Clear as Crystal? Not quite. [Free write]


The knocks burst a staccato beat through the flat, startling on the first and annoying on every one to follow.

Findlay Raske lurched up from the bed, snapping one drooping side of his pyjama bottoms back into proper place above his hip. “All right, all right,” he called. “The hell is this, now?” he muttered to himself, laying one hand on the door for balance. He pressed his face close to the peephole, blinked against the light from the corridor, and groaned.

“For ***** sake,” he said, unlocking and swinging open the door regardless. “Kris, you can’t keep coming round like this! Do you even know what time it is?”

“Three-eighteen,” Kris replied. Not with his typical clipped delivery, though. He actually slurred.

“Christ,” Finn said, wrinkling his nose. “You’re drunk!” He gripped the door handle and started to swing it back. “You know what? Forget it. I’m done picking up your pieces-”

“Hanne’s dead.”

Finn stopped, the door forgotten. The discourteous wake-up call, too. Even the smell of cheap whisky blown on the air between them. Everything except those words…and the red film across Kris’s should-have-been blue eyes.

“Come on,” Finn murmured, settling one hand on Kris’s shoulder and leading him inside. “I’ll make us some coffee.”

Kris nodded and shuffled over the threshold into the flat. He made his way to the kitchen on his own, Finn following at a three-pace distance to gauge.

The years since his unceremonious resignation from the police department – a detective sergeant’s career and pension made worthless because of a few too many unsolicited opinions of proper procedure and conduct – had made Kristoff Stenhall hard-edged and skeptical, but nothing to plunge him into this sort of self-destructive depth.

With a low-blown sigh, Finn stepped around him and moved to the counter and sink. He filled the kettle, pulled out the press, and brought out the coffee tin, all in silence. He scooped one, two spoonfuls into the carafe but froze on the third, for the feel of Kris’s arms around him.

The metal zip of the jacket chilled the small of his back, causing Finn to suck a breath that straightened his spine. He let it go a moment after, though, for the warm, wet blow of Kris’s voice over his neck:

“I need you.”

Finn set the spoon on the counter and turned, pushing an excuse to his lips. But he got only as far as saying Kris’s name when the other man silenced him with a kiss.

The next time Finn spoke, the clock next to the bed read three fifty-seven. He’d had to glance over Kris’s head, resting on his chest, to see it.

“I’m sorry about Hanne.” He stroked his fingers through Kris’s coarse fringe, sweeping it back behind his ear with little success. It drifted loose a second after, falling once more into his eyes. Finn did it again, undiscouraged. That was Stenhall, after all: never anything easy. “I know you were fond of her.”

Kris kept the point of his focus on a space of wall past Finn’s shoulder, blowing a series of slow, steady breaths across his chest. It cooled the fine layer of sweat there, making his nipples harden.

Finn watched him blink a minute before venturing, “Do you know…how…?” He craned his head down for the lack of answer, prompting, “Kris?”


Finn frowned, not least for Kris’s plain, hard tone. He’d never particularly liked Hanne Rolig – she’d always been able to exert too much influence over Stenhall, even after his resignation – but no one deserved to have their life snuffed out with such callous disregard for their future possibilities. And, despite any conflicts they may have had over their personal choices, Rolig had been a good detective: fair, clever, and concerned with the truth. Finn couldn’t help but admire that.

“I’m sorry,” he said again. “Whatever you need-”

“I need you,” Kris repeated, as the muscles in his arms and back went taut. He pushed himself up from Finn’s chest and looked straight at him. The same redness as before still darkened his eyes, but the blue beneath shone clear and hard as crystal. “I need you to help me find out who did this.”

Many folks say we should write outside our boundaries. If we’re comfortable writing action, try romance. If we always write romance, jump into sci-fi. If sci-fi is our gig, go back in time for some historical biography. As for me, I love reading crime and heist stories, especially adventure-y ones, but I can never pull them off. My mind simply isn’t clever enough to create a mystery or conflict suitable for a detective story.

