Sample Edit Murder Mystery.
This is the original the author sent me – with a name change. Immediately following it, you can see how I fleshed it out and gave it better light, life, smoothness, sophistication and made the heroine more well-rounded – polishing work.
The rage that had been lying dormant for twenty years is once again blooming, creating a white-hot sensation in Karen’s chest. Karen struggles to concentrate on the purifying free-fall wingsuit flight before her, but it is just not happening. She tries to focus on the natural beauty of the surroundings, the pines and sculpted rocks glistening with sunray bursts as the shadows of puffy clouds drift across the vista. That doesn’t work to calm her either.
A mile above the white-water rapids, at the base of a rugged mountainous valley, Karen watches a magnificent male Peregrine Falcon gliding comfortably among the uplifting thermals. In an instant, the regal bird spies a flock of Rock Pigeons fluttering far below. With laser focus the falcon prepares for his lightning-fast dive, and swoops down to catch the prey in his razor-sharp talons. Then, quickly turning back up to the skies, he brings back his prize, the fresh meal he will divide among his mate, their young ones, and himself, his family eagerly awaiting him in their cozy nest among the rocks.
Karen can no longer pretend Richard does not exist or never existed, nor can she escape the fact that he has once again taken away someone so close to her, as he had done when they were children. She never forgave him for Jin’s disappearance, the kindhearted nanny from their childhood and now Jonathan, her cherished friend and trusted BASE jumping partner, was gone too, thanks to Richard’s doing. In her mind she could feel Richards’s dark and ugly hands reaching out to grab her by the throat, a relentless childhood nightmare that was once again showing its ugly head.
Karen knows that if she does not put Richard out of her head, at least for the next few moments, that she will be once more giving in to his cruelty and sabotage. Flying free like a bird was not some childhood toy he could smash before her eyes.
Her first time up here in the quiet sky, she shouted into the air, hoping her voice would bounce off of the mountains and echo back to her. She hoped to be embraced by her own voice, but it never came back around. Her words just seemed to get absorbed into the cluster of trees below like carbon dioxide breathed out of the leaves as oxygen. But now, now that her friend is gone, no words come out, and she hesitates, so unlike her, but this time this jump is different.
The others jumped just seconds ago but already they’re far enough away that they no longer look human. Against the rocky backdrop their suits’ webbing between their limbs makes them look like a neon flutter of butterflies. Like them, she’s felt the sharp wind against her cheeks, felt almost buoyant among the clouds many times before, even with gravity insisting on rushing her towards earth. She wants it again, that rush, that orgasmic pleasure. But now a thin voice in her head reminds her that she’s an intruder in the sky. Humans were made to walk the earth, the voice whispers, reminding her that Icarus too tried to fly and look where it got him. Truly, for the first time she hesitates and doubts herself.
Out of her suit, Karen is a young, attractive, intelligent woman, a doctor who just happened to crave flying like the majestic bird she just watched. Strapped into her suit, weighed down by nearly thirty pounds of equipment, her hair tightly tucked into her helmet and her face shielded with oversized tinted goggles, she has—until now—always felt invincible. No makeup, no jewelry, just her slender body and the suit, invulnerable to the reality of human limitations.
If it weren’t for the suit, she might never descend. She would rather stay aloft, her bones and skin becoming one with the clouds. But even birds have to come down some time, and Karen knows it’s her time too.
Finally, after several long moments, Karen forces herself to inch towards the very edge of the cliff until her toes stick out a centimeter. Bits of rock break off and tumble. She half-wishes it was out of her hands and that someone would come up behind her and push. At the precipice, without Jonathan’s hand to hold, she feels empty. This place was once joyful, filled with heart racing anticipation and, most of all, pure love from within. Up here, she feels no concern for the past or fear of the future, but rather a singleness with the universe.
