Author Topic: Opening Chapter Untitled 1640 words  (Read 364 times)

Offline BobbyS

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 31
Opening Chapter Untitled 1640 words
« on: December 10, 2021, 01:49:50 AM »
Chapter 1
Arthurs’s Point 2003

    It’s Thursday, May 26, just like any other day here in the seaside resort of Arthur’s Point. I hated this time of year, especially when the southerly blows in off Antarctica. I seated at my desk, trying to get a fix on my mood, which was all good as I’d just become a father and I completed my first case since becoming a PI. However, my mood soon changed to one of uneasiness. A letter from the bank triggered me. At first, I thought it was a statement, but when I opened it, they dated it Monday, May 15, showing a deposit of twenty-five thousand dollars into my transaction account. “What the hell is this?” I yelled.

    Gretchen, my secretary, heard me yelling and came rushing in. “Everything okay, boss.”

    “Do you know anything about this?” I asked.

    “Can’t that I do. Do you want me to ring the bank and find out?”

    “That’s okay; I’ll ring them later.”

    She left me to my thoughts. The account number was correct, but the deposit wasn’t mine. I tossed it to one side, trying to remain composed. I was completing my preliminary report on an insurance case that they asked me to look into. Jan, the receptionist out at Harrow Psychiatric Hospital, rang me saying Adrian Parnell, one doctor of the hospital, wanted to see me as soon as possible.

     Now I didn’t like Adrain that much and according to Wilma, he was both pushy, which is why she stayed well away from him.

    I turned on my laptop, opened up msword, and located the correct document for insurance loss. My nimble fingers were reading while I revived my notes. That’s where I got stuck. I could smell a con job a mile away, and this one had all the hallmarks of one. I glanced at the letter from the bank one more time. Maybe the deposit has something to do with the case that I was about to take on? At that moment, the door to my office flung open.

    Peter Jensen, a known felon, pushed past Gretchen and burst into my office.

    “Get in and get to the point,” I replied sharply.

    Before me, at some distance, stood a very tall and thin person with a broad, pulpy face and a stern expression. Raven black hair framed his oval shape head, and a neatly trimmed beard, with clothing that looked like it came from a second-hand store.

    “We have your daughter, Emily,” Peter snarled in a menacing voice. “She’s safe for now, but that depends on your cooperation.”

    “I’m listening,” I said, sitting down.

    “My partners know they have hired you to investigate some drugs that have gone missing at Harrow Psychiatric Hospital.”

    “So,” I replied.

    “All we want you to do is switch your report with this one,” said Peter. He removed a folder from the case he was carrying and threw it on the desk. “Whether your daughter lives or dies is up to you,” Peter shrugged, “That’s up to you. Think about it.”   

    “Touch my daughter, and I’ll bury you alive and your partners.” We both studied the report. “Get the hell out of my office,” I ordered.

    When Peter had gone Gretchen, soon found me tapping the folder. What was my next move going to be?

    I had to get Emily back at any cost. If I go to the police, she will end up in a pine box. What do I tell Wilma? She’ll be angry for sure.

    Gretchen poked her head around the door. “Who was the talkative guy? And what did he want?”

    “Nothing.” I sat up, trying to look busy. “It’s nothing.”

    I reached for the coffee that I had brought from Joe’s coffee shop off Main Street, took a sip and continued typing up my report on the insurance case. I stopped for a couple of minutes and looked at the statement. Could the man who was here earlier have something to do with it?

    “You could be right,” I said.

    Gretchen left, closing the door behind her, leaving me to gather my thoughts. I glanced at my watch, a present from Wilma. “Okay, it’s time for some lunch.” During which, I would consider my next move.

* * *
    Upon her arrival at the Sphere Steak House, Wilma opened the door, a whiff of burnt pasta ushered in. Wilma wasn’t herself; something was on her mind as a passing waiter nearly knocked her over. It had been six months since our divorce, and she would complain.

    “Coming through,” the waiter said.

    She sidestepped the passing waiter and bumped into Paul Watson, chairperson of the Save the Hospital committee. “I’m sorry….”

    Some chairs have minor rips in the seats, and the tables have white Formica tops; the odd one had the word love etched into it. To Wilma’s left was a dartboard. It was used every Friday night for championship games, but now and then, patrons could be seen taking out the frustrations, which would otherwise erupt into a more serious brawl.

    The place appealed to me for several reasons, one, the chief among them being that the steakhouse was only twenty minutes from home.

    After walking in that afternoon, she hesitated, scanning the joint. Then she spotted me and moved through the bar to a booth where I usually sat. She slid in across from me. Walt ambled over.

    “So, are you going to order or what?” I asked Wilma, getting to the point.

