"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A taste of the third story

Hola, Peeps!

I'm off to volunteer at a fundraiser today, to raise money for Aplastic Anemia and MDS (think Robin Roberts), but I wanted to post something because I never want you to think I've wandered off and forgotten about you. So here's a scene from the new mystery. Still wishing I had a title.

(Note: This is a scene with our plucky heroine, Peri, and her sidekick, Benny. They are in Benny's home, which has been partially decimated by fire.)

* * * * *

They returned down the stairs, taking care to step lightly until they reached the bottom. Peri turned the light toward the front door, then stopped.

"Stay here. I want to look in your mom's room one more time."
She walked back into the small bedroom. This used to be the guest room, but as Mrs. Needles got older, climbing the stairs became more difficult for her. Peri remembered the day she helped move Benny's mom downstairs. The older woman supervised where to put everything, clearly uncomfortable that she could not do any of the heavy lifting. Her son arranged and coordinated it all, so that the clothes were hung in order of item and color. Even the glass bottles on the dresser were lined up by size. Peri was just the muscle.
The room now smelled of perfume and smoke and death. This time she detected a whiff of whiskey as well. It must have been a leftover of Alex's.
Creeping around the bed, she leaned over and lifted the bedspread, shining the light underneath. She wanted to see further, but didn't want to get her slacks filthy. Toward the headboard, something glowed white, so she reached for it. Just another mortgage statement.
But it was relatively clean, so she placed it on the ground and put her knees on it. She could now see completely under the bed. There was nothing else there, apart from waterlogged dust bunnies.
Standing, she picked up the paper and moved back around toward the door. She was almost out when she heard a thump in the closet. Her flashlight swung around toward the noise. It stopped.
Peri knew someone or something was in there. She could feel a presence, however, she wasn't certain how to proceed. It would be easy enough to swing the door open and expose whoever was there. The problem would be if it was someone armed with a weapon. Peri had her pocket flashlight and a pink snakeskin tote. They weren't the best means of self defense for a private investigator.
I really need to get a gun.
She looked around the room, trying to find a stick or pipe or anything she could swing at the intruder. Suddenly, she felt two hands on her back, pushing her forward. She fell to her knees, hard, breaking her fall with her hands. The glass embedded in the carpet dug into her palms as her left wrist twisted, and her forehead hit the bed's footboard.
"Ow-ow-ow." Peri tried not to scream, but it all hurt. She turned to see who had pushed her, but they were gone. Maybe Benny saw them run out. She yelled out to him. "Benny — someone's in the house."
There was no answer, which worried her. She felt around the floor until her fingers located the flashlight, then pushed to her feet and ran back into the living room. Benny wasn't there. She raced through the house, calling for Benny and shining the flashlight into every corner. He was gone.
Peri's stomach lurched. She looked at her hands and saw how bloody they were from the glass. Her left wrist was already getting larger than the right.
Oh my god, they took him. We weren't supposed to be here, and now he's gone.
She ran out of the house, slamming the door, and then reached for her cell phone. That's when she saw Benny, sitting behind the wheel of his Caddy. He was rocking out to Dino singing "Mambo Italiano." She nearly cried in relief, and hobbled to the passenger side.
"Miss Peri, you're so messy. What happened?"
"I fell down." She glanced at her stained and blacked slacks. The knees had little glass shards poking out of them, which she brushed off. Might as well toss them in the trash now.
She started to ask Benny if he'd seen the intruder, but stopped. If he had, he would still be screaming about it. If he hadn't, it would be better if he didn't know. She reached for the passenger door, but he interrupted her.
"You can't ride in my car."
"Miss Peri, you're dirty. You can't ride in my car."
"Well, how do you expect me to get home, or get to my car?" Her wrist was beginning to ache.
"You can't ride in my car."
"Benny, my hands hurt, I've twisted my wrist, I need to clean my wounds and see if I need an x-ray. Now open this damned door or you can forget about me working for you."
Scowling, he got out and went to the trunk. He retrieved a plastic bag and placed it on the passenger seat.
"Sit on this and don't touch anything."
She got in and reached for the seatbelt.
"No seatbelt." No negotiation, either. "You can ride in the seat, but you can't touch anything."
"Fine, just take me back to Esmy's and I'll get my car."
It took them ten excruciating minutes to drive the two miles to his aunt's house. Every time Peri tried to put her hands anywhere but her lap, she got a lecture. At last, he pulled into the drive and Peri reached for the door handle.
"Don't touch that." Benny's voice was stern. "I'll open the door."
Peri waited as she was told and managed to climb out of Benny's car without touching the car or Benny, who was as reluctant to offer his hand as he was to offer a ride. She wondered, if she wrapped her hands around his neck, would he be more upset about the dirt or the strangling?
"Let's keep working on the insurance, Benny. I'll call you when I've got anything."
"Okay, Miss Peri." She watched him walk to the front door, then turn and give her a stilted wave.
Peri limped to her car and got in. Only two days on this case and she was hurting. Sometimes she thought Benny Needles would be the death of her.
* * * * *
Hope you enjoyed that, and weren't too confused because you haven't read what came before. Actually, I'm hoping you are intrigued by what came before and want to know more. I'm completing the edits, then manuscript is off to my beta readers. As usual, you'll be the first ones to know when it's ready for publication.

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