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The knocks burst a staccato beat through the flat, startling on the first and annoying on every one to follow.

Findlay Raske lurched up from the bed, snapping one drooping side of his pyjama bottoms back into proper place above his hip. “All right, all right,” he called. “The hell is this, now?” he muttered to himself, laying one hand on the door for balance. He pressed his face close to the peephole, blinked against the light from the corridor, and groaned.

“For ***** sake,” he said, unlocking and swinging open the door regardless. “Kris, you can’t keep coming round like this! Do you even know what time it is?”

“Three-eighteen,” Kris replied. Not with his typical clipped delivery, though. He actually slurred.

“Christ,” Finn said, wrinkling his nose. “You’re drunk!” He gripped the door handle and started to swing it back. “You know what? Forget it. I’m done picking up your pieces-”

“Hanne’s dead.”

Finn stopped, the door forgotten. The discourteous wake-up call, too. Even the smell of cheap whisky blown on the air between them. Everything except those words…and the red film across Kris’s should-have-been blue eyes.

“Come on,” Finn murmured, settling one hand on Kris’s shoulder and leading him inside. “I’ll make us some coffee.”

Kris nodded and shuffled over the threshold into the flat. He made his way to the kitchen on his own, Finn following at a three-pace distance to gauge.

The years since his unceremonious resignation from the police department – a detective sergeant’s career and pension made worthless because of a few too many unsolicited opinions of proper procedure and conduct – had made Kristoff Stenhall hard-edged and skeptical, but nothing to plunge him into this sort of self-destructive depth.

With a low-blown sigh, Finn stepped around him and moved to the counter and sink. He filled the kettle, pulled out the press, and brought out the coffee tin, all in silence. He scooped one, two spoonfuls into the carafe but froze on the third, for the feel of Kris’s arms around him.

The metal zip of the jacket chilled the small of his back, causing Finn to suck a breath that straightened his spine. He let it go a moment after, though, for the warm, wet blow of Kris’s voice over his neck:

“I need you.”

Finn set the spoon on the counter and turned, pushing an excuse to his lips. But he got only as far as saying Kris’s name when the other man silenced him with a kiss.

The next time Finn spoke, the clock next to the bed read three fifty-seven. He’d had to glance over Kris’s head, resting on his chest, to see it.

“I’m sorry about Hanne.” He stroked his fingers through Kris’s coarse fringe, sweeping it back behind his ear with little success. It drifted loose a second after, falling once more into his eyes. Finn did it again, undiscouraged. That was Stenhall, after all: never anything easy. “I know you were fond of her.”

Kris kept the point of his focus on a space of wall past Finn’s shoulder, blowing a series of slow, steady breaths across his chest. It cooled the fine layer of sweat there, making his nipples harden.

Finn watched him blink a minute before venturing, “Do you know…how…?” He craned his head down for the lack of answer, prompting, “Kris?”


Finn frowned, not least for Kris’s plain, hard tone. He’d never particularly liked Hanne Rolig – she’d always been able to exert too much influence over Stenhall, even after his resignation – but no one deserved to have their life snuffed out with such callous disregard for their future possibilities. And, despite any conflicts they may have had over their personal choices, Rolig had been a good detective: fair, clever, and concerned with the truth. Finn couldn’t help but admire that.

“I’m sorry,” he said again. “Whatever you need-”

“I need you,” Kris repeated, as the muscles in his arms and back went taut. He pushed himself up from Finn’s chest and looked straight at him. The same redness as before still darkened his eyes, but the blue beneath shone clear and hard as crystal. “I need you to help me find out who did this.”

Many folks say we should write outside our boundaries. If we’re comfortable writing action, try romance. If we always write romance, jump into sci-fi. If sci-fi is our gig, go back in time for some historical biography. As for me, I love reading crime and heist stories, especially adventure-y ones, but I can never pull them off. My mind simply isn’t clever enough to create a mystery or conflict suitable for a detective story.

Above is yesterday’s free-write. I’d hoped to see where a spark for a detective story might take me. As you can see, not very far afield of where my usual interests lie: the human drama. I couldn’t help my brain: I’m drawn more to passionate conflicts and conflicted passions than I am to procedural plot. Still, I like Kris and Finn (and Annie, who wasn’t intro’ed here but who’s been jumping around in my head as I’ve gotten these two gentlemen sorted). I just wish I were smarter, so I could give them a strong story worthy of the affection I already feel for them.

How do you push yourself into new territory?