Chapter 1 – And One Of Them Would Be Dead

This is a preview of the new mystery novel by Chris Donner,  featuring grief counselor Alice Anne McDonnell in a cozy mystery of suicide, murder and banking.

All the normal copyright stuff applies here.  You can’t use this work and claim it as your own.  You can, however,  freely distribute this link to all your friends and loved ones, but only if you ask them to take a little time to visit my blog when they are done reading Chapter 1.

New chapters will be posted weekly.  Enter your email address in the Follow box to the left in order to get notices of new chapters.  I promise not to give your email address away to anyone else.

Have fun and I hope I leave you pining for more!

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Chapter 1:  And One Of Them Will Be Dead

The Pudding River Java Joint is definitely the place to be in little Pudding River, Oregon.  The Joint, as the locals call it, was hopping this fine Monday morning in early November.  There was been a line waiting for service since the doors opened.

The Pudding River Java Joint was a bit of an anachronism sitting in the middle a street filled with shops housed in elegant Victoriana.  The single storefront cafe was urban loft modern and chic, with it’s ceiling showing the duct work and concrete, sprayed black to make it seem higher.  The floors were of stained and polished concrete.  The starkness of the scene is broken up with wood tables and chairs in front, accompanied by comfortable couches and coffee tables in the rear.

The heady aroma coming from the espresso machines was intoxicating enough to awakening the foggiest of heads. Couple that with the perfume of heating sweet pastry, and the earthiness of freshly baked quiche, and you have a recipe for success.

The baristas were filling orders as quickly as the espresso machine could blast them out.  The cash register was ringing.  The tables were full, covered by laptops or the day’s copy of the Oregonian, nearby Portland’s daily paper.  Chatter was everywhere, getting louder by the minute, as people greeted friends or answered a call on their cell phone.

In other words, everything was normal and the world was revolving in place exactly the way it should.

Amid all the hustle and bustle there moments of calmness.

A middle aged woman discovered one of those moments at a little table in the front window.  The ever growing line of patrons cut her off from the movement in the rest of the coffee shop.  That was fine with her.  She hadn’t come here to find anyone, to meet any old friends or make new ones.  She just wanted to sip her chai and enjoy her marionberry scone.

As she sipped slowly, blowing on the hot cup of foamy whiteness, she reflected on where her life had brought her.  Fifty years old in a few weeks.  Half a century gone, except that she didn’t intend to live to a century.  She wasn’t all that fond of having lived through the first five decades and certainly didn’t want to drag herself through another.  Maybe seventy-five or eighty, then she’s call it quits.  Life had gotten too boring, too predictable.  Where were the dreams of her youth?  She needed to make some changes.  There had to more to life than walking the six blocks to the Joint.  She felt like she was sitting still while the world moved around her.  How did she ever become the most boring person on earth?

She put down her tea and reached for her bag, rummaging around until she found a miniature composition book and a pen.  She blinked at the composition book as she realized that even her little notebook was boring.  Every school child in America had used one of these books with their black and white speckled cardboard cover.  They were as mundane as her life, and a perfect symbol of what she needed to change about herself.  Sighing, she clicked the ballpoint pen and started printing her list:

1.  dye hair electric blue and go outside
2.  if not dead of embarrassment in a week, dye it red
3.  go to the zoo in the middle of the work day
4.  take belly dancing lessons
5.  skydive
6.  go to a karaoke bar and get up on stage
7.  learn to play the accordion (She crossed out accordion and printed trumpet)
8.  travel to africa
9.  take gourmet cooking classes
10. find book of 100 things you should do before you die and pick one more thing for this list.

Sighing again, she looked at her list and shook her head.  She knew herself.  She’d never do any of these things.  How on earth would she ever get out of her rut?

A laptop computer landed on top of her composition book.  She gave a little squeak of surprise and looked up at the owner of the offending machine.  He looked a little befuddled, as if he wasn’t too sure of what had just happened.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know this table was taken”, he said quickly.

“Clearly is it”, she snapped at him.  This was just another example of her plain jane life, she thought.  People don’t even see her sitting at a table, no more than they do when she’s waiting in line at the Pudding River Java Joint or the deli.  The person behind the counter would ask to help everyone else, like she was invisible.  “Maybe it’s because I deal with death all the time”, she thought to herself.  “I’ve become a ghost.”

She looked up at the man with the offending laptop and saw sandy brown hair, carefully trimmed, brilliant blue eyes, a clean shaven face and square, firm chin.  She read some small worry lines in the face and calculated correctly that this forty-something man found his life to be more of a challenge that he ever thought it would be.  Part of the sandwich generation, she thought.  Probably has an elderly parent at home, teens almost ready for college and demands for money on all sides.  He’s finding life is moving too quickly, and not quickly enough.

