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Free sample from my book Crash and Burn

I completed this book about a year ago and will be trying to get it published through a traditional publishing house soon. A free sample of the start of the first chapter is below. I hope you enjoy. I will let you know when it comes out!


Part I:

Emily Murphy’s Story

Chapter I: Burning Down the House

Watch out you might get what you’re after

Boom babies strange but not a stranger

I’m an ordinary guy

Burning down the house

-Talking Heads-

“Burning Down the House”

“I woke from a sound sleep. I could smell something burning downstairs and didn’t react until the fire alarm went off. I jumped straight up, like I was sitting on a spring. I turned over to look at my husband Jack, but he wasn’t there. I was worried because…because, I didn’t hear my poor baby Danny crying. And when I ran to his crib, he wasn’t there either.

“Jack! Jack!” I yelled. My heart was pounding, and I could smell the smoke. I was getting worried that he didn’t just burn some popcorn. I ran downstairs, and yelled again, frantic. ‘Jack, where are you?’ I thought. But as I got to the bottom of the stairs, I didn’t see him. All I saw was smoke. Fire was crawling up my curtains from the living room and spreading to the carpet. I continued to yell for my husband, but didn’t hear him or my baby. I sprinted upstairs, grabbed some photo albums, a few pairs of clothes, and my purse and ran like the wind out of there. Only Jack and Danny weren’t outside. I knocked on every neighbors’ door. No one had seen them. And that’s when I called you.”

“I’m really sorry Mrs. Murphy, but we are going to do everything we can.”

“Thank you, Sergeant Davis.”

II

I sat on the curb across the street of the house that Jack built (it’s not a figure of speech here – he literally built our home). Now, I sit in disbelief as the Chicago Fire Department pours gallons of water on the all-engulfing bonfire. I could picture Danny’s crib that we put together dwindle into nothing but ashes, our king-size bed (the first piece of furniture we bought together) swallowed up in flames, and Jack’s handiwork that turned a house into a home vanish with every passing second. But in that moment, all I could think about were my husband and my baby.

I yelled out to Sergeant Davis, “What are you going to do about my missing husband and son? I can’t get ahold of his cell phone?”

The sergeant came over from talking with another cop and placed his hand on my shoulder.

“We’re trying to put all the pieces of this puzzle together Mrs. Murphy. We’ve called a detective from our office because this is beginning to look like a kidnapping case. I’m terribly sorry. But you should know the detective we have is one of the best in our business. He specializes in this sort of thing.”

And just like that, my greatest fear became realized. I read about this sort of thing, saw it in movies, and when I ran outside and didn’t see any sign of my family, I heard the k-word deep inside my gut. But I pushed it down, trying to ignore it. Now it became real.

III

It was comforting to see Detective Paul Walden at the crime scene. He wore confidence on his sleeve whereas everyone around him seemed to be barely keeping it together. I didn’t need people barely keeping it together. I needed a Detective Paul Walden. I saw him say a few things to the sergeant, and then he strutted over to me. He pulled out a handkerchief from his breast pocket, tilted my chin, and said, “I got it from here. You’re in good hands now.”

“It’s Emily. Is that, correct? Do you prefer me to call you Mrs. Murphy or will Emily be okay?”

I dabbed my eyes with the handkerchief, and for the first time, smiled slightly.

“Emily will do. Thank you.”

The detective ran his hand through his salt and pepper hair as he looked down at the police report paperwork.

“Now I’m going to ask you some questions to file this report so we can begin to conduct this investigation.”

I nodded, still in shock that I was here, on a curb across the street from my burning house, with my child and husband nowhere in sight.

“When was the last time you saw your baby Danny and your husband Jack?”

“It would have been tonight before we went to sleep.”

“Uh huh. And what time would that have been?”

“9:00.”

“Did you leave the stove on? Fireplace? Space heater?”

“No, and we don’t use the fireplace or space heater in the summer.”

“I just want to check every possible scenario, Emily.”

“Were there any electrical problems with the home that you know of? Any faulty wiring that you have been meaning to get fixed?”

“Um, no!” I gulped. “Jack built the house. We haven’t had any problems, no.”

“Built the house you say? Must be pretty handy then?”

“Oh yes.”

Detective Walden continued to write notes. I tried to look over at what he was writing, but couldn’t quite make it out. The flames continued to illuminate our Beverly neighborhood subdivision. I checked my phone: 11 p.m. Half the block was still out of bed, staring in awe at the house fire like it was a firework show, waiting for it to finally come crashing down in a grand finale.

“How many times would you say you tried reaching out to Jack tonight, Emily?”

“I’ve tried his cell about 10 times now. It has always gone straight to voicemail. I haven’t heard from him.”

“And you say you only have one car at this time, is that correct? And he left with that car?”

“Yes. I just got in a horrible accident a few days ago. This car sideswiped me off Harlem Ave. and they just kept driving. My car has been at the mechanic, but it’s in pretty bad shape.”


I thought of how discouraging that situation had been. I had to call a tow to get what once was a reliable Toyota Camry compact car, to what truly became a compact car. I remembered how supportive Jack seemed to be, but for all the support he seemed to show, it somehow didn’t comfort me. But as much as that seemed to be a horrendous day, I wished I was living it again now. “Life is what you compare it to” is what Mom always would say. Thanks, Mom.

Detective Walden looked up from his paperwork for a minute, locked eyes with me, stopped talking business and said, “I’m very sorry to hear that. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure you get your life back.”

We both didn’t say anything for a second. Then the questioning resumed.

“Do you have any idea where your husband would have gone?”

“Not anymore. I already tried some places. I called his brother, his parents, his friends. After he didn’t answer the third time, I started to make the calls. The verdict was that he wasn’t there.”

“I see. I’m going to get into some personal questions about you and your husband now if you don’t mind? It may help me to better understand some things.”

“No, no I don’t mind Detective.”

“How would you describe your marriage to your husband? Would you say you and your husband had a healthy marriage?”


I paused to think. I must have taken a while, because Detective Walden startled me out of my daze.

“Emily? You still with me?”

“Oh yes. Sorry detective. It’s just, there’s so much to tell.”

“It’s okay. Why don’t we start from the beginning?”

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