Even though it took me along time to decide to write Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare (killing off one’s friends a good way to lose those friends, and I don’t have any to lose), and even though it took even longer to actually sit down and write the book, the writing itself was easy. I used whatever happened in class for inspiration, and if that failed me, I asked one of the characters what she would like to do, and if that failed, I wrote me writing the book. That was fun! Here is one such excerpt:
In every mystery story, it seems, there comes a time when the author wants a way to present insights, needs to show state of mind, or simply gets bored with a straightforward narrative and plays at being creative, so the storyteller recounts a dream.
Since I hate dreams, my own included, I usually skip those parts of a book, so I won’t bore you with the details of my dream. Suffice to say that early Wednesday morning, long before the sun gave any indication of wanting to rise, I dreamed I was Grace grieving the death of Pat. I carried the belief I was Grace into the first moments of waking, and for a second I didn’t know if I were Grace grieving for Pat or Pat grieving for Grace.
In the aftermath of that strange duality, when I came fully awake, I lay there wondering about my connection to Grace, wondering if somehow my talking about her death had brought it about. I no longer thought Grace existed in some sort of quantum state, both alive and dead, and all we had to do was find a way to observe her and she’d magically appear back in the studio, smiling up at us, asking why she reclined on the floor.
I do know that anything is possible, that at our most infinitesimal level, way beneath cellular construction and even atomic configurations, we are created from discrete patterns of nothingness held together by a force of energy that could destroy—or build—the universe. Our senses, and ultimately our brains, translate those waveforms into what we see, hear, taste, feel, know.
That is what we have to contend with in our daily lives—what we know. And I know Grace is dead.
(Grief is not always so conciliatory. I know Jay is dead, but I also know he is at home waiting for me. It’s why I continue to hang around this California desert town though I have no real reason to stay now that my father is gone—I’m reluctant to return to Colorado and confront the foolishness of my belief.)
What do I know other than that Grace is dead? Not much, to be honest, though I do believe someone else was involved with her death. There have been times when one or another of us students slipped on a slick patch of the studio floor, so a fall would not be particularly mysterious, but if Grace had hit her head on the barre hard enough to knock herself out, she would not have been able to arrange herself in the position we found her.
So that left me with three conclusions: someone killed her and arranged the scene; someone killed her and Grace managed to drag herself into position during her final moments; or someone found Grace unconscious, moved her, and left her to die.
But why? How could Grace’s death have made a difference to anyone’s life? I’ve heard it said that there are three main motives for murder—sex, power, and money. I suppose sex could be a motive for the murder of a long-married seventy-five year old woman, but it seemed farfetched to me, especially since she appeared to be devoted to her husband. Whatever money Grace had belonged to both her and Charlie so I didn’t see financial gain as a possibility for a motive, either. And power? What sort of power could Grace have exerted on anyone, or someone exerted on her? I thought of Deb eagerly slipping into Grace’s spot at the front of the class, and I wondered if the desire for that sort of power, so insignificant to the rest of the world, could have made Deb want to do away with a woman she might have considered a competitor.
Knowledge, of course, is power. Perhaps Grace had discovered a secret, but among our assorted classmates, who could have a secret so powerful that only murder would protect it?
I hoped the police would find the truth soon, because the dream made me uneasy. If I couldn’t distinguish between myself and Grace, is it possible others saw the same connection? Could I be next on the murderer’s list?
I got out of bed and dressed for the day, vowing to protect myself. But against whom? Margot, the woman Buffy had picked out as the perfect murderer? Or maybe Buffy herself, a woman who knew too much about the ways and means of murdering?
Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare for those who love fun, dance, murder, mystery, older women who live with all the verve and nerve of the young, and me! (The main character is named Pat.)
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.