16 Reasons to read your work aloud

For any writers out there, this post gives such good advice about reading your work out loud, I thought I’d share it.

Story Empire

All images Pixabay

Most writers have learned the importance of reading their words aloud. It’s advice I heeded early on and am happy to pass along.

Writing works on myriad levels. On one level, it’s the mechanical delivery of a story, the typing of words according to rules. It’s fingers on keyboards, reams of paper, and editing drafts. Beneath the surface, writing is meaning-making through narrative, tapping out universal themes and archetypes that existed before man first etched his carvings into cave walls.

As an art form, writing has the ability to transport a reader into another world. We paint with words on the mind’s canvas, compose the music of language, stirsmells, tastes, and tactile impressions. The goal is emotionalimmersion, being present in the experience.

I have anirksome sensitivity to the sounds of words and the rhythm of phrases and sentences. When I search for the right word, it’s not…

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Starting Out

A new writer has started to come to Scribes, our writing group. She’s read a few chapters from her book to us, and she’s a solid writer. I like her story. But so many talented people have come and gone that it’s a little discouraging. So much about writing is NOT about being “good.” It’s about writing what editors are looking for now. And I don’t know her market at all. Middle Grade isn’t my thing. It was once, when I taught, when the girls were younger, and then when my grandsons were that age. But I’m past all of that. And I don’t know what’s selling now.

There are talented writers in our group, but they’re so innocent. All they care about is writing the best book they can write. Which is awesome. It means I get to hear one wonderful chapter after another. But will readers ever get to see their work? I don’t know. Marketing is as much a part of success as producing a quality product. You get knocked around a lot until you’re lucky enough to find some success. And then success is hard to hold onto. I’ve been trying to crack marketing for a long time, and I’m still not especially brilliant at it.

The last three people who’ve joined Scribes are all excited about writing but don’t have a clue about marketing…or even formatting. I finally wrote out instructions for how I format my drafts for Amazon . And I wrote out sheets about how to promote yourself as a writer., since they don’t have a webpage, blog, or an account on twitter. Nothing. And they’re trying. They really are, but they’re really BAD at it. And they have to get better. I sent them links to how Mae Clair is trying to find an agent. https://storyempirecom.wordpress.com/2022/04/27/literary-agent-resources-agentqueries-queryingforrepresentation/ But they’re so new to publishing, I’m not sure how well they’ll use all the information.

Still, they have a head’s up on me. When I started writing, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know anything. I drove to Chicago with a friend to attend a writers’ conference, DARK AND STORMY, and the writers there were SO generous. They read my first chapter and loved it. They offered support. And I was too new to writing to understand what a special treat that was. It took me YEARS to finally start selling my work. And they could have helped me. But I didn’t get it. I still think of Barbara D’Amato, Joe Hensley, and the Chicago group with fond memories. Mary Francis Shura Craig invited me back to her house for a spaghetti supper after my first conference. I was astounded but couldn’t go. I’d told my husband I’d be home that night, and it was a three hour drive from Chicago. They were lightyears ahead of me. Maybe not on writing, (probably that, too), but on knowledge. And that matters! I didn’t understand back then that writing is almost as much about marketing yourself as the words you put on paper.

Our new members don’t think about the business side of writing at all. And I’m trying my best to fill in the gaps, but I know the Chicago writers were doing their best for me, and I just didn’t understand. I hope the new guys in Scribes are faster learners than I was. Because they’re good. And I hope they get published. But good writing, alone, isn’t enough to have a successful career.

Rebirth

My flower bed started out absolutely gorgeous this year. Tons of daffodils. Some tulips and snowdrops and blue pushinkas. A few hyacinths. I had to make myself stop looking out the back kitchen window to gaze at it. It’s still beautiful. The tulips came up, along with blooming “money” plants, and now purple allium. Spring is a wonderful time of year.

I had a sag in energy for a minute, but now I’m back up to par, and I’m ready to write! I don’t know about other writers. I try to write every weekday, but this year had mixed results. Too much going on in the old house to concentrate like I usually do. But things have settled. My daughter has a new job as a traveling nurse, but it’s not in our city, so we won’t be able to see her when she works. Good and bad. I love seeing her. I don’t get nearly as much writing done when she’s here.

