Chapter One

Chapter One

A Chapter by mysteryman

Bailey sat at his new desk in his new office, alone and peaceful, the only light filtered through blinded windows.    He waited until his watch read eight o’clock.  He turned on all the lights, intensely illuminating the two rooms, drenching them in incandescent white.  The words painted on the front door, “Bailey Investigations,” were barely dry, and the fresh coat of paint on the walls still smelled new.   He wore blue jeans and a black tee-shirt covered with a brown leather aviator jacket.  Funny he could remember being forbidden to touch guns as a child, but now he patted his Glock 19 against his right hip and it comforted him.  This was a new beginning if not exactly turning over a new leaf.  The day before yesterday the office was a vacant office space with no furniture, no personality, and no aura.

            Aura, as in air or atmosphere, not the kind one has preceding a migraine headache or a seizure.  An impression or sensation one experiences under certain conditions.  Fans of the paranormal define it as a force emanating from someone. Bailey called his aura his sixth sense.     He was aware of his talent even as a child.  He knew, for instance, which days his father would come home drunk and belligerent and which days he would come home bearing gifts and begging forgiveness.  He learned at an early age when to speak and when to remain silent. 

Since he started advertising three weeks ago, he already held his first case.  It was a deceptively simple follow-the-cheating-spouse case to obtain incriminating pictures.  Bailey’s client, a Mr. Peter Becker, wanted evidence that his wife, Barbara, was having an affair.  Bailey required a five-thousand dollar retention fee for adultery cases which Mr. Becker happily provided.  Bailey purchased a Canon Power Shot SX-10 digital camera, ready with an SD memory card, to use in the investigation of Mrs. Becker.

            The Beckers were affluent and lived along the northern edge of Forest Park, in the heart of the city.  Forest Park was St. Louis’ small answer to New York City’s Central Park.  The park was bookended by the science center at one end and the zoo at the other.  Bailey’s office in the Central West End was literally just a few blocks away.  He decided just to do a walk-by today since the weather was favorable, which it usually was not.  Typically it was too hot, too cold, too wet, or too humid, but today it was sunny and seventy-five with only a few clouds tumbling across the sapphire sky, tossed about by the gusts of wind.  He was not one to normally admire nature, but the trees and grass were a shade of shimmering green one only gets to see in the spring, and so he set off on foot to see how the other half lived.

            The other half.  The wealthy, the rich, the prosperous.  Unlike Bailey’s parents who were obligated to count every penny and live paycheck to paycheck.  His father was a high school science teacher and his mother was a secretary for a very frugal accountant.  They never had all that they wanted, but there was always food on the table and a roof over their heads.

 The walk took only twenty minutes, most of it spent waiting at Kingshighway to cross the street.  Bailey slowed his pace as he approached the house.  The Becker home was, as imagined, large and possessed a stone exterior; in Great Britain it would have a prestigious, or pretentious, name like Sutterland House or something.  The name Sutterland came to mind because that was the name of Mr. Becker’s partner at their architecture firm.  There was a semicircular drive in which was parked a sleek, silver SLK Mercedes-Benz that per Mr. Becker, Mrs. Becker drove. 

            The Beckers could have lived quite easily on his income alone as he was an esteemed and much sought after architect in St. Louis, but they also enjoyed the fortune passed down to Mrs. Becker by her late parents, Jack and Susan Adams, who had been impossibly wealthy having struck crude oil in Texas.  All of this information came to Bailey via one cell phone conversation with Mr. Becker and a little digging on the internet.  Bailey now reversed directions and walked again in front of their house.  He was looking for a place where he could see but not be seen and a vantage point from which he could take photographs or post a hidden video camera.  He was also inspecting the parking situation in the area, for when he was doing surveillance, he would need a ready getaway in case he needed to hastily follow someone.

The hedge along the fence beside the garage looked like an ideal spot for spying.  The hedge was dark, green and dense, and there was just enough space between it and the fence that separated properties for a man to stand.  There was ample street parking on the other side of the street except for Thursday afternoons when cars would be towed in order to make room for the street sweeper.  He thought, mistakenly, that this would be a relatively simple job.  He took off walking back to the office.  He thought he smelled jasmine but did not see any nearby.

