Short Story Sunday 214: Number One Suspect [Part 4 – Mystery Month]

Short Story: "Number One Suspect" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | Mystery | RachelPoli.com
DID YOU READ PARTS ONE, TWO, AND THREE?

            After talking to Noah, Jayden’s former boss, George and Lilah went straight back to the office to brainstorm more ideas. Things were suddenly looking for Steven. While the motive for killing his wife was still prominent, things were looking shady on Jayden’s end as well.

“Whatever she was up to leading up to her death,” George had said, “had dire consequences that I don’t think she saw coming.”

They even visited Steven is his holding cell and asked for his bank information. Sure enough, it matched the number that Lilah had found written on the notepad on Noah’s desk. When Barney had asked what they were doing there, George simply shrugged his shoulders and told him that there was more to the case than met the eye.

It wasn’t until the following day that George and Lilah went back to the police station to finally piece everything together. They had helped throw an innocent man in jail and now they had to get him back out so justice could be served.

Barney sighed when he noticed his brother and Lilah walking towards his desk through the police station.

“What do you guys want now?” he asked standing up. “Did the check not arrive yet?”

“We’re here to solve Jayden Bell’s murder.” Lilah boasted.

Barney raised an eyebrow and glanced at George with suspicion.

George sighed. “Listen, we believe Steven is innocent.”

“You helped arrest him!”

“I know, I know. And it was a terrible mistake. It’s a gut feeling both Lilah and I had the other day when you were questioning him.” George explained.

“Really?” Barney scoffed folding his arms across his chest. “Because when I interrogated him the other day he had nothing useful to say. If he was really innocent, I feel as though he would have tried harder.”

Lilah glared at Barney. “He had nothing to say because he was scared. And he’s grieving the loss of his wife. Plus, there’s a lot more to the puzzle that Steven doesn’t even know.”

Barney’s face relaxed as he listened to Lilah. “What do you mean? What else have you figured out?”

Lilah opened her mouth, but thought better than to answer. She looked up at George figuring that he would be the best to explain it all.

“I think,” George said, “this conversation would be better if Steven were in on it.”

Barney reluctantly agreed. He sent George and Lilah to Interrogation Room A on the other side of the station while he went to go fetch the suspect.

When they had made it to the room, Steven sat on one end of the metal table while George and Lilah sat on the other. Barney stood behind them with his back leaning up against the one-way mirror and his arms crossed. He didn’t look amused by this turn of events, yet he seemed intrigued by it all the same.

“Steven,” George began, “Thank you for talking to us again.”

“Sure… are you going to be my lawyer?” Steven asked.

Barney snickered behind them.

George sighed. “No, Steven. I told you, I’m a private investigator. I’m not a lawyer.”

Steven looked over at Lilah and she shook her head before he could even ask. His shoulders slouched in disappointment and he somberly looked down at the cold table in front of him.

“I wouldn’t worry too much. I don’t think you’re going to need any representation.” George said in an attempt to reassure him. However, it only seemed to confuse him as he looked up at George with furrowed brows.

“Did you know that your wife was planning to divorce you?” George asked bluntly.

Steven’s eyes grew wide. “What…?” his bottom lip puckered out and quivered. “What do you mean Jayden was going to divorce me…?”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, especially under these circumstances, but she was seeing another man.” George explained. “She was going to divorce you to be with him.”

“Wait a minute,” Barney piped up. “I see this more of a drive to kill her.”

Steven gasped in fright and Lilah rolled her eyes. She turned around in her seat and looked up at Barney. “Can’t you tell that he had no idea she was planning on divorcing him?”

Barney shrugged. “He could be a great actor, for all you know. Besides, I’m just trying to play devil’s advocate. We have to know absolutely everything and get everyone’s side on things.”

Lilah relaxed back down in her seat. She knew Barney was right, but she wished they could all be a little more sympathetic to Steven. He did just lose his wife… in more ways than one.

“She was definitely in over her head, though. I’m sure whoever she was having an affair with didn’t care for her back in the way she cared for him. However, I don’t think she knew that.” George stated.

“I’m not sure I’m following…” Steven said shaking his head.

“I spoke with Mr. Noah Lang yesterday.” George said. He turned around to look at Barney. “I would suggest you page someone to bring him down here. He’s the owner of Prevalli’s Restaurant, Jayden’s former boss, and so-called lover. And whoever picks him up; tell them to take a look a notepad on his desk. It should have Steven’s bank account number written on it.”

Barney hesitated, but he eventually left the room to make the call.

Steven leaned forward on the table looking George in the eye. “Jayden’s boss? Why would he have my bank account information?”

“Remember when you originally hired us it was because you thought Jayden was doing something with your money? Your money was mysteriously disappearing from your account? Checks were being written?” George asked.

Steven nodded.

“I don’t know why, but Jayden was giving all that to Noah. I think he seduced her into believing they had a loving relationship and therefore somehow tricked her into giving her your account information so he could steal money from you.”

Steven leaned back in his chair with a disgusted look on his face. “And Jayden was going to leave me for him?”

Lilah narrowed her eyes. That was what he was taking out of this story? He was concerned that Jayden was going to leave him more so than that she was stealing his money and giving it to someone else for them to use?

When Barney came back into the room, George explained one more time what his suspicions were.

“I don’t know what Noah was using the money for, but I do believe he’s the culprit in stealing from their account.” Georg explained.

“Well, it’s not technically stealing if Jayden was giving him permission to take the money out. It was her account as well.” Barney shrugged his shoulders.

