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:~: Friday, June 01, 2007 :~:

The Basement, Part One

The heroes from our WIPs have all been banished to the basement. Read along and try to figure out which hero belongs to which writer. (Hint: none of them are happy with us at the moment.)

***

"Just for the record, I am not a happy camper." Tick slumps into the battered recliner and glares at the Muse.

She smiles at him over her shoulder and twirls a sheer scarf in his direction.

"That's it?" He throws a hand up in the air. "You're ruining my life and that's all I get?"

She shrugs and fluffs a pillow on the threadbare couch.

"And I'm out of freakin' cigarettes." He rubs a hand over his eyes. "Not that anyone cares."

After a long silence, he blows out a breath and straightens. "You know, you could at least clue me in on the Big Secret."

The Muse gives him a naughty smile, shakes her head and holds one finger to her lips. He nods. "So it's like that, is it?"

She pats his cheek and sashays up the stairs, gauzy robes swirling.

"Great." Tick pushes up from the chair and paces a circle around the large table in the middle of the room. The remnants of a poker game lay scattered across the green top. "She . . ." He points toward the ceiling. " . . . changes everything, and I get left in the dark. Guess that's the new trend. Keep everything from Tick."

He looks around the basement, picks up a poker chip, tosses it against the wall. "And I'm the only one here."

***

"Hey, watch where you're flinging that thing." Rio pounds down the last two concrete steps and into the cinder block room where a yellow poker chip twirls by his right boot tip. Rio scoops up the plastic disk, sets it on his thumb and flicks it back at the man across the room. "Could put an eye out."

He catches it against his chest, and his eyes narrow on Rio, clearly as perturbed to be there as he is. "You're not much of a surprise. Am I supposed to know you?"

"I don't know what the hell you're talking about. And I'd remember that pretty boy face of yours if I'd seen it before, so, no, we don't know each other." Rio peers around the room, takes in the worn furniture, the empty beer bottles clustered on the poker table. "This place is a dump." He picks up a half-smoked cigarette off the table and slams it into an already overflowing ashtray. "And that is a filthy habit."

The other man's lips compress as he sweeps one long-fingered hand toward the stairs. "There's the door, piss-ant. Use it any time you like."

"The name's Rio. And I'm not using it for the same reason you're not, smart ass." Rio wanders around the poker table, his boots crunching on discarded peanut shells. He reaches down and turns over an abandoned hand of cards. "Pair of twos. I hope the loser folded."

"Those are my twos, and I won thirty bucks with them." Pretty boy crosses his arms over his chest and rocks back on his heels.

"Proud of yourself, are you? Got a real poker face?" Rio scoffs. "I'll just bet you're top dog here, aren't you?" Rio looks around at the cinder block walls. "Now that's something to be proud of, pretty boy."

"The name's Tick."

A snicker scraps Rio's throat, and his brows shoot up. "Tick? What the hell kind of name is Tick? Why didn't your mama just come right out and name you leech or parasite or bloodsucker?"

Tick's whole body goes rigid, and he takes one lunging step forward.

***

"Oh, no, no, you don't." Pete skids to a halt, tripping down the slippery concrete steps as he's pushed into the room. The two men about to come to blows mere feet below both stop and look his direction.

"Who the hell is that?" the dark one who oddly resembles Alex Rodriguez asks.

"Like I'm supposed to know?" The other dark one with the Hollywood looks points his finger at the Rodriguez look-alike. "I don't even have a flippin' clue who you are." He lifts his hand, swirls it in the air. "Y'all are in the wrong place if you haven't noticed. This is my basement."

"I don't friggin' believe this," Pete mutters as he whips a u-ie and heads back for the door. He wraps his hand around the metal knob only to find it locked. "Hey! Hold on. You can't leave me in here with these two!"

Silence.

He shakes the knob. Throws his shoulder into the solid wood.

Nothing.

Un-friggin-believable. She actually left.

He turns back and scans the room. Poker chips, cigarettes, a bag of Cheetos. Ceee-rist. This was worse than the hell-hole in Afghanistan she dropped him into. With a frown he realizes it could be worse though. At least there's beer.

He takes his time easing down the steps, eyeing the other two men. The Rodriguez look-alike's all attitude. Hollywood appears ready to pound something.

Oh yeah, right. If these two weren't both cops Pete'd eat his own shoes.

Pete shakes his head and looks toward the ceiling. "I preferred the strip club. Hell, I'd even voluntarily go back to the snow in Pennsylvania over this. Do you hear me? You can't leave me down here with these two!"

The Rodriguez look-alike's eyes widen, and he glances toward Hollywood while drawing a circle in the air with his finger. "Loco."

