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View Full Version : working title: Revenge some language, mild.



egpenny
November 22nd, 2011, 06:48 AM
This is the 1/3 of Chapter One of my detective novel. Please read and rake it over the coals of an honest crtitique.


Deputy Sheriff Tom Lang arrived at Sherwood Mini Storage in Pine Grove, CA and parked his cruiser. He walked to where Wayne Sherwood, stood waiting for him in front of a storage unit. He stopped beside the man and looked at the closed door.

"What've you got here Wayne? got a call you found something dead."

"That's right, there's a dead something in there, I smelled it as soon as I popped the door." Wayne rolled the door up with a grunt and stepped back from the entrance. He fanned his face with his hand and moved upwind, out of the rotten stench floating from the garage-sized space. He stayed close enough to watch the deputy do his job. "That's enough to gag a maggot Lang. Whew." He moved back another step and held his nose.

Deputy Lang saw a late model car and smelled the putrid odor of decomposition. His nose twitched and his breathing became shallow in self defense, he stepped back and reached for the tube of Vicks in his jacket pocket. With a generous dab applied above his upper lip, to mask the smell, he moved forward to peer into the empty vehicle. He noticed a chest-style freezer, squeezed in front of the car, against the back wall. The freezer was wrapped in what looked like a complete roll of duct tape.

"Aw, Jesus," Lang sidled by the car to the freezer and inspected the dusty, white box before making his way back to the doorway. "Something dead in there, all right, not too fresh either. Wayne, you don't need to stay here, you go on now. I'll be down to talk to you later." Wayne nodded and hurried toward his office while Lang went to his cruiser to get his crime scene kit. He was the only Crime Scene Investigator for the county and he need to see exactly what was in the freezer before he called it in.

*******************

Two weeks later, I was eighty-some miles away in Modesto, unaware of the events in Pine Grove. I watched my surveillance subject lift a heavy lawn mower into the back of his 4X4 truck with ease, and I grinned. My video camera was rolling, as I watched him step up into the cab of the tall truck without a problem.

"Your goose is so cooked," I muttered, scrambling toward the driver's seat of my van.

The man left his driveway going toward Rumble Road and I eased away from the curb to follow him. Two miles down Rumble he turned into a subdivision and parked in front of a house with a shaggy lawn. He unloaded the mower and went to work. I filmed him for four minutes as he pushed and pulled the mower around the yard. I had all I needed and left him there, with my report taking shape in my mind as I drove away. After three weeks of surveillance, this workman's comp. faker was going out of business. He'd been a cagey one, but I had him now.

I breezed into the office, holding the video camera above my head. "Whoo-hoo! I got that sucker." I grinned at Sam Rossiter, my partner in Rossiter and Ireland Investigations. He gave me two thumbs-up and a congratulatory smile before turning back to his computer.

The report I wrote was short and sweet; the subject, with a reported back injury so bad he couldn't manage the two steps from his garage to his house, was going to owe the insurance company a bunch of money and maybe do some jail time for fraud. My report and a copy of the video was put into an envelope and tossed in my out basket for delivery. I was a happy woman as I stretched my arms above my head, glad to be out of that freakin' van.

Sam sat behind his desk, his feet resting on an open bottom drawer, while he waited for his own report to print. He was a big man, think linebacker and that was him. He had been pretty-boy handsome when I first met him in UCLA, years ago. His nose had been broken one time too many, but the defect gave his face the character it needed to be interesting. He was my partner and my best friend. Okay, he was my only friend.

"Annie, what've you got going on for the weekend? Anything interesting or fun?" he asked me. I gave him the look.

"Fun, are you kidding me? I've got laundry, grocery shopping and household crap to do. Believe me, none of it is any kind of fun. If they ever invent a fully automated house, I'm signing up for one. How about you, you got anything going on?" It had been so long since I'd had any fun I would have had a hard time defining the word.

"Well, I heard about a hot poker game for Saturday night; cards, beer, pizza, sounds pretty damn good to me." He stared off into space for a moment, then nodded his head. "Yeah, a guy can only go so long without renewing his mancard. Poker and beer it is."

His feet came off the drawer with a thump, as the doorbell rang in the front office rang. After a moment, Jimmy, our one employee, entered the room, ushering in Serena Thompson, a woman we hadn't seen for almost four months.

