Update on KRL info below

It seems that the link is not working correctly in the blog below for you to hear my story read on the podcast–try this one–cut and paste it into your browser instead of clicking on it.

https://mysteryratsmaze.podbean.com/

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Finding a Way at Kings River Life

Kings River Life Magazine now has two options–online “print” and Podcast!

krl_logo (2)original

Before the interview with editor Lorie Ham, I am including the link to my entry on their podcast! If the link does not show as live in this blog, please cut and paste into your browser to get to it. Lorie always is kind and gracious to writers and when she said she was starting a podcast, I sent her this story (previously published). It was amazing to hear the story read by a professional actor—who chose to read it in an Agatha Christie style radio mystery–made it feel as tho I had written a classic!!

If you have a good mystery you would like to see lovingly handled, please do read this interview with Lorie–She is a terrific editor to work with.

Kings River Life Magazine new podcasts!–July features my mystery, The Dead Lady’s Coat!!!!!
I am soooooooooo excited!!! Please
Interview with Lorie Ham:

Please tell us a bit about the history of your magazine and about the magazine’s goals present day? Particularly, can you define how your magazine differs from other crime magazines out there?

Lorie: Our first issue came out May 29, 2010. I had been let go from my job with the local newspaper due to an issue with my editor-long story. I decided to start a magazine where I published all the things she had told me no one would read-it’s changed a lot from then. We celebrate 8 years this month. One way ours differs is because while half of each issue is mystery-reviews, interviews, author guest posts, TV reviews, mystery short stories-the other half is animal rescue, local entertainment, and other local color. As to goals-we just want to keep sharing great mystery content with our readers!

What are you seeking in general and what especially delights you in a manuscript submission?

Lorie:We will consider all mystery short stories of any sub genres-nothing too graphic though. Prefer lengths between 1000-3000 words, but will take flash fiction and up to around 5000 words. We also look for a lot of holiday related mystery short stories each year-soon we will be taking submissions for July 4th mystery short stories.

I just love a story that is clever with great characters.

We don’t pay, but the writer gets a byline and a mini bio where they can promote anything they like-their blog, their latest book, whatever. And we do take reprints.

What is an instant turn-off in a submission?

Lorie: Graphic sex, bad writing, unoriginal.

What are some of your favorite journals/magazines?

Lorie: I spend most of my reading time reading books to review though I do have a subscription to the NY Times. I used to read a lot of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock, and I used to devour the Writer’s Digest.

How can writers contact you with questions and find out about submission calls?Lorie: Our submission email is krlmagazine@gmail[dot]com. I always make a mention in our mystery Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/krlmysterygroup/. And I mention it on a lot of yahoo lists.

Is there anything else you would like to say to writers who are considering submitting to you?

Check us out-see what we are publishing and go for it kingsriverlife.com. We are ALWAYS looking for mystery short stories-holiday and just general. Right now we have something new and exciting starting up the end of this month-a mystery podcast called Mysteryrat’s Maze Mystery Podcast. We are going to be having actors from our area (we live near Fresno) reading mystery short stories and some mystery novel first chapters. We are mostly looking for around 2000 words-but we are in the process of feeling this all out so we are open to other lengths. Same submission contact info as the regular short stories. If you would like to sign up for our newsletter to keep up with the podcast you can do so at https://tinyletter.com/kingsriverlife.

De-mystifying Mystery Weekly

Mystery Weekly is a respected publisher in the mystery genre, published by Chuck and Kerry Carter out of Canada. Their guidelines  are on line at http://www.mysteryweekly.com.  The basics–2,500-7,500 words–never before in print. Unlike many others in the mystery genre–this one pays! Kerry Carter graciously answered these questions to further clarify what they want in a story:

Please tell us a bit about the history of your magazine and about the magazine’s goals present day?

