I was waiting to solve the crime too! it was all so nicely paced, (and not too long) Love her character, as she is caring but tough. Was suspicious of Joe, but hope not needing to be?
because I am sucker for her getting some happiness in her life. " her heart skip for a moment, rising on a flutter of forgotten excitement." I want her to feel that and have fun not microwaved soup. So I must care about her. Great job.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 4th, 2012 12:07 am (UTC)
I'm so glad people found the character both strong and likeable. I sometimes think authors throw in annoying side-details like, "But she loves shoes, too!" or "She is ALL about the fashion!" out of fear that their audiences will assume the character isn't also "feminine" enough.

Joe was not sinister in any way, just... the thing people fear most about dating/marrying someone like Maggie is that their beloved will get killed on the job. I can understand that fear, because the statistics are there. But at the same time, once you begin loving someone, if they're really special, should you really walk away based on that slim "maybe" of future pain? I think he just came to his senses.

I want her to feel that and have fun not microwaved soup. So I must care about her.
Aw, that's so sweet! I'd like that for her, too. And you know Joe would make her something far better than microwaved soup, just on the food front alone.

Thanks so much for reading and commenting, and getting involved with the characters!
alycewilsonalycewilson on May 3rd, 2012 11:04 pm (UTC)
This is not a job I'd want, for sure.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on May 4th, 2012 12:08 am (UTC)
You would have to have SUCH persistence, just to deal with the cases that don't resolve as quickly as you'd like (probably every single one of them, to be honest) and the knowledge that if you don't keep trying, too many cases will be left permanently unsolved.

Makes you admire those who DO take up this kind of work, doesn't it?
(no subject) - alycewilson on May 4th, 2012 12:19 am (UTC) (Expand)