Author Topic: ADVERSE EFFECTS Medical Thriller  (Read 3442 times)

Offline DrCarter2001

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ADVERSE EFFECTS Medical Thriller
« on: December 22, 2017, 05:39:19 AM »
CHAPTER ONE

Prospect Hill, Massachusetts

The first responders ruled it a suicide. Male, white, mid-forties. Eight-story fall from the victim’s apartment window between four and five in the afternoon. Carpet reeking of stale beer and empty bottles littering the kitchen floor. No sign of forced entry.
   
Detective Gary Wilson scratched his close-shaven chin as he studied the shattered window. The victim’s blood stained a few jagged shards. Cold wind blew inside. He tapped a gloved finger on one of the bigger pieces. Double-pane—it’d take a lot of momentum to break through that. He looked over his shoulder to survey the sparse apartment. Living room was too small, and the battered leather couch was in the way. But a good running start from the kitchen might be enough.
   
“They found these in the bathroom,” Detective Rick Hawkins said and handed Wilson a baggie containing a pill bottle. The wrinkles around his eyes were deeper than ever, his hair winter white. “He filled it two weeks ago, but there are only four or five left.”
   
Wilson withdrew the bottle and held it up to the light. A handful of tiny green capsules rolled around inside. The prescription label identified the victim’s name, Carl Franklin, and the drug. “Recognate? What the hell’s that?”
   
“Never heard of it. Maybe a new antidepressant?”
   
“Beats me.” Wilson read the label again. “Prescribed by Dr. Cristina Silva. Let’s find out what she knows.”
   
“Gary, it’s a suicide. Probably a bad Valentine’s Day break-up. Captain Harris wants us to wrap up and move on to the next case.”
   
“Yeah? How often does a jumper take a running leap through a double-pane window?”
   
Hawkins shrugged and said, “Neighbors heard him shouting nonsense and arguing with himself for twenty minutes before he took the plunge. Sounds like he went nuts.”
   
A chill ran down Wilson’s neck. He couldn’t help seeing the ghastly look frozen on his mother’s face when he identified her and his father at the morgue. He couldn’t help hearing the coroner say: She just went nuts…
   
He shook off the painful memories and looked again at the pill bottle. He’d seen more than his fair share of crazies. If the guy had been hearing things, he might’ve jumped through the window to make it stop. Not a planned suicide, but a suicide all the same. “Okay, that makes sense, but something doesn’t add up. Where are those statements from the neighbors?”
   
Hawkins handed him a notepad. Wilson flipped through the pages. “Nonsense, screaming, nonsense, nonsense. Okay. The downstairs neighbor said Franklin kept shouting, I know who I am, over and over, and then, I’m not a killer. What do you think that means?”
   
“It means he was delusional.”
   
Wilson frowned and scanned the notes again. “Why aren’t these pills working anymore? What about that?”
   
“Don’t you remember that forensic psychologist saying how hard it is to treat schizophrenia? C’mon, Gary, you’re reaching.”
   
Running his fingers through his thick, dark curls, Wilson wondered if Hawkins was right. Even as a kid, he pissed off his teachers by trying to make the round pegs fit into the square holes—and pissed them off more when he succeeded. Whenever he faced an impossible puzzle, an itch started behind his ear that intensified with every new puzzle piece until he solved it. The back of his ear was starting to itch. He glanced at the notes once more. “Four of the neighbors said Franklin kept shouting one name: Quinn. First or last, you think?”
   
“I think it doesn’t matter.” Hawkins held up his cell phone to display a text message. “There’s been a break-in at the Winter Hill stationery store. Perps ran off with a carload of heart-shaped cards and paper flowers. We’re the closest responders.”
   
Wilson sighed in disgust and stuffed the baggie into his pocket. He’d leave the pill bottle with the evidence room but no way was anyone else going to push the investigation any further. Hopefully, Dr. Silva’s other patients were more fortunate than Carl Franklin. Shaking his head, he started for the door, muttering, “I hate Valentine’s Day.”

***
Longwood Medical Area

“I know who I am,” Jerry Peterman said and wiped a tear from his eye. He glanced at the certificates and diplomas perfectly arranged on the wall and smiled briefly before turning back to the psychiatrist. “I’m remembering more every day, like someone opened the floodgates. I don’t know how to thank you, Dr. Silva.”
   
