The Journey Inward – Chapter 1 (ARC)

The following is copyrighted material. It is an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy which is an uncorrected proof and not representative of the final – published version) If you like this chapter, please support the eventual release of this book. Please feel free to make constructive suggestions in the comments or in a personal message to the author. (email at the end of the selection)

The Journey Inward

The Journey Series

Bob James

Copyright Bob James 2016

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the eventual publisher of this book. 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales entirely coincidental. 

Seppe turned his eyes away from the gruesome scene in front of him and looked up at the moons. “At least it isn’t Sand Season,” he thought. He sighed. Then he turned his attention back to the murder scene. It was one of the worst he had ever seen. The blood was spattered over a trail about 20 meters long and hit the buildings on both sides of the dark alley. The stiff’s head had been thrown under the fire escape of the building on the west side of the alley. The victim’s torso was splayed against the trash cans of the Kroll Rader Bar and Grill on the east. Both legs were cut off at the knees. The right leg was 15 meters to the south of the body, while the left leg was next to the head, as if it had been kicking the head. The left arm was partially amputated and hidden by the torso. The right arm was extended, as if he had seen the attack coming at the last minute and tried to defend himself. Even at night the flies were already gathering around the pieces of the corpse.

Seppe looked over at Aiden. Aiden was handling the shock of the scene as well as he was. He sniffed the air and could tell that Aiden was fighting back the nausea that this scene invited. Aiden looked up and saw Seppe looking at him. “Me too,” he said. “Twenty-five cycles on the force and I haven’t seen anything like this.” He laughed a bit. The irony was too heavy not to. “Here I thought they were getting ready to retire me, and now this. I guess I still have a lunar cycle or two left before they run me off.”

Seppe nodded. “You’re just hard to get rid of, aren’t you? I was hoping I wouldn’t have to put up with you much longer.” Seppe and Aiden were a team. In fact, they were THE team for the Wesdanian dectective force. Neither had stuck with a partner for more than a few lunar cycles until Captain Tengler had put these two together out of desperation. They had clicked and spent the last 8 cycles solving the tougher crimes together. The coming disbanding would put an end to all of that. But for now, they had work to do. When Aiden turned back to his work, Seppe sniffed again. He wanted to make sure that the extra smell he had sensed was a part of the crime scene and not just a passing odor.

It wasn’t. His tendrils quivered as he sniffed again. The odor was stronger. He knew it, but he couldn’t place it. He thought back to his childhood. He shuddered. He knew that he would have to talk to his pater. He frowned and shook his head. He turned back to the body when Aiden interrupted his thoughts.

“Something smells real bad about this,” Aiden growled. Seppe jumped a little and his tendrils stood straight out. Had Aiden seen him sniffing the air? Would he realize….

Seppe laughed nervously, “You got a dismembered man here, of course it smells bad.”

Aiden rolled his eyes, “You always do take me too literally, don’t you Seppe.” He laughed in friendly mockery. “I just meant that as bad as things look, there’s more going on here than meets the eye.”

Seppe laughed back. He was relieved. “Brilliant deduction, Aiden. We have a dead guy in pieces scattered across the alley and you figured out that something was wrong. I thought you were getting ready to retire and now you look like you’re bucking for chief.”

Aiden snarled, “Very funny bright boy. Let me just ask you one question. Who did it?”

Seppe shook his head in amusement. “We just got on the case how would I know who did ….” His voice trailed off as suddenly the depth of that question hit him right in the gut. “That’s right. We don’t have anything to go on.” He paused, and then looked back up in the sky at the silver moon, “All the bad guys are supposed to be up there.” Aiden and Seppe both stared at Dwarinda, the moon that held all the criminals.

Aiden’s comment highlighted the most puzzling part of the case. Half a cycle ago the Congress had arranged to deport anyone who had ever been convicted of a crime, anyone who had been suspected of a crime, and then anyone who might be thinking about committing a crime to Dwarinda. Wesdania was supposed to be free of any type of crime. Yet here they were, staring at the dismembered body right in front of them. Seppe glanced at the head of the corpse. The eyes stared back at him, mocking his naivete.

“It looks like they missed someone, doesn’t it? What do we got to go on?” Aiden asked with a shrug. “Where do we start?”

Seppe yelled back. “Good question.” He kept the odor clue to himself. He had kept his heritage hidden from Aiden so far, he didn’t want to reveal it now. “Perhaps we’d better get busy and see what we can find.”

“Yeah,” Aiden sighed. “What do you want to search: the head or the torso?”

