Thursday, November 27, 2008

Friday Fiction for November 28, 2008

Welcome! I'm privileged this week to host Friday Fiction, and at the end of this piece, you'll find the Mr. Linky widget with links to other terrific works to read on this long, Thanksgiving weekend. Be sure to check out the other submissions, and leave comments. We all enjoy those comments!
This week's submission was a column I wrote for Collector Times some four years ago, and in keeping with my promise of lighter fare this week, I wanted something humorous and fun. I had originally planned on composing a new piece for this week, but ran out of time with everything else going on.
Interview with a Dragon
A Collector Times Exclusive
By Rick Higginson

We here at Collector Times go out of our way to enhance your gaming and collecting experience, even if it means we have to make stuff up. This month, I journeyed to the deep forests of Mooselvania to find the lair of a dragon to interview. It was a journey fraught with discomfort, danger, lousy food, and hostile natives, and that was just getting through the airports. No sacrifice, however, is too great to bring the readers of Collector Times an exclusive, so without further ado, I'll transcribe for you this exclusive interview with a dragon.
Collector Times:
Over here. Let me light a few lamps for you. (gout of flame strikes and lights up several torches on the walls) You humans have notoriously poor night vision.
Yeah, but we compensate for it by overconfidence. Anyway, it's a pleasure to meet you. My name is Rick, and I'm with the online magazine, "Collector Times".
(extends a large scaly paw) Kilroy, and the pleasure's mine, I assure you.
Kilroy? I thought dragons had names like "Vermithrax" or "Smaug".
Hey, at least it isn't "Puff". It's bad enough when every time you run across someone, they say, "Don't tell me, let me guess: Your name's Puff?" It'd be even worse to have to tell them they're right. Besides, having a non-descript name is always better. Fame isn't always a good thing for a dragon.
Well, anyway, nice place you have here, though I was really expecting a much larger and more, er, decorated chamber.
You know, treasure, jewels, all that "dragon's hoard" stuff.
(snorts back a laugh) What would I do with treasure? It's not like I can stroll into some mercantile somewhere and spend it.
I thought you dragons like sleeping on huge piles of treasure?
Listen, there are a lot of myths out there about dragons, and that's just one of them. "Sleep on a pile of treasure"? Think about it. Would YOU want to sleep on a big pile of gold and gems? The dense, cold metal would suck the warmth right out of a body, and the gems would poke into you every time you moved. Just because we have scales covering our bodies doesn't mean we enjoy pain, you know. (lifts up his body a bit) You want to see a dragon's "treasure"? Check out what I'm laying on, here. Go ahead.
Looks like, what? Rotted hay?
Compost. Who cares about gold and jewels?
But I thought dragons liked the shiny gold and gems?
Do I look or sound like a simple minded ferret to you, that I should be distracted by something shiny? This lair is dark better than 99% of the time. How is something supposed to be "shiny" in a dark lair? No, I'll take some large hay bales anytime over gold or gems. See, we dragons like our comfort. We're reptilian, so we spend a lot of time relaxing after a meal so that it can digest properly. To do that, we need someplace warm to lay, not a hard pile of cold metal and stone. Feel the ground beneath you here.
Huh. It's soft and warm. Is there geothermal action beneath this mountain?
No, little man. It's compost, like I already told you. I take organics like hay and straw, work them into the soil of the lair, and let the composting action produce a steady source of heat, not to mention a softer, more comfortable place to sleep. It might not smell as pretty, but a quick dip in the lake will wash away the compost smell. Muscle aches from sleeping on hard metal are much harder to get rid of.
Of course.
You mentioned having to digest after meals. Tell me about your diet?
We dragons tend to be opportunity feeders. Catching a deer or mountain goat unaware makes for a quick meal. Sometimes a dip in the lake brings me near a school of fish which I can snap up some of.
Deer? Goats? Fish? No young virgins?
Is that old line still floating around? Let me tell you about that one. If we were into eating humans, do you really think we could tell the difference in flavor between a virgin and someone who had already indulged in conjugal relations? You know how that myth got started?
Well, no. But I'd heard it, and read it in books so often, I figured it must be true.
It was started by a man, trying to wear down his girlfriend's resistance to his advances. Once he convinced her that we dragons have this odd, marked preference for virgins, he was able to offer her a "solution" that would keep her "safer" from our predations. You human males; the extents you'll go to in trying to satiate your mating drive. Of course, once it worked for one man, the story got around and the line was used by large numbers of amorous males. Eventually, even they started believing the line.
So, if you don't have a marked preference for young virgins, what do you have a marked preference for?
Did I stutter? Cantaloupe. I love cantaloupe.
But I thought dragons were carnivores?
No, like you humans, we're omnivores. I already told you; we're opportunity feeders. When game like deer or goat is plentiful, we'll take those. When the produce is ripe, we'll feast on that as well, though we've learned to not get greedy. Landing in some farmer's field in the middle of the night and eating half his crop is a good way to get an angry mob storming up to your lair. Angry mobs can be such a nuisance when you're trying to sleep and digest a stomach full of cantaloupe. Er, not that I'd know that by experience, mind you.
Of course not. I notice that you're here alone. Are dragons primarily a solitary creature?
Only by necessity. One dragon feeding in a given area can be easily overlooked, but when more than one starts frequenting an area, it draws more attention than we care to endure. A dragon passing through my territory will be welcomed to feed and rest for a short time, but we tend to respect each other's territory and security. We always enjoy a short visit, though.
