Campaign has ended. This book was not selected for publication.
We will let you know if this book becomes available on Amazon. Want to know if this book becomes available on Amazon?
Back to top

First pages

One

I’d just finished a stack of banana pancakes at Jack’s N Joe, one of LA’s premier breakfast spots. The warm feeling I had came partially from the pancakes but mainly from my lawyer, Gordon Pym, giving me the news that I was no longer the prime suspect in the murder of Melanie Briggs or as I knew her Maizie Briggs.

“Warm up?”

I looked at the server with the carafe of coffee waiting for my answer. He looked attentive, almost like a puppy wanting me to pet him.

“Sure. Why not?”

Jack’s N Joe hadn’t changed since I got the news from Pym that the oppressive legal cloud no longer hung over me. Not only did the banana pancakes sit well but the euphoria that permeated my body made the place much more like a normal restaurant rather than simply being a shelter from the possible catastrophe that Maizie’s murder had threatened.

At least this part of the day was going to be a winner.

“You look like you just won the Lotto,” said the man with a Chloe’s Blues breakfast sitting next to me.

“Not exactly,” I said, “but close. Got some news that really made my day.”

“Earl McNear,” he said extending his big, well-groomed hand. He looked to be about my size except his hair was darker and his middle extended further than mine.

“Arthur Tageman.”

“I’m in insurance,” McNear said fishing out a business card and handing it to me.

“Life, Auto, Casualty. Sounds like you’ve got all the bases covered.”

McNear wiped his face and put his napkin on a plate that only had a few blueberry stains left. “Who’re you with now?”

That question could only lead to one place and just then I didn’t want to go there. “I’d have to look that one up.”

“No problem. You’ve got my card. And we can get you an even better deal than Geico, even if that little lizard is cute.”

“That’s good to know.”

My phone rang. I answered and McNear waved as he left.

“Everything is in total disruption,” Charles said. “Total disruption. So you should take a few days vacation until it’s all sorted out.”

“I saw it on TV.” He referred to the mess at Megaworld Studios with ICE and other law enforcement taking computers and other office stuff much to the delight of all the TV reporters.

“Then you know what I’m talking about. I’ll give you a call when everything’s cleared up.” As usual Charles didn’t wait for an answer before he hung up.

A few days vacation. That was totally unexpected. What I thought he’d say was don’t come back in, that my job was terminated, finished, kaput. He didn’t ask about my legal problem and considering what was going on at the studio it wasn’t surprising that my entanglement with the law was merely a blip in the chaos the studio had become, smothering Charles up to his eyeballs.

Pym’s words came back as I stopped at the cashier to pay the tab: “Evidently one of the responsible parties decided that murder one wasn’t his choice so he gave the real story to LAPD and I suspect with a little help from ICE. There’ll be some legal papers to complete but other than that you’re home free.” The last three words of his welcome announcement were the key to the elation I felt.

Home free were two words that soared above all those in the Old English Dictionary. Even so, what did he mean by legal papers and would I have to take care of them? Or would that be Pym’s job? In either case it wasn’t anything to worry about, not with the revelation that I wasn’t on the hook for Maizie’s murder. Not with those two words that had a Dirty Harry ring to them. And it was definitely good to know that Pym wasn’t affected by Mega’s chaos.

The old saw about being on Cloud 9 was certainly appropriate. I almost felt like I should be singing or dancing, but that was something I knew I wouldn’t do. That was only for actors who craved that kind of publicity.

Even with Pym’s news I had a nagging feeling that put a damper on Cloud 9: was it really over? Were the legal papers going to be the final end to the nightmare?

Outside, I got in the Mini Cooper still thinking about Pym and what he’d said. And then there was Megaworld and what was going on there, which Charles had correctly characterized as chaos, at least as far as TV was concerned. In some ways I was sorry not to be the “fly on the wall” seeing exactly what was going on.

