Some criticism is respectfully requested...

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All excerpts in this thread are (c) 2015 by Skoob_Ym (a pseudonym). All rights reserved. Reasonable citations may be made for discussion, review, or criticism.

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A passage from my current work-in-progress:

 

This chapter occurs near the end of the book. I am concerned that the tension builds and releases too quickly, and that the pacing may tire the reader....

 

 

       The best thing you can do when confronted with a bomb is to evacuate the area with haste. It is not at all cowardly to run from something that can make you into a grease spot. But if the bomb happens to be wrapped around someone you’re fond of, or whom you feel that you might, in time, become fond of, then you have some hard choices to make. Running away ceases to be an option.

 

            Let me explain.

 

            I went back to the hospital the next day, and there was an uniformed policeman in the hallway. He stood up when he saw me, and his hand dropped to his gun. This was not a good sign.

 

            I walked slowly towards Ilsa’s door, holding the newspapers in a roll, the way that my neighbor had done on the night I was arrested.

 

            “Stop there,” he said.

 

            I stopped there. The fact that he had a gun and a badge had a lot to do with this decision. I’ve never understood why people argue with policemen.

 

            “Is everything alright, Officer?” I asked.

 

           “Turn around slowly and keep your hands where I can see them.”

 

            I turned my back to him and moved my hands out, away from my torso.

 

            “Do you have any ID on you?”

 

            “Yes, in my back pocket. I’m Ed Burnham. I’m here to see Ilsa Carr.”

 

            A new voice chimed in. “That’s not the one.” There was a pause, and then the policeman said, “You can turn around now.”

 

            I turned around. He stared at me for a moment, then nodded to the room. I walked around him and went in to see Ilsa.

 

            “Thanks for calling him off,” I said. “I see that the SPD is providing you with some protection now.”

 

            “Yes, the fact that my attempted killer was able to come stand beside my bed with impunity made a few people uncomfortable.”

 

            “I am not a serial killer!”

 

            “I meant the other visitor yesterday.”

 

            “Oh. Right. Good point.”

 

            “I’m being released this afternoon, but the police will keep someone here in the hospital for at least twenty-four hours. In case he comes back.”

 

            “A good call. I’ll keep that quiet.”

 

            “Please do. I’m being strongly urged to go visit my family, over in the valley.”

 

            “That’s not a bad idea either. Out of harm’s way.”

 

            “You understand now why I will need your help to catch my … well, nemesis.”

 

            “Bob says that it’s wrong to name your nemesis ‘Nemesis.’ ”

 

            “Bob can go fish.”

 

            “You’re going over to Fresno?”

 

            “That area. Exact place to be kept under wraps, you understand.”

 

            “I understand.”

 

            “So you’ll keep me informed?”

 

            “As best I can. No promises.”

 

            She placed a small white envelope in my hand. “For the newspapers.”

 

            It contained three dollars and fifteen cents.

           

            I considered that a goodbye and farewell, for all ways means and purposes. It felt odd, like a missed opportunity or a twinge of regret. I was still a little stung from my experience with Alice – the deep feeling, the grief, the splintered memories, the regrets and self-blame, the feelings that if I had only done something differently, I could have changed her and made what we had real – I was still in the middle of all of that.

 

            I certainly was not ready to start mooning over some woman that I barely knew, and whom I really didn’t trust.

 

            Yet there was a feel to the whole thing, as if it were a sweet beginning, and yet had been cut off too soon. A missed opportunity, or a Maud Muller Moment. I shook it off and put it out of my mind. Maybe I’d regret it someday, but for now, I needed to put the pretty ADA with the spray-painted shoes out of my mind.

 

            Imagine my surprise, three days later, when I walked into Bob’s Café and found Ilsa sitting at the counter, enjoying a lamburger. It’s one of Bob’s newest menu items; freshly ground lamb with a hint of rosemary and a pinch of cumin, seared to perfection and served on grilled sourdough with thyme butter. The tempura onion rings that go with it almost seem unnecessary.

 

           But the lamburger was not the source of my surprise, of course.

           

           “You’re back.”

 

           “For the moment,” she said, showing a toothy smile of genuine pleasure.

