Monday, September 12, 2011

So Let It Be Written: When My Mystery Got Real



By Kate Collins
Twelve books ago, I had just finished writing MUM’S THE WORD and was seeking a plot for the second book in the Flower Shop Mystery series. I had a title, SLAY IT WITH FLOWERS, and a general idea, but needed a big plot twist to make it all happen.
In comes my hairdresser and her colleagues, who, while I was having my hair cut, complained about the men using their parking lot or that of the Auto Zone across the street to get to the business next door. The sign out front of this business said: KING’S SPA, with the word MASSAGES, and a telephone number underneath. There was no other advertising, and the building, an old white wooden house, had butcher paper covering the windows. Suspicious, you say? Oh, it gets better.
The hairdressers’ lament had prompted one of their clients to go next door to make an appointment. She was told by an unfriendly Chinese receptionist that women were not welcome. At a massage parlor? Really?
Then there were the masseuses, a group of Chinese women in tight silk dresses, who would come to the salon to buy hair products. They didn’t speak. They would point to a product and toss money onto the counter from a thick wad they carried in their, well, you know.
Being a crusader for justice through my character Abby Knight, I suggested ways to stop the men from using the salon’s parking lot. Snap their photos and license plates and hang them in the big front windows. Call the Chief of Police. Write letters to the Mayor.  I even volunteered to stand across the street with a camera.
And then a lightbulb went off. I had my plot twist! Could Abby NOT get involved if such a thing were happening in her hometown? My mantra became: What Would Abby Do?
 
A month after SLAY IT WITH FLOWERS was released, (six months after my hairdresser had complained) the police raided the King’s Spa, (which I called EMPEROR’S SPA in my book) rounding up a group that was part of a Chinese prostitution ring working out of Chicago.  Naturally, I had to boast that my story had helped bring light to the situation (whether it really did is something I’ll always wonder).

Fast forward to now. In the newspaper, I read of another so-called massage parlor in a neighboring city that was similarly raided with the same results. Thinking back to my experience, I wondered how long it took people to realize what was actually going on and notify the authorities.
What would you have done if you’d discovered such a situation in your hometown? Pretend it didn’t exist or try to do something about it? In other words, are you an Abby Knight?