Other thoughts zinged inside my head. I hadn’t gone to Marsha’s funeral, but that was because her body had been shipped back to Sacramento where her relatives lived. I’d only seen the pictures of her mother and father, both smiling on his boat. She’d said something about the boat being her father’s second home. And her mother liked it, too, although Marsha had never said why.

What about the arrangements for Maizie? I pulled over and dialed the number that connected me to ICE so I could pass on the information that I’d dug up.

“Smathers,” the familiar voice said. He still sounded like Dan Duryea as Black Bart.

“Arthur Tageman,” I said waiting for him to acknowledge who I was.

Nothing. I repeated my name and still nothing so I went on to what was bugging me.

“I didn’t see a notice of where Maizie’s—Melanie’s—funeral was going to be held so I guess I’m asking.”

“Agent Briggs requested cremation with no memorial.”

I didn’t know what to say to something as final as that. It didn’t sound like the Maizie that I knew, but it evidently was the Melanie that Smathers was familiar with. He didn’t amplify his statement. I was just about ready to hang up when he added an unexpected and ominous, “We’ll be in touch.”

The line went dead and that was that. The hollow feeling about Maizie came back, but at the same time I was relieved because I’d never liked going to funerals. The last one was for my ex-wife’s brother and all the religious trappings that she so liked were anathema to me. I was never so relieved to get away from a crowd as when we left the church. The burial was pretty straightforward and didn’t bother me nearly as much as all the paeans to someone I thought was Buzz Lightyear’s away from the man I knew.

What had Smathers meant by saying they’d be in touch? Hadn’t I given them enough information to turn Megaworld upside down? And if they had any more snooping for me to do I was hors de combat as it were with Charles mandating vacation time.

Vacation. It was almost a word that had been removed from my vocabulary. What had I done on the last one I took? Three days in Las Vegas, something that wasn’t all that pleasant especially when I thought about the money I’d lost playing cards. It was the kind of vacation that made you want to stay at work.

I turned the radio on and pulled back into traffic. The news was the usual: bad and worse. Except for the good news from the LA Zoo. The newscaster gushed as she said the babirusa baby is ready to go into the paddock with the mother. What is a babirusa? That was an intriguing question and one that made me want to know more. And I wasn’t going to get more from the news because she had hardly gotten that bit of animal interest out before the commercial zipped in. The LA Zoo was in Griffith Park and if that strange sounding animal didn’t pique my interest I could always wander around the park or go to the observatory and be reminded of The Rocketeer. It might not qualify as a vacation but it would be a world away from going to the chaos of the studio.

Griffith Park. It was about the best place to go if you didn’t have a boatload of cash in your bank account. Does the new Zoo charge admission? Probably. There’s no free lunch. The city kept the old zoo with all the grottos and so forth as a trip down memory lane for those who used to go there before the new zoo was built. Amazing stuff that still roams around the collective memory and is saved by property tax receipts.

The traffic on the One-ten was the usual but I wasn’t in a hurry so my knuckles weren’t as white as they usually wore when I was driving around LA.

Getting on the Five was a different story. Trucks and more trucks, many of them with loads they’d picked up at the port to be transported to points north. They weren’t the kind of drivers to give an inch and it was tricky merging onto that freeway, but then again they were driven and I wasn’t so as long as the Mini could squeeze in without loss of paint or metalwork I was clam happy.

I pulled up the directions on my GPS: Northbound on I-5, Use right lane approaching 134 east to Pasadena. Exit at Zoo Drive. Turn right at stop sign and follow street across the bridge to Zoo parking lot.

Straightforward enough. It’s a week day so maybe that approach wouldn’t be bumper-to-bumper.

*

I was pleasantly surprised to zip right into the parking lot, finding a space close to the entrance with its nod to the Hollywood sign that spelled out Los Angeles Zoo in almost Hollywood sign sized 3-D letters with a Condor in spread wing flight above the entry plaza. No doubt about it the city had spent some bucks with the new layout. I was hoping it didn’t mimic a back lot although having trained animals would not have been a bad thing.

