I am in school now. I am learning to read and write. I don’t go to a real school. My teacher comes to our house. She gave me this cool computer, so I can write things down now. It’s hard. I’d rather play my 3DS games, but Madison said it was important to study. She made a deal with me. If I get all my work done, then I can play with my DS for an hour. Madison doesn’t know that I am writing to you. She told me that you didn’t want to hear from us, but I didn’t believe her. Hal told me he could get your address for me, and that he would mail the letter for me. You just can’t tell Madison. I think she would get mad that Hal and I have a secret that she doesn’t know.
I won’t be writing to you for a while. I’m having my first surgery in a couple of days. The doctor says that I’ll be able to use my hands once they get fixed. I’ll write to you again when I can.
After writing 50,000 words in a month, I’ve taken a little break from my novel. I thought that, on December 1, I would sit down and start revising, but I realized I needed a little break. I needed some distance from the piece. As a writer, it’s easy for me to become wedded to a concept–to believe that it is written in cement, unchangeable.
To produce my best work, however, I must commit myself to the idea that my novel can be erased with the click of the delete button. With one swipe, I can turn my world upside down. Right can become left. Left can become right. My main character can change gender, turn evil. I must warp my perspective.
My first consideration is changing my point of view. I tend to write in the limited third-person. I am most comfortable with this point of view because it distances me from the character and the action. I never have to come too close to the character, but what if I leaped into the character’s head? What if I became the character? What would he say if I allowed him to speak for himself?
Another consideration is removing an entire character–really using that delete key. What if I removed one of the main characters? Who would come forward that has been hiding? Would my story flip upside down?
When Picasso wanted to capture the essence of the bull, he did not layer paint on the page like Bob Ross. Rather, he stripped the unnecessary elements away until he laid bare the bones of the bull. With each rendering, he gutted his image until all that was left was the spirit of the bull.
How far am I willing to go to allow my creation to emerge? How much will I strip from my work?
Warm up the delete key–here I come.
When my husband and I are driving through neighborhoods we wish we could afford to live in, we imagine what kind of rooms we would have in our dream house. He, of course, wants a man-cave where he can display his sports memorabilia and his action figures–excuse me, his rare collectibles. We imagine a giant room where our son’s massive collection of toys (excuse me, his rare collectibles) can be stored away from the living room.
I dream of a place that doesn’t echo with the sounds of Wii tennis or laundry tumbling in the dryer. A place that doesn’t require me to clean up every time a meal is served. A place that isn’t surrounded by bills to be paid or homework to be finished. It doesn’t have to be a large room, just a small room, preferably with a door, where I could retreat every day to write or meditate or reflect. Where I could find a book without crawling through drying laundry or kitty litter. Where things that were valuable only to me
Once when we were looking for a file cabinet at OfficeMax, I found a beautiful desk. It was designed to fit in a corner. It had not one, but two full desk-tops. The kicker for me, however, were the cupboards that ran the length of both desktops. The doors were inlaid with glass so I could see my supplies and find anything I needed. I yearned for that desk with all of my being, and it was on sale, but there was no room in our little house. It seemed that there was room for everything else: two jumbo rat cages, three litter boxes, six giant bins of toys, six book cases, a corner desk and two more book cases for the man-cave, but no room for my writing desk. Perhaps, the message is that there is no room for my writing. So, I make room.
After dinner, the computer comes back out to sit on the dining room table and remind me to write in the morning. It goes away for breakfast, but comes out again before lunch. I carve out time from chores and work and parenting. I don’t need a special room in my house for writing as long as I make room for writing in my life.
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The thing I care most about is making sure that my son has a good life. I worry that I’m not a good enough role model for him. I don’t want him to live a life full of regrets, full of half-lived ambitions, and unresolved dreams. I want him to go after what he wants. I want him to be fearless.
