So, if any of you follow me close enough here or on Twitter (which you should follow me @andrewjstillman cough cough) or just know me in general, NaNoWriMo is taking up a lot of my writing headspace. That, and the fact that I spilled coffee on my keyboard and have to POUND EVERY STUPID KEY TO MAKE IT WORK and I can barely afford my rent, let alone buy a new keyboard/computer, so of course normally I can pound out 1000 words in like 20 minutes, but since my keys don’t work I’ve tripled my writing time. Story of my life.
Anyway, because outside writing is so limited for me this month (especially because I have to keep up with Jensen right now — tomorrow’s entry’s gonna be awesome so don’t forget to read it!!) I decided to share with you faithful blog followers/friends/family/readers, etc… the first chapter of my NaNoWriMo novel, so you know I’m not full of it and looking for excuses. It’s called “The Quietest Street”, and the synopsis goes as follows:
“It is said that the quietest streets bear the darkest secrets. When detective Kolin Banks begins to receive mysterious letters bearing only numbers and hashtags after a string of murders in the neighborhood, he and his partner Yvette Syfried begin a scramble to both decode the cryptic messages and stop the neighborhood killer.”
Anyway, here’s the first chapter, just so I can keep up with this blog as well. Enjoy!!
The siren’s sound filled the quiet night. Helicopters flew over the area, spotlights surveying the scene in search for an unknown killer.
The sound of the doorbell woke Detective Kolin Banks from his sleep. It took a moment for the confusion to make sense in his mind. His wife, Bianca, lie next to him, her back facing away as she breathed slowly. She had managed to stay asleep during all the chaos, and Kolin groaned as he pulled the covers back and left the warmth of her body.
He put on his slippers and headed down the stairs, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes as he did so. The blue and red lights of the police car filled his living room as they pushed their way through his windows, reflecting like strobe lights at a party.
He opened the door and felt a slight sense of relief to see his partner, Yvette Syfried illuminated by the flashing lights.
“Hey, Kolin,” she said solemnly. The sadness in her voice woke him up quicker than the descent from his room. She only kept that tone when someone they knew was the victim of a crime.
“What happened?” he asked, almost as soon as she finished greeting him.
She took in a deep breath and turned her gaze to the ground. “It’s not good,” she whispered.
“What happened?” he repeated. A mixture of fear and agitation built up inside of him. If she was going to wake him up in the middle of the night, she better at least fill him in on the situation.
“It’s Kendall,” she said, keeping her voice quiet and steady. “They’ve just – they just found her down the street.”
Kolin thought for a moment he wet himself. Kendall was the mother to his daughter’s best friend. She came over every morning to pick up Holly on her way to school, and if he and Bianca were busy with work she would always let her stay at their house until they were able to get her.
“What do you mean they ‘found her’?” he asked, trying his best to keep his voice calm as well.
“She was mutilated.”
There was a time when that sentence would have tugged at Kolin’s heart strings. Now, however, he understood – it’s better not to beat around the bush like that. There’s no way around the truth, and it was better to be told flat out than to have to keep guessing and wondering what was happening.
“Do we know who the killer is?”
Yvette shook her head. “But there was a note. Or, at least, what we think to be a note.”
“Can I come inside? I don’t think looking at it on your front porch is very appropriate.”
“Oh, of course,” he said as he opened his door wider and turned on the light. “I’m sorry, I guess the shock just took my manners away.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she said as she took out a plastic bag with a folded piece of paper from her jacket pocket. “This was found next to Kendall’s body, but we have no idea how exactly to decode it.”
She handed Kolin a glove so he could hide his fingerprints since it was evidence and the piece of paper and he pulled his head back in confusion as he looked at it.
10-54#1 87-53-110#1-18#1-70#1 22#1-2 15-18-19
Kolin looked over the message a couple of times, weighing all the options it could potentially be.
“I have no idea what this is supposed to say,” he said.
“That’s kind of the problem,” said Yvette. She changed her tone from sad and somber to her usual sass as if she was trying to backhandedly insult him.
“It was found next to her, you said?”
“Yeah. Did you want to come look at the body? You know we’re probably going to be put on this case because it’s in your neighborhood.”
“I understand that. As far as seeing the body myself – I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle that at this hour. Part of me is still wondering if this is a dream. I think I’ll wait for the boss to give us the pictures when he assigns us the case.”
She smiled a thin, sympathetic smile as she rubbed his shoulder. “What are you going to say to Bianca and Holly?”
“I’m not sure I’ll have to tell them too much. They’re usually awake before me, and when Kendall doesn’t show up to pick up Holly…” He trailed off. “I mean, obviously I’ll take her to school and do all that and fill them in on what happened.”
“Anything I can do to help?”
“No, thank you. I think for now I’ll just go back to bed.”
