Hello Readers, I figured I was due for another update on Shift.
In my last update, Shifted Goal, I indicated I was behind in getting Shift published. I moved my goal from a May publication to a June publication. Well, unfortunately, I’m not going to make that either. Fact is, I descended into sort of a writing funk. Not writers block, per se, cause the book was already written, but rather just a complete lack of motivation to finish the final steps in my publishing process. The two steps I had remaining was to process the editors edits and comments and proofread the book a few times. But around mid march I hit a brick wall. I just stopped. Instead of working on my own writing I spent the time reading. I’ve been reading the Expanse series, which is really great! Even though I watched the show first, I’ve really been enjoying the books! I’m on book 5 now and I’m really excited about getting ahead of the show, you know, how it should be.
But I digress.
The good news is a week or so ago I finally broke out of my funk. I worked diligently to process the final editors edits and address her comments. There was one scene that needed a lot of work but I got it done and am pleased with how it turned out.
I am pleased to announce that the editing process is at least complete and I am now in the proofreading stage! I like to read the book a couple of times (well, technically, read it once, and listen to it being read out loud once) then have third parties proofread it as well. I typically give them a month to read so they don’t feel rushed and then the process is complete!
As of right now I’m shooting for a late July to early August publication. I will make another announcement when I have settled on a date.
In the mean time…
…please please enjoy chapter 1!
Shift is an urban fantasy crime novel set in modern day Prescott Arizona. It’s kind of a police procedural but I make no guarantees for complete procedural accuracy.
Last but not least, before you devour chapter 1, if you’re one of the lucky few who have already read Shift or have enjoyed my Blessed of the Dragon series, consider helping me spread the word by sharing this post and leaving me reviews on Amazon. Word of mouth and reviews means more to me than you know.
Now, without further ado…
Chapter 1 of Shift!
October 19, 2015
“I want a divorce, Fletch.”
The words echoed in Fletcher’s head as he stared at the clock on his desk. He tried to concentrate on the missing persons case sitting idle on his computer, but all he could think about was what Kate had said last night. She’d blindsided him with the declaration, refused to discuss it with him, then barricaded herself in their bedroom. He’d slept on the couch and when he woke up in the morning, she was gone.
Despite what she’d said, they needed to discuss this. There was no way he was going to let this happen without at least talking about it. He decided to text her.
“What time will you be home?”
While he waited for her to reply, he looked at her picture on his desk and wondered how things had ended up where they were. They’d had their fair share of problems, even been through counseling a time or two, but divorce?
After several minutes he got his reply.
“Probably not til late if at all.”
“What do you mean?”
“I might stay with my sister.”
Fletcher clenched his jaw and put his phone down. He wasn’t going to argue with her via text message. He did he best to turn his attention back to the case, but it was proving nearly impossible to concentrate. The details of the case were already more than familiar, but he was trying to find a new lead.
Tyrell Gibson’s parents first reported him missing the afternoon of September 26th, which was nearly a month ago. He hadn’t found anything new since the initial investigation, and at this point the chances of finding Tyrell alive were next to nothing. He hated the idea of giving up, though. It wasn’t in his nature. He glanced over at Kate again and shook his head.
According to Tyrell’s parents, Tyrell hadn’t come home from his night shift at the Burger Mania on the corner of Watson and Willow. They didn’t think much of it initially because he often spent the night at a friend’s house. Fletcher thought it was odd that they allowed that on school nights, but they said they didn’t have a problem with it as long as he kept his grades up in school. When asked about whether he called or texted to say he wouldn’t be home, they said no, but they hadn’t worried because he was bad at keeping his phone charged. Fletcher found that hard to believe—what teenager was ever without a cellphone these days? But there wasn’t a reason to think they weren’t telling the truth.
Fletcher looked at the clock again. It was twenty to five. Knowing he wasn’t going to accomplish anything else for the rest of the day, he logged off the computer, closed the manila folder containing the case documents, and put the folder back in his desk.
“Bugging out early?” Eric Harris said from across their two desks.
Fletcher looked past the two monitors at Eric. He’d worked with Eric on street patrol for several years, but Eric was a new detective and he’d been assigned to train him. “Yeah, I figured I’d head over to Ponderosa’s a few minutes early.”
