It’s a little after nine on a muggy evening in August as I wander down Second Avenue in search of something to eat. Not that it’s particularly challenging to find something in this neighborhood, any time of day or night – the East Village is a smorgasbord of international cuisine. I once tried to count the countries represented by restaurants within a ten block radius of my apartment. I stopped counting at thirty-seven. I wasn’t finished; I just got tired of counting. It’s so amazing that sometimes you take it for granted – then you go somewhere else, like Texas, for example, or Ohio, and you realize just how lucky you are to live in the center of the universe.
And make no mistake – New Yorkers all feel we’re living in the center of the universe. Oh, sure, Paris is romantic and London is fascinating and Rome is stuffed with history, but come on; they’re not New York. I grew up in western Jersey, closer to Phillie than the Big Apple – but after living in this town a few years, I become a bona fide New Yorker. I remember the day I realized it. I had just ordered a chicken souvlaki from a friendly Egyptian guy who was minding the cart for his brother, who had gone back to Cairo for a while.
And suddenly it hit me: the great thing, the really great thing about New York, is that we’re everyone. We’re the sixty year old Chinese guy from Sichuan Province whose grandfather was a horseman on the Mongolian plains who now owns a hole in the wall take out place on Columbus Avenue and who works sixteen hours a day to send his daughter to study law at Columbia. His grandfather might have left his daughter out on a hillside to die, but this guy is sending his girl to law school.
We’re the Mexican kid working as a line cook in the diner on Tenth Avenue who sends money home to his mom back in Pueblo every month, and the Guatemalan cleaning lady who shows up at the Wall Street office when everyone else is getting ready to go home. We’re the bus driver from Mississippi who left the Deep South to escape the racism and the heat and the spiritual torpor. We’re the old Jewish merchant on Orchard Street who can remember a time when horses pulled milk carts on the cobblestone streets, and the Sikh cab driver with the gentle, lined face and clean white turban, and the Indian guy who runs the vegetarian place on Houston Street open twenty-four hours a day. We’re all these people, and we all live together in the most glorious city on earth, a place full of millionaires and celebrities and Wall Street wheeler dealers – but we’re the ones who make it run.
All of this is on my mind as I wander down Second Avenue on this humid August night, the kind of weather where your sweat glands have sweat glands. I’m drawn to Paul’s Burgers, with a huge, plastic hamburger statue outside so big you could ride it. Right next to that is B&H Dairy, an old-fashioned Polish joint that’s just a counter with a few stools in front. You can even get a glass of wheat grass along with your soup and big fat slices of Hallah bread – on any given day there might be eight or more soups to choose from.
I finally settle on the fish special at Virage, a cozy little local joint with a kick ass Moroccan chef. You can never go wrong there. The staff knows me – I live half a block to the west – and the friendly Goth waitress with the silver nose ring slips me a refill of Pinot Noir. I drink it down gratefully – when you have my job, it’s tempting to think of booze as medicinal.
I help the NYPD solve crimes for a living – hard, nasty cases, the kind of brutal murders that give grown men nightmares and make young mothers double check the locks on their front doors. As a forensic psychologist, I’m called in on the bizarre crimes that don’t have an easily explainable motive. Oh, they’re explainable, all right; it’s just that most people haven’t had the dark thoughts these killers have had all their lives.
Most people can understand jealousy and greed and revenge, but they haven’t had violent fantasies of dismembering women or strangling them while raping them, or leaving them in humiliating poses to express their contempt for their victims and the whole human race. Most people don’t spend their days – and nights – analyzing how and why these guys do what they do. That’s my job. I smile at the waitress and she slips me another refill. I love New York.
You can read more about Lee in SILENT SLAUGHTER, the fourth book in the “Lee Campbell” suspense series. The first book in the series is Silent Kills.
Meet the author
C.E. Lawrence is the author of nine published novels, award-winning plays, musicals, poetry and short fiction, some under Carole Bugge. Titan Press recently reissued her Sherlock Holmes novel, The Star of India, and Silent Slaughter, the fourth book in her Lee Campbell thriller series, will be released August 7th, 21012. Visit C.E. at http://celawrence.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
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