Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Your protagonist blows a tire on a deserted road. When she checks for the spare, she finds the body of a young girl (mid-teens.) What does she do?

by Tracy Kiely

I see that smirk. Don’t bother to hide it. You thought that Elizabeth Parker, my Austen-quoting heroine, would spring into action and begin sticking her nose into business best left for the police. Well, HA! You would be wrong.

While it is true that in the past Elizabeth has involved herself in a one or two (okay, three) murder investigations, in each of those cases it was at the behest of a family member or friend. This poor girl is a complete stranger to Elizabeth. She therefore has no earthly reason to do anything other than call 911 and wait somberly by the body until the police arrive.

Bet you feel pretty silly now, don’t you?

Looking at her watch, Elizabeth sees that she will be late for the afternoon session of the Jane Austen Annual Meeting, but it is no matter. This poor girl cannot be left alone. Who could have done such a terrible thing?

Hey, wait. Is that a Jane Austen bumper sticker on the girl’s car? It is! What Would Jane Do? Oh, that’s fun! Stop it. It is not fun. It is sad. The poor girl is dead. How old is she? Looks to be about seventeen. Was she a Janeite, too? Not many seventeen-year-old-girls are into Jane Austen these days. Maybe it’s her mother’s car. Oh, God. Her poor mother! This is so terrible. She looks like a nice girl, too. Pretty, in a quiet kind of way. Shoulder length blonde hair. Clear skin. What’s that around her neck? A pendant. It looks to be numbers. 1813

1813? But that’s the year Pride and Prejudice was published. Maybe the car doesn’t belong to the girl’s mother. After all, it is a rather beat-up Mini Cooper. Maybe there’s some identification inside the car.

Wow. The whole right side of the car is covered with more Austen stickers.

Inside, the car’s backseat is covered with books both by Austen and about Austen.

No, this girl was definitely a Janite. But who would want to kill a Janeite? Janeites are lovely people!

Oh, a car is coming. Finally, the police are here. Oh wait. It isn’t the police. It’s a black jeep. They are slowing down. Are they stopping? Could it be family out looking for her? They have a bumper sticker, too. What does it say?

Huh? Now they are speeding off. Why wouldn’t they stop?

Read Twain?

Good God! Could this poor girl’s death have something to do with the animosity that sometimes flares up between the Janeites and Twain fans? Granted Mark Twain’s criticisms rankled those in the Austen camp but could it really lead to murder?

No. That’s absurd.

But there is a paper in the car, the title of which is “Twain’s Cruel Criticism: A Pudd’NHead Revealed.” Next to it was another, “Twain’s Rejection of Austen: Insight into a Misogynist Misfist.” Both were written by Lauren Baker.

Could the dead girl be Lauren Baker?

The taillights of the black jeep fade into the distance.

Well, this girl is no stranger. She is a fellow Janeite. Elizabeth has no choice but to get involved, after all:


Meredith Cole said...

I had no idea there was so much animosity between Janeites and Twain readers! Loved the bumper stickers. I'm so glad I enjoy reading both of them (but always reach for Jane when I need a good comfort read).

Lois Winston said...

I never could work up any enthusiasm for the Regency period, but I do feel for the dead girl and her family and certainly hope she wasn't murdered by a rival literary faction.

TracyK said...

Meredith - oh yes! Twain was vicious about Austen. Don't recall it ever coming to fisticuffs between rival factions but there's always a first!

TracyK said...

Lois - Don't feel too badly. She's not real. :)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

What a lovely depiction of Elizabeth's slide down the slippery slope of meddling! Built one little detail at a time until, well, of course she has to solve the murder.

The Twainites? Oh, dear.

Kelli Stanley said...

OK, now I want to know what happens!! I had no idea such animosity existed between Austen fans and Twain followers. Yikes! In the Classical world, there are always the Hellenists vs. the Romanists, but (so far as I know) only tenure has been spilled in the battle ... ;)

Great post, Tracy!

TracyK said...

Yes. The Twainites. I am now awaiting a barrage of emails accusing me of slandering the great man.

By the way, that slippery slope happens when I open a bag of chocolate chip cookies, too. One little bite at a time!

TracyK said...

Thanks Kelli! Speaking of animosity in the Classical World,Jasper Fforde put in roving gangs in his books that would occasionally erupt into violence. Amongst them were the Pro-Marlow gangs who went after those gangs who claimed Shakespeare was written by Shakespeare. His stuff is brilliantly funny.

Reece said...

I had no idea that Twain was so critical of Austen. Of course, the newly published journals apparently make Twain look like a bit of an egocentric curmudgeon. I think I'll side with Elizabeth and the Janeites!

TracyK said...

A smart move. Jane would approve. Think I'm going to see about marketing bracelets with "WWJD" on them.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Once again, I'm enjoying reading everyone's spin on a clever question. They all show how the same premise can be seen and developed into so many different scenarios and directions. Great job everyone!