That title might be a bit misleading. But I spent a couple of decades in TV news, so I know that a headline is important. This isn’t my first piece of writing. Or even the first mystery I started to write. It’s the first one I finished. The one that happened when I sat down and wrote the damn book to the end. I can remember finishing it late one Sunday night and running upstairs to wake my husband with the news. That was 20 years ago. This book was only seen by a few devoted friends. They received it three pages at a time. Many of them still have a copy in a 3-ring binder.
I’ve been thinking about these books. I spent years writing the sequels. There are at least 25 of them. Lots of writing. Zero editing. Now I think they make interesting period pieces. The characters have started wandering into my other work. I think they want out. So here’s the beginning paragraphs of the first book I ever finished. This is the big bang of the universe that the characters in my current novels live in. It’s the same world.
Set in the year 2000, the main character is Thomas Nakamatsu, a college professor in Bowling Green, Ohio whose life is about to change drastically in the new millennium. Interestingly enough, Thomas had a side-hustle explaining technology to senior citizens and working in news. At the time I wrote this, neither of these thing were even on my radar. Shortly after writing the first five of these novels, I went to work in TV news. Then 12 or so years later, I got a job explaining tech to senior citizens. Now I run a website dedicated to making tech easier for everyone. This is still my favorite opening line of a book ever.
He shot me. I can’t believe the stupid bastard shot me. Right after he called me a redneck samurai. What does that even mean? Is it anything like a NASCAR Ninja? It was the very definition of adding insult to injury. Okay, if I was thinking this, apparently I was still alive. And it smelled like a hospital. That awful combination of sickness and disinfectant.
She was there, too. I smelled Mom’s perfume. There was no mistaking that, and I heard the click of her heels. I’d never heard another walk that sounded that way. Everything was going to be all right. When Mom showed up, it was all under control.
“Thomas?” I heard her say and I felt her take my hand. “Thomas Michael Nakamatsu, do you hear me?” My full name, usually only spoken when I was in serious trouble, I hoped I wasn’t grounded.
I fought to open my eyes and tried to say “Mom”, but I think it came out “Mommy,” Which was weird, ‘cause I’d never called her Mommy.
“Happy New Year, Baby,” she said. I finally got my eyes open. It took awhile to focus on her. Impossibly tiny with the biggest, blondest hair in the world.
The titanium magnolia. She had the forced smile of someone who didn’t want me to know how bad off I was. “You’re okay, baby, you’re gonna be okay.”
“He shot me,” I croaked. It was kind of frightening how weak I sounded. The voice didn’t seem like my own. I hurt. I hurt like hell.
“I know.” She was trying not to cry. “Don’t that beat all.”
I wanted to say more, but it was just too damn hard.
She kissed my forehead. “Your Daddy is just getting something to eat. He’ll be right back any second now. Samantha went home to change clothes. But she didn’t leave till they said you were stable and she’s coming right back.”
“Where…” I managed to get out.
“Were you shot?” Apparently she could tell that wasn’t what I meant by my eyes, cause I swear I couldn’t move anything else. “Where are you? MedicalCollege of Ohioin Toledo. Everyone says it’s an excellent hospital. You got to take a helicopter ride to the hospital and everything.”
I must have been waking up. I could feel needles and tubes and I was so damn thirsty and someone had shot me. And everything hurt.
“Look who’s awake,” Mom said to someone. Then Dad was standing there looking ten years older that he did when… two days ago, three, a week? I didn’t know. He looked so godawful afraid, so unlike himself. There was always a kind of cockiness about Dad, like he knew that he could kick the ass of whatever life tried to throw in his way. It was gone.
“I’m okay, Dad,” my pathetic little voice said.
He put his hand over Mom’s on mine and started to cry. I hadn’t seen him cry in 26 years or so.
Everything had been going so well until the idiot shot me. I guess I should have seen it coming. It was just like on television. It’s always the least likely person whose name you can remember.