HH Com Rd 2- # 45 (69)

Hook here

Stockton St. San Francisco, CA Wednesday, April 9 4:00 PM

The procession that filed out of the red house on the street near the piers was not a happy one. It was led by a balding man in a tan overcoat, a squat figure who carried himself with all the grace of a Prohibition era enforcer on his way to a speakeasy. The two men that followed were taller and somewhat younger, but otherwise the same as the first. All three wore expressions similar to those etched on statues at war memorials.

The last was different. A casual observer might have pinned his weary look and lumbering gait to the oppressive heat that was melting the rest of the Golden Gate City. Yet, he was not only the youngest by far, but was also dressed the lightest in his white polo and khakis. Once outside, he turned and took a long look back into the house. Then, he eased the door shut and wiped the doorknob with his sleeve.

(start here)
The first man watched him come down the stairs.

“There was no point to that,” he said. “The next person in would have done it for you.”

“I thought we weren’t supposed to take any risks,” The younger man joined him on the sidewalk, but looked the other way, squinting at distant high-rises.

“Some risks are acceptable.”

“Yeah,” said the younger in a hushed tone. “As long as you’re not the one taking them.”

“He knew what he was dealing with.”

“Did he?” The younger man turned and studied the side of his face.

The other two had been watching, but looked away at that. The older man fell silent for a while. “Perhaps not fully,” he said. “But he did have a choice. And he miscalculated. That’s not our fault.”

“And the blame falls off your shoulders? Just like when-”

Without looking, the older man delivered a backhand that snapped the young man’s head back the other way.

“Pull it together,” he said. “We lost an asset, that’s it. If you really want to help your friend, you’ll make sure the tapes he pulled get where they need to. Now are you sure they’re in his apartment?”

Still rubbing at his cheek, the young man nodded once.

The rumble of an engine grew over the crashing of the bay and the dull roar of the city. A dark green SUV turned into view, and made its way up the hill, coming to a stop in front of the group. While the other three climbed into the back, the older man took the passenger seat.

“We’re going to Berkeley,” he said.

The driver nodded, glanced at the rearview mirror, and continued up the hill.


The woman closed her eyes as the green SUV passed the intersection. It wasn’t necessary, but it helped her focus. There was the usual jumble of noise, but then she heard.

“Berkeley,” she said.

“Has to be his apartment,” said the voice from behind. “Let’s go.”

The frame shook as her passenger raised his feet. She pushed the bike away from the curb and did the same. The light at the intersection turned from red to green, and she only needed to rev the engine once to turn onto Stockton. Gravity took over from there. She coasted downhill and eased into the driveway of the red house.

The man got off and came up along side. She raised her helmet visor to meet his eyes.

“Now remember,” he said. “If you can get to the tapes first, then get them. Otherwise, just hang back. If they know we’re still out here, things will get tough.”

“I know.”

His expression darkened and he turned to the house. “Look, I know what happened here, but you can’t just-”

“I won’t do anything stupid again,” she said. She’d worked too hard avoiding this conversation at the intersection to be pulled into it now.

It was clear the response didn’t satisfy him, but after a bit of silence, he conceded. “Alright,” he said, “call me once things start happening.”

“How long do you need here?”

“Ten minutes to tidy up his body. A few more to set up the rest. I’ll be done long before you could need me.”

The man started up the stairs. The woman rolled the bike back onto the street. She stood there and stared at his back, watched him fiddle around with the doorknob. She knew she should trust him, that there was no reason not to. But without a chance to confirm it herself…

This is badly over written. For starters take out everything in blue.
You need to prune ruthlessly.
We don't need you to tell us what those guys look like; you can show us with how they talk and what they say.

You've got a good idea and I was willing to read to see if you'd pull it off but this one would have gotten the dreaded form letter after five pages. You can save this with careful editng.


merper said...

Yeah, I saw this coming after I reread it last week.

Thanks again for the advice.

Anonymous said...

Golden Gate City? No no no. >:(

It's The City, San Francisco, or nothing.

Not Frisco, SF, Gaytown, or San Fran either. Maybe the City by the Bay, but then you'd be having older folks humming Journey.

You can cal Berkeley "Berzerkely", but that's it.

Ugh. I couldn't get past Golden Gate City. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was written rather well. Miss Snark is right that portions of it could be tossed without the reader missing anything. (That seems to be the issue: if you tossed a sentence or phrase or word would the reader be any less on board with the story.) But that is minor and easy to fix.