Steven’s jaw dropped. “So that money technically isn’t stolen? I can’t get it back?”

Barney nodded his head. “Well, we’ll see what we can do about that. It’s just not going to be easy.”

Steven slouched back down in his chair.

“The charges for the money might not stick, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find that Noah is also the man who killed Jayden.” George continued.

Steven gasped and Barney shook his head. “And what, may I ask, makes you say that?”

“Noah was using Jayden. She had a lot of money and she was attracted to him. So, he played along to get what he wanted, to get what he needed. There are a lot of theories, but my guess is that he killed her.” George explained. “She either figured out what he was doing and confronted him about it, therefore him getting angry and scared. Maybe she told him that she was going to divorce Steven so they could be together and Noah didn’t want that. He panicked. Or, maybe Noah was done using her and attempted to break up with her. Then maybe she threatened to cut him off completely or asked for her money back and… well, he panicked again.”

Barney pinched the bridge of his nose. “Why did this case have to end up this way…? It was so easy before.”

“Hey!” Steven protested. “You’re talking about my life on the line here.”

“Sorry,” Barney shrugged.

It wasn’t too much longer when a few officers came in announcing that they had brought Noah to the station. George, Lilah, and Barney left Steven in Interrogation Room A and went to go talk to Noah in Interrogation Room B.

“You two again? I thought you said you were Private-Eyes, no police work?” Noah scoffed as soon as he saw George and Lilah.

“Don’t worry about them,” Barney said harshly. He sat down at the table across from him. “Jayden Bell was murdered by several stab wounds all over her body. What exactly can you tell us about that? What can you tell us about anything that has to do with Jayden?”

Noah narrowed his eyes at Barney. He looked around at each and every one of the. “Wait,” he held up a finger, “are you suggesting that I had anything to do with Jayden’s death?”

“Yes,” Barney said bluntly.

Noah banged his fists on the table and stood up from his chair. “You have no right to accuse me of such a thing!”

“We have every right to believe you and Jayden were a lot closer than mere boss and employee.” George piped up. He side-stepped towards the door blocking it. Lilah took a step back wondering if George was worried that Noah would try to run. If that was going to be the case, she didn’t want to get squashed.

Noah’s jaw dropped. Lilah had a feeling he wanted to protest, but no excuses were popping into his head at the moment.

“I want a lawyer!” he finally demanded. “You have no right to bring me to the station and interrogate me like this.”

“This is just a routine follow-up.” Barney said calmly. He leaned back in his chair as though there was no chance of Noah leaping over the table and strangling him.

“I think not!”

“Noah, we can get you a lawyer,” George said politely, “but that will just make us believe you have something to hide.”

“We can easily take this thing to court if you don’t cooperate.” Barney said nonchalantly.

“Huh?” Noah said nearly out of breath. He whipped his head back and forth between looking at Barney and George. They were confusing him and Lilah figured that Noah was trying to calculating which was the best option to get himself out of this as soon as possible.

“If you ask for a lawyer, we can give you one. But just know we’re going to assume you have something to hide. Why would you need a lawyer present otherwise?” Barney asked.

“If you’re completely innocent in everything, like you claim you are, then you shouldn’t need a lawyer. As long as you tell the truth then you won’t be in any trouble.” George added.

Noah’s chest heaved in and out quickly as his breathing grew heavier. He finally sat down with his fists balled on the surface of the table. “Fine,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Perfect,” Barney smiled. “Now, were you and Jayden having an affair?”

Noah remained silent.

“You told us she was planning on divorcing Steven because she was seeing another guy. You also told us that you had no idea who this guy was.” George added, “But then we noticed that you had Jayden’s bank account number written on a notepad.”

“You went through my office?” Noah demanded standing back up. “I didn’t see any search warrant!”

Barney too stood up. He towered over Noah and his angry face burned into Noah’s. “Sit down, Lang! This isn’t your territory.”

Lilah pressed her lips together. Barney and Noah seemed to be locked in a staring contest and she wondered if they were going to brawl. After a moment or two, Noah sat back down. She let out a sigh of relief. And he had seemed like such a nice guy when they had met him the day before.

Barney remained standing still glaring at Noah as George continued speaking.

“There was a notepad sitting out on the surface of your desk. The bank account number was written on the first page and we could easily read what the numbers were. Since Steven Bell had hired us to figure out where all his money was going, we naturally recognized the number.”

Lilah knew that wasn’t the case. Sure, the number seemed familiar, but they still had to check on it. Then again, Noah didn’t need to know that.

“Jayden gave you her bank account information, didn’t she? And then you were using the money for yourself.” George stated.

“For the restaurant,” Noah replied harshly.

Lilah looked over at George. She couldn’t tell whether or not he believed Noah. She wasn’t sure if she believed Noah.

“Jayden was a hard worker. She loved the restaurant and she loved me. So, she wanted to help out and invest in the business. I didn’t ask her for the account information, she gave it to me.” Noah turned from Barney to look at George and sneered. “Is that a crime?”

“We’re trying to figure that one out. It was nice of Jayden to give you her information, but she didn’t talk about it with her husband. So, yes, you were stealing from the lead account holder.” Barney explained.

Noah rolled his eyes. “Fine, I’ll give the money back. Can I go now?”

“What we want to know now is,” George piped up again, “did you care for Jayden liked she cared for you?”

Noah narrowed his eyes and Lilah could see his blood boiling again. “What are you talking about now?”