But I’m up to 30,000 words now, and the scenes are starting to roll into each other. I always start a book trying to lay out the gridwork, so that one scene rolls into the next. Now, it’s almost automatic. It’s starting to flow. I don’t have to work at it. That always feels good. Until, of course, I hit somewhere in the middle muddle, and then I curse why I ever decided to write. And then the middle passes, and I’m thrilled with the story again. Sigh. I’ve decided it’s just part of my writing rhythm. I’m not sure it will ever change.

At the moment, though, I’m a happy hitter of keys. My plot points are working and adding surprises I didn’t see coming. Everything’s on track, except for my usual worries. Is the pacing right? Does the balance work? I can never tell. That’s why I need my critique partners. If one of them writes “What is this in here for?,” I know I need to fiddle with my story more. But I have a while before I show it to them, so right now, at this moment, I feel good about my writing. Ask me next week, and you might get a different answer. Tomorrow, I’m pressing on!

I lost sleep

Okay, it’s been a big week. I was tired. All I wanted was to sleep. But at six a.m., which I know is morning to a lot of you but not for me, our cat jumped on our bed and wouldn’t stop licking my arm. HH and I are retired. We don’t have to wake to an alarm clock anymore, so most nights, we don’t start getting ready for bed until midnight or later. Then we fiddle around for half an hour before we finally pull up the blankets to go to sleep. If we’re lucky, we wake up at nine a.m.

But when a cat demands to be fed at six in the morning, and you crawl out of bed to make him happy, it’s really hard to go back to sleep. At least, it’s almost impossible if your brain turns on and you start thinking of new ideas to add to your book’s plot line. I told myself over and over again, “Go to sleep.” But my brain kept saying, “If you make Earl look guilty here, it will add a lot of tension.” And then, my mind didn’t quit. It went on to decide why Detective Carmichael would HAVE to think Earl was a suspect, and what Karnie would have to do to prove he was innocent. IF she was right, and he didn’t commit the murder. I mean, Earl was there when Farley Rawlins was stabbed to death in the alley, and he was there again when Charlotte Oates was shot. Wouldn’t YOU think he might be guilty?

It wasn’t until after eight that I finally drifted off to slumber. I’m THRILLED that my brain solved a difficult plot knot for me. I’m dragging because it solved it when I needed decent sleep. But like I said, I’m retired. And I can sleep in tomorrow. I hope. Unless my brain thinks of another twist that I didn’t put into my plot points. But then again, plot points are only ideas to keep my book on track. And if something new and better tugs at my subconscious, so much the better! There’s another day, another morning, Happy writing!

And the truth is, Farley Rawlins ticked off so many people, it will be a miracle to find the one person who killed him.

Covers

When I have a little free time, I’ve been letting myself play with ideas for a cover for the Karnie book I’m working on and playing with some ideas for twitter posts, too. It’s fun. The cover for the first book was a little fanciful to give the mystery a cozy feel.

In keeping with the cozy feel, so far, I’ve come up with this:

What do you think?

Happy Mother’s Day

For me, Mother’s Day is sort of like Valentine’s Day. Mushy and romanticized.

Romance is as bothersome as it is wonderful. Yes, I love HH. Have I ever fantasized about throttling him? Over and over again. My daughter Robyn has told her wonderful husband many times, “Stop now before I beat you to death with my frying pan and throw you in the Everglades.” (They live in Florida. And he knows that’s when he’s pushing his luck.)

Mother’s Day is always about the bond between mother and child. There HAS to be that bond, or mothers would throw in the towel and walk away. Kids are WORK. Babies mean loss of sleep. And every step along the way, they can make you CRAZY. I taught for six years before I had my two girls. I thought I knew all the tricks to staying one step ahead of them. Little did I know. Kids are ALWAYS challenging you. There has to be some weird DNA built-in protective device to keep us from throwing them out of the house, especially when they become teenagers. Parents deserve purple hearts for surviving children. But is it all worth it? Sure it is! So HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

If you can’t have milk

Okay, everyone who’s ever read one of my books knows how much I love to cook AND enjoy food. I have a problem with milk. It doesn’t like me in any of its forms. I’ve tried Lactaid pills and Digestive pills, but I’m fine….as long as I avoid milk. Then bad things happen.