So, what do you do when another dragon visits?
If it's another male like myself, we'll discuss current events, debate philosophy, maybe go out and hunt together, and often play games. We especially like playing "Dungeons and Dummkopfs".
"Dungeons and Dummkopfs"?
It's a fantasy game where dragons get to fight against foolish warriors who think they're going to come into our lairs, kill us, and take our "treasures". It's loosely based on what used to happen many centuries ago before most humans quit believing we existed. It's quite a fun game, you should try it sometime.
I'll keep that in mind. You said that was if another male dragon showed up. What if the visitor is a female?
Let's just say we dragons don't need lame lines like "humans prefer killing virgin dragons" and leave it at that, shall we?
Oh, Okay. So, how long has it been since a female dragon visited these parts?
Not so long that you're looking good, as if that were any of your business. Next question.
Er, right. So, dragons are very long lived, I hear?
That much is true. I am many of your centuries old.
You must have witnessed quite a bit of human history, then.
I have.
What would you say is the greatest human invention, to date?
Ha, ha! Take your time; I'm sure that there must be many human innovations to consider before you answer seriously.
I am serious. Catsup.
Catsup. Humanity has developed instantaneous electronic communications. We've gone to the moon. We have supersonic flight. We're discovering new medical advances almost daily. Yet, you picked catsup as our greatest invention?
What good are all those other innovations to dragonkind? Catsup, however, can do wonders for an overcooked or undercooked meal. If I get a little too zealous flaming a mountain goat, I can cover up the charred taste with catsup. Old and tough? Catsup. Flame ran out a bit too soon and it's still mostly raw? Catsup. Chased it too long and it got gamey? Catsup. Check with the warehouses. From time to time, they'll end up losing a carton or two of the big restaurant sized bottles of catsup. They always chalk it up to either a miscount, or an employee pilfering some. It's really one of us dropping in at night and resupplying when no one is looking.
Catsup . . . huh. So, are there many of you dragons about?
Enough of us to be a viable, self-sustaining population. Whether your governments would put us on an "endangered species" list or not is debatable. I'd be surprised if our prospects for long term survival are better than humanity's.
So how is it that most people don't believe in dragons, and never see you?
I'm sure you've noticed that you humans have a remarkable capacity for willful ignorance and denial. If you think something cannot be so, or you want it to not be so, your minds will tend to ignore any evidence to the contrary. That suits us dragons just fine. If humans don't believe in us, we don't have to worry about people trying to prove how brave they are by hunting us down. CT:
But what about this interview? If you prefer to remain unknown by the bulk of humanity, why did you agree to this interview?
This interview will be received as a joke; a work of your imagination. Humans love fiction. They'll gladly believe in an honest lawyer or a politician that cares, while all the while denying that dragons exist. The few of you who will get past your petty biases to see us are not only no worry to us, you're welcome in our world. Wizards were almost always welcomed in a dragon's lair.
Oh, wait. You probably have the mythological view of a wizard still. You see, a real wizard wasn't some odd worker of magic. The word itself derived from the Old English, "Wizened". Wise people who realized that we dragons had much to teach humanity would come to our lairs with offerings of food, in exchange for the things we could tell them. Because they came back from our lairs with ideas that seemed almost magical to the common people, and because they not only associated with dragons, but even appeared to have somehow enchanted us, the superstitious among the people thought that the wizards were delving into deep magic. Well, in a way they were. They were actually using their brains to approach problems, instead of simply trying to solve everything by hacking away at it with some crude weapon. By the way, you owe me a large basket of cantaloupe. A few honeydews mixed in might be nice, too. Maybe a carton or two of catsup.
I'll see to it that it gets delivered here promptly.
Thank you.
You're welcome. So, wizards were welcomed into your lairs. Anyone else who was particularly welcomed in?
Children? Wouldn't they be afraid of you?
No, that's the beauty of it. Adults are the ones who have decided either that we don't exist, or that if we do, we're evil. Children simply see us as big scaly adults who tolerate their endless questions without complaint. Besides that, they see our bodies as big living jungle gyms to climb on. We listen to them, we talk to them, and we're fun to climb on. We're like a grandpa who lives forever. What more could a kid want? It isn't until they start to get older and the adults start convincing them that we're either just a figment of their imaginations, or that we're going to eat them that they quit visiting.
But that sounds a lot like the song?
You got it. "Puff the Magic Dragon" has a grain of truth in it. Oh, sure, the whole song is a romanticized retelling of it, but the basic plot of the boy who befriends the dragon, only to grow out of it, is true. It's happened many times in most dragons' lives. The only thing we hate about the song is that now everyone thinks we're all named "Puff".
And I think that brings us full circle back to where we started. Kilroy, I'd like to thank you for your time, and for your patience with my questions.
You're welcome. Just don't forget the groceries.
This is Rick Higginson, for Collector Times, with Kilroy the Dragon, wishing you another happy month of gaming and collecting.
Drop by sometime for a game of "Dungeons and Dummkopfs". I'm told I run a great dungeon.
You heard it here, folks. Next time you're in Mooselvania, be sure to bring your dice and drop by. I'm sure you'll find Kilroy as gracious a host as I have.
Bring cantaloupe, too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Friday Fiction for November 21, 2008