 Yesterday, the movers brought the office furniture and supplies.  Today he brought all of his P.I. equipment and devices.  He also brought several vintage framed movie posters from home to hang on the walls.  The first was The Maltese Falcon, the definitive 1941 version with Humphrey Bogart, not either of the two prior attempts at bringing the novel to film.  The second one was The Big Sleep, also starring Humphrey Bogart, along with Lauren Bacall, from 1946.  And finally, in a different genre, was Rebecca from 1940 starring Laurence Olivier and directed of course by Alfred Hitchcock.

            He strategically hung the posters on the walls, and now the office had an aura, one of nostalgic film noir, precisely as he wanted; images that evoked dark alleys and cigar smoke and fedoras.  He had printed business cards with a clever four-leaf clover design.  But still he was unhappy, despondent even.  His wife of twenty-five years passed away six months earlier after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.  It only was found by chance.  A CT scan of her abdomen to check her gallbladder revealed, instead of gallstones, the cancer and its metastases.  She endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy with no improvement at all, she deteriorated rapidly.  She was only fifty years old when she died.  Twenty-five years together and he never wanted a child, until now, now that it was too late.  He wished there was someone to look after, to take care of.  He felt alone and lonely, and could not imagine a remedy, other than to work.

 His life having been upended, Bailey chose to move from Oakville back to St. Louis, and to practice as a professional investigator.  His wife, Lenore, persuaded him to quit being a police detective fifteen years ago after being shot twice, though both were shot into a bullet proof vest.  From that point forward, he was known to his colleagues and friends as “Lucky,” although soon he would find a certain morose irony in that nickname.

  They moved from St. Louis to Oakville fifteen years ago.  He served as sheriff there until Lenore died.  There was a point when he thought he would not be able to overcome her loss.  Though for the most part he resumed his life, the long stretches of normality were still punctuated with moments of fragility.  When she died, he decided he wanted to work for himself, not buried in bureaucratic bullshit, so he got himself licensed as a professional investigator and was now taking cases.           

He sensed he was about to receive a phone call, and on cue, his cell phone started ringing.  The caller was ‘unknown.’  He answered, “Bailey Investigations, how can I help you?”

            He got goosebumps up and down his arms, and his throat felt as though he could not swallow.  He suddenly realized the depth of the responsibility he was taking on and he felt as though he might have a panic attack.  He gathered himself and got his emotions under control.  He would wonder later if those symptoms were a manifestation of his sixth sense rather than panic.

            The voice at the other end of the conversation was masculine and clearly distraught.  “Yes, I need to hire you immediately,  I’ve got a dire situation.”

            Bailey replied, “Just what is it that you require my services for, sir?”

            “I’ve got a crisis here.  My baby has been kidnapped.  And the kidnappers said if I call the police they will kill him so I thought maybe you could help me,” he gushed all in one breath.

            “Okay did the kidnappers leave a ransom note or call by phone?”

            “They left a note.”

            “Okay I want you to only handle the note by grabbing as little as possible of it, in case there are some fingerprints to be found.  Put it in a plastic baggie and come to my office right now.”  Bailey hung up and immediately called his old friend, Dane Taylor, who had been a deputy in Oakville while Bailey was the sheriff.  Taylor also moved to the city and was working part-time for the police department.  Bailey and Taylor held an arrangement in which Taylor would come to work with Bailey once Bailey was busy enough.  Well, Bailey thought he was now busy enough to ask for help.  He relayed this news to Taylor, who was excited to have something to do.  Taylor was already at the office when Bailey returned.  They shook hands, and Taylor asked, “What have you got?”

            Taylor was a tall man at six foot and three.  His hair was smooth, dark brown, and almost reached his shoulders.  His eyes were milk chocolate brown, his nose was a bit bulbous, and his lips were pleasantly full.  He was a skinny and lanky man and appeared as flesh and bones but he was surprisingly strong.  He looked at the world as if it was a frame, and certain things fit but others did not.  He was about half as old as Bailey, and didn’t have the experience that Bailey did, but he had a knack for recognizing right from wrong and truth from untruth.