My cousin, Jenny, who’s in a nursing home, has the same problems, maybe worse. And the thing about being in a nursing home–which she LOVES–is that everyone gets pretty much the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner as everyone else. But Jenny’s wonderful Saint Anne’s tries really hard to accommodate everyone. And the food there is wonderful. But let’s face it. When you go out to restaurants, or if you live in a nursing facility, cooks try to add flavor and pizzaz to a lot of meals by adding cheese. Don’t get me wrong. If I could eat it, I’d love it. But I can’t. And more often than not, the desserts are based on milk or milk products.

No ice cream for Jenny or me. No cheesecake. Nothing made with milk. I can make my own desserts and use almond milk as a substitute most of the time–not always. Try adding almond milk to instant puddings. You end up with soup. But Jenny’s Saint Anne’s tried, really hard, to accommodate her and bought sherbet to give her when they had milk in a dessert. The thing is, and no one believed me, but sherbet has MILK in it. Guess what? Jenny had a bad time of it. BUT, bless their hearts, Saint Anne had tried. Not even my sister believed me when I said, “Not sherbet. It has milk.” “No, that’s why it’s not ice cream,” everyone said. No, that’s why it adds fruit flavors TO ice cream. But, well, sometimes things go awry. Now, Saint Anne’s is going to get sorbet or almond milk ice cream for her. They’re a great place to be.

But, since Jenny knows I love to cook, she’s told me that she misses some of the snacks she used to love when she came to our house. So, I make some to take to her when we visit her on Fridays. Snacks with no milk. I’ve made her lemon cookies–one of her favorites, banana cream pie with almond milk, peanut butter and honey coated popcorn, Rice Krispie treats, and this time, peanut butter fudge–one of her favorites. I always make two bags of them. One of them for Jenny and one of them for her best friend at St. Anne’s.

This time, though, I was just downright lazy. I usually make her my dad’s peanut butter fudge. She loves it, but it’s a pain to make. This time, I cheated and went to my Ideals Candy Cookbook that I bought when HH and I were first married. You can’t find it anymore. And I made Sue’s Easy 15-Minute Peanut Butter Fudge and substituted almond milk for the milk, and it turned out WONDERFUL. So good, that I’m sharing the recipe. And if you’re one of the people who can’t have milk, it’s easy to make!

Sue’s Easy 15-Minute Fudge

In a deep saucepan, that will hold a candy thermometer, add:

1 c. sugar

1 c. light brown sugar

1/4 t salt

1/2 c milk (I used almond milk)

Cook to 240 degrees, stirring most of the time.

Remove from heat and add:

1 c. miniature marshmallows

1/2 c. peanut butter

1 t. vanilla

Stir with a wooden spoon for several minutes until thick and creamy and some of the gloss disappears.

Spread in a buttered 8 x 8 pan and cool.

Cut into squares.

I hope you enjoy this as much as Jenny and I did when you make it. Happy Snacking!

Shakespeare and Vikings

I went to see the movie Northman with my writer friend, M. L. Rigdon. Mary Lou was an actress when she was younger, loved performing on stage. When I go to see a play with her, she comments on the costumes, stage direction, the acting, and the story. It’s like when writers get together to talk about a book we’ve read. We talk about the elements that went into the novel–the plot, pacing, dialogue, etc. We discuss the whole AND all of the parts. She can do the same with movies. Me? Not so much. I go to a movie to immerse myself in the experience and often miss the finer details. Sure, just like reading, I notice plot and pacing, characterization and story details. Lighting? Filming? They have to be unusual to catch my attention.

Northman caught my attention over and over again. Both Mary Lou and I enjoy Viking tales. That’s why I wrote Empty Altars and Spinners of Misfortune as Judith Post. But I never expected to see a bloodthirsty Viking cast as Hamlet. It makes sense when you think about it, though. Hamlet was from Denmark, and the story’s plot was one of revenge. Vikings took vengeance seriously, especially in 900 some A.D. They took their gods and goddesses seriously, too, so a lot of mysticism was woven into the movie.

