I was writing my debut novel, tentatively titled Games of Chance, and I wanted to get things right.
I had no idea I was putting myself squarely in the sites of local law enforcement.
My wife and I owned an espresso business at that time, in Junction City, Oregon. Officer Larson was a regular customer who later became chief of police in a nearby city. Since my book included a missing wife and a suspicious husband, I wanted to understand proper police procedure in such matters. I explained my plot to Officer Larson and asked him numerous questions.
During this same period, my wife was experiencing night terrors. She had suffered abuse as a young girl and those memories began surfacing in the early years of our marriage. She felt safe enough with me to let them out, a counselor told me. I should consider it a compliment.
It didn't feel like a compliment. It was scary.
My wife regularly screamed, hurled herself out of bed, and locked herself in the bathroom or closet until coming back to awareness. She once called 911 in her sleep and said, "He's in the house right now," as I stumbled down the hall to see what she was going on. The 911 operator grilled me over the phone before deciding not to send squad cars to our address in the middle of the night. Another time, my wife ran out the front door, across the lawn, and knocked on a neighbor's door past 2 a.m. Only as the wet grass and cold night took hold did she become aware of her location. She apologized to the neighbors, then wandered back home.
Officer Larson caught wind of all this through various calls to Junction City Police. There was something suspicious happening at the Wilson home. My favorite local cop stopped by the next morning on a "casual" coffee run to gauge my reaction to his probing questions. He was still not sure what to think.
His suspicions were eventually eased by a conversation with my wife--without me around, of course. She explained her past, her night terrors, and my support of her throughout the process.
Thankfully, prayers and counseling led to her healing. She and I are still friends with Chief Larson. And perhaps it was his care and concern which led to my formation of a favorite character, known to many of you as Sgt. Turney, who makes appearances in at least three or four of my books.
In 2004, my first novel was published, Dark to Mortal Eyes. I am glad to say, I did not do my first book-signing from a prison cell.