To be the role model he needs, I need to start cultivating those qualities in myself. I need to stop sitting back and letting life pass me by. I have to pursue my dreams. If I want to be a writer, then I need to write. If I want to be a teacher, then I need to teach. Whatever it is that I’m meant to do, I need to find that thing and pursue it with my whole heart–for him, so he can see that it is possible to pursue his dreams and, in the pursuit, live a fuller life, rather than pining away, wishing for what might have been.
I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.
From the moment I picked up my first violin, I found it easy to make the instrument do what I wanted. My ear was true, and I could easily hear when my fingering was off and adjust accordingly. I was often dissatisfied with the sound I produced, because I played a beat-up loaner from the school. No matter how well I placed my fingers, the notes I produced were harsh and discordant. That changed when my mother’s foster-uncle loaned me his violin to play. It was a beautiful instrument with mother of pearl inlaid on the back. Its tone was old and mellow and it followed my commands obediently. I soon learned, however, that even my uncle’s beautiful violin was inferior to other instruments. I did not know that until my mom purchased my own violin from a concert violinist. My new violin was a 3/4 instead of a standard violin. Suddenly, everything felt right. I could hit the notes I intended and my violin had a light, delicate tone.
I started writing my own stories the same year I started playing the violin–the third grade. While writing was my passion, it didn’t come as naturally to me as playing the violin. While my violin produced the sounds I intended instantly, my pencil stuttered disobediently across the page. I just couldn’t seem to make the images that danced in my head come to life on the page. My brain felt as wooden as my violin, but did not sing as sweetly. Still, I persisted. After nine years, I gave up the violin. I never played it for enjoyment, but for the fulfillment of my mother’s frustrated childhood dreams. I, however, continued to write. Over the years, I started many projects, but left them unfinished. I grew frustrated with my uncooperative pencil, and let my writing routine lapse.
This fall, I realized that, unless I committed to putting that uncooperative pencil to paper every day, I would never be the writer I wanted to be. I committed to the NaNoWriMo challenge and completed my first novel. Every day, I berated my wooden brain and lackluster pencil for their lack of creativity, but I continued plodding to the end of my novel.
I realized that writing, unlike a violin performance, can be revised. Once I finished a violin solo, it was gone forever–the notes played and heard. I would never have the chance to repeat the performance and improve it. With writing, however, I can continue to work on a piece of writing that dissatisfies me until the words produce the melody that pleases me. I can let go the frustration I feel when I am drafting, because eventually I can make my writing sing. I will never be one of those writers who produces a perfect piece of writing on the first try, but I will eventually produce a masterpiece with dogged persistence and many revisions.
I measure my life
through the span
Each one here
Time slows to a purr
accelerates with a snarl.
Snatches of my life gone
Disappearing with the curl of a tail.
He had ditched the Jeep a couple of cities back. The Greyhound bus he rode in was almost empty. His pack sat in the seat next to him where the boy should be sitting. He still couldn’t believe the boy had betrayed him. The boy had screamed like he was some kind of monster. He didn’t have time to reason with him. He could’ve picked him up and carried him, but he knew the Sheriff wasn’t the only one in the woods. He couldn’t risk getting captured, and he couldn’t protect the boy if they started shooting at him, so he had left him there. He wondered where the boy was now. Probably in some shitty foster home. He’d been in a foster home once when his dad had gone to jail. He’d taken off as soon as he got the chance. It was better to be on your own than live like that. The people had actually locked their food up, so the kids in the house couldn’t eat very much. He clenched his fists. If his boy was in a house like that, he’d kill them. He forced himself to relax. He couldn’t worry about the boy now. His boy had made his choice. He’d have to live with the consequences. When things cooled down, he’d come back to Colorado. He’d find his boy again and that bitch of a Sheriff would pay.
After Drake’s sentencing, Madison met with the mayor and the investigator from CBI. She wanted to be done with this whole ordeal. She hoped that with a few days of quiet, the mayor would finally accept her letter of resignation. After giving an account of the events leading up to that night in the clearing, Madison offered her resignation. The CBI investigator agreed with her that it was the best way to end the affair quietly. Since the mayor had hired her, he was also facing some flak for his decision. He accepted her resignation and a signed statement taking full responsibility for her actions as well as for the deployment of Hal during the exchange.