“I’ll take the head,” Seppe said hesitantly. He had a hunch that Aiden wouldn’t mind and he wanted to check out a possible source for the odor.

“I like that idea,” Aiden said a little more enthusiastically than before. “I never did like working where I thought the victim was watching me work. I was always afraid that he would be alive and start talking to me.”

“Trust me, Aiden,” Seppe shook his head, “This John Doe is NOT going to talk to you.” As he turned towards where the head had been thrown he thought, “But maybe I can get him to tell me his story.”

Seppe examined the ground around him as he took each step. He pulled on a pair of rubber gloves as his tendrils quivered to let him know that he might be on to something. He stooped down a couple of meters from the head and examined the ground. He sniffed hoping to catch a scent that was out of place without Aiden noticing. His head swiveled back and forth as he made his way towards the dismembered head looking and smelling to find any evidence.

“Hey Seppe! You’ll never guess what I found!” Aiden called out excitedly. Seppe turned quickly to look at Aiden’s prize. As he turned his eyes caught a glint of light and his nose picked up a whiff of the scent he had been sniffing for.

“Whatcha got?” he yelled taking note of the glint and the smell. Seppe spied the billfold in Aiden’s hand before he responded.

“I don’t think the motive was robbery,” Aiden yelled. “His credits card is here in his wallet.” Aiden pulled out a small card reader and waved it over the credits card. “This guy had more credits than I’ve ever seen! If the guy who knocked him off was looking for credits, he could have lived out a natural life-time on the credits this guy had.”

“So he was rich. Big deal. Did you get a name and address from the card?” Seppe asked impatiently.

“Yep, some guy named ‘Grenoj.’ He lived over in the Zark,” Aiden responded.

Seppe’s countenance clouded over. He couldn’t say it out loud yet, but this looked like a case of tribal warfare that could be brewing. The Ca’suisse who had migrated into Wesdania City after the Revolution had all moved into the Zark. In fact, they rarely left the Zark which made matters even more troubling. “Why would this Grenoj leave the Zark?” he asked himself. As all this passed through his mind, he quickly processed the information and looked at what he could say. “The Zark?” he asked. “Isn’t that where the Ca’suisse live? Is he Ca’suisse?”

Aiden shrugged his shoulders. “I wouldn’t know, now, would I? You’re gonna have to tell me that. Check for the tribal marks on his head and let me know.”

Seppe turned and laughed quietly to himself. It was hard to believe these two worked together so well with all the barbs flying back and forth. Aiden glanced at Seppe and noticed that he was veering off to the right a bit rather than going straight to the head. He shook his head with resignation and turned back to searching the torso for more clues as to who Grenoj really was.

Seppe veered off to check out the source of the glint of light and the aroma he had noticed when he turned to hear what Aiden had to say. He approached the area slowly, eyes sweeping to and fro trying to catch a glimpse of what he was afraid he would find. Then his eyes picked out a gleam from the ground and he slowly approached as if fearful that the object would attack him of its own volition. He reached down quickly and picked up the toothpick sized object, putting it into an evidence baglet and just as quickly concealing it in his coat lest his partner see it. He justified his actions because he knew that few, if any, Wesdanians would understand the significance of the Qu’epic. “In fact,” he thought, “most Qu’evah wouldn’t know of it either.” His father’s endless teachings on the culture and the traditions of the Qu’evah, even the bloody ones, might actually be important now. As much as he tried to hide his heritage, he was sickened that a member of his own tribe might be guilty of such a horrendous murder.

“What did you find?” Aiden called out. He had seen Seppe stoop down but couldn’t see everything he had done.

Seppe broke out of his reverie and breathed a second to regain his composure. He decided that Aiden hadn’t seen him pick up the Qu’epic and told his lie with more assurance than he should have felt. “Nothing. I thought I saw something over here but it was just a piece of trash.” He knelt down again and picked up a tiny piece of silver thread that was near where the Qu’epic had been dropped and showed it to Aiden.

“It’s probably nothing, but why don’t you bag it anyway. You never know,” Aiden said helpfully.

“I don’t think…” Seppe began to contradict him, then faltered as he saw Aiden’s face, “…that’s such a bad idea. You always find clues in the most insignificant places,” Seppe complimented Aiden as he took out another evidence baglet and put the silver thread in there.

He walked slowly to the head and squatted down to examine it. He pulled back Grenoj’s hair looking behind the ears. It didn’t take long to find his Ca’Suisse mark. Next, he checked the neck to see if he could see any Qu’epic marks. He saw the puncture wound just below the jaw and he knew how Grenoj had met his maker; if the Ca’suisse believed in a Maker. He laughed at himself as the prejudices from his old way of life surfaced. Here he was berating the Ca’suisse for maybe not believing in a Maker when he himself chose not to believe in any of the deities, especially the Maker his people believed in.

