Debra unties the ribbon around the mysterious box and slowly opens it. Her puzzled look doesn’t leave her face when the side door rams open and two men enter. (https://roughwighting.net/2018/09/28/strangers-in-the-dark/)
“If you want to help your friend,” the stockiest man growls, “empty the box and show us the rest.”
Debra laughs, but not with humor. “Are you kidding me? You must be the agent Eugene told me about last week.”
The man’s face falls as flat as a bad soufflé. “He told you about me?”
The second man, tall and thin, walks into the kitchen with a scowl and sits in one of Debra’s mom’s old pine chairs. “How much did he tell you?” he asks.
Debra reaches for a bottle of Zinfandel in the corner wine rack and three glasses. “What kind of game are you playing with Eugene?” She pops the cork and pours a half glass for each of them. The two men shake their heads no, but they both take a large sip of the dark red wine.
Debra continues: “At first your firm acted interested in the six chapters he sent you, and you asked for the full synopsis and the rest of the book.”
“Which he didn’t send us,” the first man retorts.
Debra raises her eyebrow. “And your name is … ?”
“Frank, president of ‘Frankly Frank Agency’ in New York. This is Bud, my assistant.”
“Well, Frank and Bud, you’ve wasted a trip. Eugene is not interested in your firm. He’s decided he doesn’t need your services.”
Bud leaps out of his seat and grabs the pink-ribboned box. “Is this the rest of the manuscript?”
Debra grabs it out of the man’s hands. “I’m guessing it is. Two weeks ago Eugene gave me the first ten chapters to read. Strangers in the …”
“… Dark,” Frank finishes for her.
“Yes, and Eugene promised to give me the rest of the chapters when he completed the book. The suspense is a page-turning masterpiece. The twists and turns are brilliant. My advice to him is to self-publish. With the right promotion, the book will sell like marshmallows at a cook-out.”
“You don’t get it,” Debra explains with triumph in her voice. “I’ve worked in marketing for years. Granted, my products are usually food-related, but I’ve been waiting for a chance to dig my teeth into more satisfying merchandise. Eugene’s manuscript fits my new portfolio perfectly.”
With perfect timing, the author-in-question arrives through the front door.
“Eugene!” Debra exclaims, surprised at her own exuberance. Hmm, over the course of a day and a half, her neighbor has become more appealing with his black-rimmed glasses, half-smile, and unruly blonde hair. His jeans are wrinkled and worn thin at the seat.
Ignoring Frank and Bud, Eugene stares at Debra and blurts out, “I was up all last night finishing it. What do you think?”
“I don’t need to think a second more. I accept your invitation to be your publicist,” Debra answers. Then she turns to her two uninvited guests. “This party is over, gentlemen. See you at the Frankfurt Book Fair next October.”
As they depart dejectedly, Debra pours a glass of Zin for Eugene, and they clink glasses.
“To Strangers in the Dark,” they say simultaneously, realizing that THE END is far from over.
Congrats to the TWO winners in my “What’s in the Box?” contest. The first person to guess a manuscript was Robbie of Robbie’s Inspiration. Robbie was part-way there, wondering if it was Debra’s ms. (Kudos to Anneli ,Leslie, and Barbara C. for their quick-witted book/manuscript guesses in later comments.) Second winner is Kathy of Lake Superior Spirit, who guessed “words” in the box because I’m a word woman. Honorable mention to Harula of wordsthatserve, who soon after guessed the box contained Eugene’s book!