She inhales and with the slightest sound, like a mix between a gasp and a hiccup, she dives following her own shadow along the steep granite canyon face. In an instant her mind becomes clear. Though her friend’s face is still in the back of her eyes, seeing him still as he lay dead on the ground, eyes open and body broken, she maneuvers her wingsuit expertly through the clouds, skimming the rocky edges of mountains, soaring through thin air at 120 miles per hour, the fastest of all humans unaided by technology.
Ever so slowly and carefully she releases the clench in her diaphragm and begins to breathe again. Once she regains her smooth breath, she takes in the scenery, and then she is free. Now that the adrenaline rush has passed, the stark picture of a killer crystallizes in her mind. Once and for all, like the heroic raptor, she too must become a keen predator to avenge Jonathan’s death and make things right again in the skies.
PROLOGUE – KAREN’S DEADLY FALL
Written by Mike D. and edited by Karen S. Cole
(Karen’s Note to Mike – I was a rock climber, back in the day. I went up a one-mile-high plus cliff with six fellows, no girls. ‘Cep for me, the Starfleet Admiral. We got up there in five hours, by grabbing plants, having great grip strength, and praying to God. I was wearing a 50-pound backpack, and we did amazing things beyond ALL comprehension. James, who is Black, swung around on that thing like he was Tarzan of the Apes. Daryl invited me to go, with the pickup line being, “We’re all gonna die climbing a sheer cliff. Wanna come?”
(Went up with them, scared spotless during 90% of it. Couldn’t turn around and back down, or so I thought. I did later on! Had to, no choice. On the way up, I was instantly crawling under a bottom-side portion of the sheerest part of the cliff, facing negative gravity, and skittered so fast like a crab that I didn’t fall. Mainly, I almost fell off twice, in the exact same weird rock-grassy spot, no hand grabs. On a giant scarp, maybe 30-40 feet all around it. The third time, I got past it. We were gonna go fishing, but the guys left their fishing poles behind, once we were “atop.” Trapper Lake in Stehekin, Washington – Mt. McGregor I think, in 1980.
(Here’s six pages (sans the above) for your inspection. I gave you that story, so that you can clearly see I’m an astonishing fit for your project. Unless you’re sexist. Or ageist I guess, because I’m in my mid-50s. I out-write most 30-year-olds, though. And I’ve worked on plenty of fiction novels, including true crime and other thrillers.)
Lies dormant 20 years…blossoms scream rage. White-heat hatred pulses, especially in my chest. Where it doesn’t belong. It crashes on the rocks! No, it belongs in the sky, then a safe landing there, upon the grassy knoll of boulders, naive raptures of drowning. Bouncing round like a red balloon, or my kiddie beach ball. Surely that’s unlikely.
Navy SEALs do it all the day long. What’s my problem with flight?
I can do this, here comes a slight breeze. Right day or not. Right death for me. I can die as I lived, fighting back the boys, keeping off the girls. I’ve skied, skated, jumped, rock climbing to the tune of others’ fun to make me fall. I’ve done it all before. Yet this will be my first freefall dive in a wingsuit. It’s easy – or so I absolutely need to think.
Fluxing inside, as if sea legs, Karen struggles to concentrate. All goes back and forth, up and down. The purifying free-fall wingsuit. Flight right in front of me. Defiant, I spread my arms briefly, drawing them in slowly. A gust of wind has what it takes. Fear grabs my hatred, neither love nor fear. God smells, she smiles to herself, drawing breath inward. Breathing it out, huge puffy snorts. Giving up on egoism, Karen focuses on the beauty of her vale, the pines, their shadowy cones, the sculptured boulders pounding sunrays into her brain through her eyes, one at a time. Blinded by beautiful evils of Global Warming. By goggles, I can see!
Parachute suit, you will save me. But, did I pack you exactly so?
Lights burst as the shadows of clouds strut freely along the horizon. Such a vista doesn’t calm the mounting fear pulsing throughout her heart. Sheer terrors interlace her stomach, needing to puke; breathing in, she supplies air, telling it lies about food.