I paid the $19.00 entry fee and was surprised that the flamboyantly decorated ticket was good for a year and it was marked “non-refundable.” Whether I came back was undecided and would definitely depend on how much grab the zoo had for me. Getting a map of the zoo was a serendipity from two angles: it would keep me from getting lost and it was a cheap souvenir.

The initial two flights of stairs told me that either I was going to be higher than the enclosures or the grounds undulated much like the rest of the surrounding park. Parents struggling up the stairs with strollers shouted to their older children who were running from one view to the next.

Off to my right were American alligators appropriately identified by signage giving essential data for the animals. None of that caught my interest. Ahead was Reggie’s Bistro, probably good for those who wanted to picnic across from the eatery. It was part of the International Marketplace identified by another large sign over the entry portal, festooned with flags. The smell of fried food permeated the air.

Jacaranda’s in full reddish-pink bloom told the uninitiated into LA flora that they were definitely in Southern California.

Beyond and to the left stood a not quite life-size triceratops, a nod to Spielberg’s Jurassic franchise.

A family with cell phones out were making sure they had the Meercats standing on the boulder in the center of the enclosure safely captured for oohing and aahing when they got home.

To my right a mother held her child both appearing to admire the flamingoes. At least they were only going to take the image home in their heads.

The map pointed the noisy crowd as well as myself along a fairly winding trail toward the Gorilla Grill, another delight for all those whose bellies were growling. Growling was certainly the operative word as one or more of the lions sent its hunger call blanking most of the other sounds, except for the tourists’ camera clicks and multi-lingual exhortations to their companions. The smell of animal dung and fried food layered the air.

Tourists and locals with kids who were being shown animals they would probably never see in their native habitat crowded the walkways. The kids were either in awe or on the other hand totally bored because the animals didn’t look like the ones on their computer games. And they loudly complained to their parents as well as everyone in earshot how they felt about the differences.

I took the left turn and walked past the hyena paddock that reminded me of a poster my folks had put up on my wall when I was a kid to acquaint me with all the African animals. The zoo then was as they say a far cry from this one.

The babirusa were kept in an enclosure next to the wild boars. I suppose it was because both of those animals had dangerous looking tusks.

A docent explained the ins and outs of the babirusa to a group taking the guided tour. Those crowded around the guide and looking at the smooth skinned pig-like creature rooting in the enclosure’s grass didn’t react when they were told that the only animals threatened by tusks that only males sported were the babirusa themselves. If the tusks didn’t break off they would ultimately grow long enough to piece the skull of the animal. Talk about Intelligent Design! Made me wonder about the Ark and why Noah decided on babirusa for passengers. Too long ago to be really that interested. And, though stretching the word cute, the infant animal, if it was a male, didn’t have a clue as to what was in store for a far from cuddly adulthood.

With more throaty emanations from the lions adding a bass note to the at times odoriferous air all of us were breathing I followed the path past impala, curved horn antelope and zebra passing to the rear of the Gorilla Grill, aptly named for the gorilla reserve close by.

One of the tourists had his portable radio tuned to the news and Megaworld was right there. I thought I’d successfully escaped all that mess, but I should have known there really was no escape.

With my mood darkened I checked the map. The lion enclosure was across from the Okapi and near the giraffes. I didn’t think I would be that interested in anything besides the babirusa but with all the jacaranda in bloom, forest bamboo and critter calls the zoo had a way of overcoming what would be described by any journalist worth her salt as a jaded attitude. At any rate it was a good antidote to being reminded about Megaworld or anything else that had to do with commercial movie making.

Much like MGM’s lion, the roar of LA Zoo’s large members of the cat family was a crowd grabber. Mother’s holding babies, father’s with video cameras and tourists all crowded the rail that prevented onlookers from dropping into the deep moat that separated the zoo goers from the lion’s walk. I hoped it was deep enough so that any of the lions lying in the shade that might rouse themselves to try an escape would be hard pressed to do so. On the lion’s side of the moat were boulders stacked on boulders, trees both alive and dead and other spaces the female lions were using to escape the sun. King of the Forest without Bert Lahr’s sibilant phrases opened his mouth wide and gave the tourist video’s a hefty addition to the soundtrack.

