Mid-Michigan, my local Romance Writers of America chapter, had a first three pages critique opportunity at its meeting this past Saturday. Along with fifteen others, I submitted the beginning of my latest WIP, Deceived by Trust, to be read and reviewed by the group.
“Police! Stop right there! Put your hands where we can see them!”
Two steps into the storage locker, Jenny Reynolds froze. A white light flashed in her eyes. Nearly blinded, she blinked in the glare. Her purse hit the ground with a thud.
Fingers splayed opened, she raised her hands. “What’s going on?” Heart thundering, breaths shallow, her body snapped into survival mode. “What do you want?”
“We’ll ask the questions. Is this your storage locker?”
“Yes.” Mouth dry, she struggled to grasp what was happening as a knot lodged in her stomach. “This is the one I rented yesterday.”
She squinted into the brilliance but could see nothing beyond bright white.
What if they aren’t police?
A Detroit native for most of her life, she was well aware crime could happen anywhere. Even so close to her own backyard of Mayfield, one of its more upscale suburbs. Not only that—the knot tightened—these units were advertised as specially insulated. Were they sound proof too? Would anyone hear her scream?
If this was a robbery, they could take whatever she had and leave her alone. “There’s nothing stored in here yet, but I have some money in my purse.” Right leg extended, she started to toe the bag over to whoever held the freaking bright light on her.
“Okay.” Her right arm dipped slightly to regain her balance. She retracted her leg. “Doing my best to not move here.”
“Are you Jenny Reynolds?” Her purse was snatched away.
She was about to ask if she could lower her hands, then decided against it. “Yes.”
“And this is the storage locker you rented?”
“I already told you that. I also told you there’s nothing stored in here yet.”
“I have a few household items out in the truck. Friends are helping me cart over some larger furniture tomorrow.” She was talking way too much. Nerves always made her do that. “Please, what is this about?”
As if they’d finally taken pity, the glare scorching her eyes was blessedly dimmed. The door on the ten foot by twelve foot cubicle creaked as it was trundled shut behind her. She spun around as the latch mechanism clunked into place.
“Stay where you are.”
Without a second thought, she did as she was told. After a soft click, track lighting in the ceiling came on. She blinked to clear her watery vision. Two uniformed police officers stood on either side of the now secured door.
A man in a dark suit with a badge hung outside the breast pocket stepped toward her, his expression grim. “Do you have ID?”
She accepted the purse he handed back. “What’s going on?”
“Did you sign the contract to rent this storage locker?”
Fishing out her wallet, she produced her driver’s license. “Yes. I told you I rented it.”
He took the license along with her purse and wallet, passing it all to one of the officers. “Did you sign the contract and intend this space to be used to store selected items of yours?”
“Yes. As I said, I’m bringing some bigger things over tomorrow.”
“Where do you plan to put them?”
“You heard me.”
One hand put a light grip on her arm. The other closed over her shoulder as he rotated her toward the interior. Huge shelving she’d never seen before lined the back wall. Various metal parts and gadgets she didn’t recognize, some tagged with cardboard labels, were neatly arranged on the evenly spaced surfaces.
“I don’t know what all of that is.” She let out a shaky breath. “Or how it got in here.”
“That’s what they all say.” The sarcasm lacing his tone as much as told her further denial would be futile.
“It’s the truth.”
“Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about the truck you arrived in.”
Nodding to one of the uniformed officers to raise the door, his hold on her didn’t let up one whit as he marched her into the rapidly cooling air of an early spring evening. A police car was parked beside the loaner truck she’d arrived in. Spinning red, white and blue lights jumped and pulsed on the building walls.
“I don’t suppose you have the registration and proof of insurance for this vehicle?”
She shook her head. “It belongs to a friend of my ex-boyfriend.”
“Funny. This truck was reported stolen last night.”
“But, I have the keys to it.” Eyes wide in disbelief, she glanced around. “If you’ll hand me my purse again, I’ll show you.”
“A spare set which the owner, stupidly I’d say, left in the glove box.”
“I’m telling you this truck belongs to the friend of my ex-boyfriend, Rod Do—”
“Donahue.” The plain clothesed cop smiled. “You just answered my next question.”
“I what?” Both hands were drawn together behind her back. Cold metal cinched her wrists.
“Jenny Reynolds you are under arrest for possession of stolen property…”
“What?” Her breath caught, and time stopped. “No!”
“You have the right to remain silent…”
He continued to talk in words that made no sense to her fogged brain as he led her toward the squad car. The flashing lights pulsed in jack-hammer time with her heart. A hand held onto the top of her head as she was ushered inside the back seat.
Sheer panic threatened to close her throat. She stuck her head through the still opened door. “There’s been a mistake.”
“There’ve been a lot of mistakes.” He peered in at her. “And you made them.”
Comments I received went something like this: ‘Wow!’ ‘That really drew me into the story.’ ‘We have a good feel for the conflict this heroine will have to deal with.’ ‘That opening makes me want to read what comes next.’
Though I was pleased by the positive feedback, call me crazy, part of me wanted a little more. Surely there’s something here that needs to be improved upon.
Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve done all I can (with help from CP Jannine, of course, who is no doubt as we speak, rolling her eyes) and it’s simply time to send this one out into the world.
Deceived by Trust is the first in my four part series Brothers in Blue. So, tell me. What do you think? Ready? Or not?
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