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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Plotting Murder at the Reunion by Terrance V. Mc Arthur

Writers think. 

That’s how they come up with things to write, and they can think anywhere, one of the perks of having a portable brain that goes where your body goes. There I was, with Marilyn (my wife) at her Fresno High class reunion…thinking.

On Friday night, about 300 grads and significant others gathered in the open-air courtyard of the Piccadilly Inn (where out-of-towners were staying)  in Fresno for a happy-hour meet-and-greet. Tall and short, heavy and thin, and the only people I knew were…my wife, and local TV personality Kopi Sotiropolous. What was I going to do with my time? Think.

I noticed a swimming pool at the side of the courtyard, and I thought, What a great place to dump a body! I went over to investigate while Marilyn talked to new old friends (and old new friends), following the iron fence to the gate, which was locked. The latch had a key-card-reader installed, so it could only be opened by hotel guests and staff. 

Looking at the key-reader put a question in my mind. What does a writer do with questions? Answer them!

I presented myself at the hotel front desk and explained, “I need your help in planning a murder…mystery story. Since the pool gate requires a key card to open it, does it store the numbers so you could check which cards were used?”

The two desk clerks looked at each other in confusion, and the blonde one answered, “No.”
I thanked them and started for the door, but I paused and said, “That was probably the strangest question you’ve had all day, wasn’t it?”

“It sure was,” the brunette said.

Okay, so I’d ruled out one way to limit the suspects. I returned to Marilyn and her conversations, and started talking to another alumnus-spouse. This kind gentleman from South Carolina had met a pretty young Fresno High grad at the old Castle Air Base during his Air Force days and married her. I mentioned that I was spending my evening planning how to kill someone for a story, and pointed out that the lock on the gate required a room card.

He said, “Well, that gate was open when we came by at five.”

AHA! Of course! People don’t always follow the rules. Someone could leave that gate wide open, just waiting for a killer carting a carcass!

Saturday morning, we did not join the tour of Fresno High, because Marilyn and I were at Sisters in Crime. Listening to our guest speaker, Michele Drier, one of her guides to crafting dialogue stood out—eavesdropping. Listen to conversations and get ideas. I could use that at the reunion dinner.

At Pardini’s for the banquet attended by700 or so, I found the snag in that advice—my hearing loss. Even with my hearing aids, it’s hard to eavesdrop when you can’t hear anything clearly. Michele had suggested reading relationships by watching body language, but the lighting was on the “intimate dining” level, and I couldn’t see that well. What was a writer to do? Think.

AHA! I’ll make up relationships.

This couple got divorced, and she married her husband’s best friend. That couple got divorced, and he married…another man. The young guy at that table, heavyish with over-the-shoulder hair, looks like the singer Meat Loaf; he seems suspicious.  There is a trophy wife being dragged around, and there’s a….. It was fun. 

To get a younger sleuth, I imagined a graduate who brought his little sister as his plus-one to his 50-year reunion (which is what Marilyn’s brother did; she enjoyed their “date”). Better yet, the sleuth is the daughter of someone at the reunion, back in town to help him for a while.

This was the first reunion Marilyn went to, because she didn’t think she was well known, but she reconnected with people she didn’t know were still alive. A month ago, at the Greek Food Festival, Kopi told her, “Come to the reunion. They’re a lot nicer, now,” and talked her into going. Now, she says everybody should go to reunions. She had a great time.

I really enjoyed that FHS reunion, too…and I got the bones of a story out of it. What shall I call it...? A Reunion for Killers.


  1. Love it! But I think it's the guy who became a mortician and married a Pentecostal preacher.They're serial killers. And you may be next...

  2. Oh yeah, and the guy who's next is not someone they know. He's just tagging along with his wife. Maybe they'll planning to kill him because of her... But why?