Power of Words

Arthur Chan, Man of Action

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“Let’s go over this again,” said the detective. “You say you had no knowledge of this event before it happened.”

Arthur was near tears. “I already told you this.”

“Mm-hm. You know, Arthur, I believe you. But my partner here, he’s the one you gotta convince.”

The partner raised an eyebrow over his coffee rim. “This guy got you in a cliché kinda mood, Mike?”

“If you’re referring to my writing, they’re not clichés!” Arthur huffed. “They’re idioms if anything, and–” He was interrupted as the detective opened a bookmark-filled paperback and began to read.

The women and children scampered to the back of the ship as it tilted skyward. ‘Oh no,’ screamed Christina Tasselbaum loudly, ‘the ship is tilting skyward!’

He closed the book and looked at Arthur. The partner grunted. “That’s terrible.”

Arthur began to protest, but the detective cut him off with a shrug. “We’re not here to critique it. We’re here to find out why it describes, word for word, the attack on the Gwendolyn Howard.” He paused. “But also, your dialog is just not believable.”

“What? It’s a perfectly rational thing for someone on a sinking ship to say!”

The detective shook his head. “No one talks like that.”

His partner chimed in. “And repeating the narrative in dialog? Pretty amateur if you ask me.”

Arthur’s mouth was still open but he wasn’t sure what to say. A minute ago they were accusing him of crimes and now they were critiquing his writing. Writing which, it must be confessed, could be improved. But deadlines don’t move until you hit the big time. It just wasn’t fair to compare him to–

The detective picked up another book from the stack beside him. He opened to his bookmark and began to read.

“This elevator has been sabotaged,” said Chet Hollingsworth. “I can feel it.”

“How do you know?” asked Maria, her hand fluttering over the unborn child in her womb. It was Chet’s child, conceived in a moment of passion at Newark Airport, the same airport where Kevin had met his untimely end on the forklift.

Chet chuckled, then grimaced. “When you’ve been in this business as long as I have, you just get a feel–”

Suddenly, with a sharp snapping sound, the cable snapped!

“Don’t worry!” shouted Chet as they plunged forty- one stories, “the failsafe will keep us safe!”

“But what if it fails?” queried Maria querulously.

“It won’t,” said Chet firmly, but he was wrong.

The detective closed the book. “I’ll be honest, Chan. It’s not the best prose I’ve ever read.”

“Not the best?” exploded his partner. “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard! I almost got a nosebleed just listening to it! How did you find a publisher for this crap?”

Arthur opened his mouth but was cut off as the detective continued. “Two people named Chet Hollingsworth and Maria, uh, Finklestein actually did die in a sabotaged elevator last year.” He looked at his partner. “Did we verify the forklift bit?” The partner rolled his eyes and nodded. “The thing is,” he continued to Arthur, “that kind of thing just doesn’t happen. And six novels of it?” He indicated the stack of books. “There’s something going on here. And I’m going to find out what.”

He sat back in his chair and looked at Arthur. “I tell you what. This is a little crazy, but I’m gonna try it anyway.” He slid his clipboard across the table. “I want you to write me a little story, Arthur. I’ll give you ten minutes. Tell a little story about, oh…” he nodded at his partner. “…Stan here. Prove to me that this is all a huge coincidence.”

Hands shaking, Arthur went to work while the detective set a timer on his watch. He had filled one sheet and had started on the next when he was interrupted.

Suddenly, with a sudden crashing sound, the door crashed open! Framed in its smoky darkness was Anderson Harley, a fifteen-year veteran of the force, currently on desk duty after the incident in Chinatown. “It’s the chief!” he shouted. “He’s been shot!”

“Shot?” said the detective and his partner in chorus. “With what?”

“A gun! Pretty big one, by the looks of it. And one day from retirement, too!”

Anderson ran out. The detective stood to follow him, but found himself stopped by the meaty, hairy arm of his partner. “Mike, wait,” said Stanislaw Hemp. “Whatever happens today, I want you to know that I’ve always respected you.”

Michael O’Shanahan gripped Stanislaw’s trembling arm with his hand. The same hand that had brushed away Stan’s tears after Nancy left. The hand that had killed The Knife, notorious chef and serial killer. “I know, Stan.” he said quietly. “I know.”

The two officers ran out, slamming the door behind them. Arthur was left behind, alone with his thoughts and also with the keys to his handcuffs, which they had foolishly left on the table. With a quick twist of his nimble wrists, he was free!

He took two awkward steps toward the door and stopped, unsure of himself. He returned to the table and examined his manuscript. Frowning, he picked up the pen and scratched a few more lines.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, he picked up the interrogation table as if it were nothing, breaking the bolts that held it to the floor as if they were also nothing! “Interrogate this,” he growled, and hurled it through the one-way mirror, which shattered like the surface of a lake when a rock falls in, like the lake that Amanda loved to throw rocks in, back when–

He shook his head angrily to clear his angry thoughts, then leaped through the remains of the mirror. Sayonara, officers, he thought, half Japanese and half English, like a woman he hadn’t thought about in years but now was thinking about. And with that he was gone, unseen and silent, like a cougar leaving a police station.

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