The Mystery Writer: Can you see what’s not there?

When you look out across the gulf at sunrise, what story does your mind see? Nothing’s there but the story and your imagination. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

My mind goes out of its way to find the stories that happen around us every day. My imagination has to find endings for them.

Go ahead.

Look down the road and tell me what you see.

There’s a narrow, winding, two-lane gravel road that curves back to the left toward a stand of oak trees in the pasture. A barbed-wire fence hugs the side of the road, and one of the strands has been cut. Horses graze leisurely just beyond the oaks, and an aging farmhouse can be seen atop the hill. Corn is growing in the field, and the meadow is blanketed with wildflowers.

You’re right.

I see it, too.

Now tell me what you don’t see.

Your eyes see nothing else.

They’re not supposed to.

But what does your mind see?

What your mind sees, even if it’s not there, is where imagination takes over, and the story begins.

Caleb Pirtle

My mind sees a long black Cadillac easing to a stop by the side of the road.

A young lady climbs out of the passenger seat.

Her clothes are torn.

Her hair is disheveled and clotted with streaks of blood.

She has been crying.

Her eyes are red, and she has a dark bruise on her forehead.

She pulls a small pistol from her purse and fires once into the car.

The Cadillac’s engine dies.

And she runs madly toward the farmhouse.

She bangs on the front door.

The light in the front room goes out.

She knocks again.

No one answers the door.

She turns and glances over her shoulder.

The Cadillac is driving slowly away?

One scene and I have half a dozen questions.

Who is she?

Who bruised her face?

Why did someone hit her?

Who did she shoot?

Why didn’t someone open the door?

Why has she been left stranded?

I have no answers.

I have no idea where it’s all going to take me.

But I do have a story to tell, and I can’t wait to find out what it is.

Several years ago, I was sitting on the balcony at daybreak, looking out over the coastline.

A high fashion woman with long, dark hair was walking along the beach.

She was simply out for a morning stroll.

But my mind saw something entirely different.

My mind watched her turn abruptly and walk out into the waves until the churning water had reached her waist.

She pulled a bottle from her robe.

She opened it.

And she scattered her husband’s ashes into the sea.

My mind followed her to a cocktail party that evening.

She walked in alone.

“My husband couldn’t be here,” she said smiling. “He was called unexpectedly out of town this afternoon. No. I don’t have any idea when he’ll be back.”

She takes a martini off the tray and moves to the window, watching the sun disappear on the far side of the ocean.

She has a strange smile on her face.

I don’t know whether to applaud her or condemn her.

But I do know she has a fascinating secret and story to tell.

I wonder what it is.

That’s the problem with writing these days.

My mind goes out of its way to find the stories.

My imagination has to find endings for them.

I have packaged three noir thrillers into one book: Lonely Night to Die. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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