I looked up from my iPad in the paranormal office. The sound of the mailman driving away caught my attention. My coffee cup was empty anyway, so I headed for the lobby, by way of the kitchen.
Lisa sorted the mail, and it looked like everything was for her and her radio show. It usually is.
I grabbed coffee and turned back toward my office. The sound of a heavy door closing caught my attention.
A large man in a rumpled shirt and tie climbed from an aged Cadillac sedan. You couldn’t miss the head of red hair.
“Oh, crap, it’s that guy. Hide!”
“What guy?” Lisa asked.
The front door opened and he stepped inside. “How ya doing? Name’s Herring, Red Herring.” He held out a hand.
I shook his hand, and it was sticky. I must have looked at my palm.
He held out a handkerchief. “Sorry about that. It’s those hot wings. I know I shouldn’t drive and eat at the same time, but you authors don’t exactly all live in the same neighborhood.”
“I know who you are, Red. You’ve been here every year since Lisa moved into the writing cabin.” I wiped my hand on my jeans, rather than risk his hankie.
“Oh yeah. Sorry I don’t remember you, but I remember the blonde. How ya doin?”
“I’m fine Mr. Herring.”
“Oh, so formal.” He pulled a tri-fold brochure from his hip pocket and handed it to Lisa. “Weren’t you the guy that bought the kit I named after myself?”
“The Red Herring. Yeah, you got me.”
“How’d that work out for you?”
“Actually, it was pretty fair. I used it in The Playground. It was okay, I suppose.”
“When in doubt, cover it with a lot of blood I always say.”
“Huh, there was some blood involved, now that you mention it.”
“Good man. Now, what I have today is the Red Herring Two-Point-Oh. It’s the latest and greatest in false leads–“
“Hold on, I thought I bought the latest and greatest last year.”
“It was, but time marches on. We made improvements. It has a help-line now, just like grandma’s Thanksgiving turkey.”
“Maybe it is a turkey.”
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll let you have the last one in my car for thirty percent off. You can’t beat that anywhere. In fact, I’m heading back to the home office after this stop, so I can probably cut you a deal on everything left in the car. “
“I’m sure you can. I think the discounted Red Herring Two-Point-Oh will be enough. Lisa, can you take care of this?”
“I can, but hang on a second.” Her eyes fluttered briefly. “We have pretty meager supplies on the shelves downstairs. You’re almost completely out of plot twists and turns.”
Red got out a pencil and notepad. He licked the tip of the pencil before he started writing.
Lisa continued, “I think you should consider a few of these double crosses too.”
“You still have that rough outline of the fraudster guy who starts wars for money. I think they sound perfect for that.”
“You know It’s a year or two in the future, right? Besides, I haven’t figured out if it’s a fantasy, a pirate story, or a pirate-fantasy story yet.”
Red butted in. “The double crosses have no expiration date. You can use one this fall, and one ten years from now and they’re still just as fresh as they are today. They come in a cute little commemorative six-pack container now too. I have six-packs, twelve packs, or cases.”
“Okay, we’ll take a case. Plus the newest version of the Red Herring, and two cases of twists and turns,” Lisa said.
“Hey, wait a minute–“
“Don’t be such a baby. We’re a long ways out here, and Red only stops by once per year. Besides, you used all our supplies up on short stories and micro-fiction. You know you’ll never stop writing those.”
“Atta girl.” Red offered Lisa a form. “If you fill this out, I’ll add you to my email list. I like to send a card at Christmas. I also offer free shipping for every order over fifty-bucks.”
I rolled my eyes as Lisa accepted Red’s form.
“Let me get the stuff out of the car. I’ll be right back.”
I waited until he was outside. “I don’t want his junk mail clogging up my email. I already get daily promos from PayPal, Zazzle, and everyone else. He’s going to be offering us Happily Ever Afters at Christmas, and love triangles at Valentine’s Day. You know that, right?”
Lisa held up the Tri-fold brochure. “How about these bloody murders at Halloween? There’s even an alien invasion kit.”
“Let me see that, those are kind of cool.” I accepted the brochure, then caught myself. “Look, you get rid of Red. I’m going to my office before I buy anything else.
Lisa stepped into the paranormal office and sat on the red, Victorian, picture-frame couch.
“Did you get the stuff stocked downstairs?”
“Well, Red also had an unreliable narrator and a carton of sidekicks in the car. He gave me a deal, because he didn’t want to take them to the home office.”
“Uh-huh. He probably has a trailer full of the stuff he disconnected back at his hotel. Every author out there probably gets a discount for helping him out.”
“Could be, but hey! You’re well supplied for your next push, right?”
“Kind of explains why he doesn’t have an app.”
“Oh, he does. I downloaded it, and he takes PayPal too.”
“Let me guess: Makes all deliveries personally.”
“How did you know?”
“Just a good guesser. He’ll show up with your order and another trunk full of stuff to sell.”
“Seems pretty efficient.”
“Doesn’t it though.”