Can a rookie cop survive the men who cross her path in the NYPD?
When a psychic in a shopping mall tells Rita Del Vecchio that she is "destined for greatness," and she will "marry a man in uniform," the restless, wet-behind-the-ears, 22 year-old decides to finally take control of her life. Rita sets out on a quest to become a New York City Police Officer. But can a spry, feisty, single woman thrive in the gritty world of New York's Finest?
Leaving behind the suburbs of New Jersey and a job as an under-tipped waitress, Rita Del Vecchio hangs up her apron and ballet slippers for a bullet-proof vest. But will she wear it? And if she does, will it protect her on the mean streets of Manhattan? Can it also protect her from Cupid’s arrows if they should land amiss?
Rita is assigned to the New York City Transit Police Squad and gets more than she bargained for. Riding the Lexington Avenue Subway Line, Rita winds up meeting not one man in uniform, but many. Whom will she love?
In Transit combines romance and suspense. This woman-in-jeopardy story delves into the ordinary lives of NYPD career cops and how their fates are determined by people who hold secrets as dark and as labyrinth-like as the New York City Subway System.
Read an excerpt!
"Let's go Del Vecchio. I want to go home already!"
The windows lining the perimeter of the police academy gymnasium that had once burst with blinding sunlight were now dark panes of glass that glistened with the reflection of distant streetlights. Rita Del Vecchio struggled harder and harder to make her way over the obstacle course wall. It was her seventh try. The muscles in her arms burned tired and sore, but she kept her fingers firm around the thick, bristly rope even though the flesh on her hands felt stripped bare to the bone.
"This is your last chance. If you don't get over this time, you can kiss graduation goodbye. You hear what I'm saying?"
She heard him, all right. How could she not hear him? He screamed at her all day, and the badgering sound of his voice echoed in her mind, haunting her all night. There was no escaping him.
Sergeant Gary Hill.
Rita could see him pacing on the floor mat below. He was watching her, his head craned upon his thick neck and his Popeye-like arms folded, bursting across his muscular chest.
"It's a God-awful shame," Hill said, his words rising up to meet her. "You go through six weeks of hell, for what? Face it, Del Vecchio. You're too damned weak. It just goes to show you–the NYPD is no place for a woman."
Rita glared down at him. From her perspective more than half way up the twenty-foot high wall, Hill now appeared the size of a midget despite his bulky six-foot four-inch frame.
Using every ounce of strength she had left, Rita pulled herself up. She groaned, reaching higher. Her hands seared around the thick, splintered knots, while the soles of her sneakers searched for traction, squeaking against the seams and joints in the paint-chipped plywood wall.
"Should've made a trip to the gym instead of going to your ballet class last night. Right, Twinkle Toes?" Hill's laugh bounced off the walls of the now empty gymnasium that stank of manly sweat and body odor. "What kind of cop likes ballet anyway? Are you gonna do pirouettes while you read some poor bastard his rights?"
Beads of sweat trickled down from Rita's forehead and reached her lips. They tasted salty like tears. From day one at the police academy, Hill seemed determined to defeat Rita. But she refused to give in–or give up. She looked past the pus oozing from the blisters on her white hot hands. There were only two more rope knots to go before she would reach the top. She inched up, heaving the last painful weight of her body. But with her fingers too anxious to stretch toward that final notch, she lost her grip and was sent into free-fall.
Her rump crashed first and knocked the wind out of her until she found herself flat on her back. Her size seven, five-foot four-inch frame was sprawled atop the spongy, rubber mat. It's over, she thought, her hands and spine stinging with pain.
When the stars before her eyes finally cleared, she was looking up Sergeant Gary Hill's nostrils. They loomed like the dark tubes of the Lincoln Tunnel.
"Why'd you want to be a cop anyway, Del Vecchio?"
A lump had grown in Rita's throat. She tried to swallow hoping it might alleviate the pressure building behind her eyes.
"What are you trying to prove? And to whom, huh?"
Rita could see how Sergeant Hill's closely cropped, flaxen hair was highlighted with tiny strands of gray. And this late in the day, he had a stubbly look of a five o'clock shadow.
"Well, what do you have to say for yourself?"
What could Rita say? What should she say? She lumbered her body from the mat until she was seated upright. Then she tucked some wayward strands of hair back into her ponytail and straightened her shoulders. She hated his condescension, but she pulled in her chin and braced for more of his verbal gale.