“You just told us that Jayden loved the restaurant and she loved you.” George stated.

Lilah saw Noah’s eye twitch as George continued speaking.

“Did you love her back?”

“Yes,” Noah said with his teeth gritted. “That’s not a crime, though. I’m sorry she was already married, but when you love someone, you love someone, alright?”

Barney shrugged. “Hey, she was going to divorce Steven to make herself and you happy. Not to mention the restaurant was going to be in great shape financially. It’s a win-win for everyone… Well, except for Steven.”

“Yeah, he somehow got the short end of the stick on that one…” Lilah muttered.

“Listen,” Noah continued, “It doesn’t matter anyway. She’s dead.”

“Because you killed her?” Barney asked.

Noah was about to answer, but stopped himself. He glared at Barney, who kept a neutral expression. Lilah could have sworn that Noah was just about to agree.

“Right before Jayden had died, I was at her house. She and I were having a talk about the restaurant and that was when she told me that she was going to divorce Steven so we could be together. I couldn’t have been happier. When I left, Steven was just getting home. So I snuck out the back door. The next thing I knew I heard Jayden was murdered. I assumed she told Steven she wanted a divorce and he killed her because of it.” Noah explained.

“You went out the back door, huh?” Barney asked. “What size shoe are you?”

“I don’t know… 10?” Noah shrugged.

Barney smirked. “Mr. Noah Lang, you’re under arrest as a suspect in the murder of Jayden Bell.”

“On what grounds?” Noah demanded standing back up.

“On the grounds that there was a bloodied footprint leaving the scene of the crime through the back door,” Barney said calmly.

“But the butcher’s knife had Steven’s fingerprints all over it! You guys found him holding it over her body!” Noah protested.

“You’re right,” Barney nodded, “except it’s not public knowledge that the murder weapon was a butcher’s knife.”

“Whatever, it was a knife…” Noah muttered.

“Nice try,” Barney sighed.

Just then a couple of police officers came into the room and hauled Noah away. George, Lilah, and Barney were left in the room together. Neither one of them said anything to each other for a few moments. But then George piped up.

“You never told me about the footprint.”

Barney snickered. “I also didn’t tell you that I thought Steven was innocent this entire time as well. But when you have a job to do and you have no other leads… Well, you know how it is. You can’t let a good lead go. Just in case,”

“But everyone is innocent until proven guilty.” Lilah stated.

Barney chuckled. “Yeah, you’re right. Still, sometimes your job doesn’t always allow that. You have to think both ways. What if he is innocent, but what if he is guilty?”

“I’m sure Steven is going to be more than happy to hear the news.” Lilah smiled.

“Well, this is just the beginning for him.” George sighed. “The poor guy has a funeral to plan as well as fighting with the bank and insurance companies to try to get his money back.”

“How much money was taken out of his account, anyway?” Lilah asked.

“A couple hundred grand,” Barney replied.

“What?!”

“Yeah, I know. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of money?” Barney sighed.

“What does Steven even do for work?” Lilah asked appalled.

“He’s a private detective, that’s for sure…” George muttered.

“And he by no means is a police officer.” Barney chuckled. “Anyway,” he opened the door leading George and Lilah out of the interrogation room. “I guess I’ll head next door and tell Mr. Steven Bell that he’s free to go.”

George nodded his head. “And good luck to him.”

Words: 2,940

I hope you enjoyed the story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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How To Use Red Herrings To Your Advantage [Mystery Month]

Red herrings are fake clues that are left around – either by accident or on purpose – to through an investigator off the trail when solving a crime.

They’re a lot of fun to throw into your mystery novel to throw the readers off track as well. Or maybe they know the truth and they can get frustrated with the investigator when they get thrown off. Either way, they’re fun to write and can sometimes be used to keep the readers on their toes and turning the pages.

How to use red herrings to your advantage | Mystery Writing | Creative Writing | Crime | Thriller | Suspense | RachelPoli.com

What Can Red Herrings Be?

Anything that’s a noun can be a red herring – a people, place, or thing.

Sometimes criminals can leave an object as a “clue” such as a fake weapon. Or, they can murder someone in their home and move the body elsewhere making it seem like it took place somewhere else. That also allows them to sometimes change how the death occurred as well.

Red herrings can also be a person as the culprit can try to frame someone or they may have been a person at the wrong place in the wrong time.

Real Red Herrings and Fake Red Herrings

Of course, I just explained that red herrings are “fake” clues that drop throughout the story. So, how can you have a real one? What I mean is you can have a fake-fake clue or a real-fake clue. In other words, by accident or on purpose.

Real Red Herrings

A real red herring can be a fake clue left on purpose. This can typically be done by the culprit to throw the investigators off their trail. They might move the body after they’ve killed the victim to make it seem like the crime scene was a different spot. They may frame a different person for the crime. Some criminals are crafty, others are not.

Fake Red Herrings

This is an accidental red herring. A clue might be brought in due to lack of judgement or poor deducing skills on an investigator. They might think something about the crime scene is off when, in fact, it’s nothing at all.

How Can You Use This To Your Advantage?

This allows the culprit a little more time to get away. Do we want that? No. But does it add great tension? Yes. Although, it is okay to let the bad guy get away once in a while. Unfortunately, that happens in real life and it’ll really make your readers think.

Using real red herrings is a great way to throw your readers off along with the investigator in the story. It’ll make them think. The same goes for the fake red herrings, though depending on what kind of information you give to your readers, they may know the truth and will yelling at the book wishing the characters could hear them.

