We decided to meet at the La Brea Tar Pits. Jonathan Quinn was a bit resistant at first. Understandably, I guess. He had a bit of an incident there recently. But I assured him that everything would be fine. Since I’m the writer, the one who actually created him, he decided it would probably be okay.
The tar pits are located on a large park-like area that runs beside and behind the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Paved walkways run around fields of grass and the different pits. It’s a good place to wander and talk.
Since it was lunch time, and I knew Quinn was partial to the occasional Pink’s hot dog, I had picked up a couple on the way over. He nodded his thanks as I handed him his.
“Could have used a few more onions,” he said.
That surprised me. I thought I’d had it made perfectly. After all, I should be the one who knew him best.
“So,” he said, once he’d finished. “How do we go about this?”
I offered him one of the two Cokes I’d brought along. He took it and popped it open.
“I guess we just ask questions,” I said. “Get to know each other.”
“Don’t we know each other already?”
“Just fake it, all right?”
“Whatever you want.”
“Let’s walk,” I said.
We began strolling down the walkway, no real destination in mind.
“Do you like what you do for a living?” I asked.
“Straight to the tough questions, huh? Yeah, most of the time.”
“But you’ve talked about retiring.”
He said nothing for a moment. “It’s not the easiest business in the world.”
I thought he might say more, but he didn’t. Quinn was a quiet guy, very guarded. An excellent trait for someone who makes bodies disappear for a living.
“What about you?” he said. “Do you like what you do for a living?”
“Sure,” I said. “I love it.”
“Playing with other people’s lives?”
“What do you mean, playing with other people’s lives? I write fiction.”
“Right,” I said, then hesitated. “Well, I mean–”
“So, the fact that you’re standing here walking with me, a fictional character, doesn’t mean anything? I’m not a person?”
“Perhaps we should talk about something else.”
He smirked, but said nothing.
“How does it feel to kill a person?” I asked.
“I never kill anyone unless I have to.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“If you’re asking if I enjoy it, I don’t. I only kill if I really, really have to. In other words, when you put me in a situation where I have no choice. In a way, you can only blame yourself when a fictional character in one of your stories dies.”
“I sense a little hostility. Are you upset with me?”
“Not at all. I just want to make sure we’re straight. I try to do the best I can with what you give me. Sometimes I think you’re trying to make it so that I won’t have a way out. Are you?”
“No,” I said. “Not on purpose anyway. But I’m not going to give you situations that you could just easily walk away from. Where’s the excitement in that. Plus the adversaries you deal with are actually smarter than your normal cardboard criminals.”
“There are times I wish they were a little more stupid,” he said, more to himself than to me.
“Well, that’s not going to happen.”
“So I’ve noticed.”
“I have made it possible for you and Orlando to get together,” I said.
“I believe that I forced the issue and made it happen on my own.”
I decided not to argue the point.
“So you really put me through a lot in this latest book,” he said.
He was talking about SHADOW OF BETRAYAL, the latest Quinn Thriller. This time out he and his team came face-to-face with a mysterious organization called the LP.
“Sorry. It was the story that needed to be told,” I said.
“I realize that. It just gets me worried about what you have in store for me next.”
“You’ll know soon enough.” It was the last thing I wanted to get into then. He wasn’t going to like what was up next. Not one bit. But that was a discussion I was more than willing to save until next year.
I was about to ask him about his relationship with his apprentice, Nate, when he stopped and looked at me.
“I’m not so sure this was such a good idea,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not comfortable talking about me. And I know you feel the same about yourself.”
“You know me that well?” I said.
He just smiled.
“Let me just ask you one last question,” I said.
“What is the most important thing in the world to you?”
He was silent for a long time. I thought he might not answer at all. But then he said, “Doing the right thing.”
“Do you think you always do the right thing?”
“That’s two questions.”
“Do you?” I asked again.
“I try,” he said, then turned and started walking away.