Amleth (Prince Hamlet in this version) was played by Alexander Skarsgard, and he did a brilliant job. All of the acting was wonderful, but in a story of brute violence, over and over again, I didn’t expect so much emotion, so many subtleties. Magic was scattered in and out of the story to show the mindset of the time. Occasionally, the filming gave the story an almost dreamlike quality. The last battle was filmed that way, and I thought it was brilliant.

Mary Lou often writes reviews about the movies she watches, and I hope she writes one for Northman. Here’s the link for her blog: https://historyfanforever.wordpress.com/ in case she does. She’ll catch far more things than my reactions to the movie. But, I found Northman impressive. Lots of violence. Amleth kills anyone who gets in his way. And in truth, the Vikings as a whole were portrayed as a violent race, which they were. But they lived in a harsh land, and it helped shape them and their beliefs.

In case you’d like a more in-depth article on the movie, I found this:

https://www.looper.com/847680/biggest-unanswered-questions-from-the-northman/

And if any of you saw the movie, let us know what you thought of it.

A Snippet

My 8th Jazzi and Ansel novel is on sale for 99 cents through May 12, so I’m posting a snippet from The Body in the Buick to tease you. Jazzi and Ansel have their hands full in this mystery. Ansel worries every time Jazzi touches anything that’s heavy, and they’re trying to convert a barn into a house for one of Jerod’s friends. And then, of course, someone asks them to help solve a murder, And a holiday is coming up:)

Jazzi opened the bathroom door and Ansel stopped pacing to look at her.   Her tall, blond Viking was a bundle of nerves, his expression hopeful but fearful.

“Well?” 

She held up the small device.  “Two lines.”

His blue eyes widened.  “That’s a yes?”

She smiled.  “It looks like you might be a father nine months from now.”

“Do you think it’s right?” 

She could hear the worry.  He wanted a baby, hopefully a girl.  Growing up, he’d always doted on his sister.  “It’s supposed to be one of the most accurate on the market.”

He frowned at the narrow test device.  He balled his hands into fists, his voice anxious.  “Do you have another one?”  When she nodded, he said, “Can we do it again?”

She understood.  He didn’t want to get his hopes up only to be disappointed.  She closed the door and listened to him begin pacing again.  When she opened it the second time, she grinned.  “Same result.  Two lines.”

He rushed to her, lifting her off her feet, hauling her into the bedroom and swirling her in a circle.  “We’ll stop at a clinic to make sure, then call your doctor to start our baby off right.”

She laughed, happy that he was so happy.  “Let’s not say anything until we’re absolutely sure.  Jerod will get as goofy as you when we tell him.”  Her cousin had three kids of his own. They were the center of his world.

Ansel nodded, then started to the hallway, still holding her in his arms. 

“I can walk,” she said.  “Being pregnant doesn’t make me an invalid.”

“I’m carrying you down the stairs to celebrate.  I carried you over the threshold when we got married.  This is bigger and better.  I hope our daughter looks just like you.”  Bless the man.  He thought she was beautiful.  He loved her thick, wild, honey-blond hair, fair skin, and curvy figure.

There was no arguing with him, so she wrapped her arms around his neck and enjoyed the ride.  All muscle, he was great to snuggle against, always made her feel secure.  Ansel was a romantic.  Her?  Not so much.

He finally set her down in the kitchen and went to pour them coffee.  Then he stopped.  “Can you have coffee?”

“I can until I see the doctor.  Don’t even try to talk me out of it yet.”

Whimpering came from the top of the stairs. 

“I forgot George!”  Ansel slid her filled mug to her, then hurried back up the steps to pick up the pug.  George didn’t like stairs.  He did love food and hurried straight to his doggie bowl once Ansel set him down.  The cats, Inky and Marmalade, lined up next to him.  While Jazzi fed the beasts, Ansel dropped four slices of pumpernickel bread into the toaster.  Their usual morning routine.

Once they finished breakfast, she started working on ham and cheese sandwiches to take to their new job site.  They’d finished and sold the flipper that took them months to renovate, earning the biggest profit ever on a fixer-upper, then turned to a quick, four-month flip and sold that.  Today, a Friday, they were going to look at their next project—converting a barn into a home.  They’d never tackled anything like it before.

Jazzi finished packing the cooler and grabbed it to carry to Ansel’s van. 