ChicagoHeart
November 24th, 2011, 03:28 AM
I was quickly intrigued with this developing story. Great description in the first scene and I’m curious about the narrator’s private investigator life and how it ties into the first scene. All in all, an enticing first bit! I’ve offered my thoughts as a reader in blue text below. Take what you want and discard the rest J
Deputy Sheriff Tom Lang arrived at Sherwood Mini Storage in Pine Grove, CA and parked his cruiser. He walked to where the owner, Wayne Sherwood, stood waiting for him in front of a unit. He stopped beside the man and looked at the closed door.
I’d combine info in two of these sentences to make it flow more easily: He walked to the unit where Wayne Sherwood stood waiting for him, and looked at the closed door. I think the reader will gather that the guy is Sherwood of Sherwood Mini Storage so no need to add that he is the owner.
"What've you got here Wayne? The call came in about something dead in one of these units." I’d change this to from “the call came in” to “I got a call about”

"That's right, there's a dead something in there, I smelled it as soon as I popped the door." Wayne rolled the door up with a grunt and stepped back from the entrance. He fanned his face with his hand and moved upwind, out of the rotten stench floating from the unit, but he stayed close enough to watch the deputy do his job. "That's enough to gag a maggot Lang. Whew." He backed up another step and held his nose. Love this paragraph. I could see the scene play out in my mind and feel the guy’s discomfort.

Deputy Lang saw a late model car first and smelled the putrid odor of decomposition. No need to say” first”, it’s obviously his first action. His nose twitched and his breathing became shallow in self-defense. He stepped back and reached for the tube of Vicks in his ( pants/ coat/ shirt?) pocket. Good place for a tiny bit of visual. With a generous dab applied above his upper lip, he moved forward to peer into the empty vehicle. He noticed a chest-style freezer, squeezed in front of the car, against the back wall of the unit. The freezer was wrapped in, what must have been, a complete roll of duct tape. No commas needed here. The freezer was wrapped in what looked like a complete roll of duct tape.

"Aw, Jesus," was all he said before he sidled by the car to the freezer. He inspected the outside of the dusty, white box and then made his way back to the doorway. "Something dead in there, all right, not too fresh either. Wayne, you don't need to stay here, you go on now. I'll be down to talk to you later." Wayne nodded and hurried toward his office while Deputy Lang went to his cruiser and got his crime scene kit. He was the Crime Scene Investigator for Amador County and he need to see exactly what was in the freezer before he called it in. “Aw, Jesus.” Wayne squeezed by the car to the freezer and inspected the dusty white box before making his way back to the doorway.


Two weeks later, eighty-some miles away in Modesto, I watched my surveillance subject lift a heavy lawn mower into the back of his 4X4 truck with ease, and I grinned. I had the video going and watched as he stepped up into the tall cab of the truck without a problem. How about: My video camera “was rolling” or “recorded the scene” as I watched…
Not sure about the “two weeks” line. The POV change confuses me because I’m not sure if the narrator was telling me the previous bit of information or if she is as yet unaware of those events.

"Your goose is so cooked." I muttered, as I scrambled toward the driver's seat of my van.

The man drove down the street and I eased away from the curb to follow him. He drove two miles and parked in front of a house with a shaggy lawn, unloaded the mower and went to work. I filmed him for four minutes as he pushed and pulled the mower around the yard. I left him then, with my report taking shape in my mind as I drove away. After three weeks of surveillance, this workman's comp. cheater was going out of business. He'd been a cagey one, but I had him now. He backed the truck out of his driveway toward Oak Street and I eased my car away from the curb to follow him. Also, maybe:” We drove two miles before he parked in front…” And: “I had what I needed and left the scene with my report taking shape in my mind as I pulled away.” Eliminates triple use of the word “drove” and adds a little detail.

I breezed into the office, holding the video camera above my head. "Whoo-hoo! I got that sucker!" I grinned at Sam Rossiter, my partner in Rossiter and Ireland Investigations. He gave me two thumbs-up and a big (Something like “congratulatory” might be more interesting than big) smile before turning back to his computer.


The report I wrote was short and sweet. The subject, with was faking a back injury reportedly so bad he couldn't manage the two steps from his garage to his house; he was going to owe the insurance company a bunch of money and maybe even do some jail time. (he wouldn’t “owe” the insurance company jail time so I would make this “do” some jail time.) My report and a copy of the video was were put into an envelope (how about “now on their way to client” instead? “put in an envelope” doesn’t seem satisfying enough to warrant the happy woman description. and I was a happy woman. I stretched my arms above my head, glad to be out of that freakin' van.

