A Crowdsourced Novel
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The aircraft radio crackled in Frank’s headset, “Three-Six-Victor, do you copy?”
Frank keyed the mike. “Three-six Victor. Negative 140 knots. Request vectors to Joliet.” He knew Midway got busy in bad weather. The heat of the city kept the ceiling high and everybody declared it as an alternate. Control would be happy to get him out of the way.
“Three-Six-Victor, new heading Two-Two-Zero. Maintain altitude.” Frank obeyed, gently bringing the bucking airplane around in the jarring turbulence of the storm.
Over the intercom: “Listen to me, Roya, I don’t want to go to Midway. I don’t know how much fuel we’ve got and Joliet’s close. But it’s a non-precision approach and this weather’s really bad. That’s on the negative side. On the other hand, the VOR is only 6 miles from the airport so we’ll probably come close to the runway. That’s on the positive side. There’s not much tall and hard stuff to hit and that’s in our favor. Runway 13 is long enough for a sloppy landing with lots of grass on both sides and that’s in our favor, too. But we gotta see the runway to land on it and I’ll have to bust minimums to do that. It’s dangerous. It’s illegal. There’s no tower there watching us, so I won’t get my wrist slapped, but if I make a mistake, we’ll be dead. You willing to chance it?”
Roya crossed her arms and grabbed her shoulders with her fingertips. She closed her eyes. “Uomo Grasso’s goons are waiting at Midway. If we land here, we’re dead. I want to meet that bastard on my own terms.”
“Good girl. I’ve been to Joliet a few times. It’s a quiet little place. Lots of abandoned tie-downs growing cobwebs. Runway needs paint. If we manage to put it down in this weather, we’ll be the only ones there.”
She planted a kiss on his neck. Frank’s skin tingled and he felt a new confidence.
* * *
The fingerprints of Tony Ferragamo, alias Frank Speck, didn’t match the prints on the murder weapon. Those prints belonged to Frank Smith—a real Frank Smith. Agent Harris ran a thick hand across his face. Both these suspects had service backgrounds—one a grunt in the Air Force, the other a pilot. Their faces looked alike. Why did an Air Force pilot shoot a truck driver? What was coming off here?
He decided to let local law enforcement hunt down Smith while his boys took on Ferragamo. So many Smiths in the country. Let the locals deal with that.
* * *
Tony Ferragamo, alias Frank Speck, alias Frank Smith answered his cell phone. “Yeah?”
“It’s Bill.” His contact at the FAA. “That Cessna is bound for Chicago Midway.” The connection went dead.
It would take Tony four hours to drive to Midway. The plane was probably on the ground. Uomo Grasso would already have them. Tony had a lot of connections in Chi-Town. He knew it like the back of his hand. And he knew where to find Uomo Grasso, that fat SOB.
* * *
Frank counted the time on his watch and pushed it down to 300 feet before he broke out of the clouds. He made it a quarter mile visibility in heavy rain, but the runway lights glowed through the gloom at his right as he flew past the runway. Missed it. He made a tight circle around the strip and planted it on the ground. Roya let out a cheer as he switched off the radios and taxied to the rows of planes in the grass. “We’ll tie it down as if it belongs here. With luck, nobody will spot these two bodies for days.” He popped his door and scrambled out, sheltered from the driving rain by the wing.
Frank waited until Roya finally climbed out of the plane. Her bulging purse hung from her shoulder.
“You go through their pockets, too?”
She smiled. “Let’s go.”
“First I want to tie this thing down. That way it might not get spotted so fast.”
By the time they reached the parking area, Frank was soaked right through his suit. He shivered. Looked at Roya. Looked again—a long look.
She glared back at him. “I told you to keep your eyes on business.” She slowly slipped a long flat piece of steel from the waistband of her jeans—a Slim Jim. She slipped it between the window and door of a new-looking red car with black racing stripes.
“Don’t you want something more inconspicuous?”