“That’s heavy,” Ansel protested.  “I don’t think. . .”

She cut him off.  “I carried it last week and the week before.  I’m carrying it until a doctor tells me not to.  Let it go.”

They’d loaded the card table and chairs, coffee urn, electric skillet, and panini maker last night.  An electrical line ran to the barn, but there was only one outlet.  Ansel carried George.  The pug went everywhere he went.  At least, everywhere possible. 

Inky and Marmalade followed them through the breezeway to the garage.  The cats liked to look out the long, low windows and watch them leave for the day.  They were pampered, but not like the pug.

On the drive north, Ansel grew thoughtful.  “I hope this barn’s cleaner than my family’s dairy barn.  I can’t figure out how we’re supposed to make it into a home.”

“Jerod said Ben wants to move in before Christmas.  He doesn’t expect the barn to be finished, but it will have to be insulated or he’ll freeze.  That doesn’t give us much time.  I don’t think it’s possible.  I looked up barn conversions online, and the article listed six major steps.” 

“What are they?”

“Most barns have dirt floors, so we’ll need to jack up the building to have a foundation poured.”

He heaved a long sigh.  “Our barn had dirt floors, and it would be a pain to jack it up.”

“The article said the frame’s often warped from age, so people usually have to build a new one.  Barn roofs aren’t usually built as well as house roofs, so we’ll have to replace that.”

Ansel grimaced.  He’d gone home a few years ago to help his dad and brother replace their barn roof.  He hadn’t been happy about it.  “Once we get all the structure stuff done, I’m guessing we’ll have to install plumbing, electricity, and HVAC.”

“We won’t be doing that.  Ben’s hired it out.”

“Our dairy barn isn’t insulated.”

She nodded.  “The article recommended spray-in foam.  And then we can finally start work on the interior finishes.”

“There’s no way we can do all of that by Christmas.”

A free short story for you

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

Take It Off

by Judi Lynn

Noira wore a smug smile as she laid down three aces and two queens.  She raised an eyebrow at Speed. “Take it off.”

She reached for her wine as her boyfriend gave a smug smile.  They were sitting across the kitchen table from each other, their empty wings container pushed to the side, along with crumpled napkins and paper plates.  She didn’t cook.  Takeout containers littered the countertops.  She’d worry about them tomorrow.  Sometimes, she cleaned on Saturdays.  Sometimes, she didn’t.

Speed’s biceps bulged as he flexed his muscles for her and pushed his thumbs below the elastic of his boxer shorts—his only remaining article of clothing—lowering them a little to tease her.  With a smirk, he tugged one side wider and pulled out a handkerchief to toss on the floor.

Noira’s jaw dropped.  “No fair!”  She still wore her bra, panties, and both socks.  The socks didn’t match, but she’d been in a hurry getting ready for work this morning.  “A hanky doesn’t count.”

“It was on my person, so it does,” Speed argued.  He took a long draw of his beer.  He had a strong chest, great abs, and a fantastic fanny, but skinny legs.  His fanny was still covered.

She narrowed her eyes at him.  He’d won at strip poker the last two weeks and crowed about it.  The dork still thought she was drool worthy, even though she was a little overweight and her left knee had two small scars and didn’t work right.  Aftermaths of the pickup running into her small car.  She was ready for victory this time around, and a hanky wasn’t going to save him.  Before she could protest further, though, Speed’s cellphone rang.  He glanced at the I.D. and reached for it.  “Speed here.  I’m putting you on Speaker.”

“It’s me, Roly.  I’m on duty tonight but just threw up, feeling worse every minute.  Can you finish my shift for me?”

Noira’s shoulders sagged.  Speed had worked last Friday night.  They were looking forward to this one.  Speed pressed his lips together, disappointed, but finally said, “Sure.   Is Stringbean going to drop you off, then pick me up?” 

“He’s already back at the hospital for me to get my car.  He’ll be at your place soon.”

“I’ll be ready.”  Speed wrinkled his nose as they heard retching in the background.  “Spray the inside of the EMS so I don’t catch what you have.”

Roly grunted and disconnected.  Probably a good thing, and Speed started to the bedroom to pull on his uniform.  He stopped at the doorway, though, bent, and pulled down his undershorts to moon her. 

