This excerpt is not from the final draft of the story nor is it a complete rough draft. I believe this is about the 3rd draft of this particular scene. The only two characters here are Theresa, the town mortician, and Overbey, a man who may or may not be who he says he is… The complete novel will be available for purchase in 2019. Even though the excerpt is brief, I would love to hear any thoughts from all of you in the comments section below.
One of the things I’ve always struggled with as a writer is prose. The con of being a theater major is that we focus so much on dialogue and not at all on prose- because there is no prose in a play besides stage direction. If you’re reading Shakespeare, the only stage directions are [They enter.] [They exit.] and [They fight.]
I find that my prose is normally bland or entirely too wordy. I’ve been known to include too much detail in my rough drafts or ramble on about something unimportant. Again, this is not the final draft below. Instead, this is a look at the in between stage.
Excerpt from In Articulo Mortis. Book 1.
“I see you’re a fan of Jack,” she pointed to the glass of whiskey he had poured in her absence.
He raised the glass towards her. “Didn’t think you’d mind.”
“I can see that. You’re aware it’s before noon?”
“Would you like some?”
Theresa shook her head. “The dry bar was left here by the previous owner. It collects dust.”
“Shame.” He circled around and took a seat in front of her desk.
“Aren’t you on duty?”
“I like to mix business with pleasure.”
“Well, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” She paused. “I suppose I should ask why you were following me this morning?”
“I saw your car.”
“A lot of people drive cars like mine.”
“This is a small town, Agent Overbey. I know what everyone drives.”
He flashed a fake smile. “Why would anyone have reason to follow you, Ms. Fairholm?”
“You tell me.”
Sitting back in his chair, he took another swig of alcohol. The ice clinked against the glass. “This is a very nice office you have,” he said, opting for a change of course. “How long have you been a funeral director?”
“Several years now. The position used to belong to an older man named Michael Hallowell. When he passed, I applied for the job. But I’m sure you already knew that.”
“Sounds like a lucky break then,” he said, ignoring her last statement.
“Timing is everything.”
“Did you have anything to do with it?”
“Mr. Hallowell’s death.”
“That’s absurd. How would I-”
“Answer the question, Ms. Fairholm. I can’t help but notice that you’re first instinct wasn’t to say ‘no.’”
“No,” she said firmly. “I had nothing to do with Michael Hallowell’s death. Are you trying to accuse me of killing someone to gain employment and then killing others to keep said employment? If I didn’t know any better, that’s sure what it sounds like.” Theresa stared him down, refusing to break eye contact or blink.
Overbey broke the silence as he broke into another fake smile. “Of course not. Why would someone go through that much trouble to get a job? Especially as a funeral director. Who would fight for such a grim job? It was simply mindless chatter,” he unsuccessfully reassured.
“Agent Overbey, I really hate mindless chatter. Could we cut to the chase?”
As he began to speak, her attention jerked towards the window. A shadow passed. Overbey sensed it and followed her gaze. “Are the shadows distracting you?”
Her worry faded. He could see it too. “No. The boys must be outside cutting the grass.”
“I don’t hear a lawn mower.”
“Maybe they’re picking up trash.” She threw her hands up in exasperation. “There are things to do outside besides tending to the lawn. I asked them to clean this morning.”
“They seem like nice boys.” Continuing to take a swig of his drink, he refused to break eye contact. “Where did you find them?”
“Locally. They both started as interns. They help with preparation for the services, arrangements with the church, taking care of medical documents at the hospital, and keeping the place clean. After all, a funeral home is, first and foremost, a business. But here we are off on a tangent again. I don’t think this is what you came here to talk to me about. Am I right?”
“Yes, Ms. Fairholm.” He pulled out the notepad from before and began scribbling notes before he asked her anything further. The shadow at the window passed again but Theresa heard the vacuum cleaner running in the lobby and footfalls from the attic storage. It couldn’t have been the boys. She glanced back at Overbey to see if he had noticed anything strange but his eyes were on her. “You had any strange occurrences lately in your home or around the workplace?”
He refused to comment as he wrote something else down.
“Am I under some sort of interrogation?” Her eyes darted to the window again as another shadow passed.
“You seem tense.” He followed her gaze again. “Is there something distracting you?”
“I’m sure you’ll write and say whatever you want about me. I don’t know who pissed in your cornflakes or why you came all the way from… Where did you come from, Agent Overbey?”
“Kansas. Wichita, Kansas.”
Theresa paled. “Right.”
“Do you miss home?”
“This is home.”
“Are you not from Wichita, Ms. Fairholm?”
She inhaled deeply, losing her patience. “You know the answer to that. Get to the point.”
“Starting on the day your brother died, there was a three day period of strange events in Wichita, ending with the disappearance of a young man named Abram Wallace. Does that name mean anything to you?” He set the empty whiskey glass on the corner of her desk.
“No. That was over twenty years ago. I was a kid. I don’t remember much.”
“You don’t remember hearing his name on the news?”
Her hands instinctively balled into fists. “Forgive me for being preoccupied with Sebastian’s death.” She shook her head. “This is ridiculous. You expect me to remember one missing person that disappeared in Kansas over twenty years ago and may or may not have been near me? People go missing all the time.”
“Not from death row!”
Regina Bethory is a fiction author. She graduated from Christopher Newport University with a Bachelor’s in Directing and Play Writing and from Newport News Shipbuilding’s Apprentice School as a Test Electrician. She enjoys spending her time learning new things, seeking new experiences and de-cluttering. When she is not writing, she can often be found in comic book stores, sushi restaurants, and small town cafes.