Thursday, April 15, 2010

The opening scene of my second book

Since this is, first and foremost, a blog by a writer about writing, I would like to blog tonight about writing. Specifically, my writing.

I humbly offer up the very first scene of my second novel -- the sequel to The Devil You Don't Know. This is a rough draft written a few months ago, after I stopped writing the political novel. It's only a partial of the opening scene and it goes on for about another 1,000 words or so.

I apologize for the length of the scene. It's actually longer, but I chose to cut it at an appropriate place. It's not my intention to bore you, nor is it to brag or show off. Instead, I would like you to read this as the opener of a book about evil, about a dark force that exists just under the surface of the world you and I know. Ultimately, the book will follow several characters, of which Grant is but one (although he is the MC), as they face evil and struggle with the scars it leaves behind -- scars that are not only physical and emotional, but spiritual.

This is not a novel about a school shooting. It just opens with one. Warning: The following is rated a hard R for violence and language.

Please let me know your thoughts and observations. Enjoy.


The boy plopped his backpack onto the floor just outside the stall closest to the window and deftly slipped the Heckler-Koch G36 mini assault rifle from its hiding place between his American History book and a pair of balled-up sweatpants. The gun was wrapped in a pair of socks—the good black ones his mother had bought him last Christmas.

Now. Right now.

He’d done his homework. The weapon was assembled in less than ten seconds, since the G36 simply snaps together using its handy little cross-pins—typically effective German engineering, his father would’ve said. The boy had bought it three days earlier from some jive-talking dope dealer whose hands shook so fucking much he could barely pocket the cash. It had been no problem coming up with the money. He’d withdrawn it from his savings account at the First Bank of Exeter—money he’d earned over the summer working in his father’s law office. Actually, he’d been little more than a glorified delivery boy, but it had made the Old Man happy to have his kid hanging around. And he paid well.

Fuck them.

Once the weapon was whole, he rummaged in the backpack until he found the three ammo clips, pulled them out with a sigh of relief and slammed one home. He no longer felt the need to hurry. If someone came in now, he’d just start here. He stood, shouldered the backpack, tucked the remaining clips into the waistband of his jeans and wiped his sweaty hair from his eyes. He could feel his heart pounding in his temples.

Kill them.

He looked at himself briefly in the big mirror. A wild-eyed stranger stared back at him. Averting his eyes, he walked out of the bathroom and into the crowded, noisy hallway.

* * * *

“Grant Bachman?” the girl asked, sticking her head in the door of Lou’s cramped office.

“Yes,” Grant said, standing up and nearly knocking over a pile of papers and books perched precariously on a table next to Lou’s big stuffed chair. Dr. Louis Beam was a good man, his fascination with the Yankees aside, and a damned fine History Department chairman. Neatness, however, was not his strong suit.

“Phone call in the office,” the girl said, smiling and closing the door.

“Shit,” Grant said, looking at Lou and shrugging. He glanced at his wristwatch. “Damn. I have class in two minutes. Sorry.”

“Go ahead. Just don’t forget what I said about that Boston seminar,” Lou said, getting up and grimacing at the pain in his arthritic knees. “A go-getter like you won’t be able to save the world if you don’t keep up in your own field of endeavor, Grant.”

Grant grinned. “There are far too many people trying to save the world as it is. It doesn’t need me. And besides, I teach. I don’t actually do anything.”

“We shall see,” Lou said, patting the young history professor on the back.

Grant opened the door and turned to say something wickedly funny about the previous night’s Red Sox-Yankees game when he heard the firecrackers. An entire roll of them, from the sound of it.

Pop! Pop pop pop pop pop pop!

“Huh?” Grant said, looking both ways down the long hallway. Exeter Community College was the largest two-year college in New Hampshire—a boast that never failed to elicit giggles from Lindsay, who likened it to being the biggest pissant on the ant hill.

The shorthairs on the back of Grant’s neck stood up as a collective scream arose from down the hall to his left—a sound not unlike house cats being slaughtered. Students were running toward Grant and Lou, backpacks and books flying. Some darted into side doors, others fell and cowered on the ground.

“Get down!” Lou shouted, grabbing Grant and pulling him down and back into the office. The old man reached up and slammed the door shut.

“What the hell?” But even as he spoke, Grant’s mind was making the connection.

A shooter. A fucking school shooter.

A few seconds passed and the shooting stopped. Grant and Lou lay on the floor just inside the office, panting but silent. Grant felt Lou move and looked up. The older man tip-toed to his desk, where he bent over a file cabinet and began rummaging in the bottom drawer.

“Lou,” Grant whispered. “Get back here, for Christ’s sake.”

Lou ignored him and kept feeling his way around the drawer, his silver hair hanging in his eyes. The shooting resumed, this time much closer.