“He really is loud,” the woman standing next to me said. “I mean is it the way the grotto is built? You know like an echo chamber or is it just that guy’s own vocal chords?”

I didn’t know whether she was making a general announcement or whether it was specifically meant for me to join her in conversation.

“Whatever it is, he got his crowd.”

She was only a few inches shorter than me. Dark brown hair, clear skin, safari jacket and skirt and a sun hat.

“Are you on staff?”

“No way,” she said. “I’m just a messenger.”

“For Garcia?” I asked and then thought she was probably much too young to remember the Wallace Berry picture.

“I saw that one on Netflix,” she said smiling. “But mine is for you.”

That was a teal-tined surprise. “How did you know where I was?”

“GPS is wonderful,” she said. “By the way I’m Heather Rose Caffin, Rosie.”

“GPS?”

“On your phone,” Rosie said. “It’s always on so if you have your phone with you...” She shrugged.

“Did Charles send you?”

“No.”

I waited for her to fill out the answer. She didn’t look like she had any connection to Megaworld so having a message for me was at the very least intriguing and somewhat upsetting.

“I’m supposed to tell you that when you meet Sharma Poot you should keep your eyes and ears open.”

“That’s the message?” She shrugged. “Who the hell is Sharma Poot?”

“That’s the message I was tasked with.” Her answer ignored what I really wanted to know. She started to walk away and I caught up to her.

The light bulb so loved by cartoonists lit up. “Are you associated with an agent named Smathers?”

She stopped and looked at me. Her dark brown eyes were penetrating, much as Maizie’s had been.

“Whether he did or didn’t isn’t important. What is important is that you take the message to heart and act on it.”

“A bit more difficult than your characterization, seeing’s how I don’t have the foggiest as to who this Poot is.”

She shrugged again, which I took to mean she wasn’t going to provide any more detail. Being approached like that was not conducive to clear thinking, but maybe if I offered she would agree and I could get more answers. “Want to get a coffee?”

That offer was apparently not anticipated by her assignment and she had to think about it. I thought that her hesitation might be preliminary to a refusal but then she agreed.

“The Mahale Cafe’s close.”

“Good. I wouldn’t know which one of the zoo eateries to choose.”

She smiled and that made the encounter worthwhile.

The Mahale Cafe was really a cafeteria making food to order. Getting coffee was easy but pricey. Compared to Winchell’s it was an order of magnitude increase. But what the hell it was a vacation.

We sat outside on the flat topped stools that surrounded one of the patio tables.

“You’re probably wondering why I gave you my name,” Rosie said.

“Big Ben is quiet.”

She smiled at the allusion. “When the current mess at Megaworld is straightened out,” Rosie started and then took a drink of the coffee, “you’ll be needing a secretary.”

“What?” That was definitely out of the blue. What else could I say to such a bizarre statement? “With Megaworld upside down?”

“Let’s just say that wheels and cogs are turning and the end result might surprise you. I’ll be providing a CV in due course.”

One surprise after another. As I thought about what her possible connection was the obvious solution became apparent. “Aside from the bolt from the blue, which makes you sound very much like a woman I worked with before her untimely demise—”

“—Melanie Briggs,” Rosie interrupted. “She was a good friend and I hope their appeals run out and those bastards get the needle.”

Was Rosie an agent as well? “You make conversation somewhat esoteric. Or perhaps I should say, unfocused.”

“Sorry. I really shouldn’t expand on the message.”

“Why is that?”

She looked at me as though I should already have the answer.

“Thanks for the coffee,” she said getting up. “I’m sure you’ll be hearing from us soon.”

I didn’t have a chance to ask her who the us was, but I was confident that I already had the answer: Smathers and company. And it would have been nice to know whether Sharma Poot was a man or a woman. And what I should be keeping my eyes and ears open for.