Sam sat behind his desk, his feet resting on an open bottom drawer while he waited for his own report to print. He was a big man, think quarterback and that was him. He had been pretty-boy handsome when I first met him in at UCLA, years ago. His nose had been broken one time too many, while quarterbacking, but the defect gave his face the character it needed to be interesting. He was my partner and my best friend, okay he was my only friend.
I think you might come up with a more interesting descriptor than “big” and if you want to go with the football position to indicate his size then maybe he was a former linebacker. QBs aren’t typically the big guysJ Also I’d just eliminate “ from quarterbacking” and let the reader draw the conclusion.

"Annie, what've you got going on for the weekend? Anything interesting or fun?" He asked me, I gave him the look.

"Fun, are you kidding me? I've got laundry, grocery shopping and household crap to do. Believe me, none of it is any kind of fun. If they ever invent a fully automated house, I'm signing up for one. How about you, you got anything going on?" It had been so long since I'd had any fun I would have a hard time defining the word.

"Well, I heard of about a hot poker game for Saturday night in Sacramento; cards, beer, pizza, sounds pretty good to me." He stared off into space for a moment, then snorted and shook his head. "Yeah, not going to happen. I'll end up working on the house remodel, same as every other weekend." He looked at me and grinned. "I like having my own house, don't get me wrong, but I really need to get a life."

It jumped out at me that they are both slaves to their houses. Is this intentional or could you come up with individual scenarios that keep them from getting out much?

egpenny
November 24th, 2011, 04:49 AM
Thank you for the good stuff, I've edited and used most of your suggestions because they sounded good. Thanks for the QB, LB info. I was going to ask my son-in-law, but he's been busy. Sam is 6'4 250 lbs, so big. I'll post the next third after Thanksgiving.

ChicagoHeart
November 24th, 2011, 07:20 AM
looking forward to it!

Cody
November 27th, 2011, 03:24 AM
This has a good opening I was able to get right into it. I was semi confused about some things, for example why does one of the officers carry vicks in his pocket? Does he have a cold? I'm guessing you mean vicks chapstick? When I first think of Vicks i think of the vapor rub, so I had to think a little. Remember Vicks is the brand name, not the product. Kind of like how Tissue is the brand name, the product name is facial tissue. Today however we associate some items with their brand name.

I kept in mind that this is your third chapter and that maybe earlier on you have already explained that he is carrying his favorite brand of chap stick in his pocket because winter is coming and he is prone to dryness.



He was the Crime Scene Investigator for Amador County and he need to see exactly what was in the freezer before he called it in.

This also read a little funny to me. You make it sound like the fact that he is from amador county somehow relates to his need to investigate the freezer. Once again maybe in a prior chapter you pint out that amador is the nearest county with a crime scene investigator, because of budget issues, or because the one for the county the crime took place in is on vacation.


Two weeks later, I was eighty-some miles away in Modesto, unaware of events in Pine Grove.

This sentence is cool because you intro a new place and you give us an idea of how far it is. I would have liked if you did that with amador, if it at all matters that the crime scene investigator is from there. If it doesn't matter then you don't need to mention it.

OK now that I have read everything I decided that you just love to tell us place names.


"Well, I heard about a hot poker game for Saturday night in Sacramento

You don't need to say that it is in Sacramento, that's superfluous. Then sentence sounds better if you put your thumb over the place name.

Try to think about how relevant the place name is to the story. if Annie had decided to join him for poker she could have asked him where it was, and then he could have told her. Generally when people tell me their weekend plans they don't give me an address.

Even if the guy who is playing poker ends up murdering someone at the game and Annie has to investigate, it would make more sense for her to be all

" I seem to remember him telling me he was playing cards with some friends. Now to find out who he liked to play with."
If she knows too much too soon it wouldn't be fun

ALSO

If you keep throwing around place names it becomes difficult for people to keep track of the ones that matter, especially if they are unfamiliar with the region.

Jon Prosser
November 27th, 2011, 04:43 PM
Hey, this was an enjoyable read although I have some suggestions, only minor. Your punctuation/grammar could do with a bit of touching up in places, for example: '"Your goose is so cooked." I muttered...' - if dialogue is tagged, a comma is used to end the dialogue sentence unless you use an exclamation or question mark; '"Aw, Jesus," Lang sidled by the car to the freezer and inspected the dusty...' here you've done the opposite of the previous point.
'"Annie, what've you got going on for the weekend? Anything interesting or fun?" He asked me, I gave him the look.' Here the tag shouldn't be capitalised and I would also split it into two sentences - ...he asked me. I gave him the look - because the two actions aren't related. There was another case of this I picked up on:
"He was my partner and my best friend, okay he was my only friend." This sentence should be broken into two, perhaps with ellipses?