Red herrings add a little extra to the story. It really gets the tension high when the protagonist chases after a clue only for it to turn out to be nothing. It wasn’t their time and time is important – especially when you’re looking for a missing persons, for example.

Why Are Fake Clues Called Red Herrings?

I have no idea. If anyone knows the answer to that, please let me know. I’m curious.

Do you use red herrings often? How do you usually go about it? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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A List Of Mystery Resources [Mystery Month]

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your support!

I’ve gone through many books and websites researching the craft of mystery writing and also just research for mysteries and crime in general. Here are some of my favorites.

A list of mystery resource books | Mystery writing | Creative writing | writing craft | RachelPoli.com

Books

1. Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron
2. The Writer’s Guide to Weapons by Benjamin Sobieck
3. Now Write! Mysteries by Sherry Ellis and Laurie Lamson
4. Police Procedure & Investigation by Lee Lofland
5. Book of Poisons by Serita Stevens and Anne Bannon
6. Forensics by D.P. Lyle

Websites

1. Writing World – They have a great mystery section.
2. Writer’s Digest – A well known site that has articles about writing mysteries and thrillers.
3. Mystery Cozy – Not really updated anymore, but a great place to find other resources.

What are some of your favorite resources? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Writing The Mystery Short Story [Mystery Month]

Writing a mystery is hard, but writing a mystery short story is even harder. Mysteries can take a lot out of you – between the crime taking place, the long investigation process, and so on. It easier to pack that into a longer novel than it is to jam into a short story.

Still, it’s a pretty good feat if you’re able to jam all that information into a short story.

But how do you make sure you don’t leave out any important information? How do you make sure you don’t make the story go too fast?

Writing the Mystery Short Story | Creative Writing | Flash Fiction | Mystery Writing | RachelPoli.com

Every story is written in the same general way. The exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and finally the resolution. Writing a short story is no different than that, it’s just condensed.

So, how do you go about trying to condense it all?

1. Find the problem
2. Access the problem
3. Figure it out
4. Conclusion

Start with the problem

Throw your characters into the action right away. Have them start at the crime scene already and throw in a little background if need be. It adds tension to the story right away and cuts out a little time. Sometimes you don’t need to show how your characters came across the problem. They can explain it throughout the story if they have to, but that information doesn’t always need to be known.

Access the problem

This can go hand in hand with the first and third points I listed above. Accessing the problem can be done during the discovery of the problem and also during the investigation. Things have a way of falling into place.

Figure it out

This is obviously easier said than done and, in a short story, this may be your longest part.

Drop the clues carefully and allow your protagonist – or whoever is investigating – to deduce with logic in an attempt to figure things out in a timely manner for the plot, but faster for the word count of the story.

Conclusion

This would be the big reveal. The investigator explains the problem, how it came to be, and why. Someone is arrested or accused.

See? Easy-peasy. I mean, not really… but then again, I can’t exactly go about telling you how to write your own short story. Still, this is a good start.

How do you go about writing a mystery short story? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Short Story Sunday 213: Number One Suspect [Part 3 – Mystery Month]

Short Story: "Number One Suspect" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing | Mystery | RachelPoli.com
DID YOU READ PART ONE AND PART TWO?

            George held open the door for Lilah as soon as they made it Prevalli’s Restaurant. Lilah walked in first and then stepped to the side to let George walk in front of her. She figured now would be a good time to let him handle all the talking.

“Hello, how are you?” the hostess greeted them right away.

“I’m doing well, how are you?” George replied with a polite smile.

“Great,” she said a little too enthusiastically in Lilah’s opinion. She picked up two menus and looked back up at George. “Table for two? Would you like a booth?”

“No, thank you. We’re not here to eat.” George declined. “Is your manager around?”

The hostess paused for a moment before she finally nodded her head. Her voice shaking she said, “Oh, sure. Let me… Just let me go get him.”

“Please don’t worry,” George squinted at her name tag, “Maria. We’re only here to ask some follow up questions about Jayden Bell.”

Maria let out a small sigh of relief. “Oh, right… Sure, I’ll page him right away.”

“Thank you,” George dipped his head in thanks and then stepped back to give him some space. Lilah followed closely behind.

“So,” she whispered to him, “What exactly is your plan?”

“I want to know what he thinks about Jayden’s death. I want to know whether or not he believes Steven is the killer.” George said simply.

Lilah shook her head. “Why do we care about what he thinks, though? Anyone who would be involved with this case, the money going missing as well as the murder, would be Jayden herself, Steven, and the bank.”

“Lilah, did you ever have a job before you came to me?” George asked.

“I worked at the bookstore part time at my college. Does that count?” she replied.

George nodded. “Now, tell me, did you ever talk behind another employee’s back when they weren’t on duty? Or did you talk about your boss to your co-workers? Maybe you complained about a couple of customers?”

“Of course,” Lilah shrugged. “Doesn’t everyone?”

“And through that gossip, you get close to your co-workers, right? You get to know each other a little better, especially about what’s going on in your life.”

Lilah groaned. “Can you just tell me straight up what you’re trying to say instead of going around the bush?”

“It’s beating around the bush,”

“Whatever,”

“Anyway,” George cleared his throat, “If something stressful is going on in your personal, most people go to work and talk about it. Their co-workers don’t know anything about them outside of work. They’re not friends or relatives with the people you know outside of work. Before I became a police officer I used to talk about the happenings in my family all the time; the good and the bad. Then when I became an officer, I only talked about other things. Everyone knew Barney and my other siblings because we’re all in the same field. I can’t gossip about them at work because it would get back to them. Do you see what I’m trying to say?”

