Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Secret Agent Contest #13

TITLE: The Red Cross Knight
GENRE: Literary Fiction

Seven minutes and thirty seconds before curtain-down, Patrick Winters committed his first murder of the night. He held a woman in his arms, and around them music flowed, a violin straining forward with vibrato and retreating to a quivering sigh, the accompaniment to a kiss of kisses. As the violin faded, finally out of breath, Patrick's hand made a quick movement. In the silence, the woman fell back without a cry, a red stain already spreading on the bosom of her gown.

There was no more music for a long time.

When Patrick lifted his face to the mezzanine, a thrill passed through the hypnotized Manhattan audience at the sight of the first tear that ran down his cheek, catching the silver gleam of the spotlight. Nobody noticed when the music started again, but then he was singing to it, his tenor quiet and low:

One blood, one flesh
One knife, one death-

A dagger glinted, and he stabbed himself to the heart and yielded up the spirit without a sigh. The hero was dead, but patrons in the more expensive seats could see that his body still trembled, for the performer was crying. He wept until the curtain fell over his body with the mournful note of a cello.

His tears were not less genuine for being an exact science. He knew to the second exactly how long he should weep; he could have counted the tears, night after night, and would not have been more consistent.


  1. Your first line was a true attention grabber. The writing was beautiful. Since you have actors on a stage, I don't know anything about the story, but the writing is such that I would read on because I anticipate the writing to hold through out the novel, and a delicious plot will unfold.

  2. I'm half way hooked. I do feel cheated that this guy is only an actor, but the word 'first' makes me wonder if there is more to this...

    Were I in a bookstore I would probably flip to page 5 or so and see if he killed for real.

  3. I came to the end and thought . . . "and?" There is some indication here that he may commit murder for real, but I don't know that. It's just a guess. If I had a book in front of me, I could tell by the blurb, but based on this alone, I wouldn't read on because I have no idea what the story is about or where it's headed.

    First parg. - you might cut 'forward' and it reads as though the violin is out breath rather than Patrick. Perhaps tell us what the quick movement is, and you could cut "in the silence.'

    Parg 5 - perhaps, he stabbed himself 'in' the heart and yielded up 'his' spirit. ANd 'to' the mournful note of the cello.

    Last parg. - and 'could' not have been more consistent

  4. Hmmmm. I'm hooked enough to read on, though my early bias is heading in the "pass" direction. I'm willing to allow that some of the overwrought elements here are due to the overwrought nature of opera, which I assume is the foil here. I also think the author is fully in control of his/her prose, making careful choices, which I appreciate and noticed immediately. Still, I'm feeling a bit far from the main character. I know him as an actor, but not necessarily as the man who I imagine I will follow through this tale. And I need to know him to care about him and read on.

  5. Thanks, folks. Yes, it's a stage murder, and an extended metaphor for the actor's state of mind. These paragraphs are to set the scene and the theatrical tone, and in the next few pargs we get to know Patrick better. Sadly, his night gets worse from here...!

  6. Worse, or better? *wink*

    I was completely hooked. I'd have kept reading.