Playing Second Fiddle

Thirty years ago, when charity auctions were all the rage, Bill and I attended one that benefited the local arts community, PONCHO.  Having never been invited to one of those, we were slightly dazzled.  The auction was held at the Marriott in downtown Seattle.  At five in the afternoon, we stepped off the escalator into the midst of the silent auction displays.  The first item we spotted with a $500 minimum bid was a thirty-day European use of a BMW 700 series offered by the local dealer.  I immediately signed up.  The BMW was the first item I bid on in the silent auction as well as the only one.

When the live auction got underway, we didn’t buy anything because … well … although we bid what we could afford, we were consistently outbid by other more well-heeled guests.  We went back upstairs to our room empty-handed and a bit disappointed.  The next morning, someone from the auction called to say that we hadn’t picked up our BMW certificate.  Did we still want it? Well, yes indeed we did!

The following year we planned our 30-day European Vacation only to have that foiled by the pub date of Without Due Process, the first Beau book in hardback.  This was back in the day when book tours were a big deal.  When I expected be tooling around Europe in a BMW, my publisher wanted me to be out on the road selling books in the good old US of A.  When we called the dealer to cancel, he told us it was no big deal.  When we were ready to go, we should let him know.  A year or so after that, when Bouchercon, an annual mystery-writers convention, was scheduled for Nottingham, England, we signed up.  Then we made arrangements to pick up our thirty-day BMW.

At the time were pretty new to the travel game, and we went on our way with far too much luggage in tow.  When we collected the BMW in Frankfurt, Germany, our original 700 series model had shrunk to a 300-something, and it was all we could do to squeeze everything we’d dragged along with us into the back seat and trunk.  Learning to pack Rick Steves Lite came several years later.

We had loads of fun driving around on the continent, but once we crossed the English Channel into the UK, negotiating our right-hand drive BMW in a left-hand world became a lot more problematic.  All our motoring instincts sent us scurrying to the wrong lane every single time.  I suspect there are people in Canterbury who, to this day, remain traumatized by our long-ago efforts to exit a parking lot near the cathedral!

We arrived at the convention hotel a day early and ended up having dinner with Lawrence Block with whom I shared both a publisher and an editor. He told us that once the convention was over, he was embarking on a self-drive UK-based book tour. Over the meal, we told him about our charity auction BMW.  When I asked what kind of car he’d be taking on his book tour, he told me wryly that it was “one letter short of a BMW.”  He did NOT include the make and/or model, but I digress.

Once I signed up to attend that Bouchercon, I was invited to participate in an anthology of short stories written by authors attending the convention.  I penned “Second Fiddle” specifically for inclusion in that anthology.  Copies were given away free to convention participants, but the anthology didn’t have any distribution beyond that.  A year or so later, a publisher included “Second Fiddle” in a regularly published short story anthology called First Cases.  Since the story features Beau’s then partner, Sue Danielson, it clearly wasn’t a first case for him but why quibble?

How does that old Ron Popiel saying go—”Set it and forget it?”  That’s what I did with “Second Fiddle”—I forgot about it completely until several months ago.  That’s when Brent Kelley, a relatively new reader from Louisiana, wrote to me.  He was in the process of tracking down all my works.  He had found a listing for “Second Fiddle” but couldn’t locate the story itself.  I checked the files in my computer—and came up empty.

For years I have relied on Bill, a retired electronics engineer, for all things tech-related.  For the better part of twenty years, I happily wrote my manuscripts on a Microsoft-based program called Word Perfect.  Then a new version of Microsoft came out—Vista, I believe.  Users said the update  was causing all kinds of headaches for users.  Bill had moved over to Apple by then, and that’s when he laid down the law:  If I updated to Vista, he was done being my IT guy!  The next thing I knew, I was an Apple girl all the way.  Sadly somehow my file copy of “Second Fiddle” didn’t survive the big switcheroo.

I wrote to Brent telling him that, unfortunately, I no longer had a copy of “Second Fiddle” in my files.  Brent’s wife, Rebecca, happens to be a librarian.  He put her on the case, and she was able to down two copies of First Cases, one for them and one for me.  When I mentioned this in a blog, another fan, Patricia, not only located a copy for herself, she scanned it and sent me a digital file.

This all came about while I was working on finishing Collateral Damage and preparing for the short but brief book tour for Nothing to Lose.  It’s safe to say that I had my hands full at the time.  Things are much better now, and I’ve decided to include a pdf of that story in today’s blog.  No, I haven’t reread it.  There are probably things in the story that won’t mesh with parts of Beau’s and Sue Danielson’s mutual histories in subsequent books.  My first instinct would be to go in and fix those—which I’m not going to do!  I’m leaving it as is.

And so, thanks to some of my very devoted fans, happy reading folks.  Here’s here a piece of historical fiction written by me almost thirty years ago.


Click to download  Second Fiddle