The man apologized to the woman again.  He shook his head and blinked.  He really hadn’t seen her sitting there.  He didn’t know how he missed seeing her, but he did. He couldn’t find an open table, so he seated himself at the bar, climbing onto one of its tall stools.

Opening his laptop, he logged into The Joint’s wi fi service, then into his office’s network.  He knew he was taking a chance doing that over the wi fi.  His company’s security protocols forbade him logging in on an unsecured wi fi network but he didn’t care about that right now. Let them bust him, if they found out.  He needed answers and he didn’t want some snoop looking over his shoulder.  This was too important.  He needed to know if anyone had found out what he was up to.  It is critical that his secret stayed hidden until the absolute moment when he was ready to take action.

He found himself sweating a little inside his coat and tie.  His heart seemed to be pounding out of his chest, and felt a little tight.  He wondered if this was what a heart attack felt like.  He didn’t have time for a heart attack.  His work is too important, and he needed to finish what he started out to do.  He was a man on a mission.

He took a deep breath to calm himself, wiped his sweaty palms on a napkin, picked up his espresso, then considered whether more caffeine was the best idea right now.  He’d been having trouble sleeping, been too upset to eat much, and was running on power drinks.  Maybe that’s where his shakes were coming from.  He needed to eat something and drink more water, he resolved.  This would soon be over.  It was almost time to act.  He just needed a little bit more time.  Just a little more time.

The tall, thin woman sitting beside him at the counter could feel his tension radiating out and touching her space.  She was very sensitive to things like that, to other people’s energy and was quite good at reading their moods, almost their very thoughts.  It was her job to read people and this fellow was a mess.  His breathing was shallow, and palms were obviously  sweaty, given the number of napkins he was shredding.  She watched him jump as someone dropped a book on the concrete floor.  She wondered what his story was.  He was a businessman, and pretty well placed, too, if the look of his suit was any indication.  His shoes looked expensive, too, and well taken care of.  He  took pride in his appearance, even down to his shaking, manicured hands.

She stretched, working out the kinks of a night of deep sleep. She’d pulled double shifts for three days this week and had finally had a chance to crash last night.  Now she was having trouble waking back up.  She took another swig of the triple shot espresso but still was missing about a thousand neurons that were refusing to fire.  She was used to moving with the grace and ease of a panther but today felt more like a hippo, and an old one at that.  She needed to find a sparring partner and throw someone around for a while. A little taekwondo was always good for what ailed her.

She decided to finish her coffee in the car and stood up to go just as the nervous man beside her snapped his laptop shut.  She waited for him to go ahead of her.  Both of them had to stop as the middle aged woman from the front table dropped her umbrella in the doorway and bent to retrieve it.

The three strangers passed out into the morning light, never dreaming that before the day ended their lives would be inexplicably intertwined, and one of them would be dead.

-> chapter 2 –>

Comments
  1. Kemi says:

    Waoo! Excellent. I’m trying to reach 10K words by the end of today. We’ll see :-). K

  2. […] HomeChapter 1 – And One Of Them Would Be DeadAboutContact Chris […]

  3. boyalasco says:

    its very interesting woooow good job

  4. Swaby says:

    Jeez Chris you are one good writer, kept me entertained throughout! Way to go Girl! Hope you let me know when the next chapter arrives or when you are published, I would by this title!

  5. Love your style, getting the suspense building, make my mine wander and already trying to figure out who it may be!

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  7. Sunshine says:

    Thank you for the visit and the gift you brought. I have to finish some unfinished business and after that,I will get back here to enjoy this story.
    🙂

  8. I’m a huge mystery fan and look forward to your next installment. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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  11. cobbies69 says:

    I have not yet but will read your story, I too was a NANOWRIMO winner, but my story is not finished, probably a long way from finishing. Fantasy, elves,people and weird creatures. I will follow with interest. thank you

  12. Leslie van de Ligt says:

    Well Chris I’m just sorry that there was only one chapter LOL Can’t wait for the whole book :>)) Leslie

  13. […] Preview: The Banker’s Murder ListChapter 1 – And One Of Them Would Be DeadChapter 2: Under the Pale MoonChapter 3: Answers From the DeadChapter 4: Ripped From […]

  14. Judy says:

    Wow. I’m hooked! Great stuff here! Can’t wait for the rest, Chris!

  15. cobbies69 says:

    Good read, , I have started a new blog for novel if you would like to check.http://wp.me/1W0Pa

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