Tracy Eaton here, protagonist of the just-released Revenge on Route 66. I used to describe myself as a mystery writer and detective wannabe, because I wanted to be an amateur sleuth like the one I wrote about. Now I’m not a wannabe anymore. I’ve had so many cases, they’re up the wazoo, if that’s anywhere near as high as my eyeballs. My mother handed me my first case in “L.A. Justice.” You probably know her better as Martha Collins, ditsy star of stage and screen. Typical of Mother, who can’t do anything like anyone else, after finding herself framed for the murder of her latest boy toy, she never asked me to solve a murder, but to obliterate any connection to her before the police, the mob, the media, or my dad could learn of it.
It’s not for nothing that she and Dad are known as “Hollywood’s madcap couple.” The two of them wouldn’t know the real world if it flew out their ears. Jeez, is it any wonder how I turned out like I am? Anyway, after a few missteps, I made my amateur sleuth bones in “L.A. Justice,” only I learned in the course of that case that I might be a bit more reality-challenged than I knew. The chips don’t fall far from the nut-tree, you know. I discovered I might take a more unconventional approach to crime solving than other amateur sleuths. Hey, that way the bad guys don’t see it coming!
But as you’ve probably noticed, I digress…
A day in my life… Why don’t I tell you about the day when Dad fed me a strange conundrum during our recent jaunt down Route 66? He had always taken trips along Route 66, convincing himself as he moved through the bizarre hoi polloi you find on the Mother Road, that he was just a regular person, deep down. This time, joining him was my husband Drew’s Uncle Philly. Uncle Philly, a recovering conman, was such a messy little cherub, he had to rise up a ways to reach “regular person.”
Back in the old days, our Route 66 jaunts always included a stay in Tecos, New Mexico, where his old friend Lucy Crier ran the Lunch Pail Café, which was decorated with hundreds of her hand-painted lunch pails. But things took a dark turn thirty years ago when Lucy plugged her ex-beau and went to the big house for murder. Though I was only a small fry at the time, I remember the night loads of cop cars converged on the café.
Everyone in Tecos was only too ready to believe Lucy capable of murder, because she had always been a little quick with the lies. Only Dad, her faithful friend, never believed she did it.
This time, Dad and Philly had already headed onto Tecos, to spend extra time with Lucy’s smarmy baby boy, Woody—all grown up and now, and as creepy as a Southwestern Frankenstein. Since I didn’t want quite so much of that pleasure, Drew and I headed out a week later to join them.
Dad gave us a chore to perform along the way. He wanted us to stop at the storage yard in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he kept all the lunch pails from Lucy’s old café, and clean thirty years of dust off the freakin’ things. Dad wasn’t always the brightest bulb in the marquee, but this time he was way off base. He believed that he’d finally found a way to get Lucy out of the clink.
And that’s when he called and fed me the craziest conundrum. Here’s how that conversation went:
After a lifetime of using telephones, Dad still seemed to think it’s the volume that pushes the voice through the line. He shouted at me, “You kids have got to put the pedal to the metal and get to Tecos as fast as you can.”
Give the dated slang a rest already. “How come?” I asked.
“Things are really hopping here,” he said. In the background, I could hear the muttered sounds of Philly’s voice, egging him on. “Baby, you remember my old friend, Lucy Crier, right? Well, sure you do. You’re cleaning her lunch pails.” He took a deep breath, then spit out, “Folks around here have been spotting her lately, running between cars on the highway.”
Huh? Surely, that wasn’t how prison worked in New Mexico. “Dad, isn’t Lucy serving a life sentence in the hoosegow for murder? You didn’t bust her out, did you?”
With a hearty chuckle he said, still at full volume, “Tracy, your daddy’s getting a little old for jail breaks.”
Note that he had no objection to the idea in theory. And people wonder about me.
“Besides, I called the warden. Lucy’s been there, in the women’s prison in Grants, in her cell, this whole time. But people have seen her here, too.”
“How is that possible?”
With exaggerated patience, he said, “Honey, that’s why you should be here. It’s right up your alley.” He slowed his speech even more, and spoke as if to the simple-minded. “You see, baby, that’s why they call it a mystery.”
See what I mean? Cases just keep coming to me. If you want to learn how this one turns out, you’ll have to read about it in Revenge on Route 66.
You can read more about Tracy in Revenge on Route 66, the fourth book in the “Tracy Eaton” mystery series. The first book in the series is Revenge of the Gypsy Queen .
Meet the author
Kris Neri writes the Tracy Eaton mysteries, featuring the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars, as well as the Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty magical series, featuring a questionable psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent. Her novels have been honored with nominations for such prestigious awards as the Agatha, Anthony, Macavity, and Lefty—she’s a three-time finalist for the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery. Her latest magical mystery, Magical Alienation, recently became a New Mexico-Arizona Book Award winner. Kris teaches writing online for the prestigious Writers’ Program of the UCLA Extension School, and with her husband, owns The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, Arizona. Kris blogs with the Femmes Fatales and welcomes visitors to her website: www.krisneri.com or on Facebook.
Books are available at retail and online booksellers.