This week’s Friday Fiction is another excerpt from my NaNoWriMo novel for this year. “Precocious by Design” is now a finished draft, and while I likely have a lot of things I’ll need to correct in the revision process, the story itself is plotted out and written.

The character in this chapter is seen once before, through the eyes of the main character, Lt. Lloyd Timmons. In this chapter, I wanted to bring the reader into her mind. I’m not sure I can adequately convey all the emotions this woman is going through at this point in the story, because in many ways, I cannot fully comprehend them myself. I’m not sure anyone truly can without having been there, and frankly, I would not wish that on anyone, including myself. If you have such insight, and would not mind sharing it, I would humbly appreciate comments helping me to better portray such a mental state.

Next week, I get to host Friday Fiction (provided I can figure out how to incorporate Mr. Linky into my blog), and I promise a lighter, more enjoyable entry. Please be sure to visit the other submissions this week, and thanks for reading.

From “Precocious by Design”
By Rick Higginson
NaNoWriMo 2008

Chapter 22
Saturday morning

She rose from the bed after a night in which she had slept very little. It was the second night in a row of almost no rest, and the images from the dreams when she had slept remained painfully vivid in her mind.

Dropping her pajamas on the floor, she entered the bathroom and started a hot bath running. She didn’t bother with her normal bath oil, reaching inside the medicine cabinet instead for a particular item. With the razor blade resting on the side of the tub, she lowered herself into the hot water and leaned back, waiting until the water was almost as deep as it could get.

She turned off the faucet, and slipped low in the bath. Memories of a once hopeful past flowed through her mind, and ran through to that moment of despair when she hadn’t even been able to cry out her anguish at the news.

“Ilsa,” she had almost said when the detective had shown her the photograph. How long had it been since she’d been allowed to see her? There was no more hope. She would never see the girl again.

“Ilsa,” she whispered towards the ceiling. “Forgive me.” She couldn’t begin to list all her failures, or hope to atone for them. What was one more?

She picked up the razor and stared at it, studying the edge with a detached interest. Just a couple of quick cuts, she told herself. It couldn’t hurt worse than the pain she already felt.

Wrist or thigh, she wondered. The wrist was shallower, but the thigh was faster. She had studied biology for her career in the U.S., and a cut to the femoral artery was one of the worst for bleeding out quickly.

Will they bury me with Ilsa? Or will my co-workers take up a collection to bury me someplace else?

Who will bury Ilsa, then?

She stared at the razor, and the reality of Ilsa’s death pressed in on her. The first tears blurred her vision, and the blade became a silver-gray haze. “Ilsa,” she cried, dropping the razor outside the tub. Sobbing, she sat up and buried her face in her hands.

