It’s November again
It’s time for that annual ritual, in which I flog myself until I’ve cranked out 50,000 words in 30 days or less, participating in National Novel Writing Month. As usual, I’m writing a mystery, featuring Hannah Montgomery, community college English instructor and amateur sleuth, into whose life dead bodies continue to fall. In this installment, she’s working on planning her wedding to police Detective Harry O’Malley. Here is the first installment, cranked out in the first half-hour of Nov. 1.
Murder in the Photo Lab
by Carol Anne Byrnes
1. Plans Afoot
Hannah Montgomery sighed wearily as she pushed herself back from her desk, shoving a lock of fine blonde hair from her face. She was supposed to be grading papers, but it wasn’t working so well. Her mind kept wandering off to other topics, like the wedding. How was she going to pull that off? She knew that most people planned for a year or more, and here she was, trying to do it in just a couple of months. So far, almost nothing was coming together. There was the catering for the reception, the rental of the banquet hall from the yacht club, hairstyling to think of, makeup, arrangements for lodging for out of town guests, trying to find a band to play at the reception, or at least a DJ, and she was sure she was forgetting something. At least the wedding dress seemed to be on track; she had already had a rough fitting, although the final adjustments would wait until just a couple of days in advance, to fit her rapidly growing baby bump perfectly on the big day.
Her phone rang, and she answered it. “Hello?”
“Hi, dear, it’s Clara.” Hannah recognized the voice of her soon-to-be mother-in-law. “I was wondering if you’d arranged a photographer for the wedding portraits yet?”
Oh, no, that’s what she’d been forgetting, Hannah realized. “Uh, no,” she said. “That, uh, had sort of slipped my mind.”
“Don’t worry, dear,” Clara said. “I have an old friend from high school who’s out there, Lionel Eggleston, who’s a photography professor at Siete Mares State. Or at least he used to be. He’s now sort of retired, what they call ‘emeritus.’ I asked him if he’d do your wedding, and he said he would. I’ll pay – count it as a wedding gift to you and Harry.”
Well, that was a piece of good news, Hannah reflected. One piece of wedding planning that she’d forgotten, and it was going to be taken care of without much trouble on her part. “Oh, thank you very much,” she said. “That would be fantastic!” She hoped Clara couldn’t hear the note of desperation in her voice.
“There is one thing,” Clara said. “Lionel doesn’t like the new-fangled photography.”
“Oh, that’s fine,” Hannah said. If Professor Eggleston didn’t like digital photography, well, that would mean her and Harry’s wedding portraits would be more traditional.
“No, I don’t think you understand,” Clara said. “Lionel doesn’t like that new-fangled dry film. He uses wet plates. Says it gives him a more honest look. You’ll likely have to sit very very still for a long while when you pose, and then making the prints will take a long time.”
“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Hannah said. Actually, having an excuse to sit very very still for a while sounded pretty good. She had been running around so much lately, trying to tie up all of the loose ends. “Having wedding portraits that are totally different from anybody else’s will be something special.”“Oh, they’ll be special all right,” Clara said. “Lionel is known for his cyanotypes. They have a lovely blue shade to them.”