            Bailey said to him “I’ve got two cases already and the kidnapping one I’ll handle myself, but if you would take the surveillance case,  that would really help.”  Taylor nodded his assent.  Bailey proceeded to tell him the details of the case, including where amongst the hedge he thought would make a good viewing point.  He would not have planned on hiring a receptionist right away, but realized that a receptionist would be necessary after all.  He made a mental note to place an advertisement for a receptionist. 

            “All righty, I’ll get started pronto,” Taylor said as Bailey handed him a file, the camera, binoculars, a hidden camera, and a long range listening device.  As he left, another man entered.   Bailey put his phone directly to voicemail to avoid interruptions.

            The man stood about five foot and ten, weighed approximately one-hundred eighty pounds, had blonde hair and blue eyes, and was dressed casually in khaki pants and a short sleeve green shirt that he wore untucked.  He appeared breathless, distressed, and he had beads of perspiration on his forehead. “I am Charles Langdon, the father of the baby who has been kidnapped.”  He held in his left hand a sandwich sized plastic baggie which contained a folded piece of paper.  Mr. Langdon set down the baggie on the desk and started wringing his hands nervously, and possibly hyperventilating a bit. 

Bailey offered him a chair and then sat down behind his desk.  He held at hand a legal pad and a ball point pen.  “Let’s get right to it, Mr. Langdon.  When and where was the last time your baby was seen?”

            “Our nanny, Maddy, well her proper name is Madeline St. Clair, she put him down to sleep at one o’clock this afternoon.  He normally naps for only one hour.  After an hour and a half, Maddy went back in to check on him and he was missing.  A safety pin held this note to his blanket, which was left behind.  Maddy read it, called me immediately, and I went home right away.  After I read the note I thought that a private investigator would be preferable to daring to call the police.  I saw your ad and called you and now I’m here, I haven’t even yet called my wife.”  He looked at Bailey imploringly.

            Bailey asked, “How old is your baby and what is his name?”

            “He’s about 18 months old and his name is Lance.”

            “Okay,” Bailey said, “let’s see the note.”  Mr. Langdon passed the baggie to Bailey, who put on a pair of non-latex gloves.  The note was folded in quarters and the safety pin was still attached to it.  Bailey carefully unfolded the note.  It appeared to be standard copy paper with a message printed on it from an inkjet printer.  The note said simply:

I have your baby

You have 72 hours to get to me $400,000

Do not call the police or he will die

We will be in touch

Somebody needed a specific amount of money, he thought; either that or someone knew exactly how much Langdon could afford.  The first and second lines contradicted the fourth line; the first line “I” and the second line “me” suggested a single suspect while the “we” in the fourth line sounded like a group of suspects.

 Bailey sprayed the paper with ninhydrin and several fingerprints did appear.  There seemed to be two distinct sets of prints on the paper, and Bailey guessed that they would most likely match Maddy and Mr. Langdon.  He asked Mr. Langdon for his prints, to which he readily acquiesced.  They did in fact match one of the sets of fingerprints on the note.  Bailey would get Maddy’s fingerprints later.

 First he needed to impress upon Mr. Langdon that he lacked the arsenal of forensic capabilities that the FBI had at their disposal.  He argued and argued with Langdon, circles and circles, but to no avail.  There was no convincing Langdon that the FBI ought to be brought in as quickly as possible.  Bailey explained an amber alert could be issued if they would only go to the police and the FBI.  Bailey even broached the subject of the famous kidnapping case of Charles Lindbergh Jr. of 1932 and remarked that if kidnapping were a federal crime before that case, who knows if the outcome may have been more favorable.  But Langdon was not to be moved, he was adamant.  Bailey would later reflect on this moment, for it was from this moment that everything started to go wrong.



© 2011 mysteryman

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A paragraph by paragraph review (continuing with paragraph 21-end)

21) When describing Taylor's ability to fit things into frames, just preface the sentence with "Bailey knew from years of working with the man that Taylor looked at the world..." just to keep it in Bailey's POV.

22) "When Taylor nodded his assent, Bailey proceeded to tell him..." Add when here, otherwise Taylor's actions should be in a seperate paragraph. The mental note about the receptionist is good, but the first lines are a bit klunky. Maybe try: "He hadn't planned on hiring a receptionist right away..."

