20 Jun 2009 MISSING PERSONS by C. Terry Cline, Jr.
 |  Category: Daily Plotting  | 6 Comments






“An edge-of-the-chair shocker!”  – Publisher’s Weekly


“The suspense is wicked and unrelenting!”  – Newsday


“Bone-chilling!” – Best Sellers







       On a corner, books in her arms, laughing with friends, she stood out.  They always did.  Like creatures apart.  There were similarities – superficial physical characteristics; hair parted down the middle and combed evenly to the sides, shoulder length or longer.  Wide mouth, a quick smile that had a practiced effect.  The beauty queen.  Pretty.

       But it was not her appearance that drew him.  There were many attractive women who passed unnoticed.  It was an ambiance, a demeanor.  A certain toss of the head, a tilt of the chin.  A way of walking.  Better-than-thou, that’s how he thought of it.  Look-but-don’t-touch.

       As artificial and manufactured as plastic, their smiles, the sound of their laughter, the way they stood with heels touching, backs straight; practiced, deliberate.

       From across the street he watched, eyes shaded by polarizing lenses, afternoon heat rising in shimmering waves from cobblestone paving.  He chewed gum with methodical, slow masticating movements, mouth dry despite it.

His innards twisted, irritated by her although he had never seen the girl before.  He didn’t have to know her.  He knew her type well enough.

       Beyond the girl and her friends, like a dusty mirage, the red brick schoolhouse grew somber and more deserted.  Inside the fenced perimeter, younger students played in pools of purple shade beneath water oaks.  Swing chains squealing, seesaws levitating, a staccato of youthful cries, adolescent girls taunted by mischievous boys.  A yellow Bluebird bus lurched out of a parking lot and turned away south, double rear tires churning silt in ocher plumes.

       The girl made moves to disengage – and that’s what it was.  A pulling free; pressing matters awaited, time enough in camaraderie.  As if in ballet, she side-stepped, heels always coming back together, designed to accentuate posture and announce, “Look at me.  Pretty!”

       Yes.  Well.

       He sucked his gum, trying to wet his mouth, but the Chiclet adhered to his teeth.  His belly drew taut, abdominal muscles quivering.  Fingers straight, splayed, he wiped them on the steering wheel of his Volkswagen “beetle.”  He watched her, but all the while with peripheral vision he watched all who might be watching him.

       A final gesture, one hand extended toward a friend palm down, her books clasped to bosom by her other arm.  Then with a half turn, a toss of her hair, she walked away as if aware of all eyes following.

       He waited until she turned a far corner, and then started his car.  Pulling away from the curb, he reached behind himself on the floorboard, touching the cold steel of a tire iron.  One end was wrapped in adhesive tape for a better grip.  He drove past the street where she walked, glancing casually in her direction.  Then he circled the block and met her at the next corner. 


       She started to cross and he called again, “Say, I’m lost, can you help me?”

       The critical moment.  Had she kept walking, he’d have driven away.  She hesitated.

       He got out, the motor running.  He saw himself as if through her eyes – right arm in a sling, a friendly, genuine smile, brown wavy hair, tennis shoes, wearing shorts.

       “Hurt my arm when I slipped trying to make a return,” he said.  “Do you play tennis?”

       “Sometimes.”  Wary, aloof.

       “Great game.”  He grinned.  “But a backhand is best performed with feet well beneath the body.  My name’s Bob.”

       A quick nod.

       “I was born here.”  He winced as he adjusted the “hurt” arm with his other hand.  “I’ve been away ten years.  Things have changed, haven’t they?”

       A tentative smile, but still alert.

       “I was looking for the house where we used to live.  Green shutters, slate roof, two-story house.  Do you know it?”

       “I don’t think so.”

       “Next door neighbors were named Ziebart.”  A name he’d seen on a furniture store downtown.  “Do you know them?”

       “Randy Ziebart?”

       “Could be.  On the other side lived my cousin and his family – do you know the Murphy’s?”

       “Murphy.”  She squinted her eyes, concentrating past him.  “You mean the Murphys who own a Texaco station on Main Street?”
       “Now that you mention it, I believe they did say something about that.”

       “They live across town from here.”

       Now, you mean.  They used to live right around here.  I went to Lake City Elementary School with my cousin.”  He put a foot on the bumper of the idling VW, smiling.  “Those were great times.  We lived on Pine Tree Boulevard — ”

       “That’s about six blocks from here.”

       “Oh, yeah?”

       “Straight ahead,” she advised.

       “Can’t miss it, right?”

       “Right,” she said.

       “I once got lost on a dead-end street.  It was one-way.”