A slow and easy smile breaks out across Hollywood's face. He chuckles. The SOB actually chuckles. "You just got your ass booted, didn't ya? She kicked your sorry behind down here with us. What'd ya do, try to change her mind about a scene?"

"It's my scene. I should have a say in it," Pete says emphatically.

Hollywood breaks out into a full, belly-rolling laugh.

Rodriguez shoots him a confused expression.

"Don't you know you don't tell her how to do her job?" Hollywood asks when he can finally talk again.

Pete frowns, flops down onto the ratty couch and picks up the bag of Cheetos. "That's not the way our agreement works." He sniffs the bag, figures what the hell, and eats a chip.

Stale. He rolls his eyes. Like he expected anything else?

Hollywood grabs two beers from the cooler and hands him one, sinking down onto the other end of the couch. "Well, boy, I hate to tell you this, but your deal just went null and void."

"Said she was going hiking," Pete mutters. "In a black tank-top, camo pants and hiking boots." He looks over at Hollywood. "She doesn't even own camo pants!"

Hollywood just chuckles again.

From across the room, Rodriguez throws his arms out. "Hey. Would someone please tell me what the hell is going on here?"

Hollywood reaches for the Cheetos. "Now that's not a happy camper. Wait'll he finds out what his muse is up to."

***

Tick tosses the bag of cardboard-like cheese snacks aside and eyes the room's newest occupant. The guy had something shady about him. If this were a traffic stop, he'd toss the car for sure. He casts a glance at Rio, who's watching the other man just as closely.

Oh, yeah. Definitely a cop, probably a Fed.

He pops the top off his beer, trying to keep a certain other Fed out of his thoughts. He slugs down a couple of swallows. Like that had been successful the last few months.

The new guy looks nervous, scanning the room, looking for a way out. Probably a runner. If this were a traffic stop, he'd already have taken off and Tick would be running his ass down. He shakes his head. Never could understand why they didn't figure out running didn't get them anything but tired.

"I asked a question." Rio stands in the middle of the room, smoldering with bad temper. "What the hell is this?"

Tick shrugs. "Purgatory. Limbo. Whatever you want to call it. She likes the term 'revision hell.'"

New guy spins from the wall where he's been studying the casement windows, sealed tight. "Then I shouldn't be here. You've got the wrong guy."

Rio chuckles. Tick snickers. They exchange a glance.

"Like I haven't heard that one before," Tick drawls. He rubs his eyes, pinches the bridge of his nose, wonders what's going on outside.

What's waiting for him after page twenty-nine. Something tells him it's not going to be pretty.

"She kicked you in the balls, didn't she?" Rio asks.

***
Without waiting for an answer to the rhetorical question, Rio drops his head back and closes his eyes. "Shit, it all makes sense now. Revisions hell. She's been pissing and moaning about it for weeks."

He opens his eyes and shoots the other two men a look, stabs a finger at Tick. "Yeah. I know who you are--that hotshot sheriff from Georgia." He spins to take another look at the new guy. "You're...you're..." A few snaps of his fingers didn't bring up a name. "I don't remember your name, but you're a damn thief."

"I'm no thief. That's Rafe. I'm Pete. And I still don't know what the hell is going on. What is this place?"

"The basement," Tick and Rio say in sync then grin at each other.

Rio's smile fades as he focused in on Tick. "Hey, how does this work? I'm the only person standing between my girl and about a dozen guys who'd like to get their hands on her in a dozen different ways. Is she in trouble? Or does everything stop while we're here?"

***

Christian stands in a dark corner, watching unseen as the conversation plays out around him. The place is damp, stinking of stale cigarette smoke. And humans.

Anger and frustration drape the basement like a cloak. He clenches his hands into fists. Normally he would feed off such emotions, but the small, dank space has him feeling a little claustrophobic.
Okay, a lot claustrophobic. In truth, the idea of being stuck down here with a bunch of humans he doesn't know is starting to freak him out. He steps out of the shadows.

All heads turn toward him. "Who the hell are you?" one man asks.

He ignores the question, thinking it's inconsequential at the moment. "It had better stop while we're in here. If I'm not out there with her, there's no way Paige can protect herself. The last thing I need on my hands is the blood of another dead woman."

***

"Wait a minute." Tick holds his hands aloft. "Let me get this straight." "You," He points at Rio. "are afraid something's going to happen to your girl if you're not there to protect her."

Rio nods, frowning.

"And you," He points at the new guy, the one who gives him seriously bad vibes. This one he'd have serious second thoughts about chasing into a dark alley. "You think this Paige woman is dead if you're not around to protect her."

"Exactly." Christian nods as well.

Tick laughs. Pete looks at him askance. "What's so funny?"

"I can't wait to hear what you have to say." He shakes his head, pushes his hair off his forehead. "Cait would kick my ass if I said something like that about her."

