Mad, Mad March and a Mystery to be Solved

by | Apr 11, 2018 | The Writer's Life | 15 comments

When I received the wonderful invitation to join the Rogues, I hesitated—only because I had a few things on my plate and worried about keeping a commitment to come up with something coherent to say. I was a bit distracted at the time, packing for a move to a new house, dealing with lenders and agents, acquiring documents associated with said move, and nursing my husband who’d just had knee replacement surgery. But surely things would be back to normal in early April, I thought. I could handle this.
Note to self: don’t respond to emails while drinking alcohol. (My kids know this. Ask them about asking for money when I am sipping my fave wine. I am such a lightweight drinker!)

Seriously, I was thrilled by the invitation. What a wonderful group of writers. I couldn’t wait to get started. Writing a blog piece was not going to be an issue. Finding clean clothes was, however. Did I mention that our washing machine quit right after my husband entered the hospital for his surgery? That darn Whirlpool couldn’t wait three weeks to break down. So, in that mad month of March, before we moved, I had to have a new washer and dryer delivered to the old house. And delivery took another week and a half. We had a few loads waiting when the new LG arrived. (Decided to switch brands based on reviews. Let’s hope that research paid off.) 

Moving day started off with a massive downpour, but it was bright sun shining on us when the movers left, and I was feeling pretty good about the trip to Reno the next day for Left Coast Crime. Some of the regulars, including fellow Rogue, Chris Goff, would be at the poker table that night. The drive was smooth, I made it to the panel with 5 minutes to spare (my kingdom for another cup of coffee!), and that night, I made about fourteen dollars playing poker. (We have a 20 dollar buy-in, so this is really good! Usually I’m down about 3-4 bucks.) Of course, being that we had just moved, I had to scoot out early the next day, and so I headed downstairs to find that elusive coffee, and went to pull out my credit card, only to find out that my wallet was gone. Security and I were on a first name basis by the time I checked out. For the record, I actually found my wallet at (mumbles something unintelligible). 
Hey, I was sleep-deprived from husband’s surgery and the big move. And it’s highly possible I was instrumental in stopping some nefarious activity. I’ll let you be the judge.
As a result of going to look for my wallet in my car, I made an interesting observation (besides that sleep-deprivation will turn me into an airhead and bad conversationalist). There was a hinky-looking, gang-banger-type in the stairwell/elevator bank, second level of the parking garage. He was standing in front of the control panel, charging his phone from the plug that was between both elevators. I reached for the button, politely saying excuse me. He unplugged his phone, moving to the side, keeping his back to me the whole time. Odd, but no big deal, I thought, reading the tattoos on the back of his neck. I headed to the car on the third level, returned, and he was still there, still carefully keeping his back to me, but doing it so casually, that I didn’t give it too much thought. Well, not until my friend and I left to drive home about a half-hour later. This time, he was on the third level. Still holding his phone, still keeping his back to us as we moved around him to get off the elevator bank, and doing so as though this were a familiar dance to him. Not sure what our Rogue Readers might have done, but I drove straight to the front of the hotel and reported him to security. When I mentioned my first encounter, security told me that a lot of people charge their phones there. (Really? Because it was snowing out, and I could think of a lot warmer places to stand than an exterior stairwell.) When I mentioned my second encounter, his brows went up a tad. When I mentioned my former profession as a cop for nearly three decades, he said, “We’ll go check it out.” And he immediately left to do so. 
The writer in me is thinking: plot point! Way to kick off a novel! (And way to distract everyone from that whole lost wallet thing, right?) My question to the Rogue Readers is: what would you think if you’d seen this person? Would it have raised your suspicions? Would you have assumed his presence/actions were suspicious? And would you have reported it? Or is it that writer’s brain, turning everything into the plot of the next book?
Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. S. Lee Manning

    Welcome, Robin. So glad that amidst the chaos that was your life, you agreed to join us. And excited to have another Rogue poker player. Chris and I played at Bouchercon last year – where she continually suspected me of bluffing. (Not I, she said innocently.) Gayle and I started a poker game at New England Crime Bake last year. Bringing my chips to Thriller. As for the suspicious guy – the third encounter would have done it for me as well.

