Monday, January 28, 2013

Excerpt from my 1st Person retake of Shooter Vanished

I'm rewriting Shooter Vanished as a traditional noir 1st person from the perspective of my PI (yes yes I know I've rewritten this damn thing so many times...)  Here's a sample:


“Michael is as harmless as a cabbage, Rex. He couldn’t have shot Henry.”

The face in front of me, telling me about a guy as harmless as a cabbage, belonged to Jasmine
Palmer, a woman on whom I’d had my totally inappropriate sights ever since I first met her at a dinner
party a few years ago. She’d been the tall, dark-haired work of art hanging from the arm of a gangly
science fiction writer named Henry Garson, who’d married her, the lucky bastard, and deprived the rest
of the men of the world a shot at true bliss. Until he’d gotten himself murdered. At a book signing, of
all places.

I studied Jasmine, trying to get a sense of how convinced she was of Michael McDougall’s
innocence. From what I’d read on the Web about the murder, Michael’s fingerprints had been found on
the gun, which was pretty damning, even if nobody could figure out how he’d gotten out of the
bookstore undetected – while still leaving his gun behind.

“Why are you so convinced Michael’s innocent?”

Jasmine took a sip of the whiskey I’d poured her to help calm her nerves. She’d just seen her
husband murdered in front of her the day before. I was surprised she could get it together enough to
come see me in the first place.

“I just…I just know Michael didn’t do it. There was…I don’t know. Something strange happened.
I saw the killer just before he fired. It wasn’t Michael.” She paused. “I mean…maybe the guy looked like
Michael. But…” She was searching for something, a thread of memory, something to prove her point.
“The killer had a scar on the right side of his face. I know Michael doesn’t.”

“What did the scar look like?”

“Like a scar, Rex. A big jagged line, from just below his eye to his chin.” Jasmine’s face was a
wall. Maybe there was something to what she was saying. In any event, she needed my help, and I
could use the paycheck.

“Alright, I’m hired.” I gave Jasmine my fee information and buzzed my assistant Erick to have
him set up a retainer letter.

The formalities dealt with, Jasmine stood and extended a hand. I stood and shook it.

“Thanks, Rex. You’ve always been a good friend to me and Henry. I know you’ll figure this out.”

I wasn’t so sure. I escorted Jasmine out of my office into the small reception area. I snuck a
once-over at Jasmine’s retreating backside, those film noir curves tragically muted by a sweater and
loose slacks. I was immediately ashamed of myself. Erick saw me ogle her and shook his head at me. I
shrugged at him.


The phone rang as I was walking back through my office door. Erick answered it, “Rex Jackson,
PI.” He was a good assistant, a young guy in his thirties whose husband worked for the city. Reliable,
punctual, and intelligent, Erick had helped me untangle a number of cases over the years.

I sat back down behind my desk, settling into the soft leather chair I’d splurged on recently
because my forty five year old back wasn’t as spry as it used to be. My intercom buzzed, and Erick said,
“It’s that lady with the missing wedding ring again.”

“Take a message. Gotta think about this new case.”

Erick clicked off the line. I pulled open a complaining desk drawer and grabbed a fresh pack of
cigarettes. I lit one with the silver lighter given to me years ago by a client whose wife had been
cheating on him. I’d followed her for months and come up with no proof, because she’d been such a
damned sly fox. Eventually, she’d slipped up, and I’d gotten the photos, along with the silver lighter and
a big bonus from the client.

I knew I should quit smoking. It wasn’t easy chasing down a suspect with lungs full of tar. But
quitting was just…too much to face. I’d done it before, of course – dozens of times. I’d even tried
Nicotine Anonymous, but the touchy-feely pop spirituality of the thing just soured me. I wasn’t
powerless and I didn’t need a higher power.

I leaned back in my chair and thought about Jasmine’s case. On its surface, it looked like a
pretty standard frame up job, but how the killer pulled it off in front of dozens of witnesses at a
crowded book signing on the third floor of Powell’s, and then managed both to plant the weapon and
escape undetected – it was a good puzzle, and I was about to dump the pieces out of the box. That was
always the most exciting part.

And why Henry Garson? The guy was just a local science fiction author, known and loved by a
certain subset of geeks, but not even on the radar of the general public. I was a fan, and I kept reading
even after he dramatically and unrealistically shifted the tone, plot, and overall…well, everything about
his Guardians series after the third book. His murder had made the front page of the Oregonian, but
more because of the public brazenness of the act itself than because of who Henry was.

I hit the space bar and woke up my aging CRT monitor, which came to life with a desultory hum.
I swore that I would buy a new computer soon, one of the new ones with a touchscreen monitor and all
the sleekness, but that was such a secondary concern.

I pulled up Michael McDougall’s mug shot, and found myself looking at a bewildered mess who
had clearly just been roused out of bed by the cops. He was in his thirties, thinning blond hair, bit of a
beer gut. No scar on his face.

I needed to look at that security footage. I typed “Powell’s” into the search box and came up
with the number. I picked up my phone and dialed.