Back in September of 2015, we wanted to create another market for authors to get their stories out there. But if I’m completely honest, our motives weren’t entirely altruistic. Of course it’s satisfying to have a creative outlet by curating stories, choosing covers and releasing a new issue each month. But it’s also very exciting (in that same way a prospector must feel), to read through submissions and discover new voices and talent.

We actually started as an e-zine, sending out a free original mystery each week, hence the name “Mystery Weekly Magazine.” But, less than a month later, we decided to roll up these weekly stories into a monthly Print-On-Demand (POD) issue on Amazon, adding a few extra stories as a bonus. Over the years, we sent out fewer and fewer free stories by email and focused on our monthly issue. But there is still some confusion about what we do, so I would like to set the record straight.

We are primarily a monthly POD mystery magazine, but we’re also distributed through various digital subscription channels such as Kindle Newsstand and in schools/libraries via Flipster. We have never published any of our stories online.

Our goals for 2018 are to increase our compensation to authors, which we’ve recently done, and to continue to support the mystery fiction community through our sponsorships and scholarships, such as our 2018 Emerging Mystery Writer Scholarship which was open to entries until May 30th.

What are you seeking in general and what especially delights you in a manuscriptsubmission?

My favorite types of stories are not well represented in the other mystery magazines. There are a lot of magazines specializing in hardboiled, flash, or literary fiction, but often the story takes a back seat to flowery prose or gratuitous violence.

Generally, I’m looking for an original, compelling story. I especially like cross-genre submissions and humorous mysteries, with a satisfying or surprise ending. I try to buy a diverse selection of stories to please as many readers’ tastes as possible.

What is an instant turn-off in a submission?

We have very clear submission requirements, but it’s surprising how often writers disregard them. Because we’re distributed in school libraries, we want to keep our rating to an equivalent of PG-13 or milder; hardboiled is fine, but don’t boil it so much that it becomes distasteful.  Another turn-off is laziness. I can tell if a writer has put effort into their submission. Avoid simple spelling and grammar errors, weak words, and plot inconsistencies.

What are some of your favorite journals/magazines?

I’ve read all the top mystery magazines for years and years. But now I have so many of our own submissions to read that I have an ever growing pile of magazines and books on my shelf, waiting for a long vacation.

How can writers contact you with questions and find out about submission calls?

We have a contact form on our site. Any question, big or small, is welcome! We often answer within minutes, but rarely it may take a day or two. If we have a special issue in mind such as our pastiche issue or western or humor issue, we will send out calls for submission by Twitter or to writing groups.

Is there anything else you would like to say to writers who are considering submitting to you? 

We are always open for submissions. I’ll read your story from start to finish and take notes in case feedback is requested (but please, only request feedback if you’re sure you can handle it!). If I turn down your story, remember that it doesn’t mean I think your story is bad; it only means I have other submissions that would fit better into our next issues. And private eye stories, mariticide, and other overused themes are a hard sell regardless of how well they’re written.

We pay immediately upon acceptance, and typically you’ll see your story in print in the next monthly issue or two. We’ll also advertise your other works (novels) for free in our emails or magazine if requested, and support you in any way we can.

Finally, I recommend you read one of our current issues. If you’re on a budget, you can read us for free with a 30-day trial Kindle Newsstand Subscription, or via Flipster at your local library.

 

 

De-Mystifying Mystery Weekly

This is a great market–hope this helps all of us understand it better–let me know if you find this information helpful!

Kerry Carter, the editor answered the blog questions and provided some helpful hints on how to better research the magazine.

Please tell us a bit about the history of your magazine and about the magazine’s goals present day?

Back in September of 2015, we wanted to create another market for authors to get their stories out there, but our motives weren’t entirely altruistic. It’s satisfying to have a creative outlet by curating stories, choosing covers and releasing a new issue each month. It’s also very exciting to read through submissions and discover new voices and talent.

We actually started as an email magazine (e-zine), sending out a free original mystery every week, hence the name Mystery Weekly Magazine. Less than a month later, we decided to roll up these weekly stories into a monthly Print-On-Demand (POD) issue on Amazon, adding a few extra stories as a bonus. Over the years, we sent out fewer and fewer free stories by email and focused on our monthly issue. Today we’re also distributed through various digital subscription channels such as Kindle Newsstand, and in schools and libraries via Flipster.

