Have you ever wondered what eggs taste like with ground ginger sprinkled on top? No? Me neither. Unfortunately, I found out when I mistook the ground ginger for ground garlic. In my defense, they are, almost, the same color. And I hadn’t had my coffee yet. Garlic, in case you didn’t know, is good on eggs. Ginger, not so much.
Today is to be my first full writing day of the year. My plan to get up early, get focused, and be more productive is off to a slow start. I woke up at nine am. A reminder that if I don’t set an alarm, the early thing won’t happen. After the egg fiasco, I read the Oregonian. Starting the day with news is never a good idea. Reality tends to put a distressing spin on the day. The irony of being depressed by the real world, while writing about a man who is plotting to murder half his family, is not lost on me. (He’s the bad guy so he has to be, well, BAD.)
So, I thought it would be fun to share the first scene with my antagonist (Evil bad guy.) And ask what you all think. I’d also like to propose that we west coasters adopt the phrase you’all, because it’s useful, and sounds cool. I’m not sure how to spell it though.
Chapter One of Convincing Accidents
The flip-phone no longer functioned, but it still flipped. The boy flipped it open and closed, Open and closed. Hour after hour. The clicking sound was enough to drive a sane person to madness—and Stuart Harden considered himself to be about as sane as it gets.
The boy’s constant keening was even worse than the clicking. He was agitated. Of course, he was. Strange place, too many people around. He shouldn’t here.
It was Stuart’s wife’s idea to spend the weekend in Seattle. They’d visited her grandparents at the assisted living facility the day before, and now they were at Ballard Locks, doing the tourist thing, but no one was listening to the tour guide talk about migrating fish and their mating habits—not even Raquel. She was too busy yapping.
Stuart found the sound of his wife’s voice almost as grating as their son’s keening. Everywhere they went, Raquel found a new best friend. This time it was a mother with too many children. There were five of them, the youngest balanced on her hip, gnawing on a cheese stick. The oldest, a young teenage girl, wore tight white shorts and kept peeking over her shoulder at Stuart’s older son, who was pretending to look at his phone while staring intently at the girl’s cute little butt. He had to give Jesse credit for trying to be discreet, even if he was failing at it. At least one of his sons was normal.
The woman’s other three kids were running about, unsupervised, bumping into people. No concept of boundaries. The one who looked about five, held a cheese stick in one hand and a toy airplane in the other, making engine noises as he weaved in and out of the crowd in a pattern, once nearly knocking Stu’s coffee out of his hand, and getting far too close to the edge of the platform. There was only a single bar, waist height to an adult, to prevent a child from falling into the water. Straight down, no embankment, nothing to grab onto. Stuart imagined the boy falling; the panic that would ensue, the ignorant mother’s screams. Rescue would be a challenge. He could do it. He’d jumped from higher places for the fun of it. For a moment, he imagined saving the stupid woman’s kid, how thankful she’d be. He doubted she’d learn anything from it. Her kids would still be running loose, causing mayhem.
When the little boy came around again, Stuart moved backward so that he was between the boy and the edge, preventing him from getting too close, falling. The little boy came to a stop. He stared, but not at Stuart. He stood there, staring at the freak, watching him flip the phone.
“What’s wrong with him?”
Stuart knelt down to the little boy’s level. “He ate too many cheese sticks and it turned him crazy.”
The little boy stared at the cheese stick clutched in his fist, eyes widening. In his hurry to get away he bumped into the older boy’s knees. Stuart’s younger son hated being touched. Agitated, he backed up, but there was nowhere to go. He sat down on the ledge, holding the phone to his ear, using both hands to flip it open and closed, oblivious to the danger right behind him. Raquel was equally oblivious, still talking to the other woman— in a loud whisper as if that made it any less rude. As usual, she’d left it to him, to watch the boy. She had no idea how easily her precious freak could fall into the water. A little bump was all it would take. It would serve her right.
Stuart’s phone vibrated with an incoming text. He took it out of his pants pocket, read the message. A convincing accident, maybe?
He smiled. It was from his girlfriend, intended as a joke. Their elaborate fantasy about running away together had morphed into a plot to do away with anyone who stood between them.
His wife let out one of her loud, honking, head-turning laughs. God, how he hated that sound. It embarrassed him every time. If he never heard it again, he’d be happy.
A convincing accident.
Out of context, it didn’t read like a joke. Innocent people didn’t kid around about killing their families. Of course, neither of them were truly innocent. He was fairly certain that only one of them was joking.
He put the phone in his pants pocket. Everything of importance, contacts and such, were backed up to his I-pad. The phone wouldn’t be a big loss. He’d been looking for an excuse to upgrade anyway. If his newly formed plan should fail, he didn’t want Raquel finding their text messages. It would look bad.
The little boy was back to weaving around the adults, following the same pattern each time. Stuart positioned himself in front of his younger son, right in the little boy’s path, and held his coffee cup at waist level, waiting, already imagining the outcome.
It would be a valiant rescue attempt. He’d come out of it looking like a hero, despite his failure. The freak would die. Overcome with grief, Raquel would kill herself. An overdose would be easy enough to fake. This way, there would be no messy, expensive, divorce to worry about—no giving Raquel half of everything. She didn’t deserve a share in their recent windfall; didn’t even know about it yet. Stuart would use some of the money for Jesse’s college—the boy had earned it—and use the rest to buy a bigger house, one with enough room for Corinne’s kids, and a barn for her horse. It would be added incentive to convince her to leave her husband.
The poor bastard had no idea what was coming his way. It would be such sweet revenge.