    She shook her head. “I’m not hungry.”

    “Then why are you here?” Oxford asked.

    “I want you to pick up Emily from daycare,” she said.

    “She’s not there. Some person has her. I don’t want to go into the details right now.”

    “Is this something to do with the case you are working on?” Not waiting for an answer, she left.

    “What’s up with Wilma? She seems a little uptight,” Walt asked.

    “I do not know. Wilma must be in one of her moods. She’s always like that when there’s trouble at the hospital.”

    I did not know that it could be the last time I’d see my daughter again.

    The next day, I left for a law conference in New Zealand.

* * *

    The house next door smouldered. The first thing on Susan's mind was, what if there were people inside, but the extreme heat coming from the place pushed her back? It was excruciatingly hot, and she could feel her entire body getting warm. She was still worried. Not knowing what to do, she ran back to her house and called the fire bigarade that arrived soon after she hung up. Next, she called the police. She watched from her lounge as the ceiling collapsed, bringing down the roof.

    The firefighters were looking at a full-blown inferno. The police arrived soon after and blocked off the street. Within minutes, it had reduced the house to a pile of rubble. They were a few hot spots that could flare up again. There was a putrid smell coming from the place like rotting flesh.

    The police had to wait for the all-clear before proceeding to see if anyone was inside.

    There was a knock on Susan Daniels' door today from the police. "It's only an inquiry," they said as Susan opened it. "Did you see or hear anything unusual in the last couple of days?"

    "Now that you mention it, I've been busy covering my nose as I stood in the doorway because there is a hobble smell coming into the house from next door."

    There were two people in the house, and one of them was deceased who was burnt alive. It smelt awful, like rotting meat mixed with cheap perfume.

* * *

    Harrison knelt next to the burnt body, beyond recognition. He examined the body. "Well, Harrison said. How was she killed?"

    "No idea, but this inhaler I found might have traces of liquid. We'll have to wait for the test to confirm that. The indent in the back of the skull, most likely the cause of death, with some kind of blunt object. It cracked the back of the skull. I'll know more when I do the autopsy."

    "Time of death."

    "Somewhere between two and three-thirty."

    Whoever killed them doused the victim with petrol and set it alight. Probably to cover it up.

* * *

     Harrison mumbled,

     "Such is the question that we now ponder."

     "Come now, Harrison. You mustn't judge every dead body we come across. There is one tiny detail on the body that I nearly overlooked. Door's locked from the inside and the position of the body."

     Harrison looked at the body one more time. "I see what you mean. Perhaps the killer moved the body and positioned it in its present position. What we have to determine is where the body was.”

     Harrison was still staring down at the body.

     "Anything else strikes you as odd?" said the M.E.

     "There's a small indent on her right arm. Where one wears a watch, but there isn't one."

     "Maybe the killer took it to them."

     "I'll get a description of the watch from the next of kin and then check with local pawn shops."

     "Female. I don't know; we'll have to wait till I identify the body.”

***

     I felt the cold; I went back into the house. Where there were two detectives waiting to speak to me.

    “Oxford Hedgecock,” said one detective.

    “I’m afraid that I have some bad news. Someone has kidnapped your daughter. And your wife is dead”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Do they have any suspects?”

    “Not sure. They want to speak to you when you get back to Australia.”

    Someone fired, they fired two shots in my direction from a passing car.





Offline lukemfoster

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 8
Re: Opening Chapter Untitled 1640 words
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2021, 05:38:10 PM »
I like it! The guy seems very edgy- surprising that he has a child... He comes across as a bit of a grouch at work, the type who could keep a bottle of scotch in his draw and get easily irate.

When you said the account is his name number isn't? what did you mean? Did you mean that its an account he doesn't know about? (Edit - sorry I just realised someone else put money in his account... is he being set up?!)

The only criticism is so much happening in just one scene, what with the kidnapping.. the money... and the building on fire. Unless there's a connection?