Our goal is to continue to increase our compensation to authors, which we’ve recently done on May 1st, and to continue to support the mystery fiction community through sponsorships and scholarships. We’re thrilled to be sponsoring the 2019 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Story, and hope to continue our Emerging Mystery Writer Scholarships.

What are you seeking in general and what especially delights you in a manuscript submission?

Generally, I’m looking for an original, compelling story. I especially like cross-genre submissions and humorous mysteries, and a satisfying or twist ending. I try to buy a diverse selection of stories to please as many readers’ tastes as possible. Every issue is a mixed bag from cozy to noir.

What is an instant turn-off in a submission?

It’s bewildering to me that so many writers disregard our clear submission requirements. Because we’re distributed in school libraries, we want to keep our rating to an equivalent of PG-13 or milder. Another turn-off is laziness; I can tell if a writer has put effort into their submission. Avoid simple spelling and grammar errors, weak words, and plot inconsistencies.

What are some of your favorite journals/magazines?

I’ve read all the top mystery magazines for years and years. Now I have so many of our own submissions to read that I have an ever-growing pile of magazines and books on my shelf, waiting for a long vacation.

How can writers contact you with questions and find out about submission calls?

We have a contact form on our site. Any question, big or small, is welcome! We often answer within minutes, or rarely it may take a day or two. If we’re planning a special issue such as our Sherlock Holmes, Western and humour issues, we’ll send out a call for submissions.

Is there anything else you would like to say to writers who are considering submitting to you? If you have any open submission calls.

We are always open for submissions. I’ll read your story from start to finish and take notes in case feedback is requested. Avoid cliché private eye stories, mariticide, and other overused themes. They would be a hard sell, regardless of how well they’re written.

We pay immediately upon acceptance, and typically you’ll see your story in print in the next monthly issue or two. We’ll also advertise your other works (novels) for free in our emails or magazine if requested, and support you in any way we can.

Finally, I recommend you read one of our current issues. If you’re on a budget, you can read us for free with a 30-day trial Kindle Newsstand Subscription, or via Flipster at your local library.

What Overmydeadbody.com is seeking

Welcome to the first in my series of interviews with magazine and anthology editors looking for short stories. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with editor, Cherie Jung on both fiction and non-fiction (interviews) She is a kind and patient editor and is open to a variety of mystery types and lengths. When I see the quality of the other work on the site, I am always humbled to have several stories in her archives! She is not running any contests at present, but submissions are generally open for fiction and non-fiction interviews with authors and more. Check out the guidelines–one word of caution–she is not likely to take anything over 4,000 words.

Here is what Cherie has to say:

  1. Please tell us a bit about the history of your magazine and about the magazine’s goals present day?

We began as a BBS (Bulletin Board System) a little over 30 years ago, where fans of mysteries and crime novels could chat with each other online by posting messages; a very unsophisticated version of today’s social media sites and forums. One of the most frequent comments was the lack of markets, at the time, for mystery genre short stories.  There were the well established professional markets – Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen – but those markets were very tight, and rightly so. In our naivety we thought, why don’t we just publish some mystery stories ourselves? So we began a quarterly print edition featuring a dozen or so short stories and several mystery-related non-fiction articles.  Book reviews and time sensitive mystery news we published on the BBS and gradually our BBS transformed into the “website” form we use today. I regret not continuing the print version but in the aftermath of a stroke, I felt unable to continue to do the necessary work a print format requires so we shifted everything to an online format.

 

  1. What are you seeking in general and what especially delights you in a manuscript submission?

It may sound over simplistic, but we are looking for good stories. When we started, our editorial “first readers” were people who were not mystery fans per se. They were avid readers, but not devoted to only reading mysteries. Telling a good story (or writing one) is not as easy as it sounds. We wanted to present good stories that had a mystery element.

