Geoffrey Mehl is a former journalist, graphic designer, editor, and marketing and public relations executive. An environmental advocate and avid gardener, he is also the author of three best-selling landscaping books. Today Mandy Owens, the star of one of his novels joins us to talk about the challenges of scrapbooking when you’re a reporter working undercover with a spy. Learn more about Geoffrey (and Mandy) and his books at his website.
The Problem with Souvenirs
As we made our way to our diner booth, I winced whenever someone asked if I’d brought souvenirs or mementos. I’m sure Tommy was pretending to ignore it, but that placid expression gave him away.
When seated, I put the envelope on the table. No reaction. Fiddled with it. Nope. Again. Nothing. He was good.
“Want to know what’s in it?”
“In what?” he asked while Frannie poured coffee.
“That one? No.”
He was getting under my skin and into my head. “Why not?”
Tommy sipped coffee. “Not my envelope.”
I slumped. “So you’re going to pretend you don’t care, just to prod me into telling you it’s a collection of mementos and souvenirs.”
Oops. Thankfully, he didn’t gloat. “The scrapbooking thing, at Iverson’s. Lot of talk about that.”
Which was true. Two weeks ago, construction work along Railroad Avenue, two blocks south of the Puffin Diner, turned up a metal box containing a link to the past of Jacks Ford: a scrapbook from 1887 with photos, maps, letters, memorabilia. What made it precious was that in 1888, the locomotive of a logging railroad that ran down the center of the street exploded. The resulting fire burned the entire town to the ground. The bankrupt logging company vanished.
Among the images in the miraculously saved box was one of the infamous locomotive.
Muriel Iverson, who owns Iverson’s Arts and Crafts, ensured the scrapbook got to eager hands of the Jacks Ford Historical Society and everyone in town came to see it. A clever businesswoman, Muriel fanned scrapbooking buzz and organized a class.
Tommy and 98 percent of the men in town were indifferent. “So, you’re joining the class?”
Waffle, egg and bacon platters arrived. “Yes. You said yourself that we’re supposed to blend in, be a nice, normal, ordinary couple. While you’re at Ferguson’s Hardware ogling all the noisy toys with starter cords, I’ll do my part as a good citizen.”
He drowned a waffle in syrup. “Shrewd. You brought stuff from when you were a kid?”
“Gosh, no. Muriel specified recent. I’ve got things from some of our adventures.”
A slice of bacon went into his mouth like paper into a shredder. I ignored ice forming on my eggs and reached into the envelope just as he cocked an eyebrow to accompany a “such-as.”
“Here’s those forged credentials from Karl Felchin that we used in that thing with the Federal Reserve. And a scrap from that dress ruined by rain in Argentina. This was fun — the casino chips with the transmitters.”
“The Las Vegas job?”
“No, the cruise ship off the Greek coast.”
“Here’s one of those cute little tranquilizer darts you and Sergei used to attack the gunrunners in Kenya...”
He wordlessly ate.
I studied the items next to my breakfast. “This isn’t going to work, is it?”
A faint smile suggested the concept had flaws. “If you’d like, we could call Lucy and have her rush us some assorted mementos. Snapshots, theater ticket stubs, some foreign currency, a couple of travel brochures. Probably only take a half hour or so.”
I carved off a hunk of waffle to crush the egg yolk into an oozing mass of disappointment. “I feel like I’m walking into one of those big box stores. Hi, I’m scrapbooking today and I need ten dollars worth of assorted souvenirs to prove I have a life.”
He chuckled in a patient way. “Or you go with what you have, probably raise some eyebrows. Sorry I can’t add to your collection.”
The bacon still had crunch to it, and the blend of syrup and egg yolk on the waffle was palatable. “Back in your espionage days — before you were Robin Hood — you never kept mementos? All the stuff at the cabin is just window dressing?”
Tommy gestured to Frannie for coffee. “No, I didn’t, and yes, it is.”
Frannie arrived with the pot. “Going to Muriel’s class, are you?”
My smile must have been weak. “Not entirely sure.”
Like us, Frannie has a past and was always understanding. She said, “I’ve got some assorted junk if you need materials.”
I slipped my collection into the envelope. “That would be sweet, thank you.”
Frannie promised to return soon. I drained two packets of creamer into the coffee and confronted Tommy’s mischievous grin. “No souvenirs? Ever?”
“No. We never called them souvenirs. We called them evidence.”
When reporter Mandy Owens witnesses the bizarre murder of a pathetic conspiracy freak, she’s snared in a deadly conspiracy to plug the leak of an incredibly dangerous government document. But the powerful forces in the dark world of finance have tangled with the wrong person. She’s got connections. Reunited with spy-turned-adventurer Tommy Kane and a shadow world of talented misfits, the trail leads through a string of murders to a group of financiers and government officials. But there’s a problem: the mysterious leaked file is a ticking bomb that could destroy the international banking system within minutes and must be defused with a billion-dollar wager, all in.