       She laughed, stance easing.  He avoided prolonged eye contact, allowing her time to assess him – handsome, winsome, with an injured arm.

       “You must be packing in the studies.”  He indicated her books.

       “Trying to rack up credits.”

       “You’re a senior?”

       “No.  Eighth grade.”

       “You look older.  That’s a compliment.”

       Her face flushed.

       “Straight ahead, you say?”

       “Right.  About six blocks.”

       “Give you a lift?”
       “I’m not going far.”

       “Don’t mind at all,” he volunteered.  “I’m going that way.”

       “Well – ”

       “Hop in,” he opened the door.  “Forgive the clutter.”

       She saw remnants of fast-food containers, a tennis racket in the rear seat, some tools on the floor.  “I don’t have far to go,” she hedged.

       “Hey look,” he teased, “I’m harmless!  Be a Good Samaritan and show me the way.”

       She got in.  The seat slipped beneath her, loose on its track.  He rounded the car, got in beside her.  “That seat is broken,” he said.

       “I’m only going a couple of blocks – ”

       “So you know the Ziebarts?”  He shifted into low gear awkwardly, obviously pained by the effort.  

       “I know Randy.”

       “How are they doing?”

       “I think Randy’s fine.”

       “Buckle up, honey, that seat scares me.”

       She did so, the seat slipping with each acceleration.  “I want to look them up,” he said.  “I had a lot of good times with he Ziebarts.  And you know Randy.”

       “He’s a classmate.”

       He had to reach across himself to shift gears, his right arm useless, each time grimacing.

       “Boy, I bet I never use a backswing again.”

       “I go right at the next corner,” she directed.

       “Do you suppose you could show me the way to Pine Tree Boulevard, first?”

       “No, I really have to go home.”

       “Sure,” he smiled at her.  “I understand.  Say, can you just hand me that map under your seat – right under your feet.”

       She bent forward to see, shifting books on her lap.  Suddenly, he yanked his arm from the sling and seized her by the nape of her neck, shoving her down; he jammed the brake and the seat shot forward, her head under the dashboard, her waist cinched by the seat belt.  Holding her, he stepped on the gas.

       She grappled for his hand, his fingers intertwined in her hair, but he pushed her head down harder, growling, “Stay put or you’ll get hurt.”

       She tried to turn and he shoved her violently, her breath expelled by the pressure of books against her abdomen, held by the seat belt.  She scratched at his hand and he shook her, warning, “Be still, or else!”

       The town wasn’t large.  The residential area quickly passed and still he held her.

       “You’re hurting me,” she said.

       “Put your hands behind you.”

       The cutting belt, her lungs aching, sides burning – she complied.  He snapped handcuffs on her wrist, demanded she bring the other hand nearer.


       He slammed on brakes and momentum threw her into the dashboard.  He was on her with both hands, snatching her other arm up, cuffing it, also.

       Only now did he release her, saying, “Keep your head down, or I’ll knock it off.  I don’t want to have to hurt you.”

       “Stupid!” she shrieked, damning herself.  “Dumb!”

       The vehicle swung wildly, bumped, knocking her head again.  All the while, his right hand rode her back, prepared to restrain or harm as need be.

       He stopped, cut the motor and allowed her to sit up.

       “Don’t hurt me,” she said.

       He lit a cigarette, inhaled, staring through the smudged windshield.  They were under pine trees, surrounded by underbrush, adjacent to a plowed field with stubbles of cornstalks jutting from the soil.  Somewhere in the distance a crow called.  Songbirds twittered.

       “Please don’t hurt me.”

       Not so haughty now, arms locked behind, her façade torn away – not so Godalmighty now.

       “Are you going to hurt me?”

       He looked at the glowing tip of his cigarette, flicked ashes, and puffed again.

“Are you?” she asked.

It was his eyes that terrified her most.  A moment ago dancing, cerulean blue, filled with warmth and friendliness.  She remembered something she’d read in literature class – something about the eyes being windows to the soul – now distant, utterly cold and without compassion.  He smoked, peering through pine trees down a rutted sandy lane overgrown with weeds.

“Please don’t hurt me.”  Rape she meant.  There had been a class in home economics; she struggled to remember the advice offered, all the girls giggling nervously as the teacher mechanically listed the threat, alternatives, and proper responses.  Rule One: don’t take up with strangers.  Rule Two: stay out of their cars.  Rule three

He flicked away the cigarette, spit gum out his window.  Turning, he looked not at her face but at her neck and chest.

“Please – ”

“If you don’t cooperate, I’ll kill you.”

“Oh, no, please – ”

He unbuttoned her blouse, slowly, as if savoring the moves.

“Oh, please – ”

Unexpectedly, he bit her.