“Anna?” Her roommate knocked on the bathroom door. “Are you all right?” The door opened just a crack. “Anna?” It opened all the way, and the other woman entered and rushed to the side of the tub. “Anna, what’s wrong? What’s the matter?”

She threw wet arms around the woman and buried her face in the soft nightgown. “My daughter,” she wailed, losing all ability to articulate anything more in words.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Fiction for November 14th, 2008

For this week’s Friday Fiction, I’m presenting another chapter from my NaNoWriMo project, “Precocious by Design”. One of the challenges in this story is to work with characters that have a trait that most of us, including myself, find repugnant. There are two pedophiles that play prominent roles in the story – the killer, and the man the victim was supposed to have met on the night she died.

We teach in the Church that God is able to redeem the worst of sinners, and that the blood of Messiah is sufficient for anyone. Like many Christians, I have found myself in the past wondering how God could reach out to someone I found repugnant, and one element in this story is the main character being pressed by God to similarly look at another man, and see him the way that God sees him.

Something Better
From “Precocious by Design”
By Rick Higginson
NaNoWriMo 2008

Chapter 29
Monday afternoon

Lloyd rolled up outside the apartment building, and shifted the car into ‘park’. The complex was nice, and appeared to cater to young professionals before they entered the child-bearing stage of their lives.

He walked by the well-maintained landscaping, with the periodic barbecue grills spaced along the walkways for the residents. Things were quiet in the mid-afternoon, and he guessed the management required a signed agreement to keep the atmosphere that way around the clock.

The block he was looking for was painted in muted sandstone, with a darker contrasting trim. Copious ferns grew in planter boxes along the walls, with flowers bordering the walkways. The small lawns in front of each ground floor apartment were recently mowed, and the grass was vibrant and healthy. It was a nice place to live, and he noted that it did not seem to have any families with children living there.

He knocked on the door and waited, and was just about ready to give up when the door finally opened.

“Lt. Timmons,” Gary Duddeck said from inside the door. “Did you come by to add one more lousy element to this day?”

“Can I come in, Mr. Duddeck?”

He made a helpless gesture and stood aside. “You might as well; if you’re going to make this day any worse, I’m not going to stop you by making you stand outside.”

Lloyd entered, and Gary closed the door behind him. He walked into the living room, and glanced around. The apartment was clean and smartly decorated, laid out in an arrangement that made sense. A red guitar stood on a stand in the corner, next to a stool and music stand. He took a closer look at it. “Do you play?”

“I was barely beaten out of a music scholarship when I graduated high school.” He flopped into a chair. “Another of my failures in life, I guess.”

“How many other students did you beat in the scholarship competition? Seems to me, a close second is nothing to be ashamed of.”

He waved off the suggestion. “It doesn’t matter, does it?”

“Life is all about perspective, Mr. Duddeck. To a single mother down in the welfare housing, you’re rich. To the chief executive of a Fortune 500 corporation, you have nothing,” Lloyd said. “To the kid that just barely beat you, you were not quite good enough. To the other kids that didn’t do as well, you were right up there with the kid who won.”

“What can I do for you, detective, other than giving you someone to spout pretty platitudes to?”

He sat down on the couch, and stretched his arm along the back. “I had a phone call this afternoon from your boss. He wanted to know about Miss Polinichenko, which I thought was rather odd. How did your boss know about her?”

“Let’s just say he got word that I was out with her on Saturday night, and now he’s convinced I was on a date with an eleven year old.”

“Wasn’t that the whole purpose behind contracting a performance from her in the first place?”

“Lt. Timmons, if you just came by to gloat, I’m really not in much mood.”

“Is that why you think I’m here?”

“So far, you haven’t given me reason to believe anything else, have you?” He turned his head to the side and looked at the floor. “Maybe you couldn’t bring me up on any charges, but punishing the pedophile anyway must feel awfully good to you, doesn’t it?”

“Your boss told me you had given him this 'ridiculous story' about Miss Polinichenko being twenty-four years old, and that you had said I could verify it. I think he figured I should know I was being used as a reference by a pervert. I assume you did give him my number?”

“Yeah, I gave him your number. At that point, I decided my job was lost anyway, so at least he should know I wasn’t yanking his chain about Katya.”

“You’re not calling her Katy anymore.”

“She likes being called Katya. It’s what her mother called her.”

“What did you two do Saturday night?”

“We went and bought her an adult dress, and then attended an orchestra concert in the park.”

“And then?”

