Climate Change: A Nina Bannister Mystery (The Nina Bannister Mysteries Book 7) (6 page)

BOOK: Climate Change: A Nina Bannister Mystery (The Nina Bannister Mysteries Book 7)
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And the old Candles music room smiled back at them.

“This is one of my favorite rooms. Nina. It always has been, even from the first time I came here with Goldmann.”

Margot switched on a standing lamp that was just inside the doorway.

Nina could see the yellow glow emanating from inside before she could see the room itself.

“Oh my!”

“Yes. Isn’t it wonderful?”

And it was.

The first thing to catch one’s eye was the harp, golden, shaped like angels’ wings, standing exactly in the center of the room, forming the sun around which various planets—grand piano, smaller spinet piano, violins mounted on walls, pictures of opera houses and composers—had been frozen in their rotation and now stood ready for some final concert which would probably never come.

The two women entered and padded like cats, their shoes scuffing on a worn hardwood floor, their hands not daring to touch the instruments, their mouths turned respectfully away, for fear of careless breaths clouding enamel and gold finishes.

“Our music room.”

“It’s incredible.”

“Yes. Yes, it is. But here is the most wonderful part. Over here, on this stand. Come, come this way!”

Nina followed, and found herself led to what easily could have been the most striking exhibit in this hall of dead sounds:
 
a phonograph, its great curved bell yawning out over the rest of the room like some giant sea shell out of which,
if one leaned close enough
, thought Nina,
one might hear the roar of breakers, the comings and goings of the tide.
It sat regally on a square oaken box, which, like a desk upended, seemed to have been made specifically to support it.

“We can Skype over here; this is where we keep all the computers and modern things. But I insisted on the music room looking as it had. Okay, here we go.”

Margot proved adept at modern technology, and within a minute the image of a smiling, business-suited Amidon Phillips was before them.

“Margot! You’re a hard woman to track down!”

“Please let’s not talk about that, Amidon. What the hell is going on?”

An elfin face on the screen smiled evilly, cirrus wisps of white hair raising slightly about the only slightly but still definitely Satanic and pointed ears:

“A coup, Margot! A wonderful coup!”

“But my vacation! My few free days!”

“Oh, it will be a vacation of sorts, I can promise you that!”

“I’ve brought my friend Nina up from Bay St. Lucy!”

“Yes, I’ve heard of her! The political revolutionary!”

“I promised her some days of rest! And now––”

“Now they will be days of discovery and pure fun, I promise you! Not to mention quite lucrative days for The Candles!”

“All right all right, would you just tell me what’s going on?”

“Of course, of course. The bottom line of it is that one of my contacts called me several nights ago and alerted me to a possible business deal. And a very exciting one!”

“Go on.”

“He had learned that a very particular group of artists had been booked into the Sheraton Inn Rosemont near O’Hare Airport, but that the leaders of the group, having done some advance scouting, were dissatisfied and might be persuaded to move elsewhere. Or be rerouted elsewhere, as it were. There was a bit of time before the convention actually began. So as it happened, I was able to contact these particular leaders and paint an enthralling picture of Candles. They seemed entranced. The long and short of it is that I persuaded them to change their venue and come to us.”

“At the last minute? How is that possible?”

“It’s possible because I offered to pay their airfare from Chicago down to Vicksburg, and arrange for a private jet to take them to Meridian Airport fifteen miles north of Abbeyport.”

“Doesn’t that cost a fortune?”

“It has cost something, yes, but our consortium can afford it, given the upside of the entire venture.”

“That upside being?”

The smile eviled a bit more, eyes glinting brighter as they narrowed:

“National publicity, my dear Margot. And possibly a major contract with one of the major television studios based in Los Angeles.”

“My God.”

“Precisely my reaction upon first visualizing the potential.”

“But, Amidon, don’t you realize what’s happened down here?”

A pause, a slight frown.

“What are you talking about, dear Lady?”

“The whole staff has quit! They’ve just driven off thirty minutes ago!”

“But why, for heaven’s name?”

“Surely you must know that!”

“I have no earthly idea what you must be talking about!”

“Writers! The staff seems to think that you’re sending writers to Candles!”

“And so we are!”

“But you know what happened last time! We’re still dealing with the lawsuits. The police have refused to come out and provide protection for the physical plant, and they’re planning to put up roadblocks so that none of the writers can get within five miles of the town itself. My God, Amidon, don’t you realize? We’re only four miles up the road from an elementary school. Children, Amidon!”