As she listened to Jerry gush about his recovered memories, excitedly brushing his thinning hair over his bald spot and then rubbing his thick palms together while he talked, Dr. Cristina Silva’s heart swelled with pride. Nine months earlier, Jerry was a lost lamb, afraid and unwilling to talk about what little he remembered about his life before the ten-year gap. Now, confident and ready to rejoin the world, he couldn’t stop talking.
   
“No need to thank me, Jerry,” she said as she wrote session notes to dictate later. “You’ve done the hard work, finding items to trigger your memories, doing your relaxation exercises, and staying healthy.”
   
“Sure, all that stuff helped, but none of it would’ve mattered if you hadn’t hooked me up with those pills. My job working bank security is going great and I joined a bowling league. Regaining my memories made me feel like I can tackle the world. I just keep worrying that one day you’re going to tell me I can’t get them anymore and I’ll go back the way I was.”
   
“Now, I’ve told you a million times, Jerry, you don’t have to worry about that. Even when the study ends you can keep taking Recognate as long as you need it.”
   
“But what if it stops working? What if I wake up one day and have no idea who I am?”
   
Cristina’s skin grew cold. She glanced at the desk photo of a couple in their mid-fifties: Latin features, attractive, and professional. Her hand lifted to touch their faces. She clenched her fist and lowered it to her lap. Not now. Shaking away her thoughts like cobwebs, she turned back to Jerry and said, “I promise that won’t happen. Even when subjects in earlier studies stopped taking the drug, they experienced no withdrawal or memory loss. I would never have enrolled you in the open trial if I didn’t have the highest confidence that Recognate would work.”
   
Jerry sighed, visibly relieved. “It definitely worked. You’ve given me back my life. Do you know what I remembered last night? I ran the Boston Marathon twice. Once in a bunny suit!”

“Yes, you already told me.” Cristina couldn’t help smiling. “Twice.”

His face flushed. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Her watch beeped. She glanced at it before handing him a printout. “This should hold you for two more months. Make sure you see me before you run out. I want to hear more about your college road trip to New Orleans.”
   
After he left, Cristina leaned back in her chair and scanned her notes, marveling at Jerry’s progress. So many of her other patients foundered no matter what she did, but the ones like Jerry, the ones enrolled in the Recognate trials—their recoveries were nothing short of miraculous and not one had a single adverse effect. What a shame the manufacturer declined so many of her referrals. Re-Mind Pharmaceuticals used very narrow inclusion criteria for this open trial, but once they went public, Recognate would be readily available to everyone. Not only would it help those with total amnesia, it could benefit anyone who needed a memory boost. She snickered as she closed her notebook and set it aside. If they marketed directly to the consumer, they might put her out of business.

Her watch beeped again. She shut it off and glanced at the photo. This time she surrendered to impulse and traced the outline of the man’s face, imagining the feel of rough stubble under her fingertips, and then did the same with the woman’s, almost but not quite smelling the lingering scent of Angel perfume.

“Soon I’ll remember everything,” she whispered as she stroked the photo one more time. “I won’t lose you again.”

Reluctantly pulling her hand away, she opened her top desk drawer and removed a bottle of green pills and a water bottle. She popped two capsules in her mouth and chased them with a splash of water. As she closed her eyes, she tried to guess what she might remember next.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2017, 11:05:44 AM by DrCarter2001 »

Offline Theknight

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Re: ADVERSE EFFECTS Medical Thriller
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2017, 02:11:31 PM »
I liked this. The dialogue was realistic and informative, moving the story along. What did hit me from the go was the first paragraph. It was all telling and I was afraid the rest of the writing would be the same. Luckily, it wasn't, but a busy agent may make that assumption and not go to paragraph two. But the second paragraph was very good. I would suggest starting the story there and work the first paragraph in through dialogue between Wilson and Hawkins as you write dialogue so well.
Good luck with your story. It was a good read.

Offline DrCarter2001

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Re: ADVERSE EFFECTS Medical Thriller
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2017, 05:43:48 AM »
Thanks so much! Yes, that is helpful feedback. I was worried it didn't grab the reader right away but wasn't sure if it was just the opening or the whole first half of the chapter. Here are my changes just for that section:

Chapter One

Prospect Hill, Massachusetts

Detective Gary Wilson scratched his close-shaven chin as he studied the shattered window. The victim’s blood stained a few jagged shards. Cold wind blew inside. He tapped a gloved finger on one of the bigger pieces. Double-pane—it’d take a lot of momentum to break through that. He looked over his shoulder to survey the sparse apartment. Empty beer bottles littered the carpeted floor. Living room was too small, and the battered leather couch was in the way. But a good running start from the kitchen might be enough.
   
