Well, my blog mates decided we need to show how we roll here at Her Story Calls. Their suggestion is to show how we edit our own work, or make improvements with each subsequent draft.
The Trouble with Harry
Tony stared out the high-rise window watching dusk settle over Manhattan. He forced his fists to unclench. Taking a deep breath, he slowly spread his fingers far apart in hopes of lessening the tension, then slid his hands into his pockets and watched the Director of Homeland security watching him in the reflective glass.
“No.” Time to face the lion head on.
The Director hunched forward resting his arm on the edge of Tony’s desk. “Don’t make me order you to do this.”
“You can make it an order. If it’s important to you.” With his hand on the back of the desk chair, he slid into the over sized leather chair behind his desk. “But that doesn’t mean I’ll do it.”
Sighing, Charles Updike, the Director of Special Programs for Homeland Security, closed his eyes and tried again. “I need you to go down there to investigate.” Tony noted the almost pleading tone in the directors voice.
“There’s nothing to investigate.” His own voice, gruff and low, rasped as he leaned forward to meet Charles stern gaze. Tony knew he didn’t want to see her again, no matter how bad the director believed the situation.
“How many human agents have we lost over the years? Hundreds? Thousands?” He closed his laptop and began clearing his desk, locking the drawers, preparing to leave the office. It’d been a long, rough day.
“This was no accident.” Charles shuffled the papers he carried in the ever present manila folder. He couldn’t remember a time when Charles was without some folder to keep his hands occupied. The man started at the Bureau about ten years after Tony and Brian joined the BOWS project. Charles had been young, eager and had risen fast through the ranks. He’d never made many friends in the Bureau itself, but his decisions had been solid ones, if not always correct.
Tony continued to stare at the him. When Charles was introduced to BOWS, the Bureau of Otherworldly Species Project, he’d taken the news of Others much better than anyone imagined. He’d sat shocked and stunned to silence for about a minute, then asked “What do we need to do?”
From that moment forward, his path within the Bureau was marked for success, making him the number one “go to” guy in BOWS.
“Okay. You win. What makes you think Brian’s death is not an accident?” He folded his hands in his lap waiting for the story that wouldn’t make any difference since he was not going to Brian’s funeral anyway.
Charles squirmed in the leather chair. His eyes down, folder clenched in his lap. “His laptop and palm pilot are both missing,” the Director said low voice looking up. He waited, a single beat, then added, “and we have the video surveillance from the ABE airport.”
Tony never lost his composure, although he wanted to lean closer, examining every word and the way Charles delivered it. This was a surprise. Enough to force his heart to accelerate.
“Full sized SUV, black, stopped at the scene, and the driver took the items, rifled the briefcase, then got back in the vehicle and drove off.”
“Did you ID the driver?”
“No. His face was protected from the camera by a hood. He slouched, was obviously aware of the camera. He made a clean getaway.”
“Obscured by mud.”
He half turned in the chair, staring off to the Manhattan sunset once more. “Why?”
“That’s what we need to know.”
He leaned back and considered what he did know. Brian was dead, alleged hit and run on the way home for the weekend. Initial reports were when he crossed to long term parking at the Allentown Bethlehem Airport, he was struck by an unidentified vehicle, which left the scene.
Who would want to kill Brian? He’d been with BOWS since its inception, and made the transfer to Homeland Security with the rest of the group immediately after 9/11.
Tony had been with BOWS longer than anyone.
He’d been doing some type of service to the American government since the beginning. But he’d been in service to humanity since he first arrived on earth.
A Time Guardian, he was known by many names in many cultures. Myth and legend surrounded his kind and the service they provided for humans. Protection against the others gone astray, trapped on earth when the time gates collapsed. He’d lost count of the years his kind had waited for the savior, the child of prophecy to be born so that he and others like him could find their way home.
The first thousand years was easy. After that, most of his kind, “shifters” in the current vernacular, began to believe they would never leave this dimension. Humans had proven easy prey for the more powerful shifters, giving up their magic, which offered little defense against the superior time dimension travelers.
Also, the humans were not capable of procreating with the shifters. All attempts to force fulfillment of the hybrid chosen child prophecy resulted in disaster for the human mothers and to date, no shifter females ever reported a viable pregnancy by a human male.