 

            “How are those tempura onion rings?”

 

            “Absolutely amazing. Here, try one.”

 

        

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All excerpts in this thread are (c) 2015 by Skoob_Ym (a pseudonym). All rights reserved. Reasonable citations may be made for discussion, review, or criticism.

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Comments

  • ******************************
    All excerpts in this thread are (c) 2015 by Skoob_Ym (a pseudonym). All rights reserved. Reasonable citations may be made for discussion, review, or criticism.
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     I accepted the offered treat and nibbled it judiciously as I slid onto a stool next to her. It was, to coin a word, Amazing.

                 “Wow,” I said. “That is the best tempura I’ve ever tasted.”

                “Freshest of eggs and nice hot peanut oil,” said Bob, with pride in his voice.

                “You don’t use Extra Virgin Olive Oil, like on all those cooking shows?” asked Ilsa.

                 “The temperature range of EVOO is too low,” he said, pronouncing it Ee-Vue. “It burns the oil before it’s hot enough to properly cook the tempura. And hot oil is the key to good tempura.”

                “So, Ilsa, what brings you back to Salinas? I thought you were hiding out over in the central valley.”

                “The San Joaquin valley is arguably the most boring place on the planet,” she responded. “Also, I came to get something. I remembered an affidavit that Alice Rowan gave. I think it will give a clue to catching Clement Wheelwright.”

                “Clement Wheelwright?” Bob’s eyebrows went up, and he fixed Ilsa with a perplexed stare.

                “Ed mentioned that your suspects for Alice’s murder were named Mallory and Wheelwright. He said that you thought Wheelwright was from Oregon, and a habitual user of Cannibis.”

                “A stoner, yes.”

                “Well, I did a search and found a Clement Wheelwright, of Bend, Oregon, who had seven convictions for possession, and one for possession with intent to distribute. And guess what car he drives?”

                “A brand new Dodge charger with the Hellcat package?”

                “Bingo.” She smiled and took a bite of lamburger. “You should have one of these. It is fantastic.”

                “So Wheelwright’s our man,” said Bob, pensively rubbing his chin. “I’d have figured it for Mallory, to be honest.”

                “Well, we need a second party for our theory of the crime,” I said. Ilsa nodded, her mouth full.

                “Mallory the kidnapper, Wheelwright independently shooting up your house?”

                “How about this: Mallory recruited Wheelwright to find me while he arranged Ilsa’s murder. He had a cup of coffee waiting to hear that Wheelwright had me.

                “But I escaped Wheelwright, so he drove by my house, hoping to see me there, and in frustration, not knowing Mallory’s plans, sprayed it with bullets.”

                “By the way,” said Ilsa, “We also discovered that he has a nine-millimeter handgun registered to him.”

                “All the better to frame me with.”

                Bob nodded. “Serendipity. There are just too many moving parts in life to account for them all. It’s why so many criminal plots fail, I think. Failure to understand the complexity of life.”

                “So Wheelwright is working with Mallory.”

                “We assume it’s Mallory, but yes.” She sipped from a glass of diet soda. “And when Oregon state troopers went to serve our warrant on Wheelwright, he wasn’t home.”

                “Because he’s down here, chasing me.”

                “And it occurred to me that Alice said something that might give a hint as to where he is. I think she knew them both.”

                “So how do we get the affadavit?”

                “Funny you should ask,” she said, putting down the lamburger and giving me a smile that, combined with her half-closed eyelids, seemed vaguely crocodilian.

                “Don’t tell me that you intend to break into the DA’s office.”

                “No, I have a key,” she said innocently. “And I have, in theory, a right to be there. I’m a prosecutor in good standing, and all that.”

                “But there’s a ‘but…’ here somewhere.”

                “But I’m on vacation, and they might object to me photocopying documents to give to, ah, non-departmental persons.”

                “So you’re going by night.”

                “Tonight. And I had hoped you might join me.”

                “Argh. Is this some kind of entrapment? You couldn’t convict me for murder, so you’re luring me into trespassing?”

                “Something like that.”

                “Can’t you get a police escort?”

