Sometimes all of us need to get out of our comfort zones and try something new. Writers are no different.
Many of us are genre specialists, proclaiming ourselves to be mystery writers, romance writers, science fiction writers, and so forth.
While there is nothing wrong with being a specialist, there are benefits to be gained by getting a totally new perspective, seeing the world from the other side of the fence so to speak.
In this vein, I decided to try writing crime fiction, a genre I’ve never written and to be honest have barely read. The result of this experiment was a short story called “Harbor Heist.”
I was pleased with the tale, and even submitted it to a fiction contest in which the story won first place in its category. So, it is possible for old dogs to learn new tricks.
I hope you enjoy “Harbor Heist”!
I knew when I stepped on to the deck of the Water Bug that this was no ordinary case. The Water Bug was a tugboat that had been modified with hoses for firefighting duty along the Baltimore Harbor. The captain of the vessel was an old friend of mine from the neighborhood.
“Welcome aboard Detective,” Captain Pell said as I climbed aboard.
“Thanks Rich. I appreciate you letting me hitch a ride on this one,” I replied.
I looked out across the water as the crew released the mooring lines and the engine chugged to life. The twinkling lights of the city could be seen clearly across the harbor, disrupted only by the orange glare of the warehouse fire on the opposite shore.
“I know I’m just an old tug captain, but I wasn’t born yesterday. You must have reason to believe this fire is no accident, or you wouldn’t be here,” Captain Pell said.
“Your instincts are correct, Rich. Just prior to the fire someone called the station about suspicious activity in the warehouse district. Two squad cars are on the way, and I thought I’d check out things from the harbor.”
“I see,” Rich replied. “Flush out the bad guys from the front and ambush them in the back, huh?”
“Something like that. You’d make a good cop, Rich,” I said.
“I’ll stick to the water. Remember these high-pressure hoses will put a bad guy on his back as surely as a slug from a forty-five. I’ll make sure the guys keep their eyes open for an opportunity to do just that,” Rich said.
“Get me as close to the docks as you can, and I’ll jump over,” I said.
The captain nodded. “Time to get to work. Good Luck, John!” Soon arcs of water sliced through the night sky and fell upon the burning building.
The fireboat maneuvered parallel to the shore. As soon as just a few feet separated the side of the boat and the dock I stepped up on the railing and sprang across.
“Detective?” I removed the walkie talkie from my jacket pocket.
“Detective Royce here, go ahead.”
“This is Officer Johnson. The fire is out of control! There’s no way we’re getting in there,” the officer replied.
“Ok Johnson. I read you loud and clear. I’m checking out the docks now,” I said.
“Roger that,” the officer replied.
A string of warehouses continued down the docks to my right, and on a hunch, I went in that direction.
The orange glow of a cigarette revealed a man smoking near the last warehouse, and I made myself flat against the wall as I reached inside my jacket to remove my .38 Special. After several minutes the man snubbed out the cigarette and walked into the warehouse.
“Johnson?” I whispered into the walkie talkie.
“I’m here, Detective,” he responded.
“Contact the station and find out who owns the last warehouse on the dock,” I said.
I kept my gun pointed in the direction of the warehouse in case my conversation had betrayed my position.
“Detective, that warehouse is supposed to be vacant,” Johnson came back.
“Listen Johnson, you and the other officers better get down here. Something is going down in that warehouse,” I hissed.
I clicked off the walkie talkie and inched along the wall towards the last building. Leading with the barrel of my gun, I eased open the door silently, and slid inside. A few lightbulbs illuminated the hallway. I could barely make out some voices in the distance.
I crept forward until I could make out some of the conversation.
“Listen, Sammy, we’ve got to move the tusks now. The merchandise isn’t safe here for long,” the unknown speaker said.
“Don’t you think I know that, Tony? That’s why I created that little diversion down the street. We’re moving the goods tonight,” another man said.
The hallway opened into a huge room. There was a long table, and several men in conversation at the opposite end of the room.
I noticed a ladder to my left leading up to a catwalk and I made my way up. Once I reached the top I crawled on my belly. It was then I realized that the table below was littered with elephant tusks, and the crooks were illegally trading ivory.
“Freeze! Police!” I yelled, springing up. I kept my pistol pointed at the men below.
At the same time, I heard the front door being kicked in by my backup units.
“Blow it,” the larger man said, and the other man ducked below the table and lit a lighter. I pulled the trigger and winged the larger man in the shoulder, but the other man had apparently struck his mark, as I saw a spark on a fuse snaking its way across the room.
As Officer Johnson and the others stormed the room, I yelled out to them: “Get out! It’s going to blow!”
I slid down the ladder using my feet as brakes on each side, and I sprinted to the exit once I landed.
The Water Bug was waiting at the dock for me, and just as I leaped aboard the warehouse blew. Hundreds of tusks rained down on them, all over the deck like scattered bones. I made my way to the bow of the boat where Rich was panning a spotlight across the water.
“We got one of them with a hose when he tried to run away. The hose knocked him right into the water.”
“Help! I can’t swim!” The spotlight settled on a man thrashing in the water.
The Water Bug pulled alongside him.
Using the only thing available, I held down a long tusk to the man in the water.
“Can I help you get to the slammer?” I said.
Scowling, the man grabbed the tusk and was dragged aboard.