23) Not much wrong with this short passage, maybe start with "Taylor said, 'All righty, etc.' then have Bailey hand him his gear.

24) Descriptions are so tricky...I agonize over them. I understand Bailey used to be a cop but he sounds like he's giving a police report description. Give the man he's describing a little more personality, a physical quirk or something unique to him that Bailey notices. He doesn't "appear" breathless; he either is or he isn't. Does Bailey notice something about the guy that makes him wonder if the beads of sweat on his forehead are from rushing to his office or something else? "...and possibly hyperventilating a bit." Nervous is good, because it casts some suspicion, hyperventilating is a bit over-dramatic I think.


26) The rambling aspect is good, because we don't know if he's rambling because he's distraught or guilty of least we shouldn't know. I mean, he hasn't even called his wife? What's that all about?

27-29) What can you say about short, sweet dialogue. It's good.

30) Mr. Langdon passing the note should begin a new paragraph. And I like the wording of the note. I wouldn't change anything here.

31) Start this paragraph with "Bailey thought" just to establish he's going to shine some insight onto the note. The observation is a good one and, clearly, important.

32) To give a bit more background on some of the things he uses in his investigations, maybe have Bailey get up from behind his desk and search through a cupboard or cabinet or whatever for his ninhydrin, picking through things, knowing it's in there, he just unpacked the damn thing. Small bits of detail go such a long way.

33) I want to hate this paragraph because I hate telling instead of showing, but I have to confess, it works, and I wouldn't change a word.

In summary, good bones ;-) Hope some of this helps.
xxoo -kimmer

Posted 10 Years Ago

A paragraph by paragraph review (continuing with paragraphs 13-20)

13) Put him back in the present. Establish him sitting at his desk or gazing out the window of his office, something to bring us back to the moment. And then give him have the sense his cell is about to ring.

14) ugh...Okay, maybe in the previous paragraph use some of this, like when the cell comes up 'unknown' Bailey gets a sense of dread, but then he wonders if it's just "the depth of the responsibility he was taking on." Only because you haven't established earlier that Bailey is prone to panic attacks. This bit: "He gathered himself and got his emotions under control. He would wonder later if those symptoms were a manifestation of his sixth sense rather than panic." I'm on the fence about this...I like foreshadowing but it smells a little cheesey.

15-19) the conversation--> The man: good; Bailey: okay. The man: I wonder if "gushed all in one breath" might be more effective and, decidedly more masculine, as "he choked out in a strained voice" or something like that. Women gush; men, not so much. Put a bit of action into your dialogue sequence, too. Have Bailey go through some motions. Is he reaching for his notebook? Pacing the floor? Craving a cigarette even though he put them down for good over five years ago? Don't just have him standing in the middle of the room with his cell phone to his ear.

20) “Okay I want you to only handle the note by grabbing as little as possible of it, in case there are some fingerprints to be found. Put it in a plastic baggie and come to my office right now.” That sounds a bit familiar, as though Bailey is talking to someone he knows. If you tightened this up some, obviously don't bore us with detailed directions to the office, maybe say something like, "Bailey made sure the man had directions to his office and broke the connection." Maybe even let him feel a little trill of excitement. A kidnapping. Gets the adrenaline going. And then start a new paragraph to place the call to Dane Taylor. Why did Taylor move back to the city? Not some recitation, just Bailey's take on it. Oh, I see...Bailey was still on the street when he was thinking about his office decor. No. Lose the line "Taylor was already at the office when Bailey returned." New paragraph, enter Taylor, shake hands, Taylor asks, "What have you got?"

xxoo -kimmer

Posted 10 Years Ago

A paragraph by paragraph review (continuing with paragraphs 6-10)

6) Try: "The Becker home was, as imagined, large and possessed a stone exterior, in front of which was a semicircular drive in which was parked a sleek, silver SLK Mercedes-Benz that per Mr. Becker, Mrs. Becker drove. In Great Britain the home would have a prestigious, or pretentious, name like Sutterland House. The name Sutterland came to mind because that was the name of Mr. Becker’s partner at their architecture firm."

