Yesterday, the Mesdames of Mayhem’s fourth crime fiction collection, In the Key of 13, was launched with great fanfare at Toronto’s Sleuth of Baker Street book store. Fourteen of the 19 authors were on hand to give short readings from their stories. Here they are!
Caro Soles, “Moonlight Sonata”: I have never lived in such an elegant place as this. It’s like being in another world here, with the gold-braided doorman and echoing black-marble vestibule. Up we go, Mother and I, in the golden cage to the fourth floor where more marble awaits.
From my story, “Farewell to the King,” in which four young Montreal Elvis fans travel to Memphis for the King’s funeral: Then we were in front of the famous metal gates. Police officers were holding people back. I glimpsed the white mansion fronted by four pillars and two stone lions.
“Graceland, the King’s home,” Virgil, our bus driver, said.
“C’est extraordinaire!” Cécile’s voice was filled with reverence.
“Can we get off and take photos?” Mai-Lei called out.
“No, ma’am,” Virgil said. “Private service in there in 10 minutes.”
“I don’t care,” Toni shouted. “I’m livin’ my dream just seeing Graceland.”
Blair Keetch, “A Contrapuntal Duet”: Even as the music fades and I look back through the years, I wonder if the chime of the triangle had, in fact, been a warning bell.
Lisa de Nikolits, “Hit Me With Your Pet Shark”: Who’s That Girl by the Eurythmics wailed through the speakers, hitting the nail on the head.
Emma patted the sofa and beckoned to me. I was still standing there, the village idiot, and I forced myself to move, me, a muddy moth drawn to an acid golden flame.
Emma reached up and pulled me down next to her and I lost my balance, nearly falling on top of her. An electric current jolted though me and I tried to shift to a more graceful position, flushing with embarrassment. She handed me the snorter and I took it with trembling fingers. I vacuumed a line, Joe handed me another shot and I threw it back.
Thank God for Goldfrapp’s “Strict Machine.” The bass helped calm me a bit, but I was a cornered mouse. I saw Joe watching me and there was a look in his lizard eyes that told me to run away, run as fast as I could, but cool fingertips brushed my neck, and I closed my eyes, trapped by pleasure, a dumb creature unable to move. The sofa took the weight of another body, and I opened my eyes to see Emma rubbing Joe’s balls. I thought okay, so that’s how it’s going to be.
Jane Petersen Burfield, “Requiem”: I first encountered death when I was not quite four. After our old dog, Blackie, was put down, my mother took me to the garage to see him, collapsed in a wooden crate. I was sickened by the smell of damp cement and rotten fruit. I said a weepy goodbye, hugged my mom, and went upstairs to think.
Madona Skaff’s “Soul Behind the Face”: The Great Leonard sat motionless on the wooden chair, his arms rested comfortably on the Plexiglass table before him. He controlled his breathing and the relentless need to scratch at the electrodes attached to his chest and scalp.
M.H. Callway’s “Brainworm”: Sur le pont d’Avignon, l’on y danse, l’on y danse…
Fiona huddled over her rapidly cooling coffee. Maman‘s damn tune wouldn’t stop. Even shock and awe couldn’t blast it from her mind. Her heart still hammered like a drum.
Rosemary Aubert’s “The Beethoven Disaster”: To be successful in any encounter, you have to do three things: You have to focus. You have to make sure the person or people you are working for are 100% reliable. You have to stick to what you yourself know best.
Marilyn Kay’s “Her Perfume”: Despite the bright August sun, a chill wind swept through the ruined castle’s grounds and ruffled Julie’s chestnut hair. Shivering, she hugged her denim jacket close.
Rosalind Place’s “Bad Vibrations”: “I don’t know, Chris. Can’t the board do something? I’m thinking of packing it in.”
Amy ran her fingers through her hair as she sat down, flattening half of her carefully managed curls. It gave her the appearance of a crested bird, an image reinforced by her black sweater, black jeans and high-heeled black boots, now tapping anxiously against the auditorium stage floor. She felt nauseous and angry, as she often did after one of Neil’s so-called motivational meetings.
Melodie Campbell’s “Death of a Cheapskate”: Dad died years ago, but I remember it clearly. Looking back, it seems remarkable that no one but me realized it was murder.
The phone call from my sister came late at night. “He’s dead,” Elaine said. “Finally.”
Lynne Murphy’s “Let the Sunshine In”: “I think someone is killing the residents in this place.”
Charlotte was well aware of cases that had been in the news: murders in nursing homes by caretakers. But people were watching out for that now. Weren’t they?
Catherine Astolfo’s “Gentle Rain From Heaven”: Mersey hands her form with her ID to the policeman blocking the door. He examines the document closely, but does not look at her.
Finally, the policeman raises his eyes to look at her. He has discovered the only unique thing about her.
“Mer-zee?” he asks, saying her name like the famous river.
“No, Mer-see. As in, ‘The quality of mercy is not strain’d. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.'”
Sylvia Maultash Warsh’s “None Shall Sleep”: Galina’s mistake was to tell her understudy a stupid little joke. She whispered in the girl’s ear: When we are finally paid our wages, I will splurge and spend it all on a tin of herring. Her understudy, recognizing the opportunity, relayed the conversation to the committee head, who informed the police. It turned out to be treason to imply that the government had not paid its artists for months, or that government-run stores were empty. Galina was sentenced to five years in a labor camp for anti-Soviet activity, while the understudy was promoted to Galina’s role.
Donna Carrick’s “Solace in D Minor”: As a child, I was fully aware of how special our father was. He was a superstar, the proverbial “whole package,” loved by millions, and he was my hero.
Dad was a real father, one who spent time with us, as precious as that time was. He blessed us with genuine love and a unique outlook on life.
I remember the day he gave us “the talk”–the one about our family’s wealth and privilege.
“Money,” he said, “is a fortress. It protects us from the outside world. It shields us from the consequences of our actions.”
“But never forget, girls, it’s also a prison.”
Ed Piwowarczyk’s “The Ballad of Will Robinson”: My name is Will Robinson, same as that kid on that ’60s TV show Lost in Space. My fictional counterpart had a robot who warned, “Danger, Will Robinson, danger!” Too bad that robot wasn’t around when Rose Connelly entered my life.
Thank you to our host, the lovely Marian Misters, co-owner of Sleuth of Baker Street book store!