“He’s Ca’suisse for sure,” Seppe called out to Aiden. Then he anticipated Aiden’s next question. “I wonder what he was doing over in this section of town?” he asked out loud.

“That’s a great question, Seppe,” Aiden nodded. He pointed towards the bar. “Let’s see if any of those bar patrons have any idea what’s going on.”

“Good idea,” Seppe responded. “If nothing else, I’m sure the bartender would love to get those people out of the bar and head home himself.”

Aiden laughed, “You don’t get out much, do you?”

“Whatcha mean?” Seppe asked innocently.

“The Kroll Rader was groundbreaking in letting females tend bar. They have an all-female bar staff, now,” Aiden added.

Seppe was a bit annoyed, “Doesn’t matter if the bartender is male or female. I bet the bartender is ready to go home.”

“True,” Aiden said, a note of triumph on his face. “Let’s go.”


Chapter Two is now available here

For more information or to send comments/criticisms please send email to bobjamesthree@gmail.com 

Hitting Brick Walls #WOW555

This week’s #WOW555 prompt fit in perfectly with what I was writing and what I was feeling: write us a scene that expresses how you are feeling about your writing progress. My characters were getting frustrated with their lack of headway. My female main character had just thought she had a lead, only to discover that what she thought might be a child kidnapping was a legitimate situation. This is her frustration…and mine at the time as I was making no progress myself. I am now within range of hitting y 50K goal. This was the feeling at the time, though!

 

Re’Lears got to her door. It was still wide open from when she had rushed out after the amou and his niece. She berated herself silently for leaving it like that. Anything could have happened. She pulled out her <weapon> and entered cautiously, closing and locking the door silently behind her. She looked around, but nothing seemed disturbed. No one had come in during her flight of frustration.

She flopped down on the couch, closed her eyes and shook her head. “Another dead end!” she exclaimed. “What else can I do?” Just then, the pain in her feet returned and she looked down at them with disgust. Running on the street barefoot would have been bad enough, but doing it during the time of dusting had really taken a toll on her feet. All the sand on the ground had cut into her feet and it was hard to tell where the orange sand stopped and the orange blood began. Not only was she at a dead end, she was in pain over it too.

She got up slowly and walked to the restroom. She’d have to use a lot of her precious water ration to take care of her feet now. She sat down on the toilet and put her feet in the sonic shower. “Maybe that will get rid of some of the dust,” she thought to herself. She turned it on and the sound waves washed over her feet and the leg sticking in the shower. Some of the dust and blood fell to the floor of the shower where the hydrostatic dust remover destroyed it.

She sat in frustrated silence and tended to her feet. She wouldn’t have to use as much of her precious water ration as she had feared, but she still poured some water over her feet and caught it in a bowl for the second pass. She wiped the water off, cleaning the blood with it, and recycled the water from the bowl with a second pass over her feet. She rubbed some antiseptic balm into her feet and they began to feel a little better.

She got up and walked gingerly to the couch. As she did, the morning light began breaking through her window. She shook her head. She had wasted the night worrying about the case; had gone off on a wild goose chase that yielded no results and now she needed to begin the new work day. “What a waste this night was,” she thought regretfully. She headed back to the sonic shower to get cleaned up to start the new day. At least today she could visit Seppe at home. Then she would talk with Shalisse. Somehow, they had to get a break on the case.

Check out the other stories at the link above. Get ready to vote!

Writing Challenge #WOW555 – Tell a Story

Earlier this week, Wendy Strain from Write on Wendy issued her weekly #WOW555 challenge.

Contest Prompt

All right, if you’re keeping up with the NaNo schedule, you’re about 16,670 words into your manuscript by now. Are you seeing a subplot developing yet? Do you just need to take a break from these characters already? Maybe there’s some backstory you’re not sure about. For this week, give yourself permission to explore a tangent of your story. If you’re not in the middle of writing a novel in a month, let’s see 500 words of an idea you’ve been toying with. Yep, you’re reading this right – I’m giving you carte blanche this week. Tell us a good story.

And so, I explored further the life of my villain. How did he get drawn into a life of crime? The story fit into my novel, so I added close to 500 words with this contest! Anyway, here’s the story…

As he plotted his revenge, Cog thought back to when he first met the boss. Life had been rough for his family. He had never known his pater who had been one of the last, if not the last person killed in the Revolution. Because of that, they were poor anyway and now his mater was missing work because she was sick. She had sent him to the market to pick up food for the night.

