Monday, February 1, 2016

An Excerpt from Follow the Dotted Line by Nancy Hersage

Nancy Hersage has written for NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS. She is the winner of five national awards in playwriting; her plays have been produced on three continents and by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Her new mystery novel, Follow the Dotted Line, is the winner of Amazon's new Kindle Scout program and is published by Kindle Press.

Learn more about Follow the Dotted Line by visiting the book's Amazon page. The book is also on Facebook and Goodreads.

Here is a brief summary of the book...

Andrea Bravos is dazed and amazed when a Styrofoam burger box with her ex's ashes arrives in the mail. Her adventure to find out what happened will upset officials of several small countries, insult the founders of three major religions, give her four adult children acid reflux, and lead her to assault with a deadly golf club.

In the process, she will joyfully drag along her soft-spoken but fearsome accountant, while trying to fend off her mooch of a nephew. It's a convoluted and quixotic caper, but it all comes together in the end--even the avocados, World War II spy, IRS agent, palm reader, and deadly spider.

Move over Marple and Plum, here comes Andy!

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Follow the Dotted Line.

Chapter 8
Cremains of the Day

“What the hell are cremains?” asked Lilly.

“It’s the industry term for ashes,” Andy said, after she got up and refilled the margarita glass herself. “Cremated remains. Cre-mains. Get it?” She waited, but the girls weren’t going to be sidetracked. “Okay. Okay. Here’s what happened. I just wanted to get some basic information. The cause of death. Did your dad have a will? Stuff like that. But getting that information is harder than you think without knowing just where and when he died and without, you know, technically being related to him anymore.”

“Oh, my god,” said an alarmed Lil, “you didn’t try calling Tilda, did you?”

“Me? Call Tilda? Absolutely not.” Andy shot optic daggers at Harley, who had no doubt about keeping his mouth shut this time. “All I had were the ashes, so I just went from there.”

“From there--to where, Mom?” Sam asked.

“Well, to at least confirming that he’s dead,” said Andy. “And that is what’s in the box. The DNA results from the cremains.”

All eyes now returned to Harley, who was still holding the FedEx package.

“They can get DNA from ashes?” Lil asked, skeptically.

“No,” Sam informed them. “It’s almost impossible to get DNA after cremation. Don’t you people know anything about science?”

“But this company we found online said they could test for DNA,” said Harley. “And we had to fill out a Cremains Acknowledgement Form and everything. And they promised we’d get most of the ashes back. For burial. Or whatever.”

“To be accurate, they said there was a 50/50 chance they could get DNA from their testing,” said Andy, trying not to look as ridiculous as she was feeling. “I thought it was worth a try.”

“We’ll that sounds like a scam, Mother. So I’m not even going to ask you what you paid,” said Sam. “Your bad. Now open the package.”

Harley tried to hand the box to Andy, but she waved him off. You do it, genius, she thought to herself, then said, “Would you mind?”

He dutifully slit the clear plastic wrap covering the cardboard with his fingernail and took out the paper envelope addressed to Andy. She waved her hand again, and he opened the letter. “Read it,” she said, draining her glass.

“Dear Ms. Bravos,” Harley read. “Please find enclosed the laboratory results for the cremains testing performed by our company on the samples you sent us recently.”

“Wait a minute,” Sam interrupted. “Didn’t you have to send them a sample of Dad’s DNA for comparison?”

“Yeah,” was all Andy felt compelled to answer.

“So how did you get Dad’s DNA?”

“I, ah, had some,” Andy replied. “From a while ago.”

“You had some? Really? From a while ago? Care to enlighten us?” said Sam.

“Not really. But if I do, there will be no laughter, is that clear?” She could see Sam biting her lip in anticipation. “I mean it.” Both girls nodded agreement. “I have a lock of your father’s hair,” Andy said. “From when we were dating.”

Sam couldn’t help herself. A guffaw, if ever Andy heard one! She scowled back.

Lil put her hand on her mother’s and smiled affectionately. “I think that’s sweet.”

