For the A-to-Z April Blogging Challenge, I’m writing a story, aiming for 1000 words a day (every day except Sundays). Continuing today with part 7 of a story about the character Codie Snow.
If you’re new to this series of posts, you might want to start here:
NOTE: I have to tell you this: I always start sweating when I give my freshly written babies to beta readers or ARCs to bloggers and reviewers or when a book goes live. It feels a lot like holding my breath, waiting for the moment when I can take air into my lungs again. This? This A-to-Z experiment (well, not the challenge itself but the subject matter I chose—that is, the decision to write a story) is both better and worse than those feelings. In some ways, it’s better, because I’m telling you as I go that this is a rough draft, that it is, of course, not my best writing. It’s rough and raw and unpolished. But it’s also worse, because I’m kind of letting you behind my curtain. I’m letting you see how messy my writing is before I click the Publish button—I’m letting you judge it without even trying to make it worthy to be judged. And I’m allowing you to see all the monumental screw-ups and wrong turns and ridiculous errors I make in my messy writing process.
But as stressful as all that is to me, know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s like holding my breath under water, but it’s also fun. It’s kind of liberating, and I think it will be cool for those of you following along to see how it evolves (although, like many a beta reader, you might not want to see it again)! Much of my writing undergoes quite a bit of evolution (whether it’s prewriting evolution or the changes come after it’s on paper), and all that is to make the story the best it can be. If I didn’t care, I’d just leave it as is, but I make my writing as perfect as possible for you, dear reader.
That said, this is kind of like one of those “Making of” documentaries, a behind-the-scenes look at a movie. 🙂 And I guess, rather than waxing poetic, that I should actually write said story. So here we go!
As the three of them—Codie, Pete, and the man named Tanner—walked toward the back of the house, Codie tried to wrap her mind around the oddness of the situation. There was a woman’s dead body in the basement. The house was packed with people, as though there had been a party of some sort, and the deceased’s husband and one of his friends were chatting in the kitchen over a cup of java, acting as though it were just another evening.
Oh, and the prayer room. What the hell was that?
Codie knew she’d find out soon enough, and in a few moments, the thin blonde man named Tanner turned a doorknob and felt along the wall inside the room for the light switch before stepping aside to let Codie and her cop friend inside.
She wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what she walked into. It was a stark white room without windows—whether this room had been built that way or had it been modified later, Codie didn’t have a clue, but it was unusual. It was bright inside with the lights on. The wall to the right was nothing but several sliding doors covering what Codie assumed was a closet and the other three walls were all but bare, save for a few crosses hanging strategically, so that if a person’s eyes were open, it was hard to avoid seeing at least one. Most of them were simple crosses, but one was a depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The carpet was a light beige and a few gray mats were scattered here and there on the floor. There was a stack of blue plastic chairs in one corner and one short table in another that held one Bible and a couple of pamphlets, but Codie couldn’t see what was on them.
“This is the prayer room,” Tanner said, looking at them through pale blue eyes framed by some of the longest lashes Codie had ever seen on a grown man. As if reading her mind, he said, “It’s a little bare, but that’s to keep our minds as free from distraction as possible.”
Our minds? So he lived there with the couple? That was kind of creepy.
Pete pulled a small notebook out of his front pocket, and Codie almost laughed. She’d had no idea he had one of those too…but it made sense, of course. “If you’d like to sit, we can take some chairs off the stack.”
“I’m all right,” Pete said, not asking Codie or the other man if they wanted to sit. She imagined he wouldn’t want to sit after being crammed in the patrol car for hours on end. Standing was likely a welcome break for his legs. “Mr. Johnson, can you tell me your relationship to the deceased?”
“She was a friend. Through the church, you know.”
“What church?” Pete’s question sounded bland and matter of fact but Codie suspected it was important information.
“The International Congregation of the End of Days.” Wow. That was kind of a mouthful.
Codie hoped her facial expression wouldn’t give away her thoughts, but what she knew of the congregation—what she’d heard, at any rate—was that they were a fringe cult: not quite all controlling but close. She didn’t think she’d ever met any of the members, even in as small a community as Dalton, but they were a thriving enough force that their presence could be felt here and there. Truthfully, though, she didn’t know much about them. She only knew that they supposedly owned lots of property in Dalton as well as other areas in Kansas, Oklahoma, and eastern Colorado.
Rumors, though. She had few facts.
“Tell me what happened this evening.”
Tanner blinked and looked over at Codie before returning his gaze to Pete. “I don’t know how familiar you are with our church, but those of us here are part of Caleb’s ministry.”
“Here? As in Dalton or the house?”
Tanner’s lips curled into an almost condescending smile as he realized that Pete didn’t know much about their arrangement—but neither did Codie for that matter. “In the house. Or houses, I should say.”
“Tell me about that.”
“Well…this house here. This house is for the brothers in Caleb’s ministry, and the house next door is for our sisters.” Codie was fairly certain the man meant sisters and brothers figuratively.
Pete nodded, jotting in his notepad before making eye contact with Tanner again. “So was Mr. Dinsmoor’s wife visiting?”
“No. She was the exception. She and Caleb shared the entire downstairs and the rest of us—the men—have rooms we share with other brothers. But because Caleb and Michelle joined to symbolize Christ’s relationship with his bride the church, he thought it only appropriate that they celebrate that union together. But, um, she still spent a lot of time in the sister house.”
Pete pulled the man back on track. “So tell me what happened tonight.”
“Tonight we were celebrating. Caleb’s ministry, for the moment, is completely full, meaning there’s just no more room in the inn for warm bodies.” The man’s thin lips curled up into a smile. Ah… religious humor. But the timing was bad. Surely, he had to know that. He figured it out and quickly started talking again. “We added one more lost lamb to our fold here in the brothers’ house, and so we were celebrating the bounty that the Lord has given us. Anyway, Michelle came home from work and said she had a headache and headed straight down to the basement. She didn’t even give Caleb the hug she customarily does.”
“Did she act like anything was wrong?”
Tanner shook his head. “No, not physically, anyway.”
“Some other way then?”
“Well, she’s been acting pretty down and depressed the last month or two. When she and Caleb got married last fall, she seemed so happy, like she was on a cloud, because all she’d ever wanted was Caleb. But by Christmas, she kind of moped around all the time. She just doesn’t—didn’t—seem to have the joy of the spirit inside her anymore.”
“Where did Mrs. Dinsmoor work?”
“At a daycare center here in town. I can’t remember which one.”
“Where were you and all the house members all evening? Was everyone accounted for? Did anyone go downstairs at any time?”
Pete looked up from the notebook. “Anything else you think I should know right now?”
Tanner’s mouth scrunched up at the corner. “Not that I can think of.” He paused. “You don’t think she was murdered, do you?”
“I’m not at liberty to speculate, Mr. Johnson. Forensics will tell us the facts soon enough.” He placed the notebook back in his breast pocket where it was hidden again and said, “We’ll probably need you to come to the station to make a formal statement at some point, but we’re done for now.”
The easy demeanor that had been displayed by Tanner up to this point was replaced by a chilly sensation. Codie wondered what the hell that even meant as they walked back toward the kitchen, Pete’s interrogation complete.
UP NEXT: J is for JAVA