Following on from all the piratey fun I had with last week’s prompt, this week I took on the new Writers-Digest challenge to write about something more grisly. Here’s the prompt and my attempt (yes it’s only a few words over the limit!) below. I tried to write in a different tone from usual and set it in the good ol’ US of A just in case you think I’ve gone a bit mad with the cop-lingo. If you want a challenge and to put me to shame do share your own take on it!
You’re walking to grab lunch when you see a crowd gathered around a building. You look up and see that someone is standing on the ledge, looking to jump. You hear a police officer close to you mention that the person is about to commit suicide. He also mentions the person’s name: and it’s someone you know! Write a scene where you attempt to stop the jumper from jumping.
A cup of coffee wasn’t going to solve anything, but the Captain wouldn’t take no for an answer. After everything, he was still my boss. Even though I had to keep reminding myself that the shaking, broken-looking man was still the same fierce, respected and let’s face it, stubborn as hell, Captain we’d all take a bullet for.
I had fifteen minutes before the trial began and I spent most of them walking up and down the block, thinking of where I could grab a drink without anyone noticing me. My favourite, Rapha’s, was out and so was anywhere the hacks would be setting up shop. I settled on a lonely coffee van off of Ninth and tried not to notice how the guy narrowed his eyes at me all suspiciously as he handed me the paper cup.
A month ago I wouldn’ta thought anything of it, maybe I just looked like his cousin or something. Even if I did think something of it, I’da asked what his problem was. Nowadays I already had it figured out.
The ‘Botched Brigade’ the papers called us. As in ‘Botched Brigade Cost 20 Lives’, ‘Botched Brigade Failed To Stop Killer Blaze’ or ‘Exclusive: Why The Botched Brigade Deserves Life For Killing My Boy’. It was catchy and like the story, it stuck. It didn’t matter that the facts were way out or that they’d misquoted Avery to high Heaven, they wanted someone to blame. I was willing to take it. We might’ve put our own lives in danger to save those families and done everything we could, but in the end we still walked out alive, leaving twenty-one behind.
I’d memorised every detail of every face that hadn’t made it. I carried them with me. Mrs Wright and her three young daughters. Luis Vargas, eighteen, just accepted to Berkeley. Sixteen year old twins Pearl and Peter Swanson, ‘pleasures to teach’ their tutor said on the news. I coulda given you their whole damn back-story I knew them so well.
From the corner of the courthouse I could see that something wasn’t right. At first I thought it was the press but they were too lively-looking. It was practically a mob and it sounded like they were cheering.
Jump. Jump. Jump.
Robertson was trying to push the crowd back and nearly jumped outta his skin when he saw me. “Mortez? Shouldn’t you be…?” He looked at the top of the building and back down. “Ten-fifty-six, it’s Avery.”
My stomach twisted. The man I knew wasn’t a coward, yet there was no mistaking the figure perched at the top of the ledge. I’d dealt with jumpers a few times before so I knew the drill, but the script didn’t seem to fit. ‘What’s happened?’ ‘You’ve got so much to live for.’ ‘This is a mistake.’
Major Cassidy gave me the megaphone no problem. I pressed it to my lips, not knowing quite where to start, sure I didn’t know what the solution was, but I knew this wasn’t it.
“Captain please, they deserve better than this…”