“They found these in the bathroom,” Detective Rick Hawkins said and handed Wilson a baggie containing a pill bottle. The wrinkles around his eyes were deeper than ever, his hair winter white. “Dated two weeks ago, but there are only four or five left.”
   
Wilson withdrew the bottle and held it up to the light. A handful of tiny green capsules rolled around inside. The prescription label identified the victim’s name, Carl Franklin, and the drug. “Recognate? What the hell’s that?”
   
“Never heard of it. Maybe a new antidepressant?”
   
“Beats me.” Wilson read the label again. “Prescribed by Dr. Cristina Silva. Let’s find out what she knows.”
   
“Gary, it’s a suicide. You know, Valentine’s Day death by broken heart. Blah, blah, blah. Captain Harris wants us to wrap up and move on to the next case.”
   
“This feels different. How often does a jumper take an eight-story dive by running through a double-pane window?”
   
Hawkins shrugged and said, “Neighbors heard him shouting nonsense for twenty minutes before he took the plunge. Sounds like he went nuts.”
   
A chill ran down Wilson’s neck. He couldn’t help seeing the ghastly look frozen on his mother’s face when he identified her and his father at the morgue. He couldn’t help hearing the coroner say: She just went nuts…
   
He shook off the painful memories and looked again at the pill bottle. He’d seen more than his fair share of crazies. If the guy had been hearing things, he might’ve jumped through the window to make it stop. Not a planned suicide, but a suicide all the same. “Okay, that makes sense, but something doesn’t add up. What do we know about the victim?”

“White. Mid-forties. Realtor.”

“Maybe this was payback for a bad real estate deal?”

“No sign of forced entry. No other prints. He was alone.”

“That can't be right. Next-door neighbor said she heard two different voices." Wilson ripped off the gloves and stuffed them in his pocket. "Where are those statements?”
   
Hawkins handed him a notepad. Wilson flipped through the pages. “Nonsense, screaming, nonsense, nonsense. Okay. The downstairs neighbor said Franklin kept shouting, I know who I am, over and over, and then, I’m not a killer. What do you think that means?”
   
“It means he was delusional.”
   
Wilson frowned and scanned the notes again. “Why aren’t these pills working anymore? What about that?”
   
“Don’t you remember that forensic psychologist saying how hard it is to treat schizophrenia? C’mon, Gary, you’re reaching.”
   
Running his fingers through his thick, dark curls, Wilson wondered if Hawkins was right. Even as a kid, he pissed off his teachers by trying to make the round pegs fit into the square holes—and pissed them off more when he succeeded. Whenever he faced an impossible puzzle, an itch started behind his ear that intensified with every new puzzle piece until he solved it. The back of his ear was starting to itch. He glanced at the notes once more. “Four of the neighbors said Franklin kept shouting one name over and over: Quinn. First or last, you think?”
   
“I think it doesn’t matter.” Hawkins held up his cell phone to display a text message. “There’s been a break-in at the Winter Hill stationery store. Perps ran off with a carload of heart-shaped cards and paper flowers. We’re the closest responders.”
   
Wilson sighed in disgust and stuffed the baggie into his pocket. He’d leave the pill bottle with the evidence room but no way was anyone else going to push the investigation any further. Hopefully, Dr. Silva’s other patients were more fortunate than Carl Franklin. Shaking his head, he started for the door, muttering, “I hate Valentine’s Day.”
« Last Edit: December 27, 2017, 07:13:12 AM by DrCarter2001 »

Offline DrCarter2001

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Re: ADVERSE EFFECTS Medical Thriller
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2017, 10:05:28 AM »
As usual, Munley, you make excellent points. I agree that the first line is the stumbling block. But TheKnight's suggestions did inspire me to look over the rest and see how to make things a little clearer while also ramping up the tension and mystery. So, here's my new revision for this section.

EDIT: I changed my mind. I think it helped referring to the first responders so it didn't look like Wilson already assumed it was a suicide. New changes below.