“Help!” she screamed.

He slammed her against the door, a hand over her nose and mouth.  She tried to bite his fingers but missed; he was expecting it.  Wrenching aside, she yelled, “Help me!  Help!”

Incongruously, a flip remark made by a pimply-faced student came to her mind, “Relax and enjoy it…”

“Help me!”  He smashed her face with a fist, the taste of blood rose on her tongue.

He dragged her out onto the ground, threw her down and pulled off her clothing.

It hurt, even when she tried to ease it by cooperating, it hurt.  It would be over soon.  Be over soon.  Be over soon –

He finished with her, turned her onto her belly and for a grateful instant she thought he was going to remove the pinching handcuffs.

Instinctively she whimpered, “I won’t tell.  I promise.”

What was he doing?”

“I don’t know you,” she reasoned.

His feet beside her.

“Let me go home now,” she begged.  Her mouth was gritty, sand between her teeth.

She tried to twist and face him, and he pinned her bare shoulder with a hand.  The hand made a soothing stroke and she dared hope –

Then he swung down hard with the tire iron, aiming at the base of her skull.  She quivered.  Again, harder – a spastic twitch, skull crushing.  Again, with all his might…                                    

20 Nov 2008 Murder – Alibi
 |  Category: Daily Plotting  | 2 Comments

Okay, you’ve decided to kill the old girl and you’re going to do it yourself.  No botched hit man’s plan, this is something you should keep to yourself.  First, a good alibi is essential.

Most really good alibis are true, that’s why they’re good alibis.  If you are unconscious and under  intensive care of a good nurse who records every poke of her hypodermic — and the hospital is far away from the murder scene, that’s a good alibi.  Having dinner with the mayor at the time the crime is committed is pretty good, too, especially if you’re on the West Coast and the murder happened in New York City.  You see the problem, don’t you?  It must be obvious that you could not have killed your wife.

But, you know, we need to face reality here.  Most criminals are stupid.  Is that you?  The fact that you are seriously contemplating homicide is pretty good evidence you aren’t at the head of your class intellectually.  In Mobile, Alabama a man approached a bank teller and demanded money.  The teller said she couldn’t give him that much cash without some identification.  The moron pulled out his wallet and presented his driver’s license.  We’re hoping you’re smarter than that poor boob, who needed to be locked up for his own protection.

Alibi.  Alibi.  This is the tough part.  You could use a booby trap to kill her.  You are somewhere else when the trap springs.  You have an alibi; she’s dead.  If you cannot be tied to the murder device you’re home free.

I wrote a book in which the murder device was so good I was afraid to have it published for fear people might actually use it.  Then, a woman in Missississippi did use it.  Therefore I can now describe it with a clear conscience.  Well, as clear as my conscience gets anyway. 

She filled a condom with gasoline, placed it under the dashboard of his car right over the cigarette lighter.  When he decided to smoke — poof!  Double whammy, see.  Bad burns, auto wreck.  The investigation found gasoline, latex, but nothing that isn’t usually in a car.  She got away with it until somebody (we won’t say who) suggested how it was done.  Then she confessed.

Do not confess.  Like the lady whose husband suffered thirty-seven stab wounds because he fell on his knife, and then, in great pain, shot himself three times.  The lady still says she is innocent.  Stick to the lie.  Have some guts about this.  If you’re going to wimp out, this will never work.  Do NOT confess.

It’s going to take a while to come up with a great alibi, but it’s worth the effort.  Keep thinking.  Just because this is fiction does not let you off the hook.  You must treat the crime as though it is real life.  Otherwise, your story sends a subliminal lesson to the reader, “This couldn’t possibly work.”

By the way, having talked to detectives, I advise you keep your story simple.  Don’t embellish.  “He fell on the knife thirty-seven times, and in great pain, he shot himself three times.”  Simple.

Nobody said this would be easy.  Don’t be lazy.  Keep thinking.  You need an alibi before you can get to the end of your sweet nemesis, the maddening wife.

We’ll consider various deadly means next time…

19 Nov 2008 Murder
 |  Category: Daily Plotting  | 6 Comments

MURDER - tools of the trade:

Killing with an accident is a good idea.  But there are certain drawbacks to the plan.  Suppose you maim, but do not slay your subject.  If you think being married is unpleasant now, imagine somebody who needs bedpans, disposable diapers, alcohol baths and a fresh catheter?  If it takes another blow or two to finish her off, you need to know that any second attempt will be doubly suspect. Make certain the initial accident is going to do the job, or you have compounded your problems.

