Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!

Research: Strange Questions


typing-1242387-639x424Writing mysteries and suspense, there are some strange questions that I deal with. I bet most authors could chime in and share some crazy questions they’ve had to research, or better, some interesting conversations they’ve had!

In the first book of my Grime Fighter series, I had to ask some questions about police procedure. My initial question dealt with a person trapped on the roof of a two story building.

I asked: Who would be the first up the ladder, a fireman or a policeman? And if it is the cop up first, would he have his gun drawn?

I think if I’d asked a policeman, he might have worried about my intentions. But I asked a fireman friend of mine. Working in Dallas and having been in that situation before, he actually knew the answer. The cop’s the first one up, and yes, he has his gun ready.

So here’s how my scene played out:runner1

If only she’d brought the flashlight from her car. Turning over, she sat and focused on the last hints of light on the horizon. Speaking of needing a flashlight ….

Sirens sounded in the far distance. From her vantage point, a good part of the suburb spread out before her. Could have been a pleasant view if she wasn’t so torn on what to do next.

She slid down on the roof, likely making her behind look just as bad as her knees. She needed a way… uh, down. Dani’s throat went dry as the realization of her plight took hold.

Yikes. How had she come all this way? Resisting the urge to dig her fingernails into the shingles, she scooted back up. Going down from a climb had always been the scariest part. How was she supposed to navigate the descent in pitch black? Okay, not pitch, but dark enough to make getting back to solid ground impossible.

The sirens neared. Several of them from the sound of things. She scanned the horizon for a flame. Too dark to spot any smoke. The cloudless, moonless dusk illuminated nothing, but whirling lights appeared on the main thoroughfare not far from her. Police SUVs, ambulance, ladder truck. Must be something big going on somewhere.

They turned in to the lot next to her.


The thought occurred that she might have better luck on the other side of the roof. Before she could move that direction, a spot light found her. Someone with a bullhorn cleared his throat. “Miss, stay where you are. Lift your hands and keep them up.”

She obeyed. What had she gotten herself into this time? She’d been ordered to maintain a low profile. Stay out of sight. Don’t stir up trouble. Yet here she was in the thick of it all again.

Mere minutes passed before the top of a ladder clunked against the roof. The dog below went berserk. His barking probably earned the call to the police. Beasty ball of fluff.

The vague image of a policeman appeared. “Don’t move, Miss. You are covered. Are you armed?”

What? Covered. Did that mean he had a gun? “Of course not.” She didn’t even have her phone with her. The cop shined a flashlight into her eyes. “Scoot to your right.”

She slowly lowered her hands and shoved her bottom across the harsh surface several times.

He kept the light trained on her. “Do you live in this complex?”

“No, I was looking for my friend. She lives in the apartment just below us but she’s disappeared.” She had as far as Dani could tell. “Someone wrecked her place.” She stopped and lifted her hands again.

He lowered his light and looked down. “Looks like she’s okay.” He descended the way he’d come.

“Wait, you can see the wreck yourself. . . .” Wasted effort. And her arms were beginning to chill, even with her long-sleeved tee shirt.

Less than a minute passed before a fireman’s helmet rose above the edge of the roof. “Just stay put and we’ll get you down.” He kept coming and stepped onto the roof. An older guy with a nice face.

“Meow?” Dani mustered a half giggle.

“Excuse me?”

“I figure you usually work with cats stuck in trees. Thought a good meow might make you feel at home.” She smiled.

The man didn’t bite.

She sighed and cleared her throat. So much for finding humor in strained situations. “Can I put my hands down, now?

He nodded. “Are you hurt?”

“No, sir, but I’m better at going up than down.” Dani pointed to the skylight. “See, I was worried about my friend. She’s missing.”

Your Turn: Writers, what’s the weirdest research you’ve had to do?

Author: Marji Laine

Marji is a recently "graduated" homeschooling mom whose twin girls have blessed her by sticking around the nest for a little longer. She spends her days directing the children’s music program at her church and working with the authors of Write Integrity Press to put out the best possible version of their books. Raised in suburban Dallas, she got her first taste of writing through the stories of brilliant authors of their day, Mignon Eberhart and Phyllis A. Whitney, and through stage experience. After directing and acting in productions for decades, Marji started writing her own scripts. From that early beginning, she delved into creating scintillating suspense with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.

5 thoughts on “Research: Strange Questions

  1. I guess the strangest research I’ve done so far was when I had to calculate what percentage of the timeline my villain had changed when he went back in time. I could have made that up, but that isn’t my style. Besides, I was curious.


    • Authenticity is good! I wouldn’t have made it up either. I have a fondness for Google maps. I’ll take a virtual walk down the streets that my character is driving through to pick out things she might see. And in my last story, my heroine walked around downtown Dallas. That was a fun virtual ride.


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  3. Love it!!! The weirdest research I did was, “How long ago was glow-in-the-dark paint invented?” 😀 Also, something caught me by surprise…. I actually started writing my first children’s mystery when I was around 13 years old. Of course I had to re-work some sentences, upgrade vocabulary, make dialogue more natural, etc. But I also had to change from “dialing” the phone and hanging up with a “click” to punching buttons and hanging up with a “beep”! LOL