Long time readers will have noticed that our mystery and crime stories sometimes have an element of horror, or romance, or science fiction…even a cowboy/western flavor. One of my all-time favorite stories involved a crime victim discovered by some young kids. Sort of reminiscent of the British TV Midsomer Murders episode “Strangler’s Wood.” Not until the very end did the writer reveal that the victim was an alien from another planet. The story was so well written that the surprise identity of the victim didn’t detract from the story at all. In another story, about an abusive situation, as a reader, I believed the victim to be the abuser’s wife. The actual victim was his dog. I still recall those stories very vividly and I’ve read each of them more than a dozen times since their publication many years ago and their impact never diminishes. Those two writers wrote really good stories!

  1. What is an instant turn-off in a submission?

Excessive violence (graphic rape scenes), excessive profanity… We do not restrict our readership to “adults only” so we try to keep the stories within a mild to moderate range of violence (and profanity). Some of our stories do have profanity but we hope not in excess. We have a wide range of readers both locally and abroad. We have fans as far flung as Australia, Canada, India, Japan, the U.K., and South America. We also know that many, if not most, of our readers are in the 50-70 year old age bracket.

4.What are some of your favorite journals/magazines?

I think I might have to dodge this question a bit. I read several journals and magazines but none really come to mind as “favorites.” I do find a lot of enjoyment and interest in reading the previously published stories of the writers who are submitting stories or queries to us, and mention or provide a link to their other online published stories.

  1. How can writers contact you with questions and find out about special submission calls?

The most direct way is via email: omdb@att.net though via post is acceptable, too.P.O. Box 1938, Auburn, WA 9807-1938.

6.Is there anything else you would like to say to writers who are considering submitting to you?

Read some of the stories already published on omdb! to get a feel for what our readers like. Please read our writers guidelines. Yes, I know that since we are internet based we could publish short stories that are 8-10,000 words but our readers prefer stories that are 2-4,000 words in length. Also, this may sound obvious, but mystery and crime fiction doesn’t necessarily require a dead body.

In the TMI (too much information) category, I am notoriously slow but that is mainly due to ill health. Also, our original “staff” of 10 has dwindled to four and all are volunteers with busy lives and health issues of their own…and they are scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada. My husband also suggests that I should put “the editor is cranky.” (That would be me.)

Thank -you, Cherie!

 

 

 

 

 

Free Story! For Short Story Month

AN ANCIENT RECIPE–first published in omdb.com

By Joan Leotta
“O Great Caesar, take pity on me! Forgive me O Mighty One, I beg you! You were never in danger from me. Your august life is more precious to me than my own. My hand was raised against your faithless food taster, Gaius Martius; he was the target of my rage…”

Leah Fields shifted in her chair as she took a break from reading and translating the ancient scroll before her. She smiled to herself.

Normally, a find of this importance would be translated at Harvard or Chicago or Stanford or Oxford in England — not at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW). Although she, Leah Fields, had been a student of the “great ” at Harvard and of the man at Oxford who had sent her the scroll, , she doubted that she would have been anyone’s first choice to translate it.

She muttered to herself. “I was the best in my class. But of course all the jobs at the bigger name Universities go the men, but even from this small school, I’ll make a name for myself in the field of Latin translation. I’ll show them!”

The bronze ceremonial fasces that held the scroll had been recently discovered by her Oxford mentor. The fasces was reputed to have been given to Caesar himself after a triumphant return from Gaul. Sending it to her for exhibition in Wilmington to highlight the opening of the UNCW Latin Scholar Center had been a favor from the professor.

Thanks to the accident that occurred when she was examining the fasces after receiving it, this artifact was going to do more than publisize her specialty in North Carolina. She was going to make a national reputation on this.

While placing this fasces, a bronze replica of the wooden branch fasces (with ax!) carried by ancient Roman leaders, in the exhibit case the item slipped from her hands — yes, her own gloved hands. The ensuing contest between the treasured item, the law of gravity and the hard tile floor resulted in a victory for the floor and its ally, gravity.

