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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Brinegar

Big Apple Murder

Updated: Jun 24

Sneak Peek at Book 14 in the Hollywood Whodunit series

Big Apple Murder - Sneak Peek

Winter transformed New York City into a magical wonderland, enveloping the iconic skyline and bustling streets into something I previously only imagined on a postcard.

Traveling from my hometown straight to the Big Apple was a shock to the system. The loudest noises in Lake Falls came from ornery cattle or the crowd at a high school football game. But the ambiance in NYC centered around the constant hum of activity. From honking cabs to the buzz of the subway, people were always on the move at all hours of the night.

Street vendors with caps supporting their favorite team sold hot dogs, pretzels, and roasted chestnuts to bustling people on the go. Which meant they didn’t like people who asked questions and held up the line. On my first night, I tried to order a hot chocolate to warm my bones but I was scared off when the Jets fan yelled at me for taking too long to decide. The encounter left me gun-shy and by day two in the city, I’d yet to try anything not provided by craft services. Partially because I was crazy busy but mostly because I was a chicken.

The cast took a shuttle from the hotel to our shoot location at Washington Square Park but on the rare occasion I wandered into the wild, I felt like a silly tourist. I might as well be wearing an ‘I heart NY’ sweatshirt and a foam Lady Liberty hat.

The makeup woman stuffed napkins in the collar of my NYPD uniform and touched up my red nose. “Yous Californians must not be used to the cold. All looking like Rudolph. I should be asking you to lead my sleigh through Battery Park at night.”

I shivered and blew into my hands. “I’m from Texas and snow like this is a foreign concept.”

“Not for nothing, but it helps to keep moving.” She smacked bubble gum. “When the director talks to the writers and then they pull in script continuity, it’s never a quick break.”

“Good to know, thanks.”

The director, Scary Kerri McGregor bustled my way. Her French tips clicked a thick script. “Hey, Becky. I want to discuss some changes with you.”

Uh-oh. They shut down filming a few minutes earlier to address issues in the script. But the fire in Kerri’s eyes made me think I did something wrong.

“Why do you look like you saw a ghost? Are you feeling alright?” She twisted to the makeup artist. “Did we run out of rouge? She looks dead.”

I squeezed my eyes closed as blush slapped onto my cheeks. “Did I… uh… make a mistake?”

I was hired on Prime Suspect to play a beat cop on location in New York City. A dream come true. I couldn’t blow this on my first day. In a season full of episodes, I only had a handful of lines as the detectives arrived on the scene of the various murders. How could I mess things up so quickly?

“We need to drop the stutter?”

“The uh… s… the stutter?”

“Yeah.”

My forehead wrinkled. “I thought that’s what landed me the part.”

“You stood out in the audition but now you’re standing out too much. It’s a distraction.”

“Gotcha.”

“What other accents can you do?”

My throat swelled and I worried I wouldn’t manage a single word much less a passable New Yorker accent. It was hard enough to channel something in the audition.

I sucked in a deep breath. Calm down, Becky. You are terrific at identifying accents. How difficult can it be to mimic one?

My mouth twisted as I struggled to think of an actress from New York. Names fizzled on the tip of my tongue. “Oh, I remember the first time I made pot roast and I cooked it so high it caught fire…”

Kerri glared. “Who is that, Edith Bunker? Next.”

I cleared my throat. “Are you going down to the lodge again? How one man can bowl so often I’ll never know.”

“Alice Kramden?”

“Wilma Flintstone.”

“Same thing.” Kerri rolled her eyes. “Can you do any voices post the Carter administration?”

My nose scrunched and I jumped into a high-pitched nasal with an annoying laugh. “I got style, I got flair. Oh, Mr. Sheffield.”

“Definitely not Nanny Fine.” She stuck out her hip. “We don’t all sound like cartoons, you know. Some of our accents are a little more subtle.”

So, I guess that rules out mimicking Kerri. I snapped my fingers. “The defense is wrong.” I exaggerated the last word ala Marisa Tomei.