Lilah nodded with a bored sigh. “Yes. It was very long-winded, but yes. I get it. So you think Jayden’s co-workers might know more of what happened because she might have talked about it at work?”

“Exactly,” George nodded.

“Well, that’s stupid.”

George raised an eyebrow looking down at her. “Now what?”

“If Jayden was stealing money from her own bank account, from her own husband, why would she boast about it at work?” Lilah asked.

George chuckled. “Because she didn’t think she would ever get caught… Also, she didn’t think she’d get killed for it. You have to always be careful who you say things to, Lilah. Remember that.”

“You’re being cryptic again…” Lilah said through gritted teeth.

George ignored her and smiled at someone else. Lilah turned her head to see a tall man in a fancy suit walking towards them. His shoulders were so broad she thought they were going to rip right through his suit jacket.

“I’m Noah Lang, the manager here. How can I help you?” the man said as he approached. He stuck out his hand towards George and he shook it.

“George Florence, private investigator.” He said and then pointed to Lilah. “This is my assistant, Lilah Williams.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Noah smiled at Lilah as he shook her hand. She smiled politely back, but Noah had turned his attention back to George before she could say anything to him.

“Private investigator, huh?” he said stroking his chin. “Is everything okay?”

“We just came here to ask a few questions pertaining to Jayden Bell’s death. Is it okay if we speak in a more private place?” George asked.

“Of course,” Noah agreed willingly.

He led them down through the entire restaurant. Lilah was impressed at how crowded it was, even though it was only lunchtime. The lights were dim, the tables and chairs were in great shape, and even the carpet underneath her feet was fancy. It looked so plush she had to do everything in her power to not bend down to stroke it with her hands. Or, better yet, take off her shoes and pretend she was at the beach.

She had never been in this restaurant before. Mostly because it was a little too fancy for her taste and it was also really expensive. Still, as they walked by the kitchen, Lilah got a whiff of a steak and her mouth began to water.

“Here we are. This is my office. Please feel free to make yourself at home.” Noah opened the door and allowed George and Lilah to enter first.

Lilah followed George in and the two of them took a seat on the other side of Noah’s desk.

“So,” Noah began as he sat down, “If you don’t mind my asking, why is there a private investigator involved with this case? The police had already come to question me about Jayden’s death and I’ve heard that they already caught the killer.”

“Well, that’s why we’re here. Steven Bell, the suspect and Jayden’s husband, hired us to help him out.” George stated.

Lilah cautiously turned her head to look at George. She didn’t want to be too obvious that she had no idea what he was talking about. As far as she knew, Steven never hired them.

Then again, this must have been one of those “rules” George was talking about earlier that they were allowed to break.

Noah snorted as he leaned back in his chair and made himself more comfortable. “Well, good luck to you on that one. I’m pretty sure that’s a loss cause.”

“What makes you say that?” George asked.

Lilah turned her attention to Noah surprised. She took out her notebook from her bag and clicked open her pen ready to jot down anything and everything this man said.

Noah shrugged his shoulders. “Jayden was going to divorce Steven and he wasn’t happy about it. I’m pretty sure he killed her because if he couldn’t have her, no one could. It’s happened before.”

Lilah wrote the word “divorce” in capital letters. Divorce had never come up in the case before. Whether Barney knew about it or not, Lilah wasn’t sure.

“Was Jayden afraid of him? Is that why she talked about her divorce?” George asked.

Noah glanced up at the ceiling thinking of an answer. “I wouldn’t say she was afraid of him. She seemed more annoyed with him than anything else.”

“Why did she want to divorce him?”

“She…” Noah sighed. “Well, I don’t know if I should be saying anything at all.”

“Please. Every piece of information helps.” Lilah said.

Noah groaned. “Jayden was cheating on Steven with someone else. She was feeling guilty about it and wanted to divorce him.”

“Do you know the man who she was having an affair with?” George asked.

Noah shrugged. “She never mentioned his name.”

“Excuse me,” Maria knocked on the door and poked her head in. “I’m really sorry to interrupt, but we have some unsatisfied customers. They’re not very happy and demand to speak with you.”

“I’m coming,” Noah stood up from his chair and buttoned his jacket. He rolled his eyes at George. “Time to go put a smile… Please excuse me, I’ll be right back.”

“Of course, take your time.” George replied.

Noah left the office and Maria smiled apologetically to them. “I tried to hold them off, I knew he was busy talking to the police. I’m sorry.”

“He’s at work right now. We understand.” George said giving her a reassuming smile.

Maria nodded and ducked out of the office closing the door behind her.

Lilah jumped out of her seat and walked around to the other side of the desk.

“What are you doing?” George demanded.

“I’m snooping.”

“You can’t snoop!”

“Well, it’s not snooping… It’s peeking.”

“What…?”

Lilah groaned. “While Noah was explaining something to you, I noticed this slip of paper here.” She pointed to a small notepad on the side of his desk.

“Don’t touch that,” George warned.

“I’m not,” Lilah said sternly. “But there’s a number on it.” She started copying the number down in her own notebook.

“What kind of number?” George craned his neck to see.

Lilah ran around the other side of the desk and sat back down in her seat closing her notebook. She stuffed it back inside her bag and whispered, “A bank account number.”

