Another mission for you, should you choose to accept it:
Since I have no more critique submissions, today is your chance to critique something I’m working on. I am rewriting my book Beyond the Reflection’s Edge. The new title is Time Echoes. I am posting the opening scene. If you wish, you can compare it to the original here.
I will look forward to your comments. Also, feel free to ask questions about the changes I made, or you can post your guesses about why I made them.
Don’t forget the critiquing guidelines. All you have to do is post a comment about the submission below. Don’t feel like you have to critique the whole piece. Even a short comment on one aspect can be helpful.
This post will stay active indefinitely, so you can come back and add comments or questions at any time.
Time Echoes – by Bryan Davis
I sat on my bed tapping on my laptop computer while Clara peered out the window. She was being paranoid again. The Mustang driver who followed us to the motel had really spooked her. “Chill out, Clara. He can’t possibly guess where we are.”
“I suppose you’re right.” She closed the curtains, casting a blanket of darkness across the room. When she turned on a corner table lamp, its pale light seemed to deepen the wrinkles on her face and hands, though her dressy gown made her look younger than her sixty-something years. “How much more time do you need on that spreadsheet?”
“Just a couple of minutes.” I winked. “Dad’s slide rule must’ve been broken. It took almost an hour to balance his books.”
“No excuses, Nathan. I saw you playing one of those shooting games a little while ago.” Clara retuned to her window vigil, one hand clutching a curtain. “He looks like one of the henchmen for that Colombian drug lord your father took down last year.”
I pushed the laptop to the side, slid out of the bed, and looked over Clara’s shoulder. The Mustang sat parked under a tree, the driver watching the motel’s front door. An intermittent shower of leaves, blown around by Chicago’s never-ending breezes, danced about on the convertible’s ragtop. “He’s not Colombian, Clara. He’s Middle Eastern.”
“Is that supposed to settle my nerves?” A pallor passed across her face, hiding her usual confident expression. “My intuition says we should leave.”
I shrugged. “Okay. I’ll pack up.”
“Make sure your father’s mirror is protected.”
“I’ll double wrap it.” I walked over both beds and bounced to the floor in front of a shallow closet. From the top of my open suitcase, I picked up the square, six-by-six-inch mirror, bordered by an ornate silver frame. Dad had called it a “Quattro” viewer when talking about his latest assignment, retrieving stolen data for a company that used reflective technology. I was supposed to keep it safe while he was gone.
I gazed at my reflection, the familiar portrait I expected, but something bright pulsed in my eyes, like the split-second flash of a camera. A second later, Clara’s face appeared just above my dark cowlick.
I spun toward her. Strange. She was still near the window. When I turned back to the mirror, her image was gone.
As she walked up behind me, her face reappeared in the glass. I glanced back and forth between the mirror and Clara. The inconsistent images were just too weird.
The opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth chimed from my computer—an email alert. After wrapping the mirror in two shirts, I leaped back to my bed and pulled up the message, a note from Dad.
We enjoyed our anniversary vacation. I hope you and Clara had fun sightseeing. Your mother is rehearsing with Nikolai. After her first piece, she’ll call you to the stage to play your duet for the shareholders. Nikolai repaired your violin. He says it’s as good as new and ready to sizzle. Since it’s the Vivaldi piece, you shouldn’t have any problem, even with no practice the last three days. Just don’t mention your performance to Dr. Simon. Trust me. It will all work out.
Clara flung a wadded pair of black socks. They bounced off my chin and landed next to my motorcycle helmet on the night table. “Put your tux on. I’ll finish packing.”
I trudged back to my suitcase and set the laptop inside. “We’ll look amazing riding the Harleys through town, you in that fancy dress and me in a tux.”
“Not through town. Just to our storage unit where we can park the bikes. Mike’s picking us up there in the limo. No sense arriving at the concert looking like windblown scarecrows.”
“Good enough. We’ll get Mike to take a picture of us.” I walked into the bathroom where my tux hung on the shower rod. After dressing in a rush, I reentered the main room while fastening the bowtie. Attending too many formal dinners had given me plenty of practice with a bowtie. I could handle one without a mirror.
Two small suitcases and my backpack sat next the door. Clara stood at the window, peering around the curtain yet again. “He saw me, Nathan. He’s getting out.”
“Here we go again.” I threw the backpack on and grabbed our suitcases. “We’ll take the hallway exit”
She slid my helmet over my head and put hers on. “Let’s go.”
We rushed out of the room and jogged toward the door at the end of the corridor. I looked back. The Mustang driver appeared from around a corner, a gun in hand.
He fired. A bullet zipped past and clanked into the metal door.
I shoved it open, pulled Clara through, and slammed it, shouting, “Run!”
While she took off in a trot, I set the suitcases down and waited a step or two in front of the door. Seconds later, it eased open a few inches. The moment the gun and a forearm appeared in the gap, I slammed the door. The arm crunched, the man yelped, and the gun dropped to the ground.
I threw the door open. The man stood in the hall, grasping his arm, his face twisting in pain. I lunged and crashed my helmet against his nose. In a spray of blood, he toppled and collapsed.
After pocketing the gun and grabbing the suitcases, I ran to the motel’s front parking lot. Clara had already straddled and started her Harley, her dress hem pulled up to her thighs.
While she revved the engine, I strapped the suitcases to the backs of the bikes and jumped onto my Harley. I kick started the engine, swung the bike around, and scooted out of the lot, Clara close behind.
Once on the road, she accelerated to my side and shouted, “What happened?”
“I gave him a nose job. Tell you more later.” Now sweating in the warm tux, I glanced back. No sign of the Mustang. Whoever that guy was, he meant business. He wanted us dead.
Inhaling deeply, I focused ahead. My hands trembled, the same hands that would soon have to flawlessly manipulate a bow and strings. Playing next to Mom was nerve-racking enough, but now with a murderer on my tail, I had to watch my back or my next performance might be my last.
Categories: Critique Group