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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Chapter One - Completed

Posted February 15, 2008

Chapter 1 is complete in our collaborative North Carolina Novel Game. Special thanks to mdoodle for initiating and shepherding the storyline. murdoch and others were major contributors and we thank all of you for participating. Plus, it was a pleasant surprise to run into mdoodle and her husband last night at Caffe Luna in Raleigh.

Feel free to comment on the opening chapter. Do we have a name for our novel yet or should we wait? Also, let me know when you would like to start working on chapter two. Have a great weekend.

With the Cape Fear River sparkling just beyond the front yard, and the peaceful, friendly atmosphere of a small town, Southport - and more importantly - Lois Janes Bed and Breakfast was our favorite weekend getaway....well it was before we found the dead body floating in our bathtub.

Now I have seen my share of dead bodies. I'm a nurse in a busy metropolitan Emergency Room and I'm also a music volunteer with Hospice, so I often sing to dying patients and go back and sing at their funerals. But that kind of death isn't scary. A body in a bathtub -- well that's a different story. And when Southport's answer to Barney Fife turned the face down body over so we could see who he was, well, let's just say it became very personal, too.

My eyes widened as I stared at my boss. When I had asked for time off, he was not happy. What a workaholic he was. He just couldn’t understand it when people needed a break from work, especially from the blood and gore of the ER. But little did I know that he would also be taking time away from work. Was it my imagination, or did he try to stop me on my way out, saying he had something important to tell me? I just couldn’t remember clearly.

And now he was dead. Who could possibly be his enemy? True, he could be a tyrant of a boss, but he had been well-respected in his role as physician in charge of the ER for the past 10 years. He had lived in the city since leaving medical school, but Southport was his home.

Our Barney Fife must have seen my reaction for immediately, he reached to his side for some handcuffs. I guess he didn’t believe in asking questions first. My husband was just as appalled at the identity of the floater, so Barney hooked both of us on one set of handcuffs. So much for our romantic getaway.

I was certainly not happy, but my husband was livid. “How dare you take us into custody?” he railed at the already nervous police officer. “You haven’t asked us a single question!”

I tried to calm him down and to reassure him that, since we were innocent, we had nothing to worry about. Why is that usually the time that you’d better start worrying more than you’ve ever done in your life?

Okay, maybe I should have mentioned it before now, and it really didn’t help matters that my husband was clueless about the fact that the man in the tub – not only was he my boss, but he was my first husband, Dr. Thomas Earl Hatchett. It doesn’t matter that we were married for only three weeks because when the fact that he was my ex came to light, all you know what broke loose!

My previous marriage was a joke. I was swept off my feet as a young nurse over twenty years ago. Reality set in, and we ended the marriage, mutually.

We had a neutral relationship at work. I knew of no one who disliked him, well, too much, and no one knew we had been married. Of course, my husband of ten years was annoyed that I never mentioned this prior relationship, and who could blame him – especially under these circumstances. To me, however, it was water under the bridge – well, make that water in the bathtub.

"I can't believe this!" my husband yelled. His booming voice brought me back to the present. I didn't know what to say. The officer was eyeing me. To him, I was ready to be executed. He promptly released the handcuffs from my husband and cuffed my other hand. I thought this is the time to worry, not because I had done anything wrong but because my romantic weekend had just turned into the fight of the century and I was being accused of murder. Being carted off to the jailhouse was a piece of cake compared to the words I could just hear my husband preparing to say.

Instead, I heard the first actual words Officer Barry Phife (I’m not making that up!) had spoken, as he said, “Nancy Raynor, you have the right to remain silent…….” I’m not the silent type, but I knew when it was time to keep it zipped.

I could see the wheels turning in my husband Michael’s head. He didn't know what to think or what to say. Officer Phife might as well have read him his rights too, because he was not saying a word at all. I’ll have to admit that was worse than hearing him yell at me.

While all of this was going on, the local forensic folks showed up. One started to ask me to identify the body. Yes, I recognized the bloated face, but how fun was it going to be to tell the locals, in front of my husband, that I was certain it was Thomas because of the scar on his derriere from an accident many years ago.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was our honeymoon, skiing in Aspen. I wasn’t much of a skier, but Thomas was an expert, at least in his own mind. His collision with another skier and the unfortunate encounter with the man’s ski pole, landed him in the ER for 18 stitches. Now a reminder of that evening was a scar that would identify him at his death.

“How can this be happening?” I thought to myself. Everything about the situation is so bizarre. “I just hope and pray for justice in this system. They have to realize they have the wrong person, they just have to. Where’s Matlock when you really need him?”

I had never been in trouble before. Not a speeding ticket or a parking ticket to my name, yet here I was in Southport, North Carolina, one of the most peaceful places on earth, and I was being accused of murder. The only consolation in that horrible day came that evening when Officer Phife let Michael bring me a delicious supper of the Pharmacy’s famous crab cakes.

Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep during my first night in the slammer. I tossed and turned and wondered why Officer Phife had bothered to read me my rights since no one had tried to question me since my unfortunate incarceration. Meanwhile, whoever had really killed Thomas was probably long gone, taking their motive with them.

That left me, stuck in a cell, without a clue as to what to do next. Man, I was in a fix!

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  • blytle Feb 15, 2008

    Well, Bill, murdock and I had a great time and we are already emailing each other about the future of the book. Since no one else has commented, it seems like not many people cared as much as you, murdock and me. I will keep you updated on any additional progress murdock and I make! Thanks again for the fun game.

  • murdock Feb 15, 2008

    mdoodle, you'll have to email the killer so I can brainstorm with you the rest of the story - jnskinner@embarqmail.com

  • blytle Feb 15, 2008

    Murdock, thanks for the clarification. Maybe we can start on Chapter 2 soon. By the way, I know who killed him!!!!

  • murdock Feb 15, 2008

    Just to clarify to make this more real, after medical school, there is residency (on the job training). So it might be better stated "He had lived in the city since high school, but Southport was his home."

    Otherwise, mdoodle did a good job with the editing. Chapter 2 should definitely be written. May be we'll publish it! :)

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