In a lot of blogs, I’ve commented about the Characters are the ones who really need to drive things. I always have a good idea of where my story needs to go, but getting there is almost always the end result of the characters. They almost always lead you down an interesting path or two.
Example. In the sequel to the Lawman. In it Wills cousin is brutally murdered by his wife and son. Before the cops are even called, they both fall off the radar. All the evidence is still being processed, but they are the logical suspects. But there’s also enough going on at the crime scene to hint at something darker happening.
The logical thought is that they may have fled to the wife’s hometown of La Sauces, Colorado, a small quiet community by the Rio Grande River. Intending to do some surveillance on her parents property to try to ascertain if they’re there or not, they get permission from the local parish to use the small church there for a couple of days to watch from.
When they get there, and go to enter, that’s when things take a character driven turn. One that I hadn’t been expecting at all. Now this is still pretty rough, but here goes:
I put the key in the lock, and turned it. But the door was unlocked. I motioned RJ to be quiet. He saw the look on my face. Either the Father had left the door open, or someone had broken into the church. I put down my ruck, and drew my weapon.
“We hit it fast,” I whispered.
He’d dropped his ruck, and drawn his weapon as well. Quickly I flipped the safety off, held up three fingers, and started counting down. On one, I reached for the door knob, turned it, and threw myself through the door.
A man was standing in the small kitchen pouring himself a cup of coffee. He looked up in surprise as RJ and I burst through the door, guns drawn. With a shock of understanding, he dropped the coffee cup and the pot, turned, and ran towards the door that led into the church itself.
I knew who he was. I recognized my young cousin in an instant, and I shouted, “Tomas Diaz, I need a word with you.”
He didn’t stop.
“Mom,” I heard him shout. “They found us!”
I was running through the door, oblivious to the fact that he could easily have a weapon in the church. He was running down the aisle towards the backdoor. Wildly I looked around. He’d shouted to Debbie, and I hadn’t spotted her yet. And my rules of engagement had just gotten really complicated. I didn’t have a warrant, all I had was suspicion that they were the perpetrators of a crime. And I had no proof they were dangerous to anyone else.
Shooting was out of the question. I couldn’t even fire a warning shot. Even tackling them might easily be an excessive show of force.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some motion. Debbie had been standing next the back altar when I burst in. I was between her and the back door, and RJ was blocking the back door. She was trapped, and knew it.
Tomas threw the back door open and ran out. I braced myself, expecting her to bolt for the door.
That’s not what happened. Instead she ran to the front of the altar, placed her hand on it, and shouted, “Will Diaz. I invoke sanctuary!”
I looked at her, my mouth wide with shock. It was the last thing I’d expected. I lowered my 45 and shouted something I’d never shouted in a church before. “Shit!” I yelled, and heard my shout echo. The old church was just barely big enough to allow an echo, and I felt vaguely guilty at uttering such a thing in the house of God.
But it wasn’t a curse. It was the name of the political minefield, that with one sentence, she’d tossed her, me, RJ, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Roman Catholic Church into.
Now here’s the dilemma that all this, which incidentally I hadn’t really planned on, invokes for all the characters concerned. First, the idea of Sanctuary. It actually goes back to pre-biblical times where a person guilty of a crime could go someplace, and invoke the protection of that jurisdiction either to escape persecution or to get their case investigated further. It was used often times in the past, but even the Church took a step back from it, simply because it was being abused so much. Sanctuary isn’t really something recognized under the law, and as I mentioned, even the church has taken a step back from it. Today, it’s used mostly to harbor people facing deportation and the likes, and these days is mostly a form of protest.
Declaring actuary to escape criminal persecution is something that’s almost unheard of these days, and often times the Church will simply show the person the door. But that’s almost always after an investigation to see if granting Sanctuary is warranted.
So, here’s the political hell she tossed almost everyone into. Despite there being nothing to stop Will and RJ from arresting her on suspicion of murder, Will, like so many Law Enforcement agencies, is loath to cross the big red line. He knows that if word got out she’d asked for Sanctuary, the matter would be tried in the papers, not the courts. And public opinion would seriously contaminate his case. He has little choice but to give her what she wants.
But it also complicates things. Because of her invoking Sanctuary, she has effectively made herself a prisoner. She can’t leave the structure.
While talking to her, one of the first things Will notes is that someone beat her pretty badly. As he put it, it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out who. So, he now has to preserve evidence, get her medical attention, and also make sure she doesn’t go anywhere, all without questioning her directly. He’s walking a fine line between what happened to her and the murder.
And she doesn’t trust Will. Her explanation:
“You’re one of them!” she spat.
“One of who?” I asked.
“A Diaz,” she answered. She spoke my last name as if it were something disgusting and should be erased from the Earth forever.
I paused. “Debbie,” I said. “Trust me. That’s a simple genetic accident.”
In a few sentences, she set up a lot of issues for Will and RJ to overcome.
And her Son, Tomas is about to become even more of a driver. He’s fresh out of the Marines, and was a sniper. When evidence starts stacking up that he’s the one who killed his father, Will Is hunting someone who’s just as good as he is. And unlike Max, in the Lawman, whose chase turned out to be an elaborate suicide, this is more a vengeance trail Tomas is on. When other people start turning up dead, it soon become obvious that he’s killing people, relatives and the like that are associated with something deep and dark.
So with a couple of sentences the novel ended up going in a whole different direction, and introduced depth and pain I didn’t expect in my outline.