She tossed her head, then finger-combed wet hair from her face. “I always wanted a Mustang. Don’t you want a Mustang, Frank?”
She climbed behind the wheel and he took his place in the passenger seat. Within seconds she had the car started, then faced him. “Where’s a hotel?”
“There’s one three miles down the road. Turn left here.”
In less than five minutes, Roya pulled up to the entrance. “Here’s one of their credit cards. Check us in, Frank. I’ll wait here.”
Frank glanced at the card. “Luigi Gastroni.” Remarkable—he’d picked that name as a joke. At the desk, he handed the card to a boy who took a hard look at Frank’s wet, filthy suit. “We only got one room. Queen.”
“I need two rooms and laundry.”
The boy tapped computer keys and turned back to Frank. “Sorry mister, Gastroni. Laundry’s no problem but just one queen left. I gotta take an impression of your credit card.”
At the room Frank inserted the key card in the slot and pushed the door open. “Should I carry you across the threshold or what?”
“We’re not staying—just getting cleaned up. She walked into the bathroom and in a few seconds tossed her clothes out the door in a wet heap. ”See if they can get these things clean and dry—and do your suit. You look awful.”
“Give me a towel—and a ten spot.” He made the phone call then stripped to the skin and wrapped the towel around his waist. When the maid knocked, he handed her the pile of laundry. “How long?”
“Four hours, maybe five,” she said in a Spanish accent.
Frank handed her the ten-dollar bill. “For you. One hour. Okay?”
She nodded and he closed the door and switched on the TV, cycling through channels till he found the news. Roya was taking a long time in the bathroom and suddenly Frank saw his face on the screen. He leaned forward to focus on the report.
“A manhunt is underway at this hour for Frank Smith for the deaths of two men. Smith was last seen in the St. Louis area. Patrick Murphy was found shot by the quarry road, execution style…”
Frank switched off the set and buried his face in his hands, sick to his stomach. He’d never clear himself of that shooting at the quarry, even though he was innocent. Not now. Not after he actually killed a man with his bare hands. Frank had the training but in the war, killing had been distant–from the cockpit of a jet. The image of Roya strangling the giant made him sick, but much worse was the feeling in his own fingers of the life draining out of Luigi. He felt like crying but the tears would not come.
He heard the bathroom door open, felt Roya stroking his hair. He looked up to see her wrapped in a towel and opened his mouth to speak but no words came.
Roya smiled. “So, am I safe with a wanted man? A fugitive from justice?” She sat on the bed. “How long for the laundry?”
She ran a hand across the surface of the covers. “That gives us some time.”
Frank closed his mouth, bit his lip. He stood and paced the floor.
Roya grinned. “Bad habits, those, Frank. Do you bite your nails, too? Actually, I suppose now’s the time to start. The police will get you if the mob doesn’t first. Hey, I might get arrested for aiding a felon! Yes, I really should get rid of you, Frank.” She broke into a long laugh.
Frank walked into the shower and turned the water to full cold.
What happens next? TAKE YOUR TURN [click here]
HOW TO PLAY–This is an interactive story based on Nate’s game in my novel. You get to say what comes next:
1.) KEEP IT SHORT – It’s easy to play Nate’s game. Just enter your idea as a comment like, “their jeep drives off a cliff.” Don’t worry about form—just suggest the next step in the story. I’ll pick one, write it, and post it as a scene in serial form.
2.) KEEP IT CLEAN – I hold the veto pen. Since this is an experiment, I get to add rules as we go along. In general, if it wouldn’t fly in an old 60’s Bond movie, then it’s out.
3.) SHARE – Your posts are a precious gift to me. Maybe you’ll help write my next novel. If so, I’ll list your name as a contributor. If not, then we’ll just have a great time. I take you at your word that all ideas are your original thoughts. No criticism. No arguments. No lawsuits allowed. Let’s have some fun.
12 responses to “ROYA FETOVA – 7”
It’s quite interesting.I will look around for more such post.Thanks for sharing.
