Joey said no hardware, but I was still packing. Only a fool would go to a writer’s group summit unarmed. When I saw who was in the room, I felt a lot more comfortable knowing my Mont Blanc Meisterstuck Mozart Mini was nestled in a hidden pocket.
Susie Sci-Fi was sitting near the door. “Hey Susie,” I said. Susie and I had a thing, way back. We genre types get along sometimes.
“SF to you, Charlie.” Like I said, sometimes.
Next to her was Dapper Dan. Damned if that silk tie wasn’t sparkling. Under that sharp exterior, Dan ran some of the loosest poetry in town, through his phony grass roots group Poetry in Speaking Tongues (PIST). Free verse, Terza rima, cacophony, enjambments, shadow poetry, even limericks. I once heard he ran sonnets uptown, but I didn’t know for sure, and I didn’t want to know.
Kid Kitten towered over Dan. Everybody avoided Kid. Mysteries are my business, and one day I wanted to find out how that heavy weight boxer got himself a Newbery Medal for Kitten’s Day Out, especially when the title apostrophe was in the wrong place. If things went south, he was the biggest threat. I wondered whose side he was on. He controlled the Children’s Creative Co-op (CCCP) with a beefy iron fist.
Joey Le Grant was standing at the head of the table. He ran the Provincial Organization of Writers (POW). Not a genre writer in the bunch, but somehow they had money and could afford a fancy office, even if it was in a warehouse on the waterfront. He waved me to a seat between the twins from Writers of Erotic and Tame Romance (WETR).
Chastity patted the seat. “Hey Charlie – let’s get a little heat here.”
“You won’t fool me again. I know that’s only in your books, sweet stuff.”
Her sister Delilah looked up at me. She had a new diamond studded cross, and I pretended to be looking at that instead of what else her low cut top revealed. “Hey Charlie. What about that collaboration? Don’t you remember that Christian Romantic Suspense series we plotted through six volumes?” I certainly remembered our meeting, but I didn’t recall talking much. I should see her again.
“Of course. I’ve got some new ideas. Maybe we can talk after this.”
Pierre cleared his throat loudly. “Perhaps we can get down to business, s’il vous plait?” No one knew whether Pierre was Acadian, Quebecois, or pretentious. Neither his accent nor his books revealed much. What we all knew was that Pierre was with the National Union of Writers union nationale (NUWUN). After what happened at the Toronto library, no one crossed the union. Six people checked out that day. Pierre’s book on the riot, Copyright Enforced, got him an Order of Canada, a made for TV movie, and a hosting job at CBC where he interviewed authors – and made or broke them. If he was here, this was going to be big.
Joey started walking and talking. I didn’t look at him. Instead I looked at the others around the table. I had both hands where everyone could see them, and so did everyone else.
“Thanks for coming here today. I know you don’t trust me. I don’t trust you. But this has gone on too long. The Children’s Creative Co-op poached 32 members from me last year.” Kid grunted. “Hey, no hard feelings. It’s business. I picked up 25 from Writers of Erotica and Tame Romance, and 5 from Poetry in Speaking Tongues.”
“Good riddance to the sell outs,” said Dan. “We’re growing, thanks to everyone who feels unwelcome at the union.”
“That’s hogwash,” said Pierre. “We advocate for all writers. No one knows that better than you – since you signed up for the dental benefit, Dan. Or should I say Angus Jean McFarlane?”
Dan jumped up. “That was supposed to be a confidential pen name!”
“People, please,” said Joey. “Dan, take you seat.” He sat. Joey continued. “We all know this war has been tough. We hit each other’s membership lists, we don’t cross promote events, intimidate volunteers –”
I bristled at that. The Crime writer’s convention had been cancelled after three hotels refused our deposit, and volunteers got death threats. For a while we just told them it was part of the fun, but after the bookstore bombing volunteers were hard to find – at least intact ones.
” – but we’re not getting anywhere. I propose a new approach. One provincial group, one membership list, one newsletter – for all writers.”
“Under the benevolent leadership of the Provincial Organization of Writers, I suppose?” I was goading him, but I was ready to go for my weapon if I needed it.
“Yes,” said Joey. “We’ve got the office, we’ve got the staff. All of you would be free to run your genre workshops the way you want, and we could spend more time on what matters: Selling courses to wanna-be writers, applying for grants, and writing – instead of fighting each other.”
Pierre spoke up. “The National Union of Writers union nationale supports this. We need to work together.” That was it, then. If the union was supporting POW, then it was a signed contract as far as I was concerned. I hoped everyone else realized this. I was okay with POW. They had money. Even this meeting had a plate of cookies on the table. Sure, I was selling, but not like the old days.
The romance twins had money, but they were always running into trouble with muscle that took advantage of them. Apart from picking men, they were pretty smart. They both started nodding.
“I’m in,” said Kid Kitten. He thumped a ham sized fist on the table. “I’m trying to write a new book, Kittens in the Meadow, but I hardly get to work on it between marketing and murders.”
My turn. “Joey, there’s been a lot of blood. A lot of hard feelings. But it has to end. I’m in.” It was looking tough for Dan and Susie. They’d have to go it alone or join in. Joey walked over and stood behind them.
“Ready to end this?”
Dan reached into his vest pocket. It was too snug to conceal a pen, but I heard the rush of breath and rustle of fabric as each of us moved. Dan pulled out a scrap of paper, and read from it:
“Rolling boulder falls
Until it meets a strong force
Wisely it concedes.”
Susie stood up. “I’m a science fiction writer, and I’ll die a science fiction writer. We write about the glorious possibilities of mankind, not the hardships of humble farming a hundred years ago – ”
“Don’t do it, Susie,” I said under my breath. Cape Breton Wheat Farm was Joey’s most popular book.
” – not mindless romances, or cookie-cutter crime novels, and certainly not doggerel, high or low. The City and County Science Fiction, Fantasy, Future, Steampunk, and Alternate Writers Association will never be part of the Provincial Organization of Writers. If there’s one thing we know, it’s dystopia, and I want no part of it.”
I looked around, ready to duck the cross fire. Neither Kid nor Pierre were moving.
“I’m sure we all respect your decision,” said Joey. “I thank you for coming, but I think you should leave now. I want everyone to witness that I am keeping the promise in my invitation – despite the animosity between our organizations, no one will be harmed in this room.” Joey opened the door for her, and gestured that she could leave. I looked down at the table.
I heard Susie walk out the door, and I heard the door close. I looked up. Joey remained by the door. A moment later, there was a muffled thump. Joey opened the door again, looked into the hallway, and closed the door. “I regret to observe that Susie has died, a science fiction writer ironically falling victim to a hacked pacemaker. Hopefully her organization will select someone healthier and more reasonable to replace her.”
“But let us not dwell on this sad accident. This is a new dawn for the Provincial Organization of Writers, which will benefit all of us. I thank you for your time, and agreement.”
“It looks like happy ever after,” said Chastity. Delilah moved her lips – did she say “for now?”
It was a shame about Susie, but she hadn’t read the invitation carefully enough, and your editor is not always going to be there to save you. The new more powerful POW was running the town now. I’d be happy feathering my nest, and encouraging the other writers in my group to do the same. And if POW didn’t play nice with us, well, no one knows more ways to deal with a problem than crime writers. POW had taken over, but that meant there was only one target now. My next step was to start forging collaborations, maybe with a certain writer of Christian Romantic Suspense novels.
Copyright © by Tim Covell, 2015 All Rights Reserved.