This is an exercise from my writing group. We were given the first sentence below and our job was expand on it.
Tony lifted his hand and strained in the dark to see what was wet on his fingertips.
Tony lifted his hand and strained in the dark to see what was wet on his fingertips. The dawn filtering through the blinds illuminated something that appeared black and glossy on his fingers. Maria, next to him in bed, stirred and sighed in her sleep. Not wanting to wake her, Tony went into the bathroom, closed the door and turned on the overhead light.
It was blood. Wet, fresh, and not black after all. He turned on the faucet and washed his hands repeatedly, using Maria's expensive scented hand soap.
Like most in the Cosa Nostra, Tony was very religious and paradoxically, very superstitious. Since the blood on his hands wasn't his own, it had to be a divine message, punishment for the brutal beating he had administered the previous evening. He understood the gravity of these messages.
Downstairs in the sleek modern kitchen, Tony filled the espresso maker and lit the first of his forty daily Gitanes. Taking the carafe containing the espresso, he sat on the patio in the chilled morning air.
The last message he had gotten from whatever divine source that sent them had scared the hell out of him. There was a picture of Tony and Giovanni, his older brother, that sat on a side table in the parlor. The picture was one of the few childhood mementos Tony had. It was a small worn black and white snapshot. He and Giovanni were standing in front of a fountain, arms slung casually over each other's shoulders, dressed in patched clothing, barefoot. Tony was eight, Giovanni ten. They were smiling in the picture, brothers and best friends, too young to imagine the heartbreak the future would bring.
After Tony had killed Giovanni with a single bullet to the back of his head, the picture kept falling off the table. The table held several framed photographs, but only the picture of the young brothers ever fell off. Whenever Maria saw it had fallen, she picked it up, put it back in its place, and was careful to avoid Tony's eyes. As far as Maria knew, Giovanni had simply disappeared, perhaps gone to America with his mistress Theresa, who was also missing.
Finally, the glass protecting the picture had shattered and the picture was placed in a drawer, the frame to replaced at a later date. Tony didn't want to think about the picture and Maria seemed relieved to have it removed from her sight. Several months had gone by, and the picture was still safely languishing in a drawer.
Now, there was blood on Tony's hands after he had beaten Marco, his cousin. Marco was beaten because it was suspected that Marco's new fiancee was not just a nice girl from the mainland but a plant from the Guardia. She asked too many questions and was too pretty to be with short, swarthy Marco, who was a lout. She carried a small handgun in her purse, most unusual for a proper Italian young woman. She gave vague answers about her family, her background, her schooling. Tony's connection in the local Guardia had professed no knowledge of an informant, even after Tony had paid the private school tuition for the Guardia's daughter, but the suspicions had persisted.
Paulo, Tony's consigliere, had laughed when Tony told him about the picture. He said it was just a coincidence, nothing spiritual or mysterious at all. Tony knew better. The falling picture was his pox, his malediction, and his punishment.
He was convinced that the reason Maria could not bear a child was due to his vocation of violence. Maria was young and strong, one of eleven children, yet after six years of marriage and countless doctors, her womb had borne only dark parcels of grief.
Tony knew the stain on his fingers upon waking was the final sign that he must end his career as a criminal. It wasn't a matter of resigning; he had taken the blood oath and had been an effective leader, not one who would be excused from his bloody job simply because he was feeling mystical. The only way out was death or flight. Fleeing was a risky operation; if he were found, as he most surely would be, he would be killed in a most ignoble way.
Better to do the job himself.
He waited until the afternoon. He kissed Maria warmly as she set off for lunch with her sister at their favorite cafe in the town square. He smoked several more Gitanes before her finally removed the revolver from its box. He loaded it with one dull brass bullet. He placed his wedding band, his crucifix and his wallet neatly on the center of the highly polished dining room table.
Maria let a small silent scream escape when she found Tony's body slumped in the patio chair. His head was marked by one neat dark hole in his right temple. The faded black and white photograph of Tony and Giovanni as children was clutched in his left hand. The revolver dangled from his motionless right hand. The scent of gunpowder still lingered in the air, to be borne away with Tony's secrets, on the mild afternoon breeze.