Friday, February 3, 2012

first impressions - The Portal

Our second submission of the month comes from Larry O'Donnell, who is retired from a career in federal law enforcement. He's also Dianne's brother-in-law and occasionally guest posts on her blog. This is the first page of his Thriller, THE PORTAL. My comments are in purple and to find out what Dianne thinks go to her blog.

Chapter 1: The Release
            It was one of those damp cold nights that only West Virginia seems to get.  It goes straight to one’s bones and stays there at least until the sun comes back.   I had been asleep for about three hours when my dog, Ralph, alerted me to the sound of rapping on my front door.  Arming myself with a five iron, I went to the door and flung it open.  There at my feet was Derek Sanders, one of a group of regulars who gathered on Wednesday and Friday nights for drinks at the Jeff Davis bar in downtown Port Anthracite.  I usually attended these gatherings, although I don’t drink anymore.  It is my only regular social activity, but I felt achy and the chilling weather decided me made me decide to go home after work.  Sanders was shivering in the cold mist and mumbling incoherently. 
            “Jesus, Sanders I nearly chipped your head back out to the street.”  As if I could hit anything with a golf club.  Instead of calling me on it, he pushed himself back up into a sitting position. If I found an associate of mine in this condition outside my door, I'd be pretty worried, especially if I didn't smell a lot of booze. And if he's not a drinker then he'd have a keen sense of smell.
            “We opened the door.  One of them got out.  We closed and barred it.  Too-late-to-stop-one.”  Derek gasped out the phrases and then sat up higher for a moment.  A low congested cough was the last audible sound he made as he fell over on his side in a fetal position. 
            “Sanders!  Come on buddy, wake up!”  I couldn’t wake him and it was apparent that he was no longer breathing.  (How about this instead: “Sanders!  Come on buddy, wake up!” I tried to wake him but he fell back and when I listened he wasn't breathing anymore. A last cough...This way it's a more active scene.) The last cough brought bright red frothy blood out of his mouth.  I felt for a pulse and found none.  Then I saw copious amounts of blood from several other places and I knew he was beyond any help I could give him.
            A call to 911from the house of the Chief of Police resulted in a flood of State Police cars, ambulance, Paramedics, some Firemen, County Detectives, and Roy Biggers, the County Prosecuting Attorney.  Fifteen minutes later, the County Coroner, Doc Paxon, arrived. 
           Now, Roy and I do not get along, not even going back to our time in High School.  It’s nothing specific, it’s just an oil and water thing.  We played on the same football and baseball teams but could never find common ground on anything else.  There was no competition between us, no argument over a girl, just a deep seated dislike of each other.  Oddly, just as it was when we played football, we could work together for a common goal but never cross the threshold of the other’s home. I wonder if this information about their relationship could be interspersed with some dialogue later or action later. Because the interesting thing here is that Derek Sanders is dead and he and some of his pals opened something, let something out.

Anyone else care to comment?



  1. The opening hooked me. Liked the easy style. I had a problem with taking a pulse and then seeing the blood...but perhaps the blood was beneath clothing and just beginning to seep. But I enjoyed the read and think it's a good foundation from which to write on.

  2. I agree with your comments! Intriguing start, Larry~ with the elements you've introduced, I bet you could increase the tension even more here :)

  3. I had some of the same concerns you did Marcy. I would have thought the blood on Derek Sander's shirt obvious, even if he was on the ground. Was he leaning against the the door and fell inside? Was he lying further away, on a porch step; his back to the door?

    I also would suggest tightening up the section where Derek stopped mumbling incoherently and slumped over dead. I'd love to see a creep-out factor of surprise here.

    And I was totally thrown by "Roy". Who is he? I agree that the back story did not seem relevant; but if it was interspersed with dialogue or other activities of processing a dead body it would add some character building if Roy is going to be a consistent character.

    Larry, this was an intriguing beginning. I love a story that starts immediately with a dead body :) And blood never turned me off a story. The first paragraph did hook me.



If you're interested in my blog I'm interested in your comments.