I spent a lot of time last week reading a new book on story craft. I picked up Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody after some of my favorite Authortubers and Writers on Instagram were talking about how awesome it was. I got to page 58 before I decided it was time to get back to writing. It did get me thinking that the chapter I wrote earlier where April visits the cemetery and unexpectedly meets Natalie while picking up a deaddrop didn’t work as a first chapter. You can read this here. You’ll have to scroll down a bit to October 9. It’s a pdf titled Interview rw ch1.pdf. I’ve changed my mind about the main plot as well. If you haven’t heard already, April won’t be a werewolf, Lauren’s disappearance will be the big part of the investigation, Natalie may get out of the cemetery without being summoned, and April learns more about her necromancy magic.
I’ve changed my mind on the first chapter, again. The only thing is, I think it reads like a cozy mystery. Could you tell me what you think. If I keep this Mrs. Fisher might end up playing a bigger role in the story.
“Good evening, April,” said my neighbor, Mrs. Sarah Fisher, as she set her recycling in the little green box on the curb. She wore a pair of fuzzy pink slippers and a housecoat over (clothing). She’d celebrated her ninety-third birthday three months ago and was just as spry as a sixty-year-old thanks to her twice-weekly yoga class and a lifelong devotion to ballet. Her husband, Frank, passed away when he was forty-eight. She never remarried although she’s had several boyfriends. Her daughter moved to California years ago and has been trying to get her to move there ever since. Her little chihuahua yipped at me from the door.
“Good evening,” I said walking up the street to the five-story brownstone I lived in in Astoria, across the river from Manhattan. I lived in an apartment on the second floor. Mrs. Fisher lived on the first floor.
“I made brownies and cookies today. There’s a dozen on a plate beside your door if Shane hasn’t stolen them yet.” Shane Nelson lived across the hall from Mrs. Fisher. He was in his thirties, single, and worked as a nurse at Bellevue.
“Wonderful, what kind?”
She rolled her eyes and chuckled. “Double chocolate brownies. You’re favorite.”
“Again? How many times do I have to tell you I like lemon sugar cookies.” The lemon sugar cookies Shane would have left behind. The double chocolate brownies had been stolen many times.
“That’s why I put the brownies besides your door.”
“You’re downright devious, you know that?
“I put a little Mary Jane in them,” she sang.
“You didn’t,” I said in mock surprise. She smiled wryly.
“Where did you get it?” I hoped his random drug test wasn’t any time soon.
“My great nephew Jamie. You remember Jamie? He’s a junior over at the Tisch School of Arts. He’s going to be a great movie director someday.”
“Good for him,” I said.
“Any new interesting cases?” she asked.
“Nothing lately, but you know I can’t talk about my cases.” I’ve been an investigator for the FBI for the last eight years, before then I was on the S.W.A.T. team for the New York Police Department for ten.
“Come on in and eat a brownie. I made extra.”
“Are they regular brownies or special brownies?” I frowned knowing if she gave me Shane’s special brownies then she might get more than she bargained for. There are situations, cases that I’ve investigated that sometimes keep me up at night.
“No thanks. I need to go pack. Drew and I are getting out of the city for the weekend.”
“Are you going someplace special?” She said special like we were going somewhere that would involve lots of sex.
“He’s taking me to meet his family, somewhere upstate.”
“Do you think he’ll propose?”
“I honestly have no idea.”
“How long have you been dating?” Oh, that question again.
“You should be married by now.” Not the first time I’ve heard that comment. She tells me this every week during our card game.
“Good night, Mrs. Fisher.”
“Don’t forget your cookies,” she said. My stomach rumbled. I followed Mrs. Fisher into her tidy little apartment and wished I had time to play cards with her. She would tell me all about what her kids and grandkids were doing, show me pictures they drew for her. She had the normal life I’ve wanted since I was a kid; the normal life I’ll never have. I don’t mind being a witch but did it have to come with ghosts? Why am I dating a werewolf? Why did I go into law enforcement? If I wanted a normal life I should have been married and had children by now.