                “Well, while they would be glad to protect me for most missions, I think they’d balk at this one. It’s not illegal… but they’d feel compelled to make sure that the DA had signed off on it.”

                “So you want an escort who won’t call for backup at an inopportune moment.”

                She grinned and resumed preying upon the lamburger.

                We waited until dark, and then we waited a few more minutes. Then we began a casual stroll down the alley from Bob’s café.

                We looked both ways at Main, stayed in shadows as we went through the breezeway by Doolsay Duckorm, and moved discreetly across the parking lot by the armory. We were pretty much following the path Bob and I had taken on the day he fought his speeding ticket.

                Howard avenue, behind the post office, past the police station, and then we were in the open courtyard between the old and new courthouses.

                The new courthouse had a few lights on. The old one was dark and quiet.

                 Salinas is the county seat of Monterey County. As a result, it had the county courthouse. The original building was built in 1937, and is decorated with life-sized faces that stand out in bas relief from the various concrete panels.

                “See those faces?” I whispered. “Those are people who broke into the DA’s office at night. Their faces are on the wall as a warning.”

                She chuckled softly. “Don’t be silly.”

                “Okay, no one knows who they are. But they’re watching us.”

                The old courthouse was made like two squared brackets, facing each other across a rose garden. Square-columned porticos on the front and back – one facing Alisal Street, and the other facing the new courthouse – opened into the rose garden, with an O-shaped path around the central flowerbed.

                We passed through a portico and down onto the path. The dark shrubs and bushes were too low to hide anyone, but it still seemed forboding.

                She pulled out a keyring. It jingled slightly. “They’re not actual individuals,” she said. “They’re types. The Dona represents all the Spanish ladies, the senoritas represent all the Mexican girls. The Sea Captain represents all sailors, and so forth.”

                 “So the Conquistador isn’t Don Gaspar de Portola.”

                 “No, but it represents him, and all the Spaniards who founded California. And the Friar represents all the priests and monks.”

                “So it’s not Junipero Serra.”

                “Not as a individual. But as an aggregate, yes.”

    She put the key into the door, swung it open, and we stepped into a dark hallway. And then, suddenly, the entire world was dark.

                 I awoke with a headache. I was sitting in a chair. I seemed to be held to the chair somehow. I rocked slightly and realized that I was tied to the chair.

               Apparently our mission had not gone as planned.

     I shook my head to clear it, and that made it throb. I clenched my eyes tightly for a moment until it went back to a dull ache. Then I opened one eye and looked around.

     I was in a wine cellar. It looked familiar, and after a moment I placed it. It was the wine cellar of the Chess Club.

    Ilsa was sitting opposite me, in a ladderback chair. I suppose that it was identical to mine, but I couldn’t see mine. She had a gag, apparently made from a knotted handkerchief. And she had a vest.

    Except that the vest had a timer on it and was ticking. It seemed to have a large number of pockets, each of which had a brick of modeling clay, or something that looked like modeling clay, sticking out of it.

    Oh, my. It was a bomb.

    Oh, wonderful day. I wanted to say that no good deed ever goes unpunished, but I couldn’t do that to a woman strapped to a bomb.

    My hands were at my sides. The ropes seemed to be wrapped around me and the chair alike, on the order of barrel hoops. I leaned hard to my right, and I was able to extend my right arm down a little. I pulled my right foot back, and fount it had just enough give to allow me to reach the top of my boot.

    Where I keep a knife. It’s usually clipped just inside the top of my right boot, and it’s just a small utility knife; the kind people use for cutting boxes and scraping away paint drips from windows. I had the idea that it might be handy for this little emergency as well.

    Cutting a rope is easy, if your hands are in front of you, and you can hold the rope with one hand and position the blade with the other. But when the rope is above your wrist, and you can only move one hand, it’s not so simple.

    I sawed ineffectually at the rope for a moment, unable to bring any pressure to bear, before I got the idea of stabbing the blade into the rope. It passed between strands like a marlin spike. I could then grip the handle and pull against a single strand until it sliced through.

