Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Last week I took my nephew to a job interview at the National Western Complex down in Globeville.  I was going to bide my time at the library while he interviewed, but the library was actually closed.

So I drove around, wandering aimlessly.  It was a pretty cold, bleak day and the sights and smells of Globeville, along with a few other things worming through my head, ignited a flash of inspiration, which I'll get to in a moment.

First, a little about Globeville.  It's a neighborhood that's pretty bleak even on a sunny day.  Going back to the city's founding, it's mostly been an industrial area, with old smelting factories and food plants.  The smelting operations are gone, a toxic Superfund site left in its wake, but there remains many an industrial operation.

Over two generations ago, the U.S. highway system cut the neighborhood in half with a now-crumbling elevated viaduct.  Its shadow looms over the neighborhood, a symbol not just of its isolation but its invisibility. 

Not far from the National Western Complex, just north off Brighton Boulevard, lies Riverside Cemetery, a place haunted by neglect, half-forgotten and unused.  Not a blade of grass remains and the only visitors are geese, wandering amidst the headstones.
The day before, I had been reading a novel called Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong, a murder mystery set in 90s China.  I had also watched the first episode of the new HBO series True Detective, a murder mystery set in 90s Louisiana.

Subconsciously, you could say I had murder on my mind, and after spending a good hour wandering through this bleak, cold environment, I had concocted a murder mystery of my own.  I scribbled a couple pages of notes in my notebook and started writing.

I'm not sure I'll finish it, though.  I was thinking a little bit more about it the other day and it occurred to me that the "solution" that I had come up with for my mystery just wasn't that interesting.  But I do like the chunk I put down.

If you want to read it, click through the jump.

Detective Luke Carson stood under the shade of the I-70 viaduct on a cold morning in mid-January, trying to keep warm. He had both hands clamped around a steaming cup of coffee and his collar turned up against the wind, but he couldn’t stop shivering. The bleakness of the scene chilled him. Gray skies, the slush and roar of vehicles on the elevated roadway, the train tracks, lying inert and unused like some relic from another age, the dog food plant belching out putrid smoke on the other side of the highway, and of course, his crime scene, now taped off and buzzing with evidence techs.
He had already performed a cursory examination of the scene, made a few notes. The body, a Hispanic female in her twenties, was lying face down naked behind a stand of junk trees growing in a dip between the road and the train tracks. Newspapers and fast food wrappers had been heaped by the wind around her body. Frost and lividity had turned her skin snow white but her black hair stood out. Witnesses said that until they took a closer look, it looked like a wig stuck in a heap of trash.
Carson looked at his watch and when he looked up, he saw Rachel Book’s Subaru rounding the corner. Rachel had a habit of being late to any occasion, a habit that Carson had been forced to tolerate in the time he had been working with her. If she hadn’t been such a good investigator, or such a loyal friend, he would have requested a transfer years ago.
Rachel parked and greeted him with a wave. “Sorry I’m late. When you said Gaylord and 46th, you didn’t say Gaylord doesn’t go through.”
Carson said, “Yeah, it’s something you just kinda gotta know.”
Rachel’s toothy smile flashed on her face for a brief moment before disappearing behind her lips in an unconvincing frown. She was a few years older than Carson, taller and better looking, too. They didn’t have much in common —he was white, she was black— but they both possessed the kind of easy-going nature that allowed them to relate on a human, empathic level to anyone they talked to.
Rachel said, “I miss anything?”
“Nah, I waited.”
They started walking toward the crime scene. There wasn’t much for the detectives to do with the body. The photographs, the measurements, the sample collection, all that would be handled by other people. The detectives sorted the paperwork.
Pulling on a pair of gloves, Rachel said, “Let’s hear it.”
“Hispanic female in her 20s. No ID. Body’s in rough shape, being exposed to the elements for a few days. Kinda made me queasy if you want the honest truth.”
“How we know it’s murder?”
“Ligature marks around the throat, a few perimortem defensive wounds on her hands. Plus she’s naked. If she were some drunk got lost in a storm, she’d have some clothes on. Someone dumped her here. Take a look.”
They ducked under the police tape. A photographer was taking close-ups of the body. An evidence guy was plucking at the frozen ground with a pair of tweezers, collecting stray fibers and bits of hair. Two fellow detectives, Joe Montoya and Stan Bigham, stood in conference by the tree. The legs of their trousers flapped in the cold wind. Carson gave them a nod but they kept talking amongst themselves.
Rachel put her hands on her hips and looked down at their victim. She said, “Yeah, she was dumped here.” She crouched down and lifted a tuft of the dead woman’s hair to get a look at the wounds around her neck. Next she examined the woman’s palms, squinted down at her fingernails. “How long you say she was out here, a few days?”
“Two, maybe three. Caller said they noticed her two days ago, but with the snow all they could see was the hair. It wasn’t until some of it melted that they realized it was a body.”
“It snowed, what, Sunday?”
“Sunday night.”
Rachel stood back up, putting her hands on her hips. She said, “Cold probably slowed decomp,” then drifted off to that place in her head where she organized her own thoughts. Carson watched her, wondering as usual what she was thinking. After a while, she said, “When we gonna get her outta here?”
“ME’s on the way,” Joe Montoya said, stepping into the conversation. He was a stout little man with a thin, wispy mustache and two misshapen front teeth. He wasn’t much to look at but he was a good cop.
Rachel said, “What y’all talking about over there that you can’t even say hi to me?”
She towered over Montoya and he had to crane his neck to look her in the eye. “Witnesses,” he said. “We already talked to the couple that reported it, but someone’s still gotta canvas all these houses.”
“We can do that,” Carson said. He was eager to leave the scene, to get away from the weird vibe that hung in the air like smoke.
Rachel looked at him sideways, her face saying, Slow down, partner. She said, “You get anything out of the couple?”
Montoya tilted his little mustache as a kind of shrug. “Nah. They don’t know anything, didn’t see anything.”

I read that to my nephew, after he groaned, "Oh, not another detective story."  When it ended so abruptly, mid-scene basically, he was silent, waiting for more.

"I betcha wanna know who did it," I said.

He admitted that he did.


Laydegray said...


I read what you wrote and I liked it. You have so many good ideas. I like the murder/detective stuff, especially the page turners with interesting characters that you come up with. I have always enjoyed the way you put the words together so that the reader actually "sees" what is happening. Keep it up, I encourage you to finish this one and any others that you think have merit.

Love ya,


James said...

Thanks, Mom! This one's gonna need a new concept, but I do have several tricks up my sleeve.