Free in 30 Minutes

Another flash fiction weekend writing jam for NYC Midnight. This time the required elements were: action adventure / a roof terrace /  a car key. I think the judges liked it more than I did.


Every spare moment Bea had was spent free running with her friends over the skyscapes and rooftops of the business district. It earned her an afternoon in a holding cell last July, and more than one tobacco-stained lecture from Joe.

“For the last time, Bea: you ring the intercom, you deliver the food, and then you leave”.

“But, I thought —”

“Order up”.

She’d seen the complaints: malformed pizzas, squashed boxes, trespassing. One more angry phone call and she’d be out of a job. On the other hand, if it was later than 30 minutes, Joe docked the loss from her pay.

And it was worth the risk. Most of her customers were stoned college kids and lonely dads. The sight of a winsome teen monkey-flipping into their yard with a piping-hot dinner had earned her a generous tip.


There was no response to the bell and only two minutes left on the clock, so Bea slid the box under the security gate in the alleyway and jumped the fence.

She spilled onto the tarmac like mercury, rolling on to her shoulder to distribute the force along her back. Grabbing the box on the upturn, she swung her arm in a cupping motion, countering the shifting momentum.

The double pepperoni warmed her hand through the cardboard, and Bea hoped to God Joe’s sticky, cheap mozzarella kept the toppings from sloshing around inside.

Without breaking stride, Bea slid over the hood of a parked car — too nice for this neighbourhood — then on to a skip, kicking off the opposite wall and pulling herself up onto the fire escape. She could hear the sounds of a music, cheering and breaking glass up on the terrace. Some douche-bro yelled out in pain, followed by a cheer.

This had to be the place.

No one would mind if she let herself in.


This wasn’t the place.

All eyes were on Bea — from the liver spotted pensioner in the Chinese silk gown, to the bald thug with his arm pulled back, fresh blood on his knuckles. Zip-tied to a wicker pool chair was a crumpled young man, his face all raw and swollen. It twisted into a broken grin.

“Pizza? That’d be mine”.

Beep! Beep!

Bea’s delivery alarm broke the silence, shocking everyone out of their stupor. The Pensioner reached into his gown for a pistol, while the young man in the chair reared up his legs, and mule-kicked his captor into the pool.


Two more goons came out of the apartment, guns drawn, but the bloodied man pushed back, pinning one against the wall with his wicker chair while grabbing the other by the wrist.


The brickwork behind Bea exploded. A second bullet clipped her ear. She threw herself at the pool, flinging the pizza box at the old man and stepping on the thug’s head, just as he came up for air.

The cardboard box sailed across the terrace like a discus, while Bea tucked and spun. She landed with precision, slipping a little on the wet terracotta just as her pizza caught the old man in the chest, an explosion of warm sausage and hot tomato sending him backwards onto the tiles with an ugly crack.

Bea made it to the glass doors.

She could leave now.

Run back to the van. Get her phone.

Call the police.

But the man in the chair was holding off two armed guards while the thug flopped over the side of the pool, bellowing like an angry walrus.

And inside Bea’s fanny pack was a circular pizza knife, and a credit card reader, the size and heft of a small brick.

She smashed it across the head of one guard, elbowing the other in the face, sending his gun skittering across the wet tiles and into the pool. With a downward slash, Bea severed the zip ties with her pizza slicer, and helped the broken young man to his feet.

He swiped the other guard’s gun and trained it on the bald thug, cradling the pensioner where he pensioner lay, sprawled awkwardly on the hard terrace floor.


His name was Marc, he told her.

He could feel the adrenaline wearing off, his legs giving way beneath him, as he motioned to the skip. Bea put her shoulder to it, feet slipping on wet cardboard and bin juice, until the wheels gave way and the whole bin juddered to a halt in front of the door. It flapped and banged, as the goons tried to feed their pistol muzzles through the crack­, but the skip held.

“Here”. He tossed something small, hard and black. Bea caught it instinctively, turning it over in her palm and tracing the logo and buttons with her fingertips.

“I think I’m fired“, said Bea. “You hiring?”

“I need a driver”.

Bea popped the locks on the Jag and Marc tumbled into the passenger seat.

She grinned.

“Order up”.

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