    The knife almost slipped out of my hand when the first strand gave, but I was able to keep a grip. I stabbed it in again, and with a little tugging, was able to sever a second strand. Two more to go. The natural fiber was scratchy, abrading my wrist as I struggled to stab the third strand, but I ignored it and kept cutting. It seemed like a sawed at it forever before it finally parted.

    And then it was just a matter of getting the blade under the final strand. Not an easy task at all.

    My finger muscles were cramping. The rope was interfering with my circulation, and my thumb felt numb. Still, I stabbed until the point bit into the fiber and I could tug it through. Most of the strand parted. There were just a handful of fibers left.

     

    I sawed at them, and sawed at them, and just when I thought the knife would slide out of my weary hand, they parted.

    The rope, a single spiral around me, loosened. I shook the chair, and the ends I had just made fell apart, pulling away the first couple of coils. I flexed my chest muscles and tried to wriggle my arms, but the ropes clung to each other, inertia and friction holding them in place.

    With my right hand, I got hold of an end and whipped it. I felt the wave of motion go around one coil, which promptly loosened and fell away. I whipped again, and half a coil more loosened up.

    But that gave my hand more mobility, and I was able to reach my other hand, and in a moment, I could lift the entire coil over my head like a hockey jersey.

    I quickly cut away the ropes on my feet and turned my eye to Ilsa. The bomb had twenty-two minutes to run.

    Suppose that I got to a phone. Two-three minutes. Suppose that the fire department responded in ten minutes. Suppose it took another five to get a bomb expert. That would give him four, maybe five minutes to work. If he was smart, at that point he’d just call a priest, to give her last rites and to give him absolution.

    I could run away, but I couldn’t, because that’s not who I am. So that only left one choice. I cut the gag and freed her mouth.

    “Ed,” she said, through tears. “Run away.”

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    All excerpts in this thread are (c) 2015 by Skoob_Ym (a pseudonym). All rights reserved. Reasonable citations may be made for discussion, review, or criticism.
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    All excerpts in this thread are (c) 2015 by Skoob_Ym (a pseudonym). All rights reserved. Reasonable citations may be made for discussion, review, or criticism.

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    “I can’t. I got you into this, and I’ll get you out.”

    I started slicing open the pockets that held the clay-like stuff. The fabric gave way, and I grabbed the first bar of stuff, pulling it carefully away from the vest. It slid off the blasting cap and came free, leaving nothing behind. I set it on the chair I had been sitting in. I could have tossed it. It’s harmless without the sudden shock that only a blasting cap or something like it can give. Still, a certain respect for high explosives made me put it down gently.

     “Ed…” said Ilsa.

    “Hush,” I said. “I need to concentrate.”

    “Talk to me.” Her voice trembled.

    “Okay,” I said. “I’ll explain what I’m doing. I’m separating the primary explosive from the secondary.”

    “Shouldn’t you be cutting the red wire or something?”

     “No. that’s only in movies. There are four necessary parts to a bomb: A battery, a switch or timer, a primary explosive, and a secondary explosive. The secondary is what makes the big boom.”

     I cut open another pocket and pulled another clump of stuff off of its blasting cap – I guess it was C4, or PETN, or some other acronym. “Batteries are cheap. There could be five or six of them. Switches are cheap. It could be booby-trapped seven different ways.”

    The third pocket had a seam of some sort, and the fabric wouldn’t cut all the way down. I carefully teased the entire brick of explosive up, out of the pocket, trying hard not to put strain on the wiring. “If I spent the next twenty minutes trying to chase wires and diagram out the circuit, I’d probably kill us both.”

    The small cut I had made was enough, and the block of clay – C4, whatever – slipped out. I gently tugged it off of its blasting cap, and set it behind me. Three more to go.

     “For all I know, the guy who made this bomb might have had a ton of these blasting caps lying around. He might do construction.”

     “Will the blasting caps kill us?”

     “Probably not, not without the C4. They’d just be like a mega firecracker. They might take off a finger, or a piece might get me in the eye or something, but odds are we’d both live.”

     The fourth pocket gave easily; the seam had already torn free. I slid the C4 free and put it behind me.

     “Is that enough to make us safe?”

