After a pleasant afternoon drinking tea in my favourite coffee shop, and talking about writing with fellow writer Julianne Alcott, we went our separate ways. As I reached the elevator, the doors opened and the tall, dark-haired man who had been waiting for it held the door and ushered me through. I thanked him and he followed me in. We journeyed to the car park in silence, avoiding looking at each other, as one does in elevators.
I stole a glance at his face. Pleasant enough. Nothing happened. No lurching of the heart, or even of the elevator. What would I do, I thought, if I suddenly realised that there was a knife sticking out of his ribs? But there wasn’t. No knife, no violence. The elevator stopped, he ushered me out, I thanked him once more and we walked to our separate cars, never to meet again.
It was while driving to work a few minutes later that my devious writer’s mind elaborated on that evil little image. I knew that if I waited until I reached work, the image would either fade, or other forces would intrude before I had the chance to write it down. So I drove with one hand and scribbled into the notebook on my lap with the other.
Here is that original rough paragraph, scribbled while driving to work on the 5th of September 2010.
“She didn’t see the man’s face before the knife was thrown, but his look of contorted disbelief as he registered the hilt embedded between his ribs led her to believe it must once have been a handsome one. Too late now. Already the red bubbles spewing between his lips had begun to slow, and the glazed mist that spread over his corneas now matched the pallor of his drained face. He clutched at her skirt as he stumbled forward. ‘Benicio!’ he whispered, and slumped to the ground.”
I had no idea where to set the story, but I wanted it to be somewhere foreign, a place possibly steeped in history or legend. I liked the name Benicio for the dead man, and since I had never been to Spain or Portugal, I chose Italy. The tiny courtyard that is supposed be Juliet’s, in Verona, jumped into my head soon after that. The name of Lisa appealed to me. I don’t know why, but once I chose it, the name stuck and her character morphed from the original staid schoolteacher I had envisioned, into the more flamboyant art teacher that draws the dead man’s artist brother into the story. I love cats, but even though there are none in this story, my Vet’s wife gave birth to a son whom they called Matteo. The name of Lisa’s co-star was born.
Two years and many drafts later, here is the opening page of the now completed novel: “Benicio’s Bequest.”
Lisa stepped back to get a better image of Juliet’s statue on her Nikon, and felt a foot beneath hers. She turned to apologise, and saw that the self-styled Romeo who had annoyed her earlier was so close behind her that he was almost welded to her shoulder-bag.
Romeo’s gasp of pain and his stagger backwards seemed a little melodramatic for such minor pressure from Lisa’s flat sandals. Lisa glanced down in exasperation, hoping he wouldn’t sue her for damaging his designer shoes.
And that was when she saw the dark red rosette spreading across his white tee shirt.
With a grunt that became a sob, Romeo’s body flinched as a second rosette opened next to the first. He stared up at Juliet’s balcony, then turned to Lisa, his blue eyes holding what she imagined to be a lifetime of regrets.
Too late. Everything was too late for him now.
Grabbing Lisa’s arm as he staggered, he crushed her beaded bangles into her flesh with surprising force for a man too weak to remain upright. He mumbled as if trying to tell her something, but only blood spewed from his lips, highlighting the pallor of his draining face as his eyes lost their focus.
“Matteo,” he whispered through red bubbles as his grip on her wrist slackened. “Matteo.”
He collapsed backwards, his blue eyes reflecting the sky above.
The crash of his head hitting the cobbles broke Lisa’s capsule of stunned silence and her discordant cry accompanied the tinkling melody of the beads clattering from her broken bangles. An answering cacophony of screams began around her as the little courtyard of Juliet’s house in Verona erupted into panic.
You can find “Benicio’s Bequest” as an e-book on Amazon, here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009W36BYA