I’m supposed to be figuring out a mystery for a “Nite at the Museum” event at the local historical museum, but instead, the bare bones of my next book are poking at me. Not that I know what will happen in that story any more than the I know what will happen at the museum, but I am getting the feel for the story — a woman (Pat!) buys a house years after the death of her husband in an effort to build a new life for herself. As she digs around her yard, cleaning things up, she finds remnants of a previous owner’s life. She gets curious about the woman, and tries to find out what happened to her, but everyone she talks to has a different story. Some think she went to a nursing home in a nearby town. Some think she went to live with a relative in another state. As Pat continues to dig and learns more about the woman’s life, she discovers that the woman was much like her — widowed, alone, elderly, no children, few financial resources, and no one to really care what happened to her. That’s when Pat ramps up her search for woman — because whatever fate the woman met, so might the hapless Pat.
I have no idea if there is a book in these musings or if they are only in my mind to keep me from thinking about what I am supposed to be thinking of — the museum murder.
We have a basic plot for the murder, where the murdered couple (The Crows) were put in a hotel room at the Gardner House that someone else wanted. That someone else had stolen an artifact (or been given it to dispose of it), and hid it in the hotel until the heat was off and now person came back to get the artifact. Why it was necessary to get the pipe that particular night, I haven’t yet figured out, so if you have any ideas, I’d be glad to hear them. Apparently, Mrs. Crow wakes up and sees the thief. The thief swoops down on her, and when she awakes again, she finds herself dead.
What fascinates me about writing is that once a scenario presents itself, research almost always helps bring the story to life. (This has been called the gift of the library gods.)
In this case, research brought me to the Medicine Hat Bundle, which included a ceremonial pipe and a buffalo horn, and was the most sacred possession of the Northern Cheyenne. After a dispute with the Keeper of the Sacred Medicine Hat Bundle, the pipe disappeared until 1908 when a woman named Hattie Gott acquired it from a Southern Cheyenne called Burnt All Over. Hattie Gott donated the artifact to the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1911. The significance of the pipe was finally discovered around 1997, and from what I can tell, it’s been returned to the Northern Cheyenne.
So my dilemma for The Murder of Crows is how the pipe wound up here (Southern Cheyenne territory) at the turn of the twentieth century, eight years before it ended up in Oklahoma, why someone hid it in the Gardner House, and why reclaiming it was so urgent as to necessitate killing the occupants of the room where it was hidden.
I suppose it could have been stolen again, either on purpose (knowing what it was), or accidentally (not knowing what it was). I also need to have some idea of what the thief hoped to gain by owning the pipe. Maybe holding it for ransom if the person knew what it was? Or desperate to get rid of it and the bad luck that followed it if the person didn’t know what it was? Although the pipe was supposed to be good luck for the Northern Cheyenne, it brought bad luck to other folk. It’s probable that the pipe was placed in the room previously, and only now has the person found a chance to return to the area to retrieve it.
No wonder it’s easier to think about a novel I might or might not write in some eventless future rather than thinking about a mystery event I have to create in the very near future.
Like before the end of the month. Eek!
What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?
A fun book for not-so-fun times