Okay I've got it. Picture Dobby the House Elf with an over-the-hill beach-eaten face hidden by Scarface sunglasses and a platinum fright wig, and you've got Melanie Mills. While that image comes into focus in your addled brain, let me apologize. I know I've treated this riveting story with almost criminal negligance and it's not because I don't know how to describe what happened because I do. I was there. By now The Hairy Family Singers (a moniker I had given our family to give them that team spirit but mostly to embarrass them in public) had retreated to our 100 year-old carriage house in Ridgefield, CT., me with a few pages of hastily scribbled notes (I guess you can imagine why I was more than a little eager to expedite my little editorial meeting with my agent) and promises to make a few fixes to the novel in the next month. Which I did and more without too much trouble. When I was satisfied with the edits I called Melanie's office, only to get a voice mail that she was traveling in Europe and wouldn't return for several weeks and chances are she wouldn't get my message until her return. Which struck me as odd for I was under the impression that a writer's conference/Harley biker rally was being hosted by her in Myrtle Beach. Maybe that had already happened, I thought. I must of had my dates wrong. So I let several weeks pass and tried her again - I remember it like it was yesterday.
I was sitting at my desk in my office on the IBM Campus in Somers, New York, overlooking a lovely verdant lawn rolling into the distant woods to the north, wild turkeys scampering among the Canadian geese and the occassional red-tailed hawk diving for a meal of field mouse and greens. I got her voice mail. Or, more accurately, I got a recorded message from her assistant, Kat Baker, informing me that Melanie Mills had been killed in a car wreck in Germany, and, that if the caller was an author, all bets were off. Never mind that she looked like Dobby with a fright wig. I had sipped Sprite at her table on her deck overlooking the slough in Myrtle Beach just a few weeks ago, had shared a laugh about how she accidently applied hair spray to her face thinking it was sunblock, and had talked about my story, Hack. A story in which the protagonist, an artist, fakes his own death and returns under a new identity to bilk an unsuspecting movie producer out of millions. More on that later. Then, at my desk, when I heard this news coming over the phone, I felt as if someone had kicked me in the crotch. I couldn't breath, I lost the feeling in my hands. And I bemoaned my bad luck. Now what was I going to do? My literary agent was dead!
Obviously I could no longer work that day, plus the IBM campus was already like a ghost town due to the wave of "work at home" knowledge employees who simply didn't bother to come to the office anymore. (My boss, unfortunately, was not one of these.) I couldn't exactly tell my boss about my literary agent, any more than I could tell him that I was playing in a rock band and had to set up early. No, at IBM, work/life balance means you eat, sleep, exercise and do what's necessary so you can work 12 hour days. So I made something up and went home, in too much shock to really contemplate what I should do next, and just generally sad that Melanie Mills, a stand-out character on her own account, was no longer roaming the planet.
Did I make the connection that the events of my novel had perhaps planted a seed in her head? Of course not. At this point, I had no reason to believe that she wasn't really dead, and that I at some point would have to start scouting for a new agent. Which I didn't think would be too hard - "hey my agent died, would you mind reading a few chapters of the novel she was representing?" And I was right. I had many tire kickers, right away, and within months a new agent with a whole notebook full of new ideas for Hack. Along with that were all the rejection letters, and one of the rejection letters suggested I look at a website entitled "Writer Beware". And it was here that I discovered what really happened to Melanie Mills. You could even go there yourself today, cut this tedious blog short, and find out. You might as well cause I'm tired, my feet hurt, and I'm going to save the ugly truth for the next edition of "I Was a Client of Melanie Mills". Stick around if you can stand the suspense. I will try and make it worth the wait!