Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband, who is a law professor, and her West Highland terrier, who is a law unto herself. Her Boyfriend’s Bones, the fourth book in the series, is in bookstores now. You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at www.jeannematthews.com.
Everyone has a secret vanity of some sort. Mine used to be my earring collection. That is, before one of them almost killed me.
I like the funky ones. The kind that make a statement. The kind that turn heads (oh, yeah) and get comments. Mismatched pairs are my favorites – a mosquito in one ear, a swatter in the other. A wine bottle on the left, a corkscrew on the right. A hand and a foot, a hammer and a nail. You get the picture.
Travel is one of my passions, which explains why each of my Dinah Pelerin mysteries is set in a different country, and I’ve got the perfect earrings for gallivanting around the world. One ear reads “Here Today” and the other “Gone Tomorrow.” I found these cheap baubles in a novelty store years ago, but I wore them so often and they attracted so many compliments that I decided to replace the base metal backs with 14 carat gold wires.
Of course, “here today, gone tomorrow” is an idiom with connotations a shade more ominous than “off on a lark.” The nominative form of “gone” is, after all, “goner.” But I had never considered the less sunny connotations, or entertained thoughts of that final journey “from whose bourn no traveler returns.” I always book roundtrip and, until recently, I took for granted that I’d be here tomorrow.
I hadn’t worn the earrings since having the backs replaced, but in November I wore them to a writers group meeting where I planned to regale my fellow writers with an account of my trip to Berlin to research my next book. Several writers read from their works in progress and as time went on, I began to notice a burning sensation on the right side of my face. I dismissed it from my mind and, when my turn came to speak, I launched into my spiel. When I finished, the woman to my right asked, “Did your cat scratch you?”
“I don’t have a cat,” I said.
“Well, you look like you’ve had a run-in with a very angry cat or a mad slasher.”
I quickly confirmed this appraisal in the bathroom mirror. Violent red marks raked down the right side of my face and neck. I looked as if I’d had an up-close and deeply unpleasant encounter with “Wolverine.” My face grew redder and more swollen by the minute until, as my husband remarked, I bore a striking resemblance to a badly split watermelon.
You know you’re in trouble when you arrive at the emergency room and the receiving nurse bumps you ahead of the bleeding car crash victims. As I lay on a hospital gurney waiting to be hooked up to an intravenous antibiotic, I learned that some sort of god-awful bacteria had seeped into my lymph nodes and there was a risk of the infection spreading to my eyes and my brain, or turning into deadly sepsis that could disperse throughout my body.
A perky nurse arrived, boasting that she had nailed her last twenty IV insertions easy-peasy. Unfortunately, she was unable to nail me. Her needle moved up and down my arms like a sewing machine, but no joy. Perkiness turned to irritation as she hunted and jabbed to no avail. I could tell that she blamed me for ruining her streak. Perhaps she suspected me of being some sort of bloodless alien, a zombie without veins. Guilt crept in.
“I’m sorry,” I said as she stalked off to fetch reinforcements from the lab.
In such circumstances, it’s hard not to imagine how one’s obituary might read. Jeanne Matthews, mystery writer of modest renown, died today of complications of her own vanity. She should have known that what glitters may contain toxic alloys.
The A-Team from the lab rolled in with the life-saving drip if only they could find a vein to pump it into. They inspected my bod for spots not yet drilled, but had no better luck than Nurse Jabalot. They cinched the tourniquet tighter. Nope. They loosened the tourniquet and applied warm poultices to increase circulation. Uh-huh. They tapped and thumped, they pinched and poked, they bandaged the dry holes and began prospecting again.
I felt like such a disappointment to these good people who were doing everything in their power to keep me Here Today, but my faulty body defeated their every stab. I visualized my final review.
Jeanne Matthews, who piled up a dozen fictitious bodies from Australia to Berlin, croaked for real in a mishap with an earring that spells Gone Tomorrow. Her readers will appreciate the irony.
But at last the medics struck a gusher. The IV went in, the antibiotic worked its miracle, and I am Here Today to tell you – it’s an iffy ol’ world out there. Have fun today because you could be, well, you know, Gone Tomorrow.