Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Excerpt Tuesday - Murder Most Trivial

So today I'm going to shake things up at a bit and excerpt one of my mysteries. I had written Murder Most Trivial many years ago and tried like hell to get an agent or traditional house for it. Letter after letter came back, letting me know that I had great characters, great dialogue, and great pacing...and they all passed. Maybe if I had made them all sparkling vampires I'd have gotten a foot in the door. Will have to remember that for the sequel.

One day I may write - I did outline at least two more books for Jason Greevey, the teenage sleuth. The second one would have him come into a new mystery many years older and wiser...and still in a heap of trouble.

Anyway, Trivial had come out in a previous incarnation before I decided to give it new life via DLP Books. So if you like cozy mystery, here's a cheap diversion for you. Only 99 cents in eBook.

~*~

Mitch and Jason arrived at Book Bonanza together, but Mitch was already clocked in and stocking shelves as Jason struggled with his locker combination. After three mistries, the small metal door finally squeaked open to reveal a photo of St. Therese of Lisieux smiling benignly over a bouquet of red roses. In silver ink somebody had scrawled a message over the top of her Carmelite habit: To Jason, keep on rockin'! Love T--
"Cute," he muttered, stuffing in his belongings and slamming the locker shut. As an afterthought he reopened the door and removed the magazine he toted around in his backpack and slid it inside his history textbook, away from other curious eyes and hands that knew his locker combination.

"Marcia did it yesterday, during study hall. I put it up last night before you came back to clock out," Mitch confessed when Jason joined him on the sales floor. "She thought you'd get a kick out of it. Everybody else in class did, even the ones who didn't know who St. Therese was," he added with a grin.

Jason palmed three thick Robert Heinlein titles and forced them into a cramped shelf in the science fiction section. "Anyone else get a kick out it?" he asked. "Like maybe the rest of the senior class?"

"Dunno. She was still manning the Xerox machine at the library when I saw her last." Mitch grasped hold of the now empty library truck and wheeled it back to storage, laughing all the way. Jason moved to follow when a cashier paged him over the speaker system.

Jason passed much of his four-hour shift escorting customers from the service desk directly to the books wanted or needed, at times racking his brain to decipher partial descriptions of books and their covers. Feeling frazzled after serving one particularly difficult customer, Jason sighed with relief when Mitch appeared at his side with a library truck brimming with more paperbacks to shelve. "Breathe," he instructed Jason.

Jason did as told, and Mitch chuckled. He flipped through a Carl Hiaasen paperback; a cloud of book dust floated in their faces. "Dude," he said, "you've got to learn how to hide from those kind of customers. Let Joycelyn handle them."

"Is that your policy for getting out of shelving, too?" Jason snatched the novel from his friend's hands and placed it with its twin on the shelf. At least ten more unpacked cartons of books awaited them in the back. Greta, the assistant store manager, wanted everything on the floor by shift's end to prepare for the usual weekend crush.

Splitting the books between them, they worked apart for the remainder of the business day, reuniting only after Greta shooed a few straggling browsers out the door and locking it behind her. "Oh, I'm glad that's over," she exhaled, her voice still lively despite the fact that she appeared dead on her feet. All three employees gathered around her, and Greta singled Jason out with a particularly tense smile. "Okay, Joycelyn and I will count down the drawer. Mitch, take the vacuum and Jason, take the restroom. When you're both done, get the Grisham display out and set it in the corner."

She pointed to an empty table by the store's large picture window, a space reserved for a mountainous display of hardcover legal thrillers. "Don't wait for one another, either, get started a-sap," she ordered, halfway to the office with little Joycelyn scurrying behind her. "Make it look nice, too."

Jason, weary and anxious to clock out and get something to eat, sped through his task. He swabbed the porcelain and swept the tile to his satisfaction; it looked like a restroom he would use, and that was good enough. Mitch had already begun to arrange copies of John Grisham's latest novel on the table when he returned to the sales floor. Mitch flipped through one copy and placed it carefully atop three others arranged in a triangle pattern.

"She wants something nice, Mitch," Jason joked. "Don't get too carried away. Greta's not giving out points for originality."

Mitch stood several books close together and gently pushed the stack backwards in a domino effect. "I think I'll write a novel. I could live with making crudloads of money and having a cutout photo of myself smiling in every bookstore across the country."

"Not everybody makes Grisham bucks, now. Grisham didn't even make Grisham bucks in the beginning. You'd be lucky to do as well as John Kennedy Toole."

"Yeah, but his books didn't get published until after he died."

"Exactly."

Mitch threatened to nail Jason on the head with a book and Jason ducked behind a life-size cutout of its author. A shy tap on the glass storefront window startled them both.

"Hey," exclaimed Mitch as Caitlin Stevens and Mimi Washburn waved from the other side. "Are we being stalked?"

