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Friday, July 18, 2014

"Bella's Point" by Liz Seckman Out Now! Blog Challenge!


I'm helping my friend, and e-sibling, Elizabeth Seckman, to celebrate the release of her new book, Bella's Point.

Liz is hosting a blog hop/challenge and all we, the entrants, have to do to participate (and possibly win stuff) is simply follow the numbered rules:

  1. Write something readers want to read. No word limit, no guidelines.Your only prompt is: The year was 1865.... (feel free to ignore the prompt, creative genius never bound by rules or prompts)

While I got a little stuck on Rule #1, I did finish, so here's my entrée:

The phone rings and I look at the empty cradle.

“Jimmy. Over there,” shouts my partner, Det. Sgt. John Smyth.


My eyes search the overflowing desks and empty chairs of our squad room.

By the vending machine.”

I tip a hand to Smitty and grab the cordless device from the coffee-stained table.

A blocked number - and it was 4:15 in the morning. We’d caught a case.

“Honolulu Homicide. Gregson.”

“Dispatch. Uniforms request assistance at a site of suspicious death. Female.”

I write the address down and nod at my partner, who already has his jacket and smile on.

“Where we goin’?”

“Hawaii Kai.”

“Rich husband do his wife in again?”

“Dunno, Smitty. You wanna drive?”

“I’ll drive. Keeps my hands busy.”

“The patch not working then,” I ask, as we hit the H1 freeway, which at this early time was empty. One of these days, I’m going to take a picture. No one on the day shift believes me. Seventeen minutes later, I radioed Dispatch. We were on scene.

As senior detective, Smitty takes the lead, and as we walk to the front door, I wonder at the morbid neighbors who wait behind the yellow tape, their bathrobe-covered arms wrapped around themselves in fear and wanting. Why do they bother?

I’ve never answered that one. I nod at Dave Grimes, the Medical Examiner, who asks if Mike Trout will finally be the American League MVP. He’s a Dodgers fan, I’m an Angels’ fan and we both work 2,500 miles from the nearest stadium. Misery loves company.

A uni directs me to an open floor plan living room. Fake fireplace and granite mantelpiece filled with odd-shaped family filled frames and a stuffed white polar bear in the middle.

A 72-inch TV flat against the wall… small cabinets below, a DVD player flashing the time. “16:53” It was three minutes slow. Leather couches and recliners opposite the TV, big bay windows behind… and I’m sure there’s a well-coiffed backyard with obligatory swimming pool—even though we’re minutes from the ocean.

Except for a plastic wrapper and an empty CD cover under the Samsung, the floor is tidy, no old nuts, crackers, beer bottles, all clean—well, except for the dead body whose blood stains the white carpet to a deep brown shade. A murder cop for six years, I’ve learned never to assume anything at the crime scene, but something’s off here. My partner sees the quizzical look.

“Yeah, my Smitty senses are tingling. Let’s see. The deceased is Bella Hughes. Husband is,” Smitty checks his notes and flips a page. “Bill. He called it in, saying the landscaper was the one who found her. Why should the landscaper be in the house?”

Smitty points at the body sprawled out in the living room. A coffee table, lamp and bookshelves bear witness to the struggle that took a life.

“How’s he look for it?”

“The guy, a Phil Michel, yeah he looks good. Long rap sheet. A history of violence. We’re holding him downtown on an unpaid parking ticket, but he’s already lawyered up. We need to charge him before he’s cut loose, but we haven’t found anything that sticks. Michel says he only walked in because the front door was open.”

I lift one end of the white sheet to gauge how Bella fell. On her stomach, right hand sticking out in front of her, like Superwoman in flight. The sheet billows down and I push off the white carpet with my knuckles, but as I stand, I know what’s bothering me. The sheet is stretched too long. Bella’s bare feet lay uncovered. Lifting the sheet again, I look at her right hand.

“Hey Grimsey, anyone moved the body?”

He shakes his head.


“What dya got, Jimmy?”

“Look at her right hand.”

Looks fine to me. She’s still got her wedding ring on, and there doesn’t seem to be any cuts or abrasions.”

“Why is she pointing?”

The right index finger of Bella's Point

“It’s the way she fell?”

“No, look. She tried to crawl to… where? The TV. The drawers?”

I look back from where Bella's Point. A small smudge of black catches my eye.

“Yo, Grimesy, c’mere for a second. Snap pictures of her hand. I want to open her palm. Something’s there.”

Grimesy takes his shots, and as I gently pry open the fingers, Bella gives up her last secrets.

Scrawled on her hand in black eyeliner is: “1865,” while a DVD remote control lays by her left shoulder.

1865 on her palm—and her finger points at the TV.

Empty plastic wrap and DVD case…

I look and sure enough, there’s a DVD loaded in the machine.

Why a remote under her body? I can see two other black controllers sticking from a coffee table caddy.


“Smitty. Look where Bella's Point…”

“I don’t see it, Jimmy - and Jimmy, why do you keep saying 'Bella's Point.' Surely it's where 'Bella points.'"
I look around. No one's watching.

I throw Smitty against a wall.
"Look, we're here to help a friend. Just be glad the book's not called 'Smitty's Point.' Now, stop asking grammar questions and let's solve this crime in the next 283 words."

