Monday, April 25, 2011

THE MAN BEHIND THE DESK -- TWO VERSIONS

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate being one of the two Mondays? It’s intimidating to come up with the first post of a new week’s question. Makes me feel like I’m standing up at the front of the room, giving an oral book report. Without notes. The last time I had to do that, I forgot the name of the protagonist. Ack!

Anyway, today I’ve got to come up with two versions of the same scene, one a mystery, the other a thriller. Here goes nothing.

Mystery:

I hadn’t known my great-uncle Salvatore Ciccotelli. Mom wanted nothing to do with Dad’s side of the family -- one of
those families -- and refused to marry him until he agreed to move as far away from New Jersey as possible and leave no forwarding address. So you can imagine my surprise when I received a letter stating that I was named as a beneficiary in Uncle Sal’s will. The letter made no mention of what Uncle Sal had left me, only that to collect my inheritance, I had to do so in person at the Newark office of mob attorney Anthony Molino. An airline ticket accompanied the letter.

Which is why I currently sat opposite an ultra-slick looking, silver-haired guy who wore a custom made silk suit that probably cost more than I make in a month as a kindergarten teacher. A massive rosewood desk separated us. Aside from a phone and a copy of Uncle Sal’s will, the only other object on the desk was my inheritance.

I stared in disbelief at the hunk of metal. “He left me a gun?”

Molino leaned forward and steepled his fingers under his chin. The corners of his mouth twitched upward. He was enjoying this farce too much. “Not just a gun, a very specific gun.”

“What’s so special about it?”

“This is the gun that killed your father.”

“You’ve got the wrong girl. My father is very much alive. He drove me to the airport this morning.”

“No,” he said. “Your real father died before you were born.”

Thriller:

The cryptic message I received this morning read, “If you want to find out what’s really going on at Merck, be at 100 Broad Street, room 1803, 4pm.”

Damn right, I wanted to know what was going on. Too many people were dying, and the one thing they all had in common was their connection to the giant pharmaceutical company. It had taken quite a bit of sleuthing on my part to uncover that fact. Not all of the victims had worked at Merck, not all had been ill, not all had been taking Merck manufactured medications. Yet all had some Merck connection and all had been murdered. Except both the police and the D.A. had chalked the deaths up to accidents and suicides. They brushed aside my Merck theory as pure coincidence.

I don’t believe in coincidence.

Except someone must have believed me. Hence, the note and the reason that at precisely 4pm I stood outside the door of room 1803. No signage indicated the type of business behind the door. I turned the knob and stepped inside.

A desk filled one far corner of the large room. Aside from that, the room appeared bare. No carpet, no file cabinets, no wall art. Not even any seating other than the desk chair. At first I didn’t realize anyone sat in that chair. The sun streamed in from the windows behind the desk, keeping me from seeing anything more than the silhouetted shapes of the desk and the chair behind it. But the chair had a rounded shape above it that I assumed was the head of whomever sat behind the desk. I cleared my throat to get his attention. Nothing.

I approached the desk, shading my eyes from the blinding sun, but stopped when I was close enough to recognize the single item sitting on the desk. A .357 Magnum. I pulled my gaze from the gun to the person behind the desk, a well-dressed elderly gentleman. A man who wouldn’t be divulging any secrets, thanks to the bullet hole between his eyes.

Lois Winston writes the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries for Midnight Ink. Read more at her website and Anastasia's blog.

9 comments:

Meredith Cole said...

Happy Monday, Lois! Great job. Now you've got me intimidated... I have to write something by Friday (and follow in all you talented authors footsteps!). On the plus side, I can send a link to this week of posts every time I teach genre differences in a mystery class.

Camille Minichino said...

This is such a great idea! I'm going to use it this morning as a warm-up exercise for my writing students.

Lois Winston said...

Thanks, Meredith and Camille! It was an interesting exercise because I don't write thrillers. Had to step outside my comfort zone and try to think like a thriller writer.

Kelli Stanley said...

Fabulous job, Lois!! Now, of course, I want you to finish the stories ... :)

Fran Stewart said...

What fun! You certainly got my attention on both of them. Can we assume a new character for a new mystery (and a new thriller) is in the offing?

Camille Minichino said...

Reporting on this morning's exercise (stolen from you):
one student wrote a scene where the gun is actually a cigarette lighter; for another it was part of a Russian roulette "game."

Thanks!

Lois Winston said...

Kelli, in my spare time ;-)

Fran, see my comment to Kelli.

Camille, interesting choices your students made. I hope they enjoyed the exercise.

Cris Anson said...

Lois, I really want to read more of both of those stories! You have a fertile mind :-)

jenny milchman said...

It's funny what a fizzy ground lies between the two, mysteries and thrillers. I tend to think that the difference isn't so much one has a puzzle/one has a ticking clock as that authors naturally write in a mystery-esque or a thriller-y way. It's nice to see your takes on it, Lois--I'm so glad you did this!