Above is yesterday’s free-write. I’d hoped to see where a spark for a detective story might take me. As you can see, not very far afield of where my usual interests lie: the human drama. I couldn’t help my brain: I’m drawn more to passionate conflicts and conflicted passions than I am to procedural plot. Still, I like Kris and Finn (and Annie, who wasn’t intro’ed here but who’s been jumping around in my head as I’ve gotten these two gentlemen sorted). I just wish I were smarter, so I could give them a strong story worthy of the affection I already feel for them.

How do you push yourself into new territory?


10 thoughts on “Clear as Crystal? Not quite. [Free write]

  1. Mayumi once again the way you weave the words together really draw the reader in. Write outside the box, inside the box, just write more often! 🙂


  2. Mysteries require so much plotting. I tend to have one in each of my stories. 🙂

    I usually get bored and get an idea outside of what I am currently writing. I love crossing genres and seeing what I can do. There’s a cool freedom have when you can pick and chose the genre conventions you adhere to. 🙂


    • I really like stories that can combine elements from different genres. I enjoyed unraveling all the layers in Six Train, for example. I just can’t seem to do it in my own stories. I’m like a plot truck: just plow right through. LOL!


  3. Even though I started writing my first novel in 2009, I often still feel like I’m new to the game. So there are days when writing anything creative makes me feel like I’m in uncharted territory. 😉 And since I’m someone whose characters have a heck of a lot of say in the stories we right, any boundary pushing is likely to come from them!

    In this free write, you’ve drawn characters and a story line that are attention-grabbing, Mayumi. And even though you may have slipped into your “comfy place” of the human drama, it still could be a strong opening for a mystery along the lines you’d like to write. After all, it’s usually the human drama that leads to the very crimes being solved in those mysteries!


    • Thanks, JM. I realized after I’d published that my comment at the end sounded really whiny. LOL! When I think about the crime and mystery stories I’ve enjoyed reading, my head goes all screwy – how the heck do some writers come up with all these twists and turns? That is one serious down point of writing everything in sequence. 🙂

      Neeks gave me some jumping-off points I may consider to build out the rest of the crime/mystery aspect, but it’s still good to remember it’s the human side that often instigates and solves these strange adventures. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂


  4. I really enjoyed this free write, and it made me wonder why you want to take your brain in another direction when it seems to be doing a very good job! One thing I notice in my ongoing attempts to maintain a meditation practice is that if I try to stop my mind wandering, the whole thing becomes a bit painful and I get tense. When I remember to just allow the mind to go where it wants it does actually end up getting out of its rut. So, I would say let all the human drama keep coming – when you have written that out of yourself you’ll get to see what is beneath, but if you try too soon to control what comes out then the human drama, which is what is on the surface, will never get a chance to satisfy itself and therefore step aside. 😉


    • Thanks for the thoughtful insight, Gabriela. I should have considered that option – letting the story flow naturally – at the first, since I do it with my drama stories all the time. I suppose I was thinking I need to have the mystery/crime bit already solved before I could move myself forward. But, you’re right: letting the story move me rather than me controlling it always gives me better results than the other way around. 🙂


  5. She wasn’t near the Rue Mourge, was she?
    A good mystery is very difficult to do, no doubt. You have to know how it ends, but have to keep it secret from the characters like it’s their first Christmas morning. Will they figure it out on their own? Or will the killer escape into the night? (cue evil laughter)
    Personally, the hardest thing to write for me is romance. The quick, fluffy moments I can do (I think), but the longer, broader stories of boy meets girl, love and turmoil and happily ever after…still working on that.


    • Yeah, mysteries are not my strong suit. I’ve been enjoying reading some crime stories, hoping they’ll inspire something more substantial. I’ve got an inkling, but am still trying to feel out where everyone will settle. I like the characters, though. No surprise, seeing as how they’re reincarnations of some of my favorites. 😉


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