The previous couple months were busy with events and obligations, all of which were delightful, but from here on, I must make the effort to organize and prioritize with more focus. My calendar of “things to do and experience” for November and December is becoming congested. I’m not complaining, though, as the trajectory occurring is moving my goals and aspirations forward.
Creativity abounds! Just the other day, I finished co-writing the draft of a particularly intriguing script/story with my friend M. Bat. We have submitted it and await input. It was a wickedly enjoyable piece and when appropriate, I will post it here on the blog.
With regard to my book, Fun Is For Shallow People: In the near future, I will be going on a Blog Tour as a promotional stretch for the novel. The cover was tweaked ever so slightly and I just love the result. Basically, the font was redone yet the dishy photography and pulpy concept prevails as the main design. As soon as the greenlight is given, I’ll be updating Goodreads, Amazon, Createspace, and anywhere else with Cover Version 2.0!
I’m on Goodreads, so find me there, if you are so inclined. I’m also on NaNoWriMo to give me that extra push to write in a structured daily word count routine. On NaNoWriMo, I’m working on the second book in my Naked Eye series, which is Part Two of the tale in Fun Is For Shallow People. I’ve set out an excerpt from the first novel below. The scene is from early in the book and it is an interview with one of the first suspects.
* * *
“Yes? How may I help you?” A young woman, possibly in her late twenties, stood in the doorway. She wore a dark purple kimono and her gaze was speculative as she studied Ted and Alexa, who had knocked and announced that they were city detectives.
Ted took the lead. “Are you Yvette Risling?”
“Yes I am. What do you want? I’m in the middle of getting ready to go out for the day, so if you can be brief, I’d appreciate it.”
She had obviously been applying makeup and only one eye was completed. The effect was strange, since the finished eye was dramatically enhanced. “We’d like to speak with you for a moment, if you don’t mind,” said Ted. “May we come in?”
“Well, I’m not so sure about that. I need to see identification first.”
Her manner of speaking was singsong and breathy, with a slight haughty tone and it reminded Ted of something – but what?
After Yvette looked over Alexa’s information and returned the badge to her, she then studied Ted’s, gave it back to him, and said, “Theodore Roosevelt? Really?”
Ted used his hand to prevent her from shutting the door. “That’s my legal name, but I go by Ted Rose. I haven’t changed it officially yet.”
She hesitated, then stepped aside. “All right, if you say so. Please do come in.”
They entered the flat and Ted spent a few moments taking it in. The front room resembled a cluttered Victorian parlor. Memento mori décor dominated the space. A row of antique cabinets lined one wall – one a large taxidermy display filled with stuffed birds and reptiles, a black rabbit sitting on its haunches, and a sleeping fox. The other cases held old-fashioned apothecary containers, teacups, and various other decorative items – all vintage looking. The décor in the room was overwrought, but he was fascinated by the more macabre items, one of which was a large casket in a corner propped on end being used as a sort of open closet for wigs, hats, scarves, and gloves.
Ted watched Yvette closely as he asked, “You know a Nathan Collier, correct?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Nathan is my ex-husband. We’ve been divorced for a short while, and we travel in the same social circles, but only out of necessity. Whatever trouble he’s in, I don’t want any part of it.”
As she spoke, Yvette straightened her posture and tilted her chin slightly upward. Her attitude made it clear she wanted to exhibit disdain, which she did in an exaggerated fashion that was almost comical. With an affected gesture, she tossed her long hair behind her shoulders and awarded Ted a polite smile.
He scrutinized Yvette, his gut pinging. The way she talked and presented herself mirrored that of the Meryl Streep character in She-Devil. Instead of blond hair like Streep in that movie, Yvette’s was a bold plum red, long and wavy. What was that character’s name?
After Yvette breathed a heavy sigh, she said, “I’d really like to finish my makeup. Please continue with this business of yours, whatever it is.”
“At the park event on Sunday, did you notice Mr. Collier or anyone else missing at any time?” asked Alexa.