“I brought her back here, and she sat on the floor while I played my guitar for her.” His voice broke as he continued. “For the first time I could remember in years, detective, I was really happy for a night, because I was enjoying the company of a woman my age that I found attractive, and for whom I didn’t have to pretend to be something else.”

“So you didn’t go out with Katy; you went out with Miss Polinichenko, then?”

He nodded. “I figured out that she was just as tired of always pretending to be something she wasn’t, and we decided to just be ourselves Saturday night.”

“Did you sleep with her?”

He shook his head and laughed. “No, because she said she didn’t feel like it, and I told her it was okay, because real people don’t always feel like it, and she’d already given me the best night of my life.”

Lloyd stood up, and gave the man a gentle touch on the shoulder. “I told your boss that Miss Polinichencko is twenty-four, and that I had verified that information personally on her passport.”

“Thank you.”

“He then wanted to know how I happened to be acquainted with both of you. I told him the truth; that you were questioned as a witness in a case I am working on, that you had voluntarily assisted with my investigation, and that you were not in any trouble with the law to the best of my knowledge.” He stepped in front of the chair and made eye contact with Duddeck. “I wanted to tell him that I caught you meeting a prostitute that impersonates children for pedophiles. I wanted to tell him I found you disgusting, and that I hoped you would leave my city and never come back. I wanted to tell him if your company has any sense, they’d fire you so fast it would make your eyes water. I wanted to, but I didn’t.”

“Why didn’t you? It’s all true.”

He took his badge holder out of his pocket and set it on the coffee table. “I can’t say what I’m about to tell you as a representative of the Sunny Grove Police Department, but I can say it as Lloyd Timmons, private citizen. I didn’t, because someone else didn’t reveal the whole truth about me when it mattered.”


“Yeah, me; I was a hot-headed soldier, and adding alcohol just made me worse. One night, after a stupid argument, I came this close to knifing another man. The next morning, I stumbled into this rescue mission church, and this bean-pole of a preacher introduced a dirty, stinking, hung-over hell-raiser to God. I had some lapses after that, and he saw most of them, and never once gave up on me.” He stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at the ceiling. “One day, I met his daughter – his one and only, precious little girl – and I fell head over heels in love with her. That scrawny preacher, who I don’t think has ever taken a drink in his life, or ever raised his hand in anger at anyone, didn’t tell his daughter that I wasn’t good enough for her.”

“Did you marry her?”

“Yeah, so now I have a bean-pole preacher for a father-in-law. I asked him before the wedding why he never told her the kind of man I was, and he said that was my job. His job was to listen to God telling him the kind of man I could be, and to help me on the way.” He sniffed. “I don’t know what you’re going through right now, Gary. I don’t know if maybe I’m just reading into you what I saw in myself all those years ago, but I’m going to tell you the same thing that preacher told me. God doesn’t turn His back on us; we turn our back on Him. He’s waiting to show us the potential for good in all of us, no matter how bad we may think we are.”

“I’ve tried religion; it still didn’t make the urges go away.”

“They don’t go away, Gary; I still have the urge to drink. I still have the urge to use my fists instead of my brain. I still have a hot head. God didn’t make those things go away; He gave me the strength and the motivation, instead, to bring them under control. The only thing that changed is that I learned to not allow my urges to rule me; I learned to rule my urges. Potty training a baby doesn’t make the baby quit pooping; it enables the child to control the bathroom urges until the right moment.”

“My urges are a bit different; everyone knows it’s normal for babies to poop. It’s not normal for a man to find children desirable.”

“Answer me honestly, Gary – just between you and me, and it never leaves this room. Were you telling the truth when you told Dr. Germain that you’d never actually indulged those desires on a child?”

“It’s the truth; I never molested any actual children.”

“You’re showing a good start, then; you’re not giving those urges unrestrained control over you.”

“It still doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change what I am, or how the world is going to perceive me.”

“Don’t worry about how the world perceives you; worry instead about how God receives you. I came here to see you today, because whether I wanted to see it or not, God forced me to see the potential for good in you. He made me take the place of my father-in-law, so that I could pass along the same gift that was given to me.”

He started to laugh. “Do you have a daughter you’re going to let a man like me marry?”

“You know, I’ve wondered sometimes what my father-in-law would have said that first Sunday morning, when I came forward in that Rescue Mission, if someone had told him I would marry his daughter. I think, sometimes, God is merciful and doesn’t let us see the future until we’re ready for what He has in store. Let’s just say for now that I’ll give you the same grace that bean-pole preacher gave to me.”

