Welcome to Novel PASTimes. We’re glad you dropped by. What’s special about your name?
Hi, I’m Noelle McNabb, 25 years old. My parents named me Noelle—the feminine version of Noel—because I was born on Christmas Day. Rather appropriate, because my town is Christmas-crazy.
What’s unique about where you live?
I reside on Ornament Lane in the small rural town of Yuletide, in the southwest corner of Indiana. The biggest industry in town, besides the electronics plant, is the Christmas Cozy Family Fun theme park, which draws visitors from across the country. Our town mayor plays Santa Claus because he looks the part, with his white beard and chubby belly.
The school kids work at the park as well, loading the rides and singing in the shows. The park has rides, carnival games, a petting zoo, music, fun house and naturally, tykes can talk with Santa all year round. Artists and craftsmen sell their wares. Of course, all of the merchandise is Christmas-related.
What’s special about the time you live in?
It’s 1967, and the times, they are a changin’. I love rock music, new movies, pop art, hair styles, the big shopping mall and the groovy miniskirts. But my parents are a drag, ‘cause they’re stuck in the 1950s. Mom wants me to get married and raise kids like she did. Maybe someday, but not now—I have big career plans. My parents and I have what they call the “generation gap.” My parents also frown when I hang out with the hippies, Rambler and Moonbaby, who are pretty far out once you look past the tie-dye and their counterculture lifestyle.
But beneath our quiet, small-town life, it’s a volatile era: war protests, draft dodgers, women’s liberation, space race, Cold War and the civil rights movement.
I heard that you have an avocation along with your regular job
I work as an actress at the theme park, which means I play the Winter Witch—complete with long black robe and green makeup—in a silly musical revue. During the school year when the park is only open weekends, I supplement my income with a few weekday shifts at the Groovy Vinyl record shop.
I have another job, if you can call it that, but I can’t talk about it because it’s a secret. I can’t even tell my family and friends, which drives me crazy because I share everything with mom. All right, I’ll tell if you promise not to spread it around: I do occasional undercover work with a super-secret spy agency. Not even the CIA knows about SIAMESE (Special Intelligence Apparatus for Midwest Enemy Surveillance and Espionage). They have a fantastic underground headquarters, but don’t ask me where it is because whenever I go there, I’m driven in a car with tinted windows.
Who are the people you work with at SIAMESE?
Dash Hanover is the senior control operative in charge of everything. He knows his stuff, but he’s demanding and unyielding. I was shocked to discover he and I are related, although I’m not supposed to know that. His mother is an aunt I’ve never met and never knew existed. I want to find her, but Dash doesn’t—he feels my aunt’s safety would be compromised if the enemies of SIAMESE find her.
My spy partner is Destiny King, a fab gear black operative. She grew up in a rough neighborhood of Chicago. She’s had some hard knocks, but she’s super to work with. I’m still getting to know her, as she refuses to open up and share her feelings.
Can you tell us about your missions?
Sorry, that’s classified information. All I can say is my first mission concerned missing microdots and the second was tracking down an enemy spy. I can say no more.
I’ve heard you’ve also solved a couple of murders
That’s right. My friends at SIAMESE helped as well, but I was the one who put the clues together. Yuletide is a sleepy town, and we usually don’t get crimes like murder, so the (overweight and lazy) police chief was out of his league and needed all the help he could get.
Did anyone aid you in your crime solving?
Trevor Spellman is a reporter with the Yuletide Herald, the local newspaper. He’s great at finding information and just being there for support. We’ve known each other since high school, but we’re just good friends.
Since you’re unmarried and childless, do you have any siblings? Pets?
Yeah, a brother and a sister. They’re twins. They’re much younger than I am (they were an unexpected “oops!”). I babysit them when mom and dad go out, which can be a bummer when I’m needed on a spy mission. Dolly and Donny are 8 years old, so I can’t pal around with them, and they can be bratty.
I have a big fat black cat, Ceebee, which is short for car burglar. He likes to steal things and hide them under my sofa. I have to clean out his “treasures” periodically. I have a little cottage in the country, and Ceebee is good at keeping the mice cleaned out of the woods.
Ceebee helped out on my second mission. SIAMESE fitted him with an ear implant and a microphone in a collar. He slipped up on some spies, and Destiny and I could hear the conversation transmitted through the collar from a safe distance away.
What’s the religious life like in your town?
People go to church. It’s what we do, along with going to work or to school. You’d have to go to Riverbend, the big town a few miles away, to find a synagogue. My family and I attend Bethlehem Community Church, the largest Protestant church in town. Holy Nativity is the Catholic parish, and they hold folk Masses.
On Sunday morning I go to Sunday School and the service along with my friends. On Wednesday nights, the church hosts a potluck dinner followed by different activities. The kids have crafts and games. The teens sing the new “Jesus music” and rap. My parents attend the couples class, and I go to the social issues discussion.
My faith sometimes clashes with my spy work. I refuse to carry a gun. I won’t kill. It’s wrong. My spy partner, however, had killed and feels no remorse. She said it was either the other guy’s life or hers.
Spies also lie a lot. I have trouble with that, as I was raised to always speak the truth. Destiny has the moral line that “the means justify the end.” I’m not comfortable with that if it conflicts with my ethics.
What are your dreams for the future?
I want to move to Hollywood and star in movies or TV, although working with SIAMESE has given me plenty of real-life drama. Do I want to work in spy craft full time? I couldn’t handle the endless danger, secrecy and deception. But sometimes, performing in a TV sitcom seems trivial compared to the life and death stakes in spy work. I can make a difference in the world whenever I stop evil men and bring murderers to justice.
Thanks for letting us get to know you better, Noelle. Good luck with your future missions!
Sally Carpenter writes two clean read, cozy mystery series: Sandy Fairfax (five books) and the Psychedelic Spy (two books). She also pens the Roots of Faith column for a community newspaper. Her first book, “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper,” was a finalist for the 2012 Eureka! Award for best first mystery novel. She also has short stories published in three anthologies. She holds a master’s degree in theater and a Master of Divinity. She’s previously worked as an actress, movie studio tour guide and college composition instructor. Sally grew up in Indiana but now lives in California. Her website is sandyfairfaxauthor.com.