After her meeting, she returned to her house. Drake was playing video games with the sitter that Rosie had recommended. After paying the sitter, Madison returned to packing up the house. She had only had her house on the market for a week before it sold, and now she and Elijah were moving back to Denver. Her former partner in the Homicide Unit had opened up a private security firm, and he had offered her a job despite her record as the Fruita Sheriff. She had filed paperwork to adopt Elijah, and Jack Hammond had transferred Elijah’s case to the CPS department in Denver. The child psychologist had been instrumental in Hammond deciding to let Elijah stay with her. She had endangered him in the debacle with his father, and she had almost lost him. In the end, Elijah had finally talked to the psychologist. Madison didn’t know what he had said, but whatever it was had convinced the psychologist to help Madison fight for him.
She sighed. She hoped that Elijah would speak to her again some day. For now, she spent as much time with him as she could. She hoped she would regain his trust eventually. She had been packing for a couple of hours when the doorbell rang. She was glad for the break. Going through Drake’s things and packing them separately was breaking her heart. She had decided that she would put all his things in storage until he finished his sentence. Even if he didn’t want to be with her any more, she didn’t want him to come out into the world with nothing. She had also arranged to have his commissary funded every month. She hoped he wasn’t too stubborn to use it.
Hal stood at the door with a pizza and a bag of drinks.
“Hal, what are you doing?”
“I figured you could use some dinner.”
“You figured right.”
“Come on in.”
Elijah’s eyes lit up when he saw the pizza. Pausing his video game, he ran into the kitchen. She heard the clatter of plates as he began to set the table. He was always doing things like that—helping her set the table and wash dishes.
“I guess he’s hungry.” Hal said.
Madison took the drinks from him and walked him into the kitchen. Elijah was waiting at the table. When Hal set the box in the middle of the table, Elijah helped himself to a couple of large pizzas. Madison gave Elijah a coke from the bag while Hal opened a couple of beers for them. They ate in silence for a few minutes. Then, Hal took a swig from his beer, and wiped the pizza sauce off his chin.
“When do you leave?”
“The closing’s next week, and then we’ll go.”
Hal said, “You were a good sheriff, Madison.”
“Thanks, Hal. I don’t think the rest of the town shares your opinion. I really screwed this up bad. I should have listened to you.”
“You did what you had to do—what anyone would do in this situation.”
“I guess.” Hal’s words meant a lot to her, but they didn’t make her feel any better. She would probably never work in law enforcement again, but Hal was right. She had done what she had to do.
“I don’t know if you heard. They appointed me the interim Sheriff until they can replace you.”
“I thought they might. They should just hire you.”
“I don’t think I would want the job. Too much paperwork. You know I like to be in the field.”
Madison nodded. That was one thing being the Sheriff. Along with the responsibility came mounds of paper work. She had to admit she hadn’t enjoyed that part of the job, either.
“I know, Hal, but you’re a natural leader. You would be the best man for the job.”
“I don’t know about that. I told Mayor Rodriguez that Randy was the best man for the job.”
“Randy would be good, too, but you would be better.”
“I’m actually considering another job offer.”
“You are? Where?”
“I’ve been talking to the Denver Major Crimes Unit.”
“Are you sure, Hal? I thought you preferred small towns.”
“I thought I did, too, but I think I can make more of a difference in a larger unit. Any way, I want the chance to try.”
She was surprised that Hal was also leaving the Sheriff’s office, but a little pleased as well. She was going to miss him, but, if he were in Denver, they would be able to get together every now and then.
“Besides, I have a close friend who’s moving to Denver.”
“Hal…” Madison didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t deny that she was attracted to Hal. He understood her in ways that Drake hadn’t, but she still loved Drake. She wasn’t ready to move on yet.
“Madison…” he said, mimicking her tone. “I have to get going. I have some paper work to catch up on. I’ll see you in Denver.”
