clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Even Money Bet

I like characters without an even money bet: they haven't got a fair chance.

I like to see that piece right at the opening. I like it when we the readers know that the game is rigged long before the character resigns themselves to this fact.

Where I grew up, the local constabulary consisted of a three man sheriff's crew, a sheriff,  and a state trooper who lived in the county. That's it.

There is always the idea that rural sheriffs are like Andy Griffiths in Mayberry: didn't wear a gun. I can tell you my sheriff wore a gun and when there was sheriff business to do, those guns were out and pointed at you.

The policy was to apologize for the weapon but keep it pointed at trouble.

Anyway, I don't like that policy as a writer because it doesn't give enough chance for things to go wrong and this week, I'm all about things going wrong. I'm a bag of trouble just out throwing it around my protagonists living room. I hope it works.

To that end, a little revision. I don't think my example from the other night is quite what I'd like to represent as an example of current posturing. With that, I revise for the things we readers know will downhill by starting with small problems right off the bat.


Bill inherited the worst eighty in the county. Cows won't eat scrub. Crops won't grow in clay. Bill ran for sheriff after Betty left for Hays, and won. Luck runs in threes like that.
He swore and started down the drive for Harry's house opposite his own. Grass crunched with frost under his boots down the strip between the ruts. Harry never married and occasionally pointed out his sixty years of good fortune to Bill. He'd probably do it again now. 
Bill didn't have a chance to knock.
"What are you up to this early on a Sunday?" Harry filled the kitchen door. The crumbling concrete steps  under Bill put Harry two feet above eye-level. 
"I know you're up, Harry. The light's been on for a good hour." 
 "Two," Harry said. " I'm no bag of bones to be lying in the bed." 
"Well, I could use a little more of it." 
 "Which is exactly my question."
 Harry crossed his arms behind the bib of his overalls he'd scrubbed within an inch of their color. Bill noticed Harry was shaved, too. He frowned, more. 
 "Piece of shit again." Bill gestured with a thumb sideways.  
Harry waited. He had his price.  
"Somebody in the creek. Dead."  
 "I didna' think that he'd be swimming in this frost." 
"It isn't a 'he', Harry." Bill squinted east towards the dead Bronco. "Can you hurry?" 
"The body'll still be there,"  Harry said already starting down the steps. He smelled of soap, bacon, and coffee as he passed close.
Bill wished he'd found socks before slipping on his boots. The frost damp was seeping in on him. 
He wished Harry would have offered coffee. He closed his eyes and just wished.
"Who is it?" Harry called back while heading to the tractor's shed.
 Bill swore in a whisper. He never won at cribbage, either.

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