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The Mystery of Paradise Island

By Samuel Stoddard

Deleted Scene

This page contains spoilers! Arguably, they are not big spoilers, but if you read this deleted scene before reading the book, you will very likely anticipate a key plot twist well before you're supposed to. I therefore strongly recommend that you do not read any further unless you have already read the book (or the chat transcript version of the story).


Curtis Bradley grinned. Whatever had happened, his instincts had been right on the money. He'd just given up and started to drive away when he heard it. It was sufficiently buried inside the house that it wouldn't wake the neighbors, but it was unmistakable. A gun had been fired.

Shortly afterward, the kid in the suit scampered out of the house. He was jittery and glancing every which way, presumably to see if anyone was watching him. But his search was hurried and careless. He missed Curtis entirely, who was slouched behind the wheel of his car.

Curtis had wound up here quite by accident. He'd taken what looked like a shortcut on the map, a state road that cut between two interstates. But the road turned out to be maddeningly contorted, winding around hills and through the commercial districts of every little podunk town on the map and more besides.

Just when he thought he couldn't take another idyllic Pennsylvania village, a gold Lexus caught his attention. Elsewhere, he'd never have noticed it; here, in the dumpy part of a dumpy town, it was comically out of place. It wasn't just passing through, either -- it had turned down a residential side street. What was a Lexus doing here, amongst all the rust heaps parked in the road?

He still didn't know, but whatever had happened inside that house would be in the papers later. The thing to do now was keep on the Lexus. He had to know where it wound up.

Two towns later, it turned onto the interstate and sped off to the west. Curtis frowned. He was sick of driving, and staying on the Lexus now would mean miles of backtracking.

Stay on it, or let it go?

As he hesitated, he spied a U.S. mailbox on the side of the road. Here was as good a place as any to mail that letter.

He pulled over, snatched up the letter in the passenger seat, and got out. He paused to double-check the envelope.

Mrityunjay Darji. 55 Cherry Tree Lane, Fresno, California.

Curtis dropped the envelope into the mailbox, hopped back in the car, and zoomed up the on-ramp.

This scene occurs immediately after Cody's final flashback, which chronicles the ultimate resolution of the story between him and his father. Immediately afterward, the story cuts back to Matt, who is holding Cody at gunpoint and demanding, "Speak up, Cody! My trigger finger can't hear you! What were you being blackmailed for?"

The purpose of the scene was to establish how anybody knew what Cody had done. Without it, I was afraid this would be a rather glaring unanswered question. Secondarily, I used the scene as a way to throw in another wrinkle to the mystery -- specifically, what is this Curtis guy doing sending a letter to Mrityunjay Darji?

So why did I delete this scene? There were two reasons, neither that it's not that well-written in the first place. One, it interrupts the flow of the narrative. Without it, we see Cody being questioned by Matt, then a flashback to the answer to that question, then cut back to Cody providing the answer. It's a very smooth and natural progression of the story. Throwing the Curtis scene in the middle kills the momentum. I knew that was a problem when I wrote it, but at first I thought maybe that was ok.

The second reason is one I didn't anticipate, but almost every single one of my proofreaders called me on it. Until that point, every chapter is told from the perspective of someone on the island. Suddenly jumping to a flashback by someone who isn't on the island was apparently jarring and felt wrong. Dave called it a "complete breach of narrative protocol." He was right, but why that doesn't mean the two Curtis flashbacks that occur later aren't also protocol breaches, I have no idea. Dave suggested that maybe since the other Curtis flashbacks also include island characters on the scene, it's ok. I suppose.

It just goes to show that sometimes your gut is a better compass than your brain. Regardless of the reason, this deleted Curtis scene feels wrong; the later ones, not so much.

So I cut the scene. That meant losing the name-drop of Mrityunjay, which I think is too bad. As for the resulting plothole, I resolved that simply by having Curtis narrate that part of the story later. I'm not happy about that, either. I couldn't make Curtis' new dialogue ring true to my ear. But it was the right thing to do. The scene had to go.