It was at the market where it happened. The boys who ragged him at school showed up. This time it got physical since there were no teachers around to protect him. The pushing. The pulling. The shoving. Before he knew it, that night’s dinner was on the ground. He was nearly in tears and the relentless teasing continued – until the boss walked in.

Something about the boss scared the boys off and they scattered when they saw him. The boss looked at Cog who was scratched, bleeding slightly, and breathing heavily. He was fighting back tears. “Tonight’s supper?” he asked as he pointed at the mess on the floor.

Cog could only nod his head blinking back the tears.

“So what are you going to do? The boss asked.

Cog could only shrug. How could he tell a complete stranger that he would be going hungry tonight because they had no more money?

The boss nodded, understanding. Then he looked at him closely, as if studying him. “Aren’t you Narez’s boy?”

Cog did a double take and nodded, wondering how this man would know his mater.

The boss softened. “Your pater was a good man. We fought together It was a shame what happened to him.”

Cog choked out his next word; the first word he had spoken since the boss had entered the room. “Thanks.”

The boss nodded. “Things must be tough for you. Let me buy your dinner tonight.” He thought for a bit as if wrestling with himself. Then he said, “If you’re interested in working, I have a job for you. You come work for me and your mater will be taken care of. You come work for me,” the boss’s face darkened a bit in anger now, “creeps like them will never bother you again. You game?”

Cog was speechless at first, then he finally had the presence of mind to ask, “What would I be doing? Who would I have to kill?”

The boss laughed. “I don’t figure you for a killer. I see you more in acquisitions. Ya know, keeping up with my inventory.”

Cog smiled for the first time that night. “I can do that,” he said. “Inventory.”

Cog’s thoughts returned to the present. “’Inventory,’ he told me.” Cog laughed derisively. “Little did I know what I would have to inventory,” he mumbled to himself.

In addition, I won #5MinuteFiction by default. No one else entered. I think it was a good story though. Will share that tomorrow. In the meanwhile, enjoy this story!

 

NaNo Prep – and a Challenge!

I just discovered that I won the #WOW555 Challenge about getting inside the head of my villain. (see previous post) Thanks to those who voted for me and for the tiebreaker system. This week’s prompt is going to be a challenge for me. I’m not that strong on descriptive writing. I have an idea, though!

In your NaNo project, or in a completely unrelated scene, what is a symbolic color or image you are using? Our prompt today is for you to provide us with a scene that uses a color or image symbolically.

Don’t forget, the call for entries will come out on Friday. You’ll have from 5-5 CST to submit your response.

Click the trophy to get to the site. Happy Writing all!

 

#WOW555 Trophy

“Why Would People Call Me a Villain?”

As we get ready for NaNoWriMo, Wendy Strain over at Write on Wendy challenged us to flesh out our villain in her new #WOW555 challenge. The idea would be for us to focus on his/her motivation. This year, the finish to my trilogy involves a villain who doesn’t really see himself as a villain. Perhaps those kind are the worst. Now the story.

He rolled down the window and carefully looked through his binoculars. It was the third day in a row that he had seen this child playing in the park, carefree, alone and unprotected. None of the nannies bringing kids to the park after school even acknowledged her. He decided to follow her today, just to make sure he’d have enough time to get away before her loss was noticed.

He watched as she slowly picked her way through the park, apparently headed for home. He thought about getting out and walking as he followed her, but decided against it. If anyone caught him, he wanted to be able to fly out of there. He didn’t think a 7 year old girl would notice that he was following her. He also didn’t think anyone else would even notice that she was being followed so he decided to chance it and keep using the skimmer.

He shook his head sadly to himself as he thought about that. A cute young girl that no one cared about. “It’s almost like I’m doing her a favor,” he whispered under his breath.. She’ll have someone to take care of her once I pick her up.” He didn’t think about what he would be putting her through, of course. He just knew that the boss needed a girl like her for a special customer. If he did his job well, he’d be rewarded. And now he justified his actions with this fantasy that she’d be taken care of.

He followed her carefully, never getting closer than a half a block to her. She looked at at every flower bed along the way and stopped to pet every dog and every cat she saw. She was just craving attention. She needed someone to give her that attention; she needed someone to love on her. This one would get lots of attention where he would take her; she would have plenty of men to love on her.

He smiled to himself as he thought about it. As he thought more about it, he began to feel slightly heroic as he thought about how he would be rescuing this poor deprived child. As he grew more and more self-assured that he was actually doing the little kid a favor, he got closer and closer without realizing it. Suddenly he realized that the skimmer was right next to the girl. She recognized his presence and he decided to take her now.

