Posted below is my original opening chapter. I quite liked it, but it didn’t tie back to the story in a real tangible way. The intent was to initiate the tone of the book, create a sense of dread, set the reader’s frame of mind. But in the final months of writing, it occurred to me that ‘The Bicycle’ created confusion with the reader since the character I introduced in it (the little boy) didn’t reappear later in the story.
More importantly, I had missed a great opportunity to open with a scene that precipitated all the events that would follow. The little girl captive in the church was the whole reason for the story. It also allowed me to introduce the key element of the window, the literal ‘pane of glass’ and it would also echo nicely across the closing pages.
I had considered using ‘The Bicycle’ as an epilogue to the story, to emphasize that beyond the fictional account just presented, the child predator problem persists. In the end, keeping the word count down, particularly for my first novel, made the decision for me. Enjoy!
More Cutting Room Floor tidbits to follow…
The bicycle lay only a few yards from the fall of the shoulder and another yard from the edge of the two-lane blacktop. It had been tossed into the sawgrass that grew tall in the fertile swale beyond the reach of the Dade County mowers. It was still early in the year and would be another month before the Florida road crews would return. For more than a week it had laid there unseen, and a light film of rust had already worked into the sprockets and chain. Shoots of alligator weed and blood flower had begun to grow between the spokes so that the front wheel no longer turned in the wind. Had it not been a child’s bike, it might not have been thrown as far. Red automotive paint was still visible in the dent on the back fender and would lead authorities to the color, make and perhaps the year of vehicle if the bike could be found. Along the edge of the road, a black strip of rubber marked where the car had left the pavement and made contact with the bike. The tire tracks and footprints recorded in the soft shoulder had all but disappeared in the heavy rain just two nights before.
A fishing rod and tackle box were still lashed tight to the handle bars with wrappings of elastic cord. Clipped to the side of the seat, a wire leader looped through the mouth and gill of what was left of a large spotted bass, the meat and flesh given mostly to the crayfish that lived in the swale. Close by, but a little farther from the road, a small rucksack lay deep in the grass, half-submerged in the wet channel. The hand-written name and address on the tag had blurred illegible from the brackish water. There was nothing much inside that would tell who it belonged to except for the empty lunch bag and the blue jacket with the sea turtle emblem; they would have confirmed for the police that the bike and rucksack belonged to the missing child. And even without them, the ripped seam in the bottom of the pack, sewn closed with a perfect whipstitch, would have been enough. Every thread of it would have been painfully recognized by his mother.
Two miles away a line of fifty volunteers and police worked an eighth day tirelessly canvassing the ground for evidence to the disappearance of the young boy. First they had searched the banks of the river channel on both sides of the county bridge where the boy was supposed to have been fishing, but because the bicycle and rucksack had not been found, they now believed it was unlikely that he had drowned and now worked on the assumption that he may have been taken or killed. They were searching west in the direction he would have ridden to go home and had spread out along the narrow berm that elevated the road bed above the stagnant swale. So far, the police dogs had failed to regain the scent of the boy having lost it at the end of the bridge. The late afternoon air was seasonably cool and it helped them to make good progress, but hope was dwindling with every hour that passed and each sweep of the sun. They knew if they kept their pace strong, they could easily cover a thousand more yards before night fall. What they didn’t know was that they were walking and looking in the wrong direction.