A goose ran right smack over my grave on Monday morning, just as I climbed out of the subway in Lower Manhattan. I shuddered all over, shook it off, and headed uptown to my office.
That’s what we call it, anyway, back home in Dixie, when shivers just shoot down your spine for no good reason. There’s probably some real name for it, some medical term. I just don’t know it.
But you know what I mean, don’t you?
Some might say it was the brisk north wind that set me shivering, but they would be wrong. The wind sent my long, black hair swirling all around and blew my skinny little coat open. But the wind wasn’t the problem. No, not the wind.
I don’t have second sight, and I didn’t have a big premonition or anything, but I should have.
And every time I get that old, cold, nasty feeling, something bad happens pretty soon, trust me…
My name is Sidney Marsh, and I’m a travel agent. I came to New York eight years ago for a summer internship with an agency and fell in love with the City, so I worked overtime until I managed to turn that little temp job into a career.
My mother, back home in Mississippi, nearly passed out over the idea of blowing off college and sorority rush for Manhattan, but she’s finally gotten used to it. Sort of.
Which is good, because I love New York and I’m not going back home anytime soon.
The agency I work for is called Itchy Feet Travel. Our name sounds kind of goofy, but it appeals to people. We work really hard to send folks around the world happily and safely, usually with success. I have to admit, though, that my last trip out, a Scandinavian cruise, was a bomb. I refuse to think about that. What happened on that ship was totally not my fault, no matter what my boss thinks.
One good thing came out of the fiasco was a pretty spectacular relationship with a certain Greek ship captain. But our romance hit the rocks when I realized that he wanted me to dump my career to bounce babies and make dolmades in Athens. Nope. Oxi. Not happening
My mother has this notion that all the women on my father’s side of the family are doomed to have bad romantic relationships. She calls it the Marsh Curse. She may be right. My dad has seven sisters, and Mamma bases her curse theory on the fact that all my aunts’ love lives are marred to a greater or lesser degree by disaster.
I’ve had my share of unfortunate experiences with unsuitable boyfriends too. And those guys, plus the lack of a ring on my left hand, have convinced Mamma that I’m headed down the same bewitched path as my aunts. As a front row spectator in the ongoing tragicomedy that is my love-life, I think my best friend and business partner Jay agrees with Mamma.
When I finally got to the office that cold morning I was shocked. The faded posters in the windows had been replaced with a giant zebra-striped banner that read, “Need a getaway? Hakuna matata! Give us a call!”
I pushed open the glass door and heard African chants and drumbeats instead of the usual elevator music. The walls were plastered with lion posters.
At the staff meeting I learned what all the zebra print meant.
My boss, Mr. Silverstein, announced a new scheme to attract business—safari tour packages. And Jay and I were headed to Africa to check it out.
“Sidney,” Mr. Silverstein said, “in preparation for this product launch we are sending you and Jay on a fam trip next Wednesday. I want you to experience first-hand everything that we will be offering our clients long before the first one sets foot in Africa. That way you can sort out in advance any problems that might occur with our arrangements. As I said earlier, on this first-ever African safari offered by Itchy Feet Travel there will be no problems, no slip-ups, no mistakes.”
“No mistakes,” Andre, his shadow, repeated.
Silverstein leaned over the podium, staring me down.
“It is your job, Sidney, to anticipate problems and solve them in advance. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
The steely eyes focused on him.
Jay nodded too. For once Silverstein had his full attention.
“And please remember, both of you, that I will hold you personally responsible for any glitches that are not resolved. Got it?”
Silverstein gave us each another piercing stare.
We both nodded.
“Then check your shot records and passports,” he finished, “because you are leaving Kennedy next week on a direct flight to Cape Town.”
I was blown away. So was Jay. For him, the glamour factor of the luxury trip outweighed his deathly fear of animals.
I wasn’t afraid at all, just thrilled. I mean, everyone knows a safari is perfectly safe, right? And our disaster of a cruise was history. Over. Done. Lightning wouldn’t strike twice, would it? What could possibly happen this time?
That bad feeling from outside the subway was wrong. Not bad news, good news! I had just been picked for a fam trip.
A terrific fam trip …
To South Africa.
How lucky was that?
Marie is giving away one (1) copy of GAME DRIVE. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. The book will be shipped directly from the author. Contest ends April 17 and US entries only.
Meet the author
Marie Moore is a native Mississippian. She graduated from Ole Miss, married a lawyer in her hometown, taught junior high science, raised a family, and worked for a small weekly newspaper—first as a writer and later as Managing Editor. She wrote hard news, features, and a weekly column, sold ads, did interviews, took photos, and won a couple of MS Press Association awards for her stories.
In 1985, Marie left the newspaper to open a retail travel agency, and for the next fifteen years, she managed the agency, sold travel, escorted group tours, sailed on nineteen cruises, and visited over sixty countries. The Sidney Marsh Murder Mystery Series was inspired by those experiences.
Marie also did location scouting and worked as the local contact for several feature films, including Heart of Dixie, The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag, and Robert Altman’s Cookie’s Fortune.
In mid-1999, because of her husband’s work, Marie sold her travel agency and moved to Jackson, MS, then New York City, Anna Maria Island, FL, and Arlington, VA. She and her husband now live in Memphis, TN, and Holly Springs, MS.
Game Drive (April, 2013, Camel Press) is the sequel to Marie’s first novel, Shore Excursion (April, 2012, Camel Press) which introduced amateur sleuth Sidney Marsh. In February, both books were specially chosen for the onboard libraries of Holland America and Seabourn Cruise Lines, and added to the shelves of The Travel Institute’s Bookstore. Marie will be featured in the May issue of Southern Writer’s Magazine, and will be speaking May 4, 2013, on a travel mystery panel at the 25th annual Malice Domestic Mystery Conference in Bethesda, MD. Marie is a member of Sisters in Crime.
For more information, visit: www.MarieMooreMysteries.com.
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.