Sorry it took so long, but I had to get two TWO discrepancy judges! There were too many ties! But here you go—the five finalists who go to Amy Pierpont! Now, here’s the Scooby on that. You have two weeks from today, which is April 1st! To get me your ten pages and a cover letter. The ten pages are to be formatted thusly: 10 pages, Courier 12 or TNR 12, one inch margins all of the way around, and no more than 25 lines per page. One page cover letter, that can be single-spaced. Send to KLTabke@aol.com with your name and First Line Finalist in the subject line.
Again, congrats to the five finalist! I’m really excited about these!
1. It came to Nick Holloway, gradually, that he was lying on cold, hard concrete. Something above held him fast. His shirt was hooked on the undercarriage of a car.
He managed to get loose—tearing his new Rag & Bone combat shirt in the process—-and crawled out from under. Enveloped by the stench of motor oil, shaking and sick, Nick finally realized where he was: the two-car garage beneath the Aspen House.
The last thing he remembered was talking to a guy named Mars at the “Soul Mate” wrap party. He’d never seen Mars before. It was an exclusive wrap party—-just Brianne Cross, the last four contestants, himself, and the crew. But Nick remembered talking to the mysterious Mars, the two of them sitting on the back deck, the movement of Castle Creek rushing underneath the slats making him dizzy.
As Nick used the Escalade’s side mirror to pull himself to his feet, he noticed the bright yellow tape stretched across the entrance to the garage. Printed on the tape were the words: CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS.
A policeman stood in the driveway just beyond the tape, staring at him, his mouth open in shock.
2. The man slouched on the edge of the bed, his fingers clutching the deadly syringe hidden in his jacket pocket. Despite the timpani drum pounding in his chest and echoing in his ears, his face was expressionless.
He stared at the naked, unsuspecting woman asleep on the bed, her slender body seductive even in slumber, her blonde hair a halo on the pillow.
The guilt gnawing at the man’s gut did not spring from having been inside her, making love to her earlier in the night, but from what he knew was inside her heart and mind and soul. That knowledge made killing her wrong—wrong on so many levels. Sadly, he had known it was wrong for a long time, but he had been powerless to change the course of events set in motion all those weeks ago.
What kind of monster had he become?
Somewhere along the way, the compass of his conscience had lost the true magnetic north of morality.
His fingers tightened around the syringe. A heavy sigh escaped his lips, releasing an avalanche of regret, remorse, and resignation; but still, a mountain of sorrow crushed his chest.
The woman stirred. The pools of molten, dark chocolate that were her eyes suddenly opened, and she smiled up at him.
3. The warmth of the desert vanished under a shroud of bone-chilling twilight. And Jackson Neale, cautious now after four bloody years of war, slipped deeper into its murky, concealing cloak. Anyone he’d befriended on the trek westward from Virginia could be counted on one hand, and he knew with absolute certainty that the person riding into his camp tonight wasn’t one of them.
Only a fool would enter another’s camp without hailing first, and this brazen bastard displayed a boldness that truly amazed him.
Jackson lowered his hand to his hip, calm assurance enveloping him as his fingers slipped around the worn, wooden grip of a well-oiled Army Colt. Patiently, he waited as the rider guided a handsome Bay straight toward the saddlebags near the fire; the glow from the low flames highlighting expensive leather chaps and a set of Mexican spurs strapped snuggly around dusty, silver-tipped boots. And despite the chill of the encroaching night, his evening caller’s black jacket hung open, revealing a holstered revolver buckled low around a denim-covered hip.
With a smooth dismount, the rider dropped to the ground beside the saddlebags. All caution inside Jackson evaporated the moment the stranger lowered to one knee. Seeing his chance, he bolted from the shadows and rammed his shoulder full-force into the unsuspecting thief. Momentum drove them both to the ground.
In an instant, Jackson pinned the body against the sandy soil, his full weight anchoring the bastard into submission.
4. He brought four items to their first date: a spray of orange roses, because he knew they were her favorite flower; a duffle bag containing a change of clothing; three condoms to capture any stray DNA; and a freshly sharpened hunting knife.
With anticipation fizzing through his veins—as effervescent as the finest batch of imported champagne—he plowed through the sprinkler mist dampening the walkway and took the steep steps to her porch two at a time. The sheath strapped to his ankle pinched with each step. Trying to ignore the irritating sensation, he concentrated on the sprinkler mist cooling his face. The tactic had a secondary, even more welcome effect, it curbed the eagerness.
Upon reaching the cover of the porch he shook the moisture from his hair and paused to look around. She had a beautiful view up here on Fancher Heights, below—the lights of Wenatchee spread from east to west in a glittering cobweb of diamond dust.
Her neighbors were set well back, hidden behind lush borders of emerald arborvitaes. Secluded upon this bluff, estranged from her nearest neighbor by a leafy barricade of sound-deadening vegetation, the setting couldn’t have been more perfect. Nobody would hear her scream.
She must have been hovering behind the frosted glass of her entry way, because the door flew open before his finger even touched the bell.
“You’re wet,” she said, her cherry-bright lips twisting in a moue of distress as she leaned in to brush at the offending sprinkles garnishing his denim jacket.
5. They had been in the interrogation room for twelve hours straight. He hadn’t left, not even to get coffee or a donut or to tag team in his partner for that whole good cop-bad-cop game. Mia’s eyes were dangerously heavy and though she had propped her chin in alternate hands for the last few hours, both of her biceps were beginning to feel like three day old spaghetti. Across the table, the detective stared that same level stare, the green of his eyes striking her like a backhanded slap.
“I’ve already told you,” she said, exhaustion slurring the edges of her speech,” my name isn’t Bridget, it’s Mia.”
A days’ growth of beard shadowed his jaw, the only sign that he was any worse for wear from their time in this cinder block hell hole.
“Each one of these stacks is a list of charges from a different state,” he explained softly, almost sympathetically, steepling his hands over the piles of paper that ran the length of the table, “and each stack carries at least a thirty year stretch.”
Mia’s eyes widened, racing across the dull formica as she counted the stacks, stopping at the mugshot they had shown her during the first hour – of a woman who looked exactly like her.
“I know these past few years that we’ve had our ups and downs,” he said, leaning in and lifting a hand as if…as if he were going to reach for her, “but you’re in serious trouble, and I need you to work with me…let me help you.”
This was madness – when she’d left the house this morning, on her way to a nothing job in a nothing town in Nowhere, Southern California, she’d never imagined she would end up in a Los Angeles police station by nightfall, being grilled by a man that was either crazy or wrong or both – and seriously unwilling to admit it.
“Bridg…” he started, but she interrupted, pushing up from her seat fast enough to send the chair under her clattering back against the harshly reflective tile. Before she could find her voice, his was there again, filling the impersonal cold of the air between them with a desperate, heated timbre edged in something raw and smoky; “…you have her wedding ring on your key chain.”
Thank you to everyone who participated ad to all of the cheerleaders out there!