She gave him a hug and left. He stood in his living room for a few moments letting everything sink in. Yvette had been on duty with Bill tonight because Kolin and Bianca were celebrating their seventeenth anniversary. He was glad he didn’t have to witness the crime scene, though. He had been present for a lot of murders and had to fill a lot of families in on what happened. He had seen a lot of tears, dealt with a lot of anger, a lot of confusion, a lot of denial – but he had never been the one on the receiving end of the news. He had never known someone who had been brutally murdered.
The details of Kendall’s haunted him as he went back up the stairs to his room. He realized he hadn’t asked about Janelle, Kendall’s daughter, but the shock of the news had clouded a lot of his thinking processes. He debated waking up Bianca but wasn’t sure how she would take the news. He knew, though, after seventeen years of marriage, that if he let her sleep through this she would be incredibly upset.
He turned on their bedroom light and sat on the bed. She moved uncomfortably and put her hands over her eyes to block out the light and rolled over to face him.
“Kolin?” she asked sleepily. “Whuss going on?”
“Bianca, I need to tell you something.”
He must have had the same tone Yvette had on his front porch, because Bianca shot straight up, ignoring the lights potentially burning her corneas.
“What? What’s happened? Is it Holly?”
“No, no, it’s not Holly. She’s still asleep in the next room.”
Calming down a bit, Bianca relaxed her muscles and leaned up against the headboard. “Well, what is it? What’s happened?”
Kolin took in a deep breath. He looked into her big, concerned green eyes and she went blurry for a moment as the burning tears covered his sight. When a tear dripped from his eye and ran down his nose, Bianca tensed up again.
“Kolin,” she said slowly. “What’s going on?”
It’s better to just rip the band-aid off. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t leave her with questions. Just tell her.
“Kendall’s been brutally murdered.”
Bianca held the same face she had as before he told her, and for a moment he thought she didn’t actually hear what he said.
“Kolin, that’s not funny,” she said tersely.
“Do you really think I would joke about this?” he asked, unable to help feeling a little insulted.
Bianca started shaking her head and it was obvious the news was starting to sink in. Kolin wished he could read her mind and know what she was thinking and how to help her, but she just continued to shake her head.
“No. No, that’s not possible. You’ve got the wrong body.”
“Did you see it? How do you know it was her?”
“Bianca, I understand this is hard –”
“It’s not hard at all, because this isn’t true. Or this is a dream. Or I’ve woken up in an alternate universe. One way or another Kendall is going to be on our front doorstep at 7:30 with a beautiful smile on our face and our daughter is going to be happy to see her and she’s going to leave with Janelle and nothing will be wrong.”
As she talked the tears began to form in her eyes as well and Kolin moved in to give her a hug.
“No, please,” said Bianca, holding up a hand to block him from coming in to hug her. “I’m sorry, I’m just trying to process this and I don’t want to be touched.”
He nodded. “I understand.”
She stared forward at the comforter, unmoving, unblinking, losing her normal beatitude, trying to process the news.
“What about Janelle?” she whispered.
Kolin shook his head. “I’m not sure where she is. As far as I know, she’s safe. I didn’t hear anything about her. I didn’t make it too far away from the living room. Yvette was just here, she filled me in.”
“Who’s the killer?”
He continued to shake his head. “That’s still to be determined. I’ll most likely be put on the case with Yvette, but I’ll find out more tomorrow. There was a note, though. But it’s encoded and we don’t know what it means.”
“Can I see it?”
“That’s evidence, Bianca. And besides, Yvette took it back. I’m sorry to wake you with this information, I just knew you would be upset if I went the rest of the night without telling you.”
She nodded, but kept her blank stare.
“I know this is hard.”
She continued to nod. “It’s weird being on this end of the spectrum, isn’t it?” she asked as a tear dripped down her face. “You’re usually breaking this news to someone else’s family, not ours.”
He put his hand on hers, and was happy when she let him. “This isn’t easy for me, either. I don’t know what we’re going to tell Holly. She’s going to be so devastated.”
“I wonder what’s going to happen to Janelle.”
“Perhaps she’ll stay with her father, if she wants to. I know there are problems with that situation, but she’s fifteen, she’s nearing an old enough age to maybe be on her own if she wants to.”
She turned away and looked at the alarm clock. 4:17.
“Yvette was out late tonight, huh?” she asked.
“Yeah. We go back in at two, I wonder how tired she’s going to be.”
Bianca pulled back the covers and got out of bed. “I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. I’m going to take a shower and go make some coffee.”
“I’m going to lay down for a minute, wrap my head around everything. Come get me when you get out of the shower, I’ll go down with you to make some coffee. Just try to remain calm as best you can, that’s really important now. Especially in front of Holly.”
“I know,” she said quietly, continuing on to the bathroom.
Kolin put his head back down on his pillow. It had already turned cold again. He closed his eyes and made an attempt to sleep while Bianca was in the shower. His brain wouldn’t shut down fully, but it rested nonetheless. Without being fully conscious or fully unconscious, he lay in bed and let himself exist for a moment as he continually repeated the news to himself.