Madison walked him to the door and gave him a quick hug.
“I’ll see you.”
She and Elijah washed up the dishes together. When they were finished, Elijah grabbed her hand between his own and pulled her into the living room. She had more packing to do. She didn’t really have time to play a video game, but one look at Elijah’s wistful face broke her resolve. She had all day tomorrow.
“What’s it going to be, Elijah, MarioKart or Super Smash Bros?”
Elijah jumped onto the couch and handed her Drake’s 3DS. Madison settled in next to him as he began to punch the buttons on his game. She felt her heart grow warm. She may have lost the love of her life, but Elijah was helping the hole in her heart heal.
Saturday morning, Madison and Elijah pulled into the front of the Mesa County Jail. Hal had picked up Drake from the hospital and had booked him. Drake had asked that Madison not be there for the booking. At least no reporters were camped out at the jail like they were at the Sheriff’s office. She knew it wouldn’t be long until they found out about Drake and what he had done. She knew that she wouldn’t be able to stay out of the line of sight for much longer. She’d been suspended pending an investigation for misconduct. She had been planning to resign quietly, but the mayor had other ideas. He hadn’t even accepted the statement she had prepared to go along with her resignation. The one good thing about all of this was that Hal was the interim Sheriff. He wasn’t overseeing the investigation of her case. The Mayor had brought in the CBI for that, but he was in charge of Drake’s case and was still leading the investigation into the serial killings. The couple that Drake had killed were the last murders. It seemed that Elijah was right. His father had left town. The State Patrol and her…the Fruita deputies…were patrolling the back roads, but had not spotted the Jeep or the killer. There was a national APB out for the Jeep, but no one had spotted it yet.
“Are you ready?” Madison asked Elijah.
Elijah gave her his customary nod. He hadn’t spoken since that night, but she had made an appointment for him to see the child psychologist Jack Hammond had recommended next week. She had planned on leaving him at home when she went to see Drake. She didn’t want him to spend any more time at the Sheriff’s office, but he had freaked out when she called Rosie to get a recommendation for a babysitter. Together they walked into the front door of the jail. She’d been here many times dropping off someone she had arrested, but she’d never had to visit someone here before.
After going through the security check, she and Elijah were finally directed to the visiting room. The visiting room was full of battered tables and folding chairs. Madison and Elijah chose a table as far away from the other prisoners and their visitors. Finally, Drake was led into the room. She wanted to rush over and hug him, but touching was not allowed in the jail. When he sat down, she held his hand. The bright orange jumpsuit highlighted the purplish bruise on his face. He looked a little better physically, but the sparkle he used to have in his blue eyes was gone. She didn’t ask him how he was. She could tell that he wasn’t doing well. They sat in silence for a little while, but their time was running out.
“Drake, I’m going to call a lawyer for you on Monday. I can’t get a hold of anyone over the weekend.”
“I don’t need a lawyer, Madison.”
“You do need one. What happened wasn’t your fault. You need a lawyer to work out the best plea deal.”
“I’m not taking a plea deal. I’m going to take full responsibility for what happened.”
“Drake, you might spend years in prison.”
“Then, that’s what I’ll do. What about you? You didn’t try to make a deal with the mayor did you? You were going to take full responsibility for your choices.”
“That’s different, Drake. I broke a lot of regulations.”
“I broke the law, Madison.”
“But you were coerced, Drake. Any prosecutor is going to see that. They’ll cut you a deal.”
“No, Madison. I’m going to face this just like you’re facing your consequences. There’s one other thing.”
“Whatever you need, Drake. You know that.”
“I don’t want you and Elijah to come here again.”
“I tried to find a sitter for Elijah, but…”
“No, Madison. I don’t want to see you here again, either. I want you to move on with your life. Do what you have to do to get passed this, and then I want you to leave here. Take Elijah with you.”
“Drake, no, I…”
Drake stood up. “If you come back, I won’t see you. I’m going to face this alone. You need to rebuild your career, and you can’t do that with a convict for a husband.”
