It's been exactly thirteen months and two weeks since my novel Forget Me Not debuted. In case you haven't read my blog before, you should know this was my first full length novel to publish as well as the first full length novel I'd ever completed. It took me eight very long and frustrating years to publish this book and in those eight years the story went through a lot of revisions. I didn't do these revisions lightly. I had a lot of help, suggestions, advice, brainstorming from many friends and authors as well as an editor or four. :)
Anyway, one of the major changes I did was to toss out my first chapter and open with what was chapter two (after rewriting that several times!) I still have that first chapter as well as several other scenes I had to cut. I keep them in a deleted scene folder. I guess you could call me a horder of the written word. hah
Despite having to make so many changes, I'm very, very pleased with how the book turned out. Over the past year it's finaled in two "reader" contests and has been a top seller with my publisher. The reviews have been beyond amazing.
Now, if you're curious about that first chapter, well...here it is....unedited of course, so what's here either didn't make it in the book or did with some changes (like names and such).
FORGET ME NOT--DELETED SCENE
Twenty-five years on the job and it still pissed him off to find a crowd at a murder scene.
Special Agent John Simms flipped his collar against the cold spring air and kept his eye trained on the door of the building as he crossed the street. Although the sun barely winked in the sky, a crowd had already gathered around the brownstone apartment building. It didn’t seem to matter that the poor soul found murdered in her home lived two stories up or that the voyeurs were pressed back behind the yellow police tape, they still tried to stretch their necks like a child’s toy to get a glimpse of the activity inside the building and the mutilated corpse once it was wheeled to the coroner’s hearse.
He blamed the entertainment industry for the morbid curiosity. T.V. shows, blockbuster movies, even some of the novels on the New York Times bestseller list glamorized crime as if it were a game. Every psychopath in the country rose to the challenge to see who could better the other without getting voted off the island.
It made his job that much harder sometimes.
He flashed his identification to the young officer assigned to keep the onlookers and gathering reporters back and continued inside to the entryway of the building.
Though the neighborhood wasn’t located in one of the more upscale communities in the city, there was an antiquated charm to the narrow foyer. Streams of sunlight beamed like spotlights through several small pane-glass windows along the ceiling, casting a dull gleam on the scuffed cherry-wood floors.
Inside the open doors of a gated elevator car one of New York’s finest brushed powder along the buttons. Across the hall another officer spread ash over the handrail of the stairs. Tiny dust motes rose into the air, dancing around the tear-shaped glass dangling from the light fixture.
Since both officers chose to ignore him, he put on a pair of latex gloves and climbed the steps to the next floor. Lining the hallway like imperial guards was a handful of police officers. They sent him an assessing glance and he saw the flicker of disdain before they chose to ignore him like their fellow officers on the lower floor.
Agent Simms opened his wallet for the young officer dusting along the door jamb and peered into the apartment at the work the responding police officers were doing.
“Who’s in charge?” he asked.
The officer spared a glance at the gold FBI badge and continued to sweep the ashen powder on the aged wood.
“Lieutenant Goodrich,” he said, motioning toward an elderly man in a wrinkled suit. “He’s talking with the coroner right now.”
Agent Simms nodded his thanks and stepped into the room to wait for the paunchy detective to finish his conversation with the woman from the coroner’s office. Over the years he’d made a point not to show up at a crime scene before his partner. Darryl Hawthorne was what Simms called a ‘people person’ and it was his unofficial job to arrive first at the crime scene and smooth the ruffled feathers of whichever precinct was in charge of the investigation. It didn’t seem to matter that they were all on the same team. In all his years on the job, the responding homicide detectives didn’t like to share any part of their investigation with the FBI, nor did they like to get pushed out of the loop. However, since Agent Hawthorne was enjoying a morning in with his new wife, Simms decided to handle this case on his own.
He could be diplomatic when he needed to be.
He stepped farther into the room and studied the layout, placing it with the others in his head.
The area was small, stuffed with furniture which looked like it had been bought at a flea market. On the far wall stood a built-in book shelf lined with various paperbacks. The whole of the room appeared clean and in order, with the exception of the dusty mess the officers made. The faint smell of pine soap and bleach lingered in the air.
Agent Simms caught the irritated glare from Lieutenant Goodrich when the coroner step away. He squared his shoulders and returned the look. So, maybe diplomacy would have to take a backseat.
“Yeah? What can I do for you?” Lieutenant Goodrich. He dropped two antacids into his mouth from the roll he pulled out of his jacket.
“I’m Special Agent John Simms. I’d like to take a look at the body.” He tucked his ID in the lining of his jacket and took a step toward the bedroom. He stopped and arched his brow when the lieutenant raised his hand to block him.
“This is a simple rape and murder agent and my jurisdiction.”
“Rape and murder is never simple, Detective and since it came across my wire, I’m authorized to look into it,” he returned. He glanced at the hand inches from his chest, then back at the lieutenant. “The body, if you don’t mind.”
A sound much like a growl grated from the lieutenant’s throat before he turned and stepped into a small bedroom.
Simms clenched his teeth and gave himself a moment to prepare for the familiar stench of death. The disinfectants hadn't been strong enough to cover the smell.
Crumpled in the center of the bed lay the nude body of a woman. Her face was pressed into the baby blue sheets which were saturated and discolored with blood.
Simms continued to the side of the bed and carefully moved a strand of matted hair from what was left of the woman's face.
A string of curses ran through his head, but he kept the detachment in his voice when he spoke.