***

Rio crosses his arms over his chest to keep from pounding Tick, but even as miffed as he is with the deprecating comeback, the new guy draws his attention. He's an intense, uneasy...man? Why did Rio want to call him a creature?

"You don't understand." The new guy starts toward the casing windows, his mind clearly already two miles out of here. "You don't understand anything."

Rio decides he can't argue with that comment--at least not at the moment, and refocuses on Tick. "What kind of cop would let his girl kick his ass? That's pathetic."

Creature-man swings back toward them, eyes flashing in a way Rio had never seen--not on even the highest crack addict. "Cops? You're all cops?"

"If I'm a cop, kill me now." This smart ass comment from Pete who takes the concrete steps two at a time and tries the door knob. "The only thing worse than being a cop is being in a room full of them." He pounds on the wood panel with his fist. "Hey, lady. Get me outta here. Lock me in a closet or something--alone."

"Don't be an idiot." Tick swivels and falls into what seems to be his favorite recliner. "She won't come back until...they're..." he jerks a hand toward the ceiling "...damn good and ready."

***

Pete braces his hands on the door, drops his forehead against the unforgiving wood. "I'm screwed. I'm totally screwed."

"Cheer up, thief-man," Hollywood says in a sing-songy southern drawl that makes Pete's skin crawl. The man kicks back in the recliner to prop his feet up. "Have another beer. Take a load off. Gonna be in here for a while. Ten bucks says our girls are all upstairs figuring out ways to make our lives hell."

Like his life wasn't hell enough already?

Pete glances at the lock on the door. Flimsy. Rusted. If he had Rafe's pick kit he could be out of here in thirty seconds flat. He suddenly remembers the Beretta stuffed in the right back side of his waistband. One good shot would do the trick.

Course, then he'd have a whole new set of problems to deal with. Like the two juiced up cops behind him and the freaky guy with the weird eyes. No telling what that guy would do.

Oh, hell. Not a good idea to let any of these yahoos know he's packing.

He turns slowly, looks back into the room. Hollywood's chugging yet another beer. Man, the guy's got serious issues. Rodriguez's eyeing the newcomer in the corner like he's afraid the guy might vanish or something. And wait . . . is the new guy . . . growling?

Okay, this is too freaky for colored TV.

Pete clenches his jaw. "So how long does this normally take? And for the record. I'm not even supposed to be here. If this is revision hell I'm not scheduled to be here for a few more weeks. Somebody screwed up."

"Sing it to the choir," Hollywood mumbles. He sits up quickly, the footrest of the recliner dropping with a smack. "Anyone wanna take bets on who'll be the first one out of here?"

***

Tick's cell phone vibrates to life before he can start figuring odds, the strains of Gary Allan's "Songs About Rain" filling the stale air. Eyeing the tall blond guy, he tugs it from his waist. Somehow, this one makes his instincts prickle worse than the one with the weird eyes and brooding air. He flips the phone open. "Calvert."

He listens a moment, a slow grin spreading over his face. "Really. A missing persons report? You might want to run him for wants and warrants, too."

Rio pulls his attention from the guy in the corner and turns to listen. Pete, still on the steps, stiffens visibly.

Tick rolls his gaze heavenward. "Well, I would, Cookie, but I'm kinda indisposed right now. Because I'm locked in the freakin' basement. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. I'll put you on midnights for a year." He pushes to his feet, rubs a hand across his nape. "You know what I don't get? Why Army-boy isn't down here. Yeah, I know he's a pain in the ass, but he's an explosives expert and maybe he could find a way to blow us out of here."

"Assure Mr. Sullivan we know the whereabouts of his friend." He narrows his eyes as he looks at Pete. "Trouble? Nah, I don't anticipate any trouble from this one."

***
"Sullivan?" Pete says, incredulous. His hands dig into his hips and something beneath the fabric of his shirt swells just to the right of his spine. Rio's eyes narrow. "What the hell is he doing filing a missing person's report? You have got to be kidding me. That jackass knows exactly where I am." He stabs a finger at the ground. "Man, when I get out of here, that guy's gonna be toast."

Pretty boy might be a cop, Rio thought, but he is very wrong about trouble from the copophobe. Blondy is packing. And who carries a concealed weapon? Undercover, like him? Or a villain who made his way to the basement?

This may be revision hell, but it is only a hero's revision hell. They work damn hard to be heros--deny gratuitous sex and violence, withhold unnecessary swearing. For God's sake, he doesn't take a piss once in a four hundred page novel. And if he is stuck here, he will be surrounded by his own kind. No villain's allowed.

Rio stares at Tick, and just like a cop, Tick feels the look and turns to Rio. With a tap on the right side of his lower back, Rio tips his head toward Blondy. Tick's eyes sharpen and spark. He runs a hand through his thick, black hair, rests his hand behind his head where he signals a plan of action to Rio.

