You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #44 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.
The prompt for this podcast was to use these three words in the story: Woman. Book. Fall.
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The woman marched slowly on a busy city street. From behind her, you might think she was trying to avoid the sidewalk cracks, but that wasn’t the case. She wasn’t looking at the sidewalk. She acknowledged no one, kept her head down, her strides steady and deliberate.
“Excuse me!” a passerby said. He brushed by her in a huff, swinging his briefcase and almost hitting a child on his way to school.
Though aware of the rush hour traffic noise and joggers zooming by in the opposite direction, everything was peripheral to the mystery novel cradled in her hands. It was the latest book from international bestselling Scottish author, Bill Kirton. His new releases were almost impossible to get in North America until they had been out for almost six months in the UK. She couldn’t wait that long. A friend in England had been able to pre-order it directly from the publisher and mail it to her. It cost her nearly thirty dollars for the postage, but it was totally worth it.
She didn’t read e-books, otherwise it would’ve been a less expensive hobby. She was old school that way, didn’t even own a cell phone. Reading as she walked the ten blocks to and from work every day gave her some exercise, though her leisurely pace was hardly much of a work-out. That wasn’t so important, anyway. The main reason was it gave her time to read. At work, she would be sitting all day on the phone selling life insurance. With all her calls monitored, she didn’t even dare sneak in a few pages. And by the time she got home, the kids and her husband would demand her undivided attention.
No … as long as the weather permitted, this was the only time she had for herself to read.
At the intersection with a throng of pedestrians, she bookmarked her page and waited for the traffic light to change. After the opposing signal flashed amber, a countdown started from ten. A teenager beside her ran across the street when he saw an opening. She gasped and shook her head at his impatience. Why would anyone put their life in danger to cross the street five seconds before everyone else? What difference could it possibly make, she wondered. Even when the light turned green, she made sure the cars were fully stopped before stepping off the curb. Unlike the cell phone users who talked or texted while crossing the road, her attention was always on the cars.
After stepping up on the other side of the street, she eyed a clear path in front of her and cracked open the book again. From here until her office, there would be less people shuffling beside her. It was mainly a boulevard of residential town homes and high rises. She quickly scanned the page and re-positioned her eyes to where she left off, certain the climax of the story was only a chapter or two away. Who was the killer? She had three suspects in mind but could not be sure. In another eight to ten pages though, she would need to stop, but she wanted the mystery to last. If she timed it just right, she’d be able to finish the remainder of the book tonight. That gave her something to look forward to for her walk home.
Something hard bounced off her backpack and crashed to the ground. The impact of the object hitting her sent her stumbling forward. Her book flew out of her hands and skidded under a parked car. She fell to one knee and steadied herself, then whipped around to see what had struck her. A shattered device on the sidewalk next to broken glass seemed the likely culprit. It looked like a tablet of some kind, a Kindle perhaps, maybe an iPad.
Several people were stopped on the street. She caught the stunned look of a young man with his eyes skyward, and then he yelled at her with a horrified expression.
“Lady, watch out!”
* * * *
6:00 PM News Update
In what appeared as a freak accident, two women lost their lives this morning on Condo Row. A resident fell from her balcony and struck a pedestrian below. Both were killed instantly.
Condo owner and husband of the deceased said his wife was reading outside their unit when she dropped her e-reader over the balcony. She reached out to grab it and lost her balance, falling from their penthouse on the twenty-eighth floor.
Coincidentally, the bystander was distracted reading the same book and did not hear warnings to get out of the way.
In a strange turn of events since this news story broke, Bill Kirton’s novel, Sudden Impact, the book both women were reading prior to their deaths, set a record by topping all bestseller lists in the UK. According to the publisher, it is now being fast-tracked for release in North America.
Thank you for reading and/or listening. Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.