Read the first part of Organized Death Here (The novella section of the collection Organized Death)
Catherine Trapp felt paralyzed. She’d hardly been able to wait for today to arrive, but now that it was finally here, she couldn’t even climb out of her car. She’d managed to steer her dented Subaru wagon into the self-parking lot without hitting any of the valet blockades, and now she stared dumbfounded at the pink stucco walls of the Canyon Palace Resort. She should feel giddy with excitement. Instead, the weight of two thousand people crushed her. They’d only been names on the attendance sheets. Today she was about to meet them. They were real. And…
She was a fraud. A fool. Martin had told her so, over and over.
She reached for the door handle. Two thousand real people depended on her.
Stepping out of the car, she brushed dog hair from her power suit and balanced on her new Gucci heels – she’d bought the outfit to get her through the week ahead. The long-anticipated excitement that she’d expected to feel vaporized to dread.
Catherine had given away the last four years of her life when she took on the role of co-chair of the International Crime Convention. She’d spent four years planning for this day, and now her energy bled out. But she had to power ahead anyway. She had to finish the damn job. The sooner this convention – her convention – got underway, the sooner she could leave it behind her.
She hurried across the parking lot in the waning light of day. Already the sun had slipped beyond not-so-distant peaks, casting purple shadows along the contours of these foothills, a jagged wall from north to south. The resort, a pink slash against a sandstone backdrop, resembled an adobe fort sprawled atop a butte that overlooked the mouth of the canyon and miles of empty plains.
The last four years had been a hell of a price to pay.
She clicked inside the mesquite-spiced lobby. Leather cushions, hand-crafted tables of rough pine, and unlikely potted palms were grouped around lightning bolt patterns on gaily colored Native American rugs. Pelts of fur and antlered deer heads surveyed the lobby from the walls.
As she waited her turn for check-in, a man shaped like a plump pear hovered at the edge of her peripheral vision. He swayed slowly, rocking from the balls of his feet to his heels and back again. Up and down. Up and down.
She approached the counter and gave the clerk her information. Pear man shuffled to a position an arm’s length beside her. Just outside the roped-off cue. Until she finally turned and glared at him. Back off.
He cleared his throat. “Excuse me,” he said. “I couldn’t help but overhear. You’re the one running this convention, aren’t you.”
It was a statement, not a question. His low monotone suggested a sense of urgency yet patience. He wore a green flannel shirt, stained and rumpled pants, and sneakers. A pencil tucked behind one ear, and a bulging book bag slung over one shoulder. A die-hard fan, Catherine decided. Judging from his rather portly size, his only exercise took the form of turning pages. He had that half-crazed gleam to his eyes that suggested he’d come to this year’s convention desperately searching for more reading material. The entire community of writers – everyone thought he or she could be a writer these days – couldn’t write fast enough for guys like this.
Slowly, she nodded.
“Well, I wondered why you didn’t invite Geoffrey Weiss as the Guest of Honor, instead of Vivian Grant. You guys screwed up by not picking him.”
You’re a little late, aren’t you? But instead she smiled and said, “We made our selections three years ago. Have you spoken to Roger about that? He was in charge of that committee.”
“Well, no, see I thought you could maybe pass along the tip.”
She glanced at her watch, then at the clerk behind the reception desk. Come on, lady. The desk clerk still controlled Catherine’s credit card as she tapped at a keyboard without tripping over her long fingernails, painted pastel pink.
The portly fan pulled a small hotel notepad from his shirt pocket. Already the corners of the pages curled. Notes, scrawled with the heavy strokes of a dull pencil, crammed onto one page, as if he tried to fit as much as possible into the smallest space. He probably conserved paper. And he was an environmental freak who spent hours separating recyclable items. Add that activity to his physical fitness program.
“‘Roger,’ you say. Roger, what.” He scribbled without a ripple of change in the tone of his voice.
“Sullivan. Roger Sullivan. You can’t miss him. Gray ponytail. Tall and skinny -” Oops. She hadn’t meant to sound crass. She’d better watch herself before a few raw feelings flared into knock-down drag-outs.
“So he’s the one responsible for the whole thing, not you, after all,” pear man said or asked in that deadpan voice.
“Invitation of the guests was one of his duties. And I think we were very lucky that Ms. Grant agreed to come. She’s a New York Times best-selling -“
“I know.” There you go, Cath. Don’t let your doubts show. If everything else about the convention bombed, Catherine would at least have the privilege of meeting one of her favorite authors, starting with the private party tonight.
She could hardly wait.
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