'Oatmeal and a Fresh Look'
As a writer, there are times when nothing you do comes out right. You put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard and nothing happens. Or something does happen, except it's nothing but a load a rubbish. Garbage. Loose threads you don't know how to tie together to make one coherent plot. Writer's block. It happens to the best of us, and when it does, you have pick yourself up, dump that pile of crumpled up pages into the nearest trash can, and find something... anything... that will help you come back fresh the next time you sit down to write.
Naturally, I've been there before, not that I'd ever tell anyone outside of my poker game. It would significantly ruin my reputation. But yeah, I've been there, and until now, I had always considered it a writers' affliction.
Before Beckett, that is. Before I started riding along on her cases and seeing how the city's finest really do things. That's when I realized that everyone - and I do mean everyone - gets blocked once in a while. Only, it's worse when its a cop with a case to crack you're talking about. When you're looking for a serial killer who may or may not all ready have his next target in his sights, a mere case of 'writer's block' takes on a whole new and potentially devastating meaning. Getting unblocked isn't just a case of walking away and looking at it fresh in the morning.
The morning could be too late.
About a week ago, I had waltzed into Beckett's precinct with my usual cup of Starbucks and casual smile, never once suspecting what the case I rode along on that morning would turn out to be. I was running late that day, having spent the entire night staring at a blank screen. There hasn't been a blank page on my laptop since I started writing about Nikki Heat, but that night it felt more like I was writing about Vicki Freeze or something. The words were just not there. So I slept in, picked up a double mocha latté on my way out the door, and showed up just in time to catch a ride with Beckett out to the crime scene.
It was grizzly, even for a New York City crime, and more than one of the crime scene investigators turned their heads discretely while they trying to compose themselves. I walked my coffee over to the nearest garbage can and dropped it inside. There was no way I was finishing something so sickeningly sweet when there something just as sickening and not at all sweet laying there in the middle of the room. Beckett was pale as she did her best to hold it together and not puke.
Gotta hand it to the lady; she's got the stuff all right. Just one of the many reasons she's my inspiration.
Two days later, we came to the horrifying realization that what we had thought was a particularly cruel one-time murder just might be a particularly cruel two-time murder. There was another body at another site half away across the city. It was laid out in the same gruesome fashion as the first one, which by the way, we still had not solved. And now? We not only had this new crime to process, but we had to go back through all the evidence from the other one - again - and look for something other than the two bodies to connect them to each other and to the killer.
I'd like to say that I was instrumental in bringing the killer to his knees. Hell, at one point, I would have liked to have been able to say I was helpful or useful. The truth is, I never felt more in the way around the precinct than I did as the week progressed. I kept expecting someone to send me home, or try to. But no one said anything about The Writer being a hindrance. Not even Beckett, and you would have thought she would be the first one to say something. But she didn't, although the worse it got as the week wore on, I was beginning to think she wouldn't have noticed my presence if I had walked into the precinct stark naked. That's how dedicated, how focused on the case, she had become.
Especially after the Wilson girl went missing.
It was reported late Friday afternoon. She fit the profile, just like the other women. Young, dark brown hair, about five foot five, give or take a few inches. Not slim but not chunky either.
I went home to get some shut eye, hoping that Sharla Wilson would be found alive and no where near this maniac we were looking for. I returned the next day - working on a weekend? I know, insane! - to find everyone else exactly where I had left them. Wearing the same clothes even. Beckett looked like hell.
"Come on," I told her grabbing by the arm. "You're coming with me."
I expected more protest than "where would that be?" but she really wasn't in much position to put up a fight.
Our first stop was her apartment, for a shower and change of clothes.
Our second stop was breakfast at this little place I know. A total indulgence, and the shower had brought Beckett back to herself enough that she snarked about eating 'designer oatmeal' while there was a case to be solved.
"So... solve it," I told her. "You know the facts up here." I tapped her forehead with my finger "You don't need to be looking at it to think about it." That's the thing about writing people don't get. The facts are always with us, not just when we're sitting at our desks.
Who knows? Maybe Beckett just needed a break and a fresh look. While we ate, she got that look - the epiphany.
Sharla Wilson was alive when we found her.