In The Zone

Some people have asked why I think LKH is a crazy drama queen. This blog will answer that.

I was out getting cupcakes for my sister’s birthday yesterday.

… I have to explain something before people get confused.

The woman LKH is referring to is not her sister. Not by biology, marriage or adoption. She did not even know the woman she refers to as her “sister” five years ago.

No, the woman she now calls her “little sister” is actually the ex-partner of LKH’s ex-personal assistant, who has since moved on to a job with a less loopy boss.

Cupcakes from The Cup, an uber-yummy cakecakery was all she’d asked for, and so, off I went. I’d never been there before, and anytime I’m in an unfamiliar section of a city, even my own city, I’m always a little more on alert. It was a perfectly nice section of St. Louis. It was a small brick street with high end clothing stores, restaurants, and specialty food shops. It was all very up scale, so why be nervous? It’s me, it’s one of the things I do, especially when I’m writing an Anita Blake novel. My normal caution goes up to a near paranoia sometimes when I’m writing Anita and especially when I’ve been writing a lot of police work, or murder scenes. I spend my days and nights walking around at yellow alert, and it doesn’t take much to put me over into orange, or even red alert.

Parking is at a premium in downtown St. Louis, like most cities, so it took some maneuvering to find parking, finally park, while other cars waited to vulture, as if I would give up before I managed to land the space. I was in the city proper, I wasn’t giving up a parking place, near my destination, they could just wait in an ever hopeful line while I parked. The parking vultures drove sadly away, while I dug for change in my purse. I searched for change too long because more vultures began to wait behind me, hoping I was leaving. I know they were disappointed when I got out and put money in the meter, but that’s parking in the city – full of disappointment.

It was a bright, sunny day, a wide open, space with just a few people strolling the shops, or sitting outside of the restaurants to enjoy the beautiful day. I walked carefully across the bricks in my heels, and just as I got up on the other curb I noticed a white van. It just went on the check list of surrounding details that might be important. I noted it and let it go, then the van pulled into the little street right beside me, and parked. I caught a glimpse of a man’s arm at the passenger side window as I moved further in on the sidewalk out of grabbing room. I was waiting for one of the doors to open and someone to try to grab me and pull me into the van. I moved out of reach, hugging the building. No door opened, nothing bad happened, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the van, except that it had parked right beside me when there was a lot of curb to use that wasn’t right by me. I kept walking, confidently, unhurried, but out of reach and kept a perifial eye on the van. I was yards from the cupcake place. I’d already judged the distance between me, the door to the store, and the van. I knew I could make it inside before anyone got out of the van. No doors opened on it, but it did drive away from the curb, and give up a great parking spot in the city without anyone getting out. Now, maybe they just decided they were on the wrong street; maybe they saw better parking elsewhere, but if they did it was on a different street, because they drove to the far corner and turned onto a major street. They hadn’t done a damn thing that would have made most people that nervous, but I totally didn’t like that they’d parked and then left when I moved into the buildings out of reach. I was happier than normal to step into the brightly lit, cheerful colors of the The Cup. I set about the happy task of picking cupcake flavors for my sister’s birthday, calling home to ask my husband, and daughter wanted, since the flavors of cupcakes change daily. I got my cupcakes in their box, in the neat bag with it’s little handles, and was good to go.

When I stepped out I was looking for the van, but didn’t see it. If I had seen it, I would have walked back into the store and thought seriously about calling the cops. Would that have been over doing the caution; maybe, probably. But I wouldn’t have gone to my car with the same van still lurking outside like some kind of polite shark. Coast clear, I walked for my car, but noticed a person at the corner. They were doing the jittery, almost vibrating, like their engine is on high that says, I need a fix. The person was dressed neat enough, clean, there was nothing to clue me in, but that body movement that is just short of the rocking, and huddling, that comes later if they don’t get a fix sooner. I slowed and let them get ahead of me, then I walked wide round them, and kept an eye on them, and for white vans.

I was very aware that the drug-challenged individual began to cross just behind me. I was very aware that I had a purse, a shopping bag, was wearing high heels,and a dress. People sometimes assume that means you have more victim on you, or that you’re just a softer touch. In my case, they would wrong.

I knew the junkie was going to approach me for panhandling, at least, and I hit the button for unlocking the car, not hurrying (Only prey runs.) but not being slow either. The person called out, “I like your dress.”

I answered, glancing back, as I put my purse and bag in the car. The person was closer than I liked, at the end of the car beside mine. If he rushed me I wasn’t going to try to get in the car, but to rush around it, using it as a barrier between him and me. I no longer had time to get in my car if things went badly.

“Can I have 75 cents?” He asked, but he’d stopped at the end of the other car.

“Sorry, I don’t carry cash anymore,” I lied, as I got in the car, shut and locked the door, in one smooth movement. Nothing and no one would have made me get out of my open car and go back the person as he stood trying not to jitter in street. I put the car in gear, and he drifted away looking for someone else to panhandle from. I wondered what he’d wanted the 75 cents for?

Welcome to the inside of my head when I’m in the groove of writing an Anita book. Its like living in a world that is just a little brighter, a little scarier, a little more aware of all the awful, and wonderful possibilities that surround me. I don’t think like this when I’m writing a Merry Gentry novel; it’s only Anita that affects me quite this way. Years ago this new awareness made me jumpy, paranoid, and opressed. Now, I know what’s happening and I sort of welcome it, because I know it means that I’m in the zone for Anita. The book is going well, her voice strong in my head, in my fingers, tingling down my spine and spilling out my skin. I’m home in a slightly hyper-reality that I carry like a song in my head.


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