The books on writing that adorn my shelves tell me that I should start with sex or a dead body on the first page. Since I’m not a “50 Shades” kind of writer, I generally opt for the dead body instead of the erotic one. With my latest novel “Benicio’s Bequest” I didn’t want just any old body, though, so I chose the ultimate romantic hero for my victim: Romeo, beneath Juliet’s balcony in Verona. He gazes up and is struck through the heart – not by Cupid’s arrow, but by an assassin’s bullet. And then another bullet, just to make sure.
No, it’s not Old Man Capulet hiding in his daughter’s bedroom hoping to prevent the deaths of his nephew, his daughter and half his household. Who is it? Well, you won’t find that out until much later in the book, of course, and by then that question will have become secondary to a more urgent problem. Oh, Romeo’s not the real Romeo, by the way, and Juliet exists only as a bronze statue. My story takes place several hundred years after their story, and doesn’t have much to do with either of them. Unless you count the romance between its pages. Will it end in tragedy or happiness? Those of you who know my writing can hazard a guess, but you’ll also know that my leading characters will be put through the mill before they reach the last page. If they reach it…
My story starts in Juliet’s pretty little courtyard in Verona, filled with tourists, and it involves an art teacher called Lisa, who visits it so she can take photographs for her students back home.
But enough of that. Other books on writing caution against too much preamble. “Don’t make excuses or explain things,” they say. “Just read it out and let it speak for itself.”
Here, then, is the first page of “Benicio’s Bequest.”
Lisa stepped back to get a better image of Juliet’s statue on her Nikon, and felt a foot beneath hers. She turned to apologise, and saw that the self-styled Romeo who had annoyed her earlier was so close behind her that he was almost welded to her shoulder-bag.
Romeo’s gasp of pain and his stagger backwards seemed a little melodramatic for such minor pressure from Lisa’s flat sandals. Lisa glanced down in exasperation, hoping he wouldn’t sue her for damaging his designer shoes.
And that was when she saw the dark red rosette spreading across his white tee shirt.
With a grunt that became a sob, Romeo’s body flinched as a second rosette opened next to the first. He stared up at Juliet’s balcony, then turned to Lisa, his blue eyes holding what she imagined to be a lifetime of regrets.
Too late. Everything was too late for him now.
Grabbing Lisa’s arm as he staggered, he crushed her beaded bangles into her flesh with surprising force for a man too weak to remain upright. He mumbled as if trying to tell her something, but only blood spewed from his lips, highlighting the pallor of his draining face as his eyes lost their focus.
“Matteo,” he whispered through red bubbles as his grip on her wrist slackened. “Matteo.”
He collapsed backwards, his blue eyes reflecting the sky above.
The crash of his head hitting the cobbles broke Lisa’s capsule of stunned silence and her discordant cry accompanied the tinkling melody of the beads clattering from her broken bangles. An answering cacophony of screams began around her as the little courtyard of Juliet’s house in Verona erupted into panic.
You can find “Benicio’s Bequest” as an e-book on Amazon, here: