Hey everyone, Flobo here!
Today I want to share with you an excerpt from one of favorite short stories that I’ve ever wrote entitled “Manhattanhenge.” Named after the actual phenomenon, Manhattanhenge or Manhattan Solstice occurs four times a year (twice at dawn, twice at dusk) when the sun sets directly in the center of the East-West NYC streets.
This past week I’ve been exceptionally homesick (it returns to me like an old football injury), and seeing pictures of Manhattanhenge doesn’t really help the situation. Observe:
Ooooh, so cosmopolitan.
Anyway, “Manhattanhenge” is the story about a disturbed man who plans to commit suicide on the same day of the event. Originally two separate stories (with laughable titles “NYC” and “Suicide Day”), “Manhattanhenge was more or less a modern retelling of the O. Henry story “The Cop And The Anthem.” This, and many other stories appear in my second collection, “Mass Transit.” Enjoy.
Detective Christine Knight was glad she skipped her morning coffee when she arrived to the small boat that was docked in the East River. The smell of rotting flesh always seemed to turn her stomach, even though as a homicide detective she encountered the smell of death on a near daily basis.
The surrounding police cruisers, parked a few hundred feet from the dock, were lighting up the early morning skies with a coating of red and blue lights. Ducking underneath the crime scene tape, she took out her notepad and scribbled down some notes of the general location of the crime scene and the victim: A man in his mid fifties.
Knight walked closer to the boat, a small vessel just big enough to carry two—maybe three individuals, and looked over to the man. He was still, his body was bloated and his skin was pale. Even though the decomposition, Knighted noted that he lay in the boat in an unorthodox position. His body was contorted in the prone position, a sign of a struggle perhaps. Shaking her head, she jotted down her findings in her notebook. Knight was never fond of paperwork, but good paperwork builds airtight cases, and the families of victims definitely deserved that.
Knight stopped writing when she felt the presence of Miguel Nieves, her partner, walk up beside her.
“You’re late. Again,” Knight said, not looking up from her notepad.
“Damn,” Nieves said. “That guy has seen better days. Jesus. But never mind that, how’d you know it was me?”
Knight looked up Nieves to shoot him a dirty look, but when she did she saw that he was holding a small gift box, wrapped with ribbon an in a bow.
“Call it magic,” she said standing up. “What you got there?”
“Ah,” Nieves said. “It’s the reason I’m late. I was going to give it to you when we got back to the station, but I figure if I didn’t show you know, you would chew me out for being late. It’s a gift for you.”
“What’s the occasion?”
“Well, It’s our three year anniversary for one, but I don’t expect you to remember that. You forget every year,” he said opening the box. “It’s a pair of tinted binoculars. Happy Manhattanhenge.”
“I don’t follow,” Knight said.
“It’s only twice a year that the sun in the sky sets parallel along the city streets that run east to west. They call it Manhattanhenge, and tonight is of those nights. With these binoculars, you won’t have to go blind looking at the sunset. It is your favorite time of day, no?”
“Thanks,” Knight said. “You can put that in the cruiser. I got a body here that I’m going to need help rolling over to check for identification.”
“And I take it by help, you want me to do it?” Nieves asked.
“See, I don’t care what anyone else says about you,” Knight smiled. “I think you’re a hell of a guy.”
“What do we got?” Nieves asked.
“Let’s see,” Knight said. “Male mid-fifties possibly in average health. Judging about how he’s bloated, I would say he was here for least a couple of days. Puncture wounds by his neck suggest he was stabbed.”
After donning a pair of gloves, Nieves helped Knighted turn the body over, keeping careful not to make any sudden movements. A jerk in the wrong direction, could cause the victim’s flesh to burst, it debris compromising every bit of the crime scene. When Nieves saw the face of the victim, he stopped, his mouth agape.
“Check this out,” he said.
Knight looked over to see that the man’s cheeks had been slit, parallel to the lips, traveling from ear to ear. Coagulated blood lined the scar, and flaked off when the scar open wide, revealing the dead man’s jawbone.
“Jesus,” Knight said. “This guy must have had one hell of an enemy.”
“You bet,” Nieves said. “Some folks call it a Glasgow Smile, and others the Cheshire Grin. I heard work like this was making a comeback, but usually the victims are half this guy’s age.”
“You’re thinking gangland hit?” Knight asked.
“Doubt it,” Nieves said. “The docks are usually organized crime territory, not hoodlums vying for turf.
Knight pulled out a wallet from the victim’s pant leg and began rummaging around the various compartments. Tossing a few credit cards aside, she stopped when she came across the man’s driver’s license.
“Calvin Gerrard,” Knight said handing it over to Nieves. “Age fifty-three, Washington D.C.”
“Oh man,” Nieves said. “You know this guy has had a hard life.”
“What makes you say that?”
“He’s from Washington D.C. The nation’s capital. Everybody knows from London, to France, to Tokyo that living in the capital city is usually the most inhospitable part of the country.”
“You got anything to back that up?” Knight asked.
“Personal research,” Nieves said.
“Speaking of,” Knight said. “You can run his address with D.C. Police to see if he’s in their records. Maybe they’ll have some insight as to why a man dies two hundred and fifty miles from where he lives.”
[To Be Continued]
Thanks for reading!