But the face on the screen only broke into a broad and strangely beneficent—for an agent of evil—smile.

“No no no no, you’ve got it all wrong!”

“How do I have it wrong?”

“Margot, those people who came in June were real writers––pornographic book writers, hard-bitten detective novelists, people who envisaged themselves Hemingways and Faulkners and Tennessee Williamses and—well, that sort. We knew what to expect from such reprobates, and we certainly got it. It was our fault entirely.”

“No, it was your fault entirely.”

“All right, blame accepted. But this! This will be entirely different!”

“How can it be different?”

“Because these people, these thirty people who are coming––”

“There are thirty of them? You’re mad!”

“But they’re NOT REAL WRITERS, Margot!”

“They’re not––well, if they’re not real writers, then what are they?”

“They’re COZY WRITERS!”

Margot paused.

“What?”

“They’re COZY WRITERS!”

Margot paused again.

Then:

“What is that?”

“They write cozy mysteries!”

“All right, that would make sense. But now you need to tell me:
 
what the hell are cozy mysteries?”

Nina could not stop herself from interrupting:

“Okay, wait a minute, Margot. I think I know.”

Amidon Phillips faced beamed out at them from the SKYPE screen:

“Oh, hello, Ms. Bannister!”

“Hello to you.”

“Welcome to The Candles!”

“Thank you!”

“Will you be letting me have sex anytime soon?”

“Depends on the election.”

“Well, I’m certainly doing my best to get as many women on the ballot as possible!”

“Then you might have some hope.”

“Oh, I do hope so! Now, if you’ll explain to dear Margot what cozy mysteries are––”

“I’ll try. Margot, I think they’re like Miss Marple.”

“Agatha Christie?”

“Exactly.”

“Thirty Agatha Christies are coming out here? I thought they all lived in England.”

Nina shook her head:

“They used to all live in England. But in the last few years there’s been a huge wave of cozy books that have gotten popular here in the United States. The heroine of the novel is usually an elderly retired lady, maybe an ex- librarian. She lives in a quaint little town, preferably New England. A murder happens and she solves it, because she’s always just a little smarter than the local police, who are well-meaning and good-hearted, but stupid.”

“Why are these books popular?”

“Because they have no violence, no sex, no bad words, and no naked people.”

“Why are these books popular?”

“I don’t know, Margot.”

“They have no violence?”

“None.”

“And yet they’re murder mysteries?”

“I know, it’s a little hard to grasp.”

“How do people get murdered without any violence happening?”

“They get murdered between chapters, and then, when their bodies get found, the corpses are just lying there not doing anything. Except maybe with a dagger sticking out of them is all.”

“And these books sell?”

Nina nodded:

“By the millions, from what I can read. The Bay St. Lucy library is filling up with them.”

“Do you like these books?”

“Not particularly, but I check them out and read them at night to Furl. After a chapter or so, he goes right to sleep. But I think he mainly likes the cats.”

“What cats?”

“Most of the cozy heroines own cats.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. Cozy cat, you know.”

“This is the strangest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

Amidon interrupted:

“Strange or not, my dear Margot, it’s a phenomenon that fairly screams to be exploited. And that’s precisely what we intend to do.”

“How?”

“The television contract, my dear!”

“I’m still confused.”

“Then I shall set about enlightening you! Thirty of the nation’s most successful cozy novelists are about to descend upon Candles late tomorrow morning, driving over from the Meridian airport in ten limousines. Once arrived, they shall set about conducting the business of the AGCW.”

“The what?”

“The American Guild of Cozy Writers.”

“Oh. And what kind of business is that?”

“Oh who knows? And who cares? But the important thing is that joining these ladies will be Sylvia Duncan of HBO.”

“And she is…”

“An executive producer. HBO, Margot, has decided to tap into the cozy mystery craze itself. The network is planning to produce, next year, at least a dozen prime time hour and a half programs featuring a new cozy sleuth. That sleuth will be the creation of one of the writers you will be hosting. Sylvia Duncan will be doing interviews, talking to authors, negotiating—but the bottom line is that, at the end of the conference, the winner will be announced. The prize will be a contract worth millions of dollars to the lucky writer.”

BOOK: Climate Change: A Nina Bannister Mystery (The Nina Bannister Mysteries Book 7)
2.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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