mixing with murder: a story snippet

I was planning to write a sort of life update post today, but my thoughts refused to come together so I thought I’d share some of my writing: it’s an experimental opening scene to an idea that I’ve been tossing around for the past three or four months and I’d really like to get your thoughts on it.  Still very first-drafty (even as I was pulling up the document to copy-and-paste it here, I noticed things I want to change) but I hope it gives you an idea of the kind of story/novella/novel this might turn out to be. (It’s set in the fifties by the way…not sure if anyone would pick that up from just this one scene, so I just thought I’d mention it.)

(And please forgive any typos.  Like I said, it’s very First Draft.)

______________________________

The detective stood on one side of the room. I stood on the other. The animosity between us was sharp.

The third person in the room had no opinion in the matter.

She was dead.

Policemen stood in the hall outside as I, Investigative Reporter Alan Wade, and he, Detective Mark Randall from the Los Angeles police station, went over the crime scene with an attentive air.

The stench of cigarettes hung in the air – a half dozen of them lay in the ashtray beside the victim, lipstick staining each like a faded kiss – and there was also a strong sense of four or five different perfumes vying with each other for preeminence. The carpet was plush and red. There were twenty lights that surrounded the vanity mirror. One was burnt out. Two were brighter than the rest.

I paid no attention to Detective Randall as I pulled out my notepad – not so different from the one he himself now held and wrote in – and jotted down a few phrases that would help me remember the scene later.

Randall coughed.

I looked up. He was staring right at me with a glare that could be felt more than seen. I refused to respond and went back to my observations of the room. Small, smaller than usual. But comfortable. Victim seated in a pink armchair, head tilted back slightly, hands folded neatly in her lap. Strangled. Murder weapon nowhere to be found. They had waited to take the body away until Randall could come and look things over. Once he was finished, I was finished.

Not quite, though.

My press pass could get me places he’d need a warrant to enter. That was something. And my cooperation with and assistance of the Los Angeles police department in the past had me on good standing with the commissioner, good standing that benefited me now. How else would I have been notified so quickly?

“Officer, would you be so good as to come in here?” I called to the swarm of men in the hall.

An older man strode in, tall and muscular with a hard set to his jaw. “What is it, Mr. Wade?”

“I just have a few questions to clear up, officer.  Cause of death?” I asked, though I was already pretty sure I knew.

“No way to tell until the inquest, but I’d put my money it’s the same way as all the others.”

Strangulation. The other two murders had been in other cities too far away to give me an excuse to cover them – besides the fact that I’d been away on vacation both times – but I’d read all the reports. A serial killer. Possibly. Coincidences did happen, but with three actresses murdered – and all redheads at that – I would have put my money on the serial killer theory.

Randall coughed again. The officer looked up. I did not, choosing to remain fixated on my notes.

And the officer’s notes. His pad had slipped into a convenient position for me to try puzzling out his upside-down handwriting. No such luck. From this angle, it all looked like black gashes, sharp and angular. Pity. It would have been handy to know exactly what he knew. Even with my high standing at the department, the police always held back one or two details. Procedure. And I knew from experience that no amount of begging or pleading – or threats – would make them divulge what they knew.

“Time of death?” I asked, pulling the officer’s attention from some silent argument was having with Randall and back to my own investigation.

Once again, he consulted his notes. “No one’s sure. The maid went in about half an hour after Miss Shaw got back from the premier party and found her like this. Could’ve been any time in that half hour.”

Not very helpful, but I wrote it down all the same. “Did anyone see her enter the hotel? She could have been murdered somewhere else and brought here.”

“She tipped the busboy.”

“I see.”

So far, this was nothing new. Actress murdered in her hotel room after a premiere for her latest film. Which brought my mind back to the serial killer angle. I was tempted to drop a hint, perhaps even get a quote from the officer, but decided against it. Once the police began to think in terms of serial killers, every newspaper would be full with it and my thunder would be stolen. Better to run with the theory before anyone else had a chance to.

“You talked to the others on this floor?”

The inspector nodded. “Nothing.”

That was that, for now. My eyes made one final pass around the room as I nodded to both Randall and the police captain, tipped my hat, said “Gentlemen”, and took my leave. Now the real work would begin.

______________________________

Sooooo…thoughts?  Constructive criticisms?  Suggestions?  I’m open to anything you guys want to send me. 🙂

Eva

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24 thoughts on “mixing with murder: a story snippet

  1. I really like this, Eva! I especially enjoyed seeing all the tiny details through the reporter’s eyes–like the lights on the mirror 🙂 That’s the sort of thing I’d never notice myself; but I can definitely understand why the character would notice them; so that was cool!

    Suggestions–The only thing I really noticed was that the reporter asked for the time of death twice, and I thought maybe that was a mistake? But that’s all 🙂

    Like

    • Ah, thanks! I’m so glad you liked it. 🙂

      And thanks for catching that mistake – I was copying and pasting from an old version of the scene when I originally wrote this (just to get some details in that I didn’t want to have to write over again) so that’s how that got in there twice.

      Like

  2. This is promising! I like the feel of it — Dana Andrews would seem right at home as either of these guys.

    I especially liked this:

    The third person in the room had no opinion in the matter.

    She was dead.

    That made me grin 😀

    Like

    • Thanks! And I was picturing Dana as the detective. (And Alan Ladd as the reporter, for some reason – I have a mental image of him in a trenchcoat/fedora…maybe I saw a picture like that in one of your posts about him?)

      Like

      • You are the sweetest person ever, because I was kind of thinking Alan Ladd would work as the quiet, thinky reporter, but I didn’t want to just shove my obsession into your story 😉 He did quite a few noir and mystery movies, and it’s my personal opinion that he almost gives Dana a run for his money in the “should always wear a trench coat and fedora” department. I had a bunch of shots of him thus clad in my “This Gun for Hire” review, and there are some on my Alan Ladd board on Pinterest too, so it’s no wonder you saw some around.

        If you want his voice specifically as a reporter in your head, listen to some eps of his radio show “Box 13” (on YouTube) some rainy afternoon!

        Like

      • So, it can be official then. Alan is the reporter and Dana is the detective. Now to start a Pinterest board… 😉

        And thanks for the link – I’ll have to check it out ASAP.

        Like

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