Drake turned his back on her and knocked on the door to the visitor’s room. He didn’t even look back when he left the room. Madison sat, stunned by what Drake had said. Elijah put his fist over her hand.
“It’s all right, Elijah. He doesn’t mean it. We’ll let him think for a day or two and come back next week.”
Drake didn’t relent, though. She went back over the next week several times, but he wouldn’t see her. He also refused to see the lawyer she sent over. He couldn’t keep her from attending his preliminary hearing. Since he was pleading guilty, he had waived his right to a trial. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison with the opportunity for parole. If he followed the rules and didn’t get into trouble in prison, he could be out in as little as five years. Drake never once looked back at her during his sentencing, nor did he look at her when he was led away in shackles.
Thursday morning, Madison sat by Drake as he picked at his breakfast. Even though he had slept, he was still pale. The bruise on his face was a livid bluish purple against his pale skin. He refused to look at her or at Elijah. Both he and Elijah had retreated back into silence. She held back a sigh. Tomorrow would be a week since Andie was first killed. She could’t believe that only a week had passed. She felt like a different person. She knew she would have to answer for taking Elijah to exchange with the killer and for the killer escaping. She knew Hal would also want to take responsibility for what happened, but she wasn’t going to let him. She had her account of the events ready to go. She just had to convince Hal to go along with it.
The door opened, and Madison turned to see who it was. Hal was standing at the door. Drake sat up a little straighter.
“Hal,” Madison said. “This isn’t a good time. Drake isn’t..”
Drake spoke in a quiet voice.
“I invited him over.”
She turned back to Drake.
“When you went down to the cafeteria to get Elijah some breakfast. Madison, there’s something I need to tell you. I tried to tell you last night. If I don’t do this right now, I’ll lose my nerve.”
“Okay, Drake, but I don’t understand what Hal is doing here.”
“I need someone who is impartial to hear what I have to say.”
Hal had taken out his little notebook and a pen. Clicking the pen, he began to read Drake his Miranda rights.
“Hal, what are you doing? Drake is not a criminal.”
She noticed Elijah’s eyes darting from Hal to Drake. He looked scared. Drake noticed him, too.
“Elijah,” he said. “Would you do me a favor and go see how the deputy in the hall is doing? He’s probably lonely.”
Elijah frowned and began to shake his head. Drake caught his eye, and suddenly Elijah relented as if Drake and he had shared a silent message that only they could understand. Elijah walked to the door and went into the hallway. After making sure that the deputy would keep an eye on Elijah, Madison shut the door. Hal finished reading Drake his rights.
Keeping his eyes on Hal, Drake began to speak.
“You found that old couple, didn’t you?”
“I understand you wish to give a statement. You understand your rights?”
Drake nodded impatiently.
“I waive my rights.”
Madison began to get a horrible feeling.
“Drake, you’re a victim. You can’t be held responsible for…”
Drake cut her off.
“I am responsible, Madison. You need to hear me out.”
Drake began to talk about what had happened yesterday when he went to his meeting. As Madison and Hal had surmised, the meeting was a fake. The suspect had hit Drake in the back of the head and driven off with him in the back of his Pacifica. Drake never even saw him coming. When he’d come to, the man had been pulling up to the old couple’s cabin. Holding a knife on him, the man had forced Drake into the cabin. Madison didn’t want to hear what came next.
“You have to understand what happened. That monster gave me a knife. I knew I had to make a choice. If I wanted to live, I had to kill that couple, so I did it. I knew that what I was doing was wrong. I could have turned the knife on myself. If I had done that, then he wouldn’t have been able to bargain for Elijah. I could have turned on him. If he killed me, then, again, he wouldn’t have me as his bargaining chip. I could have tried to kill him, and get away. I have to be honest. It didn’t even occur to me to do any of those things. In my mind, it was the couple or me. I chose me. I wanted to live. I slit that woman’s throat while her husband watched, and then I killed him.”
