Here’s an excerpt from Missing Brandy, a work in progress. It’s the story of a thirteen-year-old’s abduction. In this scene, the POV is indirect, told in the third person by one of the antagonists.
Henry’s Story, Part One
Before Stuart’s death, it all seemed so easy. Henry’s life had been perfect then. Now it was empty—except for Ben.
He pictured Ben on the train. Tall with blond hair sticking up on his crown like straw. They’d met on one of Henry’s many commutes from Central New Jersey to Manhattan. How many years ago was it? Who can remember, but Ben, whom he’d glimpsed on an irregular basis at first, soon became a familiar face, offering him a nod, a sympathetic smile.
After a few years, they began talking and Henry told him about Stuart and Ben told him to get a lawyer.
During one ride, Henry told Ben he’d taken his suggestions and gotten a wrongful death attorney who said he’d take the case for a percentage of the award, no retainer unless the trial would drag on. Who cared, Henry didn’t need the money. The lawyer took down the particulars, said he would study the case and call him back in ten days or so.
“And those guys know, they know. Hell, he wouldn’t take the case if he couldn’t smell the money,” Ben had said. The train lurched.
“‘I love you, Daddy.’ Those were his last words to me. They burn my gut,” Henry said.
Ben clapped him on the back.
He’d said it to the lawyer, too, and the guy stared at him for a moment before he gave him a half-smile.
“That’s what you want, a lawyer, not a sympathetic bastard,” Ben had said.
The train slowed at a switch.
“Bastard hospital,” Ben had whispered.
Two weeks later, Ben waved him over. They stood on the platform shivering waiting for the train, late again. “Anything?”
Henry shook his head.
“These things take time,” Ben said. “The bastards.”
Eighteen months later, another slow commute, and Henry sat next to Ben.
“They want to settle for $2.5 million.”
“Don’t settle,” Ben said.
“My lawyer says to take the money—no trial, no raking over the coals.”
“He wants a quick buck.”
A man of few words, Ben. “Go to trial,” he’d said, and by God Henry had. Paid the lawyer a retainer. He didn’t need the money, no, but the doctor and the hospital, the nurses farting in their command center, half asleep, having filled their needles with God knew what, they couldn’t, wouldn’t get away with Stuart’s death.
He remembered the defense attorney’s smugness in the courtroom. A bone thin woman wearing brown lenses. Her hair was like straw, like Ben’s hair, he thought at the time. But she was bloodless, he could tell. He watched her back, an almost imperceptible movement of her shoulders when the verdict was read, her client, not guilty. That was the way his world ended. The trial was a humiliation, the hospital, not negligent. Not a wrongful death. How could they? He should have asked for an autopsy while his son’s body lay in the bed, his attorney said afterward. Should have settled. He’d always made the right decisions, hunted for the right material—so how had he blown this one? He didn’t believe his son was meant to die. He believed a man could change fate. He felt the bottom dropping out of his soul.
Photo: Kent Street at Sunset, Greenpoint, Brooklyn_ChrisGoldNY (Flickr)