“It all sounds good, but I’m not really sure I’m ready to accept all that just yet.”

“I understand, and I just want to leave you with this – that way you felt with Miss Polinichenko on Saturday night, like you don’t have to pretend or to be anything but precisely what you are?”

“Yeah, what about it?”

“Did it also make you feel like you wanted to be something better?”

“Yeah, it did, but an honest better, not a pretend better.”

“That’s the way I feel before God. He knows me, and I don’t have to pretend to be anything but what I am, but just knowing He cares makes me want to be something better.”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Friday Fiction for November 7, 2008

This week’s Friday Fiction comes from the current rewrite of “Precocious by Design”, and is the first chapter in which the main character’s wife is introduced. I wanted my character to have a high level of empathy for his victims, as opposed to the detachment that many in such fields learn to develop so that they can work without the horror of the situation inhibiting them. How would such empathy affect someone outside of the job? I also enjoyed taking a look at the main character from the perspective of another character, since much of the narrative is from his POV.

Be sure to check out the other submissions this week, and I hope you enjoy this excerpt.

Sleeping with the Dead
From Precocious by Design
by Rick Higginson
Chapter 12
Wednesday night

She walked out of the bedroom, wearing the lightweight nightgown he’d bought her for their anniversary a few years ago. Faye Timmons had never had the kind of figure the popular media told her a woman should have, and two children hadn’t helped that at all. Still, Lloyd had always expressed an appreciation for her and a desire for her, and the feeling had been mutual.

The nice thing about the kids being away at college was that she could walk out in a revealing nightie without worrying that the children might see.

Lloyd was in his easy chair in the living room, sitting and staring at the blank television screen. She slipped over the arm of the chair and into his lap, taking his face in her hands and giving him a suggestive kiss.

He smiled back at her and sighed, but made little move to reciprocate.

“Aren’t you coming to bed soon?” she asked. “You were out late last night, and tonight you’re just sitting in here watching imaginary television.”

He shrugged. “I’m just – thinking.”

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” She caressed his thinning hair back from his face. “Let me guess; it’s the case you’re working on.”

He nodded, and gave her a squeeze.

“There was a rape involved, wasn’t there? You always get like this when there was a rape involved.”

“The girl in the paper Tuesday morning; that’s my current case.”

“The juvenile cases always get you more.”

“He killed her slowly, Faye. I think he took his time because he was enjoying it. If it’s the guy we think it is, he’s more than strong enough to have made it quick.”

She kissed him again, gently, and brushed the tear away that escaped his eye. “You can’t keep feeling these cases like this; you’re going to make yourself sick if you let them affect you all the time.”

“I can’t help it. It’s like I hear God telling me that my service is to be the advocate for the slain innocent, and I start to feel the same kind of pain I imagine Him feeling when these things happen.”

“God also made you my husband, and you’re letting this get between us. I love that compassion you feel for the victims; it’s so much part of what makes you the man you are, but I need you to save some of that passion for me. I need to feel like I’m at least as important to you as the murder victims are, and sometimes I just need you beside me in our bed when we’re not going right to sleep.”

“I’m sorry; every time I start to think of making love with you right now, I think about what he did to her.”

“Lloyd, it’s not the same. You’re not that killer, and I’m not a victim. You are my husband, and I am your wife, and what we do is nothing like what someone like him does to a victim.”

“I tell myself that, but I still see her lying in the middle of the bush, with the marks of the cord around her neck.”

“Come to bed, sweetheart. Even if you can’t be my lover tonight, you can still be my friend.” She stood up and pulled gently at his hand.

“I’ll be along in a little bit.”

She released his hand with a hurt expression. “No, you won’t. You’re going to sit in this chair until you fall asleep right here, just like you’ve done all the other times you’ve had this mood. Maybe you’d rather sleep out here with the dead, but I want my living husband back.”

“I’m sorry, Faye.”

“You’d better solve this case quickly so you can exorcise these ghosts from your mind. If this lasts too long, I may not be waiting when you finally decide you’re ready to be a husband again instead of just a detective.”

Folding her arms across her chest, she hurried back to the bedroom and sat down on the side of the bed. She thought about praying, but felt too hurt and frustrated at the moment to formulate any kind of coherent entreaty.

Maybe, the thought crossed her mind, you wouldn’t judge him so harshly if you’d stared into the eyes of a corpse this week.

Maybe, she conceded, and lay down to go to sleep.