A Guest Post By Lauren Carr
Did you know that a significant percentage of millennials give their phone a name? I learned that on John Tesh’s Intelligence for Your Life years ago and now can;t find the actual percentage, but hey! If you hear it in the media it must be true! Right?
Upon hearing that information, I tucked it into my cranial pocket only to take it out again last year when I was writing Candidate for Murder. At the end of Kill and Run, Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday, the Thorny Rose detectives, were forced to move out of their home. If you want to know why, you’ll need to read Kill and Run. For now, to keep from giving out spoilers, let’s just say for security reasons.
So, I had to go house hunting for my thorny rose protagonists. Finding their new home was easy. I used a lot of fantasy and, since I knew that it had to be secure, I knew it had to have a fence and security system.
Now, I could have stopped there with giving Murphy and Jessica a wall with no name and I would have if my husband had not insisted that I sit down to watch a documentary he had found about the high-priced, high-tech security utilized by the one-percenters (aka billionaires).
I watched the whole ninety-minute documentary with my jaw hanging open. These folks don’t stop with any old wall! They have concrete safe rooms with food and supplies to last for days. They have rooms in which, with the press of a button, will instantly seal up to capture the bad guys. Then, with a second press of a button, let loose with a hail of automatic gun fire to take them out. (Try explaining that to your home owner’s insurance!) They even have security measures installed on the one percenters’ private jets to ward off hijacking attempts.
Upon seeing this documentary, my writer’s mind started spinning like a top. I had already established in Three Days to Forever and Kill and Run that Murphy worked for the Phantoms, a cutting-edge, ultra-secret organization that only answered to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They would have access to all of this technology and then some—enough to warrant a prototype, a beta (test) system, to protect the Faraday-Thornton home under the guise of a virtual butler.
Of course, butlers have to have names. This was when I extracted my mental note that I had jotted down from John Tesh. I named him Nigel. To any outsiders, Nigel is on par with Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, but as readers see in Candidate for Murder, Nigel does so much more than relay the latest news brief, control their lights and sound system, and keep their calendar.
Some readers, including my mother, believe that Nigel was a complete figment of my imagination, and yes, many parts of him are—however, be warned—everything Nigel does is doable with today’s technology. I just put everything together into one computer system—and gave him a name and personality.
Nigel doesn’t just monitor the estate’s security. In Candidate for Murder, when intruders break in, Nigel goes on the offensive, with Mac Faraday’s Gnarly the German Shepherd, to defend their turf!
Jessica’s brother Tristan, a science whiz, maintains and monitors Nigel, who acquires a personality of his own, which Nigel claims is simply a mirror of Tristan’s personality. Tristan claims otherwise. Judge for yourself in this excerpt from A Fine Year for Murder.
In the following excerpt, Jessica calls Tristan for comfort after having a fight with Murphy, who walks out and Nigel steps in to help:
All of her close girlfriends were working, since it was midmorning on a weekday. That left only Tristan, her dear brother, to talk to. Grabbing her cell phone, she dialed Tristan’s number.
“Hey, Sis, how’re you doing?”
Her heart overflowing with regret and fear, Jessica immediately broke into uncontrollable sobs. Her attempt to communicate the source of her emotions came out as little more than unintelligible blubbering.
Tristan, who was sitting at the bank of monitors in the control center in the Faraday-Thornton estate, where Nigel’s system was housed, peered at his cell phone. “I don’t understand.”
“Based on the lack of full sentences in Jessica’s speech and on the high levels of negative emotion in her voice, I believe that Jessica and Murphy are having a fight,” Nigel said.
“So why is she calling me?” Tristan asked.
“Because you’re her brother. She feels the need to reach out to a family member for some emotional reassurance.”
“Like I’m going to take her side in a fight with Murphy,” Tristan said. “He could kill me with his pinky. I’m not stupid.”
“She just said that it was all her fault,” Nigel said.
Uttering a sigh of relief, Tristan brought the phone to his ear. “Jessica, calm down. What are you two kids fighting about?”
“Costantino,” she said. “He dumped a whole teapot of boiling water in Murphy’s lap.”
“And now Murphy’s in jail for killing him. Sounds like self-defense. Call our lawyer. He’ll get Murphy out by noon. Talk to you later, Sis.”
“Will you listen to me, you antisocial moron?” Jessica’s heartbreak became more like fury—fury directed toward her brother. “No, Murphy is not in jail! I swear! You make him sound like a serial killer.”
“Think about it, Sis. No guy in his right mind would dump boiling water in the lap of a guy he didn’t know. For all he knows, the other guy is a serial killer who’d think nothing of disemboweling you in a room full of witnesses.”
“Are you saying—”
“I’m not saying that Murphy would do that. He could, but he wouldn’t. What possessed Costantino to dump boiling water in Murphy’s lap—besides the fact that he’s an idiot?”
“To make a long story short,” Jessica said, “Costantino has become obsessed with me and wants Murphy out of the way.”
“That’s totally creepy. You’re cousins.”
“What am I going to do about Murphy?”
“What else can you do? You have to apologize.”
“I wasn’t the one who—”
“You should have told Costantino that you’re married to Murphy and that his efforts to court you were a waste of his time,” Nigel said, “not to mention dangerous to Costantino’s health and well-being.”
“Yeah,” Tristan said, “you tell her, Nigel.”
“By failing to put a stop to Costantino’s attempt to court you,” Nigel said, “you disrespected Murphy’s role as your mate, which was an implicit insult to his masculinity. As a result, he feels emotionally impotent.”
“TMI,” Tristan whispered to the computer.
“Based on the psych profile I have stored in my system for Lieutenant Thornton, I hypothesize that Murphy has withdrawn from the scene to reboot his limbic system and to reassess the situation.”
“Reassess what? Our marriage?” Jessica asked with a note of hysteria in her voice. “What’s he rebooting?”
“His limbic system,” Tristan said. “That’s the part of the brain where emotions are stored.”
“I should have called Archie,” Jessica said to herself.
“Once the reboot is complete, Murphy will come back,” Nigel said. “I would recommend that you then reaffirm your commitment to each other.”
“Have makeup sex,” Tristan said. “Then stay away from Costantino.”