Jason waved back at the young ladies; Mimi whispered something in Caitlin's ear and the two giggled audibly.

"Jase, you think Mimi would go with me to the prom if I asked her?"

"You don't have a date?" Jason unpacked a box.

"Nope. You?"

Jason froze. All correspondence pertaining to the big event -- the flyers, memos about the photograph fee, order forms for the commemorative champagne flutes and t-shirts bearing the theme A Date with Destiny -- had all been stuffed into a binder at the bottom of his school locker. Out of sight, out of mind, he figured, but people kept bringing the subject to the surface and pestering him for details.

As far as destiny was concerned, Jason was doubtful any women would ever be a part of his, if his feelings could be trusted. That he was not planning to let his father and friends in on his thoughts right now was the only certainty; he did not mind so much being the butt of a joke as a trivia contestant, but this...

"Hey!"

Jason snapped his head around to the picture window to see Caitlin pressed against the glass so that her otherwise pretty face looked like a horror movie prop. Mitch rounded the display and met her face with his own, prompting Caitlin to shriek back with laughter. Nobody saw Greta and Joycelyn emerge from the office.

"Nice, Mitch," Greta drawled. "I don't think we'll be attracting many customers tomorrow with an imprint of your mug on the window."

"But it's my good side," Mitch protested.

Greta said nothing, pointing instead to the front counter. Underneath the register was a storage shelf with a roll of paper towels and a squeeze bottle of window cleaner, which Mitch used hastily to erase his smudge spot. After Greta was satisfied not to see any streaking, she let the boys change into their jeans in the restroom and released them for the evening.

"So, what're you guys doing tonight?" Caitlin shifted her weight from foot to foot, swinging her thin-strapped purse. She cast an anxious glance at Jason.

Mitch unbuttoned his work shirt, revealing a bright swatch of white t-shirt as his hand traveled down his chest and abdomen. "We're getting some pizza at Fellini's with Gooch," he said. "Then back here for the 9:30 movie. What about you?"

"We're going to Rocky Horror tonight." Mimi crooked her head toward the Naro theater across the street. The old-fashioned marquee of the theater was alive with orange and white lightbulbs blinking in rapid succession, underneath which a small line of patrons was queuing up to purchase tickets for the seven o'clock showing of The Pink Panther.

"That's not for four hours," Jason said. "You two are gonna sit out here that long?"

"Well," Caitlin replied, still looking intently at him, "if a couple of guys asked to go to Fellini's for pizza, we suppose we might accept. To kill time, naturally."

"It's going to take a lot of pizza to kill four hours," Jason joked. Caitlin winked. "I'm hungry."

"Well, you ladies are welcome to come along." Mitch slung his duffel bag over his shoulder. "We're just waiting on Gooch. He should be here in five."

"Please," Caitlin scoffed. "Knowing Gooch, he's planning some grand entrance like a one-man motorcade down the street." She started back to her car, Mimi in tow. "We'll meet you there," she called over her shoulder.

"See you there," Jason called blandly after them.

Gooch's car eased around the corner from Shirley Avenue and paused alongside them. "Let's go!" he hollered from his open window. "Pizza!" Mitch locked up his car and the two piled in the back of Gooch's. It was easier to leave Mitch's Toyota where it was, as parking was a premium on Colley Avenue on Friday night.

They found Caitlin and Mimi seated near the bar, crowned by a cloud of smoke. Mimi's cigarette smoldered in an ashtray in the center of their table. Gooch, to Jason's relief, bounded straight over and stubbed the offending stick into ash.

"Hey!" Mimi nearly spat out a mouthful of water. "I wasn't done with that."

"Yes you were." Gooch eyed her sternly. "Pollute your lungs all you want, not in my space."

"Well, you didn't have to sit here," Mimi huffed, folding her arms.

"You didn't have to join us for dinner," Mitch jumped in, and Jason wondered if his friend was no longer entertaining thoughts of asking Mimi to prom.

Mitch drummed his fingers on the table, inching them closer to the open soft pack by Mimi's wrist; Mimi snatched it away before he could do the same.

"Look, I just wanted one lousy cigarette," she insisted. "It's not against the law." She looked Caitlin for support, but her friend was pretending to study the menu, holding it up to conceal her face.

"Hey, I prefer any pizza without the rich smoky aroma, thank you very much," Gooch said, "and I'm sure everyone else here agrees with me, right?"

"Right," Mitch nodded to the waitress, who approached with five glasses of water for the table.

"Jason?" Gooch prodded.

But Jason's attention was fixed upon the bar television, which flashed a late news tease with a photo of Bart Scarsdale, followed by a clip of a body covered in a dark tarp being wheeled into an ambulance.

Copyright 2002-11 LK Ellwood

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