“Hey honey? Can you help me? I’m looking for my dog.” He described one she had played with a couple of blocks ago. “Have you seen him?”

She smiled as she nodded without saying anything. “Where is he then?” he asked.

She pointed back the way she had come. He breathed deeply before his next question. “Can you get in and help me find him?” He opened the door and she came in without saying a word. He closed the door behind her and smiled. He was glad she was so young and trusting. She would be safe with him now.

Check out the other entries this week at the Write on Wendy Challenge site!

What do you give up in order to make the time to write?

Interesting question here. I basically said that during November, I focus and get things written. During the rest of the year, I get lazy and play around, mostly on Facebook. If you had to answer this question, how would you answer it?

First Excerpt from Restoring the Peace

This year my novel for NaNoWriMo is a sequel to last year’s novel. Last year was called “Inward Journey.” This year’s was “Restoring the Peace.” As of now, I’m planning on next year’s to be the third book in the series with the title of “Reconciliation.” (I’ll explain the rationale later)

I am publishing the first excerpt today. When I publish raw unedited text, I would love to have your comments and suggestions. Just be kind. I’ve already had one great comment from my Facebook author’s group so, please feel free to help me out. Here’s the setting and then the excerpt.

Setting: the land in the picture below. It’s a few months (lunar cycles) after last year’s novel. Male Main Character (MMC) is Seppe. Female Main Character (FMC) is Re’Lears (Re for short). They are waiting on news about a ruling from the Supreme Council. (I have to work that in more in the re-write…but I digress.) They get news of the death of a childhood friend of Seppe’s. (like an uncle to him)

Wesdania and Seppe

He looked into the night sky and realized that the moons had been in about these same positions when their case began four lunar cycles ago. Darwinda’s silver gleam was just now showing in the eastern sky while Granset’s golden hues were giving the impression of the end of daylight. Now, he was feeling romantic as he looked at Re’Lears under the glow of the moons. His tendrils quivered with excitement as he looked at her. They had begun dating a fourth of a lunar cycle after their last case when Seppe had screwed up the courage to ask her out. He finally realized how much he missed her companionship when they didn’t have the daily give and take of the case. He tried not to flaunt it in front of Aiden who had gained a new love, only to lose her to the killer almost immediately. Aiden hadn’t let his grief show, but Captain Tengler had suggested strongly that he take a vacation once the case was over. Seppe didn’t feel too much guilt about his developing relationship with Re’Lears when Aiden wasn’t around.

He looked at Re’Lears getting ready to say something stupid and make a fool of himself when his communicator chirped. Seppe was a bit annoyed until he realized how much a fool he would have been and thanked the Creator, whom he no longer really believed in, for protecting him. “Probably news about the announcement,” Seppe said breaking the silence.

He stood in silence for a few moments when Re’Lears egged him on. “Well, what’s the news then? Let’s hear it straight.”

“There is no chance of a magical moment tonight,” Seppe thought as he pulled out his communicator. Then he groaned. “It’s not the verdict,” he said, “It’s from Patron.” He looked at the communicator malevolently as if the communicator had failed in its job to protect him. He shook his head and started to put the communicator back in its case.

Re’Lears scolded him. “What? You aren’t even going to read what your Patron said? It might be important.”

Seppe laughed. She didn’t know Patron! “He never has anything important to say. I can tell you what it’s going to say: “Haven’t seen you in a while. Come on back for a visit. Come to the assembly with us.” He scoffed as he started to put the communicator back in his pocket.

As Re’Lears turned to face him, her face caught the golden hues of Granset which, instead of being softening, added an ominous aura to her appearance. “Seppe of the Qu’evah. You read your father’s message right now. I don’t care what you think it says. Read it!” She smiled a bit. “Besides, one of these days you may want me to come with you to meet them,” she said coyly.

Seppe rolled his eyes at Re’Lears and shook his head to let her know that she was wrong. Still, he  took out the communicator, selected the message and opened it. He started reading sarcastically. “’Dear Seppe, We have missed you. I have asked you to come home often. I know that you don’t really want to come home…’ no, how’d he know that?” Seppe asked then continued reading the letter, “‘I was hoping you’d come home for Vierados’ funeral.’” The mocking tone stopped as he read that news. Then he bowed his head as he shook it. “Vierados is dead?” he asked incredulously. He looked around and found a bench to sit down on. He put the communicator between his knees and stared at it in silence until Re’Lears broke through the wall of grief.