I call over a wandering uni.

“Where’s the husband? Bring him in here. I’ve a question.

Bill Hughes walks in. Strong and tall on a normal day, he looks weak and small. My gut: it’s not him, but I need to find out fast.

“Mr. Hughes, were you or Mrs. Hughes ever in the military, or did either of you grow up in Europe?”

“Not military, but Bella and her sister, Mirjam, grew up in Belgium. Why?”

1865? Why did Bella write 1865?

I glance around the room, and my eyes fall on the DVD player. It blinks 17:18.

1865? 18:65…? Doesn’t make sense…

18:65 would be 19:05—or 7:05.

7:05 p.m.

I look again. Bella’s Point.

The DVD plastic. An empty cover…

Hidden remote control…

“Mr. Hughes wait! You’ve no kids.” I point to the mantelpiece. “There’s none in any of these pictures. Why do you have a kids’ polar bear then?”

Smitty pulls his walkie talkie from his belt.


“Stop Michel. Stop him from leaving. Now.”

“On it. Dispatch…”

I turn to Bill Hughes.

“It’s a camera. One of those baby monitor things. We bought it six months ago. Bella was worried about break-ins—especially when we’re out of town.”

“It’s on a sensor, right?”


“Smitty… do you have him?”

“Hang on Jimmy. Dispatch, this is important… C’mon, I need confirmation…”

I zoned Smitty out, switch the TV on, and click the DVD feed. Pressing play with the manual button on the screen, the time stamp said it was 18:54. A shadow moves across the Hughes’s empty room. I fast-forwarded until 7:00 and Bella walks into the room.


He shushed me with a hand and then lets out a big, “Yes.”

“We got him Jimmy. For two more hours.”

“Hughes?” I shake my head to one side.

Smitty nods, escorts Mr. Hughes from the room, and is soon back.

I press play and we watch as Bella looks around the room. She’s indecisive. The room was too clean. There’s no weapon—except there was, wasn’t there.

As expected, the killer showed up at exactly 7:05…and now I knew Paul Michel would pay for his crime—thanks to the final, brave actions of a smart woman who fought for justice until her last breath.

I will never forget Bella’s Point.


Contest link: 

Want to join the challenge to win cash, prizes, and bragging rights? Sign up here:
The Blurb:

Isabella Troy Stanley is a divorced, slave freeing pariah surviving in the shattered post Civil War south the only way a fallen debutante knows how. 
She heads to a Yankee prison and buys herself a husband. 

Jack Byron is the former Troy plantation stable boy and object of young Bella's affection. He rejected her then, and he's still not sold on the idea of marrying her now.  

 It’s complicated.

 Though to Bella, it’s simple: make Jack love her, marry her, and live happily ever after. The plan seems to work...at least until her secret is revealed.

Elizabeth is a wife, a mom, and a writer. She has four wonderful boys, one dusty house, and three published books to her credit. Feel free to check them out and buy them HERE! Erm, the books, not the kids or the house...though all things in life are negotiable ;)

You can find her here - Blog // Facebook // Twitter

Cover art by Sprinkles on Top Studios.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Baby monitor - good one.
You rebel, I think you broke all the rules.

Mark Means said...

That was awesome....very well done! I expected Thomas Magnum to appear, though.... :)

Morgan said...

I like this style of writing with you, Mark! This was REALLY fun!!!!!

You rock.

Morgan said...

(And go Liz!!!!!)


Miranda Hardy said...

Awesome! Love how you worked around Bella Point! Too funny!

Deanie Humphrys-Dunne said...

Great job, Mark and congratulations to Elizabeth! Best to both of you!

Elephant's Child said...

Congratulations to Elizabeth - and thanks for the great story.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

How wonderful!!! I totally claim you in the cyber family! Such a clever twist on the theme. Amazingly brilliant! Must be the summer sun on you solar panel.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hey Mark! CONGRATS LIZ!!!!!

A very imaginative way to introduce Liz'z book! A good start to a novella perhaps?

LD Masterson said...

Way to step up to the challenge. Excellent.

Melissa said...

"Just be glad the book's not called 'Smitty's Point.'"

Very, very clever, Mark. Who cares if you broke the rules? ;)

klahanie said...

Aha, Sir Mazza,

Remember me, young dude?

What a celebration. Elizabeth and her book is going to be da bestest n'stuff :) One moment, please........Arggghhh!!! Blog hops, blog challenges, blog fests, anything to do with the alphabet, make it STOP! Thanks and I feel better! Phew!

1865 is actually in metric time, don't you know, eh. How superbly rebellious of you. About time you joined myself amazing self in the rebel "rebolution"!

Ah yes, 1865, I remember it like it was 149 years ago :)

Great stuff by you, Mazza and yay to the lovely Elizabeth. Another one of my adoring fans.

Aloha and whoa.

Gary :)

Tonja Drecker said...

Great twist! And I love the way you worked in Bella's Point - clever.

Carrie Butler said...

That was beyond brilliant, my friend! :)

Suzy, The Grey Brunette said...

WOW that's awesome! Elizabeth must be chuffed to bits with that :)

Loni Townsend said...

Hahaha! Humor and mystery. That was wonderful!

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