Bonus Content: Mystery Magnet Epilogue

“Oh no, thanks,” I said.

We were sitting around the table in the servants’ dining room (I still hated that name). Late June sunlight slanted in through the window. A fan whirred in the kitchen, and pans clattered—Indira was baking something again.

Across from me, Fox raised an eyebrow in question.

“I don’t like talking about my writing,” I explained.

“No prob—” they began.

“It’s embarrassing, you know?”


“And I read something once, this writing coach, and she said you shouldn’t talk about your stories before they’re written because talking about them is another way of telling them, and once you’ve told them, it releases the pressure, so to speak. The need to tell them. So, instead, she says you should never talk about them so that the pressure builds and builds until you have to write them.”

Fox gave me a smile that looked kind of like the one Hugo used to give the lady who talked to her cats. “I completely understand—”

“But it couldn’t hurt to tell you a little, right? So, I’ve got this detective, and his name is Will Gower, and I can’t decide if he’s a hard-nosed FBI agent who never lets anyone get close to him, or if he’s a retired lighthouse keeper who still lives in his lighthouse because it’s been decommissioned and now he has no purpose in life, so he starts sleuthing.”

“That’s interesting,” Fox tried.

“But then I think, what if it’s the opposite? What if he’s the lighthouse keeper, but he’s the hard-nosed guy who never lets anyone get close to him? You know? Or what if he’s the FBI agent, but—” I couldn’t keep the excitement out of my voice. “—he lives in a decommissioned lighthouse!”

“Do they decommission lighthouses?” Fox murmured.

“Or what if the FBI agent isn’t hard-nosed at all? What if he’s got a healthy emotional support system? Oh my God, Fox! What if he owns a boat?”

Fox closed their eyes. Their breathing was slow and deep.

From the kitchen, Indira said, “Really? Playing dead?”

Out of the corner of their mouth, Fox said, “It works with Millie.”

I followed the sound of Indira’s laughter to the kitchen. She was kneading dough on the counter, and that lock of witch-white hair kept falling in her eyes as she worked. She looked up at me and said, “I think your detective sounds very nice.”

“That’s another thing,” I said. “What if he’s an antihero? What if he’s a cozy antihero? Oh my God, Indira, that would be a new genre. I could invent a new genre. Everyone would love it.”

“I’m sure it would be—”

“But on the other hand, what if everyone hated it? I mean, I have to consider that, don’t I? So maybe it should be noir with an antihero. But an antihero who’s good. An anti-villain! Picture this: Batman crossed with Raymond Chandler—the author, not his characters—but they drive around in—what was that possessed car that stole all the children?”

Indira’s eyes had gotten huge.


“You know,” Indira said, fumbling behind her. “It’s getting a bit steamy in here. I’m going to turn up this fan.”

“Only what if Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang was a Transformer?”

Indira pointed to her ear and shook her head.

“I said what if—”

She started shaking her head frantically.

At that moment, Keme appeared in the doorway. He stared at us, and then he started to back out of the room.

“Hey, do you have a minute? I’m workshopping ideas for this urban romantasy with an evil car—well, it might be evil.”

Keme turned and ran. He probably couldn’t hear me because of the fan.

I went to check if Fox had stopped playing dead yet, but they were gone. Millie was picking through the pastries on the table. “Oh my God, Dash, I had the most AMAZING morning—”

“Can I get your opinion really quick? I’ve got this cyberpunk story about a transforming car, only the car is also a detective, and the detective’s name is Will Gower. But he might be a lighthouse keeper. And, full disclosure, I had a lot of coffee this morning, but I really think I might be on to something. Would you read a book like that? Or wait, what if it was a TV show? A cartoon? What if it had a heartfelt romance—get this, between the cars. Oh my God, Millie, what if it was a movie, but we shot it on Super 8?”

Millie’s hand hung above the pastries, as though she’d forgotten them. She looked at me for what felt like a long time. Processing my story ideas, probably. And then she cocked her head and said, “WHAT? OH SURE. COMING RIGHT NOW!”

She sprinted out of the room, shoulder-checking Deputy Bobby on her way. He was dressed casually, in a crewneck sweatshirt and shorts and slides, and he glanced after Millie. Then he looked at me and did a double take.

“I thought you were writing today,” Deputy Bobby said.

“I am writing,” I said. “I’m brainstorming. So, remember how we started with a lighthouse keeper? But—get this—it’s the future, and he’s a car, and I know you’re thinking Knight Rider, and what if he’s gay?”



“We agreed he was an FBI agent. Chasing a serial killer named Wolfman. It’s going to be six thousand words long, and you’re going to finish it by Friday.”

“Yes, I know that’s what we talked about—”

“Promised. That’s what you promised you were going to write.” Deputy Bobby got me by the shoulders and steered me out of the servants’ dining room. As we crossed the hall toward the den, he added, “No more brainstorming. No more ideating. No more tweaking. No more stalling.”

“But Fox thinks he should have a boat—”

He gave me a little shove to propel me into the room, and then he stood in the doorway, blocking my exit. “You need to write a thousand words today.”

“I cannot be expected to produce on demand like—like a table-maker making tables!”

“I have no idea what that means.”

“It means the muse—”

“You can have some cake.”

My willpower only lasted a moment. “Okay, but what if it was the Old West, and Will Gower was a sharpshooter—”

“So much for that case of writer’s block, huh,” Deputy Bobby said. And then he shut the door.