Monday, September 28, 2009

Adding a Pinch of POLICE to Spice Up the Conflict

Some author ramblings… regarding Damascus Road The Corescu Chronicles: Book Two When the time came for me to consider publishing The Corescu Chronicles, I went back to proof, tighten up, and generally perfect each individual novel. When I began looking at Book Two, Damascus Road, it was the right length (actually too long at over 130,000 words), but it seemed to be missing one element. That element was POLICE. I needed a conflict—a non-vampire conflict for Tony and Paul. After all, Paul had killed a mortal in Book One, and then hid the body rather hastily. Wouldn’t it make sense that the body was found and the police began investigating? (The answer is YES). So we have our police detectives. I wrote them into the story, weaving them seamlessly through the plot. And I fell in love with them, so much that I would like to spin them off into their own novel one day. But I digress...
So when I was done, the book was so much better. Of course, then it was too long, reaching nearly 160,000 words! So when I began my now patented method of WORD-WHACKING and cut out a few unnecessary characters, it slipped to a comfortable (yet still too long) 133,000. So that’s where it stands today. I am going to go through it again and WHACK unnecessary phrases, adverbs, etc, and try to get it to 110,000-115,000 and be happy. Now I want to share a little bit about my new characters, the police detectives who are trying to find out what happened to the corpse they disinterred… These two characters grew into a wonderful couple. They worked well together, held secret affections for each other, and by the end of the story, whether or not they caught the perp paled in comparison to whether or not they ended up married. For kicks I have leaked the introductory chapter of DAMASCUS ROAD that introduces this indomitable pair, who do not believe in vampires…at least not at first. Introducing Jonah Miller and Jennifer Speltz. (This chapter has not been WHACKED yet, so may contain extra words and phrases that will be chopped out later.) CHAPTER TWO …Do not rebel against the LORD, Nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; Their protection has departed them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them. Numbers 14:9 Detective Jonah Miller rubbed his tired eyes and mumbled something unintelligible to his partner. The Whitford City Police Department was quietly buzzing all around them but all Jonah could think of was how nice it would be if the end of his shift would roll around. Then he’d grab a bite to eat and shuffle off to his lonely abode. Jonah mumbled his complaint again and his partner shot a rubber band his way.
“What? We speak-uh da English here, buddy. Say again?”
“I said we got nothing, Speltz. Nothing.” Jonah peeked out over his palms but they remained obscuring most of his face. Detective Sergeant Jennifer Speltz, his partner for the better part of five years leaned back in her chair across from him, her desk butting up to his, their corporate junk mixing on both sides. She was forty-seven, sturdily built but sexy in a matronly way. Jonah had never told her so, but he went to bed many nights with her on his mind. He continued to stare at her over his hands as she righted herself and began to flip through a file folder on her desk.
“Stop whining, soldier. We have quite a few good prints. One wound. A hastily chosen weapon of opportunity. A body and an ID on said corpse. How can you say we got nothin’?” She had a point. The corpse found behind the abandoned BP Station was six-months old at least, but the ME sent them a very detailed write-up.
“Okay, okay, little miss perky.” Jonah rubbed his face once more and then sat up to rifle through the ME report. “This guy lived a good three minutes before he expired. I think we can assume he fought his attacker. Any corroborative evidence on your end?”
“Well we’re half a year after the fact, so there was no tissue evidence found on the vic, under the fingernails, in or around the wound site. And after six months of rain, wind and frost, we didn’t get any footprints or express evidence of blood around the body…” Jennifer scanned the report in her hand. “The vic’s rental turned up months ago at the bottom of the pond, but since we’re just now finding the body, that part of the chain of evidence is not helping us at all. But there was physical evidence on the oak tree. Tree bark peeled from the scene definitely had traces of blood underneath it. Could be the perp just as well as the vic.”
“And do we have the report back on that yet from the lab?” Jonah dropped the file on the messy desktop and took a swig of his decaf. He usually covered the deadies and let his partner cover the CSU-ies. That’s what she called them at least. They had a system that worked. She never had to handle the corpses and he rarely had to deal with the obnoxious science geeks in the evidence lab.
“Not yet.” Jennifer replied just as a uniform rushed by to drop a clear vinyl folder on her desk before disappearing around the next corner partition. “Wait. I think this is it.”
“Perfect timing. What’s it say?” Jonah stood up, his back creaking almost as loudly as his knees as he did so.
“Making old man noises now, Jonah?” Jennifer raised her eyebrows as he approached her desk. “Is this what I have to look forward to when I get to be your age?”
