My name is Campbell Hale. I manage a travel agency in Nashville called Get Out of Town. Have you been to Nashville? You should know it’s more than j bachelorette parties on Broadway. It’s a great place to live, decent weather –most of the time. We can’t drive well in the rain. So? We have a church on every corner, but they all get out in time to cheer on the Titans on Sundays. Two lakes, several rivers, lots of parks and greenways, professional sports with good colors, college sports (it’s called the Athens of the South), and music. Lots of music. You know about the Opry and country music, but we have all kinds, from the honkytonks on Lower Broad to the indie rockers in East Nashville. Even when you walk from your gate to baggage claim, there’s live music. And good food. New restaurants seem to be the only thing we have more of than construction cranes. Not to mention some excellent old favorites where you’re bound to bump shoulders with the likes of Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Jack White, Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton or Dan Auerbach. Did I mention our excellent police force with detective Sam Davis?
I’ve lived in or near Nashville all my life, but I love to travel. Besides the travel (you have to try out the hotels, the beaches, the ships, the restaurants. . . ), I like the challenge of building a good trip for the right clients. I even like tracking down the luggage that should have gone to nonstop to London but changed planes in Madrid before winding up in Oslo.
The best part of the job is the people you meet, like I met Doug Elliott when I planned a post-divorce trip for him. I found him cheap airfare, a good beachfront hotel, a fishing guide who always found the huge fish and would ship the frozen catch, and suggestions for where to find the best fresh grouper, oysters, and Gulf shrimp. Give me a call, and I’ll tell you, too. I’d like to say that we rode off into a romantic sunset. That’s not exactly the way it’s happened, though. He became my attorney. My friend, too, but our relationship keeps hitting roadblocks – or something.
Part of what gets me up in the morning is the challenge of solving the problems. A few weeks ago I was scheduled to fly out late in the afternoon to connect in Chicago with a flight to London for a familiarization trip through England and Scotland. I planned to work until lunch. I went to the bank when it opened to get my passport from my safe deposit box. Everything went as planned, except that, when I picked up my passport, it had expired. A week before! Those things are good for ten years.
First, I panicked. Then I started checking where passport offices are. Not in Nashville, of course. Lo and behold, there’s a passport office in Chicago! And I was connecting through Chicago! I changed my reservation to the next flight. When I got to O’Hare, I put my luggage in a locker in the international terminal and found that the L ran from inside the airport to a stop very near the passport office. I had called both senators’ and my U. S. representative’s offices. Staffers in all three offices said they would call the passport office (they often speed up passports).
At the passport office, I explained my stupidity to the agent and asked if he had heard from Washington. He told me to take a number and have a seat. I did. And I waited. I looked at my watch every two minutes and waited. I went back to the counter and explained my dilemma again. He said he hadn’t talked to anybody in Washington. I sat. I hadn’t charged my phone battery in the morning’s craziness; it was dead. I watched the lines get shorter as people got their passports and left. I knew I had to reach someone before offices closed at five. Finally, I asked if there was a payphone nearby. “Out in the hall,” he said. As the door closed behind me, it locked! This office closed at 4:30, which the friendly, helpful agent hadn’t mentioned.
I started calling. My Congressman, my senators, the U.S. Passport office. I finally got an answer at the U.S. Passport office. Closed, but the Director was still there. After a short laugh, he said, “Is there anywhere you can sit?” I sat. After a few minutes, my friendly agent came out into the hall. “Ms. Hale,” he said deferentially, “please come in. I’ll have your passport renewal in just a few minutes. Can I get you a cup of coffee?” I didn’t gloat. Except inside. I went in and sat. For fifteen minutes! Passport in hand, I went back to the L station, back to O’Hare – and to London. A wonderful trip.
Since then, I’ve kept my passport up to date.
Check yours. Now.
You can read more about Campbell in Your Killin’ Heart, the first book in the NEW “Nashville” mystery series.
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Nashville is an aspiring country music star. Campbell Hale, for one, just wants to get her travel agency off the ground and move on from a break-up. But when she gets the opportunity to visit the mansion of mysterious country icon Jake Miller, she jumps at the chance. After all, who knows what clues are lurking around the long-dead star’s last home?
But as Campbell pokes around, she discovers more than a few sequined suits and priceless memorabilia. She finds Hazel Miller, Jake’s widow, quietly resting in a bedroom on the main floor. But Hazel might just be dead quiet. And Campbell might just be the last person to have seen her alive.
Juggling the twisty plots of high-profile country stars with her blossoming business―not to mention the tattered remains of her love life―Campbell thinks she’s got everything figured out. But when the danger becomes personal, she must uncover a killer who will stop at nothing to get what they want―or face the music.
With Your Killin’ Heart, award-winning author Peggy O’Neal Peden has given us a witty debut full of Nashville charm and generous heart.
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Meet the author
Peggy O’Neal Peden grew up in Middle Tennessee and has lived in and around Nashville for most of her life. She has taught English at high school and college levels, owned a travel agency, been published in regional magazines, and written award-winning advertising copy. She is a member of the Nashville Artist Guild and lives in Nashville. Your Killin’ Heart is her first novel.
All comments are welcomed.