Down Under (hook here)
New York City. August 3.
“We have a problem.”
The man behind the desk reached for a pen. “Well? I’m waiting.”
“You’re not going to like this,” his caller warned. “McDermott’s dead.” (you don't need "warned" cause you've already got "you're not going to like this. You don't even need "his caller warned. We know who's talking)
“How? Who?” The man demanded, in the voice of someone who expects his questions to be answered. (too much description slows down the narration)
“I’m not entirely sure. Autopsy’s pending, but fortunately I’ve got a local contact feeding me the results. Prelim cause of death is drowning. He was fished out of the harbor in Cairns after one of the tourists spotted a body floating in the water. Apparently, our group went out on a little cruise to the reef, and somewhere along the way, McDermott went overboard.
“Since he’s not the suicidal type, I suspect he had some help, but whether he was pushed, doped and pushed, clubbed and pushed, or otherwise assisted, I don’t know. The crew’s pretty careful about keeping track of the passengers, so they know everyone was accounted for when they left the reef. They usually do a head count when they arrive back in Cairns, but hadn’t had a chance before the body was spotted.
“It seems he was entangled in some sort of rope. I don’t know if that was deliberate, because someone wanted the body found, or an accident. It’s possible that his killer thought his disappearance might be overlooked.
“The boat had a couple of other tour groups on board, so besides our friends, there’s about 100 more suspects to consider, not counting the crew.”
“What about the tourist that discovered him?” Theman was jotting notes on a piece of paper.
“That’s the funny thing. She’s about the only one on the ship that has an alibi. It was one of the Boston women, Zoe Chandler. Apparently the lady was suffering from a bout of mal-de-mer, and spent the trip back either inside under the watchful eye of the bartender, or outside under the watchful eye of the captain. They’re probably used to seasick tourists, but this one is young and cute, and the crew is mostly male. She was wrapped up in a bright fluorescent yellow and pink towel, not exactly inconspicuous. If she moved, she’d have had at least one if not more of
the men at her side. (this is all set up blather)
“I’m mainly concentrating on our group, but I can’t rule out a crew member, or even one of the other tourists. I can’t believe coincidence, but I also can’t understand who would have anything to gain from his death.”
“Don’t you worry about that.” The man capped his pen. (what an odd thing to notice or include) “Just keep your eye on all of them, and don’t forget what you’re there for.”
“I won’t,” his caller said softly, and hung up.
Boston. February 14.
When my friend Jenna first invited me to accompany her to Australia, I had no idea what the future held. I pictured a trip filled with fuzzy kangaroos, handsome cowboys, and exotic fish, all bordered by deep blue ocean. And sunshine, but since it was a typical Boston winter, I would have stuck a sunny beach into any fantasy. In fact, had I known what I was actually getting into, I would have stayed home. It’s too bad no one has invented a good way to predict the future like they do the weather.
(here's your starting point)
“The forecast for Sydney in August: cloudy and cool, with a chance of corpses.”
We had just gone to a movie, to celebrate both being single on Valentine’s Day, and returned to Jen’s Back Bay condo to drown our sorrows with the better part of a bottle of Chardonnay. Outside, the wind was blowing and the streets were covered in dirty grey snow, so it was no wonder that the picture of bikini-clad surfers caught my attention. “What’s this,” I asked, picking up the thick brochure.
“Oh, that’s a conference I’m going to this summer. One of those dull programming seminars, but it’s in Sydney and the conference people have arranged for a couple of tours around Australia while we’re there. It’s a great deal-you get to visit the major tourist sites, probably for cheaper than if I arranged it all on my own.
“Actually, Zoe, you should come with me. It’s even cheaper if I share a room with someone, but I don’t want to deal with some random stranger. You can take a week or so off in August, can’t you? It’ll be fun.”
“I’ve always wanted to visit Australia,” I mused, looking wistfully at the surfers.
Splat splat splat. You've got a big fat wad of information in the first part--a dreaded prologue I fear. First of all, no one talks like that. Shorter sentences will help.
Second, you've told us there's a corpse, then you go back to Boston to let us know that Zoe is on her way to Sydney in six months?? I KNEW that.
Get to the story. Prune ruthlessly.