"You women recruits are all alike. A bunch of prima donna idealists who are out to change the world," Sergeant Hill said. "Well, forget about it, Twinkle Toes. Do me and this city a favor. Stick with changing your frilly little underwear...or better yet, go stir a pot of meatballs and macaroni. I mean, what's the worst that can happen? You get a tomato sauce stain. You break a nail." He sighed a mix of annoyance and contempt in an effort to illicit a response from her. But he wasn't going to get one. "Ah, hell," he said, turning from her and tossing up his hands. "I don't know why the city makes me waste my time. What's the use? You were just one of the few token women in this graduating class anyway."
Rita's body tensed into a violent quiver. "To meet guys!" she finally blurted, her fists clenched.
Gary Hill squinted his eyes. He looked at her suspect. "I beg your pardon?"
"You asked me before why I want to be a cop." Rita met Sergeant Hill's gaze dead on. She spoke her piece in one long stream, without even taking a breath. "Well, I joined the force to meet guys–to meet guys just like you. I'm a masochist at heart. How's that? Does that make you feel better? Is that the response you've been waiting for?"
Hill's eyebrows lifted in an arc. He appeared stunned and slightly amused by Rita's comeback. "I hate to burst your bubble, but there are easier ways to meet men."
Rita held up the palms of her hands in surrender. She rose to her feet and marched past him, straight for the locker room.
"So you're a quitter? Is that it, Del Vecchio?" Hill's words chased after Rita and slammed into the back of her head. "Atta girl. Go on. Take yourself and your bad attitude back to your old waitressing job at that grease pit in Jersey."
Rita stopped in her tracks. A sick, empty feeling roiled inside of her. This is it, isn't it? Everything I've worked for, it's all been in vain? For nothing? The hum of the fluorescent lights droned beneath the sound of her heavy, pounding heart. When she heard Sergeant Hill's footsteps drum like a slow, solemn cadence and the wooden floorboards pop and creak in response to his approach, Rita tightened herself.
"You surprise me, Del Vecchio," he said, his hand grasping her arm like a vise. "You've put up with more abuse in this academy than any of the other candidates. Why call it quits now?"
Rita turned and bore her gaze through him. She knew this was probably the last confrontation she'd ever have with her sergeant–or any officer from the NYPD for that matter. Why not make her final exit a grand farewell? "Is it all women you don't like," she said, "or is it just me?"
Gary Hill's staunch grin curled slowly into a smile. He shook his head and laughed. "You pegged me all wrong, Twinkle Toes. If I didn't like you, I wouldn't have worked you so hard." Hill resumed his leathery facade. "Some folks in this city are a lot tougher and meaner that the likes of me, many are even savages out for blood. If you don't thicken that suburban skin of yours, you're gonna be easy prey."
The words Sergeant Hill spoke aimed straight at the heart of the matter.
"I don't make a habit of giving presents unless it's Christmas," he told her, "but deep down, I like your grit and determination." A glimmer of a smile emerged on his face. He leaned closer to Rita until his warm breath whispered, "How about we let this be our little secret."
She repeated his words inside her head. Our little secret?
"Better press your uniform and shine your shoes," he told her, releasing his steely grip and letting her go. "You wanna look spit and polished for graduation, don't you?"
Am I hearing things? Or is he saying what I think he's saying?
"I'm recommending they assign you to the Transit Department. Good luck, Officer Del Vecchio. You're gonna need it."
Rita opened her mouth to say something, anything, but no words spewed forth. Instead, she just stood there with her mouth unhinged, astounded, starting at Sergeant Hill's broad shoulders as he walked away from her and headed for the men's locker room.
There was an urgency in her voice when she finally managed to spit out the words, "Thank you, Sergeant. Thank you."
Hill made an about-face. "Don't thank me. Just do me a favor and next time you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on."
In Rita's eyes, the image of Sergeant Hill as he disappeared through the locker room door became blurry and soggy-looking. And it was through her tears that she heard him say, "I bet you're one hell of a dancer."
He was gone, but he would not soon be forgotten.
Kathleen Gerard writes across genres. Her fiction has been awarded The Perillo Prize, The Eric Hoffer Prose Award and was nominated for Best New American Voices, all national prizes in literature. Her prose and poetry have been widely published in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR). Several of her plays have been staged and performed regionally and off-Broadway.