Thursday, October 14, 2010

Friday Fiction for October 15, 2010

Friday Fiction finds it home this week on Karlene’s Homespun Expressions, where you’ll find the Linky tool enjoying a relaxing weekend, pointing us to the other great submissions.

NaNoWriMo 2008 became an exercise in a different kind of story for me. While both “The Daedalus Child” and “Lana’s Pack” were Pod spin-offs, “Precocious by Design” was a standalone story, and something of a sci-fi twist on a crime drama. I have since reworked the Prologue two or three times, and this latest revision is the shortest yet. As such, to keep this Friday Fiction entry from being much too brief, I’ve included a portion of Chapter 1 to help establish the flavor of the story. While one of the darkest stories I’ve ever written, “Precocious by Design” also ended up with some of the most blatantly Christian content of any of my books.


Friday evening

The commuter train pulled to a stop at the Tibbington Street station, its last stop in the city of Sunny Grove on its nightly journey out of Los Angeles. The disembarking passengers were mostly a mix of office workers and students returning home, and they ambled from the platform to either the parking lot or the bus benches for the next leg of their trips.

A young girl exited the train, carrying a small backpack in one arm, and a baby doll in the other. Her long, brunette hair was held back by a pair of barrettes which matched her pale blue dress. She went and stood near the vending machines, waiting while the other passengers hurried on to their destinations.

When the platform was mostly deserted, a man walked up to her. “Well, hello,” he said.

“Hi,” she said, and smiled. “Are you Gary?”

“Yes,” he replied. “I’m Gary.”

“Oh, good. When I got off the train and didn’t see you, I was afraid I might be stuck here for a while.” She made an eager hop. “I wanna go someplace fun tonight. Are you gonna take me someplace fun?”

“Of course,” he said, and extended a hand to her. “I think we’re going to have a very good time tonight.”

She slid the backpack onto her shoulders and took the offered hand. Half walking, half skipping, she let him lead her from the platform towards the parking area.

The platform remained deserted for a few minutes, before another man hurried up the steps. He looked around, and then flung his arms down in frustration. Glancing first at his watch, he then checked his phone for messages. He typed a quick response to a question from his boss, and didn’t bother to return the phone to his pocket.

He paced, periodically walking to the edge of the platform and looking down the tracks for signs of the next train on the schedule. When it finally arrived, he scanned the lines of people emerging from the cars, until he once again remained alone in the station. With a look of dejection, he drafted a text message on his phone.

Late to station due to accident on freeway. No sign of Lisa. - Gary

Chapter 1

Monday morning

Lieutenant Lloyd Timmons followed the patrol officer down the sparse trail below the highway. The spring wildflowers and weeds were already starting to dry out around the Los Angeles Metropolitan, and he paused several times to pull burrs out of his socks. “Who found the body?” he asked.

“A couple of hikers,” the officer replied.

“Where are they now? They did stick around to answer questions, didn’t they?”

“They’re up by one of the patrol cars. I don’t get the idea they wanted to be near the body.”

They stepped over a dead sapling and skirted a copse of bushes. Around the other side, the group of Sunny Grove police officers revealed their destination. The breeze carried the other clue to the proximity of the body, and he fought the gag reflex. His first partner on homicide had told him he’d get used to the smell eventually, and after fifteen years, he was still waiting.

The coroner was already there, and the young man looked up as he approached. “Timmy,” he greeted pleasantly. “They put you on this one, huh?”

“Mike, how many times have I told you not to call me Timmy?”

He smirked. “I quit counting long ago, but you still give me such a great scowl when I do. Are you still hearing dead people in your head?”

“It’s a problem solving technique.”

“Whatever; let’s see if you want to hear this one.”

Lloyd reached in his pocket for a handkerchief to press over his nose. The aromatic paste he’d infused into the cloth helped block the smell, without leaving residue on his lip the rest of the day. “So, what do we have?”

Mike pulled aside a few branches in a dense shrub to reveal the body. “Female victim, Caucasian, approximately eleven or twelve years old, dead approximately forty-eight to fifty-six hours. From the looks of it, I’d say she was thrown from the side of the highway and landed here. The only footprints we found on arrival matched those of the two guys that called it in, and were fresh this morning. She’s been here, however, since either late Friday night or early Saturday morning, and there’s no perimeter branches disturbed to indicate she was brought in from ground level.”

The nausea went beyond just the smell. The body was naked, and her skin was the sickly gray of early decomposition. “How about cause of death?”

“We’ll need to verify this, but she has strangulation marks on her neck. Some of the wounds appear to be posthumous, probably from her landing in the brush, but since we were waiting on you to get here before we moved the body, we haven’t checked for other wounds that might not be apparent yet.”

“No clothes, so I’m betting sexual assault.”

“Yeah, that was my first thought, too. This has all the appearance of child abduction, and the perp probably thought this was a good spot to dispose of the body where it wouldn’t be found right away.”

“I’m kind of surprised she was found this soon,” Lloyd said. Heavenly Father, let me catch this guy, please. Let me keep him from ever putting another child and another family through this hell.

“Are you okay?” Mike asked.

“To be honest, no,” he replied. “But I don’t want to ever be okay with something like this. I think if I ever get to the point where a case like this doesn’t make me sick, or make me angry, then it’s past time to retire.”

“You’re probably right, but I’m too young and, frankly, not rich enough to retire. I’m not going to give up my wild and crazy lifestyle just to get away from tragic stiffs.”

Ignoring the irreverent comment, Lloyd closed his eyes and imagined a young girl dancing and skipping in a grassy park somewhere. Shadows covered her, making it difficult to discern any details of her face. Miss? He called to her in his mind.


Sharlyn Guthrie said...

What a tragic beginning. I can't imagine what it would be like to come upon such a scene, and especially to have the responsibility of solving a crime like this. I hope your guy is successful!

Debra Gray-Elliott said...

Amazing writing!