Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August Secret Agent #4

TITLE: The Mistake
GENRE: Thriller

Against the advice of my mentor, I keep a gun in my drawer.

Harvey says a lawyer with a gun in his desk will eventually use it either on a client or on himself. Harvey's over 60 and thinks he knows everything. He wouldn't think a female lawyer—let alone his own daughter—would need advice about guns.

Yet here I am.

I open the drawer and stare.

Ten minutes.

That's how much time I asked Kate to give me before my next appointment. Although I've spoken with Agent Schmidt twice on the phone, this will be our first face-to-face. He thinks I'm going to cooperate with him just because he's FBI, but things are complicated.

The gun beckons. I reach in, hesitate, and then pick it up. I aim it at the antique clock, the flower vase, the Mayan calendar. The diplomas. The vanity photo-ops.

I gaze into the Ruger's barrel and caress the trigger.

Nine minutes.

Last year a grateful client nick-named me "quick-draw" and gave me the Ruger after I blew holes in our opponent's case. That's how a trial should go: surprise your opponent with something she never thought about, watch the blood drain from her face, and gracefully accept victory.


I'd fool no one if I claimed winning didn't matter, but this thing with the FBI is different. No one wins. It's all about avoiding defeat.

Suddenly, I gasp and drop the gun on the table. My baby kicks hard—caught me by surprise.


  1. loved it. especially the line about lawyers keeping guns in their desk (i'm a lawyer myself -- good insight into a lawyer's psyche).

    I assume that the narrator is Harvey's daughter -- that was a little unclear.

    but well done overall.

  2. I'm definitely hooked - that last bit about her being pregnant totally grabbed my attention. The contrast was great. The only problem is some confusion about Harvey - is he her mentor or her father? If he's both, it seems more realistic that the first line would use 'father' instead, but that's just my opinion! Also, saying that Harvey wouldn't think a female lawyer would need advice about guns sort of contradicts the previous two sentences. So I'm a little confused.
    But then the story continues and I'm drawn right in. Excellent!

  3. I'm hooked, and agree with all of the above. I want to know what the thing is with the FBI. I love the line about how a trail should go (surprise your opponent).

  4. Very well done. I could hang with this character for an entire book. She's anything but clichéd, and I love that.

    There's not much I'd change here. I'd much rather just read more.

    Great work -- keep it up!

  5. Definitely a fan of this. As other comments have echoed, a few of the opening lines leave a bit of confusion, but had I picked this up in a bookstore I'd be interested to flip to the next page.

  6. Very nicely done. You've got a powerful voice and I loved the twist about her being pregnant. I'll echo some of the other commenters about the opening being a bit confusing, but it wasn't enough to turn me off reading. I'm definitely hooked.

  7. Interesting. Slightly confusing, but not much, and it gets my attention. Great line about how a trial should go makes me hope for more good insights!I want to know what the FBI agent is coming in for, so I'd keep reading.

  8. Totally hooked. And I wasn't confused about Harvey being her father. In fact, I thought you made that quite clear.

    There isn't anything I would change. Awesome voice and love that little surprise at the end there. I'd read on just to see how being pregnant impacts her career.

  9. I'm hooked. The only question I've got (and this is probably answered later) is why is she staring down the barrel and caressing the trigger? That seems like a bad idea if you're pregnant. Maybe it's intentional. I have no idea, and it's questions like that that keep me reading. Nice job.

  10. The beginning was confusing/contradictory. You use 'he' pronouns, then it turns out to be a she. Until then, I thought it was a man. Her mentor is her father. Perhaps say her father was also her mentor, and then he thinks all lawyers should have guns, but then you say he says female lawyers shouldn't have guns. I think the problem lies in the way you've presented the info, not in the info itself. Perhaps rephrase.

    I thought the pacing worked great. I loved how you doled out bits and pieces of info a little at a time. Every paragraph gave me something new that pulled me into the next. Excellent!

    The only downside for me was her handling of the gun. She seemed too smart to be playing pretend shoot-em-up and looking down the barrel of a gun while she caresses the trigger. Especially if she's pregnant. To me, it says she's either suicidal or stupid, and I don't think you were going for either. Perhaps mention somewhere that the gun is not loaded?

  11. I really like the voice, and there’s a good cadence to your writing. You drop some very enticing hints that piqued my interest right away – a trial lawyer in enough trouble with the FBI that she’s got a gun in her hand… and the way you so skillfully drop in the news that she’s pregnant makes me believe you can handle revealing (and withholding) information in ways that will build tension and suspense throughout the story. I’d read more.

  12. I really liked the voice and the bits of suttle info given in the short time.
    The baby is really going to play into the characters actions and decision in the story.

  13. I like how she's a lawyer with a gun, and the fact that she's pregnant only draws the reader in. Good work. I'd certainly read more.

  14. Hooked. Really like the pregnancy twist and would read on.

  15. The very strong voice is what first got my attention. I like the style - I'm a fan of short and one-line paragraphs (that's my writing style as well).

    I had no confusion over Harvey being both her mentor and her father, and we know her gender by the fourth sentence. That's soon enough for me.

    I like the countdown - nice way to build suspense.

    The description of winning a trial is great. It finalized my decision to include this piece as one of my top seven.

    The pregnancy bomb at the end is great - I love surprises and this was nicely revealed.

  16. I enjoyed reading this piece. I really liked your protagonist. I especially liked the line about no lawyer having a gun in his desk because he'd either shoot a client or himself. This is well written and the interjection of humor in an obviously dark situation works very well. Great hook at the end. Thanks.

  17. I really enjoyed this. The last line totally caught me by surprise. I know a lot about the MC is such a short space. I also question the use of Harvey instead of Dad...but maybe you could get around that by being overly formal when you name him to make it sound facetious? Eg Harvey Reynold Thurwanger III or something equally pretentious?

    I also like the comment about no-one winning with the FBI.

    Thoroughly enjoyed it. :)

  18. hasn't this been entered before?

    It's hard to keep track but I know I've read this recently.

  19. love love love this writing.

    like how you drop in the hints of things. i got a ticking since down the mintues, then seconds. you say so much without having to say a lot. i get a great sense of the character, a set up of conflict.

    i would so DEFINITELY keep reading this.

  20. This opening grabbed my attention immediately and held it to the end. I look forward to reading more. I found no confusion with the characters at all.

  21. I really like the structure on this, the way the protagonist is counting down the time in short flashes. It's a great way to draw the reader into the narrator's head and still keep the story flowing quickly.

    I'm curious about the use of the present tense. Stories are usually written in past tense, and anything else can be a bit jarring. Hard to comment on whether it works for the story with such a short excerpt, but something for you to think about.

    Intriguing main character though - I'd keep reading.