These are merely technicalities and easily fixable :) As for the writing itself, the only other negative comments I have is that I found the first part slightly confusing - what is the 'unit'? It's an ambiguous word and came with no real description, though I may just be missing something. Also avoid too much repetition, I noticed you use the word 'unit' itself several times in the opening.

The second comment was the perspective of the narrative - the first is third person and omnipresent but suddenly it shifts to first person. Is the novel going to be told through multiple narratives? Or is it the first person character explaining what happened to the other characters elsewhere? Its worth separating different narratives with a star or new chapter just to avoid confusion.

Asides from that I really enjoyed the piece, you have some really nice descriptions although I think you could go into more depth with them, and the characters and dialogue are perfect. I especially like the small details that say something about the characters, like Sam's 'mancard' and phrases like "That's enough to gag a maggot Lang. Whew."

You definitely have something good going here and I look forwards to reading more of it :)

egpenny
November 30th, 2011, 09:47 AM
Here is the rest of the first chapter...

"Miss Thompson, good to see you again. What can we do for you?" I asked. She had hired us to find her missing father last November. We had run into a brick wall and had quit the case in December, I wondered why she was here now.

Sam got her seated, I brought her a cup of coffee and we waited to hear why she had come to see us this time. Her knuckles were white on her purse, she looked upset and cleared her throat nervously.

"It's Serena, remember," she heaved a big sigh. "I got a call from the Sheriff's Office in Amador County two weeks ago. They found the remains of a body in Pine Grove and the identification found with the...remains...indicated the body was my father." She took a deep breath, fortifying herself. "Someone shot him, murdered him and stuffed him in a freezer. I want you to find out who did it." She dug in her purse for a tissue and dabbed at her eyes. Sam looked at me with raised eyebrows that dropped and turned into a frown.

"Our agency doesn't do murder, that's police work," I said. She frowned at me and looked at Sam, her big brown eyes going wide.

"My father was found in a mini-storage unit up there. The investigating officer told me he'd probably been in that freezer for four or five months." She glanced at me again and then returned her gaze to Sam. I smiled, thinking she knew who to play to.

He's been in that freezer all this time with a bullet hole in his forehead. They found him a couple of weeks ago and I don't think they're going to do anything more than the minimum on his murder." she finished with a catch in her voice and sat staring at Sam.

"Are they sure it's him? Four months means the body is..." He looked at Serena and didn't finish.

"His rental car was there and they got his dental records from Montana, they matched. It's him all right." She touched the tissue to her eyes again and blew her nose.

I watched Sam, knowing he would want to take this on. I was on board with it too, because I hated unresolved cases. It wasn't going to be easy, this was murder and we weren't the police. We'd be working cold, with no help from the law and the type of information they could gather. Still, it would be interesting to poke around a little, we could, at least, get the particulars of his death and maybe find out a thing or two. Murder was such a broad term and the who, the why and the how of it was going to bug Sam and yes it would bother me,too. It was a mystery and that's my middle name. Sam was frowning and I mentally shrugged, he would do what he wanted to do and I would be right beside him.

We sat silent for a moment. Sam leaned back in his chair, his fingers laced behind his head as he stared at the ceiling. His eyes were half closed and he had that 'concentrating' look on his face. This particular brain function of his could drag on for a long time while he sifted through his thoughts. I glanced at my watch and timed him, gave him one whole minute of thinking time before bringing him back to earth.

"Sam, what's on your mind," I said in a loud voice, trying to get his attention.

Sam jerked in response and looked at Serena and me as though surprised we were still there. He held up one finger and went to the file cabinets that lined the back wall, pulled open the T drawer and started fingering through the folders.

"Yeah, here it is." He extracted a slender file and sat down, flipping the folder open to quickly scan the contents. Serena looked at me and I shrugged, she nodded and we waited for Sam to say something.

"Listen Serena, Annie and I need to have a discussion before we decide to take this on." His finger slid down one of the papers in the file and stopped. "Okay, we have your phone number, so give us a couple of hours and we'll get back to you. You reckon that sounds okay?" He smiled as he asked, crinkling his blue eyes at her and, of course, she agreed. He could put women at ease with his sky blue eyes and protective nature. Me, I have better luck with the men. I can bat my baby blues, put on a smile and that's usually all it takes to get a guy to open up. Sam says it's the 5 foot 2, eyes of blue package that does it, I don't care what it is, I'll use whatever works to get the job done.

Serena left the office and Sam went back to reading the file. A few minutes later he tossed the folder on my desk. "You want to read this Annie? I'll go get us some lunch and then we'll talk it over." I watched him leave and shook my head. Talk wasn't going to make any difference; he'd already made up his mind. While Sam was gone I read through the case file, refreshing it in my mind.

