It's that time again! Before I kick off my wekend of taking the dog to obedience school, cleaning the house, and working on the next Kaley Kalua mystery (quite an exciting life I lead, huh?), I wanted to share my latest Feedback Friday scene.
If you're a fan of my Facebook page, you may have seen a post I made earlier this week about dream co-author collaborations. I've already shared a scene from my upcoming collaborative novel with Gemma Halliday, Hollywood Homicide, but what you may not know is that several months ago, I submitted another work into a contest for a chance to write with the incredible James Patterson. While I didn't win, the thriller I pitched is one that I'm still excited about, and I'm considering writing the full novel solo. I don't want to give away all the details just yet, but it centers around the kidnapping of a famous true crime podcaster, which just happens to be witnessed by thousands of people during a special livestream video event on social media. The scene below is the one I submitted as my contest entry, which was to be no more than 1,000 words (mine clocked in at 999).
Let me know what you think!
Feedback Friday: Untitled Thriller (work in progress)
Jackie wasn’t nervous until five minutes to show time. Raking her hands through her hair, she pulled it back into a tight ponytail. “No,” she muttered, sighing. “This isn’t right.” Mama had always told her not to hide her pretty face behind all that hair, but she preferred to wear it down. Jackie tugged the band out again, and her long, raven locks fell around her shoulders. “That’s better.” Chewing her lip, she padded into the bathroom to touch up her makeup.
Normally Jackie couldn’t have cared less how she looked during studio time, but today was different. They’ll all be watching, she thought, reapplying her lipstick for a third time. Everyone will see me.
Jackie was moments away from launching the season finale of her podcast, Real Life Crime. Instead of recording the audio and sending it over to her production team, she was about to stream the event through a live video feed that would be broadcast to thousands of the show’s online fans. The truth behind this case was so huge that she couldn’t wait for the team to edit the recording like usual. Tonight, she was going to blow it wide open all on her own.
This season of Real Life Crime had analyzed the case of young Molly Flint, kidnapped on Halloween night in 1987. She’d been barely three years old when she was taken from her parents’ home in Seville, Ohio. After a city-wide search that had lasted seven days, the body of the toddler had been found in the woods three miles from the Flint home. Her father, Curtis, had been taken into police custody and charged with the murder of his only daughter. Thirty years later, Flint maintained his innocence even as he faced death row.
Jackie and her team had dedicated the past year of their lives to scrutinizing every court document, witness testimony, and scrap of evidence used to convict Flint, determined to uncover the truth about what had really happened to poor Molly. The investigation had taken Jackie down a dark path, but three days ago, she’d made the discovery that would turn the case on its head and forever change Curtis’s fate.
At one minute until nine, Jackie perched in her desk chair. She jiggled the mouse connected to her laptop, and the computer’s monitor blinked to life. Her pulse sped up as she turned on the camera and hovered the cursor over the GO LIVE button. Here we go. Fingers trembling, she pressed the button.
“Good evening,” she began, smiling into the camera. “I’m Jackie Callahan, and this is a special edition of Real Life Crime. Tonight, I’m coming to you live for the finale of our season-long investigation into the 1987 disappearance of Molly Flint.” She took a deep breath. Pace yourself, she thought. There would be no second or third takes this time around.
“For those of you who’ve been following along each week, you’ll recall that in our last episode, I visited the small town of Seville, Ohio, to interview the Flints’ neighbor, Sabrina Holmes. She was just twelve years old when baby Molly disappeared, and her bedroom overlooked the toddler’s nursery.”
Jackie’s throat felt dry. She untwisted the cap from her water bottle and took a sip. “During my conversation with Sabrina, I learned that the Flint family had an unexpected guest that fateful night—one that Molly’s mother, Charity, failed to mention in her testimony. Though Ms. Holmes couldn’t identify the man, the Real Life Crime team sent her description to a skilled sketch artist. We were able to identify him as Johnny Decker. Was Mr. Decker’s visit just a coincidence, or was he connected to the crime? I traveled to his home in northern California to find out.”
Jackie paused. Her audience would think it was for dramatic effect, but it was the surge of nerves fluttering in her stomach that made her words catch in her throat. Everything is going to change in just a few seconds. Jackie leaned toward the camera. “What I’m about to tell you,” she said, her voice quivering, “is going to drastically alter the lives of everyone involved in the Molly Flint case—“
A thumping sound from upstairs brought her attention to the ceiling. Jackie flicked a glance over her laptop toward the basement entrance. Did I lock the back door? I can’t remember. Jackie pushed the thought aside. A nervous laugh threatened to bubble out of her throat but she forced it down. Almost ten thousand people are tuned in. Just keep going. She plastered a determined look on her face and returned her gaze to the camera. “I have evidence that can prove without a shadow of a doubt that Curtis Flint is innocent of his daughter’s murder. The truth is going to shock you.”
Another thump sounded, this time just outside the basement door. Fear knifed through Jackie. She stared into the camera, eyes wide and panic rising in her chest. When she spoke, her voice came out in a shaky whisper. “I-I think someone’s in my house.”
The door flung open and the lights went out. Jackie shrieked. She stumbled out of her chair and crashed to the floor. On her hands and knees, Jackie scrambled around the desk, away from her assailant. The dim light of the laptop illuminated the man’s bulky frame. His face was covered by a ski mask and he wore dark, leather gloves.
Heart hammering in her chest, Jackie leaped around the desk and sprinted toward the door. Her attacker was fast, and he easily caught up to her. Jackie howled in pain as he grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her toward the stairs. “Let me go!” she cried, thrashing her legs and clawing at his hands. Her screams echoed up the stairwell and then abruptly ended.
The comments section of Jackie’s live feed exploded with feedback as viewers heard the sound of something heavy being dragged across the floor overhead.
What do you think? Want to know what happens next? Let me know!