Saturday, September 7, 2013

Work in Progress: Dreams and Terrors

I've had a short hiatus from the Works in Progress series. Let's get back to it . . .

Shalimar Bang is the primary character in my ebook The DreamStalker. The following excerpt is the opening from the story that takes place soon after that previous story. The first tale introduced Shalimar to readers and gave a look at how she operates. In “Dreams and Terrors,” we learn a little more about this consulting detective's interior life.

Dreams and Terrors: A case from the files of Shalimar Bang.


2 a.m.

Raymond Munro couldn’t recall his last good sleep. Maybe last month, when he and his wife had visited his mother-in-law a few days. Even then, the couple had stayed in his wife’s old room, and they were expected to sleep soundly in a twin bed. It might have been a fine bed for a young woman not yet aged seventeen years, but for two middle-aged adults whose ages and waist measurements nearly matched, it was a launchpad for the next day’s crankiness. Still, Raymond thought he’d gotten better rest then than he got now in his king-sized bed in his own house.

He snorted, a sound of resignation and decision. He left his wife asleep in bed, picked up the poker from the living room fireplace and carried it next door, where he broke open the French doors at the back of the house. Inside, a black and white rat terrier rushed Munro while barking furiously. Munro swung the poker, silencing the dog.

Upstairs, James McIntire was stirring from sleep when Munro entered the bedroom and bludgeoned his neighbor to death.

That would be the last time McIntire thoughtlessly left his dog barking outside at night for two hours, disturbing Munro’s sleep.


2:07 a.m.

Brenda Bristow, housewife, had complained to her friend-from-grade-school-days Alice every time they met for their once-a-month daiquiris that she was “terminally tired.” Maybe not every time. But certainly each time they met at Bernet’s Bistro during the past eighteen months, the words had come out of her mouth. Usually after she ordered her second drink. The last three months, she hadn’t smiled as she said it.

This night, Brenda had lain in bed, eyes open, looking at nothing but the darkness between her face and the ceiling. She rose from the bed, picked out pantyhose from the dirty clothes hamper to tie her sleeping husband to the bed. She doused him with rubbing alcohol and set the bed afire.

No more would he come home late smelling of beer and cigarettes.


2:18 a.m.

Vince Shaw had been thinking about purchasing a new TV. Flat screen, “the highest def I can get,” he’d told his co-worker Sam more than once as they’d driven from one plumbing job to the next. But he hadn’t committed yet. He still had a big-tube TV that weighed more than his two college-age sons. But that Vince hadn’t yet shopped and bought his new TV really didn’t matter tonight. William Sandford shot and killed his neighbor, Vince Shaw, who had sat dozing while wrestling flickered on the TV screen. Sanford then emptied Shaw’s garage of the lawnmower, hedge clippers and other tools Shaw had borrowed during the past several months without returning.


9:37 a.m.

Shalimar Bang had purchased Alcatraz Island a few years back and set up her headquarters there. Other parts of the island prison had been converted into residences and posh shopping and dining establishments. She maintained a portion of the old prison still as a museum.

Shalimar gazed out the wall-sized window of her office, watched the boats shuttling visitors over the Bay waters to and from the island. Morning light winked on the fretted surface of the water. Shalimar had dimmed the lights in her office, but as she stood by the window, highlights appeared on the many dark chestnut curls in her hair, touched the small chevron-shaped scar on her forehead, traced the graceful lines of her nose (which she sometimes frowned at in the mirror, thinking it too long) and lips and chin, the arched brows over her delicately curved eyes. She would, at that moment, have made a happy portraitist of any painter or photographer who might have cajoled her into posing, but she habitually shied away from having her likeness captured. To some people, she sometimes seemed obsessive about her desire to cling to whatever shreds of privacy she could control. But Shalimar felt far too much of her life already had been made public, starting with the murder of her parents years ago.

Much of her professional life was purposefully fashioned for public consumption--for example, purchasing a historically significant site like Alcatraz could hardly escape the notice of media newshounds--because doing so promoted her business concerns. But she had learned that keeping the personal and the private separate was an important strategy in staying both profitable and sane in a world in which any shopper, pedestrian, and school pupil could--thanks to mobile technology--serve as a conduit to broadcasting one’s every movement and utterance to the entire global population.

A small chime sounded: Beamish contacting her over the intercom.

“Yes?” When Shalimar spoke, the system automatically analyzed and recognized her voice, then opened the connection.

“Good morning.” Beamish’s voice came across as cheerful. This was his first contact with his boss today. From seven o’clock that morning--as most mornings went--Shalimar had reviewed proposals and requests for projects and cases, updates on existing files, and scanned news feeds from local and international sources.

“News?” Shalimar asked.

“No progress on scheduling a visit with Fred MacIsaac,” Beamish replied. “The mayor is concerned about the amount of boat traffic to the island and the resulting increase in pollution--air, noise, and visual--and wants to meet. Roxanne is getting the new communications systems up and running--”

Shalimar interrupted: “Which phase has she reached?”

“Stage Two diagnostics.”


“And the police chief wants to assign a dedicated liaison from her office.”


“In her words, ‘to monitor your activities and to assess the levels of potential endangerment and opportunities for escalations of emergency alarms to crises alerts requiring management and strategic responses.’ End quote.”

Shalimar rested her forehead against the window. Although she felt nothing from the pressure on the chevron scar, the V turned white as it flattened against the glass. “That was clear and concise.” She watched the boats move on the flashing water, their passengers apparently merrily contributing to a multiplicity of pollutions. “See if you can get any more details from the chief’s office. Put the mayor off for another week . . . maybe tip off the legal team, sounds like it may be their tangle in a few weeks.”


“Send me MacIsaac’s address. I may make a cold call.”

(c) Duane Spurlock

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