In mid-November of last year, we met with Serena. She wanted us to find her father, Mike Thompson. He had called her in October, to tell her he was leaving Montana and moving to California. He told her he had something important to tell her, but it needed to be in person and that he'd see her soon. She knew when his flight was due to arrive in Sacramento, but he never showed up at her place. The airline had confirmed her father had been a passenger on the flight and she thought he might have stopped somewhere to visit someone. When a few days went by with no sign of him, she contacted the Sacramento Police Department. They weren't inclined to look for him because he was an adult and had the right to disappear if he wanted to. With no indication of foul play involved, there was nothing they could do. An officer wrote down the information and told her to wait awhile. He commented that he wasn't sure who would have jurisdiction in the matter, her father had flown into the city, but hadn't planned on staying there.

At the airport Sam found the car rental agency Thompson had used and got a description of the vehicle. He had checked on some of the names Serena had given him of family in the area and found a cousin in Placerville who had visited with Thompson on the day he landed. The man told Sam, that Mike had said he was going down Highway 49 to Jackson, where they had grown up and after that he was on his was going on to his daughter's house.

I traced Thompson, as far as a Days Inn Motel in Sutter Creek, but there was no indictation that he had ever stepped foot in Jackson. Somewhere between those two towns Mike Thompson had dropped out of sight. We worked for two more weeks with no results, then we had resigned the case, leaving it unresolved.

Sam came back with three turkey sandwiches and chips; I pulled a couple of sodas from the fridge and we spread the lunch on my desk. We ate silently, both thinking about what Serena had told us. Sam had inhaled his two turkeys, his chips and half of mine while I was only halfway through my single sandwich.

"All right Sam, what do you want to do?" I figured he could talk while I finished my lunch. There might even be a chip or two left for me if he kept his mouth busy talking.

"Well, we know her father has been found, murdered. She seems to think the law will let the case go cold and I think she may be right about the end results of their investigation. Amador County only has a sergeant and a couple of deputies that do investigative work on crimes against persons. I'm sure they will work it as hard as they can, but they probably have active caseloads to work on and her father isn't going to be a high priority." He reached for my chips and wiggled his eyebrows at me.

I shoved the little bag toward him with a sigh and finished my last bite of sandwich. We had slammed our heads against a brick wall last year, now it looked like the bricks were beginning to crack. "How did Thompson get to Pine Grove? That's nine or ten miles east of Jackson on Highway 88. Sutter Creek is on Old Highway 49 and why was he there? We didn't look into that as deep as we should have." I was becoming intrigued, Sutter Creek needed to be revisited.

Sam rapped his big knuckles on my desk and grinned at me. "Let's do it Annie, I have that surveillance job starting on Monday, but Jimmy can take that one. It will be good practice for him."

Jimmy is a young man we hired as a gopher a couple of months ago, he is waiting for his PI license to come through and we've had him doing smaller jobs and manning the office. We'd been meaning to break him in on the bread and butter jobs and this would be a good time to do that. I nodded to Sam, "I only have a couple of skip traces going on right now, but I'm waiting for some info on them. Besides they're dessert, I can do them in my spare time." I was ready to do this, I wanted that case file closed.

"All right then, I'll call her and set up a meet." Sam went to his desk and reached for the phone. I saw three chips he had left on my desk and popped them into my mouth before he could come back for them. I watched his large fingers work the keyboard as he talked. It always amazed me that this man, who weighs in at around 240, could manipulate those keys with such a sure and light touch. While I, a mere 110 pound female, have the tendancy to bang away, as if I were pounding nails with my fingertips.

He finished the call and flashed me a thumbs up. "She says we can come to her place now." His printer was printing out the CCIS, the Contract for Confidential Investigation Services, for her to sign. I put my computer to sleep while Sam grabbed the papers as they shot out of the printer and attached them to his clipboard. I shouted to Jimmy to watch the store and we were out the back door and into Sam's pickup, heading for Turlock and our next case.

ChicagoHeart
March 13th, 2012, 06:25 AM
Hi, I like how this is evolving. Hows it coming along now?

egpenny
March 14th, 2012, 08:22 PM
I'm working on this mystery in little bits, but it's coming along. I have five solid chapters and another scene for later on done.
I'm just about finished with another book, a paranormal suspense, and am at that critical last part with lots of drama and action. I want to get it completed and to my reader. When that's done this one will be full time. (I can hardly wait.)