“Hah hah.” Jonah laughed sarcastically. “In three years, yeah, you’ll be as old as me. Better get to the gym before it’s too late.” He looked over her shoulder as she pulled open the lab report.
“I’m way ahead of ya grandpa. I bought a StairMaster last week. Haven’t missed a day on it. Twenty minutes a day three times a week for rock-hard abs. Or some other hogwash. Okay. Let’s see…” Jennifer traced the page with her finger. “Oh good. There was definitely blood on the tree bark, and it was definitely not the vic’s.”
“We got a blood type then? Too early for DNA?” Jonah tried to read ahead of her but even after adjusting his glasses, the letters remained out of focus.
“Well,” she began, her finger trailed down the page slowly. “That’s weird.”
“What?” Jonah squinted and still couldn’t make his eyes focus properly—it was time for a new prescription. Jennifer recommended contact lenses frequently enough but he never could get the hang of putting his finger on his eyeball.
“The lab has nada on this point. They don’t have a blood type or a DNA note here. I wonder if there’s a screw up?” Jennifer flipped the report to page two and it ended with a few lines of procedure but no additional information. “Have you ever gotten a summary from the lab that was incomplete?”
Jonah reached for the folder and brought it closer to his face. He could see the unchecked square that normally revealed the blood type of the donor. And the bottom of the page that was devoted to column after column of DNA information was completely blank.
“This is ridiculous. What kind of dog and pony show are we running here, partner?” Whitford City was a small town, to be sure, but he had always considered the police department to be first class. Jonah handed the folder back to her and returned to his chair to grab his jacket. “Get down to the lab and find out what the holdup is. This guy has a six-month lead on us and they send down shoddy police work like this? I can’t believe it.”
“They must have a reason. Don’t get your man-panties in a wad, Jonah. I know these guys. I’ll go get whatever they have. You can go down to that rental place and see if the rep remembers our vic. They are open ‘til nine. Maybe you’ll get lucky.” Jennifer stood up and heard a tiny pop from her own knees. She looked up and Jonah smiled widely at her. “Don’t say a word. That is the sound of knees getting stronger from riding my new toy every day. Not a word.”
Jonah laughed and shrugged on his brown suit coat. “I wasn’t going to say anything. Do unto others, my child.”
“Hah hah, Rabbi.” Jennifer shoved a few items into her brief case and shrugged on her light windbreaker. “I’ll check back with you at nine. Meet ya at Twirlies for a bite?”
“’Kay.” Jonah ignored the rabbi jibe and waved with his fingers as she turned to leave. When she had disappeared around the corner, he turned on his heel and headed for the men’s room.
Jenn sometimes called him rabbi because she once caught him carrying a Hebrew Bible to his car. He studied the Scriptures in his spare time, but he was a cop, not a preacher. Still, one could never know enough about God—so he kept the book in his locker. And he wasn’t Jewish either, not really. His great, great grandfather, Isaac Cohen was Jewish, but that was as close as he got to having Hebrew lineage. Although you wouldn’t know it to look at him.
Jonah made it to the men’s room and stopped to wash his face in the sink. He looked up at his reflection and stared into his own deep brown eyes through his wire-rimmed eyeglasses. He looked enough like his Cohen ancestor to pass as Jewish. He’d seen a silvery photograph once as a young man of the barber from Milwaukee, and like him, Jonah had almost no gray hair at fifty years old. He wore his dark brown locks a little long just so everyone would see that he not only had a terrific head of hair, but that he also had enviable curls. The only reason he was clean-shaven was because the one time he let his coarse beard and mustache grow, his mother accused him of going Orthodox. So he shaved.
Jonah coughed and hit his chest a few times for effect. It had been twelve years since he quit smoking, but when the weather was damp, it felt like he had never stopped. He ran his fingers through his unruly hair and his thoughts returned to the case and what Jennifer might find out from the geeks at CSU.
And then he thought about retirement. Again.
The captain had given them this very difficult case because he believed in them. Or so he said. Jonah had inkling that Captain Johansson dumped it on them because the rest of the detectives were busy catching the real bad guys. He and Jennifer had been on clean-up duty for over a year and it didn’t look like they were getting off anytime soon. Any case that the chief thought may never be solved he handed to Miller and Speltz. They worked quietly and efficiently, required very little departmental resources, and if they were ever successful in solving any of their impossible cases, they did it quietly and without media attention. The cleanup crew. No recognition. No promotion. Just work the cases as far as you can, stamp them closed or unsolved, and move on to the next. Jonah shook his head at his reflection and headed for the door. Retirement was looking better and better.
Maybe he could convince Jenn to come with him. It was a possibility. He was single, she was single, and they got along. It could happen, Jonah crossed the parking lot to his beat-up Cutlass. Nothing’s impossible…

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