My Cousin Vinny? Really?” Kerri dismissed me with a flick of her manicured hand. “Keep working on it. And remember to keep it understated and believable.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The producer, surrounded by the two most difficult actors on set, waved her arms in the air in a ‘yoo-hoo’ motion. Kerri’s head fell back in defeat. “Oy, vey. I’m not going to survive two weeks with these lunatics I just won’t.” She rubbed her temples. “Do you want to trade? You can be the showrunner and I’ll play a cop.”

“You can do the accent seamlessly.”

“I don’t have an accent. What are you talking about?”

I thought about challenging her with the fact that ‘talking’ didn’t have a W sound but let the matter drop. She wasn’t called Scary Kerri for nothing.

As I wandered to craft services for a snack, I racked my brain for a subtle New Yorker I could emulate that fit her criteria. But the only voices I came up with were on sitcoms.

I zipped my duty jacket and scanned the crowd for a friendly face. I only recognized Ashton Ashley and she was far from friendly.

“Psst, Robinson. Yo.” A man whistled from behind the police barrier.

I glanced over my shoulder and pointed at my chest. “Me?”

He nodded. “Come here.” The guy wore a bulky plaid coat and wavy brown hair to his collar.

I cocked my head to the side as I spotted a bulge on his right hip. If working on a detective show taught me anything, it was how to tell if someone packed heat.

The uniformed cop charged with keeping civilians off the set darted eyes at me. “Do you know him?”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Relax, Boss. I’m on the job.” The long-haired man flashed a badge. He smiled as he weaved around the barricade. “Come on, Beckers. You seriously don’t recognize me?”

“Sorry.”

He twisted his head to the side. “Family nose?”

“Wait, are you Jimmy Romano?” My forehead wrinkled. “You got huge.”

“Since I was about four-eleven and seventy-five pounds when I last saw you, I’ll take that as a compliment. And not the insult it sorta sounded like.”

“I didn’t recognize you.” I glanced around the set. “How did you find me?”

“My cousins, Sam and Liz, told me to look you up.” He pointed a thumb at his chest. “Thought this goombah might make a swell Hollywood police consultant.”

“They mentioned you worked for the NYPD but I didn’t realize you were a detective.”

“Not yet.” He gestured to his plain clothes. “I work anti-crime, so we spend a lot of time on the streets.”

“What type of crime do you investigate?”

He motioned across the block to a pizza joint. “See Famous Original Dino’s?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, last week we busted the owner for being neither original nor named Dino.” Romano smirked. “That’s pizza humor. Because New Yorkers take their pies so seriously. You aren’t laughing.”

“I am on the inside.”

“Alright, so where’s your favorite slice? I’ll tell you if you’re wrong.”

I tilted my police cap. “I haven’t tried any local cuisine yet.”

“And you’ve been here how many days?” He rocked on his heels. “We gotta remedy that. When’s your next ‘take five’ or whatever Hollywood people call it.”

“Break?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

My gaze darted to the growing meeting that now involved Kerri, the lead actors, the producer, two of the writers, and my best friend – the second assistant director. I squinted to read their lips, curious about the discussion.

Ashton flipped luscious blonde locks over her shoulder. “I don’t think my character would react that way. It doesn’t seem realistic.”

“How is a guy being railroaded for a crime he didn’t commit unrealistic?” Kerri asked. “An innocent buddy of mine is being sent up the river on murder charges as we speak. It happens.”

“Maybe but not for my character. She’s an excellent detective.”

I twisted on my heel. “I think I have some time now.”

“Aces.” Romano rubbed his two-day stubble. “Is that Ashton Ashley?”

“She’s one of the stars of the show. Do you recognize her?”

“Been a hot minute since I’ve seen her. She looks different not behind bars.”

My lips curled. “I meant are you familiar with her work? How do you know her?”

“I don’t.” He grinned. “Moving on.”

It sounded like there was some history there but I’d wait until lunch to pester him with follow-up questions.