I am one mile precisely above the rapids, flowing white waters cascading in crashing sounds like flies, so far off it is dismally “downhill.” At the base of a rugged, peaky mountain’s flowing valleys, cradled by further away evergreens, white-cap tree-lined cascades. She witnesses, breaking a towering reverie, one magnificent male (obviously) peregrine falcon glide past. It soars by her nose, feet away, precious anatomy loving scents. Hillside flowers! A child’s midsection, cutely bulbous, a button nose. My kiddy innocence is present…
Drawing backwards, Karen decides not to die today. I don’t feel fear. Being brave, though, means fear is overcome, moving forth while dying. Nothing to smell her, nothing. No bears, no cougars here. Up above, the falcon glides on comforting, uplifting thermals. Space relieves the monotony; it closes in, breathing out with her every breath. Tightly, she smiles, a thin gasp of cut across her gorgeous face.
For a moment, the regal King of the Birds espies the flock of rock pigeons. Their wings flutter as silver fins, color distortions from far below. Laser focusing eyes, avoiding piercing rays, preparing for the falcon to launch lightning-fast dives. Swoops, two, oh three times, catching the prey then mounting the skies with it clutched in razor-sharp talons. Swiftly sweeping upward into the blue shades with his prize – a fresh, healthy meal to divide with his mate and the young ones. Plopping into the nest, cozily secreted amidst smaller rocks on a hillside plunging straight down levelly. A millisecond later, his family digs in; it is over in another seeming millisecond. Evolved animal eaten by birds.
Well, she sighs, I can’t pretend it’s gonna happen with me. Richard is without good, outside of reality, and I cannot see why. Nor may I change his taking off with someone close to me, game playing like when we were small. I can’t forgive the vanishing of our Jin. She made a kindhearted nanny, back in kid hood’s nest. So long ago, the air smells sweet with its disappearance. But now Jonathan, my cherished friend, eagle-eyed joker and trusted BASE jump mentor, is gone also. Again due to Richard, the same moronic ass!
Plowing into her brain, what she felt was his dark, ugly hands squeezing. Her throat for the full throttle, the attention, an amazing relentless nightmares of a misspent youth. Karen knows, not God, that if she doesn’t shut out Richard she will die. At least the next few minutes will tell her life’s story. If she dies, she gives into his cruelty, sexism, malice and sabotage. To fly free like the peregrine, that is what to do; not remain childhood’s stupid toy.
Shouting into the air, against the odds to get even, she laughs! First time ready, leaping to mount the quiet skies. It’s more like falling forward, she thinks. She hopes the echo will bounce off the mountains away, returning to her whether she swoops or falls. It is freefall, not flight, they say. It is flight! Hoping her voice will embrace her whole body, it never shows. Those words of lighted scorn absorb like cotton balls in alcohol, the cloister of emerald mountainside trees. Carbon dioxide, it escapes those tiny and huge leaves as oxygen.
But as my friend is gone, new words escape my mouth. Hesitation, so unlike me. This jump is going to be…different. Obscure. Something I don’t know in advance.
The others in her group had jumped mere secs ago. Already, they’re so away they no longer resemble anything human; maybe birds. Angular specks, star-shaped moving bats. Against rocky background slanting sideways, razor edges of doom, their suit webbings fill out muscular arms and legs, closing the gaps between then. Not like birds, only their arms fly. Their wings. But we use all four limbs. Freefall webbing as ducks’ feet, broadly spreading open, like tents with a manic purpose of making our shapes rounder and more female.
Really, I think the webbing makes them look like neon-colored flutters of butterflies. Like them, I’ve felt the sharp winds graze my exposed cheeks, so brave against the storms. They buoy me against the clouds before, gravity insisting on rushing me headfirst into hard rocks, solid earth, crashing oceans of cascading Death. But I crave the Rush; I need it again. The orgasmic pleasure of cheating the world’s biggest loser.
Then a thin, pesky voice in her head mumbles she’s an intruder.
