To recap…

Today is the final day of NaNoWriMo. The goal was to write 50,000 words in a month. Question is, did I do it? Did I win?

No. Not even close.

In my defense, I found this to be probably the busiest month of the year with work and school. But I tried to find time to get writing done. I got just a little over 9000 words in total, which is at least a personal achievement. But I don’t plan on giving up either. I’m going to see this story out to the end. My new goal is to finish the first draft by the end of the year.

I learned something this time around. First drafts are awful. Every time I’ve attempted to write a novel, I’ve drowned myself out in editing and reediting everything. This time, I refrained from editing at all and just focused on getting words on paper, even if it sounded bad. And boy, do many of these sentences sound bad! My inner editor is screaming as best he can with the duct tape I placed over his mouth.

I’m adding an excerpt of my writing here, as a sort of milestone. Keep in mind what I just said: First drafts are awful. This excerpt is not the best thing I’ve written. But I want to include it as a celebration of this month. I look forward to the day where I can make it sound fantastic.

Without further ado, a portion of Plunder the Children.

***

Tom came back into the realm of the conscious when his knees were slammed into cold concrete. His hands were tied behind his back. His head was inside a small black bag. He attempted to move his arms, but relented, unsure of how many men (or weapons) were in the room with him. He did not feel his holster in its usual spot and tried to remember if he had taken it off at home. He didn’t think so, but his head was throbbing so he couldn’t be sure.

He suddenly realized he was breathing incredibly fast. He tried slowing down his breathing rate, but realized it would probably not matter anyway. Whoever this Zay person is already had him. They had his family. They’d be doing whatever it is they wanted to be doing.

The bag was suddenly and violently ripped off his head. It caught on his chin, lifting his head up so he was staring directly at bright lights before his eyes tried to adjust. He made a small whimper in pain, but concealed it before it grew into something bigger. His eyes finally began acclimating to its new light so he took in his surroundings. He was in a cold, prison-like room, with sea foam green paint flecking off the wall. The lighting was dim. There was an intricate cherry wood table maybe twenty-five feet in front of him. One man, well built, sat on top of it. Two men stood against the wall on the right. One stood by the wall on the left. And one man sat behind the table. This man was different than the others. Everyone else wore tight leather jackets or tank tops. This man wore a sharp, perfectly-tailored business suit. Everyone else looked menacing and threatening. This man was calm. No scowl on his face or tattoos on his biceps. He looked as out of place as the table he sat behind. Tom looked behind himself quickly. The room extended several feet that direction, but no one was there. Looking back, he realized there was no escape. The only door in the room was in the far corner on the left. All five men could get to him before he could get to the door.

The men simply stared at him for a while. Tom was unsure if he needed to say something or not. He still could not control his breathing, but tried to puff his chest out nonetheless. He thought it probably looked stupid, but if there was any way he could look more intimidating, he would take it. His life would not end without a fight, especially if there was a chance to get his family back.

“Thomas McQuinn, correct?” The man behind the desk broke the silence, every word echoing ominously in the room.

Tom considered doing this the hard way, without cooperation. But as he thought about it, he realized it was probably better to play along. “Yes, that’s me.”

The man looked down at a stack of papers on his desk. “Ah. You are the one in charge of the investigation against Lakes Army at the Phoenix Police Department. Is that correct?”

Should I just say ‘Yes?’ He does not seem to be a typical gang member… “Somewhat.” He waited for the man to shout something like, “That’s a yes or no question.”

“How so?”

Tom blinked. “The investigation has been ongoing for several years and the man who started it retired two years ago. It is not an active investigation, but we have been having recent success against you—er, the Lakes Army gang.”

The man nodded. “I see. You are, however, the officer in charge of arresting Howard Dunham?”

Does this man not use street names? “Yes, that was me.”

“Ah. Well, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I—”

“I’m not your acquaintance,” Tom snapped, before he could stop himself.

The man paused for a moment. “I’m sorry. No doubt you are worried about your family. Well, put your mind at ease. They are safe. They are in our custody and our care. A little shaken up, but then again, so are you. We would have taken you at the same time, but you oddly weren’t around when we showed up. Is everything okay at home?”

Tom clenched his fists, but held himself back. He already lashed out once. Here it would be more justified, but he still could not risk it. The man must have sensed his tension, as did the others in the room, who stood more alert, ready for a move from their captive.

“My mistake. Your personal life should remain yours. I meant no offense.” He waited for a reply. Receiving nothing but an intense stare from Tom, he continued. “I should introduce myself. My name is Exzayvius VonTrapp. Many call me Zay, but I am not a big fan of nicknames.”

Tom sat up straight upon hearing this. This man sitting just a few feet away, was Zay? The Zay? The mythic leader of Lakes Army was here in this room talking to him as casually as if they had been best friends?

Zay continued. “You are a good man. You uphold the law and everything decent in this country. I respect that and I respect you. That is why we have not done anything to impede your arrests of our gang members. You have to make a living. Unfortunately, I have to make a living as well.”

What is this guy talking about? Respect? He’s going to say he respects me after he just kidnapped my family?

“One of my associates was unavoidably involved in a large scale drug deal in person. We usually like to do things like that in a satellite location, you see. But technology being the mess it is, we had to send him in. But as he was leaving the location, you were able to grab him before we could conceal him. I’m not certain of all the details, but I must congratulate you. There was a very small window of opportunity for you, and you were able to take it. Bravo. But that puts me in a difficult position.” He cleared his throat.

The room suddenly seemed taller to Tom. He felt everyone’s eyes burning holes in his neck.

“Mr. Dunham was an integral part of my plans. He and another member of our company were in charge of narcotics. He is now in your custody, so we need to replace him.” Zay stood up, looking as frightening as ever. “This is where you come in.”

Tom looked at his captor. He hoped his face didn’t show it, but he was terrified.

“You are going to be with us for two weeks. Day one starts tomorrow morning. You will do whatever we tell you to do and you will not alert the police or raise suspicions in the minds of anyone at any time. You will be able to see your family every other day, as long as we receive your full cooperation. Once you are released, you are free to live your life. However, you must discontinue your investigation of Lakes Army. Do you have any questions?”

Tom had a million questions. He thought about asking one, but took it back. His face must have betrayed him.

“Was that a question? Anything at all, sir. I want you to fully understand what is happening here.”

Tom remained silent.

“Very well then. You will be put in the care of Emery, here.” He gestured to the man sitting on the desk, who then stood up, arms folded with a don’t-care attitude etched into his face. “You will be with him for these two weeks. He will guide you to and from your cell, will serve you food, and will take you to wherever we need you to go. Be nice to him.”

Emery walked over to Tom and stood beside him. He clasped his hands in front of him and cocked his head up, staring at Zay. Tom looked up at him, unsure if he was unhappy with being assigned to “serve” him, but he didn’t personally relish the idea. He wanted to see his family now. He wanted to let them know that he would do anything possible to get them out of this hellish experience. He wanted them to know he loves them dearly. But he saw no way to escape at the moment.

Zay pulled his suit down and wiped some dust from the breast pocket. “It has certainly been a pleasure to meet you and I sincerely hope this ends well for you and your family. This should be the last time you will see or hear me.” He turned abruptly and walked out the door, one of the goons following him.

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