Falling down a stairwell is a nice idea, but if sudden descent doesn’t do the job, it’s a bad idea to finish her off with additional blows to the head.  Forensic science has gotten so good they can tell when there have been secondary or tertiary attempts.  Most people don’t fall down stairs more than one flight at a time.  It’s like the guy who was found stabbed thirty-seven times.  His wife said he fell on the knife.  Oh, and then he was in such pain he shot himself three times.  She was convicted, of course.  For manslaughter, believe it or not, because she didn’t mean to kill him, she said.

How about throwing your intended off a high cliff/building/out of an airplane/down an elevator shaft?

Remember the alibi.  If there’s reasonable suspicion, they’re going to ask you to take a lie detector test, which, incidentally, you should never do, even if you are really innocent.  Polygraphs serve the needs of cops, but not the accused.  So, decline.  And try to avoid psychics, too.  It’ll give you the creeps to have somebody talking to the decedent and she’s revealing details only the dearly departed could possibly know.

You can see that murder is complicated.  An accident is a good idea in principle, but it can be fraught with pitfalls.  Think it through carefully.  In all cases, you must avoid inheriting a completely dependent vegetable.  You just thought you had problems before.  The best accident has a Cajun twist to it.  You know, Cajun jokes have a double-punchline.  A Cajun putting siding on a house, selects a nail, examines it, and throws it away.  Another nail, throws it away.  Another nail, he drives it in the siding.  His boss says, “Hey, fool, what you doing?” The carpenter says, “Some of these nails have de head on a wrong end.”  The boss says, “Idiot!  Those nails are for the other side of the house.”  Double punchline, see?  In the case of murder, auto wreck followed by fire: double whammy.  Down the stairs, then the house burns down.  But you’ve got to think it through.

Don’t forget the need for an alibi.  Don’t do anything until you’ve got  a good one.

We’ll talk about that next time.

18 Nov 2008 Murder
 |  Category: Murder  | 6 Comments

Ah, yes, murder!

Writers often contemplate murder, and if they’re married, they may contemplate it more often than usual.  But for the purpose of writing a story, committing murder becomes serious business. Let’s think about it a minute.

The biggest mistake the beginning writer makes is to trivialize the crime.  Actually, killing somebody is not easy if you intend to get away with it.  In which case, treat the act as though it is to actually happen in real life.

Therein is the true test of the professional writer.

I have decided to kill my former wife.  In real life I could never do that because I love her.  But for my story, that’s the decision I’ve made.

First of all, I’ll be the prime suspect in her murder.  Former husbands always are.  So before I can seriously consider the means of homicide, I’m going to need a rock-solid alibi.  Oh, and forget those idiots who hire somebody else to commit the dirty deed.  You’ve seen them on TV asking somebody to recommend a good assassin to bump off the spouse.  Stupid.  If you don’t have the nerve to kill the victim yourself, go for a divorce instead.  The more people who know about it, the more likely you are to spend time eating bad food in highly regimented surroundings with low-IQ companions.  Which, by the way, can be maddening.  Federal pens are better than State, so you may want to kill the old girl in a U.S. Post Office, just in case you do get caught.

Therefore, you are going to do the killing yourself.  What’s your alibi?  If you can’t think of a good one, there’s problem number one, and without an alibi, go back to considering the divorce route.

The best alibi puts you somewhere else at the time of the murder, preferably in the company of someone whose word is indisputable.  If you have a lover, this is bad news for an alibi.  These days lovers run to the cops, write a book, go on Oprah, buy a bikini, and retire to the islands.  Remember how the wife talked about you when you first met?  You were so witty, handsome, charming, and she couldn’t live without you?  Now you’re plotting her demise and who knows what she really thinks of you.  Lovers undergo a distinct change once they suspect you have killed your wife.  It looks bad in court.  If you have a lover, go back to the divorce idea.

Do you have a motive other than a lover?  Insurance, possibly.  The cops are going to find that out and once a jury hears about money AND a lover,  you are dead meat.

You can see, putting together a murder isn’t easy.  Hiring a hit man is too dumb to consider.  So what’s a future felon to do?

Accidents are good.  We’ll discuss that next time.  Until then, get a good night’s rest.  You’re going to need it.

24 Sep 2008 Search the net for C Terry Cline, Jr.
 |  Category: Tools  | 4 Comments

I was currious about what the net has about C Terry Cline, Jr. A quick search and I found these:

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    Alabama Center for the Book Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts Humanities College of Liberal Arts Auburn University Copyright 2008 Alabama Center for the Book and Auburn University. If you are an Alabama citizen, AVL can be used at your public library or school library media center. Dates July 14, 1935 – present Other Names Used Charles Terry Cline, Jr.: full name Alabama Connection Birmingham,…