“Humans are made to walk the Earth,” it whispers, insisting on Icarus. He too tried to fly, his waxen wings melting in the sun. Look where it got him, she sighs, breathing out once more, counting the secs coming on like acid rain. The bad-ass feelings rush in, she doubts things, perhaps for the first time. When out of duck-like waddling suit, Karen’s a fine foxlike attractive 30-something. Intelligent, demure, sophisticated, almost too knowledgeable. One lonesome doctor, a surgeon who craves flying as the majestic falcon she had just finished tracing with her narrowing, methodical eyesight. The sun kept her on the ledge too long.
NO! If need be, I will die doing this, it makes…us…look good. No. Strapped fatal embrace into her flying suit, she’s weighed like a stone, 30 pounds of equipment. Some of it seems excessive, such as her knife. But each piece is designed for a purpose. Flowing, reddish blonde hair, untouched by grey, tucks neatly into her round, glistening helmet. Her face? Shielded with oversize tinted goggles meant to protect eyes from the sun. Blinking, she realizes how hard it can be. Until now, due to this wonderful suit full of the right amount of technically advanced equipment, she felt invulnerable. Now?
Yes, she sucks through her teeth, I am Invincible! I will NOT fail!
No makeup, no jewelry, just like the fellas and other gals. A slender body, turning sideways she’d be a curving toothpick, swimmer’s well-formed statue. Unmoving on the cliff’s edge as gusts play about her beautiful soul. The suit is impervious to the edges of human limitations; I can take it to extremes. That’s what this sport is for. If it was not for the flight suit, surface area added to the human’s body, I would not descend. I’d stay aloft, bones and skin growing one with the whitely streaming puffy clouds.
But even the birds must come down. I picture them splatting on an urban sidewalk, pollution finally having met its match in the final escape of the flying animals. Including me, and the others, too far away now to see. Karen knows it is her time. After all of a few moments have passed, and she has thought of the Universe, she inches to the farthest rim of the cliff, toes sticking out precisely one centimeter. Nestling on the limits of her perch.
The bits of scrapple break off, tumbling down like Karen will. Half-wishing that everything was out of her hands. She needs to go on living! Somebody should come behind and push, in a gently God-fearing way. No, harshly. I’m a coward, she screams inwardly, angry at herself for separating from the group. On the precipice, sans Jonathan’s hands, she knows only sucking emptiness, the Queen of Spaces.
This place was once joyful for her, filled to the brim with heart-racing anticipation. Mostly, with purest love from within. In the skies, she feels no concern for the past, no need for perfect memories, and no fear of the future. If she makes one mistake, she’s gone. Good riddance to bad rubbish; but I’m not trash, she breaths against the cavernous, bottomless descent into Heavenly Hell…wait a minute. That gust – it’s the right sec. Now or never!
Inhaling the slightest sound, gasping with hiccups, she dives.
Inhaling again once, flat out flying, I follow my shadows along the steepest granite canyon face. It clears my mind in a nanosecond. Such a long word for “sec!” No thoughts, must concentrate on real things, or I’ll bounce into a cliff and then it’s over. I’m tempted. No, my friend’s face burns itself into the back of my eyes. I see him still, lying on the ground, pupils blacker than night, a crooked open mouth. Body broke with stuffing bones, poking crazy ragdolls. I can do this, maneuvering my wingsuit expertly, parting the clouds. Skimming the rocky edges of what should be mountains, soaring through thin air at 120 mph. I’m the fastest of all humans unaided by the actual, genuine technology of moving parts.
Slowly, carefully but not cautiously, she releases that clenched feeling taking over her diaphragm, beginning once again to breathe. It is all a matter of sheer timing, she sighs, out-breathing the bad air, in-breathing the fresh, clean mountain plumes. Once again, she intakes the scenery, and thus is Free. The adrenaline rush subsides, past overdue.
Funny. Not funny ha-ha; insanity. The stark picture of a naked killer crystallizes her brilliant, athletic, almost perfectly tuned brain. Once and forever, as the raptor bird would, she must become a keen, breathtakingly sharp-eyed eagle. A predator must avenge Jonathan’s death, ensuring I stay the way I am – flying the friendly, natural skies.