“What’s the story?”
“Don’t you know?” Lieutenant Goodrich said. To his credit he didn’t flinch at the heated glare Simms shot him. With a heavy sigh he shoved his hands in his jacket pockets and fingered the roll of antacids.
“We don’t have a positive ID just yet, the bastard did quite a number on her face. But the apartment belongs to a Catherine Flores,” he said. “She’s a school teacher in New Rochelle. This morning the landlord got a complaint about the smell. Since Ms. Flores had mentioned she would be out of town for a few days, he let himself in, found the body like this and called 911--but not before he lost his lunch in the bathroom.” He cleared his throat in a weak attempt to hide his smirk. “There was no forced entry so either she knew her attacker or he was waiting nearby for her. We’re already talking to the neighbors, but as usual no one saw anything.”
“Are you positive she was raped?” Agent Simms asked. He stepped away from the body, scanning the room and the work by the police forensics team. The police photographer hovered over the bed, snapping pictures from different angles. Simms made a mental note to get a copy of them for his files.
“There's evidence of vaginal tearing and a little blood, so it's likely she was,” a female voice answered behind him.
The coroner entered the room a step ahead of a burly man in a white jacket pushing a gurney. The name 'Karen Baden, M.D.' was embroidered above the left breast pocket of her lab coat.
She stepped to the side and nodded to her assistant to continue to the body.
“I didn't find any semen so he may have been wearing a condom,” she said.“Of course I'll know more after the autopsy, but my best guess would be the cause of death was the twenty or so stab wounds all over her body.”
“I’d like to know what you find as soon as possible,” Agent Simms said. Then, in an afterthought, added, “Please.”
“Well, as long as you said please,” the coroner said. She stepped around them to join her assistant next to the bed.
“This doesn’t appear to be one for your files, Agent Simms, since there’s no sign of a paperback with the body. Isn’t that why you’re here? You think this is one for your unsolved paperback murders?” Lieutenant Goodrich said.
Silence thickened the room. Several officers slowed their work to listen in on the conversation. Simms checked the urge to knock the smirk from the lieutenant’s voice.
“The fact that this homicide closely resembles the M.O. of the paperback case is why I’m here, Detective,” he said. “And why--if I deem it necessary--will take over this case.”
“It’s Lieutenant and until I find your evidence, this case belongs to me.” Goodrich glared at the police photographer who quickly turned to continue his pictures.
“Look Lieutenant, I’m really not interested in playing king of the mountain with you. We both have an interest in this case as well as a job to do. So you do yours and I’ll do mine. Then we’ll decide whose case this is.” See? He could be diplomatic.
The lieutenant scowled and stalked from the room. Simms turned back toward the bed as the coroner and her assistant prepared to wrap the body in a thin white sheet.
He wouldn't need to wait on the autopsy to know this would be his case before the day was over.
He’d been handed the Paperback Murder case three years earlier, after the body of Michelle Castillo, the daughter of a high-profile attorney in Chicago, had been found in an alley two blocks from her apartment. She’d been raped and mutilated, her body sprinkled with shredded strips of paper they later found to be parts of a book. The press quickly jumped on the story and dubbed it the Paperback Murder. Within a week he’d received calls from several major cities around the United States about an unsolved case with the same M.O.
He hadn’t been surprised when this call came in. He’d been expecting it.
Like the last twelve murders, their current victim was Hispanic, in her mid to late twenties, with a long slender body and dark brown to near black hair. She was an avid reader of romance, according to the assortment on her bookshelf, though there was no one particular author she collected.
Once they had a positive ID he would go about retracing the woman’s steps to find out if she had frequented a bar or club in the last forty-eight hours since all the victims before her had last been seen at one.
Simms blew out the tight breath he held and fisted his hands in his jacket pockets. So far the only link to the other murders that was missing was the shredded remains of a paperback novel.
“Your partner’s here,” Lieutenant Goodrich said, stepping back into the room. The scent of coffee filtered in from the cup the he’d taken from one of his officers. It reminded Simms that he still had a full cup cooling in his car.
“You have something for me?” Simms asked as Agent Hawthorne entered the room.
“We got a conclusive I.D. on the last book,” he said, holding out a thin file folder. “They’re written by a woman named Casey Martin. She writes crime fiction but more along the lines of, uh, romance. I think they call it erotica or something.” He cleared his throat, a hint of color in his face. “Forensics went back over the other books and so far three of them are matches. The one here in New York last summer, the one from Chicago three years ago and the first one in L.A.”
“Did you pass this to Whitney?” Simms asked.
“Yeah and he said we need to find Miss Martin before it’s too late,” Hawthorne said.
Simms took the file, clenching his teeth as he looked over the papers. “She probably doesn’t even realize what she started with these books.”
“Gentlemen?” the coroner’s voice spoke behind him. “I believe there’s something here for you, Agent Simms.” She stepped back and gestured toward the bed.
In the center of the mattress where the body had laid was a paperback book. A small pair of scissors had been pushed through the eyes in the photograph of the woman on the back cover. The front cover had been intricately sliced, the only remaining letters spelling out the words-- Time To Die.
“Looks like this one belongs to you after all, Agent,” Lieutenant Goodrich said, popping another antacid into his mouth.
Now, since you've made it to the end of my post, you're entered to win a copy of this book in either print or electronic format. Just leave me a message and tell me, what kind of horder are you? ;-)
And, don't forget to check out my previous blog post for a list of all the other wonderful Decadent Authors participating in the hop.