That sacred symbol of Roman authority hit the floor and when she picked it up; she could see a crack at the place where the bronze sculptor had reproduced in metal, the traditional red leather ties. At first all she could think of was the horror of it all. The item was priceless. She imagined her career going up in flames. She noticed that the crack was a seam in the piece. Perhaps it was actually “meant” to come off? She boldly gave the top of the piece a twist and for her boldness was rewarded with the sight of an ancient parchment rolled tightly inside. The fasces had carried a message!

Right after her call to Funder who had trouble arguing for a different person to do the translation since Leah had possession of the object, she immediately called the paper conservators at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC for advice on how to keep the document from disintegrating. Of course, her story to Funder was that the crack must have occurred in the shipping and that she had noticed it immediately upon removing the item from its crate. The only other person in the room when the “event” occurred had been Tom Lentus the oldest security guard on the campus police force. He was partly deaf and had been looking out of the window of the receiving room when the fasces slipped from her hands. So, there was no one to contradict her story. Leah felt safe to go on national TV with her tale. Not even her husband, Blake, knew the truth about the GREAT FIND. All that was last week.

Leah was now the darling of Cissy Wilkens director of the UNCW public relations office. Cissy had soon lined up a bevy of interviews for newspapers, magazines, and was working on a Today Show appearance for Leah whose fame was spilling over onto the institution itself.

The career impact would be great — first tenure at UNCW — that would now be automatic — and she could foresee leaving Wilmington in the not too distant future to lead excursions to excavations on ancient Rome all over the Mediterranean — perhaps through the Smithsonian, and maybe her own “triumph,” marching through the gates of Harvard in her own victory parade as a full professor!

* * *

Leah took a deep breath. It was time to unroll the scroll a bit more. She smiled as she delicately moved the paper using her gloved hands and a long tweezers. She caught her own reflection in the glass of her husband’s photo on her desk. She appraised the reflection critically.

“Perhaps I should whiten my teeth before my appearance on the Today show. My hair could use a bit more body…not a permanent, but maybe some curls or maybe bangs to accentuate my green eyes…”

Leah sighed and then turned her attention again to the prize that her “butterfingers moment” had yielded.

Yes, that simple wood Roman fasces, a symbol of power in its era, was going to be the key to her power in academia. The particular fasces had long been rumored to belong to Julius Caesar given by an admirer. The work bore the date of the crossing of the Rubicon, but the carved figures depicted the victories in Gaul.

She unrolled the scroll a bit more, its Latin (obviously the work of a paid scribe) appeared in neat rows before her. The tale continued: Marcus of Amiternum was a soldier who had become a camp cook. “You yourself have said, O Caesar that my skills raised your field-grilled meats to the sublime subtlety of flavors of the most opulent Roman banquet. “

Leah stopped her work for a minute to imagine the life of a man in ancient times in what was the Italian province of Abruzzo today. Closing her eyes, she could see him as a child, roaming the forest in the mountains west of Rome, learning about the roots and mushrooms that later enabled him to impart the best flavors to Caesar’s camp meals. In the scroll he reminded Caesar of a few special meals prepared for the General.

She unrolled a bit more. Marcus told of a wife, a raven-haired beauty, called Adele, who often languished at home while he, Marcus, served (happily!) in the mighty Caesar’s campaigns. That is happily until he received a missive from a neighbor in Rome congratulating him (Marcus) on the birth of a blue-eyed son.

Marcus was now revealing the heart of his tale:

“O Great Caesar, I have not been home to my Adele in Rome for two years — how could I now have a son? And with blue eyes and blonde hair? My comrades sought to solace me but then I saw HIM — Gaius Martius, the new taster — he had blonde hair and blue eyes and had just arrived from Rome — from the very neighborhood where Adele lives. Then, in a card game, O Caesar, I saw him bet the pearl and chain that I had given to the faithless Adele on our wedding night!”