*

Rosie’s message played back much like some of the other jingles that usually occupied my brain cells. Sharma Poot. With a name like that he or she was probably an import, but from where and why did it have anything to do with me? And where would I meet this Poot? It was just another of the ongoing enigma’s that had become par for my course.

I couldn’t think of anything else that was pressing and I suspected the view of LA from the Observatory would probably be worth the time spent.

*

Before I got to my Mini, a ding from my phone meant I had an important something coming up. I looked at my calendar and I’d forgotten about the doctor’s appointment. Fortunately, Dr. Abrams was just off I-5 in Glendale so I should have time to make it there. I didn’t have to visit him that often so having to drive to Glendale wasn’t a big deal, especially since his office always got a five-star rating. Like Yossarian’s Doc Daneeka, Abrams always followed the Hippocratic rule, and so far it had worked even if he chided me about my weight.

Sharma Poot. What a name. Who was this person? And what did it mean for me? Always more questions than answers.

*

At Abrams’ office I paid the ten dollar co-pay and sat in one of the comfortable chairs in the reception area. I’d just picked up a copy of Time when one of Abrams’ medical assistants called my name and took me into the hall where the dreaded scale awaited. I didn’t remember what the reading was from my last visit, but I was sure this one was higher. As soon as my weight had been transferred to her notepad she led me past other assistants busy with records and office necessities to a small exam room. I was thankful that she didn’t comment on the scale’s reading.

In that small room with exam table, chairs, sink and old magazines she fired up the computer and entered my weight. I sat in one of the vinyl upholstered chairs. Ambling over to me with her work face on I stuck my arm out to receive the blood pressure cuff and opened my mouth for the oral thermometer. She went on about the weather and I uh-huhed with the device under my tongue. Then she pumped up the cuff, took the reading and removed the probe from my mouth. After she’d entered the readings into the computer she said the doctor would be in shortly. So far it was a ditto of my last visit.

The old magazines sitting on the other chair didn’t appeal so I looked at some of the messages on my cell. My lawyer said that the ongoing hassle with my ex was still on hold, but she didn’t see any problems in getting the alimony to stay the same. My sister left a text telling me that she had just given notice at her work and was ready for the new job. I think she’d had four or five jobs in the same number of years. Always getting better pay and perks, but she was a real go getter, probably inheriting that gene sequence from my father who never let an opportunity pass him by. There was no wi-fi for my cell to pick up so surfing the web wasn’t possible.

“Good morning,” Dr. Abrams said as he entered the room and extended his hand. “How are you today?” The Doc Daneeka comparison surfaced as soon as I heard his voice. All it needed to complete the image was the roar of B-25 engines.

On my first visit I thought he was another Mr. Rogers. And with that comparison I expected him to say “Won’t you be my neighbor.”

I shook his hand. “Couldn’t be better.” No, Daneeka was more accurate.

“Didn’t I see something about Megaworld on TV this morning?” he asked somewhat absent mindedly.

“The mother of all messes. And it put me on vacation.”

He smiled. “Well, that must be the silver lining.” He sat in front of the wall mounted computer, adjusted it and then looked at my information.

“Still visiting Winchell’s?” I didn’t know whether it was a questions or a statement. “As if I couldn’t tell from your weight.” He shook his head and I knew that wasn’t a good sign.

He pulled out the leg rest from the examining table and I climbed up and sat. He proceeded to have me breathe through my mouth and listened to all the gurgles and burples.

“Well, everything looks good there.” He went back over to the computer. “I’m ordering an A1C blood test based on your weight gain.”

“A1C? What exactly is that?”

He looked at me as though either I should have known or he was giving me arcane information. “It will show whether you are pre-diabetic, which I’m guessing might well be the case.”

“So you think Winchell’s is the culprit?”

“Part of the problem,” he said turning to look at me. “The rest depends on how much other sugar is in your diet.”

I didn’t think I ate that much sugar and said as much.

“You’d be surprised at how much sugar there is in food, especially processed food. As I recall you said you usually have cereal for breakfast.”

I nodded.

