Here’s the first chapter of the mystery novel I’m currently working on. Comments are welcome. Does it hook you enough to want to read on?
THE MYSTERY OF MR. WHO
A Case of Fatal Flatulence
The exact moment he lost all memory was one he’ll never forget.
Make that the moment right after his amnesia took hold.
It was strange enough not knowing who he was, or even simple facts about his life—talk about feeling like an idiot—but what happened after that… Well, that was stranger still.
The first thing he saw when he came to was… nothing. He was surrounded by complete and utter darkness. He tried to remember where he was or how he got there, but continued to come up empty.
The pitch-black confines gave him the willies. Feeling like it had him by the throat, he struggled to breath. Couldn’t tell how many invisible hands it had, but it must have been at least three—enough to clutch his throat while also tying his stomach in knots.
Then his willies were one-upped by worries. It was so dark something terrible could be right in front of his face, like a crazed killer could be right there, and he’d never… Was that a growl? Maybe a rabid pit bull about to pounce?
Why was he so afraid of the dark? Was he a child? In his current state of blindness he groped for his face. Nope, that was stubble on his chin and head. He was a grown ass man who was afraid of the dark. What’s more, his hairline, which was now hiding behind the top of his head, had probably been retreating from his forehead for quite some time—maybe decades.
Mixed in with his willies and worries was an unhealthy level of woozy, like he had just come to after a ten count.
A ten count—where the hell did that come from? Was he a boxer? He didn’t know, of course. But from somewhere deep inside, a strong hunch came forward: Whoever he was, he had a long list of things to avoid—an anti-bucket list, if you will, of things he hoped to never experience, to never have to check them off in this lifetime. And taking vicious blows from a guy intent on doing him bodily harm was way higher on that list than not having a night-light.
So being a defeated fighter on the canvas was far from likely. Though he definitely was laid out on his back, just not on canvas. It felt like a hardwood floor. A fidgety one at that, feeling, as he did, regular bumps in between some bigger ones.
A hint of sawdust in the air from what smelled like freshly cut pine made his nose itch. A sneeze was on its way. And when it arrived, it sounded weird, sort of hollow.
He sat up.
Or tried to, anyway, but something very hard painfully stopped him. He rubbed his forehead to check for blood. It was wet, but he couldn’t tell if it was blood, sweat, or both. He reached out and was surprised how close the walls were on both sides.
“What the hell?” Oh, great. A double whammy: in the dark and trapped. And claustrophobia was definitely on the list.
What next? Was he about to be crushed by a wrecking ball dangling from a compromised cable? Or maybe a trap door was about to dump him into a piranha-infested aquarium, with only seconds to—
He forced himself to stop wondering, and took a long, labored breath to try and get a handle on the situation.
Then he heard it. A low hum. It was the deep, muffled rumble of an engine. It got louder and then softened, louder again before softening, and then another downshifting growl before it died down to silence. And no more bumps.
He heard what sounded like a car door open and slam shut. Was he in the trunk of a mobster’s muscle car? What in God’s name have I gotten myself into? he thought. What did I do to deserve this?
A little while later a couple more car doors opened and closed nearby, and a voice, definitely male, said, “Today’s Thursday, right?”
“Yeah,” a woman said. “D’ya think Lumpy’s special’ll be chili ‘n’ grill’ cheese?”
“Hope so. Good chance, anyhow. Has been every Thursday since Thanksgiving.”
Their drawl sounded like they were from somewhere well below the Mason-Dixon line. Anyway, the important thing was they didn’t sound like mobsters. Not that he would know.
Or would he? Maybe he would. Maybe he was an underworld outlaw and his amnesia was caused by a blow to his head when kidnapped and thrown in the trunk by a rival gangster.
And if the gangster had gone into Lumpy’s, which does, in fact, sound like a joint where armed hooligans would go for a bite to eat, this was his chance to make a break for it. He felt around for a latch or some way to let himself out, but found nothing of the sort. Just solid, flat walls.
So he kicked and punched with everything he had for as long as he could until the pain became unbearable—a good ten seconds, if not fifteen.
Nothing gave way. The odds were he didn’t earn a spot in the gang for his muscles, more likely for his bookkeeping.
“Help!” he yelled, while pounding the walls with body parts that weren’t already throbbing. “Help me! Help! Help! Help! I’m in here!”
His yelling reverberated back on him and hurt his ears, so he stopped calling out. It took awhile for his ears to stop ringing so he could listen to see if anyone had heard him. There was only the sound of some traffic. Not a lot, though, just an occasional vehicle passed by.