Hal took a deep breath, and closed his notebook. He looked at Madison.
“You know what I have to do, Madison.”
She started to beg for Drake’s life. She would do anything to keep him safe, and she thought maybe she could convince Hal to keep this between them. Looking into Hal’s steel gray eyes, she realized that he had already crossed the line for her. Drake took her hand and squeezed it.
“I’m sorry, Madison. I wasn’t strong enough when I needed to be. You need to let me do this. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let you cover this up.”
She kissed Drake’s hand. He wiped a tear that had escaped from her eye and was trickling down her cheek.
“You never cry. Don’t cry for me now.”
She nodded and swiped her eyes with her hands.
“What happens now, Hal?”
“I’ll come get him once he’s released from the hospital. I’ll book him. With a crime like this, I won’t be able to just send him home. Do you understand that, Drake? You’re going to have to sit in jail. Before you can post bail, there will have to be a hearing. You’re going to need a lawyer.”
“I want this all done by the book. I don’t want any cover-ups or plea deals.”
Hal raised his hand.
“We’re not going to cover this up, but you need to consider your options. Consider Madison.”
Drake nodded miserably. “I am considering her. That’s why I needed to get this out in the open.”
“Drake, you don’t need to worry about me. I can take care of myself.”
“You’re already in trouble over this. You don’t think I noticed that you brought Elijah to exchange for me?”
“I wasn’t going to exchange him. It was a trap, Drake.”
“I know that, Madison, but you and I both know that, if I weren’t involved, you never would have even contemplated doing something like that.”
Madison had to agree with Drake. She always ran things by the book. She followed the letter of the law to ensure that the cases she built would be air-tight when they went to court. She realized that she hadn’t been thinking clearly since this whole nightmare began. She shouldn’t have even volunteered to foster Elijah. That was a huge conflict of interest. She had been surprised when CPS had allowed him to stay with her.
Hal stood up.
“I’m going to head into the department and start the paperwork.”
“All right, Hal. Thanks for everything,” Madison said.
Drake laid his head back against his pillow.
“I need to be alone for a while, Madison. Maybe, you should take Elijah home and get some rest.”
Madison wanted to protest, but she could tell that Drake didn’t want her around right now. And he was right. Elijah was probably exhausted. She kissed him softly on the lips.
“I’ll be back in a little while.”
With his eyes closed, Drake nodded. When she left Drake’s room, she noticed that Kurt had just taken over for the morning shift. She didn’t stop to talk to him, but merely nodded and motioned for Elijah to follow her. She assumed that Hal had filled Kurt in on Drake’s new status. Kurt was no longer guarding a victim, but a self-confessed murderer. Kurt nodded back at Madison with courtesy, but his eyes were cold.
When she and Elijah emerged into the harsh morning light, she wondered if she should take the department’s SUV, but realized she was still the Sheriff. She would turn it in when she resigned, but she needed to get home. Elijah climbed into the passenger side while she went around to the driver’s side. Letting the engine idle, she turned to Elijah.
“Do you think he’s gone?”
Elijah nodded solemnly.
Elijah nodded again.
“He won’t come back for you?”
Elijah shook his head.
“Because you refused to go with him.”
Elijah nodded, again.
“Okay. Let’s go home.”
She drove slowly up their long tree-lined driveway. She hadn’t seen a battered Jeep anywhere along their route. She was reluctant to call for a unit to watch her house, but when she pulled up to her house, a deputy was already parked in front. As she pulled up to her garage door, Randy and Larry got out of their SUV and came over to her window.
“Good morning, Sheriff. We’re still looking for the suspect. Hal sent us over to keep an eye on things so you could get some rest.”
“When was the last time you and Larry got some rest, Randy?”
“Oh, we both got a few hours of sleep last night after we finished with the last crime scene. We’re fine.”
She started to pull forward but stopped.
“Call me Madison.”
He looked a little confused, but nodded. She pulled her SUV into the garage and shut the door. After securing her vehicle, she and Elijah went into the empty house.