Noira cheered.  Her guy had a great ass.  By the time he got off shift at midnight, though, her victory would be hollow.  He wouldn’t feel frisky anymore.  She grabbed her cane and went to the bedroom, too.  Might as well change into her pajamas.  Then as Speed’s EMS pulled to their door, she hobbled to the kitchen to grab a bottle of wine before settling on the sofa and flipping on the TV.  She pushed an empty pizza box out of her way, so she could put her feet on the coffee table. 

Speed dropped a kiss on Noira’s head on his way out of the apartment.  “You got lucky, you know.  I could feel it.  You were going to lose tonight.’

“In your dreams.”  She searched for something to watch while he was gone.  As an EMT, Speed worked a lot of weekends, but for once, he’d had Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights off, like she did.  It was too good to be true.  Noira glanced out the window to watch him slide behind the steering wheel of the vehicle and kept watching until the EMS pulled out of the parking lot.  Then she lifted the wine bottle to take a swig.  So much for a great evening. 

By the time Speed got back again, the show she was watching was over and the wine bottle was empty.  She still had energy, though.  She raised her eyebrows hopefully as Speed started to the couch.  Then she got a good look at his face.

“What happened?”

He flopped down beside her and reached over to push a stray chestnut curl out of her face.  “We had a bad night.  We’d made two heart attack runs before we were called to an accident.  A guy ran right in front of a woman’s car, and she hit him.  Couldn’t stop in time.   He was still alive when we got there, but he was in bad shape.  When we checked him over and decided we could load him on the stretcher, there was a pool of blood underneath his back.  He had a gunshot wound under his left shoulder blade.”

She sat up to listen to him.  “Did he make it to the hospital?”

He shook his head.  “We did our best, but he’d lost too much blood.  When I was trying to strap him on the stretcher, though, he grabbed my wrist and said, ‘Danny did it.  I saw him, so he chased me down and shot me.’”

She frowned.  “He couldn’t have run far.  Was there a crime close to where he got hit?”

“Cops came to talk to the driver, and I told them what the guy said.  They told me they’d check on it.  I was thinking if you go to work on Monday and hear or see something, I’d like to know.”

“I’ll ask around.”  She worked for a woman judge in the courthouse, knew a few detectives, too.  With a case like this, she had a good chance of hearing gossip.  But she didn’t have to wait that long, because when she opened the morning newspaper, she recognized the man who’d been shot.  She and Jayce had been tight in high school.  They were a couple their senior year until Jayce joined the marines and she started school to be a paralegal.  Then she’d met Speed, and they’d been together six years.

She pushed the front-page news to Speed.  “I didn’t even know Jayce was back in town. He was my high school steady.  Was in the marines and sent overseas.  He survived that and then came home and got killed?  That’s not fair!”

Speed quirked a dark brow at her.  “You, of all people, should know life isn’t fair.  You got lucky you didn’t have to use crutches for the rest of your life.”

She had to give Speed his due.  He never even blinked when her leg got creamed in the car accident.  He had her back through the whole rehab therapy sessions, listened to her when she felt sorry for herself, then told her to buck up, buttercup, and figure out how to deal with it.  She pinched her lips together.  “You’re pretty wonderful, you know that, right?”

He grinned.  “I’m a prince.  You got lucky.”

They both laughed.  Then he asked, “Did Jayce have a buddy named Danny back when you knew him?”

A shiver slithered down her spine.  “Danny lived a few doors down from him.  They’d been friends since grade school, but boy, were they different.”

“Different how?”

“Jayce always wanted to make a difference in the world.  Danny thought the world owed him a good time.”

“Do you remember Danny’s last name?”

“Warshawski.  Had a mouth on him.”  Speed gave her a look, and she shrugged.  “I know.  So do I, but I’m nicer.”

“You’re the best.  You have good taste.  You like me.”

“There you go again.”  She smiled, then looked at Jayce’s picture on the front page and took a deep breath.  “This is such a bummer.  Did you read the article?  Was there another crime in the same vicinity?”

Speed scanned the rest of the news story and shook his head.  “Nothing in this.”

Noira squared her shoulders.  “I want whoever did this behind bars.  Both of us need to keep our ears open.”

