In the past, I’ve enjoyed sharing new works as they are in progress — by sharing a chapter a day with my readers and getting feedback. Some of the stories I’ve finished right here on this site — all the way to the words “The End.” But some of them have served to tease the imagination and gather interest for something new that will be in the marketplace soon. So what about this new work?
Well, the truth is that I’m not sure. I’ll be posting at least 4 chapters on here, but whether I’ll go ahead and finish it as a free read or not, I’m not sure. But since this process is a good way to keep myself working on the task at hand, I’m taking advantage of it, and any feedback that readers want to give will be welcome. I’m also using this post to respond to today’s Daily Post Prompt: Inkling.
Posted below is Chapter One of the first book in the Campus Crimes Series, featuring Darcy Knight, Coed Detective. Book 1 may get an altogether different title by the time it’s ready to go to market, but for now, the series title will have to do. So let’s get this new project started.
“Just stay where you are until the police officers arrive,” the 911 operator said, her voice strong, her tone devoid of emotion. “Normally we’d tell you to exit the building, but since you saw the perpetrator going out through the window, you’re probably just as safe staying right there in the room as you would be outside. The officers should be with you in moments now.”
I had my cell phone on speaker so the building’s janitor, who was standing beside me, could hear the other end of the conversation. I looked at him as if to ask what he thought about those instructions. He shrugged his shoulders and looked toward the window, fear clearly evident in his face. But he didn’t have any better suggestion, and neither did I.
So I answered the 911 operator. “Okay.” My voice was shaking. Well, I was shaking all over. “Okay, and good bye, I guess.”
“No!” she yelled. Well so much for lack of emotion. “Don’t hang up!” she continued. “Stay with me. I’ll stay on the line with you until they get there.”
“Oh … okay … that’s good,” I answered, breathing just a little easier knowing I still had a bit of support, although it would have been useless if that killer had decided to come back.
If I had just accepted the ‘C’ on my research paper and gone on with my life – the way ninety percent of the other students here at Langston Point Junior College do – none of this would have happened. I’d have gone on my merry way, cruising through my college classes, probably still with a ‘B’ average, and enjoying my friends as we journeyed the path into our responsible, adult lives.
Well, that’s what we’ve been told we’re doing. Basically, we’re just sort of hanging out, waiting for inspiration to hit us and point us in the right directions for successful futures. We are attending a junior college close to home because it’s a lot cheaper – and because we’d have to have two years of general studies no matter where we went – and also because a lot of us still aren’t sure what we want to do with our lives.
There are a few exceptions, of course. Carl Miller is a computer nerd who has already developed his own brand of software, and he knows – well, we all know – he is on the rise to fame and fortune. Eddie Wistkowski, better known as ‘Math Brain,’ has such a high grade in calculus and trig that the teacher can’t even figure his average like normal people’s. Eddie is destined for a high level job with the space program and has actually been interviewed by the big guys in that arena who do the scouting for future recruits.
People don’t hear about that kind of recruiting much. It’s mostly the sports stuff the public knows about. But scouting does go on behind closed doors for other occupations too. And Eddie – he’s the real deal when it comes to figuring out anything connected with math components – and he’ll go a long way.
There are a couple girls in my class who know where they’re going in life – other than into some good-looking man’s arms, of course. One of them is Deidre Vernon. Now that girl is bent on law in a big way, and she’s already had her application accepted at Harvard. She intends to work for the U.S. Department of Justice. I hope she makes it. Frankly it makes me tired just seeing her work so hard even now.
The other serious-minded girl is a friend of mine, Keesha Bradley She’s a strong Christian and the leader of our campus Bible club. Keesha sings like an angel and plays three different instruments. She’s a natural with all kinds of music, and she’s determined to use her talents to spread the Gospel.
But except for those four people, the sophomore class at Langston Point Junior College is just sort of winging it right now. And speaking of ‘now,’ I’ve got to keep my mind focused. Here I am, Darcy Knight, college sophomore, tied to a chair in a storage room in the basement of the campus fitness center. Waiting. For what, you might ask.
Well, if I believe what my friend Keesha always tells us – that God hears our prayers and will come to our rescue — then I’m waiting to be rescued. But if Keesha’s not right, I may be waiting to have my life snuffed out just like ─ No, I’m not even going there in my thoughts. My blasted stars! I can’t believe I’ve been so stupid. Why couldn’t I have just been satisfied with that dratted ‘C’!
I guess since I’m going to be here a while anyway, I may as well explain the situation. Here’s how it all started: I was walking across campus with Nadia Falkner, my best friend. We were on our way to the parking lot when we passed the administration building, and I remembered that Professor Sommers had an evening class, so I thought he might have stopped by his office afterwards. The ‘C’ he’d given me on my research paper had been causing me indigestion ever since he’d handed it to me in class that morning, and I decided I’d try to talk him into changing it.
“Why don’t you wait until tomorrow?” Nadia asked. “You’re tired, and he’s tired tonight. You’ll have a better chance to talk him into something when you’re both fresher, and you’ve had a night to think about things.”
I shook my head. “No. I have to do it now. If I don’t, I’ll not be able to get any sleep.”
“It’s just a ‘C’! It’s not the end of the world,” she said.
“But I’ve started this year with a good strong ‘B’ average. This could really mess it up if I happen to get another ‘C’ later on.”
“Well, then don’t get another one. Come on. Let’s go home.”
“No, you go on. I’ll head home as soon as I talk to Professor Sommers.”
“All right, but I think you’re silly for doing it tonight. I’ll probably be asleep by the time you get in, so don’t call me to tell me about it, okay?”
“Promise,” I said and veered off to the sidewalk leading to the Admin building. To be honest, it’s sort of a creepy building at night. There are lights on, of course, but since the college is into saving money, they keep the lights to a minimum, and when faculty are using a hallway, they turn on the lights, as well as the lights in their own offices. But any hallways not in use are left dark. I saw the janitor’s big rolling service cart outside one of the rooms on the ground floor, and I could hear him cleaning that room.
Professor Sommers’ office was on the second floor, and I took the steps – hoping the exercise would help settle my nerves. I didn’t have an inkling of how seriously my nerves were going to be disturbed within the next few minutes.
My blasted stars! How I wish, now, I’d listened to Nadia! I know that’s the stupidest phrase ever – my blasted stars. I have no idea what it means. But my grandmother always said it when she was shocked or angry, and she taught me to use that phrase when I really wanted to say – well, you can probably guess a couple of the things I’d rather have said. Anyway, out of deference to her, I adopted her pet cuss phrase, and now, here I am at nineteen – four months from turning twenty – still using it.
I’m rambling again. Okay, back to the important stuff. When I got to the second floor, the front half of the hall was dark, but the back half – where Sommers’ office was – had lights on. I could also see light coming from his office. When I got to the door, it was standing open about three-fourths of the way. I paused long enough to take a deep breath and clear my throat; then I stepped in and lifted my hand to knock on the opened door – just to be polite.
But before I could knock, I realized there was a dark-clad figure climbing out of the window, straight across from the door, onto the fire escape. My eyes locked onto him (or her – I couldn’t tell), and for the briefest moment, our eyes met. It was just a split second, and I couldn’t have told you what the face looked like at all. Because in the next instant the figure was outside and rushing down the fire escape stairs.
That’s when I finally came to my senses enough to realize I hadn’t said anything, and Professor Sommers hadn’t said anything to me. So I turned my head slightly to the left to look right at his desk, and I suddenly lost all my breath – and almost all my dinner.
To be continued …