John, you have Agent Harris saying Frank Smith and Tony Ferragamo were both Air Force pilots. I doubt Tony’s two years as a grunt were spent flying. A pilot is a college educated officer that spends more than two years in the service—and I don’t think that fits Tony’s image.
Thanks, Lee. I’ll re-read the entire story and fix it. I am allowing myself to make changes up to the time of the following post. I certainly will deal with contradictions whenever they crop up. But after the next post is up, I hope only to make minor corrections like spelling and punctuation or something that doesn’t change the thrust of the story as it stands.
John, you need to work on the bedroom scene. You haven’t shown us why Frank reacts like he does. What is going through his mind? Roya must have invited him to bed and he is resisting, but you don’t say it. Things are way too implied.
Janet, the next post is not yet up. I have time to correct that problem. Thank you for your insight.
Since none of us yet know the length of this drama, it is somewhat difficult to judge how quickly to develop the story line. I think introducing the attraction and emotional sparks between Frank and Roya are appropriate, but personally I would delay any intimacy for later in the story.
Makes good sense. And I’m not sure there will be any intimacy. Plenty of reasons not to do that.
Okay, I worked over the whole episode. Please let me know if you find any more inconsistencies. Gotta go to another funeral, now.
John, there is still a mistake. In episode 5 it says Tony was air force and now you say he was in army.
Okay, I’ll fix that. Not thinking too clearly with all the death going on around me. By the way Lee, the reason I change your posts so drastically is that I’ve restricted the point of view to three characters: Frank, Tony, and the Harris. For example, we don’t get to hear Roya’s thoughts. I’ve been working around that by putting it in dialogue so don’t send a revision. I think I’ll open the next scene in the car. Roya is angry. Frank is the only man since her Sergey (was that his name?) that refused to sleep with her and she wants to know why. Recall that Frank’s wife divorced him and it might be an opportunity to bring out some subtle conflict within him.
Frank was glad the $10 bucks slipped to the maid paid off in quick laundry service. His suit still needed a professional dry cleaning, but it was somewhat clean and at least dry. He and Roya both dressed quickly. They had agreed they needed to keep on the move for now. Roya had a good friend in the city where they could lay low for a short time and develop a game plan. They drove the stolen car to within a few block of the Joliet Metra train station and parked it. After paying for their tickets they boarded the next train to downtown Chicago.
A few hours earlier Don Grasso’s men had returned to the limo parked outside general aviation terminal at Midway and told their boss the plane had not shown up and all they could think was that Luigi landed somewhere else because of the storm. However, he had not called and that was not a good sign. Uomo had been daydreaming of the very unpleasant things that he was planning for Tony Ferragamo, and the fact that Luigi had not delivered this traitor to him put him in a very angry mood.
Tony was approaching the outskirts of Chicago and had pulled into a gas station. During his drive he had been mulling over his options. He was aware that he needed to be as anonymous as possible. Any number of two-bit street thugs would turn him into the mob without blinking an eye with the hopes of securing a job—any job—working for Uomo Grasso. Tony decided his best option would be to crash at his sister’s house. He knew Dolores would hide him and he also knew his brother-in-law, Mario, had a two-month union job putting in A/C and Heating units at a Wal-Mart Distribution Center somewhere in South Carolina.
Roya stared out the window of the train. She felt sorry that Frank had been drawn into this very, real, true-crime story that was more than pulp fiction. She looked at Frank and said, “I am on a personal mission, but I do not expect your help. I am sorry you got messed up with me, and I want you to know that I do not expect you to help me. Uomo Grasso is not a nice person and killing means nothing to him. You are free to get lost, but I need to know.” Frank had already been thinking of what would be the sanest thing to do. He looked at her for a moment and responded, “My options are not the greatest. You are really the only person that can corroborate my crazy story. You are the only eyewitness to say I did not shoot that truck driver back in Missouri. You are the only one that knew we killed those kidnappers before they would have killed us. So, I guess you are stuck with me for now. But, I need to know what you are up to next.”
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