Tony thought it not only unlikely anyone would want to see Brian dead, but improbable that he’d been caught off guard due to the rigorous advanced training field operatives for Homeland Security received. It was true Brian did mostly investigative work for the agency, but he kept his field skills sharp. He should know since Brian was his training partner and they’d recertified less than two weeks ago.
“Who could arrange such an accident?” Tony’s steepled fingers were poised under his chin while he scrutinized the director.
Charles looked down and to the left, examining the folder he still held in an iron grip. “I don’t have any idea.”
“Why? What’s the motive?”
“I don’t know.”
“That’s not helpful.” He clasped his hands in his lap and half turned from Charles. Thumbs twirling furiously as he reviewed what they did know.
“So you can see why I need you to go down there.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Did I tell you that his wife was attacked outside the ER less than an hour after Brian was pronounced dead?”
“What?” His chair squealed as he slammed around to face the director.
Charles slunk back in his chair, a smug smile on his lips. “Unknown Feral Animal attack.”
Silence hung between them.
He had to think this through. Maybe Charles had a point. Brian paid attention– to everything –often to the point of distracting others on the team. He noticed the smallest of details, sometimes months later, when investigations were little more than a memory to the rest of the team. He would pay attention, knowing if he’d been followed, or observed. And he certainly wouldn’t step into traffic, no matter how distracted.
“Was Brian on the phone when he got hit?”
“The tape shows him pulling out the cell an instant before impact.”
“So, maybe it wasn’t an accident.” He edged the chair around to view the now dark park. Running his hand across his jaw he wondered if Brian had been under surveillance and for how long.
“So tell me what you know about the attack at the hospital.”
“Not much.” Charles opened his folder and scanned a few sheets of notes. “Harry–the son– arrived at the hospital first. They told him Brian was alive but critical and started emergency surgery. He went to lab to give blood, and when Maura arrived she only spoke with Brian for a few minutes in the recovery room. Harry told the agent on site that she disappeared in the hospital, and then he, Harry, found her outside surrounded by…”
Charles raised his eyes to meet Tony’s gaze. His lips compressed to form a thin smile. … a group of mean looking dogs. Very large dogs.”
Every internal alarm Tony had was in full on mode. His nerves screamed wrong, wrong, wrong. But he didn’t want to let Charles know how bad he thought the situation really was.
And he needed to get down there ASAP.
Charles continued to stare while Tony strode to the concealed file cabinets on the far side of the room. He flipped the dials with his personal code and grabbed a file from the cabinets before resetting the wall.
“So what will you do?”
“I’m going down. I’ll talk to the agent on site and look around. But that’s all. I’m not staying and I don’t want to be the lead on this.”
“But you do agree we should investigate?”
“Yes.” He didn’t want to elaborate. “Tell me what she said when you talked to her.”
“She called, on Brian’s phone before she left the hospital. She was upset.” Charles rose to follow him around the room as he gathered his case, laptop, phone and jacket in preparation for leaving. “She said she didn’t know what to do, and she hit the autodial feature marked office. She didn’t have a clue who she’d get on the phone. She just wanted us to know. About Brian.”
Tony stopped behind the desk and lifted the handset. He dialed and ordered the chopper in clipped tones. Then he dialed again, this time to reach his trainee.
“Be ready to go in fifteen minutes.”
There you have it, from first draft to second. The changes I made were both bold and italicized. Let me assure you the text will change again, over the course of time. Like most writers I have my own method of editing,and sometimes the text will change as often as I look at it. For the most part, I don’t do any editing until I’ve finished todays pages, then I’m allowed to edit yesterdays pages. I believe you need to put some distance between yourself and your manuscript, how much depends on you.
Sometimes I won’t edit at all until a manuscript is finished, like during November with NaNoWriMo. This assumes you finish a first or rough draft in the 30 days.
Sometimes, especially openings will change completely when you get far into a manuscript. It’s not easy to tell if you’ve started in the right place until the book is done.
In fact, this manuscript originally opened with Harry arriving in the ER before his “father” died. He was joined there by his mother, and the scene was a set up for several complications which catch up with him in the ensuing chapters.
I finally felt it was best to show the involvement of several high government officials and let them raise the questions and deal with the backstory, as well, backstory. It also suits my purpose to show a little bit of the very different world where Tony and Harry live.
But remember, it’s just my opinion. If an editor tells me it’s better another way, I will probably change it, again.