“On a recent trip to the supermarket I happened to walk down the cereal aisle and looked at the ingredients. Almost all of them were corn based and corn converts to sugar almost as fast as it hits your gut.”

“What about honey?”

He frowned as though I should have known the answer. “Sucrose and glucose, those are the real glycating culprits. You’ll need to cut down on them to avoid the nasty results of Type-2 diabetes.”

That sounded both serious and gloomy and I asked him how soon I should get the blood work and he said I could stop by the lab next door. They should be able to get me in without too much of a wait. He made a note on the computer and said he wanted to see me again as soon as the test results were in. He nodded as he left and didn’t say anything else. I went out of the examining room to find out what was next.

*

Since I was only having the A1C test I didn’t have to go through the normal twelve-hour fast. There was no co-pay or other up-front charge which surprised me but I was sure my HMO wasn’t going to let me off scot free. I signed in and took a seat in the waiting area looking at the pastel walls and the figured carpet. Shortly one of the people opened the door and called me into a small nook that had a chair with extended arms, vials for the removed blood, rubber tubing to make the veins pop and assorted other bits of medical paraphernalia.

The blood draw wasn’t that painful although I’d always hated needles.

The phlebotomist put a gauze pad over the puncture and wrapped it with an Ace bandage. I asked why a Band aid wouldn’t do. She said there was less bruising this way. She went back to her vials and tubes and I left.

Outside the building. My innards said it was time for lunch. I thought about what Dr. Abrams had said about corn and sugar, two of my favorite diet items, at least according to him. At least he wasn’t down on hamburgers or fries. That was the good news. The bad was that as much as I liked Winchell’s I’d have to think about cutting down on my visits. Maybe that was the silver lining in the Mega mess.

I usually looked for off-beat eating establishments but I was definitely ready for something to ease the abdominal growls, so I settled for the In-N-Out Burger on Brand. At least it rated four stars, which probably meant I didn’t have to worry about a dose of e.coli.

As usual it was fast food and the decor was modern plastic. All that was beside the point of a belly that gave out sounds like Allnut’s in The African Queen. As soon as the bun/meat/ketchup combination hit my mouth I was transported to the realm of satisfaction. And the fries weren’t all that greasy. The zigzag yellow arrowhead spearing In-N-Out just went up a few clicks on my eatery graph.

*

My curiosity surfaced and I turned the radio on when I got back in the Mini. The same hyper velocity presentation on Megaworld’s mess came through clearly. There was nothing new and the repetition didn’t do anything to alleviate a definitely hollow feeling that not only had I been the cause of the mess but that it had left me essentially without employment at least for the time being. At any rate it was not without income, however, for I had accumulated vacation time. But what would happen after that time was used up? Charles’ words didn’t provide an answer. On the other hand Rosie’s message about Sharma Poot and the possible connection to Megaworld was encouraging. As Chiquita started roaming around my brain with her fruity advice I wondered where she’d been. My axons and dendrites had other fish to fry as my departed grandmother used to say.

The synaptic activity brought up Sharma Poot. Who was Sharma Poot? Maybe Wiki would have something. I headed toward my apartment. It would be easier on my eyes to use a computer rather than the phone. Why did the doom clouds hover now that the thugs from Five Tines had confessed?

The other nagging bit in the mix was Rosie. Was she really part of Smather’s group? And why would she be so keen on becoming my secretary? For what reason? Sharma Poot? The questions kept my axons and dendrites busy as I pulled up in front of my apartment with paranoia struggling to escape the shadows.

It was a relief to see that nothing had physically changed on or in the building. Or for that matter the neighborhood. The traffic seemed normal enough. The cars that usually parked in front of the apartment buildings were gone with their drivers presumably off to work. The normality of the environment was comforting, yet unsettling at the same time. Like when the Five Tines graffiti had appeared on my Mini.

I shouldn’t have been feeling the pangs of paranoia but I was. The feeling abated when I saw that neither the interior of the building nor the door to my apartment had been defaced with that despicable symbol.

