I'm still wrestling with this, but it's not a grim, life-and-death battle, it's more like trying to get the top off the pickles.
Today I sat down and explained my whole story to my co-worker. This is a strategy I often use when I'm "stuck" - whether it be something to do with accounting, a personal dilemma, or my writing. "Come here and listen to me for a sec" is a request that my employees come to understand - they're really only required to pull up a chair and be a warm body with ears. Maybe nod occasionally. The act of explaining the problem to someone else often squeezes whatever synapse is clogged, and I am suddenly free again.
Anywho, this verbal synopsis did help to clear up some of my muddy-headedness in regard to the way I want to develop some of the suspense through the end of the first part of the story. Today I'll sketch out a few scenes to fill in that gap. Yay! It's working!