By Piper Bayard
My writing partner, Jay Holmes, is a senior intelligence operative. He’s also my Underworld Google, and you can imagine the questions that I come up with for him while I’m tapping out our prose. . . . How would the antag kill a man so that it takes around 10 minutes for him to die–not too much blood, but some gasping? How much will our protag think about his wife during a mission, and when? Exactly how would our protag get the captive bad guy to talk in time to save civilization as we know it? Suffice to say that Holmes’s knowledge and experience are comprehensive and unique.
Actual top secret photo of Holmes on a mission.
However, because Holmes is who and what he is, there are times he isn’t available for those questions that come up almost daily in our projects. So I started interviewing for a part-time Underworld Google.
Meet Flat Spooky. You may have heard of Flat Stanley – the little boy who got flattened and now rides around in countless pockets, delivering event and activity reports to schoolchildren across the nation. Turns out Spooky is his cousin. Distant cousin. Twice removed. And even flatter.
Baby photo of Flat Spooky.
Flat Spooky was both conceived and born in the back seat of a Ford Focus in a public parking lot on Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay. His mother was a Russian honey pot, and his father once played an extra in The Bourne Legacy. Needless to say, Flat Spooky knows he has a lot to live down, and he is ever eager to prove himself a loyal American and a capable spook. After all, he has read lots of Tom Clancy novels, and he’s seen all of the Bond films at least five times.
When Flat Spooky found me on Twitter, he begged to ride around with me in my pocket in the hopes of some day meeting Holmes. He promised to give me his best shot at making up answers whenever I need them for our stories, so I put him in my purse. Little did I know what a personality I was taking on!
Spooky began his first day on the planet by driving across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco.
He begged me to take him to Coit Tower. Turns out, Spooky’s greatest desire is to experience the charms of a lady. He heard me say “Coit” and thought it might be short for something else. He was disappointed to find out I was talking about a building that did not house . . . entertainment specialists.
Frustrated, he convinced me to take him to Ghirardelli Square to redirect his passions. He indulged.
At that point, he was 86ed from the place for getting inappropriate with the merchandise.
Then, Spooky decided it was time to earn his chops as an espionage expert. He snuck up on this bear and swiped his ice cream cone. I pointed out that such behavior did not make him a spook; it made him a common thief or a DHS employee. No national interest was served, and this illegal activity was conducted on American soil. Category “No-No” for a spook. Spooky burped and tried to drag me into the ice cream store. We’ll have to work on those ethical concepts.
I thought a bit of education was in order, so I took Spooky aboard the USS Pampanito, a WWII submarine museum at Fisherman’s Wharf. Spooky is now the only “person” to ever board a submarine and think that it’s roomy.
The C.O.’s quarters — about the size of a decent closet, and a meeting room — a slightly more decent closet.
Torpedo bay with bunks. There were only half as many bunks as there were sailors, and they took turns sleeping on them.
Then we rode a trolley, and Spooky met another flat, sentient creature, Ninja Seahorse. Apparently, Ninja Seahorse rides in the purse of historical fiction author, Susan Spann, who writes about a ninja detective in her Shinobi Mystery series. Spooky immediately attempted to recruit this visitor from Japan as an asset by enticing him into a sushi restaurant.
Bad idea. The chefs thought poor Ninja Seahorse would make a great appetizer, and the two of them had to hide in this spray painting to escape.
The next day, Spooky, Ninja Seahorse, Susan Spann, and I went to Napa Valley. Spooky convinced me he was 21, and I let him have a drink. I should have known better. It started with a civilized flute of sparkling wine at Mumm Napa . . .
but before long, Spooky was in his cups with Ninja Seahorse and an electrical plug of dubious origins who called herself “Polly” at a vineyard that could have been named after a porn star. Susan and I had to drag them out and send them to bed. Without Polly.
The next day, Spooky had his first hangover, made more intense by the fact that his entire body is only a head.
Susan and I convinced him to come out with us for a bit of coffee and some hangover toast while Ninja Seahorse curled up in a corner of his aquarium and imbibed salt water. Suddenly, just between threatening to barf and begging the waiter to turn down the sunlight from the window, the love of Spooky’s life walked through the door.
New York Times bestselling thriller author Allison Brennan. Spooky froze, enthralled and speechless. Then he threw himself at Allison and professed his undying love. She politely explained that she was married and had five children, but Spooky was not to be deterred. So Allison held him up to her heart for a picture. Spooky fainted.
Now, he’s back in my purse, pining after Allison, eating chocolate, and standing ready to answer any questions I might have for him while Holmes and I write our spy thrillers.
This little guy may be too much for my patience. He’s already filled my purse with chocolate wrappers.