My editor has a fun sense of humor, which gives me a good chuckle in the midst of edits. Such as in her suggested change for this line:
With one eyebrow
quirked raised, the mayor slipped on his sunglasses.
Her reason for changing “quirked” to “raised”: “Quirked went from an unusual word to a plague among my authors…so I’ve declared open season on it.”
Although I make many, many changes to the manuscript based on feedback from my critique partners, the only major cut to the submitted manuscript by my editor was of a thread I’d highlighted as something I could cut to bring the length down to the required word count. We both liked the extra elements it introduced, but they weren’t essential to the story, so in the end we agreed to cut it. Below is the main part that was cut, which originally occurred at the church, before Kate and Tom returned to her house to look at the police file Tom had just received.
“Excuse me, Kate,” an elderly voice called after them. They turned to find Mrs. Pepperlea shifting from one foot to the other, wringing her hands. “Could you come to the teller’s office for a minute?”
She avoided eye contact, and Kate reflexively tugged together the unbuttoned collar of her blouse as if her body was as exposed as she suddenly felt.
“Is there a problem?” Tom asked.
“Uh.” Mrs. Pepperlea did another little box step. “Perhaps it’d be best if you come too, Detective Parker.”
Kate shot him a startled look.
Tom’s palm flattened reassuringly against her back as Mrs. Pepperlea led them to a small office off the sanctuary where Henry Crantz, Julie’s father-in-law, and Frank O’Brien, a retired sailor, sat at a table tallying the day’s offering. “What seems to be the problem?” Tom asked.
“These.” Henry handed Kate three twenty-dollar bills.
They were obviously counterfeit and she couldn’t stop a surprised gulp. Except the lift of Mrs. Pepperlea’s eyebrows said it had sounded guilty. “These aren’t mine!”
Tom pried them from her grip.
“They’re not mine,” she repeated. “I wrote a check. I always write a check.”
Henry passed her the envelope. “Your name was on the envelope.”
Kate gaped at her neatly printed name. “This isn’t mine. It’s a pew envelope. I always use a numbered one. Number forty-three. You must know that.”
“The point of the numbers is so we don’t know.”
Mrs. Pepperlea’s fingers took up the nervous shuffle her feet had been doing earlier. “I do recall seeing checks from you in the past,” she squeaked mouse-like.
Frank traced his finger down the ledger in front of him. “We didn’t receive a number forty-three envelope today. Did you make a donation?”
“Okay.” Tom patted the air. “Obviously someone sitting behind us palmed Kate’s envelope and replaced it with this one.” Tom placed his hand on her shoulder. His solid grip slowed her runaway pulse. “I’ll talk to the ushers. Find out if they noticed any suspicious behavior.”
Mrs. Pepperlea sprang from her chair. “I’ll go catch them before they leave.”
Kate sank deeper in her seat. Great more people to whisper about her.
Tom squeezed her shoulder. “It’ll be okay. Someone’s probably just trying to take advantage of last week’s incident at the grocery store to score some quick cash.”
“He didn’t have to put my name on the envelope to palm another one.” She cringed at how whiny she sounded.
“That’s true,” Henry said. “It looks like he went out of his way to make Kate look bad.”
Alarm streaked through Kate’s chest. Like the letter to the editor.
The ushers shuffled in, led by Mrs. Pepperlea. “None of them saw anything suspicious,” she said. None of them made eye contact with Kate, either. One guy tugged nervously at his tie.
In full detective mode, Tom quizzed them about visitors and whether they could tell from which pew backs envelopes were taken.
Kate pictured the filled pews behind where they’d sat. Brian Nagy had been here. Lucetta, too. Both prime suspects in the counterfeiting case. Both people who had more than one motive for making her look bad. If Brian’s son told him about seeing her at the property, he’d be very motivated to smear her reputation ahead of any attempts to block sale of his mother’s property.
“One more thing,” Tom said as the other ushers turned to leave. “Could you empty your pockets, and show me your wallets and any other books or papers you’re carrying?”
The men now threw glances her way—irritated glances, making her face heat—but they complied without balking. Nothing turned up.
“Please don’t discuss this with anyone else, not even family members,” he said as the ushers filed out. Tom slipped the counterfeit bills and envelope inside his notepad. “I’ll take these into evidence and file a report. If there’s nothing else…” he said to the tellers still seated at the table.
“That’s all. Thank you.”
Tom coaxed Kate to her feet. “C’mon, let’s get you home.”
“Can’t we wait until everyone’s gone?”
Empathy brimmed in his pure blue eyes. “No one knows why you were called in here.”
Kate peeked around the door. “They’d easily guess. Don’t you think?”
“You have nothing to be ashamed of. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
The tenderness in his voice wrapped around her like a sweet embrace. “People are going to say you’re protecting me you know.”
He tucked Dad’s file under his arm, and looked so deeply into her eyes, her heart felt as if it were freefalling straight into his warm, strong hands. “And I’m going to keep on protecting you. Okay?”