Fletcher stood and pushed his chair in.
“Roger that, IO,” Eric said. “I’m right behind you anyways.”
“IO?” Fletcher said with a raised eyebrow.
“Intellectual One. It’s a mouthful, I know, so I figured I’d abbreviate it.”
“Wouldn’t want a nickname to be annoying, now would we.” Fletcher grabbed his phone off his desk and said, “See ya in a bit.”
He was out the back door of the station fifteen minutes early. He dug his keys out of his pocket, unlocked the door of his ’89 Chevy S-10, and plopped down into the worn seat. Glad the day was finally over, he let out a deep sigh of relief. He rested his head on the headrest and wearily closed his eyes. His thoughts swirled around work and his failing marriage. Mentally he went round and round before he reminded himself of why he’d left work early. He opened his eyes, but his phone started buzzing before he could fasten his seatbelt. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the name on the screen: Sergeant Frey.
“Dammit,” he said. The phone continued buzzing while he considered letting it go to voicemail. There were plenty of other detectives who weren’t just getting off work and could handle whatever it was Frey was calling for. After a few more buzzes he sighed—in an altogether different way than the previous one; this sigh was one of resignation—and answered the call. “What’s up?” he said with as much enthusiasm he could muster, which wasn’t much.
“Yeah?” He didn’t want to sound disrespectful, but knowing Frey, he would take it that way. He was going to get a tongue-lashing about this, he just knew.
“I need you to come down to 1542 Lakeview Drive.”
“Why?” Yep, he was definitely going to get a tongue-lashing.
“We’ve got a possible homicide.”
“Homicide?” He clenched his eyes shut and pinched the bridge of his nose. “All right, be there in a few.”
Fletcher begrudgingly got out of his truck, shoved the manual lock down, and walked toward his unmarked cruiser. His hope of having an early beer was gone. In fact, he knew he had better odds of winning the lottery tonight than of having a beer at Ponderosa’s.
Eric emerged from the station as he approached the cruiser. He joined Fletcher at the car and said, “So much for bugging out early, eh?”
Fletch sighed again. What was this one—despondency?
“Mind if I ride with you?” Eric said.
“Would it matter if I said I did mind?”
“No, not really. I’d probably wonder why you were being a dick, though.”
Fletcher had a mind to keep the passenger door locked and make Eric drive his own cruiser. He certainly wasn’t in the mood to listen to Eric’s antics as they drove across town. But instead, he said, “Get in.”
Fletcher started the engine, fired up the mounted laptop, then glanced at the clock on the dash: 4:49. I should be on the way to the pub. No, I should be in the pub. And instead of drinking away my sorrows I should be drinking… Fletcher stopped himself short, refusing to finish his train of thought. Nothing good would come of continuing. He picked up the hand-held microphone and said, “Detectives Wise and Harris available, en route to the scene.”
“Roger,” a familiar female voice answered.
“God,” Eric said, “what I wouldn’t give for the opportunity to investigate her.”
Fletcher pinched the bridge of his nose again and closed his eyes. Tina was a dispatcher who had been with the department for nearly as long as he had. They’d become friends over the years and their paths occasionally crossed outside of work—such as the department Fourth of July party, or when he was at Ponderosa’s. He would be lying if he said she wasn’t attractive, because she was—very—but he tried not to think about her like that anymore. Despite his best efforts, though, when he heard her voice over the radio he sometimes relapsed and thought about her the way he knew Eric did. Eric was a man with a one-track mind, and his reputation in the department had preceded him. But Eric was single. He could think and do whatever he wanted. Fletcher was married. Happily. Or at least until last night he’d thought he was. His marriage wasn’t perfect, but whose was?
The address of the scene of the crime popped up on the laptop’s map display with a ding, and Fletcher redirected his attention to the situation at hand. He acknowledged receipt, then pulled out of the parking lot. He turned right onto Gurley and merged with the traffic trying to get out of town for the day. That was one of several reasons he enjoyed going to Ponderosa’s after work—he could avoid most of the rush-hour traffic, such as it was in a modest city like Prescott, Arizona. Kate was never home for dinner anyway, so he was rarely in a rush to get home.
