Hello! I'm On the Move Again!
Greetings, Salutations, Wildly Gesticulating Hands!
In fact, two moves are currently in slow-motion process.
The first: I'll be leaving Albuquerque for a while and heading back to Boone, NC to undertake a new kind of journey — my daughter is due to deliver a baby girl in late September. I'm going to be a grandmother! Wowsers!
Right now I'm still in Albuquerque in a one-room casita with the ever-patient Beasley and my astonishingly adaptive cat, Maisey. I do not deserve animals such as these two loves, but I'm very grateful for the gift of them. Being in one room brings back memories and habits of living in Roadcinante, my life in messy layers as a way of adapting to small space.
I've been trying to sell Roadcinante since last November. I'm not sure she wants to be sold. This previously well-behaved camper van has turned up with one problem after another. Fingers crossed I can get the two — no, make that three — latest issues solved in the next couple of weeks, list her again, and bless her on her way with someone ready for their own new adventure.
I finished final revisions of Chasing Light ("An agnostic ex-pastor on the hunt for God in a small RV with two big dogs. What could go wrong?") and am querying agents. That process can take a while, so instead of obsessing over the status of my book manuscript...
In a second move, later this summer I'll be shifting over to the Substack platform for newsletters, but my "newsletter" will, for the most part, be a mystery novel I wrote in 2002 that I'll publish in chapters. (Serialized! Like Dickens!) Beginning chapters will be free, and after that the remainder of the book will be available to subscribers at $5.00 a month. (I get to keep around $4.00 of that.) The book is titled Dead Ringer. Chapter 1 excerpt included below! More details to come!
I've been enamored of the mystery genre since I was ten. In 1962, nearly stranded in the Italian Alps without heat or food on a harrowing winter train trip from Sweden to Rome, my mom yielded to my whining, as I shivered under her coat, and tossed me her Perry Mason paperback to read (The Case of the Green-Eyed Sister). I was hooked.
I count among my favorites Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell, Sarah Paretsky, and before their time Agatha Christie, of course (have you read The Christie Affair? Highly recommend!), and P. D. James. From the guys, obviously Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler, Nero Wolfe, but also Walter Mosley and Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch, anyone?).
It's really not such a far leap from matters of faith to the lure of solving mysteries. The writer P. D. James, famous for her novels about her detective/poet Adam Dalgliesh, wrote, "What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order."
Toward that end, I give you Blainey Blair, former Reverend, who is just looking for a little cosmic justice.
Chapter One (excerpt)
I ducked and hid my face in my beige Honda Civic’s frayed passenger seat and waited for the delivery van to roll by, noting my upholstery’s need for another shot of deodorizer and, a bonus, locating my missing prayer book wedged in between the seat and the center console.
Dust particles sparked and whirled above me, little galaxies suspended in a tractor beam of the early June sunlight that had baked our eastern North Carolina town into a nice summer soufflé. I surfaced a fraction of a second later, and there they were, coming out of her front door. From the confident look on Paolo’s face, I could tell it never occurred to him Gina would have him followed.
Khaki pants clung to his hips, and his toned glutes popped with every step. A moss-colored paisley shirt, from the drape of the fabric most likely silk, showed off the bronze of his waxed chest. Brown bullet-proof hair sat like a cap on his narrow head, and he grinned at the woman beside him as one hand played with the chunky gold chain around his neck.
The bleachy blonde bimbette clinging to him like Saran wrap had the mandatory double-D enhanced chest area, large eyes, long sticks for legs, and a permanent puffy smile plastered on her face. She looked a bit mussed, as if she had just rolled out of bed, which I didn’t doubt. She wore a little black camisole and flowing pajama-like bottoms. Diamonds winked at me through the camera lens, from her ears, her throat, and her right pinky finger. Looked like time well spent on her part and money well spent on his. Unless of course you counted Paolo’s wife, Gina, into the equation. I didn’t think she'd be so pleased.
From across the street I shot away, zooming in with the ancient Nikon I’d borrowed from my boss, Mark, capturing the tender goodbye scene — the Lippy Kiss, the Pelvis Grind, and finally the heartfelt Buttocks Squeeze. Perfect. Thank you very much. The steam rising from the pavement, the result of a short but violent summer thunderstorm that had blown through half an hour earlier, lent an almost cinematographic atmosphere.
Cue steam. Passionate embrace. Cut.
I waited until the Blonde Wonder had hand-delivered Paolo to the gleaming black Porsche Boxster he was driving that day, where they shared another prolonged face-sucking farewell, and then he got in the car and roared away. As she wandered dreamily back toward her bungalow, I started my engine and whipped into the street unnoticed, puttering off in the opposite direction.
When Gina got a load of these photos, she was going to rake Paolo's ass all over hot coals, uptown, downtown, and back again.
And I wanted to be there when she did it.
Go ahead, call me vengeful, but the fact I’d been offered a supporting role in nailing a faithless husband’s hide to the wall seemed no less than cosmic justice.
Afternoon traffic was relatively thin, and I drove straight to Great Shots, the photo lab where Frankie, my good friend and sometimes fellow imbiber, offers me generous discounts. I dropped the film canister into the slot marked One Hour Guaranteed! and waved through the window at Frankie, who stopped cutting negatives long enough to grin and give me a thumbs up.
I called Mark from my cell phone as I headed home.
“Yo,” he answered.
“Blainey Blair, Girl Detective,” he teased.
“Be nice to me, I shot some very artistic stuff.”
“We’ll see,” he said. “Any trouble?”
“Except for a thunderstorm that almost lifted me out of my parking spot, everything else was nearly textbook. Almost too easy,” I said. “I would feel guilty except I seem to have misplaced my conscience.”
He tsked like a third grade teacher. “You of all people. You’re enjoying this far too much. Did you drop off the pictures?”
“I did. Ready in under an hour if you want them.”
“Not necessary. I’m working something else here. Bring them to the diner tomorrow morning. Seven o’clock?”
“Make it eight? I’m the on-call chaplain in the ER tonight.”
“Eight’s fine,” he said. I heard a thump and then a feminine giggle. Working something, my ass. I hung up before I said something I’d regret.
Omega Investigations, aka Mark Danner, had employed me as a part-time "researcher" for the past three months. I wanted the money, it’s true, but my need for the job went way beyond finances.
It’s hard to explain, and maybe it’s me I’m still trying to convince.
A year-and-a-half ago things blew up with my now ex-husband Nate, and I left Virginia and church in my rearview mirror. I came here to Brady where I’d grown up, back in the dark ages when it was still a sleepy little satellite community and decades before the explosion of the supernova called the Research Triangle — so named because of its proximity to the heavy-hitter research centers at UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, and NC State.
I found a sweet little Cape Cod near some walking trails and decent restaurants, and caught up with some old friends, made a few new ones. I worked for a while at an art gallery, temped with human resources at a biotech company, and even enjoyed a brief stint as a bartender.
Then a seminary classmate called, looking for someone to take his chaplain’s position for a year so he could complete his dissertation. That’s when I began my part-time work at St. Regis Hospital.
Don’t get me wrong. For most of my tenure here I’ve enjoyed what I do, and I can honestly say I care about the people I meet. Every person who walks — or is wheeled — through those hospital doors has a story that matters.
But a familiar irritation had begun creeping in; frustration at always having to be careful about what I said, the weariness of constantly listening for how to help others. The truth is, I was getting bored. And restless.
And I’ve always had an unhealthy hankering for adventure.