Mystery Lite with LynDee Walker: No, I Did Not Make That Up
By - August 22, 2013
It's time to kick off the MYSTERY LITE SO YOU CAN TURN OFF THE LIGHTS segment of TRADE THE DAY, and our first special guest is cozy mystery author, LynDee Walker! And don't forget to check out the bottom of this post for details on how to win LynDee's giveaway, as well as an additional giveaway from cozy mystery author John Clement!
Now, here's LynDee with her post titled, "No, I Did Not Make That Up: The Craziest Stories I Ever Covered":
One of the first questions I get in most interviews about my mysteries—which feature a news reporter who gets herself in hot water digging around in murky stories—is “are any of Nichelle’s adventures based on real life?”
Since I spent almost a decade working as a reporter before I became a mom, the answer is: of course. But maybe not the ones you’d think.
Did I ever come home from a long day to find a smolderingly sexy mafia guy in my living room? Alas, no (and I would’ve likely peed myself if I had).
What I did do was cover some outlandish things between the murders and car crashes and serial rapists. And while my experience with more standard criminal fare gives the books a realistic feel, the stories that I choose to pull from my days as a reporter are the hilariously unbelievable ones. Which are the ones people always think I made up.
In Front Page Fatality, Nichelle is going through the day’s police reports and finds one listing an “abandoned casket” as the complaint. No, I did not make that up. That’s the kind of police report that makes you stop and snort your coffee (which hurts, by the by, so I wouldn’t recommend it) before you snatch up the phone and call the public information officer at the PD. Which is exactly what I did that morning, and he chuckled through the whole conversation. There was a junkyard on the edge of town, and the owner got to work to find the driveway blocked by a coffin. Like, the kind you get from a funeral home, why-on-Earth-would-anyone-have-such-a-thing-to-dispose-of, coffin.
My favorite part of that one was talking to the junkyard owner (he looked like the boys’ fantasy version of Mr. Myrtle from The Sandlot, which you must Netflix immediately if you have not seen it because it is a great, great movie, and now you’ll giggle when it gets to that scene). He spit tobacco on the ground in front of me about halfway through every sentence (Nichelle would’ve totally been in fear for her Louboutins) and was one of the most indignant folks I’ve ever interviewed. Meeting and talking to different kinds of people was my favorite thing about reporting.
“They asked me what was in there!” He gaped, recounting his call to 911. “Can you believe that? I told ‘em I wasn’t lookin’ at no rotted old bones first thing in the mornin’. That’s what my tax dollars pay them for!”
Turned out, the casket was full of scrap metal. Forensics checked it out, but didn’t find any indication it had ever been used for its intended purpose. I still wonder sometimes where the heck someone got it, and why they just left it there.
I sifted through memories all this week, trying to come up with a champion crazy story. It was a tough call, crowning a winner. There was the body in the trunk of an abandoned car that the dim-bulb college boys left in front of a retired cop’s house, and the church ladies vs. the cowboys in the strip club parking lot (which Nichelle gets to witness in the third Headlines in Heels mystery, due out in April 2014). But the gold star for weird has to go to the folks building sprawling McMansions over top of an old slave cemetery.
I’m pretty sure I choked on my coffee that morning: I got a call from the police chief, telling me I might want to talk to the state cemetery commission about what they do with unmarked graves discovered during construction. I spent two hours on the phone with three different people getting all kinds of background information. Decades before, they’d discovered a slave cemetery in Dallas when they were laying a major road, and the city halted construction until all the remains could be recovered and properly reinterred elsewhere. But the city wasn’t building these houses, so no one could really tell me what would happen to these remains. I called the chief back and he offered to drive me out to the site to look around.
When slavery was legal in Texas, the slaves were left to take care of their own when someone passed away. So often, people were buried in shallow graves with simple wooden crosses at the head and lilies planted at the foot. A hundred-plus years later, the crosses had disintegrated, but the lilies still bloomed every spring. That year, a construction worker clearing land for a house had noticed the lilies, each of them near a roughly six-by-three depression in the soil, and called the police department. They checked one spot and confirmed that it had been someone’s final resting place. So we drove out there and picked our way around this field, and we found several more clusters of lilies and suspicious depressions among the tangle of weeds.
The chief said he had a meeting scheduled with the city manager and the builder to discuss options for relocating the graves or marking the property off as a cemetery and building houses elsewhere. As I was jotting that in my notes, a voice came from behind us.
“Who are you and what are you doing out here?”
The chief raised an eyebrow and walked to the construction fence separating the empty lot where we stood from the one next door, where a massive house looked almost finished. He introduced himself, and the woman put her hands on her hips and just … went off.
“How long is this nonsense with these dead people going to hold up our construction? Now they say they have to check the lot for graves before we can proceed, and I want to have my swimming pool installed before we move in.”
My jaw a little loose, I watched him give her the only answers he had, which weren’t satisfactory to her, all the while thinking, “Jeez, lady, have you ever seen Poltergeist? Because your life is stealing the plot.”
She did. Not. Care. And she appeared to want someone to chew out. The chief finally threw up his hands and walked away. I followed. We got back in his truck and he looked at me and said “are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“That if I were her, my attorneys would be trying to figure out how to get me out of the contract on the house that might be on top of the cemetery?”
“Bingo. Who hasn’t seen Poltergeist?”
All kidding aside, I was flabbergasted that someone could have so little regard for disturbing a grave—possibly many graves. After months of negotiation and red tape, the graves they found on the properties already under construction ended up being moved over into the field Jim and I checked out that day. But I wonder sometimes if the lights ever flicker in that house. And static on the TV? No way.
***LynDee is giving away a prize pack with a signed copy of Front Page Fatality, a prize pack with a signed Advanced Reading Copy of Buried Leads, and three other prize packs to five lucky commenters on this post. So, Don't forget to comment!***
ABOUT LYNDEE: LynDee Walker grew up in the land of stifling heat and amazing food most people call Texas, and wanted to be Lois Lane pretty much from the time she could say the words “press conference.” An award-winning journalist, she traded cops and deadlines for burp cloths and onesies when her oldest child was born. Writing the Headlines in Heels mysteries gives her the best of both worlds. Her debut novel, FRONT PAGE FATALITY, is an amazon new humor #1 bestseller. The second Nichelle Clarke Headlines in Heels Mystery, BURIED LEADS, will be on sale October 15, 2013.
LynDee adores her family, her readers, and enchiladas. She often works out tricky plot points while walking off the enchiladas. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she is working on her next novel. You can visit her online at www.lyndeewalker.com.
With An Additional Giveaway From
***Another lucky commenter will win an autographed copy of The Cat Sitter's Cradle by John Clement.***
ABOUT THE CATSITTER'S CRADLE: No mission is impawsible for pet sitter Dixie Hemingway (no relation to you-know-who). On an early morning walk, she spots an exotic bird rarely seen north of the equator, much less in the sleepy beach-side town of Siesta Key, Florida. At first, Dixie thinks the bird has been blown off course by a terrible storm, but as she digs deeper into where the bird came from, Dixie becomes increasingly suspicious of its origins. When one client is found dead and a new friend and her baby disappear without warning, Dixie is pulled into a whirlwind of greed, deception, and danger. The eighth in this popular cozy series, John Clement and Blaize Clement's The Cat Sitter's Cradle, will keep both newcomers and loyal Dixie fans perched on the edge of their seats. Learn more at www.dixiehemingway.com.
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