As if on cue, Noah opened the door to his office. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Someone’s steak was a little dry and they have to involve me instead of just sending it back to the cook. You know, we put steak sauce on the table for a reason. No cook is perfect and neither are the cows.”

At the same time, George and Lilah stood from their chairs.

“Some people are just rude, what can you do?” Lilah chuckled.

“Well, thank you for chatting with us, Noah. If we have any follow up questions, we’ll be sure to get in touch.” George extended his hand for a goodbye shake.

Noah took it and looked at George suspiciously. “Oh? That’s it?”

“That’s it,”

“Okay, well… have a nice rest of your day.”

George returned the gesture and, after letting Lilah walk in front of him, the two exited the restaurant.

Words: 1,733

I hope you enjoyed the story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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The Best Way To Plan A Crime In Your Mystery Novel [Mystery Month]

I’ve written this post a couple times now. Every time I do, it’s always so popular so I like to rewrite it each year for Mystery Month.

Keeping track of a crime when writing a mystery novel can be hard. There’s a lot to remember – clues and evidence, witnesses and suspects, the overall timeline, and more.

The best way to figure it all out and keep track of it is to answer some important, but fairly simple questions.

The best way to plan a crime for your mystery novel | Mystery | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Who

The who can be a number of people. Ask yourself, Who is the…

  • Victim
  • Culprit
  • Accomplice(s)
  • Witness(es)
  • Suspect(s)
  • Detectives, officers, assistants, anyone solving the crime
  • Friends and family of the victim
  • Friends and family of the culprit
  • Person who discovered the crime

What

The what is the general term for the crime and anything else going on. Some things may not be known right away, but they’ll come to light eventually.

  • What happened? (What is the crime – murder, robbery, etc.)
  • What are the key items? (murder weapon, evidence, etc.)
  • What was the motive?
  • What happened before the crime occurred?
  • What happened after the crime occurred?

Where

Location is everything and sometimes it’s not where it seems.

  • Where does the story take place?
  • Where does the crime take place?
  • Where was the crime found? (Sometimes, bodies are moved to trick investigators into thinking the murder happened in a different place.)
  • Where were the clues and evidence hidden?
  • Where was the culprit hiding?
  • Where were the witnesses when the crime occurred?
  • Where was the victim when the crime occurred? (If a robbery, where did they go?)

When

Timing is everything. When it comes to a solving a crime, figuring out the timeline of events is important.

  • When did the crime occur?
  • When was the crime discovered?
  • When did the authorities arrive at the scene? When were they called?
  • When do the investigators find the clues? Piece together the evidence?
  • When does the culprit get caught? When does the crime wrap up?

Why

The motive is the driving force behind the crime. If there’s no motive, then you pretty much have a flop of a crime.

  • Why did the culprit commit the crime?
  • Why did the culprit choose their victim?
  • Why is the investigator the best one to solve the case?
  • Why does the investigator agree to solve the case in the first place?
  • Why does the crime take so long – or short – to solve?

How

How everything is constructed makes it believable and aids the timeline. It answers last minute questions that anyone may have in and out of the story.

  • How long was the investigation?
  • How did the culprit plan it out? How did they commit it?
  • How was the culprit caught? (Or get away?)
  • How did other characters react to the crime?
  • How did the investigator figure it all out?

A lot of the questions are similar to each other or pretty much mean the exact same thing, but I always find it helpful to comb through it all multiple times and make sure you’re consistent with yourself.

How do you plan the crimes in your mystery novels? What are some other questions you’d ask? Let me know in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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12 Ways To Kill Off Your Fictional Characters [Mystery Month]

I never thought I’d write a post like this, but… Here we are.

12 ways to kill off your fictional characters | Mystery | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

There are so many ways for people to die. There are four main categories that I personally put them into.

  • Murder
  • Suicide
  • Accidental
  • Natural

I’m only going to list 12 ways you can kill off your fictional characters, but there are many variations of these 12 ways. Not to mention there’s a lot more than these 12 ways.

(I’ll be honest, I was aiming for a longer list, but some of the research I did for this made my stomach turn, so use your imagination, people.)

1. Gun

This is probably the most common, but also the loudest. You can shoot to wound or shoot to kill. It all depends on where your character aims (or how well they aim). This can be used in murders, suicide, or even accidental.

2. Knife

Similar to a gun, you can stab to wound or stab to kill. It’s not exactly as loud as a gunshot, but it’s pretty messy. This would work well for murder, maybe suicide and accidental too.

3. Poison

Silent but deadly – for the most part. Poison can be administered in a number of ways. It can be ingested or administered with a needle and more. Poisons can come from just about anything too – drugs, household items and smells, plants and food… it’s kind of crazy, actually. Depending on the poison too, it might have an immediate effect or the victim might get sick first. Sometimes it could take days, weeks, or months for it to kill too.

4. Overdose

This can go along with poison, but drugs are a problem and can be used in a suicide or it came be an accidental overdose.

5. Hanging

Murder, suicide, execution. I guess it could be accidental too depending on the situation… I mean, it happened in Disney’s Tarzan.

6. Suffocation

I don’t think I need to explain suffocating someone. I don’t know if this has ever been used in suicides, but murders definitely and accidental as well.

7. Drowning

I think this is more accidental than anything else, but it could be used for murder.

8. Starvation

This would take a while if you were trying to kill someone by cutting off their food, but I’m sure it’s doable.

