Nothing says, You’re going to die alone and be eaten by coyotes, like your GPS failing you on a gravel road in rural Virginia while the sun sinks slowly behind the Blue Ridge mountains.
“C’mon, Dina,” I whispered under my breath. “Help me out here.” Dina was my GPS. Dina Temple-Raston. I started naming my nav systems after NPR correspondents years ago as a way to annoy my then-boyfriend Ryan. He hated it when women hyphenated. So one day we were listening to NPR and Soraya Sarhaddi-Nelson signed off, Ryan was exasperated. “I mean, what’s the point with a name like that? It’s such a mouthful. ” Never mind that a woman’s name might be a crucial part of her identity, Ryan didn’t like the extra syllables. I had never heard anything so stupid in all my life, so when the GPS lady interrupted our discussion with a travel note, I decided right then and there to start referring to her as Soraya Sarhaddi-Nelson. You know, out of spite. After Soraya came Lulu Garcia-Navarro, and now I had Dina. And even though I wasn’t dating Ryan anymore, I rather liked the way this personalized my direction-getting experience, and my errant sense of direction made a reliable navigator a must, especially now that I was a roving reporter-in-training for the Tuttle Times.
I could kill Will Holman, I thought to myself. It was he who sent me out here into the depths of Tuttle County on what he called a “training mission.” It had become obvious lately that Holman fancied himself the Mr. Miyagi to my Danielsan and he’d had me doing the journalistic equivalent of “wax on, wax off” for the past three weeks.
Today’s exercise in futility was a glorified scavenger hunt throughout Tuttle County. What this had to do with learning to be an investigative reporter I did not know, but it beat sitting inside the office all day sorting Holman’s Magic: The Gathering cards, which is what I did yesterday. And it was better than the training I was getting on writing obituaries from my other supervisor, Hal Flick, who so far had only let me do research on the “pre-dead” in Tuttle Corner.
I pulled back onto the road and drove forward. (You see, this is one of the reasons I needed Dina— because I used words like “forward” to describe the direction I was going.) But actually forward was a pretty decent metaphor for where my life was headed at the moment. I’d left my comfortable job at the library to take an exciting new position as a journalist at the Times. And as if that wasn’t enough, I had a promising and delicious new relationship with the promising and delicious DEA agent Jaidev Burman. Things had really changed from just a few months ago when I didn’t have a clue where my life was heading. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Literally speaking, I was straight up lost.
I could kill Will Holman, I thought again. And then, as if the thought conjured the image, I saw a vehicle coming toward me, a distinctly Holman-shaped vehicle. As the figure came into focus, I saw that it was indeed Will Holman sitting astride what looked like a cross between a bicycle and a motor scooter— a canary yellow apparatus with both a motor and actual bike pedals that puffed along at roughly seven miles per hour.
After an awkward dismount he said, “You were supposed to be at Mt. Malady by no later than 6:00pm. The Malady ladies kicked me out for loitering.”
“I didn’t even know I was supposed to go to Mt. Malady! If you wanted to meet there, why didn’t you just say so?”
“Be patient, young one,” Holman said in what I had come to know as his I am now going to teach you something voice. “All will be revealed in time. You are the clay, and I am the sculptor – I will mold you—”
“What?” He looked surprised. “I didn’t mean that in a sexual way, if that’s what you were thinking—”
I held up a hand to stop him. “That was not what I was thinking. That is never what I am thinking. What I was thinking was,” I paused. “Let’s just go home. It’s getting late.”
“Okay. I’ll jump back on the Hobbit and you can trail my six back to headquarters.”
I sighed. “I did not understand one word of that sentence.”
“My Hobbit.” He pointed to the bike/scooter thing. “It’s a 1972 Honda Hobbit. It’s vintage.”
I glanced at the contraption. It looked like the love child of a giant praying mantis and a banana. “Are you sure it’s not extinct?”
“Oh yeah.” He smiled. “They don’t make them like this anymore.”
That was sort of my point, but I let it go. I knew from experience that engaging Holman in conversation about his peculiar hobbies could run long. And besides, I’d had just about all the “training” I could take for one day.
You can read more about Riley in THE GOOD BYLINE, the first book in the NEW Riley Ellison mystery series.
Meet Riley Ellison, a quirky young library assistant who has become known in her hometown of Tuttle Corner, Virginia, as Riley Bless-Her-Heart. Riley’s odd habit of living vicariously through people she reads about in the obituary pages hits a little too close to home when she is asked to write one for her childhood best friend, Jordan James. Jordan’s unexpected suicide has left Riley desperate to understand why a young woman with so much to live for would suddenly opt out, so she steps out of her comfort zone and into the role of obituary writer.
Things get messy, however, when Jordan’s co-worker, a paranoid reporter with a penchant for conspiracy theories, convinces Riley that Jordan’s death was no suicide. He leads her down a dangerous path toward organized crime, secret lovers, and suspicious taco trucks. Eventually, Riley’s serpentine hunt for the truth leads to a discovery that puts everything she holds dear—her job, the people she loves, and even her life—in danger. Will writing this obituary be the death of her?
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Meet the author
Jill Orr writes a parenting column for Como Living magazine in Columbia, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two children. She writes humor essays about parenting on her blog, An Exercise in Narcissism. The Good Byline is her first novel and will be released in April 2017 from Prospect Park Books. To learn more about Jill and the upcoming books in the Riley Ellison mysteries go to jillorrauthor.com.
All comments are welcomed.
The Good Byline is available at retail and online booksellers or you can ask your local library to get it for you.
Giveaway: Two people (US entries only, please) selected at random will receive a print copy of The Good Byline. Leave a comment below for your chance to win. The giveaway ends April 13, 2017. Good luck everyone!