Leah looked at her watch. It was getting late, seven o’clock already! But this was so good! She punched in her husband’s cell number to tell him she would be late. He did not answer. She left a message. Then she unrolled another section of scroll.

“After the crossing of the Rubicon, on the way to Rome, you requested, O Great One, a special meal. My anger had boiled up inside me, indeed, I craved the bitter herb of revenge, O Caesar, and to calm my soul as a bitter herb calms an upset stomach.

“I could not challenge Gaius Martius to a fight. My strength is not with the sword. Instead I used my knowledge of herbs to bring him down. I knew that he would taste your dish first and die quickly from what I had used. I covered the tender rabbit in a sauce made from steeped hemlock. His hands went to his throat — I laughed and cried out Sic simper infideli — as always with the unfaithful. But I had prepared two dishes — one to be given to you after he died, O Great Caesar. In their anger, your guards never let me explain!”

Marcus then thanked Caesar for delaying his execution for murder of Gaius and attempted murder of Caesar, until after Caesar’s Triumph celebration in Rome and allowing him to live a few days longer, time enough to plead his case. Marcus told of being visited in Rome’s military prison, not by his wife, but by the bronze artisan who had had the commission of the fasces, an old friend from Amiternum. The bronze maker had agreed to allow Marcus the favor of inserting the message. Marcus thanked Caesar for reading the message and begged him to reconsider the order to have him killed. Surely Caesar could understand that he, Marcus just wanted the death of the faithless Gaius? Marcus then wrote out (or the scribe did) two of what he said were Caesar’s favorite recipes.

Leah sat back. She wondered if Caesar ever read the message. Perhaps the presentation of the fasces was made by a third party who forgot to mention that there was a message inside? Perhaps Caesar read the message and pardoned poor Marcus. Such a move toward a simple soldier would not have rated a note in his commentaries.

Or, perhaps, she shuddered at this thought, on a clear and lovely day, on the banks of the Tiber, Marcus was beheaded and his faithless wife was left to raise the blue-eyed son as best she could.

Leah laughed at her romantic musings. The Romans were not sentimental about relatives of criminals. If Marcus was beheaded, it was far more likely that the faithless wife and false son would be sold into slavery as relatives of a convicted attempted assassin.

She found herself suddenly hungry. She looked at her watch again — it was almost nine in the evening. She had missed her dinner for sure. Marcus had written with such love about food, that his scroll had made her hungry.

“Maybe tomorrow I’ll translate those recipes. It would be nice to bring at least one of his dishes on to the Today show with me.”

* * *

As she replaced the scroll inside the carved wooden fasces, she thought about the poisons that were probably in the dish meant for Gaius Martius. The herbal knowledge that made Marcus a good cook, probably also served him well as a poisoner.

As she put the fasces back into the vault that the university had provided in her office, she mused that if the faithless taster had time to complain about something being a bit off in the fatal dish, Marcus might have told him that he had laced it with a venenum, a love potion for Caesar’s future pleasure that evening. How ironic since our word for venom or poison comes for the Latin word that originally signified love potions!

As she left the building for her car, she waved to Tom who was that night’s door guard. Driving down the road from the faculty parking lot to College Road, she looked at the panoply of lovely greenery that lined the way — yew, oleander, hemlock. She wondered how many of her colleagues realized that their decorative hedge was a deadly pharmacopoeia.

As she drove, she decided to call home again. She spoke into her Bluetooth: “Home.”

The phone rang and Blake picked up. “Hello, hello? Is that you, dear?”

“Blake, I’m so sorry — the parchment — I just finished it — I had no idea it was so late.”

“Oh, that’s all right dear. I guess I fell asleep in front of the TV while waiting for you. Have you eaten? I’ll fix a little something for you. I ate but…”

“No need. I’ll just have a salad when I get home.” She disconnected and so did he.

“How dear of him to want to fix me dinner,” she thought, “and so unlike him to be so very thoughtful. Lately, he barely notices my existence.”

