Barry grabbed for a handhold as the bus lurched to a stop. His bag flew out of his lap, scattering cans of tomato soup on the muddy rubber floor. The driver impatiently jerked open the rain-streaked door. Barry collected most of his cans and got out. The last can clattered down the steps after him. The bus roared off in a cloud of diesel, crushing it. The downpour began to wash the red pulp into a grate at the curb[GJ1] .
Barry pulled his hat over his eyes and trudged [GJ2] along the sidewalk, following the quickly-disappearing tire-trail on the wet street. He passed a bakery, locked and dark, a second-hand shop, where a metal grille protected a glass door and cracked window from the further ravages of passerby, and a neon-highlighted door which said “Dancing,” and “Beer On Tap.” Behind him, the bar door opened, and two women in raincoats emerged. The shorter of the two clutched a brown paper sack in one hand and held her other arm above her uncovered head[GJ3] .
About a block away from the bar, the hatless woman tripped on the broken sidewalk. The bottle in the sack shattered as she fell on the slick cement. Rain, blood and liquor mixed in the cracks.
Her companion gasped, “Oh, my god, Vicki, are you OK?”
Barry, who'd been slowly pacing ahead of them, dreading the colossal mess Tom had doubtless left at the motel, glanced behind. He dropped his abused groceries under a leaky awning and trotted back.[GJ4]
One elbow against the stucco building, Barry reached down to help the injured woman to her feet. The other, a slim, close-cropped redhead, steadied her. Vicki’s[GJ5] hands were badly cut. She went to wipe them on her short skirt, but the redhead seized her wrists, “No, that'll just rub the glass in further, and ruin your skirt. Here, let me do it.”
“Oh, damn that hurts! Shit!” Vicki yelped when the other dabbed ineffectually at her wounds with ragged paper napkins from her small clutch. The small squares of paper were quickly soaked. Barry intervened.
“Here, use this.” His khaki handkerchief was accepted with a brief “Thanks” from the redhead, who stood in her stilettos [GJ6] in a shallow puddle until her friend's hands were free of as many bits of glass as the nearby streetlight showed.
Vicki, whose knees were skinned through her ruined stockings, grimaced in painful appreciation. “Thanks a whole lot, sorry about that.”
“No problem, may I help you get home?”
“No, thanks. We need to walk, anyway.”
“Look, we'll be fine. Thanks.”
[This is the first chapter of an obviously noir-style [GJ10] mystery involving Barry and Tom (who may have disappeared) and Vicki (who either will be murdered or turn into the crime-solving sleuth) and/or her redheaded friend (who may be mugged and drugged or simply remain a nameless sidekick ever after). There could be romance and bizarre weather events along the way; there definitely will be drinking, smoking, swearing, the consumption of canned soup, and the driving of leaded gas-guzzling Detroit beasts.]
This opens nicely in mid-action and straight away we have an established setting; one of deprivation.
Barry seems quite young at first or maybe I was expecting that because your bio says you write for children.
You have established all of the characters quite well in these opening scenes, though there is the question mark about Barry’s age.
There is a nice narrative balance – dialogue, description, action.
However, I’m not convinced form this opening that it’s “noir-style” or “mystery”. Will the blurb and cover invite me to think that? And might I be disappointed if so by this opening?
Do we need more reaction form Barry to the situation? How does find the behaviour of the two women? Do we need to know his opinion of them? Would this benefit from a little more inner monologue?
[GJ1]This is a dramatic opening with a nice use of colour. Already a convincing atmosphere is created.
[GJ2]This implies emotion.
[GJ3]We’re getting a firm picture here. This seem a very poor place.
[GJ4]This gives us a good character indication of both Barry and Tom.
[GJ7]Maybe a semi-colon here.
[GJ8]He suddenly seems older here.
[GJ9]That gives us a small indication of his mood.
[GJ10]Is it obviously? What I have in this short snippet is that Barry and Tom live in a very poor world.