HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: What we’re writing? You will never believe it. Up until eleven years ago, what I wrote were facts. Reporting and writing only what I saw and heard and discovered. Only whatever truth I could discover.
Then one day--and my point is coming--I realized I could make stuff up. Write fiction. Make new worlds, and “report” on them. I created Charlotte McNally—and more good news on that soon. I created Jane Ryland—and the new Jane book WHAT YOU SEE is on the BOLO Best of 2015 list, hurray! And was also just named a Library Journal Best of 2015.
And the new Jane and Jake, titled---well, I'll keep that a secret for now--is in to the publisher! And I'll soon start on the next one.
But I am also working in two more voices. One, in for the upcoming anthology of Sherlock Holmes-inspired short stories edited by Les Klinger and Laurie King—wow, huh?—I am the voice of Annabelle Holmes, a private detective in western Massachusetts.
And for an upcoming anthology of X-files stories edited by Jonathan Maberry—wow, huh?--I am the voice of Dana Scully. Yes, indeed. And in my story, she and Mulder are married. And expecting.
Here’s a taste of each.
From “THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING WOMEN”
“Miss Holmes?” Our visitor stood in the open office doorway, the glare from the morning sunshine creating a momentary silhouette.
Most of our clients are amused by my name, and as he came inside, our visitor’s smile revealed he had also made the connection. Surely as all Rhodes are Dusty and all Cassidys are Hopalong, if one’s name is Holmes, one is inescapably called Sherlock. Even though my real name is Annabelle.
As for the real Holmes, Watson reports she has read a few of the classic stories; certainly they are many and beloved. I have not indulged, preferring to create my own adventures. Perhaps I’ll write them someday. Or perhaps, in keeping with literary tradition, Watson will.
“May we help you?” Watson asked. With her growing-out military haircut and newly-purchased “girl clothes” as she calls them, part of her job is to approach arriving clients and barricade me, as it were, from the initial contact. That gives me time to contemplate, assess, and calculate.
This morning’s visitor was dressed like a handsome groom on a wedding cake. Hardly expected for seven on an October morning. The young man—late twenties, I calculated-- held a carryout cup of coffee in a white paper container.
“Annabelle Holmes?” He looked at me as he entered, then at Watson, then back at me. As if trying to decide which of us he sought--the scarecrow in the black jeans, black t-shirt, spectacles and ponytail, or the short-haired cherub in the flowered skirt.
This waiter, or possibly bridegroom, was clearly flustered: his cheeks stubbled, dark hair in disarray, bow tie slanted askew, one of the black onyx studs in his shirtfront placket missing.
“I see you have not rented that evening wear,” I said, standing and holding out a welcoming hand. “That you are left-handed. And, moreover, that you are health conscious.” I hid my smile at his wide-eyed response. “I am Annabelle Holmes. How can we be of service, Mr.—Arthur?”
“Health conscious? Left-handed?” The man fairly sputtered in surprise as he shook mine. “And how did you know my name?
“And I must ask,” I continued, “since you are clearly in…” I paused, choosing my word carefully. “…distress. Are you missing the bride to your groom?”
“Missing the bride? How did you know?” He blinked at his reflection in the front window. “I see. Yes, I’m Arthur. Arthur Daley. But how did you know that?”
I glanced at Watson, who, as always, looked at me for answers. She still has not learned how I look for small details, and how they combine to create larger answers. Sometimes it is not difficult.
“Your name is written on your coffee cup, sir,” I said. “Along with your health conscious choice for skim milk.”
Watson rolled her eyes. “You kill me,” she muttered.
FROM “We Should Listen to Some Shostakovich” (In which Scully and Mulder have received a huge oil painting of Dmitri Shostakovich as a wedding gift.)
“I knew it,” Mulder said. He stood at the top of the basement stairs, triumphant. He held a file folder in his hand, and no question what was coming next.
We were at breakfast; I was at least, sitting at the little table in the corner of our kitchen. Thirty seconds until my tea water boiled. Tea was about all I could hold down these days.
And the Shostakovich had entered our lives as well. Not just Sitnikov’s painting, but the music. The music of Shostakovich, his Eighth String Quartet, floated through our sun-lit room, the sorrowful notes poignant and heartbreaking. We’d listened to a lot of Shostakovich over the past few days, and now, Mulder was saying he’d found articles about –well two things. One, that Shostakovich used codes in his music. For instance, that he’d transcribed DSCH, for Dmitri Shostakovich, into the first notes of the Quartet.
“With the note D as the letter D,” he’d explained. “And musicians know E-flat is S, and then C, and B is H.”
At least he’d come upstairs with research, not an X-file, which is what I had expected. But those were still at headquarters, and while the powers-that-be weighed our fates, the files were off limits. Or out of reach, at least. I considered my uneaten wheat toast. “Why does B equal H?”
These are the conversations we have.
“Who knows, “he said. “I don’t make the rules. I just find them.”
And then, Mulder had looked up the dates of the Eighth.
“Check it out,” he’d said. “Shostakovich, according to this, wrote the eighth string quartet starting July 12, 1960. Know what else happened that day? A U.S. Navy C-47 cargo transport plane crashed into the side of a mountain near Quito, Ecuador, killing all 18 souls on board.”
“We’re not going to Ecuador,” I said.
He ignored me, what else is new. “On July 13, 1960 he was still writing. And you know what happened that day?”
All kinds of appropriate answers came to mind, but it was better just to let him talk.
“John F. Kennedy got the Democratic nomination for president.”
“We’re not going to Dallas,” I said. Not again.
“All I’m saying,” Mulder poked the microwave button, handed me the cup of hot water. “All I’m saying is that our painting has got to be a code, too. Music lasts, paintings last. Better than microchips or microfilm or secret letters. Anyone can see them, or hear them. But the codes only communicate meaning to those who know what they’re looking for. Or listening for. The music means something. And the painting is telling us how to listen. Or, possibly, the music is telling us to look at the painting. Either way, they’re connected. At least to each other, and probably to something more.”
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I really hope you scrolled down, looking for what came next. It’s been a true joy to write these stories, and I’ll let you know when they come out! So, Reds, would you rather read an X-Files story? Or a Holmes-ish one?