Chapter One

Prospect Hill, Massachusetts

The paramedics called it a DRT: Dead Right There. Male, white, mid-forties. Eight-story plunge from the victim’s apartment window to the icy street between four and five in the afternoon. Carpet reeking of stale beer. Empty bottles littering the kitchen floor. No sign of forced entry. Likely suicide.

Detective Gary Wilson scratched his close-shaven chin as he studied the shattered window. The victim’s blood stained a few jagged shards. Cold wind blew inside. He tapped a gloved finger on one of the bigger pieces. Double-pane—it’d take a lot of momentum to break through that. He looked over his shoulder to survey the sparse apartment. Living room was too small, and the battered leather couch was in the way. But a good running start from the kitchen might be enough.
   
“They found these in the bathroom,” Detective Rick Hawkins said and handed Wilson a baggie containing a pill bottle. The wrinkles around his eyes were deeper than ever, his hair winter white. “Dated two weeks ago, but there are only four or five left.”
   
Wilson withdrew the bottle and held it up to the light. A handful of tiny green capsules rolled around inside. The prescription label identified the victim’s name, Carl Franklin, and the drug. “Recognate? What the hell’s that?”
   
“Never heard of it. Maybe a new antidepressant?”
   
“Beats me.” Wilson read the label again. “Prescribed by Dr. Cristina Silva. Let’s find out what she knows.”
   
“Gary, it’s a suicide. You know, Valentine’s Day death by broken heart. Blah, blah, blah. Captain Harris wants us to wrap up and move on to the next case.”
   
“This feels different. How often does a jumper run through a double-pane window?”
   
Hawkins shrugged and said, “Neighbors heard him shouting nonsense for twenty minutes before he took the plunge. Sounds like he went nuts.”
   
A chill ran down Wilson’s neck. He couldn’t help seeing the ghastly look frozen on his mother’s face when he identified her and his father at the morgue. He couldn’t help hearing the coroner say: She just went nuts…
   
He shook off the painful memories and looked again at the pill bottle. He’d seen more than his fair share of crazies. If the guy had been hearing things, he might’ve jumped through the window to make it stop. Not a planned suicide, but a suicide all the same. “Okay, that makes sense, but something doesn’t add up. What do we know about the victim?”

“Worked as a realtor. Otherwise, kept to himself.”

“Maybe this was payback for a bad real estate deal?”

“No prints besides his. Looks like he was alone.”

“That can’t be right. Next-door neighbor said she heard two distinct voices.” Wilson ripped off the gloves and stuffed them in his pocket. “Where are those statements?”
   
Hawkins handed him a notepad. Wilson flipped through the pages. “Nonsense, screaming, nonsense, nonsense. Okay. The downstairs neighbor said Franklin kept shouting, I know who I am, over and over, and then, I’m not a killer. What do you think that means?”
   
“It means he was delusional.”
   
Wilson frowned and scanned the notes again. “Why aren’t these pills working anymore? What about that?”
   
“Don’t you remember that forensic psychologist saying how hard it is to treat schizophrenia? C’mon, Gary, you’re reaching.”
   
Running his fingers through his thick, dark curls, Wilson wondered if Hawkins was right. Even as a kid, he pissed off his teachers by trying to make the round pegs fit into the square holes—and pissed them off more when he succeeded. Whenever he faced an impossible puzzle, an itch started behind his ear that intensified with every new puzzle piece until he solved it. The back of his ear was starting to itch. He glanced at the notes once more. “Four of the neighbors said Franklin kept shouting one name over and over: Quinn. First or last, you think?”
   
“I think it doesn’t matter.” Hawkins held up his cell phone to display a text message. “There’s been a break-in at the Winter Hill stationery store. Perps ran off with a carload of heart-shaped cards and paper flowers. We’re the closest responders.”
   
Wilson sighed in disgust and stuffed the baggie into his pocket. He’d leave the pill bottle with the evidence room but no way was anyone else going to push the investigation any further. Hopefully, Dr. Silva’s other patients were more fortunate than Carl Franklin. Shaking his head, he started for the door, muttering, “I hate Valentine’s Day.”
« Last Edit: December 29, 2017, 05:40:04 AM by DrCarter2001 »

Offline Theknight

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Re: ADVERSE EFFECTS Medical Thriller
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2017, 06:47:03 AM »
I'm not anti-tell and do realize that sometimes it is the best way to convey several points in a short space. However, I felt that for the beginning of an entire book opening with some action may be a better fit. This is one the problem with getting feedback. It often comes from a personal preference of a particular reader. Anyway, it's all good which ever way you go. Keep up the good work

