Arthur let them quiet down and then said, “I’m pleased to get this whole misunderstanding sorted out.”
One reporter yelled, “Will you be pursuing any further legal action?”
Jerry said, “We are considering all of our options, but have no further comment on the actions of any media outlets that may have libeled my client.”
Another reporter asked, “Do you feel vindicated by today’s results.”
Arthur said, “Yes. I’d rather focus on the future, than worry about the post…two weeks.” He looked at Robert and smiled.
The next volley of questions were ignored.
Robert stepped forward and said, “Today, we are pleased to announce that Arthur Byrne has signed a one book deal for his new novel.”
A one beat pause was followed by a cacophony of questions. Over the next fifteen minutes Arthur and Robert hinted at the plot, discussed his long absence, and revealed that the advance was in the low seven figure range but wouldn’t give specifics.
Susan, who had built up a nice little following on her blog, was first to get the story of his new book deal out. It went viral and her subscriptions grew by nearly eight thousand over the next few days.
A. started dating Susan. Arthur never did learn his real name or give him any additional letters.
The crowd at Edgar’s Pit became a massive social media meeting. Everyone had their smart phones, lap tops, and iPads working overtime. People wanted to hear about the new book, which Arthur gladly described in as much detail as he could. Robert had asked that he not give too much away.
There was much less binge drinking than one might have imagined. At least a dozen people were writing blog posts. Arthur declared that they would all be getting extra credit in SM 301. The bar manager gave away hot wings all night long.
Arthur sat in the same booth where the problems had started.
Wen sat next to him, her laptop open, and she said, “You need to start answering some of your tweets.”
Arthur put his arm around her and said, “What are these tweets you speak of? I’m a wordsmith, I can’t be bothered with such trivialities.”
Wen elbowed him sharply in the ribs. “It wasn’t a request, bub.” She swung the computer so that the keyboard was within Arthur’s reach. “Here, I’ve got Tweetdeck up, it is logged onto your account, so go.”
“I don’t think this social media stuff is going to catch on.”
“You may be right, but there are almost three dozen people congratulating you on your new book.” She gave him a look that had three parts scary, one part cute as a button, and one dash of pending celibacy.
Arthur shivered a little, ordered a scotch, and typed, “Thanks, I appreciate it. I’ve been away too long. I hope I can still craft an interesting tale.” He hit send.
Wen nodded and then gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Keep going.”
Two tables over a young man yelled, “I got a reply from the famous author Robert Byrne on Twitter.”
Across the bar, in a quiet booth, Emily and Eric were midway through their second pitcher when they stopped kissing long enough to get back together.
Somewhere around midnight Wen let Arthur stop with his correspondence. Lawrence was sober and offered to drive Arthur home. Wen came along, too.
Kurt and his boyfriend were outside the bar smoking and gave Arthur one last congrats on his triumph.
Wen came out of the bedroom wearing one of Arthur’s tee-shirts. “Are you coming to bed?”
Arthur sat at his typewriter staring at a blank piece of paper. Next to him sat the completed manuscript. “You know the irony of all of this?”
She kissed him on the neck and said, “No.”
“I was trapped here and other than playing with Maltese some each day, all there was to do was write. I don’t think I’ve ever been so productive. Even the drive to New York gave me time to figure out the rest of the story.”
She rubbed his shoulders and said, “So, what are you going to put on that blank piece of paper and why don’t you use your computer?”
“I don’t use the computer because I like the sound it makes. As for this white space, it doesn’t haunt me like before. What Robert didn’t mention is that there is a second, secret book deal.”
Wen sort of hugged and wiggled onto his lap. “I can keep a secret.”
“Cross my heart.”
“Well, I’ve always wanted to know if I could do it again.”
“Write a book that people would buy.”
“Didn’t you just do that?”
“Yes and no. The book will sell because of all the attention I’ve gotten. There will be people who liked the last one and some new folks, but what I want to know is can I sell a book as someone nobody has heard of?”
“I don’t understand.”
“The secret book deal is for a manuscript under a pseudonym.”
“What a fun idea. I’m sure it will be great.”
“I’m going to need to do all the marketing, probably use that social media stuff all the kids are talking about and do it anonymously. I might need some help.”
Wen chirped, “I could help!”
“I was hoping you’d say that. In fact, I’d like to hire you full time as my manager/social media consultant. You would have to list me and the pseudonym as different clients, but we can figure that out later, when you’re not so mostly naked.”
Wen gave Arthur the softest kiss he had ever known and said, “I’m not cheap, but you can afford me. Do you know what it is called, yet?”
Arthur was losing interest in talking about writing and said, “What?”
“Does the secret book have a title?”
“Give me my tee-shirt back and I’ll tell you.”
Wen smiled wryly and pulled the shirt over her head and wrapped it around his neck.
Arthur whispered, “Killing Hemingway,” and they stopped talking about books.