Author name: Wabbitseason -- author LiveJournal
Recipient name: Smitty
Requested character(s): Dian Belmont
Story title: Inspiration
Spoiler warnings: SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE & JSA maybe
Clakkata-clack, clackety-clackety-clack-clack, clakka-ping.
Dian Belmont's fingers moved smoothly over the keys of her typewriter, not even hearing the gentle patter of the rain outside. She barely even noticed the noise the pounding of the keys made, so focused on the scene unfolding on the page. She tried not to stop and think too much. She could smooth out the transitions in the revisions. What was important right now was pounding out the words, getting into a good solid rhythm...
"What?" Dian looked up from the typewriter to see Wesley Dodds standing in the doorway. He shed his dripping wet overcoat. "Oh, yes, I was just finishing this..." Her fingers had continued moving by rote, catching up with her original thought. When she finished, she looked down, cringing at an obvious typo. "Oh damn, I'll never get this done in time." Dian muttered.
"Oops, sorry," Wesley looked apologetic. "Should I have knocked?"
"It's all right," Dian sighed. "I needed the break anyway." Watching Wesley clean the rain off from his glasses, she commented. "I didn't hear you go out." When he retired as the Sandman, Dian had hoped his adventures would come less frequent. But other things had intervened instead. She saw the weariness and anguish etched on his face. She didn't need to ask if there had been any improvement in Sandy's condition either.
"Only briefly," Wesley put his glasses back on, squinting in the light. "The visibility is something awful outside. You were so engrossed with your work I didn't want to disturb you."
Dian didn't need to ask where he had gone. He went the same place every night, trying to assuage his guilt. There were few secrets between the two of them. The events at his laboratory that fateful night were no exception, haunting them both. Ordinary couples might have split under the stress. But they had faced more than their share of difficulties since they first became a couple.
Trying to alleviate the tension, Wesley asked. "How is the writing coming?"
"Slowly," Dian admitted. "I don't understand it, Wes. The first book was so much easier to write. It almost wrote itself." She looked at the depressingly small pile of typewritten pages on the other corner of desk. "This one is such a struggle. I've barely managed a few pages tonight. I don't how I'll get this draft done in time."
"You'll find a way," Wesley came over to her desk. "You haven't missed a deadline yet. Don't worry, the words will come eventually." He tousled her hair with affection. "What is giving you problems this time? With the last book, you rewrote the first four chapters."
"Don't remind me," Dian muttered, shuffling her notes. "You played nursemaid for a week afterward." She had nearly collapsed from the effort. She hoped she would not have to go through the same thing for this book. She didn't believe in suffering for her art that much. "If I could just figure out this scene, I'd really get some place."
Wesley asked, "Can't you just skip ahead?"
"Do you skip past a murder scene?" Dian asked.
Wesley replied, "These days? Whenever possible."
"You're no help," Dian rolled her eyes. "It's too important a scene, Wes. This sets up the whole murder. If I don't get it right..." She sighed. "Why did I think I'd be any good writing thrillers anyway?"
"Your problem is you work too literally," At her frown, Wesley said. "You know who was killed, right?"
"Of course," Dian nodded, "you can't very well have a murder mystery without a body, now can you?"
"My point is, darling," Wesley pointed out, "you writers have a leg up on the police when you're creating your mysteries. You know all the answers. All you have to do is use that information. Use what you do know about the scene..."
"To fill in what I don't," Dian finished. "I think I even know how to do it. It'll mean I'll have to rewrite this chapter, but it shouldn't take that much longer."
Wesley sighed, "I was afraid you'd say that. I guess that means I head to bed by myself again."
"Are you trying to make me feel guilty?" Dian demanded.
Wesley leaned down to kiss her, "Trying? Why no, I'd never try." He asked with a sheepish grin. "Why? Am I succeeding?"
"Only too well," Dian sighed.
"I gave it my best shot," Wesley said. He gave her a last kiss, lingering over her mouth. "Don't stay up all night, okay?"
"You're a fine one to talk," Dian smiled. "But I promise I'll be there shortly." She watched him leave, still feeling the effects of his kiss. She wondered if he ever realized how much of her success as a writer she owed to his efforts during the process. She'd go through these struggles every time she worked on some new story or project. Wesley would be there through it all, patient and consoling. He knew when to take her mind off the publisher's deadlines. He encouraged her when she doubted herself. Every once in awhile, he would offer some small piece of real advice she could use.