Offline DrCarter2001

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Re: ADVERSE EFFECTS Medical Thriller
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2018, 11:44:45 AM »
So, here's a question:  Originally, I started this novel with a scene depicting the victim suffering what appears to be a psychotic break, with him referring to Dr. Silva (the protagonist). I changed it because I needed to introduce Detective Wilson earlier in the story and to establish a stronger reason for him to be involved. But, whereas I had several full requests on the old manuscript, I haven't received even a partial on this revision. I'm wondering if, given this is a thriller, it starts off too slow, more like a mystery. As you read this, do you feel the same?

To give you an idea, this is part of the original opener:

The woman’s chocolate skin felt like satin beneath Carl Franklin’s fingertips, her hair a black halo against the bedspread. Slender fingers pulled the sheets free from the mattress as she jerked spasmodically. Her eyes bore into his as his fingers did their work.

He wanted to vomit when his hands tightened around her throat, blocking her screams. What was worse? The growing bulge in his pants confirmed he was enjoying it.

 “Stop,” he whispered, though it would do no good. He gripped his armchair, trying to convince himself the leather felt nothing like the skin of her neck. “These aren’t my memories.”

She jabbed her press-on fingernail at his eyeball. He pulled away, tightened his grip and twisted, crushing her windpipe. The fight left her body.
   
“That wasn’t me.” Carl doubled over and pressed his fingertips against his skull, drinking in the smell of stale beer. “I’d never hurt anyone.”
   
He removed her hair weave, piece by piece, so that when they found her, they would see her as the whore she was.
   
“I know who I am. This never happened.” Carl shut his eyes but the images refused to disperse.

Bullets whizzed past. A group of mercenaries rushed toward him. Moments later, a mosque exploded. Heat licked his back as he dove for cover.

“I didn’t blow up any mosque.” Carl dug his knuckles into his temples. The windows shook as the Green Line “T” rattled past. “I’ve never left the country.”

The scene changed, as it did ever more frequently. Now he was in an alley. A submachine gun recoiled in his hands. Dark-skinned boys screamed and fell at his feet.
   
“Get out of my head!” He ran to the bathroom and rummaged through the cabinet drawer, tossing its contents onto the floor. At last he found the bottle. With a cry, he ripped off the cap and dumped two green capsules into his hand. He popped them into his mouth and swallowed them dry.
   
“You are Carl Franklin,” he said into the mirror. His eyes were bloodshot and haunted. “You’re an accountant. You’re not a killer. Hold onto what you know.”
   
As he recited the mantra over and over, the fog covering his mind lifted. The radiator clattered in the living room. Cold wind blew through the crack under the toilet. His heart rate slowed. The images were gone.
   
Blinking, he stuck the bottle in his pocket and returned to the living room. “I have to call Dr. Silva.”

He cursed himself for not requesting help sooner. When the first bizarre memory surfaced a week ago of a woman he thought of as his wife yet he knew—he knew—he never met, he dismissed it as a daydream, the result of too many tequila shots. Two days later, a video stream ran through his mind of a man pointing a gun in his face and threatening him to follow orders—it took a half bottle of Jack Daniels to chase away that one. This barrage was the third today. He expected at least four more before midnight.
 
“She’ll give me more pills.” He leaned against the breakfast table with one palm pressed against his forehead. “The pills will help me remember what’s real.”

A picture on the bookshelf caught his eye. A happy couple smiled back. How wonderful it had been when he looked at that photo and finally remembered his parents.

“The pills gave me my life back. They can chase away the bad thoughts and the bad voice. Just call the doctor.”
   
As Carl picked up the phone, he considered what he would tell Dr. Silva. How would he explain that he could no longer tell what was real and what was not?
    
You can’t.
   
The voice in his mind was his own—but it wasn’t. Colder, with a hard edge, it reminded him of the man with the gun. It started two days ago, and now it was back. Oh, God, why wouldn’t it stop?




It goes on for a couple more pages. Part of me is hesitant because it reads more like a prologue, but there is a lot more action.
My thought is that I could cut this scene down, end with him jumping, and then cut to Dr. Silva's scene. I could then start Chapter Two with the detectives investigating, and return to Dr. Silva after that. Any thoughts?