Last year I set myself a challenge of writing a novel in weekly instalments. Buster and Moo I called it. I reached November, pretty much on track but nano and one thing and another and i never finished it. So in January I took it down, read through the 10 months of work I had and decided there was a book there only I didn’t now know how to end it.
Today I did. I wrote the last of 91,113 words of the first draft. Phew. As in
The title refers to a dog that is put up for rehoming – Buster – who’s new owners call him Moo. It is a tale of two couples and a thriller and a love story and a story about a dog. The dog character is based on Dog
Here’s chapter one. It’ll need a bit of work. A lot of work but it will emerge as a fully formed novel soon enough.
“James? You free?” Landen Powell took half a step into his room.
James Franks waved her to stop. He scribbled something and slipped the notepad into a desk drawer and shut it.
“Do you want some water? Or coffee?”
He didn’t meet her gaze. “I might be busy. Is it important?”
Landen hesitated. They’d agreed to talk before 4 and it was now nearly 5 but his unexpected aggression confused her.
“If it’s about tonight, I’m busy. Work, in case you’re wondering.”
She nodded but didn’t move.
“Yesterday. The partners’ meeting. How did it go?”
“For fuck’s sake, can’t…?” James squeezed his eyes shut. “It’s delicate right now. I, we have to be careful.” He tried a smile but it held no warmth. “Some silly mutterings from a couple of juniors partners. I’ll sort it.” The phone rang and he glanced at the number. “Oh for fuck’s sake.”
“Do you want me—?” She reached for the phone.
“Leave it.” He jabbed the red disconnect button, silencing the ringing. “I’ll sort the others, Landen. Don’t stress, all right? So, 9? Can you stay?”
She shook her head. “I agreed with Mervin…”
The phone went again and James pressed the disconnect button again. “Christ. Can’t he give it a break?”
“Do you want to me to go?”
His shoulders sagged. “I want you, period, but if you’ve got to go play happy families that’s not happening, is it?”
Landen wanted to scream. Janes was all over the place, more so than usual. She spoke slowly, trying to calm the situation. “I could tell Mervin I need to work late.”
“Don’t put yourself out for me.” James picked up the phone, and held it near his ear. “Anything else?”
“9. Henry is being an arse.”
“Because he can. Look, can you call him and tell him I’m… I’m… make something up. I can’t handle his paranoia just now.”
“Is it about the draft contract?”
“No, look just put him off for today. I’ll get to him tomorrow.”
Landen’s mobile rang. She glanced at the screen. “Talk of the devil. You want me take this?”
“Hi Henry, It’s Landen. What? No he… But…” She put the phone on mute. “Carol’s told him we’re having a meeting.”
“Fuck. Give it here.” He held out his hand for her phone which she handed over. James’ expression had changed; his two thick black eyebrows arched in a deep frown.
“Henry? Hi. Yes, I… Look, just a minute, that’s bollocks. I… Wait.” He covered the handset and said to Landen. “I’ll drop it back when I’ve finished.”
Outside she shut the door, wondering what that was all about. They had agreed everything and the final drafting would be hammered out by the weekend so why was Henry so angry? As she made her way back to her room, she wondered, yet again, what she had got herself into with James. And how she was going to get herself out of it.
“So what’s her excuse this time? Something work related, I suppose?”
Mervin Stiles regarded his brother Miles with distaste. “There’s this partnership business.”
“I don’t get this need to continually prove she’s the greatest whatever. Is it ego or money or both with her? You for that matter. Why do you pretend to go along with her ‘career woman’ shite?” Miles Stiles tugged at his earlobe. One of the many habits that irrationally annoyed Mervin.
“It’s important to her. Us.”
“Yeah and getting published is important to you, but it doesn’t consume you like this consumes her.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious.” He hated defending Landen when, in many ways he agreed with Miles. If only he’d try and have a little empathy.
“Not what you said at Christmas.”
Mervin’s heart sank. “I was just sounding off. I’d had one rejection too many, that’s all. It’s not what I really think.”
“In vino veritas. And you were very veritas.” Miles toyed with his ponytail and pulled off the band. Mervin hadn’t noticed how obsessed with it Miles had become until just then. “You don’t want children then? That was what? Another piece of fiction?”
“It’s not right just now.”
“You’re neither of you getting any younger. You two should be at it like rabbits.”
“I wish you’d not be such a smug know-all pillock. If…” Mervin stopped himself. He wasn’t falling into that trap.
“I’m your older brother. That’s my job description. Anyway Mum expects you to do the business and give her grandkids. It’s not like I can.”
There it was. The dig. Playing on Lise’s inability to have children. Mervin ignored the self-pitying tone. “Since when did either of us ever do want Mum wanted?”
“True. Ok, I’ll mind my own business. But Landen’s thirty what? The clock’s ticking.” Miles stood. “I’ll get us a refill and you can tell me about how you really are the new Grisham.”
Mervin spun the dregs of his pint in the bottom of his glass. He didn’t know which was worse: picking over his latest rejections or having to defend Landen’s zealotry about becoming a partner in her law firm.
Miles put down the drinks. “I know what you need to do. Get a dog. Baby substitute and it’ll be sure to make her broody. Or jealous.”
“She’s already broody. Once we have a decision on her career we’ll talk again about timing…”
“Fuck me, don’t tell me you’re going to have a meeting about it? Can I see the agenda if you do? Let me guess? After the apologies, it’ll be item two: conception.” He mimicked Landen’s Canadian accent, “’Mervin, have you carried out the SWOT analysis? How are we positioned on positions? I’m told the missionary is the position of choice amongst those trying to conceive.’ That and kale smoothies and loose underpants.”
Mervin laughed. Miles could always make him laugh, possibly his one saving grace. “You know, we did talk about a dog.” He patted his stomach. “I could do with some exercise. You and Landen are on the same page, for once.”
Miles swayed back in his chair. “Hang out the bunting. Have I just done something right?”
“Maybe. I’ll let you know. Cheers.”
“Cheers. Now, I have an email address I want you to promise to follow up. It’s a literary agent and she said she’d love to hear more about your book. Crime is right up her alley.”
“How on earth do you know an agent?”
“I don’t. But Lise has been auditing their books. I might be indifferent to your skills with the pen but Lise has your best interests at heart.”
Mervin took the scrap of paper. “I love your girlfriend. Tell her she is a wonder and far too good for you.”
“I think we can all agree on that.”
Mervin smiled at his brother, wondering, not for the first time why Miles couldn’t stop being unfaithful to such a one as Lise. It amazed him he had the nerve. Mervin knew he would be hopeless at keeping up the pretence, yet Miles continued to work his way through a series of similarly dumb and unattractive short term screws while Lise let herself be exploited. He would never understand either of them.