Romano motioned to the uniformed cop. “Hey Boss, we’re just stepping out a moment. Do you need to stamp our hand or something?”

“This ain’t an amusement park, Jimmy. Just go.”

My gaze narrowed. “I’m guessing you know him.”

“No yeah, we went to the academy together. He loves it when I rib him.”

I checked the time. “Is this pizza place close? I don’t want to be gone long.”

Romano folded his arms. “Not to question your whole process but I hope you’re not going to talk all sweet and southern like when the cameras roll.”

“Texan, not Southern. But for the show, I do a New York accent with a stutter… well I used to. Now I’m workshopping something else because the director/showrunner… it’s a long story.”

“The joint we’re going to is nearby.” He gestured to the radio on his hip. “Has to be since I’m technically on the job as we speak.”

“So, this place has the best pizza in the city, huh? Lofty expectations you’re building.”

“It’s not the best slice but it’s good eatin’ and off the beaten path in my favorite bodega.”

“I heard about those from watching NYPD Blue. They’re like a neighborhood grocery store, right?”

“I guess you could say that.”

The wind picked up and blew garbage across the sidewalk. I stuffed my hands in my jacket and rubbed the hand warmers. “What sort of case are you working? Or can you talk about it?”

“Nothing too exciting.” He shrugged. “My partner and I are sitting on an apartment one block over.”

“Like a stakeout? Who are you after?”

“We’re waiting for a couple of suspects in a robbery to turn up so we can interview them. Been here since two a.m.”

“That’s a really long time.”

“And my partner thinks I’m out fetching his coffee so we better make this quick.” Romano reached for his crackling radio. “Hold on a sec.”

The dispatcher spoke in numbers and despite my Hollywood training, I didn’t grasp the meaning of a 10-13U. Romano offered an equally cryptic retort with Z responding.

He motioned with his thumb. “I’ll meet you at the bodega in five. It’s just down the street. You can’t miss it.”

“Okay.”

I wandered along the sidewalk, narrowly avoiding a sea of people competing in a fast-walking contest. I hopped around a delivery guy on a bicycle and scurried to the store.

The door swung open and a man in a suit blocked my path. I sidestepped and engaged in a quick little jive with the gentleman as we danced in the same direction. “Oops, excuse me.”

His forehead wrinkled and his face contorted as he looked me up and down. “It’s good.” He held open the door. “Officer.”

I chuckled at his confusion. I wore my cop costume but I was completely out of character. It probably looked strange to people who didn’t realize I was in a TV show.

I approached the counter and slipped into my Agent Cornwallis-inspired voice but this time I added a dash of Romano. “H… hey Boss, I’d like two slices of your pepperoni.”

The guy behind the register pointed to the back and a neon pizza sign. “Do I look like the chef?”

“Oh, of course. Thanks.” With a confident step, I practiced my police walk to the back. I fished into my pocket for money and realized my character’s pocket litter consisted of fake bills and props. I stashed my wallet and phone safely in the trailer I shared with two other minor guest stars.

Terrific. I guess Romano will be treating.

The bell chimed as the glass door opened with a slam. I jerked my attention to the front of the store as a man wearing a ski mask barreled inside. He drew the blinds with a yank and used a rolling cart filled with potato chips to barricade the door.

He fired a shot into the ceiling and removed his mask. Cold, dead eyes scanned the store. “Everybody down.” His breathing labored as if he was running from something or someone.

Could he be Romano’s 10-13U?

Panic swept across his face and he pointed the gun directly at me. “Don’t even think about playing hero. Toss your piece and radio over here.”

I swallowed. My NYPD costume didn’t just fool the rude businessman. It made me look like the real deal. But I was a far cry from New York’s finest. I unzipped my coat and struggled to unbuckle my holster.

“I don’t have all day, Lady Cop.”

“Take it easy.” Sweat beaded down my forehead despite the snow outside.

Leave it to me to bring a prop gun to a stickup.


 

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Big Apple Murder


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