A frown creased Yvette’s forehead. “I am the organizer and hostess for that event. I had too much going on to pay attention to Nathan’s whereabouts. He was probably screwing around somewhere, which would be typical. And I certainly can’t recall the location of everyone else. I was focused on my poetry recitation and those of the others who participated.”
“Where did you go after you left the park?” pressed Alexa. “Did you return home or go elsewhere that same night? If you were with another person, we’ll need him or her to verify your whereabouts.”
Yvette raised her eyebrows in surprise and stiffened. She replied as though affronted. “After the event ended at four, I returned here to change out of my Mary Shelley costume. Then I met up with my current paramour, Gabriel, at his place at about six or seven for supper. We stayed in at his apartment the rest of the night and I returned home the next afternoon.” Yvette gestured to a nearby couch, “Would you two care to sit? I get the impression this might take a while.”
While Alexa gazed around the room, presumably scanning for clues, Ted analyzed Yvette with fascination. Her movements, gestures and speaking voice – so curiously familiar. She sounded exactly like…Mary Fisher. That was the character in She-Devil. Yvette sounded similar enough that he wanted to laugh, but didn’t dare. His pop culture lens was in high gear already.
“May I ask why you need to know my whereabouts?” asked Yvette. “Because I refuse to assist Nathan. If he needs to be bailed out of jail or is involved in another kind of mess, he’ll have to ask a woman from his current harem for help.”
“He’s past being in trouble,” said Alexa. “Mr. Collier was found dead in a boat on Parrot Lake the morning after your group had the event in the park.”
Yvette gave a gasp that evolved into a shriek, then lost her balance and fell backward. She knocked over a small table on her way to the floor, spilling the items on top with a noisy clatter. Yvette grasped her head with her hands and moaned, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god nooo!”
Ted stared at the whimpering woman, awed by her perfect histrionics. He shot a look at Alexa, whose dark brown eyes were bright and observant. Alexa’s phone buzzed and he waited while she looked at the screen.
After clearing her throat, Alexa said, “The boss wants an update on the autopsy report so I’ll take care of him while you stay and finish with Ms. Risling.”
She exited and Ted turned back to Yvette, who remained seated on the floor. Moistened makeup smeared across her cheek as she wiped away tears. Yvette gestured toward a nearby kitchen and tearfully said, “Would you get me a handkerchief, please?”
Ted wandered into the kitchen and looked for a roll of paper towel. A dishrag rested on a counter top, which he grabbed. As he turned toward the front room, a large wooden cupboard with glass doors next to the refrigerator caught his attention. Within were three bottles on a shelf that were similar to the one in the boat with the poisoned absinthe. They had the same style of DIY label.
He went to Yvette and held out the towel. “Here you are.”
She looked at it then back at Ted, giving him a glare as if he’d offered her a glass of urine and requested she taste it.
“Oh never mind,” she said, clearly annoyed. “Help me up, please.”
After he yanked Yvette to her feet, she grabbed the dishtowel from him and flounced to a small table near the kitchen. She dropped the dishtowel on top, opened a drawer, and took out a lace-edged hanky. Yvette dabbed her eyes and nose then walked unsteadily to sit on an odd piece of ornate furniture, which looked to Ted like a cross between a couch and a twin bed. The piece had a carved dark wood frame and red velvet upholstery. One end curved into a headrest with a matching red pillow in the shape of a small log. A Victorian fainting couch.
How in the hell did he recognize it as a fainting couch? Trivia emerging from the recesses of his subconscious, probably. He wondered if Yvette was about to have a fainting spell. He hoped not.
A knock sounded and Yvette gasped dramatically. Ted let Alexa into the flat.
“Nathan Collier’s roommates are on their way to headquarters,” she said. “I’ll take the car and meet with them, if you’re all right here. Boss says the vehicle needs to be checked in for another unit to use.”
He nodded. “I’ll grab a taxi.”
As Alexa turned to leave, Yvette said acidly, “Oh you’ll definitely want to have a nice long chat with Trina, since she’s been fucking, or rather, she was fucking Nathan. That bitch has a long-standing habit of going after my leftovers. If you know what I mean.”
With her back to Yvette, Alexa glanced at Ted, rolled her eyes, and left.
