Oh my, another blogfest. Yikes! I mean, literally, "Yikes!" because you're supposed to post your scariest scene. Hmmm. That requires a little thought, because I don't write much scary stuff. For the full blogfest link, click HERE.
I'm not posting anything from my novel, because I think I've put up too many spoilers as it is and I would really like to publish it some day. So here is an excerpt from a mystery story I wrote years ago, about a couple of newlyweds who witness the apparently accidental death of a rich, irritating old man while on vacation in Mexico.
Marianne hurried down the hallway, which was actually a wide, concrete balcony that went all the way around the building. Their room faced east and she could see the glow of the sun starting to set on the western side as she rounded the corner to the elevator. She thought she would just pop around for a moment to see it. It wouldn’t hurt Peter to cool his heels for sixty seconds longer.
She was in time. The red ball of the sun was just dipping towards the horizon. There were no clouds to diffuse the light, just a brilliant, red orb falling into the water as straight as a coin dropping into a bank. She leaned against the balcony wall next to one of the huge pillars, breathing deeply of the evening air and listening to the fountain tinkling in the palm courtyard below. She rehearsed her apology, hoping this spat wouldn’t ruin their entire evening. I really don’t hate him, she thought. He drives me crazy, but he loves me. We just need time to iron out the kinks.
She heard footsteps coming along the corridor and thought for a moment that it might be Peter. She looked around the pillar and saw Peggy Harris. Marianne opened her mouth to speak to her, but stopped. The woman’s face was hard, brittle. Resentment poured out of her and seemed to foul the air. There was something more. Hatred. The triumph of hatred.
Marianne felt her heart shrink within her. In that moment she knew that Harris’s fall had been no accident. It would have been so easy for Peggy to talk him into posing for a picture near the edge of the cliff and then give him a little push. Rita had said that they had been here before and knew the tourist sites well. Peggy Harris had probably been planning this for years, waiting for just the right moment. Marianne realized that in her heart she was almost as guilty as Peggy, desiring the death of a cranky old man.
Mrs. Harris had not yet seen her, having stopped a short distance away to stare at the sunset. Marianne longed to step back behind the pillar, which was large enough to conceal her, but was afraid to move lest her sandals make any noise on the tiled floor. All she has to do is turn her head and she’ll see me. She felt like a rabbit caught in an open field.
Marianne had just made up her mind to say hello as naturally as possible and act like she had only just noticed Peggy standing there, when she heard footsteps behind her. She hoped the person would come around the corner and interrupt them, but instead the footsteps stopped. They’re probably looking at the view, or waiting for someone. Oh God, please make them come around the corner! Then someone else approached the balcony from the opposite direction. Peggy turned to see who it was, and Marianne stepped back behind the pillar, grateful for the other person’s footsteps to mask her own.
“Here you are,” said a man’s voice. It was Jerry Smith. He sounded tense, not like his jovial self. “How are you doing?”
“Not good,” said Mrs. Harris. Marianne was shocked to hear the fragile tremor in the woman’s voice. “It’s worse than I thought.” She started to cry small, gasping sobs, and Marianne heard a rustle of clothing as Jerry embraced her. She could picture Peggy resting her head on his chest, playing on all his masculine emotions. Good God, thought Marianne, this woman is an artist! She has manipulated us all.
“It’s over now,” Jerry said soothingly. “It’s all over. There was no other way.” He sighed deeply. “It’s all for the best.” Marianne’s mind was racing. Jerry had helped her. He was part of it. Poor Rita! Her own brother. Had Robin known? Was that why he had stared so blankly out the bus window? Had his treatment of his wife been fueled by her infidelity? Her heart was suddenly filled with pity for him.
“Come on now,” Jerry was saying, “let’s go down to dinner.”
“I can’t. I can’t possibly eat.”
“It’s important. You have to be seen, to be in mourning. You don’t have to eat anything, just put in an appearance.”
“Allright,” she said bravely. They started to walk, and with horror Marianne realized that their footsteps were heading towards her. In a second they would know that their entire conversation had been overheard. She flattened herself against the pillar, hoping that they wouldn’t notice her. If they did, would Jerry give her a little push over the balcony? The blood pounded in her veins as she thought of the terracotta tiles far below her, and how her body would look splayed beside the fountain.
Just then Peter appeared around the corner. “Oh, hello, Mrs. Harris." His voice was deep and sympathetic. "I’m so sorry about what happened to your husband. It must be horrible for you. Especially being so far from home.”
Peggy groped for words. “Thank you.” Jerry guided her past Peter and they disappeared around the corner. They never noticed Marianne.
Marianne flew to Peter and wrapped her arms around him, pressing her face against his sweaty shirt. He gripped her just as fiercely. “Were you standing there the whole time?” she whispered.
“Yes,” he replied hoarsely. “I heard the whole thing. I saw you standing there, and I wanted to apologize but I was waiting for you to turn around.”
“I’m so sorry for what I said,” Marianne replied. “You were absolutely right.”
He pressed his face against her hair. “I’m sorry too.”