Here’s an excerpt from Whiskey’s Gone, a work in progress publishing soon. In the scene—it takes place outside the BookCourt, a bookstore on Court Street in an upscale Brooklyn neighborhood—Fina Fitzgibbons and her friend, Cookie, run into Zizi Carmalucci, a reporter and Denny’s old flame, who pumps them about a missing woman.
Zizi Carmalucci is a character who has a few functions in this book. One of them is to goad Fina. She’s very good at it. Another is to introduce subplots and themes. Whatever, she’s not Fina’s favorite person.
As we stepped outside, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I smelled oversweet perfume so I knew who it was before I turned around. Zizi Carmalucci, Denny’s old flame. You’ve seen her type before—raven hair, ruby lips, perfect everything in one package. She stood in front of the bookstore with a reporter’s notebook and pen.
“What do you know about Lorraine’s missing tenant?” she asked.
I shot Cookie a look and played it cool.
“What are you talking about?” Cookie asked.
Zizi folded her arms and looked at me. “She’s Liam, Trueblood and Wolsey’s office manager. I know she didn’t show for work this morning and Trisha Liam hired you to find her. What have you found out?”
Cookie tugged my elbow. “C’mon, let’s go.”
“You know I write for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle? When they saw my credentials, they hired me on the spot and made me their assistant chief investigative journalist. And now this story’s going to make my reputation. How’s the daughter holding up?”
“Where did you get this information?” I asked, but shouldn’t have wasted my breath: Robert again. Or Denny. Denny? No, it couldn’t have been Denny, could it?
“I can’t reveal my sources.”
Cookie pulled out her mirror and checked her lipstick. “We’ve got a meeting, remember?”
“Listen, I just started last week. Can’t you help me out? I need a big story, one I can get my hooks into, show them the depth I’m famous for. Do the BookCourt folks know anything about her?”
We shook our heads in unison.
“I didn’t think so. I’ve already asked them—they know me, they would have said. Been up and down this block. One of the bartenders at Cody’s said he’d seen him in there a couple of times.”
“The prime suspect. I showed them his picture.”
“You have a picture of the prime suspect?” I asked.
“Arthur McGirdle’s his name, by the way. Bartender said he’s in there a lot.”
Wouldn’t you know, Zizi changed the subject. “Don’t you see, this story was made for me. People will be sucked in. I’ve got to be the one to break it. Why would she leave her kid? How long has she been missing? Who called you? I need a picture of the kid holding a teddy bear or something, and you can help me get it. Listen, Fina, I know I’m being a little pushy here, but anything you can help me out with, I’d sure appreciate it. I mean, for everything we’ve been through.”
I shrugged and said I had no leads at this time, but as soon as I heard anything, I’d let her know.
“And by the way, you might want to check on your car. It’s that BMW, right?” she asked, pointing down Court Street. “Looks kind of funny, like there might be something wrong with the alignment or whatever they call it.”
Zizi had a quaint way of diverting my attention.
“Now we’re really late,” Cookie said, pulling me toward Baltic and Whiskey’s old neighborhood.
As we crossed the street, I called Lorraine, my source for all things real, and asked her when she’d last talked with Denny.
She hesitated a beat too long. “I guess it was the last time we had dinner together. When was that, two weeks ago? But I have news.” She segued into Jane and her team, telling me they’d arrived a while ago and were swarming through Whiskey’s apartment. “Wouldn’t you know, we’d just started dinner when there was a banging on the door. You should have heard Robbie.”
Poor Lorraine. I heard the sound of tramping feet on the other end of the ether and apologized, saying I’d given Jane explicit orders not to start until after the dinner hour.
“I’d better get up there and check on them. Maddie and Robbie will be all right while I’m gone—she’s showing him how to eat with one hand in his lap.”
Photo: Manhattan Bridge June 1905. Collection, Archives, the City of New York; Dumbo. Credit: ChrisGoldNY (Flickr), Creative Commons.