Then she laughed out loud. “Of course! He is basking in my glory. This find of mine will boost his career too. He can tag along when I am feted and lauded all over America and Italy for my discovery and translation of this scroll.”

She parked in the driveway and walked to the house, brushing past Blake’s car as she stepped onto the porch. The engine was still warm! Blake had just come in! Where could he have been?

Quickly Leah ran through her mental catalogue of the best looking of the young women who hung out by her husband’s office. Then Leah remembered. Madison Trill had arrived yesterday from the Smithsonian. Blake had picked her up and even stopped by Leah’s office on his way to dropping off Madison at her hotel.

Leah had met the drop-dead gorgeous blonde before. She had been a grad student of Blake’s — during the period when she, Leah, had been finishing up her PhD. in Cambridge, England, three thousand miles away from Boston College and the fun in the photos Blake sent her.

She turned the key and went into the house. Blake had prepared a salad for her. They talked about his students and classes while she ate. Her husband was watching the late news when she decided to go to bed. As she reached for a fresh night gown in the closet, Leah noticed that Blake’s suit jacket had fallen off of the hanger. She picked it up. A long blonde hair glistened on the shoulder area.

“Madison!” Leah did not sleep well that night.

The next day, Madison came to Leah’s office. She oohed and aaahhhed over the manuscript and the translation work Leah had done. Leah noted her shining blonde hair, bright blue eyes and killer figure.

“Leah, I met with Cissy in PR before coming down to see you. We decided that it would be good for me to attend all future news conferences with you — and go on the Today show with you — to bolster the credibility of your find and lend the prestige of the Smithsonian to the whole affair.”

Leah dug the nails of her left hand into the palm while making a dismissive wave with the right. “Of course. When would you like to have a look at the scroll to authenticate it?”

Madison looked at her watch. “I have other plans for this afternoon, so how about tomorrow morning, first thing? Where can I work?”

“You can work right here in my office. I have a glass surface on the desk and the scroll and fasces are in the safe in here. I have gloves, and you can order in anything else you need.”

Madison patted her briefcase. “I will need to take a small slice. But I have a portable microscope and all necessary chemicals in my briefcase.” She turned to leave but before she could get out of the door, Leah spoke again.

“Are you up for trying some ancient Roman dinner dishes tomorrow night?”

Madison laughed. “What can I bring?”

“Just yourself. Blake will pick you up around 6:30.”

The next night, at dinner, Madison brought a bouquet of flowers to the house and a bottle of wine, a rich Italian Barolo. “Don’t know how Roman this is, but I was hoping it would at least complement the meal.” Madison swung her long blonde hair over her shoulder, giving Blake a big smile as Leah took the flowers and headed into the kitchen. They followed her in.

“I made the peas, and mushrooms — I used portabellas. Blake grilled steaks and made the amaretto spritzers.

Blake held up a glass. “While the steaks are resting, let’s toast ancient Rome!”

Blake handed out the aperitifs.

“To ancient Rome,” added Madison.

“To revealing what is hidden,” said Leah as they clinked glasses and each took a sip.

Well, that is, Leah took a sip. The almond flavor of the amaretto and club soda successfully disguised the bitter almond of the cyanide. She gasped, sputtered, and fell to the floor.

“At least she’ll always be remembered as the finder of the scroll.” Madison noted as she bent down to pick up the dropped glass. She took all three glasses to the sink and began to wash them out.

Blake laughed, “No. Once the people see you on television, you will get all the attention as the one who authenticated the scroll and we will say that we both worked on the translation — I do have some credentials in Latin myself.”

“Now, let’s get our alibi ready,” said Madison, stepping over the inert Leah. Madison took a vial from her bag and sprinkled cyanide and a bit of amaretto on the mushrooms and forced a spoonful of the stuff into Leah’s mouth and down her throat. She reached for the phone. Blake stopped her: “Let’s review our story again before you call 911.”

