Missy Jenkins is a thirty-four-year-old piano teacher who lives in a fictional neighborhood called Twin Pines, located on the outskirts of the very real town of Middletown, Pennsylvania. She's married to hunky construction worker Dick Jenkins, and has two rambunctious boys, ten-year-old Alan and six-year-old Jimmy. Missy has her faults: she snoops; she talks to herself; she's impulsive; sometimes she has trouble with her temper. Missy's strengths are her love for the children; her loyalty; her curiosity; her tenacity; her ability to improvise.
Suzanne Flaig lives in Phoenix, Arizona, but grew up in Pennsylvania and raised her family on the outskirts of Middletown, near the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. She started playing the piano at age six, and the Hammond organ at age nine. After she married her husband, Paul, she taught both piano and organ for almost twenty years while raising her family. Since moving to Arizona, Suzanne has published short stories in various print anthologies and online; and nonfiction articles on a variety of subjects, including music, writing and rollerskating.
Suzanne has published numerous short stories in print and online.
A recent short story, "Goodnight, Sweetheart" is included in the award-winning anthology So West: So Deadly (DS Publishing). Her latest Missy Jenkins mystery, Killing in Quarter Time, was the winner of the Best Fiction Award at the Cirque du Livre Writers Conference in April, 2017. Her first book of original short stories, Thrilled to Death, featured "flash fiction" stories. A new volume of longer short stories, Deadly Droplets, is set to appear this August.
She is a member of the Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the Mesa Writers Guild and the Tempe Charter Chapter of the American Business Women's Association.
Excerpt from Terror in Double Time:
Monday, March 26, 1979
SMALL TOWN OVERTURE
The grizzled old fisherman ran one wrinkled hand back and forth across his steel-gray crewcut. “Shee-it!” he said, shaking his head as though trying to erase the grisly image. “Ain’t never seen nothin’ like that in all my years.”
His young friend leaned against the trunk of a nearby tree, his face pale and ashen. The stench of vomit drifted across the cool morning breeze.
Officer Mark Milner, of the Middletown Police Department, interviewed the two unfortunate locals whose morning fishing trip had been disrupted by the discovery of a body snagged on the roots and debris protruding from the riverbank.
The blue-gray, bloated corpse had floated to the surface after the cold Pennsylvania winter loosened its icy grip. The early spring and unusually warm temperatures made it a good time of year to catch bass and catfish.
It was never a good time of year to catch a dead body.
The place was dubbed “The Point” by the locals, the southernmost tip of Middletown where the Swatara Creek flows into the Susquehanna River, and a favorite spot for fishing and boating. The normally quiet setting, invaded by police officers, crime scene technicians, rescue workers, and curious onlookers, looked oddly surreal in the early morning light. Red and blue flashes emanating from the emergency vehicles parked nearby turned the grass into odd shades of purple, as the river water glistened with multicolored ripples.
An imposing figure stood center stage, directing the activity of the various groups. Although dressed simply, in blue jeans and a blue-and-white high school letter jacket, his stature and authority were irrefutable. He watched the volunteer firemen from the Rescue Hose Company pull the child’s body from the cold, murky water and transport it to the waiting ambulance. As they drove away, he continued standing in the same spot, staring into the river, until another man approached and gently tapped him on the shoulder.
The man turned slowly, wiping one big hand across a face creased with grief. “She was just a child, Mark…still a baby. It’s her, isn’t it?”
Mark Milner nodded. Two months ago, the mayor had spearheaded the search for Jenny Myers, and the town rallied behind him. The police force, small and unaccustomed to seven-year-olds vanishing from town without a trace, spent the majority of their resources on the case. But no one had seen the seven-year-old after she disappeared from the sidewalk in front of her own home. Until today.
I was running late. Again. “Missy Jenkins,” I said, pressing down on the accelerator until the toes of my new platform shoes pressed hard against the floor of my ’77 Honda Civic, “why can’t you ever be on time?”
No one answered, of course, since I was talking to myself, one of my favorite pastimes. I slowed down to sixty-five to take the exit ramp toward Middletown.
“Let’s go,” I mumbled, “you’re almost there.” There meant the elementary school where my younger son’s kindergarten class would be dismissed in five minutes.
Jimmy is a rambunctious five-year-old who doesn’t take kindly to being the last kid left waiting by the curb. I knew that fact, because it had happened. More than once, unfortunately. That didn’t make me a bad mom. I just have a lot on my mind, and sometimes I get carried away. I’m the mother of two boys, wife of a deliciously sexy construction worker, and a busy piano teacher. Time had slipped away from me at Troup’s, the largest music store in Harrisburg. The capital city is far enough away that I should allow more time to get from here to there. Between selecting books for my piano students and browsing through sheet music for myself, I had been in piano teacher’s heaven. But the first thing I heard when the radio blasted to life after I jumped in the car had been the local news, and my stomach did a back flip. Now I found myself racing down the ten-mile stretch of highway between Harrisburg and Middletown, suffering from nervous mother syndrome.
I passed the Route 441 turnoff and rounded the bend. The towers of the Three Mile Island nuclear facility loomed up on the horizon.
“Wow.” The view never fails to take my breath away.
To some people, the nuclear power plant, which we all simply called “TMI,” was an eyesore, a blight on our green Pennsylvania farmland. But to me, it was spectacular, the huge concrete cylinders rising up in the distance like four benevolent dragons spewing billows of white smoke into the atmosphere. I didn’t care what the anti-nuke radicals said. Thanks to nuclear power, Metropolitan Edison supplied us with clean and affordable electricity and provided jobs for our small community.
At the dedication ceremony for TMI’s Unit Two last September, John O’Leary, President Carter’s Secretary of Energy, called the plant a “scintillating success.” He assured us that nuclear power is one of the safest and cleanest methods of producing energy, and the way to the future.
I took the Route 230 exit, the main road leading east and west through Middletown, then turned left and glanced at the clock on the dashboard. Three minutes to get to the school and find a parking place. Cutting it close, but do-able.
I punched the accelerator to beat a yellow light, and raced through the intersection.
Thanks to a lead foot and the absence of cops, I pulled into the school parking lot with a cool minute to spare. The other parents stood around outside the main doors, talking and laughing.
They obviously hadn't heard the news.