To help celebrate the launch of From Poe to Know, here’s a teaser snippet from Chapter One
“Bored. I would love to be bored for at least five seconds.”
I slumped in the front door, shrugged out of my rain jacket, and slung it on the coat rack where it dripped a steady beat onto the floor. My curly brown hair had mostly escaped its tie, so I liberated the unruly lengths completely, running my fingers through it to dislodge the tangles, and sighed in relief. Having the damn mess pulled back all day had given me a headache.
Edgar, my gray and black Maine Coon, raced to meet me at the door. He wound in and out of my legs until I bent down to pet him. A slight nudge from his head was enough to send me tumbling to the floor—I’m clumsy even on a good day. As I sat there, slightly stunned, Edgar climbed in my lap and thrust his head in my face. I rubbed my hands along his sides, feeling the slight vibrations from his purring, and muttered to myself. Again.
“I say if you’re going to dream, dream big, Edgar.” His response was to knead his claws into my thigh. “Half an hour of boredom, maybe.”
Talking to myself was not unusual. Most of the time it was the only intelligent conversation I had once I got home. Edgar couldn’t talk, but he was a good listener. Ritchie, my live-in boyfriend of nearly seven months, could talk, but he wasn’t. A good listener, I mean. He talked at me whenever the mood struck. Which was far too often.
I unlaced my Converse and set them by the door, then pulled myself up and slouched into the living room. Flung myself onto the couch and closed my eyes. That lasted all of two seconds. Not only was I still wound up from the day’s insanity, but Edgar decided the time was ripe for another cuddle and knocked the wind out of me by jumping on my chest.
The perfect ending to my perfectly breathless day.
The morning had started off fine, normal even, though the pouring rain and maniac Atlanta drivers should have been more than enough to give me a head’s up that normal wasn’t going to last long. Thankfully, by the time I made it to the shop twenty minutes late, nearly everything had been loaded onto the food truck. Whatever guilt I felt over not being on time was soothed by the cup of coffee Delly, in all her pink-haired glory, set in front of me as she shoved me down onto a stool.
“Sit. We’re almost done.”
All I had to do was drink my coffee and wait for the crew to finish so Delly, Jimmy, and I could head to the set.
I’m Izzie Greene, by the way, co-owner of Grave Catering, the company in charge of catering and craft services on Poe. You know, the TV show that had, less than halfway through its first season, captivated the attention of the vast majority of the public and garnered rave reviews. It’s a smart show, very cerebral—almost as intelligent as the British shows we Americans always rip off and butcher within an inch of their lives.
The rave reviews, though, don’t begin to touch the adoration of Poe’s star, Cardwell Bennett, who rocketed to stardom seemingly overnight. Any idiot knows overnight stardom takes ages to accomplish, and Cardwell’s been a working actor in the UK for years—theatre, television, film, radio, he’s done it all. His portrayal of Edgar Allan Poe had women of all ages giggling like giddy school girls and thinking lusty thoughts on a regular basis. He let me read his fan mail once. “Inventive” comes to mind. Right after “Oh, my God! Is that even possible?” and “Who knew Poe could be so sexy?”
Anyway, we were only supposed to have an eight-hour day, but it had stretched to nearly eleven. Half an hour into shooting, Nessa Whittmore, Poe’s very own pixie-like animal wrangler, screeched and ran furiously onto the set.
“Which infernal idiot left the ravens’ cage unlocked?” Her head whipped around so wildly I half expected it to topple from her shoulders and roll under the nearest set piece.
Nessa was the tiniest person I’d ever seen and normally sweet as can be, but I wouldn’t want to piss her off. She looked like she was channeling a demon.
“Cut!” Vincent, showrunner cum director cum Lord of all that is Poe—He controls everything concerning the show, and his word is final. I don’t know when he finds time to sleep, which might explain both his constant air of exhaustion and his trademark scraggly hair and beard. “What’s the matter, love?” He asked his animal wrangler wife.
A bloodcurdling scream was the reply. A second later, Adriana Godfrey, the female lead, bolted onto the set, her jet-black hair flying every which way while her arms flapped frantically, trying to stave off the raven intent on attaching its claws to her head. If I hadn’t been so shocked, I would have laughed. Adriana was not my favorite person and, as far as I was concerned, deserved whatever she got.
“Three ravens are loose, that’s what’s the matter!” Nessa ran after Adriana, her voice strangled in her throat.