9. Hit and Run or car crash

Usually, this is an accident, but it’s often used as a murder method in movies. Unfortunately, I’ve seen it used as a suicide method on the news in real life. This could be one of the easier ways to cover up a murder too.

10. Natural Disasters

Floods, fire, and the like are known for taking many lives. All of it is the work of mother nature, but fire, for example, can be used as a murder method. It’s called arson.

11. Illness

Sometimes our bodies turn against us or aren’t strong enough to fight off an illness and in turn, it kills us.

12. Old Age

It’s the circle of life.

This was the most uncomfortable post I’ve ever written. It’s also the most morbid. But there you go. 12 ways to kill your darlings.

Do you have a go-to way to kill your fictional characters? Let me know in the comments below and if you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Who Is Your Sleuth And Why Does He Matter? [Mystery Month]

Choosing a protagonist for your story – no matter what genre you’re writing – is so important. The protagonist is the one who drives the story forward, they’re the reason the story is happening, the reason your readers are still turning the pages.

My mystery novel is written in third-person limited and I had chosen the wrong character to follow causing me to have to do a huge rewrite. But guess what? The novel is so much better now. It really does make a difference.

Who is your sleuth and why does he matter? | Mystery Writing | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

How do you choose who should be your protagonist?

There are so many reasons to choose a protagonist. The character who has the most interesting backstory, the character who’s affected by the plot the most, and also, whichever character is begging to have their story told. (If a character is trying to write the story, let them. It’s just easier that way and you’ll avoid some temper tantrums from them and yourself.)

When it comes to writing a mystery though, there are some things to consider.

  • Which character is the most affected by the crime committed?
  • Which character has to solve the crime for whatever very good reason?
  • How the crime change the character’s life?

What role can your protagonist play in a mystery novel?

Your protagonist can do one of two things:

  • Solve the crime
  • Aid in solving the crime

When I say your protagonist can solve the crime, I mean you can have your protagonist be a number of sleuths.

  • Detective
  • Police Officer
  • Private Investigator
  • Lawyer

And a number of others. I’ve never seen it done before, but I think it’d be cool to have the protagonist be a coroner. My point is, it can be someone who is in the criminal justice or law enforcement field.

But it doesn’t have to be either.

Your protagonist can also aid the main crime solver but be the protagonist:

  • An assistant
  • A friend
  • The accused

There are a number of ways it could play out.

How I chose my protagonist

I have two main characters in my story. George, the P.I., and Lilah, his “assistant.” However, she wasn’t always his assistant. She comes waltzing in to hire him to solve a crime. Lilah’s not one to sit back and watch though. She aids him, much to George’s protests. The crime is personal to her and George needs the money. They both have motive and it becomes personal for the both of them.

I originally chose my protagonist to be George because I thought since he was the P.I. he had to be the focus. The very first draft I wrote, he was dumb. Lilah ended up figuring everything out and she was braver than he was too.

With the help of my critique group, they made me realize Lilah was trying to get her own voice heard. I rewrote it all with Lilah as the focus and it made a huge difference.

George’s personality changed for the better and so did Lilah’s for that matter.

Give your protagonist a reason to shine

Long story short…

  • Let their voice be heard if they want it to be – sometimes you don’t choose the protagonist. They tell you.
  • Give them a motive to solve the crime presented to them.
  • Don’t worry about their title – detective or assistant – as long as they’re important to the story and have stakes, they’ll make a good protagonist.
  • Make them likable and believable – I didn’t mention this because it’s obvious for any novel in any genre, but I felt I should say it anyway.

Choosing the right protagonist is important, but if it don’t get it right the first time, don’t worry. Your characters will yell at you and tell you how to fix it.

How do you go about choosing your protagonist? Have you ever had to do a rewrite because of it? Let me know in the comments below and if you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it around!

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Short Story Sunday 212: Number One Suspect [Part 2 – Mystery Month]

Short Story: "Number One Suspect" (Part 2) | Flash Fiction | Mystery | RachelPoli.com

DID YOU READ PART ONE?

“How could we have helped arrest the wrong man?” Lilah said with a grunt. She pushed the front door of their building open before George could even get the key out of the lock. She walked down the hallway with her arms up in the air in disgust heading for George’s office.

“You know,” George said calmly, “we don’t know for sure that we’ve arrested the wrong man.” He pulled the key out, locked the door again, and then closed it listening for the click.

“Right, but we also don’t know for sure that he’s the right guy we arrested.” Lilah commented. She made it to the end of the hall and jiggled the doorknob to George’s office. She sighed turning around to face him. “Why do you always lock your office?”

“In case someone breaks in,” George said already with the key in hand.

Lilah raised an eyebrow watching him come down the hall. “You know, if someone breaks in through the front door, they’ll easily break into your office.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I’m gonna try it.” Lilah replied snarkily.

George chuckled. “I’d like to see that.”

He unlocked the office door and pushed it open. The door creaked as it slowly widened showcasing the dimly lit room. There was only one window in the room and it was right behind George’s desk. It gave him decent light as he worked during the day, but the rest of the room was in darkness unless the overhead light was turned on.

Lilah entered first as George stepped aside allowing her to go right in. She walked straight ahead across the room sitting down on one of the client’s chairs on the other side of his desk. George followed walking around his desk. He turned on his computer and then sat down.

“So, now what?” Lilah asked. She leaned back folding her arms and legs.

“Let’s go over our notes.” George replied without bothering to look up at her. As he waited for the computer to boot up, he maneuvered some papers around the surface of his desk making room for his keyboard and a notepad.

