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

35 thoughts on “Playing Second Fiddle

  1. Loved the story! J.P. Is one of my favorite characters in mystery fiction. I didn’t see that ending coming so bravo! Maybe a book of short stories could be done? Thanks for everything.

  2. I always seem to give you accolades in my comments for your Blog. Again sincere ones are headed to you. Thanks for sharing very well done Short Story with us, your privileged readers. Very Germain to my family history because explains nepotism jealously and how life falls in place. Perceptions are many times Just ‘Illusions’ [Richard Bach) another wonderful San Jaun Islands WA author.] But they are perceived real. Chuck from Tacoma. possibly your old SE driver from several years ago.

  3. Is there any chance that SECOND FIDDLE may be the genesis for a future Beaumont novel … like you’ve done with other characters recently? What a cliff-hanger.

  4. I have been a fan of yours since the first Beaumont book then continued with Joanna Brady, the Walker Family and Ali Reynolds. I just finished “Nothing to Lose”. “Second Fiddle” was excellent. I was born and raised in Seattle and know every place you mentioned in his series. Reading “Second Fiddle” was somewhat ironic as I always felt I played second fiddle to my younger sister and she passed away yesterday. Not by murder but long -standing health problems. The Seattle Public Library mentioned – was it the new modern spaceship looking building or the old Carnagie style built in the 20s-30s?

  5. Actually, I didn’t scan it. I retyped it. And then proofread it. So I have now read it several times, and I’m still not tired of it. Immediately clicked on the link and was all set to read it again! Do I have an addiction to Jance?

    I’m midstream in a second reading of Nothing to Lose, and I have way too much work at the moment. Twenty-three more days of tax season. So I stopped myself from another reading of Second Fiddle at the moment. But I’m glad it is now available to the other readers of this blog!

      • You are very welcome! I did it before tax season got busy, over the course of two evenings. I think scanning would have come out messier. You are careful with your product; how could I be less caring?

  6. Thank you for sharing Second Fiddle with us. I enjoy short stories and own several anthologies. I also love your recounting of winning the BMW at auction and the subsequent travel to claim your prize. What a fabulous adventure!

    I am also one of your longtime readers who enjoys hearing about Colt, as I have a grandson of a similar age who excels at bowling. I hope Colt is still enjoying bowling and he and his mother are doing well.

  7. Last night I finished “Nothing to Lose” and it was the best! I grew up in and around Seattle; my grandson and his young family live in Bellingham; my daughter lived in CdL; close friends lived in Homer–he was in law enforcement and she worked at the hospital. All the places in this book were some place in my life or heart. Thanks for a great story and sharing some of my favorite places too! I absolutely love Beau!!!

  8. I also found a copy of the book, bought it, and enjoyed Second Fiddle.
    Thank you for the download – much appreciated!

  9. Oh, dear. the minute I read Word Perfect, I wanted to cry. I loved Word Perfect.
    I updated to Chrome Operating System and they will not let me use it at all!!!! Then they stopped me from upgrading my HP printer files.
    Let’s be honest, I don’t like Google Docs. And I now have no printing function because I bought a new printer and have had nothing but headaches with it.
    Whine, whine, whine.
    I am going to console myself with reading Second Fiddle. But if it is like a Kindle book, forget it.

  10. I loved this short story from you! I love everything you write but this was an exceptional example of a short story. Leaves one wanting more!

  11. What an interesting mystery in itself. Tracking down old manuscripts, notes, or handwritten copies has been a regular feature of life. So glad you were gifted with people who could find what you thought was lost. I’m looking forward to reading it. Thank you.

  12. I always look forward to your posts each Friday. On this holiday day when I could sleep in and enjoy my tea, what a lovely surprise to be able to read a Beaumont short story. Thank you so much!

  13. Thank you for your short story gift – I enjoyed reading it, as I always do with your books. It made my day, and my week.

  14. How kind of you to share! It’s like receiving a very special, unexpected gift on an ordinary day. Thank you so very much for brightening my day.

  15. I loved “Second Fiddle.” It leaves us wondering what really happened. And you are the only one that truly knows.
    Keep writing. You are the best.

  16. The perfect crime?
    Just when I’m reading jpbeaumont for the 3rd time! Nice to see something new!
    The whole series! Like jp, Joanna, and Allie!

  17. Thank you so much, Judith, for sharing your writings and intriguing stories with us! I just printed “Second Fiddle” and am going downstairs to surprise my husband! He never gets on the computer since he retired, says it reminds him too much of his old job. Ralph has ALL of your books and is your BIGGEST fan! Whenever you are in town for your book signings, he gets your autograph. He also graduated from Bisbee High School and knew your brother. AND I had the honor and privilege of helping take care of your lovely Evie and Norman while working for Dr. Dregseth.

  18. It was a wonderful story.

    Rebecca loved the challenge of finding a copy for us. Thank you for sharing the backstory and the PDF. (I struggled to get out of the airport parking lot while driving in England, so I can completely relate with that, too. 🙂

    • I understand completely – that happened to us as well. I always say, “We drive on the right side of the road and they drive on the wrong (not left side)! LOL!

  19. Dear Judy, I am still laughing, in a good way, of driving about Britain-very scary on left side- and France with a teenyweeny trunk. I deeply sympathize with your experiences although my husband and I have great memories of the adventures.

  20. Thanks for sharing SECOND FIDDLE. I’m eager to read it. I had bern looking for it forever!

  21. As you mentioned in your blog, I too started out with Word Perfect and absoutely loved it. When my workplace changed all our computers to Microsoft Word, I was so frustrated. I still struggle with it to this day but luckily I’m retired and don’t have to use it all that much, but when I do it infuriates me that Word Perfect got left behind. I’ve read every JP Beaumont book but I can understand how a new fan of JP would be desperate to find a copy of any of them once they’ve started reading the series. I’d feel the same way about your Ali Reynolds series, but luckily I’ve located and read them all also.

  22. Thanks so much for sending this out. It was a wonderful surprise to get a little more JP Beaumont in my life!

  23. Interesting short story, and nice to have another one with Sue Danielson character. Very thought provoking end! Thsnks, enjoyed!

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