“De-sensitized” Excerpt from currently titled soon-to-be-released cozy mystery, Message of Mayhem, by Lisa J Lickel
Note: in this stripped scene, you’ll find a lot of “telling.” The layers of detail, particularly those that use as many senses as possible, are what “shows,” or ties, the experience with the reader. I’ve added sensual cues here from the original scene.
“Ivy!” Martha Robbins called to me from her stoop next door. I stopped at the end of the driveway, still facing the orange glow on the horizon. “Do you know what’s going on?”
Her kids huddle with her in a waffle-textured wool blanket. “Dale was called to the station, but he didn’t say where the fire was.”
“At True’s store,” I ground out. “I have to go.”
“Oh, Ivy. I’m so…” Her voice faded as I started to jog. Two blocks later I slowed to a very fast walk. I realized that loafers were a poor choice of footwear and I slowed to a very fast walk. The evening was still plenty warm and I was...glowing. Soon I slowed as I met up with throngs of people who gathered to watch and wait for news.
I headed toward the alley behind True’s place only to find the entrance taped off. A squad car, lights stabbing the night, sat empty, close by, as Officer Larken spoke to people a few feet away. I moved in their direction, dodging sightseers. A spray of water arced high over the building, which stood sooty but intact, billowing black smoke from broken windows and vents. At least any flames appeared to be out.
“Officer! Officer Larken! Where’s True?”
“Miss Preston. Good eve—”
“It is not!” I snapped. “I need to know what’s happening. How bad is it? Where’s Mr. Thompson?”
“Here, Ivy. I’m here!”
“Oh, thank you, Lord, thank you!” I rushed to him. “I was so worried. I just ran. Are you all right?” I cupped his face in my hands. “How bad is it?”
“The fire burned mostly upstairs, my apartment. The firefighters did a good job. Lots of smoke damage, and of course, water damage. I don’t know about the store stock, but I wouldn’t be surprised if—” He had to stop to catch his breath. The front of his shirt wiggled.
“Isis. Oh, baby.” He opened the edges of his vest so I could see her. I had not even felt her when I had grabbed True so roughly. I reached my hand out to stroke between her ears. “She’s safe, oh, she’s safe.” Isis had no intention of letting True go. She even nipped at me, which I would have done too, under similar circumstances, but I did back off.
“She was already outside,” True said. “She wouldn’t let anyone grab her, but came to me when she saw me.”
“I wonder how she got out?”
I was exhausted, as if I had been fighting the fire myself. Smoke hung heavy, everywhere, blotting out some figures and creating other images that wafted, ethereal.
“Why don’t you stay with my wife and me?” Hanley, True’s business partner, offered. “Our son’s gone for the weekend, a camp outing, so you can use his room. In the morning, we’ll figure out what to do.”
Cal Stewart dashed up. Just in time to save the day.
“Hey! What’s going on?” Stewart asked.
“Thompson’s coming home with me tonight,” Hanley told him. “Why don’t you stop in for a while, too?”
“Uh, okay. Sure.” Stewart said.
“Can I drop you off at home, Ivy?” Hanley asked. True looked at me intently, as if willing me to do something. But what?
“No thanks. I walked here. I’ll just walk back. Clear my head. Good exercise.” True nodded ever so faintly, so I had guessed the right answer. Goody for me.
“Can you take Isis for me?” True asked. “She knows you and you have food and supplies.”
“Sure. Fine.” True came close, transferring the uncooperative feline from inside of his vest to me. She settled in, dug her claws in enough to make me wince and growled low, just to make sure we knew she was upset.
“Don’t believe everything you see,” True said, while he kissed me on the cheek, his touch lingering in my hair.