"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

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The hard way every time

Well, now I'm in a pickle.

In working on the new mystery, I decided that one love interest might be boring for the reader in that "of course they'll get together" kind of way. I mean, Willie's been alone for a long time and doesn't realize she might be ready for a relationship, and Tyler has been severely hurt and doesn't want to risk getting hurt again.

They're made for each other.

But creating another man who might also awaken Willie's heart was a problem because I thought I wanted Willie and Tyler to be together in the end. At first, I considered the man who is perfect for her in every way except that he doesn't stir anything in her.

That wouldn't do. The reader would see through that and wonder why I bothered.

Then I thought of a man who would pursue her, as opposed to Tyler, who won't make his feelings known. It sounded like a good plan. Most readers might still want Tyler, but a gregarious new guy who knows what he wants and goes out to get it would keep them guessing.

Thomas Macy is one of the detectives who will be investigating the murder at the horse show. I based him on this guy:




I picked him because he's a straightforward cop, imposing in that "Vincent D'Onofrio, Law and Order: Criminal Intent" kind of way without any of the side trips to Crazy Town. I mean, Bobby Gorin was a fascinating character to me, but at the end of the day, came with too much mental illness baggage to be a love interest. Plus, Matthew Macfadyen was a rather breathtaking Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

What could go wrong?

When I actually wrote Thomas' journal (while watching Ripper Street), something surprising happened. Here's what he told me.


Can’t really say how I got where I am, but there you have it. I was born in Norwich, England and raised by me mum and dad with four sisters. Dad worked for the oil company. Mum stayed home. I never gave too much thought to what would become of me. I’d go to school, then work the oil company like Dad.

Sissies all went about getting married and having babies. I was the youngest myself. When I got out school, I was supposed to start work at end of month. Then my girl, Lizzie, said she was going to university and couldn’t be seen with an oil worker. What’s a fella to do?

I enrolled with her, at University of Anglia in town. Didn’t much think of what I’d get out of it, except to be near Lizzie. Took writing classes. Liked them. My best story was about the girl who talks her boyfriend into going to college with her, then leaves him for another chap.

Call it memoir.

Lotsa blokes lose their girls. It’s not a big deal. Funny how it turned out that way to me. Guess I was so used to an ordinary life, no highs or lows, I just thought we’d roll on out to our graves together. Me and Lizzie.

After that, I quit. University, working, living. I breathed when I had to.

It was Mum who saved me. Came home one day with a plane ticket to America. Bless her soul, she doesn’t know very much about the country, so she got me a ticket to Los Angeles. “It means City of Angels,” she said. “You need an angel to guide you out of this.”

I tramped around L.A., serving as a waiter and a clerk and anything else that would pay for a one-room flat and an old car, one that I banged up frequently because I couldn’t get used to driving on the wrong side of the road. Still, I wasn’t mixing with folks, even the ones I worked with. I learned to like baseball. Cold beer and nachos with the blokes. Girls would flirt, but I felt so empty, it was like they were batting their eyes at a seashell. Nothin on the inside but an echo.

Got a job at a little cafĂ© in Burbank, local family place but really friendly. One night, I was closing up. It was me and the cook Gussie left. The owner had already left with the night’s deposits, and Gussie had to clean the grill again after a mob came in five minutes before we closed and ordered full breakfasts. I told Gussie I’d stay to see her to her car.

He came in through the back door, the one she’d propped open to take out the trash. Young kid with a gun bigger than his head, it seemed. His eyes were wild. He just kept asking for the money. I opened the till, showed him it was empty. He wanted the safe. We didn’t have a safe. The owner always took all the money at night and brought the till money in the morn.

Gussie was a big strong woman who had no patience, especially at two in the morning after a full shift. She opened her bag and threw a few dollars and change his way. “This is all you gonna get, Fool.”

She shouldn’t have done that. Her quickness, her hand throwing, it all startled him. His finger jerked on the trigger, the gun exploded, and Gussie fell. After being so afraid of being shot, I suddenly forgot he was in the room. I reached the phone on the counter and dialed for the police. Gussie was hit in the right side. I got a towel and pushed on the blood, tried to tell her she’d be okay.

That’s what you say, whether you believe it or not.

When I looked up, the young man was gone. I could hear the sirens, so I just kept pressing on Gussie’s side.

“Talk to me, baby,” Gussie said. “I just love to hear you talk. It’s so pretty, like one of them romances in the old movies.”

I talked until the medics arrived, then I held her hand on the way to the ambulance. The last thing I did for her that night was to call her husband and let him know where they’d taken her. The medics seemed to think she would pull through, and thanked me for keeping pressure on her wound.

“She could have bled out without you,” they told me.

The police questioned me for a while. I thought I’d grow tired of their questions, but they intrigued me. The more they asked, the more I thought about the young man and the gun and the circumstance, and was able to give them descriptions. They thanked me for my help.

I woke up the next day and did the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. I applied to be a police officer. The Burbank police department accepted my application, and after requisite training, I became a copper. My mind and body were completely absorbed by the job, so much so that promotions were easy, until I was made detective. I’m good at my job, and consider it my goal to help the victims.

My heart, however, remains as ever, dead and buried away.
Great. I not only have an Englishman on my hands, who will put me through the ringer as far as his voice and word choices, but he's a broken-hearted bloke at that. If he manages to open himself up to Willie, it'll break him all over again if she chooses Tyler.
Now what do I do?

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