She handed me a paper plate with a mountain of cookies covered in cling wrap decorated with Christmas trees. It was only the middle of November and Thanksgiving was a few weeks away.
“Are you going to California for Thanksgiving this year?” I asked. Her sister, Anna, lived a few blocks away until she passed away three years ago. Anna’s family still lived there and looked in on her.
“Anna’s son and his wife invited me over. I’m making cherry mash and toffee. What about you? Are you going back to Nebraska?”
“They invited me.”
“Are you going?”
“I don’t know yet.” I sighed.
“You should go. You haven’t been home in years.”
“I know.” I lifted an edge of the cling wrap, slipped out a cookie, and put it in my mouth. The cookie was delicious with its sweet, lemon and butter flavor.
“Hmmm,” I moaned in enjoyment. I wasn’t so worried about everything thanks to the one cookie. “What else did you put in these cookies?
She winked and said, “You should eat dinner first.”
I stood up and started for the door. Someone knocked at her door frantically.
“Answer the door would you?”
I turned the knob and Shane stood there. He was a bit dazed but had a worried expression on his face.
“What did you put in those brownies?” he said, then when he realized I wasn’t Mrs. Fisher he looked at the number on the door, around the room, down the hallway, up the stairs and back into Mrs. Fisher’s doorway. He was wearing scrubs and miss matched shoes.
“She put marijuana in them.”
“She what? I’ve got the night shift. I can’t go to work like this.” He giggled.
“Do you want me to call in and tell them you’re sick?”
“Could you please?” He handed me his phone. “Tell them my neighbor gave me food poisoning.”
“Yes.” I rolled my eyes.
“Call Lisa,” he said.
“Calling Lisa.” His phone said.
“Hello.” Said a female voice.
“Hi, Lisa this is Shane’s neighbor April. He’s not feeling well. Mrs. Fisher made brownies today and she made a batch with…”
“Say no more.”
“Shut up.” He hissed at me. Mrs. Fisher snorted from her kitchen doorway.
“He didn’t know they were spiked.”
“She thought it would be funny since he’s always taking the brownies she makes for me.”
“Just stop!” he pulled the phone out of my hand and stomped across the hallway. She busted out laughing while trying not to spill her coffee.
“Good night Mrs. Fisher,” I said, closing the door behind me.
Marisol, my tuxedo cat, and Max, the orange tabby, were curled up together on the fuzzy warm wolf throw blanket at the end of the sofa. Both of them purred as I dropped kibble into their food dishes. Max almost looked like Garfield, shaped like an oval while Marisol was long, slender and as sleek as a Siamese kitten.
I kicked off my shoes, pulled a frozen dinner from the freezer and poured a glass of cheap Cabernet. I saved the expensive stuff for special occasions.
The timer went off and I opened the microwave to stir the mashed potatoes. Marisol sat down in front of the door and meowed at me. “What have you got there?” I asked as I put the tray back into the microwave.
I walked over to the door and rubbed her head. She meowed again and stepped away revealing an envelope with my name written on it. I carefully opened the envelope so I wouldn’t smudge any fingerprints. Hand delivered envelopes to my apartment always make me nervous. I was ten seconds away from pulling out my forensics kit when I read the card inside. The note read x
It was written on a three by five-inch index card. Why don’t the bad guys use hotel stationery anymore?
Who would know where I lived? That I was interested in Natalie? Why would he send a warning?
A thought occurred to me and I checked the writing on both envelopes, the one from the cemetery versus the other with the card. There was no similarity at all in the handwriting. At least that made sense.
The microwave timer beeped. I sat down at the little rectangular table in the kitchen I found at a thrift store. It looked as if it came from the fifties with a Formica top and an aluminum frame. It was perfect for my small apartment. I turned on the TV.
I turned the volume down while I thought about the card. Everyone knew that I suspected her fiance killed her. He was the obvious choice for many reasons but I couldn’t figure out why he wanted her dead. Did he catch her and Edwards together in flagrante? Maybe he had some other reason. Why did Edwards kidnap her to begin with?