Kendall was dead. One of the best family friends they had ever had. One of the best people in the world. Who would take her life away? Why would they do this? She had no enemies, she was loved by everyone, she was always extremely helpful. It must have been a sick individual who brutally murdered her. He didn’t even know if he was going to be able to bring himself to look at the pictures in the office tomorrow. The sirens and helicopters eventually began to disappear and the street went back to being quiet, and those who were already sleeping remained asleep. He wondered if anyone else was lying in bed thinking about what happened. He wondered if Janelle even knew yet. Or if she had seen anything. He knew he was going to have to interview her one way or the other if he was assigned to this case, and that was one of the last things he wanted to do.
He heard Bianca come back into the room and let himself come back into consciousness. Like Bianca, he was hoping this was a dream. Hoping that when he opened his eyes the sun would be up and Bianca would just be smiling at him as she started her day.
“Hey,” said Bianca, sniffing as she wiped her nose. Her skin was red from the warmth of the shower and her eyes were puffy.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“I wish I was better. This doesn’t really seem real. I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to act. Should I stay in bed and cry? Would she be mad if I continued my day like nothing happened? How am I supposed to work knowing—”
The tears began rolling freely and Kolin got out of bed to hug her. She fell into his arms and let all of her emotions out as he rubbed her back. The information was still sinking into his head, but he knew he had to stay strong for Bianca and Holly.
After crying for a fair amount of time, Bianca pulled herself away from Kolin’s chest and wiped away her tears.
“So what are we going to do? If you’re on the case, are you going to be all right?”
“Yes.” It shocked him how easy it was for him to say the word. “I actually want to be on this case.”
Bianca pulled back more, but a look of shock overtook her instead of sadness. “What? Why?”
“Because I want to find the fucker who did this to her and I want to make sure they pay.”
Bianca’s face dropped. “Kolin…you can’t…”
He understood her apprehension, but he couldn’t help feeling angry and irrational. If he was the detective put on this case to find the killer, they better be ready to deal with him when he was finished with them.
“Maybe we shouldn’t talk about this until we’ve both calmed down a bit,” he said smoothly.
“Bottling your emotions isn’t the way to deal with it either,” she said. “If it’s anger you feel instead of sadness, that’s all right, Kolin. It’s normal. It’s part of the grieving process. Be angry. But be smart while you do it.”
She was right, and he knew it. The emotions and stages of denial were rapidly unfolding between the both of them, and they hadn’t even had the opportunity of telling their daughter her second mother had passed.
“Who’s going to tell Holly?” asked Kolin.
Bianca sighed. “I don’t know. I was kind of hoping somehow she would already know when she woke up.”
“One way or the other, we need to get our emotions in order before we comfort her. She’s going to need us to support her through this. She’s young, she’s never had someone around her die before. She’s probably going to be confused, she’s going to be angry. We’ll need to help her get through these emotions.”
Bianca nodded her agreement. “Yes. You’re right. Come on, let’s go make some coffee.”
Kolin slipped his hands in hers and led her down the stairs as their fingers intertwined. It could have been her. Kendall lived right across the street. If it was a random killer, they could have come to his house instead. What if he had been at work? What if he had lost her and his daughter?
He pushed the “what if” questions to the side of his mind as they entered the kitchen. It was almost five thirty now. He didn’t realize she had been in the shower that long. The sun was going to rise soon. Only an hour before Holly woke up. Only an hour to pull themselves together.
The only sound that filled the room was the coffee maker. It seemed as though Bianca and Kolin had run out of things to say to each other, each trying to make sense of the situation and wrap their heads around what happened. Thoughts of how they were going to tell Holly danced around inside their heads as well. Kolin knew the best way was to just tell her, but he didn’t know if she would handle it the way that Bianca did.
Bianca sipped her coffee as she returned to having her blank stare. Kolin debated turning on the television, but he was scared they may come across the 5 o’clock news and the story about Kendall’s murder.
I can’t see the scene yet. I’ll have to drive by it later. I’ll have to see the picture at work. I can’t have a breakdown until I’m away from my family.
“Thank you for waking me up,” said Bianca, pulling Kolin out of his thoughts. “You were right, I would have been upset.”
He smiled. Should he smile? Was now a good time to show a happy emotion? He didn’t want to be insensitive, but he also didn’t want to be ignorant. Truth be told, he’d dealt with so many other deaths, but he had never had too much experience with one of his own friends. He wondered if any kind of tact when it came to dealing with death had gone out the window with the times he had to hide his emotions to tell everyone what was up, but he never had to deal with the aftermath following his departure.
They barely spoke over the next hour. Rumbling came from above and he knew Holly was waking herself up. Her steps hit the stairwell and she descended into the living room.
“Morning,” she said. “You two still waking up? You don’t look so good.”
Kolin looked over at Bianca, then turned his gaze back to Holly.
“Maybe you should sit down.”