Offline OleksySF

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 2
Re: Opening Chapter Untitled 1640 words
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2022, 10:36:12 PM »
You switch between present tense and past tense. Try past tense to start. Try “It was Thursday, May 26, a day like any other at the seaside… I hated that time of year…I sat at my desk trying…” 
Think about sitting down with someone and explaining what happened. How would you tell a friend a story that happened to you when you were younger?
What makes it a “transaction account”? All accounts entail transactions. (maybe an Australian term?)
The call from Jan is confusing. Is he recalling the call, or did it happen right then?
What does “both pushy” mean?
How do you read with “nimble fingers”?
If Peter burst in, why do you need to tell him to “Get in”?
His daughter has been kidnapped and he sits down. This is an odd reaction. Give us more internal monologue than you devoted to a letter from the bank. Put yourself in his shoes, stand in his office in your mind, and think about what you would do if someone came in and told you that. What would go thru your head? Tell us that, and it will be interesting, because taking a sip of coffee, starting to work on an insurance report, and deciding to go to lunch after he finds out his daughter’s been kidnapped are not the normal reactions of people with kids. Maybe outwardly he does these things, but his head should be spinning like he just drank a hundred cups of coffee.
You tell us he’s going to New Zealand, but you haven’t told us what country he’s in when the story starts. Tell us why is he going to New Zealand? Put us in his head. Set the scene.
You don’t need to tell us: “they asked me to look into”, “opened up msword” “She’ll be angry for sure” “Wilma opened the door” “she would complain”. These are understood by the reader. Explain the strange behaviors, not the normal ones.
Seems that you have rushed the burning house scene. Suggest you think thru the details and give us more information about what is going on where. Set the scene, at the start.
I like the story ideas, and where this is heading. There’s a lot going on, I suggest you build things out more. Remember to set the scene at the beginning to put the reader in the setting. And put us in the protagonist’s head for the challenging moments. That’s what will engage the reader. Make us feel for him. The reader won’t care about his daughter if neither of her parents do.


Offline Clarius

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1607
Re: Opening Chapter Untitled 1640 words
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2022, 01:47:02 AM »
IMO you've covered too much ground here. Properly realised, the confrontation between Jensen and your protagonist would have been enough for one chapter. It's like you've dumped a summary of some major scenes and called it a chapter. It you'd left it a while and come back to it afresh you'd have seen that.

Arthurs’s Point 2003

    It’s Thursday, May 26, just like any other day here in the seaside resort of Arthur’s Point. I hated this time of year, especially when the southerly blows in off Antarctica. I seated at my desk, trying to get a fix on my mood, which was all good as I’d just become a father and I completed my first case since becoming a PI. However, my mood soon changed to one of uneasiness. A letter from the bank triggered me. At first, I thought it was a statement, but when I opened it, they dated it Monday, May 15, showing a deposit of twenty-five thousand dollars into my transaction account. “What the hell is this?” I yelled.


^ are these dates significant? Do they place the narrative in the run up to some major event? If not all they do is date the piece. Is your protagonist suffering from some mental health issue; their mood shifts three times in one paragraph? And why is your protagonist 'trying to get a fix on their mood' when you immediately tell us their mood is good?

“Can’t that I do. Do you want me to ring the bank and find out?”

^ I like that. A sense of character conveyed in a simple piece of dialog. Flannery O'Connor used the single word 'aloose' in A Good Man is Hard to Find to achieve the same for the character of the Grandmother. Colloquial dialogue can be distracting and should be used sparingly. Thomas Wolfe's Only the Dead Know Brookly is IMO a good example of overuse of the same.

She left me to my thoughts. The account number was correct, but the deposit wasn’t mine. I tossed it to one side, trying to remain composed. I was completing my preliminary report on an insurance case that they asked me to look into. Jan, the receptionist out at Harrow Psychiatric Hospital, rang me saying Adrian Parnell, one doctor of the hospital, wanted to see me as soon as possible.

Now I didn’t like Adrain that much and according to Wilma, he was both pushy, which is why she stayed well away from him.


^ confusingly this introduces three named characters we never heard of before and hear little to nothing of again. Who's Wilma, his wife? WILMA!

 I turned on my laptop, opened up msword, and located the correct document for insurance loss. My nimble fingers were reading while I revived my notes. That’s where I got stuck. I could smell a con job a mile away, and this one had all the hallmarks of one. I glanced at the letter from the bank one more time. Maybe the deposit has something to do with the case that I was about to take on? At that moment, the door to my office flung open.

^ what's with all the choreography: turned, opened, located? Is your protagonist blind, reading with his fingers? Is he reviving or reviewing the notes?

Your chapter begins with Jensen coming through the door and ends with his leaving, having delivered his boss's ultimatum (you take the money or we take your daughter). The preamble about the 25k is distracting and unlikely: the money (in cash) is the carrot, the threat to his family the stick. Jensen would likely set out the deal and produce first the carrot and then the stick when your protagonist refuses the former.

The whole daughter kidnapping thing is confusing and his reaction sounds like a rip off of a well know Liam Neeson film. BTW how old is this daughter? Is this the baby he's just had, or a grown up daughter? And two children born so far apart; possible, but needs some framing to make it credible?

All I got time for... for now.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2022, 01:49:05 AM by Clarius »
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us

 - Robert Burns

Offline BobbyS

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 31
Re: Opening Chapter Untitled 1640 words
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2022, 01:07:21 AM »
Thanks guys for the comments.