     “No. Even one of these blocks of explosive could kill us both. And would probably set off the others, even though they’re on the chair behind me.”

     “Why did they use six blasting caps, then?”

     “Redundancy, I guess.”

     The timer showed eleven minutes remaining. I was tempted to turn the knob and try to get more time, but for all I knew that would trigger the bomb.

     “But the one thing that the bomber does not have plenty of, most likely, is the high explosive.” I moved around beside her to check for wires or mercury switches. Not seeing any, I set my hand on her shoulder and gently tilted her forward, giving me access to the pockets over her kidneys.

     I sliced through one, tugged a little, and then sliced through the other. I took a block in each hand, and pulled each down and away at the same time.

     Prudence said to go slower and to be more gentle and deliberate. The timer said to hurry. I listened to the timer.

    All the high explosive was free now, and only the blasting caps posed any danger. This was a game for lower stakes but higher risk. I took a deep breath.

     As quickly as I could, I started snipping wires. Of the two wires on each blasting cap, I snipped the first and then the second, not both together.

     Snip snip. Snip snip. Two minutes. Snip snip, snip snip. One minute. Snip snip snip –

     With a SNAP! a relay somewhere changed positions, and my heart nearly exploded. I stood still until my hand stopped shaking, then carefully moved the last blasting cap away from the vest. It dangled by one wire, and I cut that with trembling fingers.

    I looked down at my hand and saw all six blasting caps, thin metal tubes the diameter of cigarettes, and perhaps two-thirds as long. If I dropped them, they would go off like so many mega-firecrackers, maybe taking off a toe, and certainly peppering our feet with tiny slivers of shrapnel.

     I had a sudden picture of Ilsa losing one of her six sets of shoes. No amount of saddle soap would fix the damage of the blasting caps.

     I couldn’t make my hands be still, so I carefully, deliberately … as slowly as my racing heart would allow… I set the caps down on the floor. Where they couldn’t fall and explode.

     Oh, holy night.

     After several deep breaths, I found that I could cut Ilsa free without slicing into her, so I cut her ropes loose and motioned for her to get up.

     I wasn’t able to speak yet, or not reliably.

     I did see a small cloth bag, neatly folded in the corner. I picked up the blasting caps, one by one, and placed them into the bag. Then I carefully wrapped the bag around itself until it made a neat bundle, about the size of a baseball.

    Then I started breathing normally.

     “Now what?” she said.

     “Well, our nemesis will be watching the building, wondering why it didn’t blow. So if we run out the front door, we’re playing right into his hands.”

     “So we sit here?”

     “No, as it happens, I know another way out.”

     I had to grope around a little in the near darkness to find the bottle of 1993 Dr. Burkenwulf. It’s a sweet white wine from Westphalia that takes an acre of grapes to make a tablespoon of wine. I removed the bottle from the wine rack, reached behind it, and found a metal ring, about the size of a lemon. I pulled on it, then tugged on it, and with a solid Click, the entire wine-rack shifted an inch to the left.

     I withdrew my arm, replaced the dessert wine, and swung the winerack to the right. The wall came with it, revealing a tunnel.

     “After you,” I said.

     She hesitantly slipped past me into the tunnel. I followed, pulling on a second metal ring. The wall and the winerack latched firmly behind us.

     Neither of us had our cell phones, so we felt along the walls to the door with the cipher lock on the other side. We pressed the panic bar, and we were in the main tunnel.

     “Where are we?” she asked.

     “Under Main, near Alisal,” I said. “And if you’ll follow that short branch, we’ll be in the basement of a closed-down nightclub.”


    So... At this point, they make their way through the basement in question, emerge onto the street, and return to Bob's diner, where he is waiting for them to report sucess.  Instead, they report what has happened and hold a council of war.

     My concern with this passage is that it might feel too up, down, UP! down, UP!!!!!! DOWN!!!! updown. There are several levels of tension and release of tension all going at the same time, and I'm worried it will give a reader whiplash, or at least wear him out.

     

    I welcome all comments.

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    All excerpts in this thread are (c) 2015 by Skoob_Ym (a pseudonym). All rights reserved. Reasonable citations may be made for discussion, review, or criticism.
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  • Em_PressEm_Press Professor

    I read about 3/4 of your text. I didn't find it too tense at all.