Eric messed around on his phone as Fletcher drove. It looked like he was sending text messages left and right. Fletcher reckoned Eric could fire off texts faster than he could rounds in his gun. He often wondered who Eric was always texting but had quit asking long ago because Eric always replied, “No one in particular.” But he didn’t complain. He was glad for the relative silence, broken only by the incessant click-clacking of Eric’s phone.
More often than not, if Eric wasn’t on his phone he was a nonstop chatterbox. However, after a few minutes he set his phone on his lap and said, “So, how are things with Kate?”
All good things come to an end, Fletcher thought. And he wasn’t talking about his marriage. He looked over at Eric out of the corner of his eye.
“What?” Eric said.
“I don’t really want to talk about it, presently.”
“Talk about what?”
“You know, for a detective, you can be really obtuse sometimes.”
“Obtuse?” Eric said, trying the word out as though he’d never heard it before. “Here you go, getting all Mr. Smarty Pants on me again.”
Fletcher glared at Eric. He hated that Eric so willingly participated in the name game. He knew the other detectives had put him up to it when he’d switched from the beat to their department. “She told me she wanted a divorce, Eric.”
“Oh… Shit. I’m sorry, man. I didn’t mean to—”
“It’s all right,” Fletcher said with a wave of the hand.
“Knowing you, I figured you guys would patch things up.”
“What’s that supposed to… never mind.” Fletcher did not want to discuss his marital problems with Eric, a man who changed sexual partners more often than he changed his underwear.
Fletcher navigated the rush hour traffic and finally turned into a subdivision off Watson Lake—the same area in which Tyrell had gone missing, he thought idly. He made an immediate right onto a side street and stopped in front of a squad car blocking the road, its lights flashing. An officer standing by the trunk waved Fletcher by, and he drove around the vehicle and up to where several more squad cars gathered.
He parked the car and said, “Grab the kit, would ya?”
Fletcher radioed that they were on scene, but remained seated as Eric climbed out. He stared blankly down the road at the flashing lights, Kate’s words still echoing in his head. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and texted her to let her know he was going to be late. He hoped she decided to come home so they could talk.
Fletcher looked up at Eric, who was standing by the hood gesturing at him, and sighed. He slid his phone back into his pocket and got out of the cruiser. They walked the rest of the way down Lakeview Drive toward 1542, passing a few groups of curious neighbors gathered on driveways. They were talking amongst themselves, every one of them gawking as if they’d never seen such a commotion before. Given Prescott’s sleepy nature, he imagined they hadn’t—at least not in this particular neighborhood. The most excitement they probably got out here were the semi-regular first responders attending to one of their elderly neighbors.
The house in question, which was on the left just before the road ended in a cul-de-sac, had its perimeter roped off with police tape. An ambulance was parked on the curb just past the driveway with EMTs gathered at the back door. There was a yellow VW bug parked in the driveway, as well as another group of neighbors gathered in the middle of the cul-de-sac. Officer Spencer Barr leaned on the trunk of his cruiser, which was parked in front of the house. “How goes it, Wise Guy?”
“Well, I’m not drinking beer,” Fletcher said. “You?”
“Oh, you know…”
He did not, in fact, know.
Seeing someone in the back of Barr’s cruiser, he peered in and saw a woman sitting there, looking straight ahead, her hands behind her back. Her hair was neatly done and she was wearing a yellow dress-miniskirt thing. He ignored her for the moment and walked toward the driveway. He was met at the tape by Officer Peter Copeland.
“Detectives,” Copeland said. “What’s up?”
“I’m not drinking beer,” Fletcher repeated. Copeland handed him a clipboard, which he signed.
“I had big plans tonight,” Eric said.
“Oh yeah?” Copeland said. “Which were what?”
“Do you really need to ask?” Fletcher said, slapping Eric in the chest with the flat side of clipboard.
“You’re probably right,” Copeland said with a shudder.
“You’re just jealous,” Eric said.
“Just sign,” Fletcher said.
