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Patricia Flaherty Pagan

dark Fiction & Poetry 

DuBois’ Clocks Read Tension

How do you spend your hours? Me, I read a lot. Between my job as an editor, mutual critique with my writing group, colleague’s work, and my own exciting (ever growing) stack of mysteries and thrillers, I am often awash in words. Sitting seductively in a pile of things I need to read for work is a stash of pages that I want to read- the latest story by Brendan DuBois. I tore his story out of a magazine. The corner of page two is ripped and there is a smudge of tomato sauce on page sixteen. When I fished them out and put them on my desk this morning, my cat Dolly sat on all of the pages. I will have to make time to read “Her Final Shot” today, because author Brendan DuBois took the time to write one of my favorite mystery short stories- “Ride-Along.”

Prolific, Barry award-winning writer Brendan DuBois churns out many a well-crafted, suspenseful tale. I discovered “Ride-Along” (no relation to the silly 2014 film) because my savvy and fun Goddard professor Susan Kim suggested it. I read it from The Best American Mystery Stories 2011. I was working on plotting a mystery set in New Hampshire, and boy, can New Hampshire writer DuBois construct a plot! In modern life, people are always trying to rein in the hours to create the life that they want. So DuBois utilizes references to units of time to build the suspense leading to the violent, surprising crime. A veteran cop allows a curious but under-qualified free-lance writer, Erika Kramer, to ride with him for a night. While reading, you can’t help but notice that the main characters frequently check the time. Minutes tick by as the action crescendos to the rich, time-sensitive climax.

DuBois further emphasizes time by vividly describing his antihero watching not just a common wristwatch or phone, but “the light-blue numerals of the dashboard clock flip.” The reader perches on the edge of their seat, as “with each change of the number, it seems like the air in the cruiser” gets “thicker and harder to breath.”

Get your hands on this story and read it. Without spoiling it, I can say that a time frame even lends increased intensity to the crime scene. The cop and mysterious writer hear, “Be advised, other units about ten minutes inbound.” The smart investigator and reporter of uncertain motives have a mere ten minutes in which to enact their plans and in fact, protect their own lives.

You will find the time that you spend reading this tale well spent!