Because I can’t speak into microphones without them squealing like a kicked pig, I’m gonna take my beer to the edge of the stage, sit down, and we’ll start the session… First question to the lady in the fuzzy red hat. Ma’am?
‘Did Carson finally make Mobile’s Chief of Police so angry that Carson got fired?’
Thankfully, the Florida Center for Law Enforcement offered to make Carson a major investigator.
‘Wasn’t Carson a major investigator in Alabama?’
Only in the city of Mobile. As a specialist for the FCLE, Carson now has an entire state under his jurisdiction, 58,000 square miles of general weirdness.
Next question to the gent in the bowler hat. Sir?
‘In Mobile, Carson headed the Psychopathological and Sociopathological Investigative Team. Will he still go after the nastiest, most deranged criminals?’
It’s Florida, sir. He’ll have a wider variety to choose from.
Question to the lady in the blue bathrobe …
‘Does Carson have a new partner?’
He often pairs with Ignacio Ruben Manolo Gershwin, ‘Ziggy’ for short, thankfully.
‘What about Harry Nautilus?’
I have seen the future, ma’am, and it is sometimes dressed in neon-orange Aloha shirts, lime-green shorts and sky-blue sneakers.
‘Non-readers won’t understand that, will they?’
Not a word.
Next question to the fellow crouching behind the potted plant …
‘I- I liked Carson’s house on Dauphin Island. Wh-why would he leave such a peachy place?’
He found an even, uh, peachier place in the Florida Keys.
Next question to the woman atop the pony, but only if you don’t use the word ‘peachy.’
‘The house on Dauphin Island, Mr Kerley. Might I purchase it?’
Carson decided to keep the house, ma’am, and lease it to vacationers.
‘So he’ll still visit South Alabama?’
I’ll just say that all things are possible.
Next question to the young lady eating from the bag of chips …
‘How about Carson’s brother, Jeremy? I probably shouldn’t say this, but he’s my favorite character.’
I expect Jeremy to continue affecting events in his own special ways, ma’am.
‘Is Jeremy still hiding in Kentucky?’
Not presently. Rumour has it he’s off looking for that one special lady.
‘My goodness! Are you saying—’
Time for one final question. The fellow in the cream linen jacket who just came in the door. Do you have a … Wait, what are you doing here? Look at the sign: It’s the J. A. Kerley session.
‘So why are the questions about me and not you?’
‘I, uh …’
Kerley moves his mouth but no sounds emerge. The newcomer puts his hands in his pockets and rocks on his heels in amusement. The red-hatted woman tugs at his sleeve.
‘I don’t understand,’ she says. ‘Do you write him or does he write you?’
Carson Ryder thinks a moment. ‘It depends on the story, ma’am.’
The woman watches as Ryder turns and exits. Outside, under a floating blue sky, a large black man with a bulldozer-blade mustache is sitting in a vintage Volvo and whistling a tune by Louis Armstrong. Ryder laughs and jumps into the car.
Off they go.