“Can you imagine what it’s like working with someone as wound-up as this guy?” Eric curled his fist into a ball and gestured at Fletcher with a thumb. “He’s like a—”
“A what?” Fletcher interjected. Eric didn’t answer, so Fletcher ignored him and ducked under the tape. Fortunately, Eric had sense enough to follow. Given Fletcher’s clout in the department, it wouldn’t take much complaint on his part to get Eric’s training transferred to someone else. He made his way over to Sergeant Frey and said, “What do we got?”
“Marlon Williams, early twenties, shot twice—chest and abdomen,” Frey said. “Barr and Thorton cleared the house and reported the victim deceased. Neighbors reported hearing a couple gunshots, then, a minute or so later, a woman screaming. They say a woman exited the house by the front door and sat in the middle of the driveway. Stayed there until Barr and Thorton arrived.”
“They find anybody else?”
“Not yet. She’s in the back of Barr’s car.” Fletcher looked over his shoulder at the squad car behind him, remembering the woman sitting in the back. “She’s been pretty talkative and spins quite the tale. His words, not mine.”
“He interrogated her?”
“Nope. She started talking the moment they arrived.”
“What kind of tale?”
“All right.” Fletcher ducked back under the tape and walked back to Barr’s car, Eric tagging along behind him. “Got a talker, eh?”
“Sure do,” Barr said. “Started yapping the moment I walked up to her and wouldn’t stop until I put her in the car.”
Fletcher looked in at her again. She was still staring straight forward and rocked slightly back and forth. “What’s her name?”
Fletcher looked up Barr. “And she’s the shooter?”
“Not according to her.”
That didn’t surprise him. Even in the face of mountains of evidence, criminals often denied their involvement in a crime.
“So what’d she say?”
“When Thorton and I arrived, she was sitting in the middle of the driveway with her legs crossed.” Odd, Fletcher thought. Why wouldn’t she have fled the scene? Sticking around wouldn’t help with whatever alibi she’d concocted. “He went inside, and I guarded her. She didn’t need guarding, though, because she wasn’t going anywhere. She just sat there and rocked back and forth.” Fletcher peered back inside the car, where Renee was still rocking slightly. “When Thorton came back out he reported that a man had been shot twice and confirmed he was dead. After that, she wouldn’t stop talking. It was like I accidentally chopped the head off a sprinkler with my mower and couldn’t get the water to stop flowing.”
Fletcher looked at Barr again, this time with disbelief.
“What?” Barr said.
“You mow your lawn at the same time you’re watering it?”
“Then how’d you chop the head off? Don’t they pop up or something when they turn on?”
“I don’t know. Why you gotta analyze everything?”
“He’s in a mood,” Eric said.
Fletcher pinched the bridge of his nose.
“All I know is somehow I musta chopped one while I was mowing, ’cause the next time they came on it was like Old Faithful. Anyway, she was like that: started talking and wouldn’t stop till she was sitting in the car.”
“Okay, get back to the part where she supposedly started yapping.”
“As I was saying, she spun quite the tale. Talking all crazy and shit.”
“What do you mean?”
“After Thorton reported that the victim was deceased she started saying, ‘I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it,’ over and over. She mumbled something about being in a coffee shop then a dark room.”
“Darkroom?” Fletcher said. “Like for developing film?”
“Dunno. But then she claims that somehow she was magically here.”
“What do you mean, magically?”
“Says she doesn’t know how she got here.”
“That her car? The V-dub?”
“It’s registered to her,” Barr said.
Well, how she got here is pretty obvious then, isn’t it?
“But she claims she didn’t drive it here.”
“So she had an accomplice,” Fletcher thought aloud.
“Well, as of yet we got no one.”
“One’ll turn up, I’m sure. She couldn’t have teleported here.”
“But that’s exactlywhat she’s claiming.”
“Said one second she was in the coffee shop, then magically in a dark room, then from there to here.”
“She actuallysaid she teleported here?” Fletcher said with exasperation.
“She didn’t use that word exactly, but yeah.”
“Well, that’s a new one,” Fletcher said. He looked over at Eric, who shrugged his shoulders.
“What are you looking at me for?”
“Here’s the kicker,” Barr said.
“There’s a kicker? How can you possibly trump teleportation?”
“She sat there rocking back and forth babbling nonsense for a spell and then—you’re never gonna believe this—she claimed she was a man.”