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  • Susan Russo Anderson

Bony Mover Returns

Two of my characters, Cookie and Fina go way back.

Matter of fact, Fina remembers that day long ago when she was five and the world was shaky. Her first day of school. She stood outside the building, squeezing her mother’s hand and staring at a girl standing next to her. The girl smiled. Fina smiled back. The girl whispered, “My name’s Cookie.” It was the beginning of their lifelong friendship.

Cookie Scarpanella appears in all seven books in the Fina Fitzgibbons Brooklyn mystery series, playing a major role in each one. Which is to say, Cookie is the sidekick.

Cecil Adams of straightdope.com tells us the origin of sidekick was early twentieth-century pickpocket slang for the front pocket in a coat or a pair of pants—the hardest pocket to pick, apparently—and analogously, an inseparable companion.

Green’s Dictionary of Slang defines sidekick as “an assistant, a partner, an accomplice,“citing, among other colorful quotes, Helen Green’s Actor’s Boarding House (1906), p. 85: “The Red Swede, who was a yegg man [...] sat over a pint of champagne with Dopey Polly, from Chinatown, and his side kick, the Runt.” BTW, I had to look up yegg man. It means a person who cracks open safes.

In the Fina Fitzgibbons mystery series, Cookie and Fina are inseparable, and in each book, Cookie plays a major role in ferreting out the killer.

Here’s an excerpt from Missing Brandy. In this scene, Cookie is on a surveillance job in Brooklyn Heights.

Cookie was sick and tired of Jane’s snide remarks, of her feeble attempts to give anyone credit except for her precious NYPD team. And the way she treated Willoughby was pathetic. No question, he was a slob, and his remarks were off the mark, but Jane didn‘t have to be such a nut crusher. Like Fina‘s mom used to say, there are people who take with every breath. Think about it, she and Fina were the only ones feeding Jane information. Same thing on the last case. No question, Jane Templeton was a taker.

There was no one better at surveillance than Cookie. She’d prove it; she had to. Maybe Jane had a point about fact gathering, even though she had haughty ways of making it. Next time Cookie interviewed anyone, she would assume nothing. She’d write down all the information and then some.

She found a spot partially concealed by shrubbery on the edge of the park. From there she could see up and down the block, Trisha Liam’s townhouse, the entrance to the Promenade—everything. She‘d changed into her faded green jumper and maroon tee shirt. Her father‘s scratchy wool cap covered her blonde mop, and shades covered her best feature, her eyes. Yes, she blended right into the scene. Good thing her friends couldn‘t see her now, but face it, no one could and no one cared.

Mid-morning on a spring day, and Brooklyn Heights was sleepy. Not a soul around, not even a car whizzing by. Too early in the year for lawn mowers. She opened her Kindle, ready to read Emma, when out of the corner of her eye she saw movement, a group of runners loping toward the park. Crouching deeper into the bushes, she peered between the leaves and held her breath. There was something familiar about one of them. He wasn’t part of the group, she could tell. She’d seen him before, she knew she had. Ran faster than the rest. Long and thin, with a beak of a nose. Spooky. Dark curly hair fringing a hat that had Sherwin-Williams written in black letters above the visor. She hadn’t seen runners wearing one of those in a long time. These days they usually wore baseball caps or ear warmers or nothing.

Cookie took out her notebook and began writing. Time, date, place. She described all the runners in the pack, but the tall, thin one in detail. She’d show that bloated blonde bunny. Painstakingly, and with enough words to choke a horse, she wrote down everything so Jane couldn‘t fault her. The tall runner overtook the others and ran right past her toward the Promenade just as a woman pushing a baby carriage crossed the street heading toward Trisha Liam’s house. The mother stopped midway down the block to do something with her toddler, tuck him in or give him a kiss or whatever, then walked on and disappeared round the bend. Once again, the street was empty. Cookie heard nothing except for the pounding of her heart.

She patted her pocket and felt Fina’s check through the thin material. At first she’d refused it. Later when she‘d seen the amount, she texted her, “Too much, I won’t cash it,“ but it would pay a good chunk of her tuition this quarter. Maybe her dad had been right. He’d been opposed to her going to graduate school. Said she hid behind her books. Told her she should take the money she’d gotten from her grandparents and blow it on a trip to Europe. “See the world,“ he’d said. That had been four years ago just before he died, and except for mini trips with Fina and Denny to New Jersey and, of course, back and forth to Morningside Heights to attend lectures, she hadn’t stepped out of Brooklyn. She had to do something about that. She was between boyfriends, so now was the time. Take a trip to Russia or India or someplace exotic like that. But she couldn’t help it. She kept getting enticed by books and the courses Columbia offered.

Figure it, what did she have to show for herself other than a couple of degrees and one published article on the importance of Ernest Hemingway in the development of chauvinistic thought. Now she was working on a series of lectures she was dying to give on Jane Austen and the fertile female mind. A friend got her the gig, and she was giving the first talk tomorrow night at her local library. Didn’t pay, but you never knew what might come of it. If anyone attended.

A blur in the corner of her vision brought her back to reality. Bony Mover had returned. Ω

Photos: Manhattan Bridge at Magic Hour. Credit: ChrisGoldNY (Flickr), Creative Commons0

cover, Missing Brandy. Design, Avalon Graphics


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