It’s not my job to herd errant animals—the union would have a fit if a mere food-services person handled a professional animal wrangler’s job—but when pandemonium ensues, everyone pitches in. We all scrambled as Vincent and Nessa barked orders, tripped over each other, and generally caused more chaos than the birds.
When the first raven was caught within thirty minutes, we all sighed in relief. It wouldn’t take much longer to catch the others.
Or so we thought.
Turns out, the other two ravens were intent on playing hide and seek, hiding far more often than they sought. Vincent eventually decided to shoot around them because no one could corner the damn things, and he wanted to stay on schedule.
Avoiding the dive-bombing, raven poop, and Adriana, who had gone from hysterical to stark-raving mad, was exhausting. I must have covered and uncovered the craft services table at least a dozen times while Delly bounced back and forth between the table and the truck, making sure everything was as it should be. People get peckish during a crisis, and they apparently frown on eating a side of bird crap with their nibbles. I stood holding the plastic cover up—mostly prompted by Adriana, who never ended up actually eating anything—whenever someone wandered over for a bite. The constant up and down was an incentive of sorts to start going to the gym like Boyfriend Ritchie often demanded, and which I just as often resisted.
My arms would have probably hurt less if I’d ripped them from their sockets.
Filming around the birds proved to be a lesson in futility, mostly because one of the two had uncanny timing. Cardwell was on set to shoot a pivotal scene and sat at a desk, quill pen in hand, a small shock of hair curling onto his forehead.
“Quiet on set!” Vincent crouched behind the monitor. “And…action!”
The silence was broken by the scratching of quill on paper, the tinking of the nib dipped into the ink pot. I stood off to the side watching, my fingers secretly crossed behind my back, a private ritual I’d started on the very first day of filming when everything that could go wrong, did. If I’d placed bets on whether the show would be a hit based on the first day, I would have wagered against lasting more than a couple of episodes.
Cardwell began. “‘Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou art sure no craven—’”
His soft, gravelly voice rose and fell melodically, filtering across the set. I clenched my fingers tighter as he continued. “‘Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore. Tell me what thy Lordly name is on the night’s Plutonian shore! Quoth the Raven—’”
From recesses unknown, one of the missing ravens croaked, “Nevermore.”
The usual anticipation of watching Cardwell work shifted to stunned silence followed by an eruption of hysterical laughter.
“Cut!” Vincent yelled over the din before he, too, roared along with everyone else.
That was the first and last time a raven hit its cue. Forty-five minutes later the crew was feeling particularly murderous, the actors frustrated and snippy. I could hear Adriana bitching at Cardwell all the way across the set. Thankfully, her tirade didn’t last long.
Unfortunately, it was because we lost the lights.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake! What now?” Vincent’s low growl echoed through the darkness.
“On it, boss.” Sebastian, the lighting tech, strode resolutely across the set until there was a loud crash and a grunt of pain.
The rest of us froze in our tracks, afraid to make the slightest move for fear of knocking something over or inadvertently committing sexual harassment while groping our way around the darkened set.
Flashlights flickered here and there as Sebastian and his crew searched for the problem.
“Aw, shit. Someone bring me another cord.” His exasperated sigh elicited a high-pitched giggle from Adriana who, apparently, had a death wish.
Once the lights came back on, we discovered one of the riotous ravens had ravaged through an extension cord snaking along the floor. I guess birds get peckish too. Sebastian found it fried to a gentle crisp over by the cabinet where the prop master keeps his toys. We said a few choice words over the carcass before Nessa carried it off wrapped in a towel, muttering about fines and paperwork and set visits from the American Humane Association.
We never did locate the third raven, but at least he was quiet.
A couple hours later, disaster struck again when one of the stuntmen sliced and diced himself on a pendulum. Oh, he was fine, but he was on medical leave until the 150 stitches were removed from his ass.
Don’t ask. No idea how that one happened.
Clearly, we needed more to deal with, and during the inadvertent bloodletting and freak out, a few of the weaker-stomached extras hurled all over the set. That took some time to clean up. Two wet vacs and three bottles of Febreeze later, the smell still hadn’t dissipated.
Mercifully, the rest of the day’s shoot went without a hitch, but we’d lost hours of work, and by the time we wrapped for the day, my nerves were shot all to hell. The repeated slip-and-slides on the way home didn’t help. I counted five wrecks, not mine, and three close calls, mine, before I pulled into my driveway.
So, yeah. I’d love a little boredom.