     A citizen of the world.

  • Thanks. I've read it so many times I'm starting to lose perspective.

     

    Smiley Happy

  • He's a great writer. The project we are working on together "waiting for cover" is great. Wish I could writer more like that.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    That's a lot to read through and I cannot really attempt to edit it because I take such a long time doing it for myself. Not just adjusting text in many ways but also often just moving punctuation around to see what effect it has, if any.

     

    If I don't feel I can do any more of that then I consider it finished.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.


  • Shadowmonkey wrote:

    He's a great writer. The project we are working on together "waiting for cover" is great. Wish I could writer more like that.


    Thanks.

     

    BTW, I took your suggestion and bound ten of them just for my own use. I think we'll be pleased with how it turns out.

     

    So in this chapter, you don't get worn out with the way the scene plays out? That's my fear: Losing the reader in all the switchbacks.


  • kevinlomas wrote:

    That's a lot to read through and I cannot really attempt to edit it because I take such a long time doing it for myself. Not just adjusting text in many ways but also often just moving punctuation around to see what effect it has, if any.

     

    If I don't feel I can do any more of that then I consider it finished.


    I appreciate that, Kevin, but I'm not so worried about the punctuation... I'll sweep up all that on the last editing... as I am with the flow of it. Does it seem like one continuous story, or a lot of bits tossed in for a plot salad?

  • I think the story line is well constructed. Different authors have their own style, as with every creative activity, and I think it's best if you write what pleases you, because that's what your'e going to do best.

    I would make the point that there's no need for the white space between sentences, I think it makes a work look untidy, Still, that's just my opinion.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    I appreciate that, Kevin, but I'm not so worried about the punctuation... I'll sweep up all that on the last editing... as I am with the flow of it. Does it seem like one continuous story, or a lot of bits tossed in for a plot salad?

     

    It depends at what stage you are at. Don't we all write like that and then constantly mess around with it? In the same manner as adjusting punctuation and such like.

     

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    OK, I have just read you first posting and cannot see any tension.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.


  • rebeljon wrote:

    I think the story line is well constructed. Different authors have their own style, as with every creative activity, and I think it's best if you write what pleases you, because that's what your'e going to do best.

    I would make the point that there's no need for the white space between sentences, I think it makes a work look untidy, Still, that's just my opinion.


    The white space is for posting it on here... The paragraphs don't work right otherwise.


  • kevinlomas wrote:

    OK, I have just read you first posting and cannot see any tension.


    Okay, point taken... the bit with the policeman is very minor key. And then it's mostly expository and into the cafe.

     

    The second section builds the tension. And then the third.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    To build tension use very short words and sentences and don't pepper such a section with long descriptions etc. And always avoid the use of 'Suddenly'.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.


  • kevinlomas wrote:

    To build tension use very short words and sentences and don't pepper such a section with long descriptions etc. And always avoid the use of 'Suddenly'.


    Short words and sentences... So this then?

     


     Snip snip. Snip snip. Two minutes. Snip snip, snip snip. One minute. Snip snip snip –

     

    I did use "suddenly" in one sentence, and you're right, that sentence would work as well without the "suddenly." I think I'll take that suggestion.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Short words and sentences... So this then?

     


     Snip snip. Snip snip. Two minutes. Snip snip, snip snip. One minute. Snip snip snip –

     

    If you are cutting hair, then yes.

     

    I did use "suddenly" in one sentence, and you're right, that sentence would work as well without the "suddenly." I think I'll take that suggestion.

     

    Suddenly takes time to read, not much but it does, and it also pre-warns the reader.

     

    Suddenly, the roof falls in.

     

    Or even

     

    Suddenly the roof falls in.

     

    But better as

     

    The roof falls in.

     

     


     

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  •  

    Here's a pdf of the first page or so. If you don't like this I'll stop. If you like it I'll keep going.

     

  • That's good, actually. I like it.

     

    "Visit" is better than "go visit," and the part with the policeman can be truncated.  Probably should be.

     

    Thanks!

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