7) I wonder if some of the wording in this paragraph, particularly "much sought after" and "impossibly wealthy" might be a bit grand for Bailey's upbringing. He might use other, perhaps more colorful phrases.

8) I like the street sweeper detail; shows the way the man thinks. Don't know why we need to know he smells jasmine but then can't find any (unless it is an homage to my Nic? lmao)

9) Establish Bailey is back at his office before going into this bit: "Yesterday, the movers brought the office furniture and supplies. Today he brought all of his P.I. equipment and devices." As far as I knew, he was still out on the street searching for the elusive jasmine. The posters speak of his personality and are a nice touch.

10) "But still he was unhappy, despondent even." and everything that follows just sounds so cold; clinical. If Bailey is as despondent as you'd like us to believe I wonder if you could humanize this passage by including some feelings in the prose. He's sad, and I'll bet more than a little angry. She was only 50 and now she's gone. The CT scan was supposed to be routine, God damn it, and then the worst possible diagnosis! Give this man some emotion. And definitely use the wife's name in this passage, don't wait until later. The part about the child is good, but maybe have Bailey admit to himself that he not only wishes to have someone to take care of but someone to take care of him. Not that he is incapable of taking care of himself, but because his beloved Lenore took such good care of him and he misses that companionship.

Just a quick note about 11-12. 11: lose "his wife"; we know that now. 12: without flaw (finally, eh? lol)

xxoo -kimmer

Posted 10 Years Ago

A paragraph by paragraph review (starting with paragraphs 1-5)

1) "He waited until his watch read eight o’clock and then he turned on all the lights, intensely illuminating the two rooms, drenching them in incandescent white." By omitting the period and adding "and then" you don't break the flow of the story. "Funny he could remember being forbidden to touch guns as a child, but now he patted his Glock 19 against his right hip and it comforted him." I really love this line, but later, when you let us know he was a sheriff and before that a detective, and obviously before that a St. Louis street cop, the memory of being forbidden to touch guns as a child might seem strange at this time in his life. I'm torn, though, because I really love this line.

2) Not loving the "explanation" of aura, only because you've already established in the opening paragraph that this chapter is in Bailey's point of view and, even with the little bit of his personality you've given us so far, I can tell this isn't his voice. "Aura, as in air or atmosphere, not the kind one has preceding a migraine headache or a seizure. An impression or sensation one experiences under certain conditions. Fans of the paranormal define it as a force emanating from someone." If you put it back into Bailey's voice, keep it; otherwise I'd find a different approach to introduce Bailey's sixth sense. The rest is good.

3)I don't suppose Mr. Peter Becker "happily" supplied Bailey the money required for adultery cases. I think you may want to reconsider the line; maybe say something along the lines of "...which Mr. Becker could readily afford, but grudgingly handed over." He suspects his wife of cheating, his ego is bruised, and now to add insult to injury he has to pay another man to obtain proof. No, I don't think Mr. Peter Becker is at all happy.

4) I like the description of the city/neighborhood, all but one line: "...shimmering green one only gets to see in the spring..." Again, this is supposed to be Bailey's story, and with that one word "ONE" you've taken me away from him and thrown me into some narration that upsets the flow of the story. Make it personal to him.

5) Without sounding trite, and how did it make Bailey feel that "They never had all that they wanted, but there was always food on the table and a roof over their heads." Something personal at the end of this paragraph would make it seem less informative and more like character development. And "very frugal" might be redundant. Why not just "frugal"? Or some other word--maybe even something a bit unkind--to describe his dear mother's boss that might give us yet a little more insight into Bailey's personality.

On to 6-10
xxoo -kimmer

Posted 10 Years Ago

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4 Reviews
Added on September 14, 2011
Last Updated on September 20, 2011
Tags: kidnapping, blackmail, murder, adultery
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i am a 43 year old man who has resumed writing lately after a 20 year hiatus, LOL. i'm not very good yet, but what i lack in natural talent i make up for in ambition. more..

Prologue Prologue

A Chapter by mysteryman

Chapter Two Chapter Two

A Chapter by mysteryman

Chapter Three Chapter Three

A Chapter by mysteryman