I’d been going on for years that I believed we put the wrong man behind bars. My current partner Kris just shrugs his shoulders and walks away mumbling about me being a broken record. My partner during the investigation, Abel Logan tells me to let it go. Why did Chief Richmond give up the case so quickly after they found her body? Why does everyone want nothing to do with getting to the truth? Who sent me the ‘original’ incident report with the alternate information about what Detective Thompson found? Why now, three years after her death?
There were so many questions I had no answers for.
My phone rang.
“Hey, kid,” Logan said. Well, crap. Abel Logan always gave me bad new with hey kid.
“What is it?”
“I’m sorry to kill your weekend but we have a missing Jersey woman last seen in SOHO. How soon can you get here?”
“Why can’t Howard and Gabe take this one?”
“Gabe’s wife is in labor and Howard is on a plane to Cabo for a family reunion. And I want you on this case.”
“Why?” This happens when I have a history with either the victim or the suspect like a previous case.
“I’ll explain when you get here. Call Kris would you?”
I sent Kris a text message.
I turned up the TV wanting to forget about everything for a moment. On the screen was a police sketch that caught my attention. I’d only stared at that face for months while Logan and I investigated Natalie Maguire’s murder. It was Ethan Griffith’s face. “How do they not recognize him?” I asked. The cats meowed at me.
“The police are looking for the identity of this man,” news anchor Jennifer Reed said. “They have reason to believe this man may know something regarding the disappearance of Lauren Elizabeth Regan.” A picture of Ms. Regan appeared on the screen. She looked like a brunette version of Natalie Maguire.
My phone rang. I checked the caller ID.
“Drew,” I smiled.
“Hey beautiful. Are you still going with me tomorrow?” Drew and I met at the animal shelter the day I found Max. Well, Max chose me. I was browsing through the cat cages admiring all the beautiful tabbies, the black shorthairs and tortoise shells when a ginger tabby started flirting with me. I really wasn’t interested in finding Marisol a friend.
“I think we’ve found a match.” A male voice said with a hint of a laugh. I turned to see a man with a long-haired calico in his arms rubbing her face against his chin. He wore a burgundy polo shirt with a name tag that read Drew Avery. He was nice looking with short curly blond hair, a generous smile, and a wrestler’s body; short, lean and muscular. He’s only an inch or two under six feet but I didn’t mind. Dad and Uncle Joe were well over six feet tall and I still felt like a dwarf around them even though I tower over most women.
“I already have a cat.”
“Then you need two.” He smiled. I held back a sigh. No, not a swooning sigh although he might have taken it that way. It was more of an exasperated sigh.
“Then two becomes eight and eight becomes thirty and my landlord throws me out and they all end up back here.”
“He’s already neutered,” he tempted in a sing-song voice.
I rolled my eyes. “You’re really not helping.”
“I thought I was.”
I signed the adoption forms for Max and accepted a dinner date with Drew for Friday night.
“That’s tomorrow?” We’d planned for me to meet his ‘family’ at their estate in upstate New York near the town of Belfort. Drew was born and raised in the Portland, Oregon area. He was bitten by a werewolf when he was twenty-three while living near Portland and wandered for a while until he settled in New York. He still visits his first family every year for Christmas. The family here are his pack. The alpha’s name is Noah something. He doesn’t come into the city much and I’ve never met him.
“April.” His voice was frustrated with a hint of sadness.
“I’m sorry. Something has come up.” Two days outside of the city had an enormous appeal but I was stuck with a new case. Was it Lauren Regan I was investigating?
“I guess that’s what you get when you’re dating an investigator.”
I didn’t know what else to say. We were silent for what seemed like forever until he hung up.
I finished eating my frozen dinner while thinking about how much Natalie and Lauren looked alike. Was Lyle Harrison really Ethan Griffith? It’s not uncommon for vampires to change their names when it suits them.
I laced up my shoes, slipped on my coat and gloves, grabbed my keys, phone and wallet and walked out the door locking it behind me.