I must be in a small town or out in the sticks somewhere.
Then there was a loud thumping noise, followed by creaking hinges. It wasn’t a trunk lid, more like big metal doors had been opened. A new assessment snuck up on him.
Am I in a box in the cargo bay of a truck?
He began to second guess his plan. What if the gangster was back to shut him up? Permanently.
“I swear I heard someone screaming from inside there,” a guy outside the truck said, the one who had wondered about Lumpy’s lunch special a little bit ago and from how he sounded, probably not a mobster.
Another guy, who sounded like he probably was, said, “I don’t see nobody in here. Just a load a coffins I gotta get to Underwoods.”
The amnesiac tried his best to keep quiet, only mouthing ‘a coffin’ to himself instead of saying it, in case the bruiser could still hear good through what were probably cauliflower ears.
Oh, no. He felt another sneeze coming on. Dammit. It’s never just one.
“Coffins, huh? That’s creepy,” the chili enthusiast said.
“Yup,” said the man who was probably packing heat, “and they ain’t supposed to have no bodies in ‘em… yet.”
The trapped man tried as hard as he could to stifle his sneeze, but it was stronger than him and fired away.
“There. Did you hear that?” the chili lover said. “There’s someone in there, sure as shootin’.”
“Can’t be,” the thug said.
“Sure sounds like it.”
“Maybe someone was dead and now they’ve come back to life, and they’re mad as hell they’re trapped in a coffin.”
The bruiser, who in all likelihood had a crooked nose and a big scar, said, “No way can that be.”
“It happens. You’ve heard of the walking dead, haven’t you?”
“Don’t say things like that,” the scarred goon with a crooked nose said. “Once they’re dead, that’s it. They stay dead.”
“What about zombies?”
“What do you mean, zombies? There better not be one in here, or they’ll wish they never died and came back to life.”
The man with no recollections could hear his kidnapper climbing into the truck, so he quickly but quietly searched himself for a hidden weapon. If I’m a bad guy, maybe I’m packing and he didn’t find it when he searched me.
“I think it’s the one in the middle, on top, first row,” the guy who wasn’t a hired killer said. “That’s where I heard it coming from, I think.”
The hoodlum was breathing heavily just outside his coffin when another sneeze snuck up on him. He tried very hard to squelch it, but it charged on. In vain, he pinched his nose and covered his closed mouth. And when it let loose his tight lips leaked some air, which made a short farting sound. At least he thought it was his lips.
“What was that?” the bruiser said. “Maybe a rat got in one of these at the shop.”
The man who knew nothing of his past suddenly sensed a reason for his predicament. That must be it. God help me. I probably ratted on his crew and he’s taking me to where they snuff out their snitches.
“I’ll teach it to mess with my goods,” the snitch snuffer said. “That’s why I carry one of these.”
Oh, no! He swore silently. The thug did have a weapon after all. And it wouldn’t be long before he’d open the coffin and use it in the worst sense of the word. And the main sense of the word, too, while he was at it. There was no time for even quick thinking. Only instinct. Since his search for a hidden weapon had come up empty, he couldn’t help but hope his unknown past included advanced martial arts training.
In a flash the butcher popped open the coffin’s lid.
The no memories man would’ve loved to have reported he disarmed the ruffian, fended off his vicious blows, and delivered so much pain he cried uncle. But, sadly, that’s not what happened. The truth was, and this pained him to admit it, he froze and screamed like a baby.
Not that he was able to see how scary the hit man was. After being in the dark so long, the daylight was blinding. He couldn’t see how bent the guy’s nose was or how big his scar. Or what weapon he was about to use to silence him. But there was no mistaking what the thug said.
“Aiiieeeeeee!” He screamed like he’d seen a ghost.
By the time amnesic man could see more than just fuzzy shapes, the goon was gone.
He also heard the chili-and-grilled-cheese guy shouting as he ran away. “Zombiiiiiiiiis! Run for your liiiiiiiiives!”
Then he heard doors slamming and tires peeling out in a hurried retreat. He shrugged. Better this than the other way, with me on a cold slab and a John Doe tag on my big toe.
Not a pretty picture. He needed to shift mental gears and get that image out of his head. He knew it could still happen, that it was a strong possibility, but he had to stay positive. Stay in the now. Keep busy. Figure out where he was, for one thing.
And that’s when he sat up in his coffin and saw the giant chicken.