Turning her attention back towards her typewriter, Dian wasn't filled with the same dread as before. She was suddenly invigorated. Of course she could do this. How many short stories had she sold before that first novel? How many cases did she solve alongside Wesley? If anyone knew how to plant the right clue in a detective story, it should be her.
Dian pulled out the forgotten page from her typewriter, putting it together with the others on her desk. Leaning back in her chair, she reread the chapter, trying to see where her plot had ground to a halt. Even from her cursory skim, she started to see threads she should have explored, but completely neglected. She was being too obvious setting up the murderer. If she could see it, then a longtime reader of the genre could obviously catch the implications too.
So that approach wouldn't work. Dian already had ideas on how to revamp the chapter, so the murderer was less obvious. She liked the puzzle aspect of some of the detective stories. Chandler and Hammett were more about crime and justice, then necessarily how the murder was accomplished. She loved their use of language and imagery, but she liked to mix up the mystery elements.
Dian had just put in a new piece of paper in the typewriter when she heard sounds. At first she thought it was the first rumblings of thunder outside, but she realized it was coming from the bedroom. The sounds grew louder and more distinct. Her brow furrowed with concern. She had been with Wesley long enough to recognize the signs. He wasn't sleeping any easier these days.
Without a further thought for her work, Dian went into the bedroom. She found Wesley sleeping fitfully, tossing and turning. The sheets wrapped tightly around his bedclothes, almost creating the effect of a mummy. He moaned aloud. "Leave... me... alone... never meant to..."
"Wesley!" Dian shook him awake, drawing him out of the nightmare. "Wake up, Wesley, it's just a dream."
His eyes fluttered open and he slowly sat up on the bed, trying to recapture his bearings. Wesley peered at her surprised. "Why, Dian, I thought you were still working."
Dian sat on the bed, "You're more important than any story or deadline." She asked after a moment. "Was this one bad?"
"The worst yet," Wesley said. "I kept seeing him, Dian. I kept seeing Sandy reaching out towards me. He wanted me to take his hand and drag him out of the quicksand. Then he attacked me, blaming me and my experiments. It's like my mind replays that awful moment over and over, like sub-consciously I can't believe I tried hard enough."
"I know you did," Dian said.
Wesley asked. "Did I?" He sighed. "How do you know I wasn't just careless that night? That I haven't been covering up my guilt ever since?"
"Because you wouldn't be you," Dian replied. "You're very bad at keeping secrets from me, Wes, or have you forgotten?"
Wesley laughed, "I guess I am."
"Will you all right?" Dian asked.
Wesley nodded. "I always sleep better knowing you're around." The couple held each other for a long moment. "You should get back." Before she could complain, he smiled. "I'll be fine now. Besides I've grown accustomed to falling asleep to the sound of that typewriter of yours. It makes an awful racket, but it's rather comforting too."
Dian laughed, "Good night, Wesley."
Watching him fall asleep, Dian's brow furrowed with the intense concern. Wesley's dreams had grown worse since the accident. His dreams had changed, though, becoming more personal, but just as unsettling. His dreams would have fueled Mary Shelley's writing career for years with their images of experiments gone horribly wrong.
Dian tried not to think of her nephew hidden away in that laboratory for his own protection. Wesley had initially not wanted to tell her. But Dian had seen how distraught Wesley was when he came home early that next morning. She had guessed something was wrong. She simply waited for him to find the strength to tell her. She couldn't imagine what it took for him to tell her. Wesley had always worried about including Sandy in his adventures. He had always felt like he was risking their son's life. Perhaps those fears had been justified.
After seeing that he had fallen more easily asleep, Dian finally tiptoed back to the study.
Sitting down at the typewriter, Dian couldn't concentrate on revising that chapter. Try as she might, she couldn't get the images of Wesley writhing in bed out of her mind. She recalled how it reminded her of those Egyptian exhibitions she had seen in the museum. The old mummies were wrapped so tightly. Imagine fighting against those bonds... Dian shivered.
Then Dian paused. Her father had prosecuted a rather lurid case a number of years back. Didn't that involve someone found in a hotel room in a similar fashion? She would have to change the hotel name to something else, of course, maybe something more exotic sounding. She would have to scrap the entire opening, but she wasn't too attached to it anyway. But she could see a definite idea forming.
With more determination, Dian began typing, words flowing out of her, like the rain pattering against the windows.
Reference images taken from SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE, unknown issue and issue #25.
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