Madison began to recite their tale: “We’ll tell the people that she prepared this dish for us. Our story will be she was just unlucky in that while she was making the dish, she fell into the old cook’s habit of tasting before serving and so fell into the trap she had planned for us! ”

“Great, my dear — now be careful that we do not tell the story the exact same way. I’ll dial 911 since you are too broken up to talk. It’s only been five minutes — undo her collar and press on her a bit so it will look like we tried to do CPR first.”

In a few minutes screeching sirens brought the local paramedics who declared Leah dead on the scene. They whisked her into an ambulance and on to the morgue. They noticed the blue on her lips and smell of bitter almond so the police arrived soon after. They took samples of everything, noting the odor of cyanide in the mushrooms. Blake and Madison carefully refrained from putting forth their theory at this early stage of the investigation. They merely expressed shock and horror. The police took Madison home. Blake expressed gratitude so that he could try to rest and begin to grieve.

“We’ll get your statement tomorrow morning, Professor Fields,” Sgt. Thompkins told him.

Blake turned to look at the table. Everything was congealing. The police had taken photos of everything and samples from each dish. The Sgt. told him he could clean up, but Blake did not feel like it. He took a look at the peas. Even cold, they looked good.

“Caesar’s favorite, eh? I wonder if they are good cold?”

Blake put the serving spoon into the dish and scooped some up. Mmmmmm, bay leaves, a bit of rosemary, salt, pepper and — what was that other taste — maybe agrum the famous Roman fish paste? He took a second spoonful. Pretty good. He’d have to get the recipe from Leah’s notes. He felt thirsty and remembered that Leah had made iced tea. He poured himself a tall glass and drank it down. He put the glass and tasting spoon on the kitchen counter.

On his way upstairs, back through the dining room, he looked over at the mushrooms, now full of cyanide. Looked good. Maybe he’d try that recipe too — someday — without the deadly additive.

In the middle of the night, Blake began to feel sharp abdominal pains. His throat began to feel tight. He grabbed for the phone but before he could punch in 9-1-1 his throat constricted, cutting off his air.

The next morning the police came to take his statement. Instead, they took Blake to join Leah in the morgue and after a search of the kitchen and dining room, went to arrest Madison Trill.

Madison claimed no knowledge of any of the poisons, but she had documented her role in going over to the Leah’s office, the house and the time spent with Blake beforehand, all too well. She had done it in order to provide a dual alibi for herself and Blake for Leah’s death. Now it was being use to blame her for both deaths. She had access to the hemlock and oleander that had flavored the peas along with the bay and rosemary look-alikes. And these poisons were easily found on the grounds of the University. Madison became the talk of the paper conservatory and Roman scholarship worlds but not as she had originally intended.

In the course of tying up all loose ends, the police questioned Tom Lentus, the guard. He told them about how the great discovery had really taken place.

“I kept quiet because I felt bad for that nice professor, Miss Leah. Her husband, he was always chumming up with the young pretty ones on campus. I seen him head into the woods or off campus in his car at odd times with one of them — more than once. Ya know?”

Harold Funder arranged to have the fasces and scroll sent back to Cambridge where he took credit for Leah’s translation work and had the scroll authenticated by the British museum. But to the everlasting credit of Cissy, UNCW’s PR person, the American public remained fascinated by the American connection so about a week after the translation was published, the Today show arranged a two-continent interview.

Security Guard Tom Lentus was in the Today show studio with Chef Mario Batali. They linked up with Harold Funder and Chef Jamie Oliver in a Cambridge garden. The two chefs had recreated the recipes which were tried by all and sundry in the two respective studios. Everyone loved the peas.

— The End —

 

Inquiring Minds

Starting this month, I am going to be interviewing editors of magazines that accept genre fiction. My own interests will lead me to mystery above all, but I plan to branch out…please do let me know of any magazines you have been thinking about and what you wish someone would ask!

It is my goal to be a help to my fellow writers with this new blog direction.

Joan