“Shut up,” said Andy. “Let’s get this over with.”

Harley continued. “The specifics of the test results are contained on page two of this letter. However, a summary of our findings indicates the following. Number one, the sample cremains were not suitable to extract for a DNA profile.”

“Bingo!” Sam said.

Having slipped from defensive to defeated in record time, Andy sighed audibly. “Would you mind, Sam? Let’s not make me feel like a bigger fool than necessary.”

Sam relented immediately. “Right. I’m sorry, Mom.”

“Want me to read number two?” Harley asked.

“Number two?” said Andy.

“Of the summary. Number two says, ‘The sample cremains show no signs of organic material and therefore do not, in all likelihood, include human tissue.’” Harley looked up, awaiting further instruction.

“Let me see the letter,” Sam said, taking the paper from Harley. She looked first at page one and then at page two. “It means the ashes are probably fake,” she said.

“Probably?” Lil wanted to know.

Sam grabbed the invoice. “The test cost $99, Lil. I doubt these folks can tell the difference between a corpse and cat litter.”

“But if there’s no organic material present,” Andy reiterated, reading the results for herself, “that means Tilda sent us dust.”

It took a few moments for the implications to sink in. And the one that sank in fastest was the bizarre behavior of the widow-in-chief.

“Why on earth would Tilda send fake ashes?” asked Sam.

“Maybe she just wanted to keep his real ashes for herself,” Lilly theorized. “We all agree she’s weird.”

“Or maybe it’s her way of flipping us off,” Sam offered.

“Or maybe he’s not dead,” said Andy, trying to squeeze herself back into the conversation. It worked.

“Why would she pretend he’s dead?” asked Sam, genuinely confused.

“Who knows?” mused Andy. “She hated it every time Mitch tried to call your dad. She was jealous. Some women are like that. Especially women who marry a guy with children and don’t have any of their own. So she decided to tell us he was dead to get us out of their, you know, busy and satisfying lives,” Andy concluded, with what she thought was just the perfect touch of contempt.

“And you think a fake cremation would be okay with Dad?” Lil wanted to know.

Andy considered this and said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what to think.”

“Well,” Sam pointed out, “Dad still could be dead. These just aren’t his ashes. Whatever’s going on, this test doesn’t actually get us anywhere, Mom.”

The kid holding the faux remains raised his hand slightly, as if he were waiting to be called on before he spoke.

“What is it, Harley?” Andy asked.

“Why don’t you just call Uncle Mark? You know. On his cell. See if he picks up.”

Out of the mouth of boobs, Andy thought.

Sam picked up her phone and dialed.

“Hi, Samantha,” boomed the voice on the other end of the line. “What’s up?”

“Hi, Mitch. Sorry to call in the middle of work.”

“No problem.”

“Listen, I want you to call Dad.”

“Call him? How do I do that?”

“You have his cell number, right?”

“Yeah. But he’s dead, Sam. Remember?”

“I know. Just call the number.”

“Call the number? I don’t want to call the number.”

“Just do it, will you?”


“Mom had the ashes tested. They’re questionable. We want to know if he’s still taking calls.”

“Those weren’t his ashes?!”

“It turns out there’s room for doubt.”

“Well, that certainly creeps me out, Samantha. Why have I been nominated to make the call?”

“Because you’re a big boy, Mitch. Just do it.”

A long beat, as Mitch considered his responsibilities. “Okay. Hold on.” He clicked off, and the little review committee waited in silence. He was back on the line a minute later.


“Did you get him?”

“No. The number’s no longer in service,” Mitch told her. “What does that mean?”

“Damned if I know,” said Sam. “I’ll get back to you.” And she hung up.

The possibility that Tilda Trivette might have been screwing with Mark Kornacky’s remains seemed to jettison his children into action in a way that the man’s reported death had not. In the two hours before Lilly had to leave for the airport to catch her plane back to Idaho, Team Kornacky came together in a rare show of unity.

Thanks to Nancy Hersage for sharing an excerpt of her novel, and please visit her website at to learn more about her and her writing!

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