Content warning. This story is designed for adults and mature teens. It involves sex trafficking and mentions rape, drugs, and nudity. There is no “on-screen” sex, but the aftermath of rape is on-screen, including the presence of nude, partially nude, and/or drugged girls as they are rescued by the hero. There is also violence, including bloody killings, as well as rough language.
Earlier in the story, readers got a hint of Mike’s home life through his attempted telephone call. In this new excerpt, readers get to see what happens at the other end of the call. I switched to a new point of view, that of Deborah, Mike’s wife. I decided to write her point of view in third person, because she is not my main character. Still, readers see this scene through her perspective. I wrote it as I have written Mike’s POV, except I used her name (instead of “I”) and third-person pronouns for her instead of first-person pronouns. Note that she refers to herself as “Deborah,” instead of “Deb” as Mike calls her.
Since readers saw the phone call from Mike’s POV and the same call from Deborah’s POV, we have what I call an “anchor point” between two scenes, that is, an event that occurs in both scenes and connects them in time. This tells readers that the two scenes overlap somewhat, thereby providing a time line of sorts.
If not for the fact that Deborah will become an important character later in the story, I wouldn’t have to include such a scene, but since her role will increase, I needed to introduce her early so readers can get to know her and see her growth as a person.
Please let me know what you think.
A towel around her neck, Deborah raised a set of keys toward her apartment door, but the ring slipped from her sweat-slickened fingers. Stooping, she snatched it from the terrazzo floor, and, as she rose, she glanced over the railing at the pool where afternoon sunlight glistened off oiled skin on bronzed bodies.
She whipped the towel off and dried her hands, still watching as a bikini-clad swimmer climbed from the water and kissed a chiseled young man standing at the pool’s edge. With dark hair, athletic build, and strong chin, he raised images of a younger Mike, though this man lacked Mike’s deeply set eyes and thick eyebrows.
As the girl toweled off, Deborah imagined a dive into the cool water. A swim would feel really good about now, , but since Paula and Tommy were scheduled to come back from the library soon, that pleasure would have to wait. With Tommy’s unpredictable behavior, visits to the library could never last more than a half hour. Such was life with an autistic son. Unpredictable had to be predicted.
Deborah wiped her face and threw the towel back to her neck. Jogging in this weather was for camels and roadrunners, not for normal humans who were trying to get back into shape. January was turning out to be one of the warmest ever, even by Fort Lauderdale standards.
She unlocked the deadbolt and doorknob and walked in. Tommy and Paula sat cross-legged on the carpet playing with Legos, both engrossed in building a castle.
Deborah set a hand on her hip. “Didn’t you two go to the library.”
“Mom!” Tommy hopped up and gave her a two-armed hug, then stepped away, sporting a wide grin. “You’re back!”
She ran her fingers through his hair. “Of course I’m back. I never fail, right?”
“Right.” He grabbed her bicep. “Make a muscle.”
She raised her arm and flexed. As he followed his routine of squeezing the bicep and letting out a whistle, Deborah cocked her head. “Tommy, it’s running day. Remember? Weights are tomorrow.”
“Oh, yeah!” He grabbed Deborah’s thigh just above the knee and squeezed. “So strong!”
Paula rose from the floor and whispered to Tommy, “Aren’t you going to tell her about the surprise?”
“Oh! Yeah!” He scurried to a colorful box near a wall and brought it back. “New Legos!” His eyes seemed to dance. “From Dad!”
Deborah peered at the floor. The piles of pieces did seem bigger than usual. She mustered a happy tone. “That’s great, Tommy!”
“Look what I made!” Tommy plopped to the floor and began describing his new creation, something about a cross between a castle tower and a rocket ship. The words blurred as he rattled on.
Paula sidled up to Deborah. “And there’s more.” She gestured toward the table in the kitchen where at least two dozen gorgeous roses erupted like fiery lava from a green vase.
“From Mike, I suppose,” Deborah said, trying not to sound too exasperated.
Paula nodded. “Arrived just after you left.”
“When will he learn?” Deborah took a hard step toward the kitchen, but Paula caught her arm.
“Don’t trash them. They’d look great on my table.”
“Take them, then.” Deborah crossed her arms and glared at the Legos. “It’s bad enough that he sends me flowers, but now toys for Tommy. Probably less than an hour till he connects the dots and hits the Dad-panic button.”