“I noticed a few bottles of absinthe in your kitchen,” said Ted, directing his attention back to Yvette. “Where did you get those?”
She blinked and with a taut smile, gestured to the row of antique cabinets. “I make incense, fragrance oils, and tinctures from my collection of items. A few years ago, I began making absinthe. It’s legal now, you know, to have absinthe.”
“I know that it’s legal, and I wasn’t questioning why you have or make absinthe. The issue is, see, that a bottle half-full of absinthe with the same type of label as those in your possession was found in the rowboat with the dead fo– With the deceased Mr. Collier.”
“What are you saying? That Nathan drank himself to death on a half-bottle of absinthe? That hardly seems possible.”
“The absinthe was poisoned.”
Yvette’s pale face exhibited stunned surprise. “Oh my god! Oh Nathan! Nathan, why? I know that’s a poetic way to go and, of course he probably assumed that I’d be devastated and moved by that sort of tragic ending but– ”
She fussed with the sash of her robe, smoothing it out. Then she grabbed a strand of hair and studied it. Without looking at Ted, she asked softly, “So Nathan committed suicide?”
He remained quiet for a moment to absorb the display he’d just witnessed. Yvette’s instant assumption that Nathan had offed himself, and that he’d done so in a manner meant to impress her. Could she focus on someone other than herself long enough to plan a poisoning? He wasn’t sure. She could probably poison someone emotionally, though.
“Mr. Rose?” She sounded impatient. “Will you please answer? Did Nathan commit suicide?”
“We’re investigating his death as a homicide. Your boyfriend can verify your whereabouts?”
Yvette frowned and met his gaze. “What type of poison was in the absinthe?”
“I’m not at liberty to answer that right now,” he replied. “I do need to get contact info for your boyfriend, though, if you don’t mind.”
“Oh all right. I’ll give you Gabriel’s info and you can check me out. Wait a minute. Am I a suspect?” She stood and in a defiant gesture, put her hands on her hips. Remnants of smeared makeup dotted her face and a smudge of mascara rested in a large patch beneath one eye. The effect was amusing when contrasted against her posture of outraged dignity.
“We’re checking out everyone who was at the park event, Ms. Risling. Standard procedure. One more thing, would you be willing to let me confiscate those bottles of absinthe or do you require a warrant? I need all three bottles.”
Yvette stomped to the kitchen. “Confiscated? Really? You can have them. Unless I have a bulk order, I only make one bottle at a time. This batch is left over from the recent historical picnic in the park.”
She put the bottles in a brown grocery bag, gave it to Ted, then provided him Gabriel’s contact information.
“If poison turns up in these, we’ll need to see you again for more questioning,” he said as he headed for the front door.
Yvette opened the door and faced him with an ashen, unsmiling face, her eyes like cold gray glass. “If there is anything wrong with the absinthe in these bottles, someone else is responsible. I admit that I have – uh… I had many issues with Nathan. However, I wouldn’t waste my time trying to murder him. That’s not only ridiculous, but it’s beneath me. In any case, I’ll be available if you need to reach me.”
After a tense moment, she blinked a few times and her imperious demeanor wilted as she rested her forehead against the door frame and closed her eyes. “Are we through for today with this? I’m – I’m tired and upset. I’m sure you understand.”
Ted left the flat and stretched once he got outside. A loud yawn escaped. Oh to go anywhere but back into work. The sun today was bright, the sky was clear blue, and the cold had refreshing bite.
He took out his phone and called Alexa.
“Hi Ted, how’s it going with Risling?”
“I’m through here. Are you at the office yet?”
“Yes. Nathan Collier’s roommates are waiting in the lobby. I’ll bring them up and ask preliminary questions. I know you want to interview them too, so I’ll make sure they stick around.”
“Okay, thanks. I’ll be there soon.”
“How’d the rest of the interview go with Risling?”
Through another yawn he said, “Oh good god, she was melodramatic so the whole thing was a bit draining.”
Ted gave Alexa Gabriel’s information and she offered to contact him right away. After the call, he checked his wallet for cab vouchers. One interview down; many more to go.