I went inside and felt the rush of endorphins that meant I was home. I fired up my computer and while it was booting I made coffee.

I typed “Wiki” into the URL space and Wikipedia’s world as a jigsaw puzzle logo and search page displayed. I typed Sharma Poot and a short bio of the person minus photo appeared. Sharma Poot was well established as an international missus fix-it for troubled companies as evidenced by the long list of Indian and other international companies I’d never heard of. So that was the reason her name surfaced: She was going to fix Megaworld’s problems. A Herculean task at best.

Yet a brief reference to Somes, Inc. and her rumored involvement meant that she might have some skeletons in the proverbial closet.

I switched to Somes, Inc. and found that the conglomerate had been investigated for a variety of shady deals, including illegal arms sales, jewelry fencing and smuggling in general. This article didn’t tie Sharma Poot to the company. Why not? Was her relationship that innocent? Was I being too cynical? I went back to the article on Sharma Poot.

Since Sharma was from India originally I wanted to find out if there was any significance in her name. When I typed “Sharma” in the search box the following appeared:

Sharma is in India and Nepal a surname or given name among Brahmins.

An alternative English spelling of the name used in the city of Varanasi and the Indian states of AssamAndhra Pradesh and Kerala is "Sarma". Some Assamese people also use Sarmah.

According to Dictionary of American Family Names, the name Sharma is listed as "Indian: Hindu (Brahman) name from Sanskrit šarma ‘joy’, ‘shelter’."

Joy and shelter were positive, but Poot only brought up some references to people and scat, neither of which seemed to be appropriate for a surname. It was intriguing to say the least to have poop for a last name, but discretion dictated that I not ask her about it.

That bit of arcane information didn’t answer a more timely question: Where and when was Sharma Poot going to work her magic on Megaworld? Maybe the references to joy and shelter were what’s required to reduce Mega’s problems from gargantuan to solvable.

My questions had to be put on hold, at least until I got a call from Charles. Given what he’d said about taking a vacation I didn’t expect to get any answers right away.

I hated being at loose ends. I should start to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my vacation time. As usual it always was if nothing else more of a problem than a solution. Did I want to take another shot at Vegas? Not really. A short cruise along the coast? Maybe to Baja? Too expensive. One of the theme parks? Too many tourists and way too crowded. One of LA’s world-class museums? That was a possibility since I hadn’t been to any in a long time. Maybe the staid environment would dampen thoughts about Megaworld and Five Tines.

Looking at the list of all the potential spots to visit was somewhat overwhelming. Who would’ve thought there were that many museums in and around LA? Even Forest Lawn was classified as one, but taking in that one would bring up memories of Rod Steiger’s Mr. Joy boy and Mom’s big tub. Definitely out. What about a visit to the USS Iowa? There wouldn’t be any Mega people there since they were averse to anything that reeked of national defense. But with all that steel it would be way too hot. The Huntington sounded interesting since it was listed as a “library” rather than a museum, at least on Wiki. The Huntington website listed the place as simply The Huntington. From the pics on the web page The Huntington Library was definitely more than just a library. So I opted for that spot.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I live and write in Sacramento. My wife, Jerrilee, is a retired elementary teacher. As a freelancer I’ve written over a hundred articles and stories in national magazines. I’ve worked at various companies writing user manuals, operator guides and reports. My fiction is wide ranging as you can see from my website: http://www.williambmueller.com.

Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from this book?
A.
Emily blunt as Sharma Poot Kate Winslet as Felice D'courte Charlize Theron as Rosie Caffin Ewan McGregor as Arthur Tageman Damian Lewis as Charles Searcy Willem Dafoe as Agent Smathers
Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
My brother's step daughter is an actress with many ties and anecdotes. She and they started the process rolling.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
When I was working with a WW2 vet who had a story that intrigued me.

Next in:
Literature & Fiction
Miner Six
How can one unnamed boy defeat World Corp?
Double Bluff
He's gay. She's single. What could go wrong?
Blind Fate
When the first date from hell becomes forever