  2. Karna Bodman

    Wait a minute – so what DID happen to the elevator guy? Did you ever find out from security who that guy was? And yes, great plot starting point! But more important – a big welcome to you, Robin. So glad to have you on board. I look forward to all of us getting together at Thrillerfest in NY in July!

  3. Lisa Black

    Not answering emails while drinking is a good rule…but even more vital in my experience: No shopping while drinking.

  4. Robin Burcell

    Thanks for the warm welcome, Sandy! And nice to know that poker is a thing among the Rogues. I missed Bouchercon last year. I'm not sure how often you've played poker with the motley crew at Bouchercon, but if fellow Rogue Chris Goff's daughter ever shows up to the poker table, make some excuse to leave. Come up with an important phone call or make a quick run to McDonald's for midnight snacks. Otherwise, be prepared to lose all your money! 😉

  5. Robin Burcell

    I did speculate, but no, didn't go back. I was too busy running for the border. (Trying to outdrive a snowstorm coming over the pass. Didn't quite make it, but had a lovely trip to Truckee for lunch as the snow came hurtling down. Jax at the Tracks. If you've never eaten there, you need to make a stop.

  6. Robin Burcell

    Good advice, Lisa! Especially online shopping. When things are only a click away, that glass of wine is NOT your friend!

  7. Jamie Freveletti

    Hi Robin and welcome! Jealous that you got in on the poker game. I can't play at all, but have been meaning to join the games at the various writers' conferences for years. Wonder about the suspicious guy but really wonder about the comment that lots of people charge their phones in a cold parking garage. Never occurred to me, but when one is desperate….

  8. Stephanie Barron

    I lost my wallet at a gas station in Hawaii on the way to returning my rental car at the airport, then nearly remained in Hawaii forever as TSA refused to believe my husband’s claims that he knew me and we were indeed married. Had I not been fortunate enough to have a house sitter who answered her cell, and took a picture of my passport, which she found in the drawer of my desk in my basement office, I’d still be marooned in Kauai.
    There are worse things, of course.
    Welcome, Robin.

  9. Robin Burcell

    Jamie, I felt that the phone charge comment was sort of a copout. Like he was discounting the info, because it came from a guest who probably didn't know anything. Regarding poker, we consider it a 20 dollar investment into a few hours of good fun. (We are a rather motley crew!) If you ever want to play, let me know!

  10. Robin Burcell

    Thank you, Stephanie! So glad to be here. And wow. That would've been a nightmare. (Though I could think of worse places to be marooned than Kauai–except when you want to go home, you want to go home! Maybe I shouldn't mention the time that I lost my passport in Ireland…)

  11. Chris Goff

    Funny how everyone has the same memory of Mardee playing poker. For such a sweet girl, who knew she was such a shark.

  12. Chris Goff

    I think seeing the guy for the second time, especially when he made a point of keeping his back to you would have made me take pause. By the third time, I think I would have been afraid. Definitely, I would have reported him to security. Of course, as you pointed out, without a policeman's background I would have expected to be thoroughly ignored.

    Welcome, Robin.

  13. Robin Burcell

    Thanks, Chris. Of course, looking back, I have to wonder if he was just giving me lip service. Yeah… we'll get right on it lady.

  14. Marla Bradeen/Paige Sleuth, Mystery Author

    That guy definitely sounds suspicious. I'm not surprised hotel security tried to ignore the incident though. In my limited experience, they're rather lazy about investigating stuff. A friend had his wallet stolen in a Las Vegas hotel/casino once, and they said "not our problem, call the cops."

  15. Robin Burcell

    Marla, I was rather hoping it was like on TV, where they'd pull up a camera and say, yes, that guy is suspicious. But no… It really did make me wonder about their security.