“Maybe not. He’s pretty juiced. And I used them as an incentive. When they showed up, I knew the library wasn’t happening, so I said no Legos until you finish your math. Worked like a charm.” Paula strode to the kitchen and picked up the vase. As she walked back, she gave a blossom a long sniff. “Your loss is my gain.”
“Speaking of gain …” Deborah glanced around for her purse. “I need to pay you.”
“Already done. I paid myself from the cash box, so we’re good till next week.”
Deborah winked. “Good thing I trust you, you little pilferer.”
As Paula reached for the door, she looked back with a cocky smile. “I figured you could afford it. You got a bunch of orders for the locator app. It’s really taking off.”
“Well, that’s good news.” Deborah touched Paula’s shoulder. “Hey, can you stay for a little longer? I was hoping to go for a—”
The wall phone chimed from the kitchen. Tommy jumped up, walked stiff legged to the phone, and stared at the caller ID screen. “Blocked,” he whispered as it rang again. “Maybe it’s Dad.”
“Or a spam call. Just let voice mail pick it up.”
Tommy kept staring through the fourth ring. Then Mike’s voice followed.
“Deb, it’s Mike. Let’s see … it’s afternoon there, so I guess you might be with your running group. Or is it weight training day?”
Tommy bounced in place. “It is Dad!”
“Anyway, I was wondering about Tommy’s birthday. It’s a big one. You know, the adulthood thing, so I thought maybe I could come home for that.”
Deborah rolled her eyes. “Here we go again!”
Tommy dashed to his bedroom and slammed the door.
“Look,” Mike continued, “I remember the agreement, but I don’t want to miss his special day. When I have to leave again, he’ll get over it, but he might never get over me missing his birthday again.”
Paula opened the door. “I’d better go. If you want me to come for more hours, I can. Winter break, you know.”
“I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks.”
“See ya!” With the vase still in hand, Paula left and closed the door.
Deborah stalked to the phone and glared at it as Mike’s tone took on a syrupy flavor. “Well, I love you, and tell Tommy I love him. Good-bye.”
“Don’t hang up!” Deborah grabbed the receiver. “Mike? Are you still there?” A dial tone hummed in her ear. She slammed the phone to its cradle. No way to call him back on his super-secret phone line.
She padded to Tommy’s room and listened. No sounds came through. “Tommy?” She tapped on the door. “Everything okay?”
“I’m busy!” came the gruff reply.
She touched the knob, then pulled her hand back. “Well … all right. Let me know if you need me.”
Keyboard clicks sounded but nothing more.
Her fists tight, Deborah marched back to the kitchen, found her purse on the counter, and dug out her mobile phone. After unlocking it, she brought up the contact list and scrolled to “Mike—Emergency only.”
Her finger trembling, she pressed the call icon, and held the phone to her ear. She tapped her foot as she crossed an arm over her waist and propped her phone arm. A trill sounded three times, then a voice.
“Deb? Is that you?”
“Yeah … uh …” Her ears flashed hot. Why would an unfamiliar Bronx-flavored voice answer with her name? “Who is this?”
“Deb, is this an emergency? Just tell me, and I’ll call for help.”
“Only my husband calls me Deb,” she snapped. “Who are you?”
“Calm down, now. Just calm down.” His voice took on a soothing tone. “Mike gave you this number in case you need help, and I’m that help. I called you Deb, because that’s what I’ve always heard him call you. Now tell me what your emergency is. A break-in? An accident?”
Deborah took a deep breath and forced her muscles to relax. “I am perfectly calm. Just tell me who you are, and we’ll get along fine. Are you the Mahoney person some of the girls’ parents have mentioned?”
“Sorry. I can’t tell you who I am. Mike’s orders.”
Deborah firmed her lips. Score. If he wasn’t Mahoney, he would have just said no. “Mike’s orders? Why is he giving you orders?”
A sigh breathed through the speaker. “Deb, do you have an emergency? What do you need? I’ll make sure you get it.”
She kept her voice calm and even. “What do I need? I’ll tell you what I need. I need my husband to come home and stay home.” She pressed the End button and dropped the phone back to her purse.
She inhaled deeply and let the air out in a slow stream. For some reason, that “emergency” call felt good. The message would surely get back to Mike. Maybe coming from someone else for a change, the emergency would finally penetrate his brain. A troubled son and a lonely wife needed him home … for good.
Categories: Story Development