Deleted Scene

This is one of the scenes I cut from my novel in progress. It may or may not end up in another book. Or maybe even back in this book later. But not by my own decision (read editor or publisher demands here). This was from very early in the book. Enjoy.

“You going to eat those?”

Nick Eccheli glanced away from the traffic that streamed on either side of the park to his wife. She pointed at the remains of his french fries. He shook his head. She snatched up the fries, two at a time, and crammed them into her mouth. Never enough time for lunch. After every bite, she paused to lick the salt off her dark, elegant fingers.

He smiled, studying her. Her father was Italian and her mother, a stunning woman in her own right, was African American. Their only daughter had inherited the best of both races: wide, high cheekbones, moist dark skin, thick sweeping eyelashes, and eyes to rival the luster of black pearls. He let his gaze rove her smooth muscular skin and fine cheekbones. It was fitting her parents had named her Cleopatra, shortened to Chloe. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He’d been in love with her since the moment they’d met.

They were sitting under the trees on the beautiful Memorial Plaza, with fountains, benches, and statues. Chestnut street was on the other side of that, effectively making the Plaza an island between the two thoroughfares. On the south of Market were such landmark buildings as Union Station, the Enterprise Center, and the old City Hall. Market’s east end culminated at the Arch and the Old Courthouse. Much of downtown had been built to work in concert with those two historic markers to create a memorable beauty; high curved arches, stepped domes, and mirrored glass were everywhere.

The sun boiled heat down around them, but there in the shade was a breeze like a blessing from above. The trees and grass in the background were all in opulent shades of green swimming in heat waves. For a moment, it was as if they were on a tropical island, instead of in the middle of a Midwestern city. Someone nearby was even playing reggae. Perhaps he’d take his wife on a tropical vacation. It had been a long time since they’d done anything like that.

“What?” She asked, her intelligent eyes now onyx black under the shade of her furrowed brow.

He shook his head and smiled. “Nothing. Just admiring the beauty.”

She hissed through her teeth at him, but blushed and grinned. Then, she was all business. “Any news on the jogger?”

The jogger, who had also been a stunning African American, had been found near Forest Park in the early hours near dawn a couple weeks ago. She’d been the victim of a stabbing frenzy. He said, “Nobody saw anything. No leads. Nothing in the system. Still a Jane Doe. Nothing in missing persons. I’ve got a sketch going on the news.”

A car horn blared on the north side of the plaza, followed quickly by the squeal of brakes and more horns from various vehicles. Both Eccheli and his wife whipped their attention to the scene. They even stood to try to get a better view. A red SUV was stopped in the middle of the street. The angry driver yelled out the window at a yellow VW bug that had apparently pulled out of its parking space right in front of him. It didn’t look to be a fender bender and the traffic picked up again.

Eccheli and his wife sat again. She said, “Someone’s bound to recognize her.”

He nodded. “Let’s hope so.”

“Anything else exciting?”

“Couple shootings.”

“Nothing new. Too many of those these days,” she said. Missouri had relaxed the gun laws a few years ago, and the shooting rate had nearly doubled overnight. Now St. Louis was steadily climbing toward becoming the murder capital of the nation. The current city mayor was lobbying to reinstate the gun laws, but hadn’t had any success yet.

His phone chimed. He’d taken off his suit jacket and had to lean over to fetch it from behind his wife. It was all folded wrong, shoved into a pile when the shade hadn’t been enough and she’d decided to move to the other side of him, where he’d laid the jacket. He rifled through it to find the inner pocket, took out the phone, listened a moment, and then put it away again.

Eccheli stood. “Body at Smugglers. Gotta go.”

“Is that the cop bar down the street?”

He nodded slowly, watching her. Calculating what her next words might be.

She held his gaze a moment, and then shrugged. “It might not be a cop.”

“Probably not. The desk sergeant said it sounded like a robbery gone bad.”

She stood, picked up their sandwich leavings and walked to dump them in the trash. Returning, she said, “I’ll be at my desk if I’m needed.”

He walked her across the street to her car, amidst the brief beeps of cars. They pecked a goodbye, and she glanced over her shoulder at him and winked just before she drove away. With a deep sigh at the interruption of their lunch, he turned for his own car half a block away.

Maybe they’d go to Fiji this winter. Or the Bahamas.

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