It was a dark and stormy night. I sat, hunched over my keyboard, forming letters into words and words into paragraphs, when a loud pounding sounded at my back door. My husband wasn’t home. Who’d venture out in this weather to visit us? Reluctantly, I went to see who was at the door.
I turned on the back porch light but could see no one. Had I imagined the noise? I was about to turn back to my office when a woman walked through the door. No, not a person. A nebulous being who didn’t wait for me to open the door for her. Not that I would have. I’m not stupid. Who shows up on your doorstep during a terrible thunderstorm?
I frowned at her. I recognized her but had never seen her. Still, she looked familiar Who was she? And then I realized she was Maxine from my first Laurel and Nick mystery.
She put her hands on her hips. “You killed me in the first chapter of POSED IN DEATH. Why? I was a good mother, a good friend. I did volunteer work, for heaven’s sake.”
“That’s what got you killed,” I said. “I needed a sympathetic victim for this book. In mysteries, I try for victims everyone is happy to see dead or victims no one wants to see killed. You were the perfect sympathetic victim.”
“Not fair!” Maxine said. “Being a good mother and a nice person shouldn’t get you killed.”
I shook my head. “How many mysteries have your read? You can’t choose just any victim. I needed someone wonderful or horrible and chose you.”
Maxine shook her head, looking slightly dumbfounded. “So, being a good person is what got me killed?”
I shrugged. “”Let’s face it. You chose a loser for your husband. That put you higher on my list of people to kill. And then you were best friends with my protagonist, Laurel. If you died, she’d be motivated to find who killed you.”
Maxine blinked. “I didn’t know Laurel was your protagonist. That doesn’t seem fair.”
I gave her a sorry shake of my head. “I’m sorry, Maxine, but you don’t seem to realize that you’re just a character in my story. And you had to die.”
“I’ve never been real?” she asked
“Only in my imagination. And thank you for showing up. You were perfect for my story.”
She finally smiled. “Did I make a great hook?”
“It would be hard to beat you. I was fond of you myself. You were only in a few chapters. but drove the story.”
Her smile spread. “I might be remembered?”
“By me, for sure.”
She turned to walk out the door. “How many can claim that at their deaths? To be remembered. I’m grateful, author. Thank you for memorializing me in your manuscript.”‘
I nodded. “You were perfect in your part. Thank you for advancing my story.”
“Any time. And if you ever need a good victim again, change my name and give me a try.”
I nodded. “I’ll remember you, but in the meantime, go to character heaven. You deserve to be there. You did an outstanding job, Maxine.”
She smiled and started to the back door, slowly morphing through it. I admired Maxine. A perfect victim in literature. But maybe not so happy about it in real life. I understood. But then I’d worked hard to find justice for her. And at the end of Posed in Death, her killer was revealed.