From the corner of his eye, Rio sees Christian slink into the same shadowed corner he came out of. The guy lifts the hairs on Rio's arm to a ninety-degree angle, but Rio senses no danger from him, only desperation.

"Seriously." Copophobe continues his rant and paces. "That guy calls himself my friend? He's probably home right now curled up on the sofa with his HEA. They're laughing at me! Both of
them. I can feel it."

***

The hair on the back of Pete's neck suddenly stands straight. His feet pause. Instinct tells him to watch his ass. And then like clockwork, he hears the familiar whoosh, slap and click of weapons being drawn.

His adrenaline spikes. He grabs the 9mm from his waistband, whips around and stares down the barrell of not one, but two mean-ass looking Glocks.

"Oh for criminy sake," he mutters. "You've gotta be friggin' kidding me."

"Lower the weapon, hot shot." Hollywood takes one step to the right.

Pete keeps his Beretta aimed chest-high at Rodriguez. Something tells Pete he's the one with the vendetta here today. Hollywood's ticked he's in here, but Rodriguez is looking for any and every excuse to make a ruckus and get the hell out. Something about his girl being surrounded by a dozen gringos wanting a piece of her.

Long seconds pass. No one stands down. Weird-guy's still as stone in the corner like he vanished or something.

"I think we're at an impass here, boys," Pete says, darting looks between the two. "I'd think twice if I were you. I'm a spot-on shot. You take me down, I guarantee one of you's going with me."

Weird-guy suddenly drifts out of the corner. That's the only way to describe the movement. Like he's floating. Pete grips the gun tighter. No way that just happened.

"I sense trouble," Weird-guy says.

"Well, no sh--" Hollywood starts.

The door to the basement suddenly flies open.


***

The wooden slab bounces off the concrete wall. Tick gets one good look at the latest entrant and relaxes for half a second before training his gun on Pete again. "About time you showed up."

"Shut up, Calvert." The newcomer flips him off. An Army T-shirt stretches across a wide chest.

The single bulb hanging from the ceiling glints off sun-lightened blond hair. "Remember, I don't like you."

"One lousy blind date, Fish." Tick shakes his head. "I wasn't even interested in her. Your buddy Harding set us up."

"Yeah, yeah." Fish kicks the door shut behind him. "I know you Southern church-going, choir-singing boys. You were probably looking for an effing threesome."

"Wrong author."

Fish frowns at the tableau in front of him. "What the hell is going on down here, anyway?"

None of the guns move. Christian eyes Fish suspiciously. Tick glares. "The question is, what's going on up there?"

Fish bounds down the steps with a shrug. He picks up the remote, flips on the television. The plasma screen is the nicest piece of furniture in the room. A rerun of Gene Simmons Family Jewels flickers to life.

"Dunno. I'm stuck somewhere halfway through chapter three because She's so focused on your sorry ass." Fish frowns and gestures among the trio still holding one another at gunpoint. "These guys don't belong to Her, do they."

"No." Tick slants a glare at Pete. "Thank the Lord for small favors."

Pete cocks an eyebrow. "Like you're a real prize." He glances once toward the stairs and edges that way.

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5Comments:

Blogger Laurie said...

Roflmao!! This was brilliant, and I couldn't stop laughing. :) As I'm in revisions hell myself, you girls portraying your characters as being locked up was creative, and I'll bet it was a great tension release for all of you! Great job! "the boys in the basement" instead of the girls, lol!

And the only character I recognize (sorry) is Rio from Joan's book.

Now, I ask you all, is there such a thing as revising/rewriting too many times?

3:47 PM  
Blogger Laurie said...

Hey ladies - I posted a short post on my blog linking to this great illustration of heros cut off from their authors Muse. You're always so creative in your various posts, and I read you every day. Good luck with those revisions!

3:55 PM  
Blogger Linda Winfree said...

Hey, Laurie, glad you like it. This is always a fun thing to do.

I think at the sentence level, one can revise too much and revise the voice out of a piece. But . . . if big picture revisions are strengthening a piece to make it the best possible? That's a different concept.

However, rewriting/revising can make one crazy!

5:48 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Thanks Laurie. This is the first time I've participated, although Linda and Elisabeth have done it before.

Stay tuned tomorrow -- the girls are going to be in the pool house.

:-)

7:04 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I agree with Lin, Laurie. You can revise your voice right out of a piece if you keep going over it and over it and over it to make each word as perfect as can be. At some point you have to trust your gut.

That said, I also agree that revising plot/character, etc. can make a book that much stronger. Depends on if the piece needs it or not.

And thanks for linking us up on your blog! Glad you liked this post. It's sure fun to write. Moody heroes are my fav. ;)

7:05 PM  

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