Pop pop pop pop pop.

A fresh round of screams arose and Grant felt goose bumps break out on his forearms.

I’m going to die. I’ll never see Lindsay and the kids again.

“There you are,” Lou whispered to himself, standing up. He was holding a small black revolver in his right hand.

“A gun, Lou? A fucking gun?”

“One can never be too prepared,” the old man said, crouching down next to Grant.

The shooter was so close now they could smell cordite seeping in under the closed office door. Lou reached out and put a hand firmly on Grant’s shoulder and nodded at the door. He was pointing the gun at the door, his hand shaking. Without a sound, he thumbed back the hammer. Grant wildly shook his head no, but the old department chair paid him no mind. For one surreal moment, Grant smelled peanut butter on Lou’s breath and wondered whether he had eaten it on toast or a muffin that morning.

Oh, God. We’re going to die.

Grant heard footsteps just outside the door and cringed, a whimper of terror caught in his throat. His eyes watered. The footsteps stopped.

Right outside the door.

“Fuck you,” a male voice shouted. There was a crash as he kicked in the door of the office directly across the hall from where the two teachers were cowering. Grant heard a scream—definitely female—and the gunman opened fire. Windows were blown out and personal items, mementos, awards, pictures of loved ones, were blasted to bits as the shooter sprayed the tiny office.


“Full auto,” Lou whispered. “He means business.”

Silence again. As Grant turned to whisper something to his friend, Lou reached back and savagely knocked him backward onto the floor. “Stay here,” he snarled.

“Lou,” Grant pleaded. “Don’t.”

Without so much as a glance at Grant, the old man stood up, holding the gun out in front of him, and reached for the doorknob.

“Forgive my sins, God,” Lou said, flinging the door open and stepping out into the hallway.

The shooter was standing eight feet away, holding the assault rifle low on his right hip. It was pointed directly at Dr. Louis Beam.

“You’re finished,” Lou croaked, firing his revolver. He missed by a foot and the shooter—Lou saw he was nothing but a kid in jeans and a black tee-shirt—raised his weapon.

“Fuck you, gramps,” the kid said, and fired one round. The bullet tore into Lou Beam’s skinny chest, splattering heart blood on Grant, who was now standing directly behind him. Lou went down as though pole-axed. Grant stood facing the shooter.

“Justin?” Grant whispered, stunned. Justin King was in his ten o’clock American History class, the one he was now late to. Justin was a good kid. A favorite.

Justin raised the weapon. Grant looked directly into his eyes and saw pure, unadulterated terror. The boy’s eyes bulged with horror.

“I’m so sorry,” Justin King whispered. He pulled the trigger.

Click. The clip was empty.

Grant screamed like a banshee and reached for Lou’s gun just as the kid pulled the remaining clip from his waistband. Grant had to pry the little revolver from his friend’s dead hand, a memory that would come back to haunt him throughout the coming nightmare. Finally, he wrestled the gun free and raised it.

Without hesitation, Grant Bachman fired.

Three times he fired, and three times he hit his target. Two shots were to the body and the final one struck the boy in the mouth, whipping his head backward in a bloody haze of bone and brain.

Sobbing, Grant sank to his knees and dropped the revolver. His mentor lay next to him in a widening pool of blood. All around him, the smoky hallway was filled with groans, whimpers and the sound of footfalls as those still alive ran for their lives.


  1. Dang! I want more! You better get this thing published so I can find out how it turns out. I was too caught up in the story to notice any things to crit, if that's what you were looking for.

  2. Holy Crap Batman! This is fantastic! I love the little details, pissant, smell of cordite, "click, the clip was empty" left shivers on my arms. Really very nicely done.

  3. It was the peanut butter thing that got me.

    Great writing, Terry! I can, however, see what you meant by an earlier post about not being sure you could handle another dark story. It's really good though!

  4. I can't read this until I'm done with your first one...! I want to be surprised.

  5. That was rockin'. You've got some real talent, Terry. Stop frettin' yourself.

  6. Very well written. My compliments! I didn't want to read it at first because it was so realistic and reminded me of Columbine (and the other school shootings we've all heard about). The shooter as a terrified kid is just one of the good parts.

    Were you ever in a situation in real life with gunfire? The military or something here at home?

    I was robbed once at gunpoint doing charity work in a bad neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Broad daylight, morning rush hour, one block from the building when I walked to a bus stop on a busy street. The kid who robbed me had a ski mask and an automatic weapon and was dressed like a gang member. He was jittery and jogged up and down, ready to run, while I was calm and felt that God surrounded both of us on all sides, seeing everything. I'm lucky that I stayed calm. He was so nervous I think he would have shot me if I'd screamed or run.

    Well done! Good luck with the current project.

    -- Holly