We are delighted to welcome back author Nancy Boyarsky to Omnimystery News today.
Earlier this week we had the chance to talk about her new first in series mystery The Swap (Light Messages Publishing; February 2017 trade paperback and ebook formats) and today she tells us more about intrigue in her own neighborhood in a guest post titled "A Visit from the Bomb Squad".
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Photo provided courtesy of
As mystery writers, we dream up plots, then create characters to act them out. But in every day life, we often encounter mysteries of a different sort, if we take the time to be observant.
On my walks around my neighborhood, I’ve spotted some strange and even scary stuff. These aren’t the kind of situations I’d write a book about. But they stir my interest, and I find myself trying to puzzle out what’s going on. It’s kind of like the old game, “what’s wrong with this picture?”
One morning I encountered such a mystery while I was sitting in my breakfast room, reading the paper. I happened to glance out at our front courtyard and noticed something odd sitting in the center: a battered brown paper bag with something inside it.
How odd, I thought. Had I dropped a grocery bag on my way in from the store the day before?
I went out to look. I didn’t pick it up. Something warned me to be careful. The bag was obviously recycled, its top bent inward, so I couldn’t see what was inside. I remembered airport warnings about unattended bags. So, feeling a bit alarmed, I used my toe to spread open the top of the bag so I could see what was inside. It looked like an old-fashioned doctor’s valise, but made of cheap, somewhat worn imitation black leather. I stepped back, alarm bells ringing in my head.
You have to understand. We live in Los Angeles, paranoia central. To add to this, my husband writes opinion pieces for several political news outlets. Politics is a fairly incendiary topic. Understandably, whether it’s from the left or right, he’s gotten his share of hate mail over the years — varying from insults to veiled death threats. He never takes these seriously, although I’ve worried about several of the more scary ones.
OK. Back to me and the mysterious package in our courtyard. My husband was out, and I was alone in the house, completely stumped about what to do. After some thought, I called the LAPD police department’s non-emergency line. I described the package and asked what to do. There was a hesitation on the part of the non-emergency operator. Finally, she passed me on to 911 emergency. A male voice came on and told me, “We’ll be there as soon as we can. Please exit your house, preferably by a back door, and come out to the sidewalk.”
There is a police station close to our house, and it was only a minute or two before I heard sirens approaching.
The cops asked me to walk to the far corner of our block and wait. I watched as police officers knocked on the door of my neighbors, evacuating the entire block. We stood crowded at the end of the block, waiting for the bomb squad.
There must be a lot of bomb threats in L.A. because it was two hours before the bomb squad arrived. Meanwhile, my husband had returned and was waiting — with all our neighbors — to get home. Since we were the owners of the house and possibly targeted with a bomb, one of cops asked if we’d received any threats.
My husband admitted, that, yes, he wrote political columns for several websites. People of opposing views sometimes took exception to what he wrote. And, yes, sometimes he received threats. But, he insisted, they weren’t serious. These people were just venting. He didn’t mention a message he’d gotten from one reader who’d fantasized about watching us burn alive. But it was certainly on my mind.
Finally, after another long wait. A member of bomb squad walked to our end of the block and asked if we knew someone named (I’ll spare her the embarrassment of actually naming her here). Sure enough, she was someone I knew from the Botanical Artists’ Guild. Instead of a bomb, the package contained photo images of flower paintings.
I was completely humiliated, even though none of my neighbors seemed to hold it against me. To them, perhaps, it had been an adventure. I turned the bag of art photos over to a friend who was still active in the guild (which I no longer was, that chapter of my life having closed). And I suppose it eventually ended up where it belonged.
I never did figure out why the woman chose to leave the package in the middle of our courtyard without calling first, or why she put her note of explanation at the very bottom of the bag. I guess some people (like me) have a more highly developed sense of danger than others (like her).
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Nancy Boyarsky has been a writer and editor for her entire working career. She coauthored Backroom Politics with her husband, Bill Boyarsky. She has written several textbooks on the justice system. She has written articles for publications such as The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, and McCall's. She has also contributed to political anthologies, including In the Running, about women's political campaigns, and The Challenge of California by the late Eugene Lee. In addition to her writing career, Nancy has served as communications director for political affairs for ARCO. She is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley with a major in English literature. She resides in Los Angeles.
For more information about the author, please visit her website at NancyBoyarsky.com and her author page on Goodreads, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.
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