[This unedited and unused Prologue was the first scene I wrote for Back to Lazarus. It takes place just after the murder of Vanda Thomas. You can also read this post for more about the origins of and inspiration for the novel.]
Isaac slowly removed his hands from his wife’s throat, letting her head loll back on the bed and fall away from him. Looking at the line of her jaw, her cheek where it ran to her hairline, she could be sleeping. She could be the beautiful young woman he fell in love with. But she wasn’t. She was neither.
His anger at her was gone. It had evaporated the moment he knew she was dead. How had it come to this? He sat on the bed next to her, stroked her hair, and avoided looking at her mottled throat and bulging face. He felt odd. The world was pulsing and he could hear a keening moan in the distance. Isaac gradually realized that he was rocking with one of his wife’s hands between his own, rubbing it as if she had just come in from the cold with no gloves. She always had cold hands, even in summer. Cold feet too. He used to tease her about her popsicle toes. Isaac tried to swallow, but his mouth was so dry all he managed was a cracked sound. His eyes began watering. She couldn’t be found like this. For Noel’s sake, she couldn’t be found like this.
Isaac tore his eyes from his wife’s body, backing quickly away from their bed. It was as if his feet couldn’t keep up with his torso; he couldn’t get away fast enough. He slammed into the dresser. A small figurine, one of his wife’s unicorns, wobbled precariously, then tumbled to the hardwood floor with a crack. He still hadn’t gained his balance, and when his heel crunched on the unicorn pieces he skidded and fell to the floor after it. He landed hard on his tailbone, then onto one elbow with a thud.
The pain brought Isaac back to his senses. He got to one knee, took a few deep breaths to steady himself, then rose to his full height. He surveyed the room slowly, trying not to focus on his wife’s dead body, trying not to notice the smell of death, a smell his mind had surely conjured. He had to concentrate. He had to see this room as the cops would see it, as they would see a fresh crime scene. Yes, he thought, nodding to himself. He would have to make some changes, but he didn’t have much time. People would be arriving soon, and they couldn’t find her like this. They certainly couldn’t find him standing over her body. No one could ever know the truth. For Noel’s sake. For the sake of their precious baby girl.