The one comment I would make is that you write well but this segment just does not grab me. Someone (can't remember who) started a book with the statement: "When I first saw him I knew I was going to kill him." That's pretty compelling. When you don't have to read past the first period to know something is going to happen, a reader would have to be damn impatient to put your book down.

merper said...


Ok, Golden gate city, I'll give you, - that'll come out - but SF? I'm in the bay area, and that's what everyone calls it. Maybe not actual San Franciscans, but everyone around them - definitely people from Berkeley.


Thanks for your encouragement. You do bring up a major issue for me. I debated adding this section at the beginning, and later decided to, because it amplifies later plot twists.

I'm trying to get it to exude a sense of quiet power, and hint at a few things, having the reader wonder what these tapes are and why these two groups want the tapes. The dead house has a body in it, and the scene right after this is the detective examining it 30 minutes later. I know I need think of a better opening. Once I cut out the junk Miss Snark pointed out, I think it'll have a quicker flow.

kch said...

I don't mind being a little in the dark at the beginning. If I have a clear picture of what's happening, even if I don't understand its meaning in the whole scheme of things, I'm willing to get drawn in. It's a hair breadth shy of that. Close enough that I'd keep reading--because there's something here I like a lot. Maybe the next scene does it.

I agree with the advice to start the scene outside...but I'd start it one line earlier, where he wipes the doorknob with his sleeve. That unusual action piques my interest. What just happened there?

Twill said...

I'll agree that the first two paragraphs are badly overwritten. The word "Procession" implies unhappy, ie funeral.

Also, be careful of using sardonic voice in a complicated simile - ie "all the grace of" to imply gracelessness. By the time you got to the war memorial it seemed like the third repeat of the same mood.

I'm not sure that there's a point in keeping the people completely nameless, but you have to at least give them tags to make the story readable. Squat and Khaki, for example.

Heat waves turned the distant San Francisco piers into modern art. A procession of men in overcoats plodded out of the red house into the scalding afternoon air, led by a squat, balding man.

The fifth man out, dressed in polo and khakis, took a long look back into the house. Then, he eased the door shut and wiped the doorknob with his sleeve.

... and so on...

McKoala said...

I got really confused by so many unnamed protagonists. I'm not somebody who has to be told everything right off the bat, but this was really difficult for me to figure out.

Anonymous said...

I was completely lost. No idea whatsoever what was going on.

I'm also from the Bay Area, and I wholeheartedly support the use of SF for San Francisco :-)

Splat said...

Okay. This is going to sound awful, but....

How do you make sure you're not overwriting?

Anonymous said...

I don't think overwriting is the problem with this one -- stuff that COULD be taken out, but doesn't slow down the story or sound clunky, is not overwriting.

Anonymous said...

"SF" is ok for email, writing your return address on a letter with zip code, or on a form when within San Francisco (like a local contest or mailing list or something).

But in San Francisco proper we don't really say "I'm up in SF", or "I'm heading back to SF". We usually use the whole name or "the city". I do hear people once in a great while in dialog say "SF" but not usually, and half the time the person on the other end of the conversation echos "San Francisco?" right after "SF" is spoken. It's wierd. We aren't that close to Santa Fe and San Fernando.

I lived in San Jose too, and nobody speaks it as "SJ" either.

And "Oaktown" for Oakland grinds on the nerves. It's like an LA term for it.

Everyone has their favorites.

writer with a day job said...

Splat: Read it aloud to yourself and listen for awkwardness.

Or imagine yourself saying it aloud to your friends, like you're telling them something that actually happened. Are your friends listening with interest, or yawning by the third simile?

Splat said...

"Read it aloud to yourself and listen for awkwardness."

What if you don't have that magic ear? How do you tell when it's overwriting to include what the speaker is doing?

writtenwyrdd said...

I lived in SF for a dozen years, grew up in the Bay Area. I have never heard it referred to as The Golden Gate City. (And locals do not call it 'Frisco, either, but that's another issue.)

This rambles a bit and needs some tightening up, but you had my interest. Up the tension and give us a bit more to go on and I think it's a decent start. It felt like a thriller or espionage novel, but might have been fantasy or sf.

Alley Splat said...

Eep, another Splat. Must go and rename myself..