Lilah nodded watching George as he tidied up the surface of his desk. She didn’t have a lot of notes from the case though.

Steven Bell had come to George and Lilah for help. He was having problems with his wife; he had suspected her of stealing money out of their bank account. While he wasn’t sure what she was doing with the money, he didn’t think it could have been anyone else.

Steven had gone to the bank and they wouldn’t give him too much information. No other accounts were touched; it was just his, which lead Steven to believe even more that this wasn’t a random theft.

The longer George and Lilah investigated, the longer they tried to help Steven, nothing was really turning up. They had spoken to the bank with Steven and also to his wife. It wasn’t too much longer after that that Steven’s wife was murdered.

“We walked in on him standing over his dead wife’s body with a bloodied knife in his hands. He himself was covered in blood, his wife’s blood. We didn’t see it happen, but that right there is enough to make anyone believe he’s a murderer.” Lilah said. She gazed at the ground deep in thought as she spoke. “So, why do we both get the feeling that he’s innocent?”

“Because we know Steven,” George replied.

Lilah lifted her head and George was staring at her.

“We’ve gotten to know Steven pretty well over the past few weeks. We even went out to dinner that one time, remember? It started off as business, but they we ended up staying a little longer because we were actually having a good time.”

“Oh, yeah,” Lilah smiled remembering that night. Then she frowned. “His wife wasn’t there that night.”

George shook his head. “Steven said that she was working. That’s why we were able to go over and talk to him about it.”

“Still…” Lilah said tapping her chin. “Wasn’t she a teacher? We went over to their house around six and stayed until ten… Did she have a second job that we didn’t know about?”

George paused and narrowed his eyes. Then he picked up his notepad and started flipping backwards a few pages. “Are you kidding me…? Why didn’t we see this before?”

Lilah bit her lower lip. “Did we overlook something…?”

“I wrote that she worked as a hostess three nights a week at Prevalli’s Restaurant.” George said.

“Oh, that’s right. Didn’t we go there and talk to a few of her co-workers?” Lilah asked.

George put down his notepad shaking his head. “Not after she had died.”

“But Barney went there after she died. We didn’t really have to.” Lilah said.

“We should have.”

“Why?”

“Because now that means Barney knows more than we do.” George stood up from his chair and walked around to the other side of his desk. “We’re on the same side as the police station, but we’re on two different sides of the same coin.”

Lilah crinkled her face in confusion. “Huh…?” Still, she stood up and followed George out of his office. She jogged a little down the hallway to catch up with him as he was already opening the front door.

“Are we going to the restaurant now?” she asked.

“Yes, we should have been there a while. I have a few questions I would like to ask Steven’s wife’s boss.” George replied. He stood on the front porch, waiting for Lilah to pass by him. Once she did, he shut and locked the front door.

Lilah stood in the grass watching George. “What else could we possibly ask them? They already talked to Barney, why do you think they’re going to talk to us about it?”

“I don’t know, but we’ll figure something out.” George replied.

“Can’t we just ask Barney what they said?”

“If he wanted to share what he found out, he would have already told us. If we ask him now, he may share something just to make it seem like he cooperated with us. But he certainly wouldn’t tell us all of it.”

Lilah puffed out her cheeks in frustration. “That’s annoying… Barney is supposed to help us like we help him.”

George stepped onto the curb and walked down the sidewalk towards the main street where the taxis would drive by. “I agree, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. The police station is the police station and we’re a private detective agency for a reason. We have less rules to follow.”

Lilah perked up. “We can break the law?”

“No,” George said sternly. “But remember that we don’t have a certain protocol to follow.” He winked at her.

Lilah smiled up at him, though she wasn’t entirely sure what he meant by that.

Words: 1,155

READ PART THREE HERE!

I hope you enjoyed the story! Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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How To Research Properly For Your Mystery Novel [Mystery Month]

For me, the writing process is pretty straightforward and fairly simple. I outline, then I write. Then I edit and rewrite and so on and so forth.

During the outlining part of the process, that’s when I do the bulk of my research. When it comes to writing about mystery, there’s a lot of research to do.

How To Research Properly For Your Mystery Novel | Mystery Month | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

Who is who

One thing I always look up is ranks of the people in law enforcement, what their job entails, what tools they use, and what day to day life is like for them while working.

For example, I’ll research a coroner and figure out where they typically work, what tools they use to examine bodies, the paperwork they draw up, what they do day in and day out, and more.

The same goes for a detective, police chief, forensic scientists, and more.

How to kill

Yes, we all have to research this. Whenever I Google how to kill someone I always add “in a mystery novel” in case my IP address gets flagged or something… if that’s a thing. It freaks me out either way.

Still, there are many kinds of guns and various bullets. What kind did your killer use? Was it at point-blank range? Where are the best spots on the body to shoot someone? What about the ballistic markings? It’s a lot to think about and a lot to learn.

Plus, there are so many ways to kill someone. How long does it take for someone to drown? What kinds of poisons can someone ingest and how long will it take it to work?

How to investigate

Investigating a crime scene is a process. Gloves need to be worn, evidence needs to go into bags, the scene needs to be taped off, and things need to be out of place.

What’s the process like? Who goes to the crime scene? Who responds to the calls?

And so much more

There’s a lot more to look into, to think about, and to research. Of course, fiction is still fiction and while there should be a little bit of truth in there, you can take things with a grain of salt.

How do you research for your mystery novels? What sort of things do you look up? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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