Speed finished his coffee and came around the table to give her a quick hug.  “Sorry you lost an old friend.  Let’s do something today.   Want to take an overnight trip?  Get out of town for a minute?”

They hadn’t done that for a long time.  “Chicago?  Lots of great neighborhood restaurants and things to do.”

“Can you make it through the history museum?”

“I’m slow but steady, like the tortoise.  Pack light?”

“Let’s do it.” 

Forty-five minutes later, they were on their way.  They didn’t get back until almost dark on Sunday night.  They’d pushed Jayce out of their minds all weekend, but once they stepped back in the apartment, his newspaper picture was still on their kitchen table. 

Speed opened Sunday’s paper and shook his head.  “Nothing new.  They’re still working the case.”

“I’ll ask around at work tomorrow.  Tell everyone I knew him, that we were close once.”  And she found out that Hunter, the detective she knew best, was working the case. 

“Was there anything unusual when you knocked on doors and talked to people?” she asked him.

Hunter studied her.  “How close were you?”

“I went to school with him, dated him.  He was my first love.”

Hunter grimaced.  “Okay then, all we know is that someone called in a complaint that people were shouting at each other, arguing on his street.  It wasn’t that far from where Jayce got shot, so we knocked on doors.  No one had anything to report, but one woman had a black eye.  When we asked about it, she said she’d hit it on a kitchen cupboard door she’d left open on accident.”

“Can you tell me her name?”

“If you don’t tell anyone else, including Speed.”

She crossed her heart and waited.

Hunter said, “Adalyn Miller.  Divorced.  Mean anything to you?”

“I went to school with an Adalyn, but her last name wasn’t Miller then.  Danny had a huge crush on her.”

Hunter reached for the notepad in his pocket.  “Tell me about this Danny.”

So, she did.  When she finished, Hunter gave her a thumbs-up and said, “Gotta go.”

For the rest of the day, Noira sorted through crime photos and witness statements for an upcoming trial.  When she left for the day and got home, Speed was already gone, working a night shift.  He’d left an empty Arby’s bag and sandwich wrappers on the table.

The apartment couldn’t hold any more garbage, and she was restless.  She grabbed a trash bag and went around the rooms, throwing away empty boxes and papers.  When she finished, the apartment actually looked nice, so she called Door Dash and ordered chicken tenders, fries, and honey-mustard.  After she ate her meal in front of the TV, she cleaned up her mess.  Might as well let Speed see a clean place for at least one night.

When she woke the next morning, Speed was sitting in the kitchen and pushed a cup of coffee and two of her favorite donuts her way.  “We should celebrate.”

“Are you back on days again?”

“Yes.  And Jayce’s killer is behind bars.”

“Who was it?”  But Noira already knew. 

“You helped crack the case.  Hunter went to question Adalyn.  Her black eye had turned an ugly purple and yellow and he pressed her about it.  She finally admitted that Danny had pounded on her door that night, and she’d let him in.  He was furious with her.  They’d been seeing each other but she told him she’d met a really nice guy, that they were over.  And he lost it.  Hit her.  Dragged her into the bedroom.  Jayce got there when he was holding her down and finishing up.  He dragged Danny off her, then Danny realized Jayce was the ‘nice guy’ Adalyn was seeing.  He ran to his car for a gun, and Jayce took off to lead him away from Adalyn.  When she heard that Jayce had been killed, she knew it was Danny, but he threatened to kill her parents if she said anything.”

Noira felt numb.  She knew Danny had an attitude, that he expected to get whatever he wanted, but she never thought he’d kill someone to get it.  And Jayce had done exactly what she thought he’d do.  He’d tried to keep Adalyn safe.  It was so depressing.

Speed hugged her shoulders.  “Want to call in sick today?”

She shook her head.  “And miss all the gory details?”  But her attempt at humor fell a little flat.  She sighed.  “No, it won’t change anything.  Might as well go in, look at the crime pictures, and do my best to help Hunter nail Danny’s ass.”

Speed kissed her cheek.  “Go kick butt, female warrior.  I’m off to save lives.”

They got ready and left for their separate jobs.  But when they got home that night, they went out to eat.  And drink.  And make merry.  They needed it.