You haven’t heard much from me, but I’ve been working away. Today I’m pleased to share with you my new title for the novel formerly called GREAT WHARF. Going forward, the title will be TOWN OF SECRETS. People kept looking at me funny when I said the word “wharf,” and I finally got the point that it’s too odd a word in everyday life. The town named Great Wharf may evoke many emotions in me as the author of its existence, but it wasn’t doing anything for a potential reader.
And now, if you will, settle back and read the following new beginning to the novel TOWN OF SECRETS. I’m about to embark on a new round of agent-hunting.
Image credit: Jennifer Ellison | freedigitalphotos.net
The hater didn’t mean to kill the woman. But then there she was, climbing the outdoor stairway toward this antagonist obscured by a black poncho in the hurricane-whipped night.
The woman had her head down, testing each step before putting her full weight on it. The yellow warning ribbon she had just fastened across the first step snapped up and down, in and out. The hater’s intention changed as the woman got closer. Warning her off wouldn’t work. Why talk to this obstacle?
Lightning whacked something two streets over. The stair-tester’s whole body jerked with the instinct to escape danger. Then she spotted the stiletto-heeled fashion boots on the landing and lifted her gaze.
The hater acted on impulse. She grabbed the railing with one hand and the outer doorknob with the other, drew one foot back, and swung the heel full-force into her obstruction’s jugular. Blood spurted sideways and splayed in the high wind.
The victim fell backward, tumbled down, broke through the warning tape, and lay with her head and body at rest on two flagstones. Her ankles held onto the first step.
The hater looked around but saw no one on the street. No face peered from a window in awe at the weather or the murder. She edged her way down the steps on tiptoe, avoiding what blood she could see. She hopped over the body as though it were a mound of dirt.
Back in her apartment, a steaming-hot bath treated with vanilla oil released her smile. She lay back, closed her eyes, and let the aroma of her aphrodisiac waft around her. While pleasuring herself she imagined the man of her dreams freed from that other woman to rediscover her. The storm’s frenzy against the building added to her euphoria.
Three Months Earlier
Empty nester Mallory Cook left the house twenty minutes early for her doctor’s appointment. Her detour to Byways Gift Shop would add ten minutes to the walking time. Another ten minutes in the store should accomplish her task, which was to form an impression of the proprietor, a woman named Angie Weller.
Mallory’s neighbor had been after her to do this. This neighbor watched the townspeople of Great Wharf the way some people watch soap operas. With a vengeance, Mallory thought. She hated the gossip mill that Doris Hillobenz ran. But she’d hate it more if Doris decided her immediate neighbors were the ones needing scrutiny.
On her way out, Mallory took a steak knife from the kitchen drawer and slid it to the bottom of her purse. She probably should buy a switchblade. What if she grabbed the wrong end of the steak knife while rummaging for her cell phone? The thought of bright red blood dripping into her purse, let alone coming from her own finger, gave her a shiver.
Blood was on a lengthening list of things that made Mallory queasy. In fact, it headed the list because the sight of it actually made her faint once. Usually it just disabled her, like when Dwight, her husband, cut himself last week and asked her to get a Band-Aid. Her gaze fixated, instead, on the crimson bubble and she couldn’t move from her chair.
Dwight got his own Band-Aid. Later he said, “You didn’t used to freak at the sight of blood, Mal. You used to handle the kids’ accidents just fine. What happened?”
“I don’t have a clue.” She avoided his gaze.
Dwight, sweet man, dropped the subject.
Three blocks from home, with four blocks still to go, Mallory’s progress slowed …