Excerpt: Opening lines from "Finding Nancy," a crime thriller in progress…

Off to the opening day of spring classes at my job. Finally. Thanks, Inga. Rather than bore you all with more ramblings, I thought I’d share a few lines from another story. I used this one for a reading I gave a couple years back. It’s likely become a novel at some point. True crime thriller. It’s on the darker side, but hopefully, you’ll want to read more. Enjoy…

– 1 –

Misti comes to just long enough to realize something is horribly wrong. Her head throbs and she’s never known such thirst. She tries to look around, but something covers her eyes and face, making it hard to breathe. She feels her breath blow back against her face, the air hot and still tinged with the wine she’d had hours before. She tries to wipe away the covering, but her hands are bound. So she lies there, twisted and aching, all her weight somehow pressing down on her shoulder and hip. Moving is impossible. Her way-too-tight jeans seem to slice into her midriff, her legs folded uncomfortably beneath her. She feels certain a giant must have hurled her body across a massive pond like a skipping stone. She’s just waking up after smashing into the opposing shore.

Misti hears someone nearby. She tries to speak. All that comes out is a muffled moan. Something, maybe a wadded rag, is crammed in her mouth, sapping up all her spit. She tries to swallow, but the rag only moves deeper, gagging her. She moans again, louder and more urgent. She tries to free her hands of her own weight.

She hears metal grating metal. Her whole world suddenly lurches, tossing her forward and down. Her throbbing head slams into something cold and hard, covered in grit. She’s now even more contorted than she was just moments ago, the space around her pressing in at all sides. Misti moans again, pumping her legs in hopes of righting herself. There’s just not enough clearance. She’s wedged somehow, someplace scary and dirty. And what’s that awful smell? She struggles, her own weight fighting her every move.

Misti hears a loud metallic CHUNK just above her head, followed instantly by an urgent yet oddly cheerful BING-BING-BING. Still groggy, she begins to put it together: I’m in a car, the backseat floorboard. That sound was a door opening.

“HELP ME,” she tries to scream. All that comes out is “MMMMMmm. Mmmmm.”

The shocks release as whoever was driving steps outside, rocking the sedan something fierce from Misti’s vantage point. It wedges her even more in her trap, presses her face harder to the floor. Oh, her head, her throbbing head. Gravelly footsteps, the only sound, plod slowly from the open door.

Something is wrong. Something is horribly wrong.

– 2 –
Raymond plopped down on the scaffolding floor. It was still fairly early for a Friday, but after spending most of the week with his arms above his head hanging anchors for a the drop-down ceiling, he could already taste the cold beer he planned to drink as soon as paychecks arrived.

In just one week, he gutted three floors at the old state hospital building, yanking rusted light fixtures, cabinetry and whatever furnishings the hospital orderlies left behind. The remodel wing was sealed off, but the rest of the building was still in use, housing mental patients from who knows where. The place was built back in the 1930s, and it was literally falling to pieces. Sure it was stout, built to last. It had to be. Society’s prim and proper may have started calling it a “hospital” a few years back, but it was prison in every sense, a cage built to keep the crazies inside, away from the rest of the so-called normal folks, whatever that meant. With rare exception, the people kept there were long forgotten by the rest of the world, not unlike the building itself. Parts of it were crumbling to dust. Raymond shuddered when thought what the poor people it once housed must’ve looked like.

Especially before the supposed “reforms” were enacted a few years back, back when no one batted an eye at them being called asylums.

Some bleeding-heart shyster at the state capitol started raising a stink back then about the conditions of these “precious state-owned resources,” as he called them, ultimately convincing his colleagues in the hallowed halls of legality, politics and revenue streams that they need to correct this situation. He was a hell of salesman, Raymond recalled reading in the local paper: It was the duty of every office holder to do his part for “all those poor, wretched souls who had long endured these horrible conditions but found themselves unable to bring it into the light by themselves.”

Not surprising, State Senator Shyster announced his retirement from the legislature just months after the millions were doled out. He told the press he planned to live out his days focused on the little construction outfit he owned before he turned to a life of public service. What’s that you say? Remodeling hospitals is what he did for a living? No one cared.
He landed contracts on every single one of those former asylums, from the tippy top of the Texas Panhandle to its toe down in Brownsville, Beaumont to El Paso, and all points in between. With a few swipes of his pen, he landed a project just a few pennies shy of a billion dollars, then bid each job out to the cheapest local private contractors, all a project he spent his last days in office working to create.
It pissed Raymond off something fierce that such deals went down for some folks, especially with him busting his ass for $11 an hour and no overtime. Still, he had admire Senor Shyster’s finesse in making it all happen. He’d mull it over more when he guzzled those beers later. For now, he’d done his required forty an hour ago. He was just waiting to get paid.
From his scaffold perch, he peered out the window to the courtyard beyond. He remembered seeing the place as a boy and wondering what that massive old structure must have hidden behind its walls and tall, steel fences. Now that he was inside looking out, it was just as dull and lifeless as he remembered it.

Until, that is, Misti Wolffe and Nancy Green walked into it.

Raymond watched as the two women emerged from a doorway across the courtyard. As soon as the doors closed behind them, they dug through purses, fired up cigarettes and sucked them down like their very lives depended on it. They stayed close to the door they had exited, but it was far enough to pique Raymond’s interest.

The dishwater blonde wore the clothes of someone much younger: Skin-tight jeans and a blouse to match, with buttons that seemed ready to give way as they stretched over what had to be a set of double Ds, Raymond estimated. Her companion looked like Wonder Woman in a business skirt. She was a bit older, perhaps, but definitely just as tasty, Raymond thought, if not even more so. At very least, she was definitely more modest, her silky windbreaker buttoned clear to the neck.

It wasn’t the first time he had seen them. Raymond spotted them his first day on the job. He was just now starting to realize their routine, however. They would show up every morning about now, once again in the afternoon at about 3 p.m. You could nearly set your clock to it.

Raymond reached into his tool belt and pulled out a crumpled Winston and a grime-coated Zippo. He lit his smoke as he watched the two below. They busily chatted about something down there. He couldn’t guess about what. Sound didn’t travel through these walls, but he listened just the same, leaning against the side rail.

The blonde spoke with her arms, her wrists flailing with each word she uttered. The brunette smiled, listening to her story as if waiting for a punchline. She took polite puffs on what was that? A Kool, Marlboro Light? Raymond strained to see.

The brunette tossed her head back, letting go a full body laugh. Her hand was elegantly poised away from her as her ashes fell, like remnants from a bombshell, slowly drifting to the ground.

Raymond grinned, as if he caught their joke, all that distance away. He never took his eyes off that alluring dark hair. It framed her face perfectly, he thought.

She squatted down to snuff out her smoke on the concrete — that perfectly shaped ass stretching the fabric of her navy blue skirt. It lifted slightly to reveal more of her delicate white calves — then she rose, ever so gracefully, smoothing the fabric flat again.

The blonde drew one last drag, then flicked her butt into the grass, still lit. She reached under her mountainous breasts to make some last minute adjustment to her underwire. They spun and strolled back to the door, like a pair of cocktail waitress making rounds through some swanky bar. The blonde strutted when she walked, as if she was accustomed to all eyes on her. The brunette glided as she moved, like royalty.

Raymond watched as they slowly disappeared from sight. One of these days, he thought. . .